Relating to the calf / WED 8-21-13 / Sci-fi author Ellison / Flying Cloud of old autodom / Where Duff beer is served / Post-apartheid ruling org / Female mil unit created 5/15/42

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Constructor: Jonathan Gersch

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium (though my time is current 35 seconds faster than the fastest time at the NYT applet, so I have no idea what's going on today)

THEME: TAN / LINES (61D: With 69-Across, beach markings ... 14 of which are hidden vertically and horizontally elsewhere in this puzzle) — word "TAN" can be found, easy word search-style, fourteen times in the grid.

Word of the Day: SURAL (35A: Relating to the calf) —
Of or relating to the calf of the leg.

[New Latin sūrālis, from Latin sūra, calf of the leg.]

Read more:
• • •

Who doesn't love a supremely easy word search in which you find only the same three-letter word over and over again and not even on diagonals!? (this guy). Not sure why you'd want to do a puzzle like this. T, A and N don't exactly set you up for scintillating fill. The fact of many TANs isn't even interesting. Or maybe it just touches the lowest underbelly of "interesting" in the way that something might be curious or out-of-the-ordinary but in no way compelling. Also, can we talk about SURAL? The absurdity of that word in the middle of this otherwise drab and ordinarily-filled puzzle? I can't say this enough—you don't want ugsome fill, and you especially don't want ugsome outlier / obscure fill, and you double especially don't want it when it stands out in stark contrast to everything else around it. SURAL!? It's never been in a puzzle before. For A Reason. My fellow blogger, who is also a medical editor, has never seen that word. SURAL ... it's like ... Siri's uncle, whom no one ever asks for information because he still uses corded phones and is afraid of ATMs. See also FACTA, which I have never seen in a puzzle (25D: Statements in a legal case). Cruciverb tells me that it's back (ta) after a 19-year hiatus. Talk about your unwelcome returns. That is some rough-ass Latin. In sum: Fill should be good! This fill is not! In fact, it's WAAC! (16A: Female mil. unit created 5/15/42) The end.

    I did like seeing HARLAN Ellison (33D: Sci-fi author Ellison). I own a bunch of his stuff. He's very entertaining. Speaking of entertaining writers, R.I.P. Elmore Leonard, who was the best popular crime writer of them all. Brilliant, funny, effortless. I think he made it seem *so* easy that he didn't get enough credit for his artistry. Anyway, I'm sad. As soon as I get this Rowling pseudonym thing out of the way (it's pretty good, actually), I'm gonna tear into "City Primeval" and any other Leonard my library happens to have lying around.

    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


    retired_chemist 12:09 AM  

    Rex has hit it on the nose again. TAN? Meh. SURAL, FACTA - WTF. NATANT - almost as bad. IS TO, UNHAT - ugly. I would have called scanners, webcams, etc. peripherals instead of ADD-ONS.

    Not one of my favorites.

    Davis 12:10 AM  

    Regarding FACTA: I'm a lawyer, and I spend all my time around lawyers, and yet this is the first time I've heard this legal term.

    jae 12:12 AM  

    Easy-medium for me too.  My printer missed a horizontal line across the center so I briefly thought something Thursdayish was going on.  

    No erasures.

    WOE: SURAL (NATANT would have been if I hadn't recently encountered it in another puzzle). 

    Not feeling the like for this one.  The theme seems half-baked and a bit tedious, and the fill is just so-so (meh).  Did like MARA (recently saw Side Effects, worth a look, twisty), MOE'S, HARLAN, and SCOTTY. 

    B Donohue 12:18 AM  

    Your medical editor friend surely learned about the sural nerve in anatomy class in medical school.

    Orthopaedic surgeons need to be aware of the sural nerve's location while doing surgery on the lower leg. I suspect that at least a few current or former surgeons read Rex's blog. Though perhaps this is not a Wednesday-level clue for the other 99.9% of your readership.

    Very fun puzzle- I liked CHACHA , JAPAN, MOES, and the clue for OTIS. I finished in the NE, needing crosses to get WAAC and NATANT. HARLAN was also filled in via crosses.

    August West 12:27 AM  

    Now, dat's what I'm talkin' 'bout!

    *Excellent* puzzle, Challenging, yet discernible. Not too sweet. Not too, um, Mary Jane. Great job! Finished yesterday's [s]faggotr[/s] prissiness in 3:27. Tonight took 10:04. And I loved every single second of it! As a med-mal attorney, I've run across SURAL Now and again, and FACTA, while contrived, is easily met. Forget the "theme". There is a way to construct a *puzzle*, and there is crap. Jonathan, way to show the difference.

    Anonymous 1:28 AM  

    I don't know if this theme has been done before, but all I can say is let's do it once and never do it again.

    Questinia 1:29 AM  

    First, did the puzzle on an iPad. Realized it was pretty hard for a Wednesday. Finished it in twelve minutes and thought "ouch". Then came here and saw different name of constructor. Somehow I had been directed by the iPad app to a Saturday puzzle in 1998 by Rich Norris.

    Then did actual today's puzzle. Totally agree with @ August West, Likeable for some reason, a little grungy. Sural went right in (am a med doctor) and after just having done a Saturday puzzle by mistake, it seemed an appropriate word and made the rest seem even easier.


    Benko 1:53 AM  

    So is the singular of FACTA "factum"? Seems kind of unnecessary.
    Factotum I like. Factum no.

    chefwen 2:49 AM  

    I'm with @Rex and ret_chemist. Liked the long crosses, but not much else. Not that I could ever construct one of these puppies, but I would have skipped the TAN theme and just gone with a theme-less. My not so humble opinion.

    Steve J 3:04 AM  

    Did not like this at all. Gobs of abbreviations and partials (and not good ones, like ANDON), needless vocabulary flexing (the aforementioned FACTA and SURAL, plus NATANT), meh theme. Plus my most hated type of answer, the phonetic; in this case, LONGU, which did not in any way help me with SURAL until that was the last unfilled square staring me in the face.

    Got hung up for a while in the NE because of NATANT and because instead of OWNS I had pWNS (I must have read the clue as online slang, rather than just plain slang).

    Did like the clue for LOUIS. At least I found one nice thing to say.

    Oh, and the Boehner picture in the writeup gave me far more enjoyment than the puzzle itself. So at least there's that.

    Conrad 5:46 AM  

    RCP's (Random Compass Points, as in 1d) are as bad as RRN's. Add in the RV (Random Vowel) as the last letter of 3d) and the puzzle got me in a bad mood INSTANTANEOUSLY.

    Gill I. P. 6:37 AM  

    The jury's still out on this puzzle. Maybe because NATAN, FACTA and SURAL make me want to INSTANTANEOUSLY combust.

    Anonymous 7:01 AM  

    Seconded. Been practicing law for 12+ years and have never read or heard this word. One of several Maleskian turds in this punch bowl.

    John V 7:32 AM  

    I thought this was fun, liked the word search idea. Always nice to be able to reach back to my Weng/Maleska days and pull up some obscure fill. A fine Wednesday, for me.

    Mike Rees 7:34 AM  

    GOOFFONATANGENT was my first answer entered, and I was kinda happy it held up. Too bad the answer for "Not corroborated" wasn't unsubstantiated ... another nice 15-letter word like INSTANTANEOUSLY.

    It's rare for me to agree 100% with Rex, but the T-A-N thing is sludge. Had FACTs for FACTA, NATeNT for NATANT, never heard of SULAR. Too many obscure words for a Wednesday IMHO. that being said, still finished faster than yesterday so it can't have been that hard. Just wasn't satisfying.

    Elle54 7:39 AM  

    I took anatomy so I knew sural (nerve). Did not know natant. Facta was inferable.

    Milford 8:03 AM  

    Had to DNF on this one, just could not see most of the NE. May be because husband and I closed on a house yesterday, a house weve been trying to unload for 7 years here in SE Michigan, and started our celebratory drinking around 4:00.

    Literally watching Rooney MARA in GWTDT while entering her name. This type of thing has happened more than once to me.

    UNHAT was just sad.

    Hand up for knowing SURAL. Worked in a lab years ago at U of M that researched diabetic neuropathy, and we prepared SURAL nerve biopsies from diabetics' lower legs. Apparently it is a redundant nerve, or so they told me.

    Z 8:07 AM  

    I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream.

    I liked this fine. The three 15's are fun to suss out. TAN LINES is a perfectly appropriate thème d'AOUT, And we have REO Speedwagon rocking out while GIA Carangi (who?) and Rooney MARA dance with LOUIS CK and OTIS Redding.

    Oh, and HARLAN Ellison seems under appreciated these days..

    jberg 8:14 AM  

    The only thing I knew about 35A was that it had to end in L, but somehow never wrote that in, so DNF with SURA_ crossing _ONG U. sigh. The reason I didn't notice the blank square was that I'd just tried to count the 14 TANs and decided after 12 that I didn't care enough to finish--partly because I didn't know if NATANT counted for one or two. And shouldn't that mean swimming, rather than floating? Oh, I see, it's a botanical term. OK then.

    Two worse things about the puzzle, though, were AND ON and UNHAT. I can say no more.

    dk 8:21 AM  

    First JJ Cale and now Elmore Leonard. Another era comes to a close.

    Had fact for TRUE. I think SURAL was on the Wilderness First Responder test but I furgit.

    NATANT is a made up word or something SCOTTY might say.

    Not quite as effusive as the seemingly bipolar A. West, but this one was fine by me.

    🏄🏄 (2 SURFS) Only because Gargamel ate the Smurfs.

    Anonymous 8:27 AM  

    Like @stevej and I suspect some others, my last fill was the "L" in sural/longu (however longu is supposed to be cute). But delighted to see the smiling eraserhead, the first time on a Wednesday no corrections in a long time.

    Rob C 8:31 AM  

    Medium Wed for me. Wasn't terrible, just bland. Not sure I understand the revealer, TANLINES - what lines?

    You know the fill must be iffy too if UNHAT isn't getting much guff.

    I can't believe I fell for the LONG U clue. Took me a few mins to see it. Maybe b/c I couldn't see SURAL(I didn't know it was a word). I made a promise to myself a while ago that I wouldn't fall for these LONGU, SHORTI type clues. Oh well.

    jackj 8:39 AM  

    Fill and theme intermingled completely but not confusingly, since the reveal stayed in the shade under a mini-umbrella until the last entries.

    Themed TAN(s) were sprinkled around the grid giving us 14 in all (some shown as TAN, others as NAT), with NATANT being the most interesting and STAND and ANAT providing the weakest of the bunch.

    But oh, that fill.

    Looking for highlights had me realizing they were few and far between. ADDONS running down the grid and abutting ANDON didn’t exactly excite the cranial juices. Then, ORAL and ARAL are also too close for comfort and too casually included. UNHAT? Please.

    DWARF and ASPIRE were among the better bits but then uglies like SSW, TIA, ANI, NET, NEO, NES, ACE and TOE laid them to waste and SURAL, LONGU and the sickly saccharine ICARE, (almost as bad as ITRY), made it clear that less TAN-ning would have made for a better puzzle.

    Most fun was finding Rooney MARA who, along with her acting talents, is an NFLer of note since her genetic make-up is derived from the Pittsburgh Steelers Rooney clan on the maternal side and the MARA(s) of the New York Giants on the paternal side. (And in the US, that’s as close to royalty as we have to offer).

    Too much of a good thing, JoNAThan, next time let a little bit of Sol sneak through your sunscreen.

    (RIP Elmore Leonard)

    joho 8:40 AM  

    @Mike Rees, and unsubstantiated is a 15, too! But, unlike the other 15's in the puzzle TAN can't appear twice in the same line going backward and forward. Wasn't anybody else impressed with this FACT(A)? Also while NATANT is an odd entry, it's has the same up and down use of TAN. Plus I learned a new word.

    Okay, TAN is kind of a beige word, but still it shows up 15 times in the grid and takes on a cute idea in the reveal, TANLINES.

    Thank you, Jonathan, you obviously put a lot of thought into this.

    Congratulations, @Milford!

    Unknown 8:41 AM  

    I did not like this puzzle. Never heard of Duff beer or moes.
    44 down clue was not good!

    Anonymous 8:50 AM  

    So someone (August West) can drop the word "faggot" in here and that's ok with everyone? Really?

    ArtO 8:57 AM  

    Don't usually add on to criticism but some really bad stuff in here as previously noted - especially UNHAT, SURAL, FACTA, WAAC, GIA (model Carangi, as if anyone would know her!) but at least getable with crosses.

    loren muse smith 8:59 AM  

    @Milford – congrats! We close on our house on the 28th. Yay!

    Four high points for me:
    1. DWARF. We don’t have many words that begin with DW. I think there are only three more.
    2. LONG U – Sorry, @Steve J. Such clues/answers please me.
    3. AUSTRIA – spent a summer in Steiermark. Beautiful place. Unrecognizable German.
    4. GO OFF ON A TANGENT begins with GOOF, and I initially thought the theme would be something like “Dummkopf” (dumbhead). Hmm. @M & A – I know you’re some heavy-hitter constructor – wanna give that a shot? DULLES AIRPORT, DIME NOVEL, DOPEAMINE. . .

    Weird coincidence: a few years ago, I went to a ballroom dance competition, during which I was to compete in the CHA CHA, among other dances. This was in the summer, and I went to great extremes not to get TAN LINES because of the costumes I would be wearing. I swear. Afterwards, I saw myself on video and was stupefied at how bad I was. Sheesh. But, hey, I had no TAN LINES.

    Funny how we, or I should say I, can feel so secretly smug and smarter than the people I see doing word searches and yet have a lot of fun today locating all the TANs. I liked this one, especially as Jeff Chen points out at Xword info and @joho here– the three long themers have two TANs. That had to have been hard!

    Thanks, Jonathan. I didn’t TANk on this one, so no TANtrums here.

    GLR 9:05 AM  

    @Anon 8:50,

    I'm sure August West was thinking of one of the following:

    1. a bundle of sticks or twigs, esp when bound together and used as fuel

    2. (Engineering / Metallurgy) a bundle of iron bars, esp a box formed by four pieces of wrought iron and filled with scrap to be forged into wrought iron

    3. (Cookery) a ball of chopped meat, usually pork liver, bound with herbs and bread and eaten fried

    4. a bundle of anything

    Anonymous 9:09 AM  

    @GLR 9:05,
    You really think so?

    Anonymous 9:11 AM  

    Hey Rex, is faggot ok with you? Would you put it in one of your puzzles and clue it as bundle of sticks?

    Mohair Sam 9:21 AM  

    Agree with Rex comments fully for a change.

    And like @Loren I enjoy the LONGU clue/answer types.

    But - can anyone tell me the rule for when a question mark is used with "phonetic" clues? I thought the LONGU clue could have used that today.

    Milford 9:31 AM  

    @loren and @joho - Thank you! And congrats soon to you, @loren.

    I thought of dwell, dwindle, and dweeb right off the bat. We're those the three?

    GLR 9:35 AM  

    @Anon 9:09,

    Well, August West did seem to think that yesterday's puzzle was a bundle of _something_ - not sure it was sticks or iron bars he had in mind though.

    chefbea 9:49 AM  

    Didn't get the theme at all 'til I came here. Couldn't figure out the south east. Wanted low tide for 61 down and 69 across and assumed I would find sand dunes and rip currents etc throughout the puzzle. Oh well...on to thursday

    mac 9:50 AM  

    I liked the heavy theme, although I didn't actually need it to solve any words. I didn't mind learning aural and have no problem with natant, but if you have to give us a geographical direction, add a few cities to make it more interesting.

    My biggest problem was that I opened Facebook before the newspaper this morning and found out about the theme word….

    J 10:19 AM  

    Awful and annoying.


    REALLY annoying.

    Imfromjersey 10:20 AM  

    Agree with what a lot of people said. Told my wife while solving that @rex was NOT going to like this one, and neither did I. UNHAT crossing NATANT? Ugly. Got Sural from crosses, changed Facts to Facta. Learned a new fact about what GI Joes are called in the UK.

    Carola 10:25 AM  

    I enjoyed doing the puzzle - liked the long acrosses - but was disappointed in the reveal. After INSTANTANEOUSLY, I paused to look for the theme connection, saw the TANs and was eagerly awaiting to discover what that could be all about. But TAN LINES? I'm with @Rob C - I'm not seein' lines.

    I did like how NATANT has two TANs, with its connection to being at the beach.

    @Mike Rees and @joho - I really wanted "unsubstantiated" for 57A - even tried fitting TAN into one square!

    @Milford - Congratulations!

    John Child 10:35 AM  

    On a Wednesday I really don't expect to find four entries that make me ask myself, "is that really a word?"

    @August West: I think you misspelled B I G O T.

    Steve J 11:08 AM  

    @joho: Interesting trick that I hadn't noticed, with the dual-direction display of TAN sharing some of the same letters. But, unless I'm missing something, it doesn't show up in one of the long 15s: INSTANTANEOUSLY has two consecutive TANs reading left-to-right, but there's no TAN in the reverse (just a couple NATs and some TNA).

    quilter1 11:11 AM  

    My grandkids got great TAN LINES this summer and their other grandma went ballistic when they got home. She is Cambodian and a light complexion is considered more attractive there. The puzzle? I didn't finish because I could not see LONGU and did not know SURAL.

    JFC 11:16 AM  

    I've read several comments along the lines of Rex's but nobody does it better than Rex, so I am dedicating this to him for his comments today:


    WA 11:33 AM  

    I must have woke up stupid because this was my first Wednesday DNF since I was six years old. The NE corner was a problem and even though I got long u the long way, there was another word before u, I considered.

    And though I easily filled in gooofonatangent, I thought was there a stupid royal family called Goof Fontanget.

    Campesite 11:39 AM  
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    Jeff Chen 12:54 PM  

    Hey all!

    I liked the theme idea pretty well and did some brainstorming on what could have been done with a less challenging set of constraints. Here's the result:


    Masked and Anonymo7Us 12:58 PM  

    Cute sound = LONG U. Well, there's yer rodeo, right there.

    1. NE was kinda lumpy. Well, as us "heavy-hitter constructioneers" (hey, @lms) well know, sometimes U eat the bar, and sometimes the bar eats U. Did admire that it had two ow's in it, tho.

    2. SURAL is mighty perty. Wrap-around mountain ranges. Hard to beat. And NATANT has so many TANs runnin around in it, it darn near qualifies as sunburn.

    3. Do NATs count as TANs? Assume so. Woulda been hairy awesome, if every line (row & column) in the puz had had a TAN or NAT in it. Sorta like the puz had been sunbathin under a trellis.

    4. Really liked the "Model Carangi" clue. Have a deep abidin fascination with things that are beyond all comprehension. Examples: Special Relativity, String Thoery, Bieber Fever.

    ahimsa-NYT 1:41 PM  

    This was hard for a Wed. My favorite theme entry was INSTANTANEOUSLY with the two full TANs. Somehow that seemed to fit the TAN LINE theme the best for me. I also loved WAIT AND SEE, especially in the context of finding many more TANs in the puzzle.

    So, all in all, a cute idea for a challenging puzzle. And it led to an interesting discussion over the pros and cons of more theme letters vs. better quality fill. I guess I prefer less theme when it pushes the limits like this. And yet I still very much enjoyed the "aha" moment of this puzzle when the theme was revealed.

    Not to GO OFF ON A TANGENT or anything but let's hope that bigoted slurs aren't welcome in the comments section here. To quote a video posted here a while back, "Together, we can say no to being a jackass."

    ksquare 2:20 PM  

    I learned NATANT when reading an article referring to a swimming pool as a NATATORIUM,so something floating in the pool could be NATANT.

    jae 2:34 PM  

    @GLR – Your list of definitions reminded me of this from Louie CK

    August West 2:38 PM  

    To those offended by my post of last evening, and/including our host, I offer my sincere apology. Was suffering the tail end of vacation hangover, too deep into my cups of Macallan. That is not to excuse my poor judgment, but to provide insight into its germination. I didn't use the word in issue against any individual, and intended it only as a playful jab at Tuesday's less than brawny puzzle. I was trying to be funny and realize in the bright light of day that i was anything but. I was a jackass. Mea culpa.

    Doc John 2:55 PM  

    Wow, SURAL. I haven't seen that word in over 25 years (but then again, I'm a GP, not a surgeon). I did, however, get an A in anatomy. ;)

    Jeff 3:28 PM  

    UNHAT = unfun

    Acme 4:00 PM  

    Had fun finding and circling...doubleuzzle.
    Would have liked two or three on a diagonal like a wordsearch crossed with a crossword, would have elevated this mightily in my mind.

    Super cool that the longies had two TANS, either juxtaposed or forward backword...

    Thought SURAL was Tom Cruise's secret twin son of Suri.
    Learned a new word, yet still felt tempted to kick (playfully of course) Jonathan in the shin.
    Second generation constructor, that alone is pretty neat.

    Synchronicity, solved this in Sweden, captcha is ordking (word-king pa svenska!). Jetlag kicking in...determined to stay up one...more...hour.... SAS gives out Intl Herald Tribune as you boarded so could do puzzle.
    United's puzzle had black squares in each corner, Sundaysized with only four or five one word "theme answers!"
    Do one of those and then see what a masterpiece this one feels like... It's all relative as suralbert einstein once said.

    Like@joho said, tons of theme and cute reveal...and who doesn't like to see a reveal of a TAN LINE?!

    Thoracic 4:32 PM  

    @August West,
    It's not funny in any way. It's hateful and ignorant. To offer excuses such as a few too many drinks doesn't really cut it. People don't use such slurs by mistake or without some spark of belief at some level, I think. I'm glad you recognize the inappropriateness of it, but I always find such apologies a little hollow. "This doesn't reflect my real feelings, I don't know what came over me...) etc. take some personal responsibility

    abnorma 4:36 PM  

    Nice article about the dearth of women constructors these days:

    Merle 5:05 PM  

    It doesn't matter to me whether or not Rex and I agree. He has his puzzle experience, I have mine. He is a super-solver, I'm a recreational solver. But I sure do enjoy his blog comments anyway.

    I found this easy-medium, and enjoyable. I really loved the 36 D clue and answer -- I got the answer from crosses, and then I kept staring at "longu", thinking WTF, and suddenly the language lover in me awakened and said, oh, that's cute, it's phonetic! A pleasant surprise.

    And I picked up some interesting "facta", such as facta are statements in a legal case. By the way, yes, Virginia, facta is the plural of factum. And sural means relating to the calf. Not the kind of calf that says moo, though. Shank's mare calf, that calf. I figured out "escalator" once was an Otis trademark, and thought it was a great new clue for Otis, beyond the elevator, and beyond Miss Otis regrets....

    Duff Beer and Moe's -- didn't know, got it from crosses, and I think maybe it has something to do with the Simpsons? Isn't there a Moe's Bar in the Simpsons?

    The only empty space I had was the 22 Down 29 across GMC and Mara "M". What's GMC? Dunno. Who's Rooney Mara? Dunno. Apparently one or the other must be in someone or other's wheelhouse for the cross to work. Except for me.... I had not interest in watching any version of "Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" because I have no interest in exposing myself to that level of sadism. Wrestling with a particularly difficult crossword puzzle created by a mischievous constructor is about as much sadism as I can tolerate.

    Oh, August West -- I guess you've been humiliated enough in this blog thread. You made a mistake. You atoned. Go thou and spout what sounds like bigotry no more. We all learn from our mistakes....

    Thank you, Jonathan Gersch, for an engaging puzzle.

    Z 5:06 PM  

    @Thoracic- "I was a jack ass" and "Mea Culpa" aren't taking personal responsibility? Maybe a pillory would be more to your liking?

    As for me (the father of a gay son who doesn't do crosswords so doesn't read this blog) thanks for owning up Mr. West.

    Z 5:06 PM  
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    Z 5:16 PM  

    @Merle - GMC, Dodge Ram, and Ford F-Series are all pick-up truck brands. Watch a football game or two and you'll see enough ads for the three to never forget. I think we just had DENALI clued as a GMC truck not too long ago, too, so Sierra and Yukon can't be far behind.

    LaneB 5:41 PM  

    Have a problem with UNHAT, LONGU, SURAL , FACTA ( am a lawyer and never heard the term) and NES. Otherwise managed to get through it slowly but steadily. Did not see the "tan" repetition until othrrs pointed to it. Oh we'll, a finish is a finish and no real complaints.

    Carola 5:43 PM  

    @August West, reading your earlier comment as the parent of a gay child, I found that "faggot" still packs quite a bit of power to shock and sting. I appeciate your coming back to apologize.

    retired_chemist 6:09 PM  

    @ August West - glad to see your 2:38 PM post. As far as I am concerned, this disappointing incident is in the past. Look forward to your on-topic future posts.

    mac 6:25 PM  

    Nice crowd.

    David from CA 7:12 PM  

    OK...I think I've finally got the speed-solvers' puzzle rating system worked out; correct me if I'm wrong:
    - Lots of proper name "gimme"s = "Great", "Creative", etc.
    - Any other puzzle = "Meh", "Boring", etc.

    Honestly - this seemed like a wonderful puzzle to me. 14 "TAN"s and a basically perfect reveal - is that really an easy thing to do with only the few bits of bad fill people are harping on? With 3 15s, a fine common phrase, a reasonably well known country, and a great 15 letter single word? Superb - happy to put up with the FACTA and SURAL to get one like this. Thanks Jonathan, if you are listening :)

    Anonymous 9:55 PM  

    I used to enjoy reading this blog, but I'm getting a little weary of the negativity. Will Shortz changes a good portion of the fill in the crosswords that are submitted, so take your complaints up with him. I'm so tired of the constant criticism. Writing a crossword worthy of the NYT is a difficult task, especially if you do it without the aid of computer programs, which is how I do it. Try giving the constructors a little credit and quit hammering away at the minutia. You're taking all of the fun out of it, and frankly, you come off sounding like an arrogant douche.

    sanfranman59 10:15 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 6:23, 6:12, 1.03, 68%, Medium-Challenging
    Tue 8:01, 8:16, 0.97, 40%, Easy-Medium
    Wed 10:43, 9:43, 1.10, 75%, Medium-Challenging

    Top 100 solvers

    Mon 4:02, 3:49, 1.06, 79%, Medium-Challenging
    Tue 5:09, 5:03, 1.02, 56%, Medium
    Wed 6:11, 5:35, 1.11, 77%, Medium-Challenging

    Jeff 10:17 PM  

    Sometimes the blog is more engaging than the puzzle, and I firmly believe that all the complaining, aggression, and accolades that go on here make me a better solver.

    feipeng wu 12:01 AM  

    Thanks for sharing...

    White and Yellow

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    spacecraft 11:26 AM  

    Oh Em Gee--and this is only Wedensday?!? Gad, I'm scared to even open tomorrow's paper! OFL used the word EASY? EASY???? He says SURAL is the lone (?) obscure word in this grid. Dude, I have a medical background, having ACEd several tests on ANAT., and I have NEVER HEARD of "SURAL." But that's not all. Other stuff that's all Greek to me:

    -->MARA, as clued; Wellington would've been OK
    -->FACTA: my Scrabble dictionary doesn't even list it as a word.
    -->AOUT?? Is that supposed to be August? And are we, somehow, supposed to KNOW that?
    -->MOES? What, your local bar? Sorry, but I don't live near there. Neither do, I suspect, 99% of the rest of us.
    -->ARAL Sea. All those xwordy seas and rivers make my eyes glaze over.
    -->GIA. Gee, I'm not up on fashion models' names. Haven't the foggiest.
    -->ONEIL. Ditto my knowledge of ballplayers in the "other" NL. How about anybody else? Didn't think so.
    -->the fact (?) that ex-MLers go to JAPAN to keep on playing ball. I don't know of a single one--and I'm a baseball fan.

    In addition to all of these huh?s, we have the horrible LONGU to contend with--there's a fifteen-yarder--not to mention ANI (why, oh why can't you just blackbird it, or even DiFranco it? But PLEASE don't vowel it!) and the extremely awkward partials ANDON and INATIE.

    I did manage, somehow, to finish this ugly monster, but I did not enjoy it. How ANYBODY could attach the word EASY to this is totally beyond me.

    And it's only Wedensday! Help!!

    Cary in Boulder 1:30 PM  

    @spacecraft: I was going to be quiet today, but had to respond to your post.

    Rooney MARA: I'm a fan because I never thought they could come up with an American actress to equal Noemi Rapace, who starred in the Swedish version. (Wellington would've been a slam dunk for me, too.)

    MOES is from "The Simpsons," and is the only bar where you're likely to find Duff Beer.

    I popped in ARAL because "sea" and four letters ALWAYS seems to be ARAL.

    If you're really a baseball fan, you go back and watch Ken Burns' PBS "Baseball" series. Buck O'NEIL, who was as gracious as he was a great ballplayer, features prominently. I was thrilled to get to meet him in the '90s in Kansas City, home to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.

    Also, FYI, on Sept. 15 former major leaguer Wladimir Balentien hit his 56th and 57th HRs for the Yakult Swallows to set the all-time single season record in Japan. The player he surpassed was the Japanese Babe Ruth, Sadaharu Oh, who appeared in one of these puzzles not that long ago.

    Just sayin'.

    rain forest 1:43 PM  

    Hmm. This seems to have been a pretty divisive puzzle, but I have to say I liked it. The only word that I did not "know" was SURAL, but there are lots of words that show up in the NYT puzzle that I don't know. Tripped up by WAAC, because I thought they were WACs, but SCOTTY came to the rescue. Lots of 3-letter stuff, but there always is. Didn't care to count up the TANs, being reasonably sure they were there, and so, if this was a "theme", it was a weak one, but the general solving experience was a good one...for me.

    Solving in Seattle 1:53 PM  

    Lighten up, Real Timers. Sheeesh!

    I'm NATANT on air over Rooney MARA! The character Larrson created that she played fabulously in the clued movie is one of my absolute favorites.

    Loved the clue for 45D.

    Do weather vanes really have a SSW direction?

    Learned a new word today: SURAL. Surreal experience.

    As a former member of the California State Bar, I'd like to say I've never previously used, in any way, the word FACTA. That's a fact.

    @Spacecraft, take two shots of tequila and call me in the morning.

    DMG 2:15 PM  

    I'm pretty much with @Spacecraft on this one, though I did know NATANT from working Maleska puzzles. Also knew the ARAL Sea, but I just thought it was shrinking. While I got FACTA and guessed it could be a Latin ending, I half wondered if you could also have FACT B! So much for my classic education!

    Ginger 2:41 PM  

    There was a lot to like today, but an awful lot not to like. Other posters have well documented which is which. But, even with the good stuff, it felt like a slog. Usually, I think that good themers make up for bad fill, not so today IMHO. Could it be that Will has spoiled us? That we look for near perfection every day?

    @DMG - Glad to see you back.

    Dirigonzo 3:40 PM  

    My first run-through produced a grid with broad swatches of white more typical of a late-week puzzle than a Wednesday. But like the dude or dudette at 17a all I had to do was WAITANDSEE what the crosses produced as I worked my way around the grid and even the stuff I didn't know magically filled itself in. My only write-over was having my sea be deAd before it was ARAL (which I now see is almost symmetrically opposite ORAL - cool). I liked learning that OAHU has Yokohama Bay, which I might otherwise have assigned to JAPAN.

    @rain forest - They were WAACs before they were WACs: (from wiki)The Women's Army Corps (WAC) was the women's branch of the United States Army. It was created as an auxiliary unit, the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) on 15 May 1942 by Public Law 554,[1] and converted to full status as the WAC in 1943. (I read it on the internet so it must be TRUE.)

    Mark DeGraffenreid 5:46 PM  

    Meh. Just...meh. I didn't even notice 'sural'...built it one letter at a time from crosses, I guess. 'Natant'...never seen that before, and that was the one and only sticky point for me on this one.

    Anonymous 6:53 PM  

    I just finished reading all the comments and have only this to say:
    Boys, are your boxer briefs a little too tight today?

    Ron Diego 9/25/13

    rain forest 7:12 PM  

    @Diri - thanks for that, and you're right: the internet has nothing but FACTA.

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