Young migratory fish / WED 9-14-11 / 2004 movie featuring clash of sci-fi species / Discovery Channel survival show / Chewbacca kin

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Constructor: Jeff Chen

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: VS. — four different versions "___ VS. ___" plus one such phrase (1A) with an implied "VS."

Word of the Day: NEVIS (40A: Neighbor of St. Kitts) —

Nevis [...] is an island in the Caribbean Sea, located near the northern end of the Lesser Antilles archipelago, about 350 km east-southeast of Puerto Rico and 80 km west of Antigua. The 93 km² island is part of the inner arc of the Leeward Islands chain of the West Indies. The capital of Nevis is Charlestown. // Nevis, along with Saint Kitts, forms the Federation of Saint Kitts and Nevis. The two islands are separated by a shallow two-mile (3.22 km) channel, known as "The Narrows". Nevis is conical in shape, with a volcanic peak, Nevis Peak, at its centre. The island is fringed on its western and northern quadrants by sandy beaches that are composed of a mixture of white coral sand with brown and black sand, eroded and washed down from the volcanic rocks that make up the island. The gently-sloping coastal plain (0.6 miles/1 km wide) has natural fresh-water springs, as well as non-potable volcanic hot springs, especially along the western coast. (wikipedia)

• • •

RENT VS. BUY feels awfully weak, but I see that there are plenty of sites out there that bear witness to its common usage, so I can't complain too much. I've heard people ponder whether to rent or buy, but I've never heard the phrase "RENT VS. BUY," the way I've often heard "NATURE VS. NURTURE." The other three theme answers are titles / names, so they're solid. I don't really get why VS. is allowed to disappear in the SPY [VS.] SPY answer, but I sort of like its weirdness. Something about the missing "VS." is kind of cute. I'm quite sure there are many solvers who will never have heard of "MAN VS. WILD," just as there are some who will not have heard of "ALIEN VS. PREDATOR," but both are popular, so aside from the fact that they both come from the vague realm of popular (as does "SPY [VS.] SPY"), I don't think there's much to criticize there.

Theme answers:
  • 1A: Foe of 71-Across in Mad magazine (SPY) / 71A: Foe of 1-Across in Mad magazine (SPY)
  • 17A: Genetics-or-environment debate (NATURE VS. NURTURE)
  • 35A: Discovery Channel survival show ("MAN VS. WILD")
  • 45A: Home-seeker's decision (RENT VS. BUY)
  • 64A: 2004 movie featuring a clash of sci-fi species ("ALIEN VS. PREDATOR") — speaking of sci-fi species ... WOOKIEES! (55A: Chewbacca and kin)
Felt like I blew through this very quickly, but ended up with a pretty normal Wednesday time. I guess I had enough trouble in the NEVIS / STRATEGY / HAND (53A: Standing O, say) / INCOG (67A: Wearing a disguise, informally) region of the grid to keep my time in check. I think I don't know what Generalship means. I have never used the word, and certainly didn't know it could mean STRATEGY. Not knowing NEVIS or understanding HAND and thinking INCOG was IN COS (as in "In Costume" ... not so weird if you know the term COSPLAY) made it Very difficult for me to see STRATEGY. Found BONES (7D: Our 206) and SKULKS (8D: Moves furtively) a little devilish as well. Mistakes included ORAL B instead of PLAN B, ELVIN for ELFIN, and SLYER for SLIER. Somehow, I was able to pull ELVER out of my crossword hat no problem (29D: Young migratory fish).

  • 25A: "And ___ Was," 1985 Talking Heads song ("SHE") — along with "Please, Please Me," "Little Creatures" by Talking Heads was one of the very first CDs I owned. This is when CDs were still sort of a novelty. I got a CD player for Christmas, I think. Anyway, CDs weren't that common, and I didn't own many, so I completely wore out the ones I had. I know this Talking Heads album like the back of my hand. Better, probably.

  • 48D: Austin Powers foe (DR. EVIL) — there are at least a handful of people across the country right now going, "... DREVIL? What kind of a name is DREVIL!?")
  • 55D: Like moiré patterns (WAVY) — never saw this clue, which is good, as I could pick "moiré" out of a line-up.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. Whoops, forgot to mention that there's an interesting article on Will's editorial process up at You get to see him work on a nice Liz Gorski puzzle. Enjoy.


PurpleGuy 12:16 AM  

This was one of my best Wednesday times. Really tore through this puzzle, with no hangups.
My only "pause" was in misreading the clue for 61D as "literary data" instead of itinerary data. Wondered WTF ETAS had to do with literary data, and what it meant.
Big sigh ...
On my only cruise, spent some time on Nevis, so it came easily. AAron Burr had a house there.

The double "E" in WOOKIEES also gave me pause, but the downs confirmed it.
Thank you Jeff Chen for a really enjoyable Wednesday (even if it is still Tuesday night).

Thank you @Rex for another enjoyable write up.
I hope things in Binghamton are getting better. How is Sandy faring with her dog bite?

Let's all get over the hump safely today.
Happy Wednesday all !

Shanti -
Robert Joseph Cain(Bob)/PurpleGuy

captcha: ythypecc - somebody has a real bad lisp!!

andrea vs carla michaels 12:29 AM  

@Purple Guy
Did the same thing about ETAS!

Do you see SPY peeking out of ESPYS down the East Coast? Wouldn't that be cool if it peeked out of the Left side too? WASPY?
Will try a hidden SPY puzzle. An idea is born!

That WOOKIEE spelling was crazyee for me. Too old, too female, I guess.

My former downstairs neighbor Amelia NEVIS will be pleased she is the word of the day...doesn't NEVIS mean "Snow" in Spanish? I wonder why Wikipedia doesn't mention that. Not something you think about with islands.

Was hoping for a picture of a VENN diagram, but a funny New Yorker one...
Like Yugoslavian dictators and The Jacksons, with the overlap: TITO.
Still laughing about that 30 years later!

Gill I. P. 12:36 AM  

I really enjoyed this Wed.
or, as PurpleGuy would say, "A fine hump-day."
RENT VS BUY is the
mot du jour" in this neck of the woods.
Three cerveza clues? and when did the WOOKIEES grab an extra E?
No BONES to pick in this SOUP. I raise my St Pauli to you Senor Chen.

Gill I. P. 12:38 AM  

P.S. Andrea Vs Carla Michaels.
NIEVE is snow in Spanish. :-)

Jeff Chen 1:01 AM  

I wish I could take credit for WOOKIEES (who knew there were two Es?) but Will changed the grid to add both that and DR. EVIL Brilliant stuff!

I submitted this as a Monday-level puzzle with STRATEGO (a game with two spies, yes?) where STRATEGY is, and WAR ZONES where WOOKIEES is. I love the new long additions which skew it more to a Wednesday, although I'm lukewarm on how these modifications came to the party with INCOG, OLEO, and ELVER (I had ELVES where ELVER is, but the inclusion of ELFIN necessitates changing ELVES).

Overall, an excellent change, methinks. WRAAAHHHH! (that's a Wookiee noise, if you couldn't tell).


PurpleGuy 1:07 AM  

Thanks for stopping by Jeff. Appreciate your clarification and explanations.

I state again that I really thought this was a solid Wednesday puzzle, and most enjoyable.

Tobias Duncan 1:15 AM  

Elger and Negis seemed just as likely to me so I finished with an error.
Snappy puzzle.Fascinated to hear about all of Will's editing these days.Thanks for the puzzle and the pop in Jeff.

santafefran 1:21 AM  

Really liked this puzzle, Jeff! Lots of "K's" SKULKing around which really made it pop.

@Rex--can't believe you didn't give a cheer for IHOP.

Unlike @Rex, I threw down WAVY for moire but had trouble just above, not knowing the Talking Heads song and trying WET VS WILD at first.

Also, didn't remember the 2 ees in WOOKIEES.

Re the discussion of slugs loving hostas from yesterday's c-word puzzle, try diatomaceous earth.

The New Girl 1:40 AM  

Got the theme right away and thought "good one!". Then I squinted at the grid to see if there was a VS made out if black squares. Not there, but that's okay. Tricky cluing just right for a Wednesday. Two mistakes for me... Didn't know elveR/Rara tho I probably should. And for some unknown reason, I had VAVA as the south-of-the-border cheer starter. What was I thinking? VA-VA-VOOM? Sheesh.

JaxInL.A. 1:42 AM  

According to Wikipedia:
The current name Nevis was derived from a Spanish name Nuestra Señora de las Nieves by a process of abbreviation and anglicization. The Spanish name means Our Lady of the Snows. It is not known who chose this name for the island, but it is a reference to the story of a 4th century Catholic miracle: a snowfall on the Esquiline Hill in Rome.[8] Presumably the white clouds that usually cover the top of Nevis Peak reminded someone of this story of a miraculous snowfall in a hot climate.

My reputed family ancestor, Alexander Hamilton was born here (alll my family is from Jamaica), and I've met the U.N. ambassador for St. Kitts and Nevis. The whole puzzle was right up my alley.. Nice solve, clever clues. Falling asleep here. Will check in at the morning. Best, all.

The New Girl 1:49 AM  

More on how Will Shortz edits a puzzle...

retired_chemist 2:35 AM  

Liked it. Needed all crosses to be sure of 55A - banged down WOOKIES, found an extra space, said WHOA, and did the crosses. DR _VIL NEEDED an E, but it was a guess on my part. Never heard of him.

1A and 71A went in instantly,largely revealing the theme.

BEER # 22A and EPEE @ 28A were easily fixed from the downs. Briefly tried BONUS @ 7D, thinking that maybe there was a special IRS form (206) for bonuses. When RELOADED gave me the E, D'oh! Oh, THAT 206!

Thanks, Jeff, and thanks for visiting.

Rube 2:39 AM  

As I was down to my last few squares, I had MAN VS WIfe. Sounded like a good reality show to me! However, the crosses stunk so erased the "fe" and ELVER popped out of the Xwordese recesses of my brain and DINAH sounded good enough although I don't know her.

A tolerable good puzzle. SPY vs SPY brought back fond memories. Where did the 2 "E"s in WOOKIEES come from? Must be some Lucas idiosyncracy.

Also had SuNK before SANK and SlinKS before SKULKS. That last one caused trouble because SKY fit so well.

206 = BONES is my fact of the day.

syndy 2:41 AM  

My last letter was the "V" in ELVER/NEVIS ran the alphabet and when that didn't help I gulped and chucked in the "V " why not! ELFIN did not make the spelling of WOOKIEES a walk thru-and yes to SLYER before SLIER the first SPY made me giggle

aa 2:54 AM  

I also did the "v" in ELVER/NEVIS last but I got it quickly because I assumed it was the hidden "vs" in SPY vs SPY (since it was direct center of the grid).

CoffeeLvr 2:59 AM  

This puzzle was pretty much on my wavelength. I did know DREVIL from those retched Austin Powers movies. I watched a couple of them in my parental mode - all right, you can watch it, but with me so I can tell you where it violates my values, that is, the values I expect you to have. Also know MANVSWILD from living around young men.

I did try Monsters vs. Aliens for the movie in the grid; it obviously doesn't fit.

Octavian vs the World 4:18 AM  

Looks to me like NEVIS is there i mid-grid to supply the missing VS in Spy vs Spy ... which is clever.

Alexander Hamilton was the most famous expatriate native of Nevis. He is also the least appreciated early American hero.

Hamilton was born out of wedlock; abandoned by his birth father; abandoned by adoptive father; his mother then died; he went to live with his uncle, who then committed suicide; and that was all before age 11.

He went to work as a clerk at a Nevis trading company while attending a Jewish day school. He was considered a child prodigy by town elders despite his lack of social standing, who sent him to Boston for an education. He works his way down to NY to attend Columbia; studies military tactics and forms his own anti-British artillery unit in his spare time; becomes George Washington's aide de camp; then quits and takes control of 3 battalions, which ultimately defeated Britain at the Battle of Yorktown; then he studies law and becomes an attorney; co-writes the Federalist papers which become the basis for the U.S. Constitution; and later becomes Treasury Secretary and invents the idea of states co-mingling their finances for the benefit of all. Then he dies when shot by vice president Aaron Burr in a duel.

Amazing story. Along with Ben Franklin he is the only non-president to be featured on U.S. currency (the $10 bill) and the only non-native American.

Oh, and I thought the puzzle was great for a Wednesday.

Trivia: Did you know the $10 bill is the only paper currency in which the portrait faces left?

atlantic carla monthly 4:59 AM  

@The New Girl 1:49
Interesting article! That whole LORELEI vs LORELAI thing is what we are often talking about when editors are men of a certain age so discount what many women might feel is a known to many answer.
No baseball name is too trivial, but god forbid you do a name from a hugely popular TV show among women and it will be deemed too obscure, not worth knowing, etc.
On the highbrow front tho, maybe it is better to learn about sirens as opposed to pure TV trivia, but why not respect Liz Gorski's choice since a) it's Liz Gorski, the most poblished woman there is, and b) let her quirky choices shine thru??

And the Sombrero clue that had some in a PC uproar was made by the editor not the constructor. Brave of Will to expose himself that way
(and I mean that in the most non-double-entendre way possible.)

I love that more and more light is being shed on the process...and if I'm not mistaken, does the really light writing on the puzzle indicate it was submitted in 2007 and not published till 2011????
("The Gilmore Girls" would have been more relevant then, so maybe that explains that...but four years to publication, harrumph!)

dk 6:31 AM  

Misspelled WOOKIEES. And, not sure how Generalship = STRATEGY. But I loved SPY VS. SPY so much as a young dk... who cares about my errors.

NEVIS is also a small town in Central MN. I like the island much better in the winter.

Jeff, thank you for stopping by. It is interesting to me the effect editors have on puzzles.

I like the VS theme and if you double the puzzle the grid makes a V and if you fold it just so... Mad mag joke... sorta.

*** (3 Stars) Fast Wednesday pour moi.

Note. As Youngins we were not allowed to read Mad (or watch TV, read comics (except for Classic Comics) drink Coke, I could go on). So we used to smuggle Mad in and read them in our barn or under the covers with a flash light. Parents thought Mad, comics et. al. were a waste of time and we should read the classics... like the Hardy Boys. Fact check: We were allowed to watch 1 hour of TV during the week and for about 2 hours on Saturday morning.

The New Girl 6:53 AM  

I guess Ms. Liz would be able to tell us how long it took for that puzzle to be published. Four years? Surely not! Maybe? Eek!

I agree that sports trivia vs. pop culture trivia (hmm that "vs." looks too long for a puzzle) has to be balanced. But if you look for timelessness in a puzzle, you will probably use sports trivia.  The puzzle may get published in a collection at a later date, so maybe Will keeps that in mind when editing. The LORELEI rock isn't going anywhere, and the siren folklore has already withstood the test of time. Four more years from now, LORELAI will be that much foggier in people's memories. Sporting statistics and personalities are resurrected time and again as comparisons are made and records are broken. Just my two cents. Or maybe it's only worth one cent. Did I mention that my daughter's name is Lorelei? And I've never seen "The Gilmore Girls." 

joho 8:07 AM  

Like others have mentioned I stole the VS from NEVIS to complete SPY VS SPY. I thought that was a clever touch, but since Jeff didn't mention it, I wonder.

Lots of Y's and K's are nice.

I enjoyed your puzzle, Jeff, thanks for it and also for stopping by!

shrub5 8:12 AM  

My Discovery Channel survival show was MAN VS. WIND thus coming up with EnVER instead of ELVER -- which sounded OK at the time.

Generalship is my WOD. I know KENO as a casino game rather than a popular bar game (?) I guess the bars I go to are unpopular.

@The New Girl: thanks for pointing out the Shortz article. Interesting to learn about the magnitude of some edits.

Thought this puzzle was fun. VIVA Jeff !!!

efrex 8:42 AM  

As soon as I saw the first clue, I said to myself "Self, this is going to be fun." Mr. Chen threw this one smack into my wheelhouse, and I don't think I've ever done a Wednesday puzzle faster. The double-e's in WOOKIEES threw me for a second, but I could very easily have pictured this as a fun Monday puzzle. I saw the central "v" in NEVIS/ELVER as making a diagonal SPY V. SPY, which worked as a great hidden gag for me.

VIVA Chen!

joho 8:43 AM  

@The New Girl, thanks for that link, I just got a chance to read Will's article ... fascinating stuff!

M07S 8:51 AM  

A fun Wednesday puzzle. Excellent write-up by @Rex and the comments are interesting as always...especially the Hamilton material from @Octavian vs the World.

Re INCOG The Miami Dolphins have a player named Incognito. Can you imagine this traffic stop...
Officer: What's your name?
Driver: I'm Incognito.
Officer: Alright, smart ass, outta the car.

jesser 9:03 AM  

That central g error in NEgIS must be a New Mexico thing, since both Tobias Duncan and I plopped it in and kept running.

I am embarrassed of what I was thinking a Standing O might be. Given the answer, it may still be. I'll stop now.

My Dad was 28 years military (retired at the rank of major) and my Mom was a Southern Baptist native of Waco, Texas, with two degrees from Baylor. They nurtured me and my sister to be white, vaguely racist heterosexuals. They were capital-A Appalled when I chose to take a Mexican girl to the high school prom at Mayfield High in 1976. In 1981, when I came out of the closet, my mother asked, in all sincerity, "What about Irma?" Two years after I did, Irma exited the closet. We remain very close but not in 'that way,' and we both love that story.

NATURE VS. NURTURE is a Round One Knockout for NATURE.

Writeovers were SLyER before SLIER and ElUD before EHUD. Otherwise, this one went quickly, and I enjoyed it all the way through. It was not -- as some have been -- a ROYAL pain. Thanks, Jeff!

jberg 9:05 AM  

Fun, fast puzzle - except that I kept losing my place as I counted my bones, which slowed me down.

I knew ELVER right away (it's part of the eel/eeler complex), just didn't want to actually write it in.

And hand up for wondering who DREVIL was, though I figured it out in about half a minute.

John V 9:17 AM  

Fun puzzle, Jeff. Thanks! Played like a Monday for me, maybe a Tuesday.

One error, had HARD for standing O (which IS pretty difficult, if you consider the possible meanings for "O"), b/c didn't know BAUM, 68A.

41D Generalship = STRATEGY feels like a stretch to me. Had the same problem here as @Rex.

Otherwise, rate it about 5 miles, Old Greenwich to Port Chester. Made me feel good on a Wednesday.

David 9:17 AM  

Solid Wednesday puzzle - I finished successfully, but it kicked my ass all over the place and I was way way above a normal Wed. time.
First, I plopped in NATURE OR NURTURE at first, after having initially placed ATVS at 14D instead of its correct spot (!) at 5D. Also had UNLOADED before RELOADED.

My sons watch some cable show about a guy who goes to restaurants and other food/drink establishments and performs Herculean gastronomic feats. The name of the show is something like Man vs. Food, and I wrote THAT in at first instead of MAN VS WILD. So there's two errors on theme answers I had to overcome.

RENT VS BUY was my only gimme, my wife is in real estate. But theme answer #4 smacked me again, as I had zero idea of the two Es in WOOKIEES, and I forgot all about DR EVIL. The P in SPCA gave me PREDATOR and I backed my way in to the right answer from there. Also had never heard of IN COG for incognito, so this all added up to a fun but extremely crunchy solving experience for me.

Orange 9:35 AM  

I had no idea St. Kitts and Nevis looked like a chicken drumstick and McNugget. Maps are so educational!

CFXK 9:36 AM  

V in the grid's middle square on a diagonal line between and equidistant from SPY and SPY. Nice Touch!

Jess Wondrin 9:36 AM  

@Jesser - Was that digression a Nature vs Nurture tie-in, or a Rent vs Buy tie-in?

Bob Kerfuffle 9:41 AM  

Got SPY (VS) SPY instantly, and smiled at the rule-breaking duplication of the word.

But how low-brow can I get? When I saw that the theme of the puzz was "VERSUS" I couldn't shake the thought of a sometime sequence in "America's Funniest Home Videos" (yes, horrors, I actually watch that!) in which short videos are interposed on such subjects as "Grandmothers Doing Crosswords in Crayon" Versus "Cats Swinging From Chandeliers" or whatever!

slypett 10:11 AM  

STRATEGY: the science and art of military command, hence generalship. Widen your linguistic horizon! Fight the good fight!

Lindsay 10:14 AM  

Kim Collins of Saint Kitts and Nevis won bronze in the 100 meters at this year's world track championships after the disqualification of the much-discussed Usain Bolt.

So as one who riffles through the sports section, I had the country's name in mind. Seems like a small place to produce an internationally prominent athlete.

Matthew G. 10:15 AM  

I thought this was just a fantastic puzzle, well above average for Wednesday fare. It was one of those very rare occasions where I filled in all the theme entries first and then went back and did the rest. Like Bob Kerfuffle, I really loved that the first thing I ran into was the rule-breaking SPY [vs.] SPY, and after that all of the theme entries were gimmes (in the competitive NYC housing market, at least, one reads articles using the expression RENT VS BUY all the time). Having all those long acrosses made it easy to set a personal Wednesday record, and my time would have been even better if I hadn't gotten my wine regions and TV dogs mixed up and had ASTA instead of ASTI for a while.

I'm a little bit surprised that so many people consider NEVIS obscure, but that must be the Alexander Hamilton buff in me.

Almost the only thing I didn't like was INCOG, but the downs made it a non-problem. Likewise the bizarro clue on STRATEGY.

Mel Ott 10:26 AM  

Well, WOOKIEES are from out of this world so I guess they can spell it any way they want!

Used to love the Spy vs. Spy cartoons in Mad.

quilter1 10:27 AM  

Yes, got SPY and SPY first thing and smiled all the way through. Very easy and fun. I have no idea how I knew DREVIL, as I've never seen an Austin Powers movie, appreciate having both ALES and SUDS. Nice to have a choice. And my favorite saint, Teresa.

We, too, had to sneak Mad into the house. My dad thought it was a dirty magazine, though he never looked at it. We had a full collection of the classic comics. Even as a kid I thought the drawing was poor, and once I'd read Jane Eyre for real I didn't look at the comic book again. Gosh, I wish we'd saved that collection. It might be worth $5 or so now.

Two Ponies 10:32 AM  

Wonderful fun puzzle!
We watch Man vs Wild all of the time, usually while eating supper. Sometimes that is a mistake because that guy will eat anything.
A fresh clue for Yoko was nice.
I also liked fry, dies down, and royal.
Great fun Jeff and thanks for dropping by.
@ jesser, Pretty solid case for nature I'd say.

JenCT 10:59 AM  

@jesser: enjoyed your story!

@Bob K: I love that VS. segment

Got stuck on NEVIS/ELVER, also had HOLD for Standing O.


Fun puzzle.

archaeoprof 11:13 AM  

Like others, I smiled at 1A and enjoyed the whole puzzle.

V in NEVIS was my last letter too. Had no idea, but somehow it just looked right.

I've learned to distrust the use of words like "nature" and "natural."

evil doug 11:17 AM  

Incog? Neato!

Mad had some brilliant illustrators early on---Wally Wood, Jack Davis, Will Elder---especially in their send-ups of popular TV shows and movies. Mort Drucker"s artwork in "East Side Story"---a U.N. satire on West Side Story, but with Kennedy and Kruschev leading the opposing gangs---was a terrific example. Kelly Freas did a lot of the early covers, and his skill as an illustrator was not unlike Norman Rockwell in his remarkable detail.

Not a doctor but I play one with my wife....

Sparky 11:31 AM  

Even though I know it is SPY VS SPY put or in 17A and 45A first. VATS and VANED fixed that. Tried YESorNO crossing ALIENSorPREDATOR thus a rebus. High ho.

Enjoyed working on this. Not a lot of crosswordese. Thanks for coming by Jeff Chen.

@BobK. lol, too funny.

Sparky 11:35 AM  

Why doesn't the little trash can go away? I'm new with this blue name thingy. Thanks for any help.

jackj 11:36 AM  

This puzzle seems a personification of crossword puzzling in the Shortz era and was an absolute delight.

As a full-fledged member of Red Sox Nation I spent far too long trying to cram some initials representing the NY Yankees, in 6 down, to reflect the appelation given them by Red Sox president Larry Lucchino in 2002. Ah, 'twas not to be but at least the clue stirred the baseball juices.

The theme was clever and great fun; the fill, which sported the likes of HAND, INCOG, SKULKS, HERALD and ROYAL was a treat for any loyal solver who has been brought back to the Times' puzzles by the Shortzian genius.

Great stuff, Jeff and Will.

jackj 11:38 AM  

Forgot to include a "thank you" to @jesser for his delightful recollection.

Brian 11:49 AM  

Fun one! Smooth and accessible and spiced by clever cluing.

I was going to comment on the kick I got out of the SPY-SPY corners and the inferred "vs," but seeing Rex's picture of the game Stratego gave me a bigger kick. Played that one as a kid for hours; loved to try and place my flag in the front row and lead my opponent into believing it was my General. Didn't work every time, but when it did, oh, it was glorious!

Thanks, Jeff, for a good start to a Wednesday!

Tobias Duncan 12:00 PM  

@Sparky That little trashcan is there because you are new to having an account. It is so anyone can delete your post if they think it sounds stupid. It will go away in a year or two.

Jim 12:01 PM  

The NYT applet makes 'running the alphabet' tedious, but I did it all the same with ELVER/NEVIS, as did many. Unfortunately, I also took the opportunity first to proof all my other answers, some of which (STRATEGY/HAND/DINAH/and even VANED, for which I had VAlED for some reason) seemed dubious or unknown to me. Ruined an otherwise good time for me.

Jesser: love your story

Andrea: your comments are so deliciously and consistently anti-man you remind me of my friend Nora from high school who wrote 'HERSTORY' in big block letters on her paper-bag book cover. Of course, that was 1994; I wasn't aware some women still did that.

Gilmore Girls is about as universal as All My Children, maybe less so; a more sex-specific audience you won't find this side of Entourage. Besides, Lorelai only comes up in Google in the context of a misspelling of Lorelei. It's not really a name.

Evan K. 12:08 PM  

This is the easiest Wednesday I've ever encountered from the NYTimes! I got the two 15s within 10 seconds, so I just happened to catch onto the theme really quickly.

The really nice touch was SPY / SPY. Especially because in some panels they are actually featured in antipodal corners like that!

Two Ponies 12:14 PM  

@ Sparky and Tobias Duncan,
I believe only the author of a post sees the trash can. I never see anyone else's. I think only the author can delete the post.
I've been here for several years and still see it.

Jim 12:18 PM  

Oh, btw, Thanks, Rex, for posting the Vs. cover from Pearl Jam. I remember well the anticipation I had for that album's release. Although, I bought the cassette tape that still had the antiquated (though preferred, IMO) title of 'Five Against One'. Great album!

Noam D. Elkies 12:36 PM  

Neat puzzle, and good reason to duplicate 1A/71A:SPY. Might have liked it better with the original STRATEGO version.

Yes, 55A:WOOKIEES is correct. You could wook it up.

33D:GAMUT has an interesting etymology: from "Γ ut", the lowest G of the musical scale some 500 years ago, from the same source as the much-maligned E_LA.

NDE (captcha = trisms = 3-sided prisms? Wait, prisms already have three sides, at least the standard optical prisms... Pun on "truisms" left as exercise)

Gill I. P. 1:16 PM  

@The New Girl: Thank you for posting that article on how Will Shortz edits a puzzle.
I'm not a constructor by any stretch of the imagination but I have enormous respect for those that do.
After reading this article I asked myself if I could fairly rate a puzzle I disliked. How much of the "dislike" would be the author's clue or, would it be the editor's?
A case in point is the example ACME cited regarding the "SOMBRERO" clue. I hated the way it was clued and I actually wondered why Ms. Gorski did so in that fashion. I'm happy to find out it wasn't her's.
I can't imagine (ever) spending a ton of creative time to construct a puzzle that might be enjoyed by millions, only to find it's pretty much not my own.
I'm talking from the other side and could be very wrong in my assesment but I will say that I am sure glad when the author's do pipe in.

hazel 1:20 PM  

i was never a spy vs. spy fan, but thought this was an awfully cool gimmick, and very nice puzzle.

@new girl - thanks for sharing that link. timely article given the recent discussions/uproar over the "heavy editing hand" of W. Shortz. v. interesting to hear his perspective.
@evank - antipodal. niiiice word choice.
@evil - you got a shoutout! i'm still waiting. sigh.
@self - charming anecdotes alot more interesting to read than tiresome rants. try not to forget!
@braves - go!

Campesite 1:35 PM  

Lovely puzzle. I was a fan of Marginal Art as a devout reader of Mad, as well as the back cover fold-in.

Lewis 1:41 PM  

This was originally supposed to be a Monday puzzle according to Mr. Chen, and the top half felt like it. I just slammed that thing down.

The rest of the puzzle felt like a Wednesday.

@jesser -- loved your account!

Doc John 1:54 PM  

So nobody has a problem that "evil" is both in a clue "Evil empire" and an answer (DR EVIL)? A minor nitpick at best.
I had trouble with the ELVER/NEVIS cross. It was definitely a Natick for me but then I thought about the puzzle theme and realized it had to be a V.

CoffeeLvr 2:31 PM  

Thanks to our constructor, Mr. Chen, for stopping by and sharing a glimpse behind the grid.

Great blog comments today. @Octavian, @TheNewGirl, @ACMe. @Jesser, you brought a tear to my eye, then I had to laugh.

william e emba 3:24 PM  

Antonio Prohías, the creator of "SPY vs SPY", had been a Cuban political cartoonist. His mockery of Batista made him a hero to the revolution. His later mockery of Castro led to his losing his jobs and his leaving for America. Sergio Aragonés arrived in the US two years later, and while shopping his cartoon portfolio around, was told to go to Mad. He did, and expected to rely on Prohías to be his translator. It turned out Prohías knew less English than Aragonés.

I would have preferred if ROYAL, crossing SKY, had also been clued "Shade of blue".

DINAH Washington was also in the Sunday puzzle.

joho 3:38 PM  

@william e emba ... along the lines you were thinking about ROYAL and SKY, I would have liked DRAB near ARMY clued something like "Military green?"

sanfranman59 4:01 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)

Wed 9:39, 11:50, 0.82, 10%, Easy

Top 100 solvers

Wed 4:38, 5:51, 0.79, 6%, Easy

I'm surprised that this one's slotting well into the Easy range. Like Rex, my own solve time places it firmly in my Medium Wednesday range. At the outset, I thought I had a shot at a personal Wednesday best when I got SPY and SPY immediately and soon thereafter filled in all of the theme answers. But I stumbled on (1) RENTVSown for 45A: Home-seeker's decision, (2) the ELVER/NEVIS crossing and STRATEGY as the answer for 41D: Generalship and (3) the spelling of WOOKIEES, its crossing with DREVIL and ELvIN rather than ELFIN in that same section.

mac 6:47 PM  

Wonderful Wednesday puzzle! Had just a little window of time to do it before the Dutch coffee/lunch crowd arrived and it sufficed. Great write-up, nice that the constructor visited, and the posts are also amazing.

Nevis and elver were crosswordese to me, no prob. A lot of the clues/answers were totally unknow, i.e. the pop-culture sort of things, but I got the whole thing through very fair crosses. In hindsight, I love Spy vs. Spy! Or should I say Spy v. Spy??

Only word I didn't like much was incog.

@Tobias: mean!! @Sparky: that's your trash can. You can erase your own comment, even after you publish. Comes in very handy sometimes.

@Bob Kerfuffle and @dk: you guys are funny.

@Jesser: loved it.

WOD: generalship/strategy.

michael 8:05 PM  

Great puzzle. Lots of original fill. I knew spy vs spy right off but since it is a bit rule-breaking, I had to check on it before filling it in.

Sparky 8:17 PM  

@Tobias. Havn't wised up by now; doubt I ever will. Laughed out loud, no kidding. Thanks @TwoPonies and Mac for the kind information. I am becoming addicted to this blog.

Z 8:17 PM  

Played easy for me except for that central "V." I know I've seen both NEVIS and ELVER, but couldn't pull either from the pre-coffee fog.

Great comments today.

Loved the lessons on Hamilton and Aragones. Always loved Spy vs. Spy and the Marginal Art.

Looked on Ebay - lots of Classic Comics for sale there, including a set going for over $42.

Usain is now famous enough to get mentioned in these comments even when he isn't in the puzzle - excellent.

captcha - mednes - crossword puzzlers state of mind when he cannot come up with the central V.

skua76 9:00 PM  

The puzzle was fun. When I started with 1A I assumed that 71A would also be SPY but for some reason I didn't see the right clue for 71A. Well, the reason was that I was trying the app today instead of the usual paper. No, I won't reveal my time.

I knew NEVIS after a letter or two but for some reason wanted to start with RENT or BUY. Despite SPY vs SPY I hadn't gotten the theme yet.

Thanks for the visit from Jeff as well as the Will Shortz article, great insight about how these things get put together.

sanfranman59 12:19 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 6:43, 6:51, 0.98, 47%, Medium
Tue 8:15, 8:54, 0.93, 32%, Easy-Medium
Wed 9:44, 11:50, 0.82, 13%, Easy

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:41, 3:40, 1.01, 53%, Medium
Tue 4:21, 4:35, 1.00, 56%, Medium
Wed 4:36, 5:50, 0.79, 6%, Easy (7th fastest median solve time of 115 Wednesdays)

treedweller 12:59 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
treedweller 1:02 PM  

i realize only a few syndicated solvers will see this, but I have to say: ACME may be a strong proponent for gender equity in the puzzle, but I never saw her as anti-man.

And, I am a man who watched the Gilmore girls weekly. And parents get to spell their kids' names however they want. I'd definitely do better at finding that alt spelling than I am at getting roughly 75% of sports clues.

Anonymous 11:22 AM  

Like many others, guessed V in the center square. Didn't even bother to run the alphabet.

Loved the Jobs/Wozniak clue.

I've always loved the homophonous title of that Pearl Jam album (Versus vs. Verses).

Anonymous 11:36 AM  

This involves some "outside the box" thinking, but if you read your two SPY answers from just to the left of the S, you get (white) SPY and (black) spy. So perhaps not a repeated word after all.

Dirigonzo 4:45 PM  

@treedweller wrote. "
i realize only a few syndicated solvers will see this, but I have to say..." given that Rex has said that syndi-solvers constitute over half of his audience, I wonder how many read the comments VS the few who actually write comments?

There were a few moments when I thought this might be a DNF but discovering the theme helped fill in the blanks (literally). I was saddened to see STEVE Jobs appear so soon after his passing; sometimes a lot can happen in the 5 weeks it takes the puzzle to show up here.

But enough about the present - here are some highlights from RPDTNYTCWP on this date 5 years ago:

Solving time: 20:39 (Thursday puzzle)
- "I'm trying to find something nice to say about this puzzle ... it's got MARMOSETS in it, which is a fun and unusual word."
- "Three is "many" in certain situations. How many tumors in your lungs? How many nipples do you have? How many leeches on your forehead? Three? Damn, THAT'S A LOT OF TUMORS / NIPPLES / LEECHES!" (Clue: Not many; ans: THREE)
- "What would even be described as "holdable"? - "You know what I love about McDonald's hamburgers? They're really holdable. I'm holding the hell out of this one right now. Aw yeah.""
- " "Sail away, sail away, sail away!" No, seriously, sail away, Enya, because you're bothering me. She's really gunning for a Pantheon position, ins't she? Back in the puzzle for the second time in just a few weeks. And now we know that, despite the fact that I won't be able to listen to it, I will have to include an Enya track on the future soundtrack to "Rex Parker Does the NYT Crossword Puzzle."" I'm having second thoughts about buying this soundtrack.
- All of which inspired @Orange to comment, "Wow, you are cranky!..."
- There were three (a few) other comments, including this from @Fragola: "Hey this is neat...the only other place I have seen the no-toed sloth mentioned is in an article over at about How to Break Up with Your Pet Rock." And so the weirdness in the comments begins.

wcutler 4:45 PM  

Another thanks to Jeff for his explanations. I particularly liked the idea of "...STRATEGO (a game with two spies, yes?) where STRATEGY is...", though I wouldn't have got it. I found this very hard, as I've been finding Wednesdays lately (almost DNF, definitely longer solving time than Thursdays). I got them all right in the end, but I didn't know man vs wild, alien vs predator, spy vs spy (! - am I the only one here?), and I resisted venn, thinking Venn diagrams were used more for sociology than logic.

rain forest 1:23 AM  

Like a proud father, Rex, you must truly enjoy those days when the commenters flex their literary and language muscles. Today was such a day. Nice blog. Nice comments. Nice puzzle. Maybe the wrong order, but anyway, very entertaining all round.

Anonymous 3:27 PM  

Someone please explain Our 206 as BONES, and Standing O as STS.

Totally mysterious to me.


Bob Kerfuffle 6:44 PM  

@gig, 3:27 -

Humans have 206 bones (I'll take that on faith, not looking it up.)

And The answer to Standing O is HAND. Please note clues/answers for 51 A vs. 53 A.

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