Wood-cleaving tool / FRI 7-15-11 / Luff you lubber speaker of literature / Wyndham alternative familiarly / Fokker foe / Talent agent Swifty

Friday, July 15, 2011

Constructor: Martin Ashwood-Smith and Joe Krozel

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: none


Word of the Day: FROE (13D: Wood-cleaving tool) —

A froe (or frow) is a tool for cleaving wood by splitting it along the grain. It is an L-shaped tool, used by hammering one edge of its blade into the end of a piece of wood in the direction of the grain, then twisting the blade in the wood by rotating the haft (handle). A froe uses the haft as a lever to multiply the force upon the blade, allowing wood to be torn apart with remarkably little force applied to the haft. By twisting one way or the other the direction of the split may be guided. (wikipedia)
• • •

I'm told quad stacks of 15s are exceedingly difficult to pull off. Problem is: I don't care. The constructor's level of difficulty is meaningless to me unless the result is an interesting, thoughtful, entertaining, and mostly smooth puzzle. What I love about this puzzle is how beautifully it illustrates how Terrible stunt grids like this are. Check out the middle of the grid—fresh, bouncy, loaded with interesting fill, Scrabbly letters, etc. That's because There Are Black Squares In There. You know what happens (in the *best* case scenario) when you try to stack 4 15s on top of one another? FROE. FROE is what happens. Also LEYS (15D: Simon who wrote "The Death of Napoleon"). Also ALEKTANASPAD (next time I see an insane answer, instead of saying it's "from outer space," I'll just say it's from ALEKTANASPAD ... part of the former U.S.S.R., I think) (53D: Film director Keshishian + 52D: Lake ___ (Blue Nile source) + 49D: Fokker foe). But you knew I would say this (well, maybe not the ALEKTANASPAD part, but the rest). Because I always think stunt grids like this are disappointing. I never like being made to suffer through terrible fill just so a constructor (or two) can say "Look Ma!" Makes me say "RRR," only ... like a dog growl, not however you're supposed to say this visual representation of the "Three Rs," which cannot possibly be said aloud in any comprehensible way (47A: Basics of learning, briefly).

Very slow to start—had practically nothing up top on the first go 'round—then hit the middle and (surprise!) got a good toehold and swam right across the grid, west to east. Then hit the bottom and once again slowed. Had even less after my first go at the south than I had after my first go at the north. What broke the bottom was ARGYLE (44D: Diamond pattern), which I got without crosses, and which gave me RRR, then RASPS, and then (the ubiquitousest 15 in the whole wide world, of late) A LOT ON ONE'S PLATE (I'm told one of today's constructors once used both A LOT ON ONE'S PLATE *and* SCARLET TANAGERS in another puzzle he constructed. Recycling!) (Wait, wait, you're gonna love this—last person to use A LOT ON ONE'S PLATE in a NYT puzzle: Martin Ashwood-Smith. Before that: Joe Krozel. Before that: Martin Ashwood-Smith. Before that: (wait for it ...) Joe Krozel. That's a lot of A LOT ON ONE'S PLATE on one's plate. Times 2). All you really need is one 15 in place, and the whole stack starts to tip. Made short work of the south after that, and then went north, where things looked quite bleak. CHALK DUST (11D: School board output?) was my one solid anchor up there (well, that and SCALE). Then PENSÉE. Then (aha!) EDDIE (10D: Money making hits). From there I managed the awkward plural STERLING SILVERS, and the rest fell from there. Once again, that's FROE. Not ADZE, but FROE. That is all.

Bullets:
  • 16A: 1970 film with much Sioux dialogue ("A MAN CALLED HORSE") — heard of it, but never seen it and couldn't tell you one thing about it.
  • 17A: Game that kids fall for (RING AROUND A ROSY) — GREAT clue; I learned it as "THE Rosy," but no matter.
  • 26A: "Kathy Griffin: My Life on the ___" (Emmy-winning reality show) ("D LIST") — big fat gimme. Used to love this show.


  • 33A: Craze of 2005-06 (SUDOKU) — this is a stupid clue. Is SUDOKU not a "craze" any more? Was it ever? When did it stop being popular?
  • 31A: Direction for a whaler? (THAR) — she blows. Indeed she does.
  • 37A: Word often pig-Latinized (NIX) — Also [ESPN commentator Wendi]
  • 3D: Frederiksberg resident (DANE) — I lived in Fredericksburg one summer. It was not in Denmark.

  • 31D: Wyndham alternative, familiarly (THE HILTON) — Never heard of "Wyndham." Not sure how the clue signals the definite article.
  • 4D: Artist with a self-named museum in Montauban, France (INGRES) — with a name like that (common letters in an odd arrangement) you'd think he'd show up more often.
  • 56D: "Luff, you lubber" speaker of literature (SMEE) — meaningless to me. But I've seen SMEE a lot, so no problem to work out from a cross or two.
  • 21D: Talent agent Swifty (LAZAR) — learned him from crosswords!
  • 43D: Former AOL competitor (NETCOM) — ugh, bygone ISPS. I've heard of Netscape and NetZero, but not this. With such a terrible, hackneyed, forgettable name, it deserved to die.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

94 comments:

Jerry 12:14 AM  

Wow, another puzzle with quad staZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ

terryb 12:22 AM  

Terrible puzzle. Top stack is unbelievably bad: BE DISRESPECTFUL is just a random-ass phrase that no one cares about, the movie is legit but boring, it's ring around THE rosy like Rex said, and STERLING SILVERS is a brutal plural. No more quad stacks unless you can actually pull them off decently, please.

retired_chemist 12:34 AM  

Liked most of puzzle, disliked part. What @Rex said about the suckiness of some of the fill.

Did not like STERLING SILVERS. If singular, OK. The plural is not in common parlance IMO. You silverware is your SILVER, not your SILVERS. Now, STERLING SALVERS is OK - and it was my answer. You can have more than one SALVER, though most of us probably have none.

Did not like EEKA Mouse - never heard of him/her. Had ESKA - ESKA MOUSE is a reggae artist who lives in an igloo, cf. Eskimos. Whatever.

And this led to 10D EDDAS, which in Scandinavia in the thirteenth century might well have been moneymakers. And some places they may be still. Wouldn't be my cup of tea, but hey, with 9D DANE and 12D TORVALD I saw a mini-Scandinavian theme. Disappointed it didn't work out....

My other complaint area was 47A RRR. One says "the three R's" but not RRR. And RNASE is an abbreviation (for ribonuclease) but not clued as such. Doesn't make my top three list of pancreatic enzymes anyway. Go to your local friendly health food store and you will find lipases, proteases, and amylase are the ones they sell you in pancreatic enzyme pills. I doubt ribonucleases are there. If they are someone will tell us.

Hand UP FOR RING AROUND THE ROSY.

Anonymous 12:34 AM  

Ring around a rosy? How about the Arlo Guthrie song from Alice's Restaurant?

Anonymous 12:52 AM  

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OCcP6vjC9gQ

-MAS

Noam D. Elkies 12:55 AM  

Ixnay on the pig Latin: 37A:NIX is actual Latin for "snow". Still a neat clue.

Eye-bay,
—NDE

retired_chemist 1:07 AM  

I didn't mean A was wrong, just that I too knew it as THE. THE seems to be more common, at least in the US, per a cursory googling.

syndy 2:09 AM  

Totally aqree with Rex on this one!Does not one wear a Cummerbund with a tux? and is a RUT the metaphoric LOW POINT isn't that a PIT? isn't a rut more of a dull routine?But I knew SCARLET TANAGER and my time was quite good for a friday-I had THE HILTO- before i quessed that answer.

CoffeeLvr 2:55 AM  

I worked at this, and came back for several iterations. I found it easier than many Fridays, due to knowing the movie and some lucky guesses and restrained use of Check.

Best entry: CHALK DUST

Agree that the non-film answers in the top stack are awkward, each in it's own way.

chefwen 3:29 AM  

SCARLET TANAGERS are beautiful, the opposite of this puzzle which had me staring at a sea of white for way too long. Challenging says it all for me. Got it done, but it hurt.

Also thought it was RING AROUND the ROSY and don't think STERLING SILVER needs an S. Can't stand Kathy Griffin and thought it was B LIST. Whadda I know?

alibi chalkdust michaels 4:28 AM  

after I stopped trying to cram DANCESWITHTHEWOLVES in, I was off to the races and enjoyed this!

A MAN CALLED HORSE has that iconic scene of the white man who is allowed to become part of the tribe hanging on hooks as part of the initiation...at least that is what is burned into my traumatized 12 yr old's mind at the time. Richard Harris, right?
(I'm experimenting this week with actually trying to use my memory instead of looking up everything immediately on Google, otherwise I will atrophy beyond repair)

Anyway, found this puzzle relatively easy, even tho I had SCARLETmANAGERS! And EDDIs hid from me for a while. I too wanted adzE over FROE, but if you know your four-letter F words for Scrabble...you know FROE.
(Somehow I suspect many of you know your four-letter F words for other purposes!)

I liked the constructor mash-up of Joe Krozel and Martin Ashwood-Smith! (Mashwood JoeK?)

Only one question...where was the W???
Anyway, great! I find nothing to BEDISRESPECTFUL about!

I skip M-W 6:08 AM  

Most of the same follies as @ REx and @Retired Chemist, and same complaints, but eventually finished. Is any red bird a firebird?? Had no idea who Kathy Griffin is, so thanks, @Rex for enlightenment. Assumed "A Man Called Horse" just left off the first name, i.e. "Crazy", but apparently not. Put in Ahab before Smee, didn't even notice Spad or Tana or Alek . Still have no idea what Spad is. Some kind of Soviet plane?
Doing this puzzle puts a lot on one's plate, but it doesn't make sense. We deserve political asylum now.

retired_chemist 7:37 AM  

SPAD refers to a French biplane used against the Germans in WW I.

David L 7:51 AM  

Bottom half pretty easy, top half not so much, but both parts pretty ugly.

STERLINGSILVERS seems flat-out wrong to me. Sterling silver is a grade of metal. Do you say 18 karat golds?

THEHILTON? Why? Doesn't make sense, as Rex says.

Hey, but I knew EEKA mouse and TORVALD...

dk 8:01 AM  

"Remember the feeling as a child when you woke up and morning smiled..." sorry another on TAJ Mahal Giant Step moment.

Parts of this puzzle had me thinking that I should be come a porn star and name myself Sterling Silvers but I am not up for it.

The middle and lower sections of this puzzle are great. Even the SUDOKU fill made sense to me.

Where this one Stopped Making Sense (see Talking Heads vid on U Tube) was at 18A, 13D... What am I whining about CHALKDUST AND EDDIE are great and New Orleans has a SLUG Museum for TORVALD's sake.

2 clunkers do not a bad puzzle make. Only major disaster was breakfast for the board output.... I know, I know it was a stupid mistake so cleave me with a FROE.

Also nice shout out to Harry Potter fans on this the opening day.

Enough about the puzzle lets talk about me!

I am going to be a guest bartender tonight at a fund raiser for our local theater. Potions master for a day woo woo. Maybe if I dress up as Severus?? nah It'll never work..

Another **** (4 Stars) puzzle. 2 in a row.

Anonymous 8:13 AM  

There are different kinds of sterling silver depending on the type of metal used in the alloy. For example wikipedia cites argentium sterling silver (amongst others) as a specific kind of sterling silver. Sterling silvers may not be the most common or elegant of plurals, but it is not wrong.

mac 8:14 AM  

Challenging for me, today. Mostly in the stack areas, though. Could not accept the silvers, wanted salvers as well. Eddie and Eeka are unknown to me. Loved the clue for "thar"!

Back to packing. Returning to the US tomorrow in time to see the soccer final on Sunday!

Glimmerglass 8:20 AM  

I agree with Rex and Retired Chemist. This was an inelegant puzzle. Missed on EDDIE Money, which I should have remembered, and RNASE which should have been clued abbrev. RRR is okay, I guess, but not *NASE without a vowel. CHALK DUST was the only bright spot.

David L 8:32 AM  

@anon 8:13: So there are different kinds of sterling silver. The plural seems forced to me nevertheless.

The nursery rhyme I learned was a ring, a ring of roses. Evidently quite a few variations have sprung up over the years, so I am agnostic on the 'a' vs 'the' and 'rosy' vs 'rosie' questions.

jesser 9:01 AM  

Writeovers were at 9D, where I put in le idEE and 15D, where I had nEil. Despite those, the top half was a lot easier for me than the bottom. I blame a lot of that on the abjectly horrible RRR at 47A, and the crossing 47D RNASE. They emerged, but in the way maggots emerge -- disgustingly. I also wanted the Pontiac brand to somehow show up in the Firebird reference, but it could not. Once I got DOESN'T MAKE SENSE, then A LOT ON ONE'S PLATE showed up to the party, and SCARLET TANAGERS flew in close behind once ALEK, FEINT, RASP and SMEE showed them the way. I can't say I hated the puzzle as much as Rex, and the empty grid was impressive looking. I think I finished slightly faster than my normal Friday. Probably because I was well-schooled in my RRR.

tptsteve 9:03 AM  

I liked it, but maybe that's because I finished a Friday in relatively quick time. Biggest problem was having lisp for RASPS, which mucked up one of the 15s for me.

RNASE has its own special place in hell

Did anyone use "Netcom?" Never heard of it-- maybe that's why it was an
AOL competitor.

joho 9:06 AM  

@alibi chalkdust ... I, too, kept trying to cram in "Dances With Wolves!"

I thought the middle was easy, the bottom easy-medium and the top goofy. I finished but didn't believe my eyes at FROE and SILVERS. My favorite clue was up there though, 10D: Money making hits. Took forever to get that and when I did, loved it!

I think I'll dance a quick RINGAROUNDAROSY and get back to work.

Thanks Martin & Joe!

No BS 9:18 AM  

Glad to see others had the same thoughts around silvers/salvers, Eddis/Eddas. Sounds a little Naticky, but since I am all too familiar with Natick I guess it's only fair that I've nevah hoida Eddie Money.

Matthew G. 9:22 AM  

Of silver the slender knives, the delicate forks; of silver the salvers with silver trees chased in the silver of the hollows for collecting the gravy of roasts; of silver the triple-tiered fruit trays of three round dishes crowned by silver pomegranates; of silver the wine flagons hammered by craftsmen in silver. ... --Alejo Carpentier, "Concierto Barroco."

Disliked this puzzle intensely, and DNF because of SCARLET TANAGERS. I've simply never heard of the category of birds known as TANAGERS (SCARLET or otherwise), and with that entry crossing TANA and ALEK, I was inescapably Naticked. I tried VOYAGERS, which seemed like a perfectly plausible name for a kind of bird. I texted my mother after checking Rex's grid, and she tells me that she's heard of TANAGERS but hasn't seen one since she was a child. Good to know.

Aside from the DNF, I hated this for the reasons well catalogued by others. I threw down A LOT ON ONE'S PLATE as my first entry, but derived no satisfaction from it because I've seen it so many times before. I also tried NO MORE MR NICE GUY instead of BE DISRESPECTFUL and wish it had been right. I thought of RING AROUND the ROSY right off the bat, but resisted it because I was sure it used "THE," not "A."

And most of all, I hated the plural STERLING SILVERS. Like retired_chemist, I kept thinking of SALVERS. And then thinking of SILVER SALVERS got me to thinking about the opening paragraph of the classic Cuban novel I quote above, which I wrote a paper on once and which I commend to your attention. Being reminded of it was the only thing I really enjoyed about this puzzle.

Z 9:33 AM  

I wanted 1A to be "polite barista." It wasn't.

I slogged through the top 2/3rds. DNFed with four letters in the bottom (50D - COLO).

Ditto what RP said.

jackj 9:36 AM  

Per the Times web site, one of the constructors admitted his lower quad stacks were inferior and the other said he had some rogue quad stacks he couldn't work into a puzzle so the two got together to try and prove that two wrongs do, in fact, make a right. WRONG!

There was some good stuff in the puzzle, (SKIRT, ALIBI, MAGIC), but, as Rex rightly points out, it was all in the crossword's midsection and 15x5 grids do not an acceptable puzzle make.

The sight of ALOTONONESPLATE bouncing back and forth, puzzle to puzzle from Krozel to Ashwood-Smith and back again is both disingenuous and DISRESPECTFUL to the solver.

chefbea 9:42 AM  

Agree with everyone.But had to google a bit.

Why is lay low hid? Shouldn't it be hide? If you lay low you are in hiding.

Z 9:45 AM  

I also wanted the Fokker Foe to be a Sopwith Camel.

Ring around THE rosies. A pocketful of Posies. Ashes. Ashes. We all fall down.

I have heard that it is a rhyme referring to the plague. I've no idea if that's true.

Torbach 10:00 AM  

One reason I'm no speed solver is because my mind wanders - today's tanager, I mean, tangent, came from PENSEE & EDDIE. For some reason, I know (or think, at any rate) that EDDIE Money's given name was Mahoney which, coupled with the implied accent aigu in the former word, got me thinking you'd have to write "Eddie Money, né Mahoney ..." - a word many of us non-French-speaking, 3-letter-words-are-as-low-as-we-go-in-xwords people have never seen. Then I remembered "Hey! I'm solving a puzzle, aren't I?"

De Birder 10:04 AM  

I've been a birder for over 40 years and have never, ever, heard a Scarlet Tanager refered to as a firebird.

Norm 10:07 AM  

Two thumbs down from me. The rest has all been said.

Anonymous 10:09 AM  

Z: The first time ALOTONONESPLATE appeared in one of my puzzles was about a year ago. That puzzle had been accepted by Will about 15 months before publication. Also, I think I constructed it about a year or two earlier. The time lines here are perhaps longer than you may imagine.

After the unfortunate coincidence of two consecutive Friday "ALOTONONESPLATES" (how's that for a plural?) last March. I contacted Will and suggested that he delay today's puzzle because of this (now)15-letter repeater. I think he did delay publication of the puzzle by a month or two, but honestly, I would have been happier if the puzzle had been delayed for a longer period.

So, apologies Z, if you think this was in any way disingenuous or disrespectful. It certainly wasn't intended to be.

-Martin Ashwood-Smith

Smitty 10:18 AM  

Me too on THE rosy, Dances with wolves and IDEE.
But I didn't dislike it as much as many here did....The long fill was gettable and there weren't too many huh? moments in the rest of it...
I liked the cluing for EDDIE money, ARGYLE, NIX and THAR

Anonymous 10:23 AM  

chefbea - I too balked a little a "hid" but the "lay low" is past tense. Had a smile at Potter's field; otherwise googled a few times and got it done. No joy - particularly after yesterday's delight.

OISK 10:25 AM  

Liked this one more than most, apparently. Finished fast for a Friday, although I never heard of Griffin nor of Dlist. However, I did have one square wrong, since I never heard of Eddie Money nor EEKA Mouse, like many others I had Eska Mouse. Bad cross, IMHO.

I pointed out earlier this week that I had never heard of "Green Day". As often happens, the following day the name of the group came up in a Greg Iles novel I was reading. I wonder if there is a name for this phenomenon - one encounters a completely unfamiliar factoid, and then soon finds it again in a different place entirely...

Mel Ott 10:25 AM  

This one really stunk. Particularly the changing of the common name of the kids' game and pluralizing STERLING SILVER.

The bottom two-thirds was actually pretty good, but the whole thing was spoiled for me by that wretched top third.

hazel 10:36 AM  

i suppose the fact that i finished the double quad unassisted (perhaps for the first time ever - not sure) has made me feel charitable towards the puzzle. the little bit of nonsense fill in those unfortunate crossings didn't affect my ability to get the big phrases, so they didn't bug me.

Words and phrases get reused all the time - is there a special rule that 15s should be one and done (with the exception of THELONGGOODBYE of course). Its not like its a marquee phrase in this setting - more like a support 15 helping the other ones. Either way, I doubt I will immediately drop in ALOTONONESPLATE, the next time It shows up (though its possible it has been shamed out of its existence now).

All in all I liked it.

Tobias Duncan 10:42 AM  

@Martin Ashwood-Smith. Thanks for pointing out the timeline.

I have to say though that I am glad for the pile up, because the sentence "That's a lot of A LOT ON ONE'S PLATE on one's plate." has been giving me the giggles for the past five minutes.

miriam b 11:15 AM  

"He lay low for a while" = "He hid for a while." Here "lay" is the past tense of "lie". It bugged me too at first.

I guess I do have STERLING SILVERS, in a way. There's the American flatware, .925 silver. Then I have an heirloom collection of Russian silver, 84 zolotnik, which is .875. I'm unsure whether this can be called a kind of sterling. In any case, EVERYTHING needs polishing.

@acme - Yeah, I was all excited until I couldn't find a W.

I'm in the Ring Around a Rosy camp.

aspho: Cleo's greeting to that snake

GenJoneser 11:17 AM  

What, no love for Eddie Money in musical format? Enjoy your trip back to the late seventies..
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YTE12zOHuFI

GenJoneser 11:21 AM  

even more fun...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zwlf35soxis&NR=1
Ahh TMS...a staple for me on late friday night babysitting gigs...

syndy 11:24 AM  

@OISK no,once someone has pointed out an umbiquitous reference you recognize it the next time you see it. mind games!

David 11:43 AM  

Agree with Rex and many of the others, I had about 95% of the non 15 letter stacks area done in a short time (except NIB and NIX), but then got frustrated at the corresponding utter lack of progress with those stacks.

Only one of the 8 stacks I really liked was POLITICALASYLUM, though SCARLETTANAGERS provides me with another of my Deadhead references, to the wonderful tune Scarlet Begonias (which would have fit, though it's a bit obscure!).

Totally misread 1-Across...Dispense with courtesy = "give" with courtesy, so I reeeallly struggled up top for a while, and I enlisted the help of my son with RINGAROUNDAROSY - I hummed the tune, blanking on the title, he gave it to me, and it still felt wrong. It's Ring Around THE Rosy!!

My other bugaboos were 43Across NIB, and 37Across NIX, I was interchanging NIB and TIP for a while, changing my correct answer of CUB to CUP, then back again.

Did love EDDIE Money clue, as well as CHALKDUST answer and clue.

A Wade Called Horse 11:50 AM  

"Iconic" may be rendered almost meaningless from overuse, and I confess I don't really know what it was ever supposed to mean--maybe "cool!"--but I think Andrea uses it correctly, on the theory that the word means what I want it to mean. That guy hanging by his pectorals from leather straps tied to . . . a teepee rafter pole or something? I don't remember. But it's seared (sered?) in my brain. That was back in the days of three channels when all the kids got off the bus at school talking about the same thing they'd watched the night before, and I definitely remember the day that was the topic.

Entrap Vapor 11:53 AM  

basically agree with the crowd here. middle of the grid was a lot more fun and interesting. sad thing is that ALOTONONESPLATE has turned into a gimme. one of the first things i plopped down there. i love puzzles with long clues, but only when they have some spark.

mac 11:55 AM  

@miriam b: the Russian silver is not Sterling. Because it is not
.925. I'm not sure if you would call argentium a sterling. It doesn't discolor the way regular sterling does.

Eric 12:00 PM  

I believe ring around A rosy was an English rhyme relating to the plague. Pocketful of posies was to hide the smell. Rose rash in a ring meant you were probably done for and would "all fall down".
Agree with all about the awful fill and some of the stack answers.
Could not fit Spitfire in the Spad slot.

Stan 12:15 PM  

Earworm warning: "Take Me Home Tonight" (feat. Ronnie Spector)

NETCOM makes me want to fire up my MicroVAX and Telnet over to CompuServe for some Internet Relay Chat.

Arundel 12:18 PM  

The above-posted Eddie/Ronnie link is thoughtfully provided to clarify for those who were previously unaware of exactly what an earworm is. Or does!

Anonymous 12:20 PM  

Mac, according to Wiki, argentium is a variety of sterling silver.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argentium_sterling_silver

Jim 12:32 PM  

NETCOM is gross. I like Homer's incarnation of a mid-90s internet company better: Compuglobalhypermeganet. I even like his rejected names...Cutco, Edgecom and Interslice.

Liked the middle, which I flew through. ABIDED and HIJACKS were a delight.

Jim 12:35 PM  

Oh, and I flew in a Fokker 50 two years ago. Had never been in one or heard of the company before. It did not instill confidence. It was from Addis Ababa to a city called Mekele in the north of Ethiopia. Beautiful views along the way, actually, especially since I'm sure that plane couldn't climb any higher than 3,000 feet!

Old Al 12:39 PM  

This is for all you real time solvers from a syndicated solver: Do you have a title on your puzzle?

For example, at the top of the June 9th puzzle (which was yesterday to me), Rex said, "THEME: Jay-Z — Familiar phrases have "J" sounds turned to "Z" sounds..." Did this actually appear with your puzzle? It didn't on mine. It never does. This makes solving puzzles like this much more difficult because, in addition to solving the puzzle, you have to determine the theme.

evil doug 1:01 PM  

Either the constructors or Shortz, or all three, have to be shown a red card for "recycling" as Michael aptly calls it. If Will is hanging on to puzzles for months and even years before they run, then there must be plenty of other options.

A nearly perfectly designed clue: "Dispense with courtesy". Since I started at 1A and had no crosses to help me, for a while I was looking at "serve with a smile"---as in, "hand out in a polite way". It's exquisite when a clue can be answered with opposites.

Eric: Spitfires were in WWII, Spads and Fokkers in WWI. The idea of Spits taking on bi-winged aircraft sounds like fun, though...

Evil

Joel 1:01 PM  

I have to disagree with you, Rex. Look, I'm all for lively 70-word grids with stacks of ten letter answers or something, but if every grid were like that I don't think the NYT puzzle would be as interesting. The variation and novelty of this grid was worth the dreck. Of course the middle of the grid is the cleanest, freshest part -- it is mostly 4 and 5 letter answers. The longest answer is 7 letters. If the whole puzzle was like the middle, it wouldn't be fun.

Don't get me wrong, if quad stacks like this ran often I wouldn't enjoy it. But some variation every now and then doesn't deserve the absolute panning this one got. I'm not saying you have to ooh and aah at the accomplishment, but at least appreciate that it's a different animal altogether from your average themeless.

Z 1:01 PM  

Anon @ 10:09 (AKA MAS) - It was JackJ, right after my comment, who wrote the "disrepectful" comment. I'm not a good enough solver to ever feel disrespected by a constructor.

Z

Sparky 1:23 PM  

Well I finished which made me happy because I've been clobbered the last two Fridays. ALOTONONESPLATE came first. Time to retire it for a bit.
I have heard of SCARLETTANAGERS but took a while because I clung to lisps.
Know FROE from watching PBS, the woodworker from North Carolina.
Ashamed I missd EDDIE Money since he was in another puzzle recently.
I polish my knives and forks not my silvers. Why did I buy that stuff?
Did not dislike this puzzle as much as @Rex and retired chemist and others, but I can see your points.
Happy weekend one and all.

Gill I. P. 1:23 PM  

My favorite rendition:
Ring a ring a roses
A pocket full o' posies
One for me, and one for you
And one for little Moses.
Hatch-u, hatch-u, we all fall down.
A MAN CALLED HORSE gave me nightmares.
I actually enjoyed this work-out.

Anonymous 1:33 PM  

@Old Al - The 'theme' that appears in Rex's write-up is one that he creates (except for Sundays, when it's part of the puzzle). There are no themes provided M-Sat.

Old Al 1:37 PM  

Anonymous, Thanks. I don't feel so bad since we're all in the same boat.

TimJim 2:10 PM  

I kinda liked this one. Agree with @Joel that the long stacks occasionally provide good diversion despite the SPAD consequences. But also agree the sudoku clue was bad - it's like saying a crossword puzzle was a "craze from 1924-25."

archaeoprof 2:37 PM  

How did I manage to enjoy a puzzle that everyone else dislikes?

acme 2:49 PM  

@Martin Ashwood-Smith
WOW, you should NOT have to apologize when others have been so disrespectful of your work, which is really an awesome accomplishment...
ALOTONONESPLATE may have been repeated but it is the glue to a lot of other interesting phrases without which wouldn't have been possible, which is true of any puzzle any day of the week...

Save an unfortunate S here, an A/THE controversy there (akin to the whole ONES/YOUR thing) it's a very cool puzzle and I really don't think deserving of these comments.

Eyebrow up for how many have never heard of Kathy Griffin/Eddie Money, etc (I had a nice AHA moment at changing my S to forming EEK A mouse!) the puzzle was solvable, even for someone like me who thought the Fokker ref was something to do with a movie that doesn't exist called "Meet the Fokkers!!!"

I also was a non-resident "comedy" tutor in college when ALEK Keshishian was a young brilliant upstart! He was unabashedly obsessed over Madonna long before that was the thing to be (we're talking circa 1981 here) and went on to make the doc about her tour..."Truth or Dare" which at one time was the highest grossing doc ever
(OK, I looked that part up! And stumbled across the fact he also directed a lot of MTV videos like Bobby Brown's "My Perogative".
He has co-written "W.E." Madonna's directorial debut, which may be bombing at theatres near you some time this year!)
I'm sure he will be thrilled no doubt to be in a NYT puzzle...and a new variation of ALEc, ALEx is always welcome!

jae 3:02 PM  

Easy-Challenging for me. Bottom 2/3rds easy (and more or less enjoyable), top 1/3 a killer and a pain in the a**. THEROSY, PENS for BARS for way too long, some variation on IDEE for 9d, and looking for a catch phrase for 1a made the top an over nighter.

Cathelou 3:12 PM  

Enjoyed this one, especially FROE. One person's crossword horror is another's good memory--my dad still has the FROE that belonged to my grandfather so seeing it here was smile-inducing. Also did not find the rest of the fill that odious.

Liked the FROEdo pun with the photo!

Lewis 3:35 PM  

Does everyone agree that NIX is an often pig-latined word???

hazel 3:47 PM  

@archaeprof - the same way I did!

@Lewis - it was my first thought, so that's a yes for me.

Blue Stater 3:53 PM  

What Rex (and many others said). What annoyed me most were not the bad fill and many naticks, but the significant number of errors in the cluing. Who edits this stuff? Oh, wait....

Matthew G. 4:01 PM  

@Lewis: "Does everyone agree that NIX is an often pig-latined word???"

Yep. That's what "ixnay" is -- the pig-latinized version of NIX. Ixnay on the oblempray.

sanfranman59 4:06 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 26:16, 25:54, 1.01, 56%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Fri 14:14, 12:49, 1.11, 73%, Medium-Challenging

@Lewis ... that was one of the few answers I confidently entered in this grid.

I'm definitely in the "the ROSie" camp, although, as Anon@12:34am points out, Google turns up the Arlo Guthrie song with "A-ROSY". FWIW, here are the number of Google results for each variation:

RING AROUND the ROSie = 501,000
RING AROUND the ROSY = 179,000
RING AROUND A ROSY = 132,000
RING AROUND A ROSie = 63,200

Sorry ... I'm a stats guy, dontcha know?

Did anyone else really want Little Big Man for A MAN CALLED HORSE? I just saw it on TV recently and thought maybe the title started with "The" to make it a 15. It actually came out the same year, but involved the Cheyenne, rather than the Sioux.

Anonymous 4:20 PM  

@alibi chalkdust michaels - There is an article in the NYT today with regard to how using the Internet affects one's memory.
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/15/health/15memory.html?hpw

acme 5:23 PM  

@anon 4:20
thank you! wow, that was synchronicitous!

Davy Jones 5:26 PM  

Bad bad bad...

treedweller 5:28 PM  

I still get a small thrill from figuring out 15s without many crosses. I admit, my first thought at ALOTONONESPLATE was "Seen it." But I still liked getting it, especially since it broke open the bottom stack. I could not get past the idea taht firebirds must be cars (though now I realize they'd be capitalized).

In the top, I was pretty sure it was STERLING something, pretty sure it was some version of Ring Around the Rosy, and pretty sure it was Little Big Man, until I finally remembered that title and it didn't fit. I even tried BEbusinesslike for 1A. But I didn't know INGRES, ELON, TORVALD or LEYS; tried adze for FROE; thought Fredriksberg might be in South Africa where the Boers live[d?]; and so finally had to google the museum and the author to finish. I didn't like STERLINGSILVERS, but as soon as @David L asked about golds, I realized there are yellow, white and red golds, so why not multiple silvers?

I wouldn't say I loved it, but I'm surprised how many hated it. Recycled or not, eight 15s is impressive and that apparently means more to me than Rex et al.

And the constructor's comment should remind us these duplications are almost always in the hands of the editor, who may or may not notice them but surely has his reasons for ignoring them if he does.

I say, Go Team Constructors.

Now I think I'll take a nap. It's early, but bed is respectful, I hear.

Lindsay 5:40 PM  

Posting very late because I kept thinking I'd get back to the puzzle and figure out what was supposed to go where I had entered TANA/ALEK/RNASE.

But I must must must stand up for FROE. Very useful for building bark canoes, or framing* up a house. Not that I've done either one, mind you, but I'm familiar with the concepts.

* a couple hundred years ago

deerfencer 6:35 PM  

Agree, FROE is a perfectly good word (and great tool) that I'm surprised doesn't see more puzzle action. Why Rex picks on it is beyond me.

All in all not a bad puzzle IMO. Had to Google some obscure stuff up top (TORVALD? Now THAT'S a fugly name. And crossing it with some obscure Jamaican rastaman half-named EEKA is a bit over the top) but got the bottom and center areas without too much difficulty.

jberg 7:14 PM  

As usual, impressed by the differences in the common knowledge of different solvers. For me, EEKA MOUSE was a gimme - not that I am a big reggae fan, but how could anyone forget that name, once heard? I couldn't remember TORVALD, but was embarrassed not to. On the other hand, though I have heard of EDDIE money, I couldn't think of what that answer meant until I got here.


I do admire the occasional quad stacks - but I guess the point about repetition is that it's not as much of an achievement when you do it the second time.

SCARLET TANAGERS are beautiful; so are summer tanagers. But I've never heard one called a firebird, either. Still, it's clear enough once you think of it.

Hardest part for me was that I really wanted ABC at 47A, so much that I figured ARGYLE must be wrong - but when I got RASPS I had to surrender.

I finished with one error, though - didn't know Swifty LAZAR, so I guessed LAMAR, and couldn't figure out how MIGS meant sharp turns; maybe they could make sharp turns (but then, not as sharp as those SPADs).

JC66 8:59 PM  

@ACME

Per your experiment:

MEMORY

JenCT 9:03 PM  

Gave up before finishing; was a struggle for me.

I happen to like Kathy Griffin a lot.

SCARLET TANAGERS have actually shown up in my yard - both the male & female came to my birdbath one day: Scarlet Tanager

JenCT 9:08 PM  

Oops - that link was broken:

Scarlet Tanager

Anonymous 9:53 PM  

The thing I really like about this blog is that I love history and this blog gives me a sense of what the Christians must have endured against the lions or the defeated gladiators when Nero turned thumbs down.

PK 11:42 PM  

If you happened to throw down "Take No Prisoners" at 1A, as I did, you were as screwed as I was. But, really, the intention was correct.

Sterling Silver Stuff would have been a more accurate answer for 18A, even tho it didn't fit, but I got it anyway. We princesses know our sterling silvers.

Agree with Medium-Challenging for sure.

cody.riggs 12:32 AM  

In case anyone sees this, according to well-known English Language historian David Crystal, "Ring Around the Rosy" has no basis in the black plague. The phrase appears several centuries after the last plague epidemic. Any connection to such is a myth.

Portland Ore.

Anonymous 11:56 AM  

Rex, check your spelling of Frederiksberg. It is indeed in Denmark.

Anonymous 12:09 PM  

Dispense - to give out
Courtesy - to be nice
Disrespectful - to be not nice

Anonymous 12:35 PM  

OISK-- http://www.damninteresting.com/the-baader-meinhof-phenomenon/

Anonymous 2:59 PM  

Suspected from the clues:

RING AROUND A ROSY (I'm in the THE ROSIE camp but that wouldn't fit now would it)
ALOT ON ONE'S PLATE

knew: EEKA Mouse, TIE and TAJ

From the K in EEKA got CHALK DUST

From the S at the end of the family name got DOESN'T MAKE SENSE.

In the end it came down to the damn bird. Were they managers, voyagers or foragers? Foragers made the most sense. Turns out there's something called a TANAGER, so I lose.


captcha = nqrxsk


um....



____

Deb @ RoomscapesDecor.com 3:11 PM  

Dispensed with the possibility of RINGAROUNDtheROSie immediately, since it wouldn't fit. Also wanted Dances With Wolves even though I knew the years was way off.

But there's always a bright side. For me, it was coming here to learn that Rex's solving experience was exactly the same as mine (nuttin' on top until CHALKDUST gave me a toe-hold), and that Alek Colo Magic is only a year younger than I. (Actually, that's not a bright spot at all, considering she looks at least 10 years younger. Hmph.)

Lurking, Just Behind You 5:17 PM  

So i discovered a band just YESTERDAY...The Weepies....a folksy/alternative duo...pleasing stuff....I downloaded 3 of their albums less than 2 hours ago and am listening to them in their entirety for the first time as I do the puzzle and read the blog.
Imagine my surprise, especially after reading the blog about (and linking to) The Baader-Meinhof phenomenon...and then listening to this song...for the FIRST TIME...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LTCG7k6XK7U

and hearing the lyrics "Ring Around Rosy game always end the same way...we all fall down..."

INCONCEIVABLE!!!

Singer 5:31 PM  

Anonymous 12:09, to dispense with something is to get rid of it. To dispense something is to sell it. The clue was "dispense with".

Dirigonzo 9:36 PM  

In syndiland, completed the center section and bottom stacks by myself (and felt oh, so clever), needed help from a friend to complete the top portion of the grid and had lots of "aha" moments along the way. Today is the first day of my summer "staycation" and this puzzle was an excellent addition to the day.

Anonymous 11:18 PM  

I agree with Evil Doug, the "dispense with courtesy" clue can mean either "distribute politely" (my original take) or "don't bother being courteous." This was a bit of a tough slog for me, gettable but only after Googles. Do you know anyone who went to ELON University? Do you know both of them? Sure, I've heard of that famous Marleyite, EEK-A-MOUSE.
Not.
There's much to unlove about this one, and it doesn't even achieve pangram status. Though I must say, it's the first one I know of that misses by the letter W. Let's see, where...perhaps at 34a; we could have WIG and LAWAR ("Watts riot"). Ah, nevermind: that's where the Z is. Oh well.

captcha=baractut: what you get when you cross a modern-day president with an ancient boy-king

MikeInStl 2:10 PM  

Hated it! Really sucked. And it is ring around THE rosy. This must have been one of those puzzled approved while Wil was away playing ping pong.

Cary in Boulder 5:40 PM  

This was a real FOKKER at first. Had brain freeze from all those 15's, but they melted after sitting overnight.

We get Western TANAGERS in our yard -- a female flew into our big glass door yesterday.

I was looking for RINGAROUNDAROSie, which is how I know it. Settled for ROSE which gave me Simon LEES (why not?).

Surprised David didn't come up the Dead's "Throwing Stones" as a reference, with the lyric "Ashes, ashes, all fall down."

And @Rex missed a good musical take on CHALKDUST from Phish:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lrSCt46w1U8

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