Film resident of Crab Key Island / THU 4-18-13 / Taxi worker / Long writers blocks / Senorita's silver / TV neigh-sayer / Actor who made his film debut in Breakin 1984 / Big-eared Star Wars character

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Constructor: Stu Ockman

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: ALPS (68A: High points of which five are found going up in this puzzle) — five Across answers exceed their allotted space, climbing the letters A, L, P on a diagonal, and continuing at other Acrosses (which, in the AcrossLite version, are clued [---])

  • TID ALP OOL (22A: Where seawater remains after an ebb + 5A: ---)
  • RACI ALP ROFILING (38A: Unethical law enforcement practice + 20A: ---)
  • NATION ALP ASTIME (44A: Baseball, in America + 28A: ---)
  • MECHANIC ALP OWER (54A: Engine's output + 40A: ---)
  • LEG ALP ADS (67A: Long writers' blocks? + 51A: ---)

Word of the Day: ALDOL (51D: Perfume ingredient) —
1. A thick, colorless to pale yellow liquid, C4H8O2, obtained from acetaldehyde and used in perfumery and as a solvent.
2. A similar aldehyde. (
• • •

Some pretty meager ALPS. More like short staircases. Took me forever to see the gimmick here, and while it's ambitious and out-of-the-ordinary (both good), it felt kind of broken. I just don't think ALP is in any way a good indicator of the use of physical space in this puzzle. It's imagistically imperfect. I like the idea of theme answers doing what the theme answers do in this grid, but ALPS does not represent that action well. Strange. Whole set-up felt pretty perverse, esp. the [---] clues. If you're solving on the right side of the grid, you're just getting nonsense, and there's no clear point to the [---] clues. Even when I went looking for the revealer and found it, ALPS does not come to mind for the generic [High points], and the clues / answers down there made it very hard to get in there. No idea what an ALDOL is. Clue on TOUT was too vague to be useful (65A: Push). I put in TOP LIT but couldn't get much to work and ended up taking it out. Grid was 80% filled in before I had any idea what was happening. Whole thing felt like a slog. Ambition without graceful execution. Better than ho-hum routine fare, I guess, but dissatisfying nonetheless. Nothing about three steps up says ALPS to me.

Not that many four-letter titled fictional characters out there, and we get two of them today: DR. NO (13A: Film resident of Crab Key Island) and MR. ED (30D: TV neigh-sayer?). Odd. What exactly is 1A quoting ("This bag is not A TOY")????? Your mom? It's odd, in that I don't know what the source is, and morbid, in that it calls to mind children asphyxiated by bags. Interesting bit of trivia about an ancient bit of crosswordese today in the AMATI clue (15A: Instrument bearing the coat of arms of France's Charles IX). Less interesting trivia about ancient crosswordese TRINI Lopez (2D: Lopez with the 1965 hit "Lemon Tree"). 7A: Jay LENO'S Garage (popular automotive Web site) had me wondering about the meaning of the word "popular." Not sure what is "historical" about PAPUA—I guess it used to be called that (?)—but it's an obvious answer considering the country that makes up the island's eastern half is called PAPUA New Guinea. There was an odd assortment of '80s/'90s pop culture today with ERIKA Eleniak, LATKA (47D: "Taxi" worker), and ICE-T in his movie debut (34D: Actor who made his film debut in "Breakin'," 1984). Major mistakes on my part included EWOK for YODA (4D: Big-eared "Star Wars" character), KLEE for DALI (10D: "Swans Reflecting Elephants" artist), and PLAYA for PLATA (36D: Señorita's silver). Excellent clue of the day (a tough one) goes to 53D: Doesn't strike out in the end (STETS). Terrible fill redeemed by outstanding clue.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Anonymous 12:05 AM  

I liked the alp clues, but could never have completed this without help!

nanpilla 12:20 AM  

It would have taken me a lot longer if I hadn't been destroyed by the ANT puzzle at last year's ACPT, which was the same concept. Too bad I couldn't get it as easily at the tournament!

Anonymous 12:28 AM  

Oddly for me on Thursday, raced through it, got the
theme after A-P- in 68A. Old stuff was easy, new
stuff was guessable. But ALDOL ???

Anonymous 12:32 AM  

I've never had so much of a puzzle completed, and felt more bewildered. Could not for the life of me work out the trick, even with the "reveal." Had TID for leftover seawater and still couldn't manage to see the ALP heading up on the diagonal -- if I was looking for anything, it was something vertical. And SELAH/HILDA was just a total Natick for me -- guess I should have been reading the OBITs this week.. Ah well, you can't win them all, right?

-- FearlessKim

Jim Quinlan 12:33 AM  

I feel really stupid that I don't get the STETS clue.... Rex deemed it outstanding, which makes me feel even less gooder about myself. Any help?

Evan 12:34 AM  

There are actually a couple of extra ALPS in the puzzle. There's one in PLATA, except that one goes straight up. There's also one going the other direction, crossing the one in NATIONAL PASTIME (highlighted in PIPPI, LULLS, and LEAD A, if it's not clear).

I enjoyed this one. I didn't think the theme necessarily suffered from the staircases being represented by ALPs -- I figured it's enough to imagine it as climbing the mountains. Maybe they could have been depicted as the mountaintops rather than the stairs, but oh well. It's nice that the ALPs are all consistently split between two words.

The only thing I thought was bad was that beyond the theme answers, the fill isn't all that spectacular, except for maybe ON DVD and I'M HOME. Lotsa not-so-nifty stuff, unfortunately -- A TOY, POME, SELAH, LEAD A, MCIV, AAR, OOM, LENO'S, RARA, EBRO, PAROL (?!), ALDOL, and STETS. I went with SKYLIT before TOPLIT and took a while to get rid of that mistake.

And agreed with @nanpilla: Getting beaten by Patrick Blindauer's Puzzle #5 at the 2012 ACPT definitely helped me spot the trick (and helped me see a mistake with TRINA before TRINI). I just sorta wish that the powers that be would wait until after the tournament to unleash the beast so I'd be ready for it the next year, instead of being completely stymied by it when it counts.


Alright, so....last week I mentioned that I was probably going to be cutting back on my commenting over the next month. My workload just got so heavy that I'm probably going to have to forcibly cut myself off from the blog until mid-May, and perhaps stop doing crosswords altogether until the semester is over. Yeah, it sucks, but I gotta bear down and git 'er done.

So I'm unofficially making this my final bit of procrastination before the end of the school year. If I'm not able to come back to comment between now and then, I'll see y'all on the other side.

Anonymous 12:40 AM  

STET being proofreader-speak for leaving something in, as opposed to taking it out, ie, striking it. Does that help? I thought it was a great clue, full of misdirection.

Anonymous 12:42 AM  

Git 'er done, and come on back when you can!

-- FearlessKim

Wahhab 12:46 AM  

@Jim Quinlan--In proof reading or editing, if you strike out a word and then write STET next to it, that means "leave it in".

this puzzle killed me--couldn't get the gimmick even with the revealer. And PAROL? Will try again tomorrow.

retired_chemist 12:46 AM  

This was tough. Hand up for having 80% of the grid filled in before understanding the reveal. Actually had TORS for the reveal 68A at first, which was less than no help.

ALDOL I can believe as a compound in perfume, but it is obscure in that context even to this organic chemist.

"This bag is not A TOY!" is a direct quote from plastic bags such as the ones you get back from the dry cleaners. Sort of a WTF at first but I think it is legit.

Visions of DR NO riding MR ED. Weird.....

Actually a good workout, which in the end I enjoyed.

Thanks, Mr.Ockman.

Thomas Hite 12:57 AM  

For me, it was the "ALP" in "PLATA" going straight up that stymied the entire endeavor - I had sussed out the "national pastime" thing, but couldn't reconcile how, exactly, making a knight's jump to the bottom "A" of "ALP" mid-way through another word made any sense at all... finally, after struggling through over half of what remained, I saw TIDALPOOL and had the "aha" moment. After that, it was easy as falling off of a ROCK LEDGE (which is apparently totally legit fill, despite its utter awkwardness to me). I guess changing 36 D to PASTA, changing LEADA to LEADS, and cluing 39 A as "Nicknames for the President of Brazil, familiarly" would have solved the problem, but I'm really not sure that LULAS would fly as crossworthy. Oddly enough, I was happy to see "This bag is not _____," (ATOY) as 1A because I've always snickered when I saw it printed on plastic bags: ... "Merry Christmas, Billy - here's your toy!"

Anonymous 1:17 AM  

You've never seen "this bag is not a toy" on a plastic bag before?! It's written on almost every plastic bag out there!

J Tearney 1:18 AM  

Never did get the revealer but figured out the symmetry after filling NW corner which revealed TIDALPOOL. Thought the puzzle became alot of fun after that. I give it 4 stars.

jae 1:32 AM  

Very tough for me too.  Finally caught on when I got rid of my go to Star Wars creature ewok (@Rex) and put in YODA.  TID emerged with an ensuing a ha!  That moved things along until SE where it took a while to discover the second part of the trick.  


European River mini theme: AAR and EBRO

Glad I started watching The Wire.

Zippy stuff:  LATKA, SLIME, TRINI (campy nostalgia), OMAR, DALI, ICE T, ...

Gotta love a tricky crunchy Thurs.!

@Evan - The real world tends to suck at times.  At the other end there is retirement where the only decision you need to deal with  is how many puzzles do you really want to do every day.  I have a book of Peter Gordon Thurs./Fri.  NY Sun puzzles in my golf bag just in case play gets slow, but then I'm an addict.  Looking forward to seeing you back here!

syndy 1:37 AM  

SunLIT and for just one ugly moment I thought Stu Ockman wanted me to name the alps:<> WOW just WOW

chefwen 1:52 AM  

@Evan - Don't kid yourself, you'll be back, this blog is like a drug. My computer was down for a couple of days, I thought I would have to check myself into rehab.

@ret_chem - I'm too old to say LOL but I really did laugh out loud picturing Dr. No riding Mr. Ed.

Of course I had to get out the highlighter to draw on my puzzle and thought mesa would have been a better reveal. Sure didn't look like the alps to me.

I, also, had about 80% done before that light bulb switched on, after that it was kinda fun. Before that is was "wha?"

Anonymous 2:02 AM  

Oh my god this sucked. As a rule I hate puzzles with blank clues and this reminds we why. To the constructor: I hope that somehow you read this and know that all the time and love you put into this puzzle was IN VAIN because this was an utterly unloveable, unsolvable, crud-infested mess. Go throw yourself off an ALP.

Anonymous 2:44 AM  

UGGGHHHHH. Blecchhhh.

Anonymous 3:31 AM  

Anonymous said...

"Oh my god this sucked. As a rule I hate puzzles with blank clues and this reminds we why. To the constructor: I hope that somehow you read this and know that all the time and love you put into this puzzle was IN VAIN because this was an utterly unloveable, unsolvable, crud-infested mess. Go throw yourself off an ALP".

Sounds like you need a bit more practice solving Thursday puzzles. Don't worry you'll get the hang of them after a while.

Ted M.

Amati Corela Mafiosi 5:37 AM  

@Ted M. What a reasoned response to such a mean-spirited comment!
Thought this was fabulous! Also took me 80% till light came on...
Dim flicker at TID... NATIONALPASTIME finally turned it on full...but isn't doing the crossword the NATIONAL PASTIME (or as I always thought it was PASS TIME.

Of course I was stuck on the bottom convinced it was ACMES, then maybe APEXES. When it became clear it was ALPS, I had to connect the dots, which helped me get the final theme answer.

But my flag was on a POLE and my ADMIT was Allow, so mess on left, not knowing ERIKA, SELAH, ALDOL (Did he run for prez?)
(tho in the end Maggie seemed more HILDA than gILDA.)
RIP Ms Thatcher, but the parody on SNL of a Punk singer loving her was the smartest, best acted, perfectly cast bit I've seen on that show in a decade. SO ridiculously sophisticated, timely and well-executed.

MAFIOSI was way cool, and I'm not just saying that to avoid broken kneecaps!

Jeremy Mercer 5:42 AM  

Am I the only person who finished the puzzle thinking that OOL, ROFILING, ASTIME, OWER and ADS were some minor mountains in the Alps that I had never heard of? Because America could be a baseball NATION as in the Red Sox Nation, and MECHANIC as a stand alone kind of works and why not a word like TID among the many obscure crossword words? (RACI and LEG were a little harder to justify mind you.)

MetaRex 6:07 AM  

Second Thomas Hite on being fooled by PLATA and the apparent knight's move.

My last google-fudging on an NYT puzz I believe was for Ms. Eleniak some weeks back. Couldn't remember her name last night and was sorely tempted to repeat my sin...the solving story and the evals are at Lead Me Not Into Temptation

Gareth Bain 6:18 AM  

I haven't seen the paper version, but I'm guessing those "---" clues are un-numbered, which works better. The downside of electronic solving, although the JPZ (I think that's what it's called) format allows one to custom-number a puzzle.

loren muse smith 6:34 AM  

@Jeremy Mercer – You are not alone! I “finished” this, the light bulb never having gone off, wondering about NATION, LEG, RACI, TID, and thinking, “Man, I still have a long way to go.” And yes, I also thought some ALP names I wasn’t familiar with were coming up out of the - - answers. Because I just thought these were answers I didn’t understand, I could have looked at this grid all day and not seen the trick.

But now that I see it, I have to say it’s way cool. I *love* stunts like this. Bravo, Stu! You sure got me, though!

Most likely among thousands, “rests” before LULLS. And I resisted filling in LEAD A, thinking it could be “live.” Like Rex- “sky” before TOP. Also “side” A before LINE A. I’m sound asleep by 9pm, so LENOS was totally inaccessible. Flirted with “own up” before ADMIT.

I was smug that I stopped myself before putting “plum” and then smartly filled in SLOE. Hah! Take *that* Stu! “Way to see the world?” ATLAS! Hah again - I’m gonna own this one! Right.

Probably all alone I had “Nemo” before DR NO. Jeesh. How “bout Nemo riding MR ED?!

Answers that were* just as* mysterious to me as TID:

@Acme – “pass” TIME. Funny!

Rex – PUPUA isn’t obvious to me. Looks like some kind of future caterpilluar or something.

@Gareth - they're numbered.

This cluing was extremely hard for me. It felt like a really tough Saturday:
“de capo” ARIA. Huh?
“figures in statistics” MODES. Do what?
“push” TOUT. Dastardly.
“smoke” CIG. See above.
“doesn’t strike out in the end” STETS. @Jim Quinlan - I had no idea that was a verb. I had STAYS and still thought it a great clue.

So I’m really jealous that I didn’t enjoy an “aha” moment. I’m going to skulk off to LATKA my wounds. AAR!

JFC 7:03 AM  

Could not agree more with Rex on the theme....


Charley 7:19 AM  

Bloody awful.

Mohair Sam 7:40 AM  

@Jeremy. Yup, exactly. But I never finished because I couldn't justify OOL or ROFILING. And I thought LEG was some kind of wordplay for leg up as if standing on a block.

The first ALP I saw was the one going straight up in PLATA so I kept trying to find mountain names going in every direction except diagonal.

Second DNF this week.

WES 8:02 AM  

The source of the 1-Across clue is often the dangerous bag itself. You might see it if you check your dry cleaning.

Light came on for me when I finally got enough of NATION to make the connection with ASTIME.

Glimmerglass 8:19 AM  

Terrible write-up, Rex. This was a terrific puzzle. I had 90 percent of it solved before I saw the ALP staircases (NATIONalpASTIME was where the dawn finally broke). I couldn't have solved 7D or 51D without the gimmick. What the blazes does "imagistically imperfect" mean? That's nonsense, or maybe just jealousy talking. Sure, little 3-letter staircases are not mountains, but ALPS can be generic for any high points. Maybe there could be a better revealer, but this puzzle was a wonderful challenge. A very satisfying solve. This is why I do NYT puzzles.

Jim Quinlan 8:32 AM  

@Wahhab and Anonymous

Thanks! I figured it out on my way to work this morning... even more embarrassed that STET is common crosswordese- I think I was thinking STENT and looking for someway striking out was cardiovascular related- Anyway thanks!

Suzy 8:33 AM  

Horrid puzzle-- no joy at all!

Anonymous 8:34 AM  

Easily one of the worst themes I've ever seen, and yes I remember the ant theme from ACPT. I thought I was dealing with Naticks and obscure Alps too, and the higher than normal amount of crosswordese made this a painful and unenjoyable fill. I blame Will''s editing though as much Stu's theme.

John V 8:39 AM  

Never saw the gimmick, not even close. That is just me, though. I consistently miss wrap type puzzles. Alas.

Gill I. P. 8:39 AM  

@Jeremy M and @Loren can I pull up a chair? Gaack, this was a huge head scratcher. I probably should have gotten it at ROFILING but then I thought it might be some sort of psychiatric massage. Come to think of it, this puzzle was just that. Did NOT get the theme till coming here.
Hi @Ellen S. I see you posted your before and after pics.... We had lunch yesterday and a make-over for Ellen at Macys. She's a good egg and lots of fun. I really recommend those of you living in proximity to meet up. Aren't there a ton of you Michiganders always saying how near you are to one another? Go meet up in a bar and yack about us bloggers.

evil doug 8:51 AM  

For one not enslaved by a stopwatch, this was terrific in every way. After a few weak Thursdays recently, this is how it's supposed to be done.


dk 8:53 AM  

I am in mourning over the death of Lumpy Rutherford (Frank Bank), the bouncing of the settlement checks from the various foreclosure debacles and the killing (pun intended) of some form of gun control.

Full disclosure I am a gunslinger and the NRA is not me.

Then I get to the puzzle. My loathing of the Thursday gimmicks is well known and this one…. Must say something nice….

Loved the crime fill. A MECHANIC is also a hired killer. Err… well… I liked SKI and ROCKLEDGE… let us just say this one has a nice personality and it also reminded me of the ANTS puzzle.

🐜🐜 (2 ants as a hommage) Sister (in her self professed hottie days) had a t-shirt that read "This hag is not a toy."

Anonymous 8:57 AM  

Poorly-executed gimmick that was not a good idea to begin with. Worst NYT puzzle I've seen. Was Will on vacation?

Darryl Hamilton 9:22 AM  

Painful fill and never got the clues. Just dread at looking at these obviously wrong words before submitting. Relief at the "Well Done." Just ick.

Love the erasure song!

Anonymous 9:37 AM  

Not often do I agree with evil doug, but he and I are in perfect synch today. Took a while to scope out, but the fun is in the voyage.

Jes Wondrin' 9:38 AM  

Why is it "imagistically imperfect"?


Look like an alp or like a mesa to you?

Z 9:44 AM  

I'm sitting there with the entire west done, eWER for OWER for my only completed --- answer, and wondering where #%*% the rest of NATIONAL PASTIME went. Decided to go do my morning ablutions since I am not a slave to the clock. AHA!!!! A-L-P are the next three letters in NATIONAL PASTIME. I got dressed, picked up the puzzle, and finished lickety-split.

I totally agree with @Amati Corela Mafiosi and @Evil Doug, "well-executed," - "this is how it's supposed to be done."

TOUT/STETS crossing was my last fill. That I grokked that devilish clue for that horrid fill (STETS, that is) is all the more amazing since I watched Scherzer and King Felix each strike out 12 batters last night (and saw this morning that there were a total of 40 strike-outs in that 14 inning game last night - it finished way past my bedtime). I wonder who gets the kudos for that clue, the constructor or the editor. Either way - way to make horrid fill puzzle worthy.

Anonymous 9:50 AM  

An example of how this theme doesn't work at all is the following: I'm looking at 5-across with O_L filled in and the clue is "---". Big help. Because the connection with Alps is so weak, it seems totally non-intuitive to look to the lower left for the "p". Looking for trailing letters, as in "national pastime", is far easier.

But just because the puzzle is kind of a fail, the guy telling the constructor he should jump off a mountain, especially in light of the recent tragedy, is in poor taste.

Anonymous 10:09 AM  

@ 2:02 Am Anonymous:


chefbea 10:10 AM  

I must say..I really didn't like this puzzle. Googled a lot and just came here to see the finished puzzle..and still didn't get it til I read Rex's write up.

@Evan we will miss you but good luck and "see" ya when you return.

Anonymous 10:15 AM  

Have you never looked at a dry-cleaning bag? At a protective bag that enwraps something you ordered? They all say that.
It was one of the few gimmes.

jackj 10:16 AM  

Slogged my way through until the clue “Baseball, in America” (seeking a straight answer, since there was no ?), which can only be NATIONALPASTIME.

But, since the puzzle only allowed NATION, that sent me looking for the rest of my certain answer and finding only ASTIME.

It seemed clear that Mr. Ockman had devised a weird gimmick of AL on the port side and P on the starboard flank and this sufficed to deal with the rest of the puzzle until ALPS surfaced at the end but, by then, it mattered not.


Looking at it, strongly reminds me why those of us who think linear, don’t do diagonals.

Things weren’t helped by the likes of SELAH, HILDA (R.I.P., Lady Thatcher), ALDOL and ERIKA. (Thank goodness LATKA was included to make sense of it all).

And, OMAR? He belongs in an OOL! Give me a BRADLEY or even a KHAYYÁM for the clue but spare us from this obscure street thug and while you’re at it Mr. Ockman, “Da capo ARIA”, conjuring up visions of the “Fat Lady”, in Viking-ish regalia, scatting her way through a Wagnerian opera scene, will frighten even the most stoic solvers.

Thank goodness for STETS, but now let’s continue on to complete a mountain trifecta using ET - NA and OS - SA as the next Thursday “high points”.


jackj 10:18 AM  

Blogger didn't like my diagonal.

Anonymous 10:24 AM  

Very difficult. Lots of googling.
I consider it a victory that I figured out the ALPs trick and completed the puzzle without coming here to see the answer.

Carola 10:36 AM  

This puzzle was not A TOY! Found it difficult but very rewarding, once I caught on. Saw something was afoot when TID was missing its -AL and more, but I was slowed down by not knowing many of the crosses in the five --- entries. It took me all the way to the reveal before I went looking for the missing -ALP+++s. Like several others, I found that vertical ALP in PLATA confusing - it was the first "going-up" ALP I found, so I looked for more verticals before I saw the slopes. Even with those in place, it was tough to finish: SELAH, ALDOL, PAROL, POME were all new to me and I found some of the cluing really tricky.

I'm with @Z, @acme, and @evil doug on this one. For me, the constructing feat: solving experience ratio was just right.

Liked EBRO x PRADO and the cross-cultural (almost) metals cross of PLATA and LEADA.

@chefwen - Me, too, on the highlighter and LOL on almost-rehab!

@Evan - Power through! Look forward to seeing you back.

@Rex - Agree about the STETS clue. Had to run the alphabet for the second T!

Matthew G. 10:42 AM  

I'm in the minority today, in that I thought this theme was fantastic. Truly fantastic. I found this puzzle brutally hard for a Thursday, but I enjoyed the struggle. The trick took a long time to click but was more satisfying than the significant majority of NYT themes.

Sometimes the level of theme coherence Rex wants can border on the tyrannical. In a 15x15 crossword grid, the ALPS cannot represent going up because the rise looks too short? These theme entries sure look like alpine ski slopes to me. And relative to the size of the Earth the rise of the real ALPS is not nearly as high as these cruciverbal ALPS are from the bottom of the grid.

The fill is much less good than the theme, undeniably. But every letter could be intuited, and the cluing was superb.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:42 AM  

As I begin typing, no one has mentioned that in the physical newspaper, the clue for 22 A is "Salt marsh, e.g.", rather than the longer and more easily interpreted clue Rex cites.

I finished with only four letters wrong, but absolutely no idea of what was going on. One of those letters was the first E in 40 A, making EWER at least a word, for a numbered entry with no clue, and where 40 D could either have been ERS or ORS ("Hosp. areas")

Having ALP appear going up in 36 D, PLATA, should have been a no-no.

And I didn't get that pesky ANTS puzzle either!

A mistake no one else has mentioned: At 23 A, "Quick refreshment", I had NIP before correcting to NAP!

Two Ponies 10:42 AM  

Well, I must pull up a chair with the therapy group so we can moan about how foolish we feel for not seeing this.
My grid just looks like gibberish.
Water-Pik anyone? Why the dash?
It's just water ski!
No fun.

Eric 10:49 AM  

- Oh, Rex. Sometimes your acerbic caterwauling is unjustified. How could you not like this? This was amazing! Not only was its construction a breath of fresh air, but I also haven't had an "AHA" moment like this in a loooooong time. An ALP goes up. Simple as that. How else could it have been constructed? Vertically? Like a ROCK LEDGE?

- I know I've seen label warnings stating that "This bag is not A TOY" when buying stuff for my nephews. Yes, definitely conjures up thoughts of asphyxiated kids. But still, an original clue/answer.

- OMELET...made me wince. I get that it's an alternate spelling, but so is ameba. Meh.

- Did ALLOT come up twice already this week?

- For my money, "In the PENAL Colony" is Franz Kafka's best work.

- ERIKA Eleniak's nude scene in "Under Siege." Check it out. That's all.

OISK 10:56 AM  

I am with the naysayers, although I did finish, but with help. My objection is to the two pop culture clues side by side.- Omar and Lenos. I asked a collegue, who knew Omar, and suddenly it all became clear. I generally like Thursday puzzles, the tricks, the clever construction, but the clue for "IceT" for example is extreme pop culture - never heard of the film - and could have been better. All in all, more frustration than fun.

loren muse smith 11:05 AM  

@Two Ponies - yes on Water "Pik."

@, um, I can't remember. I, too, had "nip" before NAP. (Just kidding,uh, Bill) ;-)

Z 11:07 AM  

@Matthew G - perhaps Tyrannical Rex needs a new avatar.

@bob kerfuffle - I skimmed over Tyrannical Rex's theme answer run-down so I didn't notice the different clue. The different cluing does explain some of the comments.

@Eric - "Sometimes your acerbic caterwauling is unjustified." Really? Looks like lots of people agree with Tyrannical Rex, even though I'm not one of them. "Acerbic" I'll buy. "Caterwauling" seems just a tad hyperbolic.

Sandy K 11:07 AM  

Got the gimmick at NATIONAL PASTIME also, which helped me find the other theme answers. Eventually found the diagonal ALPS.

Didn't love the ... or the reveal.

The end result was creative and must've been hard to construct, but was it worth the climb?

Eric 11:14 AM  

@Z, yeah, I had a Roget enema this morning and I may overreached with my vernacular. But still, this puzzle challenged me and made me smile (except for OMELET).

jberg 11:16 AM  

Put me down with @Evil and @Matthew-- very frustrating puzzle until I got it, then I loved it. The different clues for 22A didn't help, though -- I had "salt marsh, e.g.," which does not really fit the answer. And the ALP in PLATA really shouldn't have been there. So it was flawed, but still -- a challenge to get, and rewarding when you did.

excON before FELON, aLOE before SLOE, MEtHaNol before MECHANIC (before I got the theme), and ERTE (though I was really thinking of Escher) before DALI. And I mistkenly wrote EBRO at 30D instead of 31D. So my puzzle looks pretty messay, even before I circled all the mountains -- but it all got sorted, though, and I enjoyed myself. Keep 'em coming!

Thoracic 11:35 AM  

And I thought I was getting sooooo smart! Had to come here for theme, then was able to finish. Would not have gotten theme on my own in a million years. I fear I'm a linear thinker. I suspect more puzzles will eventually help me broaden my directional horizons, but for now it was highly frustrating.
Also had water pik, and LUNGS for breathers, as expected given my name above.
Better luck tomorrow.

WA 11:38 AM  

I understand Jay Leno's Garage is being replaced with Jimmy Fallon's Basement.

If this was my first puzzle it would be my last. This this an extreme example of someone else's logic.

Notsofast 11:48 AM  

I like a tough Thursday. This one had some very creative cluing, too. And it took awhile to ken the gimmick. One natick for me was AAR crossing PAROL. So, except for that, pretty cool puzzle.

DBGeezer 11:52 AM  

@ACME, I'm a bit surprised that SELAH was not a gimme for you

Blue Stater 12:07 PM  

Beyond insane.

Cheerio 12:09 PM  

I saw Stu Ockman's name and thought "oh, aren't his puzzles really hard?" Indeed, this was hard. I'm surprised it is not rated as straight-out challenging.

Ditto others on having never heard of: selah, amati, pome, parol, aldol.

Anonymous 12:11 PM  

Doesn't strike out in the end is the kind of brilliant clue that should characterize the harder end of the week. But I hate pop trivia -- e.g. I had no idea who Erika Eleniak was.

retired_chemist 12:35 PM  

I find the two anonymice who wrote sneeringly about "This bag is not a toy" wrote unnecessarily. The substantive point was made at 12:46 AM. One can only conclude: (1) that those anonymice do not bother to read the previous posts; and/or (2) that their purpose in posting is to be snarky under the cover of their anonymity. They must not be very nice people.

One of my attempts to suss out the theme involved a rebus for 40A. I first had 40D as ERS and E_ER for 40A; I plunked down (IG) for E(ig)ER but was unable to find any other Alps as rebuses (obviously).

ChemProf 1:25 PM  

Second hand up for professional organic chemist that didn't get aldol for a loooong time. :blush:

Anonymous 1:32 PM  

@ Bob Kerfuffle: ade before nip long before NAP :) it may be time for some "quick refreshment"...
-- FearlessKim

Masked and Anonymo2Us 1:35 PM  

SOMI: +41. (I'm goin back to +100 being most snarky, -100 being least snarky. Seems more logical.)

Wow. Once again, a whole gambit of varyin opinions on the ThursPuz. Me? I go with what Evil Doug said, today. Succinct and eloquent. thUmbsUp to both ED and the puz.

Like several others, had TID filled in, and didn't cotton to it. Brain then reacted as follows...
1. Everything you just did was wrong.
2. No it weren't.
3. Rebus.
4. No it ain't.
5. Cinnamon roll.
6. Scarlet Johansson.
7. Where were we. Oh, yeah... TID. Well, the answer to the question is TIDALPOOL. How do I get to there....
8. Cinnamon roll.
9. 4-Oh's agonna hate this.
10. There it is, scramblin up to the O?? in 5-Across! ahar!

...Guess I weren't as sucksinked as ED. Apologees.

Benko 1:37 PM  

This puzzle wasn't all that hard, it just wasn't fun. I don't like these sort of gimmicks generally...I like my crosswords to be crosswords. Instead of trying to be clever in your construction, I'd much rather you be clever in your fill.
And I guarantee I've seen that clue for STETS before. If you use a word 5000 times in puzzles, the clues for it tend to repeat themselves.

Z 1:38 PM  

siP to NiP to NAP, here. Considered ade for a split second, as well.

I know ERIKA Eleniak for the same reason I grokked STETS. I did work with a guy (a very religious sort) who watched Baywatch religiously because he believed every episode had at least one exposed breast somewhere in the background extras. Can anyone confirm?

@Eric - "Roget enema" - I've had one or two of those myself. I nominate you for Comment Of The Day.

Three and Out.

David 1:41 PM  

Another hand way up for being helped along today from a humbling ACPT experience with PB's "Ants" puzzle.

Discovered that something had to be going "up" very early on, as the letters of the word "NATION" filled themselves easily, and National Pastime just had to be correct. Where I tripped up was throwing in the "AL PASTIME" straight up the NE diagonal (it fit!). Crossings quickly helped me discover that big mistake, then slogged around a bit, and "ALP" finally revealed itself in a couple of places, and I was on my way.

Really enjoyed this puzzle.

Anonymous 1:56 PM  

I found this more excruciating than anything else. Lots of short names (which I hate), bizarre theme. I decided it was best to just discard my newspaper rather than have a conniption. Fail.

ANON B 2:32 PM  

It would help if when referring to a previous commmenter the time
of the comment would always be included.
Is that the same anonymous who
made all those"excruciating"comments?

Anonymous 2:56 PM  

Interesting the on-line puzzle you did has 22A: Where seawater remains after an ebb. Because in the print version, this was "Salt marsh, e.g." NYT must have figured out this was a bad clue.

Lindsay 3:08 PM  

Like @Nanpilla & others, I was very much helped by seeing that the ALPS were ants by another name.

Channelling Magritte, I wanted 1A "This bag is not ____" to be "A bag". Did not catch on to the ubiquitous TOY warning until very late.

Anonymous 3:29 PM  

Did this one in print, as usual. Moderately tough until I got the gimmick. I agree it isn't elegantly worked out. "Aldol" was the hard word of the day for me.

"Erasure"? Who the hell are they? Is that because you had do a number of erasures to solve the puzzle? If you're going to run this song, what is wrong with Ike and Tina Turner's classic 1966, Spectorsound-backed version? Why this '80s electrono-crap? Just asking. At one point the synthesizers sound almost like INXS's "Devil Inside," which at least is a good, original '80s song.

Doc John 3:38 PM  

I liked it. I thought it was fun and different. Once I figured it out, that is.

Lewis 3:54 PM  

Well, those who figured it out, in general, loved the puzzle, and those who didn't didn't. I'm of the latter group, but if I had figured it out -- and I'm disappointed that I didn't -- I think I would have felt good about the puzzle. Except .. some of the cluing was tough and I didn't know ERIKA, LENOS, ALDOL, EBRO. But if I figured out the gimmick, this puzzle would have been much easier.

Loved the writeup, Rex. Evan, godspeed. You have good priorities! M&A, you made me smile as always. And Loren, your playfulness with words is a pure pure joy!

Ellen S 5:02 PM  

Well, if I had figured it out, I would have loved it. I Googled Erica Eleniak and Jay Leno's Garage - and managed to get the rest of it filled in on my own, including the revealer, leaving only three of the acrosses and three of the downs, all without figuring out the gimmick. OOL? TID? RACI? I just gave up and came here. Mighty impressive.

But I didn't like STETS, even though I filled it in. STET means "Let it stand", and STETS does not mean "Lets it stand." There is some other Latin construction for that, and proofreaders don't need it. But I filled it in. It's plausible (thank you @Bob Kerfuffle, the invisible man), even if it's wrong. That's how language devolves, right?

acme 5:07 PM  

@DB Geezer 11:52am
The only SELA(H) I know is Ward!
Que Selah, selah.
(Insert musical interlude here)

Susan McConnell 5:09 PM  

Finished, but with a low fun quotient. I am in agreement with those who say that 4 letters on a diagonal does not an ALP make. And I feel bad saying that because this seems like it must have been hard to put together.

LaneB 5:39 PM  

No chance on this one--even in the sections which I had filled in, I had no idea what several of the words meant or had to do with the clues: SELAH, STETS, ALDOL,RACI, etc. Coupled with the ALP usage, I found it pretty impossible and appreciated the difficulty expressed by Mr. Parker.

James D. Cormier 5:41 PM  

Your review is right on. The revealer clue was way too vague, and the "---" clues made the whole thing nigh-on incomprehensible until I was almost done the puzzle.

sanfranman59 5:42 PM  

Midday report of relative difficulty (see my 8/1/2009 post for an explanation of my method and my 10/15/2012 post for an explanation of a tweak to my method):

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

Thu 25:09, 17:17, 1.46, 95%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Thu 15:35, 10:01, 1.56, 95%, Challenging

Chip Hilton 6:13 PM  

It sounds like responders here equate personal frustration with puzzle weakness. I'm with Evil on this one. I struggled mightily, was about to come here admitting defeat, but took one last shot and- Behold! - NATION connected to ASTIME and it all came clear. Wonderfully satisfying to have such a late Aha! moment. Overall time be damned, great fun!

chefbea 6:13 PM  

Crossword puzzle birds!!! Just heard on the news that a pet bird here in Wilmington...a cross between an EMU and a RHEA has escaped from his home. They are hoping to catch it. ..Great looking bird that they showed on the news.

joho 6:24 PM  

Keeping with the ALPS theme, to me the construction of this puzzle is like skiing down a perfect slope in even more perfect powder. The solve would either be like hitting a tree (WTF!) or totally exhilarating (AHA!).

I hit the tree today and absolutely LOVED it!!!!

Big Bird 6:27 PM  

@chefbea - Here for everyone to see is your runaway bird.

Watching this will make everyone want to limit their rhea encounters to crosswords.

Sparky 7:26 PM  

@Evan all the best. Go to it and hang in there. @chefwen is correct. It is a drug. I am using my left hand and arm to move the mouse. Takes time.

The puzzle completely buffaloed me. Send the St. Bernard.

chefbea 7:32 PM  

@big bird thanks - I don't know how to embed stuff

Ebenezer 8:41 PM  

Brutal. That isn't necessarily negative - I've just got to the point where I can complete Wednesdays w/o Googling, so it's like trying to make the jump from AA to AAA.

This bag is not A TOY was great. Very important to tell your toddlers. A box can be A TOY, however.

I saw DR. NO for the first time last weekend (ON DVD, no less), so I knew Crab Key Island. The movie interwove the Jamician setting nicely, not patronizingly. Joseph Wiseman wasn't the most memorable Bond villian, but it was a better character than the one he played in the "Twilight Zone."

Ebenezer 8:45 PM  

@chefbea, try Googling "HTML insert hyperlink" or similar.

Paul Keller 9:03 PM  

I figured out STETS, ATOY, about half the puzzle before I threw in the towel. I often cheat my way through a hard puzzle by checking answers, but this is the first time in a while I just threw in the towel. Kind of wish I'd tried harder now that I know the theme.

michael 9:46 PM  

I got the entire puzzles, noticed the staircases, saw the word alps, and never noticed that "alp" was in all the staircases until I came here...Not feeling too smart.

sanfranman59 10:02 PM  

This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 8/1/2009 post for an explanation and my 10/15/2012 post for an explanation of a tweak I've made to my method. 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 6:12, 6:14, 1.00, 47%, Medium
Tue 9:31, 8:15, 1.15, 82%, Challenging
Wed 9:44, 10:13, 0.95, 40%, Easy-Medium
Thu 25:05, 17:17, 1.45, 94%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:51, 3:43, 1.04, 69%, Medium-Challenging
Tue 5:28, 4:49, 1.13, 81%, Challenging
Wed 5:58, 6:02, 0.99, 46%, Medium
Thu 14:47, 10:01, 1.48, 92%, Challenging

Milford 10:41 PM  

DNF at that 80% point everyone else got to before they figured out the theme. Too tired.

I liked the Erasure video. Brought me back to college.

Anonymous 10:59 PM  

Hate. Hate. Hated it. Kept thinking it was asking for the names of specific mountains in the Alps and despite getting most of it done, never got the graphic connection. And the crosses were little help. Bury this one out in the cornfield and hope it never comes back.

retired_chemist 11:11 PM  

Complainers - you have been given a learning opportunity. It is your choice whether you curse outrageous fate or whether you learn something from it.

Laurence Hunt 11:29 PM  

I should probably refrain from commenting. This puzzle was well over my head. However, I have never seen anything like this before, and thought it was brilliant. However, I needed many clues from Rex to solve it, so I am so far from "there," that who am I to say? I definitely liked the broad level of knowledge required to solve this one, from Dali to the Nude Maja. I really dislike puzzles that rely heavily on TV shows and sports figures, so this was superior in that regard, in my extremely humble opinion.

Pete 12:02 AM  

@RC - So, it's not valid to say that I disliked this puzzle? What the hell, I disliked this puzzle. Even with a vague idea about what was going on, I so disliked filling in nonsense that I stopped after filling in OOL TID ROFOLING ASTIME. Doing so hurt more that I could imagine any payoff making it worth while. I just said F-it a little over half way through. That makes it a bad puzzle for me.

long suffering mets fan 3:08 AM  

Late to the party, long day at work
Had to add my 2 cents


best nyt puzzle in quiet some time

Took me awhile to see it, after reading 68A, I thought just the p was going up. I had POOL, PROFILING, PASTIME, and POWER until that wonderful aha moment

Thanks, Stu excellent work

long suffering mets fan 3:13 AM  

make that quite

I told you it was a long day
Man, its late

Peace and out

Beth Rae 9:15 AM  

Loved it! Any time I get to use my new highlighters to illustrate the theme, it's fun!!

triggerfinger 7:57 PM  

Fantastic puzzle...loved the plastic bag clue. Check your cleaner bags.

Tita 9:17 PM  

Sorry, posting first.
Took me forever, had to reveal a letter or two.
Who but DALI could come up wtih Swans Reflecting Elephants. Fabulous.

This was hard for me. Kept looking for an upward-facing ALP - finally saw they were sloping.
Alas, I don't have time these days to savor the puzzle, the write-up, or your comments.
But I will read them now, as I listen to how Boston has prevailed.

Tita 9:39 PM  

@chefwen - you're so right...who was I kidding that I would read the comments later...had to read them now.

@Evan - good luck!

@Ret_Chem - hand up for NiP.

I do really lilke these kind of tricksy puzzles. I'm slightly grumpy because I didn't give this one enough time. I now agree with those who think this was fun and creative.

I am feeling better about everything. MRED, clue for ATLAS, clue for OOM!

Aw shucks, @Bob K - you know I'm just ribbin' ya...I KNOW it was you who first mentioned NiP. ;)

Spacecraft 11:12 AM  

Big DNF. I had absolutely NO chance with this one. Couldn't get anything to work--and no wonder, since five entries were reduced to nonsense letter strings without their starts. And with DRNO and MRED in the same grid...then I come across yet another Romanumeral, and at that point I declared, "This just simply is not worth it."

@anon 12:28AM who said "Raced through this:" Sorry, but I cannot believe you. Just not possible, period. Your head would have to be two feet in diameter.

Anonymous 1:34 PM  

Some authors just have that need to create the unsolvable puzzle. I think those authors have the problem....not the solvers who cannot possibly figure it out. I'd prefer these puzzles went un-published as I do the puzzle to be challenged....not to go crazy. So Stu you stumped me....feel smart? Stu you are a real dick.

rain forest 1:52 PM  

Very unusual solving experience here, like others, I assume. I mean I finished it, but did not see the gimmick/theme, mainly because I left 68A for last (ALPS). SO I had TID, RACI, NATION, MECHANIC, and LEG on the left side, and the words requiring a P at the beginning on the right. Then I noticed that they could be combined, ie, TIDAL POOL, RACIAL PROFILING, etc. and I thought, "cool", although that took some effort to discover. The whole ALP thing escaped me. totally. Never saw the three-step "alps". Now of course, I'm thinking "even cooler". Does it count if you finish a puzzle correctly but don't see the theme?

Anonymous 1:54 PM  

OMG! I though t I was a crossword nerd until I read this blog. Now I know, I'm just not worthy of calling myself that. It's comforting to know there are so many of us out there. Ok, so yeah, parol? Didn't get it. Seems like I remember aldol from Tom Robbins "Jitterbug Perfume." As soon as I got the reveal, all was good except TID...still needed help in the NW corner. Keep it up guys. Word nerds rule.

Syndi Solver 1:58 PM  

[sorry if this is a duplicate post]

This puzzle was very hard but also very clever. I wish I had seen the trick during the solving--that would have made it a whole lot easier! I kept looking at the "wrong" answers, and trying to figure it out, with no success. I even looked at TID and thought "Hmm, TIDe POOL?" (I had not gotten to the ALPS part yet) And I thought NATION must be NATIONAL (didn't think about the PASTIME part of it), etc.

Finally I had to look up a few answers since the trick was not helping me fill in any of those --- clues. I actually got ALPS long before that but I had no idea what to do with it. The "going up" part of the clue made me look for something going straight up, not diagonally (both up and across). Even with almost all the letters filled in it took me forever to see what was going on.

Kudos to Stu Ockman for a real stumper of a puzzle!

@Dirigonzo, thanks for your kind words about puzzle making a few days back. I have lots of fun making them but I have no illusions that any of my puzzles will ever as clever as a puzzle like this.

Solving in Seattle 2:48 PM  

@Spacecraft, your comments to @anon made me LOL.

I totally disagree with everything OFL wrote, including his name.

Stu Ockman, what a great puzzle! (I only say that because (a) I solved it, and (b) I figured out your theme, albeit two hours later with my head setting off the smoke alarm.

I finally snapped to the trick with TID and remembered the clue for 68A and started looking for the ALflat and found ALPOOL instead.

Loved the clues for OOM & STETS. Was sure LATKA was meaningless. Thought "Taxi" worker was Queen LATifAh and tried to suss the rebus. For the clue "Breathers," I had giLLs before LULLS. eWER before OWER. ester before ALDOL.

What fun.

capcha: teamito. Little Leaguers south of the border?

Dirigonzo 6:01 PM  

Well my experience mirrored @rain forest's - got the grid filled in without seeing the ALP connectors. I took to putting an * with the last letter of the first part of each theme answer to represent the missing letters; I now see how much easier it would have been if I had just looked for the ALPs "going up" as the reveal clue suggested. Also, for Salt Marsh (I guess they didn't correct the clue for my paper)I wanted TIDALPlain and TIDALPond before I settled on TIDALPOOL. On a scale of 1 - 10 I would rate the fun-level of this puzzle as "frustrating".

Anonymous 1:12 PM  

Listen to you people. It's a puzzle. Did you solve it? Then you win; move on. Did it stump you? Well, you can't blame the puzzle because clearly it was solvable by others.

Me, I was just about to give up when I finally hit on the gimmick and quickly filled in the remaining half of the grid, with the exception of the O, W, and R. Just could not come up with POWER or IOWA, even after staring at it for a good three minutes. By then my brain was tired and I just wanted to get on with my day.

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