Maupassant's first novel / THU 9-5-13 / 1841 rebellion leader / Titular judge played by Stallone / Lead role in film La Cage aux Folles / TV character who will never speak unless he has something to say / Blind jazz piano virtuoso / Three-time Hart Trophy winner / Return of Jedi battle site /

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Constructor: Damon Gulczynski

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium


THEME: Either or — four answers (the middle answer on each grid edge) is a four-letter word with -OR- in the center. If you read it as a conjunction, the answer indicates (thru its clue) that a certain square on the grid will be correct if *either* the letter before the "OR" or the letter after the "OR" is entered in the grid (though AcrossLite accepted only one letter as correct, refusing to give me Mr. Happy Pencil and thus violating the whole "OR" spirit of the thing):

Theme answers:
  • 7A: Dessert wine ... also what can fill the square at the crossing of 50-Across and 51-Down (PORT), giving you SPUTTERED/PANSY or STUTTERED/TANSY
  • 37D: 1841 rebellion leader ... also what can fill the square at the crossing of 56-Across and 56-Down (DORR), giving you DICERS/DUST or RICERS/RUST
  • 68A: Comedian Sahl ... also what can fill the square at the crossing of 1-Across and 1-Down (MORT), giving you MAOISM/MOIL or TAOISM/TOIL
  • 27D: N.Y.S.E. listing ... also what can fill the square at the crossing of 24-Across and 25-Down (CORP.), giving you SCATTERED/CHI or SPATTERED/PHI
Word of the Day: Thomas Wilson DORR —
The Dorr Rebellion (1841–1842) was a short-lived armed insurrection in the U.S. state of Rhode Island led byThomas Wilson Dorr, who was agitating for changes to the state's electoral system.
• • •

I can appreciate the intricacies of this puzzle, from a constructor's standpoint, but it didn't do much for me as a solver. The puzzle was too easy/straightforward for the trick to mean much of anything. I just filled it in like a themeless. Knowing the gimmick isn't just useless as a solving aid, it's a distraction. You don't need to know it. Just solve the puzzle. Your answers are right. Oh look, several of your answers could've been different answers and still been right? Shrug. Again, in retrospect, I can see how challenging this would be to make (esp. with the systematically placed -OR- answers). But the theme is superfluous to the solve. Also, I don't quite get ODD OR EVEN ... it's a weird answer to have in an OR-driven puzzle. It's not thematic ... but it's got an "OR." Also, there's ORE, ORR, O'ER ... which is just a bunch of crosswordese that gets to pretend to be important today? Or not? I can't tell. See also NOR.


All the difficulty here was in proper nouns—never learned about DORR in school, so that answer crossing EDER (who? did he write the multi-volume bio of Henry James that I know about only from xwords? No, damn, that's Leon EDEL—never mind...) really hurt (45A: Critic Richard). Also, RENATO? Re-NO-to. No idea. Forgot "UNE VIE" was a thing. Thought the answer was going to be "UNEVIL." Hey, RENATO (9D: Lead role in the film "La Cage aux Folles") is just one letter off its symmetrical counterpart, RENT TO. I ... don't think I like that. Kind of how I felt about how close S-ATTERED and S-UTTERED were. SE corner was the hardest one for me to get into, but I got bailed out by yet another proper noun: SELENA Gomez (66A: Gomez of "Ramona and Beezus"). Oh, and ART TATUM gave me fits (39D: Blind jazz piano virtuoso). I did not know he was blind. Which means, I don't really know him at all beyond his name (which I do know). I'm a big fan of NIGHT OWL and TIGHTWAD.


Did anyone actually enter MOIL or TANSY? I've never even seen those words outside of crosswords.

And so to bed.
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

    106 comments:

    wreck 11:28 PM  

    I found it easy but it took me several trials to get the ipad app to accept it!

    August West 12:00 AM  

    Loved it. Dutifully filled TAOISM/TOIL at 1A/D, and moved on to PORT, easily enough confirmed by both its primary clue and PDF, ORE, TIGHTWAD. Didn't know RENATO, but he was captured by his crosses.

    PORT sent me down to 50A/51D, where I entered SPUTTERED/PANSY, and remained confused as to how PORT might be said to fill the crossing square of the two. Caught the "aha" moment with DORR (D/RICERS; D/RUST), which led me back to correct 50A/51D and complete the "CP" rebus entry at 25D. Ran into MORT shortly thereafter, and fixed up 1A/D.

    This fell real fast for a Thursday, despite being another of this week's puzzles just brimming with proper/place names. Like yesterday, tonight's guest stars either just happened to reside in the "useless trivia" compartment of my brain/crosswordese repository (RAE, ENDOR, DOYLE, DREDD, ISAO, HOLM, ART TATUM, MORT, ORR, SELENA) or were revealed via their crosses (the aforementioned RENATO, Richard EDER and Maupassant's UNE VIE).

    Some nice long fill (OSCAR NODS, TIGHTWAD, NIGHT OWL, ART TATUM, STRATEGO, ODD OR EVEN) and a few great clues (Pie piece?/RADIAN; View sharer/OPINER) make this an A+ in my book.

    I know the puzzles are submitted well in advance of publication and seeming coincidences are likely nothing more than serendipitous chance, but I'm about to be off-put by seeing ONSTAR and ACELA, um, every. single. day.

    DJG 12:13 AM  

    Hey everybody, it's the constructor Damon. Alright, Rex didn't love this one. So be it.

    I started a new website that I wanted to share:

    jimzornslemma.com

    It's ostensibly a sports blog, but I'm putting up original puzzles on a regular basis. Check it out.

    Also, if you're interested, more on this puzzle here.

    My biggest regret: I thought of C/PRANKCALL too late.

    Lastly, remember, "There are strange things done in the midnight sun, By the men who moil for gold."

    Anonymous 12:14 AM  

    I didn't get the gimmick at all, which is too bad because it would have been cool to catch on. I'm not very good at this meta / brand conceit type stuff.

    Pretty darn cool - after it was explained to me. Bummer.

    I didn't see any of the multiple options, so that hurt. Seeing at least one might have helped. I did put in TANSY. First thing that came to mind. Sure wish that I'd thought of PANSY at the same time.

    Aside from the gimmick, on the crossword itself I went down on the EDER / DORR cross, which will probably take out a lot of people that don't get the trick

    This is one for people smarter than me. Or is it 'than I'? Or is it 'than myself'? I'm so stoopid:(

    jae 12:17 AM  

    Easy-tough  if you count the time it took me to figure out the theme. Very clever and a nice aha moment when it dawned.   Sailed through this except for SE where UNE VIE was a WOE (SELENA @Rex otoh was a gimme), I had ODDnumbers briefly for ODD OR EVEN, and OPINER (kinda ugly fill) was elusive.  Plus EDER/DORR was a Natick until I sussed the theme.

    @Rex -- TANSY and MOIL are crosswords only words for me, but @DG thanks for the quote I hope it helps next time MOIL shows up.

    Pretty smooth grid, a head slap theme, a smidge of zip...AHNOLD...liked it!

    Steve J 12:17 AM  

    Disagree that the theme was superfluous to the solve. I relied on it to get D(R)UST/D(R)ICERS, and it helped me figure out my way through potential confusion of having STUTTERED crossing PANSY (I wasn't aware TANSY was a thing until this puzzle). That particular crossing was what gave me the aha moment, as I got TAOISM/TOIL straight out of the gate (another new word for me today: MOIL).

    Most of this came together really fast, but the SE brought me to a grinding halt. From 35D to the right, and from 56A on down, I had nothing but blanks, save for ORR. Really had to concentrate on each clue, dropping in one possible letter and trying to piece things together. Inexplicably, 57A would not come to me (I couldn't get past thinking the answer was NHL, which clearly doesn't fit), but finally it jarred loose in my brain, and I was able to start piecing together the corner (especially once I accepted TRANKS; I'm used to seeing TRANQS). UNEVIE was my last, somewhat painful, answer.

    Liked the theme overall (agreed that the potential SPATTERED and SPUTTERED pair gets a little too similar, and agreed that the unrelated OR in 35D is a bit of a blemish). And I found a good amount of fill to like, OSCARNODS and TIGHTWAD in particular. (I so wanted TIGHTWAD to match my first thought - TIGHTASS - but the NYT is too much of a - well, you know - to put that in).

    Overall, good puzzle. Not my favorite Thursday ever, but a nice pickup compared to the last three days of barely-there themes.

    Harry Hassell 12:21 AM  

    I went though this puzzle thinking it was pretty easy for a Thursday until I had to submit ... Totally did not get the theme and, yes,I did have TANSY as my #1 flower.

    Lots of nice long answers and I like the theme. It would have been nice to see C/PRANKCALL!

    Nice one, Damon

    OISK 12:23 AM  

    @ DJG - Now Sam Magee was from Tennessee, where the cotton blooms and blows. Why he left his home in the south to roam round the world God only knows...

    At your Service! (Loved it)

    Ahnold Canaan Mred 12:24 AM  

    We were just talking about Damon J Gulczinski because he had made the other WIE WII WE OUI puzzle 4 years ago!!!

    I didn't understand the theme... actually I had put in STUTTERED/TANSY but changed it to P because I didn't know TANSY.
    And forgot MOIL meant to work hard...so didn't get it, yes, you didn't need theme to solve, but how cool to look back on it and see what he just did there!!!

    I too am big fan of TIGHTWAD and AHNOLD and OSCARNODS.

    I actually thought the theme had to do with EDD/DREDD crossing and DORR/ORR.

    No one knew ZAZA 5 weeks ago and now RENATO will get ???!!s, I guess time to netflix La Cage...!

    Happy New Year to those who consider it to be so!

    mathguy 12:30 AM  

    Usually I am annoyed by themes that don't help solve the puzzle, but I liked this one quite a bit. Actually, I needed the theme to get DORR. Only four gimmes which is good.

    I don't get AHNOLD. Is that how some people pronounce Arnold?

    Anonymous 12:38 AM  

    It's how Ahnold pronounces Arnold. Duh.

    Questinia 12:39 AM  

    I actually put in tansy and thought, well, it can't be pansy because it's Thursday and pansy is a Monday flower word.

    Moil didn't cross my puzzled mind because to me that's someone who does circumcisions and is a character who yells at a bris on a Seinfeld episode about the possibility of broken glass getting ground "deep, deep" into the shag carpet after Elaine places her wine glass too close to the edge of a table. Maybe it has something to do with having been on Orchard Street today.

    That should be window enough into my consciousness this evening: Scattered, spattered, sputtered, stuttered, rusty and dusty.

    ... and to garnish, wanted AHNOLt.

    I think had I gone into Katz's and gotten a pastrami on rye, none of this would have happened.

    wreck 12:42 AM  

    @DJE ...... I enjoyed and appreciated it! When I said I found it easy ..... that was VERY subjective! I just took up the NYT crossword again after a 8 year hiatus. "Easy" for me was still 45 minutes!

    Steve J 12:42 AM  
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    Steve J 12:44 AM  

    @DJG: C/PRANKCALL would have been great for this puzzle.

    @August West: Glad to see it wasn't just me who felt like my deja vu was having deja vu with ACELA and ONSTAR. At least two appearances for each this week.

    @mathguy: Arnold Schwarzenegger pronounces his own forename AHNOLD. He drops the R just like most British speakers would (and most native German speakers tend to do when speaking English, in my observation). And, in popular culture, it's a common thing exaggerate that pronunciation, drawing out the AH part, when referencing him. (Since "Governator" is slang, I thought the slangy answer was a nice touch.)

    wreck 12:52 AM  

    @DJG .... I enjoyed and appreciated it! When I said I found it easy ..... that was VERY subjective! I just took up the NYT crossword again after a 8 year hiatus. "Easy" for me was still 45 minutes!

    12:42 AM
    Oops - last glass of wine got me!

    Richard 12:52 AM  

    I urge Rex and others who have never listened to Art Tatum to do so. He is widely acclaimed as a virtuoso on the piano. He was absolutely amazing and it is hard to listen to him and believe that he was basically blind from birth.

    Acme 12:54 AM  

    PS. STRATEGO brought back fond memories of my cousins 40+ yrs ago.

    Also once had to pick up MORT Sahl, one of my idols from the airport one rainy night inSF circa 1984 for a gig. Angriest, jerkiest guy I've ever met. All respect completely dissipated and never returned.
    Funny he's next to the (Hungry) EYE.

    Also funny that MOIL appears on Rosh HaShanah.

    Mike 1:45 AM  

    As a Californian, I loved AHNOLD for Governator. I wrote in ArNOLD at first, but quickly realized it didn't work. Alas, I didn't think of MOIL or TANSY so the theme didn't make any sense to me until reading about it. I did like some of the fill, most of which has mentioned above by others.

    DonnaTheGreat 2:21 AM  

    GAH! I figured out the theme early, but I can't get the app to accept my puzzle. Anyone with the iPad/iPhone app know how to enter the either-or squares? Help a girl out! ;)

    Mike 2:32 AM  

    I used REBUS and put both letters. It has to be in the right order, so MorT means MT in the rebus.

    Eejit 2:41 AM  

    If it's the Magmic app (ugh) then you hit "more" then "rebus" then type your two letters.

    DonnaTheGreat 2:50 AM  

    Thanks you!! I must have had them in the wrong order. :)

    DonnaTheGreat 2:52 AM  

    Yup, that's the one! Definitely ugh. Thanks! :)

    Gareth Bain 5:49 AM  

    TANSY is common enough if you pay the least attention to garden flowers. I would've blithely put it in a Monday puzzle, but now I'm having to reconsider that position.

    I predict Sanfranman's times will be artificially raised by solvers with correct diagrams that are not correct to the computer!

    Danp 5:55 AM  

    I did like the playful third dimension of the Orr/Ore/Or answers (or clues). Ahnold, on the other hand, strikes me as a non-word that should only be seen in italics. Then again, maybe it's fitting that the guy's last name sounds like it means black or black. Best to leave that one alone, I guess.

    DatingOnline 6:12 AM  
    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
    MetaRex 6:40 AM  

    Speak of the Damon!

    Pretty theme. I enjoyed it a lot...sailed through in a good-for-MR time with that "something is happening but ya don't know what is, do ya" feeling nagging at me. The OR theme finally surfaced after several (untimed) minutes peering at the finished puzz...maybe all the OR stuff in other answers noted by OFL was a subliminal aid there. Then had a final moment of dumbness followed by appreciation when I attached the D of DORR to DAOISM/TAOISM...is the change from Wade-Giles to Pinyin transliteration really worth a puzzle answer?!?...is DOIL really a word?!?...all leading to "Aah... MAOISM/TAOISM...how nice...yes!"

    Anonymous 6:46 AM  

    My biggest frustration with this one is that Dorr is a gimme for me* but I assumed that he was too obscure for a NYT puzzle, so I had to fill it with crosses (esp. as I initially had "I did it" for "I did so").


    *His rebellion was in response to the high property qualifications for voting in Rhode Island, which was still governed under the basic terms of its original colonial charter. To gain support, he adopted an anti-black stance which led black Rhode Islanders to support the Charterites. The Charterites won and rewrote the state constitution in ways generally in line with what Dorr had demanded--a nominal poll tax was required but, effectively, universal male suffrage was established for native-born citizens, including blacks. At the same time, immigrants, who had supported the Dorrites, had considerable obstacles to voting imposed on them. Throughout the rest of the country, on the other hand, the trend was toward universal white male suffrage, including for naturalized immigrants (or recent arrivals--parties weren't too picky about the legality of immigrants' votes as long as they were the recipients of them), while in several states free blacks were actively stripped of the voting rights which they had previously enjoyed, when property, not race, had been the primary determinant of voting rights. The enfranchisement of black Rhode Islanders, therefore, represented a somewhat unique instance during the early nineteenth century in which the "democratization" of American politics benefited blacks as well as whites.

    Evan 6:48 AM  

    Well how can I possibly follow a comment that gives out Asian girls' phone numbers? I'll do my best.

    I agree and disagree with Rex on the theme being useful for solving. The reason I agree is because I didn't understand the trick until after I was done! Delayed a-ha moment, I guess. I kept thinking, what on earth is MORTAOISM or MORTOIL? Having the entire puzzle already correctly filled out, the theme didn't exactly help me get there. However, it would have helped in a big way to resolve the EDER/DORR crossing, which is kinda inferable but still really brutal as far as tough trivia goes. If I had grokked the gimmick while solving, I would have filled in that crossing with no hesitation, because even as a budding historian, I ain't never heard of DORR.

    I think there's a lot to like about this one, despite some of the weaknesses that Rex points out -- even AHNOLD made me laugh (of course I had the proper spelling first). Yet another sign that I didn't see the trick until post-solve: like @acme, I had TANSY, then erased it to PANSY. I didn't even know TANSY was a word. It's also a little strange to see those big northwest and southeast corners in a grid that has a lot of tightly enclosed spaces jammed with three-letter entries, though maybe that done to avoid exceeding the normal maximum word count. Jeff Chen suggests something similar at Xwordinfo.

    Last thing: OPINER? One of those weird noun-from-a-verb conversions that I just don't like. Even Merriam-Webster's dictionary has the same bland definition that I give it: an OPINER is one that opines.

    r.alphbunker 6:51 AM  

    I loved this puzzle. As I solved I was thinking this is pretty easy for a Thursday but at the end I was left [p/w]ondering what the theme was. When I saw the disjunction I laughed out loud.

    The answer stored in the computer version of the puzzle consistently chose the first letter of the disjunctions as the "correct" answer.

    Mohair Sam 7:26 AM  

    Pen and paper solvers here so we didn't need or see the theme. This was one of our quickest Thursday's ever unless you count the time after we finished spent figuring out the theme.

    Loved the theme after we got it (thanks MORT), and it confirmed the guessed R at the DORR/EDER cross.

    And yes Damon, C/PRANKCALL would have been great.

    Susan McConnell 8:20 AM  

    This one fell kind of flat for me. The fill was pretty easy for a Thursday. I thought the theme was clever, and actually liked the inclusion of ORR, ORE, OER and NOR.

    I garden but have never heard of TANSY. I also have a well-equipped kitchen, but the DICER in it is ME! I don't know what kind of gadget would be considered a DICER. Perhaps one of the chefs will chime in.

    loren muse smith 8:27 AM  

    Just like @Evan – I didn’t get the theme until I had filled the grid, even though I had gone and changed STUTTERED to SPUTTERED. I’m not among those who are familiar with TANSY. Plants, flowers, gardening just don’t float my boat. Hi, Mom – how are your peonies doing? Yawn.

    When I finally saw it – off revisiting the OR in each reveal, I was blown away. I rarely talk about puzzles anymore to my husband (mercifully, he would add), but today I had to gush. I said, “How cool to look at PORT and see instead P OR T!!!!” And then take it a gazillion steps further and construct a Schrödinger with it. . . mind boggling. (He yawned.)

    I actually got a kick out of EDD crossing DR EDD. Speaking of which – we had MR. ED, DR EDD, and EDD. Fun, uh, tri-ed.

    I read that Scarlett O’Hara’s name was originally PANSY O’Hara before Margaret Mitchell changed it. Good instincts.

    @Acme – I kept thinking early on that the theme was something about TT: ATT, SPUTTERED, SPATTERED, ART TATUM, RENT TO, TTOP. . .

    The clue for OPINER makes the entry forgivable. It spotlights sharer’s ambiguity.

    “Ignite” before INCITE.

    I looked back at the grid and saw IT IN A, wondering how I hadn't noticed that partial and checking how it was clued.

    This kind of trick thrills me and reminds me somehow of Joe DiPietro’s Spanish "and"/y masterpiece from last year.

    @Z – I mastered italics a while back thanks to everyone’s help. Embedding still gets me. I copy *to the letter* @Ellen S’s and my former intern’s examples and it works only 5% of the time. I tried to embed a link to the above puzzle but couldn't.

    I won’t forget this one. DJG – bravo!

    Airymom 8:33 AM  

    Shana Tova to all. A healthy and happy New Year. May this year bring peace and fun/challenging puzzles.

    joho 8:49 AM  

    So odd that we were just discussing Damon's puzzle yesterday and up he pops today!

    Like @Ahnold Canaan Mred I didn't get the theme even though I finished the entire puzzle correctly. I blame that on my impatience to stare at the puzzle long enough for the light to go on. Instead I just came here: thanks, @Rex! (For a brief moment I tried to fit MOTOROIL into 1D!)

    @loren muse smith, me too with IgNITE before INCITE plus I had ItIsSo before IDIDSO.

    AHNOLD is so fresh and fun! Wonder what he's up to these days?

    Very clever, Damon, thank you!

    jberg 9:01 AM  

    Yup, I really did put in TANSY first, only because I had STUTTERED already, and I do pay the least attention to garden flowers. But I did think, "Why, that might be PANSY!" the thought that gave me the clue. Until then, like @Evan, I was looking for a rebus where PORT, MORT, etc. went in one square as a whole. That helped me get the two down themes, so I appreciated it.

    My kids read all those Ramona books, but that was too long ago, so thank God for ACELA, which saved me from SErENA at 66A.

    This was tough for me because of all the proper names -- I thought I was stuck in the NE, where the only down I knew was DOYLE, but it finally came to me. A good puzzle, just not a romp.

    Now that I know I'm a USER, I'm off to rehab.

    loren muse smith 9:15 AM  

    Test - Thanks, @Z! I can't type the link in a Word document. I have to do it directly here.

    so cool

    Anonymous 9:22 AM  

    Couldn't finish the puzzle but I did get TANSY.

    Norm 9:22 AM  
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    John V 9:32 AM  

    Okay theme, neat, but got Naticked big time in the SE.

    Nancy 9:40 AM  

    I was just excited to see a Settlers of Catan reference!

    Roy 9:50 AM  

    I found the comic strip "Rhymes with Orange" to be both difficult and topical today.

    Carola 10:00 AM  

    With the grid complete, I vowed to keep looking AT IT until I figured out the theme. Which led to a false aha moment - "Oh, it means the letter in the numbered square (e.g., 7 = P) could also fit!" That worked for the TAOISM/ TOIL and SPATTERED/PHI crosses I had; I had to change the others for STUTTERED/TANSY and RICER/RUST. Never saw the crucial "OR"! Very cool.

    I like how the rhyming/echoing theme pervades the puzzle, with TIGHT, NIGHT; DREI, DYE; the many "OR" sounds; and the STUTTER of ART TATUM and T TOP. Many many pleasures, very fun to solve.

    Milford 10:01 AM  

    I like this kind of tricky theme, so this puzzle was fun for me, and I am feeling proud that I figured out the theme mid-solve with MORT. To be perfectly honest, I paused at 1A, deciding between TAOISM/MAOISM (do either practice FENG shui?)

    Agree that TIGHTWAD, NIGHT OWL, and OSCAR NODS are great entries. Never heard of TANSY before.

    @Danp - I remember AHNOLD years ago on Jay Leno explaining that his surname meant "black plowman" (or plowhorse?) in German.

    @Damon - I love p/crankcall, too bad. But I think @r.alphbunker had a great one with p/wondering!

    @Nancy - also excited to see the Settlers of Catan clue!

    @Susan - maybe a dicer is one of those jars with the blades on a plunger that you bang on to chop onions? Personally, I prefer knives for dicing, it's more therapeutic. I have been known to use the garlic press, though.

    Didn't get a chance to post yesterday, but wanted to chime in that although the HURON River flows by less than a mile from my house in Milford, I thought that was a tough clue for the rest of the non-Michigan world. And CASEY Affleck was on TV last night as the annoying brother in "Good Will Hunting".

    dk 10:06 AM  

    I remember the days when Andrea had the longest post... not no mo!

    Enjoyed the puzzle till I got the theme.

    LOL moment--first penned in tulip followed by peony then PANSY. My southwest looks like a weed bed. Of course mixer did not help either. And, finally tuuies was our term of endearment for a certain barbiturate compound back in the day.

    All in all a fun solve

    ������ (3 pills) Nice one Damon and thanks for stopping by

    Suzanne 10:19 AM  

    Yes, Michael, I put in 'tansy' first. Old hippie who knows her herbs.

    Z 10:47 AM  

    I never got the -OR- part of the puzzle, so solved like a themeless for me, with the long theme clues distracting me. So, essentially, Rex described my solving experience.

    Not getting the theme and not "remembering" my Rhode Island history made the first R in DORR a coin flip between R and O. I was wondering what kind of rebellion might have happened in Wisconsin in 1841. I mean, Walker wasn't governor then, was he? EDEo seemed unlikely, so I got it right.

    Hey computer people, here's a POSER for you. @LMS sent me the text she was using to try to embed a link. Her "error" was that the first quote mark around her URL was a close quote symbol instead of an open quote symbol. Every keyboard I've ever seen uses the same key strike to create both symbols, so how does that happen?

    Merle 10:47 AM  

    Not easy, not medium, not challenging, just odd. Truth, actually -- some of it was easy, I thought it was going to stay easy, then got stuck. The challenging stuff was challenging.

    The theme -- never realized there was a theme, just got the theme answers without realizing there could be another equally valid set of answers. Had toil, Taoism -- okay, I know the word "moil", could have figured out moil -- Maoism, but since toil-Taoism worked, no need to look further. Saw stuttered, knew tansy, so stuttered -- tansy worked. Didn't look further, so didn't think sputtered -- pansy. My response to the theme is "So what, big deal", because one set of answers works, so who would look for alternatives.

    The pop-up drs and eds are strange, and have no coherency. Accident? Edd, Dr Edd, the scattered (see 24A) Eder (45A), and even Drei -- Edd, Dr. Edd, and Eder equals Drei? Or not? Should I say Orr not? Not!

    Ahnold. Arnold Schwartzenegger and Stan Lee planned a superhero comic that never quite actualized -- the Governator -- yep, cross governor with terminator and you get an abomination, and the abominable character was going to be called Ahnold. There are some factoids I wish I never knew -- my fault for Googling Governator. There's a clever bit from a Mark Twain short story, "A Literary Nightmare", in which an abominable rhyme, once heard, stays planted forever in someone's mind, unless it can be passed on to another person -- the abominable curse of the carriage conductor chanting, "Punch, brother, punch with care, punch in the presence of the passenjaire." There! Now I've passed on two bits of trivia that you can only let go of if you infect someone else with it.

    Bit more interesting than the puzzle....

    Steve J 10:58 AM  

    @Z (and, by transference, LMS): LMS mentioned that she was composing her post(s) in MS Word. Word, by default, displays directional (i.e., opening and closing) quotation marks (I believe it's called "smart quotes" in the byzantine preferences screen).

    The logic Word uses is that anytime the " key/stroke is entered with a preceding space, the opening quotation mark is used; anytime it's used with a preceding character (i.e., anything other than a space), a closing quotation mark is used.

    Since there's no space in the href="http://www.whatever.com" portion of the tag, Word gives it the directional mark. And HTML doesn't like directional quotation marks.

    r.alphbunker 11:00 AM  

    @Z
    My guess is that the comment was composed in a word processor with smart quotes turned on. I usually use a "stupid" text editor to avoid the editor interfering with what I am typing.

    BTW, I grew up in Rhode Island and have never heard of DORR until now.

    Anonymous 11:05 AM  

    All of you need to quickly acquaint yourself with Charles Olson's Maximus:

    TANSY buttons, TANSY
    for my city
    TANSY for their noses

    TANSY for them,
    TANSY for Gloucester to take the smell
    of all owners,
    the smell

    TANSY
    for all of us

    [...]

    TANSY from Cressy's
    I rolled in as a boy
    and didn't know it was
    TANSY


    Carola 11:06 AM  

    @Z and @loren - Adding to the comments above about the smart quotes: facing the same problem, I went into Settings on my computer and turned off the smart quotes feature. So in all my documents I had the straight up-and-down kind.

    Here's some technical lore: from Wikipedia.

    Sandy K 11:07 AM  

    It took me a while to see the theme, since I didn't know DORR, and had COmP/median.

    But once I got it at MORT, and said "AH..." ALOUD, the DORR and CORP/MEDIAN went right in. Very clever idea @DJG!

    As others have mentioned, enjoyed clues for OSCAR NODS, TIGHTWAD, NIGHT OWL, SIESTA, and surprised at trendy AHNOLD and TRANKS. But pleasantly.

    I do say Sir EN Holm and had no trouble spelling DREI today!

    Z 11:08 AM  

    So it's not a bug, it's a feature. I'm familiar with the term "Smart Quotes" but that didn't occur to me. I used to copy and paste from a Stickie note, now I just type directly into the comment box, so I never ran into this problem.

    Bob Kerfuffle 11:13 AM  

    To appreciate the following, you would need to share my bad eyesight, my carelessness in reading only half of a clue while preparing my breakfast, and a residuum of yesterday's puzzle, but when (jumping around with only a few entries) I read the second part of clue for 68 A and then looked back at 1 A & 1 D, where I had MOIL etc, I immediately recognized that TOIL would work -- and I thought the answer to 68 A would be EMPTY SPACE! (MT SPACE)

    Acme 11:28 AM  

    @Sandy
    Noticed the bleed over of IAN/EN today and the whole EI/IE spillover from yesterday, along with puzzle being written by just discussed Damon!
    Love when there is a thread from early to late week...it's like a soap you have to keep up with!

    @dk
    Mine are still long, they're just split into three parts ;)
    ( my take, a response to others' comments + whatever else I forgot!)
    Like that others are saying more... It's (usually) interesting, clearer insight into their minds and personalities, and I get less sh*t aimed at me!

    mac 11:45 AM  

    Very easy Thursday with a cute theme, which I recognized and needed at 37D D or R.

    Tansy is not well-know because it has a small flower, nothing showy. More a herb or wildflower. Pretty foliage, though.

    I had to think to figure out what a dicer was, other than a knife. If it's the Blitzhacker @Milford mentioned, you're not going to get very even dice.

    Rob C 11:54 AM  

    Easy Thurs, although I ended with a mistake: meDIAN at 38A. It didn't make sense, but used the principle that it's a word I've seen before. Which left the crosses at COmP (works perfctly as another theme answer!) and ISeO (looked good to me).

    I'll confess to not getting the theme, either the _OR_ part or even the fact that 2 letters worked in those squares. No clue til I came here.

    Seeing the theme now, it's fantastic. Oh well. No joy while solving it, but much appreciation now.

    Notsofast 12:02 PM  

    A Standing Ovation to Mr. Gulczynski. Brilliant!

    jerry k 12:17 PM  

    Fun puzzle. It was a toil and I never heard of moil but I knew it couldn't be mohel. Pretty 'sharp', huh?

    jackj 12:20 PM  

    Today, the point that most hit home for me was that the __OR__ answers, as stalking horses for a clever letter swap, owe their existence to what is perhaps the most lauded crossword of all-time, the BOBDOLE/CLINTON ELECTED puzzle of 1996 that gave ultimate credibility to the dual meaning cluing concept.

    So, Jeremiah Farrell, wherever you are, your apparent one and only effort still looms large in the crossword world.

    Today’s constructor must have TOILed mightily to put the theme pieces together, but for me the highlight of the puzzle was the brilliance of AHNOLD.

    That is truly special!

    Thanks, Damon Gulczynski for a nice effort.

    Two Ponies 12:35 PM  

    Mostly easy except for the same words everyone else was puzzled by.
    I didn't read the long clues until after I was done. Along the way I did notice that dust/rust and ricer/dicer all worked. Then I went back for aha/huh moment.
    At least I learned two new words.
    Well done Damon and thanks for stopping by.

    r.alphbunker 12:52 PM  

    @jackj

    See http://barelybad.com/xwdthemes_110596.htm and search for impesturated for a brief commentary from Farrell about the puzzle.

    r.alphbunker 12:56 PM  

    @jackj

    And according to the book "Thoughts, Studies, Facts and Snark about a 100-year-old Pastime" by T Campbell, Farrell currently edits Word Ways: The Journal of Recreational Linguistics

    Sandy K 1:18 PM  

    Hate to disagree with @Rex but...

    "Knowing the gimmick isn't just useless as a solving aid, it's a distraction."

    I actually was stuck with DO_R, and had COmP as did @Rob C. Finally seeing the gimmick gave me the right answers.

    "You don't need to know it. Just solve the puzzle."

    True, before coming here I would've just put in TOIL, PANSY, etc, never realizing that there were actually 2 possibilities. (@jackj reminded me of the Dole/Clinton puz.)

    And imvho (very) you may have a letter in every box but you haven't 'solved the puzzle' if you did not fulfill the clues at 7A, 68A, 27D, and 37D- that's the beauty of it...

    ps. I'm really scared to disagree with Rex!


    Z 1:27 PM  

    @Sandy K - We won't tell him if you don't.

    I said to my wife, "I filled the grid but I still don't know what's going on." She gave me the "why does it matter" look.

    Rhymes With Orange is on point. I also mentioned yesterday that NFL Live finished their broadcast bragging about making the NY Times crossword. That made me smile. (I could not care less about football, but I find the talking heads shows on ESPN amusing).

    Geezer Ed 1:36 PM  

    What a treat to find this site and read how all these great puzzle solvers approached and finished this one. I couldn't finish because of Dorr/Eder, and I never figured out the theme. I hope the Germans are right when they say, "Ubung macht denb Meister." I'm gonna keep ubung-ing!!! Thanks for all the fascinating - and educational/reassuring - comments!!!

    Acme 1:43 PM  

    Can someone (@Loren?!?) embed the Rhymes with Orange?

    @Rob C
    Same meDIAN mistake at first, but someone here once pointed out that the last two letters of first name and first two letters of last name of IsAO AOki are the same. It helped me remember how to spell his name.

    Bob Kerfuffle 1:53 PM  
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    Bob Kerfuffle 1:55 PM  

    Rhymes With Orange

    Bird 2:07 PM  

    The best part was discovering why I kept changing letters after I thought I had the correct one the first time. Aha! This OR that. The theme helped me finish today (DORR/EDER), but almost didn’t because of 69A – what the hell are TRANKS? (I figured it out thanks to @Steve J).

    I like the theme, but the fill put me off. OPINER & TRANKS are ugly. ODD OR EVEN, NOR, ORR, etc. don’t belong (at least we didn’t have an OREO).

    AHNOLD is great (reminds me of Leno doing his impression) as is STRATEGO.

    Doc John 2:16 PM  

    To answer your last question: yes and yes.

    jazzmanchgo 2:21 PM  

    Weird -- sovled the puzzle itself, more or less, with relative ease (I usually spell "tranks" as "tranqs," though, and I've never heard of "ACELA," among other names) . . . but for the life of me I couldn't figure out what MORT had to do with TAOISM or TOIL, what CORP had to do with DICERS and DUST, etc. ... and even now, arbtrarily using the first and last leters of the words as initials seems somewhat arbitrary, pointless, and silly ("Hey, let's make up a gimmick for gimmick's sake! Who cares if it makes sense?"). . .Also, "Ahnald" was just plain ugly. If we're going to start having trick answers based on foreign (or any other unconventional) accents, then the entire idea of a crossword puzzle as a test of one's actual wordpower is defeated. What's next -- "Our 39th President: CAHTUH"????

    chefbea 2:35 PM  

    Thought this was the worst puzzle ever!!!Didn't get it al all!!! And reading the write-up...still don't understand it.

    R. McGeddon 2:50 PM  

    I second the recommendation to get to know Art Tatum. He was a virtuoso in the class of Horowitz and Rachmaninoff, who were admirers of his.

    jazzmanchgo 2:58 PM  

    Well . . . not to pick nits, but does it really matter that Tatum gets "cred" because a couple of white, classical pianists admired him? As far as I'm concerned, they should have felt honored that HE admired THEM!!!

    Paul 3:08 PM  

    Fun puzzle but Watson's creator is not Doyle, it's Conan Doyle (both great)

    Rob C 3:11 PM  

    @acme - thanks for the tip on AOKI. He shows up in crosswords more than on golf courses

    sanfranman59 4:15 PM  

    Midday report of relative difficulty (see my 8/1/2009 post for an explanation of my method and my 10/15/2012 post for an explanation of a tweak to my method):

    All solvers (median solve time, average for day of week, ratio, percentile, rating)

    Thu 13:39, 16:30, 0.83, 19%, Easy

    Top 100 solvers

    Thu 9:04, 9:27, 0.96, 38%, Easy-Medium

    jackj 5:07 PM  

    r.alphbunker@12:52PM and 12:56PM-

    Thank you for the referral to Professor Farrell’s interview. It’s fascinating and I urge anyone interested to read the whole thing.

    How it came about is clearly indicated and the information that Prof. Farrell had submitted a REAGAN/CARTER puzzle using the same technique to Eugene Maleska in 1980 only to have Maleska reject it because it didn’t include third-party candidate John Anderson was a real cage-rattler.

    As a devoted “wordie”, I also tried to pin down a definition for “impesturated” but it seems it’s a construct of the web site host, since Google only comes back with “HUH?” and Bing responds with “SAY WHAT?”.

    Lewis 5:11 PM  

    @jackj -- exactly my thought, that this puzzle reminded me of that famous election one. You described the connection better than I ever could, and thank you for that!

    r.alphbunker 5:25 PM  

    @jackj
    "impesturated" could be a portmanteau word combining impose, pester and infuriate. :-)

    jackj 5:45 PM  

    r.alphbunker-

    I think you've got it!

    jae 5:48 PM  
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    jae 5:50 PM  

    @Andrea -- Thanks from me too on the AOKI tip. I was previously working with "the first and last names have 3 letters in common" but I still tended to mix up the sequence (isn't dyslexia fun).

    @Paul -- My first thought on reading the clue was IBM.

    RIP Sci Fi author Frederik POHL who occasionally appears in late week puzzles.

    retired_chemist 5:51 PM  

    Better late than never.

    Put TANSY @ 51D, confirmed it with STUTTERED, and never looked back. Checked and rechecked the puzzle when Mr. HG appy Pencil failed to appear in AL. Never got it right. Found 3(!) wrong letters, which were 3 of the theme ones, went back and read the reveals, and realized what was up. By this time I had spent maybe half as much time checking correct answers as solving. So I have no idea what my solve time actually was. I think around 10-11 minutes.

    Not much to say that hasn't been said. Fun Thursday. Thanks, Mr. Gulczynski.

    Unknown 6:23 PM  

    Liked the theme (once I finally got it). I agree that it was on the easier side for a Thursday (in that I was able to do it 95% of the way in one go).

    Rex, why the sculling love? Or not love? Is that meant to represent toil?

    --Crosswording Rower

    Carola 7:11 PM  

    @jae - I read Pohl's obituary and wondered why the name seemed familiar to me!

    Anonymous 7:46 PM  

    @Unknown

    Not sculling love.
    Rex loves OARS=ORs

    Questinia 7:58 PM  

    @ retired chemist. You described to a tee my experience with this one.

    Anonymous 8:51 PM  

    "Moil"?

    Jackie 9:20 PM  

    Any puzzle that inspires Rex to post the video of "Word Up" is A-OK by me.

    Apart from that, I liked this one! Even though I also was struck by the disjunction between how easy the fill seemed and how hard it was to figure out the theme. I did have AHNULD for a while.

    Unknown 9:24 PM  

    @Anonymous: Oh, duh! Oars. Man, I'm slow today...

    Mette 9:36 PM  

    Totally agree with Rex on this. Disappointing Thursday when I was looking forward to a challenge like last week.

    August West 12:00 AM  
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    sanfranman59 2:58 AM  

    This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 8/1/2009 post for an explanation and my 10/15/2012 post for an explanation of a tweak I've made to my method. In a nutshell, the higher the ratio, the higher this week's median solve time is relative to the average for the corresponding day of the week.

    All solvers (this week's median solve time, average for day of week, ratio, percentile, rating)

    Mon 6:06, 6:06, 1.00, 49%, Medium
    Tue 7:37, 8:15, 0.92, 25%, Easy-Medium
    Wed 12:53, 9:44, 1.32, 97%, Challenging
    Thu 13:25, 16:30, 0.81, 18%, Easy

    Top 100 solvers

    Mon 3:44, 3:48, 0.98, 36%, Easy-Medium
    Tue 4:34, 5:01, 0.91, 15%, Easy
    Wed 7:33, 5:36, 1.35, 98%, Challenging
    Thu 8:34, 9:27, 0.91, 30%, Easy-Medium

    Amy 1:51 PM  

    One word...UGH!!!

    Waxy in Montreal 10:07 AM  

    OPINER and ACELA crossing TRANKS? (Blogger spell-check redlining all three words.) IMHO SE corner ruined what was otherwise a fun, albeit easy, Thursday puzzle though I didn't get the dual-letter theme until arriving here.

    And major kudos to Canadian short-story author Alice Munro on winning this year's Nobel Prize for Literature. Our first such winner since Montreal-born Saul Bellow in 1976.

    J.aussiegirl 12:04 PM  

    @Waxy in Montreal 10:07. Moi aussi - s.e. corner was a tough one. Tranks? Never heard of them. Wondered if, in brief, it meant taxi ranks.....

    Thanks, @Steve J 12:17 for the clue.

    DNF because of the uninferable eder/dorr, and needed to come here to understand the theme where answers could be either/or. Still and all, enjoyable and mostly solvable. And love the word " moil", a perfect fit in the poem. Thanks constructor.

    spacecraft 1:14 PM  

    @Merle: A Twain fan, I'd forgotten that mindworm about the train conductor--"A blue trip slip for a four cent trip" and all that. Great stuff.

    I don't quite get @Rex (and others) who say it's an easy solve as a themeless. Okay, but what about the clues for 7a et al? Do we just not read the whole clue? I can't see how you can just solve it straightforward with one set of letters without noticing the point of it. To me it's an immensely clever achievement, worthy of Mark Twain himself. He would've loved it. But there was even mORe than that; I didn't pick up on all the OR variations SCATTERED throughout the grid till I came here.

    Yes, the fill was uneven, but no wonder given the theme density. Too bad there wasn't room for the hero of "The Blind Side," Michael OHER.

    Not-quite-quotidian Dad 1:50 PM  

    whoa whoa whoa... Levar Burton was in Cameo??

    Solving in Seattle 3:19 PM  

    If @Spacecraft isn't going to throw the pink flag for TRANKS, consider it done.

    Who hasn't read Guy de Maupassant's first novel, over and over? I thought the title was "Arcane." Sigh...

    On DREI, raise your hand if you got the theme before coming to this blog. Eins, zwei... No code breaking job at NSA for me.

    Don't know flowers. Didn't know TANSY, even though I had STUTTERED before SPUTTERED.

    COmP before CORP.

    Aren't the Bogota Bears in the NFL Southern Conference? Ole!

    @Waxy, congrats! I'll have to read her, right after I finish the rest of Maupassant's novels.

    Capcha: infornor. A rat in a different country? (Hit the groan button, @Diri.)

    Dirigonzo 3:36 PM  

    I plowed through the grid filling in answers willy-nilly without a clue as to what was going on until MORT Sahl made his appearance at the bottom of the grid - I glanced back at the referenced crossing and sure enough M OR T worked equally well. Armed with this knowledge I DICEd and RICEd my way through the incomplete parts to finish in what must be my personal best time for a Thursday (not that I keep track or care). Yessirree, IDIDSO! Only write-over was ArNOLD/AHNOLD.

    @N-q-q D - Nice to see you back.

    @SiS - Yep.


    DMG 3:44 PM  

    Gave up on trying to figure out the theme/gimmick and just solved the puzzle. That worked except for the SE. Had no idea about the game, but STRATEGy seemed logical. Thus "yesmen" fit for 48D, and I was off to a catastrophe. It didn't help that I knew neither the proper name or the novel. And even if I had gotten TRANKS, I wouldn't t have believed it was a real word. Enough said.

    Ginger 4:22 PM  

    Hand up for not getting the trick until I got here, brain just would not wrap around it. Now I'm kicking myself for my lack of patience.

    TANSY grows wild in the PacNW, and is highly toxic to cattle. Pastures need to be kept clear of it. (I've done it, not fun). Hence, PANSY never entered my mind. Did not understand TRANKS, until @Steve J 12:17, great clue.

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