Dog on TV's Topper / TUE 8-27-13 / 1982 Fleetwood Mac hit whose title is sung three times after Come on / Children's game in which players knuckle down / Happening with lots of laughs

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Constructor: Jacob McDermott

Relative difficulty: Easy


THEME: TWO-DOOR (41A: Coupe, e.g. ... or a hint to 17- and 64-Across and 11- and 34-Down) — two word phrases in which both words can precede "DOOR" to describe ... a type of door (or a state of doorness, in the case of OPEN).

Word of the Day: "HOLD ME" (35A: 1982 Fleetwood Mac hit whose title is sun three times after "Come on and") —
"Hold Me" is a single by British-American rock group Fleetwood Mac. The song was the first track to be released from the 1982 album Mirage, the fourth album by the band with Lindsey Buckingham acting as main producer with Richard Dashutand Ken Caillat. [...] The music video for Hold Me features the band in a surreal scenario set in a desert based on several René Magrittepaintings. In the video, Christine is in a room with many paintings, searching for Lindsey in the desert with a telescope. Lindsey discovers Stevie lying on a chaise longue and paints her, while in other scenes John and Mick are archaeologists. The desert itself is littered with broken mirrors, which serve as a motif in the video, and with violins and the electric guitars and other instruments. [...] Due to the band members' strained relationships at the time, the video shoot in the Mojave Desert was "a fucking nightmare" according to producer Simon Fields. "[They] were, um, not easy to work with" agrees Steve Barron, who directed the clip. "It was so hot, and we weren't getting along" recalls Stevie Nicks. Lindsey Buckingham was still not over their breakup six years earlier, nor her subsequent affair with Mick Fleetwood. Further, she elaborates, the rest of the band was angry with Fleetwood because he had then begun an affair with Nicks's best friend, who left her husband as a result, causing serious issues for Nicks.

• • •

This is a nice little puzzle—about as good as this type of puzzle ("Both words can precede...") is ever gonna get. Usually, at least one of the theme answers feels forced or strained with this theme type, but all of these are rock solid (and at least moderately interesting to boot). Fill is very clean and surprisingly unboring, considering how much short fill there is. I mean, yes there's IRAE and ARA and ENT and typical stuff like that, but not in such numbers that it becomes numbing. "Numbers" ... "numbing" ... I should probably rewrite that sentence, but no time. Speaking of time, I made very good time on this one. 3:08, if I remember correctly (already reset the clock in order to print my wife out a clean copy). It felt very easy, and yet at least twice I came to dead stops and had to move and regroup because things just weren't computing. Surprisingly (for me—perhaps unsurprisingly for you), I didn't blow through the middle of this. Got frustrated when I couldn't figure out the apparently simple H--- answer at 28D: Happening with lots of laughs (HOOT). Perhaps this is because I would never describe a HOOT as a happening, but let's not dwell on the past. I also couldn't grok DOUR at first pass (37D: Forbidding, as an expression). But what makes my failure to sail through here really surprising is that I had the "H" and the "E" and still didn't get "HOLD ME," despite that Fleetwood Mac album being on super-heavy rotation during a very formative summer in my early adolescence (summer of '82, long family road trip, where different siblings had different albums that they wore out—my sister's was Fleetwood Mac's "Mirage." Mine was The Motels' "All Four One." Consequently, I know both albums like the back of my hand). "HOLD ME" used to make us laugh because of the little dog yip that appears to coincide with the third "HOLD ME" in the chorus. Listen (above).


Other trouble spots didn't provide much trouble at all. BATH OIL, for whatever reason, failed to come right into view (45D: Aromatherapy purchase). There was a brief moment there where I was like "... BAT GIRL???" But no. Big mystery of the day (for me) was NEIL (59D: Dog on TV's "Topper"). First of all, NEIL? Who names a dog NEIL? Second of all, "Topper?" Who names a TV show "Topper?" Lastly, I came at the tennis tourney answer (64A) from the back end and actually tried to make it BRITISH OPEN, despite the fact that a. that's not a tennis tourney and b. it didn't fit. All that, and still: 3:08. A lot can happen in three minutes.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

78 comments:

August West 12:04 AM  

Double DOORs.

So much better than DOUBLEDAY.

Same reaction to NEIL. Neil??

Mark 12:08 AM  

And if you opened the front door and the back door of this tiny house, they would collide.

Steve J 12:42 AM  

Didn't grasp the theme while I was solving. I got fixated on the two part, not the doors part, so I just gave up on figuring out answers as part of a theme and moved on. Theme answers were all nice on their own, which often isn't the case with these sorts of puzzles.

I also got bogged down in the center, on the same answers. Had different crossing letters in place, but HOOT did not occur to me (for the same reason mentioned: I don't think of it as a happening), nor did DOUR and MOPER. The big problem here was that I couldn't remember HOLDME at all at first. Like Rex, heard that song incessantly in the summer of '82, so I would have thought it would have dislodged more easily from my memory. The fact that I haven't thought of that song at all in 30 years may have something to do with it.

This wasn't quite as sparkly as yesterday's puzzle, but it was definitely solid. Nice to have a week with two quality early-week puzzles.

jae 12:53 AM  

Very solid Tues.  Easy for me too with YAkS for YAPS the only erasure. 

The SCHWA discussion a while back paid off.

Dog mini theme?  NEIL, SNERT, ARF, BRAT.  For those of you too young to remember NEIL was an invisible St. Bernard who had a fondness for martinis.

Liked it!

Benko 12:56 AM  

They used to show us the old Cary Grant movie Topper on slow school days, and I'm guessing the TV show was based on it. Don't remember Neil, though, if he was even in the movie. If so, why not clue the movie rather than the show? if not...why clue it as Topper's dog at all? Definitely not a Tuesday clue.

mathguy 1:31 AM  

I was able to do the puzzle almost as fast as Rex, rare for me. When a puzzle is that easy and I don't need to sweat out any of it, I don't get any sense of achievement and feel a bit let down.

Questinia 1:32 AM  

Had gOOgOO before VOODOO.

that's about it.

I'd like the job of taking pictures for the capcha numbers. A lot of them look like they're taken in Ibiza or Greece.

Ellen S 1:44 AM  

Not just invisible, @Jae - Neil was a ghost, wasn't he? His owners were a good looking young couple, also ghosts. (Killed in an avalanche, according to the backstory. Including the dog? Drunk driving maybe hasn't got any comedic value.) Despite being dead, the ghosts were quite lively and enjoyed teasing the uptight Cosmo Topper, who with his wife Henrietta, lived in the ghosts old house. Cosmo, played by Leo G. Carroll, was the only person who could see them. I was ten!! And I will never forget Neil. A really dumb-sounding show, but perfect for me at that age. Boys loved Anne Jeffries, the ghost-wife: "the ghostest with the mostest."

I know about the Cary Grant movie but don't know if I ever saw it, but the TV series ran from 1953 to 1955 and was syndicated later, showing as late as the late 60s at least, according to the fans. Yes. Fans. Must be we're all so old we're not drooling at the memory of how good looking the actors were, we're just ... drooling.

chefwen 2:59 AM  

@jae - Yaks before YAPS only write over, hand up and SCHWA finely imbedded it my feeble brain. I've said it before, similar minds think alike.

Anonymous 4:31 AM  

Neil was a working Saint Bernard who died with the adventurous couple while trying to rescue them. Somehow this allowed him to travel home with them in the afterlife and become a martini-drinking house pet. (Maybe he had been slipping some brandy from the flask on his collar for some time!) I had completely forgotten about this show, which ran around the time I was born, so I must have watched it in reruns during the sixties. I loved it! Thanks, Ellen S, for bringing back the memories, and Jacob for this fun puzzle.

jae 4:45 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
jae 4:49 AM  

@Elllen-- I must have seen it in syndication because I'm very sure we didn't have a TV in 1953 (ponder that Xers and Millennials). Probably caught it on NBC starting in 1956 on Friday nights, if memory serves me. One of my favorite shows at the time. And don't forget Robert Sterling (not to be confused with Rod Serling who had another show I liked around the same time) who played George Kerby.

Hmmm... more geezer bias on Tues.?

@chefwen -- Nice to know I'm in good company.

Elle54 6:29 AM  

I vaguely remember the show ( must have been reruns.) but we named our kittens Cosmo and Topper back then!

Wayne 6:44 AM  

Ennui mini-theme? GLOOM, BLUE, DOUR, MOPER, PEEVE, LOST

Leo G. Carroll 7:09 AM  

Neil was played by Buck in the TV series.

jberg 7:10 AM  

Hand up for remembering Topper. Don't remember where we saw it; we got our first TV in 1954, so it could have been there. There was something a little risque about it for an 11 year old - maybe the martinis?

Nice puzzle, just right for a Tuesday.

dk 7:15 AM  

Woo Woo! My Topper story was on Sunday's we had the Movie Matinee that began about 9AM. We would often get to see the long suffering Cosmo and ARF ARF: NEIL.

Of course our real treat was Francis: The talking mule.

Second solid puzzle in a row. Laughed as I filled in FRENCHOPEN thinking, did we not rename this the Freedom Open.

������ (3 Stars) Although I wanted Occluded Front.

John V 7:33 AM  

Easy, fun, liked.

Fleetwood Mack never passed this senior solver's breakfast test, is what I'm sayin'

Aria Clam Molars 7:45 AM  

So funny that this puzzle's comments are all about NEIL, the one entry I never saw! Esp with my pal NEIL DeGrasse Tyson begging to be an answer in a puzzle!

I agree word for word with @Rex about this but a tad more enthusiastically...rather than the slughtly dismissive best this type of theme is ever going to be, I'd say this is a wonderful and perfect example of this type of theme.
Yes, totally rock solid theme entries...
I particularly like STEELTRAP and the image of a TRAP DOOR (whoosh!)
And that BACK DOOR + STAGE DOOR reflects nicely BACKSTAGE.

Bleedover SHOVE.

Love colorful ROTGUT and VOODOO
(very hip @Questina to make it gOOgOO! And yes, wildly enjoying Stockholm and thrilled that I figured out what you wrote yesterday!)

@Wayne
Also noted the BLUE GLOOM DOUR MOPER mini theme, yet it did nothing to diminish my overall joy of this tightly constructed theme.

@Rex
So glad you posted the HOLDME video... And BACKSTAGE gossip...I hadn't a clue about that answer yet when I played the video, I realized I've heard that song 100 times without ever recognizing the words or phrases in it.
So odd, I know every lyric of a Beatles song, eg but completely clueless (literally) of others, like Fleetwood Mac who is still so familiar (tho most of the gossip I know about that is from her odd sexual/cocaine habits that are pretty mindblowing (to me).

CIAO!

Milford 8:28 AM  

Saw a theme early with STORM FRONT and BACK STAGE, but purposely left the middle undone to delay the reveal until the end. Liked it, even with the slight outlier of OPEN as a "type" of DOOR.

@Wayne & @acme - kind of a DOUR DOOR theme, eh?

BOSH. Never heard of this word before. Now I know. Love the SCHWA.

Had pro before ACE, then had GO PRO later.

I guess people or things can both be a HOOT - "That TV show with the martini-making dog named NEIL was a HOOT!"

I love all the commentary about this show I had never heard of, a bit of fun nostalgia for many. The only martini-fixing St. Bernard I knew was the one on Bugs Bunny.

joho 8:35 AM  

Congratulations on your debut, Jacob!

It's still early in the day but it's all been said: fun theme smoothly executed!

Anonymous 8:38 AM  

I hated the ARA/YAPS crossing as IMO YIPS and YAPS are near synonyms. ARA was new to me. It'd be easy to make the crossing ARI/YIPS removing the obscure crosswordese ARA. But ... pleased to have guessed right.

Gerry

Anonymous 8:51 AM  

Curious...no comment about the two UPs? Fun puzzle, but I thought that was a sorta no-no.

Rob C 8:53 AM  

Medium Tues for me. Fun puzzle. I like this type of theme. Easily accessible to newbie solvers. I remenber being really impressed with these types when I was a newbie solver.

Only write-over was MeLT for MOLT at 18D (Shed). I was thinking diets as in melt the pounds away. Also got stuck on 25A (grinders) for a little bit. I was thinking sandwiches, not teeth.

I always thought FOREGO was the preferred spelling and FORGO was the variant. Not so. I looked it up. Live and learn.

Congrats to Jacob on his debut.

Carola 9:13 AM  

Agree with all above about the pleasures of the puzzle and fond "Topper" memories.

@wayne - The six-fold ennui is almost balanced by the enthusiasm of ADORE, EXTOL, EATS UP, INTO....and happy as a CLAM :)

chefbea 9:28 AM  

good easy puzzle..especially reminiscing about Topper. Watched that all the time and also Rod Serling's the twilight zone.

And speaking of ennui..welcome @Ennui. Hope to see more of you

jackj 9:28 AM  

An excellent debut puzzle from Jacob McDermott that defies the unwritten NY Times crossword code that declares Tuesdays are meant to be inferior and infuriating for unwitting solvers.

The theme of TWODOOR employed a familiar device to make four two word phrases into types of DOOR(s), the best being STEELTRAP that yielded, of course, STEEL(DOOR) and TRAP(DOOR) with the other theme entries also proving satisfactory for the puzzle.

The fill featured a clever launch with (New England) CLAM chowder paired up with a clever bit of jargon, LITUP, that launches other similar, slangy phrasing like HEAP, HOOT, TEED, SCUM, ROTGUT, EATSUP and even a more dignified bit that slipped in, BOSH (it being of the “Claptrap” clan).

But then along came a reminder that “Ignorance is bliss” (they say), but not when you’re solving a crossword puzzle and are blanking on Fleetwood Mac’s song title “Come on and______”, beginning with HOL.

So you immediately plug in HOLLER, only to soon find that DOUR and MOPER have preempted the L E combo for D M, and it’s actually a tune titled, “Come on and HOLD ME, HOLD ME, HOLD ME”.

So good-bye “ignorance is bliss”, you’ve been upstaged by “knowledge is power”.

(But, ironically, OFL’s WOD shows Surrealist René Magritte brought no hugs to the HOLDME video and HOLLER might have actually been a better fit).

The casual language of the puzzle made for a lively, fun solve for which thanks go to Jacob, with hopes we’ll be seeing more of his cleverness, ere long.

mac 9:33 AM  

Good, solid Tuesday with an easy to find theme. I seem to remember several words were in puzzles yesterday: tenet, shove, ukes. Did a couple of extra puzzles, though.

Bucket of bolts/heap needed a stare or two, but it couldn't be anything else. Write-over: pro/ace, plus I tried to put ukes into 32A instead of 22A.

Topper? Neil? Never heard of them.

Nice puzzle!

Z 9:38 AM  

I struggled through the middle much like OFL. EATS UP finally OPENed the DOOR for me. My Fleetwood Mac collection begins and ends at Rumors, about as good as this type of album can get. Adultery, discord, mix and match sex lives... Makes one wonder about how collaboration really works.

Left Over Political Discussion - ignore if you wish:
Regarding my NCAA allusion - Athletes can't profit from anything related to their on field exploits other than their scholarships, but the university, the NCAA, the media, the sports apparel companies, etc. all can. The Alito scion is in a similar position in his new firm, where the firm can profit from the fact that they have SCJ's son on staff, but he cannot (yes I am a cynic about what some people will do for money)

@Rob C. - all I know about the Kagan recusal issue I learned yesterday from a quick Internet search. It took a fair amount of digging to get past the "Obama is satan incarnate" sites to find something that seemed at least a little factual. What I gathered from that site ( a conservative SC following blog) wasn't much more than what I described. I don't watch Fox or CNN as I find the reporting on Comedy Central more accurate and if I want to hear talking heads reinforce my political biases I'll watch MSNBC. I do think "partisan" was the right word, sadly. Okay - I'm done, this is a crossword blog, after all.

loren muse smith 10:05 AM  

I agree with everyone – nice, tight puzzle. Congrats, Jacob, on your debut. Enjoy your day!

I think this kind of theme has to be tough. I’ve said here before that I kicked around this idea with WALL. Got FIRESTONE and had to call it a day.

Like @Wayne, @Acme, @Milford, @Carola - All the upbeat entries: IN TO, EXTOL, ADORE, EATS UP, SCHWA ;-) And all the downbeat ones: DOUR, GLOOMY, BLUE, PEEVE, TEED, SCUM, BRAT, MOPER, LOST, ENRON ;-)

Rex – I use HOOT all the time as an occasion – in fact, I tell my friends that this site is a HOOT.

Liked the pairs VOODOO and SPELLS, GO PRO and ACE, DOUR right next to MOPER (my DOUR still rhymes with “tour.”)

@Ellen s – Thanks once again for the lesson. The thing is – yesterday I did exactly those steps,(I quintuple checked) and the word I wanted turned up blue in the preview, but when you clicked on it, the link was broken.

@Questinia – this place is beautiful. But what a massive adjustment to go from living in a neighborhood of the state’s capital to living on big ole farm out in the middle of nowhere. Cue Green Acres music.

@JenCT – I tried to respond to your offer yesterday from my IPhone, but for me, posting from that is even harder than embedding a link. Thanks for your offer to talk to me about canning! I’ll email you. Think about what to do with a bunch of apples – apple butter maybe?

@ennui from yesterday. I like your enthusiasm and the irony of your name! Hope to hear more from you!

Thanks, Jacob. Nice one.

Pete 10:11 AM  

I have an Uncle NEIL. Actually, he's not an uncle. He married a woman who may or may not be my mother's cousin. but who was always treated as my aunt. It's a deep dark secret, never fully revealed, that my mother's cousin' father was actually my mother's nephew, born out of wedlock and raised by my mother's grand parents as their son. I haven't heard hide nor hair of NEIL in over 40 years.

Confused? Good. Now imagine that Jacob had clued NEIL as Pete's putitive uncle. You now know how I felt trying to impute NEIL from "Dog on TV's Topper".

Anonymous 10:13 AM  

I've always been a crossword puzzle fan, but only started doing the NYT regularly a few months ago when I subscribed via my IPad. Hope you'll humor a "newbie" - I have a question. I admit that there are those days when a puzzle will take me an hour or more (I still have trouble thinking out of the box, i.e. rebuses and those crazy answers that move in an L), but early in the week I generally have no trouble at all. Question - how in the world can someone read each clue AND write/type the answers in 3 minutes!? I rarely finish in less than 10 - even allowing for a sip or two of coffee that's nowhere near 3.

Mohair Sam 10:14 AM  

Good ol' NEIL. What a great memory bump. I last thought of NEIL when I first watched Brian down a martini on "Family Guy." I'm told Seth McFarlane is a fan of old TV and I'll bet Brian is based as much on Neil as a perverted Snoopy.

Really nice Tuesday puzzle, btw.

gifcan 10:28 AM  

Well, I learned how to spell SCHWA. I had SCHuA early in the game and finished - the very last letter I put in - with the W in TWODOOR. TuODOOR didn't really make sense.

Topper, yes I do remember, hadn't thought about it in years.

Very enjoyable puzzle.

quilter1 10:58 AM  

I remember Topper well, but not NEIL. Very easy and fast. Did not know the Fleetwood Mac song but got it from crosses. Liked BATHOIL for an interesting letter string.

Ray J 10:59 AM  

Topper was just a bit before my time. I grew up watching the three brothers from different mothers – Adam, HOSS and little Joe Cartwright. I faintly recall another series with a ghost in the house and Google tells me it was The Ghost & Mrs. Muir. I admit that I would probably watch a show with a martini sipping dog. @Mohair Sam – good thought on Brian from Family Guy. I’ll bet you’re right.

I’ve been solving for a little over a year now and it seems to me that I’ve seen a very similar theme in that time. I’m not sure, something with double doors I think. Not that it matters.

Anyway, fun puzzle.

Ellen S 11:00 AM  

@ Leo G. Carroll at 7:09 posted a link to an article about Buck, who'd played Neil in the TV show. So, don't believe everything you read on the Internet! The article said:

In the film Topper (1937) starring Cary Grant, the Kerby's owned a wire terrier named Mr. Atlas (played by Skippy) who later played "Asta" in the TV series THE THIN MAN.

Uh huh. Never mind the apostrophe in "Kerby's". And never mind "wire terrier" for "wire haired fox terrier." The problem is, The Thin Man TV series ran from 1957-1959. (Peter Lawford and Phyllis Kirk; I had forgotten). The movie Topper was 20 years earlier. Same breed, different dog, at the very most. IMDb says Asta was played by "Asta" and there's no dog listed in the cast of the 1937 Topper movie.

And @anonymous 10:13, we have often wondered the same thing. Nobody knows, or if they do they ain't telling. Maybe the answer will be revealed in the series finale. Oh, I forgot, this is life, not a TV show.

DBGeezer 11:14 AM  

@ACME Have missed you. Welcome back!

Steve J 11:31 AM  

@Anon 10.13: I look at speed solving like I look at Usain Bolt: No matter how much time and energy I devote to running, I'm never going to be that fast (even if I were still in my 20s). Some people just have that skill. Three minutes on a puzzle would go past my ability to read and parse clues in that time, let alone solve (the fastest I've ever finished puzzle was about 3.30 on a Monday a few years back that ended up being one of the fastest in Sanfranman's difficulty analysis). Some people just have that combination of innate skill and gobs of practice to be able to blaze through these. Just like most of us never were going to be world-class sprinters, most of us won't be in that top tier of fast puzzle solvers.

I just use speed as a way to gauge my own performance and evolution over time. It's nice noticing that my average times have shifted a day over the past 3-4 years; i.e., my average Tuesday is what my average Monday used to be, my old Wednesday average time is now my Tuesday average time, etc. At one time when I was new to regular NYT solving, I was disheartened at how "slow" I was too, but I learned quickly it doesn't matter. Enjoy your own journey.

retired_chemist 11:53 AM  

Nice puzzle. lApS UP @ 44A slowed me down in the center. Kept thinking of sandwiches for 25A Grinders - I was hungry.

"Weenie" didn't evoke NERD to me - the former is a wimpy jerk, the latter a narrow-minded techie. But the dictionary proves me wrong. 63A could have easily been clued as "MIT grad, often," echoing 61D.

Remember Topper on TV vaguely, couldn't have told you there was a dog in it, let alone what the dog's name was. But I knew it wasn't SNERT, who appeared at 53D.

Thanks, Mr. McDermott.

Notsofast 12:04 PM  

A nice pleasant friendly little puzzle. Zipped through. I remember "Topper" and I always thought the dog's name was "Neo."

retired_chemist 12:20 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tom O'Neill 12:21 PM  

Neil was not Topper's dog, but the martini-loving dog of the ghosts who haunted Topper.

retired_chemist 12:22 PM  


Not crossword related but I think many of you will be interested. Texas is THE battleground for creationism in textbooks because of the sheer size of the market and the tenacity of the creationists.

Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller will join Bill Nye The Science Guy to talk Texas science textbooks tonight on Al Jazeera America's "The Stream." They'll be joined by former Texas State Board of Education chairman Don McLeroy and Georgia Purdom of Answers in Genesis, a nonprofit that supports young Earth creationism.

"The Stream" airs at 7:30ET/6:30CT. Check your local listings.

Masked and Anonymo5Us 12:23 PM  

Amazin debut. Had it all.

Nailed every conceivable possible doordoor shut, except, of course:
* DUTCHOVEN
* DOUBLEDUTCH
* FIRESIDE
* SCREENCARGO
* KATIEBARTHEFRENCH
* WOLFATTHEBARN
* SHOWMETHETAN
* INGREEN

And, as Mr. Retired Chemist always so classily says, thanx, Mr. McDermott. It's been fun.

M&A

MandA for extra credit 12:30 PM  

p.s.
... * OUTHOUSE

M&A

jae 12:36 PM  

@Anon 10:13 -- To actually see speed solving in action rent the movie "Wordplay" from Netflix or access it on line for free from Hulu.

Gill I. P. 12:38 PM  

Lots of "doggy" clues, a couple of UPs. LMS' SCHWA, toss in a BOSH and what's not to love?
Speaking of NEIL and martinis - my visiting nephew's girlfriend who is Italian and a real cracker jack asked me if I had tequila. It's sorta "is the Pope a catholic?" question. She saw our "martini" glasses and asked if I'd make something for her. Voila...the "Jillatini" has been invented!!! Sweet lime juice, pineapple juice and lots of tequila - shaken not stirred.
Loved your puzzle senor McDermott. I think you should pat yourself on the back all day long.

Anonymous 1:09 PM  

@Anon 10:13 : As someone who regularly finishes the NYT puzzle in under three minutes, I'd be happy to share the 'secrets' of speed-solving. As you would expect, it boils down to the same requirement for getting to Carnegie Hall. But, the specific skills that you need to practice are the following:

writing/typing while reading - Once you know an answer, simultaneously fill it in and begin reading the next clue. Some people have told me they can't do this 'multitasking', but in most cases it just takes practice to improve your muscle memory; it's analogous to typing without looking at the keyboard.

Practice looking at an entry that has half the letters and deducing the possible words that could fit. Then, think about the word that is most likely to be there. When I see OR_O, I immediately think of ORDO and ORZO, but I keep in mind that OREO is the most probable answer. It's essentially the same skill you use on "Wheel of Fortune". 'Pre-loading' my mind with potential answers makes the third trick much easier.

Don't read 'filler' in the clues - Usually, half the words in a clue are superfluous, especially when you have a couple letters filled in. For example, in today's puzzle, I got the first letter of 4-down (M) from the crossing. Knowing that the first letter was an M, I didn't bother reading the clue past the first two words (Children's game), because that's all I needed to know to fill in Marbles with 95% confidence. This doesn't work all the time: I only read the first three words of 33-down (How many times...) and initially filled in NONE instead of ONCE, which cost me some time. But after doing this for a number of years, my guesses are correct more often than not. 'clue intuition' is probably the hardest skill to acquire, but it will reduce your solving time significantly.

With enough dedication and practice, I suspect tens of thousands of people could solve puzzles in under three minutes. Of course, the speed-solving techniques may diminish your enjoyment of the puzzle, since you don't get to 'savor' many of the clues. I enjoy speed-solving, but I acknowledge that crosswords weren't designed for that purpose; they're meant to provide some relaxing entertainment while you drink your coffee or commute to work. The reason there are so few speed-solvers isn't because it's impossibly difficult, it's because most of the people that are capable of doing it simply don't want to.

gifcan 1:22 PM  

Though I am not interested in speed solving for myself, I am interested in how it is done. Thanks for the incite @anonymous 1:09.

I'll check out Wordplay. Thank you, too, @jae.

Bird 1:44 PM  

Easy, but hasn’t a DOOR theme been done before. At first I didn’t like having a “TWO” DOOR hint and “FOUR” DOOR theme answers. But after reading Rex’s post I like it better (TWO DOORs in each theme answer).

After getting STORM FRONT, I briefly thought we were going to have a FRONT/REAR type theme, but then coupes don’t have rear doors. Duh.

Only erasure was TATA before CIAO.

Anonymous 1:48 PM  

FYI - For the number picture in the captcha, you can enter 1 as the answer.

Got to wonder if Google is storing this information somewhere. Imagine their surprise when they discover a lot of pictures are wrongly identified as 1.

Anonymous 1:56 PM  

Thank you for the explanation and comments on speed solving. I think I'll just continue to enjoy solving at my own pace and tell myself that I, too, could do it in three minutes if I really wanted to :)

E for Effortless 2:26 PM  

p.p.s.s.
... * REVOLVINGDOGGIE ?

M&A

Anonymous 2:59 PM  

C'mon, nothing with AJAR???

Carola 3:19 PM  

@Anonymous 2:59 - :) Your question made me ask the question....and see the homophone. When is a DOOR not a DOOR? When it's ADORE.

Ray J 4:05 PM  

@lms – All I could come up with for your WALL theme are of the follows/precedes variety. Not good for symmetry either.

WHITE PAPER
SEABOARD
DRY EYE
CORNFLOWER (the flower, not the stuff in your cupboard)

Nowhere near as good as your FIRESTONE.

Benko 4:07 PM  

@Anonymous10:13
As the second fastest solver in the Southeast (damn you, David!), I have to say that I never really relied on any tricks to solve quickly. I started solving crosswords almost as soon as I could read, thanks to my mom's love for them, and moved up to solving Maleska NYT puzzles in my teens. From there I started doing as many puzzles as I could in compilation books, just for fun. Eventually they just became a lot easier. I never even considered competing as a speed solver until I got the NYT crossword app and realized I was consistently one of the fastest people, and did my first ACPT last year.
Just do lots of difficult puzzles every day for 25 years and you too can share in the joy of an ACPT trophy!

jackj 5:37 PM  

M & A-

Guess you're not a pool player.

SIDEPOCKET

Jules 6:43 PM  

@jackj 5:37
Interestingly SIDEPOCKET was one of my original entries in my Thursday 2/14/13 NY Times puzzle with OPENDOOR as the reveal. It was, however rejected by Will because he felt pocket doors were a bit too esoteric for the general solver.
He eventually accepted the puzzle after many revisions, it was the first accepted and third published.
Jules

Rob C 7:32 PM  

you're ok in my book Z. In any case, your Tigers really beat up on my Mets this weekend. (you are the resident Tiger fan here, right?) But it was all ok b/c we Met fans were looking forward to next year with our young stud ace, and then...well, you know how it always goes for the Mets.

Anonymous 7:45 PM  

Times crossword site seems to be down all afternoon :( I want to do it. Grrrrrrrr.

Z 8:04 PM  

@Rob C - Mr. Harvey seemed like a genuinely nice guy as well as a hell of a pitcher. Let's hope he comes back at full strength and stays in the NL.

Apparently the "Syrian Electronic Army" is wrecking havoc on various media sites and has messed with the domain name for the NYT. You can still get to the NYT website by putting http://170.149.168.130/ in the address bar.

retired_chemist 12:21 AM  

I can't get the Wednesday puzzle. Page doesn't come up. http://170.149.168.130/ gets me the NYT splash page but then the crossword link fails. Bah.

M and A Help Desk 12:35 AM  

@retired chemist: If an Across Lite or pdf copy of the puz is ok, go to www.xwordinfo.com. I was able to print a copy from there.

M&A

Cuban Pete 8:43 AM  

My neighbor was a record promoter, and, when Mirage came out, he gave me a mug where the word Mirage would appear when the mug was filled with hot water. That was groundbreaking back then.

DatingOnline 6:18 AM  

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spacecraft 11:24 AM  

Guess I'm getting spoiled, but did all the clues have to be so boringly straightforward? Good grief, even the last one was "Dies ____, (hymn)." Isn't it enough that as soon as you see Dies ____ you know it because you've seen it a hundred times before? No, they have to add (hymn). DUH, people!

This puzzle was so simple it doesn't even deserve a Tuesday. That's too late! Only one word I didn't know, along with @Milford, was BOSH. There was a guy with that nickname I used to play poker with, back in the day, but as an expression for claptrap, I never heard of it. But crosses took care of it; filling in was so easy I only needed to go one direction, then just went back and read the clues to words already in, to see if there was any deception AT ALL. There wasn't. Puzz itself is a fine grid, and I always admire themes that can dissect two-word familiar phrases and pair each word with a common theme word.

I appreciate @anon 1:09's treatise on how to speed-solve. Now I have but one question.

Why?

NM Robin 12:00 PM  

@Spacecraft: because they can.

rain forest 1:24 PM  

I found this puzzle pretty easy, but at the same time quite enjoyable. My Mom used to say BOSH when referring to something she found ridiculous, and my two sisters always use that word.

I'm with @Spacecraft on the speed-solving thing. I suppose there was that first time when someone said to a friend, "let's see who can finish this puzzle faster". Kind of like a beer-guzzling contest. No enjoyment, but there's those bragging rights. I know there are tournaments for crosswordists, but the appeal eludes me. I'm pretty sure I will not ever try to do online solving, mainly because I can't see the point. My only interest is in seeing whether I can actually finish.

Anyway, I finished this one, and I liked it.

Solving in Seattle 2:41 PM  

Everything @rain forest said. Snorted at the "beer guzzling" analogy.

Has no one mentioned the return of our beloved SCHWA?

Only write over was that I ASSent(ed) before I ASSURE(d).

BAT HOIL is an odd aromatherapy purchase.

Liked REBA over ROTGUT.

Great theme Jacob. Bring us more.

Dirigonzo 3:18 PM  

My GAFFE was an error at first and I remembered in the nick of time that Uteri are not eye parts.

@SiS "REBA over ROTGUT" is the very definition of big night in the Dirigonzo household.

Dirigonzo 3:22 PM  

Came back to check the email box, now(lit)UP,(eats)UP and IRAE!

Not-quite-quotidian Dad 4:07 PM  

it would be better to name a TV show "Neil" and the dog "Topper"...

Dirigonzo 4:26 PM  

@N-q-q D - "Like"

Ginger 8:36 PM  

Yeah, it was easy, but it's Tues. How easy was it? Where is @sanfranman when you need him? I've found his stats to be enlightening, and I notice when he's missing.

I agree with OFL, this was tight and clean. Loved the memory jolt about Topper. In the early days of TV, there were many reruns of old movies, Topper among them. It was a fun, if dated, romp.

Really enjoyed it, thanks Jacob.

KariB 9:55 PM  

My gaffe was the wrong lyric from Fleetwood Mac: help me instead of hold me, dour was then pour and I had to forgo thinking my mind was a steel trap.

madhu 12:40 AM  

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