Mountain in Deuteronomy / SUN 11-20-11 / Will's ex-wife on Glee / Rank in kendo / Sci-fi series set in 23rd century / Italian province seaport / TV award discontinued in 1997 / Color whose name is French for flea

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Constructor: Trip Payne

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: "Figure It Out" — in nine squares, letters share space with numerals (numeral in one answer, letter in the cross). PUT the NINE LETTERS IN ORDER based on the numeral they share space with, and you get NWODTNUOC ... which is to say, if you you take the numerals in reverse order, or count down, you get COUNTDOWN.

 Word of the Day: BERU (59A: Aunt ___ ("Star Wars" character)) —
Beru Whitesun Lars, the wife of Owen Lars, was a Tatooinian woman who raised Luke Skywalker after the fall of the Galactic Republic. Coming from a long line of moisture farmers, Beru Whitesun grew up near Mos Eisley on Tatooine. On a trip to Anchorhead, she met Owen Lars, the son of another moisture farmer, Cliegg Lars. Beru and Owen fell in love, and Beru later became part of the Lars family. // Shortly before the outbreak of the Clone Wars, Owen's stepmother, Shmi Skywalker Lars, was kidnapped by Tusken Raiders, an event that brought Shmi's son, Anakin Skywalker, and his soon-to-be-wife, Padmé Amidala, to the Lars homestead. Three years later, when the galactic conflict came to a close, Beru and Owen became the guardians of their new baby nephew, Luke Skywalker, after his father turned to the dark side of the Force and became Darth Vader. // The Larses raised Luke like a son. Beru would often defend Luke's interests against Owen, who was overprotective of him out of fear that he would follow in Anakin's footsteps. Though Owen refused numerous times to let Luke go when he wished to leave home to attend the Imperial Academy with his friend Biggs Darklighter, Beru convinced her husband to let Luke go after staying on for only one more season. After a year had passed, Beru tried to convince Owen that it was time to let Luke move on, but they never had time to reach an agreement. The two were killed by Imperial stormtroopers, by order of Darth Vader, who were searching for a droid carrying the stolen Death Star plans. (Wookieepedia)
• • •

Very clever without being exceedingly difficult or overly fussy. Love the little twist on "IN ORDER" (doesn't say *which* order)—the discovery of COUNTDOWN ends up being a genuine aha moment. Overall, this is a very good puzzle about which I don't have much to say. Please note the relative lack of junk fill and the sparkling, original theme answers. I think REBIDS crossing REMEET at the "RE-" is about the only icky thing here. Except BERU, which is nuts. Hey, you know OOLA, whom you occasionally see in crosswords as ["Return of the Jedi" dancing girl]? Well, I just watched "Return of the Jedi" yesterday, and there she was ... only no one ever calls her by name. Not once. The idea that we're supposed to know the name of a character whose name is never uttered, and who is on screen all of five minutes, is bizarre. And yet, someone put her in a puzzle once. And then again. And now she's crosswordese. BERU, as far as I can tell, has never been in a mainstream crossword, though I feel like her name was probably at least uttered once. By Luke. When he was whining about having to stay on the farm and help his uncle for another season. But I digress.

Theme answers:
  • 74D: Oscar-nominated sci-fi film of 2009 ("DISTRICT 9") — "C"
  • 108A: "My sources say no" source (MAGIC 8 BALL) — "O"
  • 14D: Fruit-flavored soft drink (CHERRY 7-UP) — "U"
  • 58D: One step up from a four-cylinder (V-6 ENGINE) — "N"
  • 35D: Sci-fi series set in the 23rd century ("BABYLON 5") — "T"
  • 38D: It was first broken in 1954 (4-MINUTE MILE) — "D" ... this was the answer that really broke open the puzzle for me. Dropped it in with no crosses. It proved invaluable for navigating that tough middle of the grid.
  • 23A: Computer animation option (3-D GRAPHICS) — "O"
  • 2D: Dinner date request (TABLE FOR 2) — "W" ... love this answer, though one thing about these theme answers is that their use of numerals is not consistent. By which I mean, nobody uses a numeral when writing out this phrase, whereas in every other phrase, use of the numeral is accurate, or at least defensible.
  • 79D: Thiamine (VITAMIN B1) — "N"    

[87A: Bob Marley's group, with "the"]

CABLE ACE is a great retro answer, though a bit awkward, in that I've absolutely never heard the words "CABLE ACE" used without an "AWARD" chaser (83D: TV award discontinued in 1997). OMG I just noticed IRING, which is hilariously terrible (IRE as a verb is never welcome — usu. shows up in IRES or IRED form; I've never seen IRING before in my life, not in the grid, not out of the grid, never) (33A: Teeing off). Aside from BERU, my main "I did not know that" moment came with HOREB (34A: Mountain in Deuteronomy). I sure as hell needed every cross to get that one. I thought maybe GOREN, but that's the bridge column guy. Wife is a black belt, so I got DAN pretty easily (18A: Rank in kendo). I just a couple days ago looked up LEDE to make sure I was spelling it right (19A: Article's start, to a journalist). Only Gleeks are going to know 7D: Will's ex-wife on "Glee" (TERRI). Well, Gleeks and me, a reformed Gleek.  I wanted SHERI. The crosses seem fair. I know BARI from crosswords (briefly thought it might be BERI) and I learned that PUCE trivia some time ago ... then forgot it ... until I remembered it (96D: Color whose name is French for "flea").

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Eric Berlin 8:10 AM  

Re: OOLA: The Ewoks also go unnamed in the movie itself.

Glimmerglass 8:19 AM  

As a retired English teacher and now copy editor/essayist/reporter, I was astounded by LEDE. Just now looked it up on Wikipedia. Rex is correct. Whaddayano? Is that so it wont be confused with a [heavy as] lead paragraph? I left LEDE in the puzzle, because I was sure of the crosses. So I learned something this morning (but I'm going to go on spelling it lead). Nice puzzle, clever gimmick. I agree with everything Rex said. REMEET crossing REBIDS is especially icky.

jberg 8:23 AM  

Not only is IRING not a word, we had IREING not too long ago - I guess if you make up words you can spell them any way you want to.

But I'm just grumpy because with too many of the theme answers, I had no idea what the numeral should be. Thiamin is definitely a B-VITAMIN, but 1, 5, 6? Who knew? Well, I guess some of you did, but not me. Same for BABYLON 5 - I suppose if I'd watched it I'd know what happened to Babylons 2, 3, and 4, but as it was I had to work backwards -- figured out COUNTDOWN, and then put in the numerals to make it come out right.

I was also slowed down at first because once I saw the numbers (TABLE FOR 2 did it for me), I figured the O in 4D, FLO, must count as a zero. Glad I was wrong, but it took me some tome to figure it out.

My sister lives in Mt. HOREB, Wisconsin, so that was an easy guess.

But - I thought EARLS were pretty near the top of the peerage, rather than in the middle. What's up with that?

I used to be a stringer for a weekly newspaper, and our stylesheet spelled it Lead, not LEDE -- but that was 30 years ago, and I knew the other spelling from the NYT blog of that name.

JenCT 8:48 AM  

Well, printed out the puzzle as a PDF, and filled in about half of it, only to realize just then that my puzzle didn't have any circles, so went to xword info & marked the theme squares with a highlighter.

I dunno, not feeling the love for this puzzle: got the theme, got the answers, but what??? I must be missing something...


Bob Kerfuffle 9:08 AM  

Great puzzle!

I only had one write-over, but it was a 2 for 1 error: For 40 D, Monitor inits, I had CSA. Not only did I fall for a possible mis-direction, but I also mixed up the Monitor and the Merrimac!

North Beach 9:18 AM  

Hmmm. iPad Magmic shows a different puzzle by Clive Probert. Anyone else? Travelling, might have to buy the dead tree in ATL.

North Beach 9:23 AM  

Just noticed it's dated Sun, Nov 21, 2010. Wha?

Ratedna - I guess so.

Leslie 9:43 AM  

Agree with the few nitpicks, but I enjoyed this one a lot. I must say: Knowing what PUCE means in French makes me like that word even less. It's just an ugly-sounding word, and I can never remember what color puce is supposed to be.

Rex, you weren't going to insert a reference to Steely Dan's "Countdown to Ecstasy?" Darn! :-)

jackj 9:54 AM  

Started out grumpy on this one when the Times continuing talent for being able to mess up a one-car funeral type situation reared its head again with a deficient .pdf.

TABLEFOR(2) crossing S(W)AG made it immediately evident that the circles would hold a letter and a number and, thereafter, the puzzle flowed, albeit uneasily, partly due to tricky cluing, (good), but mostly due to forced dreck, (see Rex's last paragraph) and the result made the puzzle overall seem more like an unpleasant bookkeeping exercise.

The instruction of PUTNINELETTERSINORDER worked, no matter the listing, with my original order showing ODWUNTONC which didn't need to be rearranged from 1 to 9 to make it clear the denouement was COUNTDOWN or as SHAK might have suggested, "Much Ado About Nothing".

Now, Will, about that one-car funeral.....

Gill I. P. 10:00 AM  

Clever can be fun. This was clever but not fun.

Jo 10:02 AM  

BERU was a true gimmie for me, and I may have actually slapped my forehead when I finally got BABYLON5 (one of those TV series that I tend to get a little zealous about). Maybe I am a geek....

Anonymous 10:14 AM  

F 'n' F. File 'n' Forget.

Lindsay 10:15 AM  

I'm sorry, but this puzzle just leaves me annoyed. To echo @jberg, I have no interest in having to know what random number goes after some random movie name that I've never heard of. Or some random vitamin for that matter. I had B-12. And Babylon 1, although that's a vestige of trying to make the meta-answer "two" something-or-other until I reread 63A and saw that the final answer was a single word, at which point I realized I was going to start throwing things if I didn't put the magazine down, so I came here. Glad I did, because if I'd wasted more time on the PROBLEM, only to learn it was backward gibberish, I would have been .....ggggrrrrrr. Very IRING.

As for the grid itself, I fell for CSA at 40D. Also had CHERRY poP where CHERRY 7-UP belonged, meaning that I was looking for a number where BRUTES went. Moreover, I had posited that Chi Cygni might be a taTAR, so that section was a dreadful mess for quite a while. Finally got it all straightened out except for the bleepin' #s mentioned above.

On to the acrostic. Or maybe I'll rake leaves.

M07S 10:16 AM  

Quite a feat of construction. A very nice Sunday solve except I hated IRING (and so does the spell checker) and 58D One step up from a four-cylinder is a FIVE cylinder as in the Chevy Colorado pickup truck.

optionsgeek 10:20 AM  

Weird sh_t going with Magmic iPad version. I logged in early and, unlike the complaints above, got the normal puzzle. However, when I finished, the bleeping thing told me I had an error. It took ages to realize that it wanted an '8' instead of a '3' in FLO. I figured I'd come here to get the story but it looks like Magmic must have bailed and replaced the puzzle after I had solved it. Fail.

r.alphbunker 10:31 AM  

iRing - what an iPhone does?

This puzzle was a 10! Some Sunday puzzles feel like sitting through sermon that goes on too long. This one held my attention throughout and ended with a smile.

TomAz 10:34 AM  

@North Beach: same thing for me too. The 11/21/10 puzzle also shows as today's on the iPad.

Z 10:36 AM  

I liked the puzzle. A little more 21st century than yesterdays. Had no trouble with BABYLON5 (the entire series is on my computer) or DISTRICT9. VITAMINB? had to wait until the end.

I have watched exactly 27 seconds of Glee, so that had to come from the crosses, and I still don't believe "IRING." What Scottish Firms do? Phi? I just don't buy it. But very little to complain about in the end.

John V 10:37 AM  

Had fun with this one, esp after the Saturday puzzle train-wreck. Got the theme at 79D, Thiamine my aha moment. Agree with Medium, just a skooch toward the easy side

Could IRING be what fellow commentators are esperincing with their iPad Magmic app this morning? Or what a wet iPad leaves on the table? Just askin'

CHERRY7UP most certainly does not pass the breakfast. Ick.

Alton 10:40 AM  

Enjoyed the puzzle once I filled in 3-D Graphics. Never have seen one second of Glee so I hoped Terri was correct, as well as Beru since I am not a big Star Wars fan. No complaints.

foodie 10:43 AM  

I can see the skill in the construction, and I like all the science fiction stuff that permeates the puzzle (even though I'm not an expert--it just gives it a vibe). But here's my problem with it... While the cross of the letter and number was cute, it really was screaming for some sort of relationship between them, some formula that leads from letter to number, which I kept expecting in the central reveal. As it is, you could ignore all the numbers, have the circled letters, anagram them into a word, and get COUNTDOWN.

I wound up doing just that because I only entered letters in the circles, and it worked perfectly fine. So, having numbers did not, in the end, seem essential, or provide a great feeling of surprise.

quilter1 10:44 AM  

DNF, did not like, did not get. I read the notepad after printing out and it didn't help me. Also nitting about IRING. No, no, no.

evil doug 10:50 AM  

Iring: An O-ring that needs airing.


As sung by The Earls, one of the last, great doo-wop street corner groups: "Remember Then"....

[Mixture by Backups:]
Re-mem-mem, re-mem-mem-mem-ber oop-shoop
Re-mem-mem, re-mem-mem-mem-ber oop-shoop
Re-mem-mem, re-mem-mem-mem-ber oop-shoop then
Then , remember then

That night we fell in love
Beneath the stars above
That was a lovely summer night
[pyramid] Remember then, then, then, then, then

[Mixture again]

Summer's over
Our love is over
To lose that love was such a sin
[pyramid] Remember then, then, then, then, then

[Backups:] Remember, re-mem-mem, mem-mem-mem-mem-ber
[Lead:] Our love is in the past
[Backups:] patta-past
[Lead:] Oh, has it gone so fast
[Backups:] patta-past
[Lead:] Why couldn't our love last?
[Backups:] Can't last
[Backups:] Wop, wop, patta patta pop-pop, shoo-wop-dah bop bop, ooh

I'm broken-hearted now
Since we have parted now
My mind wanders now and then
[pyramid] Remember then, then, then, then, then

[New mixture Backups sing several "oop shoop, shang-a lang, jigga bop's" and the lead does "ahh-ooh-ooh" and other falsetto variations]



Patta-patta pop-pop,


Anonymous 11:13 AM  

Podia is not in our dictionary. Wouldn't the plural be podiums unless you hint it's Latin? What is an "sstar?" Google gave no clue.

hazel 11:20 AM  

this puzzle has left me conflicted. such a cool concept for a puzzle that kept me puzzling for a while. not slogging, but solving. Sci fi geekiness seemed a little over the top, which marred my solve a little, leaving me slightly off-balance in my appreciation. MAGIC8BALL and 4MINUTEMILE were by far my favorites.

I really like this NYT movement towards the nontraditional.

AND the hidden shoutout to the Falcons who will be playing the Tennessee Titans in the Ga. Dome (94D) today, and before the game we will watch the awesome Samuel L. Jackson video on the Jumbotron (that word NEEDS TO be in a puzzle) that exhorts us to RISEUP (98D) ATLANTA. THIS IS OUR TOWN. OUR TEAM. Though he is not asking us to REBEL, he injects an energy into the ARENA and gets the blood going. Go Falcons!

Shamik 11:35 AM  

Did. Not Like.

And not because of the vitamin confusion which ended in my one error. Or is it an error when you can put the N in ANY but have a different number?

@Foodie: Agree with you entirely on looking for a relationship between the number and the letter.

Some interesting cluing made this puzzle an enjoyable Sunday solve except for the theme. Would rather have seen a themeless than this particular theme.

physti: What I'm feeling about this puzzle.

Anonymous 11:39 AM  

Trying to unscramble the nine letters I ended up with "wood'n" followed by an exceedingly filthy four letter word. Countdown is much better. Great puzzle, Trip.

Raúl 11:39 AM  

Shelagh Fraser , R.I.P., played Aunt Beru. Her name was uttered twice in STAR WARS, Episode IV, A NEW HOPE:

AUNT BERU: Luke? Luke! Come to dinner!

Luke stands up and shakes his head at the malfunctioning robot.

LUKE: All right, I'll be right there, Aunt Beru.


The speeder roars up to the burning homestead.

Luke jumps out and runs to the smoking holes that were once his home. Debris is scattered everywhere and it looks as if a great battle has taken place.

LUKE: Uncle Owen! Aunt Beru! Uncle Owen!

Luke stumbles around in a daze looking for his aunt and uncle. Suddenly he comes upon their smoldering remains. He is stunned, and cannot speak. Hate replaces fear and a new resolve comes over him.


Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones (2002)

C-3PO: Master Owen, may I present two most important visitors?

Anakin: I'm Anakin Skywalker.

Owen Lars: [intrigued, but wary, tone] Owen Lars. This is my girlfriend, Beru.

Beru: Hello.

Anonymous 11:42 AM  

I just have a quick comment to NorthBeach, TomAz and optionsgeek. I used the Magmic app (for iPhone) for the last three years probably. It had always been frustrating for various reasons, but it was 1/3 the price of the puzzle package on the NYT's site, and I do not have internet or even 3G access for about half the year (long story, small town) so downloading the puzzles was an issue. Anyway, I finally changed apps and I COULD not be happier. Get the Crosswords app (universal for phone and pad I believe). Subscribe to the puzzles from the NYT's website. The interface is much better on the Crosswords app than in Magmic. There is access to a lot of puzzles (all the ones on Crossword Fiend). It is not nearly the bulky, bogged down app that Magmic is. I just cannot say how much happier I am without Magmic in my crosswording life. AND I got to do the right puzzle today.

Norm 11:44 AM  

Did not really like. Clever (didn't need the notepad to figure out what was going on with the circles), but too many "WTF number goes here" questions. Never heard of BABYLON# or DISTRICT#. Was able to infer the right entry at the end, but just not a a lot of joy this Sunday morning. So it goes. Maybe Merl has something more entertaining this week.

syndy 12:06 PM  

Drink your ovaltine! I was IRING a little over HOREB but otherwise felt little resistance.I did leave my VITAMIN B blank until the number resolved it self. OOH the answer spells out backward- well that makes the whole thing worthwhile!At leastI didn't wastemy time printing it out.

PuzzleGirl 12:09 PM  

Thank you. That is all.

Michael A. Shea 12:13 PM  

Liked the puzzle. Wish I had a mirror handy after I wrote out the final word. But I protest the clue for swag. Ill-gotten? I love to give swag and I love to get swag. I'm not aware of anything ill or untoward about it!

hazel 12:22 PM  

@anony 11:43 - couldn't agree more. Up with Crosswords!

Oldactor 12:24 PM  

Wasn't Oola Alley Oop's girlfriend or wife?

Sparky 12:27 PM  

Good observation @foodie. Just ignore the numbers. I wish I thought of it. Had a feeling re numbers and then got it at 4MINUTEMILE. Sought out the slashes after that.

Never heard Thiamine called #1 but it stands to reason, I guess. Something has to come before 6 and 12. Chi Cygni, the Chicago Swans. Those -STARS always fool me. Had sTP for 1A, again my fabulous knowledge of auto racing.

It was okay but I am glad I'm done. Have to get busy with plans for Florida.

GLR 12:28 PM  

Took a long time to get the revealer, as I had filled in eSE for Malt suffix and then settled on meDIA as Politicians' supporters (seemed plausible to me).

S-STAR and K-STAR in the course of a few days - guess I'm going to have to brush up on my astronomy!

Boba Fett 12:31 PM  

Oola being sent to the The Rancor by Jabba the Hutt.

Her last words were: "Na Chuba negatorie Na! Na!"

Interview of Oola portrayer Femi Taylor.

Oop's girlfriend was Ooola.

North Beach 12:38 PM  

@anon 11:42 & @hazel: yeah, but I can't justify $50 (then $40/yr thereafter) vs $17. I'm a spendthrift Yankee. Magmic is cumbersome but has only screwed up 2 puzzles this year for me and it doesn't sound like the NYT's record was that much better.. Thanks for the info though, I will certainly bear it in mind.

r.alphbunker 12:49 PM  

The lack of a relationship between the numbers and letters doesn't bother me. The numbers are just offsets of the letters in COUNTDOWN. However, as a programmer, I would have preferred that the numbers begin with 0. :-)

I sympathize with people battling their crossword puzzle software. I ended up writing my own program to read across lite puzzles. Instead of the happy pencil, my version pops up a smiling Will Shortz if the puzzle is correct and the scowling Rex Parker avatar if it is not. And when I tire of those, I can replace them.

JenCT 12:53 PM  

@r.alphbunker: do share!

Cy Daedalus 1:06 PM  

@NorthBeach: this is anon 11:42, actually logged in this time, and I swear I have no financial interest in the Crosswords app, but I just wanted to say that I agree totally with what you said. I had a super hard time justifying the extra expense (especially because I already pay the NYT for their paper on the interwebs, why should I have to pay again for the puzzle - something that gets me so iring I won't even go there). But if you look at the Crosswords app as a one-time $10 investment in wonderful puzzle goodness (while waiting for a train or a plane or a dentist appointment, you can do weekly puzzles - even Stan Newman's - or you can stare at Matt Gaffney's grid trying to figure out the fracking meta). That leaves the $23 difference per year for the Times. And yeah, that is substantial, I totally agree. Anyway, there is a free Crosswords app version (no current puzzles) and just see if you like it (and make sure to read the Help page because it mentions a couple things I didn't figure out on my own). That might help your decision too. Take care.

archaeoprof 1:06 PM  

I didn't like it either. Too much trouble.

I can appreciate Stravinksy, but I don't listen to Stravinsky on Sunday morning.

Rex Parker 1:08 PM  

Re: my avatar—I am not scowling. I am smiling. You don't want to see my scowl.

@PuzzleGirl, you are welcome.


mac 1:14 PM  

Good Sunday, but I over-reasoned the connection between numbers and letters, as well. Made it a little tedious. Nice clues all around. First Kstar, now Sstar, which other ones should we be looking out for?

treedweller 1:16 PM  

I have stated here more than once that I don't usually slog through Sundays. Today I saw the constructor and made an exception. I am glad I did. Seems most of the detractors didn't know a lot of the numbers, but I had no problem with them (just had to wait on the B vitamin). Maybe that's the difference. Even granting all the ickiness mentioned above, I thought it was worth it.

Arlene 1:16 PM  

I liked the puzzle - but like others, had some problems with numbers - Vitamin B 9, and 5-minute mile and such. Got the gimmick quick at TABLEFOR2 AND 3D. But didn't anyone think CHERRY HI-C for the drink? That left me looking for numbers with the BRUTES - not a good thing!

hazel 1:25 PM  

wow. @pg in the house!

@northbeach - we're Sunday nyt subscribers - necessity (not luxury) for my husband - so I only look at the $10 investment in the software. it definitelyb would be more of a decision if you factored out our annual subscription. but the software is SOOOOO much better.

got to get my gameface on (its just a scowl, no paint). Go Falcons!

@r.alph - your tweaks sound awesome!!!

Martin 1:33 PM  


Are you sure about IREING? The database doesn't show it, but it does show an earlier IRING. The normal rule in English is to drop the "e," so I'm not sure why it would ever be "ireing." I know some people insist "ire" is not a verb, but dictionaries say differently.

Jim 1:51 PM  

Of course the plural of podium is PODIA. Think medium / media. Which, btw, is what I had in that answer for quite a while, screwing up the reveal.

Politicians' supporters, sometimes? Why, isn't that how Fox News makes money? Claiming the media is in bed with Obama? Anyway, I thought that would've been more clever.

Also, had to suss out the anagram from only seven letters in order to help fill out DELICACY and NINE. But I hastily concluded the second N was an R, since I figured the reveal was WORDCOUNT (as in letters and numbers together...I dunno, kind of a reach, but it's been a long day already). Plus, PUTNINELETTERSINORDER is kinda clunky. Eventually, figured it was NINE but didn't bother re-assessing the reveal.

I think that still counts as a victory.

600 2:10 PM  

I'd rate this one as hard. I enjoyed it, but it was tough. I'm still not sure what MALTOSE is; I was sure it should be maltese. I found IRING more than a little iring. Thought V-8 instead of V-6, but that was easy enough to fix. (Sports AND automobile mechanical stuff--not my things.) For the life of me I couldn't figure out MAGIC, though I knew the answer was the eightBALL right away.

I still can't figure out why the answer to "Kind of course" is GUT. I was sure someone else would have asked this so I wouldn't have to display my ignorance. Apparently not, so display I will.

thursdaysd 2:25 PM  

This is my first Sunday puzzle since I got back from my Eastern Europe trip, and I found it rather annoying. I figured the gimmick out early, at TABLEFOR2, but I had to solve all the way to COUNTDOWN to get several of the numbers. If you didn't happen to know those answers, there was no way to get them right.

I also fell into the meDIA/eSE trap, and had trouble in the SW, where I had anon instead of SHAK for far too long.

I use Crossword on my iPad, and was happy to see a note this morning telling me I should solve on paper. While it's annoying not to be able to use the app, at least this is an improvement on the recent competition, where that info was buried in a blog I don't read.

treedweller 2:36 PM  

@600 a GUT course is equivalent to an easy A. I do not know why.

MALTOSE is a sugar.

A MAGIC 8-BALL is a toy that ostensibly divines the answers to your yes / no questions and reveals them through a small window on the bottom.

600 3:56 PM  

@treedweller--Thank you! I did look up maltose, and I had a magic 8-ball as a kid. I just could not come up with the MAGIC part even though I remembered the toy well enough.

But GUT course I have absolutely never heard before. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

jesser 4:35 PM  

Normally too frazzled to post on a weekend, but man, this was a clever puzzle. And a theme on a Saturday! I'm a happy boy down here on the border!

fosisted! -- This guy is Ted. He'd be a good blind date for your sister.

Miette 4:40 PM  

I did not get this puzzle. The one I got was "Having Aspirations" by Clive Probert. Anyone know why???

David 5:00 PM  

Like others, I solved this quite well but had all sorts of problems placing the numbers. I would have had 2 numbers errors had I not figured out COUNTDOWN. Had VITAMINB2, TABLEFOR1, DISTRICT5 and BABYLON9 at one point (not a big Sci-Fi fan, I guess).

Was fortunate to pick up the them right away with 4MINUTEMILE, and got 3DGRAPHICs and MAGIC8Ball with no crosses. Nice to have 3 7 letter sports/music gimmes from 84A-87A, otherwise this played a Medium for me.

jae 5:18 PM  

This was medium-tough for me. Mostly because of uncertainty about stuff like LEDE, ANS, HOREB, and ATP (wanted STP). It had me second guessing my self. A clever puzzle but not a pleasant solve for me, probably because I'm still IRING over yesterday's DNF.

Mike 6:39 PM  

This was a great, but doable (for me), puzzle! Took most of the day, but it was worth it!

Anonymous 8:05 PM  

I thought this was more medium challenging than medium--couldn't finish till I put a night's sleep into it. (Don't get how I can be totally stumped before bed but suddenly see the light come morning.) But it was great fun and terrifically clever. I'll never understand the comments that basically whine "How can I be expected to know things I don't know?" Well, the more you know about a wide breadth of topics, the better you'll be at crosswords. Doesn't that go without saying?

william e emba 8:08 PM  

HOREB was a gimme for me, I got it off the final B. It's the "real" name for Mount Sinai. And Horeb was used by the 19th century Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch as the title of his classic work defending Orthodox Judaism. So it's not just some personal specialty trivia I have to think for a mere moment to recall--the word has stared at me off my bookshelves for almost two decades now.

On the other hand, it took me forever to work out the Texas area, where I finished. I had DASH for 118A -, and frankly, that is typographic nonsense. A hyphen is not a dash, en or em, and none of these are minus signs. Plus I had NaTS for the team, Alien for the accent, and liT for the course! Untangling that was a pain. When no numbers were left except 8, I saw 8BALL, then MAGIC, and I finished. Ha! That was an excellent ending.

Getting the number/letter crossing trick was almost instantaneous for me. I started in the middle near the final instructions, and quickly got the V6ENGINE.

And getting the trick was made easier, because in the back of my mind, I was remembering from about 7-8 years ago, when the NYT did a remarkable 2nd Sunday puzzle, which was a no-black-square (ie, extra thick edges mark word boundaries) diagramless (ie, find them yourself) two-way rebus--which was not explained, with final instructions as one of the answers. It remains one of the all-time best crossword puzzles I've ever done.

r.alphbunker 8:20 PM  

I emailed you at the email address given on your blog page.

John V 9:22 PM  

@ r.alphbunker

Yep, zero based counting is where I live, too.

Stan 9:30 PM  

Filled in the theme squares as best I could, then painstakingly wrote out N-W-O- etc. and thought I was losing my mind. So, a great moment in the surprise trick ending department -- cue the theme to 'Carrie'.

Thanks Trip.

Joe in Montreal 10:12 PM  

I still don't get SSTARS for Chi Cygni.
LEDE does not appear in any Scrabble dictionary. I haven't ever tried PODIA.

Better late than never? 10:46 PM  

@jberg: EARLS outrank viscounts and barons. They are outranked by dukes and marquesses (sp?).

Deb Amlen 10:47 PM  

Thank you for not blaming me.

Unlike other bloggers who will remain nameless.

Stan 11:03 PM  

LEDE is in fact a real thing in the world of journalistic notation. As is GRAF (paragraph), TK (to come), and STET. But if a journalist was, say, sending an email, they would say "Don't bury the lead" or "The third graph is weak."

Kristin yes it's me 11:21 PM  

Well I never did get this one from magmic they need a mass user there any way to get your money back?

william e emba 12:36 AM  

Chi Cygni from the clue means the "chi"th naked-eye star in order of visibility, sort of, in the constellation Cygnus. (The stars are labelled alpha, beta, etc, down the Greek alphabet. Cygni is the Latin genitive of Cygnus.)

Chi is way down the Greek alphabet, which means this is a pretty dim star, one you've almost certainly never seen. However, Chi Cygni is of special interest astronomically, as its Wikipedia entry reveals, so the clue was not technically "random star name", but for all practical purposes, any star name qualifies as a "random star name".

The Wikipedia Infobox says the star's "spectral type" is S6III. This is 3 types of information, S, 6, and III. In the olden days, only the S was bandied about. So the answer is S-STAR.

What you're supposed to do when you get a star name is simply right in -STAR, and figure out the missing first letter from the cross. That's right, four gimme letters and one impossible to guess. Except that usually it's one of OBAFGKM--that was the original classification--and which has the advantage of being very easy to memorize so it can help you perhaps with guessing the cross. (See Wikipedia entry for OBAFGKM to find out why it's very easy to memorize.) These are probably the only stars you'll see before Friday. Or for that matter, in the sky!

Joe in Montreal 6:32 AM  

thanks william e emba. I knew all that except your third paragraph, which is the meat of it. So it has nothing to do with Chicago Aussie-rules football!

Tita 9:47 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bits 3:05 PM  

"cherry7uup" is the answer to make "brutes" work, but is inconsistent with the rest of the number answers.

Tita 4:02 PM  

PeDIA for politicians supporters...well, it's true, no?

@Leslie - to me, PUCE evokes Marché aux Puces, (flea market, of course), but with the flair of a different culture's idea of junk...

Just too many TV names (worst- numbers) that are impossible to infer.
Plus, being unable to accept SWAG as "ill-gotten" gains, though now I see it as the 1st def in Collins.

Liked the idea, but the numbers were just too random.
Not good anagrams, and even more so when I'm missing one of the letters (W).

Not my favorite Sunday, amd that's not just cause my DNF is IRING me.

Dirigonzo 5:12 PM  

From syndicationland, where presumably everyone received the correct puzzle today. Puzzle-friend and I had a lot of fun working together to "figure it out". Our grid had slashes dividing the squares that shared a letter and a number and I think that helped us visualize what was going on. We had a few numbers wrong so the final answer required some "anagramming" to arrive at the appropriate final word per the instructions.

I wonder how Rex recovered from his birthday in 2006?:
- "Solving time: 5:28 (applet)
THEME: "Quote by Bertrand Russell relevant to crossword solvers" - THE TIME YOU ENJOY / WASTING / IS NOT WASTED TIME"
- "Back to work today, ugh. I have a turkey-birthday hangover, as I consumed something like my body weight over the four-day weekend. Back to dietary basics, starting ... now."
- "Soon this answer will be clued "Dictator Vladimir" or "Despot Vladimir" or "Guy who has journalists killed with radioactive material Vladimir." Russia apparently has gotten tired of being an also-ran country and is making a play to get back into the world tyranny game in a big way. Remember when we won the Cold War? Ah, good times."
- "Somewhere in a loch in Scotland, a certain giant amphibious creature I know is getting very angry at being snubbed in puzzle after puzzle in favor of this alleged crime-fighter guy. Can't the world's stealthiest dinosaur get a little love? "Home of Scottish monster" - how hard is that? You could even add "allegedly" if you felt you had to. You've got CLAN (1A) in the northwest of the puzzle - you could bring a little of that Scottishness to the far southeast. Viva Scotland. Cue Willie!"
- @Orange made the only comment.

Anonymous 5:34 PM  

Weak title. Less than exciting theme. No connection to any kind of countdown anywhere else in the grid that I can see. Nonetheless, in honor of the incredible effort this must have taken to construct, I am going to start my 2012 New Year's countdown at 9 instead of 10 this year.

Anonymous 12:37 AM  

Despite my *Spacecraft* handle, I choose not to bandy Star Wars with Raul; I defer to his expertise. I was a lot more confused by Chi Cygni, which my research revealed is a variable star--in fact the variability is its chief interest--so naturally I assumed it would be a VSTAR. This makes it really hard to come up with thuggish sorts ending in V, so later, when I did have a prefectly fine 5-letter word for a thug, I just figured "S" had to go in there.
Thrown off for a while by MEDIA instead of PODIA (though rare is the occasion when ANYONE in the media actually "supports" pols).
LEDE was a headscratcher for me too. Maybe it's pronounced "leedee"
as in "What can I writey for my leadie?" UGH.
Finally, why don't IRING the constructor's neck for that word?

Anonymous 4:40 PM  

No slashes in the puzzle as printed in the Sacramento Bee. Had to look at the solution just to get started.

wcutler 6:32 PM  

I loved this puzzle, I just want to say, to balance out some of the reviews panning it.

I don't understand the comments about not getting the relationship between the letters and numbers. I had to write the numbers 1 to (didn't know how many) and fill in the ones I had answers for, then figure out the count down word, then go back to the puzzle to fill in the numbers where didn't know what they were (district 9, babylon 5, vitamin b1), or the letters (as in "nine" letters, where I had "the" letters).

I don't even know what sport ATP refers to.

Dirigonzo 6:55 PM  

@wcutler - I just put all of my old papers in the recycling bin so I can't look at this puzzle, but if you tell me the clue for ATP I'll try to help you out (no guarantees, though).

Z 7:12 PM  


Anonymous 10:25 AM  

Lede is spelled that way, as in a reporter's lede, in order to avoid confusion with the printing term "lead" (rhymes with bed), which designates the amount of actual lead (the metal) spacing between the lines of print, back in the days of lead type.
I enjoyed the puzzle (saved from when it came out till I had time!), but missed on podia/ose, too.

RustyXCV 8:43 AM  

Hey folks, my first time here.
I got this puzzle as a rerun in the Wilmington DE paper. Just solving it now (Jan 14 2012).
-- I "lucked" into a misdirection that nobody else has mentioned. My first long success was "Babylon Five" which I put in first as a Roman numeral, i.e. Bab-V. Then I got luckier still with High-Definition-Graphics, HD-Graph, for 23-A.
-- With the crosses in the circled boxes that gave me TWO STATES!!! VT and OH. I got SWAG for 52-A and kept trying to force an "A" onto the end of 2-D to get WA, Washington.
-- When that just wouldn't work, I went back and tried 5 for the end of Babylon and got further hints from the engine & the vitamin answers, and finally got on the right track. Whew!
-- Of course, it didn't help that my paper reprinted the circles as diagonally slashed boxes, so I was always seeing the fill letters, side-by-side, without the "dimension shift" suggested by the circles.
-- Fun blog here! Glad I found it!!
Rusty (Trenton NJ)

Anonymous 8:50 PM  

I come to this site occasionally. It's a great site, thanks Rex. My wife and I do all the Weds-Sat puzzles, but often much later than anyone else, with Across Lite. We just did this one.

This is probably the stupidest Sunday puzzle I've ever seen, and I've seen hundreds. It is certainly the most annoying. We figured out the theme about 85% of the way through, finally got all nine letters, finally figured out to read it backwards -- for what? Enormous letdown. Utterly purposeless.

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