White-suited Dukes of Hazzard villain / SUN 8-25-13 / Kaley of Big Bang Theory / Where Charlie may ride forever in song / Peyote saguaro / Jeff Bridges sci-fi classic / TV show on which Charlie Sheen replaced Michael J Fox

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Constructor: Victor Barocas

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: "Capital L's" — 6-letter US capital cities are formed by two L-shaped answers, an Across and a Down, which provide the first and last three letters of the capital name, respectively. Thus:

Theme answers:
  • TOP dogs (27A: Big kahunas) + eurEKA (9D: Cry of epiphany) => TOPEKA
  • DENounce (35A: Censure) + cleaVER (16D: Butcher's tool) => DENVER
  • JUNiper (37A: Berry used to make gin) + ThorEAU (20D: He wrote "It is life near the bone where it is sweetest") => JUNEAU
  • BOSs Hogg (71A: White-suited "Dukes of Hazzard" villain) + ShelTON (46D: Connecticut city) (???!) => BOSTON
  • AUStere (73A: Spartan) + TinacTIN (43D: Athlete's foot treatment) => AUSTIN
  • ALBerts (104A: Einstein and Camus) + TiffANY(81D: Renowned jeweler) => ALBANY
  • HELoise (106A: Hint-giving columnist) + "MacarENA" (77D: 1990s craze) => HELENA
  • PIEtas (116A: Religious art figures) + Le CaRRE (94D: Best-selling author who once worked for Britain's MI6) => PIERRE

Word of the Day: TRIPTYCH (51A: Bosch's "The Garden of Earthly Delights," for one) —
triptych (/ˈtrɪptɪk/ trip-tik; (from the Greek adjective τρίπτυχοs ("three-fold"), from tri-= "three" + ptysso= "to fold") is a work of art (usually a panel painting) that is divided into three sections, or three carved panels which are hinged together and can be folded shut or displayed open. It is therefore a type of polyptych, the term for all multi-panel works. The middle panel is typically the largest and it is flanked by two smaller related works, although there are triptychs of equal-sized panels. The form can also be used for pendant jewelry. (wikipedia)
• • •

This is a very interesting construction. I found it rather difficult, first because it took me a little while even to see the theme, and then because I kept forgetting about the theme or not seeing where the theme was in play. Found it very hard to get into the far north, for instance, until I (finally) realized, "oh, right, the answer to [Cry of epiphany] does an L-turn..." into TOPEKA. Same thing happened with [Butcher's tool]—I just kept forgetting when I was looking at L-shaped answers, especially with those Downs. I don't think it was hard so much as flummoxing. Required a lot of attention to detail, a constant reassessing of what the hell was going on. Which is just fine. I admire the architecture of the puzzle—the execution of the theme—but I didn't find it that entertaining. Sort of like solving a sudoku—fine to pass the time, but not very mentally engaging. There's no hook, no cleverness, no humor. Just a really nifty physical feature of some answers. Fill was OK—got a little rough in parts (CUOCO???? (32D: Kaley of "The Big Bang Theory") PUD??? (127D: British dessert, for short) TATAS!?!? (contemporary slang for breasts, maybe, but multiple [Byes], no)), but otherwise held up pretty well.

I did quite enjoy seeing BOSS HOGG, and the clue on ROCK CONCERT (24A: Rush job?) and CRISCO (103D: It's been shortening for over 100 years) were nice. Couldn't believe how long it took me to get LUCAS (I saw "Star Wars" eight times as 7-year-old, and yet I wanted CUKOR at [Director George] —?????). Had a very rough start because I wanted -NESS for 2D: Suffix with hard or soft (-WARE) and ENID for 3D: Girl's name that's also a place (ERIN). Lots of trouble in the NE too, as I only just now understood 18D: Head of state? (INTER-) and wanted 14A: Peyote and saguaro (CACTI) to end in an "S". Forgot that Charlie Sheen was ever on "Spin City" (that move from Michael J. Fox to Charlie Sheen must've been jarring; thankfully for my sanity, I'd stopped watching "Spin City" by the time Fox left). Speaking of "Charlie," if you have no idea what the hell "song" 44D: Where Charlie may ride forever, in song (MTA) is referring to, you aren't alone. You gotta be pretty old to remember that one. I certainly don't—learned about it the same way you may be learning about it right now—from crosswords. It's probably pitched perfectly, though, for the average age of the crossword-solving crowd. Thus, fair.

    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


    August West 12:00 AM  

    "Hmm... TOPDOG rings true, but it's a plural. Dammit! Janet! Let's just mosey on over here...

    Okay, ESQ, so that's LUCAS, and (ha ha) that's EELER, this is RACE, ELK, aaaah, one of my favorites, the good ol' UVULA, EVOKES...EUREKA!!!! TOPEKA!!!!"

    And then it was over, Johnny.

    What good fun. Loved it!

    ::..Standing ovation..::


    JFC 12:14 AM  

    Rex, I was tired when I did this and tired when I sussed it out but my reaction was the same as yours, which might make you feel good or bad, probably bad. So I want to thank you for your analysis....JFC

    Gill I. P. 12:18 AM  

    I can't, in a thousand years, imagine constructing this puzzle.
    I started out really disliking this; nothing was making sense. Saw the MACARENA L shape and thought what? big deal! ho hum...and then it took me stomping all the way to the basement and finding HELOISE/HELENA just waiting to be picked and boy did I grin. Wow, I kept loving it more and more.
    My big "I don't know this" was TRIPTYCH at 51A and hell, I was an art major. Since I've never had "Athletes foot" I didn't know TINACTIN. - sounds like a silver polish.
    I looked up the definition of PUD (127D) and I got this: "His mom caught him pulling his pud." I guess that would be a dessert for some Brits...."Mumsy, can I have seconds?"
    Also loved seeing Garcia Federico LORCA. Spent eons of time going over his "Yerma."
    So happy to finish this wonderful, fun puzzle tonight. Tomorrow we have out British family arriving for a couple weeks. I can't wait to throw out that PUD.
    Gracias Victor Barocas. You from Spain?

    jae 12:19 AM  
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    jae 12:22 AM  

    Caught the theme almost immediately and just kept going.  So, on the easy side for me.  

    Not too many cringes, but PUD stands out.  Not sure how else to clue it without a breakfast test failure.

    Isn't it BCE these days?

    Fun, clever,  interesting solve.   Liked it.

    Anonymous 12:36 AM  

    That's some amazing puzzle construction. How did someone dream that up?
    Merl Reagle's puzzle this week has some nifty tricks, too.

    Brian B 12:40 AM  

    Was I the only one who thought DES (Moines, 85A) was a jarring non-theme capital to toss in randomly? Seemed a really odd choice with all the other capitals appearing in the theme combinations.

    Steve J 12:47 AM  

    Took me a long time to figure out what the hell was going on, but once I did, I found this to be one of the more brilliant feats of construction I've seen in a while (second only to Patrick Berry's Double Feature a few weeks back in recent memory).

    I sniffed something was up quickly when I saw CLEAVER wouldn't fit. I knew something was up when BOSSHOGG wouldn't fit. Tried a rebus at first, but quickly saw that didn't work. Stared at the puzzle completely flummoxed for a bit, the dashes on the down clues starting to piss me off because they made no sense at all, but I soldiered on.

    Got my first L with HELOISE/HELENA/MACARENA, but I didn't quite pick up on the theme quite yet. For all I knew, HELOISE had a lesser-known competitor (or twin à la Abby and Ann Landers) named HELENA. For whatever reason, the turn on MACARENA didn't flip any switches.

    But then I went back up to revisit BOSSHOGG/BOSTON, and a giant light bulb lit up over my head. Absolutely brilliant.

    My only quibbles with the theme: While the downs that formed the second part of the across answers that began were easy to pick up with the - cluing, the other Ls that helped compose the capitals had nothing in their clues whatsoever to indicate they weren't normal downs. As Rex said, it required a lot of attention to keep track of those. (On the other hand, if those had been marked as well, it may have made the theme too easy to pick up.) Other quibble: PIERRE/PIETAS, only because PIETAS would be my WOD (at least in my recollection of art history, TRIPTYCH popped up a lot, but I either missed or completely forgot PIETA).

    Wanted Fleming for the longest time rather than LECARRE. Both were ex-Brit spooks who went on to write a lot of novels about Britsh spooks. Le Carré was definitely the better writer, but Fleming was more fun. Plus, movies.

    Loved the clues for CRISCO and ROCKCONCERT. And it was fun seeing Onionesque (well, now AV-esque) clues at 9A and 47A (that one was particularly brilliant).

    Most fun I've had with a Sunday puzzle in quite a while. Sometimes construction feats are technically impressive but flat in their impact on the solve, but I found this to make for a very entertaining solve. Bravo, Victor Barocas.

    Steve J 12:53 AM  

    Sheesh, that is one long-winded comment I just left. Sorry. I'm just really enthusiastic about this puzzle, I guess.

    (@jae: I still see BC more than I see BCE, but it definitely depends on both author and audience. BCE isn't something that's really hit mainstream circles yet, in my observation. In more academic circles, it's become more the norm, from what I've seen.

    @Gill I.P. From the constructor comments over at xwordinfo.com, Victor Barocas hails from one state capital that didn't make it into the puzzle: St. Paul.)

    Noam D. Elkies 1:00 AM  

    44D:MTA is a gimme up here in the Boston area, where the metrocard is called the Charlie Card in honor of the song. But yes, those who have never set foot in this town may well wonder what the L that clue is getting at...


    Anonymous 1:19 AM  

    @Steve J - The Double Feature puzzle was constructed by the other Patrick B phenom: Blindauer.

    Anonymous 1:59 AM  

    Very satisfying puzzle, filled with Eureka! moments--but I did it fast enough to convince me that it really doesn't qualify as medium-challenging--must be a medium, because I'm not that good.

    Anonymous 3:18 AM  

    I remember the MTA song and just went down Memory Lane with the Kingston Trio! I can't believe how much music I remember from a time when most music i heard in grade school was played on the car radio! And I knew all the words!
    I enjoyed this puzzle immensely, but hadn't corrected ENbUE to see ID EST! And I know my Latin!

    Steve J 3:24 AM  

    @Anon 1.19: Dammit, I knew I should have looked that up to confirm. Thanks for the correction.

    chefwen 3:30 AM  

    Growing up in Scotland I remember (as much as a 5 year old can remember) my Nanny saying to me "you cant have any PUD (pudding) until you've finished your VEG (vegetable). So that wasn't a PROB for me.

    Like @jae caught on very early with JUN

    Unlike @jae it didn't make my solve much easier for the exact same reasons as @Steve J. pointed out. I won't be redundant, he stated it perfectly.

    Of course, thought of @Ellen S. at 9A, even cringed

    Quite the workout Victor, thanks!

    Anonymous 4:43 AM  

    Little help please

    In Sunday LA Times a clue is Pres. first name and the answer is JAS. I'm clueless.

    Thanks and if you answer just write dodo so I can find your reply.

    Ellen S 4:45 AM  

    Haha, thank you for your thoughts @Chefwen. I'm kind of okay with EELs as long as they aren't an infestation. But I worry that they are a ... whaddyacallit, an invasive species.

    @Noam D., I was going to say, anyone for whom Natick wasn't a Natick would have no problem with 44D. I knew the answer from listening to all the Kingston Trio songs when I was a kid, like @Anon 3:18, and was delighted to find that the T has embraced its past with the Charlie card rechargeable ticket. There are non-natives living in Boston, though, who have no idea. I educate them whenever I can. They think I'm nuts.

    I loved the clue for CRISCO. But it took me forever to see the theme. All the non-theme answers were so easy, or sort of easy, and then there were these big splotches that made no sense. I think I filled in so much that I could see the shape of the L's before I had my EUREKA moment. Fun puz.

    Anonymous 4:47 AM  

    Is Jas short for James so Pres. first name would be Jas as in James Madison?

    Brookboy 5:06 AM  

    Really creative and engaging puzzle, at least for me. Unlike Rex and a few others, I thought this was both entertaining and interesting. Even when I figured out the theme (on JUNIPER) I found it challenging to spot other theme answers.

    The funny thing was that it took forever for me to spot the theme, but when I finally did, that made the puzzle quite a bit easier for me.

    I stand in awe of someone who has the talent and creativity to construct something like this. Thank you kindly, Mr. Barocas, for such a fine, fine puzzle. I thoroughly enjoyed working this one out.

    r.alphbunker 7:41 AM  

    Got the theme at HELOISE about half way through the puzzle.

    RE MTA
    If Charlie's wife gave him a sandwich at Scollay Square station why couldn't she also give him the nickel he owed? BTW, Google indicates that the Scollay Square station was demolished shortly after the song was released and is now Government Center.

    Had a bit of bad luck at {112D. Year the emperor Claudius was born}. The first letter I got was the C from LCD so it put me in roman numeral mode which is not where I had to be to get the answer.

    chefbea 7:51 AM  

    What a great puzzle!!! I too got the theme at Heloise and Like @Rex had trouble in the northeast.

    @Brian B I too wondered abour Des Moines and also having two other cities in the puzzle..Shelton which I of course knew and Astoria.

    Hand up for loving the crisco clue!!!

    Glimmerglass 8:09 AM  

    Great puzzle. Hats off to the constructor of this lab rat's maze. I was amused to see MTA just a short RIDe from BOSTON.

    Carola 8:21 AM  

    I was agog at this one - all of the 6-letter state capitals nicely CLEAVEd down the middle, with the answer-turns-a-corner trick at new Level. Very fun to decode.

    I groped in the dark until I reached AUSTIN, where the lights went on and I saw the capital and capital-making L's. And then also understood where the missing parts of the CLEAVER and JUNIPER berry were. After that, it got easier but unlike @Rex, I was entertained by the niftiness and clever cluing until the end. (Also unlike @Rex, I am pretty old and could sing along with "Through the open window she hands Charlie a sandwich" as he rides on the MTA.

    Like @Rex, was stymied by director George (could only think of halAS of the Bears) and wrote in ness for WARE. Absolutely loved the CRISCO clue. Didn't know Rush was a band, wanted something Limbaugh ("capital L," before I caught on) or frat-related. For WIlhelm Tell, I had overturES and ringTONES before BARITONES.

    @chefwen - Yes! Sunday luncheon with meat and two veg, followed by PUD!

    @Melodius Funk and @OISK - I keep forgetting to say...re: SIRI, from way back on Friday. I gave up on "her" after this exchange while I was on a road trip through Illinois:
    Me: Where is large cross near Effingham, Illinois?
    Siri: You can find effing ham on the menu at three restaurants near Springfield, Illinois.

    (Here's the Effingham Cross. My son had texted me to look out for it, as it had come up on a court case he'd argued, which involved claims about the world's largest cross.)

    jberg 8:33 AM  

    OH, DARN -- I live in BOSTON, so Charlie and the MTA are well known to me, but had no idea about SHELTON, and was reading "not beat" as meaning "not beaten" - so I couldn't see LOSE TO, ended up with SHErTON/rOSE TO.

    Aside from that, I loved it. I'd probably love any puzzle with UVULA, and CRISCO clued that way. And who knew that BARITONES was the same length as the obvious choice, overtures?

    Like @R.alph, I got the theme with HELOISE, but at first thought -- "Oh, hints from Helena - doesn't seem quite right, but that was long ago, in RONA Barrett's day." But once it clicked, the rest was a bit too easy, since all the theme answers were tagged with a - for a down clue (not to mention that they are symmetrical).

    As for the FONZ, I guess he thought he was cool, but come on!

    Elle54 8:37 AM  

    I loved it! Did have a NATICK though with TRIPTYCH,CUOCO, and SHELTON.
    Never heard of Charlie , is that an east coast song?

    chefbea 8:43 AM  

    @Carola Have been through Effingham many times driving from Ct. to St. Louis. We use to stay there overnight...of course have seen the cross

    Mohair Sam 9:27 AM  

    Very challenging for us, and a DNF for not knowing our French and not rechecking (french waves).

    Worked from the bottom up and got LECARRE quickly, hence thought that Capital L meant the shape of the capital letter versus the straight up and down lower case. A misspelling of PIETAS as PIaTAS made the PIERRE answer PIARRE and we just didn't get it or look for any other theme until hours later we filled EUREKA and noticed TOPEKA.

    A very interesting and fun puzzle which left us flummoxed (perfect word Rex) most of the evening. I think it was easy-medium if you got the theme early, and challenging plus if you got it late.

    Great work Victor Barocas, thanks.

    jackj 9:28 AM  

    I really thought the world had passed me by when it seemed that “Big kahunas” had somehow become TOPEKA, until EUREKA(!!), they didn’t want to “be” TOPEKA, they only wanted to be TOPDOGS in the Kansas capital. (And it was off to the races with a puzzle that was an unalloyed joy to solve.)

    Of the eight capital cities included in the puzzle, if pressed, my favorites would be JUNIPER JUNEAU THOREAU, with AUSTERE AUSTIN TINACTIN a close second, but all of the eight had thoughtful, interesting words used to make their particular theme city combo.

    Fill-wise, it is hard to find any entry better clued than REISSUING although DENOUNCE, RISKFREE, INPATIENT and THISISATEST made strong contenders.

    With the balance of the fill, there were things like UVULA that, while easy, are always fun to see and say and Victor should take a bow for taking the time to research a unique clue for EWER, saving his puzzle from the slings and arrows of outraged solvers had he launched this one with EWER at 1 Across only clued in its usual boring fashion.

    As someone who has declared their love of art and mysteries at my Google Account listing, seeing Hieronymus Bosch was a twofer; the name of the contemporary hero of Michael Connelly’s excellent LA detective mystery series is Harry (shortened from Hieronymus) Bosch and secondly, the artist Bosch was a noted painter of fantastical works, the clued “The Garden of Earthly Delights” being his most celebrated one.

    The Bosch piece is a TRIPTYCH, a painting made in three separate panels, (but they’re always displayed together), usually with the central panel being larger and containing the “meat” of the work as is the case with this painting.

    The school called “Surrealism”, with artists like Salvador Dali, René Magritte, Max Ernst and Giorgio de Chirico only came into being in the 1920’s, but if one were to anoint a “Godfather of Surrealism”, it would have to be Hieronymus Bosch, whose extraordinary works were produced over 400 years earlier than Dali’s limp watches but were equally imaginative bits of phantasmagoria.

    Thanks to Victor Barocas for what was one of the cleverest, most enjoyable Sunday puzzles in memory!

    (Note to Steve J-Verbosity needs no apology).

    K9doc 9:32 AM  

    47A putting out....

    Anybody else think:

    "hey dude, did she put out on your anniversary"?

    Originally thought this was very un-NYT x-word type of clue.

    Sandy K 9:55 AM  

    Haven't bee astonished and entertained by a puzzle of this caliber since Patrick Blindauer's Double Feature!

    I was not familiar with Mr. Barocas, so didn't know what to expect.

    I caught on to both aspects at
    HELOISE and MACARENA giving us HELENA. From then on I used a red pen to delineate the answers. I counted 16 Ls and 8 Capitals. Looks pretty theme-dense with hardly any bad fill.

    Thought it was brilliant! THOREAUly enjoyed it! Can't wait for more from one of ouru BRIGHTEST constructors!

    Sandy K 9:59 AM  

    Meant haven't been.

    Ray J 10:09 AM  

    @K9doc – I saw a couple of potential blue clues – the one you mentioned and 1D, “Goes down,” which had me thinking of Aerosmith’s “Love in an elevator.” Will throws in these double entendres on purpose. Either that, or you and I have dirty minds.

    Kaley Cuoco: eye candy (yep, dirty mind)

    Puzzle: eye strainer

    Printed it out after solving and highlighted the L-shapes. It’s a beaut.

    Aside from my difficulty in keeping track of where the Ls were, I loved it.

    Kudos, Mr. Barocas - A very inventive puzzle!

    Z 10:52 AM  

    REISSUING MTA in Brazil would probably be a hit.

    I got the bent word part of the theme right away with THOREAU. I was wondering how I was supposed to get the "unchecked" letter in SHEL-ON when I realized that JUNIPER and THOREAU had made JUNEAU. Everything but the NE fell easily from there.

    ENDUE/IDEST is ugly, could not remember CONVERSE for the longest time (yes, I wear Chuck Taylors), I went more metaphysical with INnER state (which was hard to fix since -CONCERn was plausible) so I spent as much time sussing out that corner as the rest of the puzzle.

    All in all a better than average Sunday.

    joho 11:00 AM  

    Quite a feat of construction, Mr. Barocas! I wonder if you had a crooked grin on your face while coming up with this idea?!

    I actually got it quickly at TOPDOGS which confirmed JUNIPER .... a great AHA moment. More of those moments followed and not too easily which is what a Sunday size puzzles needs.

    How about that new and unusual clue for our old pal, EWER?

    I keep seeing LABRAT in the grid as LA BRAT.

    @Brian B, maybe he could have clued it _____ Plaines :) Actually, other than a city name I think it would have to be something French like "Avenue ___ Champs Elysees."

    All in all a fun, especially cleverly constructed puzzle, thanks, Victor!

    Norm 11:02 AM  

    Fantastic puzzle. Like Rex, it took me a long time to see the theme. I got the fact that there were some "L" shaped answers quickly enough, but was almost halfway through before I saw the "Capital[s]." Unlike Rex, I then remembered the theme and zoomed through the rest of it. Much fun.

    Anonymous 11:09 AM  

    IF the title was "Capital Lines", maybe this puzzle would make sense. But it doesn't.

    The raison d'etre here is slightly off.

    math guy 11:11 AM  

    Loved it. Caught on to the L-shapes late with CLEAVER. I was delighted to have finished and only then noticing that state capitals were spelled out in some across spaces. Until then I was anticipating Rex complaining about the unchecked letters.

    Ellen S 11:11 AM  

    @Carola, here's my SIRI story: I asked her, "show me a map of Mt. Palomar." Maybe that wasn't well stated. Google can handle such amiguity and doesn't mind whether I say Mount Palomar or Palomar Mountain, or "map of" rather than "directions to". Siri, not so much. So here's the conversation:
    Me: Show me a map of Mount Palomar
    Siri: Do you want to see a map of Mount Palomar?
    Me: Yes.
    Siri: I thought so.

    And that was it! WTF????

    I had a cab driver once who told me he said, "Siri, I love you." And she responded, gently, "You can't love me, you don't even know me."

    But me, I wasn't asking her to perform an unnatural act, like all the boys do, just asking for directions, and she hung up on me? I now have an Android phone, invoked its "S-voice" feature and asked the same question, and it just showed me the map, no insults, no snide comments.

    [Further irrelevancy: the numerical portion of the Captchas has gone back to being a photograph of a number, right? Well, in the one I have, it's a picture of maybe a beige wall with some white molding. there is no number, not even a faint one. Lucky thing it doesn't matter what number you put in, but for people who haven't been told that trick, it can be a bit daunting. However, I also can't figure out the letters, so I have to get me a new one. Dang, I've suspected for a while that I'm a robot. A verbose one at that.]

    Ray J 11:56 AM  

    @joho – I think LA BRAT was Subaru’s language-confused answer to Chevy’s El Camino back in the ‘70s.

    I keep seeing 66A as CAVE SIN. “Spelunker’s transgression” maybe?

    @Ellen S – Can you really put in any number for the Captcha?

    John in Philly 11:58 AM  

    I stuck with this for over 2 hours - omg! brilliant puz and yet annoying at the same time. Too many obscure names for me.....

    Milford 12:03 PM  

    Been at a soccer tournament in Schaumburg, IL this weekend, so puzzle time is limited. But just wanted to chime in that I really loved and admired this fun Sunday puzzle!

    Caught on to the down part of the L-theme at BOSTON/BOSS HOGG, and the added across part at JUNEAU/THOREAU. Really amazing construction!

    Have seen the El Bosco TRIPTYCH at the Prado - very trippy.

    Thank you, Victor!

    JC66 12:08 PM  

    I loved this puzzle and, like @ joho, after figuring out the theme, the aha moments kept coming.

    @ Tita

    Didn't read the clue properly for 103 D so originally had fRISCO.

    Anonymous 12:09 PM  

    Thrown by 19 across: William Tell is Rossini's most famous OVERTURE, which also fits. When all that was left was the NW corner, I knew it had to be different. Lost at least twenty minutes.

    quilter1 12:16 PM  

    Yeah, what's with DES Moines not being given a capitol clue? My home town being dissed. But that aside, I second all the awe, the nits and the nice comments. Great accomplishment.

    Anonymous 12:32 PM  

    Those of us old enough will remember old Scollay Square as a seedy part of town with blue movie houses and nudie bars. The Government Center project, with the "New City Hall" (regarded by most as an architectural and HVAC disaster) and the Federal Building was the first major urban renewal project in Boston.

    Everett Wolf 12:34 PM  

    I'm not sure there's a more perfect Sunday puzzle out there. I hope Mr. Barocas has more like this in him.

    Z 12:44 PM  

    @Ray J - many of us use 42 for the little picture half of the captcha, but any old combination of characters will succeed. The wavy word, otoh, has to be deciphered.

    Anonymous 12:45 PM  

    Got the theme early with 37a: juniper, not fitting and 39d:'s clue was empty. I normally finish the Sunday puzzle when Thursday's triggers concerns about wanting to live. Finished today's, today and ever so delightfully found it ranked here as medium challenging. Thus, as less of a crossword-solver manque this week, I'm prone to shout, "Hey Thursday. Bring it."

    Lindsay 12:46 PM  

    As usual, I started at the bottom, so the first theme answers I came across were HELOISE/HELENA. Not having MACARENA yet, which was above, and observing that the puzzle's title was "capital L's" and that the turning point of HELOISE was an "L", I concluded that the theme answers all pivoted on an "L", and ran around the grid filling them in (they were easy to find because I had highlighted the squares clued by dashes before I began). This mistake amped up the difficulty level considerably. But I did like the puzzle, and thought the grid was monstrously clever.

    Friday night I was strolling down a city (by New Hampshire standards) street and a band was playing MTA for outdoor diners at a riverfront restaurant. So the song was fresh in my mind in a pleasant summer evening sort of way.

    Anonymous 1:07 PM  

    Good to see words getting removed from the list.


    jburgs 1:20 PM  

    Very fun puzzle.the area around that IDEST/ENDUE cross caused me the one error. Having the UE at55A I figured that the word must be imbue but couldn't make it work and once all letters in I had to settle for ENbUE/IbEST. Plus in that area had been trying to make REISSLING work at 47a thinking celebratory drink. My first entries at 49 and 50D at the beginning were PORNO and BETTE. so needless to say that whole area went through many changes.
    I so loved the MTA clue. I went to catholic school in the 60's and we had a replacement teacher for a time in Grade 7 or 8. she was a new teacher, beautiful and a very accomplished singer and guitar player. This was the time of "Hootenany" masses at church where one of the services on the Sunday would feature folk type music. She led the choir at these. at school she introduced us to all the popular folk songs of the day. My favorite was MTA. The title was lost to my memory over time and although I have remembered the tune, I had never heard this song again for about 45 years. I would sometimes ask people if the know a song about some guy stuck on the subway but never got an answer. This puzzle has brought back a wonderful memory.Thank you for posting the video Rex.

    Anonymous 1:23 PM  

    Took me lifetime to solve the "Al(Berts)bany portion.... and I live 15 miles north of it!!!!!

    Collaborators 1:32 PM  

    Hello! This is our first time submitting a comment, after at least a year of reading your comments. We print out the puzzles and get behind, but this week, since Mrs. Collaborator is on a staycation, we have decided to solve in "real time" and submit comments. We always work together on the puzzle. Mrs. C is good at the tricks and everyday phrases; Mr. C knows a lot of old names and historical facts. Together we make a real team. In the exact voice of Tommy Lee Jones in The Fugitive: "We...don't...Google! We found today's puzzle harder than most Sundays because of the double-edged trick. Once we finally figured that out, everything flew into place. Thanks for letting us join in.

    chefbea 1:38 PM  

    Welcome @Collaborators!! Please join in more often

    mac 1:47 PM  

    Clever and pretty tough Sunday, until I figured out the trick (which took me way too long). Much more fun in hindsight.

    John Hoffman 2:38 PM  

    I miss crossword puzzles with clues and words. Is everyone so bored with standard crossword puzzles that we need these kinds of puzzles with backwards/sideways construction?

    Masked and Anonymous 2:46 PM  


    @Victor: Yer puz made me scratch my head so much I may finally be free of fleas & ticks.
    Admirers now anxiously await the sequel Puz with capital U dealies.


    Lori S 3:05 PM  

    Hi! I am not yet done with this puzzle so haven't read the comments or Rex's review - but I just "got" the theme and wanted to say I think it's so clever! Thank you Mr. Barocas for a tremendously enjoyable puzzle. I'll be back to read everything after I finish!

    John Abeles 3:19 PM  

    54 down ...In British slang "Ta-Ta" means "Good-bye"... Hence "'byes" becomes "ta-tas"...

    John Abeles 3:21 PM  

    And "pud" is British slang -- short for "pudding" which word is used generically for "dessert"

    Charles in AUSTIN 3:28 PM  

    I can't imagine a more beautiful puzzle. For me, this ranks up there with the recent DOUBLEFEATURE miracle.

    AmyT 4:51 PM  

    I have only been doing crosswords for about three years and am just getting good, but I can honestly say this was the most fun puzzle I have ever done. I didn't want it to end, it was so brilliant. Thanks Rex for keeping me with it over the past few years and let's hope for more like this one! I just kept smiling as I made my way through.

    Anonymous 5:08 PM  

    Really impressive, really fun.

    Mike Rees 6:52 PM  

    It's weird how Rex and I see the puzzle works so differently.

    I'd rate this medium at best. It's a minor challenge to suss out the theme, but after that it was a slow and enjoyable build. No naticks for me.

    But to say no hook? No cleverness? Had I constructed this gem I'd be offended. It's very clever, IMO.

    Favourite writeovers were BARITONES for "overtures," and for a bad thing for a roommate to do I had steal, then snoop, then finally snore. Maybe there's a word ladder puzzle idea in there somewhere?

    Immensely enjoyed overall. 35 minutes start to finish with no Google required.


    ahimsa 7:02 PM  

    I loved the puzzle. Kudos to Victor Barocas for such a neat idea.

    I stared at THOR- for what seemed like a long time. I knew it had to be THOREAU but I didn't know exactly how/where it was going to fit (didn't seem like a rebus). I moved on and then saw the theme at the EUREKA/TOPEKA/TOPDOGS junction. How appropriate that my EUREKA moment happened with that word!

    When I discovered the theme I thought it was going to be very hard for me. But everything fell into place fairly quickly. No writeovers after my confusion around the THOREAU/JUNEAU/JUNIPER junction (oh, one more, I had EmbUE for ENDUE). By 77 Down I was just wrote in MACARENA and HELOISE going around those corners with no trouble. This is a tribute to how consistent the them was - all capital cities had 6 letters and all shared 3 letters each with the words in the L shapes.

    There were a couple of WOE entries for me (CUOCO? MTA? also never heard of SHELTON, and the ASTORIA that I know is in Oregon, LOL) but somehow I got them all from the crosses.

    I loved the CRISCO clue! I was fooled for the longest time on that one.

    Anonymous 7:15 PM  

    I DID solve as a rebus (DEN) (VER) - took me awhile to figure out where I was wrong on ipad app

    LaneB 8:03 PM  

    Too clever by far and am finding the frustration and increasing number of DNFs to be leaching the fun out of this stuff as well as taking altogether too much of my timr. Thus, I'llfind other junk with which to waste my time and leave the NYT puzzles and blogs to others. My last DNF
    Arrivederci tutti!

    gifcan 8:08 PM  

    TOPEKA was the first skyline to appear. I went through the puzzle and marked off future to-be-revealed capital cities. Then I bore down.

    Mother TERESA sitting with the FONZ in the GALAPAGOS is a pleasant picture.

    Casey 8:53 PM  

    Enjoyable, yet annoying, in that some Ls were obvious due to a glaring ------- and others were stealthy. A fun Sunday despite.

    jazzmanchgo 8:53 PM  

    Gahd -- I don't know whether to start screaming and throwing things in helpless rage, or get down my knees in humble supplication before all of you.

    How do you people do it? How the HELL could anyone figure this thing out -- a bunch of blank spaces with no clue about what should go in them (sorry, but the title was no help -- there've been so many bad-pun misleading titles that I barely even look at them anymore) . . . THEN, a bunch of words that stop in mid-word so they make no sense (I'm FROM Connecticut, I know the town of Shelton very well, and I STILL couldn't figure out what "SHELT" meant). . .

    Honestly -- how do you people do it? How does ANY normal human being do it?

    Anonymous 9:38 PM  

    I thought it was medium for a sunday puzzle. I think solving on paper helped a lot. As soon as i figured out the trick i drew boxes around the Ls so unlike rex i couldnt forget them. great puzzle though. I think im pretty normal. you have to know that sunday and thursday puzzles often have gimmicks. You also learn how hard a typical sunday puzzle is and if the one youre working on seems much harder start looking for gimmickmi

    Janet 9:43 PM  

    I agree that even when I recognized the across leading to a down, I overlooked the down leading to an across.

    As for Charlie and the Kingston Trio, it was a gimme for an alumna of a bean town college.

    Anonymous 9:52 PM  


    How long have you been doing these puzzles?
    Years and years of practice, repetition, and learning the tricks of the trade help when the puzzle is this challenging.
    Don't give up- we've all been there.

    Anonymous 10:02 PM  


    And the same goes for you! Don't give up because of this puzzle. It was very challenging, and frustrating for a lot of people.

    You've been doing so well. You said that you saw improvement in your skills over the weeks that you've been posting.

    Take a break, if needed, but don't throw the towel in.

    Mary in NE 10:50 PM  

    I put in "igotit" for 9D and when TOPtit for 27A didn't make sense, I thought none of those acrosses would (even though that clearly wrong singular answer for the plural "Big kahunas" was humorous). Later when I realized the acrosses were state capitals, I corrected my mistake.

    Anonymous 1:10 AM  

    Never got the down Ls until I had the whole thing solved and came here to see why Lecar wasn't Lecarre.

    Then the lights went on. Great puzzle!

    paulsfo 2:04 AM  

    Extremely enjoyable. A theme which was fun and not boring (in contrast with last week's a line, b line, c line, zzzzzz).

    paulsfo 2:06 AM  


    ZenMonkey 3:59 AM  

    I thought this one was an enjoyable challenge. The missing humor is replaced by many EUREKA moments as the thing comes together.

    47A: "Putting out on an anniversary" was special genius, and I also enjoyed BOSTON next to AUSTIN.

    I'm definitely awed by this construction!

    Anonymous 7:55 AM  

    Would someone explain 48 down IDEST??


    Anonymous 9:31 AM  

    Id Est. Latin for "that is"

    i. e., => "Words of Explanation"

    Greg 11:15 AM  

    JAS = James? (Madison)

    Jim in Chicago 11:49 AM  

    Late to the party, but I just am awed by this puzzle.

    I had like 90% filled in and STILL didn't get the theme. Finally got the drop off HELOISE but had those last three letters sort of sitting there looking sad. Then I saw HELENA and got the theme. Only then did I figure out that the reason I was missing so many downs was that they also fit into the picture. Then everything began to fit into place.

    Great puzzle.

    Anonymous 1:43 PM  

    Converse is hardly a rival of NIKE. Converse is owned by Nike as their lower price brand. Real Nike rivals are the higher priced items,e.g Reebok, Addidas etc

    Anonymous 3:20 PM  

    Come now, stick in the mud... MTA is performed at least once a night in every Irish and pseudo-Irish pub on the east coast. The commuter card in Boston is colloquially known as a Charlie Card. Beyond fair.

    mjddon 4:11 PM  

    Loved it. Isn't there a song mentioning Garcia Lorca in Jacques Brel? I old, so no problem with Charlie.

    sanfranman59 7:01 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
    Thu 16:44, 16:30, 1.01, 58%, Medium
    Fri 17:53, 17:52, 1.00, 54%, Medium
    Sat 26:51, 26:10, 1.03, 66%, Medium-Challenging
    Sun 31:06, 27:42, 1.12, 81%, 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
    Thu 9:26, 9:27, 1.00, 48%, Medium
    Fri 10:03, 10:27, 0.96, 43%, Medium
    Sat 16:35, 16:30, 1.01, 54%, Medium
    Sun 20:34, 19:20, 1.06, 63%, Medium-Challenging

    Anonymous 11:48 PM  

    If I solved it, the puzzle can't be considered 'hard' because I'm a pretty weak cruciverbalist. But it took me awhile, so I'll agree with most commenters: Medium.

    I got the L them very quickly, and it helped, but even though I know the capitals, it didn't dawn on me that I was filling in _only_ capitals for the special words until the very end, literally: My last gridded-in clue was DENVER, at which point I was even more astonished with the puzzle.

    What an incredible feat of construction. And I was even more impressed because it contained answers like ROCKCONCERT and GALAPAGOS as well as some very clever cluing. Well done, Mr Barocas!

    Anonymous 8:36 AM  

    Hated it, hated it, hated it. Vilest trickery.

    Anonymous 9:57 AM  

    Hated it - didn't even finish it.

    spacecraft 1:16 PM  

    @K9doc: Yes, I did. Reminds me of an old joke:

    SEX ED PROF: I'm taking a survey. All those who have sex more than once a day, please rasise your hands.
    [A few hardy souls respond]
    Five to seven times a week.
    [More hands]
    Two to four times a week.
    [Lots of hands]
    Once a week.
    [Some more hands]
    Once a month?
    [Couple of hands]
    Is that all of you?
    [One very agitated fellow in the back row is waving his hand frantically.]
    And you, sir?
    STUDENT: W-w-once a y-year!!
    PROF: Why are you so nervous?
    STUDENT: T-t-t-tonight's the night!

    This one was glacial (SLOW) going for me to start. Like many, I just DKWWGO (didn't know what was going on). But, knifing (CLEAVERing?) its way through my confusion was the certain knowledge that the white-suited dude on Dukes had to be BOSSHOGG--and that was two letters too long for the space. I too thought about rebi--rebuses?--but looking at the "L" theme hint, I wondered if things didn't take a turn. If I turned at BOS, the capital BOSTON would fit. That worked, but only much later* did I notice that the back end of these ALSO bent! Clever bunch, these constructors.

    *Usually I do the puzzle before breakfast, post my blog and then eat, but today I was so bogged down I had to take a break and eat. Took me the best part of two hours, all told. Whew!

    Thought sure I was Romanumeraling it with the Claudius clue; when it turned out to be TENBC I didn't even mind the spelling-out! Well, a little. But hey, it's only one character longer than 10. Compare yesterday's 12.

    LOVED that Hollywood's Davis turned out to be the fantastic GEENA, who has shot an arrow right through MY heart; Bette be OHDARNed.

    And yeah, @Rex, The MTA is right up my old fart's alley. He put ten cents in his pocket, kissed his wife and children, went to ride on the MTA. Well did he ever return? No, he never returned, and his fate is still unlearned. He may ride forever 'neath the streets of BOSTON...

    Dirigonzo 4:17 PM  

    I uncovered the them in layers, with the downward turn coming first, then the state capitals going straight appeared and finally, late in the solve, the right-turns appeared. I finally wrapped it up in the south-central region, where I left bOzOS in for too long before the YOYOS appeared and helped me make an educated guess at the DALY/LORCA cross to finish.

    @spacecraft - you have a blog?! Why don't you use a blogger profile so we can find it? I love to read the blogs that Rex-ites have - it's a great way to get to know our Rexville neighbors.

    spacecraft 5:40 PM  

    @Diri: No, I just meant my entry on this one. I'm so tech-impaired I don't fully understand what "blog" is, so probably misused the word. Heavens, I could never establish my OWN...whatever. It would be, like, a separate website? Ack, no, I don't think so.

    Joshua 6:16 PM  

    r.alphbunker: "If Charlie's wife gave him a sandwich at Scollay Square station why couldn't she also give him the nickel he owed?"

    My theory: Charlie's wife was having an affair with another man, but she wanted to keep Charlie alive in case things went bad with the other man. If she ever wanted to bring Charlie back home, she would give him the nickel then.

    I believe the songwriter was once asked the same question, and he responded that it was part of the humor of the song that she didn't give Charlie the nickel.

    Joshua 6:20 PM  

    Somebody once suggested that, depending on Charlie's age, he would probably have been allowed to leave the train in the early 1980s when he became eligible for the senior citizen fare which at the time was only 10 cents.

    Also, my previous comment that "he" (the songwriter) responded must have been incorrect at least in part, because the song was written by two women, not one man.

    Joshua 6:26 PM  

    "Kaley of "The Big Bang Theory"" (CUOCO) is rough fill? "The Big Bang Theory" has been on the air for six years, and last year it was the third-highest rated show on television.

    sdcheezhd 2:09 AM  

    Really liked this one. I thought the only duds were PUD and CONVERSE (and that's before I saw here that Nike owns Converse!) Had CORE instead of WARE - oooops!

    rain forest 3:28 PM  

    Did this today - Labour Day in Canada, hence no paper - and everything everybody said, except for those who hated it (poor sordid souls), I say, too.

    Brilliant, entertaining, awesome.

    Solving in Seattle 7:03 PM  

    I'm a day late to Rexville with my comments. Watching golf on Labor Day while solving the Sunday puzzle.

    I kinda had the same experience as OFL with this one. Caught on about a quarter through, then had to keep vigilant.

    Loved TRIPTYCH. I was introduced to this art medium by a Belgium business friend while touring Bruges. Then ran into the term reading "The Flanders Panel," a great mystery by Arturo Perez-Reverte.

    Just want to echo what a brilliant puzzle Victor Barocas constructed.

    capcha: eepsofa. Sat down so far I lost the "D?"

    Tim Hansford 2:45 PM  

    My local newspaper, the Boulder Daily Camera, runs the Sunday NYT Crossword a week later so that it can print the answers on a separate page, so I saw this puzzle a week after it came out. Unfortunately, somehow the "-" (dash) for the down clues within the L's was translated into "Ñ". Yeah, that's right, "Ñ". After racking my brain trying to figure out its meaning within the puzzle and finding no mention of it in this blog, I finally saw the original clues today and realized that I had been misled, however unintentionally. That was a new one for me.

    Anonymous 1:12 AM  

    Loved it, except for a personal natick: endue and idest. I was trying to cram in either imbue or "I jest."

    Also love Martha Davis and the Motels.

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