Rapper with 2013 #1 album Born Sinner / SUN 11-3-13 / Politico Kefauver / Jet Ski competitor / Greek goddess of witchcraft / Fourth-longest river of Europe / Legendary Scottish swimmer / French colony until 1953

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Constructor: Andy Kravis and Victor Barocas

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging



THEME: "Stolen Produce" — half the theme answers are two-word phrases where first word is a FRUIT and the second word is a synonym for "FLIES" (i.e. "departs"). Other half of the theme answers are paired with the fruit answers; they are represented in the grid without the letters of the FRUIT in question (because the FRUIT has "flown"):

GRAPE LEAVES => letters in "GRAPE" (i.e. G, R, A, P, and E) "leave" from the phrase GERMAN SHEPHERDS (23A: Many service dogs, after 29-Across?), leaving you with EMNSHEHRDS

Theme answers:
  • GRAPE LEAVES GERMAN SHEPHERDS, thus EMNSHEHRDS
  • DATE BOOKS from COMPOUND FRACTURE, thus COMPOUNFRCUR
  • LEMON DROPS from LOCH NESS MONSTER, thus OCHNSSSTER
  • BANANA SPLITS from BARNUM AND BAILEY, thus RUMDBILEY
  • FRUIT FLIES from OXFORD UNIVERSITY, thus OXODNVERSIY

Word of the Day: "TO HELEN" (6D: Poe poem) —

To Helen

BY EDGAR ALLAN POE
Helen, thy beauty is to me
   Like those Nicéan barks of yore,
That gently, o'er a perfumed sea,
   The weary, way-worn wanderer bore
   To his own native shore.

On desperate seas long wont to roam,
   Thy hyacinth hair, thy classic face,
Thy Naiad airs have brought me home
   To the glory that was Greece,      
   And the grandeur that was Rome.

Lo! in yon brilliant window-niche
   How statue-like I see thee stand,
The agate lamp within thy hand!
   Ah, Psyche, from the regions which
   Are Holy-Land!
• • •

Hard to express how much I dislike this theme, and themes like it. I deeply resent having to write nonsense into my grid. And haphazard nonsense at that. EMNSHEHRDS? OCHNSSSTER? Ugh. Just painful to have to go back and forth and check the letters that have "flown." I have no doubt that the theme is complex and difficult to execute etc., but as a solving experience it was deeply unsatisfactory. The nonsense words added a layer of difficulty, one which would normally be welcome on a Sunday. But no. Not in this form. No thanks. I'll take my difficulty some other way. Tough/clever clues, maybe. Innovative/ unexpected fill, sure. But OXODNVERSIY? No.

To this puzzle's credit, it is (mostly) very cleanly filled. It's not eye-popping, but neither is it clunky or painful, really. You've got a smattering of crosswordese, but not so's you'd notice or care much. It's pretty spread out and not terribly grating. ANDA and IACT (!) aren't great, but a couple of partials in a Sunday—not a real problem. I like HEKATE in her Greek clothing (I'm much more used to the HECATE spelling, probably because I'm much more used to reading Latin and not Greek). There are a few things that slowed me down. First, J. COLE—I know of him, actually, but the title of the album didn't ring a bell at all (31A: Rapper with the 2013 #1 album "Born Sinner"). Then there was FTC (short for Federal Trade Commission—you might've known that, but I just guessed it, then looked it up to make sure) (108D: Org. "protecting America's consumers"). That is not an entity I know a lot about. I had Santa CLARA before Santa CLAUS, and couldn't decide if it was OCHER or OCHRE at first—and that was right in the middle of one of them there nonsense theme answers, so that wasn't fun. Never ever heard of "TO HELEN," nor of OONA Chaplin, whose maternal grandmother (it turns out) is the more crossword-famous OONA O'Neil. [Politico Kefauver] looked esoteric to me, but right when I was about to harrumph and move on, his name came to me clear as day (ESTES). He was a big deal in the mid-20th century—led a committee investigating organized crime. Also ran unsuccessfully on ticket with AES against DDE in '56.


So, somewhat harder than normal because of the gibberish, but otherwise, pretty normal in terms of difficulty. I can definitely appreciate the intricacy of the construction, but this just wasn't my thing—which is weird, as I have often solved and liked Andy's puzzles. This is his NYT debut, but you should know he has his own puzzle site, here. Worth checking out.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

107 comments:

Bob Kerfuffle 7:09 AM  

Brilliant puzzle, lots of fun!

Most difficult entry was 6 D, TO HELEN (my sister's name, but didn't know the poem -- but with the lines "the grandeur that was Greece, the glory that was Rome", suppose I should have.) Until I figured out the gimmick, had TO PETER, but easily corrected.

Carola 7:13 AM  

I have to differ with @Rex on the theme: this one really appealed to me - found it very witty and creative. After getting the idea with GRAPE LEAVES, I enjoyed working back and forth between the absconding FRUITs and the truncated answers. Fun!

Looking at the grid after I finished, I marveled at the construction feat: five common noun phrases in which the first is a FRUIT and second word also functions as a verb meaning "to depart"; five other noun common noun phrases from which the corresponding FRUIT letters appear (and then disappear) in order. And all 10 have to fit the demands of grid symmetry. For me, this would be a day for "agape."

Off topic, but perhaps one reason the theme appealed to me was that the initial theme answer I got, GRAPE LEAVES, reminded me fondly of an early small triumph when I was first trying to solve Puns & Anagrams. The clue was "But you and 24 others stay?" Tea LEAVES!

@Rex - Thank you for posting "To HELEN," which I had entirely forgotten. Like @Bob Kerfuffle above, I knew the lines "The glory...." but could not have told you where they were from.

George Barany 7:17 AM  

I liked it a lot, and hope that my appreciation is not colored by the fact that Victor Barocas is a friend and colleague. Elegant theme, clean fill, clever clues. Even the TV and rap stars could be inferred. It was fun to see that OONA has skipped a generation (I knew the original, the daughter of Eugene O'Neill and the last wife of Charlie Chaplin). And if you're going to put ENRON into your grid, what a clever way to call attention to their malfeasance. @Rex is not the first to complain about seeming jibberish in the fill as a result of following the constructor's concept. OK, so maybe it slows one down if speed solving, but it adds to the satisfaction after figuring it out. In my case, it made me think of a line sometimes attributed to Groucho Marx: "Time flies like an arrow, but fruit flies like a banana."

Susan McConnell 7:28 AM  

I completely agree with @Carola's first two paragraphs. I thought this was great fun and was so, so hoping Rex would like it too. I'm surprised by his comments re: OONA - it seems like we see it pretty regularly, but maybe I'm wrong. Anyway, I loved this!

chefbea 7:37 AM  

Started the puzzle last night. Got the theme right away but didn't have enough paper to figure out all the answers…finished it this morning. Did not like the puzzle…too confusing

What is 87 across??swelled head?=ess

George Barany 7:41 AM  

@chefbea -- that's a common crossword cluing trick. The first letter (i.e., "head") of the word "swelled" is an "S" = ESS.

loren muse smith 7:46 AM  
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loren muse smith 7:49 AM  

I'm with @Bob K, @Carola, Susan M, @George. . .I was so pleased/stunned/impressed when I finally saw the trick with the circus brothers' gimme. And I guessed that some people wouldn't like this conceit too much. Maybe the part of me that likes the clue/answer to "swelled head?" will get a kick out of this? (Morning, @chefbea!)

Like @Carola said - to have it so tight: all fruit and symmetrical (10/11, 12/9, 10/10, 9/12, 11/10). . .wow. I thoroughly enjoyed solving this one and was fascinated with just how each fruit letter was missing *in order* (though I guess since the results are gobbledygook the in order part is not impressive. But I was impressed anyway.) And knowing the trick helped me with the fill, but I don't have Rex' memory to explain how. But it did.

I like how some Pig Latin has insinuated itself into our slang – IXNAYS and amscray are unfay. Once I was subbing and had a boy with the Indian name Akshay. I asked him, "Akshay, how would you say 'shock' in pig latin?" After a minute he smiled.

Biggest goofs – ONE "fifth" of Glenfiddich (but I guess it's a fifth of liquor) and "boas" before BRAS. Hey – I went to sleep last night making a mental wish list as I paged through a Talbot's catalogue. I don't speak Fredrick's of Hollywood. (Funny note – my very hip 18-year old daughter (read requisite leggings and various boots every. single. day.) recently tried on two of my skirts. Later I told her, "Sage. You have crossed the line. You actually tried on something of mine. Before you know it, you'll be listening only to NPR, shopping only at Talbot's, wearing only Rockport shoes, and doing the NYT crossword every day." And she'll know that that last comma of above series is called an OXOD comma. ;-) She rolled her eyes and said, "No way."

SLURP – when I was in JAPAN, the family I was living with commented on how quietly I ate my soba. I asked if it was rude not to SLURP. They responded, "Soo desu, ne. . ." Literally, "Well. . ." but actually, "SLURP your god&^%$ noodles."

Too many woes to name. SPRIT was one, but I bet @Tita was all over that!

I actually didn't finish – personal Naticks at 26A/17D and 91A/73D.

FRUIT FLIES reminds me of my favorite paraprosdokian phrase: Time FLIES like the wind. FRUIT FLIES like BANANAs

Bravo, Andy and Victor!!

TM 7:55 AM  

OONA has been in four puzzles since the beginning of September and is a semi-regular, although it has only been recently that she is clued by Game of Thrones actress and not Chaplin's last wife or a Disney duck princess.

mooretep 7:58 AM  

My head hurts.

Glad I get the NYT Sunday delivered.
Must be tough for online solvers

Pen and Paper Yay!
Lots of scribbles.

Gymnasium for the brain.

mooretep 7:58 AM  
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OldCarFudd 8:07 AM  

@loren muse smith - 35 years ago I was doing business in Japan. A bunch of us went to a noodle place, and I ate quietly while the Japanese - didn't. One of the Japanese fellows said: "Gil, you find that noise amusing, don't you?" My response was: "Kuni, if I ever made that noise eating noodles, my mother, who is 69 years old, would fly all the way to Japan to spank me." They all cracked up.

jberg 8:14 AM  

Easy for me, once I got the theme with GRAPE LEAVES. Figuring out the other theme answers was fun -- but I did find myself wishing I'd hurry up and get to the next one as I worked the crosses.

These guys must be as old as I am -- two mystery writers from the first half of the 20th Century, Mao TSE-tung spelled the old-fashioned way, ESTES Kefauver, a sly hint that OCTOgenerianism is approaching...

I know it works as a metaphor, but I can't get rid of the mental image of the kid yelling "Mom! The toiled is TEEMing!"

@Loren -- How did you eat soba without SLURPing and without burning your lips? I was always told that the idea was to mix enough air with the hot broth that clings to the noodles so that it doesn't burn you. Of course, you can always pick it up in bunches and chew on it, but that's really hard to do - it keeps falling off. But you remind me how much I MISS JAPAN - never lived there, but my son did, and I visited a lot.

chefbea 8:16 AM  

@George Baranay thanks. I usually get those!!!

AliasZ 8:17 AM  

What a snazzy theme! I loved figuring out which letters were dropped and which stayed in each of the Westside entries. I got stuck at DATE BOOKS. I knew DATE had to come out of COMPOUNd FRaCtURe but I had no idea why, having never heard BOOK used as “leave.” Finally I found it on Merriam-Webster hiding at the bottom of the barrel, the thirtieth or thirty-fifth entry as an intransitive verb, meaning: leave, go, especially to depart quickly, in slang. Oh well…

Plenty of good stuff here to enjoy. I loved HEKATE, MISS JAPAN, DNIEPER, GO DUTCH, CATAMARAN and many others, but I didn’t know JCOLE, SPRIT and SEADOO. I was less than enthused by BTUS, IACT, the Maleska-era ORLE, ANDA few others, but I’ll live.

I think this puzzle deserves a musical send-off in the form of the overture to the OPERa by Carl Maria von Weber titled OBERON, performed here by the incomparable Wilhelm Furtwängler and his Vienna Philharmonic.

Speaking of music, if you love music and crossword puzzles, you CANNOT miss Merl Reagle's Music-Go-Round puzzle in today's LA Times. Talk about ingenious! Its theme is a symmetrical, uninterrupted chain of musical entries with a center word that ties the theme neatly together. I am awed.

Enjoy Marathon Sunday and your extra hour of sleep.

Glimmerglass 8:17 AM  

@mooretep: I get the puzzle on line, but I always print it out. Don't care for the on-screen process. The theme was okay — I didn't hate it as much as Rex, but it confused me that the flown fruit only flies *in order*. For example, only the first E in GERMAN SHEPHERDS is missing from the nonsense answer. I liked the clues for MOTTO, ENRON, IXNAY, and SHELLAC. Had a bit of luck as I live near "the CAPE" and just returned from a cruise on the DNIEPER.

Elle54 8:17 AM  

I loved it too! It was fun figuring out the gibberish after grok king the theme. I was glad it wasn't just a bunch of fruit phrases!

Muscato 8:18 AM  

I'm glad to see other solvers liked this one more than our esteemed host - I was mightily amused throughout. I'm always pleased to see old favorites like Mr. Kefauver, and now I've learned that there's more than one Oona. How much more can one ask for before 9:00 a.m. on a Sunday morning, even one that started an hour earlier (or is it later? Every season I find myself more confused about Daylight Saving...).

Becka 8:19 AM  

100% with Rex on this one. Could've been super fun if the resulting answers were actual words, but this type of headachey gibberish ruined the whole puzzle for us.

August West 8:26 AM  

It was great. Easy, if a bit time consuming deleting letters from the theme pairings, and several fun clues.

I ACT was horrid but, hey, look around the completed grid. Very little gunk. Well played, gentleman. Thanks!

ben 8:29 AM  


terrible. Cross WORD puzzled. WORD is the operative function. Words that we speak, communicate with, not gibberish. If you must function in that arena call it something but not a WORD puzzle. Otherwise we will soon see a complete puzzle with no words at all, a Cross Gibberish puzzle.
Ben

MetaRex 8:37 AM  

Way cool theme...didn't have the beautiful tightness of Victor B's state capitals theme a while back, but this is really nice stuff.

Eseometer total = 105 (45 ACROSS and 60 DOWN...will try to keep posting raw totals...too much happening on the work front to keep blogging the word by word ese breakdown.)

Three quick reax after one week of eseometry...

Intuition and the numbers don't necessarily coincide...the Tuesday puzz that got OFL and a number of us bothered about ESE had an ESE number that was nothing out of the ordinary.

On the other hand, sometimes intuition and measurement agree...Monday's puzz got flak for ESE, and was indeed an outlier on the high side.

Finally, eseometry has subjectivity in it...it's another lens, not the true lens. E.g., is META today in the E a regular 1/2 for a 4-letter word or a 1 (kinda ESEy) or a 1 1/2, (full-on ESE, a la ERLE in the NE)?...the issues faced by Rex and the rest of us are also issues for MetaRex and anyone else doing eseometry...ya can't rule out the prospect that one is influenced by being in a good/bad mood or by having a prior judgment of a constructor.

chefbea 8:45 AM  

@Alias z or anyone else. Could you e-mail me the LAT puzzle? I can't get it. thanks

Ray Chick 8:48 AM  

Why Date BOOKS. What has that got to do with taking out/away .... anyone?

Z 8:48 AM  

The only question is whether or not this is the antithesis of a rebus puzzle or the antipode of a rebus puzzle (and whether or not "antipodes" can ever be singular and whether or not it is three syllables/long O the way it is spelled or four syllables/schwa the way all the purists insist).

Loved it.

@LMS - Vampire Weekend has done an ode to the OXOD COMMA

joho 8:49 AM  

I think it's interesting to see who reacts negatively to so called "gibberish" which I look at as a whimsical, yes, nonsensical, phrase as a means to a very satisfying end i.e. the fruit taking a hike from the aforementioned phrase. Brilliant concept! Fun theme! Well done!

I guess this puzzle really will be as divided in different reviews as apples and oranges!

I got the trick quickly at GERMANSHEPHERD but didn't get the full effect of the twist until well after GRAPELEAVES. Finally I saw that extra layer of cleverness at FRUITFLIES. Oh, wow! LEAVES, BOOKS, DROPS, SPLITS, FLIES! Fabulous!

Not many writeovers. Had money beLtS before TILLS.

I always thought one BATs eyelashes, not eyes, so that confused me.

Loved the clue for ESS!

Thank you Andy and Victor for a most enjoyable Sunday solve! To me this puzzle was like the cherry on top of a sundae!

joho 8:52 AM  

@Ray Chick, BOOKS it is slang for takes off, splits.

Z 8:57 AM  

@Ray Chick - "BOOKS" is slang for going very fast, for example, "That Mercedes was really booking when she passed me." So "schedule planner to DATE BOOKS to fleeing DATES to COMPOUN(d)FR(a)C(t)UR(e).

Mohair Sam 9:06 AM  

This was a fun puzzle, loved it - purists and time-solvers be darned.

Hope Will Shortz isn't influenced to stop using this type of theme because of the grouches (most of whom are great solvers, btw) like @ben who want just pure definitions day after day - that gets boring for some of us.

We finished quickly for a Sunday, even with the "gibberish" theme answers. I think the constructors made the crosses fairly easy for a Sunday, compensating for the difficulty of putting together the theme.

I learned today that a lot of folks rate difficulty by speed of solving alone. We never time ourselves, so even though this puzzle seemed easy to us I understand how time-solvers would consider it difficult. Too bad, it stops this type of puzzle from being fun for them.

Kudos to @rex for printing TOHELEN. Knew the title, but not the poem itself, wonderful.

And Hey, when did EKG become ECG? I know, I know, it is correct - but I've had two EKG's in my lifetime, when did they correct the acronym?

Rob C 9:19 AM  

Med/Chal Sunday for me. I didn't get the theme quickly, so I struggled for quite a bit until I saw it. Once I did, the rest fell easy. I liked the theme. Didn't mind the gibberish answers b/c there's enough other things going on in a large Sunday puzzle.

I noticed that DATE BOOKS was the only themer that used the non-fruit definition in the phrase. Didn't mind it, just noticed it.

Liked the BAMA OBAMA crossing.

Kingdaddy 9:26 AM  

With you on this one, Rex. Written for a small subset of people who might like this kind of meta-puzzle. For the rest of us, an inferior puzzle, since way more effort went into getting the trick to work than devising good clues for the actual words.

AliasZ 9:27 AM  

@chefbea, the link to the LA Times works, and it is free. All you have to do is wait through the 15-second commercial, select Sunday and you'll see the puzzle. You can solve it in the applet provided and save for later completion (still impossible at the NYT), or you can print it out.

John Child 9:33 AM  

Gave up when I realized that half the theme was gibberish. The right half of the puzzle was fun, at least.

Anonymous 9:36 AM  

As someone relatively new to solving NYT crosswords I find that there are now all kinds of conceits other than just straight words, like multiple letters in a box, or backwards letters (mirror theme from Halloween), or words that cross the boundaries of the puzzle or...

At first I was annoyed at them all, but I have learned to roll with the punches and that it makes solving that much more of a challenge and broadens what crosswords can do. So I guess my question is why does this conceit, more than others, rankle Rex and some others when the others are taken as a matter of course? Just wondering about what bounds people put on the "rules" of these things...

Tom 9:45 AM  

Another one who found the themes incredibly clever. The "aha" moment when I was working on the Loch Ness clue was perfect.

Anonymous 10:06 AM  

@ben, 8:29AM said:

"Otherwise we will soon see a complete puzzle with no words at all, a Cross Gibberish puzzle."

You, and the others crying foul have obviously never tackled a Frank Longo "Vowelless" puzzle.

"Gibberish" in every square and great fun, to boot.

Anonymous 10:12 AM  

Found the puzzle relatively easy but hated, hated, hated, hated it. If the lazy and poor constructors wanted to keep the theme of missing fruit, they should have made the answers actual words, not strings of letters that mean nothing.

wreck 10:21 AM  

I was cruising along with my best Sunday time ever until I had to start filling in the theme answers. I solve with the magmic app and it became so tedious, it took all the fun away from the initial solve. I figured out the puzzle and theme answers -- but th execution left me kind of irritated. - JMO

OISK 10:26 AM  

I enjoyed this one, although it took me far less time than usual, and I hate any clue that begins with "Rapper.." JCOLE? Really? Glad to have finished it correctly, as I was yesterday, when despite two awful (for me) answers "Illin" and "Kidult." Could we stick to actual words and names, please? Also, the clue was "1986 hip-hop hit." There actually was hip-hop in 1986? I thought that was a far more innocent time, when music had a melody, vulgarity was still vulgar, and the Mets were a decent team. Anyway, glad to finish the week with two perfect solutions, after getting bitten by Dracula on Thursday, and voting "Not Jiltee" on the Havesham clue on Friday...

Redhed 10:37 AM  

I really enjoyed solving (once I got the theme at "fruit flies") but glad I am too a paper and pencil solver.

joho 10:47 AM  

@AliasZ, thanks for the heads up on Merl's puzzle ... it's a beauty!

jae 10:51 AM  

Add me to those who found this easy, clever, and fun. I rate difficulty like @Mohair Sam does. It's a matter of how much resistance the puzzle puts up not how fast I can solve it. I do these on paper in the evening so the solving process is often interrupted by mundane stuff like meal prep.

Never heard of J COLE (or OXOD commas for that matter).

Me too for CLAra before CLAUS.

Liked this just fine, but I draw the line at the Longo vowelless ones.

Gill I. P. 10:59 AM  

Well, I'm with @Rex and the other few who did not enjoy this puzzle....AT ALL.
My brain does just fine with backward words, jumble type clues but when you go and leave out a letter or four then my neural cells just fry.
I got the concept, trick, ruse whatever you want to call it but this was too much work and not the least bit satisfying.
I did enjoy seeing OONA though because it brought back memories of her mother Geraldine.
When I lived in Spain, I did lots of translating for foreign film producers. A ton of epic films were made in Spain and so many of them were American productions. Anyway, Geraldine was having an affair with film director Carlos Sauro and if she wasn't acting she was always with him. I happened to be a translator on one of Sauro's films and Geraldine was glued to his side. She was a MEgA snob and never smiled. I tried conversing with her but I wasn't part of her clique. OONA, on the other hand seems more approachable although I don't think she can act at all!! There is only one Chaplin in my opinion and that is Charlie...
And now you're all asking "who gives a f#%k...."

JenCT 11:04 AM  

Was so sure @Rex would say that this was Easy, until I got stuck on a few theme answers.

Speaking of FRUIT FLIES, I just finished making a trap for them.

My service dog is a Labrador Retriever, but that wouldn't fit the theme...

Norm 11:05 AM  

I'm in agreement with Rex for a change. Just a pain in the derriere to have to think through the missing letters. I don't mind that the grid looked like gibberish, but it just wasn't a very fun solve. I also don't care for titles that give too much away, although I initially though this one was likely to be a rebus or a dropped word puzzle (e.g., losing the "pear" from "disappearance").

chefbea 11:05 AM  

Thanks @Joho for sending me the puzzle

Brookboy 11:07 AM  

Thoroughly enjoyed this puzzle, think it is both entertaining and elegant.

I'm puzzled by those who criticize it because it seems to violate some sort of code of crossword puzzles. Perhaps someone can point me to that code so I can learn what makes a proper puzzle.

I can appreciate the vexation of solvers who feel that the "gimmick" used in this puzzle may have artificially inflated their solve times. I don't time myself, so that isn't a factor with me. I enjoyed the challenge.

Bravo, Mr. Barocas.

Anonymous 11:08 AM  

jae 10:51

I think they meant OXFORD commas. I wondered if they spelled it OXOD to reference today's theme or something.

JFC 11:13 AM  

Completely agree with Rex (though I am more generous in my grade. This is what I wrote last night before Rex posted:

My frustration with this puzzle was exceeded only by my frustration with the way Northwestern lost today. You know PT Barnum said there’s a sucker born every minute. Anyone who roots all his life for the Cubs and Northwestern football can be cited in support of PT Barnum’s famous philosophy. I suppose if I wanted to root for a college football team all my life I should have gone to Alabama. And my parents should have brought me up as a Yankee fan.

The theme was a curious example of two levels of frustration. The first level was getting the gimmick. The second level was going back and forth to fill in the gimmick answers. As a result, I can only give this puzzle a B+. The idea was clever but the nonsense it created was not.

A final note: The title – Stolen Produce – suggests the stealing of the “produce” letters from the nonsensical theme answers. And the cross-referenced theme answers each had a second word revealing the letters were taken. So we were offered two hints instead of just one. That suggests to me that someone thought some extra help was needed to get the gimmick.

JFC

ArtO 11:47 AM  

While extremely well done,even a tour de force, I would add my voice to that of our leader with whom I totally agree for a change. Dislike gibberish. Upside down, in reverse OK but not nonsense.

Steve J 11:52 AM  

I can't recall encountering this kind of theme before. I hope I never do again.

I don't like the concept in the least - for the same reasons others have already mentioned - yet I find myself liking the puzzle more than disliking it on balance. The theme was well-executed for what it was, although it took me a little while to get that I was supposed to drop the letters sequentially, instead of a more common approach of dropping the word that would ordinarily appear in a phrase.

And outside the theme gibberish (yes, gibberish: I know some people aren't liking that it's being called that, but that's what it is; I would have liked this theme much better if the leftovers still formed words, although that may be pretty much impossible to pull off), the fill was pretty good. There was some nice cluing throughout as well.

Found it easy overall, other than the times I slogged through the theme gibberish.

I give Messrs. Kravis and Barocas credit for turning in a puzzle that pulls off something very difficult: making a puzzle that is enjoyable on balance, even while featuring a completely unlikeable (to me) theme.

Bob Kerfuffle 12:00 PM  

I'm not sure if this is a merely a test of my sanity, but can anyone who is a word lover read the section on Ambiguity in this Wikipedia entry on the Oxford comma without generating tears of laughter?

Anonymous 12:04 PM  

This was tough. I didn't get the clue, and I have to agree with Rex. It was stupid.

Blue Stater 12:07 PM  

An utterly worthless and total waste of time. Is it unreasonable to expect that junk of this sort will be kept out of -- *at* *least* -- the Sunday puzzles?

Nancy 12:20 PM  

Gobbledygook, but very clever and enjoyable gobbledygook. I had a good time and finished pretty easily. My only carp is DATE BOOKS. BOOKS is not a synonym for departs, unless it's BOOKS a trip. Therefore, while I had COMPOUNFRCUR, I had no idea why I had it. (Didn't read the clue attaching it to 48 across carefully, or I would have realized what was going on for that answer.) But I think it's a clever puzzle, brilliantly constructed and fun to solve.

jae 12:27 PM  

@Anon 11:08 -- D'oh, of course. You got me @lms. That said, I've also never heard of OXFORD commas until just now (@Bob Kerfuffle thanks for the link).

Lori S 12:31 PM  

Well, I liked it a lot, and didn't have any problem with the "gibberish" answers, or have any trouble arriving at them. I was grateful that the letters were omitted in order - another component that made this a pretty easy go for me (but a fun one.) My only complaint would be that half the theme answers were not able to be added in (or guessed at from crosses) until the other half were solved.

Ray J 12:34 PM  

In case you missed it, the Ben Tausig segment ran this morning on NPR.
Putting Bro Hugs In The Crossword

Milford 12:44 PM  

Count me as one who liked and enjoyed this easy Sunday puzzle. I solve on Magmic, and it wasn't any harder to enter the theme answers. As far as them not being words, I'm not sure why this is so far removed for some solvers from a rebus or other gimmicky puzzle. But I'm much more relaxed about crosswords than many here.

@Jen CT - what kind of trap do you use for FRUIT FLIES? I've tried red wine, works ok.

@Z - had lunch yesterday at the Green Dot Stables, based on your mentioning it. Loved it - had both cheeseburger and tempeh sliders, washed down with a Oval Beach blonde ale. Delish.

Yay MSU! What a fun trouncing that was to watch.

Steve J 12:46 PM  

@Bob Kerfuffle: Thanks for that. I cannot stop laughing at the Nelson Mandela example.

@Nancy: BOOKS can indeed mean "departs"; it's fairly common slang (and if you google something like "books slang leaving" - without the quotes - you'll see quite a few citations for it).

Mohair Sam 12:46 PM  

@Nancy - I've used "Book" or "Book up" as slang for departing for as long as I can remember. I almost always say "Let's book" for "Let's leave" (like all slang it sounds silly when I think about it). Maybe it's a regional thing.

@JFC - Cubs and Wildcats? My sympathies. You must have done something terrible in a previous life.

chefbea 12:50 PM  

@Jen in Ct I've used a combination of vinegar , dawn dish soap and water. Does a pretty good job. Also If I don't leave my fruit out on the counter…no fruit flies!!

mac 1:00 PM  

Medium Sunday, and a lot of work. Got the theme pretty quickly, at grape leaves, but it was a little tedious taking out the fruit letters.

Learned what "to book" can mean, nice. I've seen the 4th longest river spelled Dniepr before, but it was a gimme.

Good, thoroughly worked puzzle.

mac 1:01 PM  

@BobK: that's hilarious!

Dick S 1:02 PM  

Because the fill was pretty obvious moving from right to left and then just patches left on the west coast, I figured that what ever the gimmick was, I wouldn't catch on until the end.

But, as it turned out, I was OK with having all the clue words done before the stumpers. It was then pretty mechanical … write down the fruit letters, write the stumper letters below in order, and the answers appeared by subtraction.

I know i must have missed the fun of 'getting' the gimmick early. To me it was a lot of easy fill waiting for the revelation payoff.

I agree with Rex: a tough construction but not much fun to work

Evan 1:05 PM  

I'm surprised to see this puzzle has been so polarizing. I thought it was awesome. Great a-ha moment, very little dreck fill, really good consistency in the theme answers. I guess if I had to ding it a little, it would be that I think it would have been better if you didn't see any of the various FRUIT letters at all in the resulting gibberish entries -- i.e., there's are three E's in GERMAN SHEPHERDS even though you're told that G-R-A-P-E leaves it, so really you're just taking out the first E rather than all of them. Still, that's picking a very small nit in my opinion. Thumbs up from me.

okanaganer 1:12 PM  

Given my total lack of classical education, I was thrilled to get HEKATE, though initially I had the Roman version with a C. My Grandfather used to sail the Hecate Strait between Prince Rupert and the Queen Charlotte Islands (now called Haida Gwaii) on the northwest British Columbia coast. Its weather is so awful, my mother assumed that was the said witch-goddess was the inspiration for the name. (Actually according to Wiki it was named after a British explorer's ship).

However, today I am with Rex in not liking the torturous theme.

OISK 1:13 PM  

@JFC - I root for the Mets, Jets, Nets, and Rangers. 1 Championship in the past 25 years. None since 1994. I would love to see the Cubs win a series though.

Questinia 1:17 PM  

Thanks to Rex and his DSC, DSO, DST, DSWhatever, etc... frustrations from a while back, I DNF because I decided to go with DST instead of my usual DSC and SHELLAt looked superficially OK.

I liked this puzzle. DATE BOOKS was a great addition @ Andy Kravis.

On a more sober note, my belief, understanding, and hope had always been that Nelson Mandela *was* an 800 year old dildo-collecting demi-god. I am surprised now to learn he is not. Thanks @ Bob Kerfuffle for the link setting me straight.

Anonymous 1:22 PM  

Hey, Rex!
Your comments today sound like a bunch of sour grape leaves.
We loved the puzzle. It was outside the box.

Carola 1:27 PM  

@Aliaz Z and @Bob Kerfuffle - Thank you for the extra treats of LAT puzzle and "ambiguity"!

Anonymous 1:46 PM  

I am surprised you "never ever heard of "TO HELEN," nor of OONA Chaplin, whose maternal grandmother (it turns out) is the more crossword-famous OONA O'Neil."

We recall seeing Oona Chaplin more than once on various New York Times puzzles. If you look at your old postings, you'll probably find her.

Anonymous 2:02 PM  

Can someone tell me if you take the g-r-a-p-e out of german shepards why they still left the e in the final answer?

Masked and Anonymous 2:18 PM  

gibBERish with instRuctIons and fliES.
KInda WIked it.

M ang O

chefbea 2:24 PM  

thanks for the LAT puzzle!! Lots of fun

M and A Help Desk 2:26 PM  

@Anonymous 2:02...
GeRmAnshePhErds --> emnshehrds.
QED.

Masked ANG anOnymous 2:41 PM  

Day-um, 4-Oh. These anonymous dudes really read yer blog's theme explanations with a fine tooth comb, don't they?
har.

M&A Help Desk

Anonymous 2:49 PM  

That was the stupidest puzzle ever

ZenMonkey 3:21 PM  

Loved it. Lots of laughs. Especially enjoyed FRUIT FLIES since I culture my own to feed my poison dart frogs.

A really good trap is apple cider vinegar with a drop of dish soap or hand soap mixed in. Yes, you do catch more flies with vinegar, and the soap keeps them from escaping. I put a shallow dish under the vivarium since the flies are flightless but very good at escaping. In a day or two it looks like a Drosophilian disaster movie.

JenCT 5:11 PM  

@Milford, @chefbea, @ZenMonkey: instructions for the fruit fly trap that I make can be found on my (just started!) blog - click on my screen name to see.

Anonymous 5:31 PM  

Agree! Cute, fun, challenging but not impossible...

August West 6:11 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
August West 6:12 PM  

@AliasZ: Add mine to the growing list of thanks for the link to the LAT. Easy puzzle, as it turned out, with the surrounding, "non-conga line" fill eased even further if you knew the next following instrument in the spiraling theme. Still, what a nifty bit of construction. Lotsa fun!

LaneB 7:18 PM  

Ground thru the whole thinG, never picked Un the trick and thus ended up with gibberish. Figured What the hell and assumed there must be some sense too subtle for me. Most was easy, but the nonsense left me irritable. Well,not too irritable.
Will someone explain the clue for ESS. Thanks
Enjoyed today's acrostic much more. Real words, etc.

Anonymous 7:50 PM  

Only wanted to add that I loved this, so the constructors have a real count of nay-sayers vs. appreciators. Many thanks. Fun.

retired_chemist 8:06 PM  

@ Anon 2:02, who I presume is also Anon 2:49 after his question was answered: If you spell shepherd shepard, as in your question, no wonder you had trouble with it. Sour grape.

I liked it, had a better than my average Sunday time, and wish I had caught on to the gimmick a bit sooner.

Last fill was using RUM D BILEY (what a GREAT name!) to change CLAra to CLAUS.

Thanks, Andy and Victor.

Blackeyed Susan 8:07 PM  

Liked it a lot. Always nice for a newbie to get it fairly easily.
When my kids were young my only rule for car music (back in the day when everyone had to listen to the same thing) was NO RAP. Too bad I couldn't see into the future to when I'd be child free and actually have time to do things like crossword puzzles. I allow myself a Google for rap.

jburgs 8:17 PM  

I liked the puzzle.

@okanaganer - 1:10: I am not educated in the classics either. To catch up with minimal effort I have been purchasing old issues of Classics Illustrated Comics. Polished off the Iliad just now while in the bathroom. Had read Great Expectations in the can last week and it fortuitously gave me Miss Haversham in a puzzle last week. Pip Pip.

Davis 9:22 PM  

Count me as another vote in favor of Rex's evaluation of this puzzle. A clever theme idea, but one that made for an unpleasant solving experience.

oldbizmark 10:18 PM  

loved this puzzle. great theme and execution. thought it was a medium at most, though. guess it just depends on how fast you figure out the theme.

Joe in Montreal 10:42 PM  

It might have been impossible, but I figure if the "aha" experience enables me to get the 'second' answer, great, but if not, meh. I got most of the 'second' answers through crosses before I got the theme.
I suppose the singular of antipodes would be antipus. Like octopodes/octopus. Certainly not antipode.

Anonymous 11:14 PM  

I like to do crosswords for the mental challenge. While having all words in a puzzle (no gibberish) may be ideal, I found this puzzle to be clever and one of the most satisfying puzzles of the year. Once I discovered the theme, I enjoyed first getting the fruit entries and then working back to get the dropped fruit entries.

sanfranman59 11:19 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 7:13, 6:07, 1.18, 97%, Challenging (8th highest ratio of 201 Mondays)
Tue 7:16, 8:15, 0.88, 16%, Easy
Wed 11:06, 9:44, 1.14, 81%, Challenging
Thu 20:04, 16:44, 1.20, 81%, Challenging
Fri 23:02, 18:38, 1.24, 88%, Challenging
Sat 31:46, 26:51, 1.18, 87%, Challenging
Sun 27:27, 27:38, 0.99, 51%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 4:16, 3:46, 1.13, 91%, Challenging
Tue 4:36, 5:09, 0.89, 13%, Easy
Wed 6:15, 5:37, 1.11, 79%, Medium-Challenging
Thu 13:11, 9:30, 1.39, 89%, Challenging
Fri 12:57, 10:42, 1.21, 81%, Challenging
Sat 20:20, 17:01, 1.19, 84%, Challenging
Sun 20:23, 19:20, 1.05, 60%, Medium

michael 11:36 PM  

Mixed feelings about this one. I really appreciate the clever theme, but found working through the nonsensical answers a bit tedious. I can't imagine how one goes about constructing something this. I guess overall I liked it more than not.

paulsfo 12:54 AM  

@loren muse smith: I've seen a similar sentence which scans a bit better: Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.

I liked the theme. Had the most trouble with the first one because I couldn't remember how German Shepherd/Sheperd?/Shepheard?? was spelled.

Anonymous 1:08 AM  

I'm truly surprised by the negative comments. What a unique and interesting puzzle.

J Harrison 8:19 AM  

I too really enjoyed this puzzle which I finished in record time for me! I thought the theme was very clever. I really didn't figure out that the fruit got left out until I was 3/4 done with the puzzle! The fill was fairly easy after that.

Anonymous 8:39 AM  

Surprised at the difficulty rating There were lots of no- brainers.

Anonymous 9:43 AM  

To judge from the comments, those who worked it out on paper may have tended to like it better, perhaps because they could write in the substituted letters in superscript form and thereby produce rebuses. With these on paper, I never thought of the answers as gobbledygook.

nurturing 5:56 AM  

I was sure Rex would classify this as an "easy" puzzle - my pen just flew for the first quarter of fill.

When I got the theme at Barnum and Bailey, I was delighted to make sense of y nonsensical strings of letters, and vastly enjoyed solving all the theme answers, both fruitful and fruitless.

Thanks for a great puzzle!

Doc John 12:53 PM  

I know I'm late to the game with this comment but I had to put in my $.02. As I've said in the past, the clue must lead to the fill, even if the fill is gibberish. This puzzle certainly accomplished that and I thought it was interesting.

David 5:53 PM  

I as well am late on commenting, but did not want to let this pass. For I rarely blow through a Sunday puzzle as quickly as I did this one. My handy-dandy little iPad app tells me I did this one is roughly 60% of my average Sunday time.

But here's the kicker - the fill came so easy I barely noticed the theme.

I am with Rex. The theme is nonsense. Had I stumbled with the fill, this would have been a killer. And an unpleasant killer.

Once I could look at what I filled in, I thought the theme was utter rubbish and had I worked to complete this, I too would categorize as a deeply unsatisfactory solving experience.

spacecraft 12:10 PM  

I'm in tune with @David. Don't remember going "Grrr!" at any of the fill, so that has to be a JWD (Job Well Done). Understandably, I couldn't get traction in the western half, so I solved basically right-to-left. I knew something foul was afoot when I appeared to have ...RCUR locked in. Could there be a sign "CURB YOUR CUR" in the park? That's as far as I could get. Much later, when other nonsense patterns messed up my grid, I was forced to take the theme literally--another first?!--and then it was OK. I didn't dislike it, PER SE, but it did raise the difficulty. As @David said, if the fill'd been junky, I would've thumbs-downed it. On a pass-fail, this gets a pass. 'Nuff said.

Anonymous 2:26 PM  

I am in awe of the complexity of this construction without much liking the results. Saw the gimmick from Grape Leaves combined with the title and had close to a record time, but was left feeling irritated and queasy.

I only come to this blog when I want to see if RP and the gang here share my out of the ordinary "loved it" sentiment about a particular puzzle. I never post. But this one was at once so sublime and so subpar, felt the need to say so. A tour de force, for sure, but I do not want to take that tour ever again.

PS. Rap is not art, music or culture, and certainly is not NYT crossword worthy. I resent constructors that force any information about it into my mind. (Note unoxfordian and oxfordian comma series in same sentence. Ta-da!)

The Old Man

Anonymous 2:59 PM  

got the whole right side, but not the left because of the mangled words. Got an inkling of the "trick" because I wanted "university" in the SE for the Margaret Thatcher clue, but couldn't put it together.

Finally got the German Shepherd clue and figured out the trick, but was too lazy to try to do all the letters for all the other left side answers.

Just didn't care to even bother at that point.

Dirigonzo 3:26 PM  

I liked it, and one of the things I liked best was knowing that slow, methodical solvers like me were having a lot more fun than the speed-solvers. The theme answers were like speed-bumps - the faster you were going when you hit them, the more jarring the effect.

Dennis 3:39 PM  

As an average or below crossworder (I won't exalt myself by implying I am a solver). I found this one very difficult. I too would prefer difficulty in ways other than filling in nonsense words. I vowed to quit several times but would be dragged back into the fray by finding a key word followed by a string of others. I never got the "theme" until coming here, which is probably a shameful admission, more so that I could not fill in about 20 squares. Knowing now that the empty squares needed nonsense words I feel a tiny bit vindicated for my lack of skill. But not too much. ;)

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