Pioneering jazz standard 1917 / WED 6-27-12 / Penniless in Pennington / Repeated Laura Petrie line on Dick Van Dyke show / 2011 Grammy-winning song by Jay-Z Kanye West / Its symbol is AA on New York Stock Exchange / Like areas where cattails thrive

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Constructor: Mike Buckley

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: PENTOMINOES (37A: Complete set of 12 shapes formed by this puzzle's black squares)— that's pretty much it. Plus two more theme answers, which are accurate enough, but ... I don't get how they provide essential information:

  • 15A: Descriptive of this puzzle's grid (LACKING SYMMETRY)
  • 54A: Like this puzzle's 37-Across (NON-INTERLOCKING)

Word of the Day: "TIGER RAG" (35D: Pioneering jazz standard of 1917) —
"Tiger Rag" is a jazz standard, originally recorded and copyrighted by the Original Dixieland Jass Band in 1917. It is one of the most recorded jazz compositions of all time. (wikipedia)

• • •

This puzzle is lost on me. I'm just not qualified to evaluate it fairly. No idea what PENTOMINOES are (though now that I see them, I get it—shapes made out of five contiguous squares). No idea why LACKING SYMMETRY or NON-INTERLOCKING should be relevant phrases here. I like that this grid looks weird, and I like STORM IN A TEACUP (7A: Much ado about nothing) and BIG OX (42A: Oaf), but otherwise it's a lot of black squares and a concept I don't really get. I hope many of you felt otherwise. I guess that because of the concept, there had to be that lone unchecked square. Haven't seen a *truly* unchecked square in ... I don't know how long. Since no one is in danger of not getting ARENA, I guess it doesn't matter much.

Started with SWAMPY and SEC rather than MARSHY (1A: Like areas where cattails thrive) and MIN (1D: One sweep of a hand: Abbr.), so that wasn't good. Otherwise, the only trouble I had was the *entire* length of PENTOMINOES (?) and the "LOCKING" part of NON-INTERLOCKING. I had NON-INTERSECTING. Never heard of "TIGER RAG" or PIC (!?!?!) (23A: Jack Kerouac's last novel). Or SKINT, yipes (53D: Penniless, in Pennington). Still came in at *precisely* my average time for Wednesdays.

  • 17A: Its symbol is AA on the New York Stock Exchange (ALCOA) — had the final "A" and guessed that there must be another on the other end. Then just ... thought of a company. Bam.
  • 50A: 2011 Grammy-winning song by Jay-Z and Kanye West ("OTIS") — I somehow managed to ignore that album last year. Too much hype. And I've ignored the Grammys for years, so this one was a Mystery.

  • 26D: Repeated Laura Petrie line on "The Dick Van Dyke Show" ("OH, ROB!") — classic. Knew it. Thanks, re-runs.
  • 6D: Verb from Popeye (YAM) — as in "I YAM what I YAM"; in case you doubt the officialness of the "verb"—proof:

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Anonymous 12:11 AM  

Rex, this is an amazing, brilliant puzzle. I was afraid you would put it in the pangram category but to your credit you did not. It breaks all the XWP rules and is a brilliant exercise. The constructor should be applauded. I did not know pentominoes either but I realized he created two puzzles in one. Awesome effort!


Tobias Duncan 12:20 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous 12:22 AM  

I'm perfectly qualified to evaluate this puzzle, as I'm a sentient human being and I did the puzzle. I loved all the rule breaking, but cannot accept PENTAMINOES as a reveal. Tetris dohickies is the appropriate term, even though they're not Tetris dohickies.

I YAM what I YAM and that's all what I YAM used to be my philosophy in life, way back when I was stuck in a rut so deep I decided just to decorate it and stay there. A nice couch, a couple of throw pillows and the place is surprisingly comfortable.

jae 12:24 AM  

Easy clever Wed.   PENTOMINOES, I had no idea.  Makes for an eye catching gird.  My first thought as it was coming out of the printer was "where's the symmetry?"  Only problem was mismatching clues and answer numbers.   I should probably do it on line but I really like putting Bic to paper.

Well done!

Evan 12:24 AM  

There's more to the puzzle's uniqueness. In addition to a non-symmetrical grid with an unchecked square, this is a 16x15 grid with 60 (!) black squares -- that has to be a record, or at least a near-record, for black squares in a non-Sunday NYT puzzle. 56 is apparently the most for a 15x15. It also has 30 "cheaters," and I would not be surprised if that were a record for a NYT puzzle.

I had some problems with the puzzle on reflection, but I like that the constructor thought outside the box and had some good if not great fill in creating such an ambitious piece of work. ONE TRACK MIND is a really, really good entry, but damn, what I would have given for that to have a racier clue than "A monomaniac has it."

I found most of the clues to be typical for a Wednesday, though several initial errors slowed me down (a hand up for swampY and NON-INTERseCtING, as well as STORM IN A TEApot). Then, I ran into the OH ROB/BIG OX and NASA/AIRS/ROUND combos. The clues for AIRS and ROUND were pretty tricky, and I couldn't tell my head that the answer to "Mariner's org." was not NASl, the North American Soccer League. Neither OH ROB nor TIGER RAG was happening for me -- I had OH gOd, which then gave me dIm Ox. So I ended with a much bigger challenge than I expected and several mistakes to show for it.

Tobias Duncan 12:26 AM  

Wow, that was my favorite Otis song :(

I always thought that the ridiculous self-aggrandizing posturing in rap music was a fad that would pass.Instead is had become a cornerstone of modern pop culture.
Not my taste.
I am with Rex, puzzle just sort of left me puzzled.

I have a batch of homemade ice cream slurry that is chilling in the fridge.Will run it through my 70s electric churner tomorrow at 5PM.Anyone who wants some should be here by 6PM. Yes its custard style, and yes I will be making cold brewed iced coffee shakes.

Fearlessk 12:38 AM  

Like @Rex, had sec before MIN and thus SWAMPY, but RASHAD cleared that right up. Liked the cluing on 20A YOU and 60A GOLONG. My kids loved to play with 37A PENTOMINOES, so the familiar shapes were a help when I got to that part of the grid (Missouri?). And what's not to like about BIGOX? I actually suspected a rebus when the crosses suggested " tempest in a teapot" and I have to say I've never heard the expression STORMINATEACUP. But my admiration for the execution of this concept, which I imagine involved constraints that rival those of symmetrical puzzles, more than compensates for that small complaint. Thanks, Mr. Buckley!

Evan 12:39 AM  

Correction: I meant a 15x16 grid.

thursdaysd 1:04 AM  

Never heard of PENTOMINOES (although the shapes looked familiar), never watched the Dick Van Dyke show, never heard of TIGERRAG - in other words, the middle was a big DNF requiring google (first time in a while). Have a hard time accepting PENTOMINOES as a word now I've seen it - is this some construction meaning five dominoes?

Unknown 1:13 AM  

Awesome - I grew up in Pennington - skint all the time!

Rube 1:15 AM  

Really enjoyed the "change-of-pace-ness" of this puzzle. Can't say I've ever played with PENTOMINOES... Tetris, Yes, but these are different. FYI, there are 18 different shapes in the complete set, counting reflections.

Hand up for swampy before MARSHY. But the center was a big blank spot for me until after a restful post-prandial nap gave me NORELCO and EMITTER and the rest fell into place. I'd give it a medium-challenging.

Will have to investigate SKINT.

chefwen 1:39 AM  

I also had swampy until I couldn't think of a cat, goat or rabbit that started with a W, so that was quickly fixed. Hand up to TEA pot before CUP, that one took a lot longer to correct. TIGER RAG and PENTOMINOES obtained purely from crosses.

Loved the clue and answer for 60A although I don't think @Tobias will care for it. IMPINGE is a pretty cool word.

Eejit 1:54 AM  

That was an interesting one, lots of stuff I had never heard of but got eventually. I was hoping it was about Tetris, but it wasn't. Fun though.

Susana 2:07 AM  

Found myself smiling through this one. It was engaging and accessible. No annoyingly obscure rivers or dreaded sports trivia. Instead we got cool words like utopian, impinged, and stymie. And tiger rag - gettable with crosses and a little logic.

Plus I love the theme - years ago, I used pentominoes to turn fourth graders on to geometry.

r.alphbunker 2:21 AM  

This puzzle is a brillant tribute to one of the greatest puzzle makers than ever lived, Henry Ernest Dudeney.

I am familiar with the kind of games that Dudeney invented but did not know the name of this one. As a result the revealer was the last answer entered. Very dramatic.

What is so amazing about this puzzle is that Dudeney intended those shapes to be arranged in a rectangle. Buckley also arranged them in a rectangle or more precicely *inside* a rectangle.

I also like the self-referral answers.

The challenge now is to make the rest of my day live up to this puzzle!

syndy 3:45 AM  

I don't think an overabundance of cheater squares makes for a good puzzle-or a good puzzle theme.It's very meta but is it art?

MaryRoseG 5:25 AM  

A storm in a teacup? Never heard of that, but a tempest in a teapot...definitely.

@Tobias....sounds yummy.

Anonymous 6:45 AM  

What are cheater squares?

SethG 7:22 AM  

If cheater squares are part of the theme then they're not just there to make the puzzle easier to fill. The cheater squares here don't cheat.

This was great. As a mathematician, and whatnot.

Milford 7:25 AM  

Really liked this unique puzzle. At first glance, I had the tetris idea, quickly followed by the thought that these looked like Blokus tiles. Did not know the term PENTOMINOES, but my kids have a set of them, except they are called Katamino.
I was kind of hoping that if you pushed all the shapes together in the middle that it would all make a completed pentomino puzzle, but I don't see that it does.
Favorite clues were for OHROB and GOLONG. Did not know 7D:Dispatches had such a violent definition.

Flea 7:38 AM  

I know you can straddle the atmosphere
A tiny storm in your teacup girl
I know you can battle the masses, dear
A tiny storm in your teacup girl

Wreck Sparker 7:39 AM  

I see in today's news that Nora Ephron (whose name frequently appears in puzzles) has died. Never knew the lady but it kinda saddens me.

JenCT 7:39 AM  

@Milford: we love Blokus at my house!

Puzzle was different; I liked it.


Wow, THAT song won a Grammy???? Why??? I'm with @Tobias on Rap.

evil doug 7:40 AM  

When do we get the other half of the puzzle?


Anonymous 7:50 AM  

Enjoyed this puzzle for its uniqueness.

Unless I'm missing something, I don't think NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) is properly clued. The mariner's org. should be NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration).

orangeblossomspecial 7:59 AM  

I had the same difficulty as Evan (12:24), wanting Mariners to be in the NAS league. But then the cross with lIRS didn't mean anything.

Thanks for all the background on PENTOMINOES. I wasn't familiar with the term.

There was a popular song in the 20s, 25A "Dusky Stevedore" that also was recorded by Louis Armstrong.

Here is the ODJB's original of 35D "TIGER RAG" from 1918.

Anonymous 8:00 AM  

I knew it was MARSHY or SWAMPY, danced to the Y and filled in YAM... Flitted around and filled in ETTA and the bottom just poured out.

I thought OH ROB was brilliant.

AnnieD 8:01 AM  

Mariners are space probes sent up by NASA

joho 8:04 AM  

I'm with @Rex on this one. But I am glad to see so many think it unique and brilliant.

I thought it was really easy for a Wednesday but ultimately unsatisfying even will all the correct letters in place.

I'm also more of a "tempest in a teapot" kind of girl .

My favorite thing about this puzzle is the weird grid.

Kudos for Mike Buckley for his originality!

Glimmerglass 8:13 AM  

I knew it was either MARSHY or swampy. Went with MIN, ANGORA, RASHAD, and YAM. And HEe, which was 2/3 right. That gave me . . . INATEA . . . Like MaryRoseG, I thought of "[tempest] IN A TEApot." That wrong "pot" kept me stoned until the very end. The NE was the last section to fall.

Anonymous 8:20 AM  

If it hasn't been said, Rex, the reason NONINTERLOCKING fits the theme is because the pieces, represented in the disarrayed black squares, do not interlock in this arrangement. They do, however, interlock in the illustration in your post.

Anonymous 8:22 AM  

had fIerO for PINTO, didnt know the rap song (or any rap song) so it kindof fizzled at that point. We have tons of games in our game closet but PENTOMINOES is not one of them. Got the rest of the puzzle and enjoyed it.but, sadly, a DNF on a frigging Wednesday

Sue McC 8:32 AM  

Loved it! Despite having never heard of PENTOMINOES or SKINT, it was pretty smooth going. Love, love, love OH ROB :-). I also love the lack of symmetry, it really changes things up. Fun Wednesday!

jberg 8:43 AM  

Trying to post from my phone, failed once. What's NONINTERLOCKING about PENTOMINOES? Whole idea is to interlock them into rectangle - Rex has an illustration.

More later.

jackj 8:45 AM  

Wading into the unknown world of PENTOMINOES I can only conclude that the person who dreamed them up had much too much time on their hands, likely an Enigmatologist who got bored playing Words with Friends on his IPhone.

But, being of a vaguely monomaniacal bent when it comes to crossword reviews let me direct my ONETRACKMIND into a look at the fill provided by Mike Buckley for our solving pleasure.

Starting at 7 across, leave it to the Brits to need a variation of TEMPESTINATEAPOT but STORMINATEACUP it is and the Empire can rest easy with its very own idiom.

There are a number of extra special bits to be found as we leap frog around this quirky grid notably STYMIE and IMPINGE. Then, GOLONG is cutely clued to soothe the needs of the ardent football fan or to tease the sore-bottomed Oscar watcher and the single “A” at square 59 ties in with the football clue by playing the role of Bill Carpenter, Army’s noted “Lonesome End”.

ROUND for the SONG and SONG for the ROUND are nicely played but Mike draws on his Anglomania once too often by asking us to be kind to SKINT, a British word that has a most unpleasant ring to it.

Bottom line for this one comes from a brief Wiki note stating that PENTOMINOES spawned Tetris, which makes this whole Buckley shebang a winner by me.

AnnieD 8:46 AM  

EvilDoug, if you want the other half of the puzzle, you'll have to pay a premium!

So here's what I did...I called them to cancel complaining about paying twice for the puzzle, and they gave me a 50% discount on my paper for the next 6 mos. So I went with it, hoping by the time the 6 mos is up, they'll have changed their mind on the extra puzzle fee and we'll be back to normal. If not, I'll deal with it then.

Anonymous 8:51 AM  

I found it an enjoyable puzzle, and I thought CARET was clued pretty well.

Kevin 8:57 AM  

Did anyone else think of Arrested Development when answering IRA?

George: Gilligan has promised me that all this money will be safe in IRAs.

Ira Gilligan: It’s Ira, sir.

George: Oh, I’m sorry, Gilligan. Will be safe in Iras.

dk 9:09 AM  

Marshy is my niece's hamster,

It is tempest in a tea cup.

And, I penned in swampy and sec as well.

This is a puzzle after all.

🐰🐰🐰 (Three rabbits) Hey Mikey I liked it.

Tobias, I used get a chocolate malt at my then local Ben and Jerry's. I had them add 2 shots of espresso. They named the drink after me: The decay.

Fond Memories 9:11 AM  

When I first looked at the grid, it made me smile thinking about the fun I had had long ago seeing how many different ways I could arrange the pieces to make a rectangle. I guess any puzzle that makes you smile has to be a great puzzle. I suppose those who don't share my experience might be less than enthused with this puzzle. With easy clueing (say, the difficulty level or a Monday puzzle), this would perhaps be the best diagramless puzzle ever.

I felt that while some of the answers referred to the grid, the real theme of the puzzle was not the answers themselves but the grid

Evan 9:13 AM  


Cheater squares are black squares that don't add to the puzzle's word count. For example, the black square after TEACUP is a cheater because if you removed it, you would still have the same number of words in the grid. Editors generally recommend avoiding (or at least minimizing) cheaters because they are usually placed inside a grid to make it easier for the constructor to fill.

I say "usually" because in today's case, several of the cheaters are actually built into the puzzle's theme, as @SethG says above. Cheaters are often found the grid's perimeter, but the clump of black squares in the lower right hand corner would have two cheaters no matter where it were positioned in the grid. It'd be interesting to see how the number of cheaters would change depending on the final position of the PENTOMINOES. If the straight line in the upper left hand corner were in the puzzle's interior, it would have zero cheaters. But because it's on the perimeter, it has four.

Oscar 9:22 AM  

Well, it's unique, I'll give it that, but what a waste of a potentially cool puzzle. Develop your theme, don't just point it out. *Do* something with it! The editor should pentomi-know better than to let this half-baked idea fly.

Wood 9:27 AM  

Brilliant puzzle! Uniformly EXCELLENT fill, which for some reason Rex did not acknowledge. Fun, weird diagram. Loved it.

I want to hang out with Tobias.

hazel 9:34 AM  

I soooooooo wanted to like this puzzle. I love outlaw puzzles. The fact that I had no idea what PENTOMINOES were made the experience a a big fat HUH? - and combined with the NONITERLOCKING, it was just a buzzkill. That's my issue, not the puzzle's, though.

I can see that if you knew the game and/or had fond memories of playing it with your kids, it would be very cool - kind of like a baseball diamond puzzle would be for me!!

chefbea 9:45 AM  

Hand up for not knowing pentominoes. Loved the answer for J and No. Had trouble parsing storminateacup. Never heard of that either and parsed it as
stormin ate a cup!!!

Anonymous 9:56 AM  

Or, as SethG says, there are exactly 0 cheaters squares, as every black square is part of the theme.

Art Wholeflaffer 10:03 AM  

I'm surprised that so many people have never heard of pentominoes. I guess the overlap between people who like word puzzles and people who like spatial manipulation puzzles (e.g. Rubik's Cube) is not as large as I had thought.

Being a fan of both, the moment I realized what was going with all the weirdly asymmetrical black squares was one of the biggest Aha! moments I've had with the NYT puzzle lately.

The Soulful Mr T 10:06 AM  

PENTOMINOES? Rubbish. This puzzle was too clever by half. Showing off. That is all.

Matthew G. 10:12 AM  

I'm with Rex on this one. No idea what this puzzle is doing. Glad many of you enjoyed it.

Also ... STORM IN A TEACUP? Never heard that one. I lost a lot of time looking for a rebus because I thought it had to be TEMPEST IN A TEAPOT.

Jem411 10:13 AM  

"I guess that because of the concept, there had to be that lone unchecked squares. Haven't seen a *truly* unchecked square in ... I don't know how long. Since no one is in danger of not getting ARENA, I guess it doesn't matter much."
I don't know what an unchecked square is, and I read all the comments hoping to learn what Rex means here, and mainly why the puzzle disappeared off the IPad every time I tried to fill in ARENA! Anyone?

Jem411 10:18 AM  

Oh, duh, I see unchecked square, arena I get crosses. Still doesn't explain the disappearing thing. This has happened only once before, so maybe it's a personal glitch.

Carola 10:30 AM  

I was intrigued with this puzzle all the way through. I hadn't heard of PENTOMINOES, and that was one of the last words I filled in. On my way there I found lots to like, with ELSINORE as the opposite of UTOPIAN, SLAYS next to TALONS, MARSHY contrasting with PRAIRIE, a TOON having its CEL, and two musical hits intersecting - TIGER RAG and ONE TRACK MIND (Bobby Lewis, June 1961 - I wonder how many besides me can still sing along... "A lotta people like to go on trips, some sit at home and read the comic strips..." Great dance song).

Very fun, Mike Buckley - thanks!

Masked and Pentonymous 10:34 AM  

Flat out loved it. five thUmbsUp. Makes me want to subscribe to somethin'.
Only thing cooler woulda been if you sucked all the white squares out, and all the black pentominoes would snap together perfectly, to form a recognizable shape. A giant U, mayhaps.

lawprof 10:35 AM  

Today's puzzle breaks two of the cardinal rules of American crosswords: symmetry and interlocking(ness?). Moreover, it's a brilliant example of the adage that rules are meant to be broken. Brilliant because it does so with a purpose.

If there's a distinction between violating a rule and breaking a rule, then this puzzle is an apt illustration, casting aside convention in the service of a novel paradigm. If it's not exactly thinking outside the box, it is thinking inside the grid.

Nora Ephrom, who died last night, also made us think about everyday things in a new light. Her voice will be missed.

notsofast 10:37 AM  

A near-great puzzle. liked "golong" a lot. It was different, fun and clever!23msmore

John V 10:39 AM  

I enjoyed it. I just went with the flow and didn't worry about how or if it all came together. I thought it pretty cool to see just about every crossword rule broken and still have a fun, fair experience.

I got snagged on CARET/OHROB cross and did not know TIGERRAG. Also, AIRS would not come.

Never heard of PENTOMINOES, but that was fine; a new word to virtually all, fairly crossed. I like that in a puzzle. Brilliant, eclectic.

Thanks, Mike Buckley, for one of the most creative, interesting puzzles in a very long time. I'd put this one in the same class as Patrick Berry's Friday wrap-around of his week long opus.

FWIW, there were 514 lightning strikes between Stamford and Norwalk Monday morning. One of them had our 75 foot pine tree in its sights. Everyone is okay, but putting the electronics back together is the challenge.

baja 10:42 AM  

Loved this!

Carola 10:43 AM  

Follow-up to above, where the ONE TRACK MIND link now is getting me to an error message. Not sure what's wrong. URL is

Two Ponies 10:45 AM  

Lots of cool words in this unusual grid but if the essential word means nothing to you then the cleverness is lost.
@ hazel, love your catagory of "outlaw puzzle"
I knew skint right away as most of my friends there usually are skint.
The middle would have been easier if I could remember caret/carat because emitter just wasn't showing itself.
If that rap song won a Grammy then the bar must be set pretty low these days.

Anonymous 10:54 AM  

What does Rex mean when he writes of the unchecked square?

Anonymous 10:58 AM  

rex this is a VISUAL puzzle in that "lacking symmetry" refers to
each shape which forms one of the black group of spaces and one can "see" they are assymetrical.
"noninterlocking" is a characteristic of that particular
set of twelve shapes know as
pentaminoes. the 12 shapes are
quite artistically and cleverly
arranged so one doesn't notice at
first that the "blacks" are unusual and telling one of the answers when seen as a whole group.

Anonymous 11:03 AM  

Oh wait, I get it: Mariner rocket. My bad.

Sparky 11:04 AM  

Hold that Tiger!, barumph, Hold that TIGER!, barumph. Can't believe how fast they played. Anyway...jaw dropped as paper came from printer and revealed the grid.

DNF; tripped on NA--. (NAvy?) Now I get it. Never heard of PENTO--NOE-. Impoverished childhood, played with mud and a stick. Brute before BIGOX, ToRI before TERI, TEApot brfore cup, CARaT-dumb mistake. Enjoyed the play though. Stopped because I do have to get to the Laundromat one of these days.

Oh, @Tobias, I am on the way. Thanks @Annie D. I think I'll give calling a try.

Masked and Anonymous 11:09 AM  

@Anon 10:54--A checked square is a white square that has a word crossing thru it in each direction. So the solver can check the letter in one word, by getting the crossing word.

Unchecked square is like the 59-numbered square in today's puz, where there ain't no down word. But then, A kinda is a word. But there wasn't a clue for it, so...
check, please!

@31...maybe unchecked square would be a good addition to yer faq definitions?

Anonymous 11:25 AM  

I thought this was a great puzzle, zipped thru it and enjoyed it. Surprised at people who didn't know tiger rag!

gmolenda 11:34 AM  

I was hoping it would be Tetris based when I first saw the grid. Maybe that will happen some other time.

Martin 11:47 AM  


It's Pentris.

afrogran 11:53 AM  

This went fairly smoothly for me, except that I've never heard of penominoes. Even when I stared at the word I thought it was wrong.
We laughed at a comic British song, written by Lonnie Donegan in 1960. It's about a 'dustman" (garbage collector), and explains the word 'skint".

Now here's a little story
To tell it is a must
About an unsung hero
That moves away your dust.

Some people make a fortune,
Others earn a mint;
My old man don't earn much:
In fact he's flippin' skint.

Oh, my old man's a dustman,
He wears a dustman's hat,
He wears cor-blimey trousers
And he lives in a council flat.

Lewis 12:08 PM  

I never heard of Pentominoes, and why are there 12 of them instead of 5, as the name would suggest?

A couple of fun clues, more than a couple of lively answers, and, all in all, entertaining. A lot of people here pick nits, but to me, if a puzzle is entertaining, I can forgive the nits.

Anonymous 12:18 PM  

@Lewis - Pentominoes are the 12 distinct shapes made by 5 (there's your pent) squares adjoining one another.

Unknown 12:20 PM  

Unless I don't know what INTERLOCKING means, it seems to me that 59 across is the noninterlocking entry, not 37 across.

Am I missing something? Both the entry itself, and the pentominoes, interlock.

Dan Jeffrey 12:20 PM  

Hi Rex -- Are your times posted any where?

I have seen some of your times in the past and wondered how they were physically possible -- never mind the difficulty of the puzzle.

How do you solve -- using paper and pen or on the computer?

Maybe I need to improve my touch typing to whittle my times down.

M and A's Last Silver Bullet 12:20 PM  

12 pentominoes, because that's how many different shapes you can make from gluing 5 (black) boxes together. My fave shape is the one in the lower left corner.

Noam D. Elkies 12:23 PM  

Neat out-of-the-box puzzle. I like lawprof's distinction between "breaking" and "violating" a rule, and agree that this is a good illustration. Thanks to Joe Buhler for alerting me to today's crossword.

Since it hasn't been said here yet: the word "pentomino" (and likewise the Tetris tetrominos, 6-square hexominos, etc.) was coined by Solomon Golomb (who recently celebrated his 80th birthday), playfully extending the familiar 2-square "domino". So a single square is a "monomino" in this context. The behavior of the number of N-ominos for large N is still an open mathematical problem. Yes, I think -ominos is preferred over -ominoes, but the longer plural 37A:PENTOMINOES is still acceptable.


Z 12:31 PM  

Fun. Creative. Dreck free. What more can you ask for?

Robot Who Made It Through 12:50 PM  

@M and A:
You are correct with the 12 count, regarding unique pentomino shapes, as long as you include the possibility of flipping the shapes over, in the third dimension.

jae 12:54 PM  

@Milford -- Blokus, of course! Thanks, I thought some of those shapes looked familiar.

Anonymous 1:21 PM  

Had never heard of "pentominoes" but had whole puzzle solved except for the final "o" in "pentominoes" and its down clue, "prefix with clean." "Oti"? Who knew? Not thrilled with this puzzle, though I liked the "yam" and the "oh, Rob". "Storm in a teacup" was a bit of a stretch (the usual expression is "tempest in a teapot").

Anonymous 1:25 PM  

Had heard of "skint" because I read a lot of British newspapers and magazines online, and lot of British novels. But "Pic"? And I've read "The Dharma Bums" and "On The Road"! Got "marshy" right away because I tried clue 5-down and knew it had to be an "h" ("hee" or "hem").

efrex 1:31 PM  

Hey, every few months, we nerds get tossed a bone; deal with it!

Recognized the PENTOMINOES theme right away (although I spelled it PENT*A*MINOES, which made OHROB impossible to suss out), and would've put up with a lot worse fill than this one before I got annoyed. Never heard of TIGERRAG, but cleanly gettable through crosses, so no foul there.

Lovely job, Mr. Buckley!

chefbea 1:34 PM  

@anon 12:18 thanks for the 5 explanation

Daedalus 1:45 PM  

No, it's pentaminos. See, when I built the maze, unbeknownst to anyone, I snuck in a cow for the Minotaur. You know, to keep him occupied while I made my escape. Anyway, before Theseus killed the poor beast, he and the cow, I forget her name, had 5 little offspring - the PentaMinos. They didn't get along too well, as one was strictly human, two were strictly bovine, and two others were of mixed species. The three at least partially human offspring ate the two completely bovine ones at some point. Anyway, it was a complete mess, second only to my wings.

Not all of my brilliant ideas worked out too well.

The Cunctator 1:49 PM  

This is a puzzle that warms the heart of this mathematician. I almost instantly recognized the theme, once I paid attention to the fact the grid was LACKING SYMMETRY and threw in PENTOMINOES.

It's a fun mathematical fact that pentominoes are NON-INTERLOCKING. That is, there is no way to construct a shape using only pentominoes such that the structure is rigidly "locked" together -- see for an example of an interlocking hexomino-pentomino structure.

Here is a proof that pentominoes are not interlocking:

Jonathan 1:51 PM  

Am I the only one who always wants "long-running NBC staple" to be MTP??

Anonymous 1:52 PM  

@jackj: I don't care how many people might misuse the term, aces over eights specifically describes a poker hand with three aces and two eights.

mac 2:06 PM  

In hindsight an amazing puzzle, unlawful though it was, but while I was solving I was in the dark. Made up pentominoes, I thought, and had to come here to find it was a real word. Never heard of the word. I thought I recognized a 1, 2, 3, 7 and 9 in the grid, to make things even more complicated.

Wonderful fill!

Unknown 2:22 PM  

The Cunctator - thanks for the explanation. I'm the same Anonymous who thought 59A should be called NON-INTERLOCKING instead of 37A.

chefbea 2:30 PM  

I just received this e-mail from the NYT.

Dear Subscriber,

As we continue to innovate — with new ways to make the world’s best journalism more engaging and more interactive — we want to be sure that valued readers like you are kept informed of these important changes.

So please take a moment to update your profile. It will only take a minute or two and will help us better serve you. Thank you so much for your time — and for reading The New York Times.


Mighty Nisden 2:54 PM  

Really loved this one. Got excited when I saw that it broke the symmetry rule!
Great effort!

ksquare 3:03 PM  

DNF because I had O for the I in pentominoes and the E in teri, so stupidly did not see TIGER RAG, one of my favorite old songs which surprisingly so many never heard of. Although 'standard of 1917' it was still very popular in the thirties when I started noticing music. And I enjoyed the uniqueness of the puzzle, even with the DNF, so who cares.

Bird 3:43 PM  

First thing that stood out was the lack of symmetry. Cool. Then I saw the shapes and thought today’s theme was Tetris, but there are too many shapes. Then I noticed the non-crossed answer at 59A, but that was a gimme. Anyway, I did enjoy solving this puzzle. Did not know PENTOMINOES or TIGER RAG, but they were certainly gettable.

No complaints about BIG OX crossing OXI?

Writeover for 41D – first thing that came to mind was TERN because Daffy and Donald are both ducks and thought maybe, just maybe. Oh, well.

Also don’t understand why 45D is ROUND.

Regarding plan of the NYT to charge subscribers to online access to their puzzles – someone should construct an appropriately themed puzzle. Perhaps add answers such as OUTRAGEOUS, HALF-BRAINED and INSULTING.

Happy Humpday!

chefbea 4:16 PM  

@Bird A round is a way of singing a song where one group starts, then after the first sentence of the song, the next group starts etc, you ave all the groups singing at the same time but singing different words. Hope I made myself clear. Think I learned that in kindergarten

Bird 4:21 PM  

@chefbea - Thank you. I couldn't find anything with Google, but then added some of your explanation and, tada! I remember singing it as a kid, but didn't know the term.

Argh! 4:31 PM  

The cluing for 43A is Friday/Saturday level. I had GOES and would/could not put anything else in. Not knowing 32D (the Mariners are an American League baseball team in my book, but what league starts with NA), 37A (there are 12 shapes in the grid), 45D (it's a song for crying out loud), DRY for 40D. Yeah, it was a mess.

Anonymous 5:06 PM  

We enjoyed this one and had one of our faster Wednesdays, too.
We were slowed a bit by storm vs. tempest but really sailed pretty smoothly after that.

I'm still unclear on NASA .

Sfingi 6:12 PM  

God said to Moses, "I am Who I am."
Popeye said to the rest of us, I
yam what I yam."

I can't believe I got this - all but one letter - despite never having heard of pentominoes. I could see that each thingy was 5 squares in area. Thought it might be Tetris at first.

The letter I didn't get was TOON crosses ONS. I had INS, and didn't think of TOON because there was no indication that it was an abbrev. I continue to believe they should indicate that.

The expression is "Tempest in a teapot." "Storm in a teacup" was later.

The Original Dixieland Jass Band (ODJB) was at least half Sicilian. They were the first to cut a record, but certainly did not invent jazz.

ANON B 6:46 PM  

I still don't know what an unchecked square is. Associating
it somehow with arena doesn't
help. Can someone please explain
it in English, my native language?

ANON B 6:48 PM  

I still don't understand what
an unchecked square is. Help.

Mighty Nisden 7:14 PM  

anon b
An unchecked square is one where there is no cross. That is what the first A in ARENA is.

John V 7:26 PM  

Re unchecked thread, the idea is that a solver should have two ways to get any letter in the puzzle. The first A in ARENA does not allow that. But ARENA is so common in puzzles and easily clued that this should thought of as unfair.


John V 7:33 PM  

Oops. Should say "not thought of as unfair"

Bob Kerfuffle 8:01 PM  

@Anonymous, 1:21 PM (And here I renew the plea to use any other name than Anonymous) - Interesting mistake! You ask, " "prefix with clean." "Oti"? Who knew? "

But the prefix is "OXI" as in Oxi-Clean, and when I first read your comment, I failed to see where you got such a strange wrong answer. But by entering OTI, you changed 42 A, Oaf, from the intended BIG OX to BIGOT, in a way a perfectly valid answer.

Z 8:02 PM  

Mariner 10

the redanman 8:17 PM  

Unique & clever, but bring sfo, it did not need some of the more oblique cluing as PENTOMINOES is an odd duck & theme.

Plenty of mixing it up lately. Not stale, but just odd/peculiar.

santafefran 8:39 PM  

@chefbea: I got the same email--with no link to my account, btw, and thought wtf.

Jeep 8:40 PM  

For me, the trickiest and cleverest answer was CEL -- which framed Roger Rabbit.

Tita 8:49 PM  

Never heard of PENTAMINOES...

Like the word Monomaniac as much as its answer.
Love YAM as a verb.

Love "OHROB". The Petries lived in New Rochelle, my hometown, doncha know.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit is one of my favorite movies.
Quote Jessica Rabbit: "I'm not bad. I'm just drawn that way."

@Hazel - lol for outlaw puzzles!

Clueless in Texas 11:09 PM  

Sorry to ask, but I am new to the lingo. What is an "unchecked square" and what are "cheater squares" that some of you mention?

Clueless in Texas 11:13 PM  

Sorry. Just read the answer to my question.

Anonymous 2:49 AM  

The Mariner program, which explored the other planets of the inner Solar System, is part of our shared heritage as Americans and human beings.

Please don't complain about finding it in a crossword puzzle.

Anonymous 10:29 AM  

New here having taken up the crossword after years away. Enjoyed golong and drs very much but still think canit is better than caret, whatever that means.

Cheerio 11:35 PM  

I loved this, brilliant, etc. Wow - is there a reason why those 12 shapes make a rectangle when fitted together? Is there a proof for that?

DMGrandma 2:37 PM  

Took me awhile to give up TEApot, but, once CUP showed up the puzzle was solved. Except I ended with a blank where the S in NASA belonged. Never heard of the game, and thought the Mariners had something to do with ice skating, maybe hockey? However H seemed impossible, so DNF.
Still enjoyed the puzzle and learned some new words. SKINT.How will I ever use that in a sentence?

Spacecraft 2:52 PM  

An amusing Wedensday. I never heard of PENTOMINOES or STORM (tempest?) INATEACUP (pot?). Got all those bad boys on crosses. I do think an idiomatic phrase ought to be familiar.

ELSINORE got me into the grid, and it was just bumper cars around the blocks from there on. One letter had to be written over: Haw's partner is HEE to this fan of the old variety show, but after staring at ---GSYEM---and trying to bend that sequence into some kind of sense, I suddenly saw the M, so besides correcting my error, I plunked down the whole fifteener.

I am happy that OFL didn't cluck about irregularities, or cheaters. @anon 12:11: no danger of this one being pangram-panned, unless somebody slipped a Q in there while my back was turned.

Liked the repeating clue for 45 and 46d; and absolutely loved the clue for TERI. Nice going, Mike, you BIGOX.

Dirigonzo 4:20 PM  

With BIGO in place I automatically plunked in "t" althought I didn't think that really worked for "Oaf", and I convinced myself that OtI-Clean probably referred to some ear cleaner that I had never heard of. A quick run of the alphabet would have fixed the problem.

I read today that Snoop Dogg has been "reborn" as a Raggae artist and has changed his name to "Snoop Lion" (I am not making this up) - I wonder how long it will take for that name to show up in a puzzle?

Tonight will be the first of two full moons in August - hope everyone can get out to enjoy it!

Solving in Seattle 9:50 PM  

@Diri, so will the 2nd full moon be a Blue Moon?

The puzzle was tough for me with great cluing. Learned CARET, never saw the Dick van Dyke show, so that was a Natick.

The PENTOMINOES (also a new word for me) reminded me of Tetrus. Years ago, when I reached 144 lines in Tetrus I realized I was addicted to the game and quit cold turkey. I could kiss then strangle Alexey Pajitnov.

TERI Hatcher is hot.

Go Mariners! Six in a row.

Dirigonzo 7:44 AM  

@SiS - the second full moon will be on the 31st, so if there's anything you do "once in a blue moon" this would be the month to do it. Cloudy here last night, so I didn't get to see the first one - hoping for better conditions for the next one. Have you checked in on the osprey nest lately - the "chicks" are getting big!

Solving in Seattle 11:03 AM  

80 feet in the air, it's getting hard to tell the chicks apart from the parents, who are having to work their tails off feeding the three maws.

Anonymous 2:58 PM  

Great puzzle. Even though we were a Tangram family, I'm vaguely aware of Pentominoes and figured it out quickly enough. STORM IN A TEACUP just doesn't have the elegance TEMPEST IN A TEAPOT, though.

Anonyrat 4:15 PM  

After these recent "younger-skewing" puzzles, it's nice to see that someone decided to throw the octogenarians a bone. Unfortunately, not even my parents are that old, so DNF due to the hoary cluster-Natick in the middle. Hit song from 1917, catch phrase from 1950s TV show, crossing some word that not even RP has ever heard of. Fuhgeddaboutit.

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