## Sunday, October 16, 2011

Constructor: Joel Fagliano

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: "Getting in Shape" — Six theme answers are represented literally by circled squares in the grid

Word of the Day: TOMAS Berdych (44A: Tennis's Berdych) —
Tomáš Berdych (Czech pronunciation: [ˈtomaːʃ ˈbɛrdɪx]; born September 17, 1985, in Valašské Meziříčí) is a professional tennis player from the Czech Republic. His most notable achievements are reaching the final of the 2010 Wimbledon Championships, and the semi-finals of the 2010 French Open. He defeated the Croatian player Ivan Ljubičić in five sets to win the Paris Masters (which is a part of the ATP Masters 1000) in 2005. He has since reached the final of the Miami Masters in 2010, but he was defeated by the American athlete Andy Roddick in 2 sets. He reached a career high of World No. 6 on October 18, 2010. (wikipedia)
• • •
This'll have to be brief, as my daughter is downstairs watching "Star Wars" by herself, and I really feel that she needs my running commentary.

I thought this puzzle was pretty dang cool—one of the better uses of circled squares that I've seen in my time. Love that the theme answers were essentially unclued save for the shapes themselves. I didn't even grasp the theme completely until I was about 2/3 done—I could tell that shapes were involved, as the theme answers started to come into view, but it wasn't really until the end, with ARCTIC CIRCLE, that I had to think about how the theme worked exactly. That NW corner was by far the toughest thing about the puzzle (though, ultimately, not that tough). Before I got ARCTIC, I had ICEE and ESTEE and nothing else. Wanted MESA for 36A: Geological feature on a Utah license plate (ARCH). Didn't get [Game hunters] until I had -ETTERS in place—just wasn't computing for me (SETTERS). I'm guessing that "character" in the clue 2D: Character in "The Hobbit" is an alphabetical character, not some dude named RUNE (never read "The Hobbit"—TRUE FACT!). And CLUTCH just didn't come easily (4D: Critical situation). But once I threw ARCTIC up there, everything else started to behave.

• ARTIFICIAL HEART
• ARCTIC CIRCLE
• OVAL OFFICE
• LOVE TRIANGLE
• SQUARE INCH
• DIAMOND NECKLACE
Pretty cool that you get a twofer with LOUVRE — clue refers to the Pei pyramid, and the answer runs right through the (pyramidesque) triangle formed by L-O-V-E. I was surprised by how few groaners there were in this one. Sundays are always bound to have a few—big grid, more chances for junk to work its way in. But REINK was the only thing that made me wince a little, and I'm fairly certain it's a real word, so no complaints. I though CODAS were [Repeated musical phrases], but answer was RIFFS ... but then CODAS showed up later in the grid (102D: Musical symbols that resemble crosshairs)! What were people calling that phenomenon? A malapop? Weird to have it happen with CODAS, which isn't exactly the most common bit of crossword fill.

Thought that [Friend of Fifi] would be a dog like Rex or Rover (but it's French for "friend" (f.): AMIE). Thought [Eggs in a sushi restaurant] would be a Japanese word, not simple ROE. Also went with OOPS instead of OH NO until BIDEN set things straight. I like the short-named retro movie vibe created by ORCA (99A: 1977 thriller set at sea) and CHE! (15D: 1969 film with an exclamation point in its title) Knew EL NIÑO even before I looked at the clue, as the answer started ELN ... and not much else does (115A: Phenomenon associated with the Southern Oscillation). Never had to read Flowers for ALGERNON (68D: Mouse in a classic Daniel Keyes book), but I've been familiar with the title since middle school, so a few crosses were all I needed. 45A: Aviation pioneer Sikorsky is one of your minor IGORs (behind Stravinsky and Dr. Frankenstein's assistant but ahead of Larionov in prominence). I know him only from crosswords.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

foodie

one of my fastest Sundays. Felt easy and smooth. I caught on early to the idea that one of the theme answers would refer to the shape, but the second seemed like a familiar but random word associated with it... SQUARE meal, dance, what? What was the basis of choosing INCH over the others? It was only after I was finished that I notice that LOVE was inside the TRIANGLE and realized that the second word was built into the shape it self, so the circles actually spell INCH, OFFICE, LOVE etc. D'OH... It was still easy without knowing that. But my admiration for the construction went up substantially.

Rex, my son has been debating whether watching Star Wars with his kids should be in sequence of release or sequence of the story itself... Any thoughts?

Evan K.

In the eight months since I've started doing Times crosswords, this set new records for me, both in terms of theme accessibility and the fact that I finished in record time on the train (40 minutes.. respectable for an amateur, I'd like to think!). Also the first Sunday I've fully solved with no external prompting and no mistakes!

I caught on to the theme immediately with the ARCTIC CIRCLE, and love how substantial the puzzle felt despite a below-average number of Sunday theme answers. This was a refreshing change from the string of clued-?-style punny theme puzzles we've seen of late.

A lively collage of answers with barely anything obscure and nothing unattainable. I also liked how, on the page, SQUARE INCH is, well, pretty much an actual inch squared!

More answers I enjoyed: PACMAN / GAMEOVER, AFRAIDSO / COMEQUICK, and of course the PEI / LOUVRE pyramid/triangle.

Very enjoyable puzzle, and one with which I was fortunately on the same wavelength through and through. Thank you, Joel!

Anonymous

fun and smooth puzzle. the title was half giveaway. i enjoyed drawing the shapes and admired the construction. finished quickly and was happy to do it as i am stuck in recuperating from surgery.

Anonymous

Record Sunday time for me. Cluing was very straightforward and I caught onto the shape theme thing pretty quickly. I think it was mostly luck.

chefwen

Caught onto the theme with ARTIFICIAL HEARTS, that was the first shape I recognized after watching So You Think You Can Dance, and the winner kept doing that thing with her hands forming the shape of a heart. AARGH!

Had a great lunch with @Rube and Mrs. Rube at Dukes Barefoot Bar and Restaurant. They brought lots of goodies. Nice to have friends who like to cook and bring you things. Funny, @Rube and I had a conversation about GETTING IN SHAPE, had a big giggle when I saw Sundays header.

Great Sunday puzzle Mr. Fagliano.
Your name always makes me crave pasta.

Hope I didn't give too many people an ear worm with knick knack paddy whack yesterday. It's been driving me nuts.

jae

Easy except for NE (ACHEBE?). Clever, novel theme. Fun breezy Sun.

JaxInL.A.

Knowing the reaction that circles in a puzzle usually illicit from our fearless leader, I fully expected a rant rather than a cheer when I came here. I'm so glad that Rex enjoyed the clever shape device.  How does one think of putting a heart shape into a puzzle, anyway?

I caught the theme at the HEART, and found it helpful in solving, and fun to tease out.  Bravo.

A couple of quibbles with the cluing, though.

1) A RECORDER  seems only a distant cousin to an oboe, as a woodwind, or even more broadly as a wind instrument.  I suppose they play together in early music ensembles, but... Well I groaned at that one.

2) Much more importantly, my mind boggled to see the startling juxtaposition of Chinua ACHEBE, one of the most important and influential literary and political voices of 20th century Africa, with Sarah PALIN, clued as an author.  It's a bit like crossing her with Nelson Mandela and cluing them both as political leaders. It's an order of magnitude thing.

It did prompt me to read up on Mr. Achebe more, though, which is part of why I do puzzles--to learn things.  Eye-opening books and essays like nothing else you've read. Remarkable man, now teaching at Brown.

JenCT

Solving experience remarkably similar to @Rex; didn't get the theme until over 3/4 done.

NE was hardest; wanted MOUSEsomething & just couldn't see PACMAN, not to mention ACHEBE.

SETTERS and GAMEOVER took forever,too.

Nice & different for a Sunday puzzle.

Oh, and a shoutout to ACME too.

Ruth

I had CRUNCH for "Critical situation" for a while--as in "it's crunch time"--and thought that made a good answer, except it wasn't.

M07S

I like to use the puzz as a reality check on my mental state for the day. I should be worried. Yesterday I downloaded the puzz from Ephraim's to avoid the ads on the NYT site. I picked the puzz at the top of the list which turned out to be "Tomorrow's" puzz. When I saw this opus I thought oversized grid, circles, a theme? For a Saturday? There will be howls of protest from the Rexites.

Silly me.

An excellent puzzle. A clever construction and a silky, smooth solve. I stand in awe of the mind that can create something of this complexity and have it seem so perfectly assembled. (And not a single CZOLGOSZ in it!)

Anonymous

I liked the surprise of Algernon toward the bottom of the grid because, like JenCT, I was struggling with Pacman (until Palin came along, and convinced me that the last word wasn't gets or sees but nets), and my first instinct was toward lit/myth: Theseus, Minotaur...and Algernon.

Glimmerglass

Like Ruth, I got sidetracked with CrunCH time, and like Rex, with Oops, but this was a really easy puzzle, even though I didn't catch on to the gimmick until late. ("Why are three i's an ARTIFICIAL HEART?") However, once noticed (at DIAMOND NECKLACE), the gimmick made it even easier. However, this cannot have been an easy puzzle to construct! It's a tribute to Joey Fagliano (cousin of Joey Tribiani?) that the fill is as clean as it is. Very few clunkers, and some clever cluing. I like UNCUT and ABRIDGED in the top corners. PACMAN and GAMEOVER.

Matthew G.

One of my favorite Sundays, smooth as butter all the way through. Great work, Joel.

chefbea

What an easy puzzle!!! Normally on Sunday I start the puzzle..we go to breakfast..come home and I work on the puzzle some more. Puzzle is all done. Guess I'll have to make a pecan pie!

Got the theme right away and had to look up just one or two things.

Shout out to Acme and Me.

MountainManZach

@foodie: order of release. There is absolutely no reason to subject an innocent child to the abominations that were episodes 1-3.

jberg

It's hard not to love a puzzle with PACMAN over Chinua ACHEBE, but I don't fully get the theme. It still seems like the clued shape plus a random word. @Foodie, you say the second word is "built into the shape itself," but it seems a stretch to me. SQUARE INCH, yes, and I guess a HEART is ARTICIAL if it's made up of shaded squares (and also if it's in the middle of the word "artificial"). ARCTIC is up north of the shaded CIRCLE, and the DIAMOND NECKLACE hangs off a neck - but OVAL OFFICE? I don't see that at all (or is it OVAL OFF ICE?)

@JaxInL.A., I'm with you on the recorder (which I play). An English horn, or even a bassoon, is cousin to an oboe. A recorder is cousin to a flute. But I guess one could say that each of those groups consists of siblings, so that their members are cousins to each other.

Further along that musical note, I don't think a CODA is the cross-hair symbol, it's the thing that symbol designates - a little concluding passage at the end of a movement.

Three writeovers: as usUal for as A RULE, mOrEspeed for COME QUICK, and curtaiN for TENSION. (You know, a drama on stage needs a curtain - I really liked that one!)

Anonymous

A most enjoyable puzzle. The only clue that I still don't get is 'Jack or jenny' . Can someone please help me out!

Gill I. P.

I'm in awe of this puzzle. When I finished it I just stared at it for the longest time and wondered how in the world did he manage to construct this gem.
I drew in all the theme answers and dang, that heart is something else.
If someone put a gun to my head and said I *had* to find something I didn't like, I would probably say that I wasn't crazy about all the proper names. Then, I would uncross my fingers.
Thank you Joel Fagliano for a puzzle I will remember for some time.

jackj

Wow! Wow! Wow!

How many "wow's" before it becomes unseemly adulation? Joel, this is a World Series, game seven, ninth inning, walk-off home run of a puzzle.

A star has been launched in the crossword world.

No need to rehash what makes it great but two seemingly innocuous entries also caught my attention. ABRIDGED, making its debut in a Times puzzle, clued as "Missing parts", was inspired.

Not to be outdone, my favorite of the puzzle was a little, familiar three letter word, EAT, which was brilliantly presented by the question, "Take sides?".

Joel, thanks for sharing your genius.

Leslie

Anon. 9:35, farmers used to give common farm animals gendered names. We remember "jackass" but have forgotten that the female is a "jenny ass." Ditto goats: We remember "billy goats" better than we do "nanny goats."

Anonymous

@anon 9:35. From Wikipedia: A male donkey or ass is called a jack, a female a jenny.
@jberg. look at the letters within the shape. The words are spelled out.

Haven't posted in quite a while, but had to let JF know how terrific I thought this was. Not too difficult, very elegant, and lots of fun!

JaxInL.A.

Nice to see you again, @CPD. Hope all is well.

@foodie, I'm gonna second @MountainManZach and strongly recommend watching Star Wars movies in order of release. The stories, characters and effects are charming and engaging. The subsequent set suffer from having too damn much money thrown at them, at the expense of story and character. And the directing is very poor. My 13-yr-old likes them but mainly because she got hooked with the older trio first.

Mel Ott

I really enjoyed the interplay between words and shapes. A fine puzzle indeed.

IGOR Sikorsky is not minor here in Stratford, CT, where we have a Sikorsky Airport and a Sikorsky helicopter plant. Old IGOR did much of his pioneering aviation work about a mile from my home.

archaeoprof

Loved this puzzle. Really strong Sat/Sun combination this weekend!

Hand up for "crunch" (and "crisis") before CLUTCH.

Does the appearance of both PALIN and BIDEN constitute a 2008 election subtheme?

quilter1

Got the theme at love triangle, but had gETS at 18D and never saw PACMAN as I wanted sHE for the movie. But overall agree with Rex that this was a pretty good Sunday. Smooth sailing except for that little NE corner.

Z

Caught the theme at LOVETRIANGLE. Impressive (imagine James Earl Jones here).

Star Wars should be viewed (and the Chronicles of Narnia read) in order of release.

The crossing of Achebe and Palin is ironic. Printing the stories "The Dumbest Guys in the Room" and "Does Anyone Have a Grip on the GOP?" in succession is... scary(?)...unintended commentary(?)... causing me to mistake the Beavis and Butthead story for the cover story.

captcha- chiout -105D today for Acme

archaeoprof

PS: nice to see the biblical prophet AMOS in the puzzle on this day of dedication for the Martin Luther King Jr memorial.

The Rev Dr King often quoted Amos 5:24: "Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream."

evil doug

If you love them, you'll never make them watch Jar Jar Binks.

Evil

joho

Original, fresh, visual theme executed brilliantly ... what more can one ask for in a Sunday puzzle?

My favorite was LOVETRIANGLE.

Joel, I can't wait to see what you come up with next!

Elaine2

I also liked this puzzle a lot, EXCEPT -- "square inch" uses a shaded/circled letter that is NOT part of any word that intersects the answer in question. Am I the only person bothered by this?

DigitalDan

Jberg, what you missed was that the "random word" is repeated in the letters that make up the shape, sequentially either in one direction or the other. Thus the random word actually creates the shape.

jae

@Elaine2 -- Actually several answers fail that criterion. The answers all intersect the shape, not the words containing the circles.

600

Well, first, I hope your daughter loved Star Wars with or without your essential commentary. My (33 year old) son tells all his friends he loves it so much because he was first exposed to it in utero. TRUE FACT.

@foodie--My opinion, for what it's worth, is that if your son starts with episode one, the family'll never get to episode four. The first ones are awful! Go in the order of release. (I wrote this before I read previous entries. Looks like several of us feel the same way about this question!)

I never think of Flowers for Algernon as a "book" though I know it was turned into one. The short story is forever my touchstone for that particular piece of literature--but I'm not complaining about the clue or answer. They were fair enough.

I kept wanting Perseus where PACMAN needed to go. But it just wouldn't fit.

As for the puzzle overall, it's all been said--a good, accessible, fun workout. Not too hard. And quite clever.

@archaeoprof--What a great connection to point out! I'd never have realized that. Thanks.

Anonymous

You absolutely HAVE to watch Star Wars in order of release, because of the spoiler factor: the big twist in Episode V (learning that two of the main characters are related to each other) is given away in I-III.

Not to mention, if you want your kid to form an interest in all of this, you should start with the ones that are actually interesting. Start with Episode I and your kid might not even want to watch Episode II.

Maxwell

I printed the puzzle from NYT on line. No circles. Just shading. The shading was so faint I had to put it under my desk lamp and use a highlighter. The only shape I managed to find was the heart. Which helped me get the theme. But I feel I missed half the fun of this puzzle!

Sparky

Got the theme with the heart shape and then with the triangle, which helped filling in some of the others. Eyes playing tricks so had aeon at 105D. Happy to move EONS to 104D and shout out to ACME. It's all better said above. Good job JF. Agree @Chefwen--heart hands Argh, saying I heart instead of I love double Aargh. Hope you are mending well @Anon 12:40.

Clark

@foodie et al -- I happen to like Episodes I to III, even though I agree with most of the criticism of them. I just imagine them as they should be as I watch them I guess. Whatever. Anyway, I agree that they should be watched in order of release. It should start with Luke's search to know who he is and what his task is. 1, 2 and 3 are then a grand flashback.

Cool puzzle by the way.

Lewis

I think the relative lack of arcana made this the first Sunday I've ever completed without Googling at least once.

I was confused by the clue "See highlighted letters intersected by this answer" because to me it wasn't clear. For instance, ARTIFICIAL HEART does intersect the heart, but there are a great number of highlighted letters to the south that it "intersects" with as well. I don't know how the clue could have been made any better, and I figured it out soon enough.

This puzzle felt easy to me. Must have been on Joel's wavelength. Thank you Joel!

foodie

@ MountainManZach, JaxinLA, evil doug,600 and Clark,

Thank you gentle people! It's a clear consensus and I will pass it on. My grandson's name is Lucas, nickname Luke, and we have a video of him when he was just starting to crawl, struggling towards a light saber at the other end of the room, and his dad cheering him on: Luke, Luke, You can do it, Luke!

So you know there will be Star Wars watching in his future.

tptsteve

Sorry- I hated this. I'm with those who had a problem with the "intersections." Squares that are two lines away from an answer don't intersect with it.

Where's NDE when you need him?

600

@tptsteve--I didn't hate the puzzle, but I too was troubled by the use of the word "intersections." Thanks for putting into words what for me was kind of a vague discomfort. I understand jae's point earlier, about the intersection of the shape, but I agree the clues were just a little off.

@Foodie--I love the mental picture of your family's Luke going for the light saber.

Anonymous

@JaxinL.A. I think you meant "elicit" not "illicit."

MikeM

Hall of Fame in my book. I thought it was a brilliant construction and an absolute pleasure to solve. Just the right amount of difficulty. Thanks Joel... it is so nice to escape into an interesting Sunday puzzle and forget about life for awhile.

Anonymous

90A: Jack or jenny. Jackass, clear enough. Jenny, another word for donkey or... ass.

Didn't find this as fun as you all did, though just as easy.

And you, Rex, and anyone else , should read Flowers For Algernon. A great, highly original story that I hope will someday be made into a movie with Edward Norton as the lead character.

600

@daveyhead--I hope you're just messing with our heads, but in case you're not: the movie has been made. The title is Charly, it was made in 1968, and it stars Cliff Robertson. I recommend you see it.

With all the remakes coming out lately, maybe it will be remade. You're right about Norton--he can make any role memorable.

jae

@600 -- You beat me to the post. I'll just add Robertson won the Academy Award for his role.

Stan

A very well-constructed theme and smooth solving experience. I agree about oboe (double-reed) being pretty far from recorder (no reed). And I think of a riff as an improvised phrase rather than a repeated one. But these are tiny nits.

I often think of "Flowers for Alegernon"/"Charlie" while doing puzzles because sometimes I think I'm getting smarter and smarter and then some days... oops, the drugs just aren't working anymore.

Thanks to Rex for the gorgeousness of New Order's "Bizarre Love Triangle." The videos are a great part of the blog.

ahecht

I also finished with the NW corner, and I can't believe that a clue like "Character in "The Hobbit"" fooled me again. I can't count the number of times I've seen RUNE clued as ""Beowolf" Character", "Mysterious character", "old character", etc. In fact, just three months ago we had RUNEs clued as "Characters in "The Hobbit"" in a Sunday puzzle.

Fool me once, shame on you...

nurturing

Great construction, fun puzzle = satisfaction!

Rex, coda does not imply a repetition. It is an ending, a conclusion. In music, it is usually a second 'ending', which is where you may have gotten the idea that it is repeated.

What happens is, you go back to the beginning of the section, repeat it, and at the (crosshairs of the) coda mark, jump to the coda ending instead of finishing the section at the first ending.

Steve

I've just starting doing the NYT Sundays (I got bored with my local LAT Sundays as they always have the same constructor), even though I have to shell out \$6 for the paper, it's worth every penny when you get a gem like this puzzle.

Super-clever theme, I loved the "aha" moment when I was 50% done and saw ARTIFICIAL spelled out by the "heart" shape.

Great construction, really enjoyed this.

acme

Is it too late to highly recommend both you AND your daughter read "Flowers for Algernon"?!!!
From what I remember it's in first person narrative and the language devolves as he begins to regress and it's one of the most touching books I have ever read.
Plus it changed the way I thought about writing and what could be done stylistically (just like the first time you read Virginia Woolf or Faulkner).
I think you would love it and it would be a great father/daughter bonding experience...
I am now inspired myself to reread it! And I suspect no need for a remake, I'll bet "Charly" holds up pretty well...and Cliff Robertson just died this year, so it would be a good tribute to him.

Now to actually DO this puzzle! It sounds fabulous.
What with a shout out and all...

Anonymous

Sorry to be dense -- but I don't get how the word "Arctic" relates to the shape.

Mike

One of the easiest Sunday puzzles I've ever done in my life. I almost never finish the Sunday (I'm an OK crossworder, but very far from great)- I can maybe get 1 out of every 8 done. I finished this puzzle in 35 minutes. I have literally never done a Sunday puzzle in an hour, much less 35 minutes.

Mike

...And it wasn't until just now that I realized the shapes actually spelled out the words! That's how easy this puzzle was- I missed part of the theme (I just figured out phrases using the shapes without regard to what was contained therein), and it STILL took me barely half an hour. This was wasn't nearly as bad as the "Finding Nemo" puzzle- nothing could possibly be that bad again- but it might have been even simpler.

joe

someone please explain how "MEH" means "i'm less than impressed" thanks

Z

@Joe - the same way "psst" means "I want your attention" or "bah" means "I don't like it." It is a written approximation of a sound.

Pebbles

I don't know about Rex's copy of the puzzle but mine had shaded spaces, not circled ones. I got all of the answers fairly easily even without understanding that the shaded spaces made shapes. Like another poster, I found calling the spaces "inersecting" misleading and unclear. I had a laugh over the summer when I told my husband that the one with a milkshake shaper or whatever it was supposed to be was a total waste of time and Rex said the same thing.

Dirigonzo

Syndicated solver chiming in to say that when I realized that the *shaded* squares actually spelled out the missing word to go with the shape, I wrote "OMG!" - a phrase I have never used before and one I promise I will never use again - at the top of the puzzle. I was that impressed.

On this date 5 years ago, early-Rex reverted to solving on paper; let's see how he did:

- "Solving time: 6:14...The theme was not conducive to quick solving, as the anagraminess of the answers is not immediately evident when you're flying through the puzzle. My only thought on solving the first two theme answer was "????" (see below). Maybe, if I want my times to improve, I should save reflection for when the puzzle is Completed." The seeds of RP's emphasis on speed have been sown.
- "42A: Peanuts (goobers)
If I ever started an anti-PANTHEON, a Legion of Doom to the PANTHEON's Justice League, then this word would be a sure-fire inductee. It's just a horrible word. First, who wants to eat something that starts with "goo?" Second, it's an anagram of "boogers." Third, it's a useless synonym - it's no shorter or easier or more pleasant to say. Just writing about it is grossing me out. But I had to make my consternation known." Two new Pantheon inductees (ULNA and URIS) followed this rant.
- "Yes, it makes total sense that the Advertising Industry's awards would take on the name of the Muse of History (CLIO). The name has absolutely nothing to do with the product - the quintessence of modern advertising. Brilliant." And then this:
- "Have I mentioned yet how much I despise all things poker, how it is one of the single biggest contributing factors to the thriving Culture of the Asshole that we have in this country, how its only reason for existence is to give fat and/or ugly jerks the false belief that they can be cool and attractive to women without first undergoing a vast body and personality overhaul?" Early-Rex had some heart-felt opinions about modern culture.
- There were 4 comments, 2 of which were from readers who were solving the puzzle on a 2010 calendar, so I am not the first being from the future to visit.

Anonymous

I'm not sure what all the "great puzzle" fuss is about. Seems to me I've seen some form of this gimmick before. I also found the solve to be less than satisfying in that huge chunks of the grid fell at once without ever needing crosses to confirm (as a result there were a number of clues that I never even saw).

Things I liked:
1) I finished with no errors, rare for me on a Sunday
2) NFL TD'S as bookends
3) TD's and HR's, both of which I saw an awful lot of yesterday

Things I wanted to see:
1) BASEBALL DIAMOND (to compliment NL EAST and PICKOFF)
2) All the the shape words reading clockwise, except for
3) OVAL TRACKS (to compliment RACE CAR...oval tracks are raced counter-clockwise of course)
(4) A reggae clue for 100a...or anything other than a reference to that guy, who's eventual descent to obscurity can't come soon enough for me.

Red Valerian

Had no idea what "Imus in the morning" was, though I got it from crosses. Googled after completion, and now I wish I didn't know!

Confidently wrote in SQUAREmeal instead of SQUAREINCH, so that slowed me down a tad. Also thought CODAS would be flatS--but that's because I was confusing the symbol for flats with the one for sharps.

Anyhow, a smart inventive puzzle.

Thanks for the earlier Rex comments, @Dirigonzo, and for the fact that 2 out of the 4 comments were from 2010!

Anonymous

Spacecraft here. No real complaints today. One writeover slowed me in the NE: put in LABRAT for the maze critter of 13a. That was a weird corner...ACHE crossing ACHEBE (never heard of him) and all. Winced at OWER and AAAS--the triple-letter phenomenon continues!
Smiled at IMUS atop IMAC, and a shout-out to my beloved Phillies (next year, guys: watch out!).
Good theme and overall execution, but hardly hall-of-fame. Now if the circled letters spelled out a shape...

bubpvs: Fee charged by Marcvs Antonivs for his evlogy of Jvlivs Caesar.

Mary Ann

Help! Call me stupid -but, I just don't get the theme in this puzzle.

what do the circle/shaded letters mean? Thx

Dirigonzo

@Mary Ann - The circles/shaded squares form a shape, which is one part of each theme answer, and the letters inside the same circles/shaded squares spell a word which is the other part of the theme answer (all of which are revealed in Rex's write-up)- pretty cool, huh?

Mary Ann

Dirigonzo,

Oh! Now I see it...Thanks so much!

Anonymous

How is 80A: Majority figure? eighteen?

Dirigonzo

@Anony 7:53PM - Think "majority = adulthood" and it makes sense.

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