Botanical wings / WED 2-5-14 / Knife of old / Lacrosse goalie's area / Gear-cutting tools / Sitcom character from Melmac / James who was portrayed by Beyonce / Spotted wildcat / Like some Uno cards

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Constructor: Tracy Gray

Relative difficulty: Easy


THEME: SHREDDED WHEAT (37A: Breakfast cereal … or a hint to what's found in the answers to the four starred clues?) — the word "WHEAT" can be found with its letters rearranged (or, I guess, "shredded") inside each theme answer:

Theme answers:
  • 17A: *Any foreseeable difficulty (HELL OR HIGH WATER)
  • 25A: *"Good night, John-Boy" series ("THE WALTONS")
  • 50A: *Fearsome shark (GREAT WHITE)
  • 59A: *"Why am I not surprised?" ("SO WHAT ELSE IS NEW?")
Word of the Day: HOBS (64A: Gear-cutting tools) —
HOB n.
  1. A shelf or projection at the back or side of a fireplace, used for keeping food or utensils warm.
  2. A tool used for cutting the teeth of machine parts, as of a gearwheel.


Read more: http://www.answers.com/topic/hob#ixzz2sPreEla1
• • •

Wow, this one has, let's say, issues. Where to begin? Let's start with the fact that the first themer is a 15-letter partial. It's a partial. It is. And you don't even need the first half of the answer to get your shredded wheat—it's fully embedded inside HIGH WATER. So … that's less than ideal in a couple of ways. Then there's the clumsy grid-building. Specifically, in what universe do you go ahead and pull the trigger on a grid that forces you in into a --H-H position (see 6D)? The only, and I mean The Only thing you can make out of that letter arrangement is "UH HUH." SHHHH is ridiculous. A total, out-and-out, reject-the-puzzle-and-ask-for-a-do-over Fail, largely because it's a. nonsense, b. avoidable, c responsible, at least partially, for PAHS (the dumbest thing in this, or any, grid, SAK notwithstanding). Holy mother of pearl what is going on with the fill negligence here? I mean, look: why is there a "B" in 12D?? That is, who decided RUBE / OBE (!?!) beat RUDE / ODE (an actual word). I keep rewriting that section in my head over and over because there are so many ways to do it, all of which avoid OBE.


I like the final theme answer, but the rest, you can have. SAK / ALAE!? ACTA ESS HOBS SNEE TASSE … and that's all just from two adjacent sections. The fill is self-parodying on this one. Again, I think the core theme concept is solid, but the puzzle should've been sent back with suggestions on how to bring it up to snuff. Thankfully, the subpar fill didn't create any solving hassles. I crushed this one in something like 3 and change. But I can't say I enjoyed it. I just keep looking at SAK / ALAE and wondering "why?" I keep seeing that sad crying Indian from the '70s anti-littering commercials. The garbage: It's all so unnecessary.


Byron Walden is the only person ever to use SHHHH in a major publication (according to cruciverb.com). If you are as talented as Byron *and* your puzzle has a dense "Walker, Texas Ranger" theme (or the equivalent), then, and only then, do you have permission to break the glass and use SHHHH. And no one may use PAHS. Ever. Ever. Ever.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

74 comments:

Henebry 12:10 AM  

Could someone explain the clue for NEST, "leaves home"?

Steve J 12:12 AM  

Second day in a row where I liked the theme but found the fill extremely problematic.

The theme was executed pretty well and had good, solid answers. I hadn't noticed that HELL OR HIGH WATER was a partial, but yes, it is. Doesn't bother me, though.

The longer downs mostly offered some good fill. I particularly liked OCELOT, WHEEZE, CATNAP, SKEWER and HIDEAWAY.

Outside those? Holy crosswordese, Batman! No need to list it all, but there's a ton of it there. Some of it's especially bad. The RUBE/OBE crossing is particularly baffling, as that's the easiest fix ever. RUBE is a nice word, but not at the expense of OBE.

As for SHHHH? Just no. Right up there with yesterday's OOOLA (of which I said the same as the following): If your puzzle needs that, something's gone horribly, horribly wrong.

wreck 12:15 AM  

No question the fastest Wednesday ever for me.This week it was twice as fast as both Monday and Tuesday. It was about dead on the same as my normal Monday time (i.e. fill in as fast as you read the clue.) I never paid attention to the theme.

Anonymous 12:15 AM  

A home made of leaves or alternatively, a home amidst leaves

wreck 12:23 AM  

@anon
that makes somewhat more sense of what I gathered ....... I assumed it meant that birds make nests from leaves and what not! I filled it in because nothing else fit!

jae 12:29 AM  

Easy Wed. for me too.  Enjoyable theme (a couple of zippy answers) and cute reveal.   Liked it more than Rex did, but does 4 Hs beat 3 Os?

Mohair Sam 12:29 AM  

Super easy Wednesday here. Liked the theme, hated the fill. SHHHH is awful. I'm usually uneasy when I see @Rex rant, but I'm in his camp with this one.

If I ever construct a puzzle I'll have a 15 shhhhhhhhhhhhhh and a 15 ooooooooooooooh, both clued "most horrid fill ever".

@Steve J - HELLORHIGHWATER is called a "partial" by both Rex and you. I don't know what you guys mean by partial - the answer seemed fine to me. Can you explain? Thanks.

John Child 12:35 AM  

All the crosswordese made this easy for me, but not really fun. If I never saw OLIO, SRA or OBE again I would not mourn.

John Child 12:40 AM  

@Mohair Sam: a fill-in-the-blank answer is a partial. E.g., [Come ____]. I think Rex is saying that the phrase never occurs except in that construction and should have been clued that way except for the convention that partials shouldn't be more than five letters.

wreck 12:40 AM  

What ever happened to ADIT and ENID?? ;) ............ confession time: both of my parents were from Enid, OK

Steve J 12:41 AM  

@Mohair Sam: A "partial" is when only part of a well-known phrase is used. Often you'll see it clued like 34D (which was another partial), with the missing part indicated by an underscore.

In this case, the full phrase is "Come hell or high water", so the answer is a portion of the full phrase.

Partials can lead to some clunky fill, as the segments that stand on their own often aren't great (like A DASH), but they're not automatically bad (at least for me). Even missing its first word, I thought HELL OR HIGH WATER was quality fill.

Adash Craft Macros 12:42 AM  

What a delightful puzzle!


(Come) HELLORHIGHWATER
SOWHATELSEISNEW?
GREATWHITE

A wonderful, evocative reveal: SHREDDED WHEAT>

Loved it.

SHHHH seems real to me, bec SH isn't enough, SHH gets there,almost, but it's really SHHHH that you say!


Yesterday HODS, today HOBS... both a bit odd.

I liked CATNAP and SWATHS, OCELOT and HIDEAWAY (which explains away the ALAE, so live with it!)
and the shout out to ETTA James, with a fresh-ish clue squeezing in Beyonce.

Moment of synchronicity: Found a copy of Virginia Woolf's "Three Guineas" on the street today, a Woolf book I'd never heard of, even tho "A Room of One's Own" was life-changing for me.

Put it on the shelf with my other Woolf books and noticed a copy of "Reading Lolita in Tehran" sitting on top and thought "I didn't know I even had that!"

Moments later it appeared in the puzzle! I live for moments like that... Thank you, someone!

To those screaming about a letter here and there (yes, RUDE/ODE would've been slightly better)
i cover my ears and say SHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

August West 12:46 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mohair Sam 12:48 AM  

Thanks @steve. Always good to learn.

I was part of a finance company at one time and we wrote "hell or high water" leases. Guess I got used to hearing the phrase without the "Come".

August West 12:50 AM  

Okay, the Great Lakes had a few problems. SHHHH/PAHS and ING are bad.

::..in best Dana Carvey as Bush I..::

It's bad. Bad!

But look around the rest of the grid and you find a strong, defensible construction, with some zippy longer fill and solid themers. And it's got OLIO, which reminds me of my dad.

Didn't mind RUBE/OBE because, a) RUBE is so much better than rude, and; b) OBE is a gimme to every regular crossword doer with at least a year under their belt.

Liked it. Just wish it lasted a bit longer.

chefwen 1:05 AM  

Hey @RUBE are you going to make an appearance today?

12D OBE has meaning for me, we had a very good friend who was awarded an OBE by the Queen for her work with orphans in Bahrain, an honour she was quite proud of. RIP Patsy aka THE DUTCHESS.

Wasn't crazy about SHHHH, but if that was my only nit, not room for complaint.

Thank you Tracy Gray.

@JenCT - Loved, loved, loved the video with Justice (and the kitty)
don't be such a stranger, we miss you.

Capcha - great poker hand, sixes over threes.

Rube 1:52 AM  

@chefwen, you betcha. I take offense with the cluing for 16A. RUDE/ODE would be much more acceptable for us'n from Dogpatch.

My inkmarks did show that I had PApa before PAHS and IRk before IRE, but otherwise, a straightforward Wednesday puzzle.

Ellen S 1:54 AM  

Puzzle was replete with old friends, as noted. At least no EELS or FIBONACCI, but otherspwise it was all familiar faces. However I did like @Rex's "holy mother of pearl." A very nacreous turn of phrase.

cascokid san 1:57 AM  

DNFed, again, at SoK/oLAE and JErk/NErT/SEk. With a little more patience and quality control, I suppose I could have sussed them out correctly. 43 min, which is an "easy" Wednesday for me.

Theme had zero utility during the solve and not much interest afterwards.

I'm eagerly awaiting Amy's book. Amazon says it has shipped.

Anoa Bob 2:58 AM  

ODE at 12D would be better for a mon/tue, but not by much. OBE should be in the back pocket of any solver who wants to tackle more challenging puzzles.

PAHS & SAK are suboptimal, but there's a JEWEL or two here and there to make up for it, to wit, OCELOT, SKEWER, WHEEZE, TEHRAN, WEEDY, & CATNAP.

Nice to see that each SHREDDED WHEAT comes in a box [HWATE], [THEWA], [EATWH], & [WHATE], rather than being strewn haphazardly across the themers.

Gill I. P. 3:43 AM  

OK, we give OOOH a pass but only Byron can use SHHHH? Well, ILLBE!
My only write-over was my tuba going PApa but that only lasted A SEC..
SHREDDED WHEAT makes my mouth itch but I liked seeing it alongside CREASE and WEEDY.

Feliz cumpleanos @Milford....So, what else is new????

Questinia 5:16 AM  

I love moments like @ Adash Craft Macros describes. What if puzzles had some sort of tarot quality that carried some sort of @ EllenS nascently nacreous message? It gives puzzles a poetic quality and for that I do not mind PAHS, SHHHHH, or the rest of the *dark matter* that pepper the fill. To me, they are funny words, silly even, and who doesn't have associations with @ August West OLIO, adit, etui, eels, gallimaufry etc...? (I don't know how gallimaufry got in there)
Eels is a madeleine to @ Ellen! There's something soothingly folkloric about these NYT puzzles with their repetitions and refrains and silly little fa la las.

I did Tuesday and Wednesday back to back and although I preferred Steinberg's Tuesday I loved the SHREDDED WHEAT theme of today, by SNIT and by SNEE.

And yes. I am sleep deprived.

A Nonni Nonny 6:56 AM  

David S got a pass yesterday for his sins,,,,but no mercy for Tracy Gold!

Today's write-up, however, had some great writing--'break the glass--great chuckle moment.

Bob Kerfuffle 7:03 AM  

Puzzle #3 for us at Westport. Especially under contest conditions, played entirely like a themeless; even after seeing the reveal it wasn't worth going back to find all the WHEAT.

Word new to me in today's usage: HOBS.

(Sort of snowed/sleeted/iced in this morning, haven't gotten my local paper, so no LAT to comment on. Wanted to post ASAP in case the power lines go down!)

Anonymous 7:05 AM  

A home made of leaves, like a squirrel's nest?

AliasZ 7:14 AM  

What I liked about this puzzle was that it took chances. It had courage. Puzzles with theme placement that avoids stacking them or spacing them out by only one row, and an overly cautious grid designs that prevent the pitfalls of such constraints, tend to be bland and boring.

I counted 16 down answers today that crossed at least two theme entries, four of those: RATTED, OUT TO SEA, WHEEZE and HIDEAWAY spanned three. That took guts. And Tracy Gray pulled it off admirably, SHHHH notwithstanding, while giving us some of the best entries of the puzzle. The acrosses in the center: STRAIT, CREASE, ANYHOW, ERECTS were also great fill. Furthermore, the grid has a nice open design that avoids isolated mini-puzzles.

My point is, there is just too much good stuff in this puzzle to reject it on the basis of two or three questionable words.

OBE quiet already. SHHHH. Put a SAK in it. And keep your PAHS to yourself.

Is the COOP in the chicken yard an urban housing option now? Never thought of the possibility.

Speaking of a little harmless mischief, this is what a LARK Ascending STRAIghT toward heaven sounds like.

What do you call a canary caught in the lawnmower? (I forget the punch line).

Anonymous 7:33 AM  

shredded tweet

Milford 7:37 AM  

Don't care for SHREDDED WHEAT as a breakfast food, myself, but I liked this easy, peasy Wednesday just fine. The WHEAT was mixed up in two separate words, so that was good for me.

I actually had SHusH before SHHHH and was sad to have to change it. Along with NOISE it made me think of the MTV game show "Silent Library".

Liked CATNAP, SWATH and WHEEZE. A college near us has the Schoolcraft OCELOT for a mascot.

¡Feliz cumpleaños, @Gill I.P.! I remembered we shared a birthday, too! Have a lovely day.

John V 7:59 AM  

Per @BobK, this was a pretty quick solve at Westport. Theme and fill were fine as it went by so quickly.

Looking forward to tomorrow, a the final puzzle from the tourney was next week's, not tomorrow.

Susan McConnell 8:02 AM  

I found today and yesterday on the blah side. Did not like the HHHH. I do like SHREDDED WHEAT, however, both as a theme, and as a cereal. I like the big, full-size ones with boiling water poured on to soften it, then a sprinkling of sugar and a splash of milk. Yum! But today was yogurt and granola.

loren muse smith 8:05 AM  

A few weeks ago, I took a fifth grade class to the library. As I walked around monitoring the ones who had LARK plans (huh? That’s mischief?) on the brain, I said, “SHHHH” several times, vaguely wondering 1) if other cultures used that NOISE and 2) how you would spell that. Not. SHH. But drawn out, the way you would do again and again in a quiet library with 28 LARK brained, COOPed up kids. I mentally played with SSSHHH, SSSSHS, and others but was distracted in the end and didn’t revisit the problem. Today it was solved for me. SHHHH is as real to me as UH HUH, UH HUH, SHH, OOOH. . .

I had “swirls” for SWATHS, wondering how I had missed that spectacle.

I could add A “fist” of salt to anything. Salt is my go-to SAPOR? For me, that entry raised my eyebrows as much as PAHS.

Loved the lacrosse clue for CREASE. My son was a CREASE attack beast.

“Sun” before TUE, remembering with nostalgia my early married days when we would eat dinner (“Pasta Night”) and watch 60 Minutes and then Murder, She Wrote.

I had a weird couple of minutes staring at the “finished” grid (I had forgotten to guess the B in the RUBE/OBE cross-

“OBE is a gimme to every regular crossword doer with at least a year under their belt.”
“OBE should be in the back pocket of any solver who wants to tackle more challenging puzzles.”

@August West and @Anoa Bob, I am hereby properly chastised and will try my level best to remember it.)

and I completely ignored the T in THE and focused instead on the T in WALTONS, wondering how the anagram “jumped” that L. I hadn’t finished my first cup of coffee and kept looking at it. It felt as though I were underwater – that L all misplaced and odd and shimmery through my squinted eyes. Then I saw the first T and my world righted again.

I really don’t like SHREDDED WHEAT – not enough SALT for my SAPOR. But I thought this puzzle was fine. Thanks, Tracy!

NCA President 8:27 AM  

I wonder if folks with celiac disease could do this puzzle safely? Lots and lot of gluten here...

@AliasZ: I read Rex's rant more about the editing than the puzzle itself. He had no problem with the concept, but the few very fixable places that went unfixed stood out like a sore thumb. He has consistently dogged the NYT for sub-par fill NOT for concepts (generally).

As for SHHHH, is the official spelling of the sound you make when you put your finger to your mouth to quiet someone, "SHHH?" The clue might have worked better if it indicated some kind of extreme need to shush someone...like the sound you make to prevent someone from waking a baby, or the sound you make when Bobby Fisher is about to make his final move. SHHH v. SHHHH is one more H...i.e., it's that much quieter.

dk 8:36 AM  

Spent a portion of my formative years living near Lafayette NY. Used to go to the rez to watch lacrosse and as a result CREASE (also what happens when you are struck with a shaft) was a gimme.

The puzzle as a whole lacked SAPOR but had its moments: GREATWHITE was one.

���� (2 Moons) Cleared the Wednesday bar.

Rob C 8:47 AM  

Medium Wed for me. Fun theme and revealer. Some good medium length fill, but the price was the junk others have pointed out.

When I had 2 squares left (the B in OBE and the C in ACTA), the CBS(?) news cut to a live shot of the snow coming down in NATICK, MA. Luckily, these weren't true naticks as the crosses were gettable.

Tracy Bennett 8:50 AM  

Yesterday's critique did seem kind of softbally in comparison to today's. I liked both puzzles, could see the craft and diligence that went into each, though I also see the different choices I might have made in each.

I like hearing from others about these puzzle synchronicities. Did anyone watch Jeopardy last night? There was a Jessica Fletcher/"Murder She Wrote" connection.

Z 9:06 AM  

Hand up for SHusH first. Absolutely no problem with the onomatopoeic SHHHH. I'll take onomatopoeia over RRN come HELL OR HIGH WATER. As for RUBE/RUDE-OBE/ODE...Looks like a coin flip to me. If I had a plaint it would be the "I have only ever seen you in a crossword puzzle, never in the wild" ALAE and ECLAT. OLIO almost makes it as well, but I did see it out in the wild (probably by a crossword solving writer) in the past month.

Yesterday's discussion of nicknames that become names reminded me of two stories. A college mate of mine was known to one and all as Deju, the diminutive of Wladislaw. Asked how one gets "Deju" from "Wladsilaw" he replied, "The same way you get 'Dick' from 'Richard.'" The other is from an interview of an ultimate player known to everyone as "Red." He related that when he first came out to play he was wearing a red t-shirt, so everyone called him "Red" and it became his name. I imagine "Tito" has a similar provenance.

@SanFranMan59 - With Puzzazz getting rave reviews, other quality options like Crux available, most with the ability of entering your credentials once and then automatically downloading the puzzle, and continuing issues with the NYT program, it is no surprise that the number of solvers on the site is steadily declining.

chefbea 9:07 AM  

Bottom half was very easy. Had trouble with the top. Knew hobs would be WOD. I have a mac so there is no home key or end key.

Carola 9:23 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Carola 9:26 AM  

First CANDY for breakfast this week, now SHREDDED WHEAT - found it just as much of a crossword treat. I thought HELL OR HIGH WATER was a great entry; it never occurred to me that it's a partial. It was hard for me to parse, though, when I just had HELLO and a few other letters.

Liked the grid felicities of WEEDY-WHEEZE and CRAFT-JEWEL; also TEHRAN, SKEWER, HIDEAWAY, CATNAP, SWATHS.

PRATE made me think of Sunday's MACBETH puzzle. It appears toward the end of the "Is this a dagger which I see before me" speech:

Thou sure and firm-set earth,
Hear not my steps, which way they walk, for fear
Thy very stones prate of my whereabout,
And take the present horror from the time,
Which now suits with it. Whiles I threat, he lives:
Words to the heat of deeds too cold breath gives.
[A bell rings]
I go, and it is done; the bell invites me.
Hear it not, Duncan; for it is a knell
That summons thee to heaven or to hell.

@Milford - Me, too, on SHusH, which I wrote in after considering SHHHH and rejecting it as impossible.

@Questinia - Thank you for your defense of the "dark matter." Agree completely.

@August West - Your OLIO is my "ort"; my dad also taught me "sward" and "swale." None of these seem to show up much any more.

Blue Stater 9:39 AM  

Thanks for taking apart this mess, Rex, although it's saddening to see the decay of the NYT puzzles continue. You could have added, as to OBE, that the clue for OBE is a factual error. It stands for Order of the British Empire and isn't a knighthood, as the clue ("Knighthood letters") implies. I'm also irate (well, annoyed) at seeing IRE (30D) clued as a verb ("Tick off") yet once more. I am unable to find a dictionary listing for that usage and have never heard it.

mac 10:02 AM  

Medium for me, but I did not finish, left the D box open at wild and end….

With rube I think of a country bumpkin (sorry, @Rube), not a mark, but the OBE solved that. Other write-over was at prate: orate.

Lots of beautiful words in this puzzle. Since the clue is correct at 17A, I don't mind the partial.

Maybe English should have a separate letter for the SH sound. Or 6D could be SHSHSH.

Actually nice to be snowed in after a frenetic week in London. Lots of good stuff in the freezer.25

OISK 10:02 AM  

Very fast Wednesday for me, FAR easier than yesterday's puzzle, and despite Rex's opinion, a better puzzle. I don't see that SHHHH is worse than OOOH and OOOLA; I don't like any of them. I don't mine "PAHS" and don't see why anyone else does. It is easy and obvious - move on. "Sapor" was new to me. Have probably seen the term, but didn't remember it. I even knew the Beyonce clue, recalling that she and Etta James butchered the same song ! (At Last) Yes, most people like it, but I prefer to hear the actual music, as written - try Nat King Cole. Stubborn and inflexible, that's me.

The theme worked, there were no bad cross - Naticks, where I didn't love the fill (alae, acta,) it was easily gettable from the crosses. Nice puzzle, but more a Tuesday for me.

quilter1 10:31 AM  

Very easy and I liked many of the words. However I kept waiting for Miss Eyre to show up. Glad she didn't. HOBS was new, THE WALTONS brought back nice memories. Yesterday during Jeopardy I blurted, that was in the crossword today. Thank you for a patient husband who kind of gets my obsession even though he is no help with solving. He doesn't think that way.

jberg 10:50 AM  

I liked the theme all right, despite the extra words in 17A. And while it was a partial, it was clued as itself; you could imagine a different phrase, e.g., "Hell or high water couldn't stop him," and you'd know what it meant.

PAHS would be OK on a Saturday, clued as "potent atmospheric pollutants" (meaning polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. The acronym is fairly common in air-pollution control circles. As defined, it's horrible. @blue stater already pointed out the problem with OBE; and what's with 68A? Isn't SAPOR just "taste" in another language? Latin, maybe? So how is it a quality that produces taste? I went with Smell into SRA corrected me.

So fun with some flaws; no need to get in a SNIT.

Two Ponies 10:51 AM  

I thought this was a solid puzzle not worthy of the scathing review by OFL. If Alley Oop's wife can make the cut why not shhhh. I think it looks cool in the grid.
Some nice words like ocelot, skewer, craft, swaths without any croci in sight.

Anonymous 10:54 AM  

HIGH-WATER MARK (instead of COME HELL...) and WHAT ELSE IS NEW (losing the "SO") would have made for better theme entries, and probably helped the fill (which I actually didn't find SO bad today)

Z 11:18 AM  

Curious about OBE, I looked it up in Wikipedia. Five classes of OBE, the top two of which permit the recipients to be called "Sir" or "Dame." One is Knight Grand Cross and the second is Knight Commander. If we are going to require clues to be as complete as Wikipedia then one could say the clue is "wrong." Otherwise, I think it is just fine.

@OISK - Agree on Nat King Cole being far far superior to Beyoncé. I am not familiar enough with Etta James to state an opinion.

Sandy K 11:24 AM  

If there's a breakfast test, this one sure passed it! Tried to munch my SHREDDED WHEAT not too NOISily and then went STRAIT to the puzzle...

Well, I'LL BE...OMG! SHREDDED WHEAT! Coincidence or not? ANYHOW, thought it was well-CRAFTed and I liked the themers a lot- was not bothered by the partial or the SHHHHH, not even the PAAS too much...

I also saw the Jessica Fletcher connection on "Jeopardy" last night.

On the WILD and crazy fun meter, Mr. Steinberg's JJJJJJJJJs probably beat out SHREDDED WHEAT, but both were a TON of fun.

retired_chemist 11:50 AM  

I like (spoon size) Shredded WHEAT FWIW. No sugar, nice fiber.

Generally a fun puzzle - Rex can have his flaws without argument from me, but ANYHOW I am with the enjoyers.

Thanks, Tracy.

Lewis 11:58 AM  

@acme and @aliasz-- thank you for the glass half full reviews!

@q -- great post. We are like a family here and we develop our own rituals...

I've had a Mac for so long I don't remember what the END key is for.

It is a fairly clever theme, I guess, but I wonder about themes like this that really don't help with the solve and/or aren't funny -- what's the point? I'd much rather have a Wednesday-level themeless with more zippiness.

I'm not as particular as Rex, though I appreciate his drive to make puzzles better -- I like most puzzle solves, even after having done puzzles for quite a few years. I don't mind crosswordese, now that I'm fairly conversant in that language, if it is in the service of a puzzle that has some greatness to it. Today's puzzle wasn't one of those great ones -- but I still liked it!

Masked and Anonymo3Us 12:09 PM  

@Bob K. . . I'm plumb outta puzsicles for now, but U should be in good hands with C.C. Burnikel, over there at La Times.

I've decided that, for the likes of me at least, themeless puzs are easier to make than themed ones. If you get desperate bits in yer fill, it's way easier to yank em, if there's no themers crashin around thru everything to have to live with and go shhhh to. But themed puzs do have them primo ahar moments that keep me comin back for more, as a solver dude. sigh.

CREASE/WEEDY/ANYHOW/JEWEL/WHEEZE/ERECTS/CATNAP/LARK/SKEWER is a nice little run. MUD and TUE are weejects with nice, chewy little centers. OBE/OLE get best synched sweeties award. SAK could use a shot of vitamin C. I could dig shreadin into another cinnamon roll... and a tasse of latte... right now.
But I digest...

M&A

Doc John 1:00 PM  

I actually have no problem with the RUBE/OBE cross. Yes, what Rex suggested would have fit but I think that RUDE/ODE is less interesting than what was in the puzzle. And OBE is a legitimate, well-known abbreviation.

As for NEST, my take on it is that it's a home in the leaves.

(And yes, I still hate captcha.)

beatrice 1:41 PM  

Would someone please explain why the clue for COMEHELLORHIGHWATER is considered 'correct'? My understanding of the phrase is supported by the defs. on the Web, viz., 'no matter what happens', 'regardless of any difficulty', and per the insurance clause, 'irrespective of any difficulty'. How does this square with 'Any foreseeable difficulty'?

I'm just not that prescient.

LaneB 1:59 PM  

Despite a bit of awkward fill [and there has been clunkier recently] I found the puzzle to be entertaining and the theme reasonably clever. Maybe I feel good about it because I avoided a DNF and didn't have to Google anything other than the completion of TEHRAN. That brings me to the clue for HONE. I don't quite understand the word being a synonym for 'practice'. One might sharpen one's skills through practice, but I still don't see it as a synonym. I quibble only because the word caused me to have to check on TEHRAN.

Bob Kerfuffle 2:14 PM  

@beatrice - The answer is HELL OR HIGH WATER, which is synonymous with "any difficulty." If you googled the phrase with "come" added, you will indeed get the wrong answer. The word "Come" is the one that pops up in everyone's mind when they see the phrase, but as @jberg points out above, HELL OR HIGH WATER can stand on its own.

Ellen S 2:46 PM  

Right, @Beatrice, the phrase, "Come HELL OR HIGH WATER" means, as you say, "Regardless of any difficulty", or ... "despite HELL OR HIGH WATER" or "come any difficulty." So "HELL OR HIGH WATER is fine, maybe a partial, since it's usually in the phrase with "come" but I'm with @jberg and @bob Kerfuffle, in not having a goat over that.

"leaves home" however, doesn't strike me the same as "a home in the leaves", and aren't birds' NESTs usually made with twigs, and lined maybe with something else, but not leaves? Do squirrels line their nests with leaves? And would that work in the phrase anyway?

Anonymous 3:45 PM  

You can never have too many Hs when you need to quiet someone down. Just ask Michael Shteyman.

sanfranman59 4:00 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)

Wed 8:31, 10:26, 0.82, 10%, Easy

Top 100 solvers

Wed 5:32, 6:15, 0.89, 18%, Easy

@Z ... I'm sure you're right about folks moving to other apps to get their daily NYT Crossword fix. But I've been a little surprised by what seems to be an abrupt downturn in the past month or two in the number of solvers using the NYT "Play against the clock" app. Oh well. I'll keep on keepin' on until the numbers dwindle to a point where it makes no sense to continue. Daily sample sizes of 200-400 are still pretty decent.

JFC 4:23 PM  

I think Rex’s critique is appropriate for the puzzle’s theme. Henry Perky invented SHREDDED WHEAT. He suffered from diarrhea. One day in a Nebraska hotel he saw someone who also suffered from diarrhea eating boiled wheat and cream. That inspired him to invent the cereal and become the first person to mass produce and distribute breakfast cereal nationally. That about 120 years before Rex shit all over this puzzle about his cereal....

JFC

Z 5:19 PM  

ICYMI because you solve online, The Magazine did a brief article about the origins of the Captcha back on the 17th. Nothing in the article about the significance of 42.

Mohair Sam 5:30 PM  

@OISK - Nice call on Nat King Cole's "At Last." Of course, his version of nearly any song is probably the best.

M and Also 5:32 PM  

p.s.
@Tracy Gray:
if y'all are readin this, U probably noticed that 4-Oh McSunshine had some reservations about yer short fill. Most of it, of course, was just fine. Some of it has been used a *lot* before. A little of it has even been used by Patrick Berry. So, let's just cut to the chase, here. There seem to be three and a half outliers, in this grid:
1. SAK. I'm pretty sure this is a famous monogram! Not of a trash bag inventor, however.
2. HOBS. Occurs more often in the singular. But hey, most words do. And HOB isn't what I'd call desperate.
3. PAHS. Occurs a lot in the singular. Plural noise partials do seem to edge into the desperate zone, I'd grant.
3.5. SHHHH. This is the old noise length controversy issue. SHH is most popular, even getting the Patrick Berry grunts seal of approval. Really tails off, after that. Some, but not much precedence exists for SHHH, SHHHH and SHS. SHHS gets nothin. S + 14 H's gets a hit, but that was a puz themer.

I thought your puz was great. In summary, maybe little dings off for PAHS and SHHHH and an ill-chosen SAK clue, and only the three U's. But hell, U probably already knew all that. The longer fill was fun and solid. The theme was clever and well executed. Hold yer head high. Good WedPuz. Come back again, any old time.

Spoiler Alert, if U do Kiddie Pool crosswords; but otherwise, Hot Tip to constructioneers...

True recent story: I used TPODA at 1-Down in one of my own grid creations lately. Got a rave review from someone. What saved it was the "Pass up??" clue. Note the subtle use of the -?? ending. This can upgrade a desperate entry to an object of pity, at the very least. Also works, for yer Across entries; example:
EULB = "Color that's definitely coming back??"

Anyhoo, congrats on the fine puzzle. Keep that U count up.
M&A

Noam D. Elkies 5:47 PM  

6D:SHHHH is at least funny. But 21A:PAHS isn't even clued right: tubas go OOM; it's the trombones or horns that provide PAHS. And SAK/ALAE in the SW is just Scrabble-sucking (the ..AE/..YS stack requires some compromise, but either IRAE/PAYS crossing SIP/ORA, or IRAE/BOYS crossing SIB/ORO, is better than that clusterSAK).

NDE

JenCT 6:07 PM  

So...Rex liked the puzzle?

@chefwen: Thanks so much! We had fun making the video. Oftentimes I just don't get to the puzzle but other times I simply lurk...

Squirrels make gigantic nests with leaves: Squirrel nests

Last Silver Sak of Shhh 6:12 PM  

@Noam: I figured out where I've seen S.A.K. before:
Soren Aabye Kierkegaard.

Existential, dude! Love that "Aabye" part. har. (or hor) Middle names crossword theme!

M&A

sanfranman59 10:02 PM  

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

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

Mon 6:04, 6:22, 0.95, 27%, Easy-Medium
Tue 10:30, 8:18, 1.27, 94%, Challenging (13th highest ratio of 217 Tuesdays)
Wed 8:25, 10:26, 0.81, 7%, Easy

Top 100 solvers

Mon 4:01, 4:00, 1.00, 47%, Medium
Tue 6:33, 5:14, 1.25, 96%, Challenging (9th highest ratio of 217 Tuesdays)
Wed 5:26, 6:15, 0.87, 15%, Easy

Acme 3:17 AM  

Synchroncity strikes again...
WHEAT an answer on Jeopardy! Tonight

Anne Janowitz 4:24 PM  

Well, I might be the last post of the day for you guys, but over here in London its 21.19. Displaced New Yorker (after almost20 years over here) decides to pick up the virtual pencil and try to keep the mental degeneration at Bay. Today was my first Wednesday since 1994 -- it took Rex 3(minutes, is it?) Took me about two hours...
I loved the Shredded Wheat -- was stumped by'crease' but got the OBE thing right off (being almost a Brit now). Annie J.

spacecraft 11:42 AM  

@Last Silver...: I once made up a Nashian couplet re philosophers:

Kierkegaard
Is hard--
But Nietzsche
Is peachy!

Oh well...ya hadda be there. Today's offering seems a return to Earth, despite the appearance of my all-time favorite ET at 20a, ALF, AKA "Gordon Shumway, Michigan Life and Casualty."

It has a serviceable theme with OK-to-good execution and a nice revealer--tho revealers are more effectively placed at the end, IMO. 17a is fine as clued; OFL should put away his curmudgeonly gudgel. The quad-H SHHHH is somewhat--another SHREDDEDWHEAT entry!--mollified by its neighbor NOISE. Weird that OFL's fill rant didn't mention ING or TTOP. But I'm not willing to SKEWER the whole thing for a few clunkers. After all, we do have some fine words--like SKEWER.

I'd have liked to see GREATWHITE clued as "Words before way or shark."

OMG, I can actually READ my captcha this time! Deal me out.

Oh, and guys? The syndilink is STILL taking us to Saturday's puzzle! Wake up, in there!

spacecraft 11:45 AM  

...and his cudgel, too!

Anonymous 12:37 PM  

Leaves the nest.

DMG 2:00 PM  

A couple of words I didn't know, HOBS and SAK, and a couple that gave me pause, PAHS and SHHHH. But I enjoyed this one, and easily finished after converting Jibe to JEST. Not only that, like @spacecraft, I can actually read the Captcha--strange things are happening!!

Dirigonzo 3:02 PM  

Much easier than yesterday for me with only tree/NEST as a write-over, although I did spend too long trying to figure out how to squeeze "Little House on the Prairie" in THEWALTONS space. IRk seems better for "tick off" I think - IRE seems more extreme.

I guess everybody else forgot to ante up so my two pairs look good (too bad there's not pot).

Anonymous 2:36 AM  

Agree with @Dirgonzo that(30D)IRE indicates greater anger than suggested by "tick off."

But NEST clued as "leaves home?" (27D) strikes me as erroneous. If it means "a home made of leaves," then shouldn't it be clued "leaf home"? The terms "brick home" and "log cabin" are common, but we don't use terms like "bricks home" or "logs cabin."

Still, I enjoyed the puzzle. It was quick but fun!

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