Japanese port / MON 6-4-12 / Richard Clarence Darrow defendant / 1960s-70s Ford Company model / Classic beauty who is not all there / Blue Grotto's island / River across French German border

Monday, June 4, 2012

Constructor: John R. O'Brien

Relative difficulty: Medium


THEME: Planets ... ? — four theme answers, each starting with a planet name

Word of the Day: OTARU (31D: Japanese port) —

Otaru (小樽市 Otaru-shi?) is a city and port in ShiribeshiHokkaidoJapan, northwest ofSapporo. The city faces the Ishikari Bay, and has long served as the main port of the bay. With its many historical buildings, Otaru is a popular tourist destination. Because it is a 25-minute drive from Sapporo, it has recently grown as a bedroom community.
As of July 31, 2011, the city has an estimated population of 131,706 with 67,308 households and a population density of 541.71 persons per km². The total area is 243.13 km². Although it is the largest city in Shiribeshi Subprefecture, the subprefecture's capital is the more centrally-locatedKutchan). (wikipedia)
• • •

I had heard that Will was in need of Monday puzzles, but I had no idea things had gotten this bad. This puzzle has multiple, serious problems that virtually any constructor can see and probably most solvers can sense, if not identify outright. First, the theme is weak. I mean, Weak. Why these planets? What about the others? Why just four? Why is SATURN ROCKET acceptable, when it's clearly named after the planet (all the others have at least arguably non-planetary contexts)? I thought at first that the second words were "space" words (see also MERCURY COMET), but then ... no. Then there's the quality of the theme answers themselves. If SATURN ROCKET is creaky, MARS CANDIES completely topples to the ground. It's just not a coherent enough phrase for a Monday puzzle (possibly for any puzzle).



Moving on: 78-worders are the Easiest grids to fill, and yet this one has multiple, utterly avoidable construction issues [correction: this puzzle actually has 80 words ... 80 ... I've literally never seen this in a 15 x 15 NYT grid ... there's no reason on god's green earth for a puzzle like this to exceed the 78 max ... I have no idea what kind of Bizarro world we're in now ... please believe that this is not just "grumpy old Rex"—this is the outlyingest outlier of a Monday, basic quality-wise, that I've ever seen]. WAUSAU? (4D: Wisconsin city) What the hell? You build a grid that requires you to put in a word that fits the --U--U pattern!?!? That's insanity. See also OTARU!?!?!? (i.e. O---U doesn't leave you with much either) These words a. don't belong in Monday puzzles and b. are not great words—not words you'd put in Any puzzle unless you had to; and c. are completely avoidable. This puzzle has cheater squares? (?!?!) [extra black squares that don't affect word count that make grid easier to fill—above 66, left of 21 OR above 30, above 66, depending on which ones you want to count]. Why ... just why? One of my friends called this puzzle a "Newsday reject," and it is. Objectively. Newsday's puzzles, day in and day out, are of a much higher caliber than this. I have no idea what happened here. This should've been rejected, or, maybe, most generously, accepted pending an entire grid rewrite. WAUSAU and OTARU and LOEB (41D: Richard ___, Clarence Darrow defendant) and unintuitive theme answers (not to mention the preponderance of suboptimal eurojunk like SAAR and CAEN) (73A: River across the French/German border + 50D: Battle of Normandy city) and poor grid design etc. etc. etc. mean this puzzle never should've seen the light of day. It is not rare that I dislike a puzzle, but it is rare that I say with this kind of confidence that this simply doesn't meet basic NYT standards.


Theme answers:
  • 17A: A classic beauty who is not all there (VENUS DE MILO)
  • 27A: Booster of the Apollo space program (SATURN ROCKET)
  • 48A: 1960s-'70s Ford Company model (MERCURY COMET)
  • 65A: Milky Way bars and others (MARS CANDIES)
Fun fact: the total combined population of WAUSAU and OTARU and CAEN < 300,000.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

88 comments:

foodie 12:17 AM  

I wasn't crazy about it. And i agree with all of Rex's criticisms, MARS CANDIES foremost amongst them. But I guess I didn't annoy me as much as it did Rex. May be because I did while listening to Il Volo.. Those kids are fun.

Nice to see Acme and to its opposite, nadir, in the puzzle.

retired_chemist 12:21 AM  

Liked it better than Rex did. But not by a large margin.

Had TIBET before NEPAL but was ready to change if needed, which it was. SAAR was a gimme.

Minor nit: Clue for PCB seems a bit off to this chemist - PCBs are a group of compounds and the clue seems to indicate a single compound. So I began with DDT, which IS a single compound. Oh well.

60A "Number in an octet" is EIGHT? And whose statue is in the Lincoln Memorial? Fie!

Tobias Duncan 12:28 AM  

Uggh,my time put this in Challenging Monday/Medium Tuesday territory.I will be very curious to see what our San Francisco friends numbers say.

pk 12:52 AM  

Same write-over as @Ret_Chem with DDT at first before PCB, but he had a better reason.

Clunky theme - but did enjoy seeing Venus de Milo in the puzz - rest of the theme - not so much.

Liked the Tia Maria crossing, and Ezra, just because I like Ezra.

Those are all of the nice things I can think of to say.

jae 1:02 AM  

I'm with r_c on DDT and Tobias on the tougher than normal rating. In too liked it better than Rex, but then I probably have lower expectations. The planet incongruities did bother me. Sub-optimal eurojunk sounds kinda emasculating, especially if you're from France or Italy or ...

JenCT 1:35 AM  

Same DDT to PCB mistake.

Wish I noticed all the things @Rex does, but I just don't - yet.

We actually had a MERCURY COMET once...

Steve J 2:11 AM  

At first, I didn't think this was that much worse than a typical Monday. Notable Mondays are rare, so a very unnotable one, as this is, didn't strike me as that unusual.

But as I sit down to write a comment, I realize just how vacant this is. This is the most nothing theme I've ever seen in the NYT. Ok, planets. Yeah, and? At least try to put them in order, or get all the rock or all the gaseous planets together. Or all of them. Or something.

Agreed with @retired_chemist that 60A was entirely too tautological.

All that said, I'll give this credit for spelling AMOEBA the way it usually appears, instead of what seems to be the more common (in crossworld) AMEBA.

Anonymous 2:44 AM  

It should be noted that, by my count, there are 80 words, even more than the usual maximum of 78, and not one stands out as interesting to me, except maybe Venus de Milo. Just about every word seems like it should only be there to facilitate a more interesting and lively answer.

ahsieh 2:54 AM  

Does this theme have anything to do with Venus crossing the sun tomorrow?

Anonymous 2:55 AM  

I like this puzzle a helluva lot more than I like Rex's captchas. Let's face it. Rex's captchas do not meet the basic standards for captchas. Most should be rejected out of hand or at least returned for rewrite. It's not rare that I dislike captchas but Rex's fall into a category of their own, ones that shouold never see the light of day.

syndy 3:15 AM  

halleluia brother! I thought this was about PAGAN gods! It ran a gamut from not very monday words to the frankly insulting clue for OCTET-maybe WS needs to pony up a little more bread!

Evan 3:20 AM  

Correction, Rex -- this is an 80-word puzzle, not 78. But if anything, that only furthers your point about the grid needing some better fill. I'm all for fitting in some uncommon letters, but is an X really necessary if the end result is CXVI?

I won't add anything else about the construction, suffice it to say that this was not my favorite puzzle.

However, I would like some clarification from other readers. While I solved this one with no mistakes, what do people consider a DNF? I typically see a fair number of comments from people stating that they finished a puzzle but had one or two mistakes, and thus they give themselves a DNF. I disagree -- I say that you did finish, but with one or two mistakes. I call it a DNF if you give up on a puzzle and then look up the answers before it's all filled in. Or, if you were at the ACPT, you had a DNF if you didn't turn in your puzzle before time was up.

chefwen 3:55 AM  

I'm with @Steve J on this one. Was trying to think of something to say about the puzzle, but there was nothing to be said, it was just there. No write-overs, no mistakes, no nuttin' honey.

Last letter in was the A in OTARU and LAO, Chinese philosopher, what elso could have been other than an A. Onward to Tuesday.

Anonymous 4:19 AM  

@Evan. I usually give myself 3-4 incorrect answers—after that it's a DNF. I might make an exception if a puzzle is particulary heavy on Americanisms, being an overseas solver.

Agree with Rex on this one—not up to NYT standard.

John V 6:20 AM  

From the tarmac.

Alas.

Z 6:47 AM  

Planets? I was thinking more mythology. XENA, SETH, EZRA, PAGAN, HERA. Even some of the other fill evokes mythology, CAPRI, NEPAL, SITAR, RELIC, and that most selfish of all gods, EGO.

Hard to recover from a four letter RRN at 1D. This did take a little extra thought in some places, but still no more than easy-medium. I did not react as strongly as Rex, but still, CXVI at 1D.

NancyKav 6:53 AM  

When I filled in VENUS DE MILO, I was sure this would be a tribute to the transit of Venus tomorrow. But, alas, no. That would have been cool.

Leslie 7:48 AM  

I had PVC before PCB and "ravish" before RAVAGE.

I thought the awkward fill was because this one was aiming at being a pangram, but nope.

orangeblossomspecial 7:58 AM  

Golly, Rex. Why don't you tell us what you really think?

I'm frustrated with Roman numerals as fill. That numbering system was out of date 2000 years ago and only survives now in crosswords and Super Bowls.

A couple of songs feature 17A VENUS either as titles or in lyrics. "Venus" was a hit for Frankie Avalon.

Cliff Edwards' "Love is just around the corner" has a great line: "strictly between us, you're cuter than Venus, and what's more you've go arms". If Edwards' voice is familiar, you recognize him as Jiminy Cricket.

11D "PAGAN love song" was popular in the 20s. This version is from Lawrence Welk's show in the 50s.

jberg 8:06 AM  

1D, "116 in ancient Rome" was almost as bas as "number in an octet." Too easy even for a Monday, plus everything everyone else said. I had PAGAN by the time I got to 11A, so no problem there, but I can see it would trap across-only speed solvers.

Two positive points: the plural ACMES (the more the better, I say!) with NADIR, and TIA MARIA crossing itself. That's about it.

@Z, NEPAL is mythological? I have to admit, I've never actually seen it...

Kevin 8:22 AM  

Some very annoying crosses on this one for a Monday. Crossing OTARU with LAO and WAUSAU with IDEST in a Monday puzzle? Come on now. I also have absolutely no clue what TIA MARIA is. For a Monday, it seems like that could have been clued in a less esoteric way (or maybe I just need to drink more and I'll get the reference).

Milford 8:22 AM  

Initially entered johnfkennedy for 27A.
Hey, it fit.

mac 8:24 AM  

I agree with you, @Evan. I don't know how that rule snuck into the conversation.

Blah. Not even a couple of beautiful words to appease me.

joho 8:37 AM  

@Rex, I couldn't agree with you more!

My greatest disappointment was the space-agey connection between SATURN & ROCKET and MERCURY & COMET ... then nothing even remotely space-y connecting VENUS and MARS. VENUSALIENS or MARSRAYGUN are terrible examples but the theme really needed something to kick it into blast off mode!

I also wrote in the margin: CXVI, PHD, EEO, PCB, AAA, RNS, GPS, SYL and LAX.

OTARU was also my pick for WOTD.

The best thing about this puzzle was the shout out to SETH in the middle. And ACMES and NADIR.

A friend sent me the special glasses to watch the transition of Venus tomorrow and I hope to see it!

Glimmerglass 8:43 AM  

@Anonymous 2:55 Thanks for "captcha" This is a new one to me. I find out from Wikipedia that it's an acronym coined in 2000. But it sounds enough like "gotcha" that it's a very cool word. As for the puzzle and the write-up: meh. I think it's a Monday principle that you can have an obscure word (LOEB, OTARU) if it is crossed by ridiculously easy ones. This does not make an interesting puzzle.

Doug Garr 8:47 AM  

Wow, Rex is in a bad mood. Probably because he's been away for a few days. Medium? Found this puzzle very, very easy. Finished in record time and I'm just an amateur solver. So the theme was so-so? My only gripe was that I looked at the Saturn clue and thought "Saturn Five" as the booster was known among the congescenti. If you ever see one up close, it's a memorable experience. It is one mother of a rocket. As in really big.

Gareth Bain 8:51 AM  

@Anonymous (2:55): You blame Rex for the captchas??? The captchas are part of Blogger, the blog-publishing service Rex uses, and a Google subsidiary. He has no control whatsoever short of changing services entirely (which means, among other things, a whole new web address).

chefbea 9:04 AM  

Found the puzzle very easy!! Got nadir first and figured we'd get acme. Hand up for liking tia maria crossing and hand up for liking Tia Maria!!

ArtLvr 9:18 AM  

Very timely puzzle, with the Venus Transit coming tomorrow! Your next chance to view this rare phenomenon, Venus crossing between Earth and the Sun, will be in 2117 (if you are still around)... I also knew WAUSAU in Wisconsin and from an Old camp song sung as a round: “Wausau the 42nd” — but now I find it’s from the Scottish:
Wha saw the forty-second,/ Wha saw them gang awa’,/ Wha saw the forty-second,/ Mairchin’ doon the Broomielaw. / Some o’ them had buits an’ stockins,/ some o’ them had nane at a’,/ Some o’ them had umberellas [4 syllables!]/ Mairchin’ doon the Broomielaw

Z 9:25 AM  

Let's try this again...

@jberg - evokes mythology, because when I see NEPAL my brain immediately thinks "yeti." And Capri because that evokes lotus-eaters, although I can't remember if that is classical mythology or my brain mixing it up with something more modern. I'm sure someone here knows

Cheerio 9:40 AM  

It's always interesting to hear Rex comment on construction. I'd like to learn more about that. I suppose I could just go buy a book, but this blog is where I'd like to learn. Just sayin.

Tita 9:41 AM  

Wow - maybe I had had too much wine by the time I got around to this...I kinda liked the theme, though I did wonder exactly what the theme was...

Maybe I'm prejudiced by loving all things astronomical, having 3 of my pets in the grid (VENUS, MARz, and COMET), and loving Milky Way CANDIES.

Also, fun things I learned...
Lime is an OXIDE.
VENUSDEMILO had her arms when she was found in the 19th c! I'll never feel dumb after losing a movie ticket or car keys...at least I'm not the one who lost those arms!

OTOH - wasn't El Greco ummm... well... Greek?

Anyhow, I do agree that the theme was unclear - Solar system? Mythology? Antiquity?
Lots of related fill...RELIC, GIZA, Persia, HERA, IRIS, PAGAN, Rome...

jackj 9:50 AM  

Another Monday, another debut puzzle.

This offering from John O’Brien has a theme that is probably a tad too straightforward to earn a standing “O”, (or even a sitting “O”), from we picky solvers. Putting forth planets named after Roman deities with “vanilla” cluing isn’t geared to winning the hearts and minds of the crossword cognoscenti who thrive on the daily feast which is the Times puzzle.

Nevertheless, there was a surprisingly strong start by Mr. O’B with his first theme clue, “A classic beauty who is not all there”, for VENUSDEMILO, which was excellent, but the next three theme clues drifted off into a bland land of perfunctoriness.

The fill featured the good, CRAW, OSCAR and UNLOCK to name three; the bad, SYL, OTARU, SAAR and CAEN; the mindless, which gave us octet’s EIGHT and then there were yin/yang clues like ACMES v. NADIR and HUMANE v. RAVAGE that gave us some unexpected and interesting wordplay.

Unfortunately, John has given us an imperfect puzzle which, at least, is a reminder that Will is always struggling to fill the bottomless gaping maw of the Times crossword page.

Anonymous 9:54 AM  

This must be the offering of a first-time constructor. Will Shortz often loosens standards to get a new face in the door; he's big on increasing the talent pool.

I recentlly revisited my first puzzle from 1995. It was utter garbage with a blinding number of black squares. I hope a bunch of good ones have balanced that one out since.

Joe DiP

quilter1 9:59 AM  

When I saw the clue for VENUS DE MILO I had hope. But no. Found it easy if vapid. Pass the TIA MARIA.

@Tita: thanks for the fun fact about VENUS. I wonder how that happened?

geezerette 10:03 AM  

I liked the idea of the theme, which I took to be PAGAN gods and goddesses. It’s too bad that after the terrific start with VENUS DE MILO the execution didn’t really work out--unfortunate that there wasn’t room for the “V” for the SATURN (Five) ROCKET and that “MARS Bars” didn’t have enough letters to fit the grid,

@orangeblossomspecial, I’m of the vintage that can sing along with Frankie Avalon. And let’s not forget Jimmy Clanton’s Venus in Blue Jeans.

@ArtLvr - I can't believe that somebody else knows "Wausau the 42nd"! Except at my camp we had them marching through the "brambles raw." :)

Frank C. Mars 10:15 AM  

Finally, I'm recognized as the god I was. Oh wait, I'm still just another schmuck from Minnesota? A dead one at that? Damn!

The only acceptable music tie-in to Venus is this.

DickS 10:21 AM  

As an LXXVIII-year-old X-worder, I like my Monday to start in the top left and finish in the bottom right. I am almost oblivious to the actual fill. I just want to be sure my brain and pen have survived for another week.

John V 10:23 AM  

Well, um, in a word: inchoate.

Plane hour late, something was broken. So happy when that happens.

Anonymous 10:23 AM  

I started to comment on Capchas which somehow led me into a lengthy diatribe about Tea Party intransigence. Funny how a crossword blog evokes such thoughts and feelings. Anyway, as a favor to Rexites, I canned the whole thing. Lucky you. LOL

Two Ponies 10:39 AM  

I'm not a constructor, just a solver. I don't expect much from a Monday so I thought this was fine. As others have noted there were so good points such as spelling amoeba the way I was taught. Being a debut makes me even more forgiving. @ Joe DiP, thanks for adding your input.

To the Downton Abbey fans, I highly recommend seeing The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. To everyone else, you should see it too.

I enjoy astronomical events so will there be anything to view in the Venus Transit?

Howard B 10:43 AM  

The goal of Monday puzzles are to make the themes accessible and easy to the largest potential pool of solving subscribers. Seems we have a few planets here in a mostly non-planetary context (SATURN being an outlier), with a few non-Mondayish answers in there due to the limitations of construction.
MARS CANDIES is definitely the weak link of the theme, but at least it's inferable from the clue.

So for the most part, this puzzle serves its purpose. It is not the epitome of its type, but I accept that this is definitely geared towards the more casual solver. I certainly won't praise or defend its shortcomings, but I won't shred it and throw it to the wild ernes, either. For every one of us here who are aware of word count, etc. there are likely fifty others who simply felt satisfied to have solved it :).

- I say all of this not just as a solver, but knowing that someday, if and when I ever manage to get a puzzle up here, I am fully prepared to have it folded, spindled and mutilated every which way by the public, and to use that information to improve any future submissions. I've heard worse in my life, so I know that I can take it :).
Happy puzzling,
- HB

Gill I. P. 10:45 AM  

Well, it wasn't very showy and the theme answers weren't terribly adventurous but, for a "newbie" constructor I didn't think this was that bad.
I poked around after I finished and the clue for Shrove Tuesday (26D)reminded me of the different places I was either living or visiting during this time.
Shrove Tuesday or Shrove Tide meant any supplies of eggs and milk that hadn't been eaten before the start of LENT were forbidden. So, in England we got pancake Tuesday. In Portugal (hi @Tita) were it's called Fat Tuesday, they eat "malasadas" - a delicious donut-like pastry. In Spain, you have "Chorizo day" or "Day of the omelete." Here, we have Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras and probably eat a lot of okra.
So, the answer LENT just led me astray and gave me an excuse to bore all of you to death.
@Z...Were you thinking of the Lotus Eaters in the Odyssey?
@Tita...El Greco was born in Crete. He wasn't that well received in his native land or in Italy but he became very famous after he moved to Toledo where he spent the rest of his life. The Spaniards consider him one of their own.

Anonymous 11:13 AM  

Gareth Bain - Yes, I blame Rex for the captchas. I blame/credit Rex for everything on this blog, including my posts. Last night I saw a poor man hang himself on Mad Men, a man who momentarily lost his way and was caught and fired by Don the Unmerciful One. Rex's commentary today is just as unmerciful, though I doubt will cause Will or JO'B to commit suicide. Yes the theme is a little thin with only 4 and I suppose if I didn't live in the Midwest and know Wausau I might not like that word either, but I happen to think it's a neat word to sneak into a puzzle on any day of the week. The booster clue for Saturn is a pun but not quite as good as the Venus clue. I liked it. The other two clues are straight, but my parents owned a Mercury Comet which I drove and liked, so I liked that one for the nostalgia. The Milky Way clue is redundant, if anything, but it is a nice touch since it is our galaxy and contains all the theme planets. Mars is an interesting company. It's a family business that is not regulated like companies that go public. And it's reportedly a very rich family. Personally I prefer Snickers over Milky Ways. And I especially blame Rex for saying: “I had heard that Will was in need of Monday puzzles, but I had no idea things had gotten this bad." Utterly gratuitous and needless. Not even insightful. Just a cheap shot. A comment that is far less elegant than anything in the puzzle....

JFC

JenCT 11:25 AM  

Aw, @JFC: no Mad Men spoilers, please! I TIVO that show..

PuzzleNut 11:31 AM  

Thank goodness for BEQ on Monday's.
Finally, a captcha I can read (I hope).

Martin 11:35 AM  

I don't mean to disagree with any of Rex's conclusions, but "Why is SATURN ROCKET acceptable, when it's clearly named after the planet?" should be reconsidered in light of some other rocket and space program names of the day: Atlas, Centaur, Titan and Juno (along with Jupiter). The presumption is also that Project Mercury, followed by Project Gemini and Project Apollo, was mythologically named.

Anonymous 11:42 AM  

Dang!! cut him some slack!! poor feller, he's just trying to give us what we want....A puzzle!!

Pluto 12:07 PM  

WTF about me!? That sonofabitch Neil deGrasse Tyson has totally ruined me! Without him, I could have been in this puzzle, but nooohh, he had to go and stick his damned nose in my business! There's even this great, if kinda sick, anime titled "Pluto Does Minnie", 15 letters, a potential great 5th theme!

Friggin Neil!!

dk 12:10 PM  

* (1 Star) One Amoeba does not make a strain... Or words to that effect.

I like the bumper sticker from Spaceballs better than the Hendrix clip. You know the one I talkin about.

quilter1 12:14 PM  

I second @TwoPonies recommendation of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. I think one might have to be over 50 to fully appreciate it.

Anonymous 12:17 PM  

@Martin - "I don't mean to disagree with any of Rex's conclusions" - Really? Sounds exactly what you meant to do.

foodie 12:20 PM  

@Pluto, you're definitely the highlight of the day and your theme entry rocks !

hazel 12:23 PM  

Tough crowd. I liked it, especially CRAW and the clue for venus.
Well said, @HowardB!
@jfc, on the other hand, SHHHHHH! (re mad men spoilers).

Lewis 12:30 PM  

@jen -- I agree! I DVR that show too! Arrrgh!

To John Obrien -- don't use Rex's comments for a pity party, use them as a challenge. He's made some good points that will make your puzzles better.

I thought ABATE and AGATES made a good pair of words in the puzzle...

Martin 12:44 PM  

@retired_chemist,

I think the PCB clue reads OK. A PCB (2-chlorobiphenyl, e.g.) is a banned, organic compound.

@Ano, 12:17
"Why is SATURN ROCKET acceptable?" is a question. "This puzzle is substandard" is a conclusion.

chefbea 12:45 PM  

I know we won't see the Venus transit here. Perhaps we can Vue Saturn???

Martin 12:48 PM  

OK, 2,3-dichlorobiphenyl anyway.

KarenSampsonHudson 12:48 PM  

Hey, Rex---You seem a bit off balance. Got some post-Colorado visit blues?
The puzzle was not elegant, but ok for a Monday.

AnoN 12:17 1:09 PM  

@Martin - You seemed to be addressing Rex's erronious conclusion that the SATURN ROCKET was named after the planet rather than the Roman god.

And don't call me an ass.

joho 1:11 PM  

I don't get why any Monday should just be "OK." I think they should be easy and accessible to newbies AND also well thought out and entertaining. This is what makes creating a Monday level puzzle so very difficult. And rewarding when you do you it right.

I do congratulate John O'Brien on his debut, for sure, but instead of just settling for "OK" I would encourage him to try for exceptional. Just because it's Monday should't mean it's any less of a puzzle than any other day of the week.

Bird 1:34 PM  

This was a meh for me. A little rough for a Monday due to the flaws and out-of-the-box fill Rex pointed out. I don’t count words or squares, cheater or not, but I do like/dislike theme answers and fill. I liked theme answers 17A and 27A, but I did not like the others. I’m surprised John didn’t try to get all “8” planets in the grid. I liked fill answers 15A and 52A (for the spelling) and 68A crossing 53D, but not much else.

I too entered DDT for 11A, but because it’s the first banned compound(s) that comes to mind.

Only needed to refresh the captchas 7 times before I could attempt to read them.

John V 1:38 PM  

@Evan re: DNF. My standard for a DNF is having any letter(s) unfilled. I never Google, but if I did, I would also count that as a DNF. Errors are what they are. If I finish with an error -- which I discover when I come here -- it's still a finish.

Cub Reporter 1:42 PM  

Dateline: Gotham
Stop the presses! This just in. The Monday puzzle isn't perfect.

Anonymous 2:05 PM  

@anon 12:17

erronious is erroneus...

Anonymous 2:10 PM  

Actually, erronious and erroneus are both erroneous! Sorry...

Bird 2:31 PM  

@Evan re DNF - I think you'll find that each person has their own definition of DNF.

My personal rulebook says that if I filled in all the answers and they are 100% correct and I used only my gray matter, I finished the puzzle.

All other scenarios (blanks, errors, Google, Webster, etc.) = DNF.

mitchs 3:13 PM  

BEQ alert. Great Monday puzzle and a bonus 21 x 21 available...

Unknown 3:18 PM  

Pierre says:
I'm just an amateur and thought this Monday easier than standard Mondays.

I think some of you guys think too much. Perhaps it was to much mythology two days in a row?

Pierre

Doc John 4:00 PM  

Whew, not really too much to add to the commentary!
Props to Rex for the picture of Mercury Morris, the great Dolphins running back.
Since Rex is such a football fan, he might remember that WAUSAU insurance used to advertise all the time during the football games.
Also, does anyone else remember Mr. Brady asking one of the kids (maybe Bobby) if he had something stuck in his CRAW?

Z 4:01 PM  

@Gill I.P. - A little searching through Wikipedia sorted out my confusion. A 1945 short story by Maugham that I must have read 30 years ago (the summer I went through "everything" by Maugham and Saroyan) takes place on Capri and is called "The Lotus-Eater." It doesn't seem that Capri makes an appearance in the Odyssey. I don't remember the story but enough stuck for me to make the association.

sanfranman59 4:40 PM  

Midday report of relative difficulty (see my 8/1/2009 post for an explanation of my method):

All solvers (median solve time, average for day of week, ratio, percentile, rating)

Mon 6:25, 6:49, 0.94, 26%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:50, 3:40, 1.04, 74%, Medium-Challenging

jae 5:09 PM  

@Evan -- Bird described my personal definition of DNF.

@JFC -- Let me add to the pleas for no Mad Men or The Killing or The Simpsons or The Good Wife or The VEEP or Girls spoilers. I have a lot backed up on my DRV.

jackj 5:18 PM  

joho@1:11PM- Amen.

Tita 5:25 PM  

@Gill I.P. - thanks for the clarification re: El Greco...I should have remembered that he was from Crete.
Still, that clueing doesn't sit right with me, but maybe that is on purpose.

Anonymous 6:29 PM  

jae - Not to fear. I don't watch those other shows. As for Mad Men knowing in advance won't spoil the entertainment but I'll keep it in mind in the future for your sake and JenCT....

JFC

chefwen 7:40 PM  

Dear Old Dad showed me a picture of VENUS DE MILO when I was a little kid and told me that's what I was going to look like if I didn't stop biting my nails. Parental abuse!

retired_chemist 8:24 PM  

@ Martin - PCB is, technically, clued OK. IMO the term refers to a class of compounds and as synthesized I am sure there is never any PCB in use that is even reasonably close to a single pure compound. No reason.

So it is not to my taste but it wasn't misleading to the bulk of us.

foodie 9:30 PM  

I think Mondays are like hosting a casual party, while Saturday are like hosting a gala event. In the gala event, it's OK to see that there was a lot of effort taken, a lot of attention to detail, and a certain level of formality. But a very successful casual event takes just as much attention to detail, just as much anticipation of your guests every need, a sense of atmosphere and great food and drink. But the behind the scenes effort should not show-- it needs to feel effortless. Which, in a way, makes it harder to pull off.

I would have loved to get Andrea's perspective on today's puzzle. Under her lighthearted funny commentary are often some very specific pointers to what has worked and what alternate strategy would have been helpful.

sanfranman59 10:01 PM  

This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 8/1/2009 post for an explanation. In a nutshell, the higher the ratio, the higher this week's median solve time is relative to the average for the corresponding day of the week.

All solvers (this week's median solve time, average for day of week, ratio, percentile, rating)

Mon 6:39, 6:49, 0.97, 45%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:46, 3:40, 1.03, 66%, Medium-Challenging

Anonymous 7:18 AM  

So Saturday was easy and this was medium? Nope, even for a Monday this was easy. Nary a "slow down and come back to that one moment" and as such I had one of my rare sub-5:00 minute puzzles, which is about as fast as my fingers will solve a puzzle even when I know all the answers.

Solving in Seattle 3:06 PM  

@foodie, a nice way to think of the degree difference in what most expect in the puzzles.

I liked SARI crossing SITAR, and TSAR crossing SAAR, which are kind of homonyms, maybe. Also, NEPAL crossing ACMES. Alright, I'm searching. It was a BASIC puzzle, but didn't stick in my CRAW as much as it did Rex's.

Ginger 4:05 PM  

I like the clue for VENUSDEMILO, and while the rest of the puzzle doesn't sizzle, I liked it better than our fearless leader.

This past weekend has been wonderful here in the Pacific Northwest. Fifties at night and mid eighties afternoons. CAVU (clear and visibility unlimited). Wish we could export it east and give you all a break.

Now I think I'll go have a TIA MARIA.

DMGrandma 4:54 PM  

Don't be too hard on @JenCT: Thanks, know of Kerouac, but haven't read any of hia work. puzzle style. I, and how many others, started with the early week puzzles and built up to completing (at least sometimes) late week stumpers? My starting days were long before Shortz, and I had another learning curve when he took over and discarded Maleska's esoterica for brand names and all the sports stuff.

Use of WASAU (easily gotten from the acrosses), justifies my being pleased at seeing NOE Valley the other day-a place I actually knew.

@Gil I. P.: Thanks for the trivia on Shrove Tuesday. Now I know why there was so much King Cake in New Orleans!

DMG 5:00 PM  

Wow the cut and paste really fouled up my post. The comment to Jan was last week, somehow it got spliced in here. Grandson just popped in, so no time to straighten things out. Hope I get an easy robot word!

Spacecraft 8:33 PM  

Count me in with the someslack-cutters. OK, the top corners are pretty rough, with the Roman number and the unlikely pattern of 3 consonants/3 vowels/3 consonants in the NE, but after that it's not that bad. And I still wonder what is so horrible about "exceeding the maximum" of 78. I'm adding that to my "so what?" list, as in:

It's a pangram. So what?

It has "cheater" squares. So what?

It has more than 78 words (GASP!) SO FRIGGIN WHAT??

And BTW, for those who can't make sense of which planets were included: they are the four (excluding Earth) closest to the sun. This may not be among the ACMES of xwording, but neither is it the NADIR.

Uranus Gal 8:59 PM  

Jumpin' Jupiters! Nice try @Spacecraft but the largest planet Jupiter is actually between Mars and Saturn.

Dirigonzo 10:35 PM  

I completed the puzzle with minimum heartburn (except for the LAO/OTARU cross which I got right with a lucky guess), looked at the completed grid to find the theme and said, "Cool - planets", and it made me happy. But I'm a very simple minded kind of guy.

I too would have liked to hear what ACME would have had to say about this Monday debut.

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