Elizabethan dramatist Thomas / MON 10-24-11 / Furry extraterrestrial in 1980s sitcom / Holey brewing gadget /

Monday, October 24, 2011

Constructor: Lynn Lempel

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: Meeting places — idioms (with "[preposition] THE [noun]" structure) are clued literally, i.e. wackily ("?"-style) as a location where a given group of people might "get together"

Word of the Day: Mel BLANC (47D: Mel with "1,000 voices") —
Melvin Jerome "Mel" Blanc (May 30, 1908 – July 10, 1989) was an American voice actor and comedian. Although he began his nearly six-decade-long career performing in radio commercials, Blanc is best remembered for his work with Warner Bros. during the "Golden Age of American animation" (and later for Hanna-Barbera television productions) as the voice of such well-known characters as Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Taz, Sylvester the Cat, Tweety Bird, Foghorn Leghorn, Yosemite Sam, Wile E. Coyote, Woody Woodpecker, Barney Rubble, Mr. Spacely, Speed Buggy, Captain Caveman, Heathcliff, Speedy Gonzales, Tom and Jerry, and hundreds of others. Having earned the nickname “The Man of a Thousand Voices,” Blanc is regarded as one of the most influential people in the voice-acting industry. (wikipedia)
• • •
Structure of this grid was odd, especially for a Monday. Huge corners, heavily segmented and choppy middle. I found it actually somewhat slower than a typical Monday, for a couple reasons. First, the aforementioned structure. Long Downs + the long theme answer in the NW made it hard to shoot right out of that corner. Had to hack together crosses in a slightly more methodical way than I'm accustomed to on Mondays. From a speed-solving perspective, the grid wasn't built for velocity—not on the margins, anyway. This is not, of course, a knock on the puzzle. There's no law that says I should be able to do every Monday in under three minutes. The other slight slowing factor, for me, was that the theme just didn't resonate. Even now I have a hard time getting my head around the catch. The "?" clues have one element that refers to the idiomatic meaning of the phrase, then another that attempts to literalize the phrase. The result was that the concept felt clunky and then uncovering of the answers brought no joy at all. Fill seems average, though the big corners give us some shinier, more interesting stuff than an early-week puzzle typically brings with it. I'm a big fan of SIN TAXES (2D: Extra costs of smoking and drinking) (that is, I'm a fan of the answer, not the taxes), and YOGI BEAR (39D: Boo Boo's buddy in Jellystone Park).

A very minor sidenote—I'd've gone OSU (or even ASU) and DIES rather than EDU and DIED just so that I could avoid the horrid THE (pretending it's French THÉ) crossing THE in the theme answer. Aside from ugliness, another reason to boot THÉ is that it's clue contains "tea," which appears in the grid as part of TEA BALL (54A: Holey brewing gadget). I like that clue on TEA BALL, though. Also, the clue on GEL (53A: Hair spiffer-upper). Why not spiff up your ordinary fill with a jazzy clue every now and again?

Theme answers:
  • 17A: Where sad trash collectors get together? (IN THE DUMPS)
  • 28A: Where future motorists get together? (DOWN THE ROAD) — what the hell is a "future motorist?"
  • 49A: Where elderly picnickers get together? (OVER THE HILL)
  • 63A: Where stranded canoeists get together? (UP THE CREEK)
I didn't know that DELL was started in a dorm room (41D: Texas computer giant started in a dorm room). I guess Facebook kind of laid permanent public claim to that particular origin story. I mean, if you have to think of a "giant" company started in a dorm room, you answer "Facebook." DELL makes me think only of that horrible spokesjerk, the DELL computer guy: "Dude, you're gettin' a DELL!" From the early aughts. Yeah, you remember.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. the answer to last week's meta-puzzle was JULIUS CAESAR, "THE DIE IS CAST" — if you fill in the "circles" (that is, all the "O"s) in the Mon-Sat puzzles, you see that they act like the pips on a die, with each puzzle representing a different side (or number) of that die. Those numbers give you the order you have to put the puzzles in to decipher the answer. All NW corners (in the order established by the Os/pips) spell out JULIUS, all NE corners CAESAR, all SW corners THE DIE, all SE corners IS CAST.


Anonymous 12:05 AM  

So what was the BIG answer to the Saturday puzzle?

Anonymous 12:10 AM  

I'm guessing that this puzzle sets the record for the count of "THE"s in a grid. I'm also guessing this isn't what one wants memorialized on their gravestone.

foodie 12:21 AM  

As one of my students (from Argentina) says: "I'm not pretty sure"-- about this one. Parts of it flowed and others were really not Monday-like.

My first take on the theme was that it was about expressions that denote undesirable places to be, clued literally. IN THE DUMPS, UP THE CREEK and OVER THE HILL are not places anyone wants to be...right?. But my theory fell apart with DOWN THE ROAD... I mean the DOWN part sounds depressing enough, but is being DOWN THE ROAD a bummer? Anyhow, as I said, I'm not pretty sure.

Tobias Duncan 12:27 AM  

This was a fine palate cleanser, a solid Monday offering.I would have more nice things to say but I am still obsessed with the freaking META PUZZLE!! I assume the gloves are off as it is past 6pm EST.
I got the answer long before I filled in the circles so I got my Oho moments a bit backwards but I was not alone in that.

Last winter there was a TV series that started with spies sending messages through syndicated crossword puzzles.The show was slow moving and dialog driven and just plain wonderful.... And it was called "Rubicon". Coincidence?? Well probably but I would love to find out that it was not.Does anyone here know this P.Berry cat well enough to ask? Right now I am imagining him on a cold winter night watching this great show and writing the puzzle set of the century.
The show reminded me a lot of the old "Tinker Tailor Solder Spy" miniseries that I watched on PBS as a child.

North Beach 12:42 AM  

@Tobias: the NYT Wordplay blog promises an interview about the puzzle with PB on Monday.
I'm waiting for Rex's analysis, it must be already written, yes?
BBC America aired a series "The Hour" which had a minor crossword coding plot element. Still available On Demand, if that's how you roll (Comcast).

Anonymous 2:03 AM  


The meta-answer to last week's series has to be JULIUS CAESAR, "THE DIE IS CAST," doesn't it? And if so, what is the rationale?

Or what IS the answer?? I'm sick of wondering. And I need the sleep.

foodie 2:10 AM  

I'm blowing one of my posts to share this quote from Patrick Berry-- From the interview on Monday (Part I) on the NYT Wordplay:

"I suppose I’d define a “great puzzle” as one that successfully balances ambition and seamlessness. The more ambitious the puzzle idea, the more likely it is that some seams are going to show — e.g., the inclusion of a lousy entry that was unavoidable given the constraints. But it’s a delicate balancing act; if a puzzle racks up too many flaws while going for greatness, it becomes hard to see the greatness for the flaws."

Well, it was not hard to see the greatness!!!

And he's made me realize that this is exactly what I strive/hope to achieve in a number of areas (e.g. preparing grant proposals, or scientific presentations, or even hosting a dinner party...), but have never articulated for myself-- the balance of ambition and seamlessness! Yes.

Tita 2:35 AM  

ISLE + BALMY made me remember 2 wonderful weeks spent on Elba - weather was in fact jsut that.

And 2 nods to my 88 year old crossword-solving mother...

You should never use the term "EATING" when talking about people... animals eat... people lunch, have dinner, etc..

And, her favorite puzzle story - when my then-in-college brother asked "3-letter word for 'unit of work'", she of course answered ERG.
His jaw dropped, then said "Not bad..." with great admiration.

One of those moments as you grow up and realize how much smarter your parents have gotten.

chefwen 3:54 AM  

Solved the Meta Puzzle, sent in my answer only to find that I messed up the address with crossworK@ny tines.com DOH! By the time my email was returned to me it was too late to re-submit. Time zones messing with me again. Oh well, at least I solved it, and I can always buy the book.

Super easy Monday, no write overs, no nothing. OVER THE HILL made me wince. Gettin' old is not for the faint of heart.

Clark 4:12 AM  

I got to THÉ by way of TEE (mixing up my German and my French). It never occurred to me that it was the same as the definite article in English. This one felt super easy to me (even for a Monday), and it also didn't feel at all bumpy. Maybe last week's puzzling adventure bumped up my game a notch. (Knock wood.) Hard to know from a Monday. Friday will tell.

dk 6:43 AM  

I stand with Tobias on this one.

*** (3 Teabags)

Ethereal cereal ahead!

Thirty five years or so ago I was on a cross country road trip (time for another I think) and through a series of mishaps wound up pitching my tent in a Jellystone "park" in OK. My mind was filled with images of picnic basket thievery -- quickly dashed by road noise from the highway, generator noise and the nearly constant flow of RVs. Voiced my concerns to the park manager who said we only cater to RVs --which explains why the 2-3 tent sites were close by the RV sewage discharge holes. Anther childhood image dashed on the rocky shoals of reality.

That said seeing the Frank Lloyd Wright office building in Bartlesville was great. The building was n the midst of some type of renovation and the kindly construction foreman (somewhat of a Wright scholar) took me on a two hour tour showing me the ins and outs of the structure, I learned that Wright would freely sacrifice function for form. Buildings as Art: who'd a thunk it!

d(whats up doc)k

dk 6:48 AM  

@tita -- WASPs dine :)

d(pole up his b#$$)k

Liffey Thorpe 7:04 AM  

Liked the puzzle well enough except for "Up the creek." Dunno, I guess I've always heard "Up a creek" [without a paddle], not "the." Just felt off somehow.

mac 7:40 AM  

I thought this puzzle was smooth and funny. No problems anywhere.

I Can't wait to find Rex's report on the meta. Please!!

David 8:10 AM  

Solid Monday puzzle, with OVERTHEHILL giving me a chuckle, so it was by and large a fun solve as well. Slight slowup in the SW due to not knowing TEABALL and briefly considering OCTET for OCTAD, otherwise smooth sailing, with some really nice 8 letter answers (SINTAXES, PLEASEDO, TRIALRUN, YOGIBEAR).

joho 8:11 AM  

I was looking for a theme line starting with OUT, like OUTINTHECOLD (too long). Then we'd have the starting words IN, OUT, UP and DOWN. Or keep the OVER and have something with UNDER like UNDERTHEWEATHER (way too long.)

Another fine, smooth Monday offering from Lynn Lempel.


Hey, and there's a shout out to Andrea CARLA Michaels!

David 8:14 AM  

Part II of the Patrick Berry interview with Deb is up on Wordplay!

Z 8:33 AM  

@Joho - I missed the shout out. Good catch.

I see A-ROD made the puzzle again. One of the few multi-millionaires I feel sympathy towards. The whole NYY fans "love Jeter hate A-Rod" thing totally baffles me.

I like SINTAXES both as an answer and as a thing. SINTAXES and other wealth taxes are much better for society than are income taxes.

Smitty 8:35 AM  

Didn't Rex say he'd be posting the solution today? I never did get it and was waiting for the big reveal. If anyone knows what it was or where to find it please post a link. thx

Z 8:48 AM  

@Smitty and others - Wordplay Discussion of MetaChallenge with Mr. Berry

jackj 9:03 AM  

Lynn Lempel gives us a Monday puzzle whose theme entries could be tagged as third cousins of those in yesterday’s Joe DiPietro puzzle, but, maybe, with a touch more, (if gentle), sarcasm from Lynn’s phrasing.

Early week puzzles always run the risk of seeming to be ground out by a computer program but, as ever, Lynn shows us that clever constructing still, (mostly), rules at the Times.

My favorite entry was SINTAXES, (not that I like such things), but only because the obvious play on words between “sin tax” and “syntax”, cries out for an Ogden Nashish touch to concoct a mot to be remembered.

Good start to the week!

jberg 9:08 AM  

I had two writeovers: Use well before UTILIZE - I still feel the clue is a little clunky, as there is nothing in the answer to imply "good" - and, more stupidly, UP THE rivEr instead of UP THE CREEK (without a paddle). Some synaptic short circuit between that phrase and "sold down the river."

Which suggests a possible theme, involving SIN TAX/syntax, synapse /sin apse ("where satanists worship") - but that's too much of a stretch.

Since Capri and Elba are both in Italy, I wanted ISLa for 1A, but left it for the crosses to determine; and I already had AIR BASES by the time I got to 57A, so knew it had to be OCTAD.

Some constructor sometime should clue FOIL as "fencer's sword," just to keep us on our toes!

quilter1 9:11 AM  

Easy for me. Liked YOGI BEAR, Yabadabado! Busy day today, I'll check back later.

chefbea 9:17 AM  

Easy Monday puzzle. Hand up for noticing all the THEs and TEAs. Got up early this morning to read all about the Meta at word play...amaaazing!!!!

hazel 9:27 AM  

Thanks for the heads up, @David and for posting a link, @Z - although as soon as I saw David's post, I went straight over there. i think I've gushed enough, but that interview makes me want to gush just a tiny bit more. Unfreakingbelievable creation.

I'm going to be in denouemont mode for a while, so all I can say is the puzzle filled the bill and I like YOGIBEAR.

@dk - in yesterday's NYT Travel section, Bruce Weber wrote about his recently completed cross country jouney on a bicycle at the age of 57. He had some interesting things to say about the trip (his 2nd on a bike) and how time and distance are much different than they were the first time around....

OldCarFudd 9:31 AM  

jberg - I, too, thought of using Italian in the 1A answer. But isla is Spanish; the Italian is isola. When that wouldn't fit, the answer had to be English.

Liffey Thorpe - It must be a regional difference. I've always said/heard up the creek. So I guess either is OK in a puzzle.

I enjoyed this. Very smooth, although I knew there would be gripes about THE.

Pete 9:43 AM  

I just read the interview with PB, and feel the need to add my admiration for the job he did putting together last week's tour de force.

Above and beyond that, however, I have to register my appreciation for his humanitarian effort on behalf of all of us, as we've been spared teen week, or geezer week, or whatever else taken this spot for Will's special 'themed' week this year.

Chip Hilton 10:01 AM  

The PB interview provided some really cool insights on the meta construction.

As a final meta-challenge, let's have a pool on how many correct solutions were submitted to The Times. My guess: 3,013. The prize: a hearty congrats from the assembled Rexites.

John V 10:27 AM  

Easy. Under five minutes on paper, easily my best Monday ever. I suspect that the intensity of last week is making my crossword synapses more effective.

Re: Meta challenge: got the answer in about 10 minutes -- without seeing the die faces. Just counted the number of letters O per grid, which gave the order. Read PB on Wordplay and seeing the addition level of abstraction just blew me away. Endlessly interesting to me is how our reactions to puzzles are so individual, so idiosyncratic. I am absolutely lousy at anagrams, specialty puzzles; I just stick to meat and potatoes crosswords. And yet, this one just leapt of the page at me. All this while, others here in Rex World struggled, notwithstanding solving skills being superior to mine. ascinating. There plainly is a visceral element to puzzles, beyond my understanding.

archaeoprof 10:27 AM  

I second @Foodie's remarks about ambition and seamlessness.

The great ones always make it look easy, don't they?

Anonymous 10:40 AM  

I got the pips and sequence but how does using the first letters of the clues map to looking at the NW, NE, SW, and SE corners?

Two Ponies 10:40 AM  

This felt like a fine Monday to me.
I am still giddy about last week's adventure. The added visual effect of the dice just blew my mind.
Thank you P.B. and Will for an extremely entertaining solving experience. Puzzle of the year!

Two Ponies 10:50 AM  

The write-up over at Wordplay is well worth the time. Now I'm even more impressed if that is possible.
Doesn't Patrick remind you of a young slightly-better-looking Stephen King?

chefbea 10:50 AM  

@chip Hilton lets throw in a nice bouquet/bunch of red tubers to the winner!!!

evil doug 10:50 AM  

"Some of you have mentioned that the Saturday puzzle was the easiest you’ve done in a long time, and that was deliberate: you can’t have the denouement impossible to crack, or the whole thing falls on its face."

That's either baloney---he just couldn't make the meta work without conceding to an easy puzzle---or it's wrong on its face. If he could have created a typically challenging Saturday puzzle, he should have. Instead of selling out to the masses, he should have made us earn the key to the package. How much more rewarding would it have been to face one final, life or death test? It wouldn't have been 'impossible to crack' for the true warriors out there.

It was a brilliantly executed exercise, no doubt about it. But it went out with a whimper.

When I win the book, I'll let you losers borrow it....


Nancy in PA 10:55 AM  

Loved the meta-puzzle challenge. Didn't ever need the fill-in-the-pips part, figured it had to be Caesar when I saw the clues about the corners (and given the emphasis on CROSSING) and saw a J in top left, and then was looking for "alea iacta est" instead of the English version. How nerdy is that? Extremely clever construction!

Haven't gotten around to Monday puzzle yet....

Matthew G. 11:03 AM  

@Nancy: I, too, hunted for ALEA IACTA EST before realizing it was going to be in English.

I figured out the metapuzzle answer from the odd phrase "and his crossing words" rather than from Step 2 of Saturday's instructions. I then went back and found the pips, which were pretty darn cool.

Liked today's puzzle a lot. Meaty for a Monday, with lively theme answers.

Julie 11:27 AM  

Easy, relaxing Monday. So inspired by PB and the Meta that my husband and I are going to (try) construct a crossed puzzle for a friend's Big (with a zero) Birthday. Anyone know a goos template for beginners?

jberg 11:30 AM  

@Anonymous 10:40 - If you read the first letters of the clues to Saturday's puzzle, in order - first across, then down, the way they are printed - they tell you to take the letters in the 4 corners of each grid. I think you may have had the same puzzlement as I did at first, looking at the first letters of the clues for each grid.

Another idea for you constructors: a puzzle, maybe a Sunday, full of the/the crosses with different definitions (many of them would have to be in longer phrases, as today - or acronyms.) I'll give you one free: there is a T.H.E. Hotel in Jeju City, Korea.

Masked and Anonymous 11:44 AM  

Neat MonPuz. Thumbs up. Coulda added "THREWTHEWOODS" -- sorta like an ode to bad golfers, or somethin'. Sure glad to have the O's in a puz actin' normal again. [A little worried now about those pesky "THE's", tho.]

Also glad they gave that poor PB a well-deserved rest this week. A constructor could hurt something, tryin' to do that "meta" stuff too often.

Meta-comments dept: [Boring Alert]
While counting U's for last TuesPuz [Using xwordinfo.com's Analyze Puzzle], I happened to notice that the graph bar for O was saggin' down to a count of 1. And that 1 O was dead center in the puz. Hmmm. Immediately checked out the MonPuz O's; 4 of 'em, in a box pattern. Hmmm.

WedPuz's O's confirmed my suspicions: Dice. Issued a comment in 31's WedBlog that mentioned "puzzOrama" and "rolls", just to mark my territory.

Rolled into SatPuz knowin' exactly where 5 O's would go. But still had no clue what PB was up to with his O-dice.

Now we all know. That was fun. And mighty impressive. And I'll even loan my book out to @Evil Doug, if'n he gets passed over.

Mel Ott 12:14 PM  

I liked this puzzle - I thought the theme was terrific for a Monday. Good enough to overlook some minor annoyances like crossing THEs.

I got the meta-puzzle fairly easily, but I didn't see the CROSSing the Rubicon connection until today's discussion. This thing just had layer upon layer of great "Aha!" moments.

Masked Word of the Day Job 12:20 PM  

P.S. @31: Really coulda used the WOTD = TEABALL. WTF? Sounds like a game young-uns play, using little spoons to take whacks at hurled wet teabags. (Proper form dictates positioning the pinky finger straight up, and hollerin' "one lump or two?", as you swing.)


Stan 12:23 PM  

Very smooth and solvable without seeming overly easy. I liked how the tricky (for a Monday) proper names KYD and BLANC were cleared up by unambiguous crosses.

I wonder if Otis and Carla was intentional or just a happy accident.

JenCT 12:24 PM  

Liked the puzzle a lot - only writeover was OCTET to OCTAD.

Thought the theme answers were cute.

I skipped the meta-puzzle challenge; just couldn't care that much. Really enjoyed PB's puzzles, though.

We had our first frost here this morning.

Evan 12:44 PM  

In case anyone is wondering about what their chances are of receiving one of those book prizes from Patrick Berry's meta-contest, Will Shortz tweeted yesterday that he received over 3,500 answers. So if you answered correctly, and with 25 randomly selected winners, you have at least a 0.7% chance of getting one of the books. Of course, it's likely that not all of those 3,500+ answers were correct, so your chances are probably better than 0.7%, albeit not that much more.

Oh, and like a lot of others, I didn't even understand the second part of PB's hint -- "filling in the circles? What circles?" was my initial reaction. Yet, I solved the meta-puzzle anyway by mapping out the corners on my notepad and just doing some unscrambling. That experience was cool enough by itself, but when I went back and saw what he meant by the circles, my jaw hit the floor. Absolutely stunned how he pulled all of that off.

If I should ever publish a crossword of my own somewhere, I can only hope that I'll make one as good as Berry's.

jesser 12:46 PM  

Thanks to CoffeeLvr for pointing me to the meta solve yesterday. She rocks! My mind is among those blown by Patrick Berry's feat! What a great week it was!

I enjoyed today's offering, as well. Only writeovers were cube before TBSP at 10A and OCTet before OCTAD at 57A.

The Saturday wedding reception was a hoot. We had live music on the back patio, and much wine was consumed. Good gathering.

Sunday was spent in cleaning mode to restore Casa Jess to its splendor, such as it is.

Happy Monday!

Griffin Jackson 12:53 PM  

I loved "future motorist". It often seems the people who create the clues get pretty desperate in their creativity.

Chip Hilton 1:24 PM  

@Evan: 3500+? Wow, so my 3,013 guess wasn't so out there. Cool.

hazel 1:30 PM  

@d(potential mid life crisis?)k - with respect to my previous post, its not that time and distance were ACTUALLY different - they just seemed so with the benefit of his added age and experience. i usually don't correct my many posting errors, but I felt like I was messing with the universe, so I felt compelled to clarify.

r.alphbunker 1:49 PM  

From the PB interview: "If you took something (I didn’t know what yet) from each grid and put them in the order suggested by the die faces, they could yield some sort of payoff phrase. Obviously it’d be elegant if the phrase had something to do with dice, so that’s where I started looking."

I thought this was a particularly interesting observation. Those puzzles did not leap out of PB's head the way that Athena leaped out of Zeus's!

miriam b 1:57 PM  

I've often heard "Up s**t creek without a paddle." Not breakfast-worthy, but moot anyway because of length.

The connection between the dice-like grids and the quote is a sort of lagniappe. I'm still lost in admiration for this feat. Hope I win.

Tom Q 2:22 PM  

Something about the P. Berry interview that no one else is highlighting -- he started this thing in AUGUST? I write plays, and it can take me from August till October to nail down a few pages. I'd have thought something this monumental would be many months if not years in the making. I'm truly in awe.

David 2:31 PM  

I thought about the Rubicon (and the Delaware) early on after I solved Saturday's puzzle, but still wouldn't know until I transferred the letters onto paper. The result was so great and illuminating as I read the letters vertically instead of horizontally:


rjbrunner 3:20 PM  

As to the mega, great week on so many levels. Monday began in the NW with "ides" and came full circle in the SW with "ides" (each puzzle a 15 X 15) and though I didn't get the fill every circle prompt, it was so almost solved. The final reveal may be hinted at in Thursday's puzzle with the B/W and that the 'color' scheme of most dice (pip / black) die (white), except those in children's games. Last week was no children's game. For those who got it all, I'm jealous, but still happy. Incredible Sir Patrick Berry!

600 3:27 PM  

@Masked and Anonymous--I am impressed! Really impressed. Deeply impressed. A big wow for you. And no wonder you were so quick to see the irony in Rex's post of the "Tumbling Dice" video Saturday.

I'm one of those who figured I was looking for Julius Caesar as soon as I read the "leader and his crossing" language from the first clue. I was really worried that somehow "I have crossed the Rubicon" would be revealed by filling the circles, which I didn't understand, but I got the correct answer by doing sort of a word jumble, crossing off Julius Caesar, and seeing "the die is cast" in what was left. I sent the answer in, still worried that something else would be revealed by those damn circles I couldn't see!

Then, as so many have said, I figured out the circles were O's and when the DIE faces became clear, I was totally blown away by the whole genius of the five puzzles. Awesome, awesome, awesome. After I finally figured out the circles, my answer looked exactly like @David's chart.

It does go without saying, doesn't it, that there's another whole level in using DIE faces to show the order of the puzzles to get
"the DIE is cast?" Okay, but I said it anyway because it's so clever. Probably it was self evident to everyone else. I got a kick out of it.

I hope everyone saw @Noam D. Elkies' clever O clue on Saturday. I didn't see it until after I had found "the circles"--and then it was a hoot.

@John V--I so completely agree with this: "Endlessly interesting to me is how our reactions to puzzles are so individual, so idiosyncratic. I am absolutely lousy at anagrams, specialty puzzles; I just stick to meat and potatoes crosswords. And yet, this one just leapt of the page at me. All this while, others here in Rex World struggled, notwithstanding solving skills being superior to mine. ascinating. There plainly is a visceral element to puzzles, beyond my understanding." You said it so perfectly it was no use my trying to say it again.

Today's puzzle was a fun Monday. Nothing special. It must be hell to be the constructor following a week of meta puzzle excitement. The puzzle was fine. Damning with faint praise.

Off to Wordplay to read the interview.

mac 3:42 PM  

@TwoPonies: I thought the same re SK!

In 1936 Rexists Poured into Brussels, according to "In our pages".

Tobias Duncan 3:55 PM  

Damn I forgot to ask everyone to watch Jeopardy tonight.Laura Bulkin of Taos will be on the show.She dated my best friends father for years and I am embarrassed to say that I never suspected she had the lobes for Jeopardy.A little background: she is a wonderful pianist, very new agey,over six feet tall,deeply credulous and absolutely has a heart of gold.The last point cannot be over stressed, she is one of those innocent souls that seem to be completely without cynicism.

sanfranman59 4:05 PM  

Midday report of relative difficulty (see my 8/1/2009 post for an explanation of my method):

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

Mon 6:15, 6:51, 0.91, 21%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:41, 3:40, 1.01, 53%, Medium

I failed to get last week's meta-puzzle. I was thrown by the fact that I spotted Jesus Christ in the jumble of letters, which was supported (in my head at least) with "cross" being part of the clue. But search as I might, I couldn't find any of Jesus's last words in the remaining letters ("forgive them Father they know not what they do", "into Thy hands I commend my spirit", etc etc) and never did make sense of the "circles" part of the clue for the meta-puzzle. C'est la vie ... it was still an enjoyable week of puzzles by Patrick Berry.

@Tobias ... I was disappointed, but not surprised, when Rubicon bit the dust after one season. Slow-moving, thought-provoking and subtle aren't descriptors that tend to lead to success ... at least not in the American TV market. Too bad.

foodie 4:54 PM  

The layers upon layers of last week's construction are worth celebrating.

I think there is the broad thematic framework: THE MANY MEANINGS OF THE WORD CROSS (see below), which actually serves to distract us from the visual mechanism. Like a great mystery story, it's hard to know what is a red herring, what is a critical clue or how one can morph into another.

Then there is the VISUAL ASPECT : The dice, that holds the key to rank ordering the individual puzzles, and thereby solving the meta puzzle. Patrick Berry described how that idea was born and its connection to the Quote "The Die is Cast". The bounciness of the themes helped distract us from the rarity and unusual layout of the letters O.

There is of course the SPECIFIC VERBAL MATERIAL we needed to work with: The placement of the right letters in the 4 corners of each of the 6 puzzles, the long instruction answers on Saturday, the starting letters of each of the Saturday clues.

So, the whole week was about a different meaning of Cross, and I really wanted that to be part of the answer. It was, but not in the way I expected...

Monday: X Marks the Cross
Tuesday: Crossing words to make hybrid words (In genetics, we cross lines to create hybrids).
Wednesday: Words that mean feeling annoyed, angry... cross.
Thursday: Black and White Crossings! And remember that dice are black and white, not just zebra crossings!
Friday: Words Crossing over, above, and around.
Saturday: Crossing the Rubicon!

I think I must have had a foreshadowing to that metatheme by Wednesday. Before writing how much I admired it I said:

"The word "Cross" really threw me off today... I kept wanting to find a Crossing word that somehow made it all come together. It was quite late in the game before I stopped being distracted by it, and then even later before I realized that we were talking about being Cross as in annoyed or irritated. So, in the end, my mood was slightly cross.."

But while I was busy trying to think about CROSS words and their meanings, all this other stuff was going on!!! This is exactly how I got hooked on reading mysteries, when I realized how someone was playing me, distracting me and I was really try to avoid falling for it every time! It's a mental duel...

Masked and Anonymous III and out 4:56 PM  

Just got an e-mail with title "Don't miss Jingle the Husky Pup's latest adventure." Gackk.

But in the snappier news dept., earlier today I got an email from constructor friend Erul; and have just finished solving the crossword he had sent me in it. It had -- count 'em -- 18 entries with a UU in them. He said he had to do it for me, after people tellin' me it couldn't be done. Wow. And it didn't even have an EQUUS in it.

@600: Thanx...but even a blind squirrel will find an acorn every once in a while. Just what my pappy used to say, whenever I'd get an A in math.

Stan 6:03 PM  

@foodie: Thanks for your delightfully clear unpacking of last week's theme(s). I feel fortunate that I got to solve them in real time.

It's hard to pick a favorite day, but mine was the 'zebra crossing' puzzle. At that point, I facetiously thought the message might be PAUL IS DEAD.

Gladys 6:14 PM  

I just have to say thanks to Mr. Barry for making Saturday's puzzle easy. Friday and Saturday puzzles are usually beyond my ability, but with the easy Saturday I was able to parse together enough of the puzzles I could do this week to come up with the correct solution.

quilter1 7:00 PM  

To one who asked, a tea ball is a globular doo-hickey pierced with holes that unscrews into halves and holds loose tea. Sort of a recyclable tea bag.

chefbea 8:03 PM  

Just watched jeopardy . Now its time for baseball...go cards!!!!

Detour 8:51 PM  

@Evil: maybe you should have your hearing checked :) While your week went out with a whimper, I heard a full double loop rollercoaster scream!
What a week! PB is so amazing I wouldn't put it past him to have an additional msg formed when the printed puzzles form a 3D dice (he didn't, did he?). What I also find amazing is how much I loved the individual puzzles and the play on cross each day. It was like 2 fun contests in one- the metachallenge AND the daily puzzles.

@M and A: Kudos to solving the circles so early! I was convinced on Wed that you must be an insider to have that info already. Maybe even PB himself stalking us :)

Smitty 9:46 PM  

thank you @Z....I would never have gotten it in a million years....

Sfingi 11:38 PM  

Easy and cute, as a Mon should be.

@Tita - sounds Germanic Leute essen, Tier fressen. People eat, animals (freat?)

@Chefbea - I'm so upset that the booby prizes for Jeopardy have gone down to 1 and 2 thou. Does this mean Jeopardy is slipping and has to cut corners?

@Masked WOTD - Though I dislike tea, I have my mom;s antique teaball and a spoon that closes on a hinge. The teaball hangs on a chain and its top (or bottom) screws off.

Sparky 11:44 PM  

Thank you too many above to mention for making the meta clear to me. During the week I too, like @Foodie, was caught up with the word and sight of crosses. Also thinking it's all there in black and white. Went completely off base with the circles and was trying to patch the grids together so the arcs of the black squares formed circles. Ah well.

Doing each day was such fun, the puzzles really neato. Thank you Patrick Berry.

Nice Monday puzzle. I'm not IN THE DUMPS about my failure. There is more fun DOWN THE ROAD before I am completely OVER THE HILL.

sanfranman59 1:06 AM  

This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 8/1/2009 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 6:21, 6:51, 0.93, 23%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:35, 3:40, 0.98, 44%, Medium

Tita 11:09 AM  

@sfingi - thanks - I had forgotten that phrase in German...it's a great one!

In Portugal, 'lunch' and 'dine' are verbs...and not snooty ones - that is simply how you say it!
(There aren't many WASPS in Portugal, @dk!!) ;)

Joseph 1:32 PM  

Berry's masterpiece from last week has ruined me. I just don't care anymore. Revealing to me what a crossword puzzle can do, I can now only focus on how practically all other puzzles are meaningless dribble.

Parker, what's with giving Berry's puzzles a short-shrift "post script"? Let me guess: you hated them.

Red Valerian 4:51 PM  

@Joseph--I, too, was a little surprised not to hear more about the meta-puzzle from @Rex today. But there's lots at Wordplay (link near the top of the comments). I hadn't realized that each puzzle had a "cross" theme, in addition to everything else! Now I'm wishing I hadn't already put them out with the recycling.

Also, I wouldn't infer that @Rex hated them (he never said so of them individually) or the meta-puzzle. I imagine (and hope, for his sake) that he rarely holds back on criticism.

Me, I just loved it. crazy, crazy brilliant.

Oh, and I quite liked today's puzzle, too.

Dirigonzo 6:48 PM  

Lyn Lempel created a marvelous Monday puz with some really cool (to me, anyway) long theme answers, and it gets largely ignored in the comments due to Meta Puzzle hangover - too bad, I think. But I enjoyed the extended meta-puzzle discussion, too.
From 11/28/2006:
- "Solving time: 6:35"
- "Not sure what it says about me that I confused the SEX expert with the LAUGHTER expert."
- "I actually bought the one on Anger for myself. I have ... occasional ... issues ... with that particular ... sin. This is moving into weirdly confessional territory, so I'll move on."
- "I could not name all the NHL teams off the top of my head, but I think I could tell you the name of the hockey team if you gave me the name of the city / state. Florida PANTHERS, Dallas STARS, Carolina HURRICANES - I'm just going to do memory drills here for a while, you guys can go ahead without me ... San Jose SHARKS, yes!"
- "In conclusion, "Hospital fluids" is the grossest clue I've read in a while - I just thank god the answer was SERA and not one of the hundreds of horrifying potential answers floating through my head."
- "Thought I'd end today with some glorious 80's goodness, and what says glorious 80's goodness better than Wang Chung? "I wonder why in L.A. / To live and die in L.A." - genius."
- A first-time comment by a reader brought this reply from RP: "DQ = best initials. Dairy Queen AND Don Quixote. I know a very good puzzle author with the same initials. Maybe you know him/her..." There were 12 comments in all.

Red Valerian 8:30 PM  

@Dirigonzo--I agree. And I would have waxed more eloquent about "today's" puzzle had I something new to add. But I really did enjoy it, and I didn't notice the "the" "the" thing. Or that "tea" is in a clue and in an answer. Nice puzzle, Lynn.

Anonymous 6:22 AM  

Spacecraft here. Sadly, as a denizen of Syndiland, I could not participate in the grandiose tour de force of Mr. Berry. I got that "other" puzzle on Saturday. But by all means, I am agape at the depth of the many levels he attained to pull this off. Seems like a lifetime project, but probably not for PB. Couple months, maybe--in between other stuff. Frightening!
Today's I found easy, though a pleasant solve. One sour note for me: forget the THE's--I don't like LETITLIE. People don't talk like that; they say Let it go/be/alone,
but not "lie." Phrases such as TRIALRUN, PLEASEDO and the theme answers: THIS is how people really talk. It's natural (though DOWN typically precedes INTHEDUMPS in common usage). "Let it lie" is NOT natural.
And hand up for wanting to strangle that smarmy "Dude, you're gettin' a Dell" kid.

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