Sed quencher / THU 6-21-12 / Dawson's Creek girl / Mongolian dwellings / Weird Al specialty / 1956 million-selling album / Fish whose name comes from Old English for spear

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Constructor: Caleb Emmons

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: Clue numbers are part of six answers — Note: "Parts of six answers have been entered in the grid for you."

Word of the Day: TESSERAE (44A: Mosaic squares) —
n., pl., tes·ser·ae (tĕs'ə-rē').
One of the small squares of stone or glass used in making mosaic patterns.

[Latin, from Greek, neuter of tesseres, variant of tessares, four.]

Read more:
• • •

Bad luck today. I just did this puzzle—a much tougher and more entertaining version of it, anyway. If you do Matt Gaffney's Weekly Crossword Contest (and why don't you?), then you did it too (see here). This coincidence is no one's fault. Gaffney tells me BEQ did the same theme back in 2009, but you have to give constructors a little slack. It's sometimes hard to find out if your idea has been done before, especially if it hasn't been in a major publication (something in the cruciverb database). As I say, this is just bad luck. Mainly for me. I like this theme idea. If I'd never seen it before, I'd think it was clever. I don't think the puzzle needed a note. It's Thursday—if I can sniff out a rebus (and I can), then I can figure out what's going on with the clue numbers. Because the gimmick was transparent, and the cluing Tuesday-easy, I finished with my fastest Thursday time in several months. The only problem I had was in the SE. Jack Benny!?!? Wow, there's a bone for ... someone. Not me. Even if I'd realized it was part of the theme (I didn't), I still would have had trouble. Waaaaaaaaay before my time. "21 JUMP STREET"—now *that*'s my time (a movie version of the show came out earlier this year). Only other hiccup, besides that SE corner, was understanding what the hell 11D: Sed quencher meant. I'm guess "Sed" = "thirst" in Spanish (?). Like Jack Benny, Sed was beyond my ken. But none of this mattered much. Clever idea, so-so execution. Now go join the throng of Matt Gaffney's Weekly Crossword Contest (MGWCC) solvers already.

Theme answers:
  • 4D: Apocalyptic figures (4 HORSEMEN)
  • 19D: A dystopian novel (19 EIGHTY-FOUR) — slightly awkward numbers-to-letters shift
  • 21D: 1980s-'90s police drama (21 JUMP STREET)
  • 39D: Like Jack Benny, as he always said (39 YEARS OLD)
  • 18A: Standard golf outing (18 HOLE ROUND) — "HOLE ROUND" was not at all intuitive to me. I got HOLE easily, but then ... ? 
  • 57A: Heinz offering (57 VARIETIES)

  • 21A: "Dawson's Creek" girl (JEN) — played by 3-time Oscar nominee Michelle Williams
  • 52A: Fish whose name comes from the Old English for "spear" (GAR) — One of my sweet spots is the intersection of Old English and crosswordese, so this was no trouble.
  • 59A: Weird All Yankovic specialty (POLKA) — wanted SPOOF at first.

  • 62A: 1956 million-selling album ("ELVIS") — ALVA got me "ELVIS," which is how I dug myself out of the SE corner.
  • 28D: Mongolian dwellings (YURTS) — as I'm sure I've said before, my sister's super-crunchy college had a central meeting space called "The Yurt." I don't think it resembled a Mongolian dwelling in the slightest, but I could be wrong.
  • 52D: Many a Comicon attendee (GEEK) — this puzzle speaks truth. In case you somehow don't know, there are tons of "Comicons" all over the country—comic book conventions that draw the whole world of scifi / superhero / supernatural / comic art geekery into their orbit. Daughter and I keep talking about going to one, but haven't yet got there. I am a very half-assed comic book geek.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


jae 12:18 AM  

Like Rex, I'd like to think I would have gotten this without the note.  With the note it was on the easy side for me too. Without it I think it would have been a more typical Thurs. in difficulty.    

Nice to see and remember ELUL.

I liked it.  A little zip...DAWGS, PURR, the theme a clever twist on the "use-the-clue-numbers" ploy = an entertaining Thurs.   Next time SKIP the note.

Tobias Duncan 12:21 AM  

Loved the clue for ARGYLE. Wanted something Higgs bosony for the particle because I am waiting patiently for some word from CERN that I both believe and understand(I may be waiting a while for the latter. I must confess that I did not really notice any theme at all for most of this then when I did, I missed that the clue number was involved. I must really be the robosolver I was accused of being on Tuesday.
Oh well.
Almost recovered from yesterdays sports related injury.Scalp peel went well.

When I saw SISSY in the grid I though of Jesser and his dislike for the term. I wish he was around to argue with me about it.
I miss that guy.

merlbaby 12:30 AM  

geez, must be something in the air. my upcoming july 1 sunday puzzle is a twist on the same idea. i first saw it in an a.j. santora puzzle (i think) in the nyt during will weng's tenure. kinda weird how these things happen.

r.alphbunker 1:01 AM  

Would definitely have been better without the note. It must have been difficult to get the theme entries to be symmetrical.

Gill I. P. 1:02 AM  

Loved it. My only complaint was that it just went by too fast.
I don't remember doing this type of puzzle but 18A was the give- away for me.
If you encircle the theme answers, you'll see a nice symmetry in the grid. Nicely planned and probably difficult to execute.
PURR Sr. Emmons, hope to meet you again.

syndy 1:41 AM  

SISSY also made me wince on Jesser's behalf!I had to finish 18 hole--by asking my golfing brother=that corner was my slowest on an exceptionally easy thursday!If you didn't like the note read Deb Amblen"s take on it _a hoot!thumbs up Caleb Emmons keep'em comin'

PurpleGuy 2:21 AM  

I would have liked this puzzle on Monday which was my birthday. 65 years young, and I remember Jack Benny very well. "Rochester!!!"
This was a very quick and easy solve, but fun.
Figured the theme gimmick @4 down - 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Rest of family are golfers, so 18 hole round was a gimme.

Happy Thursday all.

Shanti -

chefwen 2:32 AM  

How could I not love a puzzle that begins with the ALOHA spirit.

I didn't read the note and like @Tobias it took me a crazy amount of time to get the connect. Total DOH moment when I did get it.

Loved the clue and solution for 26A. 44A was obtained only by crosses, but it sure is a pretty word.

Pretty much like the whole puzzle. More please Caleb Emmons.

Pooloniousmonk 2:46 AM  

So, I finished the puzzle, but there was an error. So, I figured out the error, and then I was done. Figuring out the error took me as long as it took to complete the puzzle. Unless, one does not complete a puzzle until one has figured out the error. Unless one cannot complete a puzzle if, when you check the grid, it has an error, because that is considered a Did Not Finish. But, I did finish, it just had an error, which I corrected. Now, I am done.

Anonymous 3:14 AM  

My recollection of the first instance of this theme was by Jim Page edited by Eugene T Maleska for a Sunday NY Times.
Mr. Page is still around... perhaps he can clarify.

ACPT Scorer 4:32 AM  

@Pooloniousmonk -- That's a DNF dude. You should be doing these on paper.

Dad 4:53 AM  

I was handicapped by using the iPad app (I live overseas and don't get the print Times), which makes the square number vanish as soon as a letter is entered. I was still able to finish, but I only got the gimmick afterwards when I checked this blog. One more reason I wish the app would leave the numbers alone!

Anonymous 4:59 AM  

Merle's right, it was Santora from the Weng era. One of the themers was 76 TROMBONES.


Brendan Emmett Quigley 6:02 AM  

My puzzle with this same theme is here:

Z 6:26 AM  

Got the theme at 21 JUMPSTREET (HORSEMEN could stand on its own as clued) and wondered how many "did not read the note" comments we will get today.

Spent my freshman summer working at the Heinz pickle factory in my hometown, so 57 VARIETIES brings some odors to mind.

Agree that the biggest complaint is that this went too quickly. A fun solve. Nice to have ELUL appear again so soon. Hopefully it is now firmly affixed in my crosswordese database.

mmorgan 7:49 AM  

Didn't see the note until I came here. First theme answer I got was on the Jack Benny clue, and it made me smile -- and led to everything else filling in very quickly (until then, I had HELLROUND for 18A, which seemed perfectly reasonable to me).

Anonymous 8:16 AM  

er... make that "Merl" in my previous post.


joho 8:20 AM  

Many theme ideas have been done more than once each with a different outcome, some better than others. I thought Caleb did a great job here and was clever in how he incorporated the numbers he choose into the answers which were all well known phrases.

The note did make it easier for sure.

If you draw on the puzzle connecting the 6 numbers you end up with a assymetrical heart. :)

I'm thinking I may play the 6 numbers on the lottery ...

John V 8:26 AM  

Quick note while packing; more in a bit.

I'd not seen this idea before. I LOVED this puzzle! Neat theme, so many fresh, interesting clues. A perfect Thursday. Messed up the North, ETHEL/JEN/JUMP crossing. But, fun. Easy, once you got the theme, which I got at 19EIGHTYFOUR.


evil doug 8:32 AM  

Z: Count me in.

Everybody's right: No note. It's Thursday. A kiss of pleasure is found in the trick's discovery. I had h-l-round, and figured: Lots of golfers play 9 holes, so it must be 'half'. The down at 19 started to make sense with 'fight-----', but when 'atty' showed up that 'y' just didn't add up. That's when a quick backtrack opened my eyes to the gouge.

Not a big gimmick fan, but as long as it doesn't water down the theme answers I have no problem with it. 57 Varieties is a lovely, vivid, imagery-inducing answer.

Same with Four Horsemen. Shortly after my beloved C-130 Hercules was born, an Air Force demonstration team of the big but agile Hercules turboprop performed formation air shows as "The Four Horsemen" (you can find a video on YouTube). And of course, there's Grantland Rice's take on Notre Dame football:

"Outlined against a blue-gray October sky, the Four Horsemen rode again. In dramatic lore they are known as Famine, Pestilence, Destruction and Death. These are only aliases. Their real names are Stuhldreher, Miller, Crowley and Layden. They formed the crest of the South Bend cyclone before which another fighting Army football team was swept over the precipice at the Polo Grounds yesterday afternoon as 55,000 spectators peered down on the bewildering panorama spread on the green plain below."

Feared the 'put to sleep' clue---got an ollllllld dog whose days are sadly numbered---so it was a relief to see the yoyo. Also a nice twist on argyle/diamonds and postgame/shower.

Great fun.


Sue McC 8:46 AM  

I am behind on Matt's puzzles, so the theme was fresh for me and fun. Fill was pretty easy, though, for a Thursday. I did in Across lite and didn't see any note, but it wasn't needed. Yay, a good Thursday puzzle!

Brookboy 8:57 AM  

Enjoyed the puzzle, but I didn't find it easy, as Rex did. Did not read the note until maybe halfway through. I got (19) EIGHTYFOUR from the crosses, then got (39) YEARSOLD, which made me think the theme was numbers ending in nine. Thus couldn't figure out the JUMPSTREET (had STREET, not JUMP). Then I read the note and the penny dropped. Very enjoyable overall.

dk 9:07 AM  

Alas, I awoke at about 3:20AM and decided I would puzzle awhile and then go back to sleep (like the YOYO). Solved on the iPAD, quickly figured out the trick with the fill but missed the relationship with the grid numbers. I imagine one may be denser than this solver…but I doubt it.

🎇🎇 (2 sparklers) Fine puzzle a bit easy for a t-day.

Matty11 9:14 AM  

Actually didn't read the note because I do the puzzles on the iphone app, but it was still easy enough to figure out. Horsemen could arguably be a valid answer on it's own, but once I got to "jumpstreet" the jig was up. Maybe a touch too easy for a Thursday but I liked it a lot nonetheless.

baja 9:22 AM  

(2) thumbs up!

jackj 9:33 AM  

This was one terrific bit of cleverness from Caleb Emmons, made doubly so when we take into account that this was his NY Times debut!

Will and Caleb had me fooled when I printed out the AcrossLite puzzle and saw there were no partial answers in the grid, which then meant printing out the PDF version only to learn that version was just as bereft.

So, with a keen eye alerted for a “trick”, the whole left side filled in with no problems, though HORSEMEN, VARIETIES and JUMPSTREET seemed not quite right until, at 19EIGHTYFOUR the big AHA almost knocked me silly and the rest of the numbered partials became known and eventually were filled in.

There were bits of fill that were initially downright cantankerous like ADAPT for the “do as the Romans do” clue, YOYO was also very cleverly clued and not gettable until Jack Benny’s “Y” was played and then there was the vague request at 22 across for a “Dramatic confession” that didn’t want to budge from IDIDIT.

Further to those entries, LEGLESS, HEYMOM, ARGYLE, SHOWER, TESSERAE and MAHARAJA are bona fide standouts and there doesn’t seem to be one bit of crossword flotsam, not even ELUL, which we should all remember from its use in Barry Silk’s puzzle of last Saturday.

This was certainly a Thursday puzzle to remember; Caleb Emmons sure does know how to stage an entrance!

thursdaysd 9:39 AM  

Like dk, I solved on the iPad without the note and missed the connection to the clue numbers. I just thought it was an odd new variant on a rebus...

@Dad - what app are you using? Mine definitely leaves the clue numbers in place.

Quibble on 28D: in Mongolia yurts are gers.

John V 9:44 AM  

To expand a bit: clues I really liked: 1A HI hi(REALLY liked), 15A Passes for a flick, 49A Its full of diamonds (REALLY, REALLY liked), 61A Do a background check on/VET 52A Many a Comicon attendee/NERD, 63A Cleveland Browns fans/DAWGS. The whole of the cluing was terrific.

Alternate clue for 37A: "Actress Spacek": plays a touch old - which is why I like it :)

I'm not so much down on the hint. I think its okay.

Home to CT tonight, where it is a hot as it is in Charlotte.

Pete M. 9:47 AM  

2nd worst Thursday time of the year for me. Mostly because COL instead of BOL (S.A. land) led to SCOUR instead of ABORT (Scrub), which pretty much hosed that entire section for quite some time.

chefbea 9:52 AM  

Had to google a bit and still DNF.

I remember knitting argyle socks way back when. Loved 57 varieties.

Don't get bay filler. Is that a horse?

And Vet...someone explain please

Horse Guy 10:04 AM  

@Chefbea - Yes, the bay is probably a horse. "VET[ting]" someone or something is the process of thoroughly checking something out before you buy it. This too is probably an equine reference, as when you buy a horse you *always* vet it, i.e. have a complete veterinary exam, before you buy it. Sarah Palin wasn't thoroughly vetted before she was selected as a VP nominee.

John V 10:11 AM  

@HorseGuy: So, Sarah should have seen a Veterinarian? That explains it all.

loren muse smith 10:17 AM  

This was a lot harder for me than it seems it was for everyone else. It took me forever to see the trick. I thought since I print it out from Across Lite, the “parts” didn’t show up in that version. Because I had “hey man” forever, the aha moment – 21 JUMP STREET came very, very late.

I have not seen this kind of theme before and will check out the other puzzles people are talking about. Very clever. Liked seeing POLKA , MAHARAJA, and PASTY. I never know if it’s “yert” or YURT. And I always thought the 57 stood for the number of ingredients in the sauce. I bet 46A could’ve been clued differently to avoid “masses” and MASSE. (Yes, I’m plugging away at Patrick Berry’s book on construction.)

I DNF because, like @Pete, I had “col” for BOL,”scour,” for a bit, cleaned that part up and thought the word of the day would be “acort.” Jeez Louise.

Another embarrassing admission – hey, we’re among friends, right? – when I had L__LESS for “like worms,” I couldn’t see past “lipless.” But I have an excuse – shamelessly stealing from an old Bill Cosby commercial, I tease kids at the club where I work that the kids’ special for the day is Sautéed Snake Lips. Then we wonder if snakes actually have lips. Then I ask them to define “lip.” Seriously. What makes a lip a lip?

HEY MOM! OZARK Circle! I spent the first part of my childhood on OZARK Circle in Chattanooga! We had a morbidly obese standard Dachshund, “Corvette,” who was, for all intents and purposes, pretty much LEGLESS, she was so fat. Sorry, Gareth. We tried to keep her on a diet.

I later had a DAWG named ETHEL. Great girl but FIERCEly ugly – her head was too small for her body -like a cross between a lab and a ‘possum.

Thanks, Caleb. I enjoyed this one!

Howard B 10:24 AM  

Well, it's still a fun and lively concept when done well. It's not an easy thing to pull off a completely original, across every venue, theme nowadays. I've done the original puzzles of this form before, and it still feels fresh.

Enjoyed this one immensely, noting that it can't be that easy to craft this with symmetry, etc. Respect for not trying to squeeze extra Scrabbly stuff at the cost of the fill.

So I would say it's better than a so-so execution, when looking at it overall. I can't really use Matt G.'s meta and BEQ as a yardstick here, as that's kind of saying, well, you're a pretty good artist, but it's not Da Vinci, so "meh". (Respect to Rex as always ;) ).

Definitely looking forward to Merl's offering.

Anonymous 10:39 AM  

So what became of Jesser?

Two Ponies 10:41 AM  

This trick was new to me so I really enjoyed it even if it was too easy for a Thursday.
My biggest hold-up was the particle crossing an actress I did not know. Guessed right.
Alva saved me in the SE.
@ loren, Loved your lipless worms!
Great debut!

Anonymous 10:57 AM  

1 HI hi is a gimme in some fonts but in whatever sans serif font is used in the print version of the NY Times, upper case 'i' is indistinguishable from lower case 'l'. Seems a bit unfair to me to make reading the clue part of the difficulty.

Anyway the trick was new to me and the WTF reaction to reading the note and then glancing at the grid makes the note worthwhile.


Evan 10:58 AM  

The fun thing about this puzzle's gimmick was that, even after I got the trick pretty early on with (FOUR) HORSEMEN, I started considering how other answers might fit the theme. I wasn't exactly counting how many I had already entered in the grid, nor was I thinking much about symmetry -- but when I had --V-S at 62-Across, (62) LIVES seemed plausible (an album for almost seven cats, maybe?). So did (33) TRUE UP -- some basketball-related praise of Scottie Pippen (#33 was Pippen's uniform number)? Either way, TRUE UP is a phrase that, with or without the number, I'd never heard before.

This puzzle actually reminded me a little of another one from four years ago by Tim Wescott, where the first words of six long theme answers were descriptions of their clue number (EVEN, ODD, REAL, PRIME, PERFECT, and SQUARE). Back then, it was probably pretty tough to fit those answers symmetrically with the appropriate number and get in-the-language phrases for each one. Today, I bet it was even harder to do because the answers had to be even more specific to their numbers. JUMP STREET must be preceded by 21 and no other number, whereas PRIME TIME (from 37-Down four years ago) could have worked with other prime numbers as well.


Regarding your comment last night at 8:36 pm, it's not my birthday for another three months. I was just saying that it falls on the same day as Scottie Pippen's, and the same day that marks the anniversary of Rex's first blog post. But I appreciate the well-wishes either way.

Tita 10:58 AM  

Loved this theme, don't remember seeing it before.
Got it at 39YEARSOLD - am old enough to remember him (from reruns)

TESSERAE was a gimme from reading books about MC Escher. And I bet ArchaeoProf has dusted off many a one.

Thanks BEQ.
@Merl - no spoilers please!

Loved it in spite of DNF...muON for PION held up that little section, and wanting A'-mok at 49D made me sure that A'-VID ws not a word - I went with A'-VIm/mAWGS!

@LMS - that poor dachsund!!

Mr. Emmons - fabulous!

loren muse smith 11:14 AM  

@Tita - We were able to tell people we had a Corvette that was "four on the floor," but she really was fat. I don't know how because we did limit her food intake. One charming aspect was that she would do what Dad coined "the agony drag," (read PRAT) but only when we were trying to pull off an elegant dinner party.

Anonymous 11:16 AM  

didn't see the clue until i was almost finished and got it on jack benny then went back and finished up the horsemen and the round of golf. liked the puzzle especially since i didn't enjoy this week's priors atall.

Anonymous 11:18 AM  

my 96 year old dashing father in law tells everyone that he is 69 then adds that he is slightly dyslexic. (appropo of j.benny saying he was 39 forever.)

ksquare 11:23 AM  

Did you hear about the Heinz worker who was caught with his penis in the pickle slicer? He was fired. So was she!

Mel Ott 11:26 AM  

I know I've encountered this them before......sometime, somewhere. Nice puzzle - a lot of entertaining clues.

Since the grid encouraged me to solve down the left side, I didn't get it until 57 VARIETIES, since HORSEMEN made sense by itself.

18 HOLE ROUND feels a tad clunky to me. Golfers will say, "I played a ROUND today" or, "I played 18 HOLEs today. But will they say, I played an 18 HOLE ROUND today"? Much less usual I think.

Lindsay 11:31 AM  

Theme was fresh to me, thumbs up. Like others, I found the note gratuitous. Although when I read it and saw that the grid contained nothing but the usual black squares, I thought of Gorski's "Wunderbar" puzzle that flummoxed me a while back.

Grateful to this blog for having previously introduced me to the idea that something called 21 JUMP STREET exists. Otherwise no problems.

Hot here.

Anonymous 11:31 AM  

I had never seen this theme before, so it was refreshingly enjoyable for me!

21 gun salute for Caleb Emmons!

Nooner 11:39 AM  

I do the puzzle on Across Lite and didn't notice the note until just now. Since I'm a beginner, that would've helped me. As I muddled along and got answers using crosses, I perceived the theme as "number are being left out." I finished the puzzle but didn't see the real point until I got here. Then I was all, "Oh!!" and happy with it. It must been a b*tch to make it happen, and in this case I feel like the fill didn't get horrible to make it work. So, hat tip to Caleb, wherever you are!

MiriamB 11:43 AM  

@thursdaysd: Yep, I think of "yurt" as a Turkoman dwelling.

Wonderful puzzle.

Carola 12:04 PM  

I really liked this - pleasantly challenging, with a new (to me) theme and clues that made me smile (OATS, YOYO, ARGYLE). I caught onto the theme with 19EIGHTYFOUR; I already had HORSEMEN but had not noticed the "4." I needed my new friend ELUL to get the U in 21JUMPSTREET, which I hadn't heard of, and the L to remind me of ETHEL Kennedy. I could identify with HEYMOM - a perfect characterization of my son's college phone calls.

In Rome a couple of months ago, I was amazed at the mosaics in the National Museum that had TESSERAE so tiny that the images looked like paintings. There are some nice photos posted here.

I wonder how many in the younger demographic knew about Jack Benny. His show was a favorite of my family in the 1950s. Great deadpan humor,

Thank you, Caleb - very fun.

mac 12:07 PM  

Very clever puzzle! It took a long time to figure it out, but Heinz's 57 varieties gave it away.

pooloniousmonk 12:14 PM  

@ACPT Scorer

So, a puzzle with an error is not finished? But, I corrected the error, so THEN did I finish?

And, why do them on paper when it is so much fun to use my iTouch?

Rob C 12:14 PM  

I haven't seen the theme before and really enjoyed it. Same bump in the road as Rex with spoof for POLKA. Didn't slow me don much though. Cluing was excellent for a Thurs. A bit tough in spots, some witty, some misdirects, but all fair and gettable.

My worm was initially assLESS because I never saw a worm take a crap, but I suppose LEGLESS works also.

Rob C 12:17 PM  

Forgot to mention @ John V
Funny re: Sarah Palin

Anonymous 12:18 PM  

@Rex, Jack Benny is my bone, having grown up in the 1940s listening to him and others such as Fred Allen. The Great Depression (unlike the current one) and Vaudeville produced a number of great comics who helped make the 1930s and 1940s the golden age of radio. Many went on to TV but it was never the same. Radio stimulated imagination. TV killed it.

This is the second time in recent days where Rex has pointed out another puzzle with the same theme, labeling that as bad luck. Bad luck, bad themes, bad fill, bad execution. As Roseanne Roseannadanna would say, "It's always something--if it ain't one thing, it's another."


Anonymous 12:21 PM  

I get so tired of "h test". I am very familiar with that in real world sense and I have NEVER heard that expression used except in crossword puzzles.

Sparky 12:21 PM  

The fill was going in rather nicely but I couldn't see the trick. Got it with 21 JUMP STREET. Able to go back and neaten things up The symmetry very helpful.

@Chefbea, I knitted one argyle sock. All those bobbins. The lucky guy graduated before I got to the second. Loved the clue.

Shout out to @JenCT. I miss Jesser, too. Fun to solve. Thanks Caleb. I'll try some of the others too.

Anonymous 12:39 PM  

Top 10 other possiblities:

1 Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
2 Gentlemen of Verona
3 Faces of Eve (or Coins in the
4 Weddings and a Funeral
5 Easy Pieces
6 Degrees of Separation
7 Deadly Sins (or Year Itch)
8 Mile
12 Angry Men
50 Shades of Grey

Carola 1:04 PM  

@Anonymous 12:39 - I was sorry that the puzzle was too small to include 77 Sunset Strip!

John V 1:07 PM  


Anonymous 1:17 PM  

Not to mention 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover....


Mike in DC 1:27 PM  

The note didn't ruin it for me because I immediately thought of some puzzles we've seen in the past where a blank square counted for something (I remember one answer, "Washington [square]".) I don't start at the top, and immediately got 57 Varieties, and groaned because I had done Matt's puzzle.

Matt's puzzle was a lot more fun because he threw in a twist. Just when you thought you had the gimmick solved, he threw in some twists with some of the numbers.

Still, this was fun, if easy for a Thursday.

Anonymous 1:29 PM  

Nice and enjoyable, but 22A answer grates on my ears. Clue is also off, unless "dramatic" is some synonym for "grammatically incorrect".

Tita 1:49 PM  

@Rob C:
"My worm was initially assLESS because I never saw a worm take a crap..."
Then you don't garden, or you would regularly see tiny piles of "castings" everywhere! It's actually a good thing. (Even though they are invasives!)

Funny first guess - I've added lipLESS and assLESS to my Hall of Fame ...

Bird 2:02 PM  

Since the theme is new for me I enjoyed this puzzle. I read the note and looked at the grid thinking, “Nothing is filled in. Was there an error at printing? Is it BLACK something? SQUARE something?” Then I got 18A (I am a golfer) and all was good. I liked the fresh clues and answers. Thank you Caleb.

The theme reminds me of a number/letter game in which a number and some letters are provided and you need to figure out the solution. For example: 88 PK = 88 Piano Keys, 3 BM = ?

Wasn’t there a Geek conversation yesterday? Amazing how serendipity works.

I thought Weird Al specialized in parodies.

@John V – I guess you will be acclimated to the heat when you arrive home?

@ksquare – ROTFLMAO

@JFC – I miss Gilda


TimJim 2:04 PM  

I had never seen this theme before and so enjoyed it greatly. Took a while to figure out but a nice AHA moment when I did.
Along with Anonymous@10:30 - I missed the reason for Jesser's departure - Can someone fill us in? (Hope nothing too bad)

Mr. Benson 2:54 PM  

For us old-fashioned folks who do the puzzle on paper, it's always amusing when an answer is staring you right in the face (headline right next to the puzzle today: "JOYCE's Words Waft Across the Water").

Anonymous 3:11 PM  

@Bird: 3 Blind Mice

Got anymore?

Lewis 3:14 PM  

@bird - 3BM -- good one!

I was slow to catch the trick, but it was a great aha when I did. Very nice debut, Caleb! Keep 'em coming.

mikeametrics 3:25 PM  

This puzzle played tough for because

A) I forgot there was a theme until about 60% through. So I got held up with HALFROUNDS and thought the dystopia novel was something like FIGHTTOWAR or st like that.

B) the end--- I spelled YERTS and TREEUP sounds as reasonable to me as TRUEUP (neither of which I've ever seen in usage)-- nattick anyone?

Anonymous 3:25 PM  

I thought tesserae were the people who tessered in "A Wrinkle in Time". ;)

sanfranman59 3:35 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)

Thu 15:46, 18:55, 0.83, 21%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Thu 8:09, 9:20, 0.87, 28%, Easy-Medium

Tita 3:44 PM  

@mikeametrics...It is a delicate skill to TRUEUP a spoke wheel. Back in the day I trued bicycle wheels. Trueing spoke wheels on old British cars can be a costly endeavor.

It was an early gimme for me.

Bird 4:10 PM  

@Anon3:11 and @Lewis - I have more. I think there are 20 or 25, but the sheet is at home. I'll post a couple more now then look for the sheet when I get home.

7 = W of the AW
52 = C in a D

@Tita - is TRUE UP a British phrase then?

John V 4:22 PM  


Anonymous 4:31 PM  

@Mr. Benson...

I had similar sentiment when after removing Section C for puzzle, headline on D1 "Yurt by Yurt" hit me between the eyes... talk about coincidence!

Tita 4:34 PM  

@Bird -don't friend who taught me how to true wheels was Jewish. When I think of spokes on cars, I think of 50's & 60's British, but they were probably more ubiquitous than that. Maybe Old Car Fudd can shed some light. I'm far from an expert.

I like this game...
7 Wonders of the World
52 Cards in a Deck.
Too hot to think up any on my own...

Tita 4:34 PM  

*Ancient World

loren muse smith 4:42 PM  

1 For the Road
12 Days of Christmas
3 Dog Night
1 For the Money
2 For the Show
3 To Get Ready and
4 To go!

evil doug 4:55 PM  

3 way.


Tobias Duncan 5:11 PM  

42 America's fascination with sports completely baffles and depresses me...

Oh wait, that one doesn't quite work I guess. Oh well I will fix it later.

Lurking, Just Behind You 5:20 PM  

I liked the puzzle

@RP re : the lack of attendance at a Comicon.....hie thee (with daughter in tow) to an event ASAP!! They are a blast...and they also leave the geeks of the world (us?) feeling just a little less outcast and a little less alone...that alone is worth the price of admission. You also get to see about a gazillion things to amaze amuse and remind yourself that geekdom aint all that bad.

Anonymous 5:23 PM  

874,345 The number of times Tobias complains about something.

jackj 5:34 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
BigSteve46 6:09 PM  

Its a different world for those of us who only do the NYT puzzle in the course of the daily reading of the paper, and those whose lives revolves around xword puzzles.
For us normal, well-adjusted people, who do the puzzle the way it is supposed to be done, with a writing instrument on the actual paper of the newspaper - this was a refreshing and challenging entry.

chefbea 6:14 PM  

3 musketeers
3 little pigs

Stephen 6:19 PM  

Somehow, I spent a year in Spanish countries and never retained the word for thirst. I also spent a few years working for a company called SED Systems in Saskatoon Saskatchewan; somehow, that did not help with the sed quenching clue either.

This puzzle was brutal, your experience notwithstanding.

I did get the tricky theme, and admired it greatly. Construction must have been a huge pain. I checked out 9A: "The king shall joy in thy strength." and found out it is NOT the 9th psalm, it's the 21st. What's with that?

I came here and found out about the "note". There was a note? (I go check.) Yes, there was a note. Why do I never see those things? I would joy in them, if I ever saw them.

Tobias Duncan 6:57 PM  

Anon 5:23 PM

Thanks for noticing! I have to say that you are underestimating the number by several orders of magnitude.

I hate to complain so much but I have found that humans have become so polite that if I do not complain, no one will.
That has been my biggest complaint with society for years.

Rube 7:28 PM  

Did not red the note and don't have the patience to read 87 comments.

A truly enjoyable puzzle, the theme of which I've seen somewhere in ther last 2-3 years. TESSERAE is a great WOTD.

Acme 7:45 PM  

Poor little worm, legless, lipless, assless, hipless.

Funny stories, Great lists! Now just try and get them parallel, same number letters, AND have them be the actual first letter of the clue (ie sometimes there is no 21 Across or Down) and one can imagine what it would have taken to construct this, let alone a debut!

Talk about raining on a parade! I'm surprised @rex didn't also allude to there already being a brilliant constructor named Caleb!

Rob C 7:46 PM  

Wow. Thanks for the info. When I read your comment, two simultaneous thoughts occurred to me:
1. I know too little about worms
2. You know too much about worms

Perhaps both are true. In any case, I can't believe my life has come to this, but out to the garden

PS - in the interest of maintaining the integrity of your Hall, that was only a joke, I plunked down legless with just -----SS.

Anonymous 8:01 PM  

@Acme - LOL. Nice to see you back. Damning with faint praise and raining on a parade. Only my mommy could come up with more cliches that fit the moment.

@Loren - Are you and Acme working on a 1 for the money puzzle? I think there's potential for your second....


loren muse smith 9:13 PM  

To all you helminthophobiacs (for you, @Pete), thanks to @Tita, you can go to sleep knowing that worms do indeed poop. Even scarier.

But the question still stands: do worms have lips?

@Acme – thanks. I'm so glad you’re back. As for the suggestion – I’m nowhere near ready to go it alone.

JenCT 9:25 PM  

Never saw the note, but got the theme at 19d EIGHTY FOUR. This played tougher for me also.

First time I can remember seeing JEN in a puzzle.

Really liked the clues for ARGYLE, OATS, and especially YOYO.

I confuse HTEST and HBOMB with ATEST and ABOMB.

JenCT 9:28 PM  

(Oops - forgot to check email followup comments box.)

JenCT 10:02 PM  


sanfranman59 10:04 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 8:48, 6:50, 1.29, 100%, Challenging (highest median solve time of 156 Mondays)
Tue 14:01, 8:57, 1.57, 100%, Challenging (highest median solve time of 157 Tuesdays)
Wed 11:26, 11:47, 0.97, 45%, Medium
Thu 15:51, 18:55, 0.84, 22%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 4:47, 3:41, 1.30, 100%, Challenging (highest median solve time of 156 Mondays)
Tue 7:05, 4:38, 1.53, 100%, Challenging (highest median solve time of 157 Tuesdays)
Wed 6:20, 5:53, 1.08, 77%, Medium-Challenging
Thu 7:48, 9:20, 0.84, 24%, Easy-Medium

Bird 11:22 PM  

Sorry for the late notice, but I'm still looking for my list of letters/numbvers, but I remembered a couple more . . .

26 L of the A
1001 AN

Anonymous 12:06 AM  

What note? Obviously I didn't see it so it was typical Thursday for me. Fairly easy once I got the theme at 19 EIGHTY FOUR. Nice puzzle.

oldbizmark 10:04 AM  

what note. there was no note in the paper. i thought it was fun, albeit a bit easy for a thursday. maybe they were making up for the junk from monday and tuesday.

SW 10:37 AM  

Never saw the gimmick before, so the note puzzled me until the Jack Benny clue and then the note helped me. Got Horsemen without the "four" part so kept wondering where the sixth was. Figured tesserae had to be the word of the day. Kept wanting yeast for HTest, even though hardly informal and wouldn't fit with the crosses. Misread HI hi clue and then so obvious! Liked argyle, hey mom, and working out maharaja (after priding myself with Joyce). Elvis was a fun surprise. It was good for me.

Just a note from a come-lately syndicated solver: Did you know the Syndicated Puzzle link often is a day late?

Bulldog 12:27 PM  

Weird Al Yankovic's specialty is parody, not "polka." Frankie Yankovic is known as "King of the Polka." Otherwise, I found the puzzle just the right diversion as I waited for the mechanic to finish my car's safety inspection.

Linda 12:34 PM  

Very surprised no one replied to the anonymous who complained that the answer to 22 aCross was ungrammatical! It is, of course, correct to say IT WAS I.

Anonymous 12:40 PM  

Hey, SW, where I live in San Diego we get the puzzle later by 5 days in the Union-Trib. I just finished and it's Thursday, July 26th. I only wish it was one day late. No one ever reads my comments and the world of puzzle geeks has sufferd a great loss. lol Ron

Anonymous 12:46 PM  

The Mongolian felt tent dwelling is called a gher, not a yurt. Yurt is the Russian word.

Ginger 1:44 PM  

Hand up for totally missing the note, nevertheless I was able to finish in near record time (If I timed). Only glitch was Loll for LAZE, but the crosses quickly corrected that.

TRUE UP is a common phrase in contruction, not to be confused with constructing :-). IE - If studs are not 'true' nothing else will be.

Good Puzzle with a fun gimmick.

Ginger 1:51 PM  

@Anon 12:40 AKA Ron There is a small group of us here in the time warp of syndication land (5 weeks late, except for Sun). I for one would welcome your comments, and yes, they will be read!

DMGrandma 4:39 PM  

My puzzle came without a note, and my first attempt at the rebus was THIRTYIX for Jack Benny's age, but the Roman number idea clearly didn't work elsewhere. In the end I finished thinking the catch was simply missing numbers. Stumbled a bit with AHGEE, but finally corrected it. My last square was X in AXL. I seem to have heard that name before. But I would have spelled it "Axel".
Note to the Anonymous SD Union reader. Our puzzle is weeks, not days later. The date of the original puzzle can be found in the number before today's date, in today's case, No. 0621. This puzzle originally ran June 21st on the other side of the time divide. Good to know if you try to,look it up on the Web.

Spacecraft 5:20 PM  

In syndiland they don't need no stinkin' notes. Breezed right past HORSEMEN without noticing the clue number. Got bogged down (clues today were VERY weekendish) a few times and had to start up in a new place. One such was the Jack Benny clue--and I immediately noticed that it was 39d and thought: Wow, I can't wait to get this finished and get on the blog about that marvelous coincidence!

[My favorite "excuse" of his for not being 40 on the birthday after being 39 all year follows.]

"Well, Dennis, ya see, I went on a cruise in the Pacific. The captain got the hiccups, and we crossed the International Date Line 365 times."

God, I miss Jack. Anyway, I was trying to work on the west central when the end of 21d looked like ____STREET, and I thought, hmm, I recall there was a 21 Jump.... DING! I literally slapped my forehead! Oh, man, so there was no coincidence at all about 39d. It was just YEARSOLD!

But wait. Yes, there is a coincidence, and it is that the exact numbers needed appear naturally at each theme entry. How this guy--he's one of those wunderkinds, right? Like, in his early teens?--how he pulled this off is awesome to think about. This is one of those guys who scare me ****less.

In the face of such brilliance, it is easy to overlook little annoyances like HTEST (or A-, or N-, etc.) and OZARK crossing ARK. Great WOTD for me = YURTS.

Anonymous 1:06 AM  

Weird Al didn't play polkas. His father played polkas.

Dirigonzo 7:32 AM  

I read the note, looked at the blank grid and was prepared to fire off a strongly worded email to the publisher of my local paper - that is until I had enough of EIGHTYFOUR in place to recognize the words and then spied the "19" sitting on top of it. Game on, and the rest was (relatively) easy and lots of fun.

@Spacecraft - I think the "wunderkind" is Caleb Mason, not the guy (who must be pretty brilliant in his own right, whatever his age) who created this puzzle.

@Bird - Letters of the Alphabet, Arabian Nights (I didn't want you to think we syndilanders were ignoring you).

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