French Fauvist Dufy / THU 6-16-11 / HLMFFWVDMRV / Hockey's Tikkanen / Two-time Oscar nominee J Carrol / 1942 musical starring Rita Hayworth

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Constructor: David Steinberg

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: "SPOT THE CODE"39A: Title for this puzzle ... which the answers to the eight starred clues will help explain (HLMFFWVDMRV); the answers to the eight starred clues are all four-letter words with -IS- in the center, and so can be read as sentences that reveal The Code, i.e. HISS => H is S, LISP => L is P, etc.


Word of the Day: J. Carroll NAISH (6D: Two-time Oscar nominee J. Carrol ___) —

Joseph Patrick Carrol Naish (January 21, 1896 – January 24, 1973) was an American character actor born in New York City, New York. Naish did many film roles, but they were eclipsed when he found fame in the title role of radio's Life with Luigi (1948–1953), which surpassed Bob Hope in the 1950 ratings. (wikipedia)
• • •

On the easy side for me, but initial times at the NYT puzzle site seem a little slower than normal, so who knows. I split the difference and called it "Medium." This puzzle has a great core concept. The execution, however, has problems. Highlights: all code words are arranged symmetrically, and the gibberish central answer really does draw you in and compel you to break the code, even if (like me) you were able to fill out the entire grid without having any clue what that central answer was supposed to denote. Got a real "aha" moment when (finally) I figured out what was going on. Unfortunately, when I used my "aha" moment to actually solve the code, I was really disappointed—BE SURE TO DRINK YOUR OVALTINE would've been more exciting than SPOT THE CODE. By the time I uncovered that message, I had already spotted the code, so the command is absurdly belated. Also, and I can't stress this enough: if you are going to hang your entire puzzle on a phrase, that phrase should Be An Actual Phrase. SPOT THE CODE isn't a well-known phrase or saying or anything. Deciphering that central answer was immensely anti-climactic (unlike figuring out the gimmick, which was actually kind of cool). Fill was very rough all over, which also detracted from my solving enjoyment. The west is particularly horrible, with XOO crossing XVI (!) and the partial I LEFT (53A: "___ My Sugar Standing in the Rain" (1920s hit)), but weakness can be found all over. RISD is just godawful, but you gotta let it go, I guess, since it's a theme answer. But NAISH?? SEEGER'S? AMER SOV OFID AIRE = part of dismal middle. CSI LIQ ENT=way too many abbrevs. in one place. ERODENT is an atrocious word. Not only is EROSIVE the far, far, far more common word, but searching "ERODENT" will get you a site dedicated to info on gerbils and other (you guessed it) rodents. eRodent. Theme execution and grid quality should be up to the greatness of the concept, and they weren't today.



Theme answers:
  • 20A: *Let off some steam? (HISS)
  • 28A: *___ soup (MISO)
  • 30A: *Not get some Z's? (LISP)
  • 33A: *Birthday secret (WISH)
  • 46A: *Workshop sight, perhaps (VISE)
  • 48A: *CD part (DISC)
  • 50A: *Providence campus for aspiring artists, for short (RISD) — Rhode Island School of Design
  • 59A: *It may be pumped or bumped (FIST)
TAC (55A: Sea-___ Airport) is in the clue for (ugh) XOO (42A: Tic-tac-toe loser). I don't like SERT (60D: Spanish muralist), but I do like SERT doing a u-turn and coming back the other direction, i.e I like SERT next to TRES (61D: Uno y dos). Never heard of NAISH or RAOUL Dufy (15D: French Fauvist Dufy), and have no idea what "MY GAL SAL" is (though I've clearly heard the phrase before) (4D: 1942 musical starring Rita Hayworth). I assume the SAL of that musical is not a mule. Other names didn't flummox me as much. 1A: Explorer Abel who discovered New Zealand (TASMAN) was a gimme (always a nice way to start a puzzle). ESA was also a gimme, but that still doesn't make me like it (38A: Hockey's Tikkanen). NE was the easiest section, primarily because JIGSAW (10D: Puzzle type) went in off the "W," and BON JOVI went in off the "J," bam bam (7A: Band with the 1994 platinum record "Always").



Bam bam.

Done.

See you tomorrow.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Tumblr]

P.S. Every constructor at some point will have an idea only to find out "Patrick Berry Already Did It." Today, Patrick Blindauer Already Did It—in this amazing grid ("Optical Delusions," from the NY Sun, 2/9/07), the same code concept is used, though the central phrase that the solver has to crack is Much longer and Much more interesting (and real, and relevant). Also, the solver really has to crack it — some of the code is revealed through the "* IS *" clues, but the rest must be inferred. Super cool. Honest-to-god "aha" moment when quote becomes clear:

77 comments:

Anonymous 12:31 AM  

The constructor is 14 and in 8th grade and Rex has a quibble. This is a mind-blowing puzzle, no ifs, ands or buts, and even the moreso when you know the age of the constructor and this is his debut.

Congrats David! You have a no limits.

retired_chemist 12:31 AM  

Medium.

Did not enjoy the theme, since you pretty much had to suss it out (or, in my case,not) after the fact. The rest of the puzzle was fine. Since, like @Rex, I didn't need the theme to solve the puzzle, I shouldn't complain. Particularly since I am five times the constructor's age and could not construct anything one-tenth this good. So, congratulations to Mr. Steinberg.

Do. Not. Like. DOMINO'S Pizza and presumably that was the source of my intial try, TOTINO'S. They are kinda panned on Wikipedia.


As noted before E-RODENT is what moves the cursor on your computer screen.

Had OF OZ @ 35D and bet I am not alone. Ovrall, rqther few overwrites.

Thanks again, Mr Steinberg. I hope we see more of your work.

Anonymous 12:48 AM  

If the constructor is 14 how does he know a 1942 musical? or Bon Jovi for that matter?

answer: he doesn't.

retired_chemist 1:14 AM  

@ Anon 12:48 - Have you heard of William Shakespeare? And, assuming so, are you less than 400 years old?

sanfranman59 1:31 AM  

I had no idea what the theme was when I finished the puzzle. I had to go to Rex's write-up to learn what it was. When I decoded the message, all I could think of was poor little Ralphie sitting on that toilet with his Little Orphan Annie Secret Society decoder. Great minds, Rex ... I watch that darned movie every Christmas and still laugh my rear end off from start to finish.

(lol @ r_c)

Princess Kosmonopolis 1:43 AM  

Am struggling to get in touch with my inner 14 yo boy side - lovely puzz, but my printer is out of ink, so I had to solve online, so missed out on the "hide in the bathroom with my decoder ring" aspect of it all, until I came here, and really enjoyed Rex's clip. Ah me and alas!

jae 2:02 AM  

Medium for me too. Fun clever puzzle. I stared at this for while after finishing (yes, it's quite doable with out getting the theme) with no idea what was going on. Then, I wrote all the starred answers in a column and had the "aha" experience. I agree with Rex about payoff being somewhat of a let down but overall this was a fine Thurs.

syndy 2:28 AM  

I still needed one answer (PHD)when I had my AHA so at least solving the reveal gave me that- and yes I had OF OZ although it was so close to OZMA it made me uneasy. I spent most of my time with one eye on the middle saying what the hell -so I barely registered all the crap - when I finally realized what I was looking at it floored me!I had put the IS es into the bottom half and was expecting something along the lines of yesterday's so my thumbs is up!

andrea carob michaels 4:55 AM  

And it's a pangram!!!
(Might explain the XOO/XVI corner.)

Never understood till today why Will usually doesn't let you have but one square into a section, till I got the whole bottom lefthand quarter with the H of HOSE (which I had to run the alphabet 3 or 4 times for) so then a screeching halt, with no way "in".

So proud of myself not to Google but finally get TASMAN and MYGALSAL.

Constructive criticism:
Perhaps CRACKSTHECODE (13) would have been
a) more in the language
b) gotten rid of those ugly black square lumps...and
c) resolved the cut-off-ness issue.

That said... now that I hear David is in 8th grade, I'm almost too stunned to speak.
(almost!) ;)

DJG 6:17 AM  

Tic-tac-toe loser for something like XOO never made any sense to me. It's not necessarily a loser it's just not a winner. It might be part of a cat's game.

A tic-tac-toe loser is XXX or OOO for your opponent. It's a small point, but am I wrong?

Leslie 7:03 AM  

I'm amazed how young the constructor is. Wow!

Thanks, Rex, for the decoding job. I finished the puzzle, but Did Not Get It.

Rex Parker 7:06 AM  

@acme,

Your ideas occurred to me too, but try finding a nice -ISR word ...

rp

David L 7:41 AM  

Hard side of medium for me -- too many names I couldn't connect with the clues and had to infer from crosses (TASMAN and RAOUL were gimmes, but BONJOVI and CSI had to wait).

And I couldn't understand the theme until I got here, in fact had to read RP's explanation twice before it made sense. I saw that all the starred words had an 'I' in them, but couldn't see beyond that.

Not on my wavelength, in other words.

r.alphbunker 7:52 AM  

This puzzle was fun. I did not get the theme until I wrote down all the starred answers in a column and the IS popped out at me.

I am not sure that I understand acme's comment about the bottom lefthand section. I see that the section is attached at only one point to the rest of the puzzle which isolates it. But running the alphabet to get the H implies that she had filled in OSE which means that she had gotten "in" to that section. And how did the H of HOSE give her the whole bottom section? I don't understand her use of "give".

OldCarFudd 8:43 AM  

Odd combination of an easy puzzle with a theme I never sussed. Now that I see what it was all about, I'm impressed. Learning the age of the author makes me triply impressed! Come see us again, please, Mr. Steinberg.

oldbizmark 8:48 AM  

really enjoyed this puzzle although i did not finish because of "aZo" "oZma" cross. oh well. got the theme pretty quickly as i saw that there were random consonants building up across the middle for what were definitely correct answers. and, i did struggle with the southeast as i was not thinking "venus" as in tennis but as in roman mythology. that added an extra couple minutes to my solving time. oh well. fun puzzle. a bit easy for a thursday but can't complain.

jesser 8:48 AM  

First things first: Congratulations, David, on your NYT debut and your readily apparent brilliance. I'm guessing IQ TESTS strain your noodle not one bit.

That said: AERY? OZMA? ERODENT? RISD? Add to that that I've read Rex's explanation three times and I still can't figure out the gibberish across the center. And isn't Fantastik a CLEANsER?

I admire the fact that a puzzle was created, and I'm stunned (in a good way) by the youth and ambition of the constructor, but this one felt way too clunky for me. Maybe I'm just grumpy.

I hope everyone has a terrifice Thursday in Rexville and beyond. If prayer is in your belief system, please pray for rain in the West. Fireworks season is coming, and we're already on fire out here. We need some Divine Intervention. Sooner would be good.

joho 8:52 AM  

I ended up with one error at OZrA. But since I never figured out the code -- even with the starred words in a column it was all Greek to me!

I'd rate this puzzle enigmatic.

I think we should exterminate ERODENT.

Congratulations to David's debut and most interesting creation!

jp 9:21 AM  

I had to read twice Rex writeup to realize that the mumbo jumbo in 39A actually stood for something. Clever especially if it comes from a 14 year old kid.
But I hated the grid. So many pop culture or obscure words.
Just a few of them all concentrated in the NE corner:
TASMAN, ANADEM, SENSEI, NAISH and RAOUL.
Enough to make you want to quit.
No fun in solving a puzzle when you cannot solve much without Google and yet you can solve all of it (as I did) with Google's help.
Agree with everything Rex said.

jackj 9:31 AM  

As a total curmudgeon when it comes to gimmicky puzzles, the solve was fun but the gimmick evoked a loud "meh". I'll leave the code breaking to the NSA and the Navajo Code Talkers.

Nevertheless, praise must be heaped on the youthful head of David Steinberg; his being an 8th grade Times level constructor is mind boggling!

Some fun fill but some answers where David let Crossword Compiler take over. Seeing The Wizard OFID, instead of OZ was a nice touch, (though it was impossible to do anything else with Baum's Princess OZMA alongside).

Must take exception to Rex's comment that "RISD is just godawful"! As a crossword entry, perhaps, but, as the father of a proud RISD alum, I doth protest. It is the best art school in the United States.

Smitty 9:38 AM  

@jp ... me too (had to read Rex's write up twice)

Not even medium for me - no joy guessing obscure musicals, songs, art institutes (abbr), Oscar nominees and spanish muralists.

Nice to see Princess Ozma though!

Different Strokes 10:03 AM  

@Smitty

Except for RISF, your "obscures" were "gimmes" to this old time solver.

OTOH, never heard of Princess Ozma making the M a personal Natick, since I hadn't figured out the theme.

No "aha" moment, just a fill in the squares type of day.

Kudos to the constructor and construction, but the backstory didn't make it any more fun for me.

P>G>

Laura 10:11 AM  

I hope you mean the NE was the easiest section! The NW was about five times harder than the rest of the puzzle for me.

dk 10:18 AM  

Sigh... still do not get the code. My noodle strainers need to be.... simple.

Nice Thursday with a few groaners. Except I now really like ERODENT when i think of it as a navigation instrument for a computer.

Nice hommage to international conflict with SEEGERS, ANTIWAR and HISS (Alger)... SALERNO may fit as well but no time to fact check.

*** (3 Stars) SANGRIA breakfast of champions.

David -- great job!

ABG 10:25 AM  

Hi Rex! You make my day & the comments are always a treat! I just gave you a "shout out!" on my blog:

abgartbooksgreatideas dot blogspot dot com

Keep up the good work!
ABG

DBGeezer 10:27 AM  

I solved this puzzle last night but was clueless about the 39A mystery. I saw the IS in the starred clues, but didn't connect. I went to bed, and woke from a dream about crosswords this morning, and the answer hit me! I had thought I'd need to wait for @Rex, but dreams aren't so bad after all!

quilter1 10:39 AM  

David is my favorite boy's name and now David Steinberg is my favorite boy constructor. Good job, David! Given your youth I guess I'll be doing your puzzles for the rest of my life.

That said, I finished and found it pretty easy but never got the code and still don't see it but never mind. I solved easily from top to 39A then halted. So I started from the bottom to 39A and decided I knew all my answers were correct so 39A could just go hang itself.

chefbea 10:55 AM  

WOW Did not like the puzzle til I came here and had Rex 'splain it to me. and then to find out how young the constructor is!!! What a great feat. Congratulations David. A big bunch of you know what to you!!

CoffeeLvr 10:57 AM  

I agree that the NW was the toughest section, even with SENSEI, a gimme for me, as a nice spine for the area. I entered diADEM (crown) for the wreath, and that did not help at all, except with IDSAYSO (nice).

Somehow, I did not parse the eight *'d answers as the key to a code, so had to come here for Rex's translation; agree it is a letdown. I did figure out that they all needed to have the form ?IS?.

I held on to rISe, not get some Z's, at 30A until the end, when I was forced to Check it. Once I took out the E, I got the P from PHDS, which had crossed my mind. But RAOUL was almost a case of running the alphabet.

I did not have to Google, though I had to walk away for a while so I could remember DOHA. I had a lot of Aha moments while solving, e.g. SERENA, but they did not add up to a fully satisfying experience, I think because I didn't see the theme. And even if I had sussed out the CODE, the reveal is unsatisfying.

I learned TASMAN from this grid, did not know the island was named after a European explorer.

I really hate AERY and ERODENT. I would add NAISH and ESA, but weird proper names are fair game.

As for the age, or rather lack of, of Mr. Steinberg . . . as someone who has occasionally dreamed of constructing it is disheartening. Also, I strongly feel it should not be a reason to praise the puzzle; that is, the puzzle must stand on its own merit (or lack thereof). So with that said, this is an okay Thursday puzzle. As for the constructor, all NYT debuts deserve a SINCERE congratulations! As for the existence of Mr. Blindauer's puzzle . . . who knows how Mr. Steinberg's construction process started and proceeded. Not I.

Now I am going to go crack Mr. Blindauer's code. Thanks, Rex.

Masked and Anonymous 10:59 AM  

Thought surely the big reveal was going to be SPOT-THE-one-u. Kinda like Where's Waldorf. Maybe next time. Cute debut, kid.

Two Ponies 11:25 AM  

I am impressed with the age of the constructor but not with the grid.
Aery? Doha? Huh?
Clung to D.D.S. for 66D for way too long.
Can't say I enjoyed much about this. I did like the clue for anti-war.
@ jesser, I don't believe in invisible friends in the sky but I do hope the fires go out soon.

Lindsay 11:27 AM  

I came here very grumpy about the puzzle, and intending to issue a scathing review. But now I learn the constructor is in 8th grade. When I was in 8th grade, I could barely keep straight where my bus stop was.

That said, there sure is lotsa drek in here.

chefbea 11:37 AM  

@M&A It's where's Waldo...Not waldorf...that's a salad

David 12:03 PM  

Very very impressive debut from a 14 year old constructor! And he got me. I finished with one error - did not know OZMA, and since I knew the big clue was gibberish I just plopped the letter Z in for OZZA.

The theme only became clear after Rex's write up - but I love to learn, and this will further help me really dig into answers which pertain to a theme. Since I didn't get SPOT THE CODE anyway, I won't criticize its quality as a reveal. Maybe next time....

The completion itself was a typical Thursday for me, aside from HLMFFWVDMRV. I've been to Australia and New Zealand, and spent a month in Tasmania, so TASMAN was a gimme, and we are trying to rent our house right now, so ONEYEAR was a relevant gimme. Lastly, I worked at The Dannon Company for 8 years, so there you go with DANNON as the Yogurt brand.

quilter1 12:09 PM  

@Chefbea beat me to it, Waldo.

lentem: what the library did

Pete 12:31 PM  

Sorry, this puzzle lost me in the NW, with the ANADEM/AERY/NAISH pileup. The gimmes of TOSIR/TASMAN/SENSEI did nothing to take the foul taste of autofill out of my mouth.

I echo the sentiment that creating an acceptable NYTimes puzzle is quite an accomplishment at any, much less Mr Steinberg's tender age.

So, the question remains, can he do Standup?

Mel Ott 12:39 PM  

OZMA crossing a letter substitution thingy really sucks.

Anonymous 12:42 PM  

CAN SOMEONE PLEASE EXPLAIN THE SECRET TO THIS PUZZLE IN PLAIN ENGLISH ??? THANK YOU>

KarenSampsonHudson 12:51 PM  

Finished the puzzle, too sleep-deprived to get the code. Congrats to the young composer!

Anonymous 12:52 PM  

@Anon 12:42 All the starred clues are of the form [x] is [y], e.g. [M]IS[O]. To decode the central line, replace the M where ever you see it with an O, and repeat with all the starred clues.

chefbea 12:55 PM  

@Quilter1 You spelled beat wrong!!!

Teresa in Detroit 12:57 PM  

@anonymous 12:42 ***SPOILER ALERT*** Here is the code: MISO = M is O, that is Replace the letter M with the letter O. Likewise, replace L with P (L is P). Keep going, and then the line in the middle translates to Spot The Code

fikink 1:15 PM  

I am impressed with the constructor's youth, but I did kinda feel I was solving a computer-generated puzzle. This puzzle lacks a gestalt, imo.
Gotta echo P>G>, felt like I was filling in a job application, one letter at a time.


@DBGeezer, I am glad to know someone else dreams about crossword puzzles.

@Masked and Anonymous, you make me laugh! Waldorf is fine by me.


kgors - Older communist women who hit on younger men

John V 1:20 PM  

Got the all but NE just fine and then stalled, DNF. Never saw the theme. Taking nothing away from the constructor and complements as noted, this struck me as a bit too gimmicky, more a specialty item than a Times puzzle. My two cents.

Pete 1:32 PM  

@Jesser - another hand up for not believing in invisible men in the sky, but if you're looking for funding for billboards along the lines of "Hey jackasses - the entire state is one tinderbox waiting to blow, so no playing with incendiary/explosive toys, OK?" I'm in for $10.

Anonymous 1:35 PM  

Never figured out the theme. Since all the starred words were 4 letters, I was thinking word ladder and could never get away from that idea.

Would anyone but a 14 y.o. clue sangria as "purplish drink"?

Anonymous 1:39 PM  

picture this cartoon......a group portrait of seated Hassidic Jews in black hats and jackets and beards and the caption...where's waldo?

Anonymous 2:04 PM  

@Anon 1:39 - I'm Hasidic; what's your point?

babslesley 2:58 PM  

Thank you Teresa in Detroit. I read RP and I read the comments and I still couldn't figure it out.

Rube 3:29 PM  

Like @JackJ, I too am the proud father of a RISD alum, and am surprised at Rex taking such exception to using the common abbreviation for one of the finest art schools in the country.

So. I also found the NW to be the hardest part of the puzzle. Got TASMAN from the T and S -- it made sense. However, it took me a long time to get SANGRIA from just the S and N. Thus, all the crosses were gettable while some of the downs -- ANADEM, AERY, NAISH, and RAOUL were too obscure for me.

If you've seen the sequel, Return to Oz, (1985), OZMA is a gimme. Like @TwoPonies, stuck with DDS for 66D for way too long. Kept thinking about the play "The Fantasticks" only didn't realize there was a "C" in the spelling at the time. Also, wanted to somehow squeeze LI(z)ST in as the answer to "Not get some Z's".

EFFACE and ANADEM are my WsOTD. Personally, I think ERODENT is a great word -- as long as you're talking about computers -- say clued as "Crossword mouse?". Great puzzle and DNG.

Lewis 3:29 PM  

Three debuts this week, I think, two from high schoolers and today's from a middle schooler. I think I got into this game a little late...

Now that the theme has been revealed, I'm thinking, why didn't I think of that????

Lewis 3:47 PM  

Furthermore, this puzzle is a pangram. The constructor said that when he started working the NYT puzzles, he even had trouble with the Monday puzzles, so I'm feeling a little better.

r.alphbunker 4:16 PM  

I just did the Blindauer puzzle. This would not have worked as well in the NYT because the decoded message needs the stated theme "Optical Delusion" to complete the witticism. But only Sunday NYT puzzles allude to the theme in the title bar of the puzzle, Thursday's do not.

In other words, without the theme, the decoded message would not have seemed relevant to the rest of the puzzle. It needed the theme "Optical Delusion" to become relevant.

Or am I missing something?

sanfranman59 4:43 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)

Thu 19:53, 19:07, 1.04, 63%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Thu 10:59, 9:14, 1.19, 81%, Challenging

ksquare 4:47 PM  

@Rex 7:06 MISR is a transliterater name for Egypt, which I'll allow is not so commonly known. In Hebrew, MIZRAIM IS close to it.

Jon 5:10 PM  

what is the answer to the NY Sun code?

mac 5:24 PM  

I cracked the code, wouldn't give up, and that was a fun part of the puzzle for me. I had a few open spaces in the middle when I figured it out, and it helped me somewhat. I was looking for a word ladder at first.

With a few exceptions, the clues are on the easy side for a Thursday. And tac showed up twice.

Congratulations on the debut, David.

hazel 5:36 PM  

very very clever concept i thought. and to me, the backstory does matter. although puzzles are black and white, my solving experience never is. the fact that this was a rookie offering by a 14 year old absolutely makes this puzzle more charming.

i look forward to future puzzles where we see more and more david and less and less crossword compiler (which he talks about over on wordplay). great puzzle concept, david! keep it up!

BigSteve46 5:42 PM  

Somebody give this boy a bat and a ball or a skateboard and send him out to play. Nothing is more obnoxious than an overly precocious kid!

Matthew G. 6:01 PM  

Challenging. I was relieved to see sanfranman's report after some of you called this Easy or Medium, because this was far worse than most of my recent Thursday times. It wasn't that hard in the cluing -- there were just too many entries I straight-up didn't know today, including MY GAL SAL, NAISH, RAOUL, AZO, ESA, NEAL, and SERT.

(Weird that I haven't seen ESA before. I'm assuming he's crosswordese, but after a year of doing two or three puzzles a day it's the first time I've made his acquaintence, I think.)

@Rex: RISD is fair game. It's one of the best schools in its field and that's what everyone calls it (pronounced "Rizz-dee").

Oh well. Today wasn't my day, but on to tomorrow after I submit this with one click of the E-RODENT.

D 6:26 PM  

I finished the puzzle, with no overwrites, but did not understand the 39-A answer until I read the comments here. I'm not crazy about themed puzzles.

Not bad for a Thursday, and for a young puzzlemaker.

renee in tucson 6:31 PM  

Blidauer puzzle quote is spectacular combined with puzzle title. Love it.

Z 8:21 PM  

"The Soft Bigotry of Low Expectations."

Just a little irked at the constructors age being commented on so often. 14 year-olds are quite capable human beings as a general rule. That so many seem surprised suggests you haven't had enough real conversations with young people.

As for the puzzle - just out of my wheel house. I really struggled with everything. Hoping for a better Friday.

(Probably should mention that I was a middle school principal and spent a lot of my time convincing adults that middle-schoolers really could rise to high intellectual expectations)

hazel 8:44 PM  

@z - i know tons and tons of "quite capable human beings" of all ages - none of whom can construct a crossword puzzle of any sort, much less get it published in the NYT, and on a Thursday to boot. I don't really care that you're "irked", but your "bigotry" charge seems a bit over the top.

Z 8:57 PM  

Apologies if I was over the top. The phrase is not mine, but it came to my mind immediately as I read the comments. The impressive part is getting published, not that the constructor is 14. Low expectations are particularly insidious and damaging.

Anonymous 9:14 PM  

Is Will angry with Caleb or something? Because he just ruined Caleb's claim to fame as the youngest published constructor in the history of the NYTimes.

michael 10:00 PM  

Solved the puzzle easily enough, but didn't get gimmick until I came here. Superimpressed that the constructor is 14, despite z's incomprehensible comments. I suppose z thinks it's condescending to be impressed by Mozart's youthful achievements.

Z 10:59 PM  

@michael - I am impressed by Mozart's accomplishments. I am also impressed that Mr. Steinberg made his debut today. Having dealt with adults condescending to adolescents in my professional life, I am irked that the gentleman is being judged not on the quality of his work relative to NYT crossword puzzles, but relative to a perception of what 14 year olds can do. Granted - I may be over-reacting - but it hit a nerve.

By comparison - look at the nit-picking started yesterday by the constructor's mom. I think we owe Mr. Steinberg the respect of holding him to those standards.

That's three for me, so I'm shutting up now.

fikink 11:04 PM  

Z said: Low expectations are particularly insidious and damaging.

Damn straight.

cody.riggs 11:19 PM  

Regarding the last comment, frankly, this puzzle is a better achievement than ANYTHING Mozart wrote at age 14. Really, have you listened to that Austrian dreck?
That having been said, this puzzle had a lot of problems...it was a DNF for me, simply because of those problems (I can't remember the last time I had a DNF: here, it was ENT that did me in...I was Sure of DDS there, and LIQ didn't help.) No, I got the theme early, and it was a true AHA moment when I got it. No complaints about the theme!

Andrea's kind criticism was helpful and spot-on, I feel. I look forward to her comments every day. I agree, BREAK THE CODE would have been much better.

Continuing with Mozart...I cannot fathom why he's considered some "child genius"...Mendelssohn wrote far better music at a much younger age...the OCTET, hello? All those movie marquees should have screamed out "FELIX", not "AMADEUS."

So there, I'm more impressed with David Steinberg than W.A. Mozart. Despite the problems. D.S. aimed high and kept me interested. Fewer black squares and abbrevs. next time David...that's all...you had me at "OZMA" this time! Love those Baum books!!!

And I must say, why do people always refer to pop music and the fact that "so-and-so" wasn't EVEN BORN when "such-and-such" song (by Bon Jovi, for example) came out? Like that somehow disqualifies them from knowledge of the music(/book/movie...whatever.) I find this extremely distasteful and patronizing. Baby boomers seem particularly prone to this habit, and it seems to me that should I live to be 70, some baby boomer in his 90's will still be calling me a "baby" simply because I didn't see "2001" during its original theatrical release. Give it a rest! How old must one be before being considered an educated adult??? I'm over 40 and attended multiple colleges, and STILL get "youngster" comments from people barely a decade older.

Don't let anyone knock you for being 14, I say! When they're dead, you'll get the last laugh, I'm sure.

GE, Portland, Ore.

sanfranman59 1:08 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 7:23, 6:52, 1.07, 78%, Medium-Challenging
Tue 8:32, 8:55, 0.96, 45%, Medium
Wed 12:20, 11:48, 1.05, 65%, Medium-Challenging
Thu 19:57, 19:07, 1.04, 63%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 4:08, 3:40, 1.13, 90%, Challenging
Tue 4:26, 4:35, 0.97, 46%, Medium
Wed 6:18, 5:49, 1.08, 75%, Medium-Challenging
Thu 10:24, 9:14, 1.13, 77%, Medium-Challenging

David Steinberg 11:54 AM  

Thanks, everyone, for your comments and suggestions!

Anonymous 12:51 PM  

Welcome to the big leagues, kid.

I started off grumbling about all the things that have been already been grumbled about above...and having a helluva time trying to figure out that central line. I had few of the theme answers and a few partials but was getting nowhere. I had already noticed that all the theme answers contained just four letters...and the ones I had solved had IS in the center. Used that to assume IS in the center of all the theme answers, which gave me some more crosses, and that jumbled mess in the middle. Then came the aha moment. The code gave me more letters, which led to more crosses, and eventually the grid was complete.

Last letter was (appropriately) Z. Had no idea of the dye or the Baum character, but knowing Baum wrote the OZ books made Z the most reasonable guess. Plus, right about this time I was also realizing that the rest of the alphabet had already been represented.

In the end I really enjoyed this, as there were so many different clues I had to pick up on to complete the grid. Always more fun than just knowing all the answers.

@ Jon 5:10 PM
whassamatta, you don't like cryptiquotes? Where there is no vision the people perish.

Deb @ RoomscapesDecor.com 2:03 PM  

Thank you, Anonymous 12:42 pm! I read Rex's explanation three or four times and was still completely baffled.

Big, fat DNF for me. Felt more like a Friday or Saturday.

CYNTHIA 9:33 PM  

Checking in from syndication land... Thanks, David, for the shoutout to my favorite artist, Raoul Dufy!

Dirigonzo 10:35 PM  

Well, I completed it but my ink on paper grid is not a pretty sight. Unlike some prime-timers I figured out the theme/code which helped me fill in the whole middle section, but I most certainly did not find it easy.

The comics are my second-most favorite feature in the paper (you can guess the first) so it was nice to see the Wizard OFID make an appearance.

Wish Rex had put up a video of Jerry Jeff Walker singing SANGRIA Wine.

Red Valerian 8:04 PM  

I'm way late, since I'm going through old papers after returning from holidays. (I like to think of procrastination as an art.) I liked this puzzle, though probably largely because I did manage to spot the code, which made me feel all self-satisfied. Didn't like erodent (in its non-computer sense) or aery, but got everything. The code didn't help until getting the "M" is Ozma. Like others, I was initially expecting a word ladder.

Also liked the Blindauer quotation (which, of course, took longer to get), though I agree it needs the title to really sing.

Ok, off to, um, recycle old newspapers...

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