Journalist/writer Herbert / SUN 6-16-13 / Channel starting in 2003 / Tennis great Tommy / Joint czar with Peter I / Tammany Hall problem

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Constructor: Mel Rosen

Relative difficulty: Medium (times at the NYT site are astronomical—not sure what's happening there. Maybe people aren't reading the note....?)

THEME: "Question Box" — theme answers form a riddle, the answer to which ... oh, I'll just let the (prodigious) note explain: "When this puzzle is done, take the answers to the 10 starred clues and arrange them across and down in crossword fashion in the central 5x5 box. Due to software limitations, Across Lite and our other apps can only accept one solution, but two possibilities exist. The resulting five-letter word spelled out diagonally by the circles will answer the question asked at 23-, 34-, 91- and 107-Across."


The Answer: TEETH

Word of the Day: MALABAR Coast (67A: India's ___ Coast) —
The Malabar Coast is a long and narrow coastline on the south-western shore line of the mainland Indian subcontinent. Geographically, it comprises the wettest regions of southern India, as the Western Ghats intercept the moisture-laden monsoon rains, especially on their westward-facing mountain slopes. The term "Malabar Coast" is also sometimes used in reference to the entire Indian coast from the western coast of Konkanto the tip of the subcontinent at Kanyakumari. (wikipedia)
• • •

An interesting puzzle that feels like it came straight out of 1985. Well, I think I say that mainly based on the riddle (not a premise you see very much any more) and the fill, which is a lot of wince-y 3- and 4- and occasionally 5-letter stuff. Also ELOPERS and GIBERS and ASSYRO-, yuck. I find riddles (generally) corny and old-fashioned and not interesting/funny. I knew the answer to this one with just some of the first part of the riddle filled in. An animal has this many ... I mean, what the hell else is it going to be? I just wrote TEETH straight into the circles. Is it even a riddle? No, it's a fact. Or ... hell, I don't know. Anyway, it was easy—that part, anyway. Grid itself had some toughish moments. I wonder why the posted solving times at the NYT website are so high. Maybe people had trouble figuring out how to fill in that middle section (esp. since it can be done two ways but the applet accepts only one (!?!?!)). Whatever way I picked worked (TTOPS across instead of TTOPS down). I came in in the 13s, which would've made me #1 on the applet by several minutes, which makes noooo sense. Oh, looks like someone has posted a time in the 8s now. That's more like it.

I had a tiny scare in the NE when I couldn't find the handle on TRINARY. I had TRINITY for a bit  (33A: Three-part). Scarier still was the SE, where I came to a dead stop at the junction of 104A: J.F.K.'s historic ___ Flight Center (TWA) and 104D: Old satellite-launching rocket (THOR) / 105D: Gave out (WENT). No idea on the JFK thing. USA? NSA? TSA? As you can see, I really wanted "S" in that second spot, as SENT was the answer that I came up with for [Gave out]. I eventually took it out and replaced it with what I was sure was a better answer: LENT. Only after I realized -HOR really, really couldn't be anything but THOR did I put it together. SW was the last of the tricky spots. Somebody's *name* is AGAR? (111A: Journalist/writer Herbert). I inferred the "R" because even though I've never seen "ASSYRO-" anything, I know that "Assyria" is a place name, so ... done. No, wait. I also had HOP ON / TOY and then HOP ON / POM (!) in the NW before I figured out it was HOP UP / PUG (18A: "Climb onto Papa's lap!" / 4D: Lap dog breed).

  • 39A: Joint czar with Peter I (IVAN V) — no idea. Russian name + Roman numeral.
  • 85A: Tammany Hall problem (GRAFT) — I got this easily enough, but the two Downs coming off of it—ARGUING (86D: At it) and FRINGES (87D: Features of some cowboy shirts) took many crosses to see. I'd just call it FRINGE, no matter how many individual FRINGES hung off the damned shirt.
  • 102A: Company whose logo has a diagonal red arrow (SUNOCO) — great, more "shapes in a corporate logo" cluing. No idea.
  • 5D: Channel starting in 2003 (SPIKE TV) — clue should've added "and ending in 2006" (it's just "Spike" now).
  • 6D: Tennis great Tommy (HAAS) — To my credit, I remembered him this time. To my discredit, I remembered him as HAHN.
  • 102D: "Pursuit of the Graf ___" (1956 war film)) (SPEE) — My brain was having trouble deciding which S-EE this was, SNEE or SMEE ... turns out: neither! Forgot about SPEE! (as I wish constructors would—not the best fill).
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. Aargh, forgot to replug Peter Gordon's "Fireball Newsweekly Crosswords" project. He's an amazing constructor (and editor), and this project is less than $200 from being totally funded (but the deadline is 6pm *today*). All the info you need here:


Questinia 12:27 AM  

Knew teeth at mention of WALRUS. Unpleasant and unfulfilling as a puzzle. Boring riddle. No likey.

Bernard Glassman 12:39 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bernard Glassman 12:41 AM  

Should you mention that your numbering is not the same as the puzzle's? (That central word square is unnumbered.) Or do your longtime readers, one of whom I hope to become, simply expect these anomalies from time to time?

Bookdeb 1:27 AM  

@Bernard Glassman-- the central word square in the electronic version is numbered.

jae 1:32 AM  

Mostly medium for me too.   A bit torn on this one.  I really shouldn't like it given it's a "quote" puzzle but, although the trivia question was not that interesting, the process was kinda fun.  Interesting concept.  

WOEs: SIEUR, MALABAR, and AGAR as clued.

So, mostly liked it.

@Bernard G. -- It's numbered on the AcrossLite printout. Could be an issue with what ever platform you are using?

Carola 1:39 AM  

I had fun wiith this one - loved the TRINARY aspect: a puzzle and a riddle within the larger puzzle - and I admired its cRAFT, with the 10 words for the central box being placed symmetrically in the grid.

Since I didn't have the crosses to get GIRAFFE early on, I didn't get the animal connection, and so was kept guessing for quite a while.

Liked MALABAR mirroring SIBERIA and HIGH BROW at the center top.

John Child 1:43 AM  

DNF due to SPIcETV. The cross looked off, but I couldn't believe Spike. That's what I get for not having a TV.
How is "Works" OPERA?

okanaganer 2:26 AM  

OK, Rex got TEETH right away, but I had to try others that didn't fit the available letters: CLAWS, BONES.

I liked QUASI when I finally got it...I stared at _UA_I for a while with my jaw open going "Sort of?...Sort of?"

For 116A "They're tapped", I had KEYS instead of KEGS for ages. "Stitch" => RIOT was a toughie; if I really think about it maybe my 100 year old aunt used to say something was a stitch...boy, that was a while ago.

chefwen 2:29 AM  

NE was again my big hold up. Had Teeny for 17D, Trilogy for 33A, portly for 14D. Needless to say that corner needed some major cleaning up. That was my last area to fill in correctly. When we finally had the quote filled in Jon piped in with TEETH, and that was it, the middle square almost self filled.

Time consuming, but fun. Thank you Mel Rosen.

@Ret_chemist - How are those new baby PUGS doing? Pictures please.

Anonymous 2:47 AM  

Opera (works) is the plural of opus (work).

syndy 2:47 AM  

@ JOHN CHILD Opus; a work, opera plural of opus. Unlike OFL my solution while fulfilling every other parameter did not make the writing implement waltz!!! I was prepared for this eventuality because I had read the note.I did not however like it.The slog factor had just fallen off the grid. I had "police' for 99a Razzers.crosses made me change it but I have no clur but GIBERS are

Bob Kerfuffle 5:05 AM  

The fault is in me, not the puzzle, but this was one of the rare times when I got into such a mess that I gave up on finishing.

Actually, I had all of the five letter starred answers and completed the meta grid and got the answer TEETH, but I never had the riddle.

I could blame the beginning of my trouble on yesterday's careless spraying about of Dutch, because at 6 D, totally ignorant of the tennis player, I had HALS (Dutch, right?) instead of HAAS (Hollywood, right, like Lucas, or Amish?) Also, at 8 D, started with NAMETAG, although later corrected to GIFTTAG (huh?) The net effect was that my riddle started with the perfectly reasonable IF A GIRL . . . but then descended into the gibberish of FFE.

Working our way south with a few write-overs: 51 D, Black _____, MAGIC before MAMBA; 58 D, ECONO before ALAMO; 67 D, Lord's worker, ESNE before SERF.

But then, with the faux hold of 107 A, KEYS instead of KEGS, fell into the pit of despair. Maybe influenced by the walrus at the end of 34 A, my 82 A started, A SQUID . . . and then devolved into junk, with help from those blasted birds: Had 73 D, Literary olios, as ANIS rather than ANAS.

Could not come up with 90 A, GIBERS; my certainties that were wrong made it impossible to get ARGUING; and finishing the puzzle was 78 D, beyond the FRINGES.

I quit!

Nice idea for a puzzle, though.

Bob Kerfuffle 5:08 AM  

With all the above, more to add: Couldn't read what I had written over, but now see that I had 67 D as ESNE because I originally had 67 A, "Cause for plastic surgery, maybe", as EGO before correcting to SAG.

Anonymous 7:50 AM  

I enjoyed this puzzle and finished it in 15 minutes less than my normal Sunday time. I didn't have teeth but started filling in the center grid randomly, and got the first entry correctly so they just fell into place. Had a typo in that grid that cost me several minutes!

Also had TRINity before TRINARY

Something a little different is appreciated especially if it involves a riddle!

Thoracic 7:50 AM  

Accomplished this in much less time than my usual Sunday, so came here expecting the usual comments about how incredibly easy it was, which is what happens to bring me back to earth everytime I do wel and get too big for my britches( already fairly substantially sized I'm afraid). So I was pretty happy to see that at least some of the smart folks were slowed down a bit. I liked the riddle and the fact that the Magmic app didn't screw it up with the central grid. I did think GIBERS was the weak spot.
For once, I wasn't out in crossword SIBERIA!

Glimmerglass 7:56 AM  

Kind of an average Sunday puzzle (a long Wednesday). Nothing remarkable about the blank square or the riddle. That part was easy. Liked SMARM, one of my favorite insults.

chefbea 8:00 AM  

What a great puzzle/puzzles!! Did most of it last night then googled a few things this morning and filled in the center box.

At least we have our June honoree in there today. Happy father's day to all you Dads!!

Anonymous 8:19 AM  

I always feel like I'm in good company when Rex makes the same goofs I do... Hop on, trinity, pom..etc...

loren muse smith 8:27 AM  

Like @chefbea pointed out - 46D – Happy Father’s Day, DAD! WHO HOO!

No ARGUING here. Pretty easy Sunday. Liked it, Mel. You gave US ONE pleasant romp.

Ok. Gareth – are tusks considered TEETH? Do WALRUSes (walri?) really have only those two tusks and just gum everything else? Poor guys. (All WALRUSes look like they’re male.)

Rex – I had “lent” first, too.


@glimmerglass – we have a SMARMy LECHER! I like that word, too.

@Bob Kerfuffle – “ego” for SAG – funny! In fact – there’s a bit of a mini ego theme going: ROTUND people want to be EENSY THIN because they SAG, so they resort to BOTOX or a skin GRAFT or just get CARVED UP. TADA! SEE ME now! SIZE ZERO now and nary a MAR.

I can do an ASSYRO-Babylonian style HULA after some ROT GUT RYE. Seriously.

@Evan - I was relieved to change “leerer” to LECHER. And I was sorry to change “tragedy” to ELOPERS.” Crossing HIRER.

Whenever I AIL, I crave white MISO soup. Not the instant kind, but the real stuff, dashi, wakame, tofu, and all. I’m a MISO snob.

@retired_chemist – I thought of you when I got PUG.

A while back, my husband and I won first place in a PTA-sponsored parent/teacher talent show doing the following song from HEE HAW. (@Evil – if I can nail the harmony of “If I Fell,” you better believe I nailed the harmony on this one!) I can't remember all those steps to embed.

August West 8:40 AM  

NE otherwise filled so easily, I was just sure the answer to WORKS had to be a rebus (oper[ates])? But then the other starred clues started dropping in as simple, complete 5-letter words. I went back and ceded to the "a" creating "opera", which left me smh, along with, apparently, many others.

Reeeally wanted Lent for GAVE OUT, D'ohing appropriately when I realized the alternate meaning of the clue (as in, "to become unfunctioning; die").

Like Rex, the R of assyRo/AgaR was purely inferred from the vague sense that Assyrians hung in the general area of Babylonians, sometime.

Pretty easy, altogether, coming in at a skosh over 22 mins, which a a "fast" Sunday for me.

Skosh. Great crossword puzzle word. And one of my father's favorites. Happy Fathers Day!

Anonymous 9:06 AM  

Sorry but the clue for 6D "tennis great tommy" is just plain wrong! Never reached Number 1 and never even won a slam, nice player but in no way "great". Otherwise ok puzzle although agree with the very dated feel...

pauer 9:51 AM  

Super idea from one of the greats. Nice one, Mel!

Oh, and if you like some news with your puzzles (or vice versa), check out Peter Gordon's Kickstarter project: only 8 hours to go and less than $400 from being funded!

jackj 10:00 AM  

About as much fun as picking ticks off the dog after a romp in the woods.

Why Will thinks such sophomoric nonsense should preempt intelligent adult wordplay, even once, is beyond my ken.

retired_chemist 10:04 AM  

@ Chefwen and LMS - baby PUGs are doing fine. Busy time here for a lot of reasons so no pix yet. Thanks for asking. Interstingly, I don't think of them as a lap dog breed since they are active little critters. So I had POM(eranian) confirmed by HOP ON for the longest time. D'oh!

Fun puzzle. Had no idea of the W at the TWA/WENT cross so one error from a finish. Had the "wrong" version of the central square so Mr. Happy Pencil was going to hide all day if necessary.

Didn't read the note until I was close to finished. so I had to go back and dig out the ten words. Didn't think what the riddle answer might be, but noticed that there was only one N. It had to be at (2,3) or (3,2) on the 5X5 grid. Once AN ERA and TEN AM were in there was an obvious and unique solution. More than one way to skin a cat....

I think the theme limited the quality of the fill, more or less what Rex said. Not a lot to it IMO. The gimmick was the puzzle for me.

While the answer to 114A is technically correct, I think anyone who picks it over I-95 is a masochist, at least from the sections of it I have seen. Of the level of US 101 and nowhere near as interesting as California 1.

Thanks, Mr. Rosen.

Lindsay 10:10 AM  

So I'm the only ZERO who didn't figure out TEETH ahead of time? Squirrels were the first animal I uncovered, so I couldn't get acorns out of my head.

I also had TRINitY but did not see the error until filling in the 5x5 box and finding that OPERi was wrong.

Other writeovers were TarPS (which I thought a somewhat tasteless definition given the context in which a boat tarp was recently in the news) >>> T-TOPS and divVy UP >>> CARVE UP.

On to the acrostic.

Norm 10:38 AM  

This is the best they could do on Father's Day? Ugh. Never seen the riddle before; unlike Rex, did not automatically know the answer. Listed the starred answers and somehow TEETH jumped out (although I was tempted to try TEATS). AcrossLite didn't like TRAPS running across rather than down, so I had to flip my solution to get Mr. Happy Pencil. All in all, I thought this was one annoying fail.

JC66 10:44 AM  

Completely agree with @ jackj, a boring waste of time.

evil doug 10:56 AM  

Any puzzle that squeezes the perpetually verbose Jackj down to a mere 33 words is okay with me.

Your best post ever, Jack...


Oscar 10:58 AM  

@jackj -- ah, but is it beyond your Ken-Ken?

Mel Ott 11:10 AM  

I believe the TWA terminal at JFK was designed by longtime crossword star EERO Saarinen. One of the many things I've learned from the NYT Crossword over the years.

Ellen S 11:24 AM  

More often than not, especially since I ponied up for the one year sub to the puzzle, people say they're too hard or too easy, too old-fashioned or too contemporary ... We also usually don't like Rex's commentary, so I guess we just subject ourselves to these unpleasant experiences so we can be with each other. I felt kind of medium about it. Trouble with some parts, gimmes at others, first three long answers came easily and I floundered around the last one (MANY AS A PIG or A TApir___). I was dreading filling in the central puzzlet, but TEETH was the obvious answer to the riddle so the rest was easy.

Speaking of each other, @Loren, the stories you weave out of the answers are a STITCH. I love your posts!

So, maybe the plural of WALRUS is WAlrera? Or, if I get another Prius, will I have two Priera?

jberg 11:46 AM  

Medium for me, mostly because whenever I got going I ran into one of the long theme entries, and until I started to get those, that just stopped me - I had to restart elsewhere.

Then, once I started to see it, I wrote in IF A GIRl .... Since I had no clue as to IBF/ABIE (huh?), that took awhile to fix.

I started with OPERI, but SIEUR had to end in R, and TRINiRY made no sense.

Finally: it's not a riddle, and it does not claim anywhere that it is a riddle, so criticism of it's riddle-like (ridiculous?) qualities is not appropriate. It's a factual question wrapped up in an arithmetic problem.

Well, maybe it's a riddle like the last riddle in "The Hobbit," but that wasn't either.

Off to the last concert of the Boston Early Music Festival - it's been quite a week!

Craig 11:53 AM  

I think "Beau's girl" = AMIE is a ridiculous clue. A boyfriend in French is not a "beau", which is presumably what is implied by "amie" being the "Beau's girl", just as an "amie" is not English for girlfriend. It's a cross-linguistic train wreck of a clue.

Shamik 11:59 AM  

Just squeaked into the challenging time category at 25:20...with one error. I thought JFK authorized an obscure NASA center called the TLA Flight Center so that one who "gave out," LENT to other peole.

@jackj: Your comment gave me a good laugh...even if I'd rather solve this puzzle than pick ticks off a dog. This puzzle just didn't amuse me.

Susan McConnell 12:07 PM  

@Craig - I agree.

Hate to admit it but @evis's post made me laugh. Sorry.

Same experience as others. Knew it was teeth, never really sunk my own into it...kind of dated and blah. Again, sorry.

Milford 12:27 PM  

Medium Sunday, same exact issues as @Rex ET ALII in the 4 corners of the puzzle. Never heard of this group of facts with the TEETH, but I liked figuring out the extra puzzle, even if it was easy.

My Maine to Florida rte was plain old south before US ONE.

Happy Dads Day to all - off to enjoy our lovely weather at the Metropark.

mac 12:58 PM  

Hey, it's a Sunday. And Fathers' Day came up in it.

Medium for me, and since I figured out the teeth early on and filled in the center square easily, I managed to fix a mistake-filled area: Crags at 54D, Coda at 54A.
Amie makes little sense, and IMF is a spy agency? Christine Lagarde may disagree.

I liked puzzling out quasi and Assyro, bt what a strange clue for agar.

OK, back to work on FD's dinner.

pmdm 1:11 PM  

As far as I can reason it out, there can only be three reasons the times are high for today's puzzle. First, a lot of people might have had problems with the meta-puzzle. You need a skill different from that you use for solving a crossword, and it may have slowed down a lot of solvers (other than those who comments here, apparently). As soon as I saw "giraffe" I started thinking it had to do with neck bones or something like that, so I did not realize "teeth" was the answer until I solved the meta-puzzle.

Second, some of the proper nouns may have been unusually difficult for the solvers. Put the two together, and you get above-average times.

Solving the meta-puzzle should have been easy. You should notice immediately that "tenam" and "anera" have to cross since they are the only two words that contain an "n." That forces the positioning of "ttop." And you're off.

There might be a third reason. I don't solve online, but I noticed in the post that only one of the two solutions to the meta-puzzle are accepted by the software. That's really, really dumb and may have frozen many solvers who didn't bother to notice the two symmetrical solutions. And why should the have to figure that out? A very good puzzle, and another thundering bronx cheer for those who oversee the software.

Notsofast 1:12 PM  

An utterly ridiculous puzzle. Not in the least entertaining. And way too complex for me. Very disappointing.

Brookboy 2:08 PM  

I had more trouble with this puzzle than I care to admit, especially the southwest corner (apparently unlike others). Ultimately, I realized I didn't really care for the puzzle, but I kept slogging away until I finished it. No record time for me.

It's funny how some people like a puzzle while others don't. I figure it comes down to the cluing. Either you enjoy the clues or you don't, and if you don't then you probably won't enjoy the puzzle. I find I don't care for theme puzzles that use lengthy quotes (or, in this case, a riddle).

I too was unfamiliar with the riddle, but I got GIRAFFE early on and I figured it had to do with neck bones or teeth, and that really made a difference with the center puzzle.

Have to admit, though, that the puzzle itself is very clever, so kudos to Mel Rosen for such a creative construction, even though it wasn't my cup of tea.

Steve J 2:16 PM  

@mac: I had the same thought regarding IMF. Since I can't stand Tom Cruise and watch his films only on rare occasions, I had to look up IMDB to realize it's "Impossible Missions Force".

Impossible mission pretty much sums up my experience with this one. As @pmdm said, the center puzzle requires a different skill, one that wasn't working for me, and I struggled. Add in struggle through a lot of subpar fill and cluing, and I found this puzzle a complete slog. DNF both for reasons of not getting it and, more importantly, not caring.

Anonymous 2:39 PM  

INCHESTOTHEIRPENIS doesn't fit in the diagonal of the little 5x5 sub-puzzle.

Rob C 3:14 PM  

Well I appreciate the effort to be innovative and give us something different. The result wasn't my cuppa tea though. I'm all about the theme and this just didn't do it for me.

Is the theme riddle (or fact or question) an actual saying or did the constructor just make it up for this puzzle?

Mike 3:20 PM  

Rex, your reminder was key - it was just $21 short so I kicked that in and it's funded now.

Today's was tough in some ways. The center part was pretty easy (only two words ending in H, for example, so that made it easy to get things started). My time was so so overall, though.

Capo 3:25 PM  

Hey Mike,

I was just about to post saying that I was the last 21$ :P

Either way props to Rex for pointing this out so to us!

LaneB 6:04 PM  

A happy Sunday and Fathers' Day! Got the TEETH though my box was configured differently with TRAPS across the top. )therwise a rewarding way to spend the morning and it's now time to attack the Acrostic.

sanfranman59 6:04 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 6:13, 6:12, 1.00, 52%, Medium
Tue 8:17, 8:16, 1.00, 54%, Medium
Wed 9:26, 9:47, 0.96, 44%, Medium
Thu 17:52, 17:11, 1.04, 62%, Medium-Challenging
Fri 15:22, 20:54, 0.74, 10%, Easy
Sat 27:00, 25:31, 1.06, 73%, Medium-Challenging
Sun 38:25, 28:59, 1.33, 93%, Challenging (7th highest ratio of 90 Sundays)

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:55, 3:49, 1.03, 65%, Medium-Challenging
Tue 4:55, 4:54, 1.00, 53%, Medium
Wed 5:36, 5:39, 0.99, 47%, Medium
Thu 11:22, 9:49, 1.16, 76%, Medium-Challenging
Fri 8:38, 11:56, 0.72, 8%, Easy
Sat 17:01, 15:22, 1.11, 75%, Medium-Challenging
Sun 28:17, 19:51, 1.42, 90%, Challenging (10th highest ratio of 90 Sundays)

Michael Leddy 6:16 PM  

A reason for the solving times no one has mentioned: having to reach for a pencil and piece of paper (or in my case, a squared index card) and scroll back through both sets of clues and collect the starred nouns.

I found the riddle (if it is one) pointless. Fourteen more? Half as many? Who cares? (Besides their dentists.)

michael 6:19 PM  

I don't why, but this was a slof for me. I didn't come up with teeth until I finished the quote, which took quite a while. Once I had teeth, the middle was easy.

michael 6:20 PM  

I meant a "slog" of course. Maybe that's why I was so slow -- need some coffee...

Unknown 7:07 PM  

Got most of it, a few areas of difficulty. Thanks for the fun as always.
Betz the midwife

Delaware 9:09 PM  

I guess I'm always going to be the last to post so I'll be the only one to read my own comment, but so be it. Read two papers ths morning, did my three hour shift at Forgotten Cats (didn't get any adopted today but had a ball playing with all the new kitties) went to see "This is the End" which was...interesting, and finally sat down to do the puzzle. Which was...okay. About typical difficulty for a Sunday. A few stumpers that held me for a while but otherwise just..okay. I thought there would have been a father's day theme. An animals' teeth theme didn't really fit the bill.

mac 9:32 PM  

Productive day, @Delaware!

Brian 10:59 PM  

Rex said "Oh, looks like someone has posted a time in the 8s now. That's more like it."
Someone did this in 8 minutes? Wow. Or whoa?
10 seconds to read note
1 second to read each clue and think of the answer times 134 clues
0.8 seconds per 375 non center whites to enter or write = 300 seconds
16 seconds to find the 10 starred answers and to arrange them in the 5x5
Totals 480 seconds = 8 minutes.
So hard to believe.
Even if I hustled to copy the answers from a completed grid, 8 minutes is cutting it close.

slowbutbrilliant 8:53 AM  

What's this speed thing about, anyway. I don't want to finish a puzzle gasping for breath, with a headache, trying to see how fast I can write in letters. To me, a puzzle is about how smart you are, not about how fast you are. I guess that's why I don't compete in puzzle tournaments, even though I solve 98% of Times puzzles. Relax. Enjoy. No one really cares about your time.

Anonymous 12:06 PM  

The clue for 92-down should also have an asterisk. ;)

Joek 2:12 PM  

My electronic version of the puzzle had 8, not,5, starred clues: 1 & 118 across and 37, 44,49, 59, 71, 71, & 98 down. 3 of them had a counterpart with the signifcant letter in the same place. So my version had 8 correct solutions for the center square, and if I got the wrong one in the square, the puzzle checker said there were errors, with no way which 1 or more of the selections from the 3 were incorrect. So I threw up my hands until I decided to check this post. Ergo, "astronomical" times.

Z 5:16 PM  

SLOG. I only finished because I already had over an hour in. Disappointing "riddle," issues in each corner, lots of boring trivia all over. Meh minus in my book.

Someone mentioned Crux for the iPad. I still hate solving on it, but a decent app. Those of you who hate magmic might want to try it out.

JenCT 5:44 PM  

@slowbutbrilliant: I'm with you - I like to leisurely enjoy my puzzles.

I didn't enjoy this one. Puzzles that start out with instructions? No thanks.

The skunks (2 of them) dug a trench & got 4 of my 5 new chicks; we spent the entire day super-fortifying the coop.

Maddiegail 8:40 AM  

Tuesday and I am STILL hunting for the 10th asterisk. What is wrong with me???

John V 10:54 AM  

Opera is an Italian word. Translated to English it is "work"

unclejohn 11:18 AM  

Well maybe I'll be the last poster. I liked the puzzle but I think the numbers are wrong.
A giraffe has 32 teeth and a "typical" walrus has 18 so the first two lines check out. However according to my research a squirrel has 32 teeth and a pig has 44 so the next two lines don't add up. Comments anyone?
BTW, I concur with the speed thing. Who cares how fast? I think the point is to enjoy the puzzles and perhaps learn something.

Anonymous 3:00 PM  

"Opus" is "work." "Opera" is "works."

Anonymous 7:55 AM  

Opera is a Latin word, a plural as others have pointed out. A fifth declension noun, if memory serves, which accounts for the odd plural.

Robert E. 4:57 PM  

Yes, opera is the plural of opus and it is a third declension neuter noun like corpus, corporis. I agree with the comments about clues.I got this one only because I used to teach Latin. I had two stabs at this puzzle. A good night's sleep helped me approach it with a more open mind, and without any need to consider how fast I solved it. 8 minutes? You're kidding, right?

Cary in Boulder 7:22 PM  

DNF. Made most of the same mistakes as Bob K, with a few special ones of my own. The JFK-TWA thing -- I was thinking NASA all the way, something to do with Manned Flight, whatever. GIBERS was a total mystery, SQUID for SQUIRREL. Is SUNOCO still around? Don't see them out here in CO. How does 44D "What's in store" = STASH?

I did intuit TEETH, but by that time there was so much garbage I gave up. All in all, too much time, not enough fun.

Cary in Boulder 7:27 PM  

Of course, as I think about it, thanks to Colorado's Amendment 64, "what's in store" could soon indeed be STASH. Once they get the rules for retail sales worked out, anyway. But in most other states it would be "What will get you jail time."

Anonymous 12:28 PM  

The more I worked on this the more I enjoyed it. I don't much care for the box in the middle thing, but I like that it turns the solver into a constructor. And as it turns out, the construction of that 5x5 box helped me with the grid (OPERi became OPERA; TRINitY became TRINARY).

I love that ten common fill words literally became the centerpiece for this puzzle.

And I love the look of the perimeter...very liquid. From your HIGH BROW ROSE to your THIN MISO, to the KEGS, RYES and PORTS.

Anonymous 7:48 PM  

I liked the clueing of this puzzle- but the whole premise was lame- first animal I got was walrus and all I could think of was oo gook ka choo (sp) and the beatles!! but I loved quasi and Siberia and actually got trinary and opera-and stash was inspired -never got zero first it was dork then nerd- had to ask my husband first name of puzo - had a senior moment there. and loved smarm- had yes this is a month after the fact but better late than never- also cudos to the the forgotten cat person we have rescued 5 we found homes for 3 and kept 2.

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