O Henry Award winner for Livvie is Back / TUE 10-30-12 / Mystery writer John Dickson / Spanish liqueur / Double curve / Old welfare measure / 1944 battle site

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Constructor: Alex Vratsanos

Relative difficulty: Medium Rare



THEME: Political Spectrum — Circled letters, reading from top to bottom, spell out political positions, from far left to far right.

Word of the Day: SANDY 
"Sandy Leah Lima (born January 28, 1983) is a Brazilian singer-songwriter, producer and actress. She is best known by the mononymous stage name 'Sandy.' ... Sandy Leah Lima's first name, 'Sandy' was chosen because it was the name of the central character in the movie Grease starring Olivia Newton-John. Her parents saw the movie together on the day they started dating ... In a Billboard magazine interview, Sandy said she often practices boxing, she is 'kind of melancholy' and she sees a sad beauty in the world ... According to official data, Sandy had over 60 nominations in awards, and won dozens." For more fascinating facts, read the whole article, Sandy (singer), on Wikipedia.
• • •
"A sad beauty in the world." Isn't that special? Howdy, folks. Doug here, filling in for Rex, who's battened down the hatches and stocked up on Hurricane Chow as he waits for Sandy to land. Here's an early report from Rex Parker HQ: "Still nothing here to speak of. My deep sympathies to NYC, which appears quite messed up." Stay safe, East Coasters!

Interesting theme today. I'm surprised that Will didn't save it for next Tuesday, Election Day. Maybe he has a doozy scheduled for November 6th.

Theme answers:
  • 1D / 26D / 51D : RADS /OBIS / FOCAL - RADICAL
  • 4D / 38D: LIBRAS / E NATURAL - LIBERAL 
  • 7D / 29D / 56D: MODS / ERI TU / FATE - MODERATE
  • 10D / 50D: CONSERVE / ACTIVE - CONSERVATIVE
  • 13D / 36D / 59D: REACH / TIOS / NARY - REACTIONARY
Pretty cool. You've got the left-wingers on the left side of the grid, the right-wingers on the right side of the grid, and the moderates in the middle. The undecided voters are in a diagramless puzzle somewhere, because they haven't figured out where to put the black squares yet.

Now for the bad stuff. Because of the way the theme is structured, there are no entries longer than eight letters in the grid. And that's my main beef. The long entries in a puzzle are usually the most memorable entries, the ones that sparkle. The longest entries in this grid are STERNUMS, E NATURAL, FOURTEEN, and CONSERVE. Not much sparkle there. Was the theme interesting enough to make up for the lack of long answers? I report, you decide.

And that last eight-letter entry, CONSERVE, made me cringe for another reason. CONSERVE and CONSERVATIVE are practically the same word. Look at REACTIONARY. That's the way to disguise an answer. It's split up among three words that have nothing to do with "react" or "reaction." Well done. But using CONSERVE to hide part of CONSERVATIVE is a major flaw.

Bullets:
  • 17A: Competition for 3-year-olds (DERBY) — Did you know that all thoroughbred horses have the same birthday, January 1st? If you're a thoroughbred born during 2012, no matter what day, you're assigned the birthday 1/1/2012. It makes it easier to keep track of which horses are three-year-olds, etc. So if you're a horse with a Facebook account, on January 1st, you get an alert that says "371 of your friends have birthdays today."
  • 22A: Resin in varnish (MASTIC) — That's a tough entry. When I read the clue, I thought it was going to be ELEMI, or maybe ELENI. I always confuse those two. Trust me, one of them is a dreaded "Varnish resin." Other toughies in this grid include OGEE, URANO, ENOL, SENNA, ANIS, and ANZIO.
  • 30A: Roy G. ___ (BIV) — He was my favorite member of Bell Biv Devoe.
  • 49A: "The Hitler Diaries" and others (HOAXES) — That's a nice clue. I was big into WWII when I was in junior high and high school, and I remember reading everything I could find on the diaries and the forgers behind the hoax. And this was before the internet, so it was hard to find stuff! Especially when the Billings Gazette was your local newspaper. 
  • 28D: Like certain odds, paradoxically (EVEN) — Are even odds really a paradox? More of an oxymoron.
  • 34D: Quizmaster Trebek (ALEX) — Aha! The constructor snuck his name into the grid. Nice touch, Alex, but I want to see VRATSANOS in your next one.
Best wishes to all of you in Sandy's path. May your basements stay dry & your blackouts be brief.

Signed, Doug Peterson, Factotum of CrossWorld

65 comments:

Alex Vratsanos 12:56 AM  

Good evening, everyone.

Hurricane Sandy aside, this puzzle was tentatively scheduled for Election Day when it was accepted in late January. I suspect next Tuesday will have something specific to 2012 in it.

When I made this puzzle, I decided not to overshadow the columns of circles with long Across entries. I have grown a lot as a constructor, then, and so I may have redesigned the grid to include some more long entries. I liked (and still like) the dual-symmetry of the grid. And as for CONSERVE, it was either use it or scrap the whole puzzle- the CONSERVATIVE column would have been impossible without CONSERVE. Seeing as CONSERVE would have been (and in the end turned out to be) an NYT debut, I went with it.

I agree with you, MASTIC was probably too tough for a Tuesday... I wonder what I'd replace it with if I was asked to redo the puzzle. I would certainly change the clue for 49-Across, but I wouldn't remove ALEX; I like having the X, and it honestly was not because it's my own name.

I also like the "Medium Rare" difficulty... I'm not entirely sure what that means, but I like it.

And so, my trio of NYT puzzles has become a quartet. I don't have any in the pipeline, but I am not going to stop at four. When that will be, I don't know... but in the meantime, I hope you all enjoy my puzzle.

Anzio Coyer Mastics 1:03 AM  

I enjoyed it @ALEX!

The CONSERVE/CONSERVATIVE thing stuck out a bit, but when you look at the overall construct/construction it is just fine! VERY clever.

Shaky start for me, tho, to be honest. There were so many prefixes (ACU, URANO, AERO) I felt like shouting "Use your words, Alex!"
But you won me over with ANZIO, ANJOU, HOAXES and ALEX...SLYNESS afoot!

And, as a LIBRA, I'm going to find this over all fair and balanced...perhaps unlike the coming election.

I also liked CRAWL, as I debated fifty, forty, etc.

@Doug
BIV joke...fun-ny!

Anonymous 1:09 AM  

Enjoyed your puzzle Alex... and I had a nice "aha!" moment when I figured out the theme (which took me a while, I ashamed to say).

-Martin Ashwood-Smith

Evan 1:15 AM  

I spelled out the different political views when I was finished, but hadn't noticed they were deliberately positioned from left to right until Doug pointed it out, so that's a clever device.

Doug's point about CONSERVE and CONSERVATIVE is well taken, too (and I appreciate the constructor's take in the comment section). Part of the difficulty there is that the latter is a 12-letter word, which leaves you only three additional squares with which to hide it -- in this case, an E, a C, and a black square. If you try to split the column into three words instead of two, that might require a larger-than-normal grid. Something like CON + SERVE + NATIVE would make sixteen squares with two black squares between them. I suppose you could do CON + SER + VAT + I'VE (with SER clued as an abbrev. for "sermon" or as a title for the king's guards in Game of Thrones) but then you'd have no un-circled white squares in that column.

The AIWA/ANZIO crossing is pretty tough for a Tuesday -- I guessed and felt only slightly comfortable about it, but fortunately guessed right. I'd also like to point out that my only familiarity with Eudora WELTY is the classic Simpsons episode where Jay Sherman mentions her legendary belching ability.

Still no major sign of Sandy-related danger in my Philly apartment, but maybe other parts of the city have been hit harder.

jae 1:42 AM  

Medium-tough for me and the iPad times so far seem to agree.  Clever theme, I liked it, and, although Billings Doug makes some good points, @Evan's comments on CONSERVATIVE make sense.

Had thiRTEEN at first.  Should have known better.  My 8th grader granddaughter turned 14 on Sat. (What do you get a kid who was student body president in elementary school, has never had anything less than an A, is a delight to be around, and has her own line of very cute handmade Christmas cards...a MacBookPro...and yes, I'm bragging).

I also tried to get fancy spelling STERNUMS (ae?).

Anonymous 1:59 AM  

No problem with CONSERVE at all for me. I get the objection, but find it lacking.

Very nice puzzle. The junk fill was very gettable and worth the theme.

I also thought STERNAE. Looked it up later and STERNA is plural. Don't know if I'm aware of any other words that pluralize like that; nothing comes to mind right off. Interesting.

Anoa Bob 2:02 AM  

Icee nala aero mastic? Coyer carr welty senna anis. Themet eritu:

1. biv
2. acu
3. emo

Urano eloi anzio! Tios rads amat ogee. Avoir aiwa, neer bator obis.

syndy 2:47 AM  

Circles dullville Nary a sparkle WOE!underdone

chefwen 3:04 AM  

I'm calling it Medium/Well. This was one of the more difficult Tuesday puzzles that I can recall.

Like @Evan lucked out in the ANZIO AIWA area with my guesses, not so lucky in the AVOIR ENOL WELTY region, had to guess at at three letters there and tanked on all three. So a DNF here, but I did like it, thanks Alex.

Eejit 4:02 AM  

The theme helped a lot with figuring out words I didn't know, particularly in the northeast where it was really blowing for a while.

I live in DC but am visiting San Antonio so I've missed the storm luckily. I was supposed to go back today but can't get a flight until Thursday. Can't complain I suppose. Best of luck to all in it's path.

George Barany 6:33 AM  

Our thoughts go out to many friends and relatives on the East Coast -- may they be entertained and informed by guest blogger @Doug. His appearance is unusually timely because his own puzzle of Wednesday November 5, 2008 (the day after Election Day, four years ago!) may yet be stripped of its place in the pantheon. The news has not yet migrated from the sports pages to the crossword pages, but serious allegations have been made with respect to 40-Across (14 letters, starting with L, ending with ONG), clued as: "Athlete with four ESPY awards." Here is a link to the original @Rex discussion: http://rexwordpuzzle.blogspot.com/2008/11/wednesday-nov-5-2008-doug-peterson.html

Milford 6:59 AM  

Kind of recoiled at first to all the circles, and thought it was going to be a long quote. After doing a pass through all the clues, I realized there was no revealer clue. Looking at all the circles again, it became pretty obvious what they all were, so most the rest filled in pretty quickly. Paused at the far right, thinking it would be tea party/tea baggers. Oops. I thought the fill was fine.

Wanted sixty before CRAWL for 53D. But maybe that's just around here.

@Anon 1:59 - yes, the plural ending for neuter Latin words -UM is -A. Think datum (singular) and data (plural) if that helps. The -AE plural ending is for feminine words ending in -A as singular.

Hope those on the East coast are all doing OK. Watched the news of it all evening. We were in Wildwood, NJ this summer, and it looks like they were one of the worst to get hit.

Sleet/snow has worked it's way to Michigan, and the Great Lakes are reporting 25-foot waves. Yikes. Be safe everyone!

Kevin 7:19 AM  

ANZIO crossed with AIWA? Am I just showing my relative youth, or is neither of those words in the public consciousness? Things like that made this entire puzzle unbearable for me.

Glimmerglass 7:31 AM  

Sandy is a stupid name for a hurricane. What's next, Hurricane Buffy?

jberg 7:41 AM  

AIWA didn't bother me - I thought it was a modern electronics company, have they gone broke or something? I had eNZIO/seCTION for a few moments, till I saw FOCAL - nOdAL just didn't fit the crosses. But my real problem was the RVA (random Verdi aria). Not knowing Italian all that well, I thought maybe Eo I TU meant 'you and I,' which would have given SNOoT - which I liked better than SNORT. Fortunately, I guessed right.

Twice this week for A DUE meaning 'together;' true for duets only, I guess - but then I guess it's not used in any other context.

Storm damage wasn't too bad here in my neighborhood of Boston, but we were without power for 5 hours, and are still recovering - so I'd better go do that!

Z 7:56 AM  

My only complaint is that this felt more Wednesdayish to me.

I had no problem with the RVA even though I am arimpaired. I had the E-I-- and filled it in. If it had been ER---- I would have written eres tu. Both LFC answers for me (Learned From Crosswords).

Hand up for not liking the AIWA/ANZIO crossing.

Bob Snead 8:31 AM  

Meh.

joho 8:42 AM  

I liked the theme because of its timeliness and the fact it moves from left to right.

One thing that distracted me, though, is that there are 18 Answers starting with "A" in the grid. I'm not sure why that bothers me.

Anyway, ALEX, I enjoyed yourpuzzle and look forward to seeing your name at the top again.

@Doug, loved your amusing write-up especially the informative part about thoroughbreds and their Facebook pages: "371 of your friends have birthdays today."


Carola 8:42 AM  

Caught onto the theme about halfway through, and that definitely helped me in the SW. Saw the spectrum when I had it all filled in - nice!

I like ORION spanning the center section - reminds me of his famous belt.

ERI TU will be heard at THE MET starting next week in a new production of Verdi's A Masked Ball.

I hope those in Sandy's path are all right!

jackj 8:43 AM  

When you see 45 circles in a Tuesday puzzle, the best bet is to solve it as a themeless and see what the circles offer up after completion.

Turns out host Alex gave us a theme that was simply riffing on politics and allowed for five political options, on a scale from RADICAL to REACTIONARY to accommodate all but the most extreme advocate.

Still, this was one gnarly dude, probably better suited for a more advanced day of the week but we deal with them as we get ‘em so we can gripe or praise but solve it we must.

Since the constructor’s first task was to protect the 45 theme letters, he was forced to use entries that are questionable at best but the upper right quadrant seemed the most troubling with NALA, CARR, MASTIC, OGEE, BESEECH, AVAST (great clue though), ELOI and EATER.

EATER?

EATER for “Gourmand”?

Alex, surely you jest. Gourmands may be terrible snobs but they certainly deserve a better appellation than just EATER(s). I think you’ve stretched beyond reason for this one. (Of course this is from one who readily admits that his favorite nosh is a sandwich of peanut butter, crisp bacon and iceberg lettuce on toasted white bread slathered with mayonnaise).

On that note, I’m off to the kitchen.

Thanks, Alex, for an unexpected workout.

Anonymous 9:18 AM  

Jackj, re EATER: check the primary definition of gourmand. This is a classic Maleska clue. It looks wrong, but it is accurate.

MAS

dk 9:44 AM  

Solving this on my iPad as the paper was late I missed the circles and by logical conclusion the theme.

Thanks to Doug I now wish anarchist was in the grid.

To my puzzle pals I say: Just Vote. Then we all have no reason to complain as we did the best we could. Remember 600 or so votes changed some history.

The puzzle. Calling a gourmand an EATER is a bit like calling a sommelier a wino. The rest of the puzzle was fine, actually exceptional for a Tuesday. And, the theme makes sense now that I have the bubbles. But - quoting Bob Snead: "meh!"

���� (2 Imps) Carving some pumpkins tonight.

Do you know why ghosts can not have babies?

Hollow weenies!

chefbea 9:54 AM  

Tough puzzle. Had no idea how to connect the circles til I cam here. DNF

Every one eats so...everyone is a gourmand???? I don't think so.

Susan McConnell 10:23 AM  

I liked it. It was topical, cleverly laid out, and felt appropriately Tuesday-ish to me. I get the CONSERVE complaint, but it was worth it to pull off the theme.

All is well here in north central CT. I believe anything that could fall did fall in last October's snow storm, so there wasn't much left for the wind to blow down. Power stayed on all through the storm.

Two Ponies 10:40 AM  

Rather tough for a Tuesday.
Something about this felt grating to me and I think @Anoa Bob showed me with his list of non-words.
Also, when I think of radical I don't think left.
@ Alex thanks for your input. You have me very curious as to what Will has in store for us next Tuesday.
Thanks Doug for sitting in. The racehorse/Facebook joke was good.
Who is Roy G. Biv?

JC66 11:05 AM  

I live on the Upper West Side and am safe, sound and dry. Much luckier than some of my neighbors.

quilter1 11:06 AM  

Medium here, too, although I have no complaints. Thank you, ALEX, for a crunchy Tuesday.
I've never met a Sandy I didn't like, so I'm glad I am in Iowa and not meeting this one. Best wishes to those affected.
One more thought: why aren't power lines in storm affected areas not put underground to avoid 7 million people being without power?

Anonymous 11:26 AM  

I'm amazed at how many comments the ANZIO / AIWA cross is getting. AIWA was taken over by Sony and then basically abandoned as a brand, but still relatively recent. The name had a decent reputation. Would have expected ANZIO to be a gimme for many or most people here.

A medium-plus time for me. High on junk fill, but pretty impressed that the theme was doable at all, especially for a Tuesday.

Carola 11:28 AM  

@Two Ponies - Roy B. Biv is a mnemonic device to help school kids learn the colors of the rainbow (or refracted light, I guess) and in their correct order: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet.

JC66 11:29 AM  

daperfor 833@quiler1

Power lines in most of NYC are undergroung. That doesn't prevent this from happening.

Liz 11:56 AM  

There sure are a lot of superfluous apostrophes flying around these comments! Thanks for indulging me in my pet peeve.

Two Ponies 12:05 PM  

@ Carola, Thanks, I never heard of that.
I heard on NPR recently that finding the problem spot in an underground electrical grid is much more difficult and expensive.

jackj 12:07 PM  

Anonymous(MAS)@9:18AM-

Martin, thank you for the comment.

I know there is history for its use in NY Times puzzles but, even there, the definition you refer to implies "gluttonous eater" so either way, without some adjectival help, the clue seems overstated.

I'm reluctant to concede "stare decisis" to Maleska's definitions.

ksquare 12:36 PM  

Anyone around in WWII should remember the ANZIO beachhead landing in Italy. Not as spectacular as D-day.

Masked and Anonymo5Us 12:42 PM  

Looks like the U's were leaning ever so slightly toward the pinko side. Sanfrandude would point out that you really need a bigger sample, tho, before leaping to any conclusions.

So -- I'll take U's for twenty, Alex.
Liberally fun puz, btw. Hope you're back pumping in the pipeline soon.

Don't rightly know how to fix that CONSERVE dealy. Unless someone has a solid, alternative term for "conservative" to suggest... ( har. That oughta get 'em goin'.)

lawprof 12:50 PM  

Sometimes the theme helps the solve; sometimes it doesn't. In this case, at least for me, it was essential. I was totally stuck in the SW -- had sony for AIWA, was looking for a specific name for the WH policy honcho, and neither FACTION nor ONRUSH was readily coming to mind.

Then the "aha" moment when I got the theme, threw down RAD I CAL, so FOCAL at 31D fell into place, which opened up the whole corner.

Gotta love it when that happens. Fun medium/challenging Tuesday for me.

M and A 2 1:13 PM  

p.s. @Factotum Doug: Lots of ways to get "sparkle" in a puz. One way is long, fresh words. Another way is with the clues. And with the themers, themselves, of course.

It ain't just the sparkle. It's the fun, too. So, as long as we're chasin' elusive concept thingies, how about... farkle?

Evan 1:18 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Acme 1:21 PM  

@lawprof
Totally agree, the theme circles were the key for me to get the SW. Once ne sees RAD LIB CONSERV you can fill in the bottom circles....perfect use and example of theme being key.
Whoever suggested it be solved as a themeless (on a Tuesday) is missing the point of a theme!!!
It's not just to showcase the cleverness or ingenuity of the construction (altho in this case it definitely highlighted it) it's part and parcel (partial?) to the solve!

I do hope it means we're in for a goodie for next Tuesday and it wasn't just that Will voted early (abd often!)

Evan 1:24 PM  

@dk:

I give you the late, great George Carlin. Whether or not you agree with him, you have to admit he was a pretty funny dude:

"You may have noticed that there's one thing I don't complain about: Politicians. Everybody complains about politicians. Everybody says, 'They suck.' But where do people think these politicians come from? They don't fall out of the sky. They don't pass through a membrane from another reality. No, they come from American homes, American families, American schools, American churches, American businesses, and they're elected by American voters. This is the best we can do, folks. It's what our system produces: Garbage in, garbage out.

....I have solved this political dilemma in a very direct way: I don't vote. On Election Day, I stay home. I firmly believe that if you vote, you have no right to complain. Now, some people like to twist that around. They say, 'If you don't vote, you have no right to complain,' but where's the logic in that? If you vote, and you elect dishonest, incompetent politicians, and they get into office and screw everything up, you are responsible for what they have done. You voted them in. You caused the problem. You have no right to complain.

I, on the other hand, who did not vote -- who did not even leave the house on Election Day -- am in no way responsible for what these politicians have done and have every right to complain about the mess that you created."

Tita 1:26 PM  

Thx for stopping by, Alex...this was a nice diversion as I sit in The Midtown Cafe in Danbury recharging my devices and myself. Power went at 9pm - too early to get the puz till today.

Favorite thing was clue for CRAWL.
I didn't see the circles till I came here, so was puzzled at what the theme could be.

Also liked ASEA xing AVAST.

Thanks @Doug - fun write-up.
Thx to everyone sending tehir good thoughts our way. We escaped any damage. No power/water is just an inconvenience.

Oh - @jackj & dk - agree 100% re: EATER!

Michael Hanko 1:34 PM  

I agree that eater is inadequate as a synonym for gourmand, but today's puzzle does give us a chance to reflect on the distinction between gourmand and gourmet.

Gourmand : Gourmet :: Wino : Wine connoisseur

I hope everyone who was in Sandy's path came through unscathed. I am one of the lucky few in lower Manhattan to have electrical power.

Speaking of power, Mother Nature's might sure makes me feel puny.

Anonymous 1:53 PM  

I didn't like sternums I knew the plural was sterna (like datum and stratum for Anon who didn't know any other plurals like this one.) A little tough for a Tues, but okay.

Anonymous 3:29 PM  

Ah, Sandy. So much hype, so little performance. I was actually disappointed. Relieved, but disappointed. I mean she was exciting, but I was led to expect epochical excitement. It was great to lay in bed in the afternoon while she was whipping around, but nothing ever felt out of control, dangerous.

However, I must have done something in the early evening. Something bad, something very, very bad. Something that made me deserve punishment. Because, boy, did she deliver. Six hours of fiendish torture, a screaming wind that only muffled my own screams. When I finally came to, over one dozen trees in my yard were down, all over 100yo, four of them proped up against my house. Another dozen snapped off in half.


@DK - you didn't actually think the anarchists would be willing to join in, did you? You didn't think the Tea Party Nuts would permit themselves to be part of the NYTimes lame-stream media propoganda, did you?

Lewis 3:57 PM  

Clever theme, and five double E's! Nice writeup, Doug. I liked SNOOT better than SNORT, but EOITU just looked too weird.

Sfingi 4:11 PM  

Boohoo. Because of the storm, no NYT were delivered to stores in Utica, NY. (They don't deliver individually up in these parts.) It looks like it was cute. Your comments still read really smart and interesting.

I'll look at the Science Times on the internet.

A dead tree fell on my property hitting the edge of the garage roof.
Otherwise, on the North side, not even the squirrels dishes moved.

Don't know how my sister in Baltimore near Pimlico did. Usually lose power.

Yesterday we had 2 mugs "blow up," as did a friend of ours. That is to say, while washing or rinsing they just cracked. I think this might be barometric pressure.

sanfranman59 4:34 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)

Tue 10:03, 8:58, 1.12, 82%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Tue 5:57, 4:41, 1.27, 97%, Challenging

Sandy definitely seems to be affecting CrossWorld today. Only 365 online solvers so far. The previous Tuesday low for the entire day is 429 and I doubt that we'll there by closing time. The ratings are Medium-Challenging in both groups when I restrict the comparison to puzzles after the July 9 billing policy change.

Anonymous 6:22 PM  

This puzzle really needed some more work. it relies far too heavily on stale crosswordese, and lacks any (really ANY) pinache.

To illustrate, let's look at the NW, where most solvers begin. RAWLS is a pretty ugly 1a. The anger over STERNUMS is warranted, and it's sitting in a place where you have a rare opportunity in this puzzle to have a longer, sparklier answer. Ditto LIBRAS and SLYNESS. the "pivot" answers ODESSA and URANO are no fun for anyone.

I quickly tossed together a different corner to show the possibilities- it's by no means the optimal fill (note that I have moved the circled letters slightly, but they're still all there). Sorry if it doesn't render properly- hopefully you can still get the idea.

CHILL#
RADIO#
ALIAS#
BOOBTUBE#
###LAPS#
FLYERS#
D #TE
I #T
C #

BOOB TUBE is a NYT debut. It may not be the most amazing bit of fill ever, but it's a lively, kind of funny, compound phrase that's fresh (if, paradoxically, somewhat dated). LOST ART is another nice, compound phrase. All of this comes without paying the price in shorter fill; I would argue that the shorter fill is actually BETTER in this version.

I am confident one could work around the corners of this puzzle and find many other ways to smooth out and "punch up" the fill. I wish this had been done prior to publication.

JFC 9:36 PM  

@Evan - I would hope you see the flawed logic in George Carlin's clever funny bit.

@Sparky - A belated you are welcome. I assume you were talking about the Jim Valvano speech.

I liked the puzzle. Unlike Doug, the shorter the words and the fewer the syllables, the more I relate to the puzzle....

JFC

Joe The Juggler 9:43 PM  

I very much liked this puzzle--not least of all because it felt relatively easy to me. Only slow part was southwest. I had to get the theme to help me out there.

sanfranman59 10:21 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 6:25, 6:47, 0.95, 30%, Easy-Medium
Tue 10:10, 8:58, 1.13, 85%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:41, 3:41, 1.00, 55%, Medium
Tue 5:45, 4:41, 1.23, 97%, Challenging (7th highest median solve time of 175 Tuesdays)

Still Medium-Challenging in both groups when compared to Tuesdays since the change in the billing policy July 9. (For more details about why this may be important, see my posts--and those of others--at the end of last week.)

Bird 12:03 AM  

No NYT delivered because of Sandy, so I cannot comment about the puzzle. But it may come tomorrow morning with Wednesday's news. A sort of double-feature.

We are safe and sound here. One of the 10% still with power on Long Island. Thank God.

@Glimmerglass - I dare you to tease Sandy, or Buffy, next time she is in your neighborhood. Please go online and check out local NY, NJ, CT news for videos and pictures.

Pete 3:21 PM  

Just got power back, and know I'm too late to the party to make any difference, but here goes anyway:

@Anon 6:22 Did you pay any attention at all to the theme of the puzzle? The fill is constrained by the theme - The NW starts out by providing the beginings of RAD..I..CAL. You're giving us CRAB FDIC ... Were you going for RAB..IC..AL in there somehow? 'Cause thats not a word, RABICAL.

I can make a Seder meal better by adding lobster to the menu. It just wouldn't be a Seder meal then, would it?

Anonymous 4:00 PM  

Worst puzzle of the year. Should have been distributed to visitors at Stratford in Stratford, Ontario, not the general publc vis a vis the NYT.
Who cares about MacBeth or Shakespeare.
Waste of time. Only completed because I guessed right.

Anonymous 4:48 PM  

@pete- the theme squares are moved around a bit, but are all still there. cRAb/fDIC vs RADs/obIs - both still have RADI (and the "C" for good measure). optimizing theme fill placement is part of good puzzle-making.

mazel tov.

Waxy in Montreal 2:24 PM  
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Waxy in Montreal 2:33 PM  

From the syndicate: Superstorm Sandy, the election next Tuesday - what a difference 5 weeks can make. Not a mention of fiscal cliffs or possible Syrian chemical weapons...

Really enjoyed this puzzle though I had no idea what the circles were all about until reading Rex & Alex's comments above. Like @JOHO, thought the theme was words starting with A: AMAT, ABOIL, ADUE, AERO, AVAST, ANJOU, AWAY, AIWA, AVOIR, ABET, ALAMO, ACU, AGATE, ASEA, ANIS, ANZIO, ACTIVE, and, of course, ALEX.

Never learnt Roy G. Biv in school but we had Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge and FACE for the positioning of treble clef notes.

Certainly challenging for a Tuesday but, because of that, a welcome treat this early in the week.

DMGrandma 2:40 PM  

Not a circle lover, so I just solved as if they didn't exist. Turned out I didn't need them. And after a quick glance, didnt go back to work them out. But that's just me. Never heard of CARR and AIWA, but they filled easily from the crosses. ANZIO? Remember it from the headlines. Sometimes age has its perks.

Thinking of @Ginger's remarks yesterday. It really is strange to be in a time shift where people are anticipating a storm and an election that are, for us Syndilanders, history. Makes me think of the kind of science fiction where someone goes back to change the course of history: "Pres. Lincoln, I'm going to lock the door so you can't go to the theater tonight."

Spacecraft 3:17 PM  

@Milford: You can do 60 during rush hour???? I WANNA MOVE THERE!

It is so strange sometimes, the month's lag in Syndiland. Even today, some in the east are still without power, but otherwise the Storm from Hell is already fading from memory. And the election is old news.

Today's offering was thus mistimed--but late instead of early, from our POV. I agree that the left-to-right alignment of political FACTIONs is very clever, and echo the sentiments about CONSERVE from both camps. I mean yeah, it looks like a cheap fix--but what else would you do? The perfect puzzle is like the perfect Go game: it's never been played. Probably never will. This one was OK for a Tuesday. Like the old Bandstanders, I'll "give it an 80. It's got a good beat, and you can dance to it."

Waxy in Montreal 3:31 PM  
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Waxy in Montreal 3:35 PM  

@DMGrandma, if you really like that kind of science fiction, I can recommend Steven King's recent novel 11/22/63 where a Maine resident (maybe one of @Diri's neighbors) living in 2011 goes through a time portal back to the late 1950's and early 1960's with the objective of preventing Lee Harvey Oswald from assassinating JFK. After about almost a thousand pages, he succeeds but the consequences are... (I won't spoil it for you but it's a good read even if a bit longish.)

Ginger 4:01 PM  

Checked the circles while solving, but the theme eluded me until I had completed the puz. Then, when I got it, was really amazed at the amount of theme material Alex crammed into such a small grid, and that it goes from the left wing to the far right. Really like and admire the totality of the puzzle. Hand up for seCTION before FACTION, got BIV from crosses, never heard of it. A better clue for MASTIC could be 'ceramic glue', IMO.

A crunchy, thought provoking workout this morning, but duty calls. CIAO Syndilanders.

rain forest 4:07 PM  

Gosh, or maybe even golly. I found this very easy, and I never find a challenging puzzle easy. Just stuff I knew, I suppose. Re: CONSERVE; in that column maybe RED STATER could've been broken up (don't ask me how-I'm not a constructor), but I guess that word would also include the reactionaries. Other synonyms for CONSERVATIVE would not be for public consumption...

As we syndi folks comment here, the Giants have won the World Series, the election has occurred and most of Sandy has been cleaned up. Time warp indeed.

Dirigonzo 7:25 PM  

Puzzle Partner tackeled this on her own last night but threw in the towel with the grid about 2/3 complete. I picked it up today, saw the theme from the circles she had filled in and used it to help me complete the puzzle.

I suppose with some Cabinet appointments imminent we can expect to hear a lot of news mention of CZARS in the weeks to come.

Anonyrat 5:05 AM  

A friendly tip for all y'all -
it's time to scrap your Victrolas and buy yourself a (now) vintage 1980s Aiwa tape deck. They're awesome - really - I still have mine.
P.S. - got the capcha on the first try, as usual. Easy peasy breezy cheezy wheezy sleezy.

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