English novelist Bawden / FRI 4-1-11 / Serving in John Betjeman's poem / 2002 Katherine Frank political biography / Hammer accompanier

Friday, April 1, 2011

Constructor: Elizabeth A. Long

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: Two-way street — Down answers on west side of grid head south (like normal Downs), while Down answers on east side of the grid head north (i.e. they're upside-down). Theme is indicated by three grid-spanning Downs: in the west, ONCOMING TRAFFIC (4D: Passing preventer); in the middle, MIDDLE OF THE ROAD (7D: Conventional); and in the east, NORTH-BOUND LANES (which is to say, SENAL DNUOB-HTRON) (10D: Half of almost any odd-numbered Interstate highway)


Word of the Day: M.I.A. (23A: Hip-hop singer with the 2008 hit "Paper Planes") —

Mathangi "Maya" Arulpragasam (Tamil: மாதங்கி 'மாயா' அருள்பிரகாசம், Mātaṅki 'Māyā' Aruḷpirakācam ?; born 18 July 1975), better known by her stage name M.I.A., is a British singer-songwriter, rapper and record producer whose eclectic compositions combine elements of hip-hop, electronica, dance, alternative and world music. // M.I.A. began her career in 2000 as a visual artist and designer in West London. Since rising to prominence in early 2004 for her singles "Galang" and "Sunshowers," she has been nominated for an Academy Award, two Grammy Awards and the Mercury Prize. She released her debut album Arular in 2005 and second album Kala in 2007. Kala went gold in Canada and the United States and silver in the United Kingdom, and the singles "Boyz" and "Paper Planes" became North American top ten chart favourites in 2008. M.I.A.'s third album Maya was released in 2010 soon after the song-film short "Born Free," and reached the top ten in numerous countries worldwide. She has embarked on four global headlining tours and is the founder of her own multimedia label, N.E.E.T.. In 2008, M.I.A. was listed in Esquire magazine's list of the 75 most influential people of the 21st century and in 2009, Time magazine included M.I.A. in its annual Time 100 list of the world's most influential people. (wikipedia)


• • •

Very cool puzzle. I was looking for something tricky today, so the NORTH-BOUND stuff didn't faze me. Much. Did take me a while to uncover the trick. Had great success early when I threw down MIDDLE OF THE ROAD with hardly any effort, after solving only the little northern part of the puzzle. First indication that something was amiss came when I couldn't solve the little southern part of the puzzle with the same rapidity. Acrosses made sense—seemed unimpeachable—but I was getting nonsense in the Downs. So I ended up doing the (very conventional, untricky) west first, and then hitting that MIDDLE OF THE ROAD barrier. Just looking at the two long Downs I had at that point let me know that there was some kind of TRAFFIC theme, and finally I realized that "-C-T Bell" was, in fact, TACO Bell. From that point on, it was just a matter of thinking upside-down. Not a problem. It's a smooth, elegant little puzzle, with hardly an ugly or obscure answer in sight. A one-trick pony, yes, but it's a good trick. Truly AHA.


The only "huh?" moment I had (after grokking ... is that the word? ... the theme) came with the biography "INDIRA," which I had never heard of (27D: 2002 Katherine Frank political biography). That clue is an outlier. It's mildly obscure trivia, where the rest of the grid ... isn't. Still, pretty easy to infer. Crosses were a cinch. Oh, no, wait—37A: English novelist Bawden (NINA) is pretty INDIRA-ish too. Never heard of her. Oh, and never heard of John Betjeman or his poem, "How to Get on in Society" (43A: Serving in John Betjeman's poem "How to get on in Society"=>SCONES). Wow, how did I not have trouble in that section? I guess the clues were written in such a way, and the crosses were reasonable enough, that I could fight through it all without too much pain. LEONAS (SANOEL) was a fat gimme in that section, a sharp contrast to the other names in that section (and a very sharp contrast to NUBILE46A: Available, in a way).

Bullets:
  • 14A: Elvis follower (ARON) — this seemed obvious, unlike some other stuff up there in the NW, which I flubbed: PORE for GAZE, RICE for ZINC, SHOO and SCAT for GO! GO! etc.
  • 3D: Hammer accompanier (GONG) — probably a lot of people went with NAIL at first.
  • 5D: They're subject to rapid inflation (AIRBAGS) — ooh, good clue.
  • 42D: It starts "Tell me, muse, of the man of many resources" ("ODYSSEY") — see also "The wrath of Achilles..." or "Arma virumque cano..." or "Of Man's first Disobedience..." (we talk about epics a lot in my Brit Lit class). Interesting ODYSSEY news: Virgil thinks Odysseus is an asshole for coming up with that whole Trojan Horse thing; Dante concurs, putting Odysseus (Ulysses, actually) way, way down in the 8th ring of hell (Fraud). And then there's Milton's Satan. And then there's Maude!



Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

Since it's a heavy-traffic day, I'll take this opportunity once again to plug the Crosswords L.A. Tournament, which takes place one month from today, 5/1/11, at Loyola-Marymount University. It's always a blast, the puzzles this year are fantastic (I've seen them), and all proceeds go to a wonderful charity ("Reading to Kids"). Go here for details.

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

P.S. Patrick Blindauer has a new puzzle up at his site this month. It's pretty sweet. You should do it.

P.P.S. You could also do this puzzle. There's a decent likelihood it will annoy the hell out of you, but ... if there's any day to distribute such a puzzle, it's today. (Go here —to Amy Reynaldo's "Island of Lost Puzzles"— to print a .pdf or get a .puz version, or just print the puzzle out from here).

SOLUTION (and puzzle discussion) HERE.
Endless Fun

78 comments:

PurpleGuy 12:36 AM  

No more Mr. Crankypants.
This was a fun puzzle to solve, and no write overs !
I agree with Rex that there was hardly any ugly or obscure answer that couldn't be figured through crosses.
Veery clever trick and construction. This one really made me smile all the way through.
Like AIRBAGS crossing BORING. Most times they are.

NUBILE over AHH brought a special smile ;)

Thank you Elizabeth(my favorite name) Long for a wonderful solving experience, and getting me out of mu dour mood !!

Happy April Fool's Day all !!!!!
DO solve Rex's puzzle, linked at the bottom of his write up. Fun is right.

Shanti-
Bob/PurpleGuy

retired_chemist 1:11 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
retired_chemist 1:14 AM  

A good puzzle. Finished with one error - GO-TO @ 1A driven by Hammer and TONG @3D.

Actually had AMOR @ 54D with LOSE as the cross @ 64A, but after that the SW was .... well, going nowhere. Got the idea from OCAT Bell, like Rex. Took me a while to believe it, so the East was slow going. AHH @ 49A was obvious, as was HUCK @ 40D, but both couldn't be right. But AAH/KCUH would work, and that gave me KUDOS @ 40A. AHA! The S->N idea for the downs (ups?) suddenly got legs! And life got much better.

An elegant concept, not much weak fill, no complaints here. Thanks you, Ms. Long.

airbags carla michaels 1:56 AM  

If only I had solved this while standing on my head!!!!!!!!
Despite AMOR, SEEm LEONAS, OWNCARS, TACO, ESSAYS, HUCK I totally didn't get it :(

I literally just sat here thinking is OCAT BELL somehow related to ONEOCAT?

Forgot that it was April Fool's day.
I am CITEHTAP :(

OH, and I never got past shoO for GOTO, which I really didn't like.
"Get out of here. Fast!" = GOTO?
As in GOTOHELL? Boo.

Anyway, super clever, my bad.

I skip M-W 4:05 AM  

@ACME it was Go go not go to, It took me far too long to see the trick. Hardly easy-medium without that. Tried teen for Elvis follower. (Well, they were when I was 12). but did finish, pretty quickly once I saw that answers on right were upside down and should have immediately realized it had to be north and not southbound lanes, but did it as fill. As soon as I realized upside down then saw Taco. had many right answers in east that I had to turn over first. When working rightside up, tried Harry(s) Helmsley. et. But all in all very clever.

PastelLady 6:43 AM  

Did anyone else sense an 'Ick Factor' with the clue for NUBILE?

I'm not being cross just because I had to Google and STILL didn't catch on. Clever puzzle, but some of the clues (NINA, Betjeman, INDIRA) felt pretty obscure, to the point of being a bit unfair.

Other objections:
A GONG is struck with a mallet.
Yen is a verb? since when?

Gil.I.Pollas 6:48 AM  

OK,I've been had. The only reason I got the joke is because I read Katherine Frank's book on "Indira."
This drove me nuts - so much so that I poured meself another glass of wine. Well damn, It's really April 01 and that is always prank day, no?
My favorite answer was Kcuh.

Howard B 8:16 AM  

Easy-medium, hehe. Rex, take heart in the fact that *I could not finish this thing*. I never broke the right side and could not understand what was going on. Did not know what TOWN CAR or NUBILE were based on the clues, so that did not help me. Completely forgot that today is April 1.

Awesome concept and execution. Well done, even though I was roadkill.

JenCT 8:19 AM  

@Pastel Lady: I visibly winced at NUBILE - I know it means "marriageable" but it conjures up an image of underage girls... yuk!

Didn't get much of the east side of the puzzle - as usual, I need Rex to explain the theme to me...

@ACME: LOL!

Howard B 8:36 AM  

Forgot to add - Solve Patrick Blindauer and Rex's puzzles linked in the post today ASAP, or an angel will lose its wings and plummet to the ground.

No, really - they're both really, really clever and fun. Solve them. In a box or with a fox. However you choose. They're that good.

David L 8:50 AM  

I guess it's easy-medium if you figure out the trick. If not, you end up with the west nicely finished and a handful of answers in the east that just don't fit. And then you give up and come here... I was even thinking that 10D was something to do with northbound or southbound, but I couldn't see how to make it work.

Nancy in PA 8:55 AM  

Took me a LONG time to see the trick, and then I forgot to flip 52D (I had "or so" going south)...so 50 minutes, a few errors. But fun. Amazing how long I could stare at blank spaces in the east (or correct answers oriented wrong) and not infer that April 1 had something to do with the solve...very clever, Ms. Long.

Anonymous 9:03 AM  

Never did get the trick, even though I had several correct down answers (going the wrong direction.)

Terribly tedious to fill in "up" answers using Across Lite (unless there's some trick I don't know).

skua76 9:11 AM  

I too TOTALLY did not get it. Wrote in a few downs on the east side, then came to a complete stop. Very frustrating morning. Time to see if the other puzzles suggested here will change my mood.

Smitty 9:18 AM  

@Andrea Airbags, me too on the ONEOCAT

I came into this puzzle expecting to find an April Fools theme - but quickly forgot about it.

Struggled for the longest time with the right half getting only across words, that wouldn't cross down ( and Leona - who wasn't standing on her head for a long time.)

I didn't GROK that only the down answers were hard to get - since i had some incorrect fill, like JONES for "Yen for", which I liked a lot.

Finally I said aloud - What's going on? It's like one half of the puzzle is all backwards...

Bingo. (the rest was easy)

chefbea 9:39 AM  

couldn't figure it out. Had to come here to find out what was going on.

Will now try Endless fun

foodie 9:42 AM  

Yeah, I guess this puzzle's difficulty is all about whether you remember it's April Fool's Day and how quickly you tumble to the trick. I forgot the date, but realized something was odd and OCAT gave it away. It became significantly easier after that.

Remarkably, it's the NW that gave me fits. I just couldn't see GOGO, and when the NC (at the end of ZINC) emerged it looked all kinds of wrong...

NUBILE definitely needed a different clue.

You probably all knew this but isn't cool that ROMA read backwards is AMOR? Those Italians, they've got you coming and going.

Terrific puzzle!!!

SethG 9:44 AM  

Entire left, nothing in the right, then saw TACO, then still took a while to finish. AT EASE instead of AVERSE didn't help, and that NUBILE/SCONES/NINA area was tough.

I understand why they did it, but having an overt traffic clue for the NORTHBOUND LANES and not for the others felt a bit inconsistent. Still, very nice April 1 puzzle.

conomist 9:48 AM  

Terrific, but wow, DEFINITELY not easy-medium for me. I stared and stared and stared at the right-hand side, until KCUH finally cracked it for me (seriously, played alphabet roulette with OCAT over and over again, and couldn't figure out why OCAT was correct).

Worst part? Once the east fell (which it did smoothly, after the trick opened it up), I still DNF'd the northwest. Why? Because I suck.

Tobias Duncan 10:00 AM  

Well I can tell I wont be fooled again today.I have got to learn to mellow out and think instead of getting frustrated, this trick took way too long for me to uncover.Having watched the Ricky Gervais show last night, all I could think this morning while solving this was"am I in charge of me brain? or is me brain in charge of me?!"

foodie 10:01 AM  

The Quick & Dirty Index (see under my Avatar for formula) puts this as highly Challenging. Don't know what the situation with the game was at 10pm, since the QDI looks at very early returns, and may be that skewed things. But absent that, it would be quite a Challenging Friday. We shall see what says The Man from San Fran.

Rex Parker 10:04 AM  

Yeah, there probably should have been an asterisk next to the Difficulty Rating. Once you tumble to the gimmick, the puzzle is far easier than the avg. Friday. But it could take you anywhere from a minute to infinity to pick up the reversal trick.

Matthew G. 10:07 AM  

Picked up the theme at SNACSAG, but only after a lot of frustration that obvious things like HUCK and LEONAS weren't fitting.  I spent about nine hours a week going back and forth on I-87 last year, so I put _O_THBOUNDLANES down right away, but unfortunately took a while before I realized I need to flip it upside down.  But I'm the guy who's so thick as a brick when it comes to remembering April Fool's Day that I put a reminder in my phone every April 1 that pops up at 8 a.m. and says "don't get fooled."  Seriously.  I do.  But I started the puzzle at 7:30 a.m.

Just last night I inflated an airbed for our weekend guests, and I grinned as I put in AIRBEDS where AIRBAGS belonged, thinking it serendipitous.  Oops.  That took a while to fix too.

Great puzzle!  Two days in a row in which all of the theme entries have been Down answers -- I wonder whether that's ever happened on back-to-back days before?

quilter1 10:17 AM  

Didn't get it, didn't finish, felt foolish, April Fool's Day?!? Really? Oh. No fun.

Thanks, Rex, for two extra puzzles which I will approach with BS detector firmly set on high and sense of humor the same. There will be fun yet.

jackj 10:19 AM  

Totally forgot it was April Fool's Day and expected the themeless to be themeless. Surprise!

When the trick became apparent, the right side filled in quickly, Mondayish, even.

XWordInfo shows that this is only the 7th Times puzzle for Ms. Long, the others being 3 Mondays, 2 Wednesdays and a Thursday.

Her Thursday puzzle, (7/17/08), featured a gimmick (revealed with the answer SHAPESUP), calling for five entries to be entered bottom to top, like "oval", which needed to be entered as LAVO, for example.

Seems that Ms. Long, in repeating the gimmick here is qualifying as a specialist of sorts.

Fun puzzle!

OldCarFudd 10:23 AM  

Very cool. I actually tumbled to the trick before I had anything filled in, since I was having trouble getting going. Figured the Interstate clue had to be northbound or southbound lanes, couldn't make either fit, then decided to try northbound lanes in a northbound direction. Shazam! The whole right side fell. Then I couldn't get the left to work, until I realized the split. And I never woke up to the fact it was April Fool's Day 'til I got here! Fun puzz.

Masked and Anonymous 10:24 AM  

Feisty Loof Lirpa puz. Knew something was up in the HUCK/AHH area (my first entry). Influenced by KCUH (gotta be a radio station somewhere), was psyched into going with HHA for 49-A. Har. A mighty long ODYSSEY ensued.

Think constructor friend Erul would l-o-v-e this puppy. Only, he'd clue the reverse-down stuff differently. (Like "entice up from the bottom" for ERUL.) Wish I could reach him for a suggested sample clue, but so far, NODICE...

Hi-Yo, ARIDNI-SANOEL-SYASSE, away...

Jim 10:53 AM  

I'm laughing a little less now...didn't realize Rex's reference, "And then there's Maude", both yesterday and today, was to the theme song. I thought (like I think everything) was a reference to "Viva Ned Flanders" when Ned realizes the implications of having drunkenly wedded a Vegas cocktail waitress..."and then there's Maude...AND THEN THERE'S MAUDE!" Probably itself a reference to the TV show.

Puzzle was great. Blew through the western half, but I don't trust myself enough on Fridays, so I 'checked' LEONAS and got SANOEL. Hmm...SANOEL? Wow, now that's a Friday answer, I thought. Read upside-down and, well, ya know. Too bad. If I was thinking 4th-dimensionally, I probably would've eventually gotten it. I have a real problem with that. Had CANALS, had LSU, had SEE, but just couldn't make it work. Damn it.

Two Ponies 10:55 AM  

Great trick! Isn't it funny how many of us, myself included, got the gimmick at Taco?
This one fell on the easy side of medium but ONLY is you figured it out.
I can't imagine trying to construct such a devilish gem.

Rex Parker 10:57 AM  

I wonder how many people (besides me) also briefly entertained the idea that there might be somebody named SCOT Bell...

rp

Moonchild 11:10 AM  

What a fun puzzle. I actually enjoyed my frustration because I knew there was bound to be some monkey business today.
Lots of extra car-related answers too like airbags, gas cans, town car, and even Odyssey is a van.
I was curious about the etimology of nubile thinking it might relate to Nubia. Found out it doesn't but learned that our frequent friend Aida was Nubian.

Bob Kerfuffle 11:10 AM  

This Wonderful puzzle had me feeling Very, Very Stupid for quite a while. As did most, I filled the West side reasonably easily, though slowed by having 3 D as TONG instead of GONG at first.

Since I had filled 26 D as TACO, I tried AGO instead of AFT at 39 A, further muddying things. But once I caught on, finished easily with only one other write-over at 52 D, About, had ORSO before INRE (or ERNI).

But even after finishing, I was thinking "What day is this?", i.e., Friday vs. Thursday vs. Saturday. It was only when I got up from the kitchen table and walked toward the computer that I had my 45 A moment (D'OH!) and realized it was April Fools Day!

glimmerglass 11:11 AM  

This one beat me -- never did catch on to the upside down East.

Masked and Anonymous II 11:19 AM  

Erul says leave the puz alone, clue-wise. He gave x-tra thumbs-up approval to the ODYSSEY bein' in the S-bound lanes, and the RACNWOT in the N-bound lanes, symmetrical-like, tho.

joho 11:48 AM  

Just copy and paste @airbags carla michaels comment here, word for word.

I also agree that it is a very clever and exellently executed puzzle, especially for April Fool's Day, but, boy, did it make me feel stupid!

syndy 11:53 AM  

HEY ocat bell could be some rap singer-didn't catch on till inre/erni.Had had most of the right answers but couldn,t make'm fit (solving on paper would have worn holes)favorite wrong answer was that my lincoln was a patriot!ALL said yhis one was peachy!

John V 11:58 AM  

Never saw the trick until I came here, so big fat DNF. Minor note, also got hung on 3D as Tong.

April Fool indeed. Pass the cranky pants, please?

PuzzleNut 12:55 PM  

Didn't get the trick at OCAT, but I sure tried a lot of other answers in that area. Very similar to @BobK toaday. I had a pretty good idae that 10D should be ?O?THBOUNDLANES, but the crosses were JUST NOT WORKING. Both DRAY and LEONAS had to be right, but still didn't click (couldn't remember Mr. Hemsley's first name, but that was also a possibility). My AaH is spelled different than most. I love everything Twain wrote and HUCK and FINN were the only names I could conjure up. Finally stepped back, looked at the half-filled puzzle, saw the big picture, and slapped in 10D.
My solving time was probably 5 minutes on the west, 20 minutes scratching my head, and then 2 more minutes to finish up the east. Rex is exactly right - pretty easy once you got the trick, but damn near impossible until you do.

Mel Ott 1:12 PM  

LEONAS is a throwdown early in the week. On Friday or Saturday it could be HARRYS or even HOTELS. Unless you're backwards or upside down solving.

deflated airbags carla michaels 1:17 PM  

@puzzlenut
Yes, it didn't help me that when I get a massage I say AAH, or actually AAAAAAAH.
AND it didn't help that I had Ass for AFT for longer than I should have.

Checked back here in a reverse schadenfreude way and am heartened somehow that others were also fooled by this puzzle!
(move over @Howard B! Got tread marks on my face)

@Moonchild
I didn't even realize all the extra bonus words like GASCANS, etc. Thanks for pointing that out.

Just sort of surprised that I totally didn't get it despite Patrick B and I having made a puzzle where half the answers read from right to left (but were still words) which we thought would run on an April Fools Day...

Alright, I'll go do PB's puzzle and Rex's and am all ready for the puzzle on April 1, 2012, if there is still a puzzle/world by then!

Arundel 1:23 PM  

Arrgh! This was April Fool's trickery of a very high order. It should have been more fun than it seemed here in the midst of an April Nor'easter (and here in Maine I've always wondered why it's not spelled No'theastah).

Stan and I resorted to team-solving but that didn't really help. It seemed as if we had all the right answers but we just couldn't make them cross. And so we did, just backwards...

The worst of it was that when I post-Googled OCAT, it turned out to be the name of a company that owns a bunch of Taco Bell franchises. I figured that must be a well-known corporation I had just never heard of and left it at that!

I'm putting on my cranky-snowpants and go out and look for the driveway.

quilter1 2:09 PM  

I solved Rex's Endless Fun over lunch and it was indeed fun. And I still have Patrick's for later.

Thanks, RP.

JaxInL.A. 2:28 PM  

Rex made a space to chat about his puzzle, but I'm not sure how you get there from here, though. I saw it because I follow Rex's blog on Blogger and it had a post to click on.

I had all the problems discussed here today, noticed that the answers would fit upside down but didnt put it together and trust my instinct. Stopped in here to learn the trick, then went back and solved it okay. About half the time I'm glad that i don't go with my first impulse, and about half of the time i kick myself for having it but not acting on it. Ah, well.

TimJim 2:31 PM  

Wow. Three 'aha' moments, figuring out the theme (easy), then NORTHBOUNDLANES actually traveling north, and then ... Wow. A classic.

sanfranman59 3:18 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)

Fri 34:55, 26:23, 1.32, 98%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Fri 22:06, 13:02, 1.70, 100%, Challenging

Wow, Rex! Easy-Medium? Seriously? Based strictly on the clues and answers, it probably really is a relatively easy Friday. But the gimmick jacks up the difficulty level significantly.

At the moment, this one has the highest Top 100 median solve time of the 84 Friday's in my spreadsheet (and the third highest for the All Solvers group). By the end of the day, I'm guessing that it will rank in the top 5 for both groups. It also may wind up with the fewest online solvers I've recorded (246 now vs. a Friday low of 306 and a mean of 436).

Two Ponies 4:06 PM  

@ sanfranman, Thanks as always for the stats. Very interesting today.
I rated this easy but I was lucky enough to catch on early in the game.

Anonymous 4:20 PM  

This puzzle proves to me that despite my 30+ years in solving the NYT times puzzle I am still a neophyte in figuring tricks. I got the entire West part of the puzzle with no problems at all. And then I stalled. Got LEONAS, INDIRA, HUCK and AMOR but could not make any sense of the East side of the puzzle. Thought GRATIS was a no-brainer for 8A especially since TIE seemed to fit for 11D and SEE for 13D.
And Google did not help at all this time.
Did not see the trick until after finished reading Rex comments.
All I can say is Wow! Very elegant indeed and I did not mind being snookered this time.

Finally a word of thanks to those of you who responded yesterday sympathetically to my jeremiad about the baseball/pop music theme. I still think that for those of us who have no interest in baseball and only a fleeting interest in pop culture this was a challenging and non-enjoyable puzzle. But I can appreciate the prowess needed to construct the puzzle.

william e emba 4:22 PM  

Since I went with Hammer and tONG, I assumed at first there was some dumb April Fool trick with GO T?????? spelling out something somewhere, and eventually decided the computer phrase GO TO had leaked out into the mundy world and no one told me.

And yes, I once worked at a trading firm that had a Chinese GONG that was gonged daily in sync with Wall Street's closing bell.

Anyway, at this point I quickly gave up on April Fools' expectations, since I was breezing down the left side, then breezing down the middle, then filled in a few gimmes like SEE and ARC up top, LEONAS and ESSAYS in the middle, and HUCK and AMOR down below. Then I crashed real hard. I mean, I kept wanting NORTH-BOUND LANES on the right--it had to be NORTH, for the sake of the picture, right?--along with PITA and STEP, and gosh, they just didn't fit.

I had to put the puzzle down a couple of times. So among other things, I took in some on-line April Fools' humor in a few of my favorite blogs, and then, on my umpteenth try a few hours later, I got the NRA clue (shooting range, not golfing range!), which gave me ---NWOT, which was obviously RACNWOT, and I finished almost instantly at that point.

retired_chemist 4:43 PM  

@ SanFranMan59 -

Rex 10:04 commented on the point you raise. Easy-medium if you catch the gimmick early,MUCH harder if you are slow to cotton on.

Clark 4:55 PM  

Memo to self:

1. Notice when it is 4/1 that it is 4/1.

2. When the whole left side is filled in and nothing on the right is (except one long down) there is probably something going on.

C

jae 5:01 PM  

Yes, easy-med. once I got the trick, but I had to let it sit overnight before it dawned on me. (I too forgot about April 1.) Plus I needed to stare at GOTO for quite a while before I figured out how to fix it. Fun but frustrating.

PastelLady 5:39 PM  

Enjoyed the RP puzzle but wonder how the BOSUNs like being called 'deckhands.' RP, watch your back.

retired_chemist 5:53 PM  

@ jae - some of us never DID figure out GO-GO instead of GO-TO.

Chip Hilton 5:58 PM  

Would someone please remind me a year from now to look for a trick? Man, do I feel dense! Flew through the left side and then .. just .. stopped. NORTHBOUND... , LSU, LEONAS, etc. were all there but I never inverted them. Came here and peeked at RESCUE and AVERSE before a very tardy lightbulb blinked on. Hrumph!

Anonymous 6:00 PM  

Great puzzle. Hmm, love overseas ROMA? Wait, that's the capital on italy. Som bread ATIP. Oh wait, upside down!!!

Lindsay 6:28 PM  

Of course I remembered it's April Fools day. Why else would a snowstorm pull down my phone (computer) line? Despite lots of distraction-free quality time to spend with the puzzle, it outsmarted me. By a lot.

I believe I recently referred to a grid with seven blanks/errors as a "disaster". I hereby repent. **This** is a disaster. For me, anyway.

On the upside, the phone company came and restrung the wire.

See you tomorrow.

chefwen 6:32 PM  

Phew! I now see that I had some company in the DNF department. Last night I felt very stooopid after giving up and coming here to find the other half of my brain. DOH!
April 1st just doesn't register with me.

Doris 6:33 PM  

Had an advantage in getting it because my favorite puzzle of A Long Time Ago had the same gimmick, except that it was "THE BRONX IS UP" going from bottom to top and "THE BATTERY'S DOWN" going from top to bottom. As a New Yorker and a fan of "On the Town" (Bernstein, Comden, and Green), I was exceedingly tickled by that one, never forgot it, and was always looking for something similar. Brava, Elizabeth!

CrazyCatLady 8:04 PM  

Between this and the LAT all I can think of is when we used to have backwards day in elementary school. Wanted something a little more edgy for April 1. Two backwards/upside down puzzles in one day is one (or two) too many. Will be glad to return to normalcy.

Agree that NUBIlE clued as such was inappropriate.

big Steve SF 8:22 PM  

Anybody watch that Pretenders clip, what is the drummer doing at 0:59-1:01????
Also, in the Family Guy/Maude bit, they mention Indira Gandhi. Coincidence or not ...
Speaking of the NY Times, good article on captchas in Tues. Science section.
Have a great weekend.

michael 8:49 PM  

Forgot it was April Fool's and never got the gimmick. Wondered why I did so terribly on a Friday and why one half of the puzzle was completely filled and the other half almost empty...

OISK 8:55 PM  

Worst DNF for me in over a decade of doing the daily puzzle. As you can imagine, most of the right half is blank. What hurts is that HAD I caught the trick, I would have finished very fast. Perhaps had I gotten "rescue" or "Canals" ( I had "averse" right away) I would have seen that "car" was going up, and from there, clear sailing.

Sigh....

Sarah 9:08 PM  

Ugh. Impossible for me. I just could not crack the code. The whole thing was frustrating and not fun. It was one of those puzzles that I realize I'm undone by, put aside, and wrote "Rex Parker" into Google.

John Autin 9:13 PM  

I hated this puzzle. I don't see any hint, either in the clues or inherent in April Fool's Day, towards running half the "down" answers the opposite way. Oh, the "hint" is supposed to be that I can't get any of the east side? Well, of course I should have tried reversing things.

Please.

And having "middle of the road" read straight DOWN as the "divider" is neither helpful nor entirely consistent with the theme.

Maybe there aren't any formal rules for themes and twists and tricks in the NYTimes puzzle, but this one still felt like a violation.

sanfranman59 10:05 PM  

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 6:58, 6:55, 1.01, 58%, Medium
Tue 9:36, 8:56, 1.08, 73%, Medium-Challenging
Wed 11:47, 11:45, 1.00, 57%, Medium
Thu 14:05, 19:06, 0.74, 10%, Easy
Fri 36:09, 26:23, 1.37, 99%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:42, 3:41, 1.00, 53%, Medium
Tue 5:13, 4:35, 1.14, 88%, Challenging
Wed 5:17, 5:47, 0.91, 31%, Easy-Medium
Thu 6:47, 9:12, 0.73, 7%, Easy
Fri 20:11, 13:00, 1.55, 99%, Challenging

As I anticipated, today's puzzle finished with the second highest median solve time for both groups of online solvers. Only Robin Schulman & Byron Walden's 6/25/2010 puzzle outdid this one (albeit by a comfortable margin). It did wind up with the fewest number of online solvers (298).

BeantownDan 11:15 PM  

Impossible - just couldn't get this. Had set me back no end on my NYT puzzle journey.
The only thing I liked about this was the reference to the great Sir John Betjamin (see link below)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ETAQJFaTn64&feature=youtube_gdata_player

mac 12:18 AM  

Just one look at my paper tells the story: eraser marks all over the right. So many gimmes and nothing fit... Finally kudos/huck gave it away, and then it took no time at all to finish the East.

Other than the trick, Go, go! is my favorite answer. It's what I would say.

Gene 12:23 PM  

Had _CAT when it struck me.

geophany 11:22 AM  

Elegant touch: REVERSALS over three lines in northeast.

Anonymous 3:51 PM  

From Syndication Land

Today is May 6th. If you think the theme was hard to get on April 1st, you can imagine how few syndicated solvers got the theme quickly...or at all. When Nina and Leonas wouldn't cross, I knew something was up!

CYNTHIA 4:15 PM  

I'm with you, Anonymous. On May 6, and a Friday, who's going to suspect a theme? Couldn't figure out why I was so successful on the west, so dismal on the east!

Waxy in Montreal 7:37 PM  

Couldn't agree more, CYNTHIA and Anon from Syndication Land. So I won't comment on the eastern half of what is apparently a May Fool's Day puzzle for us.

When I was a programmer many years back, GOTO signified an unconditional branch in program logic or "Get out of here! Fast!". So I'm sticking with GOTO and TONG as a perfectly acceptable couplet up in the Washington State region.

Anonymous 8:11 PM  

syndicated here too

how you can rate this piece of garbage easy is beyound me

totally disgusted

Normand Houle

fritz 3:24 AM  

Syndicated

UOY KCUF

Anonymous 10:01 AM  

I had to cheat to finish this puzzle. First I looked up the obscure writers and some other stuff. But nothing seemed to fit. INDIRA didn't cross with NINA, etc. So I finally accessed your blog. I wish I had been more patient so I could figure out the trick. It seems unfair to me that one couldn't get the answer "NORTHBOUND LANES" until after figuring out the trick. I needed that answer to figure out the trick.

I did this puzzle in the Minneapolis paper, so it was not on April Fool's Day. I guess it was easier for people doing it in the Times.

Gil.I.Pollas 2:56 PM  

@Fritz
EERGA I

novemberyankee68 4:29 PM  

I could have written your intro because its exactly my thoughts while solving. I looked,as always at the date of puzzle and knew since it was a April 1st one there HAD to be something kinky in this somewhere. Knew Leona and Indira then once I looked up that poem and thought scones figured it out. Very skilled creation-good puzzle.

Dirigonzo 6:15 PM  

A day (plus 5 weeks) late to the party - Rex said it could take anywhere from a minute to infinity to pick up the reversal trick. It took me about a day to finally see OCAT and all of a sudden all of my wrong "down" answers were right "up" answers. I may not be good but I'm persistent. Must remember to check the puzzle number to see if the original publication has any significance that may show up in the puzzle.

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