Director Mack of early slapstick / SUN 1-5-14 / George's mother on Seinfeld / Cartoony clubs / Sainted archbishop of Canterbury who founded scholasticism / Bloody Mary stirrer

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Constructor: Alan DerKazarian

Relative difficulty: Easy



THEME: "Clued In" — grid divided into four discrete sections (replicating, somewhat, the look of a Clue game board). Three sections contain, respectively, three answers (with circled squares) that hint at different parts of the accusation one makes to end a game of Clue: the SUSPECT, the WEAPON, and the ROOM in which the murder was committed. The fourth section contains the full accusation hinted at by the other three sections: MISS SCARLET / IN THE LOUNGE / WITH THE ROPE


Theme answers:
  • The SUSPECT (1A: The "who" of a Clue accusation, whose identity is hinted at by the three circled answers in this quadrant) is Miss Scarlet, which you know because SCARLET can precede each of the circled words in that NW quadrant: FEVER, LETTER, and TANAGER
  • The ROOM (11A: The "where" of a Clue accusation, whose identity is hinted at by the three circled answers in this quadrant) is the Lounge, which you know because each of the circled words in that NE quadrant is a synonym of "Lounge": RELAX, REST, and IDLE
  • The WEAPON (73A: The "what" of a Clue accusation, whose identity is hinted at by the three circled answers in this quadrant) is the Rope, which you know because each of the circled answers in that SW quadrant is an anagram of "Rope": PORE, OPER., REPO
Word of the Day: ISTLE (47D: Basket fiber) —
n
1. (Textiles) a fibre obtained from various tropical American agave and yucca trees used in making carpets, cord, etc
[C19: from Mexican Spanish ixtle, from Nahuatl ichtli] (thefreedictionary.com)
• • •

[DEAR SYNDICATED SOLVERS (if you're reading this on Sunday, Jan. 12, that's you). Please listen to the following pitch. Also, feel free to write me with any comments or concerns. You're well over half my total audience, and yet I hardly ever hear from you. Thanks!]

So … it's January, the time when I make my annual pitch for financial contributions to this blog. Actually, I didn't make the pitch last year. I used last January to raise money for other causes instead (and it was my pleasure to do so). But this year I once again ask you (especially you regular readers) to consider what the blog is worth to you on an annual basis and give accordingly. As I've said before, as much as I love writing this blog, I treat it like a job— answers and commentary go up every day, without fail, usually at 12:01 am, but certainly by 9am at the very latest. This has been true for seven straight years. I know that some people are opposed to paying for what they can get for free, and still others really don't have money to spare. Both kinds of people are welcome to continue reading my blog, with my compliments. It will always be free. I have no interest in cordoning it off, nor do I have any interest in taking advertising. I value my independence too much. Anyway, if you are so moved, there is a Paypal button in the sidebar, and a mailing address here:

Rex Parker
℅ Michael Sharp
54 Matthews St
Binghamton NY 13905

Maybe I'll stick a PayPal button in here for the mobile users. Let's see...

I think that worked. Cool.

For people who send me actual honest-to-god (i.e. "snail") mail, I have this great new set of thank-you postcards that I'm hoping to burn through: "the iconic Pantone color chip design in 100 brilliant colors." Who will be the lucky person who gets … let's see … Pantone 19-2025: Red Plum? Ooooh, elegant. It could be you. Or give via PayPal and get a thank-you email. That's cool too. Anyway, whatever you choose to do, I remain most grateful for your readership. Now on to the puzzle …

***

Really liked this one. Pretty sure I've seen Clue themes done before, but nothing this intricate, with this many, let's say, layers. Lack of all-over interlock is odd, but makes sense given the grid is supposed to represent the game board. One downside was the theme was transparent—in the title, in the grid's look, everything was right on the surface. This was one of the easiest Sundays I've ever solved. By the time I hit the SE corner, I was able to just write in the entire "accusation" without a hitch. The solving experience is … well, it's like solving four 11x11 puzzles, because that's literally what you have to do. This meant that the non-theme stuff was easily dispensed with and utterly forgettable. But still, theme-wise, this thing deserves a lot of credit. I love how each element of the accusation is represented differently in each quadrant, with the circled squares performing different duties each time. Because the grids are small and undemanding, the fill remains smooth throughout. No groaners anywhere. The one odd answer was also one of my favorites: ALIEN ATTACK (45A: Early Coleco hand-held game). Never heard of it, but could infer it from crosses. I especially love it crossing PTERODACTYL (15D: Prehistoric menace). Invaders from above, both futuristic and prehistoric. Awesome.


Usually Sunday puzzles offer me something I haven't seen before, some new word or phrase or personality. But today, besides ALIEN ATTACK, everything felt eerily familiar. After a semi-slowish start in the NW, where I wanted something like "murderer" or "killer" in that 1A slot, I really got humming. I don't remember a thing about the bottom half of the grid. I don't think I've ever moved through a grid so fast. Even the proper nouns weren't slowing me down at all. ANSELM, CRENNA, EUROVAN—I got all you guys. Captain Lou ALBANO! And they said watching MTV would never pay off…

[He's the father…]

Never heard of SENNETT before becoming a crossword junkie, but now—straight into the grid off the terminal "T" (144A: Director Mack of early slapstick) The one odd word (to me) was ISTLE, but I'm pretty sure I've seen it before. Last thing that went in the grid was [Tony the Twin], which I thought I didn't know, but then I wrote in that final "O" for OLIVA and realized "oh, the baseball player kind of Twin. Sure I've heard of that guy." And that was that. A fun time, over much too quickly.

And now for a new feature: The Puzzle Of The Week, wherein I direct your attention to the best thing I saw this week in the wide world of Crossword Puzzledom. While today's NYT is a strong contender (certainly the best thing I saw in the NYT this week), my very first Puzzle of the Week goes to "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?" by Erik Agard (ft. Andy Kravis). First, I just love the idea of a puzzle that has a "featuring" credit—makes it more like a rap song, only instead of Rihanna we get Andy Kravis. Second, this puzzle delivers a great "aha" moment. There is one potentially brutal pop culture crossing, but that does little to diminish the overall quality of the puzzle. Get it from Erik's puzzle website, "Glutton for Pun." While you're at it, get the other 71 (!) puzzles he's published there. All for free. You're unlikely to be disappointed.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

106 comments:

Questinia 12:19 AM  

It felt like I was doing a petit-point of Hello Kitty.

Elle54 12:20 AM  

Absolutely great! I loved it!

Pete 12:22 AM  

The puzzle would have been immeasureably improved if 83A had been VERDICT or some such thematic answer rather than the excreable SILENTB.

I actually have never played Clue. I know there's Col Mustard and a pipe, but that's all.

Clearly, not a puzzle geared towards my little, highly constrained, part of the universe.

Carola 12:39 AM  

Clue was my favorite childhood game, so I found it fun to sort out the SUSPECT, ROOM, and WEAPON from the clues in the circles. I liked how the puzzle was also a game, including the board-game layout.

Liked the PRETZELS and DIET SODA pair, DOTAGE following AGEING, PTERODACTYLS and ROLLING PINS. Surprised to see TAC crop up again today (along with VERSO).

@Rex, thank you for the Puzzle of the Week.

chefwen 1:01 AM  

I needed an easy puzzle after the last couple of days and this one filled the bill. Loved it. It was great fun to solve all the corners and put together the clues. Thank you Alan D.

Bob Kerfuffle 1:25 AM  

This puzzle certainly was something new and different!

I never played the game of Clue, either, but it comes up enough in crosswords that it seems very familiar.

@Carola - And don't forget NO NAME, which we saw in the last couple of days.

Garth 1:25 AM  

The puzzle played like a little story. Very enjoyable.

Now that I've been reading the blog for a couple of years, when I'm working on a puzzle, I find myself wondering if @Rex is going to like it or not. I was so certain he was going to bring up the issue that @Pete brought up (about 83 across). @Rex seems to be a stickler for consistency* and the fact that the lower right-hand quadrant wasn't titled like the other three quadrants made my @Rex-is-going-to-have-a-fit-meter go off. I couldn't have been more wrong. Just when you think you're getting to know someone...

*except when he's not

AliasZ 1:35 AM  

When I first looked at the grid, I said, WTF! But then I dug in and started to pick away at the four isolated rooms, and quickly forgot my initial shock. The NW puzzle fell easiest for me, the SE the hardest, I guess by design. Entering Burton instead
of BRANDO as Brutus slowed me down here as well as SniT before SPAT, and I resisted AGEING until the very last moment because there was no var. indicated, or an alert: "for people who're not sure how to spell this word correctly." That superfluous E bugs me no end, just as in EYEING. It makes the word look like it should be pronounced "age-ee-ing."

The xwordinfo page says it is an asymmetrical grid, however each 11x11 room is symmetrical in itself.

There is much to like here outside the theme. ABANDON SHIP, PTERODACTYL, ALIEN ATTACK, AFFABLE, but I wasn't crazy about SOMA, ARACE, TADAS, UHS, OOX. We have VERSO the second day in a row, EXILED after EXILE and CORDON after CODON. Did not remember NALA and SOMA, and never stumbled upon ETSY.com even though I do much of my shopping on e-commerce sites. It was fun to be reminded of Saint ANSELM of Canterbury.

So today, we have four puzzles for the price of one, but I didn't mind it. NOT VERY MUCH, anyway. I do think however that it was a cop-out. Producing a 23x23 and making sure that the whole grid contains nifty long answers and clean short fill tying (not "tieing"!) the entire puzzle neatly together is obviously a more demanding task. I am sure opening at least one doorway connecting each room to the neighboring two (I was thinking of removing 5 symmetrical blocks right at the crossing of the two walls) would have made it much more difficult for Alan DerKazarian. It would have certainly made it that much more fun for me.

Here is your chance to become entwined with RAVEL.

Enjoy your Sunday.

jae 1:54 AM  

This was mixed difficulty for me, mostly because of a ton of erasures in NW.  The most time consuming one was AmiABLE for AFFABLE. It also took me a while to come up with SUSPECT...cUlPriT also fit.  The rest was pretty smooth so tough-easy-easy-easy? 

Liked this a lot.  Very clever and lotsa fun!  Pretty good for a first puzzle!

Garth 1:56 AM  

Those whose products you consume (including those in entertainment, journalism, and the arts*) deserve to be remunerated for their work.


*How DO you categorize a blog about crossword puzzles anyway?

paulsfo 2:47 AM  

I liked some of the clues, especially "cartoony clubs", "coke, for one", and "Thing in doubt?".
I really think that are no such thing as "ENOTES" which mean "cybermemos." Searching on google I find a few products with that name and, apparently, there is a kind of electronic promissory note called an Enote, but I think the word, as clued here, does not exist.

Benko 2:51 AM  

@jae: Was this a first puzzle? I could have sworn I knew the constructor's name.
I also played Clue a lot as a kid, and the theme clicked instantly for me. Fairly easy cluing, I thought, to compensate for the lack of connectivity in the grid. gotta make it fair!

jae 3:44 AM  

@Benko - Check xwordinfo

Danp 4:59 AM  

Love the fact that the four quandrants have different minithemes - synonyms, quote, anagram, etc. Since everything I know about Clue, I owe to Will Shortz, the MISSS answer was a killer. And somehow I couldn't see a theme for fever, letter and Zanager? Yes, somehow Z made more sense than T, though I have heard of a scarlett tanager.

loren muse smith 7:33 AM  
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loren muse smith 7:37 AM  
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chefbea 7:51 AM  

Love Clue, still play it with the grand kids!!
Loved the clue for 83 across - put a big star next to it when doing the puzzle last night.

No to go to the puzzle of the week and Glutton for Pun.

Anonymous 7:52 AM  

It's only easy if you are familiar with the game of Clue. I object to puzzles that have so many answers dependent on one specific item of knowledge.

loren muse smith 7:54 AM  

As I printed it out, my husband asked about it. I said, "Look! Four puzzles in one!" I thought I would struggle with no bridge between quadrants, but, I agree – this was really easy and enjoyable!

@Pete – à chacun son goût. I loved SILENT B, and it was one of my many earliest gimmes. Hi, @paulsfo – we literalists need to stick together.

Got PTERODACTYL off the Y in CELERY, I swear. And spelled it right. Only because when subbing English and discussing alliteration, I love to write on the board

psychotic pneumatic philanthropic Pfleuger-packing pterodactyl

And ask if this is some kind of alliteration. We always decide it’s not, but a kicky device for a wily writer to use none-the-less. Then we consider stuff like crunchy chocolate cereal, whole wheat wrap, giant green gnat and mercifully move on. Poor kids. Most of them *could not* be less interested in this absolutely fascinating material.

Early mistakes:

-"Cary" HUGH
-"hat" URN
-"amiable" AFFABLE (hi, @jae) Which would you rather be? AFFABLE feels talkier. Amiable smiles and - nods a lot.
-"third" FIRST. So sue me.
-"yessir" YES YES.

MEALIER – I keep explaining to the guy who helps us here that if you put tomatoes in the fridge, they get MEALy. Anyway, MEALIER was ok, but EELIER was ODDER. "We were able to spot a couple of elusive ERNEs, finally, once we got to EVENER ground, but those red TANAGERS proved much EELIER, and we saw nary a one."

I really struggled in philosophy class. (I obviously missed the boat on any Occam's razor approach to posting here). One of the first things we covered was St. ANSELM's Ontological Argument. For one brief instant, the clouds cleared, and I glimpsed the brilliance of his reasoning. Then everything clouded back over, and I still don't get it.

@nanpilla – if you enter your DOTAGE, you're no longer spry? I bought my tickets to NYC and log on every day to see if registration is open. I'm counting on seeing you again. And @ims dave – where are you? And @Sparky. . .I know I can count on @Bob. @Evan, @Tita, and @Mac? @Gill I.P. - you said you'd try this year. @JenCT - can we meet Justice? Lindsey? Karen, David B, Metarex? I know the ambassadress, Andrea, will be there to introduce everyone! Hey, Tom – wanna get lunch again before heading to the airport?

@Steve J = What did you think of RAVEL? I don't think I've ever seen it without its prefix. Hmmm.
My, my, LAURA! Your clothes are so kempt this morning!
I wanted to go for the kill early, but I was just too ruth.
HUGH was ranged enough to realize that taking a WEAPON would have been a big mistake.
During the discussion of ANSLEM's Ontological Argument, everyone else seemed totally plussed
.

Believe it or not, I have a CELERY story. Field Linguistics class. (as in work for National Geographic and go in to study the Maasai tribe but not know their language). Our informant was a native Efik (Nigerian language) speaker. About one week in, someone asked him how to say "sky" or "ceiling" or some such word. He answered something like "un-ten" (you Efik speakers gimme a break – it's been 25 years.) He said both syllables on the same tone with no real stress. I asked if "un TEN" (first syllable lower tone, second higher), and he said, "Yes. That means CELERY." We were all silenced with the enormity of my, yes my, discovery. Efik was a tone language. (Thank you very much. I'm buffing my nails on my lapel.)

Hey! King TRITON wields a TRIDENT. I couldn't have resisted cross-referencing those.

POO RAT. Well, yeah. Aren't they all?

Great puzzle, Alan! I won’t finish a Sunday if it doesn't amuse me, but I dispatched this one pretty fast.

Glimmerglass 8:32 AM  

I'm surprised that Bob K and others haven't played Clue and know it only from xwords. I didn't think there was anyone of "a certain age" ( which includes Bob K) who hadn't been cajoled into playing, at least with the children. It's not my favorite game, but it's certainly the kind of game puzzlers usually like. A better mystery game is Murder in the Dark (look it up), but no one sells it because it requires almost no equipment (except a large house and night). Also try How to Host a Murder, which has lots of expensive equipment but is great fun with the right guests.

Tita 8:49 AM  

So much fun! Loved the game as a kid. @Z = the "Board" was perfect - just like the game (if memory serves me), the doors are not directly opposite...
I always wanted to be MISSSCARLET...

I cry "TADAS" to my cats 2x/day. as I present them with their favorite thing, a meal. THough it is not a cry of pride, but more like "here it is!" - I suppose I should be saying "Voilá" - but they have never complained.

@lms - "The Pride of the Yankees" another of my old movie faves... But I shan't sue you - you're far to AmiABLE. And AFFABLE too!

You're not a knitter, thoug - at least not a 21st century one, or you would know RAVELry.com - a great site for ideas and exchanging your stash. (No, it's not based in Colorado - Stash is the euphemism for all those balls of wool crammed into different nooks all around the house of any knitter.

I accuse you of a fabulous puzzle, Mr. DerKazarian!

Mohair Sam 8:58 AM  

Lots of fun. Over too quickly as Rex said.

I had planned to say that TRITON wields a TRIDENT, chew on that. But @Loren Muse kinda beat me to it.

Dictionaries 8:59 AM  

@LMS:

ENORMITY: e·nor·mi·ty/ɪˈnɔrmɪti/
1. outrageous or heinous character; atrociousness: the enormity of war crimes.
2. something outrageous or heinous, as an offense: The bombing of the defenseless population was an enormity beyond belief.

Tita 9:21 AM  

@lms - I'm still on the fence.
I spoke to @Sparky just yesterday, and she is too... on the fence, that is, though in a much warmer clime, so it's OK - here, I need my SNO-cat to even *see* my fence.

I am hoping that I will in fact get to Westport, where we will for sure have just about everyone you mentioned. (Only $25, no hotel, lots of us ADORKABLEs, and WS too!)

@lms again...I love your word list. Is there a term for words that are NEVER used without another very specific word or two?
Akimbo comes to mind. I looked that one up and realize that I have misunderstood it lo these many years - I thought a) it could be applied to both arms AND legs... and b) that it meant to be moving your limbs way out ot hte sides...
Wrong...! I am not sure that there are many out there who could in fact have their legs akimbo other than some at the BIGTOP or Midway.

ê-kim-bo •
Meaning: (Standing) with the hands resting on the hips, elbows bent and sticking out (as in the photograph).
Notes: This adjective is unusual in two respects: it follows its noun, rather than preceding it, and it is used mostly in one expression "with arms akimbo": She stood with arms akimbo, daring him to approach her. There are no nouns, adverbs, or verbs associated with this word; it is the purest of lexical orphans."

Here is an attempt at a compilation - not all are correct, but it's a nerdy romp...
http://ask.metafilter.com/154021/Obscure-words-combine-to-form-common-phrase

(HUE and cry, with this particularly obscure meaning of HUE, is one of them.)
Another learning moment at
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hue_and_cry

Susan McConnell 9:37 AM  

Easy and super fun! Loved everything about it.

Merriam Webster 9:40 AM  

@Dictionaries -

Usage Discussion of ENORMITY

Enormity, some people insist, is improperly used to denote large size. They insist on enormousness for this meaning, and would limit enormity to the meaning “great wickedness.” Those who urge such a limitation may not recognize the subtlety with which enormity is actually used. It regularly denotes a considerable departure from the expected or normal . When used to denote large size, either literal or figurative, it usually suggests something so large as to seem overwhelming and may even be used to suggest both great size and deviation from morality . It can also emphasize the momentousness of what has happened or of its consequences .
Examples of ENORMITY

We were shocked at the enormity of the crime.
They didn't fully grasp the enormity of their decision.

Bob Kerfuffle 9:44 AM  

@Glimmerglass - When I played board games with kids, it was almost always Scrabble. Did I have an advantage? You betcha! My motto was, Crush 'em! (I would always compliment the player who came in second -- unless one of the little devils got better tiles than I did and actually won!) :>)

Craig 9:51 AM  

I guess I'm in the minority of solvers here, but I really disliked this puzzle. It was a dull slog for me. Nothing was hard, and nothing was interesting either.

The fact that four small grids contained 160 words made it feel much larger than a usual Sunday puzzle to me, even though my time was faster. Just not good.

Glimmerglass 10:02 AM  

@LMS. St Anselm's argument is not rocket science. Accepting it requires that you accept his premises, which is really a circular argument. He says that "If the fool hath said in his heart 'There is no God,' it is because he is a fool." God exists because he is God, and therefore must exist. Understand? Yes, but . . . .

chefbea 10:23 AM  

@Tita I sure have my stash!!! I've started a n afghan (throw) using up all the left over skeins of yarn I have

Dictionaries 10:26 AM  

@Merriam Webster - If by "subtlety" you mean common ignorance, I totally agree. I would go further to posit that most people don't know the usage of enormity that I cited, that enormity is used exactly as a substitute for enormousness. I offer, in support of my argument, a recent nationwide ad campaign of Bank of America, where the tag line was "get to know the enormity of Bank of America". A certain portion of the population doubtlessly laughed, as did I, at the enormity of the mistake on the part of the copy writer. The rest, the majority, probably not so much.

However, a language maven such as @LMS can certainly take a harmless jibe at her usage.

Captch: yerpoint. I think I just made my point you annoying gatekeeper.

evil doug 10:32 AM  

Not me?

noreen 10:36 AM  

I've never played Clue. Would someone be so kind as to explain 83A silentb? Or does it have anything at all to do with Clue?

BlackeyedSusan 10:42 AM  

Liked but didn't love. A tad too easy even for a newbie. Not so new come to think of it. Almost kept last new year's resolution to try the puzzle every day and read this super blog. Couldn't do it from spain or with a houseful (16!) of kids and grands over the holidays.
Anyway - thanks Rex for the clip of the Everly Brothers. Seldom look at them but for some reason watched and loved it. Really brought me back. And today I read that Phil has died. Rest in peace.

joho 10:43 AM  

It was AlanDerKazarian in the library with a pen!!!

Loved this one, so much fun due to the amusing board visual and great answers throughout the house.

Just one write over at lisLE before ISTLE.

I thought the clue for URN was really funny and off the wall.

My only complaint was the 4th and last quadrant was practically filled in before I even looked at it as I'd already written in the margin: It was MISSSCARLET IN THE LOUNGE WITH THE ROPE!

MetaRex 10:46 AM  

A favorite game of a misspent youth...was hoping for a logic of elimination in the theme similar to the game, but all good...good choice of culprit and room...Miss Scarlet was near the lounge, if I'm recalling the board correctly.

@lms--hoping to make it to the ACPT and to see you and other puzzlers there--enjoyed the scene last yr as an observer--maybe this year a bold effort to become recognized as the galaxy's 4000th best solver.

Tita 10:48 AM  

@noreen - the b in doubt is silent. A common way for constructors to say "na na na na na na" and thumb their noses at us, while we shake our fists at them, muttering silently (or loudly) "Got me again..."

@dict, MerriamW - please to add @Glimmer's Premise/Premises misstep... Being a purveyor of software which may reside in the cloud or on-premises, I am constantly correcting everyone in the company on that one - so it's top of mind for me.
Not too surprisingly, the Italians (comnpany is founded in Italy) never get that one wrong.

(@Glimmer - just joking - I always assume that typos or misuse here is usually an autocorrect issue.)

Anonymous 10:50 AM  

@noreen - The "b" in doubt is silent, hence SILENTB. It's one of many such clues, "Crack head" would be HARDC (hard c ), etc No, it has nothing to do with Clue.

Captain G. Piecost 11:00 AM  

The best definition/example of alliteration was that of my school ate Bill Hopkins in 12th grade English class. Made up on the spot - - - "a succession of similar sounds". I still remember this 50 years later.

Rob C 11:04 AM  

Medium Sun. for me. Really enjoyed this one after I got over my immediate reaction of 'ugh' upon seeing the 4 separate puzzles in the grid. Liked how the "theme" was different in each quadrant. Lots of fun with some good fill too. Although, I don't see why having the quadrants cut off from each other was necessary to make it seem like a Clue board. In the game, the rooms are connected by doorways and hallways.

I didn't really like Clue when I was younger, but I liked it when I played with my children. It was fun to see their development. When they were young, they would just wander around the board aimlessly, with little thought behind their guesses. As they grew up, they would hone their strategy and guesses.

Also sort of surprised at how many here have never played Clue. Just though it was one of those games that everyone would have encountered.

I didn't think AGEING with the E was the correct spelling.

Did anyone else not like the clue for 17D "Have a thought" for OPINE. Simply having a thought isn't opining. Unless I'm missing something. If so, someone please enlighten me.

Haven't posted for a while. Busy at work in early Dec and traveling for the holidays. Nice to be back reading all of the clever comments.

Gill I. P. 11:17 AM  

I have never ever played CLUE. What is wrong with me?
Four little puzzles all wrapped up in one big, fun and really enjoyable puzfest. It wasn't until the final reveal that I actually appreciated the enormity of the task to create such a gem......
Did you know that terrific actually means *causing terror*?
@Dictionaries @Merriam Webster: I misuse words all the time - usually because of the way they sound to me. One I toss about is *hoi polloi* thinking is refers to snooty wealthy people....
@Loren. I too am on the fence. My close friend is getting re-married and she's thinking sometime in early March - so I'm crossing fingers. Imagine meeting my imaginary friends at last..
@@Jim Finder from yesterda - thanks for the buff explanation.
And Alan Derkazarian this truly was a gem...Thanks!

Anonymous 11:24 AM  

Agree that this was an exceptionally easy, but fun, Sunday. At first I thought 1A was "Scarlet" but then realized it was the more general "suspect" with Scarlet coming later. For 83A, I think it would have been cool if the answer to the clue "thing in doubt" was "motive." Of course that didn't fit but it was my first thought along the lines of the theme.

Norm 11:41 AM  

@jae & @Benko. Not Alan D's first puzzle. He had "Two Halves in One" last month. http://www.nytimes.com/crosswords/game/2013/12/01/daily/

Mohair Sam 11:46 AM  

@rob c: re the aging/ageing matter.

When I started my career in finance I was the only guy in my office who could program a computer and was assigned the task of writing a loan payment ageing report for my company. I titled the report "AGEING report" and was criticized for bad spelling. Next month I title it "Aging Report" and was corrected again. Since then I have written many many programs for ag(e)ing reports on all sorts of receivables. My spelling is invariably criticized no matter how I spell Ag(e)ing.

I have decided that the correct spelling of ageing is in the eye of the beholder.

Rob C 12:11 PM  

@Mohair Sam - You could just title it "Ag(e)ing Report", but of course then you'd be criticized for being indecisive.

loren muse smith 12:18 PM  

@Tita, Gill I.P., Sparky – I'll keep my fingers crossed! @MetaRex – you have to compete, if only to discuss the puzzles in between puzzles. I've never cared about solving fast, but this year I'm totally going for the "neatest writing" trophy.

@Captain G. Piecost - "Psychic sensitive centipede is alliteration," then. Love it.

@glimmerglass – so you understand the *real* meaning of "beg the question," too. Sigh. And it appears in @Tita's interesting list. @Tita – liked thinking about "arms akimbo." Another adjective comes to mind that always follows the noun is "galore." "There were pewits galore in all the grids."

@dictionaries – well there's one word's specialized use that wasn't on my radar screen at all! I'm embarrassed at the enormousness of my mistake. I'll probably continue to use it the way its starting to be excepted, but at least I'll know. . . So many lexical pairs out there who's specific uses are completely lost on me- @Bob's telling me the difference between "supine" and "prostate," to site just one. And, heck, I'm loathe to use "bring" or "take" because I can never commit to a point of reference. I know my priss-post posts infer that I know all the different nuances between pairs of oft-misused words, and the affect of such a Know-It-All roll here must be aggravating for a lot of you. I guess the descriptivist in me hides behind the principal that language is constantly changeing (Hi, @AliasZ, Rob C).

Hey, but to quote @Meriam Webster's post: "(Enormity) can also emphasize the momentousness of what has happened or of its consequences." That instant in that classroom was one of the most enormous, monumentally momentous moments of my grad school career. I bet people are still talking about it. Seriously. CELERY. Gave me goosebumps.

Everett Wolf 12:21 PM  

See, people forget that the victim in Clue is Mr. Boddy, hence the "Silent B".

;-)

MissPriss 12:30 PM  

Thank you Rex, for working on these posts everyday! I truly look forward to every Sunday's blog and comments. One question, will Michael Sharp truly take C/O what we send you?? Is he trustworthy or will it be a crime of enormity should he take-off to Bermuda with your hard-earned donations?

Sandy K 12:38 PM  

Count me in the bunch that have never played CLUE. Still found it easy to solve the mystery and the puzzle.

As I solve, I also try to guess if @Rex will rip it to shreds or merely dislike it...guessed wrong today. Thought EELIER, MEALIER, AGEING, EVENER, and names like KATT and CRENNA would give us- Rex on the blog with the axe. But no. Only Mack SENNETT was dENOUNCED. A bit.

This was fun and clever. Liked the constructor's use of 3 types of CLUEs and the gameboard- which did remind me of the pooltable puzz with the POCKET rebus...I like gimmicks!

Numinous 12:38 PM  

I've never played Clue either but I used to watch Murder She Wrote. Didn't help me out much, especially in the NW. Getting the SE did help though. Scarlet LETTER, yep, I've heard of that, but scarlet TANAGER? Well, sounds reasonable. I had AmiABLE crossing MotLIER. What the hell is a scarlet moVER? After I erased m, i, o and t, I remembered that my dad had scarlet FEVER as a child; aha, AFFABLE.

The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage lists "Aging" and makes no mention of "AGEING" which Google underlines in red as I type this.

I had fun with this one even though I wasn't CLUEd in.

FearlessKim 12:48 PM  

Hey Rex! Already sent the check but to a different address in Vestal. Will it still get to you?

Bob Kerfuffle 12:49 PM  

:>)

@lms - Um, actually, the word pair I had the audacity to clarify for you was "supine" and "prone". And, yes, I know you were going for a laugh by salting that sentence in your comment with "who's" and "site." :>)

Sandy K 12:53 PM  

PS- Upon further inspection, it wasn't SENNETT, it was ISTLE- sorry Rex.

Tita 12:54 PM  

@SandyK - you remind me about @EllenS...
As soon as I saw not just EEL, but EELIER(!!), I remembered that I needed to alert her to an abomination on PBS - Nature has an entire hour dedicated to EELs!!!!!!!!

@Ellen - have you seen it??
It is actually pretty disturbing - starts off with an artist who reveres the critters - but in a rather odd way - he uses dead ones as his "paintbrushes"...

Then another EELer from Maine who traps millions of them a year as they make their epic journeys downstream to the sea. He returns one lucky female back to the river, downstream of his EEL WEIR.
Come on - one?? You can't spare 2 or 3?

While I might LOATHE (Hi, @lms) EELs in my grids, I now feel bad for them in their own habitat.

3 and out?

Numinous 1:03 PM  

@Bob Kerfuffle, when you are prostrate, you are prone. However, a prostate exam may be prone to prostrate you too.

My wife thinks akimbo means "every which way" but she's a @Rob C computer programmer too.

loren muse smith 1:23 PM  

@Bob. I new I could count on ewe.

@Numinous - stated like a pro.

jae 1:31 PM  

@Norm -- Here is what Alan had to say at Xwordinfo

Then about a year ago Will wrote that he liked a Sunday of mine but wanted to talk about it on the phone as there was just too much to discuss in an email. So I got to talk to Will Shortz, which was quite a thrill! He told me he “liked the puzzle or we wouldn’t be talking now” and went over two or three things he’d like changed to improve it. After a few weeks I emailed him the new puzzle with the changes he’d requested and got a reply that the theme now looked solid but he had issues with some of the fill in the southeast and southwest grids. After re-doing those two grids yet again, BANG, my first puzzle accepted (though third to see publication).

Anonymous 1:31 PM  

Loved this puzzle and got almost all of it- got the theme clues early on- and the grid almost looked like it was divided into 'rooms' like on the board of clue-great fun

Everett Wolf 1:41 PM  

Learned a couple of interesting things today:
Before reading these posts, I would've expected 8 or 9 people out of 10 to have played Clue at least once in their lifetime. Now I'm curious how many people have played Monopoly. There are movies, books, TV series and a musical based on Clue -- my little community theater just put up a production of the musical.

Next, I knew that the American version of the game uses "Mr. Boddy" as the victim's name, but I didn't realize that the original -- English -- version (Cluedo) has "Dr. Black" as the perpetual victim.

So, now the "Silent B" answer is doubly apt as a themer! Both Boddy and Black are dead, therefore silent, and both are "B"s. ;-)

Bob Kerfuffle 1:43 PM  

@Numinous and lms - FWIW, as I remember the discussion (not going to try to cite the exact date), I pointed out that at Summer Camp the rifle range instructor would have us shoot in the "prone position." Although the words may otherwise be roughly equivalent, we were never told to shoot in the "prostrate position."

paulsfo 1:57 PM  

@Rob C: yes, I also thought that the clue for OPINE was weak.

PapaLeroux 1:59 PM  

I liked it. Prehistoric menace was my favorite clue. Good job!

Steve J 2:44 PM  

This came off as a stunt puzzle to me. The stunt's pretty clever and done quite well (with one exception), but it's still a stunt. I admired what was done here, but I didn't particularly enjoy solving it. Well, I enjoyed solving the Clue bit. I didn't enjoy a lot of the fill needed to get there.

Within the theme's rubric, the one notable misstep was what others have pointed out: the final room's lead answer has nothing to do with the room. (Even worse, it's a loathsome* phonetic answer, crossed by a loathsomely clued INIT.) It would have been both consistent and more elegant to have that answer be related to the fact that the SE mini-puzzle was the solution.

Outside that exception, the concept was executed quite well. I had initial misgivings about completely cordoning off each room, but it worked out. I really liked how each mini-puzzle utilized the circles in different ways, and it was nice how each made use of some well-known theme devices (theme-word enders, synonyms, anagrams).

Outside the theme/concept/stunt, I found fill to be pretty weak. Lots of vaguely clued uncommon names, lots of clunky short fill due to the small grids of each mini-puzzle, more than a couple clues that felt a bit off, lots of crosswordese.

I ultimately DNF due to a Natick at KATT/TANAGER. I don't know the bird, and I didn't recognize the actor. Looking him up, I see he was the start of The Greatest American Hero a show I loved as a kid. I suppose I should have just guessed at it, as the only other letter that would work phonetically (I think) would be E.

@Loren: I believe I have run across RAVEL on its own somewhere along the way. Couldn't tell you where or when, but it didn't strike me as being as odd as, say, kempt or plussed without their prefixes.

@paulsfo: Agreed with you on ENOTE. It. Is. Not. A. Thing. Nobody has sent an ENOTE. Ever. They've sent trillions of emails, which accomplish exactly the thing that was clued. I have a deep and abiding dislike for E-anything clues outside of email, but this one is arguably the worst of the breed.

Re aging/AGEING: Both are correct. Which one is correct depends on where you're writing. Aging is preferred in North American English dialects (including Canada, apparently, even though they usually - but not always - tend toward UK/international spellings); ageingis used outside North America. Think of it like tire/tyre.

That said, it arguably should have been clued to flag that the non-North American spelling was being sought: "Inevitability of life in Leeds", for example.


*Hyperbolic usage. Although these sorts of answers/clues - phonetic references, structural references (like INIT), etc. - are my least-favorite things in crosswords.

Sandy K 2:48 PM  

@Tita-

I think everyone here must think of @EllenS when confronted by EELS!

And now that you mention PBS, I'm reminded that Season 4 of Downton Abbey begins tonight.

I'm surprised the 'sycophant-reminisce'-hating anonymouse failed to cite the implementation of the @ in our comments- I for one, tended to over-@...and have tried to cut down. And then those annoying people who always bring up Downton Abbey. = [

Anonymous 3:16 PM  

I know that New Yorkers have only a vague knowledge of the geography of the rest of the country (as in the famous New Yorker magazine cover), but trust me, Kansas is NOT part of the Midwest, so TOPEKA is NOT a "Midwest capital".
"prairie capital", yes
"plains state capital", yes
"Midwest capital"? NO.

Benko 3:42 PM  

@Norm: Funny that both of Alan D.'s puzzles shared the divided grid trick. Will this be his construction gimmick?
St. Anselm's argument is that because nothing is greater than God, and a God that exists in reality is greater than an imaginary God, then God must exist in reality and not just in our imaginations. A very strange argument, since the premise itself--nothing is greater than God--pretty much cancels out the need for further argument.
"It's like a sweater you're trying to unRAVEL, and someone keeps knitting, and knitting, and knitting..."

GoTopeka 3:46 PM  

Doug Kinsinger, President and CEO of the Greater Topeka Chamber/GO Topeka calls the plan “the most thorough, creative, yet pragmatic economic assessment we have undertaken. Plus, the implementation recommendations will insure that this strategy does not sit on a shelf to gather dust. The work of the CSG was outstanding and exceeded our expectations.”

“Especially intriguing about the report is its emphasis that Topeka—as a Midwestern capital city with lower housing and labor costs than the well-known high-tech clusters like Silicon Valley, Boston, and Austin—can capitalize on an emerging outsourcing trend called ‘home-shoring,’” says Kinsinger. “The report points out that while most of the big cities and high-tech havens are idling after the ‘bubble burst’ five years ago, the ‘real entrepreneurial hotbeds are now on the periphery.’”

Anonymous 3:56 PM  

Well, gee, if Kansas isn't in the Midwest how can St. Louis be the gateway to the Midwest?

quilter1 4:00 PM  

Finished late due to daughter duty, but what a fun and clever puzzle. I enjoyed it very much and admire the constructor just as much.

August West 4:23 PM  

Fun. It seems I liked it more than Steve J and less than Rex. There's a switch. Agree with the assessments of both.

Do the Agard/Kravis POW. It's a...hoot.

mac 4:50 PM  

Very nice Sunday puzzle, easy-medium because of amiable for affable and not really getting the pfffft.

I've never played clue, but I've seen the game and read about it.

See you in Brooklyn, Loren!

Lawprof 5:13 PM  

Back in the late 80's my English teacher wife came home from school to tell me that she had been quizzing her class on vocabulary. She asked them if anyone knew the meaning of the word "prostrate." Blank looks until finally one hand went up, somewhat tentatively: "Isn't that one of those things they removed from Reagan's nose?" True story.

Anonymous 5:16 PM  

I was sure that the answer to "untouched" was "safe."

retired_chemist 5:23 PM  

Finished slowly due to having to do it in AL on an iPAd. First weekend I have done puzzles that way, so not familiar with the screen. But it seemed easy, although the mechanics made it tedious.

Solved it as a themeless, pretty much, although I grokked the Clue theme from the outset - the title left little doubt what was coming. In retrospect the theme and the special grid were quite imaginative and deserved more attention from me.

Surprised Rex had nothing to say about OOX.

No complaints here - only kudos. Thanks, Mr. DerKazarian.

Norm 5:29 PM  

@jae I'll agree that "first" has many definitions. Alan has a "first" accepted and a "first" published, and there may be other variations as well. I was remembering the first of his (I think) that we got to solve. Cheers.

Nancy 5:38 PM  

Very easy and pretty entertaining in spots, though the solving seemed long to me. Not slow, just long. Guess that means there were parts where I was less entertained. Still a nice, interesting job of construction.

LaneB 6:12 PM  

Unfortunately (for me) tyrannus rex ffits in the PTERODACTYL space and ADDLEd me for a long time. Also had problems with some clues,e.g.10d--a FLITTER is not a "move". LOTS of abbr.s, "in a way"s ??s and inits. Too many IMHO

cascokid san 6:38 PM  

2:28 no googles, no errors, lots and lots of tear-downs rebuilds. But, hey, TADA.

"Gay" city was obviously Ptown. Then it was obviously PARis. The whole puzzle went like that. Hard to call it easy, but I can see why those who think PAREE first might think so. Not me.

Anonymous 6:45 PM  

Easy and boring puzzle...plus the NW corner resembles a swastika and this is not cool.... I showed that corner to a non-solver friend and that's the first thing that came to mind...boo!

John Child 6:57 PM  

A big thumbs-up for something new and different. I don't think I've ever played Clue, but I knew enough to manage here. And there was wonderfully little dreck.

The concept of four small puzzles with four different themes -- word-goes-with, synonyms, anagrams, and quote -- and four different grids combined into a meta-puzzle is elegant.

But it's still four small puzzles, with short answers. Not so much fun for me.

Anonymous 7:05 PM  

So I did Erik Agard's New Years Eve Puzzle (Rex's favorite of the week). It was fine - but obscure. I am missing the punch line -- I don't get it. Can anyone clue me in?
Teresa in Detroit

Anonymous 7:14 PM  

I'm surprised at you, Rex. "Istle" is a pretty common exemplar of crosswordese.

Benko 7:14 PM  

Anonymous 645:
I thought I was the only one who saw that! Agreed.

chefbea 7:34 PM  

@anonymous 7:05 I don't get it either

Steve J 7:42 PM  

The Agard/Kravis puzzle was fun. Took a long while for the lightbulb to go on, but enjoyed it when it did.

@Teresa in Detroit/Anon 7.05 and @chefbea (or anyone else who's stumped): I'm not going to offer an explanation in the open, in case others are interested in doing the puzzle, but click my name and send me an email at the address on my profile page, and I'll be happy to fill you in.

ANON B 7:59 PM  

ANONYMOUS@6:45:
I don't see a swastika in
the NW. I can vaguely see one in the NE

Tita 8:23 PM  

Just had to come back here...

The anonymouse re: swastikas made me look at the grid and wonder how many crossword grids can look like swastikas.
Sorry, but that is appallingly absurd.

Happily, it reminded me to remember the crossing of REPO Man with NONAME...a shoutout to the generic products labeled "Food", "Beer"...?

(I'll deduct one post from tomorrow's count...)

ANON B 8:49 PM  

Tita@8:23
?

ahimsa 8:49 PM  

I enjoyed the puzzle. Kudos to Alan DerKazarian for a new and interesting twist!

For those who were talking about RAVEL (the word, not the composer) that word always makes me think of this quote from MacBeth:

Methought I heard a voice cry, “Sleep no more!
Macbeth does murder sleep”—the innocent sleep,
Sleep that knits up the RAVELED sleave of care,
The death of each day’s life, sore labor’s bath,
Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course,
Chief nourisher in life’s feast.

ANON B 8:50 PM  

Tita@8:23
?

sanfranman59 9:20 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 7:38, 6:18, 1.21, 97%, Challenging (7th highest ratio of 210 Mondays)
Tue 7:37, 8:12, 0.93, 26%, Easy-Medium
Wed 14:15, 10:26, 1.37, 97%, Challenging (8th highest ratio of 209 Wednesdays)
Thu 21:04, 18:24, 1.14, 74%, Medium-Challenging
Fri 21:26, 19:47, 1.08, 72%, Medium-Challenging
Sat 32:10, 28:35, 1.13, 82%, Challenging
Sun 30:07, 29:48, 1.01, 58%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 4:42, 3:56, 1.19, 96%, Challenging (9th highest ratio of 210 Mondays)
Tue 4:45, 5:09, 0.92, 20%, Easy-Medium
Wed 9:00, 6:11, 1.46, 100%, Challenging (2nd highest ratio of 209 Wednesdays)
Thu 12:58, 10:36, 1.22, 80%, Medium-Challenging
Fri 12:14, 11:32, 1.06, 60%, Medium-Challenging
Sat 19:59, 17:37, 1.13, 77%, Medium-Challenging
Sun 19:35, 20:23, 0.96, 38%, Easy-Medium

Anonymous 9:34 PM  

Can someone explain 84 down?

Anonymous 9:37 PM  

84. Part of U.S.: Abbr. : INIT
Initial (init.)

paulsfo 9:39 PM  

@Anonymous at 9:34pm:
Part of "U.S." (not part of "United States", but rather part of "U.S.") is an initial (eg. "U") and "INIT" is an abbreviation for "initial".

Rex Parker 9:46 PM  

@Fearless Kim—

Yes, that address is still operative, but not for long. I'll check it this week. Thanks.

wa 11:44 PM  

had not played Clue since I was a baby PTERODACTYL

Jayhale 12:22 AM  

Still confused about 84d. What is initial?

Steve J 12:26 AM  

@Jayhale: U and S are initials for United and States, respectively. Just like W in Ralph W Emerson is an initial for Waldo.

Your confusion is precisely why I hate this style of clue. It's a cheap trick (one that's nowhere near as good as the band of the same name).

lawprof 9:15 AM  

Not familiar with MNIGHTSHYAMALAN and TNUT was pretty iffy, so their crossing almost produced a natick for me. Fortunately, no letter but T seemed to fit.

The most enduring sports image in my mind is Kurt Gibson's game-winning homerun in the 1988 World Series. Vin Scully's call, "High fly ball into right field...she is GONE!" followed by not one word as the crippled Gibson limps around the bases remains one of the great feats of sportscasting ever, rivaled only perhaps by Al Michaels' "Do you believe in miracles?"

Z 7:48 PM  

Did this late Saturday using Crux on an iPad. This is not my favorite way to solve, and I was pretty worn-out from three days of skiing, so my reaction was fairly muted. Clue was not a big game in this family, but we did play it. Current fave game is Ticket to Ride.

Trevor Gatty 11:16 PM  

I'm British, my wife is from New York. We both enjoy the Sunday NT crosswords but I am interested only in working out the answers, not all the fancy design features. Does anyone share my liking for the London Times puzzles, in which no clue can be completely answered by working out the clues around it The answers intersect but never adjoin each other. I thought that only "SilentB" came up to the London standard and of course it could be deduced if one solved the ones surrounding it.

Numinous 12:39 AM  

@Trevor Gatty:

The puzzles you refer to are called cryptic. Conventionally, the clues are in two parts: a definition and directions for solving set up as a single sentence. The trick is to figure out which parts of the sentence represent which element of the solution. The clue for SILENTB does not live up to that standard. It is often the case that a solution can be inferred from crosses in cryptic crosswords.

I've enjoyed the London Times puzzles, mostly the Sunday ones when they were published in paperback by Penguin. I've also done ones from The Telegraph, The Guardian, The Sydney Morning Herald and a Scottish paper, the Mail?

Of the readily available puzzles in the U. S. The NYT puzzles tend to be the best, ranging in difficulty from easy Mondays to confounding Saturdays. Not at all the same as cryptics but still puzzling in their own right.

There are some cryptics available online for free as well as subscriptions like The London Times.

Welcome to Rexworld. I hope you'll come to appreciate all of the NYT puzzles and become a part of our cozy and diverse family here.

spacecraft 12:16 PM  

I cannot believe this. Is there NO ONE who, putting 1a together with the shaded clues, CONFIDENTLY wrote in SCARLET??? Come on, "The 'who' of a Clue accusation, whose identity is hinted at by the three shaded answers in this quadrant." I cannot BELIEVE that there weren't TONS of you who fell for that. I was expecting to say "Hand up for ScarleT" among a sea of hands.

Anyway, the NW quad filled easily from the bottom up, till I could make no sense of the NW part of the NW. Confused? YESYES, me too. I finally got it straightened out, realizing at last they were going for the NONAME term SUSPECT.

Thus I saw that I wasn't looking for a 4-LETTER room, but the word ROOM; nor for a 6-letter weapon, just WEAPON.

Some intriguing long-word pairings: PRETZELS/DIETSODA, PTERODACTYL/ALIENATTACK, ABANDONSHIP/ROLLINGPINS (well, if you feel your legs [PINS] ROLLING it might well be time to, uh, OK, it was a stretch).

@lms: you sound gruntled. Yet you "loved" SILENTB. I do not. Let me go ONATEAR: What in the h-e-double hockey sticks is ETSY?? Oh wait, I know: it's just my friend Betsy, with the GODDAMNED SILENTB!! Anyway, I had to leave in ETSY because the REST of it fit, and hope it made some kind of sense to somebody.

So no, not exactly easy for me, but I kinda enjoyed it. It certainly was different. Had it not been for the horrendous 83a, I'd have gone two thumbs up.

Dirigonzo 6:02 PM  

I enjoyed it but I certainly didn't think it was easy. For reasons I don't understand I had the SE quadrant filled in before the others were complete so I avoided the trap that got @Spacey. Of course 14d was a total gimme for me because I see the Maine State seal practically every day.

It would have been very cool if each of the "rooms" in the grid could have been connected by a "secret door" to the adjacent room, like in the board game but I guess that's asking too much of the constructor.

@Rex says he seldom hears from syndi-solvers even though we make up more than half of his reader-ship. That's a shame on us, and I hope everyone here in Syn-city, commenters and lurkers alike, will consider rewarding our host for creating this on-line community and allowing us to take part in it.

Four fives - read 'em and weep.

Ann 5:10 PM  

Why is there a red letter in the solved puzzle?

FAQ 5:40 PM  

@Ann - May I direct your attention to the FAQ link at the top of the blog. Your question, and many other frequently asked questions are answered there (though nothing about the rumored OOXTEPLERNON shirts).

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