Sharon's predecessor / SUN 10-13-13 / Sport using xisteras / When doubled hit song of 1965 1989 / Onetime Krypton resident / Worst car of millennium per Car Talk / Voices best-selling new age album / Isle where Macbeth is buried

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Constructor: Jeff Chen

Relative difficulty: Easy


[Once again, newspaper version differs from the online/AcrossLite version. I've cheated here and put the "boulder" in the square where the final "S" is SISYPHUS should go, whereas in the newspaper version, the "boulder" is actually in the square following 43A: MFA (which here is just a black square)]

THEME: SISYPHUS — circled squares spell out his name, with circles also representing path of the boulder being pushed up a hill (with black circle representing the boulder itself). Theme answers contain words related to the myth:

Theme answers:
  • 22A: Movie franchise since 1996 ("MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE")
  • 30A: Setting for "Mork & Mindy" (BOULDER, COLORADO)
  • 15D: Computer programming problem (INFINITE LOOP)
  • 60D: First publisher of Hunter S. Thompson's "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" (ROLLING STONE)
  • 98A: Violation of the first and second laws of thermodynamics (PERPETUAL MOTION)
  • 108A: Underdog's saying ("IT'S AN UPHILL BATTLE")

Word of the Day: ANDREI Sakharov (54D: Peace Nobelist Sakharov) —
Andrei Dmitrievich Sakharov (RussianАндре́й Дми́триевич Са́харов; May 21, 1921 – December 14, 1989) was a Soviet nuclear physicistdissident, and human rights activist.
He became renowned as the designer of the Soviet Union's Third Idea, a codename for Soviet development ofthermonuclear weapons. Sakharov was an advocate of civil liberties and civil reforms in the Soviet Union. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1975. The Sakharov Prize, which is awarded annually by the European Parliament for people and organizations dedicated to human rights and freedoms, is named in his honor. (wikipedia)
• • •

Hurray for reasonable uses of circles. Online versions once again rob us of the puzzle's full effect, but even without the black circle at the top of the line of circles, you get the idea. SISYPHUS, going uphill. I honestly had no idea what was going on until I was finished with the puzzle (under 10 minutes). Then I saw what the circles spelled out and notice how nicely related all the longer answers are. Wondered for a bit how INSOLVENCY and TETE-A-TETES were involved in the theme, then finally decided they weren't. Their length and placement made them look theme-ish, but no. The fill on this one is very clean. Mostly common words and names and phrases, rarely toughly clued. Biggest struggles were around LOTHARIOS (cool, tough clue—38A: Whistle-blowers?) and DIGEST (92D: Brief). I don't quite know how "brief" as a noun = DIGEST as a noun. I'm sure there's some attenuated connection that is minimally defensible. ALGER HISS was another that took many crosses to come into view (76D: Red Scare target). Wanted ALIEN-something, and then ALGERIANS, which makes little-to-no sense, but ... it fit!


INFINITE LOOP was part of a very recent NYT puzzle, so that answer came very easily. I thought [Floral components] might be SCENTS or SPRAYS, but instead it's the flower parts that I honest-to-god didn't know existed until I started doing crosswords: SEPALS. I also didn't know SEPOYS existed until crosswords told me so, but that's a story for another puzzle. Never seen "xisteras" in a puzzle, but now I want to (79A: Sport using xisteras = JAI ALAI). Love the sequential song clues involving Yoko and IKO (64A: When doubled, a hit song of 1965 and 1989).



Weird how easily YUGO came to me (85D: "Worst car of the millennium," per "Car Talk"). That's the kind of thing that is going to be Very hard for young people to get in the very near future, if it isn't hard already. Unless YUGO goes the way of EDSELS and ends up in every other puzzle on the planet. Seems unlikely. Lastly, I'm not sure most "beachgoers" take "pride" in their "BODs" (30D: Beachgoer's pride, informally) I mean, have you been to the beach lately, or ever? I'm sure some are there to show off, but from what I can tell, not most. Not by a longshot.
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

    P.S. The American Values Club Crossword Puzzle is publishing a series of cool collaborations between accomplished constructors and musicians, actors, comedians, etc. This week's puzzle is a collaboration between A/V Club Crossword editor Ben Tausig and Ira Kaplan of the rock group Yo La Tengo. Next week's puzzle teams up Yale BMOC Caleb Madison and home canning enthusiast (and sometime comedian) Patton Oswalt. A/V Club puzzles can be purchased a la carte for a buck a pop, or SUBSCRIBE (the better option). Get yer puzzles here.

    69 comments:

    jae 12:15 AM  

    Easy-medium for me.  Clever/fun Gorskiesque theme.  Liked it!

    Elle54 1:23 AM  

    Great puzzle.
    Could digest=brief be nouns?

    OISK 1:47 AM  

    One objection to a puzzle that I enjoyed. There actually was/is a song called Iko iko?? Never heard of it, and crossed with another rapper, a completely unresolvable Natick. I had Mona J and OKO OKO, which certainly seemed as likely as Mina J . The constant inclusion of rock and rappers, particularly bad this past week, is annoying to me - OK, others like it. But crossing _KO with M_NAJ is just unfair. Could be just about any letter in the alphabet. Bah! Four DNF this week, and all on rap-pop. Still, a nice puzzle, Mr. Chen - these days I should be happy when I miss JUST one square...

    paulsfo 1:48 AM  

    I liked "Sonata starters" and "Dreaded red state". Got SYSYPHUS very early but never made the connection to the theme answers. Doh.

    Anonymous 3:09 AM  

    The only Underdog saying I could remember was "When Polly's in trouble, I am not slow. It's hip hip hip and away I go."

    August West 3:43 AM  

    Hoo boy.

    There's some good stuff here. The clues for LOTHARIOS and CARKEYS and INSOLVENCY and ALGERHISS and NANO all brought a grin. The long themers were fine, if pablum. Liked TETEATETES.

    But I'll address the elephant in the corner. I know, I know, it's Jeff Chen! Everybody's friend. Good guy. Smart. Affable. Rarely disposed to a discouraging word. Gives mightily of his time to enrich and deepen the knowledge of the puzzle solving community. But this puzzle blows, okay? I'll never understand slavish devotion to a seed idea when it becomes apparent that crammingitoninthere it requires wretched fill. And this fill is putrid. Abbreviations. Partials. Acronyms. Abbreviated partial acronyms. SSS girding the southern border. INSTR? Talking-TOS? MWAH? ONEONE(!) Really? I won't even itemize the three-letter garbage. There's too much. There's not some. Oh, we all know some must be endured for the greater good. But there's not some. There's scows full. This puzzle wasn't hard. It wasn't remotely challenging. But wading through this swamp -- fully 50% of which is unadulturated crosswordese detritus -- was not fun. It was a maddening insult to see...this published as the Sunday NYTX.

    To what end? Oooooh! There's SISYPHUS! And look, they put a "boulder" at the top of his "hill!" So clever! Yawn.

    I SPOSE (JHC!) I'll take some blowback from the small cadre of other constructors that ooh and aah and give one another reach arounds at every turn, always finding something "genius" in their brethren's work, or something "not understood" by the simpleton solver with the audacity to call Bravo Sierra on drek. The fraternal slob knobbing gets old.

    I loved Jeff's last NYT offering and praised it right here. But this one has sparked my Irish. Deservedly so. Be more better.

    @OISK: Iko Iko

    mathguy 7:18 AM  

    Twelve very nice clues amply make up for four bad ones (38A, 106A, 91D, 104D). I thought that it was harder than the usual Sunday and more enjoyable. I hope San Fran Man does his statistics on this one.

    loren muse smith 7:58 AM  
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    chefbea 8:01 AM  

    I still have no idea what this puzzle is all about. Sissyphus????? never heard of it Got most of the puzzle but had no idea what the clues have to do with the theme.

    Company coming for dinner - will be cooking all day. Yummm

    loren muse smith 8:03 AM  

    I found this way harder than everyone so far, but I stuck it out and finished. I probably studied SISYPHUS in high school, but I certainly didn't remember. So the cool thing is, just through this puzzle, I relearned the deal with him. Yay!

    @August West – the onomatopoetic WAH/MWAH cross pleased me enormously. I had never seen MWAH written, but it's so spot-on perfect for an air kiss sound! It had me staring off into space and saying MWAH over and over again in an exaggerated manner, leaving my mouth open each time upon completion. Really. And once I saw it, I liked "talking-TOS, too. Also when I finally figured it out, the clue and answer ONE ONE made me smile. So your "garbage" entries were my treats! À chacun son gout, huh.

    And speaking of French, that southwest was really international – TETE A TETES, ETE, LUI, OSAKA, YUGO, BALI. . .

    "Reptilian" has the same number of letters as HEARTLESS. "Underway" fits for ON THE WAY. Malapop with TAN for BOD first. I agree with Rex that for many, MWAH included, BOD is not my pride at the beach but rather my dismay.

    Shout-out to @M & A with his beloved DIGRESS.

    Someone has to whine again about the pesky MIRA Sorvino/ Mena Suvari problem. I'll take one for the team.

    I'm a huge dog lover, but an AKITA always makes me vaguely NERVous and I try mightily not to be lest he smell my unease and get mean when he actually wouldn't have been mean at all, and, yes, AKITAs are all male in the same way that Maltese are all female.

    Mini auto theme with TIN CANS, EDSELS, YUGO, CAR KEYS, VANS, and RPM.

    For forever, my southern half was barely done. When slowly but surely PERPETUAL MOTION and IT'S AN UPHILL BATTLE appeared, I was really, really pleased with myself. ALGER HISS was the last to fall for all the same reasons Rex cited.

    Jeff – this is a BEAUT of a puzzle, and one I will remember for a long time. I thought that the grid wasn't completely symmetrical, but I guess if the square after MFA is the stone, then it is?

    I'm going to go practice MWAH in the mirror now.

    MetaRex 8:15 AM  

    Lots and lotsa 3x3 boxes here...little boulders for Sisyphus?!?

    Maybe ya could have a double reveal w/ THE MYTH OF SISYPHUS and the uphill black squares climb.

    Thx to August West for bringing the grump...one reason why a lot of us hang out in RexLand...

    Thx v. much to Jeff C. for having a distinctive vision of combining words and shapes in puzzes...it doesn't always work ideally in a particular puzz, but it's a v. cool vision.




    Anonymous 8:16 AM  

    Rex: Isn't your boulder supposed to be to the right of MFA (43 across) instead of atop the final S of Sisyphus?

    stanzi 9:03 AM  

    MWAH At the time of her TV show (1960s?), was Dinah Shore's sign-off as she blew a big kiss to the audience. Those were network-only days on TV, and "all" America knew it.

    Brief = Digest as a VERB (Lawyers use brief as both a verb and a noun, so I guess...Maybe it will pass into the vernacular as has "to reference." (ugh!)
    Flower parts (petals, sepals, etc.) were in Junior High School Biology, but it was a girls' school, so maybe the teachers thought pretty flowers would go down well.

    Z 9:42 AM  

    SISYPHUS

    Anybody who can link Mork and Mindy to SISYPHUS gets a thumbs up from me. This is pure "Rings of Saturn" genius (Rings of Saturn" is the stoner exercise of trying to reconstruct the last 97 seconds of conversation in order to understand how one got from, say, Mork and Mindy to SISYPHUS).

    YANNI crossing Yoko ONO playing on an INFINITE LOOP in an elevator is one definition of hell.

    ONE ONE or ONE TEN - discuss.

    @August West - While I don't necessarily disagree with your point about the short fill, I think the theme is worth it. Movie franchise, computer lingo, music mag, science, Mork and Mindy, and all tied together by Greek myth. Worth it as far as I'm concerned.

    @LMS - my Shiba Inu is very much like an AKITA in miniature. He is great with people, but he has a murderous heart where small furry animals are concerned.

    Finally - one random observation
    CARKEYS look like Irish islands to me, maybe where MARY ANN retired.

    Bunella 9:51 AM  

    Would have been an easy Meta if the answer was not in the circles.

    Anonymous 10:01 AM  

    Hi @rexparker. Think "Reader's Digest" when understanding "brief" as a clue for "digest" I was annoyed by the 2 doozy clues and answers. Also had Sadat and Begin for 29D until I got Barak.

    jberg 10:19 AM  

    ALGA again -- hated that, but liked it otherwise. I hesitated for a long time between MWAH/MFA and bWAH/bFA. Either degree is correct, but I guess MWAH is a bit more kiss like, so that's OK.

    87A psyched me out -- I thought "Apple -- that always means the company in puzzles, but he's trying to trick us" and confidently wrote in gAla. Too smart for my own good. Same thing for Sonata, except that I couldn't thinkk of a wrong answer.

    I can see the criticism of all the abbreviations, etc. -- thought there's a lot of clever cluing even with them -- but the theme and the visual element made it worth it, for me. 7A was brilliant.

    'Give me a brief of this report'
    'Give me a DIGEST of ...'
    Works for me.

    But - DODO BIRD? First, it's extinct, not obsolescent; and second, nobody says BIRD, it's just DODO. But then we had PANTY raids to make up for it!

    joho 10:22 AM  

    I wish I'd seen the note about making the square after 43A a circle instead of a square. But, even so, that didn't dampen my admiration for SISYPHUS in the middle of the grid pushing his boulder up hill. Brilliant, Jeff!

    The only theme answer that seemed kind of off to me was BOULDERCOLORADO. Unlike ROLLINGSTONE which completely relates to SISYPHUS' struggle, COLORADO does not.

    This is the first time ever I went straight to the middle to get the circled squares and it actually made my solve more fun as I saw how the other theme answers related. Fun!

    I loved the dog mentions in the puzzle at AKITA and LASSIE and by @loren muse smith with your comment on AKITAS all being male and Maltese all female, too funny! And @Z, my first dog ever was a white Spitz and I see on Google that your dog, a breed I've never heard of, resembles him a lot!

    All in all, I really liked this one as it kept my interest from beginning to end, and thankfully, did not make me feel like SISYPHUS as some puzzles do!

    retired_chemist 10:33 AM  

    Easy medium, and pretty good re the fill (ONE ONE being an exception). I tend more toward @Rex's view than @August West's.

    I didn't see any relation of long answers to Sisyphus. Per the note on the NYT puzzle page there was no boulder in AL, to lead me into it, but it probably wouldn't have helped. I had to wait until I saw @Rex's explanation.

    Wanted I dO! I dO! (which is a musical but maybe not a song) for 64A until AKITA made teh K clear. IKO IKO was a WTF. I know, there is a reference above, and maybe sometime I will look it up. or not...

    Thanks, Mr. Chen.

    Gareth Bain 10:38 AM  

    Was someone asking about Karen Tracy recently? She has today's WaPo FWIW...

    Sandy K 10:40 AM  

    Altho some of the fill were groaners, the final picture was so worth it.

    The image of the climbing SISYPHUS with the BOULDER on top, and the theme answers were so clever that it made me like MWAH and forgive ONO and YANNI...

    Loved some of the long, non-theme answers esp. TETE A TETES between ALGER HISS and CLEOPATRA, I DARE YOU, HEARTLESS LOTHARIOS...

    I had some write-overs like TAN before BOD, and my SOLVE-NCY was AN UPHILL BATTLE, but it was not SISYPHean. Enjoyed it a lot!



    DavidS 10:50 AM  

    I was a bit underwhelmed by the theme and easiness when solving last night.

    However, the print version in the magazine, which I got this morning, is particularly elegant, and maybe makes up for the initial blah.

    If it hasn't been described up to now, the black circle (a square as indicated in the text notes for the puzzle) is exactly the same size/ shape as the empty circles.

    I can see enjoying this solve a lot more if doing the print version, wondering what that black circle might indicate!

    Though thinking on it, still underwhelmed. Would have liked a more explicit connection described in the cluing as to the "theme."

    jburgs 11:03 AM  

    This was a challenge for me but got through. Did not know who SISYPHUS was so did not see the connection to the long answers. I have heard the term Sissy Puss so googled to see if there was a connection there. Eww!! Nope!! Yesterday's comments had enuf on that.

    Hardest was at the bottom two long answers. thought thermodynamics had to do with temperature so when had the MOTION part, I figured I must be wrong.

    I enjoyed this solve with plenty of Ahas. Enjoyed some of the devilish cluing.

    Just this moment realized that I have a DNF. Put in ReSINS at 1a.

    Norm 11:12 AM  

    What DavidS said ... I'm underwhelmed. And, that IKO/MINAJ cross? Not tyo mention what has to be the most obscure clue for AKITA imaginable. Yuck. Can't join the praise train on this one.

    Anonymous 11:29 AM  

    Shouldn't "lab" in 7 across be capitalized?

    Anonymous 11:32 AM  

    A digest and a brief are both summaries of longer works - as in "Reader's Digest" and "legal brief."

    I found the puzzle pretty easy - but I still don't get ONER for "doozy."

    Is this crosswordeze I am unfamiliar with? Is it a regionalism?

    Is it pronounced 1-er? Honor?

    Gill I. P. 11:32 AM  

    I got SISYPHUS pretty early on since that central part was the easiest for me. I used to read a lot of Greek mythology and although I recognized his name, I couldn't remember what he was known for...
    MISSION IMPOSSIBLE nor BOULDER COLORADO helped but by golly ROLLING STONE did...light bulb moment.
    Although I won't complain as vehemently as Mr. West, I too did not like what seemed like an agonizing amount of 3 letter entries.
    YANNI makes me car sick; I had Boner for Doozy and forgot all about the YUGO. So a DNF in an otherwise impressive Sunday puzzle.

    Michael Collins 11:53 AM  

    Totally ruined by ONER. Can't this non-word by stopped?!?

    Anonymous 11:59 AM  

    Rex - you did the puzzle in under 10 minutes. I don't doubt that you are that adept, but seriously question being physically able to go through the logistics of all those squares in so short a time. Did you exaggerate just a little?

    Z 11:59 AM  

    Apparently, ONER is as American as TÊTE-À-TÊTE.

    Anonymous 12:02 PM  

    Iko iko, iko iko unday
    Jockomo feeno ah na nay
    Jockomo feena nay

    (Fabulous Mardi Gras song... many wonderful versions out there!)

    ArtO 12:15 PM  

    @anonymousl 11:32, ONER as in one of a kind, unique. Pronounced 1er.

    Bob Kerfuffle 12:15 PM  

    Fine puzzle, especially for a Sunday when I couldn't spend much time on it anyway.

    My meta understanding of it was that it relates to crosswords: Every day we fill out the grid, and the next day there it is, empty again.

    If I had to have one slight nit, it would be that the boulder or stone had no rebus properties in its one appearance (in print.)E.g., could have been re-worked so 43 A was RED(STONE) and 24 D HARD(ROCK) or some such. (I know that's asking a lot!)

    CBCD 12:20 PM  

    Grateful Dead fans are familiar with Iko Iko.

    I am amused by the definition of Alger Hiss as being a target of the Red Scare. It would be equally correct to clue him as 'Agent for the Russians finally proven to be a spy when the Russians unlocked their archives after the Cold War ended.' But that's just me.

    Masked and UnonymoUs 12:58 PM  

    Another great puz from my fave constructor. thUmbsUp, JC. Impressive feat. Speakin of which...

    Was out in the country, at the Skydiving place, yesterday. Watched an old friend check a big item off her bucket list, by parachuting out of a plane (with an assistant) from about 10K feet. U are a braver soul than I, Gunga Din. She is 89 years young. And she did it. And walked away intact, sayin she wanted to do it again. Yep. People will amaze yah, sometimes. Kinda refreshin, really.

    Most of m&y bucket list items involve cinnamon rolls and U-counts, sadly. Now, that's a pile of boulders that I can get behind. But I digest. (Hi back, @muse)

    M&A

    M and A also 1:09 PM  

    p.s.
    Props to @Gareth, for callin attention to the Karen M. Tracey puz.

    Only thing -- that there puz has a "Northern lapwing" in it. snort.

    Steve J 2:01 PM  

    Mixed feelings about this puzzle, which is fitting since it played like two different puzzles to me. Everything on the uphill side of SISYPHUS came together quickly for me, but everything under the hill was a slog.

    The theme is clever and well-executed. The theme entries are all solid and clued well. And, yes, one of the rare good uses of circles (I especially like that they weren't specifically called out and left to the solver to discover).

    Outside the theme, however, there's a lot of junk that's unusual for Jeff Chen puzzles. @August West outlined several of the issues. Lots of alphabet soup with an overabundance of abbreviations, false plurals (I can't recall ever seeing tête-à-tête pluralized in regular use, and the huge variance in Google results between the singular and plural would seem to back that up), bad crosswordese (ONER) and stuff that's frankly made up (SPOSE). ONE ONE is precariously close to the horrid ONE TEN from a couple months ago.

    Cluing was also clunky in spots (91D, 106A, 104D). I did love the clues for LOTHARIOS and EDSELS (the latter was particularly devious, as I kept trying to think of period clothing and slangy terms for such).

    Most Sundays are a mixed bag, though, so credit to Jeff Chen for a nice theme. That's certainly better than what often happens on Sundays, where the puzzle's clunky, and the theme is as well.

    Carola 2:12 PM  

    I thought this one was inspired. I loved the image of SISYPHUS pushing the boulder up the mountainside and the supporting cast of theme answers. It happened that from MISSION IMPOSSIBLE I snaked my way down through the center, so had all the circles filled without noticing the name coming into view. But after that aha, it was fun to try to figure out the rest of the theme answers from as few crosses as possible. Loved IT"S AN UPHILL BATTLE as the closer. And I finished a Jeff Chen puzzle! Never easy for me - always find the cluing tough.

    Questinia 2:13 PM  

    Easy top and medium bottom created a gradient of difficulty from S=>N. Much as Sisyphus might have experienced as he rolled the stone up his hill.
    He'd say:

    "Ugh, this again"..(lift's up rock... rolls it up the slope ... makes it to the top) "Yay, I did it!" (rock rolls down) ... "Ugh, this again".. (lift's up rock... rolls it up the slope ... makes it to the top) "Yay, I did it!" (rock rolls down) ..."Ugh, this again".. (lift's up rock... rolls it up the slope ... makes it to the top) "Yay, I did it!" (rock rolls down) ..."Ugh, this again".. (lift's up rock... rolls it up the slope ... makes it to the top) "Yay, I did it!" (rock rolls down) ...

    X INFINITE LOOP. Sisyphus betrays the 1st and 2nd Laws of Thermodynamics.

    Fortunately, as humans, we have just a little potential energy stuffed into our liquid envelopes of negentropy.






    MissPriss58 2:16 PM  

    If anyone can explain the abbreviations ATL for NATO member, SSS for draft org, and MSS for much mail to mags, I'd appreciate it. Thanks Mrs. Fenn, for teaching me French!

    M and A Help Desk 2:29 PM  

    Hey, @MissPriss58...
    NATO=North Atl(antic) Treaty Organization.
    SSS=Selective Service System. They used to draft dudes into the army and such. And played the org(an) to creep everyone out.
    MSS=ManuScriptS. Like submitted crossword puzs, etc.

    M&A

    MissPriss58 2:45 PM  

    M&A--Many thanks for the SSS expl. and MMS abbrev. breakdown--never knew either! Atlantic, duh! Was thinking of a country and couldn't break free of that rut. Thank heavens for the crosses (I have been known to read chick lit and listen to Nicki Minaj, but not at the same time.) MP ;)

    quilter1 3:39 PM  

    I liked this alot. I filled in most of the middle first and SISYPHUS appeared and informed me of the other theme answers. I only choked a bit on INFINITELOOP, which, although I know what that is, just didn't spring to mind right away. Good job, Jeff.

    GAR 4:03 PM  

    Hi. This is my first post here. I'm relatively new to solving the NYT (or any) crossword puzzles on a regular basis, having started 2-3 months ago. I can usually finish Mondays through Thursdays and Sundays without having to look anything up, but more often than not, still need to use Google to get one or more answers to finish Friday and Saturday puzzles. My times are relatively slow compared to most I see here, but I am not too hung up on speed at this point.

    Regarding today's puzzle, I didn't get the theme at all because I didn't know what or who Sisyphus was until I saw the write-up and comments here - and then a bell rang. The only problem I had with the fill was I thought the cross at 61 across/43 down was a crap shoot between WAH/MWAH and WAA/MWAA. Unfortunately, I crapped out.

    chefbea 4:23 PM  

    @Gar welcome. Hope you join in regularly

    John V 4:55 PM  

    Got the theme laughed out loud at 108A. Fun stuff, with lots of Jeff's interesting, signature, long downs, e.g. ROLLINGSTONE, INFINITELOOP, etc. Got snagged at the KALEL/MANACLE area, but otherwise okay. Played more medium to me.

    Since we've got some start on computer-cluing, I once asked a DBA co-worker if she felt like Sisyphus and used this animated GIF:
    Sisyphus

    Anonymous 5:54 PM  

    I am sure that "digest" here is a noun as in "Reader's Digest."

    Ray J 6:16 PM  

    ONE/ONE is much better than ONE:TEN IMHO. January 1 is a precise date for New Year’s Day while 1:10 is just a random time.

    Spelled GReY wrong and never looked at the down. Aargh!

    Much thanks to @Gareth for the Karen Tracey tip. Headin’ over there right now.

    sanfranman59 6:21 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 6:06, 6:07, 1.00, 47%, Medium
    Tue 8:15, 8:15, 1.00, 51%, Medium
    Wed 14:00, 9:44, 1.44, 98%, Challenging (4th highest ratio of 197 Wednesdays)
    Thu 21:18, 16:44, 1.27, 86%, Challenging
    Fri 24:10, 17:47, 1.36, 96%, Challenging (8th highest ratio of 198 Fridays)
    Sat no data
    Sun 29:43, 27:42, 1.07, 70%, Medium-Challenging

    Top 100 solvers

    Mon 3:44, 3:50, 0.97, 32%, Easy-Medium
    Tue 4:49, 5:10, 0.93, 23%, Easy-Medium
    Wed 7:23, 5:37, 1.31, 97%, Challenging (7th highest ratio of 197 Wednesdays)
    Thu 12:48, 9:30, 1.35, 86%, Challenging
    Fri 14:02, 10:07, 1.39, 94%, Challenging
    Sat no data
    Sun 20:49, 19:20, 1.08, 68%, Medium-Challenging

    Z 6:55 PM  

    @GAR - Welcome, although there is something a little crossfishy about your nom de blog. I'm just glad (for your sake) that you didn't choose EEL XIX.

    jazzmanchgo 7:10 PM  

    "Iko, Iko, Iko Iko an-day
    Jockamo feen-no an-dan-day
    Jockomo fee-na nay . . ."

    Based on an old Mardi Gras Indian chant, first recorded by Sugarboy Crawford in 1954 (on Chess) as "Jock-A-Mo" --the Dixie Cups had the hit in 1965. The best-known version these days is probably the one by Mac "Dr. John" Rebennack, although the Grateful Dead got some pretty decent mileage out of theirs, as well. The lyrics, by the way, are couched in the heavily coded traditional Mardi Gras Indian patois, a mélange of French Creole, Spanish, Native American, and [possibly] African words/syllables that dates back at least as far as the 1800s. Linguists, folklorists, and a lot of other folks have spent much time trying to decipher exactly what they mean.

    BlogSpotRemover (!) or (?) 7:21 PM  

    I would very much like to respectfully disagree with the superhero solver who runs this site. NOT EASY. NOT EVEN CLOSE TO EASY. LIVES IN A DIFFERENT COUNTRY THAN EASY. This was BY FAR the hardest Sunday puzzle iI've done in the last few years. Really challenging. and, NOT EASY

    Anonymous 7:34 PM  

    @jazzmanchgo: In some interview (can't recall where I read it), Crawford said he just made the words up -- they have no meaning whatsoever!

    Milford 8:43 PM  

    Something happened with my Magmic app on Friday when I tried to start the puzzle, and I only was able to fix it by losing all my xword history. Drat!

    But I was finally able to do this Sunday. Fairly easy here. Got SISYPHUS very early, I am familiar with the myth.

    @GAR - welcome!

    @Ray J - some kind soul on this blog taught me that Americans say grAy (A for A) and the English say grEy (E for E). It definitely helps in crosswords!

    GAR 10:12 PM  

    @ chefbea, Z (sorry about the fishy thing - just an unintended consequnce of my intials) and Milford. Thanks for the welcomes. I've been lurking here for about as long as I've been regularly attempting the NYT puzzle (about 2-3 months)and have found Rex's write-ups,the comments and the community here to be very helpful, informative and entertaining. I don't know how much I'll contribute - I am a little intimadated and tend to be very private. When I said this is my first post here, I should have added that this is my first post on any blog anywhere. Thanks again.

    ahimsa 11:26 PM  

    Late comment so I'll just say I loved the puzzle, kudos again to Jeff Chen!

    Not only do I know the myth (and Tantalus, and others) but it also makes me remember reading The Myth of Sisyphus by Camus (in translation, I don't speak any French) back when I was in college.

    As for Underdog, I'm glad I'm not the only one (Anon 3:09) who thought of the cartoon character! But the saying that I thought of was, "Not bird, or plane, or even frog, it's just little ol' me, Underdog." (from memory so it might be a bit off)

    rain forest 1:33 AM  

    If you are going to finish a puzzle like this in under 10 minutes, then of course you aren't going to notice SISYPHUS pushing that boulder up the hill for eternity, and BOULDER, ROLLING STONE, MISSION IMPOSSIBLE, INFINITE LOOP, etc. will mean nothing. To me though, they all add up to a terrific puzzle. Forget the plethora of three-letter entiries (and a total guess on IKO/MINAJ, for me), this was much fun.

    A certain poster riles me with his every comment, but I guess that's what turns his crank. Plus, I have the option of not reading his commentary. There's that.

    Pei-Chi 1:52 AM  

    I have a question about 91D. Why does "lick" lead to "tan"?

    English is not my first language. I looked up the definitions of both words but still can't find the correlation. Unless applying tanning resembles licking...


    thanks,

    paulsfo 2:19 AM  

    @Pei-Chi: "Giving someone a licking" or "tanning someone's hide" are both (old) ways of referring to spanking/whipping someone or beating them up.

    spacecraft 12:13 PM  

    Well, a double-Chen-ner--and after yesterday's DNF debacle, today's romp was RXS. I disagree with @August West's diatribe; of course in a 21x21 themed, you're going to find your CAS and your INS and ONS; after all there are 39 three-letter entries. But what a brilliant--AND dense--theme! If it were me, maybe I'd eschew the circles and see how many noticed our tragic hero in the center.

    Speaking of hero, I don't know that I'd call CLEOPATRA a "heroine." Just because you're a lead female character in a story... You wouldn't call the Wicked Witch of the West a "heroine," would you? The NE had some more disturbing items, too. "Whistle blowers?" for LOTHARIOS? That's just plain HEARTLESS. Are you saying that these guys stand around on street corners with ref's whistles at the ready, and blow 'em like a traffic cop when a "Pretty Woman" walks by? Then there's NEARTO? Nah. Close to, or near. NOT near to. DODOBIRD? Green paint. It's (or was) a dodo, a KIND of bird. Individually, these might pass, but collectively--and all in one area, they get the flag.

    Still, overall, the solve was both easy and enjoyable, with some great non-theme long fill. IDAREYOU to do as well.

    @GAR: welcome, and your position on not worrying about time "for the moment" is well taken. My advice: remove the phrase in quotes and make that attitude permanent. You'll be a lot happier.

    The Big, Bad, ... well, you know 12:23 PM  

    @spacecraft - You have heard of a "Wolf whistle", no?

    BedfordBob 2:29 PM  

    Never heard of SISYPHUS so had no clue about the theme til I read the blog. That made this puzzle a lot less fun for me.

    I agree with @sanfranman59 Medium Challenging.

    Struggled with the SW but finally prevailed.

    The last to fall was CARKEYS. It was my "AHA" moment.

    @jburg Thermodynamics is the study of energy processes such as the Otto cycle which makes most passenger cars engines work. All real processes have losses such as friction or waste heat. Therefore no such thing as perpetual motion.

    Dirigonzo 5:20 PM  

    No puzzle for me today as my local paper reprinted last week's puzzle instead of today's. Interestingly, when I clicked the "syndicated puzzle" button to come here it also took me to last week's grid. I suspect a conspiracy is afoot.

    spacecraft 5:44 PM  

    @Big bad...: The clue said whistle BLOWERS, not whistlers. When you BLOW A whistle, there's an object attached to your mouth, such as a referee's whistle. If you make a whistling sound without a prop, you're just "whistling," not "blowing a whistle."

    Anonymous The Big, Bad, ... well, you know 8:13 PM  

    And how do you blow a kiss? ;)

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    R. Craigen 11:41 PM  

    I second CBCD's comment about Alger Hiss. Shouldn't "red scare" targets be those MISTAKENLY accused of being soviet agents? Hiss was the real deal. Actually the whole business of the red scare is itself a scare, used today to try to silence certain voices. McCarthy was notoriously wrong in a number of cases, and in some ways went too far. But he was a blind man trying to figure out this elephant he could feel, but couldn't encompass in his grasp. Today we know that he actually didn't go far enough. He named some 150 as soviet agents in U.S. government circles. Many of these were simply wrong. But nowadays we know that he shot too low -- the current number of known agents during that period -- including some in the president's inner circle -- is about 500.

    Bob K's suggestion that the stone could have merged better with the puzzle with something like RED STONE for 43A caught my eye -- because in the Winnipeg Free Press the dot appears COLOURED RED. I see no justification for that, and am visiting this site looking for insight. That page of the WFP, by the way, is not traditionally coloured, so this too special effort on their part. Any thoughts?

    Bob Kerfuffle 6:32 AM  

    At xwordinfo.com it says, "Notepad: In the print version of this puzzle, the square after 43-Across is a black circle rather than a black square."

    So I would guess that the red dot in the WFP was a flourish on the part of someone at the paper, or maybe refers to your first paragraph: there are still some hidden reds among us! :>) Or maybe it was just a stray drop of red ink?

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