Hebrew letter before nun / WED 5-22-13 / 1972 Slade song Take Me Back / Cohort of Athos / Firth of Clyde port / Arabian Nights menace / Sicko documentarian / Winter's Bone heroine Dolly

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Constructor: Kevin Christian

Relative difficulty: Easy



THEME: -X + -CKS — homophonic phrases where first word ends -X and last word ends -CKS

Theme answers:
  • 17A: Complaints about a Kentucky fort? (KNOX KNOCKS)
  • 36A: Place a levy on pushpins? (TAX TACKS) 
  • 42A: Security for smoked salmon? (LOX LOCKS)
  • 62A: Piles of old soul records? (STAX STACKS) 
  • 11D: Say no to some pro basketballers? (NIX KNICKS)
  • 35D: Critic Reed does major damage? (REX WRECKS)
Word of the Day: AYR (63D: Firth of Clyde port) —
Largest of the Clyde Coast holiday towns, Ayr lies in the very centre of the famous Firth of Clyde playground, 32 miles South-West of Glasgow, it looks out on the glorious panorama of the Firth, with the majestic peaks of Arran in the foreground and the Mull of Kintyre in the background. The beautiful Ayrshire countryside provided the inspiration for some of the finest verses of the National Bard of Scotland, Robert Burns. // Undoubtedly Ayr is an old town—the most zealous of historical researchers cannot say just how old. Its story is writ large on the pages of Scottish history. Many of its landmarks bear the indelible stamp of its antiquity. But in every other respect the Auld Toun is the modern home of a modern-minded and thriving community who are well aware of the need to keep abreast of the times, not only for their own sakes but for the benefit of the many thousands who come annually to make holiday. (www.ayr.org)
• • •

This is a Monday puzzle. With the exception of a few deliberately amped-up clues (e.g. 23A: "Winter's Bone" heroine ___ Dolly or 24A: Hebrew letter before nun), this thing has no speed bumps. Once you grok the theme (which doesn't take long), the rest of the theme answers reveal themselves instantly. I didn't have to think more than one second about any of them. Gimme after after gimme after gimme. That's a lot of long gimmes. So it's misplaced on a Wednesday. I nearly broke three minutes, which maybe I've done once in my life on a Wednesday. Typically I'm more than a full minute slower. But that's not a fault of the puzzle's. And yet it is, because the theme is terribly obvious, and one that I have to believe has been done before, many times. It does have the up-side of giving us lots of Xs and Ks, but since all answers were so easy to get, there's not much pleasure to be had in solving. Then there's the fill, which ... well, at this point, I doubt I have to tell you. Another day, another dire situation. I won't bother enumerating the damage, but there's at least half a dozen to maybe ten answers here that I would try desperately to eliminate if I were constructing. At least three in each of the tiny SE and NW corners alone. So, six, right there. And there's more. Plus, in addition to short junk, there's problems with the longer stuff. IN A TREE and RETOTAL are *total* wastes of good long-Down real estate (though I will say that most of the other 7s are just fine). "Good enough" just isn't good enough. Surely people can sense how *tired* a puzzle like this is. Adequate, passable, defensible, but at best Just OK. Something you might've seen 30 years ago, not in that the fill's old, but in that it seems to come from an era when puzzles underwent less scrutiny, when there was less basis for comparison, and when standards of polish and zest were generally much laxer. The idea appears to be "Playful theme + defensible fill = all you need." But it's not enough any more. I don't know why we're still seeing Just OK puzzles in the NYT, but I'm grateful that more and more people seem to be noticing. As they say: write your congressperson.

How about a 12-step program for people addicted to bad fill? We could name it after the 5th row of this puzzle: REEMEMANON. "Hi, my name is ..."


Bullets:
  • 10A: Strained-at-bug, in an idiom (GNAT) — I am not familiar with this idiom. It's from Matthew 23:24, "Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel." That last part must be tricky.
  • 24A: Hebrew letter before num (MEM) — the only MEM I know is [Grizzlies, on a scoreboard]
  • 9D: Keebler cracker brand (ZESTA) — the snack preferred by both Perle MESTA and the hearth goddess VESTA.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

81 comments:

jae 12:12 AM  

Easy for me too.  My initial impression was cute scrabbly theme and reasonable fill.  So, I liked it better than Rex did, but he has a point...

Only tricky cross was ULNAR/REE, but it's fairly obvious.  And, if you haven't seen Jennifer Lawrence in Winter's Bone it's worth a Netflix look.

ANKH ANKA ANON AYR AROO ALEE. Probably not a theme there.

Davis 12:32 AM  

Agree that this is an easy puzzle — tweak a few clues and I think this would have been an improvement over the Monday puzzle this week.

That said, I don't think this puzzle was as dire as Rex suggests. As much as I love a beautifully crafted grid, this one qualifies as "good enough"—there was nothing I found appalling about the fill (in contrast with yesterday's E-nonsense). Besides, only the mediocre are always at their best.

Heck, jack up the cluing difficulty on this one a bit, and I might even go so far as to call this one "solid."

retired_chemist 1:08 AM  

As usual, I liked it better than Rex did. Easy - agree it is almost Mondayish. Only speed bumps were of my own creation - MAMBO @ 1A, e.g. Put STEW @ 16A, at the end realizing it wasn't right, then without looking at the down clues filling in RAGE [sic] since AGEE is a common answer. NAX KNICKS didn't cut it, and so I actually looked at the down clues and fixed it easily.

Four letter RRN can ONLY be MCCL based on the clue. Odd since usually there is at least SOME need for crosses. Just no resistance. Anywhere, really.

Thanks, Mr. Christian. Happens I needed an easy one tonight and you obliged.

Ellen S 1:29 AM  

I had an easier time with the puzzle than I had getting here to the comments. Lately the link to the comments seems not to work on my iPad until I ... I dunno, turn the tablet different ways? Or maybe just time passes.

Okay puzzle, moved right along. I'd rather be able to do them than be completely stumped, which seem to be the only options any more. At least no eels. I see yestiddy's (I guess I mean today's) puzzle had an EFT, for which I of course put in my fave fish and was nonplussed when it didn't work - some other kind of 3-letter wriggler?

On this one, is it crossword-kosher to clue "ISOLATE" as "Put in solitary"? Ain't they from the same root?

John 1:36 AM  

REX WRECKS another puzzle.

MaharajaMack 1:50 AM  

Point to Ellen S. I thought the same thing about ISOLATE.

Benko 2:11 AM  

I would have finished in less than 2.5 minutes if I hadn't had to search for a typo at the end. that has been happening more and more with my quicker IPad solves. Stupid 2 finger typing.
Agree with Rex on this one. The long answers were all gimmes and a lot of the short fill was downright awful. Oh well.

chefwen 3:23 AM  

Said to Jon, this one belongs on a Monday, it seems a little amateurish. No pizazz! But a lot of X'es Woo Hoo.

I rarely find a puzzle that I don't enjoy, but this one didn't do it for me.

Favorite clue was 63D, I grew up there. My favorite Firth is the Firth of Forth, it's just fun to say.

syndy 3:56 AM  

i WOULD HAVE BEEN FASTER BUT I FELL ASLEEP.a SERIOUS SNOOZE FEST.

Z 5:40 AM  

bEE
cEE
dEE

lEE

rEE

So ULNAR/REE isn't inferable at all. ULNAl and even ULNAd ULNAc are at least plausible.

I really wanted MEh to be a Greek letter. When we see SSRS for the MCCLth time, the temptation is to say TOW IT, but I give this puzzle a MEM+

Z 5:44 AM  

@Ellen S - I tap on the header/key words above the date. That loads the comments below the post and the "post a comment" link is immediately active.

Gareth Bain 6:39 AM  

Theme was fun, though I agree it should've run on a Monday! I looked in Ginsberg's database and I can't find any other puzzles using any of the theme answers so the "I have to believe has been done before" doesn't seem to be true. I've made a (self-published) puzzle where -CKS words are changed to -X homophones, and I think I've seen someone else make that too (in a Crossynergy puzzle?), but this is a different angle completely...

Liz Lemon 7:00 AM  

Blerg.

Milford 7:06 AM  

Puzzle was not Mondayish for me, maybe a Tuesday. These type of puzzles with absurd theme answers I tend to try and fill in non-theme first, and I guess it just took me longer.

I liked the theme, thought it was fun, likd all the Xs and Ks. It makes me think of "New York Stories" and Woody Allen's segment, called "Oedipus Wrecks".

MITOSIS lining itself right in the middle, just like chromosomes, to divide the grid in half = Fantastic.

We had the YOGIC comments on Monday, and yesterday a weather scientist on NPR talking about Oklahoma referred to the storm conditions as "tornadic".

Carola 7:07 AM  

I got some kicks - wait, "Boots cereal?"- "Kicks Kix" - out of the theme and liked a lot of the rest - EARSHOT, BOX SEAT, ICE FLOE, ARAMIS, ESKER. "Paul's cross?" - ANKA's ANKH, but the "Hippie" clue made me smile - brought back images of long hair and peace signs.

Really liked the NOMADIC over MOSSY stack, as in "A rolling stone gathers no...."

@Ellen S and @Z - Same trouble here lately. @Z, thanks for the tip.

@Rex - Now I need to look up the Mull of Kintyre - what a great name. ZESTA + Mesta and Vesta really made me laugh.

Anonymous 7:17 AM  

@Ellen
Thanks for the hint on opening on an iPad. I too was having problems opening the comments section. Even went so far as to clean my screen!!!
I enjoyed this puzzle. The easy theme clues were balanced by quirky non theme answers!

John V 7:30 AM  

Very easy; indeed would be easy for a Monday. 17A, was a gimme and revealed the theme.

Theme density of 54 means fill compromises, as we know, but that's okay here. Hey, Kevin gave us MITOSIS and XEROXES. Fill over all was fine for me, just part of the deal.

Congratulations, Kevin Christian, on your NTY debut!

John V 7:31 AM  

That would be NYT, I believe :(

OTD 7:51 AM  

Definitely a Monday. Lots of tired fill.

Susan McConnell 8:08 AM  

I agree with Rex about the super-easiness of this one, but for me the theme was fun and all those Xes and Ks kept it interesting.

loren muse smith 8:09 AM  

Thanks for chexing, @Gareth –I was just thinking my memory was bad because I don’t remember a theme like this. Yeah, I saw it right away but still enjoyed guessing them.

We recently ordered my daughter’s senior class portraits – tough decision – pix picks.

@jae – how to spell ANKH? And then we have ANKA to boot! BTW, I was impressed that you even knew there was an h in DOHA. I looked at the clue and thought, “Huh? Qatar’s capital? Seriously? I could have sworn that ESKER was its capital.”

@Ellen S – I didn’t even consider ISOLATE! I thought “sequester,” “quarantine,” saw they didn’t fit, and DARTED on around the grid in my NOMADIC solving style.

For what it’s worth, I think ARAMIS and all of the AXE products are STINKERs. But this comes from someone who still likes British Sterling.

PREZ/PROTEM. Nice. My husband prefers his cereal GRANOLAic and his salsa ZESTAic.

DNF with a Natick at the OME/ESKER cross.

Yesterday my daughter called and said our Excursion wouldn’t start. I thought we’d have to TOW IT.

A Q shy of a pangram. Someone had to say it. Yeah, I still look. And count. Sicks X’s. Thought it was eight K’s but after a RETOTAL I got nine K’s. Impressive.

Congrats, Kevin! @John V says it’s your debut! Enjoy the day!

leah712 8:10 AM  

A big old DNF for me, and everyone complaining about the Mondayishness only compounds my distress. Didn't anyone else get caught up by the ULNAR/REE and OME/ESKER crossings? I was pretty sure the second one could be the problem, but I couldn't get Mr. Happy Pencil with a run of the alphabet because I was so sure of ULNAL/LEE.

joho 8:11 AM  

What? Nobody but me had ULNAl/lEE?

Yes, the theme was super easy and this should've run on a Monday, but it was fun!

I have a friend REX who I sometimes call WRECKS so that was my favorite.

All the Xes also brought BOXSEAT, JINXED and XEROXED to the party: nice.

This puzzle was not a STINKER, thanks, Kevin Christian!

Scott 8:26 AM  

I agree that the theme is fairly uninteresting and makes solving too quick for a weds. On the theme, my feelings are more mixed. Agreed that there is some pretty unseemly short stuff here (OME, AYR, ROC, SAV in particular). But I think the 6s and 7s really carry this one. Not sure what the objection to INATREE is. As clued, it's amusing and in the language for sure. Other favorites for me were ARAMIS, ICEFLOE, BOXSEAT, EARSHOT, and GRANOLA. All in all a passable early week puzzle imo.

jackj 8:48 AM  

As Xavier Cugat reputedly said, “X-Homophones? No, X-ylophones!” And the game was over with KNOXKNOCKS; no surprises were possible in the theme entries, all rated X.

Fortunately, there was some fun fill adorning the puzzle (and some un-fun fill doing some un-adorning).

In the latter category, REE Dolly is hardly the screen equivalent of Scarlett O’Hara but is quite gettable from the crosses. (A check on “Winter’s Bone” after the puzzle is solved reveals that Ree was played by none other than the lovely, talented Oscar winner, Jennifer Lawrence and the obscurity complaint is hereby waived).

But, there’s no waiver for RETOTAL and MCCL or ZESTA, AYR and ESKER and Kevin really pushes the envelope (and our buttons) with MEM, SAV and AROO.

But, on the bright side of the solve, TIPOVER is a fun reminder of that staple of Vermont farming sport, cow-tipping; NOMADIC sure beats “roving” or “roaming and ANKH is a reminder of a bumper sticker seen in Harvard Square, “ANKH if you love ISIS”.

GIJOES is fun but the “J” makes one wonder if the constructor is going for a pangram (he missed by a “Q”) and, as long as “X’s” were everywhere in the puzzle, it was a sort of grace note to include XEROXES. Nice entries all.

Certainly the puzzle was not a NETLOSS or a total STINKER; a little on the MOSSY side perhaps but still a nice Monday debut from Kevin Christian.

chefbea 9:12 AM  

Easy theme..loved all the answers but had a few mistakes . Didn't know Ree or Myst.

jberg 9:16 AM  

We just had RUMBA, so I was ready for that; and I got ULNAR once I had ULN, by analogy to the ocular nerve - I don't think there are any nerve adjectives ending in al or ai. So, yes, very easy, but a fun theme.

Two writeovers: PREs before PREZ, SKil-ball before SKEE (I've seen both, one's probably a trademark ripoff).

I agree the fill isn't on the A-LIST, but it must be tough to cross all those Xes, so I can tolerate it.

My real gripe is the clue to 27A. A cohort was a Roman military unit (smaller than a century), and by extension it's a group either of friends or people with something in common (e.g., an age cohort); the right word here might be 'crony.'

OK, that's my pedanticism for the day, time to sign off.

Rob C 9:41 AM  

Way easy Wed. Fun theme though, especially if you like the scrabbly letters. Like how some of the theme answers cross too.

The fill struck me as excellent in some places (GI JOE, BOX SEAT GRANOLA, EAR SHOT, JINXED) and dreadful in others (RETOTAL,others that Rex mantioned).

Fun theme + some good fill = fun puzzle to me. I'm always willing to accept some junk for a lot of other good stuff.

I'm a bit surprised at Rex's complete panning. Not enough credit given to the bright spots I thought. Not sure if the constructor really needs a 12-step program...maybe a 2-step program is more in line: 1) get rid of RETOTAL, 2) get rid of ESKER

Sir Hillary 9:42 AM  

Our host is just cranky because 35D was clued using "critic Reed..." rather than "puzzle blogger extraordinaire Parker..."

Paul Keller 9:42 AM  

If this theme has not been done many times before, than we are excepting a very trivial variation on a tired theme as originality. None of the theme answers struck me as surprising, funny, or hard to figure out. In those senses, the theme sucked.

The ULNAR/REE intersection gave me pause. "R" was my first guess - it was guessable.

AXER illustrates the problem with junk fill/crosswordese. As a word that is vitually unused in writing or speech, a novice will be challenged by the clue. A solver with some experience will know to write in AXER without any real thought. The clue goes from difficult to gimmie with almost no life in between. That doesn't ruin the whole puzzle, just a part of it.

Anonymous 9:47 AM  

Big Chris Knox fan - made my morning.

mac 9:47 AM  

Starting out on the West side I liked this puzzle, with terms like to wit, earshot and darted. The theme was very easy to find, although I managed to get myself into a mess with "tacks tax" instead of the other way around.

Easy and quick, with only "sav" unknown, and the clue for lie flat a little awkward.

lawprof 10:15 AM  

Picked up the theme immediately with KNOXKNOCKS and zipped through the rest in Monday-like time. But, alas, ended with a natick DNF at the PREs/sESTA crossing. The across part seems correct for a "Chief exec," and the down part I just didn't know. Call me cracker-challenged. Otherwise, a fun romp.

BTW, one of my captcha words is "protoplasm." Doesn't that have something to do with MITOSIS? Or not...?

Two Ponies 10:27 AM  

Monday-easy but with some bright spots. And if it is the guy's debut I think he deserves a break.
If I had a nit to pick I'd say "sav" was the shakiest fill.

If my mama catches us doin' the rumba my mama will just pitch a fit.

quilter1 10:59 AM  

@Rex, I'm going to put on my used-to-be-a-minister hat and say that the GNAT clue was Jesus talking about the U.S. Congress, which wastes their energy on useless things (straining at GNATs) while trying to swallow camels (dithering around the big, vital issues). OK, that's my bias, but I think it fits.

Easy puzzle I thought was kinda cute.

Sandy K 11:07 AM  

Easy-SKEEzy (not sleazy) for a Wed.
If you get one theme answer, you got 'em all. Theme was cute enough, tho familiarish.

Where can I SAV on a PKG of ZESTA?

I saw Jennifer Lawrence, (or J-La as she is now called) in 'The Lovely Bones'. Katniss is a MEM-orable heroine, but REE? Pretty ANON...so agree with @Rex re REEMEMNON.

MOSSY is way not as bad as SLATY or SUETY-so I guess it was not TERRible.

Mem and Aroo 11:27 AM  

Welcome aboard, debut dude Kevin. Thanx for takin the time to make us a puz.
Come back soon; bring U's.

Fave fillins: RUMBA, part 2 of 5. STINKER. TIPOVER. EARSHOT. BOXSEAT.

Fave weejects: SAV and MEM. Honorable mention to AROO. But, hey--if someone ever comes up with a term "SAVAROO" or "MEMAROO", you were just ahead of your time.

@4-Oh. Liked INATREE. Sign me up for yer 12-step program. Suggested steps:
1. Hadj to Vegas.
2. Free cinnamon rolls.
3. Being personally anointed by Patrick Berry.
4. Climbing gingko trees for 40 minutes. Would also accept 41 min.
5. Fill potholes in Scarlet Johansson's driveway. She then personally rules on goodness of the fill.
6. U-awareness seminar.
7. Cyber-connection with Dr. Fill.
8. Hadj to Natick. Have to stop at my place, along way, to do laundry.
9. Being personally exorcized by BEQ. I want one of them cool coffee mugs, btw.
10. Visit congressperson. Ask for same tax breaks Apple gets.
11. Practice correct pronunciation of REEMEMANON. In chant mode.
12. Crash at 4-Oh's house, until fillin better.

M&A

Eric 11:28 AM  

MAX MACKS - Chocolatier Brenner hits on girls?

LAX LACKS - West coast airport isn't up to par?

SAX SACKS - Totes for a Brass?

WAX WACKS - Madame Tussaud's sparring style?

Karen K. 12:11 PM  

ULNAR/MOORE crossing REE

PREZ/PRES crossing ZESTA

SKEE/TSAR crossing KEA and
REISER (YUCK!!!!!)

OME crossing ESKER

IMAM/CCNY crossing ANKA and
MYST

ETTA/AYR crossing STYE

Whatever happened to the "two obscurities should never cross" rule now?

Some of the constructors seem to think that the daily pay of $200 is too little, but with just crap-filled puzzle after crap-filled puzzle, it's just far too high.

Bob Kerfuffle 12:14 PM  

Agreeing with @jberg - My one write-over letter came in PRES/PREZ, because I Always Make That Mistake (though it's interesting that my spellchecker is accepting PRES and rejecting PREZ!)

Disagreeing with @jberg - Sorry, the permissivists have allowed "cohort" at least since my 1993 Merriam Webster's to mean "companion, colleague."

benko 12:14 PM  

How about PHLOX FLOCKS? There's a crosswordese one for ya.
I feel bad now that I know this is a debut for the constructor. I try to judge puzzles on their own merit, not on the constructor, but I do have a few favorites who I am biased towards when I see their name on the byline.
I feel like this rookie was set up to fail with this puzz being published on Wednesday rather than Monday, though...

Notsofast 12:42 PM  

Tip o' the hat for REXWRECKS!!! Love it!!!

LaneB 1:21 PM  

I didn't find it all that easy, although the theme answers came quickly. Also some old friends showed up, e.g., ORE, ALIST ALEE, and the weird AXER. A couple of answers were unfamiliar to me: ESKER, MYST and ZESTA. Otherwise a decent Wednesday, but it took me some time and I had to resort to Google a couple of times.

And how about: Amorous groups--SEXSECTS?

tom 1:29 PM  

It wasn't that easy for someone who is still getting used to crosswordese. The theme was a gimme, as Rex noted, but then all those TERRIBLE non-words! If you're not used to that "fill," this is no fun. MCCL? MEM? OME? SSRS? To quote Weekend Update's Amy and Seth, "Really!?" And then I just didn't know a couple, like Roc, Zesta and Esker, but at least they're nouns.

Getting better...

Lewis 1:35 PM  

I like ROLE next to RILE, SKEE beneath ALEE, and I like this sixth line, ARAMISALIST, which is a complete, if nonsensical sentence. One U? You are on M&A's wrong side.

Picked up the theme immediately, and as Rex said, the theme answers filled in quickly, making the whole puzzle easy, except for me, the REE/ULNAR cross.

Congrats, Kevin, on your debut!

Benko 1:38 PM  

Also:
BOX BOCKS (package some beers)
CHEX CHECKS (cereal inspections)
NIX NICKS (cancel a Fleetwood Mac concert)
TRIX TRICKS (activities of a silly rabbit?)

Bird 1:39 PM  

I admire the construction of this puzzle with all the X’s in the grid. The only ugly fill is AXER (I believe the term is AXEMAN?), and I mean U-G-L-Y (RETOTAL is an honorable mention). I don’t understand the clue for 10A.

Write-overs:
PATHOS before ARAMIS
LOA before KEA
ICEBERG before ICE FLOE

“Born Under a Bad Sign” is a terrific album.

Happy Humpday.

Nero 1:41 PM  

@retired_chemist – What about MCCI, MCCV or MCCX?

John V 2:16 PM  

SOCKS SOCKS: Bubbs bops kitty. (almost)

John V 2:17 PM  

Bubba that is.

Anonymous 2:17 PM  

Is it just me, or are the constructors not as clever as they used to be? I came of puzzle age in the late Maleska era. Never did construct a puzzle, though way back a million years ago my high school English teacher offered extra credit to anyone who did.

Rob C 2:28 PM  

@Bird - see Rex's bullets for explanation of GNAT

Ellen S 2:30 PM  

@z, thenks for the tip for when the link to the comments doesn't work. I went back to the main blog just now, and with 43 comments, the link again wasn't live! As neither were the tags at the bottom. But the keywords at the top were live, at least this time, which opened up the comments below the blog. (And when I backed up to the original page, the comments link was working, which wiped out the comment I was writing.)

Better clue for AROO -- what the beagle said.

@jberg, I was going to congratulate you on the Cohort catch; Fie on you, @Bob Kerfuffle for pointing out that another perfectly good word done bit the dust.

I had arete before ESKER; can't tell one ridge from another. But that reminded me, "Pillars of the Earth" was a great novel for learning about cathedral architecture, very useful for xwords: nave, narthex, chancel, and the ever-popular apse. Transept, crossing and clerestory don't show up that often, if ever, but good to know just in case.

My captcha is "anyaDVI" -- is that novelist Seton paired with a RRN?

TDavis 2:36 PM  

Rex seems more upset about the puzzle's placement during the week rather than any cavils with the puzzle itself. I think that's gotta land on Shortz's head. I mean, I don't see Kevin Christian submitting a puzzle with a note: "Here's my puzzle. You MUST run it on Wednesday or later!".

Roger Brown 2:47 PM  

Easy access to comments: touch blue text after http://rexwordpuzzle.blogspot.com/?m=1

Bird 2:50 PM  

@Rob C - Thanks. I don't know how I missed it.

Nameless 3:28 PM  

Actress Courtney readies to fire





COX COCKS

Anonymous 3:34 PM  

FearlessKim here: Mark me as one who enjoyed the puzzle, and its aftermath (see below), and the comments, esp. @TDavis' just a short while ago: "I mean, I don't see Kevin Christian submitting a puzzle with a note: 'Here's my puzzle. You MUST run it on Wednesday or later!'" Agreed! A Monday-ish puzz with lots of theme and Scrabble value, and yes, lots of crosswordese, but let's please not savage the constructors.

Fun with words: that's why i do puzzles, and that's why I come here. So I had some more fun running the alphabet to see how many X/CKS combos I could think of. these were all the ones I could come up with, and I'm sure at least a few are already in the puzz, or in your comments above. Fun coffee break! Now back to work!

AXE ACTS
CHECKS CHEX
LYNX LINKS
MINX MINKS
PACKS PAX
PICKS PIX
POX POCKS
STYX STICKS
TEX TECHS
TACKS TAX
TUX TUCKS
TICKS TIX
WHACKS WAX

Anonymous 3:40 PM  

FearlessKim again: oh and hand up for PREs/PREZ, and here's my favorite blunder, from the San Francisco area: had fool, AROO, REXWRECKS etc. for the downs and ended up with 33A: farted. Really, dragonflies, really?! Oh, my bad... (Dragonflies: "What a DOLT!")

Colby 4:30 PM  

Like the Stax Records reference. Would have been even more appropriate if ETTA James had been a STAX artist. Still kind of a soulsy cross.

sanfranman59 4:36 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)

Wed 8:37, 10:00, 0.86, 19%, Easy

Top 100 solvers

Wed 5:11, 5:45, 0.90, 25%, Easy-Medium

Anka Ccny Mochas 4:46 PM  

Fun! Great use of Xs ever!
Fact that it prompts lots of folks (folx?) to come up with their own combos speaks to the fact (fax?) that the puzzle was fun and inspiring!
I thought this was wonderful and had it been run on a Monday (6 themes with totally tough letters!) I'd have been awestrux!

For the gal who thinks $200 is too little, two swift kix to the shins. It's not the $200, it's the fact they are resold and repurposed ten different times without any reprint compensation that is the crucks (short for cruciverbalists) crux of the matter.

Loved the debut...soldier on wordd, KEvin! I mean, Onward Christian soldier!

Sfingi 4:56 PM  

Very clever. Caught the theme immediately on the first one, which was REX WRECKS.

Wanderlust reminded me of the folksong, "Vom Wasser haben wirs gelernt." It was told to me, that millers, after forever watching the water flow by and around the millstone, develop a yearning to travel and find out where the water goes.

Mitzie 5:49 PM  

I agree with @Gareth re: the "done many times before" -- or not done, I guess.

I'd also like to say that even if it *had* been done before, that's OK, too. Who says you can't repeat a theme? New solvers are born every day!

I think any notion that a repeated theme (or a "tired" theme) is somehow "less-than" is kind of amateurish and pompous. Just because you've seen it (or *feel* like you've seen it, which in itself is pretty self-absorbed) doesn't mean that millions of other solvers haven't.

Sometimes I think we have to remember that the editor isn't catering just to the 37 people who participate in this blog.

Also, I say every first-time constructor gets a big pass on crappy fill, as long as it's fair crap.

retired_chemist 5:53 PM  

@ nero - MCC(I, V, or X) is not a mid-century date.

ULNAR was definitely not ULNAL to anyone whose dislocated finger was set back in place by a loquacious doctor: "Now we deaden the ULNAR nerve...." I speak from experience here.

Anonymous 7:04 PM  

FearlessKim here: thanks, @Anka Ccny Mochas, for FAX FACTS! I wonder how many of these the constructor thought of, but didn't use!

Anonymous 7:26 PM  

@Mitzie

There must be a new constructor almost every day then, no?

Z 8:36 PM  

@mitzie - there are MDCLXX people who have bothered to become members of this blog. That's a few more than 37. Who knows how many others visit often. Nevertheless, I am sure you are correct that the number of people who solve the puzzle in ignorance of Rex far exceeds the members of this little community. Too bad for them, they are missing a lot of fun.

sanfranman59 12:38 AM  

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 7:18, 6:14, 1.17, 96%, Challenging (8th highest ratio of 179 Mondays)
Tue 9:09, 8:09, 1.12, 77%, Medium-Challenging
Wed 8:47, 10:00, 0.88, 24%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 4:21, 3:46, 1.16, 94%, Challenging
Tue 5:23, 4:49, 1.12, 77%, Medium-Challenging
Wed 5:10, 5:45, 0.90, 25%, Easy-Medium

Tita 8:28 PM  

Soo late...
Had to say that I liked MOSSY and MYST.
If I were to give my garden a name, it would be "Gnomes in the Moss". (I embrace the many varieties of moss who are so happy in my shady garden.)

And MYST just conjures up almost a Pavlovian reaction - that calm and soothing game weaned me away from an addiction to Wolfenstein.
Now my only computer game addiction is the NYT and Rexville.

spacecraft 12:02 PM  

So, REXWRECKS another rookie! Don't take it to heart, Kev; he's just...tired. But: there are a few things you might do to improve your follow-up submission:

-->If you're gonna do a theme, try one that doesn't cave in after the first get. Once we saw the X-homonyms it was all over.
-->Keep your love for Scrabbliness, but lose fill STINKERS like REE and MEM (too obscure) or SAV, PKG and OME (too contrived) or TTOP (too overused) or ANY Roman numeral, EVER!
-->Avoid entries such as LIEFLAT, which...well, does.

I kept looking for [Downward adjustments to a monkey suit?] TUXTUCKS. Next time. --Hey, how about [Guillotine operator's call?] NEXTNECKS!

English is such fun.

rain forest 1:38 PM  

I dunno. I just read the clues and did it with now write-overs, enjoyed the theme, though very easy once the first entry was encountered, winced at AXER (if you want to dance with her just go AXER),TTOP, AROO, and the RRN, but there have been MUCH worse. You beat me to it on the tux tucks, @Spacecraft (folds in a dinner jacket so it will LIEFLAT). How about "branches in Hell's river"--Styx sticks. Some puzzles "sparkle" and are great. Some don't and are just fine. Some do a puzzle in 3 minutes; some take longer. So?

spacecraft 2:12 PM  

@rain forest: @anon 3:34 beat us both; I just added a clue.

Something I forgot to add earlier: I know the Knapp gem of last Friday is cool, but do we have to land on it forever when we hit "syndicated?" Please let's get back on track; I'm tired of fishing around in that right-hand column!

Dirigonzo 4:10 PM  

Well, after a few days of travelling I'm back to puzzling as my chief after-work diversion (it's too early for bourbon) and this was a good one to ease back in with - except for PREs/sESTA which made me one square short of a complete grid. I note that RUMBA was in the Friday puzzle to which Spacecraft refers, so I guess that's a "bleedover" of sorts? Anyway, I DARTED through the grid, and I'm glad to be back (referring to both home and Syncity.

DNGrandma 4:28 PM  

Did this one while watching Federer come a-cropper at Wimbleton, but even with half my attention it was easy for Wednesday. My only problem was thinking of the credits thing being that long list that ROLls at the end of a film, so couldn't parse the cracker brand. Once again, a one square DNF. Maybe I could get the prize for consistency?

@Ginger: Roger, Maria, and a host of others out so early! Strange things are happening. I'm going to have to learn a bunch of new names!

Waxy in Montreal 4:34 PM  

@Diri - welcome back to Syncity. Had the same PREs/sESTA problem as you and a number of others.

IMHO a very creative effort on the part of rookie constructor Kevin Christian. Thought the six homophonic phrases involving an X and then CKS were extremely cool as well as the bonus X's in XEROXES, etc. Fun puz.

Ginger 4:40 PM  

@Diri - Good to have you back. Syncity just isn't the same without you.

Rex rated this one as easy, and many of the commenters agreed, however, it (mostly) played harder than that for me. I DNF because of the MEb/bITOSIS cross. To divide is to split in two, bi, right? Wrong. And the ME_, could have been anything. Also had a problem at 23-A, but guessed right on that one.

So...the theme was so/so? Not to me. I got a kick out of it. Also got kix out of all the xxex. XEROXE is brilliant, IMHO. And, it crosses 2 theme answers!

Ginger 4:47 PM  

@DMG - Of course I'm watching the tennis, but 4:00 AM comes in the middle of the night, so I set the DVR, and watch during the day. Sounds like I'm going to be disappointed by some of the outcomes.

Dirigonzo 5:49 PM  

@Waxy - I guess one could say it's a good day to be homophonic and a bad day to be homophobic. Thank you and @Ginger for the welcome back.

Solving in Seattle 6:21 PM  

MEk/kITOSIS (I am not a Jewish biologist). PREs/sESTA (I am also not up on my cracker brands).

@Diri, lol. And the words are only one letter different.

@DMG, the only reason I have to watch tennis is Maria.

Capcha (no kidding): into assemea. Since I know no one likes breathing problems...

Dirigonzo 7:21 PM  

@SiS - I can see that captcha going in a couple of directions so thanks for choosing the high road.

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