Newsman Roger / SUN 5-6-12 / 1920s Olympic track gold medalist Paavo / Sister 1920s-30s evangelist / Old country name from Portuguese for beautiful / Savanna grazer / Protector of dead in Egyptian myth / Air Force college athlete

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Constructor: Alex Vratsanos

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: A-V Club — theme answers are two-word phrases (or names), first word starting with "A," second word starting with "V"

Word of the Day: Sister AIMEE (86A: Sister ___, 1920s-'30s evangelist) —
Aimee Semple McPherson (October 9, 1890 – September 27, 1944), also known as Sister Aimee, was a Canadian-American Los Angeles, California evangelist and media celebrity in the 1920s and 1930s.[1] She founded the Foursquare Church.[2] McPherson has been noted as a pioneer in the use of modern media, especially radio, which she drew upon through the growing appeal of popular entertainment in North America. (wikipedia)
• • •

Not much of a theme, but who cares? It's Sunday, so all I ask is that the grid not suck and the theme not be tiresome, convoluted, or otherwise annoying. This one's so simple, it can hardly offend. And the constructor gets to indulge his amazing vanity. It's win-win.

Theme answers:
  • 23A: Have, say (AUXILIARY VERB) — by far the hardest of the theme answers to pick up. Because of its placement, and the general vagueness / toughness of clues in the N and NW, it took me a good while to really get started. Once I got going, though the cluing seemed thorny at times, the puzzle most felt normal, difficulty-wise.
  • 38A: They're likely to blow (ACTIVE VOLCANOES)
  • 65A: Not seeing eye to eye (AT VARIANCE) — one of three AT phrases in the puzzle (see also AT MOST and AT PEACE).
  • 68A: End of the main part of the Constitution (ARTICLE VII) — "VII" isn't really a word ... I mean, that's a five, not a "V"
  • 89A: Electrical pioneer (ALESSANDRO VOLTA)
  • 114A: Common houseplant with colorful blooms (AFRICAN VIOLET)
  • 50D: Brandy, for one (AQUA VITAE)
  • 46D: Some succulents (ALOE VERAS)
Stupidly started with some kind of -MAN at 7A: Air Force college athlete (FALCON), and so had MNOP for my [10D: Alphabet quartet]. Followed that up with AMENDS for 21A: Nervous ... that is to say, I read the wrong clue. This *often* happens on Sunday, when the print-out of the puzzle (because it's all crammed onto one 8 1/2 x 11 page) leaves the type tiny and the numbers in the grid prone to being obscured. Bah. BAH. Once I got that whole northern area sorted out, the only persistently nasty part of the grid was at the very tiny opening that links the northern section to the eastern section, i.e. the PEELE / SLIT area. I've *barely* heard of George PEELE (36D: Shakespeare contemporary), and I teach poetry from that time period regularly. Never thought of a SLIT as a "channel" before (43D: Microchannel). Thought the ELAND (49A: Savanna grazer) might be on ORIBI (wrong continent, probably). And OBLIQUE is very oddly clued. I'm not even sure how it's equivalent to [At a glance] which seems more adverbial phrase than adjective. Weird.

  • 26A: Protector of the dead, in Egyptian myth (ISIS) — just a guess, off the "I"
  • 63A: Decidedly eligible, in a way (ONE-A) — about the toughest ONE-A clue I've ever seen.
  • 105A: Two-finger keyboard shortcut in Windows (ALT-TAB) — not a Windows user, but could infer the answer easily enough with a few crosses.
  • 118A: Speaker of the line "He thinks too much: such men are dangerous" (CAESAR) — To be clear, Shakespeare's CAESAR says this, not real CAESAR. For the third Shak-related clue of the day, see 41D: Romeo's "two blushing pilgrims" (LIPS).

  • 4D: Record label for the Kinks and Pink (ARISTA) — this is how I confirmed LENTO (31A: Slowly). I get LARGO and LENTO confused.
  • 51D: 1920s Olympic track gold medalist Paavo ___ (NURMI) — I partially remembered this, somehow, though the first two letters needed crosses for me to be certain.
  • 112A: Old country name from the Portuguese for "beautiful" (FORMOSA) — formerly "Taiwan"; that was tough. SE corner gave me a minor scare there at the end, but a correct guess of WAFTS helped me pry it open (94D: Drifts).
  • 91D: It might go up via an escalator (SALARY) — I'm not familiar with this concept, though, again, it wasn't too tough to infer.
  • 56D: Newsman Roger (O'NEIL) — Dude does not have a wikipedia page, what the hell? He was "the reporter of record" for the JonBenet Ramsey story, according to his bio page at MSNBC. And the world is better for it, I'm sure.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


jae 12:16 AM  

Nothing fancy just a solid medium Sun.  Nice homage to the Onion.

Erasures: Pot for PCP, emmYS for TONYS, ailes for ONEIL.

Just about right for a Sun.!

Anonymous 12:40 AM  

It was fun. I did have sailors coming out of the head and I thought I was so clever. Too clever, apparently. Agree that oblique was improperly clued.

Noam D. Elkies 1:12 AM  

Come on, the use of VII as part of the theme (in 68A:ARTICLE_VII) is clever; who cares if it's not "really" a V? Most likely the initial of Vratsanos is itself not "really" a V but a Beta (pronounced in modern Greek like the Latin "vita").

Anent 112A:FORMOSA: a Latin verse from the beginning of the Song of Solomon famously begins Nigra sum, sed formosa: Black I am, yet beautiful. (Yes, the original Hebrew is literally "and beautiful", but the translation is correct, and not racist because the ensuing verses make it clear that her skin was darkened by the sun.)


retired_chemist 2:52 AM  

Easy Sunday. I usually get bored and regard a large Sunday puzzle as a chore, but this one kept my interest. Did not catch the relationship of the constrictor's name to theme until I came here.

I could put in quite a few the answers with some thought but not instantly. FALCON, however, was instant. I had to think of six-letter Friends and fortunately came up with PHOEBE before RACHEL. Quickly confirmed with PCP and BAH from PBA. 112A started in Spanish (heRMOSA) but I knew the Portuguese word would be similar. (Tita should recuse herself from this clue :-))

ARTICLE VII was somehow another gimme, as was ALESSANDRO VOLTA from a few crosses in the last name. His African cousin changed his name from Upper Volta to Burkina Faso in 1984.

Biggest slowdown was the NE, where being sure 15D was BET instead of PUT left a big mess. Even when I got AT PEACE, I wanted POT for 15D and tried to check all the other downs to see which letter(s) in NEOTERS was (were) wrong. Eventually I bruised my forehead with a D'oh. And we had even had Pepper spayed on Thursday.....

ENSILE is ugly. I wonder if it is used more in crossword puzzles than by all the farmers in the US combined.

Thanks, Mr. A-V. My grandfather's given name was AVerill, as is my middle name, and he was nicknamed Av. So I feel some relation to the theme.....

pk 2:53 AM  

Well, it's hard to weigh in after NDE does so with such erudition (is that a word?) and Rex gives us such a fun and spot-on write-up, but I'm going to anyway.

Agree that 23A Auxiliary Verb was the toughest, but 38A Active Volcanoes was pretty easy to figure out. Fave was 114A African Violets. I always have these blooming in my kitchen. So did my grandmother. Maybe there is an african violet gene, I don't know.

Why is an idiom not a laughing matter? Just askin'

I don't think real farmers "ensile" 119A their crops. Minor quibble in an otherwise nice Sunday puzz.

acme 3:11 AM  

"Amazing Vanity"?!! I just got it! I was going to defend Alex V and say it's normal to notice phrases that share your initials, esp since A/V is a to call it Amazing Vanity seemed harsh.
But you were just making another AV phrase!
Always Very (clever), Mr. Parker!

evil doug 5:03 AM  

This guy's unrestrained narcissism alone is reason enough not to do this puzzle. He should be summarily banished.

Not every Air Force mission was a chore: Twice I was tasked with picking up the hooded Academy falcon, its handlers, the drum & bugle corps and the cheerleaders, and hauling them to football games---once to Cal Berkeley, once to Notre Dame (the team itself? flew in commercial luxury while our crowd got webbed nylon drop-down seats). Got to see Joe Montana play as they waxed the AF boys in what would become ND's national championship year.

It's 'never on Sunday' for me, so I don't have a clue on the cluing. But just looking at the grid I see a dearth of vivid, specific, image-laden words. The AV words/phrases are as tedious as the constructor's ego. I'll leave it to you Sunday lay-abed slugs lounging in your jammies to decide if this puzzle was any better than the other time-eaters I've noticed lately.

Do Aquateens drink Aqua Vitae? I'd have gone with Aqua Velva---great ads---now there's some imagery. Even Pete Rose sang in one....Yikes!


The Bard 5:26 AM  

Romeo and Juliet > Act I, scene V

ROMEO: [To JULIET] If I profane with my unworthiest hand
This holy shrine, the gentle fine is this:
My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand
To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.

JULIET: Good pilgrim, you do wrong your hand too much,
Which mannerly devotion shows in this;
For saints have hands that pilgrims' hands do touch,
And palm to palm is holy palmers' kiss.

ROMEO: Have not saints lips, and holy palmers too?

JULIET: Ay, pilgrim, lips that they must use in prayer.

ROMEO: O, then, dear saint, let lips do what hands do;
They pray, grant thou, lest faith turn to despair.

JULIET: Saints do not move, though grant for prayers' sake.

ROMEO: Then move not, while my prayer's effect I take.
Thus from my lips, by yours, my sin is purged.

JULIET: Then have my lips the sin that they have took.

ROMEO: Sin from thy lips? O trespass sweetly urged!
Give me my sin again.

JULIET: You kiss by the book.

Julius Caesar > Act I, scene II

CAESAR: Let me have men about me that are fat;
Sleek-headed men and such as sleep o' nights:
Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look;
He thinks too much: such men are dangerous.

ANTONY: Fear him not, Caesar; he's not dangerous;
He is a noble Roman and well given.

CAESAR: Would he were fatter! But I fear him not:
Yet if my name were liable to fear,
I do not know the man I should avoid
So soon as that spare Cassius. He reads much;
He is a great observer and he looks
Quite through the deeds of men: he loves no plays,
As thou dost, Antony; he hears no music;
Seldom he smiles, and smiles in such a sort
As if he mock'd himself and scorn'd his spirit
That could be moved to smile at any thing.
Such men as he be never at heart's ease
Whiles they behold a greater than themselves,
And therefore are they very dangerous.
I rather tell thee what is to be fear'd
Than what I fear; for always I am Caesar.
Come on my right hand, for this ear is deaf,
And tell me truly what thou think'st of him.

Alex Vratsanos (yes, me, the constructor) 6:28 AM  

Good morning, everyone.

From the moment this puzzle was accepted (this past Leap Day, as luck had it), I highly suspected someone would accuse me of being egotistic. And right I was. But I will not retaliate.

I admit that this puzzle was indeed inspired by my own initials, so there is at least some truth to what you say, Doug, but still, I'm not angry. If anyone's going to banish me, though, it will be Will Shortz and/or other crossword editors. I can explain a reason why my puzzle left Deb Amlen "wanting" (read the Wordplay blog), though. Again, this is not a counterattack; it's an explanation.

To make a long explanation short, there was a lot of crap in my original fill, and so Shortz asked me to revise the grid. Literally jumping at this opportunity for a New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle, I refilled the grid as fast as I could (even doing it as I ate dinner one night), and, perhaps worse, I put in very little effort in my clues. In turn, I guess that was evident in the final product. Haste really does make waste.

That aside, I now say that I have learned a good lesson. I have already incorporated it into puzzles I have recently constructed and am constructing, many of which I will probably submit to the Times someday. So, you can expect better from me in the future.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. I really do appreciate it.

orangeblossomspecial 7:30 AM  

@Rex Sometimes labor contracts have an escalator clause in which salaries are adjusted for the inflation rate. Some of them are COLAs - Cost Of Living Adjustments.

I don't get JONES as "intense hankering" at 59D. Anyone help? JEERS made sense, but not JONES.

Anonymous 7:39 AM  

@pk - The idiom is the expression "no laughing matter."

Anonymous 7:43 AM  

Farmers ENSILE corn as silage, an anaerobic fermentation of the crop to preserve it and to improve the nutritional content. In England, hay is ENSILED also because its too wet there to properly dry hay for storage.

Don't you ever get a JONES for chocolate? Or a beer on a hot day?

And I am a veterinarian and I was slow on NEUTERS! Must be too early!

Anonymous 7:53 AM  

Don't get Haydn's symphony is A. Thought it should be in A. Is this an error??

Glimmerglass 8:09 AM  

"No laughing matter" is an idiom. "The Jones" is slang for a (usually harmless) addiction -- for vintage cars, for example. OBLIQUE means "to the side," not "at a glance." One can hurt an "oblique muscle" (in one's side). I think the constructor is confusing the phrase "oblique glance," which means "out of the corner of one's eye." The (incorrect) clue would make this redundant. Shouldn't STRAD be clued "for short"?

Anonymous 8:37 AM  

Earp was the title role for RUSSELL and Costner. Val Kilmer played Doc.

Anonymous 9:08 AM  

Kilmer played Doc in "Tombstone" (1994), in which there was no title role, and later played Earp in ""Wyatt Earp Revenge (2012).

Anonymous 9:08 AM  

"Not a V"?

Rex, a Roman numeral is a letter (or several letters), that's why they can be legitimately used in crosswords.

Think of it this way, if you're complaining about the V in Alex's puzzle, then all of the other Roman numerals in other crosswords would be equally invalid, because they would not properly work in the crossing direction.

Just to be clear, I'm not suggesting that Roman numerals are good fill, but they are real letters, whether we as constructors, or solvers, like them or not.

-Martin Ashwood-Smith

evil doug 9:08 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Z 9:09 AM  

@AV - Congrats on getting the opportunity to learn a lesson via the NYT. A pleasant enough solve for a Sunday morning.

@Rex - my librarian spouse just informed me that Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian made the ALA's List of Ten Most Frequently Challenged Library Books for 2011, behind The Hunger Games but ahead of Aldous Huxley and Harper Lee. This must make him CrossWorthy now.

evil doug 9:11 AM  


Your potential solvers can 'banish' you, too. People on this blog, at least, have long memories of puzzles and constructors that they come to respect---and those they don't.

If you want to create a self-reverential puzzle for your personal benefit, I say go for it. Then print it out, frame it and hang it in your den.

If, on the other hand, you want to build a fun and unselfish crossword for the benefit of your solvers, then that's the one you should be hawking with Will or the L.A. Times.

I'm glad you took the time to at least partially explain your thinking. I'll keep my eyes, and mind, open for your next effort. Just as I've improved as a solver, I hope you'll do the same at your end of the process.


Anonymous 9:17 AM  

Disagree, Glimmerglass, jones is not usually harmless. Started as a slang for heroin addiction. Later took on the sense of general avid desire as in Cheech and Chong's "Basketball Jones". "...a basketball jones is when you love basketball so much you are like a junkie'."

Anonymous 9:25 AM  

The third definition of glance from is "to strike a surface or object obliquely, especially so as to bounce off at an angle (often followed by off ): The arrow glanced off his shield." Hence "At a glance" could be OBLIQUE

Bob Kerfuffle 9:25 AM  

@Anonymous, 7:53 AM - Take another look -- you are confusing 115 D, ISE, with 116 D, INE.

And to repeat points which have been made on other days:

(1) Please use some made-up name rather than "anonymous" so we can direct responses to the correct person, and,

(2) Especially when referring to a short answer, specify the clue number so we don't have to review the whole grid to see what you are talking about.

No offense intended; just want to make a friendlier conversation for all. :>))

Anonymous 9:27 AM  

Evil Doug
You are being snarky today! I appreciate that our constructor had collected word phrases that have his initials. Using them in a puzzle is not vanity. Likewise a puzzle with DOUG (dough, __do ugh) would be clever, and obviously tres difficile!

I Notice Things 9:36 AM  

Man that Vargas girl has a big head. I mean, it takes a lot for me to be distracted from the main point(s) of a Vargas picture, but that is one big head!

Leslie 9:44 AM  

Beats the pants off of yesterday's puzzle (which I belatedly finished a couple of hours ago).

Evil Doug, stop being so CALLOUS with your JEERS! I don't think his puzzle FLOPS just because Alex V. used his initials. My initials are LL and I'm kind of stumped at the prospect of coming up with six or seven L - L - phrases. I'm impressed that Alex V. could even do this. Ego schmego.

Eric NC 9:55 AM  

Evil Doug. Shame on you. Accept my signing to you as shown in Rex's clip of "Peace". (In the UK that's not a V sign).

Poor constructor - he may now even develop an inferiority complex from your remarks :)

Rex Parker 10:01 AM  

ED is just being ED.

AV is good-natured.

ACME at least got that I wasn't Entirely serious about the constructor's ego.

And yes, that lady does have a big head. I would've posted a Much sexier AV painting, but ... I've had my blog flagged for lesser offenses.

Have a nice day.


jackj 10:09 AM  

This is Alex’s third puzzle, (his first was published in June of 2011 on the date of his high school graduation), but, this early in his career I think we can forgive him for developing a theme based only on his initials.

With AUDIO VISUAL nowhere to be found, nor AUTHORIZED VERSION or AD VALOREM or ABE VIGODA or AMY VANDERBILT or ABIGAIL VAN BUREN or, even a fellow who is a cut above, ANTONIO VIVALDI we do get almost everything else, from AUXILIARY VERB to AFRICAN VIOLET, eight of them, in fact.

But, though the theme answers avoided the usual suspects, they still came across as rather bland overall, by also relying on such as AT VARIANCE and ARTICLEVII.

The fill was lively in spots, especially OCTOBER for “Kind of surprise” (it is what neither Presidential candidate wants to see used against them in Oct. 2012), and JONES for “Intense hankering”. Also noteworthy were OBLIQUE, NEUTERS, CALLOUS and FORMOSA, (particularly since we learned that it means “beautiful” in Portuguese).

This was a noble effort by young Mr. Vratsanos but 21x21 grids need to be sprinkled with a lot of glitter to win our favor and this one could have used a bit more sparkle.

Keep ‘em coming, A.V. but don’t just flip your initials and use V.A. for the next one (VALUE ADDED, notwithstanding)!

Anatoli Vronsky 10:09 AM  

@Leslie, @Eric - You're making a mistake about Evil Doug by taking him seriously. ED hates the thought police, at least when he's not the thought police, in which case they're ok.

We've all seen hundreds of weak themes, which we simply state are weak themes. Give us a a chance to blame a weak theme on some readily identifiable conceit such as my initials and we blame the constructor. If we can't see the aegis of the weak theme, it's just a weak theme, even though the theme could have been equally personal. Earlier this week we had a BANDB theme - how do we know the constructor didn't create the puzzle to commemorate recently losing his/her virginity at a B&B? Did we dismiss the puzzle due to that reason?

ED's just a blowhard.

KRMunson 10:47 AM  

I liked "JONES" for an "intense hankering". "Jonesin'" is a common, present-day verb for an intense desire - it can be drugs or anything else ("I'm JONES'in for a good pepperoni pizza." This was an ok puzzle; not bad, not great. Mr. AV, we look forward to more of your puzzles in the future!

chefbea 11:11 AM  

Got the theme early on with African Violet and aloe vera. But a lot I don't understand.

CGI ???
October surprise??? guess it has to do with halloween?

Thanks A.V. for stopping by

Anonymous 11:18 AM  

In a vernacular about which I am familiar but in which I do not engage, a "jones" is a physical manifestation of an intense desire. Recognizing this made the clue unappetizing (which is fine, any clue can be twisted in such a way) but reachable.

Norm 11:22 AM  

A nice little puzzle. Nothing wrong with a constructor being inspired by his own name. Heck, between his name and the title, I suspected the theme before I even started. Evil can crawl back into his lair and come back when he's ready to play nice again. ;-)

Norm 11:24 AM  

Chefbea: October surprise is a term for a last minute act/ploy to tip the scales in a presidential (or other, I suppose) election.

hazel 11:38 AM  

Maybe farmers don't use the term ensile, but I bet the USDA sure does. Its got the aroma bureaucrat-speak all over it!!

To borrow from NYT mag, Not hot. Not not. Just MEH.

maybe MEH plus. The conceit was evident to me before i started so there was no realy joy in uncovering AUXILIARYVERB et al - but I did the whole puzzle and it satisfied my puzzle JONES so, OK, i'll take it.

P.s. @ACME - I have never once looked for phrases with my initials in it. maybe because they're not a thing, I don't know. I am not normal. QED

AV - I look forward to your next puzz.

Norm 11:43 AM  

Update, in case you're interested. Possible explanation for yesterday's OLD PAL posted at end of those comments.

Anonymous 11:51 AM  

Enjoyed it! Nice job Alex. Ignore the haters. This was like a get-well bouquet after getting ill from yesterday's puzzle. I feel much better now : )

Tommy DeVito 11:55 AM  

When you google Rex Parker, the first hit has : "Amusing daily blog which reviews the New York Times puzzle."

When does the "amusing" come back ?

Anonymous 11:59 AM  

Solid theme for a Sunday. An enjoyable solve for me. I like this type of theme much better than add-or-remove-letter(s) puzzles.

ALT-TAB, AQUA VITAE: nice fill!

Thanks Alex! Looking forward to seeing your byline again soon.

orangeblossomspecial 12:01 PM  

Thanks for the explanations of JONES. I wasn't familiar with the expression despite listening to the old Cheech & Chong albums. Or else I forgot. Or else I wasn't concentrating at the time.

billocohoes 12:03 PM  


CGI = Computer Generated Image, as used in movies now to replace 'a cast of thousands' (of extras) or stock-photo backgrounds.

Tita 12:03 PM  

Not sure I understand folks who think a Sunday is "too big"...Sunday is for lingering - a 2nd cup of coffee, one more toast of homemade bread (one of the many perks of staying at my mom's...)
Just another 'to each his own' I suppose.

Mom confirms that FORMOSA is archaic. You would never hear it in common parlance. Not a dig - just an observation. I liked the gimme!
@ret_chem - LOL!

@Alex Vratsanos...thank you for your post! It isn't easy to publicly confess. Glad to see your willingess to learn from not only the editors, but from us. (Talk about vanity!)

I noticed the "VEE", and was looking for an "AY" somehow.

Many clues that I really liked (I tagged 17), but found the theme lacked any other relation or connection...

A few likes: 8D Tom, Dick, or Harry, MOORED for Tied up, LOPE for Easy run...

Shamik 12:06 PM  

@chef bea: CGI is computer generated image....what is being done in a lot of movies and sometimes as the entire movie.

I was surprised how easy this puzzle was...not a record Sunday time, but on the very easy side of easy.

Smiled at EVILEYE which I always imagine ED giving with a partial wink and sardonic smile.

If I were ever to construct a Sunday puzzle (and don't hold your breath), it would be such a momentous occasion, it would be a grand opportunity to use my initials. A little ego is important in this world.

Sue McC 12:20 PM  

Theme felt weak, but I'm not willing to ascribe motive to the constructor...especially now that I know how young he is. And kudos to him for showing himself here. It was a good Sunday puzzle. Not snazzy, but solid. Keep at it, AV!

GenJoneser 12:31 PM  

Lest I be accused of vanity too,
AV thanks for the shout out to us

Never liked the definition of Boomer
spanning 1946-1965.
My parents were children during WW II.
How could I be a baby born during the post WW II boom?
Also there are vast differences culturally
among people born between those years.

Don't love the term JONESer
though for its drug heritage, but
I understand what the person who
coined it was trying to say. We
tend to either lean more to the
Boomers or the Xers depending on
your JONES.

Thanks for "listening" and enjoy your day all!

chefbea 12:36 PM  

@Norm, @Billocohoes, @Shamik - thanks for the explanations

And speaking of initials..puzzle husband"s are RAW..Now that would make a good theme. Evil would have a field day with that theme!!!

Anoa Bob 1:03 PM  

We have another example of what to do if one of your theme entries comes up short on the letter count---make it a gratuitous plural! You can usually get one more letter and sometimes you can even pump up the letter count by two.

VOLCANO works well because you can make it plural with an "S" or an "ES", thereby boosting the letter count by one or two. Very flexible. Here we see the letter count go from 13 to 15 with 38A ACTIVE VOLCANOES.

I would have preferred ANTONIO VIVALDIS ("Four Seasons" composer and namesakes.) for the 15-letter entry in that slot.

r.alphbunker 1:19 PM  

I liked the puzzle.

I did not notice the connection with the constructor's name until coming here. Liked @jae's mention of the Onion publication.

I thought that using AV produced some interesting answers so I don't care if it is the constructors initials. If that is the extent of Alex's vanity he is a modest man (which his post seems to indicate).

If the puzzle had been published on February 18, 2018 it could have been a tribute to Volta who was born on that day in 1745.

And did anyone else notice the mini theme of missing whales? Wanted WHALE for both {They're likely to blow} and {"Great blue" creature}. And a lot of Air Force Academy student grow up to be AVators.

Rube 1:26 PM  

Enjoyed this, even though it took longer than I would have liked. The last to fall was the East when I thought, "is there a theme here"? Looked at the title, put in VII and "boom", the puzzle was finished. Really should look at the title of Sunday puzzles, first.

We can't seem to grow AFRICAN VIOLETS here... they just sit there for a year or 2, and then die. I guess I've heard of an OCTOBER surprise, but I had to get almost all the crosses before I accepted it. Never heard of JONESing either... nor ADELE.

PHOEBE has been in enough xwords that it's in the system. That's one of those pop culture words that is more crosswordese than a real thing/person, so it's referred to as an "it" in my vocabulary.

Don't listen to ED. I usually don't unless there's a real ruckus brewing. He's just grandstanding, or as @RP says, "just being Doug".

Yikes! Just noticed that I had LEsA for LENA. Thus, it's now a DNF, (sob). Another river to add to the Crosswordese list!

Anonymous 1:36 PM  

I had "obvious" instead of "oblique", which I think is a better fit but sure messed up that section of the puzzle...especially when the 'u' fit with Nurmi.

Joe in Montreal 1:41 PM  

pleasant enough. Perhaps Mr Shortz could remember syndication: just 'yesterday' we had Norwich plural ISE.

Abe Vigoda 2:17 PM  

To Alex V- I thought your puzzle was fine, and many of us appreciate your comments.

However, I don't think that bad behavior should be excused or condoned on this blog or anywhere.
Those who use this blog as a means of venting their hostilities or unfunny sense of humor spoil it for those who seek an enJOYable puzzle-solving experience.

Enjoy your day!toula ofsom

Minnesota eddy 2:18 PM  

Somebody please explain 78 down, "limn" for "portray". My only remaining hole because I didn't know the card game or the sister.

Abe Vigoda 2:25 PM  

Right now I'm NOT enjoying that my capchas look like I signed it as a Norwegian woman...

Anonymous 2:30 PM  

@Minnesota eddy

limn: to draw, portay, describe

evil doug 2:31 PM  

"However, I don't think that bad behavior should be excused or condoned on this blog or anywhere.
Those who use this blog as a means of venting their hostilities or unfunny sense of humor spoil it for those who seek an enJOYable puzzle-solving experience."

Couldn't agree more, Abe.

Sorry, Rex. You're outta here.


archaeoprof 2:56 PM  

Put me in with the minority who liked this puzzle. Found it interesting, and would rate it just short of challenging.

@Abe Vigoda: nice to hear from you. You were great in The Godfather, and terrific in "Barney Miller" too.

Lewis 2:58 PM  

My opinion is that it is better not to publish at all unless it passes your bar of quality. It sounds like, Alex, in your rush to redo the puzzle, you sent back something less in quality than you would have liked, something short of your bar. My opinion? You shouldn't have sent it in at that point. I'm hoping that's the lesson you learned.

But hear in the comments in this blog a lot of praise as well -- those are things to learn from as well, to build on.

And have as much fun as you'd like in your puzzle making. BUILD on making a theme out of your initials!

ED's main point, as I hear it, is, as you construct a puzzle, keep in the forefront of your mind the solvers, not yourself. That is sound advice...

Dean J. 3:19 PM  

Last time I checked, Cancun is not an island, or "isla." Cozumel is an island off the coast of Cancun. Isla Mujeres is an island off the coast of Cancun. Cancun is a city in the state of Quintana Roo, Mexico

joho 3:24 PM  

Hey, Alex, you just had your first Sunday puzzle published in the New York Times ... congratulations!

Very admirable of you to stop by .. I think you were absolutely victorious!

edmcan 3:36 PM  

Am I the only one who doesn't understand how 107Down, clued as 'beginning to cry' solves as AFAR?

Can someone please enlighten me? Please???

Anonymous 3:39 PM  


The expression "a far cry"

edmcan 3:42 PM  

Thanks Anon-that's still quite a stretch, I think.

Abe Vigoda 3:49 PM  


I really enjoyed playing the rat in GODFATHER- "it was just business".

Some think that I'm dead- I'm just OLD!! Old enough to know BUCKY BEAVER and OLD PAL...I used to call Barney that.

Thanks for remembering!

For Vhat its Vorth 3:54 PM  


1)That V in ActiVe bothered me more than the one in VII, surprised you didn't call it out.

2) He may not have a wiki page, but 3 bullets from you should be some sort of claim to fame:

May 17, 2008 – 28A: Newsman Roger (O'Neil) - I wanted AILES. Is that ... someone

Dec 5, 2011 – Bullets: 24D: TV newsman Roger (O'NEIL) — no idea who this guy is. I thought the answer would be AILES

May 6, 2012 – 56D: Newsman Roger (O'NEIL) — Dude does not have a wikipedia page, what the hell? He was "the reporter of record" for the JonBenet ...

Octavian 4:01 PM  

Easy-going theme tarted up with thorny cluing makes for a breezy but fun Sunday puzzle.

Once I got the theme from the title, I literally proceeded down the blank grid and wrote in every A/V theme clue without any crosses. I've heard of people doing that before, but it was a first for me.

I don't have any problem w/ the kid using his own name as a theme. It's cheeky and brash and inventive and everything we want smart kids to be. Otherwise nothing valuable would ever get done.

I wonder if there is something special about A/V as a two word, initial-letter format. I.e. I wonder if you could line up every possible two-letter combination -- AA, AB, AC, AD .... BA, BB, BC ... then reverse .... ZZ, ZY, ZX ... and figure out which pair has the most possible common names and phrases.

If you did that, would A-V be near the top, or in the middle, of the possible variations? Something for one of the database whizzes to program and test.

Norm 4:25 PM  

Evil @ 2:31 -- I may have exceeded my limit for today, but had to applaud that one. LMFAO

imsdave 5:20 PM  


The Superman group:



LoversLane (yes, I know I repeated Lane)
LandLover (or Lubber)

Just a thought...

Sparky 5:20 PM  

Left a hole in NE corner. Could not get bet out of mind even when I erased it. So threw in the towel. Ashamed I missed NEUTERS as we had a similar pairing just recently. @jackj. Thanks for explaining OCTOBER. Guessed right on LENA. The title was fair warning.

If you forget the catchpas are words and see them only as letters to be copied that makes it easier.

foodie 5:28 PM  

I thought this was a fine Sunday puzzle. The theme was minimalist (which I vastly prefer over rococo) but it allowed for un-tortured fill-- greatly appreciated!

This probably way too medical, but I was somehow expecting a play on "AV malformation", a heritable problem in the connection between an Artery and a Vein that can either be completely asymptomatic or cause problems, such as seizures. But in the context of a puzzle, I thought that something between the A and the V could be misspelled or missing... Obviously way more convoluted than the theme was.

I put French nuN in lieu of heN...

Not sure I fully get the OBLIQUE clue, it's a bit too oblique may be?

And I'm proud to say that I got "A"mazing "V"anity as soon as I read it, because Rex's overall tone was fairly neutral and this seemed to come out of left field, and then an aha! a smile, and a hope that the constructor would also like it.

Anonymous 5:43 PM  

Abe, it was the smart move!

chefbea 6:04 PM  

Watching golf... in over time!!!

Will our fearless leader be on???

imsdave 6:53 PM  

I missed a few obvious ones:


chefwen 8:13 PM  

@Evil Doug - Read all your comments and thoroughly enjoy them, I just wish you would infuse a little more of the Doug that shed a tear when some kid thanked him for his service on Veterans Day. That's the Doug that I fell for.

Inre. Puzzle, liked it a lot. AUXILEARY VERB giving me the most angst.

Anonymous 8:47 PM  

Cancum is not an island

jberg 9:53 PM  

I struggled with this one - took forever to see that to wager $5 was to PUT $5 on red (or on a horse); and I persisted in reading the 54D clue for 57A. I found myself thinking "two Siberian rivers!" but never cottoned to the misreading until I finally guessed O'NEIL, which gave me ONE-A.

But after figuring out both those tough spots, I finished with an unquestioned error in the SW - rAH crossing rAFTS.

Never noticed the constructors' initials, either. In my defense, I got up early to go birding, and didn't get to the puzzle until 2 PM - by which time I'd probably used up my mental agility for the day.

Howard B 11:05 AM  

ED is emphasizing the E it seems.

AV: Challenging solve, and there's nothing wrong with having an initial bit of fun, if the theme and grid stand up. Here I think it was a pretty solid Sunday puzzle with some tricky bits. I kicked myself for folding, splindling, and mutilating Mr. Volta's first name. (Alexander? Alexandro - wait, that doesn't fit...? Bob? etc.).

Almost every puzzle has room for improvement, so just keep on striving for that general improvement, without getting too hung up on any one particular comment or detail. If you feel that cluing needs improvement, put some extra time into that, but consider all feedback, and above all, keep that calm demeanor - it's an asset :).

Brian J. Bushaw 6:48 PM  

I have to call shenanigans on Mr. Vratsanos on this puzzle if for no other reason than 35A. I see the comments above about Kurt Russel playing Wyatt Earp in "Tombstone." I assumed there was a mistake and put Earp in as it was clearly the only title role Costner has played (though he is in JFK and Dances with Wolves wouldn't fit).

To learn that Val Kilmer was in an apparently straight to video film released six weeks ago called "Wyatt Earp's Revenge" is a bit nasty. The IMDB reviews mention it as "the worst Western of all time."

Shame on you and your vanity.

Anonymous 11:21 PM  

Good Heavens! It's Sunday-- sit back, relax, and enjoy the puzzle. Alex, keep constructing-- this was fun, even if a few clues were a little Oblique. Your theme certainly made more sense than many. Wonder if ED has ever had a puzzle published in the NYT?

How much fun to hear from Abe Vigoda! Glad to know you're enjoying life!

Marty 5:42 PM  

I know!!! That clue annoyed me so much. I don't agree that it's egotistical to create a puzzle based on your own initials, though.

Dirigonzo 3:21 PM  

Here in syndiland I saw the theme as soon as I read the puzzle's title, and I was not especially bothered that it matched the constructor's initials. What troubles me is that ED again comments on a puzzle that he didn't even solve and uses it as an opportunity to lecture both AV and some commenters here. That's not "ED being ED", that's ED being rude and CALLOUS. And I promise this will be the last time that I draw attention to his boorish comments. (End of rant)

While I saw the theme early I was all the way down to the bottom of the grid when AFRICANVIOLET appeared to show me how it worked. This let me go back up through the grid filling in the As and Vs (AUXILIARYVERB still took a while to appear).

Loved the clue for 1a ESTATE. I had a Poodle named PHOEBE many years ago - nice to be reminded of her; she had a remarkable story that I have written about elsewhere. Misspelled PEaLE at 36d, and had another error as I had the Narc finding amP(hetamines) so that section was a mess.

Didn't know JONES or LIMN, but the crosses wouldn't let them be anything else so they stayed in.

Good Sunday puzzle, Alex Vratsanor!

OK, one captcha isfJewspo - that just has to be toally un-PC and offensive to Jewspo everywhere.

DMGrandma 4:25 PM  

As noted by others, the theme was clear from the title, but not all of the answers were. Took awhile with Auxillaty Verb and Mr Volta's first name. Finally threw in the towel at oblique and Nurmi. I still (after looking it up) think oblique was improperly clued. My experience speaks of oblique angles and oblique references.
Finally, why would someone make the effort to ridicule a puzzle that he had no interest in solving? Must be some ego thing. People amaze me.
Robot words,while PC, i think, sound like a command, but to do what? sivequi stiwas

Ginger 4:45 PM  

Happy Mother's Day to fellow syndilanders and your Moms! Hope your weather, wherever you are, is as wonderful as it is here. (84 and rising). Really too pretty do be doing a puzzle, yet I did, and had a lot of fun doing it.

Shout out to me at 38-A as I can see one from my window! 'JONES' must be newer in the vernacular, but it was gettable from the crosses. Liked the theme answers, they kept this interesting. AFRICAN VIOLET in this puzzle is much more viable than the one on my window sill. Got a kick out of 90-D golf pencils apparently do not have ERASERSs. Keep it honest out there guys ;-)

Captcha thelythe ovile - the lythe evil!

Ginger 4:52 PM  

The clue for oblique doesn't bother me....think carom (glancing) ball off the rail on a pool table.

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