Public-road race / THU 4-24-14 / Wassailer's tune / Scratch-card layer / Finnair rival / Spillsaver brand / Conan nickname

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Constructor: Stanley Newman

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: four-syllable clues — Only theme answer = 20A: The theme, part 1 (EVERY ONE OF THE / CLUES HAS EXACTLY / FOUR SYLLABLES)

Word of the Day: RALLYE (48D: Public-road race) —
Rallying, also known as rally racing, is a form of auto racing that takes place on public or private roads with modified production or specially built road-legal cars. This motorsport is distinguished by running not on a circuit, but instead in a point-to-point format in which participants and their co-drivers drive between set control points (special stages), leaving at regular intervals from one or more start points. Rallies may be won by pure speed within the stages or alternatively by driving to a predetermined ideal journey time within the stages. [I have no idea why the French spelling, with the terminal "e," is (sometimes) retained …] (wikipedia)
• • •

Stan is a fine editor (Newsday) and a veteran constructor, but I don't understand this. Who cares if a clue has two or three or seven syllables? How hard is it to write four-syllable clues? I mean, people do entire puzzles where the first letters of clues are just one letter, or where the first letters of clues, in order, spell out elaborate crap. Four syllables? I would think any good constructor could do that for most any grid. Also, this grid is not demanding, and the fill is just OK. Nothing exciting or special. And given that the backbone of the whole puzzle is just … instructions, I fail to see where the interest lies. Why is this interesting? Is this fun? I certainly don't find it bad or offensive, but its reason for existing—why anyone might think this an entertaining idea—is totally beyond me.

This one played pretty easily for me, but then again I had just finished a much more intricate, much harder puzzle (this week's Fireball—a barnburner), so piecing this together felt like child's play. There were a few hang-ups. Wanted LIFE VESTS then LIFE BOATS for LIFE BELTS (which … I don't really know what those are, but I can imagine). NORA (47A: Mrs. James Joyce) and RALLYE (48D: Public-road race) and AMANA (41D: "Spillsaver" brand) were not easy for me to pick up, so coming down out of the middle into the SE was tough. Also, I had TEN- at 37D: Break time, perhaps, but couldn't conceive of writing out O'CLOCK, so remained baffled for a bit. Had ROUE for RAKE (68A: No gentleman). Would never have thought of a scratch-off layer as made of LATEX (though I'm not doubting the science) (3D: Scratch-card layer). Thought 32A: French department was going to be a generic word for the category rather than a *specific* department. Considered RYDER for FEDEX (22D: Golf cup sponsor). None of this is that remarkable or interesting. Just your ordinary snags. Really wish there were something juicy to talk about here, but I don't see it.

The NYT feels like it's in a pretty bad rut at the moment. Monday's puzzle aside, it seems like all the really good work is coming out elsewhere. Hope that turns around soon.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


jae 12:03 AM  

Easy-medium for me too and pretty much what Rex said.  I'm not a fan of this type of puzzle.  I like a trickier Thurs. challenge.    Not much zip, not much crunch, meh.

Are LIFEBELTS a thing?

Steve J 12:17 AM  

This was flat-out dull. Zero verve in the fill. A nothing theme. No good misdirection or cleverness in the clues. There's nothing bad here, but there's nothing particularly good, either. YIPES, indeed.


Moly Shu 12:20 AM  

Very easy Thursday for me too. The novelty of the theme was lost on me. Finished the puzzle, went back and read all the clues, and like @Rex, a big so what. Rallye, reallye ???? Couldn't believe that's a word, but looked it up and there it was. Hmmmm. Bones before MCCOY, but not Spock. Some of the clues felt Monday-ish to me. SUSAN and OSCAR being prime examples.

@Jae, yea they are a thing. Not as good as a vest or jacket, but will keep you afloat. The ones I've seen are about 4 inches wide, 1-1/2 inches thick, white and made out of some sort of foam rubber. Not very fashionable either.

Mark 12:21 AM  

Very easy for a Thursday. Somehow SYLLABLES took shape early, making the rest of the theme fall into place. I was thinking that LIFEBOATS shouldn't really be called "gear," but then I saw that next to the missing lifevests were some LIFEBELTS. Whew! Really, though, I'd prefer flotation around my chest than around my waist.

John Child 12:42 AM  

I had lots of false starts and write overs: BOLo, Yule, TEXTure, rentalCAR, setSAtrap and more, including LIFEBoaTS. But my time was Thursday-ish, so none of that hurt.

Not an interesting theme, so ... Meh.

wreck 12:59 AM  

This puzzle had enough to bore EVERY age group.

Mohair Sam 1:00 AM  

Strange theme for sure. Easy-medium here - would have been just plain easy but, like @John Child we wanted LIFEBoaTS in the worst way. And wanted to spell CoNTATA our way, finally realized that RALLYE had an E. and finished.

Had TEXTure for TEXTILE for a while and still think it is a better answer.

Hate to agree with Rex, but FOURSYLLABLES in each clue? Yeah, OK, and.....?

Anonymous 1:23 AM  

Sheesh I'm getting tired of Rex's hating.

Jisvan 1:48 AM  

Slow start here, and also went through the LIFEBoaT - LIFEvesT narrows before popping up, gasping, with a LIFEBELT! I liked figuring out the themers with about a third of the fill in place, but after I got the last letter in, I thought, "Is that all there is?" ( cue music...)

In four syllables, I'd say: It was okay.

jae 2:29 AM  

@Steve J - Back when I was in the Navy those were called Life Preservers. Now @Moly Shu's description sounds more realistic.

The difference between this puzzle and yesterday's is that yesterday's was worth talking about to non-puzzle folk. We have guests in town from the OC and the Mercury 7 astronauts made for some interesting conversation over cocktails. I'm not going to mention today's.

chefwen 3:11 AM  

Going with the consensus here. I big MEH, when I finished said to self, "yeah, so"... Where IS our zippy little Thursday Rebus?

Questinia 6:36 AM  

As intriguing as ear wax.

Glimmerglass 6:57 AM  

This week's Fireball is terrific. Great puzzle.

Danp 7:00 AM  

Every good discussion needs a dissenting opinion, right? I'm not a big fan of Look-at-me themes, but I am impressed that the clues didn't seem forced or awkward here. I also thought they were well balanced so the easy and hard or vague clues made the puzzle doable without having hot spots and cold spots.

Like @jae, it won't spark a discussion at home like yesterday's did. But then most don't.

jberg 7:02 AM  

Embarrassing admission: I went back and forth between Zambia and Malawi for 5D, until I finally remembered that it was ANGOLA. This error made the puzzle harder for me than for most -- especially because Zona Gluck seemed so improbable. I thought of AGCY fairly soon, but didn't want to write it down. Still sorry I had to.

The other element of difficulty, for me, is that the theme answers took up so much real estate, and there was really no way of getting them without a lot of crosses. When CLUE finally emerged, it all started to make sense (and got rid of goeS AFTER, my other stumbling block.

I was hoping Gluck would be yet another surname for ALMA Werfel/Mahler/Bemelmans, but no, an entirely different woman.

Burghman 7:36 AM  

Wouldn't have known "lifebelt" if not for the scenes in Titanic with the guys walking around asking folks to put them on. Thought they'd really be belts, but they looked to actually be vests. Used to work for a gaming company and was also surprised to hear scratch cards use latex - thought it was only a type of paint or movie makeup before hearing that. Not crazy about the theme, but the authors write-up on xwordinfo makes the challenge a bit more evident than at first glance (minimal abbreviations, no partials because they don't really have syllables). I'm no constructor, but it's really rare to see NYT puzzles (and probably non-NYT puzzles) with those kinds of constraints so perhaps more difficult than it seems at first?

George Barany 7:49 AM  

ALMA_Gluck was a gimme to opera fan cruciverbalists, even those of us who were not alive during the peak of her career, a century ago. You may also recognize the first name (shared) of her husband and son, EFREM Zimbalist (Sr. and Jr., respectively).

But as long as we're dredging up ancient history, yesterday was a momentous occasion as revealed in The Play's the Thing. And for sports fans who don't want to go back any further than a few weeks ago, Tim Croce has constructed a wonderful tribute (17x17) called Ladies and Gentlemen .... I hope that you will enjoy them both.

loren muse smith 8:05 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
loren muse smith 8:07 AM  

Ok, listen. Day in and day out we get wordplay themes, word manipulation themes, grid art themes, circles, . . . I don't have a problem at all with clue manipulation themes. I was amused and I enjoyed the puzzle. I smelled a rat (but just didn't know it) when I saw there were no fill-in-the-blank clues – my customary entrees into the grid. I actually glanced to make sure the first letters of the clues didn't spell something.

I had me a real mess for a while with the "texture" problem, "virus" for 44A and, inexplicably, "avina" for 41D. I can't stay up late enough to speak Conan.

@Questinia – people who study the ear wax of whales will take your comment differently. . .

Some pairs I noticed/created/contrived –

YOGA and COOL (I wish I could do YOGA. (Morning, @Lewis!))
OLGA and A TEAT (Har)

Isn't it funny how NEST can take on this menacing, nasty feel when it's bees or snakes who live in it? If I come across a group of snakes, that's one thing. But a NEST of snakes. . . I'm so dead.

@jae (and @Danp) – your point is well taken about yesterday's theme being good cocktail party small talk. Unfortunately, sometimes my Just Don't Go There filter is missing, and I actually do talk about themes like this one to the unwashed, as it were. If someone shows even the most anemic interest in crosswords, well, I can go too far. This is the same missing filter that is responsible for my recent coöp/coop lesson for that poor, unsuspecting body shop worker and the "stationary is spelled wrong" comment for the grocery stocker. So how can I be so impatient with someone who wants to tell me all about her thyroid medication and how she and the doctor are still tweaking it when I do exactly the same thing to other people, and, what's worse, my shtick comes across as an exercise in showing people how very smart I am? Sheesh.

And while I'm talking about irresistible pulls – I have officially become a little old lady driver. Regardless of how hard I try to emulate my 21 year old son's relaxed, confident posture at the wheel, I invariably end up driving too slow, sitting up forward with both hands on the steering wheel (mouth probably open but mercifully no BERET yet).Double sheesh.

Those of you who like this sort of twist should tackle Matt Ginsberg's Saturday April 4, 2009 NYT. The difficulty level is obviously ratcheted up a bit as it's a Saturday.

So, Stan – thanks for the fun!

Questinia 8:20 AM  

@lms Touché!
(darn, didn't expect the old whale's ear wax riposte).

joho 8:21 AM  

This wasn't the Thursday twist I was looking for but still, it shows Stan's ACUITY in being able to construct a puzzle where EVERYONEOFTHECLUESHASEXACTLYFOURSYLLABLES!

I haven't seen it done before and again, while it's not my beloved rebus, it's something different that caused me to think about the clues.

I do wonder how many ended up with AGCi and wondered if it were a legit abbr.

John Child 8:38 AM  

@loren, I just did the April '09 puzzle and loved it. I'm working the Friday and Saturday puzzles for practice, backwards from when I started the NYT puzzle.

Hartley70 8:47 AM  

Yea! (Liked house call) Thursday puzzle! Do-able! Don't worry! Be Happy!

Elle54 8:53 AM  

When I can solve quotes or long sentence puzzles that don't give you any info except "theme" I feel accomplished, so OK.

Elle54 8:56 AM  

@joho doesn't AGCY =Agency?

Anonymous 9:07 AM  

Pretty meh week, I think. I like Monday so far this week the most, and even that was far below satisfactory. Tuesday's was some of the most nonsensical garbage I've seen in years. Wednesday's puzzle was poorly timed, and had a significant amount of poor fill.

Ludyjynn 9:08 AM  

This one played medium-well for a Thursday. I really missed my go-to fill-in-the blanks clues to get a toehold.

I had a lot of the same issues as Rex, esp. w/ the wacky RALLYE spelling and unusual LIFEBELTS. But I won't complain any more as I did manage to finish error-free.

@Questinia, my cat, Felix, finds earwax extremely fascinating, FYI. I was alarmed by his proclivity to lick peoples' ears and Googled the topic, where I discovered that the properties of earwax attract many felines. Go figure!

Sir Hillary 9:10 AM  

Theme is pretty boring.

No major fill issues in my view -- nothing scintillating, but nothing egregious either.

A writeover-fest for me -- rentalCAR, LIFEvEsTS, spock then sCOtt, goeSAFTER, Roue, fLeAs (do tadpoles eat them?).

Hope this does not spur copycats:

joho 9:13 AM  

@Elle54, yes it does. I was just wondering how many ended up with RALLiE/AGCi.

Z 9:18 AM  

Senior year in High School I took a Humanities class. We started with cave drawings and worked our way through the centuries, each member of the class responsible for a period of Art (save the cave drawings, Mr. Meyer did that as example and to establish his theme). This is where I got to spend a week talking about Hellenistic Greece and where I learned that Egyptian priests shaved all their body hair. Spending the day at Petroglyph National Monument, thinking about why the Ancient Pueblo tribes would go to the effort of making these drawings, seeing striking similarities to graffiti around Detroit, reminded me of Mr. Meyer's overarching lesson; we have an overwhelming desire for immortality. Finding that impossible to attain, we seek immortality by leaving handprints behind. Why does this puzzle exist? For the same reason. And to give whale earwax studiers something to do when they aren't working.

Chester 9:24 AM  


Norm C. 9:35 AM  

The puzzle would have been a lot more interesting if every clue DID have a sex act.

chefbea 9:45 AM  

Googled a bit but still DNF . Got the theme but still had a lot of blanks. Mainly since I never heard of mitch albom. Also had busy for 35 down.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:08 AM  

Felt very much in agreement with @Rex today, although as I read the comments, I may have gained a bit more sympathy for the difficulty of Four-Syllable Clues.

But what would really have impressed me (don't know; maybe it has already been done) would be a theme saying something along the lines of "This grid contains six As, one B, four Cs, . . . " etc. I am in awe of that type of self-referential sentence, I have no idea how it is constructed, and as I went through the comments it struck me that @George Barany and his crew might be just the ones to do it! Or maybe @M&A, since he could get away with "This grid contains fourteen Us."

Carola 10:22 AM  

I enjoyed poking my way through this one, although the punchline of the theme was a letdown. I like the pairs musical women ALMA and CARLY, genres NOEL and CANTATA, and dances HULA and HUSTLE - gave the puzzle some verve, to counteract the ear wax.

Off topic: COOL next to AGES, as in "Will winter ever end?" Currently 40 degrees ("Feels like 33"). Enough yet.

Arlene 10:22 AM  

I'm glad to see that at least one other person thought that 39A had to do with a SEX ACT.

r.alphbunker 10:29 AM  

I liked the puzzle. CLUES was filled in quite late in the solve so it kept me guessing (I tried DOWNS first). I also like seeing long answers get gradually filled in by crossing answers. And I had just done Evan's amazing Fireball puzzle which was an entirely different solving experience from this one. They somehow worked together.

I have a friend who is totally into genealogy and I am not. When he gets started I have nothing to say so when I get a chance I talk about some crossword puzzle that I found interesting. This usually stops the genealogy and we can get on to different topics.

mac 10:36 AM  

Medium for me, and I had the theme sentence before I finished a lot of the Eastern part.
Didn't know Coco and started with boats as well, and angle was not quickly visible.

Good clue for Yea!

When I was a child we would participate in rallyes on Saturdays. The kids in the back of the car, and the list of things to check off at the ready. Like a treasure hunt.

Steve J 10:44 AM  

@jae: I was surprised when I googled LIFEBELT and got dozens and dozens of preserver rings. I was picturing something like Moly Shu described as well, although I have vague recollections of the ones I'm imaging being discontinued back in the '80s or something.

@jberg: I also had goesAFTER. And LIFBoaT. And rentalCAR. TEN O'CLOCK was the only one of the four long downs I got right on the first go. Still didn't make the puzzle interesting.

Joseph Welling 10:47 AM  

I can remember referring to LIFE BELTS as "ski belts" for water skiing.

Gill I. P. 11:11 AM  

A slavish concern for the composition of words is the sign of a bankrupt intellect. Be gone, odious wasp! you smell of decayed syllables.

jdv 11:13 AM  

Easy-Med. Would've been more impressed if each clue had 44 syllables. Had ROUE before RAKE, GOESAFTER before RUNSAFTER and ALBUM before ALBOM. Got hung up in midwest region. Went through the entire star trek cast before remembering MCCOY.

Sir Hillary 11:23 AM  

@Bob Kerfuffle,

In GAMES Magazine about ten years ago, Raymond Young did a self-referential puzzle of exactly the kind you mention.

It was a large grid that contained numerous grid-spanning entries that spelled, in order, something along the lines of LOOK MA, THIS PUZZLE HAS SIXTEEN AS THREE BS...AND FOUR ZS. That's right, every letter of the alphabet was covered! It was absolutely mind-blowing.

Not surprisingly, there was some really cruddy fill, as clearly it was designed to impress constructors more than deliver a satisfying solve. That said, as stunt puzzle go, it was astonishing that he could pull it off.

I have no idea one would track it down, but maybe it can be found with some good hunting skills. Sorry I can't be more precise about the date, but it was a while ago.

Casco Kid 11:24 AM  

Excruciating puzzle. My heart sank after 45 minutes when I realized the puzzle was unsussable, and then it sank again after 90 minutes when I realized it ungoogleable. Too many rabbit holes. Too deep. Some favorites
rentalCAR crossing [ends up even] _All
[Shade like khaki] beIgE crossing RITE
spock crossing seiNE
[before "12"] onC (11 in French maybe?) crossing CARLY

Other errors:
pAssion for CANTATA
tied before _All before PARS


I googled for Luanda ANGOLA (malawi had been looking pretty good as it crossed with [ ends up even] tied) NORA Joyce, Mitch ALBOM, ALMA Gluck, sister OLyA. (It is always trouble when a googled answer leads you off course!)

I spent a half hour on the phone with my solving buddy to uncoil all of my errors. So plenty of outright cheats: BOLA ELAL MCCOY PAC RALLYE ONSTAR OLGA and the entire theme clue solution, which was truly, ungettably, dishearteningly useless. With all of that content added or corrected, I could be trusted to see PETRI FEDEX PARS MARNE and a dozen others with ambiguous clues.

Not to mention the Thursday rebus I had going briefly with [1A Weapon with knots] {cat}O{9}{tails}...

IT REMAINS MIRACULOUS TO ME HOW YOU GUYS NEVER FAIL TO FIND THE ONE COMPLETE SOLUTION. Easy medium, you say. Oooof. For you, there is enough conceptual/intellectual/informational pull in the cluing to lift you out if the rabbit holes. In my case, the same forces often draw me deeper into the warren.

Thursdays are DNF days for me. But I can usually complete the grid and suffer oky a few errors with googles. Today, no way.

Mark 11:33 AM  

@Casco Kid My "solving" used to be like yours, but after plugging away for several months, I can now finish all Thursdays in "reasonable" but not fast times, most Fridays, and many Saturdays. In other words, progress is possible. I can remember the old days when I would say to myself, "How the heck did Rex come up with that answer so easily?" Now I can often say to myself, "Self, you came up with that answer amazingly easily!" But I still stagger in respect to the geniuses who score superhuman times.

Masked and Anonymo5Us 11:44 AM  

@r.alph! Yo! Missed U, dude.

@muse: Tiptop deluxe ways to chase away people who want to talk about something U don't:

* Frame each reply in exactly four syllables.
* Rhyme each reply with the other speaker's last sentence. (You may find yourself desperate to interrupt them, if they throw up a gimme like "luck" or 'tart")
* Interject several George-Carlan-esque factoids at random: "Scientists have established that saliva causes cancer -- but only if swallowed in small quantities, over an extended period of time".
* Express amusement at incorrect moments. Throw in a "Har! Pork bellies!" every once in a while. Twitchin is a nice embellishment.
* Keep tryin to shoehorn in yer story about bein abducted by aliens. Act real nervous, like U are still bein watched by em, or some such. (My personal fave.)

@BobK: Bless yer heart, a 14-U self-referential runtpuz would be the Shangri-La of crosswords -- but way beyond my humble means. I did do a sorta self-referential clues puz once. It was kinda weird, tho. Aliens told me to build it, and they would come...

"Hillbilly Alien Abductee"

p.s. Did U have a similar experience, Stan? Oh.. yeah? "Har! Pork bellies!"

dk 11:48 AM  

🌕🌕 (2 Moons)

A testament to this puzzle's content is the intriguing discussion on ear wax and the various mammals from whence it emanates: Who knew!

Personally, I find FOUR SYLLABLES as interesting as sports and TV related themes.

Formula for the day: mini/maxi=GARB.

Nice to see UTICA, At times would drive through on the way to Herkimer County for cedar cheese.

crossvine 12:02 PM  

I'm not very good with puzzles that have long quotes, etc. So this took some time. I got a good chunk done before bed last night. This morning "four syllables" and then "Every one of the" jumped out at me. Couldn't get the first word of the middle part of the theme, however. Then on the second 100 of my morning swim, it occurred to me: Duh, it's "clues." I rushed home afterward and finished it off. Thank goodness I didn't have a timer going.

Like @Elle54 I feel accomplished when I can do a puzzle like this.

Dawn 12:11 PM  

YIPES!! A "wowser" of a puzzle. Many archaic words.

RALLYE?? No way. DNF

George Barany 12:21 PM  

Based on the flow of the discussion, several of you have expressed an interest in so-called self-referential puzzles. The single most amazing one that I am aware of was a Sunday constructed by my good friend Charles Deber, and published in the New York Times on April 13, 2003. If anyone wants to try to solve it but has difficulty accessing it, please e-mail and specify whether you want it as a puz file or as a pdf.

Bob Kerfuffle 12:36 PM  

@M&A - 7:33 to work that one out!

Really wanted 7 D to be U TURN!.

voiceofsocietyman 12:49 PM  

Definitely didn't enjoy the puzzle. It was mainly too easy for a Thursday EXCEPT that for me it was a DNF. That sounds impossible, and therein lies the rub: I absolutely had no way into the top left and top center areas, but the rest of the grid was complete. It didn't help that I couldn't extract BERET from my slim file of Che Guevara knowledge, but even if I'd gotten the top left, the top middle would have remained a mystery. It has too many ???s (ALBOM? GARB? NOEL? ALMA?). I didn't like the clues or the cluing up there at all.

And the theme was really dull. Ah well.

r.alphbunker 12:49 PM  


Your puzzles are a field of all possibilities. They require the same sort of suspension of the laws of nature that reading "The Hitchhiker's Guide to The Galaxy" does.

But wouldn't 1A be better if phrased as {What a crazy mixed up question like this is called by one who just gives an F.}? The "becomes" in your version bothers me because it makes me wonder what the question was before the F was given.

BTW, I wanted to punch the Like button on your puzzle but that would up the count to 513 and 512 is a nice power of 2. Didn't you do a binary puzzle a while back which only used the letters I and O?

Fred Romagnolo 12:54 PM  

Totally unaware of Albom, Rallye, and OnStar, but still finished correctly. I hate it when I have to trust to seeing the answer to see if I was right. Still, it's nice to know (Fiddler on the Roof). I almost had tensile for textile. I started with PASSION but soon realized it was CANTATA. also SPOCK & SEINE. House call was a good clue.

Numinous 12:57 PM  

The first crossword puzzles I actively engaged with were the Sydney Morning Herald cryptic crosswords. Several of us would gather during the morning tea break and work it. The guy, Craig, if I recall correctly, who had the paper was the best solver. I was often amazed at the mental gymnastics that he demonstrated in solving particularly thorny clues at Rex-like speed. Back in those days, Late 60s and early 70s, I never got particularly good at those puzzles, but I did improve and those puzzles sold me papers because I had to see the solutions to yesterday's puzzle to figure out the answers.

There is a point to all of this (believe it or not) and it is particularly for @Casco Kid. From the thngs you say, I believe you vastly overthink the clues. Your mind just seems to work that way, so, I'd like to make arecommendation. Call it an experiment, if you will. If you don't have it, get AcrossLite for your computer. Read what you can find on the internet on solving cryptic puzzles to give yourself a basis for understanding the various conventions in cluing then go to the Kegler website and try some of those cryptics. It is my contention that given a little practice you will find cryptics to your liking. As I said, your mind seems to work that way.

I was a little disappointed in this puzzle. About half way through, from crosses, I managed to get the themer and thought, "Now what?" There just wasn't enough meat in this to keep it fascinating. It became a slog to solve.

@Moly Shu, I remember LIFEBELTS as canvas arrangements with pockets like a WWII ammo belt but with cork inside them.

Getting MCCOY was a real teeth grinder for me after going through the whole cast of Star Trek.
I realized that I'd dislexxed Mitch ALBOM as Mitch AblOM in my head for as long as I've known of him. This puzzle set me straight.
Hand up for TEXTurE.
I used to drive and/or navigate in RALLYEs as a teen in the Bay Area. Run by local sports car clubs, they were a lot of fun.

Out of five stars, for a Thursday, I'd give this a three and a half.

Mohair Sam 12:57 PM  

@chefbea - Mitch ALBOM is a sportswriter who gained wide-spread fame writing "Tuesdays With Morrie" which describes the courage of one of his college profs in facing a painful death. He wrote another best seller later, but after having read his first book I did not subject myself to a second.

Nick 1:13 PM  

At least he didn't go with his original theme, which was:




M and Also 1:18 PM  

@BobK: Who wouldn't? More U's, thataway. Thanx for playin.

Really... feel... compelled... to. do. an. earwax. puz. day-um it, @Q...

fave weeject: BAS. Improved clue: "Fish with no fin?". Sorta like a foreign cine reference, thar.

fave fillins: RALLYE. ALGAE. LOANE R-CAR.

fave got my hopes up like everybody else here: SEX ACT (theme, part 2A). Har! Great puz idea! Theme within theme within theme! Brilliant idea; somebody please explain it to me, tho...

fave acrobatic clue: "What takes a stand?" = TBALL. Only ? clue in the whole ThursPuz. Kinda dry; just cries out for that there improved BAS clue...

fave controversial multisyllabic abbr.: "Mrs."

Do any of the answers have four syllables? Sex actly?
M&A needs to know...

Mike E 1:24 PM  

I've been reading Rex's comments for about a year now and occasionally the comments posted here. I want to make an observation, and also have come to a particular conclusion (admitting that I am probably in the minority.)

I enjoy all the puzzles, which I almost always complete, as they proceed with difficulty through the week. I very often agree with Mr. Parker's assessment of their difficulty, though my times are nowhere near his. And I don't go to any reference aids until after I finish.

However, I do not consider each puzzle as some sort of art form, as Rex Parker seems to. They are word puzzles, not literature, or poetry, or the creative outpouring of a Beethoven or a Monet. I admit there is talent, often virtuoso talent, at work here. But I won't be cutting it out of the newspaper and tucking it away for future generations.

And finally, though I don't understand it, I do sympathize with Mr. Parker's need to find just such a work every time he is presented with a Times puzzle.

Mike E 1:29 PM  

And as a followup - it took me about 45 minutes to finish this puzzle. And I appreciated the false starts on a few clues already mentioned, and also enjoyed finding the correct ones and the clues that illustrated the theme. Art? No. But a good puzzle.

mathguy 1:32 PM  

Happy to see that I only noticed one commenter (anonymous, 1:23) saying that he or she is tired of Rex "hating." Maybe the others who think that way have gone over to Deb (can't remember her last name).

At first I thought that the theme was just the constructor showing off but then I realized that it was a neat way to clue three width-of-the-puzzle entries.

Last Silver Runtpuz 1:45 PM  

@r.alph: har. I like yer improved clue, 'cept then y'all'd need to give a "BF".

Whoa, hosses! Bless U! U have just opened Pandora's box, with that 512-eth inquiry! I can't get that particular runtpuz to work, worth a [insert colorful 4-syllable earwax-melter here].

Best I could ever do, which sucks, I know...

C'mon, xwordinfo... toss m&e an improvement bone... I'm desperate. (But I digress.)

"And that's enough runtpuzs, four a long spell!"

retired_chemist 1:54 PM  

Easy-medium and enjoyable enough. Theme - meh.

Enough in my wheelhouse that it felt more Wednesdayish after a while.

My department were, in order iserE (blind guess), seiNE (since spock was my first 32D), sAoNE once 33D appeared, and finally MARNE once I remembered MCCOY. EVERY ONE OF THESE DEPARTMENTS HAS FIVE LETTERS. COOL.

LIFE BoaTS and vEsTS before BELTS. Never heard the term before. ostiA before UTICA. Embarrassed to get CARLY Simon from five crosses, when I have loved her voice for decades.

Thanks, Mr. Newman.

Outlaw M and A 1:57 PM  

@r.alph: Nope U R right. Like yer clue much better than mine, as is.
W. A., M&A B.

r.alphbunker 1:57 PM  


The word "by" provides the "b"
{What a crazy mixed up question like this is called by one who just gives an F.}

Anonymous 2:22 PM  

Is this a blog about rex's likes and dislikes? How he's feeling from day to day? What he thinks of the contructor of a bad puzzle? Gee, how interesting! bye bye, Rex.

Casco Kid 2:27 PM  

@mark Thanks for the encouraging words. As @numinous knows, I've been working puzzles daily for nearly a year, and commenting here daily for 6 months. I'm clearly bringing up the rear among the commentariat, but several people have encouraged me to continue contributing. As one person put it, my daily "train wreck" always garners a certain prurient interest. How can I be so bad for so long? Believe me, I'm first in line to find out why. I really, truly don't want to be "that guy" anymore. But the only way through it is through it, so I soldier on.

@numinous points out that I over think. Certainly my trial rebus [1A. Weapon of knots] {cat}O{nine}{tails} is evidence of this. But I simple don't know BOLA, so perhaps I over-think AND am under-schooled. Get-it-from-the-crosses didn't work in this case because my khaki-like color was BEIGE. Because it is. It really is. RITE was the crossing I needed to verify BERET and BEIGE. BB.. and EE.. looked ugly, but we've seen worse. LATEX was not gettable (by anybody) except through the crosses, and ALERT had a vague clue and could have been anything.

Never having heard of the long-dead soprano ALMA Gluck or being able to recall the writer Mitch ALBOM meant that I had to work with Gluck the composer, as the key to the solution. Gluck was Germany. SOPRAN is German for soprano. PRAN for short? PRAN crosses RENTARCAR after all. LIED is German/Gluck-ish for song. ARIA is a kind of song sopranos sing. ARIA is supported by RENTALCAR and ANGLOLA. So there you go, Soprano Gluck = ARIA. This kind of thinking is essential for completing the grid.

Sussing is where I part company with nearly everybody on this blog. Everyone who solves correctly daily is able to suss out missing knowledge and arrive at a) the same, and b) the correct final grid. I suss and end up at a completely different place. What I'm missing is a sense of smell, for lack of a better word. To be fair, Soprano Gluck = PRAN didn't seem right. LIED was moving farther away. ARIA was just right.
I have no idea how *anyone* sussed ALMA, even if you knew ANGLOLA, RENTALCAR has pretty well anchored by _____LCAR, where the L comes from[ends in a tie] {#}ALL. (It is a Thursday, so expect a rebus!)

Now, do that a dozen times in this puzzle alone, and you have . . . a puzzle everyone calls too easy for a Thursday, but one that impales me through-and-through.

What to do? What to do?

Perhaps @numinous is right. Maybe I'm cut out for cryptics. I've been warned that they are very, very hard. I might find Easy-Medium.

Dick Swart 2:36 PM  


Same comment as yesterday:

Do you ever think that you are sick and tired of writing this blog?


Doc John 3:00 PM  

I really slogged through this one. All the names really tripped me up and I can never remember what a Wassailer is.
I'm surprised that nobody mentioned that the clue for 8 Down- Wheels for a while has 5 syllables (unless I've been pronouncing "while" wrong this whole time).

Karen Munson 3:03 PM  

Loved all the comments about SEX ACT. I totally missed that in the grid until the Rexites mentioned it. Gave me a long overdue chuckle. You guys made my day!

Lewis 3:04 PM  

M&A-- I didn't think it possible, but you are getting even funnier.

@LMS -- Wow, you have a heck of a memory! It's been a long time since I mentioned that I teach yoga.

There are dreadful puzzles which receive unanimous thumbs down here, and stellar ones that get oohs and aahs (and some of them ARE works of art, i.e. PB's week long meta some time back), but the great majority (such as today's) are blue collar mental workouts that keep the synapses firing and bring some knowledge and kindle long forgotten memories.

The dreadful puzzles usually make me smile or laugh, the blue collar give me a feeling of satisfaction and gratitude, and the stellar ones put me in awe.

Benko 3:12 PM  

@M&A: 1:10 on the first puzzle you posted. Couldn't do the second one--put me in the "don't" category for 7 across.
@cascokid: Personally, I wouldn't recommend starting cryptics until you have a firm grasp on regular puzzles.

Gareth Bain 3:23 PM  

@Dawn, from yesterday: You should try your daughter on the Daily Celebrity Crossword. Easy puzzles, with a modern pop culture bias. The opposite works less well though: this 27 year old tried weaning his mother onto crosswords but all the pop culture was too much!

sanfranman59 3:41 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)

Thu 16:25, 18:08, 0.90, 31%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Thu 10:16, 10:44, 0.96, 37%, Easy-Medium

ahimsa 3:55 PM  

Hey, it was different, a new twist, so that's always fine by me.

At 32 Down I was amused by how many of Kirk's colleagues have names with 5 letters (Spock, Uhura, Scott, even "Bones"!) in addition to MCCOY. I think I tried all of them. :-)

LIFEBELTS was new to me, too. I tried LIFEsaver, LIFEBoaTS, and LIFEvEsTS before I got it. I only figured out COCO as clued because I remembered it from a previous puzzle.

Oh, and I got an earworm from 9 Down HUSTLE so I'm sharing it with you all. Enjoy.

ahimsa 4:42 PM  

@Casko Kid, I hear you on that clue for OLIVE. I know it was an attempt at misdirection but it seemed a bit off to me. Khaki is dust color (literally comes from the Hindi/Urdu word for dust) which can be some version of brown, yellow, tan, etc. OLIVE seems a bit of a stretch.

I might have gone with something like "Camo color" since military camouflage can be a combination of lots of colors. Maybe that clue doesn't seem hard enough? Maybe camo seems like an abbreviation? (over at the author said he was trying to avoid all abbreviations in both clues and answers) I think it's like info, short and informal but not an actual abbreviation. Who knows?

On your more general comments I think more practice will eventually work. I'm still quite slow but years of practice have made solving a lot easier.

Two Ponies 5:00 PM  

Many years ago when we had a boat I water skied a lot. I only recall two types of flotation devices. Big ugly orange "jackets" and ski belts. However we never called them life belts.
At first I thought the theme was rather blah but when I went back to read the clues I changed my mind. For me any puzzle's clues are my favorite part esp. late in the week. So now I like it.

Dawn 5:31 PM  

@ Gareth

Thank you, what a fine idea. Her BD is in May, so I will include something like that in her birthday basket!

Z 5:36 PM  

@Casco Kid - I didn't suss out ALMA, she got me before and reappeared from the deep recesses of my crossword file during the solve. I also tried Seine and Saone before fixing Spock. Saone is definitely a learned from crosswords tidbit that slowed me down. ALMA Gluck will appear again. Be ready. As for the overthinking, it's like playing sports, the best can "slow down the game" while performing at break neck speed. It'll come.

jae 7:31 PM  

@Casco - Same as @Z for ALMA. ALBOM I knew before crosswords but he shows up often enough to be in permanent memory. As for over thinking you should trust the rule of thumb that. "if it looks wrong it usually is wrong". This is a good way to avoid stufff like BB and EE.

sanfranman59 10:01 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 6:07, 6:04, 1.01, 59%, Medium
Tue 6:42, 8:16, 0.81, 4%, Easy (8th lowest ratio of 228 Tuesdays)
Wed 12:08, 10:13, 1.19, 88%, Challenging
Thu 16:25, 18:08, 0.90, 31%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:45, 3:58, 0.95, 19%, Easy
Tue 4:19, 5:07, 0.85, 4%, Easy (10th lowest ratio of 228 Tuesdays)
Wed 7:19, 6:14, 1.17, 88%, Challenging
Thu 9:28, 10:44, 0.88, 25%, Easy-Medium

Beezer 12:05 AM  

After I solved I googled Alma Gluck and found out she was the mother of Efrom Zimbalist, Jr, the ( mainly t.v.) actor. Well, years ago, and I am 59. At any rate, I see no rants about whether she was legitimately, illegitimately, or any other type of famous. I've never heard of her before today but I did learn something.

lee woo 2:44 AM  

If you really believe in what you're doing, work hard, take nothing personally and if something blocks one route, find another. Never give up. See the link below for more info.


spacecraft 11:21 AM  

I am seriously considering bypassing OFL's comments. The man is just way too jaded for me.

While the grid itself is rather pedestrian, the clue set is, IMO, brilliantly conceived. They all read so naturally! I don't see a single clue that seemed forced into a FOURSYLLABLE format. This is a tour de force. Mayhap it's true that "any good constructor could do that for most any grid," but to make it look so smooth is a horse of another color.

I knew the public road race was a "rally," but the 6th letter was a WOE. The finished grid had RALLYE, and everything else fit, so I shrugged, left it and looked it up. Wonder of wonders, RALLYE is the term! Who knew? Rallyers did, I'm sure, but precious few else. [Since my lookup was POST-solve, I don't count that as cheating. But I had to know.] By golly, if you do these (NYTXW's), you DO learn something new every day! As Valentine said: "Ran-day! What it is!"

Plain address again. Is the poker game breaking up? I could always hit the circled arrow anyhow...but how would that be different from hitting it repeatedly till you get a great hand?

Waxy in Montreal 12:41 PM  

Second what @space wrote about OFL. Nuff said.

Interesting to note that Alma Gluck's son Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. (star of TV's 77 Sunset Strip and The FBI) died on May 2nd, between the original publication of this crossword on April 24th and today.

Pretty straight-forward Thursday. Only problems were with GOES and GETS AFTER before RUNS and DECEIT before DECENT.

Pair of 4's and 2's...

Since it seems to work here (sometimes): GO HABS GO! And thanks to @Diri and @SiS for their support.

Solving in Seattle 2:44 PM  

I actually kind of partially agree with Rexy's attitude about this puzzle. IMHO, it's a lame thursday theme.
I also had state/spock before MARNE/MCCOY, had LIFEBoaTS before BELTS. Otherwise the puzzle was pretty straight forward.
Looking at 1A one wonders where the "E" is.
Major college crush on CARLY.
Cheers for @Waxy's team. The two game NY player suspension could help.
A weak full house today: 22288. Raise.

Dirigonzo 3:30 PM  

I wanted best-selling Mitch to be Ryder of Detroit Wheels fames, but when that didn't work out I tried it again as the sponsor of the Ryder cup - it didn't work there either.

@spacy - surely you meant "This is a tour de "fours""?

I had to hit the circled arrow 5 times to get anything other than a picture address and finally got a hand with two pairs - hitting it again to try for an improved hand would, I think, be cheating.

Anonymous 5:20 PM  

In spite of what the first group of commenters said, I enjoyed this puzzle. Easy for a Thursday but so what? Had to look up Mr. Albom's name but the rest was a snap. And, Spacecraft hit the nail on the pate.

Ron Diego 5/29

DMG 5:53 PM  

I am in awe of anyone who can create a puzzle and amazed at the ability to not only mesh all the words together, but do it with some relation to some kind of "theme". And, I'm glad A that they do it, and B that someone provides a platform where anyone who wants to can comment of the day's offering, or lately, it seems, anything else. No complaints here,

As for today's solution. Hacked it all but, head hanging here, even with M_SES in place, I couldn't see MOSES. My head was focused on someone smashing an aspirin or some such. What can I say??

Three 4's, two 5's. Guess I'll stay for a round or two.

leftcoastTAM 6:54 PM  

I like @Mike E's comments.

While I check this blog regularly and learn from and amused by it, I am often put off by all the griping and fault-finding.

Well, OK, that may be part of my amusement.

spacecraft 7:01 PM  

@Diri: ouch! May the 4's be with you!

leftcoastTAM 8:22 PM  

I have to comment on @Casco Kid's apologia:

You've been at it a year. That's not long enough for most of us to become reasonably proficient throughout the week.

X-wordland is almost a culture of its own.

Keep at it. You learn to do them by doing them.

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