2002 Denzel Washington drama / TUE 2-18-14 / Yiddish author Aleichem / Rule ending in 1947 / James Patterson sleuth Cross / Composer Novello /

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Constructor: David Steinberg

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging



THEME: ATOZ — Puzzle note: "The answers to the 13 starred clues follow an unusual two-way progression from 1- to 73-Across. Can you figure out what it is?"

Answer: first letters of the answers to the starred clues progress in alphabetical order going out (first half of the alphabet), last letters of the answers progress in alphabetical order heading back (second half of the alphabet. That is, first letters are A-M (ATOZ to MEAN), last letters (headed backwards) are N-Z (MEAN to ATOZ).

Theme answers:
  • ATOZ
  • BBOY
  • CHATTERBOX
  • DONOW
  • EXGOV
  • FONDU
  • GARMENTDISTRICT
  • HIKES
  • ICIER
  • JOHNQ
  • KARATECHOP
  • LENO
  • MEAN
Word of the Day: "JOHN Q" (60A: *2002 Denzel Washington drama) —
John Q is a 2002 American drama film directed by Nick Cassavetes. The film follows John Quincy Archibald (Denzel Washington), a father and husband whose son is diagnosed with an enlarged heart and then finds out he cannot receive a transplant because HMO insurance will not cover it; therefore, he decides to take a hospital full of patients hostage until the hospital puts his son's name on the recipient's list.
The film also stars Robert DuvallAnne HecheJames WoodsRay Liotta and Eddie Griffin, among others. The film was shot in TorontoHamilton, Ontario, and Canmore, Alberta, although the story takes place in Chicago.
• • •

My problem with stunt puzzles isn't that they are stunt puzzles, per se. It's ouch ouch ouch ouch ouch ouch. This one was almost physically painful to solve, so bad was the fill. I could see that some kind of alphabetic progression was happening, but all I could think was "what in the World is making the fill be this bad? Like, comically, over-the-top bad." Then I finished, and looked, and had my answer. This must've been very difficult to pull off. Starts with E ends in V? Good luck. Starts with J and ends in Q? Ha ha ha ha, OK! And yet somehow not only did the constructor find answer to fit the pattern, he got them to fit into the grid symmetrically. EXGOV is a stretch (31A: *Sarah Palin or Arnold Schwarzenegger, informally), but I'll give him that one. So conceptually, the theme is impressive. And if "execution" pertained simply to finding and arranging theme answers, then he nailed that as well. But as I've said, the fill was horrendous. Half the grid at least is suboptimal to laughable, esp. for a Tuesday puzzle. ONERS QUIN NISI ENORM — that's just the tip. Don't you want people to enjoy the solve *and* admire the stunt? I just don't understand (clearly).


I just googled "FONDU"—"Did you mean 'fondue'?" Well, yes, before solving this puzzle, that is what I would've meant, but I don't know any more. "The Mysterious Mr. QUIN" is … what??? A short story collection, it seems; I don't think this is widely known outside Christie-fan circles. That cross with "JOHN Q" would be utterly laughable—pure Natick—if the theme didn't (in some fashion) give it away. I like XDIN but only if I imagine it as Bizarro ODIN. I will say that GARMENT DISTRICT, CHATTERBOX and KARATE CHOP are all lovely, and GOES SOFT and ZYGOTE go a long way toward salving the wound caused by NOBETAMANGENL etc. There is no question that this is an impressive construction—when looked at after the fact. But it was largely an unpleasant solving experience. Fill standards should never be set to Bare Minimum, no matter how strong the thematic justification.
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

    121 comments:

    jae 12:06 AM  

    Pretty tough for a Tues.  Medium-tough for me too but only because I knew stuff like JOHNQ (not one of Denzel's blockbuster flicks), HUME, DCON, UTNE, AKRON, HAKEEM, BBOY, IVOR, ROXIE, TRIG, A MAN...a lot of pop culture, a lot of crossword only knowledge...EIDER, ERI, UTNE, LEAH, ONERS, IVOR, ICI...and a lot of trivia.  

    I agree with Rex about the JOHN Q/QUIN (a WOE for me) cross.  It's a killer if you didn't get the theme.

    NISI was also a WOE.

    Don't get me wrong, I liked the clever theme progression, but I suspect folks who are early week only solvers might need to hit the google because of all the   compromises needed to pull it off.

    wreck 12:13 AM  

    I can't disagree with Rex on this one! It's amazing what David comes up with -- but that was almost triple my normal Tuesday time. I didn't -- but wanted to Google. That would have been a decent Thursday puzzle, but the bad fill was not even worth that.

    (........... okay, I know I'm the usual head griper of nitpicking puzzles -- but, this one WAS over-the-top!)

    cascokid san 12:15 AM  

    A thrilling come-from-behind that ended in a heartbreaking loss. In 55 minutes, I had all but osSINE/SLoE/sAJ. So close, but yet, so far. I don't think I would have worked out of my own private Natick, on that one. It felt like Thursday. Excellent workout, and the sussing out the theme was key to solving the puzzle. JOHNQ, as Rex points out, was one. BBOY was the other. Love it when that happens.

    Anyone have an etymology of BBOY? I was thinking BO-EY, pronounced as two syllables. Perhaps we should trust Master Steinberg on the playground patois.

    I finished yesterday's puzzle, so I hit my weekly quota. Girding for six consecutive DNFs, now.

    Steve J 12:29 AM  
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    Questinia 12:30 AM  

    I thought this puzzle glorious. I loved the gamut for a Tuesday. CHATTERBOX and GARMENT DISTRICT are especially fine. Didn't mind the variant FONDU spelling. Definitely agree with Rex's rating.

    I didn't think of figuring out the theme until I finished so QUIN and JOHN Q were gotten by choosing the only letter that made sense.

    This puzzle had vista. Thanks David. I'm now a fan.

    {Coyotes.... now howling in the moonlight and two feet of snow ... outside my window}.

    Steve J 12:34 AM  

    Did not look at the constructor byline before starting this one. Did not enjoy the puzzle at all. Did not find myself remotely surprised when I saw after the fact it was a David Steinberg puzzle.

    Also, did not finish and did not care enough to do so (I hit the Natick in the SE - not helped by having SHaLOM instead of SHOLOM - and threw in the towel; the corner was so loaded up with unnecessary obscurity (especially for a Tuesday) that I just didn't give a damn anymore).

    I've ranted about puzzles before, but I've also said that even with puzzles I rant about, I enjoy the act of figuring out what's going on and simply enjoy working on a crossword puzzle. And I've said that I can recall no more than 2-3 puzzles over the years where I truly found nothing enjoyable about them. Well, my count's gone up to 3-4.

    Yes, the dual alphabet runs are an impressive stunt. But impressive construction stunts do not always translate into enjoyable solving experiences (I'd argue that they usually don't do so). I look forward to the day when Mr Steinberg learns to balance his considerable construction talent with a desire to make solving his puzzles enjoyable. He's capable of doing some really innovative things, but he just has not developed an ear for what's going to make things enjoyable rather than painful to solve.

    Lastly: How FONDU does not get a (var) tag is beyond me.

    Anonymous 12:36 AM  

    A Bboy is a break dancer, not a rap afficianado.

    Garth 12:43 AM  

    My response to @Rex's question, "Don't you want people to enjoy the solve *and* admire the stunt?," is, of course, yes. And I did very much enjoy the solve and was in awe of the stunt and its execution.

    Thank you Mr. Steinberg and Mr. Shortz.

    Catherine DeMartino 12:49 AM  

    I can't disagree with anything here. I will admit to figuring out the theme almost immediately and that helped the fill quite a bit as I was able to put in all of the first and last letters after scanning through the puzzle once.

    I play on my iPad, so the theme note was given to me from the start and I usually red flag anything that is in 26 or 13 as being related to the alphabet and the first clue pretty much gave it away.

    Refused to enter ENORM into the puzzle until I had to to finish it. The abbreviations MTGE and GENL seem clunky and wrong. The FONDU was just odd and seemed a stretch.

    GARMENTDISTRICT was great but I got fouled for a bit with Deet instead of DCON, which I'm not familiar with, and a very premature guess at easeSOFf instead of GOESSOFT. Also tried for BuRn instead of BARB, which made ABHOR really slow to appear.

    retired_chemist 12:49 AM  

    My slowest Tuesday in a couple of years. As one who does not bother to look for a theme until the solving is finished, I did not like this one. Much of the fill is strained at best, and the solve was borderline aggravating. The JOHN Q/QUIN cross is a true Natick for those who ignore themes - I thought JOHN Q might refer to John Q Public, interesting to see that it doesn't. I'll agree with Rex on this one.

    Wanted SHOLeM Aleichem. So does Google. Should have been marked as a variant IMO. Like FONDU.

    David Steinberg puzzles are interesting - some are really nice and some are IMO just outré. This is one of the latter.

    On to Wednesday. Or maybe Friday, since this was a Thursday in Tuesday's clothing.

    Colin 1:13 AM  

    I didn't see the theme until it was done - it would've helped in the SE corner, which was brutal and added a full 90 seconds to my time. I don't know what dark corner of my brain I pulled JOHN Q from, but QUIN and OMNI were pure guesses nonetheless. A lot of this was great and the theme is super impressive, but yeah - ridiculous for a Tuesday. Still, hats off to the whiz kid as usual.

    Atoz Cody Means 1:27 AM  

    Wondered what happened to NTOZ till I finished and went back. THEN had my WOW moment!

    Knew Rex would hate, and the middle was a bit dire in that MTGE area, but to pull this off is very exciting!
    Still not perfect but watching a genius who is literally experimenting and growing before our eyes is exciting!

    Had to alphabet run JOHNQ, but as @Ms Q mentioned, only thing that made sense with ?UIN... Plus if you grokked the theme you could get it that way.

    That said, not one of the first ten Denzel Washington films I'd name. Is that the one that he takes over the hospital because his boy is dying? Or is it the drunken pilot one?
    Haven't read Agatha Christie since I was a teen, but remember reading dozens of them. Didn't remember that name.
    The funny thing is I think Denzel is in a movie called "The Mighty Quinn", but again I may be conflating 23 different things.

    chefwen 1:47 AM  

    Didn't see the "note", not that would have made a difference in my solve, which was miserable. Trust David Steinberg to get me to Google on a freaking Tuesday, I hang my head in shame. Yiddish author Aleichem??? The Mysterious Dr, QUIN??? JOHN Q??? Was reluctant to fill in an incorrect spelling of FONDUE. And so it goes...

    I agree, this was more of a Thursday puzzle. DNF on a Tuesday, unacceptable.

    JTHurst 3:05 AM  

    We have Rebus Thursday and Oblique Friday so the violation of Tender Tuesday seems like I lost a day. The IHT (now INYT) only gives Mr. Shortz as editor, but Mr. Steinberg has promise. I agree with Ms. DeM. Eri cross enorm and mtge/genl is wrong. One needs the art of enoptomancy to solve the fill on this puzzle, which I discovered while researching ENORM.

    We have added to the plethora of X usage with Xdin. I do not why the inconsistency of X usage bothers me but it always seem to occur on crosses where I am having problems.

    JTHurst 3:08 AM  

    PS I loved the John Q and The Mighty Quin(n).

    Anoa Bob 3:24 AM  

    Nana enorm eri nobet? Ork orr dcon donow!

    Orono odin idig sholom. Shel enote leone (ici nisi).

    Quin utne, genl oners, ivor acai.

    Isitme?

    Davis 4:37 AM  

    I never enjoy puzzles where the fill quality suffers so that the constructor can pull off a stunt. This puzzle was no exception. The payoff just isn't enough to make up for junk like FONDU, QUIN, the un-noted variant SHOLOM, and DCON.

    Anonymous 6:42 AM  

    Did the NYT not bother to check Alecheim's first name it is Sholem not Sholom.

    todnas 6:49 AM  

    Xdin might be a stretch, but I can see it; but ... have we really decided as a community that enote (emag, etc) is a real word ... really? I guess I need to throw my hands up when people complain about (IMHO) perfectly reasonable ORK, ICI and BBOY but let ENOTE, ONERS and IDIG slide because we're so worn down by seeing them. Maybe we should demand that nothing that hasn't been used in print or conversation for a quarter century is good fill without some apologetic notation.

    And while I'm on my soapbox, why not a tough Tuesday puzzle, are we really that set in our ways? Honey, we always eat pasta on Tuesday ....

    cascokid san 6:58 AM  

    @anoa bob, thank you for that most enlightening essay. I'd never really looked at it that way, before. Maybe ITISnotME, after all.

    Anonymous 6:59 AM  

    Since I was 100% sure of the spelling of SHOLEM I wound up with a DNF in the SE corner.

    Glimmerglass 7:02 AM  

    A challenging Tuesday. What a treat. I liked and admired the stunt. I would not have found the Q without it, or half of BBOY. Some of the fill was ugly, but none of it was unfair. Hey, a hard puzzle will have some hard fill. That's the point. Some of the fill was elegant and really fine.

    Anonymous 7:07 AM  

    A good puzzle, but definitely not at the appropriate difficulty level for a Tuesday.

    Jack Lee 7:43 AM  

    Not a Tuesday puzzle. 'Nuff said.

    ArtO 7:45 AM  

    How this puzzle could be planted on a Tuesday is beyond me. It's all been said so far except for a proper "challenging' rating which it should have "for a Tuesday" as our leader would usually say.

    David Steinberg is surely a genius but this went too far with obscurity and alternate spelling liberties.

    Beaglelover 7:59 AM  

    I am not in a good mood now because I usually zip through Tuesday with a big smile on my face. It is snowing again to boot! This puddle was ridiculous!

    David Krost 8:10 AM  

    I complained earlier that what Rex said was easy or easy-medium I often thought he was underrating, but now I guess I will just have to conclude that he and I are just somewhat opposite in what we "get". I did this one in just over 16 minutes, no Googling. The ones I got a little stuck on I was able to get from the crosses. Enorm, for example, isn't that unusual. Nisi I will admit is really obscure, but the crosses were easy (I thought), and besides Utne (Reader) is also fairly commonly used. Anyway, just goes to show how different brains can be. Not better or worse, just different.

    jberg 8:21 AM  

    On the one hand, this was easy once you got the theme -- which should have been right away. I mean, 13 answers in a double progression, and the first one is A TO Z. I was held up for a moment by not noticing that 18A was italicized, but once I got that there was no missing CHATTERBOX or JOHN Q. Quite a feat, and I did enjoy it.

    On the other hand --SHOLOM?? Not only misspelled, as others have noted (but then it's transliterated from Yiddish), but he's not "author ALEICHM." The pseudonym doesn't make sense if you break it up -- like saying that "The Gift of the Magi" is by "author Henry."

    On the other hand: ICI and ICIER together! Gotta like that. And it's a pangram! (Guess that's obvious, but nobody's saying it).

    I was going to say that if something is "not well-known outside of Christie circles" then it's well-known; but I guess I'm wrong, since several others were stumped by it. I guess you have to be of a certain age. I'm not her fan, and I would have given him another N, but I'd certainly heard the title.

    Final note: it's Tuesday! Notorious for hard-to-like puzzles as it tries to get away from Monday simplicity. This easy-to-get but hard to construct theme is just right for that.

    AliasZ 8:22 AM  

    ATOZ was a brilliant revealer without being too obvious. After I finished and discovered what the theme was, my tiny alter ego inside me looked at ATOZ and yelled out loud: "That's so neat!" See, that little fellow enjoys and appreciates cleverness and ingenuity. Me, I am a wuss and shy away from everything that is even remotely jarring or unusual or out of the ordinary. Call me a mama's boy.

    There was not one of the questionable entries that had not appeared in a NYT puzzle before. The only debut today is ZYGOTE, the best none-theme entry today. EXGOV appeared twice, SHOLOM thrice and QUIN 5 times before, the last two used by none other than Manny Nosowsky. MTGE: 26 times. GENL: 16 times, etc. Even FONDU came up twice before. True, it would've been more obscure to come up with a university in Fond du Lac, WI, affectionately called by its students FOND U.

    I did pause at ICI, ICIER, ISEE, NISI, ISITME, IDIG, but enjoyed ZYGOTE, KARATE CHOP, GARMENT DISTRICT, CHATTERBOX and a few others. In other words, I did not ABHOR this puzzle at all. I like toughened-up Tuesdays.

    Good one, David. Keep working on ingenious and novel themes, the polish of superb fill will surely follow.

    This is the setting of Psalm 127 (Vulgate 126) NISI Dominus from the Vespro della Beata Vergine (1610) by Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643).

    Enjoy your snowy Tuesday.

    Davidph 8:24 AM  

    The Philadelphia Inquirer has a wonderful front-page article on Bernice Gordon, centenarian constructor who lives here.

    joho 8:30 AM  

    I'm amazed that David could pull this off without resorting to absolute gibberish somewhere in the grid!

    Unfortunately I didn't read the note and was left wondering where the rest of the alphabet went. Even worse, I had EXpOl instead of EXGOV and couldn't figure out why in the world David left out the "V." I even went so far as to change the middle top to MARV over ABOO across and MAC and VOTE going down just to add the "V." So I am officially an idiot!

    I've seen worse crosswordese in much less ambitious puzzles. I've never seen a puzzle like this one. What you gotta do around here to get a standing O?
    You have that from me, David!

    Mohair Sam 8:47 AM  

    Challenging here - but we got it because we solve as a team. I was stymied in the SE, took some bad guesses and thought I had completed the puzz when my wife came down to breakfast. She's a big Denzel fan, has read all of Christie, and knows that the Great Bear is URSa Major, not osSa Major. We therefore can claim a team victory over a puzzle that was published a day or two early.

    We have a daughter-in-law who works at the OMNI in DC and never heard of author Aleichem so we weren't bothered by the SHOLOM spelling.

    Never got the theme until reading Rex, but do like it a lot - very clever. Like most here I think the fill suffered a lot to make it work.

    Late last night I heard a distant voice screaming "variant!" - obviously @Steve J upon discovering FONDU. As I've said before - apparently the NYT has solved the problem of having too many (var) notations by simply not identifying variants.

    Z 8:48 AM  
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    Z 8:51 AM  

    Reddest Headed Step Child we've seen in awhile. This is the perfect Tuesday puzzle, brilliant but hard to love.

    QUIN was actually easier for me than NANA. I didn't even know that there was a dog in Peter Pan, so it was a little bit of "draw a consonant from the hat." That I, too, had SHaLOM didn't help. For all the spelling critics, you can't win when it's a transliteration. Peking/Beijing and Bombay/Mumbai anyone?

    There are a few E--- words that are fair in my opinion. E-Ticket is definitely okay. Ebay, too. Then there's "dumping on the blog in the comment section" -- E-GO. (I'm sure your clue will be better, M&A)

    pmdm 8:53 AM  

    I would compare today's puzzle with classical music. Some music is enjoyable without being particularly admirable. (Much pops concert music falls into this category.) Listeners can admire some music without particularly enjoying it. (A lot of complex contemporary music fits this category.) And then of course there is J. S. Bach whose music one can both enjoy and admire to the nth degree.

    So my reaction to today's puzzle is admiration without enjoyment. So here is a challenge one of you might want to take up. Try to construct a puzzle using the same theme that avoids the woefully obvious dismal fill that creeps into today's puzzle, and in particular try to avoid anything approaching the dismal SE corner. If anyone can do that, they deserve to have the puzzle published and receive at least twice the regular stipend. Such a puzzle would demonstrate that puzzles reusing a theme should not be dismissed out of hand.

    At least that is how I felt about the puzzle. I envy those of you who enjoyed the puzzle, because the fact that I have to shovel snow yet again today (with nowhere to put it in my urban neighborhood) will be more enjoyable than doing this puzzle. (Just joking about the shoveling.)

    Susan McConnell 8:56 AM  

    I never even attempted to get the theme until I was done, and it was easy enough to see. I thought this was on the easy side, did not resonate with Rex at all. I am in awe of being able to come up with the idea, never mind pull it off. It gets a WOW from me!

    The Weather Channel 8:59 AM  

    Snow from Rex. Do another crossword.

    Bob Kerfuffle 8:59 AM  

    I love a great gimmick, like this one.

    Couple of one-letter write-overs: SHOLEM before SHOLOM (my system's spell check favors the latter, though several commenters have said otherwise); and 19 D, TRIP before TRIG (just forgetting the Palin family.)

    But a major write-over at 4 D, and for this I will claim to be a greater idiot than @joho): I read the note but didn't completely *get* it, but I had the idea of some kind of back-and-forth. So with the "Y" from CODY at 14 A, I looked at 4 D and decided, "That must be EMBRYO backwards, or in this case, from bottom to top. Wrong biologically, and wrong for the crossword! Moved on, saw the real gimmick, finished the rest easily.

    Good one, DSavid Steinberg!

    Anonymous 9:04 AM  

    How is lollapaloozas owners????

    RnRGhost57 9:07 AM  

    The equivalent of playing Charades. Kinda fun every few years but glad that it doesn't happen often.

    Anonymous 9:09 AM  

    Oops I meant oners, of courseThe auto-correct got me!

    Google 9:14 AM  

    Crosswordese of the highest order:

    on·er
    ˈwənər/
    noun
    Brit.informal, archaic
    noun: oner; plural noun: oners

    1. a remarkable person or thing.

    Mohair Sam 9:15 AM  

    @davidph - thanks for the tip on the Inquirer article on Bernice Gordon, great read. Amazing lady.

    For anyone having trouble finding it The Inquirer site is Philly.com

    mac 9:21 AM  

    Tough Tuesday! I got the first half of the trick very quickly, but the second part came to me just in time to solve the John Q/Quin section. A little bothered by fondu and genl, but in general I enjoyed this one.

    Back to the 10,000 m speedskating, or, as my husband calls it, watching the grass grow. AND it's snowing again.

    Anonymous 9:22 AM  

    Saw the A to M but not the N to Z - impressive, that (all gripes notwithstanding). Messed up by SHaLOM.

    Philly.com 9:22 AM  

    Article about Ms. Gordon

    Philly,com 9:22 AM  

    Much easier with a direct link to Bernice Gordon.

    chefbea 9:45 AM  

    47 comments already!!!!!
    What a great puzzle but a bit hard for a Tuesday.
    Will read all the comments later

    FearlessKim 9:52 AM  

    Thanks, @Z, for the edumacation on "Love Shack"! Back to the video I went, and darned if it isn't "You're WHAT?!" Shocking. I've been singing it wrong since 1989. 25 years. Thanks for saving me from 25 more years of singing it wrong.

    Today's puzz: argh. Didn't bother with the theme, and what a mistake that was! Would have saved me the guess of the Q in JOHNQ/QUIN, and the fatal, DNF-producing EXpOl instead of EXGOV. (Wondered: "weird name, IlOR, but ok, I guess").

    I'm in the camp that admires the daring and the skill to pull this off, while also wishing for less dire fill. And less DNF-ing, on a Tuesday, for Pete's sake!!

    quilter1 9:59 AM  

    I got it all except for the SON/UTNE/NISI crossing so DNF. Didn't bother figuring out the letter progression as I knew @Rex would do it for me and I don't like that kind of puzzle anyway. More medium than challenging for me regarding the rest, but not much fun either.

    Newbie 10:03 AM  

    Didn't know Slue, so I had Orsine - which seemed right - and Sloe, which also seemed right. Okay, so now I know. Impressive theme! Enjoyed the difficulty level, as it made it more interesting.

    Dansah 10:06 AM  

    Why not have a harder Tuesday? Why not sacrifice fill for a brilliant trick? Crosswords, like life, should be challenging and surprising.
    Thx David. Great Puz.

    Elle54 10:13 AM  

    I really liked it! I thought it was loads of fun! Didn't think JOHNQ was that hard. Again, thought it was great!

    Z 10:23 AM  
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    Z 10:24 AM  

    @Fearless Kim - I thought you were right, but was listening extra closely this time. My fav B-52 tune is Private Idaho. Get out of the state, get out of the state you're in (this video also displays the reason for the group's name. One wonders what was in the water in Athens, GA in the early 80's).

    Sandy K 10:32 AM  

    Great puzzle! I loved it- maybe cuz I was able to finish a David Steinberg puzzle w/o too much stress...

    And, yes, I could figure out the 2-way progression- from ATOZ was a big help, as well as all the scrabbly letters.

    I didn't mind the fill as much as Rex did, but I did groan at the two Palin clues.

    Steve J 10:43 AM  

    @todnas: I tend to agree with you about e-note and most e-words, as well as a general preference for language that's actually still in use, but I've given up on that battle. While email, e-file, e-ticket and a couple others still are used, most sound hopelessly mired in the mid 90s.

    Regarding SHOLOM: As @Z mentioned, with transliterations, there are bound to be many variants in the English spelling. While SHOLOM seems to be the least common behind Sholem and Shalom, it's out there. And since, as @Mohair Sam pointed out, the NYT just does not acknowledge variants anymore, I think it's legit and fair as included (while still being a key part of what made that such a bad corner and being part of the long roster of bad fill).

    @pmdm: I like your classical music analogy. There is indeed music I admire but do not enjoy, and that captures my feelings with this puzzle. Even more appropriate might be a comparison to a piece of music that has a really brilliant passage, but everything surrounding it is much less elegant (I can't think of good examples to illustrate; best I can come up with is the trap many of us have fallen into in years past of really enjoying a single by a new artist, buying the album and finding that the single was the only thing that was worth listening to because all the other songs were nowhere near as good).

    Jason 10:57 AM  

    A tough, tough slog for me, with MTGE, ONERS, EIDER, XDIN, EXGOV, and JOHNQ, which I haven't seen, giving me big trouble.

    Also, as noted above, BBOY is inaccurate (also kinda sexist).

    Masked and Anonymo5Us 11:04 AM  

    Any weirdball puz that includes FOND U as themer material gets a thUmbsUp, in my book. QED.

    M&A

    Carola 11:14 AM  

    For me, the admiration for contruction: fun of solving ratio was 1:1, even though I didn't see the alphabet progression until after I'd finished (wished I'd looked for it earlier, as it would have helped with that Q). I liked having the harder Tuesday and thought CHATTERBOX, GARMENT DISTRICT, KARATE CHOP, and GOES SOFT were great. But I felt sorry for new Tuesday solvers who had to deal with IVOR, NISI, and the rest of the obscure bunch.

    Having done enough crosswords to know that the U. of Maine athletes are BLACK BEARS, I liked ORONO + URSINE.

    D-CON! Ah, the memories of student housing and roach infestations....

    Notsofast 11:19 AM  

    Errors abound, but The Boy has huge potential.

    Anonymous 11:50 AM  

    I would have opted for DVD-RW over DO NOW, which is not a passable themer in my book (David seems to recognize this, but went ahead making the puzzle anyways).

    Silence is golden on the fill...

    This puzzle shouldn't have run. It was unpleasant from top to bottom (and back again)

    Oh Tuesday. What are we gonna do with you?

    Gill I. P. 11:56 AM  

    @Steve J I liked your analogy of buying the album but only enjoying the single...
    After I finished this last night I thought to myself - this is like the skater who can finally land the quadruple jump. His exercise is a bit confusing and not very elegant but dang, look at that magnificent leap!
    David Steinberg's puzzles are always confusing for me but I now tend to look for some sort of brilliant conclusion from him.
    No disappointment here other than I don't have the faintest ides what a BBOY is....!!!

    Lawprof 12:07 PM  

    I've always felt that getting one's name in the NYT puzzle was sort of an honor, the occasional Idi Amin to the contrary notwithstanding. So I was somewhat dismayed to see Sarah Palin referenced not once but twice. Kinda like Kim Song Un (or pick your own candidate) being on the short list for Time's Person of the Year.

    Oh, right, the merits of the puzzle..... I loved it. Picked up the theme about halfway through, which helped enormously with the solve. Kept thinking throughout, "How's he gonna pull this off?" but he did. Pretty amazing.

    Ludyjynn 12:44 PM  

    Seriously, are not the Palins' 15 minutes up, already?!

    If those TWO answers weren't enough of a turn-off, the SE 'Q' corner also sucked.

    I cannot recall the last time a Tuesday was a personal DNF. Am beginning to dread the Steinberg byline.

    FearlessKim 12:48 PM  

    @Z: naturally I had to click the link, loved the song -- and the expression "he's in his own private Idaho" -- but what on earth does it all mean? No surprise, there's a website called songmeanings.com that had this information:

    Listen to the musical cue. It imitates the "TWILIGHT ZONE" theme, and for good reason. These lyrics refer to an episode of the speculative fiction show (titled "The Bewitchin' Pool") where kids dive into a pool and come up somewhere else (a paradise for children whose parents don't love them...that's the awful surprise.) It's not completely LITERAL, just a mish-mosh of imagery from that episode AND the clock & "hidden driveway" sign (etc) from the opening of each show.

    So "Private Idaho" is what you get when you mix the water in Athens GA with The Twilight Zone... Very cool. Thanks!

    Hans 12:59 PM  

    @stevej Agreed, except that I can't recall sending a single "e-note" even in the 90s.

    Numinous 1:07 PM  

    I like this Steinberg kid. Not as much as I like Bernice Gordon but stil . . . . I continue to think he needs some real life mileage to mature some. Did y'all know there is a volume of his puzzles in the Puzzazz library?

    Anyway, he got me good. I had SHaLOM so didn't get JOHNQ and I'd never heard of Mr QUIN. I'm ashamed I had to google for that. I had no recollection of of Denze's movie, I disliked it so much. Even now, I only remember it vaguely. I probably would have gotten the Q if I'd paid attention to the theme but on a Tuesday, I just barge ahead. That'll teach me not to pay closer attention, especially with a DS puzzle.

    Some of the clues came really easily for me though. EIDER was my very first thought for what gets you down. I never remember obscure Maine college towns but ORONO popped right up with the two Os crossing. I remember Casius Ali doing the DCON commercials back when he was still reasonably articulate; still felt bad for him though.

    The article on Bernice is pretty wonderful or, should I say, ONERful? She should be an inspiration to us all. Most of us here aren't getting any younger (that's a euphemism). At least we share Bernice's interest and hopefully that will keep our brains young.

    Oh for that damned Q and my inattention. David, you got me. My first ever Tuesday DNF!

    Numinous 1:18 PM  

    P.S. Y'all can watch The Bewitchin Pool here!

    Lewis 1:35 PM  

    Has this theme ever been done before? On a puzzle this size? I'm going to assume not, since no one has mentioned it. And my take is that it is so good, maybe even brilliant, and that this is one of those themes in which some bad fill can be forgiven.

    I think you have to take it case by case and make the decision if the subpar fill (and the amount of subpar fill) is worth the concept and final puzzle. I believe it is.

    It was hard for a Tuesday -- I think it would have fit better on Wednesday -- but didn't feel like a drudge to solve, and after I figured out the theme, it was a a wow for me.

    John V 1:44 PM  

    The Q cross snagged me. Otherwise, just fine, ingenious. It strikes me as unreasonable to kvetch about the fill given the constraints/density of the theme. Comes with the territory.

    Pretty fine Tuesday, to me.

    Anonymous 1:57 PM  

    Loved this puzzle!! loved erasing DEET. Got theme pretty quickly as I solve on paper. @Casco: You might want to Google B-Boy before you put in a bon mots such as "playground patois" It's original use in the 1960s was hardly childish and I think its current use (recently on Jeopardy) makes your phrase a tad racist. Hated MTGE. what's with all the confusion over bears? Do we not use Ursa all the time? Claire

    Anonymous 2:02 PM  

    anyone want to walk me through creating a named account?

    Z 2:04 PM  

    I had never linked Private Idaho to The Twilight Zone before. Makes a lot of sense, well, as much sense as one should ever make out of early 80's new wave lyrics. The movie supposedly based on Henry IV Part 1, Henry IV Part 2, and Henry V. Although, reading the plot summary "loosely" is a lot more expansive a term than I thought. Thanks @Fearless Kim and @ Numinous

    Z 2:05 PM  

    Lost, "I also discovered" a movie, while doing all that html coding. I guess it's time to get out of my own Private Idaho.

    dk 2:42 PM  

    ���� (2 Moons) Nice conceit.

    I have an invitation to a FONDUE party in my inbox from Franconia Sculpture Park. Everyone knows that sculptors who weld (no BARN just bad puns) torches are always correct.

    Back to work

    dk 2:43 PM  

    no BARB (flipping spell correction)

    Numinous 3:01 PM  

    A notion just struck me and I don't know why it hadn't yet. I don't believe anyone's mentioned it either. Bernice Gordon and crossword puzzles are the same age!

    Anonymous 3:01 PM  

    51D - SHOLEM not SHOLOM ...look it up.

    Benko 3:29 PM  

    Let me stick up for FONDU. After all, it is the correct, original spelling of the word. The French for "melted". For some unknown reason English speaking people were more comfortable with an "e" on the end, and apparently still are. But it's "fondue" which is the true variant spelling.

    Anonymous 3:34 PM  

    UTNE?
    REALLY?
    What the hell?

    Bencoe 3:58 PM  

    Actually the French added the "e" themselves. Why so complicated?

    Carola 4:28 PM  
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    Carola 4:29 PM  

    @Anonymous 2:02 - If you'd like to have your name show up in blue type, you need to create a Blogger account, as explained here : http://www.wikihow.com/Start-a-Blog-on-Blogger. You don't actually have to create a blog, just an account. If you just want to have an identity here, without creating a Blogger account, click on "Name/URL" under "Choose an identity" (below the captcha box) and type in the name you'd like to use.

    Andrew Morrison 4:48 PM  

    UTNE Reader is a magazine. I don't care for it, but my brother used to subscribe. I pretty much agree with RPs assessment. I finished the puzzle, but it didn't wow me like it should have, given the ambitious theme/stunt.

    Andrew Morrison 4:50 PM  

    @Anoa Bob - For The Win!!!! Well done. I

    travis 4:56 PM  

    A heavily promoted movie from 12 years ago that I could still remember the plot and trailers from despite never actually see in is apparently unfair, but all the obscure crap from 80 years ago? Why not.

    sanfranman59 5:03 PM  

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

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

    Tue 11:44, 8:18, 1.41, 100%, Challenging

    Top 100 solvers

    Tue 6:49, 5:14, 1.30, 98%, Challenging

    Anonymous 5:18 PM  

    I might have been able to finish if I had picked up on the theme, but without that to help, the SE corner was impossible. Not quite what I would expect a Tuesday puzzle to be; maybe more like a Thursday.

    retired_chemist 8:16 PM  

    In the MacOS Dashboard Dictionary there is no mention of FONDU as meaning what we call fondue. There is, however, a definition:

    fondu |fänˈd(y)o͞o|
    adjective [ postpositive ] Ballet
    (of a position) involving a lowering of the body by bending the knee of the supporting leg: an arabesque fondu.
    ORIGIN mid 19th cent.: French, literally ‘melted.’

    Anne 8:56 PM  

    Spectacular!

    loren muse smith 9:49 PM  

    Very late to the party today. I loved this theme and agree with those who didn't mind the NISI, FONDU, etc. because the payoff was terrific. I must be in a real minority because I got JOHN Q off the H and N. Before I figured out the conceit, I had "typos" for EXGOV, thinking maybe the names were misspelled. Once I saw the trick, EXGOV was easy.

    Playing around with language like this pleases me enormously; I'm glad to have worked this and seen David's list.

    (How about this list? – imitation, flattery, and all that. . .)

    alb
    candid
    ease off
    gush
    in a maj
    kneel
    Monty Python
    orlop
    quaker
    swat
    Ustinov
    windex
    yaz

    David, this is one I'll think about for a long time. Cool.

    LaneB 10:27 PM  

    Once again a Steinberg edition turns an early weekday puzzle into something that ought to be seen on Friday or Saturday. Stuff like SLUE, XDIN [shouldn't it be exdin or xedin?], ZYGOTE, UTNE, BBOY and ONERS do nothing but piss off the inexperienced [like me.] Did pretty well but foundered on the cross of BBOU and BYTE. GENL?, ENOTE? LEAH?---c'mon!

    sanfranman59 1:57 AM  

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

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

    Mon 6:12, 6:15, 0.99, 44%, Medium
    Tue 11:44, 8:18, 1.41, 100%, Challenging (2nd highest ratio of 219 Tuesdays)

    Top 100 solvers

    Mon 4:15, 3:59, 1.07, 80%, Challenging
    Tue 6:46, 5:14, 1.29, 98%, Challenging (5th highest ratio of 219 Tuesdays)

    Folks definitely seemed to struggle with this one today. I hesitate to put this out in the universe, but maybe I'm finally learning to channel my inner David Steinberg. I managed a solve time in my Medium range. Like his Tuesday puzzle of two weeks ago, this one had by far the fewest times posted online for any Tuesday in my spreadsheet (it goes back nearly 5 years now ... wow ... seriously? ... I've been doing this for more than 4 years?). Only 269 successful solves were posted today vs. 301 for his 2/4 puzzle ... which was 56 less than the previous low of 357. This is almost to a point now where it makes no sense to report separate stats for All Solvers. Or maybe a point where it makes no sense to report stats at all.

    Anonymous 5:44 AM  

    Any puzzle where I have to Google every answer in the SE is a terrible puzzle. Not point mentioning things others have already mentioned. Awful. Terrible.

    Seriously XDIN??? XDIN!?!?!?!??!?!?!? I got it immediately but didn't like it at all.

    Bob Kerfuffle 6:34 AM  

    @loren muse smith - At least according to Google, Indian Raj is a real thing.

    loren muse smith 6:59 AM  
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    loren muse smith 7:00 AM  

    @Bob - I sure wish I had known that. Obviously "in a maj" is, to quote A GREAT, desperate. Let's change it to Indian Raj. Thanks!!

    Anonymous 7:52 AM  

    Actually it's the French who put the E on fondue, so when speaking of the dish, it's fondue, not fondu, although fondu is a perfectly good past participle in the French language.

    loren muse smith 8:47 AM  

    Oh, and @Bob - that means we change "quaker" to "qualifier" to maintain the breathtaking symmetry.

    Anonymous 10:08 AM  

    This was EASILY the worst puzzle in weeks and weeks. Just awful.

    Joseph B 1:03 PM  

    Terrible, terrible puzzle. XDIN? GENL? MTGE? Not only were these in the same puzzle, they were all clustered together. Blech.

    Anonymous 4:14 PM  

    many thanks! claire

    Anonymous 4:16 PM  

    I can not get over how much I love this puzzle!!

    the redanman 12:31 PM  

    Doing this a week late due to travel. Figured out teh "trick" very early, helped, but .....

    Absolutely horrendous fill.

    That is all.

    spacecraft 10:54 AM  

    No. Just...no. Will, how could you print this? Somebody--maybe that New Yorker dude--smacked you in the head with a ping pong ball?

    In the first place, my paper had NO starred clues and NO puzzle note. I may say that even if it had, I most likely would never have found it. But the price for such a trick is not just HIGH--it's ridiculous. For one, the "GARMENTDISTRICT" of this grid is a wreck--no, a multi-car pileup. AMAN MTGE GENL XDIN...ohmigod XDIN???!!! that has to be the single worst entry in the history of crossword! Not just a flag, but a game ejection! Fergodsake, it doesn't even have the E!

    For another, the north is totally ungettable. BBOY? If you say so. Quite literally, any and all letters of the alphabet could go in there. A rap devotee I am NOT. And "Small storage unit" for BYTE? OK, but no way before Friday. It's just too much to expect a misdirect like that on Tuesday.

    When I saw I had no hope of getting the north, I just quit. A DNF is a DNF. Perhaps, if the puzzle note and clue stars had been printed, curiosity might have spurred me on, but I doubt it. I was a GONER from the word go. The headline for this one could be "Shortz GOESSOFT."

    Saving grace: 99988. Maybe I can win a pot for a change.

    Ginger 1:11 PM  

    DNF, DNC (did not care). Struggled mightily, then resorted to Google for answers that wouldn't pass a Friday test. Just plain MEAN.

    Waxy in Montreal 1:34 PM  

    Luckily, my paper did print the note and italicized clues which actually made this a much easier puzzle than it might have otherwise been. Also, with 1A as a rather obvious reveal, it became possible to mechanically enter the letters of the pangram as gimmes. So count me with the minority who really enjoyed this innovative Tuesday effort - like most of young Mr. Steinberg's submissions, it borders on the brilliant.

    Waxy in Montreal 1:40 PM  

    PS - not only is ORONO clearly a shout-out to syndiland's own @Diri but it was the very first word (certainly not the last - eg. BBOY & XDIN today) I actually learnt from a crossword puzzle, many decades ago.

    DaffyDill 1:54 PM  

    It's OK to google? I'm a novice and I thought that was cheating. If I don't get the whole puzzle on my own (OK, I do ask hubby the sports Q's) I consider it a failure. I did get most of this one but can't say I really liked it and since I didn't get the "ABC" thing, I most certainly failed :(. But there's always another one tomorrow :)!

    Z 2:24 PM  

    @DaffyDill - None of us will report you to the crossword police, I promise. What you choose to live with is up to you. You will find the whole array of google use commented upon here; Never, Only Post-Solve, Only Once I've Given Up, When I Get Stuck, In Order to Get Started (usually only for Friday and Saturday puzzles). Personally, if I google I consider it a DNF, though I may not bother to mention it here when I do. I do try to google to verify "facts" before I embarrass myself by saying something wrong here.

    Solving in Seattle 3:07 PM  

    ISITME, or is David Steinberg becoming one of the elite CW constructors, or what?

    Rex's writeup takes more of the middle ground because of the iffy fill. An ICIER @Spacy gave it a KARATECHOP.

    I'm in the IDIG-this-puz Venn circle. Quite FONDU of it. Ya gotta put up with some bad fill to get the brilliance.

    @Z, I like your google guidance to @DaffyDill. Kinda whatever you're comfortable with.

    My boat is 2s over 3s. @Spacy takes my $$.

    west coast TAM 3:25 PM  

    @sanfranman:
    How about posting the number of "all solvers" compared the the average number for the day of the week. This could make for a valid and useful statistic, I think

    west coast TAM 3:29 PM  

    I meant "...to the average...."

    Dirigonzo 4:17 PM  

    There are a few constructors whom I have come to approach with extra enthusiasm for the challenge they present - David Steinberg is rapidly becoming one of them. Two things helped me greatly with this one: knowing the alphabet and seeing the theme fairly early. With those two pieces of critical knowledge in hand one could fill in the first and last letters for each italicized clue - that's 26 free letters, dudes! The hardest part for me was identifying the italicized clues as they didn't differ in appearance all that much from the regular font, but I managed to get it done.

    Harder than the usual Tuesday fare for sure, but that's not necessarily a bad thing in my book.

    666/55 - not good enough to top @spacey.

    DMG 4:33 PM  

    Liked @Anoa Bob,s take on this puzzle, and agree with @Spacecraft's rant. DNF because of the '"Q" Natick, and, to quote @Ginger, DNC. Looking at the content makes me wonder if they teach spelling in school anymore? Or maybe it's the result of all that tweeting or twittering, or whatever, the youngsters are doing these days?

    Like @spacecraft, drew three 9's, two 8's. Do we split the pot or play fora showdown?

    Solving in Seattle 5:07 PM  

    @DMG, I think you shoot the dealer.

    strayling 7:33 PM  

    Truly painful fill, excused by a truly fun theme. Smells like Tuesday.

    \ full house: 5s in 3s

    Roxy 2:12 PM  

    Loved this puzzle!

    One thing that often irritates me in puzzles is the use of letters that are non-standard in English, which are crossed with their standard English relations. For example, Spanish "ñ" crossed with English "n". Or any of the French accents on "e" crossed with plain old English "e". But here we have "ç" crossed with "ç"! AÇAI X IÇI! Yay! Small victories.

    Thank you Mr. Steinberg.

    Sharon AK 11:57 AM  

    I didn't read every comment but scanned most looking for someone else complaining about 51 D. I knew Omni hotels and i'd heard of Sholem Aleichem, but I could not find a reference to Alechem that showed his name as Sholom.

    weird abbreviations seem to be standard Xword fare but mispelled names?

    Dirigonzo 3:47 PM  

    @Sharon AK - The SHOLOM/SHOLeM matter drew several comments; I liked this explanation from @Z best: "That I, too, had SHaLOM didn't help. For all the spelling critics, you can't win when it's a transliteration. Peking/Beijing and Bombay/Mumbai anyone?"

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