Popsicle in Fifty Shades of Grey / SUN 10-28-12 / Psychologist Jean / Prime minister of 1945 / 1978-79 CBS detective drama / Softly exhale cheap sentiment / Hoarders airer

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Constructor: Michael Sharp and Caleb Madison

Relative difficulty: ???

THEME: "WHAT THE ..." — familiar phrases have the sound "-THE" added to end of a word in that phrase, creating wacky phrases, clued "?"-style

Theme answers:
  • 23A: "Come on, woman, shape that wood!"? ("LATHE, LADY, LATHE")
  • 38A: Cheerful superhero? (CAPTAIN BLITHE)
  • 52A: Take a patient approach to revenge? (WAIT AND SEETHE)
  • 71A: Ones who stop giving to their church? (TITHE BREAKERS)
  • 89A: Softly exhale cheap sentiment? (BREATHE CHEESE)
  • 101A: Mad scientist's sadistic exclamation upon attacking the Empire State? ("WRITHE, NEW YORK!")
  • 119A: What the Grim Reaper's backup carries? (SCYTHE OF RELIEF)
  • 15D: "If you don't like my anger, do something about it!"? ("SO SOOTHE ME!")
  • 76D: Hate coke? (LOATHE BLOW)

Word of the Day: "KAZ" (96A: 1978-79 CBS detective drama) —
Kaz is an American crime drama series that aired on CBS from September 10, 1978 to April 22, 1979. // Ron Leibman starred as Martin "Kaz" Kazinsky, a Polish American former convict who became a criminal defense attorney after he was released from prison. Leibman won anEmmy Award as Outstanding Lead Actor in a drama. Nevertheless, the show failed to capture an audience and was cancelled due to low ratings. In all, 22 episodes aired. (wikipedia)
• • •

Origins (from memory, so I might get a detail wrong here or there): Caleb wrote me with "LATHE LADY LATHE" and asked if I wanted to help build a theme around that answer. We brainstormed a *lot* of words to which you could successfully add "-THE," and then a lot of potential phrases using those words ("LATHE LADY LATHE" is still my favorite, esp. as clued—if you're gonna do wacky, Do Wacky, i.e. Absurd—this is also why I like my second-favorite theme answer, "WRITHE, NEW YORK!"). Once we settled on a symmetrical group of answers, Caleb put together the grid. Fast. One second we were talking about it as a hypothetical, next thing I know, he sends me a fillable grid, with all the theme answers in place, and (impressively) with theme answers even intersecting in the NE and SW. Then we filled it. This is a weird thing to do with two people. I think at first he took the east and I took the west. Then we took passes making things mesh. Back and forth a few times. Done. But ... this is not the grid we initially submitted (dum dum DUM!).

Well, most of it is, but the entire SW corner has been rewritten since we first submitted it. This is because Will liked the theme, wanted to run the puzzle, but balked at including one of our longer answers: Chinese artist and dissident AI WEIWEI. Will wrote:
I like the theme, but ... would you be willing to change the lower-left corner? I'm not crazy about the entry AI WEIWEI. He's not so well-known yet, and his name is crazily spelled and not inferable. IS DONE in the same corner isn't so wonderful either. Maybe the whole area can be improved.
He was certainly right about IS DONE, but I was a bit surprised about the AI WEIWEI rejection. I thought he was pretty famous, or at least NYT-reader famous. Just this week, a video of AI WEIWEI has been making the rounds (via sites like The New Yorker, New York Magazine, etc.). Maybe you've seen it.

Plus, I thought we'd made sure all the crosses were fair, so even people who hadn't heard of him could still solve the puzzle. But Will knows his audience better than we do, so we happily obliged. Since that was "my" corner, I tore it up and started plugging in AI WEI WEI substitutes. Now, both Caleb and I like to make the most of longer answers—to find new, weird, fresh, strange, or otherwise grabby words, names, or phrases to work into the grid. So I started throwing in as many good 8s as I had lying around. I got some of them to work, but there was always something not-quite-right about the resulting fill. Then, perhaps because I was constructing the puzzle at the height of "Fifty Shades" mania, I hit upon SAFE WORD and refused to let go. Hence TROW, which I kinda hate (90D: Suppose, to Shakespeare). But the rest of the adjacent fill works just fine, and I can't tell you how happy I am that SAFE WORD got in, and got in just as I'd clued it (106A: "Popsicle," in "Fifty Shades of Grey," for one).

DAAÉ is one of my least favorite crossword names (55D: Christine ___, "The Phantom of the Opera" girl); it's a name that looks like it was invented by a crossword constructor just to get herself out of a jam. Blecch. But I was intent on marrying Caleb's great SE corner with the fill he had going on up top, and so that middle-right portion of the grid was wicked hard to pull off. I had to invent CABLEMEN (which, thankfully, it turns out, is a real thing; 65A: Some electrical workers), and choke down NHLER and that ugly little LST / ATA crossing, but I was generally happy with the result. There's a Random Roman Numeral in there, so, you know, yuck, but as clues for DLIX go, I like mine (131A: 1,000 years before the coronation of Queen Elizabeth I).

  • 19A: Setting for the 2012 film "Argo" (IRAN) — Sometimes Will modernizes the clue. Like here. I certainly didn't know what "Argo" was when C and I were making this puzzle. Other current clues Will added include 95A: San Antonio mayor Julián, keynote speaker at the 2012 Democratic convention (CASTRO) (interesting, considering Will took *out* my Republican convention clue for CLINT (16D)... ), and 32D: Replacement refs, maybe? (SCABS).
  • 42A: Oklahoma birthplace of Oral Roberts (ADA) — I'm reasonably certain Oral Roberts did not figure in our original cluing. I just started watching "The United States of Tara" earlier tonight, and in an earlier episode the actor who plays Buster Bluth in "Arrested Development" plays an English teacher named Oral. Or Orel, I guess. It wasn't spelled out.
  • 116A: Canon fodder? (FILM) — nice clue. Not mine. Maybe Caleb's, maybe Will's, can't remember. My wife didn't like the clue until I explained "Canon" referred to the camera. She was thinking of "canon" as a set of great works.
  • 53D: Carnival Cruise Lines stop (ARUBA) — seems pretty vague. I think our original clue had something about the capital, Oranjestad, which now that I think of it would look beautiful in a grid.
Hope you enjoyed the puzzle. See you tomorrow.

Signed, Rex "Michael Sharp" Parker, King of CrossWorld


Pooloniousmonk 12:19 AM  

Between 50 Shades and areole I thought I was doing the Hustler puzzle. But, I have never read Hustler and I suspect it does not have a puzzle. This one, though, was real good. I am not quite clear on the scythe of relief, however. Is there such a thing as a sky of relief? Rain clouds during a drought, perhaps? I really did enjoy this puzzle. It took me 2 hours to finish and then another 30 minutes to find my errors. Thank you.

Michaela 12:20 AM  

Re: 58D: I got married this summer and was extremely happy to finally get rid of the last name SCHLOCKer. Yay.

Some demented part of me was hoping for an entire theme of mucked-with Bob Dylan song titles.

Loved SAFEWORD; couldn't convince myself ONEB was correct...aw, now I get it.

Renee 12:20 AM  

Congratulations- a lovely puzzle! It took out some of the sting of the Tigers losing game 3.

jae 12:28 AM  

This was pretty much what I'm looking for in a Sun.  Nothing fancy, just an amusing theme with a little crunch and a fair amour of zip.  So, medium for me with a chuckle here and there (LATHE LADY LATHE,  SCYTHE OF RELIEF,  LOATHE BLOW, SO SOOTHE ME...) and lotsa zip...SAFE WORD, IN HEAT, BRA SIZE, FOX, PARTY BUS, PIT BULL...

Sure there were some clunkers, I mean you start off strong with a shout out to Mrs. Rex but end with a RRN?  But, over all, a solid Sun.

My biggest hang up was in SW where I had GlO for GRO and misspelled ATTLEE. 

Only WOE was KAZ.

Nice one guys!

Mike in DC 1:39 AM  

Ai Weiwei is out but Evan Picone is in? That's a sad comment on the state of the Old Gray Lady and her readers.

But thanks for the fun puzzle.

Anonymous 2:02 AM  

Liked the theme answers though nothing remarkable. Rest of the puzzle was average. 3 Stars.

travis 2:24 AM  

Am I the only one who pronounces the c in scythe? The google says I'm wrong, but I can't believe I am the only one. So I was alternatively trying to figure out what sky of relief was, and thinking I misunderstood the theme.

pink lady 2:46 AM  

Rex, you ignorant slut, this puzzle was constructed by two guys, yet you point out your least favorite (55D), looks like it was invented to get "herself" out of a jam!

What a cop out! Grow a vagina, it can take a pounding.

syndy 3:29 AM  

I loved SCYTHE OF RELIEF but Knew that it was not Rex's work! but I'm shocked! shocked! that DLIX was.WRITHENEWYORK was fairly crossed which was good as I have no earthly idea... excellent puzzle-not that I'm surprised.

paulsfo 4:02 AM  

Maybe Rex should recuse himself when he's the (co)author.

Sorry but I thought this was probably *the* worst Sunday crossword I've ever done (out of some hundreds). Theme was completely without humor; and there weren't more than a handful of clues that weren't *completely* boring.

I truly hated this puzzle, and fully expect that Rex would have hated it, also, if he hadn't written it.

jae 4:52 AM  

I probably meant to type "amount of zip" but "amour of zip" also seems appropriate.

Uncle Vinny 5:54 AM  

I flew through the first half, then bogged down in the lower left and upper right. Had to google ATTLEE -- a name I doubt I'll forget again -- and I screwed up with AREOL(A/e) even though my answer didn't make sense. Also screwed up UTHA(N/o)T. I was vaguely (mis)remembering that an oHLER was a category of birds.

Thanks for the fun puzzle and write-up.

MaryRoseG 6:15 AM  

Enjoyed it a lot, Rex and Caleb. Was initially looking for a Rebus with the crammed in, but once I got lathe lady lathe, the rest filled in pretty easily. I loved the aha of getting the theme answers...esp writhe new york...first thinking what?...what?.. But when it hits...oh! Rye, New york!,, Clever, very clever.

Many a name that gave me pause, and to stoop so low as to reference that 50 Shades junk (but I did know the answer so what does that say about me?). I hope you're not planning on teaching that one, Rex!

A fun Sunday! Let's have some more.

George Barany 6:21 AM  

Michael/Rex -- Congratulations, and thanks for sharing your perspective on the collaborative construction process, including a description of where your own creativity survived versus how Will's touch changed and perhaps improved the final product.

The presence of certain envelope-pushing fill and clues triggers this anecdote from my days as a graduate student at The Rockefeller University (NYC) in the 70's. There was a big fund-raising cocktail reception at which the students were allowed to mingle with international captains of industry, finance, and politics. After a few drinks, my friend found himself at the facilities with Chase Manhattan president David Rockefeller patronizing the urinal to his left, while U.N. Secretary General U Thant was answering nature's call at the urinal to my friend's right. Afterwards, my friend made some sort of sheepish remark about "peer pressure."

Anonymous 6:25 AM  

I still don't understand writhe new York. I was thrilled Rex could write up his own puzzle and present a window into the entire process. How special is that? I hope you got a chance to send this to Bob Dylan. And a puzzle based on some spin offs of his titles sure would be fun! I tried to sign with a name ginger Amelia but I couldn't figure it out.

Anonymous 6:55 AM  

To Anonymous: Writhe New York/Rye New york

Anonymous 6:58 AM  

To Travis: yes, you may well be the only one who pronounces the c in scythe.

The Bard 7:03 AM  

The Taming of the Shrew, Act I, scene II

PETRUCHIO: Verona, for a while I take my leave,
To see my friends in Padua, but of all
My best beloved and approved friend,
Hortensio; and I trow this is his house.
Here, sirrah Grumio; knock, I say.

Anonymous 7:04 AM  

I don't get 128a - schwas. Can anyone explain?

loren muse smith 7:13 AM  

I ECHO @George Barany who appreciated the write-up and insight into the process. I’m really glad you didn’t hand this one off, Rex.

Fine Sunday fare with my favorites being WAIT AND SEETHE and SO SOOTHE ME . I was thinking the former had to be the seed until LATHE LADY LATHE fell.

MELT and THAW, PROF/FLAKY, PIT BULL/ OLORD (I’m scared of them), and SOWS right next to STUDS. Maybe the SOWS are IN HEAT?

I appreciated the theme answers crossing in the NW and SE. Nice.

For some reason I got the biggest kick out of the clue for BELT OUT. Perfect!!!


@anon 7:04 – the schwa is the most common vowel sound in the English language – the a in sofa.

@GeorgeBarany – maybe it would be “peeer pressure?”

Thanks Rex and Caleb. Well done.

Samantha 8:54 AM  

Puntastic! And a quick solve for me, which means not TOO difficult, I guess? I love the punny ones, though.

Anonymous 8:55 AM  

@Rex/Michael - Perhaps now you won't be so scornful of some borderline fill that other constructors include in their puzzles.

Glimmerglass 9:05 AM  

I enjoyed the peek behind the curtain. As for paulfo, ignore him. This was a decent puzzle,

Michael Hanko 9:37 AM  

So interesting to have the insight into the construction process — it would be wonderful to have this as a regular feature on this blog and its comments.

As a co-constructor, I had a bit of wind taken out of my sails when I saw what "risqué" words had made it into the NYT puzzle, of all places. George Barany, Paul Luftig, and I just wrote a puzzle for the online edition of Lavender Magazine, which includes a doozy — we'd thought, until the same word popped up in today's Times puzzle. If you don't mind being slightly less titillated than we'd hoped for, you can still look at or solve the puzzle here: http://tinyurl.com/union4puz

Hint: It ain't BRASIZE.

Tita 9:43 AM  

Favorite clue was 80a Hombre, formerly... (maybe it's been done before, but new to me.)

@Mike in DC - amen.

Oh - now I finally get it while reading comments...Rye, New York! I was wondering what the non-the phrase was, saying out loud Right, New York, Write, New York... Even when I realized my error, I had to say Wry New York out loud to finally get it.
I have siblings and many friends living in Rye...Duh...

@Rex - is the backlog on Sundays much less than weekdays? I am surprised that you submitted it recently enough to have used a Republican Convention clue (which woulda been hilarious, of course.)

I did in fact like this puzzle - fun aha moments, great wackiness. Will this cause @Rex to go easier on others' crap fill? No, but at least he's been outed (again).

Tita 9:44 AM  

@lms - peeer pressure - absolutely fabulous!! Please build a puzzle around that... Though perhaps that is precisely what George meant...

joho 9:47 AM  

@Rex, I was surprised you did the write-up but happy to hear your BLOW-by-BLOW account of your collaboration with Caleb and Will's repsonse. Most interesting.
Is KIWI a shout out to Sandy?

I really enjoyed the puzzle. I solved last night and kept saying to myself, "great clue!," "fresh answer!."

JPEG and PAYPAL are contemporary and very blog-related. One can take a PARTYBUS to the WATERPARK for a good time. Loved ODDJOBS, BOYCOTT, SNICKER, SCHLOCK, BELTOUT, BOZO, NERDY and DWEEB.

My theme favorites were the downs, SOSOOTHEME and LOATHEBLOW but LATHELADYLATHE is definitely a classic just like the song.

Great job guys!

exaudio 9:48 AM  

Couldn't finish until daughter who is a "phan" woke up and told me how to spell "DAAE" (for some reason, I feel that asking family members is ok, while googling isn't). Loved the puzzle, because it was funny and a little edgy.

chefbea 9:52 AM  

What a great puzzle!!! Lots of great theme answers.

I'm a pisces and my mother had lots of Evan Picone shirts.

It's stopped raining here..high winds are forcast.

Shamik 9:54 AM  

I really liked this theme...don't think I've seen it anywhere before. The fill was meh except for a few surprises like SAFEWORD, WATERPARK, SCHLOCK, ODDJOBS. Never heard of KAZ.

Overall, an easy puzzle where my time would have been even faster if I hadn't kept looking up to see the sun rise out the window.

Anonymous 9:56 AM  

"Ai Weiwei" yields 11 million hits on Google. I'm an old white guy in middle America and have heard plenty about him.

So Will tossed that one, but was happy with "kil" as a metric distance abbreviation? Is it supposed to be short for "kilometer"? If so, that's absurd. That shows up nowhere in a web search (zero vs. 11 million), and
I've never heard of it. How can you truncate a prefix meaning "thousand" and claim it's specifically a metric distance measurement? Do we hear of people running a 5 kil race?

Susan McConnell 9:57 AM  

Really surprised by the Ai Weiwei thing....with all of the crazy, remote names that seem to find their way into the puzzle...I don't get Will logic on that one.

Anyhoo, loved this! I got LATHE LADY LATHE right off the bat and it was smooth, quick sailing from there, so I'd rate this one Easy. I though Rex was fair in his assessment of some of the weaker fill (my least favorite was DAAE), but it was worth it to get the snappy theme answers, as well as some of the other fun things like SAFEWORD, BRA SIZE, PARTY BUS, SCHWAS. A lifetime ago I used to work with CABLEMEN, so that was nice to see. Well done, guys!

Eckless 9:59 AM  

Do people outside of New England know what "Rye, NY" is? I had to Google it, and I thought I was at least kinda smart...

Barry W 10:00 AM  

Not your father"s NYT Puzzle

jackj 10:03 AM  

So, the puzzle princes, “Caleb the First” and “Rex the Only” team up and their gimmick means taking in a silent pretender, “THE, the Game Changer” and a good time is had by all.

A clever theme delivers some knee slappers or at least some knee rubbers, my favorite being SCYTHEOFRELIEF (drop the THE, read SCY as Sigh) with SOSOOTHEME (drop the THE, read Soo as Sue) a close second.

The one that seemed most awkward (or more awkward) was BREATHECHEESE; no problem getting the Brie translation but breathing cheese? The thought is enough to make one gag.

I wonder if the co-conspirators, (oops, co-constructors), chortled with juvie pleasure when Will kept their INHEAT entry and if they elevated that glee into rhapsodic gales of laughter when BRASIZE stayed, too. It meant a rare double of “iffy” stuff for the Grey Lady to abide, a coup of sorts as these things go.

The fill seemed almost overwhelmed by the short answers, 26 threes and 44 fours make for 70 shorties, a bit much, but thankfully there were many other clever entries serving to balance things out.

ODDJOBS might have been better clued as “Family of the Bond antagonist dude with the killer bowler” but, as is, it was still good, as were IMADEIT, PITBULL (being ridden by cousin TAURUS in the grid), BELTOUT, ITERATE, SCHLOCK and RUMORMILL.

On the debit side of their ledger, the partial IMAS was a turn-off and, as one who is familiar with the story, but has never seen or read “The Phantom of the Opera”, DAAE seemed the unlikeliest of answers, a bit of a joke actually but, since CABLEMEN was clearly correct only with its “A”, DAAE stayed in all its inelegance.

Thanks to our #31* and Caleb for an enjoyable puzzle!

elitza 10:06 AM  

Nice puzzle. I'd certainly use a SAFEWORD if a (LOATHE)BLOW came to my AREOLE.

Um, I mean, what?

Anyway, BREATHECHEESE got a giggle and I'll never ever forgive you for citing "Fifty Shades," or at least thought I wouldn't until SCYTHEOFRELIEF showed up.

Nicely done.

Anonymous 10:09 AM  

Enjoyed top half a lot. Bottom was frustrating, full of stuff Rex usually complains about.

Anonymous 10:21 AM  

Iritis? Really?

Tita 10:22 AM  

To those who cry foul at the obscurity of Rye, remember...it is the NEW YORK Times...
(Yup, I'm talkin to you, @eckless...)

Anonymous 10:23 AM  

Still don't get LATHE LADY LATHE ... and SCHWAS. What is wrong with me? (I am old ... is that reason enough?)

Michael Hanko 10:26 AM  

Anyone else bothered that SCHWA doesn't contain the sound it describes? I move we start pronouncing it "schwuh."

jberg 10:43 AM  

Not just Rye, NY, but ONe-B- an apartment numbering convention I've never seen anywhere but in NYC. But yeah, that's the paper this is in, so that's OK.

I enjoyed it a lot, even though I finished with a wrong guess - didn't know TESH, so though Tish was reasonable; and I failed to puzzle out the IRITIS/AREOLe cross, so I had Ititis AtiOLE. But SAFE WORD made it all worth it - never read the book, but it's pretty inferable.

If anyone got SCHWAS without the crosses, my opera hat is off to you!

It was fun to read @Rex's writeup, and gives some nice insight into the construction process -- but it's a different blog! Fine with me, unless Rex starts getting a lot more puzzles accepted.

Oh yeah -- 14 partials, if you count the names.

Drat, apparently I'm robot-like today. Which gives me a chance to wonder about TROW - I always thought it meant "swear." But Rex is the prof.

diane 10:53 AM  

I enjoyed it but DNF. I allow myself a few Googles on Sunday, but still had an error that I had to look up the solution here. Thought uRnSIZE was a great answer for "measured in cups" and never reconsidered that answer. (Never heard of Rye NY but got that one with crosses easily. )

Anonymous 10:57 AM  

As one from north of the border who uses metric: where did KIL come from?? The abbreviation for kilometre is "km". And if you say "kilo" you're referring to weight (kilograms) not distance.

Milford 10:59 AM  

I am Dylan-illiterate so the LATHE LADY LATHE did not come easily for me. Didn't help that I carelessly dropped in dAly instead of RAHM and didn't remove it until the bitter end.

Got WRYTHE, NEW YORK just fine, but didn't know the city until now.

The SAFEWORD entry was my only word in the much-discussed SW for the longest time, a very tough area for me to finish.

Favorite words were SCHLOCK, FLAKY, DWEEB, and PAYPAL.

Great that @Rex gave us the inside scoop on this, very fun to see it from his side. Hey, it's his blog, he should be *allowed* to discuss his own puzzle. Thank you Caleb and Michael!

JFC 11:01 AM  

@paulsfo - How dare you come onto Rex's blog with that comment. It just so happens that I agree with you. Didn't finish. Lost interest. Tepid theme and theme answers. Sunday for me is about theme, not fill, and this theme had no aha moment or anything stimulating.

Don't know about Caleb but the one thread I've noticed in Rex's puzzles (his 3rd being somewhat better) is the lack of fun. Considering his wry and evil sense of humor displayed daily it is curious. It's as though he traps himself into not making all those flaws he notes in other puzzles that he isn't free to let go. Rex remains a better critic than constructor....


DB Geezer 11:12 AM  

Could one of you please explain LATHE LADY LATHE

Cuthbert Calculus 11:13 AM  

Agree with many of the other comments. Loved the insight into the making of the puzzle, but as a longtime reader of the blog I felt like this was a puzzle that Red would have eviscerated had it been written by someone else. I mean, "Kaz", an obscure one-season show from the 70s? The Rex I know would have torn that apart.

Funny Captcha coincidence: my photo is of an apartment sign labeled 36-B


To one of the anonymous above: LATHE LADY LATHE, without the THE, sounds like the Bob Dylan song Lay Lady Lay.

If you look in a dictionary to research how a word is pronounced, you will see diacritical marks that define how a word [allegedly] is pronounced. So a long A has a different mark than a short A. The pronunciation guide to some words may include a character that looks something like a backwards e, which has a special pronunciation, something like the vowel sound in the second syllable of JINGLE (something akin to uh). That symbol is a SCHWA symbol. Of course, not people might mispronounce ALASKA just as some people mispronounce SCYTHE. C'est la vie.

Carola 11:21 AM  

My favorites were WAIT AND SEETHE and SO SOOTHE ME, especially as they cross each other. But even as a Wisconsinite, I recoil at BREATHE CHEESE.

Also liked the little nod to the campus scene with PROF, NERDY, and TOWNIE. Nice that the FOX has her STUD. In the TMI category - I'm a TAURUS married to a PISCES.

I see I'm very much in the minority in not understanding LATHE LADY LATHE - I filled it in with no trouble but didn't know what it refers to.

@MaryRoseG - thanks for explaining Rye, New York. All I could make of it was a reversal of New York rye (bread).

@Rex - thanks for the fun and for explaining how it all came together.

Z 11:28 AM  

I knew immediately that LATHE LADY LATHE had to be the seed answer. For me, no problems from the NW to the SE, but the NE and SW corners gave me fits. Having wInCES didn't help in the NE (I missed that "?") which helped to keep me from seeing the motorcoach meaning of "coach."

In the SW it took me forever to remember ATTLEE and Evan-PICONE is only vaguely within my ken. All I know about Shades of Gray is that it widely read and widely LOATHEd. If it weren't for ENA and ONE-B, both learned from doing crosswords, this corner would still be unfilled.

As RRNs go, both the clue and the answer are in the running for the Randomest Award. A clue that requires knowledge of 16th century British history, a little math, and rules of Roman Numerals, all to come up with four letters, DLIX, that looks vaguely like a porn star's name. Watch DAAE DLIX in LATHE LADY LATHE. DLIX will prove again and again that she doesn't LOATHE BLOW. CABLEMEN WAIT AND SEETHE! NEW YORK WRITHEs! TITHE BREAKERS MELT! LATHE LADY LATHE is the FILM of the century.

(yeah - Rex has no sense of humor or any lively fill)

Oscar 11:34 AM  

Yyyeah, this was a SOSOoTHEME, ably filled and clued. "Brie cheese" is pretty forced and Rye, NY seems pretty random. I don't care for EENY, ISAW, IMAS, ONEB/UPONE/ONCE, ENA, LST, or KAZ/EZRA, but I really liked WATERPARK, SAFEWORD, BELTOUT, and PARTYBUS, so I'm content.

loren muse smith 11:39 AM  

@jberg – I’ll take my bow. I got SCHWAS off only the W! Even after a late SCHWArée at the club last night. But I live for those kinds of clues.

@Michael Hanko – I’ll join your SCHwuh club, but even then it’s not a SCHWA. SCHWAS can happen only in unstressed syllables. We could name it something like FAHschwuh.

Anonymous 11:46 AM  

Could someone please explain what RRN means? Thanks

Sandy K 11:57 AM  

I really enjoyed this one, Rex and Caleb!

I SEE-THE positives, so to me, the theme was fun to solve- I pronounce it sithe, not skythe, heard of Rye, NY. and a fan of Phantom- so no probs there.

Loved all the current stuff!! JPEG, SAFE WORD, PAYPAL, RAHM; was a little surprised that BRA SIZE, AREOLE, LOATHE BLOW, IN HEAT, etc. MADE IT in.

Would've contemporized clue for PITBULL, as he is a well-known rapper.


Hey, Rex- did YOU put in your favorite Bambi-killer?

Blue Stater 12:01 PM  

*Very* difficult (took me a half hour), but, unusually for punny puzzles, fair. Although I got LATHELADYLATHE and WRITHENEWYORK, I had no idea what they referred to until I came here.

And now to see whether I can beat the robocensor (I'm now on my 14th try). Right now it says "Type the two words" and is showing one word (a non-word, actually) and a picture of something that I can't make out. I do wish Rex could get rid of this -- what's the worst thing that can happen if some Unauthorized Person gets on this site?

Year of Pope John 1' birth 12:02 PM  

@Anon RRN = Random Roman Numeral, e.g. First year that snideness became socially acceptable clueing MCII. The clue is essentially meaningless, you just know that you have to put in a Roman Numeral as the answer.

Anonymous 12:19 PM  

Thanks, Pope John.

Sparky 12:42 PM  

Some fun. Start with a shout out to Sandy. Stir in a MOA. Include hated Astrology symbols, Random Roman Numerals and Wackey puns. Nice job Michael and Caleb. Thanks for the informative play-by-play write up Rex.

Missed KAZ so also EZRA. The rest fell section by section.

Dylan easy. That album picture is the street where I live.

The map says I am in an evacuation zone. Like hell I will. What's a walk up for?

Anonymous 12:56 PM  

Fun puzzle until my pen ran out of ink trying to decide between "CODEWORD" and "PASSWORD." And trying to figure out why "FLAT" didn't work where "ONEB" did. I threw my Fritos bag at "SCHWAS" but then ate the Fritos when I decided it was OK.


Merle 12:57 PM  

Truly enjoyed the puzzle, and the theme. The theme was the gimme key -- I got Lathe Lady Lathe right away, and then all the other "what the" breathless clues revealed their answers. Congrats on a sweet puzzle -- easy-medium, and kewl. Dear Bard, thank you for the "original" of "I've come to wive it wealthily in Padua" of "Kiss Me Kate". Knew both, but the melody came before the word-music of the Bard. No, we do not pronounce the "c' in "scythe" any more than we pronounce the "c" in 'schwa". For schame!" Wouldn't dream of reading "Fifty Shades of Grey" -- my life is far too interesting for me to waste my time on dreck -- but it has gotten so much dreary press coverage that "safe word" was a gimme for "Popsicle". What else? Had "King" instead of "Hong" for the prelude to "Kong", but soon corrected that. Don't do "blow" -- don't get around much any more -- but "Loathe blow" led to "Hong". Honk if you love Hong. Could keep riffing, but I'll generously leave the riffs to others.... Oh -- in total agreement with all those non-robots who keep having difficulty proving they are not robots. I have difficulty proving I am not a robot. Hey, I'm just a mere extra-terrestrial alien life form, and I can do anything mundane that humans can do!

Masked and Anonymo9Us 12:59 PM  

So much to say, so little time.

Well, first of all, I sure did enjoy solving this puz. So, thanx to C and 31 for the entertainment.

And, as I always say, why worry about dropping TROW, when you’ve already established a SAFEWORD.

Next, if I was doing a clobberation with Caleb Madison, my share of the workload would
probably, at most, end up bein’ the shadin’ in of the black squares. So, congrats to 31 for makin’ it big time in the Big Times. Really somethin’ special.

Bringing Up The Rear Dept: DLIX sounds like a great adspeak promotion for an extra tasty lollipop.
First Down Play Dept: KIL is my new fave unit of measur. Unless KAZ is one; still not quite sure what a KAZ is.

DAAE is my new fave name word. How do you pronounce that? “Die?” Note to constructors:
Potential followup meta-contest themer = “The Daae is cast”. Runner-up: PIAGET.

Ain’t LATHELADYLATHE kinda a themer outlier? Puts the –THE on two things; all the other themers put

31 always likes to have a ONE+stuff fillin. Trademark move. Today it’s ONEB. Short and sweat. Better clue:
“OLORD, ___: (Cornhusker State motto: Abbr.: Var.)”

Don’t get “Sign of Sensitivity?” PISCES me off, CLINT.

Well.. that was fun, givin' 31 the business. Keep up the good work, dude.

Joseph B 1:02 PM  

I liked the puzzle. But you realize that Rye, New York has half the population of Natick, Mass., right?

M and A also 1:08 PM  

P.S. Oooh. "ONEB" is also short and suite. Now I get it. Nice.

Sister Maria de Lourdes 1:52 PM  

Sister Maria de Lourdes explains it all to you: Roman numerals are a little game within a puzzle. Queen Elizabeth I lived in 15 something. (Forget the coronation date or google it.) Subtract 1,000, equals 5 hundred something. The Roman numerals are: I-1, V-5, X-10, C-100, D-500, M-1000. If a smaller is in front of a bigger, subtract it; if a bigger is in front of a smaller add it. In puzzzles answers often end in II. Check cross clues.

That's funny, I just did 131A and got DLVIII. Hmmmm. Ah Hah, the actual coronation was 1559. Sneaky.

Snarky Commentator of MMXII 1:55 PM  

@Sparky-Nice Avatar.

@Joe B - It is not the size that matters, its the ... cross. Natick clued by it's mile mark in the Boston Marathon crossed by Andew Wyeth's dad could lead to a neologism, or worse.

@all the silent "c" sayers - Do you ignore either "C" in science? Maybe we should just spell it "siense."

Captcha assist - if the picture is unreadable, put in something meaningful, like 31 or 42 or a RRN, it won't matter. If it is readable, you may actually have to enter whatever letters/numbers appear.

elitza 2:07 PM  

@Masked: it's pronounced Dye-aeh, and should properly be spelled Daaé.

so sue me if I read Leroux's version about six times when I was twelve-ish. What?

quilter1 2:16 PM  

Had to work this morning so late to the party. I had so much fun with this--puns are a favorite and these are great. Natch, LATHE LADY LATHE came first and conjured a mental image that still has me chuckling. Thanks, guys, for lighting up my Sunday.

Tyler 2:33 PM  

Liked LATHE LADY LATHE but had never heard of Rye, NY. Also could NOT get a toehold in the SW. Liked ODD JOBS and BRA SIZE, also, but would have wanted a different clue for SCHWAS.

Bob Snead 2:33 PM  

I think that the cluing is what's good about this puzzle.

The bad:

Rye (Writhe), New York? Come on, man!

Brie(Breathe) Cheese? A stretch. Doesn't seem normal to say "brie cheese" like it does, say, "swiss cheese."

Balance in the theme answers could be better, IMO. TITHE BREAKERS is based on the word 'tiebreakers,' which is the only single word AND the only plural in the group. Sticks out to me like a sore thumb.

Not saying that this isn't a fine puzzle, but it's basically just fine, nothing more. I think Rex would have been hard on it had it not been his.

Davis 2:35 PM  

I'm at a loss as to why Will considers AI WEIWEI to be unacceptable fill, while U THANT is fine. For folks like me who weren't alive in the 60s and early 70s, I'm guessing the latter is much harder than the former; this was the first time I'd ever even heard U THANT, so that was just a WTF entry for me.

I found most of the puzzle smooth going, but the SW corner really hung me up. ATTLEE and PICONE were just letter salad to me, and it took me longer than it should have to get SCHWAS (I love that word). I originally had ONEA instead of ONEB, which slowed me on getting LOATHE BLOW. And I really lagged on getting the N in U THANT, even though I knew 48D was cluing hockey teams. For some reason I'm just really resistant to seeing entries like NHLER (and its kin, NLER and ALER).

The theme entires made me laugh, so at least the frustration was worthwhile. LATHE LADY LATHE was definitely a great entry and clue, though it did briefly cause me to expect the other theme entries to have multiple "THE" insertions. The others were all funny to some degree and clearly correct once I got them, which is always a plus. But someone needs to explain the pre-insertion form of WRITHE NEW YORK to me, though.

Evan 2:45 PM  

Nicely done, Rex and Caleb. You might say that LATHE LADY LATHE was your favorite, but mine was LOATHE BLOW. SCYTHE OF RELIEF was a close second. Is it possible that, when you two thought of that entry, one of you was thinking of the classic Family Guy episode where Peter Griffin took over as Death for a few days?

I don't really get the clue for HONEYS. Who says "honey" as a verb, and as a synonym for "flatter" no less? Oh that charming man, he really honeys me.

Oh well, this may the last puzzle I can do for a couple days, if my power should shut off due to Frankenstorm. Stay safe on the East Coast, everyone.

JohnV 2:49 PM  

Congress, Rex and Caleb. FWIW, SW was last to fall. SCHWA was very hard. Overall, quite challenging, but a good diversion from Frakenstorm; no flying to Charlotte tomorrow I assure you.

JohnV 2:52 PM  

That would congrats. Sheesh.

Anonymous 2:57 PM  

I am torturing myself though that SCHLOCK that is 50 Shades. I'm only about 1/2 though, but I think "Popsicle" was actually a metaphor and not a safe word. So that kind of screwed me up in that section.

Fun puzzle, though!

Sandy K 3:04 PM  


Just noticed your S&M Grocery sign!

That's sooo 50 Shades-ish of you!

Michael Hanko 3:40 PM  


I like your solution for renaming the schwa. My own version of "schwuh" was probably just conceptual. But when inventing it, I was remembering a kind of metrical foot that consists only of unstressed syllables — the pyrrhic, which Poe called "purely chimerical."

I have never been one to shy from chimeras. But maybe I shouldn't disregard the wisdom of one such as Poe on matters poetical. After all, I wouldn't want to become known as CAPTAIN BLITHE.

(I hope my reprehensible stealing of Michael/Caleb's theme idea doesn't spark a mutiny....)

mac 5:36 PM  

That was fun! Got Lathe Lady Lathe very quickly, and I've figured out by now that checking the title of the puzzle on Sundays is very helpful. So soothe me and breathe cheese made me laugh! Lots of edgy words, I guess boys will be boys! The puzzle feels quite young.

@Travis: you are not alone.

Kil is unknown to me, only km, never pluralized, seems to be used where I have lived.

I almost had a problem with "taurus". There was a Ford Taunus in the seventies in Europe.

I've said this before, but Edam is about the only Dutch cheese that does not come in a wheel.

Anonymous 5:41 PM  

I didn't see DBGeezer's question replied to:

Bob Dylan has a song called "Lay Lady Lay"

sanfranman59 6:03 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 6:45, 6:47, 1.00, 56%, Medium
Tue 9:35, 8:58, 1.07, 72%, Medium-Challenging
Wed 12:49, 11:50, 1.08, 73%, Medium-Challenging
Thu 19:18, 18:48, 1.03, 59%, Medium
Fri 22:39, 24:25, 0.93, 38%, Easy-Medium
Sat 18:51, 29:07, 0.65, 2%, Easy (3rd lowest median solve time of 163 Saturdays)
Sun 31:03, 32:53, 0.94, 48%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:52, 3:41, 1.05, 80%, Medium-Challenging
Tue 5:21, 4:40, 1.15, 87%, Challenging
Wed 6:48, 5:57, 1.14, 85%, Challenging
Thu 10:19, 9:22, 1.10, 75%, Medium-Challenging
Fri 13:20, 12:10, 1.10, 69%, Medium-Challenging
Sat 10:59, 16:30, 0.67, 3%, Easy (5th lowest median solve time of 162 Saturdays)
Sun 19:20, 21:01, 0.92, 50%, Medium

Anonymous 6:45 PM  

@anonymous 2:57

SCHLOCK isn't always a bad thing.
I've bought SCHLOCK on sale, watched SCHLOCKy movies, and read SCHLOCK best-sellers.

It's not A+ quality, but can be entertaining. I'd say lighten up and finish the other 1/2.

Besides, Book 2 and Book 3 are even better SCHLOCK!

Fitzy 6:52 PM  

Enjoyed the puzz very much, Rex! Being a teacher, smiled to see Piaget in there!

Liz Glass 6:53 PM  

I loved it! An cant stop laughing at "Loathe Blow" and "Townie". More Rex puzzles!!!

John in Philly 7:05 PM  

I loved this puzzle except for the awful SW. After I read the blog I knew why! Thanks for a great Sunday puzzle.

Pete 7:19 PM  

Gotta disagree with the clueing for 13A - PISCES. I'm a PISCES and I'm a callous oaf.

Anonymous 7:38 PM  

Am I the only one who had SCHLONG instead of SCHLOCK??

Anonymous 8:02 PM  

I really liked it. While the theme was basic, the theme answers were all very clever. And if I needed another reason to never read 50 shades of grey, the fact that their SAFEWORD was popsicle puts it way over the top...

Hate to admit it, but I never would have gotten AI WEIWEI.

P.S. Anonymous above, I too had SCHLONG, and thought "this is a really great puzzle!"

Rex's BFF Jenny 8:13 PM  

Great puzzle! Great write-up! No wonder you're my BFF!!

Anonymous 9:18 PM  

Loved the puzzle!! It was very timely. Got stuck on a few, but that's what's makes them great. Thanks for another interesting Sunday!!! Next week, a Hurricane Theme???

JFC 9:18 PM  

@ paulsfo - Bad news. I've read all the comments and ours seem misplaced. This is obviously the greatest puzzle since Patrick Berry's megapuzzle about Julius Caesar. Not sure how we could be so wrong. I'll have to re-examine my criteria for liking Sunday puzzles. No more will I consider a clever theme important. No longer will I consider bad taste in fill a flaw. No longer will I consider interesting or stimulating a prerequisite. No. In the future if it's a collaboration between Rex and Cakeb, that will be enough to like it....


Numbers Guy 10:08 PM  


you need to remember 3 crucifacts:

1. the fill is the thing, not theme

2. do as i say, not as i do.

3. statistically, you are now an outlier, so you do not count in the sample of opinions that matter.

regarding the puzzle, i didnt have time to do it today - preparing for the storm - so i have no opinion. with the kids home from school the next 2 days, im sure i'll have an opinion by tmrw. hoping its easier now that i have the answers.

regardless, rex is an excellent critic, and dont let anyone tell you otherwise.

Anonymous 10:29 PM  

It's going to be hard to take Rex's critiques seriously when he rails against the use of entries like "DAAE" and then....well, you know. Acknowledging that you hate it, Rex, doesn't make it less lazy.

Anonymous 10:39 PM  

Not that I've read the series, of course, but the "Popsicle" safe word wasn't used until the third book in the "fifty shades" series, which is called "fifty shades freed" and not "fifty shades of grey". Or so I've heard...

Z 10:46 PM  

@JFC - Seems many found it at least mildly clever and/or amusing. Not sure what you mean by "bad taste in fill" since you cite no examples. Others mention KIL, the RRN, KAZ, NHLER, and UTHANT. Rex even manages to point out some of the drecky fill. I don't see a single comparison to Berry, Gorski, or Silk. Rather, it seems that most found this an enjoyable Sunday with many of the same compromises most Sundays suffer from, but constructed well enough that those compromises are more than compensated for by some fun theme answers and interesting fill. Feel free not to like the puzzle, but there's no need to be a priss about it.

Anonymous 8:05 AM  

Attempt 3-- JFC, am surprised by your tone.
I grew up 20 miles from Rye but I don't think that's a fair answer. And 50 shades rubs me the wrong way. So to speak. Finally-- your references to schlong as an answer crack me up. Ginger Amelia. Am I a robot? Good luck to those in Sandy's path.

Anonymous 1:27 PM  

Not having read any of the 50 Shades of Grey series, I had to google that clue and was a little surprised to see the answer. Between bra size, areola, stud, party bus . . . really, I wondered if your college-age sons wrote this puzzle.

oldbizmark 2:05 PM  

this puzzle was garbage. if you take out the "the"s, the answers make no sense. garbage. if you are going to be critical of other junky puzzles, try to be a bit more even handed than the NYT's reporting of Israel. did i mention that i thought that this puzzle was trash?

Mike H. 2:40 PM  

I liked the puzzle just fine, but my wife pointed out that a well-known crossword critic once wrote:

Puzzle also features one of the least clever and most annoying clues of all time (___ Kong). The only time I ever want to see that clue is if the answer is DONKEY. The whole "Is it KING or is it HONG?" gimmick is bush league.

There did seem to be an awful lot of stuff in here that Rex Parker would usually give people hell for. This Michael Sharp guy got off easy for some reason...

john 12:00 AM  

101A= Rye, NY. I don't think that is fair also. The puzzle is done nationwide and probably overseas as well. Re 106A; I don't think that should be clued that way. Mr. Maleska just rolled over.

Anonymous 9:08 AM  

I utterly LOVE the picture of the S&M Grocery sign. I presume that you didn't just grab that off the web, but know that it's right across the river from your fine institution, and only a mile from the house in which I grew up. (Readers from afar, the place is real and has been there forever!) I've been waiting 40 years for it to finally go viral and get the fame it deserves!

Anonymous 2:42 PM  

perhaps in the future you won't be so critical of mediocre theme constructs. maybe if the title were "what the...phuch" it would have had some sense of unity.

Spacecraft 11:50 AM  

I thought for sure that OFL would recuse himself today. And well he should have. This is a grid with a ho-hum (no aha!) theme along with some horrendous fill. Right smack dab in the center we have AANDE. How many times have I told you: it is ludicrous to create an acronym with "AND" spelled out! No! Censored! Out! Out, damned spot!

Add to this a few more no-nos: viz. NHLER, DLIX, KIL--and we have a grid that, produced by anyone else, OFL would pan mercilessly. I am disappointed. These are two of the finest minds in the free world, and I am sure they are capable of better.

A couple of usages new to me: I never knew "CHEESE" was somehow equated with "cheap sentiment." That's a real "huh?" Plus, HONEYS as a verb?? Oh, maybe in, like, a frat initiation, where they "honey" the pledge and turn him loose in a forest. I dunno.

I did like one themie: WAITANDSEETHE. Very descriptive.

Dirigonzo 2:10 PM  

WPP and I finished with OWS: AtA/PAtUA, but still had lots of laughs figuring out the theme puns. Like many others we caught THE trick early on and the theme was a big help in the solve. Our last answer in, SCHWAS, started out as "twinAS" which morphed into "Shorta" before the crosses finally produced the correct answer, which I had to write in below the grid because the boxes were pretty much just a black blob by then.

There seemed to be an uncommon number of "?" clues, a total 0f 21 including the 9 theme answers. Rex must like puns more than he lets on in his commentary - or maybe that was all Caleb and/or Will. I love puns, but thought "Killed a hero?" was pretty questionable, and SCABS seems a pretty harsh was to describe the replacement refs.

I think I'll take my Labs out for a game of "Get on the stick!" now (even though they usually think FETCHing is beneath them, I still have fun throwing the sticks).

Alex 2:51 PM  

Typical for the NY Times to replace Clint with Castro.

rain forest 12:55 AM  

Saw the constructor names and immediately, at 1A we have a paean to Rex's wife's heritage, followed by the awful KIL at 1D (WTF?) leading into the paradigm theme answer LATHELADYLATHE, which uses a word, like "courier" which should only be a noun. So, started off not impressed. There are some nice clue/answer entries, but overall a less than usual Sunday, of course IMHO. Some have commented on how Rex will criticize other constructors who have examples of lazy fill, and there is much here of the same ilk, but I think that to produce a "sparkling" Sunday puzzle is an awesome challenge, which Rex and Caleb are not yet up to. Nevertheless, I did enjoy this one, except for WRITHENEWYORK. Never heard of Rye, NY. I guess you have to live in Binghamton to appreciate that one.

Ellen S 2:21 PM  

I went time-traveling last week and @chefbea offered to email the puzzles to me so I could solve with the real-timers. Trouble is, I finished yesterday's (last Sunday) this morning, then read all 104 posts, so now it's lunchtime Monday 11/5, the storm has passed and the wreckage (the "a" is a schwa) remains. And nobody remains on this blog I betcha but maybe some are slower even than I.

I didn't start the puzzle until last night, busy all day. It took me a while, but I liked it except for some of the dumb fill like as has been noted. But overall it made me work and I was proud that I didn't have to resort to Google.

For the longest time I had codeWORD instead of SAFEWORD (I won't even read reviews of Shades of Grey, a bad choice it seems). That really messed up the SW. I got Evan-PICONE right away, and eventually ONEB, but stuck what to do with cO_PS for "wet bars". I got SOAPS before SAFEWORD. I had wanted ATTLEE, but didn't remember he had 2 T's. I recognized SCHWAS as a real thing, probably a diacritical mark, but didn't remember exactly what it was until I looked it up after. My mother was a school teacher and mentioned them but it didn't sink in at the time.

However, my History degree from an expensive and prestigious institution whose name I will not sully by identifying, allowed me to calculate Queen Eliz I's coronation century. Just the century, mind you. I knew she died somewhere around the turn of the 17th century, when her successors got beheaded and whatnot. And reigned for a good while which puts her smack dab in the middle somewhere in the 16th Cent. Who says a college education isn't useful? And thanks to years of puzzling, I'm a dab hand at Roman arithmetic.

So Mrs. @Rex is a Kiwi? Sweet! So they can watch "Outrageous Fortune" and she can translate, and he can then figure out the relationship of the Hamlet-themed episode titles to the actual content of the episodes. Which I sure couldn't. But then, I didn't have a translator.

Now let's see if I'm a robot.

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