National discount store chain / MON 8-1-11 / College near Phildelphia / British novelist who wrote London Fields / Pictures inked on body in slang

Monday, August 1, 2011

Constructor: Joel Fagliano

Relative difficulty: Easy (for me ... I think times will be somewhat slower-than-avg. for most)

THEME: A WORK IN PROGRESS (36A: Unfinished project ... or, literally, what the answers to the eight starred clues contain?) — eight starred clues contain the word "ART," which "progresses" one letter to the right in each new theme answer (reading top to bottom), i.e. ART starts in the first letter position with ARTICULATE, second letter position with MARTIN AMIS, and eventually ends in the eighth letter position with MOVED APART


Word of the Day: DOLLAR TREE (45A: *National discount store chain) —

Dollar Tree, Inc. (NASDAQ: DLTR) is an American chain of discount variety stores that sells every item for $1.00 or less. A Fortune 500 company, Dollar Tree is headquartered in Chesapeake, Virginia and operates 4,009 stores throughout the 48 contiguous U.S. states. Its stores are supported by a nationwide logistics network of nine Distribution Centers. The Company operates one dollar stores under the names of Dollar Tree and Dollar Bills. The Company also operates a multiprice-point variety chain under the name Deal$. (wikipedia)
• • •

Very impressive theme. Dense, multi-layered, and full of vibrant and original-seeming answers. You had me at MARTIN AMIS over SWARTHMORE. Getting ART to "progress" like that is one thing—getting it to "progress" through answers that are both beautiful and (in several places) stacked on top of one another is amazing. Not often you see a theme this complex on a Monday—and for me, it definitely came in at a Monday time. Sub-Monday, if there were such a category, which there isn't. I blew through this one in near-record time (2:32), then noticed I was nearly a full minute faster than the guys by whose times I usually gauge myself (at the NYT puzzle site). Hence "Easy" for me, probably more "ordinary Monday" for most. Sometimes I'm freakishly fast; sometimes I'm freakishly slow. These things happen.

Theme answers:
  • 13A: *Eloquent (ARTICULATE)
  • 17A: *British novelist who wrote "London Fields" (MARTIN AMIS)
  • 20A: *College near Philadelphia (SWARTHMORE)
  • 25A: *Having both Republican and Democratic support (BIPARTISAN) — ha ha ha ha ha ha. Timing! [Ugh.]
  • 45A: *National discount store chain (DOLLAR TREE)
  • 51A: *Container next to a bowl of cereal (MILK CARTON)
  • 60A: *Like some checks and vendors (THIRD PARTY)
  • 64A: *Gradually separated (MOVED APART)


More on thematic density: every Down answer crosses a theme answer, most cross two, and four Downs actually have to cross *four* theme answers. Density alone doesn't impress me much, but when it's coupled with relative grid smoothness, it's noteworthy. I got several answers today, including one theme answer and both long Downs, without ever looking at the clues. IONO- was a dead giveaway for IONOSPHERE (10D: Where the Northern Lights occur); likewise ICONO- for ICONOCLAST (26D: Antiestablishment figure). RARE EARTH also seemed to fill itself in without my thinking about it (40D: With 43-Across, yttrium or scandium). I screwed up but once during my entire solve—put in TAPE instead of TIVO (which has tripped me up now two days in a row). My favorite clue of the day is a very simple one that no one is likely to have noticed—61D: Congratulate nonverbally (PAT). Spot-on and yet creative. Also, APT. Also, an anagram of APT.

Bartok's Rhapsody for Violin and Orchestra No. 2 really wants me to listen to it now, so goodbye.


Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

78 comments:

foodie 12:05 AM  

I really liked it! Very impressive! And fun!

Rex, I think the word (work of) ART PROGRESSes across the theme answers, starting at first position and ending at the last possible position. I had to work it out after the fact.

CoffeeLvr 12:10 AM  

A lot to like in this puzzle, and good fill. No abbreviations!

One nit: ART is also inside of EARTH.

I got a little hung up in the SW with my MILK container; piTcher didn't fit, but boTtle did. At that point I had not tried to figure out what the asterisked clue/entries had in common.

Anonymous 12:26 AM  

Worth noting that in each theme the position of ART is shifted by one.

santafefran 12:31 AM  

BIPARTISAN over NO CAN DO just about says it all, sadly. Perhaps a THIRD PARTY is called for.

Thanks for the "art" in progress, @foodie--very nice.

foodie 12:49 AM  

Rex, I think your guess is right re the difficulty rating --my Quick & Dirty Index based on the early posts shows this to be Medium Challenging. But I found it Easy/Medium, so I wouldn't be surprised if it turned out to be a mixed bag.

@santafefran, I always think that you and sanfranman would get along if you met. You share syllables :)

Evan K. 12:53 AM  

I thought the thematic density was rather astounding. Imagine a spanning entry along with 8 OTHER across theme answers, each 10 letters long, each with ART progressed one space from positions 1-3 to 8-10. I thought that was really rather intense for a Monday.

Didn't Rex or another blogger note something about competition causing Monday Inflation and driving up thematic density from 3 long answers to near-excessive? Talk about upping the ante.

Nicola Six 1:04 AM  

Lovely puzz!

Tobias Duncan 1:05 AM  

This southwestern, blue collar guy had never heard of MARTINAMIS or SWARTHMORE. Wikipediea says Martin was a big influence on Will Self who I only really know as a great interviewee.If I were going to read just one work from either of these authors, which would you guys recommend?
Swarthmore makes me think of a campus full of swarthy students.They should relocate to Florida or Arizona...

I am not happy that I now know BAMA = Crimson Tide. I find sports trivia vulgar.

chefwen 1:10 AM  

Good Monday puzzle that makes you actually think. IONOSPHERE, ARTICULATE, ICONOCLAST, not your usual Monday fare. Had to get MARTIN AMIS from crosses, had not heard of him. I Googled his book after the fact, sounds kind of spooky and dark. Has anybody here read it, and if so, recommend it? Laughed when TIVO popped up again.

@joho - I think this one would make a good story line for you. Whadda think?

Anonymous 2:05 AM  

Did you see how the word "art" moved in each word? From the beginning "art"iculate was at the beginning of the word. Sw"art"hmore then bip"art"isan doll"art"ree milk c"art"on thirdp"art"y and finally moved ap"art". I thought that was a really great part of the theme. And that might be the "work in progress"?? Art is progressing through each clue? Not sure about that one....

Anonymous 2:07 AM  

It's not often that Rex completely misses the point of a Monday theme. Does this make it a good or a bad theme, do you think?

I was much more impressed than Rex by this one. (That's often the case.) I find this to be one of the best Monday puzzles I've ever done.

qv 2:18 AM  

Perhaps start gently with Martin Amis's engaging first novel The Rachel Papers (1973). Then tackle his caustic masterpiece Money (1984). His books are spectacularly uneven in quality but even the really bad ones like Dead Babies (1975) are way fun.

andrea clawat michaels 2:23 AM  

@Anon 2:07 am
It's probably one of the best Monday puzzles you've ever done bec there is nothing about it that's a Monday!

I am shocked, shocked at Rex's time, bec I would have thought this totally challenging...

Here's why it's not a typical Monday (IMHO)
EIGHT theme answers (plus EARTH, which throws the theme off ever so slightly, bec it throws the "progression" of the word ART slightly off...

Also it's a hidden word, which is usually more Tuesday esque

Also MARTINAMIS whom I love and think is the most articulate guy alive is NOT well known to many many folks, tho his father, Kingsley, probably is, thaks to "Lucky Jim" and crosswords...

We've had long discussions abotu MARTINAMIS tho on this blog, "TImes Arrow", etc. but I would bet 90% of folks who do Monday puzzles would be unfamiliar.

Aslo RARE EARTH is tough and SWARTHMORE is probably unknown to the same 90% if not more, than MARTINAMIS.

DOLLARTREE you would need most of the crosses for, and is probably regional...and ESAI whom I love as a constructor, is also not known outside of crosswords, practically. (SOrry, Esai, but true!)

Even to know the Japanese word for "yes" is a bit sophisticated...and Stan GETZ you'd have to be of a certain age, cetainly.

ALso un-Mondayish: IMPEL, UNSER and IONOSPHERE.

You need a fair amount of Spanish today NADA, SUR, ISLA, but they skew easy as far as foreign words go...
(as well as the French NOIR and ETRE)
but the biggest non-Monday thing of all is to start out 1A with HAITI and to throw in something about the Americas...wha???

And the RANDD is not something an early week person is going to pick up on...

So, great puzzle, fabulous words (I especially love ICONOCLAST) but there is no way it's a Monday... except that it is! ;)

dk 6:58 AM  

I liked the eye theme that began with CBS and ended with ICONOCLAST. TIT for TATs also showed up.

Agree with Andrea this puzzle is a PHD level for a Monday. That said none of the clues are obtuse and the fill is straightforward. It is just unique.

And as one of the anon-o-mice noted: ART progressing through the fill is really cool.

So what we have is a well crafted puzzle: fill-wise.

I have never been to a DOLLARTREE and as the polar opposite of @Tobias D... methinks I shall not. :)

**** (4 Stars) The eyes have it.

Z 7:25 AM  

Definitely crunchy for a Monday, but it was a couple of simple things that slowed me down the most. I have my hot cocoa in a cUp while I Tape my favorite show. Also glad to hear that RANDD isn't typical Monday fare, because it took me all the crosses to parse.

I liked the puzzle okay but didn't grok the theme until coming here. Foodie's observation about the ART progressing upped my opinion considerably. Well Done.

Anonymous 7:36 AM  

I was happy to find art in the answers. But even more impressed to see how it moved through the answers. Brilliant.

Raul 7:54 AM  

ARTICULATE
MARTIN AMIS
SWARTHMORE
BIPARTISAN
DOLLAR TREE
MILK CARTON
THIRD PARTY
MOVED APART

the redanman 8:30 AM  

Good entertainment, but I thought I'd read more bitching about it being too easy. I enjoy the flow of a Monday without all the cutesy deception that repeatedly causes groaning at the solve.

Quite the work on the theme, crosses were invaluable for making it a quick solve for me the puzzle dunce.

jberg 8:35 AM  

What's going on here? As I read this blog, about 8:30 AM Eastern, it begins with Rex giving a clear explanation of the theme - then maybe 4 or 5 commenters explain the theme to him. Did Rex revise his opening right after @Raul posted at 7:54, or did people just find him unclear (seemed clear to me)?

Other than that, a nice, fun puzzle -- seemed easy to me, but then I've read MARTIN AMIS and a niece went to SWARTHMORE. Surprised to learn from the WOD write-up that DOLLAR TREE is much bigger than I should have thought.

One quibble: HAITI is no more French-speaking than, say, 12th-Century England. They conduct official business in French, but they speak Creole, which is a different language.

Z 8:40 AM  

@jberg - RP revised.

Anonymous 8:42 AM  

I still dont get what randd is. Help.

Anonymous 8:45 AM  

@Anon 8:42 - RANDD = Research AND Development.

SethG 8:57 AM  

One of my fastest Mondays.

jackj 8:58 AM  

And, the "I's" have it!

IONOSPHERE and ICONOCLAST; who would have thunk it in a Monday? Another spot on reminder that this is the NY Times crossword, not a TV Guide clunker and one must remember who are the Times' solvers.

Seeing Martin Amis, rather than Amis pere, Kingsley, reminded me of a wonderful interview of Martin in The New Yorker after publication of "The Information".

The interviewer asked what his father, Kingsley, would think about "The Information" and Martin responded that he had sent a copy to his father but, since Kingsley had recently said that these days he wouldn't read any book which didn't open with "A shot rang out", he wasn't sure if his father would even deign to read it.

A brilliant puzzle, which may be the best Times Monday puzzle of the Shortz era.

Many PAT's and bravos to Joel Fagliano.

jesser 8:59 AM  

Holy Cow!

Until Rex (and others) explained it, I didn't see the ART movement and was unclear about the theme. It is now perfectly clear, and freakishly beautiful.

I also showed my age with Tape before TIVO appeared. Other than that, no writeovers, but I totally agree with Acme's assessment about the decided unMondayness of this puzzle. That said, I'd have loved it no matter WHICH day it appeared.

I only wish I'd been clever enough to parse the theme by myself.

Happy Monday!

Brian 8:59 AM  

The theme is brilliant. Just outstanding. A bit too disguised for a Monday? Maybe. But the fill is so smooth and the cluing so gentle that it takes your hand and walks you right through the grid. Fantastic.

Particularly enjoyed ICONOCLAST, IONOSPHERE, MARTINAMIS and DOLLARTREE.

I'm a big fan of Amis so I was thrilled to see him in the puzzle.

@tobiasduncan: I'd recommend the book in the clue, LONDON FIELDS. It's dark and acerbic and funny and moves along at a good clip. I've recommended it to several people as an introduction to Amis and I've not heard any of them were disappointed.

Good work, Mr. Fagliano! Thanks for getting my week off on a clever foot!

John V 9:01 AM  

Fun puzzle. Couldn't see the theme until I came here, so thanks for all on that.

Solved this one on line for a change and, while not aa ludicrous-speed, time was very fast for me. So, I'd say this played easy for a Monday.

Anonymous 9:06 AM  

Jberg: We, the commenters, actually helped Rex out a bit in the interpretation. ;)

joho 9:07 AM  

Great puzzle -- very impressive -- but I have to agree with @andrea clawat, it's not a Monday level. Unless, of course, this is now what a Monday will be. In which case I better hang up my Monday constructor's hat!

@chefwen, I'd love to take a crack at it but I'm already swamped at work.

Joel Fagliano, you have definitely taken the ART of construction to a whole other level!

thursdaysd 9:17 AM  

Enjoyed this one, despite not understanding the theme until coming here. In fact, the reveal was the last answer I filled in, thanks to not knowing HANK or GRETZ and starting with SUd for SUR. I also had Tape for TIVO, despite getting TIVO with no difficulty on it's last appearance.

I knew MARTIN from his father, and have no idea how I knew SWARTHMORE, but loved the ARTICULATE ICONOCLAST.

Matthew G. 9:19 AM  

Loved this. My time was definitely Medium-Challenging for a Monday, mainly because I'd never heard of MARTIN AMIS, which slowed me down considerably out of the gate. I've seen UNSER and GETZ in crosswords before, but I can never remember them, so those also pushed my time back a bit.

The theme is outstanding, and almost perfectly executed. My only mild criticism is that MARTIN AMIS is a bit obscure for a Monday puzzle, but all of the crosses other than UNSER are easy, and that N is inferrable, so no big deal. Not until reading Rex's review did I grok the theme completely, and I agree with him that it's one of the best Monday themes in a long time. Offhand, I don't remember a better one.

mac 9:42 AM  

Beautiful masterpiece of a Monday puzzle for experienced puzzlers.

I also did it quickly with just the tape/tivo write-over, but I can imagine a new solver having some trouble.

Loved it!

...and once again I love it more since the details of the theme were explained on this blog....

efrex 9:47 AM  

Like several others, missed the theme (saw that ART was in all of them, but that was it). What a nice piece of work, though! Other than the ESAI/ISLA cross, the fill was just lovely, and the theme answers are great.

I will nitpick this as a Monday, only in that I suspect it'll be a tough one for a novice solver (The Lovely Wife(tm) has just started following her husband's craziness with these things, and I don't think she'll enjoy this half as much as I did).

Still, a very nicely executed work, Mr. Fagliano. Thanks much!

Lindsay 10:09 AM  

Creeque Alley (The Mamas & The Papas)

When Cass was a sophomore, planned to go to Swarthmore,
But she changed her mind one day.
Standin' on the turnpike, thumb out to hitchhike,
Take her to New York right away.


I went to Skidmore, which people tend to confuse with Swarthmore. Maybe if I'd actually gone to Swarthmore I'd have been smart enough to pick up on the theme, which I registered as "Lot of art in there. Sure is."

JC66 10:25 AM  

@Lindsay

For you.

Thanks for the reminder.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:29 AM  

Great puzzle!

Tried to fit DIMWIT in 44A but ran out of space.

JaxInL.A. 10:37 AM  

I have a friend in chemotherapy who spends loads of time feeling miserable. I'm trying to convince her to get an iPad and start doing puzzles. We did this one together and it was perfect.

We did miss the progressive nature of the art, I'm afraid, but I'll call her today and that will make it even better. Thanks, Mr. Fagliano!

slypett 10:43 AM  

You puts your quarter in the slot and you takes your chances. This time it was a row of cherries I gots.

Lindsay 10:49 AM  

@JC66 Thanks for posting!

Anonymous 10:57 AM  

@JaxInLA - Most likely, the 'perfect' part was doing it with a friend. Kudos to you.

retired_chemist 11:13 AM  

Fastest Monday ever. And enjoyable to boot.

Stan 11:25 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stan 11:28 AM  

Wonderful, unique puzzle. I agree that's its difficulty level is hard to pin down. Monday for the smooth, unforced, non crossword-y fill. Theme complexity more like a Thursday (count me in with the folks who didn't figure it out until the grid was filled).

I hope the constructor drops in to say 3D.

Glitch 11:30 AM  

Really enjoyed this Monday offering. Finished in an easy Monday time.

I may be in the minority, but was glad that it wasn't watered down for the enjoyment of newbies.

Once in a while they need to see the challenge many of us see on some Saturdays. There, the comments include DNF, but seldom too hard, not fair.

Too hard for a beginner? Too bad. But at least you've experienced a puzzle of note.

Check back next week, you'll probably be served the usual.

.../Glitch

CoffeeLvr 11:48 AM  

@Lindsay & JC66, thanks, yes I always think of Cass and that great song when I hear the word SWARTHMORE.

Just once, I would like to see as a clue: Generic Tivo, with the entry DDVR.

sanfranman59 11:54 AM  

By the online solve times, this one's probably going to come in at the low end of the Medium range (or maybe the high end of Easy-Medium) for both groups of solvers. So it looks pretty normal for a Monday. Swarthmore is a quite well known (and prestigious) school back east, so I have to think that well more than 10% of Monday solvers will have at least heard of it.

Shamik 12:04 PM  

Challenging for me at 4:51...more like a Tuesday. Definitely enjoyable.

syndy 12:08 PM  

Slapped down BOB for 44 across and was SHOCKED when it failed to hold up!SHOCKED I say!yes this was everything a Monday can be!I smiled when I saw Joel's name and was smiling more when I finished! NEW paragraph-The original ICONOCLAST"S were the Establishment-stepping on the common peoples dearly held symbols!At what point did iconoclasm become cool?

Lewis 12:36 PM  

Rather than too difficult for a Monday -- and the finishing times reported in this blog's comments as well as my own finishing time support that it isn't an atypical Monday difficulty -- how about just saying that this sets the bar for what a Monday puzzle can be?

Anonymous 12:44 PM  

more than a monday in difficulty and eloquence.thanks jc66 for the mamas and papas, what fun to listen to them again. i saw art but didn't get how it progressed til i came here. there is always something new to discover and to challenge myself with. thanks rex for your blog that adds so much to solving.

Anonymous 12:45 PM  

oops i think i meant elegance not eloquence.

CrazyCatLady 1:15 PM  

I loved this puzzle and thought it was definitely more difficult than the average Monday. The ART progression was very clever.

Having spent the first 22 years of my life in SWARTHMORE, PA, I would agree with @sanfranman59 about SWARTHMORE College.

Campesite 1:18 PM  

If Rex and Orange still grant them, I'd like to nominate this puzzle for an Oryx Award in the Best Monday category. An easy but elegant solve.

Sparky 1:19 PM  

Tape before TIVO. Saw the ARTs but not the stately progression until I came here.

Cluing seemed just right. I think Kerfuffle is a shout out to Bob. And I'm in there too, tee hee.

Week off to a good start. To be culminated by brain freeze at LOLLAPUZZOLA on Saturday.

Anonymous 1:22 PM  

Easy, Easy, Easy and even as an "alien" had no problem with Swarthmore, not sure why it could be considered challenging.

Sfingi 1:39 PM  

Nice puzzle.

@lindsay
Also Skids, '66, when it was a "girls'" school. Skidmore is more known for ART than Swarthmore.

Whenever I see Pat Boone, I try to picture him at Columbia U, where he graduated Magna and where I took one semester of Library Science.
The Boone Center for the Family at Pepperdine seems more like it.

Had HopTo before HASTE.

jodi 2:12 PM  

Chef Bea here using my daughter's google account.

Great puzzle. Did it here in Ct with puzzle daughter. Neither one of us got the progress part but found the puzzle easy. No time to read the posts.

Still working on yesterday's.

Tobias Duncan 2:14 PM  

This one seemed to go down smooth with the coffee shop crowd this morning. Newbies are not looking for easy clues and answers, its crosswordese that screws them up and this had very little.Everyone seemed to know SWARTHMORE and MARTINAMIS and we had nice discussions of both.
Watched a few interviews with Martin and was really impressed, I cannot wait to read his work.Thanks for the book recommendations.

sanfranman59 4:51 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)

Mon 6:45, 6:51, 0.98, 49%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:32, 3:40, 0.97, 36%, Easy-Medium

Stan 5:15 PM  

Oh, here is an actual conversation that happened at my friend's wedding (my friend being the groom).

Groom (to wedding band): "Do you know that song 'Celebrate'?"

Wedding band: "Yes!"

Groom: "Good, now *don't* play it."

David 5:22 PM  

smooooth, fine puzzle. I timed myself today and got it in about 4:35 (using a pen), which is right around my normal Monday time. Still, this felt much tougher than a normal Monday (which is great!) and the reason my time was similar must be that the 10 letter clues simply filled the puzzle so quickly, and the confidence I had from the crosses was very high.

What a great theme - wish I'd seen it while I was solving!

JenCT 6:01 PM  

Very fast Monday for me also, although I didn't catch onto the theme until I read the blog.

I highly recommend the show ICONOCLASTs on the Sundance Channel - good stuff.

I've seen DOLLARTREEs in CT.

Fun Monday.

michael 6:30 PM  

I agree that this is a fine puzzle, but I really have to question the equating of art with work. And yes, I know about works of art. Perhaps I am missing something. It wasn't until I finished the puzzle that I saw the moving "arts" and understood "progress." But I still wondered what art had to do with work.

Anonymous 7:04 PM  

Help me with "rhos" for 54 down...

Bob Kerfuffle 7:40 PM  

@Anonymous, 7:04 PM - Bit of inelegance here: plurals of Greek letters - Alpha, Beta, Gamma, . . . . Omicron, Pi, RHO, . . .

Sfingi 10:43 PM  

@Michael - as an old f - (that's fuddyduddy), I still have a problem calling musicians "artists."

Anonymous 10:49 PM  

It would have been nice for Rex to acknowledge others' help in today's theme, don't ya think?

retired_chemist 11:36 PM  

@ Anon 10:49 - what's that supposed to mean? Rex clearly pointed out the theme in his writeup. Whom should he acknowledge and why?

sanfranman59 1:04 AM  

This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 7/30/2009 post for an explanation. In a nutshell, the higher the ratio, the higher this week's median solve time is relative to the average for the corresponding day of the week.

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

Mon 6:50, 6:51, 1.00, 51%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:31, 3:40, 0.96, 34%, Easy-Medium

Wally 7:52 AM  

@retired_chemist:
The initial write-up missed the "progress" of Art. It was revised about 8 a.m. to what you now see.

andrea cartla michaels 2:26 PM  

BTW, don't forget Patrick Blindauer had a puzzle that did same this march with the word ANT.
(I can't find it on Jim Horne's database, but it was a Tues about two years ago, I think)
And I'm still ever so slightly bothered by the inclusion of the word eARTh. Threw off perfect balance for me.
But wonderful puzzle, theme, execution, nonetheless.

Bob Kerfuffle 3:23 PM  

@ACME - The Patrick Blindauer marching ants appeared 10/23/08.

Dirigonzo 11:17 AM  

From syndiland, where this puzzle appeared on Labor Day so the theme seems especially appropriate; a clear case of "syndication sychronicity" I'd say.

Do you suppose @Rex was chagrined to have the theme pointed out to him by the early commenters? Still, he deserves a PAT for a great write-up (as revised) and for hosting this fantastic blog.

Pippin 1:26 PM  

Wonderful puzzle! Very smART and clever. I also got the ART pART of the theme but did not notice the "PROGRESS" pART until I read Rex's blog.

Here in Canadian syndyland I got the revised version of Rex's comments so did not understand at first what the other commentators were talking about.

Deb @ RoomscapesDecor.com 4:04 PM  

Lovely puzzle that was on the medium-challenging side (for a Monday) for me due to MARTIN AMIS and SWARTHMORE. I didn't see the theme until I came here - not even the ART part, I'm afraid. Which is what makes this blog such a treat. Thanks, Rex.

Anonymous 4:12 AM  

Bravo.

I stared at the theme answers for quite a while before realizing what "IN PROGRESS" referred to. Noticed the symmetry of each starred ART before I realized that in each successive starred answer the constructor had MOVED A PART.

IONOSPHERE/ICONOCLAST - A puzzle built around those two words alone would have gotten a thumbs up from me.

Wrinkled hand up for Tape before TIVO.

In case you were wondering, Hammerin' HANK hit 16 of his 755 career home runs at SHEA. Nice cross (and nearly symmetrical with the fantastic RARE/EARTH cross).

A little bothered by the unstarred ART in EARTH...but I suspect Fagliano & Shortz both spent hours searching for alternatives. In the end this hardly mattered.

@ Stan 5:15 PM - HAD to be referring to the Kool & The Gang song, which I hope I never hear again. No such complaints about the above posted RARE EARTH song.

If everything else about this puzzle weren't brilliant enough, the WORK IN PROGRESS theme coincided with Labor Day in syndication.

Nullifidian 10:44 AM  

In late from syndication-land:

I solved this late last night while listening to an audiobook of M.R. James' Ghost Stories of an Antiquary, so I preferred to go to sleep rather than write up my results.

I'm glad to see that RP made the same mistake I did in writing in tape for TIVO. It makes me feel less careless. The real answer wasn't hard to infer, though, as 66A could have only been SOD.

Other than that, my one other write-over was SUR for sud in 28D's "Spanish 'south'". I was thinking of Sudamérica.

There was a Natick for me in the NW that slowed down my time: I know nothing of either baseball or the Indianapolis 500. UNSER, SHEA, and HANK were all relatively new to me as clued. I got enough crosses to infer SHEA, which I've at least heard mentioned, and that saved me in that corner. I would have been more comfortable with clues like "'Our' in Oesterreich", "____ butter" and "'King of the Hill' lead character", respectively.

After that, though, it was plain sailing. I got every long theme clue with only a few letters each time, as well as the long downs. The stacked ten-letter clues impressed me, and I was doubly pleased when I figured out the theme. I liked the RARE/EARTH crossing, which appealed to me as a science nerd.

Stan 3:31 PM  

@Anon 4:12: You're completely right! I mixed up the overplayed wedding song ("Celebration" by Kool & the Gang) with Rare Earth's "I Just Want to Celebrate."

Good catch, five weeks later. Sorry, Rare Earth.

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