SUN 3-18-12 Hero of an old Scottish Ballad, Jumbo Combatants, Members of a Connecticut tribe, Orts

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Constructors:Mark Nothnagel and Byron Walden

Relative difficulty: CHALLENGING



THEME: REAR-END COLLISIONS — Common two-word phrases where the second word piles up in the grid, two letters to a square. I was beginning this writeup before I realized the first words also come into play, in a way that is difficult to explain because the theme used all the words I want. Basically, the first words can all be verbs that indicate some sort of SQUEEZing or CRUMPLing or COMPACTing action, but in the phrases they are all adjectives.

Word of the Day: MCADAM (Scottish Inventor and road builder John Louden) —
John Loudon McAdam (September 21, 1756 – November 26, 1836) was a Scottish engineer and road-builder. He invented a new process, "macadamisation", for building roads with a smooth hard surface that would be more durable and less muddy than soil-based tracks. (wiki)
• • •
Hello, Fellow Rexites. Our fearless leader is either out with the party crowd in New York or in bed recuperating, so this is treedweller filling in. I gladly perform this service of activating the comments thread for everyone who won't read this as soon as they figure out it isn't written by Rex.

Often, I skip Sundays; they seem to struggle to fill up the extra spaces and end up feeling like a few small, boring puzzles stuck together.
Fortunately for me (and all of us), this was one of those Sundays that deserve the extra real estate. I knew I was in for a ride when I saw the names of the constructors, both of whom have left me wadding up late-week puzzles in the past out of frustration. Sundays are generally well within my reach, but this one was a solid challenge throughout and flattened me in the end when I googled the Peeping Tom clue (one of those times when "Safe search" is handy). Even cheating, this took me over an hour, which is easily twice as long as a "good" Sunday time for me.

I guessed quickly that there was some kind of trick going on, but the clues were just ambivalent enough to keep me from seeing it for the longest time. After one full pass reading clues and dropping in the sure things, I had maybe a third of the grid filled (including several mistakes). Once I finally got one of the theme answers, things started moving a little faster, but it was one tough section after another, right up until I gave up on the last few clues. I knew I was trying to get ENTRUST and CTSCANNER in there, but I couldn't decide which cross would be the theme answer (and only just realized they are symmetrical). It didn't help that, of the nine million voices Mel Blanc is famous for, DINO was one I never knew he did (125D Cartoon character voiced by Mel Blanc).




Theme answers:
  • 15A Burro, e.g. --- PACK ANIMAL
  • 26A When the pressure's on --- CRUNCH TIME
  • 45A Big media event --- PRESS CONFERENCE
  • 53A Widely popular shows, say --- CROWD PLEASERS
  • 55A Bunting is part of it --- SQUEEZE PLAY Not the bunting you see on a parade float, but rather the bunting you see in baseball.
  • 71A Some morning fundraisers --- PANCAKE BREAKFASTS
  • 86A Late rallies --- CLUTCH PERFORMANCES
  • 99A Car safety feature --- CRUMPLE ZONE
  • 101A Data storage device --- COMPACT DISC
  • 111A Mexican cooking ingredients called "flores de calabaza" in Spanish --- SQUASH BLOSSOMS  I kept glossing over this, sure I would remember it eventually. Turns out I was thinking of huitlacoche, a corn fungus. I finally figured it out when I translated the Spanish phrase.
  • 135A Diamond substitute --- PINCH RUNNER Zirconia fits here, as some of you undoubtedly noticed.
  • 142A Occasions to try out riffs --- JAM SESSIONS
The sports haters may complain about a couple of these, and CRUMPLE ZONE doesn't seem very colloquial, but these are minor issues when you have crosses like ASK FOR / PANCAKE BREAKFASTS and NEAR FATAL / CLUTCH PERFORMANCES. Some might complain that the symmetry did not extend to the number of doubled letters in the answers, but I liked the extra level of difficulty that added. Too often, once the theme is revealed half the puzzle is spoiled.

I won't belabor the icky stuff --- the minor compromises are worth it, yielding a solid, lively puzzle.

Bullets:
  • 72D Habitual teeth grinding / BRUXISM — I have trained myself to stop this when awake, but my dentist kept telling me I was destroying my teeth in my sleep. Now I have a mouth guard like athletes use to protect those molars at night. I nevertheless did not remember this word until I had almost every cross.
  • 134D Italian Actress Eleonora / DUSE — Huh? I skipped over this several times. I really wanted 139A Put into motion to be ACTivATE, but that doubled square would be out of place and "Divse" made less sense than DUSE. I finally had to run the alphabet for the U.
  • 143A Peeping Tom's home / COVENTRY — This was part of my unfinished section. I was not aware of Tom's association with the Lady Godiva legend. Many times, I read the clue and thought, "Jail cell?" but it didn't fit. 
  • 63A Irk / NEEDLE --- I needed ANTE meridian to replace NEttLE.
  • 56D Remedy for acid reflux / ZANTAC --- I use baking soda. Luckily, crosses were fair.
  • 64A Sources of pollen grains / STAMENS --- As a professional arborist and amateur botanist, I smugly typed in "catkiNS." Also:
  • 81D Climb, as a rope / SHIMMY UP — As someone who climbs rope for a living, I saw this eight-letter answer and eagerly dropped in "footlock". I know that's an obscure term outside my industry, but I was finding the whole puzzle tough and hoped this would be the one moment when my specialty would pay off. When I finally admitted I was wrong, SHInnY UP slowed me down some more.
For those who are in the thick of the tournament, good luck. One Sunday-sized puzzle remains to determine the finalists. I hope they get one as good as this.

Signed, treedweller, on behalf of
Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

88 comments:

jae 4:30 AM  

A clever, zippy, non-symmetrical, tough, pain-in-the-butt Sun. rebus.  I pity those who attempt this one tomorrow after a night of St. Pat's day celebrating.   I appreciate the effort that went into this but it was pretty brutal for a Sun.

Oh, and like our esteemed substitute blogger treedweller, I spent a fair amount staring at ACT(IV)TE for 139a knowing it had to be wrong before....the eventual head SLAP.

foodie 6:20 AM  
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foodie 6:22 AM  

This puzzle is both very impressive and very annoying. Come to think of it, I know a few people like that.

When there is not only a rebus but a collection of them, and some of the content is obscure, I think easier cluing is indicated.

Since I was hopping around, solving vertical clues, it took a while to tumble to the fact that the rebuses were lined up in the horizontal. This realization helped immensely to locate the site of the rebus in the vertical answers.

Thank you Treedweller for the write up which echoed my experience. And for pointing out that all the first words of the theme answers indicated some sort of violent reduction in size. All the more impressive!

Anonymous 8:15 AM  

Thank you for the very good write-up. For the first time in ages, I gave up (sigh), but still think it's a pretty clever puzzle.
Peri

MaryBR 10:02 AM  

Tough indeed. My timing was about the same as Treedweller (just over an hour when I usually finish a good Sunday in 30), though to be fair I did start it after coming home from St. Pat's celebrations (imbibements) last night. Hadn't even got to the rebuses (though knew they had to be there somewhere) when I put it down til the morning.

First rebus was SQUASH BLOSSOMS (once again good to know Spanish) but the uncertainty of the rebus placement made it very challenging. Clues that ought to have been gimmes, like CINCO, couldn't be entered before figuring out which across had the rebus answer.

No googling for me, but finished with one error as I had 52 across as nOsES instead of POKES before seeing COPAY, and not having any clue who TERKEL is, left in POsES.

joho 10:12 AM  

Wow, just finished after a long enthusiastic, much appreciated battle this morning! This puzzle is a throwback to what I used to remember years ago when Sundays weren't fill-in-the-blank, often tedious activities, but really difficult head scratchers that were solved slowly with lots of aha moments ending in an earned and satisying solve.

I got the rebus at RATIO/CRUNCHTIME/ARME which seemed harmless enough. Little did I know these guys would work up to longer words like CONFERENCE, BREAKFASTS, and PERFORMANCES. These are brilliant! And the bonuses of beginning all theme answers with PACK, CRUNCH, PRESS, CROWD, SQUEEZE, PANCAKE, CLUTCH, CUMPLE, SQUASH, PINCH and JAM ... beyond brilliant!

This is my favorite Sunday puzzle in recent history, thank you, Mike Nothnagel and Byron Walden!

Thank you, too, @treedweller, nice writeup!

jackj 10:28 AM  

When the puzzle is credited to Mike Nothnagel and Byron Walden, turn off the phone and send the kids out to play until dark because you’ll be doing nothing but focusing on this head-banger, which has all the earmarks of a Henry Hook puzzle on steroids.

There was an early burst of delightful cleverness with the “unmentionables” cluing for ETCETERA, “Ort” as a clue, rather than an answer, (CRUMBS) and “Spanish girls” giving us the rarely seen CHICAS.

Next, it was on to the first rebus that was a rather gentle CRUNCH(TI)(ME) and seemed to indicate that the future collisions would be double rebuses, until it billowed into a demolition derby of triples, quadruples and even one answer CLUTCH(PE)(RF)(OR)(MA)(NC)(ES) which turned out to represent a humongous 18 wheeler, scrunched into 12 spaces.

Sorting out the correct answers was, at times, great fun, like trying to reverse engineer a Rube Goldberg contraption but, ultimately, it seemed too much of a good thing and when the last struggle meant trying to determine which of the three answers at 135, 140 and/or 143 across were part of the crash theme, (especially when PINCHRUNNER insisted on being ZIRCONIA), I was glad when it was finally over and done with.

Nevertheless, very impressive outing, guys.

P.S. to Rex- Sorry you missed the competition but, under the circumstances it seems totally appropriate that you identify yourself as “thirty-one with an asterisk” until you can compete again. Feel better.

MountainManZach 10:32 AM  

What a puzzle! I probably had a similar experience as most; I caught onto it with Studs TERKEL, but took a long old time to understand why/how the extra spaces went.

(@MaryBR: I highly recommend reading Working by Terkel. It's huge, but most of the stories are 10-20 pages long, and you don't have to read them in order. We make MBAs read excerpts as a reminder that regardless of what you do or how much you get paid, there's a fundamental human drive to excel at what you do.)

I also liked that the symmetry wasn't 100% "perfect." Hand up for knowing answers like CTSCANNER and NEARFATAL, while struggling to figure out where to double up. Really satisfying solve.

Shamik 10:42 AM  

I want to thank Will Shortz for publishing this one today for those of us who aren't in Brooklyn. Let's consider it a "copy of our home game" consolation prize.

And what a prize it is!!!!!!!

@joho: Totally agree that this is what a Sunday used to be...take your time, scratch your head, have your coffee.

Yes, I'm 129D. I track my times by day and by constructor. This is the most challenging puzzle I've solved correctly...taking 44:50.

Also thanking treedweller for a great write-up and for pointing out the compaction. CRUNCHTIME was the first theme answer and from then on, I was limiting my answers to compacting the last four letters...until I slapped palm to forehead at SQUASHBLOSSOM.

Brilliant! Enjoyable! Meaty! Crunchy! 5 stars!

Mel Ott 10:50 AM  

A lot of work, but quite rewarding.

When I was a kid I used to SHINNY up a rope or a tree. SHIMMY was something you did with your hips or rear end or whatever, like your sister Kate.

KRMunson 10:53 AM  

Coventry was (and is still) a mystery to me. I managed to fill in the letters but I don't quite understand why it is right. Can someone please elucidate?

Also had Zirconia for the diamond. Nice bit of misdirection.

Overall, a tough but worthy adversary for a Sunday!

Anonymous 11:12 AM  

Great puzzle, but for one thing: HORATIO gave the whole thing away for me. I wish I had struggled with the trick to the puzzle, but a well known proper noun made figuring out the rest way too easy. Too bad, because otherwise, a great construction.

chefbea 11:22 AM  

Too tough for me. Got pack animal right away, then crunch time and that was it. DNF

The best squash blossoms by far are the ones made in Italy with an anchovy in the center. Yummm

Nick 11:37 AM  

Enjoyed this one -- difficult, but fun. However, I'm with Mel on this and object to "shimmy up". You "shinny up" a rope. A wobbly wheel has a "shimmy", or you shimmy when you dance, but you don't "shinny" on the dance floor or "shimmy" up a pole.

Shamik 11:58 AM  

With Mel Ott and Nick on "shinny." Glad they brought that up.

Norm 12:01 PM  

@ KRMunson: Coventry was where Lady Godiva rode naked through the streets per her agreement with her husband (to lessen the taxes on the populace?) & Peeping Tom was the perv who disobeyed the lord's order for all to stay inside and not look.

archaeoprof 12:05 PM  

Too tough for me. Felt like an overgrown Saturday. On Sunday I like a little more humor.

@Treedweller: thanks for an entertaining write-up!

AnnieD 12:09 PM  

What a lot of fun. Most enjoyable Sunday puzz in a long time. Even after I got the theme, it required considerable thinking and figuring. A most impressive work with just the right amount of misdirection and fabulous theme answers.

Many thanks to N&W!

Norm 12:10 PM  

Very tough, very fun puzzle. Wish I'd noted before I finished that the theme answers were all placed symmetrically since that would have helped me figure out where to place the final rebus entries in the S and SE, since HORATIO and AMASS were pretty obvious, for example, but I stalled for a long time trying to figure out the across entries. Great fun. Did I already say that? Many thanks to Messrs. Nothnagle and Walden.

Anonymous 12:25 PM  

Horatio was the clue that did it for me.

TN 12:27 PM  

Great setup, lots of fun theme answers, but way too many obscurities in the fill. That whole STATORS/REMAP/HTEST area was a bit of a joke, TSLOT seems made up to me, and Manchester's St. ANN'S Church? There's a famous church in Manchester we're supposed to know about?

Anonymous 12:39 PM  

Figuring out where to put the SQUEEZEPLAY
Was a ZANTAC brain teaser
Thanx to Messrs. N and W
For a real CROWDPLEASER!!

Unknown 12:48 PM  

It's really bad when I don't understand the theme AFTER it's explained. This puzzle wasted an hour of my life.

KRMunson 12:55 PM  

@Norm. Thank you for the Coventry explanation. Who knew?!?! Another great bit of trivia.

GLR 1:13 PM  

Liked this one, even though I had to cheat to get the southwest corner.

Thought myself quite clever when I suspected the misdirection on 135A. Unfortunately, "reliever" fits in that space as well as "zirconia."

Anonymous 1:13 PM  

I'd like to know how "Dr. Fill," the crossword solving computer software, fared with this beast.

Leslie 1:43 PM  

Started this, went to brunch, then came back and finished so have no idea what my time was. LOVED IT, though!

Thanks to treedweller and everyone else for: Pointing out that the first word in each theme answer is a synonym that means "squish into a small space;" explaining the connection between Peeping Tom and Coventry; and joining me in my objection to SHIMMY rather than "shinny."

VERY cool puzzle!

Smitty 1:47 PM  

This would have been an enjoyable puzzle were it not for the fact that Across Lite just couldn't handle it, so it malfunctioned all over the grid.

for example - In the lower left corner square, I inserted multiple letters JAM and it checked out as correct, but so did the single letter J - and so on all over the grid, making it a logistical nightmare to solve.
It also registered correct solves as incorrect... then changed its mind when I tried again.

Did anyone else have this problem?

NYT please if you're listening, Next time you run a puzzle with multiple inserts, make sure the software is working.thx

Jyp0625 1:53 PM  
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foodie 2:32 PM  

Results of the tournament are out:

1-Dan Feyer
2-Tyler Hinman
3-Anne Erdmann

Congratulations to them and to all who competed! Please write and tell us about the event!

Rex, I hope you're feeling better today. At least you did not get sick in a foreign country (that has to be the worst, ever).

Anonymous 2:40 PM  

The NYT has nothing to do with Across Lite, that was created by litsoft.

There are lots of things Across Lite can't handle in late-week puzzles, such as multiple letter squares, un-numbered answer squares, shaded squares, etc. It's become the default program for many online solvers, but it's got its limitation.

loren muse smith 3:16 PM  

Well, I feel bad for Dad since I told him he should give Sundays a shot since they’re more like big Thursdays. @archaeoprof – this DID feel like and overgrown Saturday with Thursday funny business thrown in.

What a masterstroke this was! I’m learning enough to know I’m in for a toughie when I see Nothnagel and Walden at the top, and This. Was. Tough.

@joho – Same crosses to reveal the trick, and I totally would have missed that the themes all begin with squinchy words. Thanks!

@jackj – I, too, got a kick out of “ort” as a clue and not a fill. Next we’ll see “oreo” as a clue.

I had too many erasures to mention. “Gropes” for PITIES held me up for awhile.

No one has pointed out that this is a pangram, or are all Sundays pangrams?

Masked and Anonymous 3:27 PM  

Liked this puz a lot. Took a looong time to complete, done in shifts with the Mighty PuzSpouse. Eventually figuring out the symmetry of scrunchees sure helped.

Only... Can't quite "grasp" how the word CLUTCH is in the same family with CRUNCH, CRUMPLE, PINCH, and whatnot. Seems off, IMO. Somebody here slap some sense into me.

Sorry you got sick, 31*. Bummer.

Larry I in L.A. 3:29 PM  

As an occasional commenter and relative newcomer to this community, I have a protocol question. Fairly late last night, after finally completing this doozy of a Sunday, I visited the blog and realized that Rex (or his surrogate) had not yet posted the solution. Living on the West Coast, I often find myself too early or too late to fully participate in the daily conversation, so I went ahead and posted a short comment at the tail end of the Saturday comments section. I did not reveal any answers, or mention that a rebus was involved, but I did say that it took me an uncharacteristically looooong time to solve. Was this an etiquette breach? Thanks for your feedback.

WESISLAND 3:38 PM  

12 Down ("Letter after delta")really perplexed me. I kept spelling Epsilon with various rebuses and getting nowhere. Great puzzle though.

fiddleneck 3:58 PM  

Across Lite worked just fine for me.

joho 4:31 PM  

@loren muse smith ... I thought this was a pangram but didn't count the letters, that's the icing on the panCAKE!

Because Sunday's have a bigger grid the odds of a pangram are certainly better, but I don't think every Sunday ends up to be one.

Oh, and of all the Sunday puzzles to have your dad try, this wasn't the one! I hope he tries again next week.

chefbea 4:35 PM  

in case anyone is interested...just turned on golf and our favorite crossword golfer is tied for first.

jberg 4:37 PM  

DNF. I didn't see CDT, and didn't know the cross, TAMLIN. And I had not only Zirconia for 135A, but Jackass for 15! -- which worked with a lot of crosses, but not all of them.

More important, I thought the theme was "random rebus squares in random places" until I came here and read @treedweller's explanation. Thanks for that! So I was just buffaloed, finished with 5 blank squares and a bunch of incorrect ones. Actually, I'm surprised I got as far as I did.

So it was tough - but now that I understand the theme, I like it a lot! Had I got it, it would have given just enough help that I could probably have solved the puzzle. Thanks, guys!

Gill I. P. 4:56 PM  

SQUEEZE PLAY???, CRUMPLE ZONE???. Yikes - but in a fun way. This took for ever and almost gave me a ZANTAC moment.
I loved, loved this puzzle. I guess I lucked out and caught it early at PACK AN IM AL.
This is the kind of Sunday I really like and I hope we see more of them.
@Larry I in L.A. NO, you did not breach anything. Whoever may have complained was a whiner in my estimation. You said it was hard and well,it was damn hard.
Cheers

sanfranman59 5:13 PM  

If it's any consolation to those of you who struggled with this puzzle, it's off the charts Challenging by the stats I use to rate Monday through Saturday puzzles. I've only tracked about 9 months worth of Sunday puzzles, so the sample is not as stable as what I've got for the rest of the week, but I think there's enough data to state with some confidence that this one is in a class by itself for a Sunday. With only 45 minutes of playing time left, only 148 have submitted correct puzzles in the online app. That's about half the usual number and the previous low is 174. The median solve time for the Top 100 solvers is 52:26 and for All Solvers it's 1:05:27. They previous highs among the 39 Sunday puzzles in my spreadsheet are 34:29 and 50:49 and the means are 20:14 and 32:20. Suffice it to say that those who stuck it out to the end spent a lot more time on their Sunday crossword today than they usually do.

Joe in Montreal 5:23 PM  

A great puzzle. Two questions. What is CDT? And why is a SCALE likely to be an item in a bakery?
After putting in OUIS I figured YORICK, which held me up for a while, even thinking "he wasn't really a confidant."

Bird 5:38 PM  

Still recovering from yesterday's festivities so this was a multi-car pileup for me. Spent the longest time wondering why some gimme answers did not fit. My aha moment was the south with ENTRUST, CTSCANNER and NERDY giving me RUNNER which gave me PINCH. After realizing it was a Rebus puzzle I went back and made a BUNCH of corrections.

I think a lot of the fill could have been clued easier or differently. CLUTCH PERFORMANCE is not a late rally. A good example is when a reliever comes in with bases loaded with nobody out and ends the threat with no runs scored. I also don't think of CLUTCH as a "compressing" word. It's like, "which one of the theme answers does not belong?"

And if a state is going to be abbreviated using 3 letters, than the clue should be abbreviated using 3 letters (aside from the fact that sates should be abbreviated using 2 letters. I'm referring to 18D.

Double captcha "olsoldr mendspl" morphs into "Lord Pond smells"

Deb 5:38 PM  

@Larry in L.A. - What Gill I.P. said. Heaven's to Betsy, it's not as though you (or I) posted any spoilers.

@Sanfranman59 - Thanks for the info!

My messiest errors to clean up were CTSCAtter and ENliST. Since I've heard of a PINCHhittER but not a PINCHRUNNER, I kept trying to convince myself that the patterns on a CT SCAN were referred to as SCAttER. I had to close the puzzle and re-open it to see where my error was, AND I had to Google the GD in GDSEARLE, so I did have to cheat my way to the "solve" but still enjoyed the workout thoroughly.

Anonymous 5:41 PM  

@Joe in Montreal - CDT stands for Central Daylight (Saving) Time. OKlahoma is in the central time zone. A baker uses a scale to weigh the ingredients (flour, yeast, etc.) when making a cake.

Deb 5:46 PM  
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Anonymous 6:10 PM  

Infuriating and delightful at the same time. Expected the format of the "rear end collisions" from the theme title, but I too completely missed the additional meaning in the first words until treadweller pointed it out. Brilliant!

foodie 6:17 PM  

@SanFranMan, thanks for the information.

Do you think that the tournament had anything to do with the low number of solvers? The number of comments is rather low as well, but not sure whether it's because people found this so challenging or they are traveling home.

Did the numbers for yesterday seem typical?

Anonymous 6:18 PM  

Definitely the hardest puzzle in a long time. Yep, the overgrown bastard child of a Thursday and a Saturday!

lawprof 6:35 PM  

This, to me, is what the Sunday puzzle should be: tough enough to take up a good chunk of the morning, but ultimately doable with lots of "oho" moments. It's why I do the puzzle in the NYT Magazine with a pen; that way I can tell -- just by how messy it is at the end -- how hard it was to complete. This one was a mess, but I got it all, and I'll feel good all day.

Sue McC 7:00 PM  

Wowzers! A wild ride of a Sunday puzzle. Ditto on epsilon, as someone else has mentioned. Got the game from SQUASHBLOSSOM, but even knowing the trick, ended up with a DNF. I could blame having too much fun last night, or having my huge family over for corned beef today (even asked smart brother to take a crack at what I had left!), but the bottom line is that it was one smart puzzle! Hey Will, more like this!

Anonymous 7:19 PM  

Sunday puzzles are too easy
Sunday's are Wednesday's with a theme
Sunday's are wah wah wah!!
Well I guess Will was listening 'cause he just kicked my pack animal up and down court!!!!!

Anonymous 7:40 PM  

Anybody try the variety puzzle yet?

Martin 7:43 PM  

"Shimmy" as a synonym for "shinny" is now standard usage. I'm surprised no one here found it familiar. I'm also surprised that "shimmy up" outgoogles "shinny up" 403,000 to 62,000. But it does.

Joe in Montreal 7:43 PM  

thanks Anonymous @ 5:41: in that case I love the OK clue. I wouldn't have guessed that about baking, as I use volume measurements.

Larry I in L.A. 7:55 PM  

Like many of our parents, my mom rarely if ever uses profanity. Her go-to substitute is:

Sh...inny up a tree!

Z 8:06 PM  

{Darth Vader voice} Impressive.

JoeTheJuggler 8:41 PM  

I whiffed on this one. Got far enough in to figure out the rebus and fill in a few of those, but in the applet, I'm unable to type 2 letters in a square. Since I don't get to see those other letters, it makes the crosses crazy difficult to keep track of.

I guess I should just download the puzzle and use Across Lite, but I really like the on-line, timed games.

sanfranman59 9:09 PM  

@foodie ... I have no idea what impact the ACPT might have on the number of solvers today. There were a few less than the average number of online solvers yesterday, but that puzzle's difficulty could account for that. Judging from my own solving experience today and the comments here, I'd say that the extreme difficulty rating is legit. My solve time of 52:25 was about 3 1/2 minutes longer than my previous high and 23 minutes above my Sunday average.

That said, I thought this was a great puzzle. I generally lose interest in puzzles that take me longer than about a half hour or so, but this one kept me plugging away.

chefwen 9:32 PM  

Got the puzzle at noon yesterday and finally was able to put the pen down around four. Of course I was doing other stuff during that time, but precious little other stuff.

Got the theme early on with good 'ol Studs TERKLE, but Holy Moly what a challenge. My messiest area was around PINCH RUNNER, oh, who am I kidding the whole puzzle was a messy area, but FUN FUN FUN!!!

ArtO 10:14 PM  

Getting about 90% of this puzzle involved at least three times as long as the average Sunday for me. Put down and picked up three times and finally threw in the towel on the last 10%. Getting PRESSCONFERENCE and CLUTCHPERFORMANCES was as good a note as any to give up on at this late hour.

Susan Pease Banitt, LCSW 10:54 PM  

Really did not enjoy this puzzle at all. Too male. Too left brain. Seemed to go out of his way to trip us up. Nothing funny or fun here for me or my husband. More women puzzle makers, please!

Anonymous 11:10 PM  

Loved this puzzle! (and I'm a girl).

M.C.P. 11:21 PM  

Too male? With threaders, needle, stamen, infant, coventry, preemie, compact and smut? Go ahead slap me.

Kingdaddy 11:42 PM  

Hmmm, someone deleted my comment? Because I didn't like the puzzle?

Anonymous 11:51 PM  

I loved this puzzle because it was so male. Not sure what that means, but I did love the puzzle. It was everything a Sunday puzzle should be, challenging, clever and fun.

PS. @Rex, I noticed you DQ'd and I see you were sick. Congratulations, you are on the same level as Tiger. Hope you are feeling better....

JFC

michael 12:23 AM  

Hardest Sunday I can remember. dnf with problems in two places. Took me forever to get the gimmick.

Not all that enjoyable either, though I appreciate the constructon.

CoolPapaD 2:38 AM  

It's still late Sunday night in AZ - had to comment. Easily the hardest puzzle I've finished error-free. Started late Saturday night and just finished, after putting it down a half-dozen times. The write-up was terrific, and I never saw the first word significance.

I was determined to finish after seeing TAM LIN - the song of the same name by Fairport Convention brings back amazing college memories...!

Z 7:50 AM  

@Kingdaddy - Either you deleted your own post or the captcha got you. Rex rarely deletes comments and all of today's delete indicate that the author deleted the comment.

An Able Baker 12:26 PM  

@WESISLAND and @SueMcC - Neither of you indicates if you figured out the connection, but the alphabet convention for clarity goes something like, "Able, Baker, Charlie, Delta, Echo, Foxtrot," etc.

GG 3:05 PM  

Fun puzzle- nice, predictably symmetrical theme, with just enough variation to keep it challenging.

The phonetical alphabet from which "delta" and "echo" were derived was developed by NATO, primarily for use in aviation.

Anonymous 3:42 PM  

Oh, by all means if more people Google "Shimmy up a tree" then let's change the meaning of the word from "shinny" to "shimmy"... Good grief.

Howard B 8:57 AM  

@sanfran - Very late comment: At the ACPT, paper copies of this Sunday puzzle were free for the taking, as is the custom. I suspect several speed solvers (including this one) solved that morning on paper, skewing the results slightly. That said, a very challenging puzzle. Solved it untimed as a warmup here, so can't contribute much to that :).

Anonymous 10:00 PM  

This put me off doing puzzles for 3 days. I HATE ths puzzle. Totally ridiculous cluing. Arrgggggh. Courto

Spacecraft 11:53 AM  

I honest-to-God held my hand over the screen when accessing this page, because if Rex said ANYTHING other than challenging, he's FULL OF SHIT AND HIS HAT DON'T FIT.

This puzzle took me a good hour and a half to do, and I was working all the time. Brilliant in execution and enjoyable as it was, it was HARD! I think lately Shortzie has the cluing dial stuck on Saturday. Brutal!

I can't say enough about how impressed I was at this. Not only do we have "rear-end collisions" (literally), but all the lead-in words are synonyms for cramming!

I don't know if I'd ever even have begun to find a way in if I didn't happen to know BRUXISM--and the X of course belonged at 85 (Gen___) XER. Then after SUMOS went in I was left with two letters for one square--and the game was afoot.

CALZONE (yum!) crossing CRUMPLEZONE is unfortunate but unavoidable; that's OK. But I wish 104d had been clued as "Parker and Barrow contemporaries." The answer is, after all, a last name. JOHN just won't go there. Also, like @anon. 3:42, I went for the more familiar SHINNY. That and a wrong start at 86a (CLosing for CLUTCH) were my only writeovers.

OK, now I bite the bullet and scroll up.

Spacecraft 12:17 PM  

Well. Now I've read the rest. Thanks to treedweller for, um, his hat fitting. Thanks to @Bird for pointing out the UNfittingness of CLUTCH. This is why I began that entry with CLOSING; at least that gives a sense of impending collision. Still, though, the few tiny defects won't pull this grade below an A-. Great job, Mike and Byron!

Anonymous 3:41 PM  

Had less trouble with the theme answers than I did with the fill. I could see PLEAS was going to involve a two-letter square, and assuming that would fall in the long answer I quickly found SQUEEZE PLAY and CO-PAY. At that point I hoped all the answers would involve some sort of compression verb, and was pleased to find that was the case. Would liked to have had the CLUTCH replaced with an ACCORDION PL AY ER, but I'm not the one who has to redo the grid.

In the end just two errors, guessing wrong at the intersections AENEaD/BRUXaSB and ArNAN/ErLAI

Good Sunday puzzle. Now it's off to the Parish of Saint Alfonzo for a late breakfast.

Dirigonzo 4:00 PM  

I came here expecting a blistering review from Rex 'cause this puz had so many tricks to slow him down, but we have a very nice write-up by @treedweller, instead. I'm glad because I loved the puzzle even though it took me just about all day to finish. I had scrapS for "Ort" at 9d for too long, so that section was the last to fall. It took a while to sort out my clinch/clutch/crunch confusion and get the right answers where they belong.

Discovered upon arriving here that I finished with a mistake as I had confidently entered AnimATE at 139a and never went back to see that it didn't work with the crosses - my bad.

connie in seattle 7:36 PM  

I confidently put in "Al Capone" at 104D and wanted "Alberta" for 143A (name of their hockey team?).
Spent an enjoyable day working on this with only a break for Taco Time at lunch, continuing to work on the puzzle over my bean burrito.
Great fun!

Tita 10:01 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tita 10:02 AM  

Hey Syndilanders...
Since I was at ACPT, never got to this till now.
It's all been said, so I can only add, "LOVED IT!" What a tug of war. CRUMPLEZONE /CALZONE was the most devious crossing - I had NO idea what was going on there...

Oh, and interesting how many words fit at 139A:
AnimATE-->AgitATE-->ACTUATE

Wait - sry - found more to talk about...
Loved "Label for unmentionables"- ETCETERA, and that they also got THREECAR collisions in.

Dirigonzo 3:15 PM  

@Tita - nice to see you back here in the suburbs of Rexville! No reason we can't visit each other's place from time to time, eh?

Anonymous 5:01 PM  

I like challenging puzzles, and I did key onto the double letter squares within an hour, but my feeling is that super clever questions, like 109A (Decalogue possessive) or 7A (Label for unmentionables) are a bit much with a theme that is not indicated by question marks for the altered answer words. Just a bit on the 'too tuff' side.

NW George 12:51 AM  

Being in Syndication land, and not getting around to doing the puzzle for another day, and being a torturous one at that makes this a late post.

Answers to every clue had to be questioned because you couldn't tell how many letters in contained, because any answer could contain a rebus. Finally started getting the theme at CRUNCH TIME, getting ratio and arme. Then through three sittings, I plugged along.

Had most trouble with the south. Finally had to google to get Peeping Tom's home and Mel Blanc character. Had no idea that Peeping Tom came from the Lady Godiva legend, or that Mel was in the Flintstones.

Also had considerable trouble in the NE, primarily since I assumed 19D referred to Montana, making pack animal hard to see (I had N Dak.) When I finally got pack animal, I looked at KAN I thought Kansas in nowhere near Montana. Then i said: Oh yeah, Missouri.

Anonymous 1:02 AM  

ak peds

Thanks so much to Messrs. Nothnagel and Walden.
Took a couple hours, but "aha" moments over and over, and so much variability in the fill: Greek myths to Shakespeare to "Desperate Housewives", operas to Indian music to country (I had Roy Clark before Roy Acuff). Enjoyed so much. Clue for altar just an example.
Long live Studs. I also recommend "Working" which I read when I was doing temp work in offices after college. Read one or two stories every lunch period.

Thanks again.

Anonymous 2:53 PM  

Instead of googling a word why not actually go to a dictionary and look up the definition. You'll find that the correct word in this puzzle should have been shinny, not shimmy. In spite of this error I liked the puzzle but it took me quite a while to finish it.

Lola505 2:53 PM  

I don't mind saying, this one was TOUGH! I even had to take a break, it took me so long to finish (although I never time myself), but I stuck with it and triumphed. A real Sunday challenge! Clever puzzle and unusual to have multiple letter-squares on a Sunday.
Thanks treedweller for filling in for Rex -- both blog and puzzle squares!

Charlie 7:57 PM  

It's ironic that anyone would defend the incorrect use of "shimmy" in this puzzle, in light of the fact that the Times itself confessed error in September 2010 when it had confused the two words. http://topics.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/09/07/when-spell-check-cant-help-7/?scp=1-b&sq=shimmy&st=nyt Apparently the Times follows the Humpty Dumpty school of English: a word "means just what I choose it to mean."

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