Horror flick starring Humphrey Bogart as mad scientist / SUN 3-16-14 / Thummim sacred Judaic objects / Type A friend from Friends / Country buggy / Drink with two lizards in its logo / He bested Leonidas at Thermopylae / John Candy's old comedy program

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Constructor: Jeremy Newton

Relative difficulty: Challenging



THEME: "It's Better This Way" — theme answers all have "RX" in them. There are circled letters in the NW and SE that spell out SICK and WELL, respectively. Then there is a revealer: FOLLOWING THE / PRESCRIPTION (16D: With 58-Down, a patient process? … or a hint to two consecutive letters in the answer to each of the seven starred clues).

Theme answers:
  • 23A: *He bested Leonidas at Thermopylae (XERXES I OF PERSIA)
  • 31A: *Off-roader, often (FOUR X FOUR)
  • 49A: *Annual draw for snocross fans (THE WINTER X GAMES)
  • 65A: *Iconic feature of comedy (GROUCHO MARX MUSTACHE)
  • 79A: *Founder of Marvel's School for Gifted Youngsters (PROFESSOR XAVIER)
  • 97A: *Frequent problem faced by algebra students (SOLVE FOR X)
  • 108A: *Horror flick starring Humphrey Bogart as a mad scientist, with "The" ("RETURN OF DOCTOR X") [Note: the "X" stands for Xavier … but we won't count that as duplication]
Word of the Day: XERXES I OF PERSIA
Xerxes I of Persia (/ˈzɜrksz/Old PersianOldPersian-XA.svgOldPersian-SHA.svgOldPersian-YA.svgOldPersian-A.svgOldPersian-RA.svgOldPersian-SHA.svgOldPersian-A.svg Xšaya-ṛšā IPA: [xʃajaːrʃaː] meaning "ruling over heroes";New Persian: خشایارشا ; GreekΞέρξης [ksérksɛːs]HebrewאֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁModern Aẖashverosh Tiberian ʼĂḥašwērôš), also known as Xerxes the Great (519–465 BC), was the fourth king of the kings of Achaemenid Empire. Xerxes I is likely the Persian king identified as Ahasuerus in the biblical book of Esther. (wikipedia)
• • •

Difficulty level and fill quality both Approved. But this theme is just broken. It's a mess. First, the only thing to it is "RX." I mean … that's it. Second, the revealer is nonsensical. FOLLOWING THE / PRESCRIPTION isn't … anything. It's a random verbal phrase. It cannot stand alone. It's not snappy. It's ridiculous. PRESCRIPTION tips off the theme. I have literally No Idea what FOLLOWING THE means in this context. Nothing is "following" anything. "Following" has zero to do with the theme. So it's not a real phrase, and it indicates an action (i.e. "following") that has nothing to do with the theme. Even the phrase in the *clue* for the revealer—"a patient process"—Is Not A Phrase. It's not a thing. "A patient process"—is that a pun on something? I've never heard that phrase in my life. How is following a prescription a "patient process"? The revealer is a train wreck at every level. This is a great shame, as the difficulty level is nice and tough and the non-theme fill elicited almost no groans.


I will say this about a couple of the themers, though: what? When was the last time anyone referred to Xerxes as XERXESIOFPERSIA? I've read Herodotus, I know who this guy is, but that phrase (while defensible) is nuts. Also, ("The"?) "RETURN OF DOCTOR X"?!? That's about the most unfamous movie I've ever seen as a Sunday themer. Also, the NYX is playing pretty loose with that title, as the only other times DOCTOR X has appeared in the puzzle, he has been DRX. Now, officially (or, on the movie posters, anyway), DOCTOR is written out, so today's version got it right. But that inconsistency with prior references to the movie actually threw me a little. The bigger issue, though, is that that movie is not very famous. Also FOURXFOUR is playing fast and loose with symbols. I'd accept the "X" if the fours were numerals. But I'm balking, slightly, at this version. Still, you can't say the themers aren't interesting. They are entertaining and unusual. I just wish there'd been a snappier way to tie this theme together. Even the title is awkward. Revealer, revealer clue, title—all of it is just Off.


Puzzle of the Week now … it's a tough call this week. I got a handful of puzzles sitting here vying for my approbation. Mike Nothnagel's Post Puzzler from last Sunday was pretty killer. Fireball once again brings the heat with Jacob Stulberg's very smart letter-swap theme. Evan Birnholz is out to show that his independent site "Devil Cross" is no flash-in-the-pan—you can get his latest excellent puzzle, "Nonstandard Operating Procedures," here. Brendan Emmett Quigley's "Bottoms Up!" is spectacular and also just … so … Quigley (get it here). The guy really paved the way for the burgeoning indie puzzle movement, and he's still killing it, against all odds, twice a week, every week. His puzzle might've won this week if it hadn't appeared elsewhere before. But this week, I'm going with an easy puzzle again, and giving the nod to Liz Gorski's Crossword Nation puzzle this week: "Side Effects." It's a sweet little twist on the vowel progression theme type. Read about it here and subscribe to Liz's Crossword Nation here (especially great for folks who are beginners or who simply prefer Monday-Wednesday level difficulty).

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

89 comments:

Alex S. 12:04 AM  

I assume the "follow" in the revealer is to do wti the fact that the "rx"s progress from left to right as you go down, leading you from SICK to WELL.

But I also never figured out the theme. I figured out X's were involved which eased solving but by the time I finished the puzzle I forgot to figure out the theme. Don't even remember looking to notice the SICK and WELL part.

Moly Shu 12:16 AM  

I liked it, didn't have a problem with the theme or revealer, but do concede @Rex's point. Mostly easy, with difficult (for me) spots. The RSPVD and SICEM areas most notably. Any puzzle with whack-a-mole in it, is fine by me. Also like the word DEIGN a ton. I try to use it as often as possible and always get the same reaction. Lack of comprehension. Oh well, I'm going to keep using it.

jae 12:21 AM  

Impressive construction and catching the theme helped.  My take is if you "follow" the RX diagonally down the grid from the upper left to the lower right you go from being sick to being well.  Easy-medium for me.  Only erasure was ASAP before STAT.   But, it took some staring figure out RSTU and to get the SIC EM/URIM ( a cringy WOE) cross.  The theme answers are great and the dreck count is low for s Sun.   This is the best Sun. in quite a while.

Steve J 12:33 AM  

Couldn't get into this at all. Didn't grok the theme until I was nearly done with the puzzle, found the revealer wanting, didn't find a whole lot interesting (although I did like ROM-COMS and the MGM LION).

Interesting coincidence: All of the main "Seinfeld" cohorts (ELAINE, George and Kramer) could fit at 19A. Nevertheless, I dropped ELAINE in straight away.

pmdm 12:36 AM  

To amplify on what Alex S correctly pointed out: If a person is sick, if smart the person will "follow the prescription" that the doctor gives, Hopefully that will result in the person getting well. Since a prescription is not limited to medicine (the doctor may prescribe a physical exercise routine that the patient must follow, for example), the wording "follow the prescription" is appropriate.

True, one usually associates prescriptions with medicines one takes, not follows. But I kind of like surprising word usage on a Sunday for how it makes the puzzle a little more difficult. And I did like how the first RX is directly below the last two letters of SICK and the last RX is directly below the last two letters ing WELL. (Alas, separated by a single row, but I guess you can't have everything.)

Questinia 12:42 AM  

@ jae said it all. Best Sunday in I don't know how long.

jae 1:25 AM  

@Alex S.- Meant to say "My take was pretty much the same as yours..."

Gill I. P. 1:40 AM  

Jeremy, I bet if I had you over for dinner, I'd really like you. However, I'd ask you why is SEXT kept in a dirty cell. I'd also ask you why ERN is a flying fisher and why a frequent problem faced by a teenager becomes SOLVED FOR X or why BONE is down there for Radius. Hell I'd even ask you to spell XERXESIOFPERSIA for me.
After dessert of some AMOLE (and I'm sure a great explanation for constructing this puzzle) please excuse me if I cry a little because this was quite possibly the worst Sunday puzzle I've done in quite some time. Other than that, I did not enjoy it...

Carola 1:42 AM  

I found it a nicely challenging Sunday with tougher than usually cluing. A DNF loomed until I finally figured out RSTU x SIC 'EM. Thank you, @Alex S, for pointing out the progression of RXs from SICK to WELL and @pmdm for showing how the reveal makes sense - I'd totally missed all of that. Makes me appreciate the puzzle a lot more.

The mad scientist DOCTOR X is nice over LOONIE.

chefwen 2:51 AM  

Sorry to say that I am with @Gil I.P. with this one. Had it about 3/4's finished when I handed it over to Jon saying "I'm SICK OF this one, you take over". We got it done. I did love 7A, touching words BRAILLE, and let out a major groan when I got 73D, they're 18 to 21, RSTU. DOH!

@Carola - Hang onto your hat!

John Child 3:38 AM  

I whined a lot doing this: "there's nothing following the Rx," "RSTU?," ARIL?," "UR?M crossing a name - must be an O" and so on. I like the theme a lot better now thanks to @Alex and @pmdm. But overall UGH.

paulsfo 3:38 AM  

I liked it quite a bit because of difficulty and some clever cluing, though I was defeated by the intersection of ADAMSALE, SPUME (not spurt or spew), and, for some reason, HOARSE (where I tried to fit in orator, costar, oscar, and hoary. :) Oh, well).

@Gil: If you use your mobile phone for SEXTing then it's a dirty cell. The RADIUS and the ulna are the two bones in your forearm. Algebra classes ask you to SolveForX all the time. And an ERN (or erne, it turns out) is a sea eagle.

comatunes 4:00 AM  

This was perhaps the worst puzzle ever. I hated every agonizing minute of it. It was challenging only because of its inconsistencies.

Anonymous 5:41 AM  

Following a prescription is a process that takes patience. Rex, haven't you ever been told to be sure to take every last dose of antibiotic even if you already feel cured? RX Parker: ex posteriore lignum.

Danp 5:50 AM  

I never heard of Doctor X, but the title is so movie-cliche it was easily inferrable, and therefore I wouldn't care if it starred Erica Durance's mother-in-law on Home Shopping Network.

I also have no problem with Xerxes, because it was accurate and gettable. My problem was the "I" since I was so impressed with the clue Dashed ID (27A), which surely was VIN, right?

I liked the puzzle a lot, but the one thing I found a little off-putting was all the two word answers like GOBROKE, GOCOLD, FULLON, DOWELL, SICKOF, BEOF, and THINGIS (Oh, God. Poor me, right?).

Bob Kerfuffle 6:10 AM  

I thought this was a great puzzle. And I hadn't even noticed the diagonal run of the RXs.

The only problem I had was a multi-write-over at 53 A, "Close up," which strangely went from NEAR to HEAL to SEAL.

Will you let me back in the club if I say, "Oh, the horror! That X at the beginning of 103 A, XTC, sitting out there without an R. I can never do a Sunday puzzle again!"

Anonymous 6:15 AM  

A patient follows a prescription, starting sick and ending well - nothing wrong with that. What I can't understand is the tolerance Rex extends to the fill on this occasion. IVS, EPH, FTD, the eternal TSP, SLRS, SSN, EDS, RSVPD, RSTU, AES, NIK and many more: they're all either intrinsically horrible, or just stale.

Mike E 7:22 AM  

I also liked the difficulty of the rx clues - don't usually see that combination very often more than once in a puzzle. And one other thing about following the prescription - it was for one week.

chefbea 7:57 AM  

I agree..was a tough puzzle but managed to get through it...with some googling.

Knew Sobe right away. That company was started by two young guys in Connecticut - I think Darien.

Now to start the corned beef and cabbage

Glimmerglass 8:25 AM  

One wrong square. Couldn't remember whether RL was Stine or STYNE.; never heard of URIM. I like the "FOLLOWING THE" part of the revealer better since reading the comments today. However, I think 58D could have been the revealer by itself (Drugstore letters). 16D surely could have been a partial something else. ______ Ninth (Beethoven bio or extra innings.)

chefbea 8:36 AM  

Has everyone seen Will Shortz's puzzle in the NYT magazine??? I've gotten a couple already but I'm sure it's a challenge.

loren muse smith 8:39 AM  
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loren muse smith 8:42 AM  
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loren muse smith 8:44 AM  

Thanks, @Alex S, pmdm (Morgen, @Carola) for showing the RX progression loosely indicating the SICK to WELL. I thought we were in for a word ladder – SICK, SILK, SILL, WILL, WELL.

@Moly Shu – let's have a DEIGN/ in SITU party. – Maybe Valentines! Everyone has to use those words and show up with a heart on.

@M&A – I don't even believe you were in Brooklyn.

@Danp – funny – I always like two-word answers.

@Steve J – I was more flummoxed by the possibilities of "paint variety" with that second A – matte, satin, sable, mauve, taupe, hazel. . . .

Love, love, love the clue and fill THING IS.

Is there a difference between a lure and a LURER?

FESS UP, Mr. MGM LION – do you always order the GNUS or go for the occasional BONE-in ORYX with a side of SLAW?

I'm so SICK OF Miley Cyrus' tongue, I can't even express it.

RAWER before RARER. ;-)

Spelling MIEN was yea mein kampf. @jae? You, too? Did you have giesha first?

BEQ once clued SLAW as something like "usually uneaten side." True. ('Cept for my mom.) I personally never eat it. But I sure dispatch those proteins, man.

Ok. I'm *really, really* upset that 52A remained a poser for me until the very end. I will complain about this clue – Anna – my new amie – please take note! "Union" absolutely does not begin with a LONG U. If you're using a phrase like LONG U, in my opinion, you're heading down the phonetic path rather than the orthographic path. "Union" begins with a "y" (/j/ for all our IPA Snobs, and I suspect we're legion). See below the Merriam Webster pronunciations. (I guess that single quote sign at the beginning marks a glottal stop, and don't even get me started on glottal stops. . .their beauty is up there with schwas in my book. And just so you know and care, AGUAS does not begin with a glottal stop, and I'm incapable of pronouncing it that way. I don't know 'ow you Spanish speakers do it.)

UNION - \yün-yən\
OOLONGü-ˌlȯŋ\

The appeal of an oolong tea escapes me.
A union in the mouth between honey and that totally unsweet greek yoghurt is a thing of beauty.

I'm whining not so much (this time) to be a Miss Prisspot Language Stickler* but rather to rationalize why I wasn't all over that sort of personally beloved kind of clue from the get go. If they'd have clued it "Leader of Uzbekistan?" I'd have been on it like a duck on a June bug. And I know there are enough NYT testers and people who know more than I do who can weigh in here and prove me wrong. I'm ok with that. *I've set myself up here to be taken down as publicly and as often as possible when it comes to stuff like this. I welcome and deserve it anytime. I will be, of course, sickeningly good-natured about it. Cue gag.

I've pointed out in the past quasi-onomatopoetic groups like "nose-ish": sniff, snort, snot, snore, snout… and "oozy-ish": slop, slime, slip, slush, slide, sludge…. So run get your notebook where you're noting all my fascinating observations and add this one: SP – "launched wet stuff-ish": SPUME, spray, spurt, spray, spit, spatter, splash, spritz. . .. I s'pose this phenomenon is some kind of speech spout spasm.

Thanks, Jeremy! Now to join @chef bea and tackle Will's "Two for One. . ."

loren muse smith 9:05 AM  

Boring alert – those who don't do Learned League just ignore this. Both my kids got that Myrennes number question easily and quickly. Maybe for good math people, that's not so impressive. I was impressed.

And speaking of not being good at math and impressed . . . for the third time in my life, I impressed my son. The first two involved my consumption of an alarming amount of food in one sitting (the second time, because of a botched order in our favor) I ate two Big Macs, a cheeseburger, and two orders of fries.)

This past week, he said, "Mom, wanna know something interesting? You like punctuation, right? You know the exclamation point? Well, if it follows a number. . ."

And I totally interrupted him, "Right. If you have the numbers, say, 4, 3, 2, and 1 and want to know how many combinations you can have using them, if you can repeat numbers, then it's 4 to the 4th. If you cannot repeat numbers, it's 4 factorial." (I know this is probably off a bit, but still.)

I said. "Ya know – permutations and combinations." He's currently taking statistics which I never took. The look on his face made me want to do a spin in my TUTU.

Mohair Sam 9:41 AM  

Medium/challenging here, liked the theme. Filled SICKOF (thanks to the wonderfully clued SEXT) and DOWELL quickly. Then figured it was XERXES something or other and guessed there would be an RX progression taking us down - it made the the long accrosses much less difficult.

But . . . . We get a dnf for thinking that Don Corleone was cOARSE, and Google had cIT(ations).

At least once a week I need Rex to reveal a theme or pattern I've missed. First time I've ever seen him miss one. Oh well, they say if you live long enough you'll see everything.

Need ALIFT? As one who did much hitching years ago I've heard that question a zillion times. I always wanted to answer the query with "No, I always spend my free time standing by busy roadways with my thumb in the air." But never had the nerve.

loren muse smith 9:50 AM  

Mersenne prime. Sorry.

Nancy 9:53 AM  

Am posting early (for me), before even looking at the puzzle, so that I can get messages responding to A and OISK for their Friday messages to me.
To A: Thanks for telling me I can find personal info about the puzzle solvers who have their names in blue. I'll avail myself of the opportunity in the future. As for putting my own name in blue with personal info attached -- I'd need an entire team of techies to show me how to do it. I joked when I bought my first computer in 12/08 that I now had a computer that could do 17 million different things. Whereas I could do 3 different things -- none of them very well.
To OISK. We are the same generation, but I grew up in Manhattan in a family of died-in-the-wool N. Y. Giants fans. I ac tually saw Bobby Thompson's home run in real time; I got home from P.S.6 at the bottom of the 8th inning or the top of the 9th, I can't remember. My mother had the game on. I remember that Thompson took a called first strike and my mother said: "He's such a bum, he can't hit in the clutch." As for the Dodgers, they were the team we loved to hate, but I never heard of any player named OISK. I have in front of me right now a piece of stationery from the Shoreham hotel in Washington, ca 1955, where my family and I were staying, and so were the Dodgers. I got the autographs of the players I saw that day in the lobby; they are, in the order in which they signed (and as you will see, some of the biggest names are unfortunately missing): Carl Furillo; Bob (I think) Morgan; Dick Williams, Billy Loes; Clem Labine; John (not Johnny) Podres; Ron Negray; Jim or Jon Hughes; and Ben Wade. There is no OISK. Were the Dodgers already in L.A. when OISK joined the team? What position did he play?
Anyway, forgive me, Rex, for using this space as my personal stationery. I will now go and do the puzzle, or try to do the puzzle; don't know yet how hard it is. I may come back later.

joho 10:03 AM  

When I was done I circled the RXs which are so perfectly placed in the grid to form an almost direct line from SICK to WELL. I marveled at the constructor's ability to do that. I actually drew a line through the RXs which to me represents the degrees in a thermometer going down after the patient did his due diligence FOLLOWINGTHEPRESCRIPTION.

All those RXs are impressive my favorite being GROUCHOMARXMUSTACHE.

I loved it, thanks Jeremy, you made my Sunday morning!

Susan Izeman 10:07 AM  

I thought hit was hard, with some weird fill questions. I have never heard, wryly or not, water referred to as Adams ale. A good challenge, but not fun.

jberg 10:07 AM  

DNF-- first, because I couldn't think of RSVPD, so erased EPH to put in REvue. And that was so depressing, I couldn't even see XAVIER when I had XA_IER already. And second, I didn't know URIM, hadn't thought of SIC EM, and forgot to go back to it before coming here.

I also never noticed the nice downward progression of the RXs. My father was a pharmacist, so I appreciated that.

I really wanted "green" for paint variety at 47D, but had too many crosses already.

pArallel before EAST-WEST, and I've never heard of ICE RUN, only ICE oUt, which made me question the obvious, if hackneyed, ERN. So this was tough all around for me. Back to work tomorrow, and maybe that will get me back on track.

Horace S. Patoot 10:08 AM  

Wait, wait... you'd be okay representing 4x4 as IVXIV?

JC66 10:23 AM  

@ Bob Kerfuffle

No R preceding the first X in Xerxes, either. The inconsistency really irks me,

Danp 10:47 AM  
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Danp 10:49 AM  

I've been doing the Puzzler for a few years now and consistently find it the hardest, yet most satisfying themeless puzzle when I can solve it.

Evan and BEQ were great choices today.

@lms - Is there a word for a "U" that sounds like "you"? Since "union" starts with the letter U and it is long as opposed to short, it seemed fine to me. That said, my phonetics vocatulary doesn't go much beyond what is needed for a crossword puzzle.

Anonymous 10:54 AM  

@chefbea @8:36 AM

The second Sunday puzzle looked like it would be a bear, but it actually was a lamb. I got all the words within the allotted time (in two sittings, with the final one coming as soon as I turned out the lights for the night), and I'm no genius, as the puzzle suggested would be required to get them all. If you are good at cycling through the alphabet quickly and make some reasonable eliminations, such as only cycling through the vowels where it seems logical, this turns out to be a fairly mechanical process. So if I had that level of success, I can only imagine how quickly some of the puzzle mavens will sail through it. Good luck with it!

tensace 11:14 AM  

SEXT was an answer that came immediately to me. Probably because I've gotten a couple. XERXES was a snap as it's my Persian cat's name. But EDS was a stretch even after _DS. Marginally heard of JET Magazine. I'm not its demographic. So a real groaner for me. Lastly I tire of Long AEIOU, Soft G, etc. Ugh.

Anonymous 11:16 AM  

Re: 21 Down. Constructor and/or Shortz apparently don't know the difference between "latitude" and "longitude" Latitude lines frin "north south" from the equator, not east west as do lines of longitude.

loren muse smith 11:18 AM  

@danp – I tried to email you off blog so as not to subject everyone to this stuff – But noooo (say in sing-songy voice - at you, @Phooeypewitfleadigestionbreath), some people have no emails on their profiles.

My email is there in my profile, clear as day. Ahem.

Anyway, @danp, the first letter you write in union is U. The first "letter" you say is Y. So to me, LONG U is not the leader of union. Still probably just sour grapes that I didn't see it sooner. @tensace – I'll never tire of such clues.

I'm choosing italics, bolds, and quotation marks willy nilly today.

Little-known fact – St. Patrick's Day Eve is also called Italics Bold Quote Willy Nilly's Eve.

Xerxes I 11:33 AM  

1D- Something dirty kept in a cell.
(not a dirty cell) The something dirty is the SEXT.

89A- Teen headache- ACNE.

97A- Frequent problem faced by algebra students- SOLVE FOR X.

Jisvan 11:45 AM  

Even puzzle partner Google couldn't save me on this one. Like it more in retrospect after reading the blog and seeing some of the construction feats, like the progressive RX. Wanted earth wine for ADAMS ALE. Cueing was trickier than a typical Sunday, and with the jumbo size, it was a slog for me. (I'm also working this weekend, which may be a factor in my general grumpiness. Now off to heal the lame, if they are FOLLOWING THE (exercise) PRESCRIPTION!

Steve J 11:47 AM  

@Danp: The vowel sound in "you" is actually a diphthong - two vowels combined to sound nearly as one. You have the Y sound, and then the OO sound. Say it really slowly, and you can fell the shape of your lips and the position of your tongue shift, indicating the change in vowels.

@Anon 11.16: You've got it backwards. Latitude refers to distance north or south of the equator, so those lines are parallel to the equator, which runs EAST-WEST. Longitude is perpendicular to the equator, running north-south.

Blue Stater 11:55 AM  

The Sunday puzzles (the last bastion of the old high-quality NYT puzzles) have been deteriorating of late but this was certainly the worst Sunday puzzle I can recall, and quite possibly the worst Sunday ever ("ever" being since the early 50's, when I began doing the NYT puzzles). To pick out but one of the host of errors and stretchers this puzzle contains, 100D, "Dutch wheels," has a plural clue and a singular answer (EDAM). Even granting the construction principles of today's NYT puzzles, how is this cutesy or punny or misleading or vanishingly obscure or anything else but wrong?

Norm 11:55 AM  

"A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds" and all that [and, yes, I know I'm distorting Emerson, so we don't need to get into a debate about it]. I loved this puzzle. I don't care that the first X in XERXES wasn't paired with an "R" (nor do I care that the answer required you to identify him -- ACCURATELY -- as Xerxes I rather than the more common [at least to me] Xerxes the Great). The revealer was extremely precise and correct, sicne you had to "follow" the RX. This was extremely clever, and there was very little to object to in the fill. Five stars.

RnRGhost57 12:02 PM  

Married to an M.D. and have heard "follow the prescription." Not a lot, mind you, but enough that the revealer wasn't nonsensical.

Gill I. P. 12:12 PM  

@paulsfo. Thank you. I always want to feel some good vibration on a Sunday but this puzzle made me lose my perception mojo....
@Loren. U are so write!!!!

Masked and AnonymoUs 12:51 PM  

har. Full title, of course, would hafta be:
THE XERXES I OF PERSIA IN ASIA.
But puz was so smooooth, I for one can let that slide.
Good RSTU clue.
Nice SICEM clue.
Great entry, RSVPD.
Outstandin theme. Made sense to me. Sorta like Follow the Yellow Brick Road, 'cept you got yer RX written on the bricks, instead. Liked how the RXs kinda clanked into the grid wall, just before gettin to the WELL goal. Lesson, there: don't drive while on certain meds. Talkin to U, Colorado.

Relieved to see an entry like GROUCHOMARXMUSTACHE. Opens up a couple of my back-o-the-closet KPool puzs for possible use. Thought up to now that they had a dash too much green paint in em.

M&A Goatboy of Brooklyn

Z 1:11 PM  

Why do historians give XERXES a RRN? There seem to be a couple of other less famous Xerxes, but "Xerxes" or "Xerxes the Great" seem sufficient. I thought the RRN was added to make the answer fit, but a quick check of the interwebs shows that it is, indeed, not unusual to add the RRN. My best guess, XERXES I OF PERSIA is the preferred term when one is having a tough time making the term paper ten pages long.

Otherwise, I will note that I am happy to see LATEX in the grid so we can all practice safe SEXT.

Anonymous 1:25 PM  

Am I a horrible person because I am tickled that Rex, of all people, totally missed the "follow the prescription" trail of RX's from sick to well? C'mon Rex, time to post a retraction of your scathing commmentary--you just didn't get it!

mac 1:34 PM  

Challenging Sunday for me too. Didn't know the doctor and the professor. Poor me.

Silliest write-over: eJoke at 114A.

No corned beef for us but shad roe!

Mohair Sam 1:35 PM  

@Nancy - OISK will probably answer while I'm typing here. But, in case he doesn't, I'm betting that OISK refers to Dodgers' pitcher Carl Erskine who was referred to by the Brooklyn fans and press as Oisk.

For my 7th birthday my big sister took me to Ebbets Field for my first Major League game. I watched Erskine lose 11-1 to Lew Burdette and the Milwaukee Braves.

mathguy 1:36 PM  

I was pleased that Rex called it challenging. For the first time in quite a while I had to look a couple of things up to finish. First, Professor Xavier. I guessed it but VSIX didn't seem right. Then, RLSTINE because ?STU stumped me.

I disagree with Rex on the quality of the theme. In these parts we say "Follow the prescription" and the line of RXs lead neatly from sick to well.

jberg 1:48 PM  

@Loren, I could have this wrong -- but I believe in England they consider the IU dipthong to be the true long-U sound. They tend to pronounce long Us that way, even when in the middle of the word. where we tend to shorten them. So that one didn't bother me. I mean, you could argue that long A is a dipthong of short e and I, but it is the sound represented by the letter.

I'm no linguist, though, or whatever you call the specialty that studies this sort of thing.

baja 1:55 PM  

Thought I was so smart after getting the top writing "following the prescribed rx". Not to be. I guess it would have messed up the straight line of rx's. DNF but loved it anyways. A lot of misdirection which made it fun.

Fred Romagnolo 1:55 PM  

I agree that Edam shooda bin plural; ya gotta keep SOME standards. Didn't know R L Stine so that was last. Humphrey Bogart got me started; when I was a kid that movie scared me - he had not yet become "Bogie" - "High Sierra" re-created him. San Franciscans don't know about "ice-runs," but we sure do know about wineries. Got romcom from inferring. I could have thought of a racier clue for Monica, but NYT wouldn't go along.

wreck 2:24 PM  

I liked this one as well. I noticed a lot of "X's" right off the bat and then quickly saw "RX" and it really helped me in the starred clues. This is one of the few Sunday puzzles that I was pretty much able to start at the very top and wind on down to the bottom without jumping all over the board.

Carola 2:58 PM  

@chefwen - No kidding!

Re: XERXES I OF PERSIA - @M&A "in Asia" and @Z "term paper" - LOL. I wanted the clue to be parallel: "He bested Leonidas I of Sparta..." :)

Norm C. 4:14 PM  

Puzzle was OK overall, but I was annoyed by "too cute" clues that were out-and-out wrong. For example, one does not "remark" to a dog, "Say, Fido, see those thugs? Perhaps you should SIC 'EM." No. SIC 'EM is an imperative, or command, not a comment.

(Disclosure: I do not own a dog.)

Happy St. Pat's Day to all.

M and Also 4:17 PM  

p.s.
For those U-counters, or counter wannabes, in the crowd, this fine SunPuz had 14 of the little jewels, which is a real commendable tally. Mighty respectable, actually. The over/under on a SunPuz is approximately 7.6 U's. This is much higher than the 4.1 for the daily puzs, as yer SunPuz has almost twice as many potential U placeholders. As always, pulleeeeze... no wagering.

But I digress.

Crimea Referendum results are in: Putin wins narrowly, with 49% of the vote. Due to name recognition problems, due to hastily organized poll, Palin got 46%. Old TV oater dude Palladin got 4%.

Question on legalizin pot got 98% approval. Have weed, will travel, man...

M&A

Nancy 4:21 PM  

To Mohair Sam --
I didn't know that! Oisk equals Carl Erskine in a Brooklyn accent. Of course it does! Growing up in Manhattan as a Giants fan, I never heard the nickname. But it makes perfect sense. Thanks!

Anonymous 4:44 PM  

3rd Line:
The Mystery

I am the breeze breathed at sea.
I am the wave woven of ocean.
I am the soft sound of spume.
I am the stag of the seven battles.
I am the cormorant upon the cliff.
I am the spear of the sun striking.
I am the rose of the fairest rose.
I am the wild bull of war.
I am the salmon stroking the flood.
I am the mere upon the moor.
I am the rune of rare lore.
I am the tooth of the long lance.
I am He who fired the head.

Who emblazons the mountain-meeting?
Who heralds the moon’s marches?
Who leads the sun to it’s lair?
I am the One. I am the Eye.

An ancient rune, a Celtic incantation, usually dated to the sixth century and attributed to Amergin, the chief bard of the Milesians and the first poet of Ireland.

ahimsa 5:34 PM  

This was actually a fun puzzle for me!

It was harder than most Sundays and with more than its share of clever clues. That 18-21 clue for RSTU had me guessing for the longest time. Some rough fill in that area. And I did wrinkle my nose at RSVPD (surely it's RSVPeD?)

Perhaps the reveal phrase and its clue may have been a bit hard to figure out from the phrasing. But I got the idea. The patient goes from SICK to WELL by FOLLOWING THE PRESCRIPTION(s) (the trail of RXs) from the top left to bottom right. I like the visual aspect of puzzles like this.

And I disagree that the DOCTOR X theme entry (at least the character, maybe not the actual movie title) was too obscure. Anyone out there remember the Rocky Horror Picture Show? If so, you will probably recognize these lyrics from the chorus of the opening song:

Science fiction
Double feature
Doctor X
will build a creature
See androids fighting
Brad and Janet
Anne Francis stars in
Forbidden Planet
Oh-oh ...
at the late night,
double feature,
picture show.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G5MHNvOVl8Y

Robert H 6:01 PM  

Can someone please explain the RSTU answer. I'm just not getting it

ahimsa 6:08 PM  

@Robert H

RSTU are the 18th to 21st letters of the alphabet.

PS to @M&A, happy that U got UR "U" fix from today's puz. :-)

CBCD 6:13 PM  

RSTU are the 18th through 21st letters of the alphabet.

OISK 7:14 PM  

Mohair Sam - Erskine pitched the first game I saw live, at the Polo Gounds, Aug 11, 1953, shutting out Maglie and the Giants 4 nothing. (Furillo and Hodges hit homers) I met him during a "Back to Brooklyn" celebration several years ago - a really nice guy, and he remembered that particular game. ( a 2 hitter).

Nancy, I remember Bobby Thompson't homer also. I cried all afternoon! (I still can't stand hearing the call…)

As to the puzzle - I found it very difficult, and while clever, very unrewarding. When two of the theme clues "Doctor X and Prof. Xavier" are completely unknown, and the others are generally uninspired, I am not a fan. One of the least enjoyable Sunday puzzles in a long time (the Mindy project?? "Rescue me ???)), but I am grateful for the absence of brand names, and some clever clues (bomb shelter for silo, Line at the Louvre)
B- from the chem teacher.

OISK 7:18 PM  

One additional comment - surprised more people didn't get naticked at RLSTINE and URIM. I got the "i" only because I know that Hebrew plurals end in "im" or "ot". Otherwise I might have come up with Stene or Stone.

Mohair Sam 8:07 PM  

@OISK - Sal the Barber vs. Erskine, your first game experience was superior to mine for sure. If you've read "The Boys of Summer" you know what a fine man Carl Erskine became after his playing days.

sanfranman59 8:10 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 5:58, 6:18, 0.95, 22%, Easy-Medium
Tue 7:35, 8:16, 0.92, 21%, Easy-Medium
Wed 8:14, 10:14, 0.80, 8%, Easy
Thu 18:34, 18:41, 0.99, 46%, Medium
Fri 22:39, 21:16, 1.06, 67%, Medium-Challenging
Sat 26:49, 28:13, 0.95, 39%, Easy-Medium
Sun 38:47, 29:53, 1.30, 93%, Challenging (10th highest ratio of 127 Sundays)

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:54, 4:00, 0.98, 32%, Easy-Medium
Tue 4:55, 5:11, 0.95, 29%, Easy-Medium
Wed 5:15, 6:14, 0.84, 9%, Easy
Thu 10:56, 10:44, 1.02, 53%, Medium
Fri 15:36, 12:18, 1.24, 86%, Challenging
Sat 17:27, 17:37, 0.99, 47%, Medium
Sun 25:50, 20:23, 1.27, 83%, Challenging

Stuart Showalter 10:02 PM  

Rex: get over yourself!

michael 10:23 PM  

I usually think people are being hypercritical of puzzles. But I really didn't like this one, even though I concede that it was cleverly constructed.

follow the prescription? Who says this?

xerxes1

T. L. Stine

Urim

Return of Doctor X

Ugh

michael 10:25 PM  

I meant R. L. Stine...

M and A Help Desk 10:49 PM  

@michael: Glad U asked.
Much to my amazement, I googled "follow the prescription". Got well over a million hits.

Only thing on yer list that did better was "ugh", with 14 million hits.

To put this in perspective, googlin "phooeypewitfleadigestionbreath" got just one hit.

M&A
"Always a different perspective"
prophetbaz@gmail.com

Public Service Announcement 11:00 PM  

p.s.
Whatever U do, ignore the email address tacked on the end of my last post.
Thanx.
M&A

ournyt 11:07 PM  

Actually found this to be a fun puzzle! Got stymied a bit when I thought the 2 letters in a row were XE...

So, can anyone explain how Xerxes becomes Ahasueros (AKA Achashveros)? This clue was a mod yo the Jewish festival of Purim, adding an extra dimension of joyful ness to the puzzle...

ournyt 11:12 PM  

Nod to, not mod yo...

mac 11:13 PM  

Dutch wheels: I put in BIKE, of course.

Z 12:08 AM  

Cheddars? Bries? Colbies? Nope, we don't usually pluralize cheeses. Tricky.

@ournyt - Ahasuerus

Anonymous 6:14 PM  

Can't understand the people who found this puzzle difficult, or how Rex managed to miss the whole point of the theme which was quite obvious. The clues were mostly easy and reasonable. I only had to google two pop culture clues, neither of much import to the solve. Most of the complaints expressed don't seem valid to me. (e.g., there are multiple types of Cheddars hence the plural, but something is either Edam cheese or it's not). Main complaint: it just wasn't a satisfying solve. Not difficult at all, but just not much there to tickle your brain.

Cheryl Lynn Helm 7:04 PM  

Agreed mostly with Rex's assessment. The gimmick wasn't all that satisfying and the thematic answers seemed as much tedious as challenging. I also thought the "LONG U" was a cheat (UNION begins with a yod [j])--as a singer, my old IPA habits die hard. But my main beef is with 55A: "That may be true, but..." with the answer given as "THING IS". But the phrase should "That may be true, but THE thing is...", so that seemed sloppy. I also disliked the cluing for "SIC EM" and "A HOOT". Neither were LOL worthy.

Kim Scudera 9:29 PM  

@OISK: hand up here for Natick at RLSTyNE/URyM. OY.

Phil Lacy 7:05 AM  

Went to a cheese shop in Amsterdam and said i want two edams please.
He had many wheels out. Many were edams.

anonymous 8:46 PM  

Doesn't "cohort" mean a group? Elaine may be PART of a cohort, but she sure isn't a cohort.

Anonymous 12:03 PM  

@anonymous A cohort can be both a group or a companion or associate.

spacecraft 12:17 PM  

Well, two days in a row DNF. Not good. The killer? that western section with the 18 to 21 thing: oh, they're the numbered letters of an alphabet string?!? GROAN! That's just awful. FLAG! Once again, I'm supposed to know who RLSTINE is? And URIM? Gee, no, I don't belong to either of those microgroups. Plus, "Biting remark" = SICEM? SICEM is NOT a "remark." A command, a shout, maybe, but NOT a "remark." FLAG!

As OFL pointed out, FOURXFOUR revisits my old bugaboo about mixing written-out words with abbreviations. It's either 4X4 or "four-by-four." You've never seen "4by4," have you? It just. Does. Not. Fly. What does fly is another hankie; glad I stuffed one in every pocket.

Oh, there's another one: RSVPD. Where's the E? And wait: from the shirt pocket comes a fifth one: LONGU. STOP that crap! This was all just too ugly. Of necessity, every theme entry is forced and convoluted, because RX simply does not occur. Our ambitious constructor bit off more than is chewable this time. Thumbs down--and I assure you I'd rate it the same even if I had finished.

Glad THIS week's over.

Dirigonzo 6:09 PM  

On balance, I'm with the "liked it more than I hated it" crowd. Once I figured out how the RXs came into play it was pretty easy to suss them out and that helped me over some of the rough spots. When did "chick flicks" become ROMCOMS?

Solving in Seattle 8:31 PM  

The best thing about today's puz was reading @Spacy's post. Good thing I'm drinking white wine, not red. Spewage!

I, too, raised a critical eyebrow at SICEM. And Spacy's right about 4x4. Since when is a VSIX a "Motor with some muscle"? Not.

21D clue "how lines of latitude run" was a total head fake. Threw down pArallel without a second thought. Very messy in ink. Also great clue for 7A.

@Diri, ROMCOM put chick flick on the bench years ago. Get current with your genres, amigo.

Two pairs - 3s & 2s. Going broke.

Anonymous 9:06 PM  

ADAM'S ALE: 502,000 google results.

ADAMS LAGER: 5,180,000 google results

I know which one I'm having tonight.

Anonymous 11:01 PM  

@Anonymous 6:14 PM

People who found this puzzle difficult likely did not use google to assist. Good for you, though.

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