Duplex mail / THU 11-17-11 / Mad manager / Savory turnover from south of border / 40th since 1789 / D-Day refuges for wounded

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Constructor: Patrick Merrell

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: "LETTER SORTING" (35A: "Stronger title" for this puzzle) — Clues are odd phrases that, when anagrammed, create familiar words/phrases meaning "anagrammed"

  • 17A: Roof detour => OUT OF ORDER
  • 26A: Duplex mail => ALL MIXED UP
  • 49A: Rear garden => REARRANGED
  • 57A: Mad manager => ANAGRAMMED

Word of the Day: Gamal ABDEL Nassar (7D: Egypt's Gamal ___ Nassar) —
Gamal Abdel Nasser Hussein (15 January 1918 – 28 September 1970) was the second President of Egypt from 1956 until his death. A colonel in the Egyptian army, Nasser led the Egyptian Revolution of 1952 along with Muhammad Naguib, the first president, which overthrew the monarchy of Egypt and Sudan, and heralded a new period of modernization, and socialist reform in Egypt together with a profound advancement of pan-Arab nationalism, including a short-lived union with Syria. // Nasser is seen as one of the most important political figures in both modern Arab history and politics in the 20th century. Under his leadership, Egypt nationalized the Suez Canal Company and came to play a central role in anti-imperialist efforts in the Arab World and Africa. The imposed ending to the Suez Crisis made him a hero throughout the Arab world. He was also instrumental in the establishment of the international Non-Aligned Movement. He is well known for his nationalist policies and version of pan-Arabism, also referred to as Nasserism, which won a great following in the Arab World during the 1950s and 1960s. Although his status as "leader of the Arabs" was badly damaged by the Israeli victory over the Arab armies in the Six-Day War, as well as Egypt's failure to win the subsequent War of Attrition against Israel, many in the general Arab population still view Nasser as a symbol of Arab dignity and freedom. (wikipedia)
• • •

An interesting theme that had me baffled for quite a long time. When I don't pick up a theme til the bottom half of the grid, that means trouble. Wasn't until I got most of REARRANGED that I realized what was happening. I thought the cluing in general was a notch harder than usual, so crosses weren't abundant enough for me to pick the theme up earlier. Also, the theme revealer is a super-lame non-phrase. All the theme answers are perfect, and then there's this horrid, ungainly, "LETTER SORTING" right smack dab in the middle of things. Was that to ensure that the word "title" could be found in there? Ugh. Once I discovered the theme, I zipped through the puzzle *except* for one stupid, inexcusable, I'm-an-idiot mistake that cost me a huge amount of time. Not a mistake, really, but an eye skip / misread. I had USE IN at 33A: "___ in good health" and didn't question it for a second. Wrote it in early and thought nothing of it. But in the end I could not *$&%ing figure out what 34D: Certain cut-off point (TIME LIMIT) was. I thought my error was at "EMILY" (41A: "See ___ Play," classic Pink Floyd song) ("classic" song? Never heard of it). I was even second-guessing NIBS. NUBS? NEBS? It's NIBS, right? Aargh. Had NIME LIMIT and even checked all the crosses in NIME at least once (which means my brain blocked that "in" in the clue multiple times!!!?). Finally read clues more deliberately and noticed my stupid stupid reading mistake and changed USE IN to USE IT. Stupid, horrible partial, but stupider solving error on my part. All in all, this seems a solid enough puzzle, even though I didn't find it that enjoyable.

ABDEL???? With an "E"? Ugh. Parrots say "AWK" now???? (23D: Parrot's cry) What the hell? I wrote in BOELYN. It felt so right. It still looks righter to me than BOLEYN (53A: House of Tudor woman). I really hate the word "appurtenance," in that it's unnecessarily long and pretentiously Latinate. Equipment. Gear. This is what you mean here (4D: Painter's appurtenance => DROP CLOTH). EMPANADA was my first breakthrough word (36D: Savory turnover from south of the border)—first 6+-letter word I managed to get into the grid successfully. REAGAN was another important get (47D: The 40th since 1789). Those two answers helped me get into the theme (finally), and then build the rest of the grid from the bottom up.

  • 25D: Magazine that serialized Simone de Beauvoir's 1967 "La femme rompue" (ELLE) — four letters, something French, ELLE. One of the easier clues in the puzzle. 
  • 20A: Tea-grading term (PEKOE) — Thought PEKOE was a type of tea. Didn't know "grading" was involved. Apparently PEKOE is " A grade of black tea consisting of the leaves around the buds." (answers.com)
  • 24D: Yachting need (SAIL) — There aren't motorized yachts? 
  • 52A: D-Day refuges for the wounded, for short (LSTS) — learned this term from xwords, but had no idea these craft were "refuges for the wounded." 
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Evan 12:31 AM  

Hand up for dropping in TURNS immediately at 1-Across. I don't really get how FENDS (off) fits the definition for "repulses." Is it supposed to be a short-hand way of saying "offends"? I've honestly never heard a person say, "Ugh, that food is so disgusting, it really fends me off." Wouldn't "repels, with 'off'" be a more suitable clue for FENDS instead of "repulses"?

Aside from that, I enjoyed the puzzle overall. I like that the four theme entries (minus the one in the middle) can all fit the blank in the phrase "the letters are ___," even though that phrase doesn't exactly show up in the puzzle directly. LETTERSORTING isn't the best entry, but I'm just impressed that it had a decent anagram of "stronger title" to go with it.

HUMAN at 40-Across gave me one of those nodding-glumly-and-agreeing-entirely-with-what-I-read moments.

Rube 12:37 AM  

Like Rex, I too had a hard time with TIMELIMIT, wanted gaMELIMIT for the longest time. Finally seeing SATS straightened this out. It wasn't until ANAGRAMMED appeared that I got the theme. Then it was a straightforward solve. Had no idea about EMILY -- thanks for gettable crosses. DNG and found this Wednesdayish.

Tuesday it was bream, today it's walleye -- both species often caught in Lake Powell.

Had no trouble with BOLEYN although had apSeS instead of RESTS for "Recesses" at first. Still, had to change IRkS to IRES in order to get TALENT and thus SATS.

Googled PEKOE to find out why this was a "tea grading term". Turns out "orange" has nothing to do with the color or flavor of pekoe. One source of the use of orange is that the Dutch were heavily involved in the early tea trade and this may have referred to the Dutch "House of Orange".

Gill I. P. 12:42 AM  

Boy, I worked hard on this one and I still couldn't finish. Could.Not.See CREEPY, FAIR or DICTUM in the NE corner. I plodded through the rest and felt proud I got as much as I did.
There is lots to love here. To name some: DROPCLOTH, EXCITES, TIMELIMIT well, come to think of it,just about all of them!
Could have done without our rapper friends FLO and NAS and Dr. LAURA IRKS me but then Mr. Merrell tosses in ROSEBUD, so all is well.

Tobias Duncan 12:51 AM  

@Evan repulses an attack, fends off an attack.
Put TIMELIMIT in early before I could bugger it up with too many crosses.Just clicked for me for some reason.
I found a lot of the cluing pretty easy for a Thursday but that damn theme was bloody hard won. I feel dumb for having all of OUTOFORDER and having it be no help even after staring at it for minutes.
Really felt like I learned more from this write up than usual.It really helps quite a bit when Rex goes over his mistakes in what feels like real time, almost making us privy to his inner dialog. You can tell he must have taken good notes while solving or wrote about the mistake first.
In northern NM EMPANADAS are not savory but sweet fruity and delicious, often made from plums that have been grown here for hundreds of years. Pretty sure they are some heirloom variety unique to the area.
Lyle Lovett puts on one hell of a show.

retired_chemist 12:51 AM  

Hand up too for TURNS (off) @ 1A.

Danced around the puzzle and,like Rube, figured out the gimmick at 57A ANAGRAMMED. That made it clear that INCITES @ 22D was wrong, because I needed the X to make 26A an anagram of the clue.

Might be too much to ask, but I would have preferred the clue to relate logically as well as anagrammatically to the answer.

Thanks, Mr. Merrell.

foodie 12:53 AM  

Fun puzzle!!! But I agree that the LETTER SORTING seems out of sorts...

At first, I thought we had some home and garden sort of theme going-- DUPLEX, GARDEN, ROOF with a MANAGER... Then ANAGRAMMED fell out and the light went on.

MAD MANAGER and REAR GARDEN are FANTASTIC! I mean totally real expressions. ROOF DETOUR and DUPLEX MAIL were less so...

Once you catch on to the gag, it's fun when the correct answer just pops up. For me OUT OF ORDER just emerged, while for others I had to eliminate letters and narrow down options, especially when the crosses were not obvious...

Still, it thought it was a great change of pace! Thank you Mr. Merrell.

Evan 12:57 AM  

@ Tobias:

thefreedictionary.com confirms that "repulse" and "repel" are synonyms. So I guess it works. I've just feel like if I ever heard "repel/repulse an attack," 99 times out of 100 it would be "repel."

This wouldn't be such a sticking point for me if I weren't studying so hard for my GREs this weekend. Damn verbal section always throws me for a loop.

foodie 1:02 AM  

Rex, ABDEL is okay, I think, although I wrote ABDUL at first. It really should be parsed
ABD EL-NASSER: SERVANT (of) THE EMPOWERER -- i.e. GOD, the one who helps you prevail. EL is THE... It gets strung with ABD in English, but it belongs to NASSER in Arabic. And depending on the regional accent, it can sound more like ABDUL or ABDEL.

r.alphbunker 1:09 AM  

Got a "sturdy ha" when I saw the theme. "Had rusty" instead of EMILY initially but that was a "shady rut" that I had to pull myself out of. There was not an "ashy turd" in the entire puzzle. One of the best "thursday" puzzles that I have ever done! And to top it all off, my captcha was "rushdaty"!

Rube 1:24 AM  

@r.alphabunker -- I'll bet you eat 'em up at Scrabble.

Anagrammed Canada Mixed-als 1:38 AM  

Loved it, including LETTERSORTING
Tues fisherman was trivia + crossword , two of my favorite things and today was Scrabble + crossword absolutely my favorite things!

Got it at OUTOFORDER, but still made lots of little mistakes...Geese before GNATS, ceLebs before TALENT, ltd before INC (that one screwed me up the longest) and starting with ----YN tried to put in KathrYN for the Tudor woman.

But you know what really screwed me up was i had the REAR------ of REARRANGED and thought it had to be wrong bec the clue was "rear garden" so I thought it couldn't start with REAR.
So I actually tried READ RANGER!

Clark 1:56 AM  

That was fun. I am usually terrible at anagrams, but for some reason it just came to me with OUT OF ORDER. I also stared at the REAR of REARRANGED for a while thinking it couldn't be right. LETTER SORTING didn't rub me the wrong way at all. I guess that is where I first noticed that the anagrams meant something.

I just noticed that Barcelona Guy commented the other day. Welcome to the blog! (And happy birthday.)

jae 2:22 AM  

Seemed about right for a Thurs. Tricky theme, WTF rapper (presumably male), some crosswordese (SATS, LSTS, MPH, EAU...) equals a pretty good Thus. challenge. So, medium for me.

Did the same thing as Rex with USEIN but SATS set me straight.

@Tobias -EMPANADAS are meat pies in my neck of the woods.

chefwen 2:59 AM  

Had a similar solving experience that @foodie did, got OUT OF ORDER fairly quickly and thought it just didn't make sense, so I started juggling letters and came up with OUT DOOR ???? Got it at ANAGRAMMED and from then on a fun game was at hand. It was helpful to have a scratch pat near.

When husband checked in this evening I told him it was a shame that he wasn't here because this one of the best Thursday puzzle that I had done and it would have been fun to share it with him. Ah well!

@Clark - When did Barcelona Guy post, I missed it and would like to go back a read what he had to say.

Eejit 3:20 AM  

I enjoyed that. Was a bit stuck with ABDEL and PEKOE having never heard of the latter. Tried ABDIL and ABDAL, finally guessed it right. Fun puzzle.

88CalBear 4:58 AM  

If fends off = repulses, shouldn't (off) be in the clue?

I'm with you, Rex. See Emily Play is not a classic Floyd song. This puzzle nearly put me to sleep, but not like "The Wall" did last night, comfortably numb.

RW Bush 6:32 AM  

Loved the anagrams but ...
SEALs is all caps as it stands for SEa Air Land.. It's never spelled as it was in the clue..
And AWK?? Where did that come from?

Tita 7:48 AM  

Hated this before I loved it. I really hate anagrams, though I do love Scrabble. But once I realized that all the words were definitions of Anagram, then I loved it!

Mom was over yesterday, and Mission No. 1 was making Portuguese rissois...
We describe them to the uninitiated as similar to EMPANADAs.
(Though they are of course, far superior!)
And no, NOT the kind of "rissoles" that Celia Johnson serves Alec Guiness in "Captain's Paradise"...)

Since my wavelength got tuned to genderese on Tuesday, I noticed LOTS of the female variety... I counted 7 women (or references to women, vs 3 men. (At least, am assuming hte rappers are men - don't know/don't care.)

Glimmerglass 8:00 AM  

Didn't see the theme right away and wrestled with the clues trying to make sense out of nonsense. "Mad manager" and "rear garden" might actually work (I thought of answers that didn't fit), but "roof detour"? "Duplex mail"? Strictly WTF. I had a puzzle that looked like Swiss cheese, little bits and pieces filled in, but lots of holes. Didn't catch on until ANAGRAMMED. When I did catch on, everything went together quickly, but I rate this a challenging Thursday.

joho 8:07 AM  

I love anagrams so LOVED this puzzle!

Favorite clue: "Rarity on the other end of a help line, nowadays" for HUMAN. So true.

Fun words: CREEPY and AWK!

Thank you, Patrick Merrell, for such a fascinating and fun Thursday!

SethG 8:12 AM  

Very nice theme, fine fill, and confirmation that Patrick Merrell's style and my mind are a bit of a mismatch.

Z 8:16 AM  

@88CalBear - Granted, "See Emily Play" is no "Group of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with a Pict," but it was the biggest Pink Floyd hit of the Syd Barret era (Emily that is, not Pict).

Like many, got the theme at ANAGRAMMED. Had most of the corners done by this time, but was floundering in the middle. Crossed out some letters to see ALLMIXEDUP and LETTERSORTING, but resisted REAR at 49A until ORBITS forced the R, then the RE-ARRANGED parsing pop and I was done.


JenCT 8:20 AM  

Count me in for APSES and TURNS, and tried CROCUSES before getting ROSEBUD - I don't think of roses as being Spring bloomers.

Was puzzling over the roof clue when I got the theme; I like anagrams, so enjoyed the puzzle.

It was a workout, as Thursday should be, IMHO.

I wonder how PEORIA residents feel about being called Average...

Z 8:22 AM  

I should get the title right if I reference obscure tracks to 40 year old albums.
Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with a Pict

JenCT 8:27 AM  

Oh, and I love the word ESTUARY.

David 8:33 AM  

1 big writeover in a puzzle I really enjoyed, mentioned by Rex and others - USEIN/USEIT. Threatened to derail me completely but fortunately I remembered SEE EMILY PLAY (I am a huge Pink Floyd fan, especially the Animals/Wish You Were Here era but also mystified by the great Syd Barrett). I'm now ready for Arnold Layne in a Saturday puzzle in the near future.

I love anagrams, but this theme took quite a while to catch on, all the way down at ANAGRAMMED. All other theme answers including the revealer were uncovered immediately after.

Tita 8:40 AM  

@JenCT - you're so right...rosebuds are not a harbinger of spring.

I confidently wrote in "equinox", of which I was vry proud!

Anonymous 8:54 AM  

Had "William Gaines" for Mad Manager for a while (:->)

Anonymous 8:55 AM  

Or I should say "Bill Gaines" for Mad Manager

quilter1 9:10 AM  

Medium for me. Lots of pop culture held me up, but in the end I got everything. Gotta go.

Orange 9:10 AM  


John V 9:26 AM  

I absolutely LOVED this one. Played challenging for me; finished as we rolled past Fordham.

Got the theme at ANAGRAMED. Had the Natick flag in my hand in seeing two (!) rappers and no obvious easy crosses but, lo, the crosses were theme answers. So, saved by anagrams; go figure.

Theme is a call out to one of my favorites, ETHAN Coen, who, some might say, could be OUTOFORDER, ALLMIXEDUP.

Also had ABDUL for a while and, like @Rex, mis-read 33A clue exactly that way. I guess Paula ABDUL has never been an Egyptian politician.

NE last to fall with AERATE (semi-ugh on this one) AFORE crossing, DICTUM.

Where I come from, AWK is a programming language, parroted by select geeks.

But, got it with no errors and had a ball. Much more fun than trying to run the police gauntlet crossing Broadway and Pine this morning.

Thanks, Patrick for a great puzzle!

M07S 9:29 AM  

Excellent puzzle. No complaints here.

Thanks @foodie for the Nasser commentary. Love coming here for gems like that.

88CalBear said...
If fends off = repulses, shouldn't (off) be in the clue? "Off" was in the clue in the ACL version.

pauer 9:35 AM  

Hand up for REAR?????? Wha? That was before I got the theme, obviously, and I thought for a second that the answer was going to be the same as the clue. [Rear garden]...REARGARDEN. D'oh! Got it all sorted out, but clearly I need more coffee. Thanks for the fun puz, PM!

Oh, and my next Puzzlefest (an interconnected crossword suite with prizes) is available for preorder at my website, if that sort of thing interests you. Puzzles coming out 12/15! Www.patrickblindauer.com/shop.html

archaeoprof 9:39 AM  

Challenging for me. Couldn't get any traction until the SE corner. Then solved it backwards, from SE to NW.

When I took the SATS, it felt like a lot longer than 225 minutes...

Nice one, Patrick!

Masked and Anonymous 9:59 AM  

thUmbsUp! 7 U's and a different, great theme idea. Figured out the gimmick pretty quick, off OUTOFORDER.

USE IT is a partial? Sounds like a whole dadgum sentence, to me. USEIT or loseit. QED.

LETTER SORTING was OK by me, as a revealer answer. They do it all the time, down at the post office.

Fave clue: "Something lost in the wash". Could also relate to the clue for HUMAN quite a bit.

Fave fill: PEORIA, and the whole NE corner.

And Thanx to old #31 for teachin' me what "appurtenance" meant. Always good to learn somethin' new. Excellent write-up, BTW. Challenging puzzles always lead to interesting Rex-proses. Har.

Anonymous 10:07 AM  

The two or three dictionaries I've search show appurtenance meaning tools or equipment only in the plural. There's no support for it in the singular.

dk 10:11 AM  

Polly want a jumble: AWK.

Well here goes:
- I had wards off for 1A.
- Had rpm and could not figure out who ETmAN Coen was (oh, just a sec...the MENSA folks are here to take back my membership)
- Took me more than my TIMELIMIT to get SATS.
- Paid my way through school as a contractor so I know my 4Ds
- Got the the theme in the last mile and spirited to a finish.

I love it when the x-word eats into my work day. It feels great. Like eating dessert first.

And, at long last the Japanese Tea course my girlfriend (Hi Marina) made me sit through in college paid off as I confidently penned (Stabilo bionic with .5mm NIB) in PEKOE.

I am humming ALLMIXEDUP (Cars) and appreciating the mini 70s rock theme with ACDC, Pink Floyd and the aforementioned Cars.

Great puzzle.

**** (4 Boleyns)

Rex isn't Vestal where all the virgins live -- inquiring minds want to know?


merlbaby 10:14 AM  

"see emily play" is totally a classic pink floyd song -- and far and away the best tune on their very first album ("the piper at the gates of dawn"), when they had syd barrett. it's on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's list of Top 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll. i'm wondering if this is a generational thing, since the song came out in 1967. it's appeared on five pink floyd compilation CDs over the years. i've always been knocked out by the song and i feel it more than deserves to be on that list. just my two cents.

Shafty 10:20 AM  

Ditto on REAR, which I had off of crosses. I considered the possibility of an anagram, so I started fitting the leftover letters in.

That somehow left me with "REAR DANGER," which amused me greatly and got me to thinking about how that phrase might be clued, were this a different puzzle.

retired_chemist 10:23 AM  

@dk - Vestal may be where the virgins live, but Vernal, Utah, is where the Equinox is. Friends of mine completely nonplussed a gas station attendant by asking him which way the Equinox was. Tells you how long ago this was by the fact that there actually WAS a gas station attendant.

Cheerio 10:25 AM  

I think "repulses" is right for "fends off." This seems a natural usage to describe a woman fending off (repulsing) advances by a man at a bar. I don't think you would say "repel" in that instance. "Repulse" fits better especially if the woman finds the person she is repulsing to be a bit repulsive.

John V 10:29 AM  

BTW, I suppose that Anu Garg's Anagram Server may be familiar to many or most, but just in case.

Two Ponies 10:40 AM  

I was so frustrated at first but so glad I soldiered through to the end. When the lightbulb finally came on it went from challenging to medium pretty fast. Glad to be a pen-and-paper solver because, like @chefwen, I could scratch off the letters in the clues as I used them.
Thanks for the Lyle Lovett. His concerts are so wonderful I always feel like I have underpaid for my ticket.

Matthew G. 10:56 AM  

"See Emily Play" is most definitely a classic Pink Floyd song -- if by "classic" you mean "from the Syd Barrett era," which is a meaning I think most Floyd fans would accept. It was the band's second single, penned by Barrett, and very well loved by Floyd fans. It fell out of their repertoire, as did most Barrett material, when the band transformed a few years later into the personal mouthpiece of Roger Waters.

The fact that the clue is accurate, though, doesn't necessarily mean it was a good choice for the puzzle. I don't expect anyone other than a serious Floyd fan to have ever heard of it. It was a gimme for me, but that doesn't mean I approve -- I don't like you-know-it-or-you-don't answers, even if I happen to fall it on the you-know-it side of the ledger.

As for the puzzle as a whole -- thought it was excellent. I really like a puzzle where it takes me a long time to understand the theme but the theme proves to be perfectly coherent once I do. I mean, that's what makes it worth having a theme. Great fill too. Fun, challenging puzzle.

evil doug 10:58 AM  

The line used to be, when deciding if something would be accepted by 'average' folks, "...but will it play in Peoria?" Nowadays the nabobs only care about the coasts, so the rest of us are bundled into what's known as "flyover country". I bet the fine folks in Peoria love being "average", as we do in Cincinnati....

I use a sitz bath to water my rear garden. I'm about to harvest some big piles of road apples....


davko 11:11 AM  

My inexcusable, dumb, time-costly moment came with INCITES instead of EXCITES at 22D, as I was surely ALL MIXED UP not to recognize the missing 'x' and resulting jibberish in the 26A anagram.

I'm averse to puzzles that use more than one clue from the cultures of rap and video games, but that's just me, and my complete ignorance about either of these subjects. Aside from DRE, are there any oft-repeated names from either of these two worlds that should become perennial additions to our fill-word toolkits? Don't recall seeing FLO or NAS before, but maybe it'll pay to remember them.

Otherwise, a classic Thursday, heavy on riddles and wickedly fun cluing.

Two Ponies 11:16 AM  

@ Matthew G., If the grid can have Flo as clued then something from Syd Barrett is fair game in my arena.
What? No arena today?

John V 11:18 AM  

Okay, one more and then out. I've always been a poor anagram solver. But, what broke this open for me was two things: remembering that this is Thursday (duh) and observing that the number of letters in the answers for the anagram clues was identical. That told me the answer HAD to be an anagram of the clue. Anagram-istas: is this a well-known technique?

davko 11:21 AM  

Could help but add that "Spring opener" (47A) could also be "Citizen Kane closer."

600 11:32 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sally 11:33 AM  

I liked the puzzle, except for Gamal ABDUL Nasser.
Rex, thanks for a little Art Garfunkel--love him!!

hazel 11:36 AM  

awfully clever puzzle. and it seems to me without LETTERSORTING, the puzzle would be off-balance, so I liked that part too.

either way, it took me a while to get to the party and start making serious headway with my 2 Apple iPad typing fingers (plus thumb for spacebar). I think my first theme answer was ALLMIXEDUP although I didn't yet realize that it was an anagram. Just seemed like something that would happen to Duplex Mail.

Just listened to See Emily Play - interesting choice for the list of 500 most influential songs. Would love to know the criteria for its selection.

Chip Hilton 11:37 AM  

@davko: nice

I, too, got a 'sad but true' kick out of 40 across.

Great Thursday puzzle. No problem with any of the anagrams, including "stronger title".

Thanks for the Simon and Garfunkel clip, Rex. One of my favorite tunes from their songbook (and an Emily song with which I'm familiar). Art looks about 16.

jackj 11:38 AM  

Terrific puzzle from Patrick though it had a bit of the feel of "Now, you eat your spinach!" rather than "Do you prefer chocolate or vanilla?".

I wondered why AWK was tied to a parrot and not Bill the Cat, of Bloom County fame, but, alas, he was an ACK (and a "Thbbft"), rather than an AWK. At least the clue triggered a fun memory.

In the USEIT or USEIN contretemps, a friendlier clue might have been "____or lose it".

600 11:40 AM  

I loved this puzzle! Very cool, and a great feeling of accomplishment when I saw Mr. Happy Pencil.

Upon coming here, I first noticed that Rex rated this challenging--GREAT! For me it was on the easy side. Yay for me! Then I noticed I had missed that all the reordered words were synonyms for anagrammed. Instead of diminishing my experience with this really good puzzle (I'm not usually a rater, but five stars today!)that made me admire it even more.

Who can dislike a puzzle with WALLEYE as an answer? Being a native Michigander, I threw that in immediately and loved being reminded of the absolute best eating fish anywhere! (Okay, I haven't tasted them all, but I've given it a good try.) Every time I visit Michigan, I eat as many WALLEYE dinners as possible--when I'm not eating lake perch, that is. (@Z, I envy you . . . )

Perhaps still thinking of fish, I put in sizeLIMIT for 34D, but 65A quickly cleared that up. I also tried to fit lo-cal or lo-fat in before ZIPPO, but that misdirection was sort of fun to figure out.

@r.alphbunker--Wow! I am unbelievably impressed!

@Tita--I wanted solstice. Luckily, it wouldn't fit.

Echoing @Sally's thanks for "For Emily Whenever I May Find Her." Takes me back to being a very sentimental teen age girl in love with that song. Nice way to start the day.

Thank you, Patrick Merrell!

IndayAnna 11:46 AM  

Every parrot I've ever known said "Awk."

jesser 11:50 AM  

Having debt LIMIT for w-a-y too long at 34D made this take longer than it should have. I even had the trick and couldn't see that the d in debt was dumb. D'oh!

I saw Lovett a few years ago at the Santa Fe Opera House. He wowed the crowd.

Apricot EMPANADAS with vanilla ice cream at La Posta in Old Mesilla make me happy (and plump).

I vaguely remember that I learned about fathoms when I learned that Mark Twain was Samuel Clemens' pseudonym. So I was able to parse YDS at 42D with no trouble. Thank you, Mark.

I have a parrot and a macaw. They say AWK! a lot. They have rather massive indoor and outdoor cages with a door that allows them to be inside or out, depending on their mood. The outside cage is where the food is, which means the mess is outside. I have a desert tortoise who lives in the bottom of the cage and eats what the birds drop. Birds are wildly inefficient eaters.

The other day, there was a message on my office phone: "Mr. Williams, this is one of your neighbors. I live nearby. Your parrots scream a lot. I hope we can work together to fix this problem." So far, the anonymous neighbor has not showed up to show me her parrot-muffling device. Maybe she's getting it patented first.

Arby 12:29 PM  

Sorry to ask this here, but I've fruitlessly googled, and can't find a better place to ask. For some reason, for the last couple of weeks, AcrossLite keeps starting with the timer turned off. I don't notice it until half-way through the solve, at which point it's too late. It used to automatically start as soon as I downloaded and opened the puzzle. I've tried every combination of options I can think of, but it still stubbornly starts with the red 00:00. There's no way I'm ever going to remember to turn it on before every puzzle. Has anyone else exprienced this, or is it just me? Anyone know how to fix it? Litsoft's site is useless for support.

600 12:47 PM  

@Arby--Yes, I've experienced it. In fact I'm experiencing it now, for about the last couple of weeks, I think. This has happened before; my experience is the same as yours--I try everything I can think of, and then one day it starts to work again.

Today I managed to remember to turn on the timer within a second or so. Maybe--and this is just a maybe--clicking the timer on a few days in a row resets it. Or maybe it's random.

Does anyone know how to fix it?

Tobias Duncan 12:55 PM  

Hand up for the damn timer troubles.

syndy 1:01 PM  

I confidently put in ABDUL as well as PARDON,LTD and APSES. OUT OF ORDER made no earthly sense but there it was.IT wasn't until ANAGRAMMED spelled it out for me (DOH) that I got it!My Parrot says AWK frequently (as well as many less polite comments)my timer is once again awol it usually comes back. now if my visual verification would settle down

mac 1:03 PM  

Great puzzle! I got the trick at all mixed up because it showed up by itself through crosses and I thought to check the clue. It still was a medium-challenging puzzle for me.

I like the clues for eau, Elle and kilos at lot. Rear garden sounds a little odd to me, wouldn't we say back garden?

I learned a lot from Rex and several commenters. This is a good puzzle day!

P.S. is it possible that "merlbaby" is the anagram master??

Ben 1:10 PM  

I have never heard the phrase, "Use it in good health" before, and am still not sure what it means. Anyone?

Tita 1:33 PM  

@Ben...a quaint, perhaps out-of-use, phrase when giving someone a present...
Though I thought it was "Wear it in good health".

@evil @10:58 - I am nominating that comment for the rexworld hall of fame...

@jesser - love ur parrot story. I wish I could have one - ever since a trip to the Amazon where one adopted me. Her name was Laura - she didn't AWK! much, but she would laugh out loud - the intensity increasing as you would inevitibly laugh back with her.

Anonymous 1:49 PM  

Well, that was tough. Not as tough as Tuesday's dreadful puzzle, but tough enough. The fill looks nice when it is filled, but the cluing was just too difficult for a Thursday. Of course, if I had gotten the theme I would have completed the puzzle; I just couldn't see the anagrams because I did not have enough crosses. I only managed to fill in the East side.

I did like the connection bewteen TIMELIMIT and SATS.

Stan 1:49 PM  

Excellent Thursday puzzle! I was looking for a rebus rather than anagrams. After the 'aha' moment, it was all very logical.

Telling people the name of my cat Syd, I add "Barrett not Vicious."

r.alphbunker 1:54 PM  

@John V
I agree that the AWK answer really tied the puzzle together!

Your AWK post set off a stream of associations in my mind. AWK is an acronym for Aho, Weinberger and Kernigan, its creators. I learned compiler design from the Aho and Ullman dragon book and C from Kernigan and Ritchie's book. Dennis Ritchie died recently. His passing went mostly unnoticed by the world press yet arguably his contribution to our technological society was as great as that of Steve Jobs (http://createdigitalmusic.com/2011/10/farewell-to-dennis-ritchie-whose-language-underlies-digital-music-software/). And John McCarthy who was the first person to suggest the possibility of something like iCloud passed away recently also.

AWK also brought to mind that computer-related acronyms are entering crosswords. ASCII, BCC, BMP, CDR CDROM, DOS, DSL, DVD, FAQ, HDTV, HTML, HTTP, ISP, JPEG, LAN, PDA, RAM, URL, WIFI come to mind.

And, of course, BEQ's brillant

Anonymous 1:56 PM  

how is REAGAN the answer to 47down-40th since 1789-40th what?

Anonymous 2:00 PM  

oops-we just got it 40th President-we are idiots

John V 2:03 PM  


Completely agree that without Dennis Ritchie/K&R, much of the technology we have today would have been impossible or unrecognizable. For me, his contribution far exceeds that of Steve Jobs, taking nothing away from Jobs.

Reading K&R is like admiring a well constructed crossword puzzle: elegant, joyful, just like the C language.

My first computer acronyms were FORTRAN and BASIC. Any takers to decode BASIC? Of course, all software developers know WFT, but that's another matter.

ARRRRRby! 2:03 PM  

I went back and solved the puzzle after my last comment. I hated it, then loved it once I figured out the trick.

And no, even though I had just written at length regarding my frustrations, still I did NOT remember to turn the timer on first.


I'm wondering if it might be some encoding in the puzzle data that causes it? Something that is copied and pasted from day to day until the mistake is finally discovered at the NYT puzzle desk? I'll have to check the "authoring" Help files.

Arby 2:08 PM  

It's definitely encoded in the puzzle file, somehow. I went back to the March archive to check earlier puzzles. March 30 and earlier work fine. March 31 consistently starts with the timer off.

That's all I've got to say about that.

Anonymous 2:12 PM  

See EMILY Play is a classic??? Maybe to the constructor. It's not played on any (rock) radio stations I listen to.

Clark 2:35 PM  

@chefwen -- Barcelona guy posted on 11/14/11 at 10:33 and 10:37 pm. He posted as anonymous (identifying himself in the comment) cause he was having trouble with google. As a clarinet player he felt he needed to speak out on whether a flute could be a woodwind even though it doesn't have a reed.

Martin 2:44 PM  

Roses bloom in the summer but, in most climates, the canes indeed bud in early spring.

The classic guide is that rosebuds swell when forsythia blooms.

Boohoo 3:04 PM  

@Anonymous 2:12PM.

What? It's not played by any of the rock stations you listen to? Can't possibly be a classic then. I'd write and complain to the NYT if I were you.

Martin 3:12 PM  

John V.,

BASIC is one of those new-fangled languages. I began programming when assemblers had names. My first was SOAP for the IBM 650. Symbolic Optimal Assembly Program. 650 instructions were stored in a magnetic drum. (Core memory was yet to come.) Each SOAP instruction included the drum address of the next instruction to execute. You optimized your program by placing each instruction in a drum address that would be under the read head when the previous instruction finished. There were drum and processor speed formulas that you used to compute the optimal location for each instruction.

BASIC (Beginners' All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code) and other languages are for wimps. I must admit I code a lot more Python today than assembler but assembler is way more fun.

600 3:12 PM  

@Arby--You're right! I would never have thought of that--March 30 and earlier work, March 31 on for a while doesn't!

Also, this current blip, checking in the same way, began on November 7. So apparently we just have to wait for someone at the NYTimes to fix it?

Good for you for spotting the proof of where the problem is! (I think that's what you spotted . . . )

John V 3:20 PM  

Funny! In many ways, I agree that assembler is more fun than high-level languages, SQL being my curse. But, to circle back, I enjoyed my AWK days. Now we're back on puzzle thread, right? :) Patrick Merrell will have nothing to sqAWK about.

Anonymous 3:45 PM  

@Boohoo: I've already complained to Q1043 in NYC that they are not playing this Floyd "classic". They apologized and will now play it at least once on every DJ's shift.

r.alphbunker 4:11 PM  

http://thesaurus.com/browse/constructor indicates that "assembler" is a synonym of "constructor". So it might have been the other way around, Patrick Merrell could have been an assembler and @Martin could have written in SOCP.

John V 4:21 PM  

So, we need to add GCC to the xword acronym list, for the techie solvers, Saturday puzzles only.

r.alphbunker 4:26 PM  

@John V
Are you avoiding writing PL/SQL by hitting the F5 key here? That is what I am doing to avoid writing Java. It is good for my productivity as a programmer that the topics here don't usually involve computers.

sanfranman59 4:29 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)

Thu 19:48, 19:04, 1.04, 62%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Thu 9:56, 9:19, 1.07, 68%, Medium-Challenging

John V 4:32 PM  

I stopped avoiding writing PL/SQL in 2008 (wrote a raft of it back when.) Today I'm avoiding writing T-SQL queries for SSAS partitions. Believe me, this is TRULY worth avoiding. Highly recommened.

william e emba 4:46 PM  

Rex is surprised that parrots say AWK. He wouldn't have been had he been more attuned to our modern calendar. The day after Talk Like a Pirate Day is Talk Like a Parrot Day. The website is filled with AWKs of the non-Unix sort.

As for parrots in fiction, I'm certainly used to them going "awk". Google "parrot awk -programming". The most prominent hit seems to be Damon Runyon, apparently in the story "So You Won't Talk", about a murder whose only witness is a parrot.

quilter1 4:46 PM  

@jesser: thanks for your parrot story. I have one. A fellow hospital chaplain had two birds, one a parrot that could imitate anything almost instantly. It even imitated the sound of the refrigerator. One day the chaplain went home and the parrot greeted him, saying, "You little s**t." It seemed that his wife had caught the cat clawing the furniture and chased the cat with a water pistol, saying, well, you know. Being a pet owner can be interesting in lots of ways.

MikeM 4:57 PM  

If you are ever in downtown Manhattan near the Seaport check out Ruben's Empanadas on Fulton Street. I have frequented this place for almost 30 years.

I have a hard time with the titles of lots of Pink Floyd songs. I recoginze them, even the real classics, but could not tell you the name of many of them.

AWK was awkward, but hell - this is a crossword puzzle.

EXCELLENT puzzle. I marvel at the construction. Finished with no errors although at times I didnt think I'd get there. Thank you Patrick Merrell for making my morning coffee so enjoyable!

Lewis 5:03 PM  

I loved this puzzle. Kept chipping away at it, had a happy aha when I got the trick, and had a good feeling of accomplishment when I completed it. Who can ask for anything more?

long suffering mets fan 5:14 PM  

All of the problems with the Across Lite timers is the higher power's way of telling the speed freaks that, like fine wine and fine women, puzzles should be savored and admired with no hurry in mind

Anonymous 5:15 PM  

@John V said:

"Of course, all software developers know WFT, but that's another matter."

As John V has posted six (6!) times already today, I'll post this email correspondence on his behalf:


Long-time software developer here; don't know WFT and neither does Google or
the Free Dictionary (http://acronyms.thefreedictionary.com/WFT).


John V:

Meant WTF. Fat fingered. WTF [sad "smiley"]


Whew! I'm glad that's cleared up (and maybe so are other software developers on here).

Larry the lurking Golden Bear (soon to be sad too, as Cal is 20-point underdog to Stanford in Saturday's "Big Game).

Sparky 5:24 PM  

I thought ths would be called a Cryptic. But what do I know? Got the anagram with REARRANGED, and #2 with OUTOFORDER. Worked back and forth from clue to boxes on the others, printing and crossing out in the margins. Had TIdELInes for too long. Even figured 3 3/4 hrs(225 min) might be some obscure name for a midtide. Alas, not correct. On 1D riO for Rio Rida, of course. Finished eventually.

Instructive write up. Thanks @Rex. What can be wrong when Lyle sings? Stayed to hear more. Like @JanCT I go to the botanic garden in June for the roses. @jackj: thought about Bill the Cat for my avatar but went with benign photo. Good run Patrick Merrell, thanks.

Tita 5:29 PM  

@long suffering...well said!!!

@sparky - ok, but I still think it should be equinox... ;)
and - can you see clearly now?

Tita 5:51 PM  

after months of skimming past "(see my 8/1/2009 post for an explanation of my method)", I finally did.

a) thanks for the interesting info

b) thanks for pointing me towards the then hardest Thursday...I bit, opened 7/30/2009 - loved it!

Arlene 6:00 PM  

I thought this puzzle was great too - solved it just the way I enjoy best, filling in and thinking, but never stopping.
Someone asked about the phrase "use it in good health" - or "wear it in good health". Those phases may have their origins in the Yiddish expression "Gazza Gazundt" - literally "go in good health".

chefwen 6:18 PM  

@Clark - Thanks, I'll backtrack. By the way that is one CUTE kitty cat.

Martin 6:24 PM  


In my family we say gey gezunte heyt but that's close enough for Yiddish. In any case, "use/wear it in good health" is the only acceptable response to being thanked for a gift. It's "you're welcome" with due modesty. To say anything else is courting disaster for both parties.

Like closing a phone call with "thanks for calling" (also mandatory, and a relic of the days of expensive long-distance), "use it in good health" is a Jewish ritual, combining superstition with etiquette. Yiddish certainly has many such native expressions meant to foil the evil eye (kina hurra), so the root in gey gezunte heyt is at least familial, if not specific.

evil doug 6:45 PM  

"@evil @10:58 - I am nominating that comment for the rexworld hall of fame..."

Tita: I would do the same for your picture.


CoffeeLvr 6:49 PM  

Hi, all, I am having computer problems at home, so I am more or less keeping up with the puzzles at the library, but not so much with the blog.

Have to say this was a terrific puzzle today, very chewy, quite clever.

I could not let go of IRkS for 56A, thinking 45D was some kind of jargon relating to TALking heads.

Anonymous 6:53 PM  

Don't feel bad Rex. I made the exact same dumb mistake and went through the exact same dumb process to correct. Use in good health is really the expression. Use it in good health is a bastardization of use it or lose it.

Evil D - What was Senator Hruska known for?

Sparky 8:28 PM  

@Tita. That's what I meant-- Spring is like March and forsythia, crocus, daffodils. Roseubds--Summer. They come out again in October, too.

My eyes feel terrific. Colors so much clearer. But I still don't like that sans serif type in the Times puzzle. Thanks for asking. And thanks again for the people who helped me get through the first one.

Anonymous 8:29 PM  

The Across Lite timer sometimes not starting (in one-week units... or two weeks currently) is a function of how the NYT tech staff creates the Across Lite file. Nothing's wrong with your computer.

Stephen 8:45 PM  

Great fun puzzle. It really smokes my day when I'm up against a good conundrum that has just the right amount of sneaky leverage in it, so that with enough patience and persistence and faith and struggle and ... kapow! What was all OUT OF ORDER suddenly cracks open and hints flower and light shines and progress begins to gather steam. Another day in heaven.

Yes, I too balked at REAR___.

My last letter was the first one of _ERATE. Gas up? Could not think what a DEE date was for a woman. 15A "Lie next to" started off (with clear trepidation) as ABED. Very late in the day it turned to ABET. Oh how clever I thought that clue was! And I was as attached to my answer as much as I was admiring of the clue. ABUT, huh? Oh, well.

I hate pretty well every piece of rap music ever made. I know only those rappers who appear in Xwords, and I have never heard of Rida, but as soon as I saw it required a 3-letter answer, I wrote FLO in there. In pen!

In my head, N.E.A. ends in Arts, not Assn. Had to google it to grok it.

Never thought IRE was a verb.

fergus 8:46 PM  

WARD OFF instead of FEND; so many problems in this least coherently solved puzzle. Generally there is some flow I find in solving, but today I was all over the map, dropping in a letter wherever. We've talked about how interesting it is to trace the sequence of letters filled in, and today's adventure was as close to a random walk as any puzzle I can recall.

Stephen 8:53 PM  

Several people mentioned how they liked Lyle Lovett. I tried to listen to him, but could not make it all the way through. Probably because I had just seen the Simon and Garfunkle clip. Mr. G's performance is glorious. I knew the song well but had never seen the face of the man delivering it. WoW. Watch how open his mouth is (and his vocal cords and his windpipe and his throat) and let him carry you away with how easy it looks. It is *electrifying*!

Then watch Mr. Lovett: closed, nasal, tight. Tough sell.

Tita 10:38 PM  

lol, evil... those were simpler days, as my profile notes...

Off to Friday!

Sally 10:38 PM  

If you want to see and hear more of the glorious Mr.Garfunkel, go on youtube and catch the Live Concert in Central Park, which was in 1981,,,his solo numbers are like an angel singing.

sanfranman59 1:08 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 6:42, 6:50, 0.98, 48%, Medium
Tue 10:46, 8:52, 1.21, 92%, Challenging
Wed 9:10, 11:49, 0.78, 6%, Easy (8th lowest median solve time of 124 Wednesdays)
Thu 19:53, 19:04, 1.04, 62%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:34, 3:39, 0.98, 43%, Medium
Tue 5:20, 4:34, 1.17, 90%, Challenging
Wed 4:36, 5:51, 0.79, 6%, Easy (7th lowest median solve time of 124 Wednesdays)
Thu 9:33, 9:19, 1.03, 62%, Medium-Challenging

@Tita ... happy to be of service. I'm glad you find the numbers of interest. If you enjoy Thursday challenges, the 12/3/2009 puzzle by Matt Ginsberg & Pete Muller and the 1/7/2010 puzzle by Xan Vongsathorn are at the top of the list.

Del Taco 5:43 AM  

I had a hard time also
didn't see the anagram clues till after the 30 minute mark

Anonymous 9:15 AM  

Anyone else irked by IRES?
I've checked three dictionaries and IRE is not listed as a VERB (as the hint would dictate) any of them.

Ron 11:46 PM  

Rex, its ANNAGRAMMER, not ANNAGRAMMED, because the Godfather title is RYN.

hoc hat hay 10:23 PM  

Keep working, nice post! This was the information I had to know.

Anonymous 11:17 AM  

I expected a Cars video here. I really did.

I'm going to go thumbs up on this puzzle. I'm also going along with "See Emily Play" as a Pink Floyd classic, as anyone with a knowledge of Rock n Roll and/or Pink Floyd that stretches beyond what today's homogenized classic rock stations are churning out will agree.

But despite the Floyd clue, the 41a/47a stack put this song in my head, and for that I'm grateful.

Simple Ron 12:27 PM  

This is one GREAT puzzle. No complaints to a constructor who oblviously knows what excellence is all about. Thank you Mr. Merrell and look forward to seeing your name again - many times.

Dirigonzo 3:25 PM  

From syndication - @Ron 11:46pm, so your 64a Lighter choice is a ZIPPy?

Other than that, agree with @Simple Ron 12:27pm.

Shout out to solvers north of the border at 11d - nice!

DJ Stone 4:52 PM  

To all the people who think Flo Rida is a shite clue because they don't listen to or care about hip hop, maybe you should think about paying attention to the pop culture that the 20-30 something generation does care about.

Here's some edification. Flo Rida is from Florida (duh), Flo should be thought of as Flow, and Rida as Rider. Flow Rider. As in riding the lyrical and rhythmic flow.

I'm guessing many of the regular commenters here are mid-60's, and one would think they would remember that their parents thought rock 'n' roll was "noise". Guess what. Music is generational, but it doesn't have to be. Just keep an open ear.

By the way, I'm 50, but coming here makes me feel a whole lot younger.

Anonymous 4:58 PM  

The best Syd Barret era Pink Floyd song ever was "Interstellar Overdrive", as performed by Camper Van Beethoven.

Happy 21st birthday to Victor.

Shouted out Canadian 5:04 PM  

(syndication) hated it then loved it. LETTERSORTING is of course an anagram of Stronger title.

Dirigonzo 5:07 PM  

@DJ Stone - Solving the NYT xword puzzle teaches me things about pop culture, including Rap and Hip Hop, that I would not otherwise know, and reading the comments here helps me appreciate them. You are right, with an "open ear" all music can be good. (Yes, I'm mid-60's.)

Anonymous 8:40 PM  

Spacecraft here. @anon9:15: hand up for being irked by IRES. In fact, I put the K in there, earning myself my only writeover, and tried to work with TALK__ at 45d. (TALKER?) But the bottom wanted to be NT--so now I had TALKNT. Then I remembered the line from Groundhog Day ("Did he just call himself the TALENT?") and fixed it.
Strange that Rex found this challenging; didn't take long for me to ferret out the theme entries after REARRANGED. And what he got early I needed crosses to fill: EMPANADA. Never heard of it.
Enjoyed the clue for 47d; for the longest while I tried to think of a U.S. State to put in there. Also that "rarity" on the phone. Man, that hit home. Are you listening, Peggy?
Nice, fun, not-too-easy but very gettable puzzle today. Good stuff, Patrick!

tritte: an anagrammed giggle.

Anonymous 10:57 PM  

@ anon/space-- I'd bet Rex's excrutiating misery five weeks ago was probably over in under 13 minutes. But I'll agree with him when he said the straightforward downs made up for the awkward theme. It was fun when you got it, and an enjoyable solve. I'm in agreement with the huh(?) for parrottalk. It's just not normal crosswordese, I guess. I will get off the crosswrd theme and throw my two cents in about music: 1) Barret > Waters, 'See Emily Play' was great rock and roll and other PF stuff was anticlimactic. 2) Agree that Lyle Lovette gives a great show, with him singing mostly his own songs with a great back-up band... saw him a couple of years ago at Hardly
Strictly--- RIP Warren, and thanks. Oh, and thanks, Patrick, for a not too hard and fun Thursday.

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