1/100 of Danish krone / THU 6-19-14 / Best-selling 2004 young adult novel written entirely in form of instant messages / Oldest academic quiz competition in US / Neighbor of Teaneck NJ / Mercedes roadsters / Russell Anna Huxtable on Cosby Show /

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Constructor: Timothy Polin

Relative difficulty: Medium (took a little longer than normal, but it's a little bigger than normal, so …)



THEME: TWENTY QUESTIONS (17A: Classic 1940s-'50s quiz show) — Twenty of the clues are written out as questions. Black squares form a "?" in the middle of the grid.

Word of the Day: "TTYL" (5D: What best-selling 2004 young adult novel was written entirely in the form of instant messages?) —
ttyl is a young adult novel written by Lauren Myracle and is also the first book in the 'Internet Girls' series. In 2004, it gained attention for being the first novel written entirely in the style of instant messaging conversation. The novel was a New York TimesPublishers Weekly, and a Book Sensebestseller. "ttyl" is internet slang for "Talk to you later". (wikipedia)
• • •

This puzzle manages to be both a ridiculous and annoying themed puzzle and a fairly accomplished themeless puzzle. Thank god crossword clues aren't normally written in this trivia-question type way: hugely grating. Also, jarring to have conventional "?" clues (the ones with plays on words and what not) alongside these dumb trivia clues that end in "?" But as I say, the grid is impressive in its way, with lots of longer, interesting answers shooting both down and across the puzzle. All the long answers are arresting (and mercifully Real) words and phrases, except (ironically?) for the second theme answer: TOO TIRED TO THINK, which is not a thing. TOO DRUNK TO ****, that's a thing. This song, also a thing:


But TOO TIRED TO THINK? Despite its googling very well, I don't think so. Most of those google hits don't feature the phrase in self-standing form (usually it's "too tired to think about x y z…"). And anyway, what does tiredness have to do with anything? Or is this answer even a theme answer? Who Can Say? The answers to the "TWENTY QUESTIONS" (i.e. the 20 clues that are written in question form) are spread all over the grid willy-nilly, such that I have no idea what's holding this grid together beyond the black-square "?" picture in the middle. There's just no value in this theme. You could take any crossword grid and write 20 of its clues as questions—so what? So what we have here is an interesting themeless puzzle baked inside a pictorial grid, with some annoying, watery theme frosting spread over the top.


Today's mistakes included INBRED for INNATE (47D: Not acquired, say), NATO for OPEC (1A: What group founded in 1960 currently has 12 members?), TWO STAR for ONE STAR (49A: What rating does the Michelin Guide give to "a very good restaurant"?), and [blank stare] for LEONIA (44D: Neighbor of Teaneck, NJ).

Bullets:
  • 6D: What is the oldest academic quiz competition in the U.S. (since 1948)? (HI-Q) — never heard of this, though it's oddly inferable. Clue seems to be (once again) largely lifted from wikipedia.
  • 37A: School head, slangily (PREX) — Yuck. First I had to get used to PREXY (a term I've only ever seen in crosswords) and now you're telling me PREX is legit too? How is a PREX different from a PREZ? Who decided we needed a different abbr. when we already had a perfectly good one?
  • 13D: What California congressman heads the House Oversight Committee? (ISSA) — Darrell. His brother Mel is also in the puzzle (42A: MEL ISSA).

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

108 comments:

wreck 12:14 AM  

??? Themeless
I saw the question mark in the grid and soon got TWENTYQUESTIONS -- after that, I never saw any sembelence of a theme. None of the long answers had anything to do with a question. I really disliked this Thursday! It's normally my favorite day.


jae 12:24 AM  

Medium for me too.  Fun sorta themeless Thurs. with lots of very good stuff. 

No erasures or WOEs (except for LEONIA) but I need a few crosses to remember the MELISSA virus from '99.  

Is the vertical TRIO of EROTIC ART, MONETIZES, and SEXY trying to tell us something?  Hmm...the MELISSA virus  got started when David Smith posted it to a porn site.

And, speaking of MELISSA the SW corner might be tough with it crossing a French word and N.J. berg that was a WOE for me. 

Liked it.

chefwen 12:24 AM  

What @Rex and @wreck said, did not care for this one at all. Where's my dang Thursday rebus?

I had TOO TIRED TO ---- K and really wanted TwerK in there, now that would have been worth the price of admission.

Threw the towel in after I couldn't get the NE to pan out and at that point I just didn't care, plus my head hurt after all those ???.

Dean 12:26 AM  

Since when is TOO TIRED TO THINK not a thing? I've been hearing that as a set, stand-alone phrase all my life.

SenorLynn 12:38 AM  

No no no. PREX? ORE? ( had to Google it). NJ city near Teaneck? NYC hopscotch? Way past my ken.

Steve J 12:39 AM  
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Steve J 12:42 AM  

Didn't click with this at all. Or thinnest theme ever. Or something. Did not like.

And I like trivia. I do pub quizzes a lot. But why were the clues that were questions the ones that were questions, and not the others? And why were traditional crossword ? clues allowed in along with the 20 questions? Sloppy. Add those up, and you have 25 question marks in the puzzle (26 counting the one in the grid). Again, sloppy.

Last thing I filled in was PREX. I've never seen it in my life. I went more than 20 pages deep (i.e., more than 200 results) in Google before giving up and still didn't see a single example of the word used as clued. Fitting end to the puzzle.

Dean Vernon Wormer 12:52 AM  

PREX isn't a substitue for prez, it's an abbreviation for Praetorius Rex, King of the Judges. Because that's what we are, bow to us you petty knaves.

That's at least how we like to think of ourselves.

Mark 1:03 AM  

Please record my vote in the column of Yes, I have heard "too tired to think" many many times; it sounds quite natural to me. Enjoyed the puzzle, including the constructor's notes over at xwordinfo.

I skip M-W 1:45 AM  

I'm often too tired to think when I start on a puzzle. @Rex must have been too tired too to think it's not a thing. I visited Leonia for dinner in about 1972. Liked the OPEC clue, and in general had fun with this, though ttyl and NCIB are not in my vocab. Proud of myself for knowing The OC. I think I watched one episode once.
I did want 64,000 Dollar Question or The Big Surprise. I know 20 questions only as a parlor game. and there was some little game in a box in my ancient childhood called Hi-Q

Always happy when no rebus.

Charlene 2:30 AM  

I had Too Tired to Tango at first.

Danp 5:34 AM  

New rule: If a town is too small and insignificant to justify a dot on a map, it doesn't belong in a crossword puzzle. Ex: Leonia NJ. Population <9000. Significance: Home page for Leonia lists under "Upcoming Events" nothing more than its trash pickup schedule.

Gill I. P. 6:29 AM  

What happened to Animal, Vegetable or Mineral?
EROTICism did me in. Well, LEOgIA for that Teaneck town did as well.
I actually enjoyed this puzzle. ELEPHANTS was my first entry because I love the word mahouts....
Loved the clue for CASH and if my name were DOTTIE, I might change it.
SEMI/PROS...fun!

loren muse smith 6:49 AM  

I saw only "Huxtables," so when I put in GRANDPARENTS, one of my first ? answers, I was sure that all the question clues were not true, and I kept thinking maybe today was some kind of pseudo Joke Day I wasn't aware of. ONE STAR furthered this line of thinking, and then I was certain that THE OC and NCIS were on some other network. And that Caleb was actually not a SPY. ENORME was my first hint that I was wrong.

Other troubles:

"Prof" for PREX and hence
"Soft" for SEXY
"Ask" UP for HAD UP, blowing right past the whole tense thing and scowling at the other ASK
"__camel" for ELEPHANTS
"ttfn" for TTYL
"sacral" fixed the above, but SEPTAL came very late

Little known fact: The Pterodactyl Rex (P-REX) enjoyed a brief reign of terror (before the emergence of the bigger, grumpier T Rex), after which it quietly evolved into what we know today as the pewit.

My most desperate guess came with 2D and "raw orange" before POWER LINE, wondering what a cooked orange would look like and how I missed *that* whole culinary phenomenon. My daughter and I had been talking about the huge difference between a raisin from the box and a cooked raisin, so I was primed. Plus we regularly make fresh grapefruit and orange juice with an electric juicer.

LEONIA was not a problem to me, but I moved here from Bergen County. And I kept questioning myself on the presence of both CAN and COULD, wanting to change one. @Dean, @Mark -TOO TIRED TO THINK is definitely a phrase in my language, too.

Rex – loved your ISSA/MEL ISSA comment!

@Gill I.P. – good catch on SEMI PROS!

Never heard of MIDGEs, but I just googled them. So there are biting midges, non-biting midges, mountain midges, phantom midges, dung midges, and meniscus midges, among others. I already hate them. Damned detritivores. A smidge too annoying for me.

Yeah, once I saw what was going on, I figured it was more of a themeless with a twist. And hard, hard, hard! I had to work mightily for MELISSA, ORISANS, MOTETS, ISSA, PREX, POTSY, ORE, SEPTAL, and ETO. But I got'em, I finished, and I liked the exercise. Impressive grid art, impressive longs crossing. . .I have to like a grid with CONTORTIONIST, SPIT AND POLISH, TOO TIRED TO THINK, POWER LINE, GRANDPARENTS, CUE STICKS, EROTIC ART, and THIN AS A RAIL! I'll remember this one for a while. Nice puzzle, Timothy!

schmuzz 7:24 AM  

LOL moment of the day....
rex's comment about daniel ISSA's brother being in the puzzle! now that's good material!

and i must get better at looking at the grid and opening my eyes to the possibilities ---
i so missed the question mark til i came here...

schmuzz 7:25 AM  
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Moly Shu 7:37 AM  

Extremely difficult here, plenty of stuff I didn't know. LEONIA, ENORME, PREX, ISSA, ORISONS, POTSY. Near DNF at SEA, like @Jae thought. Loved the grid art, but like @Rex, found the fill irritating.

Beaglelover 7:53 AM  

I played POTSY in the Bronx many years ago.
I DNF but liked this puzzle because I am usually at sea when the rebus shows up on Thursday, so today was fun.

Glimmerglass 8:09 AM  

I dated a Mel Issa once. She was too conservative for me. This would have been an excellent themeless. The 20-question exercise was just a distraction. I thought TIARA was a Saturday-type stretch. "Rock" because of rhinestones???

r.alphbunker 8:10 AM  

"So what?" There are exactly twenty clues that begin with "What". That's what.

The five conventional ? clues do not begin with "what" They are
27D {One who makes an impression?} APER
36D {Ones with breaking points?} CUESTICKS
62A {C train?} DEF
7D {Contents of Suisse banks?} EAU
15A {Rock band?} TIARA

Had to Google THEOC to finish its section. That allowed me to see TTYL, HIQ (had faQ), EAU (suspected this), ORE (unable to mine this word from my crossword memory bank). Had CASH early on.

Doris 8:16 AM  

Word Origin & History
prexy
1871, slang (headlinese) contraction of president. Alternative form prex is attested from 1828.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

A past humor column, possibly from the old Saturday Evening Post, dealing with puns and humorous made-up words, included in its list:

APOPREXY: What killed the college president.

Sorry i can't remember the author.

Susan McConnell 8:21 AM  

Agree with Rex with the exception of TOO TIRED TO THINK, which I hear and use on occasion. Kind of a let down for a Thursday, but would have made for a chippy Wednesday.

AliasZ 8:27 AM  


"War and Peace" manages to be both an annoying and ridiculously long novel so that by the time you get to the end it's impossible to remember how it began, and a fairly accomplished literary work at the same time. Why would Tolstoy embark on the huge project with little hope of anyone reading it cover to cover and enjoying it? Thank god you can put it down if you get too tired to think. While its sweeping breadth and depth is impressive in a way, it's a frigging disaster. Mercifully, the writing style is somewhat accomplished, the story line is based on historic events and is pretty interesting, and the characters are reasonably well developed.

RnRGhost57 8:34 AM  

Like others, have heard of TOO TIRED TO THINK all of my life. An instance of--and it happens about once every two weeks--when the combination of snarky arrogance and ignorance makes one feel embarrassed for Rex.

The ignorance is perfectly understandable; none of us knows everything. The snarky arrogance? Not so much.

RnRGhost57 8:36 AM  

@AliasZ: ROFL

Z 8:50 AM  

I see that King LEON I's twin brother, LEON IA, made the puzzle.

The EROTIC ART HAD UP ISSA's THIN AS A RAIL DIT. TMI.

Tough since POTSY and LEONIA were WOEs, and the weird mix of trivial trivia and word play caused slow downs as I tried to switch gears. Trivia contests are below scrabble on my activities of interest list (Jeopardy loses out to baseball, reruns of the Daily Show, and reading - in that order). I'm pretty good at trivia, but so what? This pretty well sums it up.

jberg 8:51 AM  

THEOC? Or is it THEO C? Or THE OC? As for me, I confused Newport Beach with Newport News, and decided it would be a military-themed sitcom called BASIC. The rock band, meanwhile, was a STRIA. 7D and 8D clearly didn't work that way, but I gave up, figured out the X in PREX, and came here to lament my incompetence.

For most of the way through the puzzle, I was sure this was about "Jeopardy," with all those answers posed as questions; I figured 51A was going to be another quiz show, and there's be a revealer somewhere. But no.

I don't like CUE STICK for breaking point -- the point of the cue just hits the cue ball, it's the latter that does the breaking. but it's in the ballpark, I guess.

I think BASIC would be a good show, though.

Sir Hillary 8:58 AM  
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Sir Hillary 9:04 AM  

I guess this is what Thursdays are for -- offbeat puzzles that take some chances. Personally, I prefer a tighter theme than this one had and agree that the most impressive element is the grid construction.

No issue with TOOTIREDTOTHINK -- not sure what @Rex is on about there. But PREX, DIT, ORISONS and POTSY? No thanks.

I also don't like how ORE was clued. Couldn't an alternate entry have been clued as trivia? (What CBS show stars Mark Harmon as Special Agent Jethro Gibbs? or What insects famously disrupted a 2007 major league baseball playoff game in Cleveland? or What New Jersey town is where Anthony Bourdain grew up?)

LEONIA was a snap for me. Whenever I cross the George Washington Bridge from New Jersey to Manhattan, I notice the signs for LEONIA on the approach. As a wordplay dork, I like that it has four syllables with only six letters.

In the 90s, when I would tell people I grew up in Orange County, they would invariably reference "The O.C." Yeah, that's not exactly the part of the county I'm from.

Fabulous clue for CUESTICKS. Really brilliant, and gets better the more I look at it.

Charles Flaster 9:04 AM  

So much to "think" about.Any puzzle with POTSY should bring a smile to anyone from NYC. Has anybody not from NYC heard of potsy?
HIQ is still played (with slight variations) as a high school competition in Philadelphia metro area.
Puzzle fell into place easily but still looked for some form of a TWISTER. Did not count the twenty questions.TWENTY QUESTIONS is a terrific learning tool for early grades.
TIARA was my aha moment and helped get ORE.
I sense that a little knowledge of French helps more than a little knowledge of other foreign languages.

joho 9:15 AM  

@Sir Hillary, the clue for CUESTICKS was my favorite thing about this puzzle.

I print my puzzle with light gray squares which I think is the reason I missed the graphic question mark. Very impressive!

I solved this just like a normal puzzle and enjoyed it. The hardest being the end of EROTICA. Guessed it had to be PREX and I had a vague memory of POTSY. Wasn't he a character on "Happy Day?" (DAZE!)

Thanks, Timothy!

JenCT 9:20 AM  

TOO TIRED TO THINK describes my puzzle-solving experience exactly - DNF for me.

We definitely have biting MIDGES here in CT.

After raising 3 offspring last month, my bluebirds are sitting on 5 more eggs - yay!

mathguy 9:28 AM  

Along with Rex, I didn't like question marks being used in both the usual puzzle sense and also as endings to the twenty questions. A partial out is that the twenty questions all begin with the word "what."

My wife played hopscotch as a girl in New York and can't remember hearing it called "potsy."

I did the puzzle last night and my wife and I couldn't figure out how TIARA was a rock band. We got the band part and thought that rock may have been used as a synonym for head. This morning I looked at the grid again and it hit me that rock referred to jewelry on the tiara. I looked at Bill Butler's blog to see if that was also his interpretation but he skipped that one.

I love clues like that. Is there a name for them? "Clever" is inadequate. "Devilish" isn't descriptive. I used to find such clues often when I would do cryptics. They are clues that only make sense after you've inferred the answer and even then after some struggle. It reminds me of an expression mathematicians use for the solution to a problem that can be done in two pages but can also be done in two lines. "It's easy if you look at it the right way."

chefbea 9:34 AM  

too tough for me. I usually love Thursday puzzles, but did not like this one. Too many obscure things. Hopefully tomorrow will be easier!!3099

NCA President 9:41 AM  

I have been TOOTIREDTOsleep before...it sucks, btw. I guess the clue, with its "Mentally" label, would say you'd be too tired to THINK...inexplicably I started out with TOOTIREDTOspeak. Yeah, I know.

I thought this was a Friday level puzzle for me...some places I got relatively easily, and other areas were stubborn. In the upper midwest, I have no idea how I got THEOC, but it suddenly revealed itself (with some angelic chorus, I swear). Then that area finally opened up.

Same with the upper east coast, for Kama Sutra illustrations I originally put in "POSITIONS." That made "rate" look okay for 26A's Pace. Somewhere along the line I abandoned the entire thing and eventually (after a long while) got the EROTICA part...EROTICAls? no, EROTICART. Ah, so.

I didn't know AOL was still a thing...I thought they had been bought out so I was surprised to see they "own" anything...but it is MapQuest, after all (does anyone even use that any more?).

All in all a difficult Thursday, and any time there is no rebus, it makes it even harder since I keep expecting one.

Jisvan 9:56 AM  

This puzzle put me in a DAZE, or CAN IT BE that I am just DOTTIE from some multiple passing DELIRIA caused by our recent travels and the relatively new practice of being GRANDPARENTS? (Yesterday was my first day back to work and I am still TOO TIRED TO THINK! As you can tell.)
It is great to be back among the keen-witted denizens of crossworld. (@LMS: the evolution of the pewit- priceless!) This puzzle had the thematic problems Rex noted, but the words themselves were delicious. I thought it was well worth it.

Jisvan 9:58 AM  
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Questinia 10:00 AM  

Straining my iPad eyes on that rollicking-late-train-outta-Manhattan, I never noticed the question mark, kept looking for a meta, and dnf because I couldn't see SEXY despite its proximity to EROTIC ART *and* despite running the alphabet (although I may have passed out by the time I got to the letter P).

I put in SEKY. Not even with irony. Earnestly and hopeful. TOO TIRED TO THINK.

Knew LEONIA as my mom lived there briefly when she came to this country from Sweden.
I grew up in NY and played hopscotch not POTSY.

@ Jen Ct, congratulations on the brood. I haven't seen my bluebirds lately... driven away by the MIDGEs maybe
@ lms , primed by the raisin, first laugh of the day.

Ellen S 10:07 AM  

I enjoyed this puzzle more than any I can remember lately. I thought it was like a cardio workout for my brain. Lucky for me my brain could not remember "stria" because I was trying for it and it would've really messed up that part of the puzzle. Lucky I saw enough letters to put in TIARA.

Hartley70 10:15 AM  

What the heck! The Morse "dit"? Autocorrect and I vote for "dot". That was my only error and I still don't get dit.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:15 AM  

Was hoping The Mysterians would show up.

Agree with Rex mostly, re: somewhat muddled theme, but TOO TIRED TO THINK is definitely a thing in my world.

(Thought that 62 A, "C train?", was a bit of a let-down. Desperate crosswordese as used, when there are other clues available for DEF.)

r.alphbunker 10:24 AM  

@Bob Kerfuffle

"Desperate crosswordese": runtpuz.org is starting to have an effect!

Regarding the yesterday's runtpuz from M and A, is there any significance to the 3D and 4D clues?

Debra Block 10:25 AM  

This puzzle is why I come to this blog--filled in the whole thing, but obviously TOO TIRED TO THINK which is pretty much my default--never saw what was happening, but the whole time knew I could come here it would be explained to me
Thanks team-DB

Ludyjynn 10:53 AM  

DNF this meh puzzle. Some clever clues were there, but far too many obscure references which have already been pointed out by others. Ironically, this crossword felt like playing Scrabble against someone heavily reliant upon Scrabble-eze.

Sorry, TP and WS. I'm w/ Rex on this one.

Numinous 10:53 AM  


@Hartley70: users of morse code all say "dit" rather than dot. Take for example, "ditditdit dah dah dah ditditdit". When I was a Boy Scout, learning morse from my father, the scout master, I was constantly being quized on combos of letters at random and had to reply using dits and dahs. I've forgotten most of my morse but my dad remembered his perfectly until the day he died.

When I shrank the grid to fit in my Magmic version, I noticed the question mark immediately. When I got to the third clue starting with "what" I had a what the heck moment thinking, well, this is different. I took TWENTYQUESTIONS as a themer and wondered at the randomness of the answer placement. I still take this as a themed puzzle, interpreting "theme" perhaps a little more broadly than usual in crosswords. I liked it and managed to get through it with no typos, something I haven't done for a few days.

I've never heard of POTSY. LEONIA was a natick for me but I got it from crosses. I seem to have heard PREX somewhere. Thanks @Doris for elucidating. CUESTICK was a rather nice aha moment for me, I grew up across the street from a pool hall owned by a tenant in the same apartment building in which I lived. His name was Hank. He was short and had a moustache. My mother was short. He had the hots for my mother. He creeped my mother out. By the time I was 12, I was welcome in the pool hall in spite of the 18 mimimum age requirement. I often played for free.

Now I think I'll eat an apple in spite of the lack of ALAR and then do the puzzle from the other coast.

Leapfinger 11:05 AM  

Tuesday a thin theme, Thursday a questionable one. But the non-theme news were A-plus.

LEONIA may become the new Natick

Sometimes I'm too tired to think straight, and the longer I go, the curlier my thinking gets. Has anyone noticed, I wonder. @Charlene, I liked 'too tired to tango', sometimes it takes two to think one whole thought through too.

@ChasPlaster, not a NewYorker , I dredged up POTSY fro Herman Wouk's The City Boy. Remember it as a boy's game, ie, not hopscotch.

@Gilly, I also think the ELEPHANT clue a mahout!

@l'amuse, MIDGES are the inhalable ones, gnat to be bugging you. Have not heard of the meniscal midge; will have to check whether that's related to what I know as a 'joint mouse'. Seems to be a regular zoo in there, bien sur. The bee's knees, redux.

@A-Z, love your tangent.
Am remembering WarrenPP as the basis of an excellent movie, with the elegant A Hepburn and MEL Ferrer.
I haven't mentioned the wonderful St Cecilia Mass; how Dgounod he's one of my favourite composers?

My trouble-spot was in the North Central, with TTYL and SOU->ECU->EAU. Oh.

Not much on the QANDA theme, but otherwise enjoyable. @Rex's MEL_ISSA may have been the best

Masked and Anonymo3Us 11:12 AM  

Real different. So, gotta love the effort. Nice ? thingy.

TOOTIREDTOTHINK registers aok on my real-o-meter.
But it don't, as @63 pointed out, seem very theme-related, which is an odd position for a gid-spanner in a themed puz to be in. Makes my SEPTAL ORISONS hurt, just tryin to cope with that whole dilemma...

@muse: The Pewit-Rex! har. stop Yer makin my SEPTAL ORISONS ache.

@BobK: 96 Tears, dude. Also... "The Mysterians" was an absolute Primo+ Japanese schlock flick, from the fifties. Worth catchin, but be careful not to choke on yer popcorn from laughin at the special effects. But I digress...
"desperate" ? <-- this here symbol should be imagined as drawn in huge black ? fractals.
DEF is like weeject gold, man. The blood and guts of any self-respectin runtpuz. Yer near-SPITEINPOLISH snarkiness there is like a snee thrust to the very SEPTAL ORISONS of M&A's bein.
But, wait... U probably just meant that the DEF clue just needed to be upgraded to "Eliot Ness backing into a speakeasy" or somesuch. So . . . Never mind.

@r.alph: U are wise to always question the intentions of the runtpuz. If U can find a higher significance to that one, tho, U are are a better man than I, Gunga Din.

Yo. Just heard from The Shortzmeister, re: first submitted M&A nonrunpuz. Actually, it was a note from Anna Shortzmeister. (A relative, no doubt.) Ow. My SEPTAL ORISONS...

M&A
"Showin Some Vague Promise But Not Ticklin Enough"



jdv 11:16 AM  

Easy-Medium w/one error. SEt for SEa. I just couldn't see sea. Took me 10 minutes post-solve to figure out the theme. It was different and interesting, but left me wanting more. Liked the asymmetric grid.

I've learned a lot about elephant transportation from crosswords; MAHOUTS driving people in HOWDAHS on elephants.

r.alphbunker 11:19 AM  

@M and A

Sounds like your submitted puzzle didn't tickle. Can we publish it on runtpuz.org?

Anoa Bob 11:40 AM  

I always look at the grid before diving into the puzz, so the "?" in the center gave me a leg up on the theme. Of no help was noticing the 15X16, non-symmetrical layout.

Some nice stuff in this one, THIN AS A RAIL & SPIT AND POLISH being two favorites.

If you're ordering SEXY movies online, do you click on an "Add to EROTI-CART" button?

I think we should we have a vote to see which commenter would win the "Exhibiting the most civility" award (39D).

M and Also 11:44 AM  

@r.alph: Not yet. Gonna polish up some of the weaknesses Anna darlin pointed out on it, and try er again. Think I can outlast this Anna. Am pretty tenacious.
But, never fear. M&ade four new runtz, just yesterday. They are all cute and yelpy. Just need to be weaned, a mite.

Lotsa day-um ipad typos in my last msg, plus the rare double-are from the piked position. Just consider the whole dern thing as one big puz to solve. snort.

@63: Bullets! mm-mm...

M&A

p.s.
Top finishers for TOOTIREDTO...
* DOOIT.
* PEWIT.
* TWERK.
* PAINT. (GREENPAINT spinoff)
* SOLVE.
* FIXIT.
* LAUGH.
* QEDIT. (Careful how U parse this one)
* SNORE.
* BELCH.
* MANDA. (Been there)
* SNARK.



AliasZ 12:02 PM  


POLITEST is a pop quiz in poli-sci class.

In the country where Nate is king, the currency has "IN NATE We Trust" printed on it.

That small four-wheel conveyance loaded with all sorts of salacious goodies, pushed around by a SEXY, ENTICINGLY-clad service professional at you friendly neighborhood locale devoted to sensual overindulgence, is called an EROTI-CART. TMI?

I loved SPIT AND POLISH, ORISONS, DELIRIA, THIN AS A RAIL and many others.

There are so many MOTETS and TRIOS to choose from, it's hard to pick one. Also: one of the three LEONIA Overtures by Beethoven, Canadian pianist Glenn COULD, Johnny CASH, POTSY Cline, an aria from the opera ENORME-a by Vincenzo Bellini, etc.

Instead, let me present this well-known overture by Gioacchino RHOS-sini called "SEMI-ramide." (What's a "ramide"?)

As you were.

Hartley70 12:36 PM  

@Numinous Thanks! It never occurred to me to ask my Boy Scout. Those scouts can be so useful at times, especially when you don't feel like cooking dinner and they are so excited to make tin foil packets of chichen and veg to stick on the grill for you.
Are you still a pool shark? I hear Amsterdam Billiards is the bomb in NYC.

Dora the Explorer 12:50 PM  

Please explain DEF for C train.

AliasZ 1:03 PM  


@Dora the Explora,

C in the alphabet is followed by a train of letters: D, E and F.

But I am sure you realized that as soon as you clicked the "Publish Your Comment" button.

Fred Romagnolo 1:07 PM  

This old man dnf'd on TTYL & THEOC. almost missed SEXY because of PREX (30 yrs in educ. & never heard the term), why was it clued as "school" head? POTSY another NYC provincialism, like Yiddish terms, a staple of NYT crosswords; I got it, but only after rejecting EROTICons, which I thought hilarious. You actually have to be rather good to rate a ONE STAR in Michelin. Probably the dirty old man in me, but I liked ENTICINGLY for "A la a siren." I listened to TWENTY QUESTIONS a lot as a teen-ager. You used to be able to buy GILLS of cream at your local grocery store, (corner grocery, or Mom and Pop). But only if you ran out of the cream at the top of the un-homo bottle of milk. "Homo" milk was another thing causing snickers among 12 yr olds in those days. Ah, the innocent past; would I go back? Definitely not.

Gene 1:09 PM  

DEF comes after C

Agree with most that TOOTIREDTOTHINK is fine.

Had an interesting mistake, as I solve on paper, and my U in RESOUNDED looked like a V, and I had the TI In 36D, so I happily put in OVERTIMES, which provide points to break ties.

EdFromHackensack 1:14 PM  

Common crossword guy Alan Alda lived in LEONIA for many years. It's been in the puzzle a few times before

Andrew Heinegg 1:49 PM  

I have some of the same objections as others, such as Prex? I got it from the crosses but, I don't like it one bit. My point is: if you want to put a word in a crossword that is not likely to be solved directly from the clue for it, please! make the word one which, upon the reveal, makes the solver think that it is interesting or have an 'oh yeah' reaction. I have never seen or heard Prex used in slang and I do not expect to see or hear it again. And that is the overarching problem with this puzzle. It is/was just not fun solving experience, whether you were successful or not.

Proud Mamma 2:28 PM  

Too tired to think "straight".

Proud Mamma 2:29 PM  

I live near teaneck but with few clues solved thought it was bogota.

Casco Kid 2:58 PM  

Impossible here. 90 minutes, many googles, then death. The clue for EAU was a foreign language + misdirect + tangentially valid. Crossing with another misdirect TIARA meant I really couldn't suss either. AEROBE should be in my wheelhouse, but KITTIE and CANITBE were hidden so long that I started making desperate reaches and gave up with gibberish. ORISON is new. elISON was my best guess. MOTETS are religious? Really? CANITBE? Huh!

This would be an easy puzzle for French speaking clerics.

To the constructor's credit, it kept my interest for 90 frustrated minutes, but not 120.

Also, hand up here for ending the tyranny of symmetry in puzzle design. It is as restrictive as 8-stacks, and takes its toll on fill as badly. Just sayin.

Lewis 3:01 PM  

Slow but steady. Liked the clues for POWERLINE and CUESTICK. TOOTIREDTOTHINK registers as a real phrase for me. Never heard of POTSY, LEONIA, or ORISONS. I liked the two long answers and their clues. Not a very fun solve, but a satisfying one when finished.

@M&A -- some of these clues could have used the double question mark??

Post Puzzle Puzzle (PPP™) -- There are two two-syllable answers that rhyme. Write down the higher one, and place the lower one directly below it, but leave space between them so you can write a word between them. Can you think of a word you can write between them so that the three-letter down words created are all words that can be used in crosswords?

Carola 3:09 PM  

I liked the idea of a quiz show themed crossword, though I didn't spot the grid's question mark until I was highlighting all the theme answers and saw that GRANDPARENTS had no symmetrically placed answer.

Tough sledding for me, esp. in the SE. Waffled between THIN AS A RAIL or Reed because RAIL fit with CAN IT BE and Reed fit with KeTTlES. Loved CONTORTIONIST, SPIT AND POLISH, and the lovely ORISONS.

I looked for a long time for a theme that tied the questions together, or for a pattern in the theme-answer placement (hence the highlighting). I felt that a meta (thank you, @Questinia, I never would have come up with the word) something was just beyond my reach - perhaps because I'm TOO TIRED TO THINK, thunder having RESOUNDED here constantly through the past few nights.

About the pattern of theme answers - I briefly entertained an ELEPHANTS theme, because if you color in MELISSA and ONESTAR for the body, (EN)ORME for the back leg(s), GRANDPARENTS for the neck, chest and front leg(s), GMC for the head, and SPY for the trunk, you get an ELEPHANT - or more of a giraffEPHANT, as the neck is overly long. The trunk is also somewhat truncated.

wreck 3:38 PM  

@ Lewis

I think this may be a big stretch! (My words might not actually rhyme)
RAGU ??

retired_chemist 3:40 PM  

OK. Medium. Hand up for thinking PREX is bad, bad, bad, for reasons already stated by others.

Big hangup was a fixation on KeTTlES instead of KITTIES for 57A. reached rthgat conbclusion dorm THIN AS A Reed @ 28D. I KNEW it had to be DOTTIE West but couldn't shake the fixation for a long time. Oh, yeah, different kind of pots. And then RAIL, which I had considered and rejected, fixed it all.

Had INborn also - knew it was LAS PALMAS, not LoS, so that, DEF, and ETO quickly got me INNATE.

Fun to have so many ways to be almost right, but wrong. The perils of Polin.....


Here's a first - my first captcha was just an illegible blur. Literally.

Thanks, Mr. Polin.

Z 3:54 PM  

PREX was first used as clued in 1828 according to one source, and it wasn't too hard to find multiple online dictionaries by using "prex slang" in ye olde google machine. Don't ask me when or where I saw PREX before, but I left the last letter of PRE- blank for the cross because I wasn't sure if it would be a Z or an X. It certainly predates my X-solving years.

Speaking of ye olde machines, did ye techno-solvers have italicized clues for the 20 questions? That is how they appeared in the paper, so the more usual use of the ? for tricky misdirects was hardly an issue.

OISK 4:08 PM  

Puzzle is full of what I dislike and don't know - Four songs I never heard of that begin with "Sexy", A car model, SLS, car make, GMC, TV shows I never watched, The OC, TV shows I watched but barely remember - The Huxtables, computerese- Melissa, never used slang - prex, - and yet I finished in near record time, so the constructor must have done something right! Somehow, the unfamiliar was dispersed evenly enough to make solving possible. Did not dislike this one nearly as much as I might have, because the theme answers were varied. in fact, I rather enjoyed it. So, well done, Mr. Polin!

Sir Hillary 4:12 PM  

@Lewis - The best I can do is AROUND, but that presumes that one 3-letter down is a large Italian energy company, which I'm not sure would fly in a puzzle.

Anonymous 4:13 PM  

Last thing to enter was PREX instead of PRES (I even had PREK there for a while--"school head, slangily" could hint at PRE-K, couldn't it?). Didn't seem to be a word, but it turned SESY into SEXY for me, so it had to be right. Was puzzled all the way through to the end about the italicized clues. All of the answers to them seemed to be perfectly straightforward, so I couldn't figure out why the clues had question marks, which are usually hints that there's a play on words. Never got the theme until I read the comments here. I suppose I was TOOTIREDTOTHINK.

Anonymous 4:18 PM  

Addendum from Anonymous 4:13 PM: I forgot to say that I constantly looked for squares to have two letters, but that turned out to be a wild goose chase. I desperately wanted ELEISONS instead of what turned out to be ORISONS, for example.

Ray J 4:29 PM  

First three answers were 1) EAU, 2) CASH, 3) cashes out. Doh! Does a person cash in or cash out at the casino? Struggled mightily with this one but finished it.

@Z: no italics in AL. Not sure that would have helped me. The twenty “Whats” differentiated the ?s enough for me to eventually see what was going on.

Lewis 4:40 PM  

@wreck -- actually, my rhyming words may not be considered by some as rhymes either, though they are in my opinion (they each have six letters). But there are more than one correct answer, I'm sure. I'm giving my answer somewhere between 5:00 and 6:00. If you're around, I'd love to see yours.

@SirHillary -- I'm guessing you're working with the rhyming words that I am, because your other words work just fine. I don't think your acronym would be accepted by Will. Then again, my answers end with two crosswordese words that I would avoid using in a puzzle. I'm thinking we both get a B-plus. My two answers start with A, by the way.

Norm 4:42 PM  

Was no one else bothered by "Fastidiousness" for SPITANDPOLISH? The former has (for me) a prissy/over-the-top aspect; spit and polish is just exactitude/the right way to do things (okay, dad was a Marine, so I may have a different view of this than others). I also don't see them as the same part of speech, so that annoys me as well. Maybe someone else can come up with a way to use them in the same sentence as interchangeable parts. I've tried and can't think of one. (And that won't answer my first/main objection in any event.)

wreck 4:57 PM  

@ Lewis -- I know what your 2 answers are now - will try to get your result!

wreck 5:04 PM  

@ Lewis
ARNOLD ?

Sir Hillary 5:07 PM  

@wreck - Well done! I missed that one. Hadn't thought of proper nouns.

I thought of UNOILY, which may technically be a word, but if I ever saw it in a puzzle, I would come here and complain!

Numinous 5:11 PM  

Marginally off topic but I just had a runtpuz put up at xwordinfo..
And it may appear on runtpuz.org soon too.

I found a crossword compiler for iPad and just had to try it out.

–Numi

wreck 5:15 PM  

@ Sir Hillary @ Lewis

My initial error was looking for single words when the puzzle asked for "answers."

Here is my 4 letter original that was a "big stretch" to rhyme:

A L A R

R A G U

A P E R

ARA being the constellation we see here all the time and RUR the play.

Lewis 5:18 PM  

Post Puzzle Puzzle (PPP™) answer:


The two rhyming words I used were HOTTEA and DOTTIE. Two words I found that could be sandwiched between them are ANNALS and ANNULS. And there are certainly more, and probably better.

@wreck -- ARNOLD works!
@Sir Hillary -- UNOILY would work, and... It's a word, according to Dictionary.com. So let's just say yes!

Mike 5:23 PM  

I worked until after 1 am just last night because of last minute changes just before a deadline. Too tired to think was exactly the phrase that came to mind when I threw in the towel and went to bed.

Blue Owl 5:24 PM  

Was hard for me---had to lookup about 50%. Felt smug about three answers: Played POTSY back in the Bronx (someone else mentioned that, too).Knew folks in LEONIA, and remember playing HI-Q...the thought being that you had to have a HI-IQ to solve it. Mostly solitary, it was a small white square with red pegs that you had to remove one at a time to win...The arcane rules escape me though.

Mike 5:27 PM  

The vast majority of restaurants in the world get no Michelin Stars, so even one star is quite a feat. There are very few three star restaurants.

Anonymous 5:34 PM  

This one took me awhile, too. Loved Rex's Darryl/Mel Issa quip. I live in CA and cannot stand the guy...

geordiegirl 5:48 PM  

@norm I agree about FASTIDIOUSNESS and SPITANDPOLISH. They aren't the same: the first can in fact lead to the second.

Mohair Sam 5:50 PM  

@Norm - Finally someone picks up the fastidiousness thing. Yup, any ex-GI can tell you that spit and polish is a positive statement about getting things right and lookin' good. Fastidiousness, on the other hand, is about pick, pick, pick.

But we liked this puzzle in spite of that gripe. POTSY? Might have naticked because we guessed POsSY, but corrected when "dirtypictures" wouldn't fit in 11d. I've seen PREXy in print, but never PREX - the complainers may have a point there.

Love how Rex googled TOOTIREDTOTHINK and found out his opinion was wrong, but decided it didn't matter - he was still right. On the other hand, his pick up on Darrel ISSA's brother was awesome.

Anyhow, fun puzzle for us (we don't demand a rebus on Thursday), odd theme but excellent cluing.

Arlene 6:25 PM  

It took me a while, but I finished. Couldn't believe that POTSY ended up being correct when I put it in early - but I played that growing up in Stuyvesant Town in Manhattan. The grid was painted on the playground floor. You threw your skate key into the boxes.
I got LEONIA right away too - the benefits of living near Teaneck, I guess.
Never saw the question mark on the grid until I came here - THANKS!

Anonymous 6:34 PM  

Boy did I hate this puzzle. Also found it impossible. This was the worst Thursday I've had in as long as I can remember and last Friday's was the worst Friday I can remember. So something's either wrong with the puzzles or something's wrong with me. It's probably the latter but I'm going to insist it's the former. This puzzle had nothing fun in it and no satisfying clicks when the answers finally came to me. Just a boring theme (barely a theme at all), awful clues, and boring answers.

Jim in Cleveland 6:34 PM  

"Too tired to think" is most certainly a thing. Darrell Issa is most certainly something else.

Leapfinger 6:49 PM  

@ret-chemist, very much enjoyed your little throw-away 'the perils of Polin'. Those pun-nom de pen work-arounds are soe of my favourites
Based on some of the comments, a few solvers felt as if run over by a Tram Polin...

CONTORTIONIST, THIN AS A RAIL, HADUP PINT HOT TEA, STICKS KITTIES. CAN IT BE?

ELEPHANTS, TOO TIRED TO THINK, RESOUND ORISONS. CAN IT BE?

GRANDPARENTS SPIT, AND POLISH EROTIC ART. CAN IT BE?

POTSY MONETIZES POWERLINE, ERN THE OC HI-Q. CAN IT BE?

These ain't exactly the classical forms of HI-Q, but it's early DAZE yet, and I'll ex-SEPTAL and any suggestions for improvement...Let IT BE.

touch2touch 7:08 PM  

I usually hate Thursdays but ran out of other reading matter. Cheered by POTSY --- Brooklyn! Brooklyn! Yes! --- but nonetheless in fairness to all didn't think it was fair. Hopscotch is in general knowledge, Potsy isn't. PREX is ridiculous, PREXY wouldn't be much better but at least legit. And so it goes ---
Eugene Maleska, where are you now that we need you (and have long needed you?)

Lena 7:25 PM  

Had a lousy day and would you believe that this puzzle improved it? I laughed at the big question mark because I often read aloud the punny clues, pause, and loudly and dramatically say "...QUESTION MARK???" My cat thinks it's hilarious.

@BobKerfuffle yeah, where are the mysterians? 96 tears is such a good song, full spite and defeat. Cry.

AEROBES was my first answer and the bottom half was dealt with swiftly-- minus MOTETS and LEONIA, of course, but I didn't care because I knew they were silly. It's how I felt when I saw STEVEDORE at the tender age of 16 in the SAT. I mean, I was definitely furious at the time, but it has since become one of my favorite words.

Has anyone heard of Gordon Jenkins "Seven Dreams?" The first dream involves teaching a classroom full of students to fly, and in the lyrics is "have him call the PREXY and advise him of our flight, and say we should be back about next Thursday night." That is, however, the only place I've heard that word out and about.

@r.alph @LMS @M and A: thanks for runtpuz.org! These little guys are fun and funny!

sanfranman59 10:03 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 6:36, 6:04, 1.09, 83%, Challenging
Tue 7:54, 8:46, 0.90, 20%, Easy-Medium
Wed 8:35, 9:40, 0.89, 25%, Easy-Medium
Thu 18:06, 17:32, 1.03, 60%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 4:26, 3:55, 1.13, 91%, Challenging
Tue 5:07, 5:21, 0.96, 34%, Easy-Medium
Wed 5:46, 6:08, 0.94, 34%, Easy-Medium
Thu 11:23, 10:40, 1.07, 61%, Medium-Challenging

Suzy 11:28 PM  

Late to the game, but found this puzzle, well, a puzzle. The answers popped in fairly quickly although I've never heard of The OC, and had kettles for kitties. Finally got the theme with Twenty Questions and the question mark was easy to spot since I still actually read The Times and enjoy doing the puzzle the old-fashioned way!

Patricia Markert 6:50 AM  

Why are you so cranky, Mr. Parker? Splitting hairs with the clue for innate! Really! I find your comments so sour I wonder why you keep writing the blog. I don't think I've ever read about a puzzle you liked. Maybe only the ones that I can't do. I guess the life of a professional puzzle doer gets narrower and narrower in its pleasures.

I would like to see your standard of what makes a good puzzle.

Anonymous 8:43 AM  

What was with the italics in some clues? I didn't get the reason.

Anonymous 3:57 PM  

Do you see how subjective it becomes as soon as trivia infiltrates a crossword puzzle? So many of you complained that the questions were too obscure, and you didn't finish or had to Google. I blew straight through this without Googling anything, all the trivia was up my alley. But then there was Friday's puzzle, where the trivia left me completely stranded. Don't you see that trivia and pop culture have no place in a crossword puzzle? As soon as trivia gets introduced, the puzzle becomes appropriate only for the people who share the author's interests.

spacecraft 11:42 AM  

I got this done, but not because I knew anything. Did a ton of guessing and inferring. Got lucky and finished without even a w/o.

More than 51a, I'm too old to know. Take those four songs in the clue for 31d. Never heard of any of 'em. MELISSA an exotic dancer? If you say so, pal. POTSY? Just Weber from Happy Days. Constructors--and editors!--need to be reminded that these puzzles circulate nationwide, OK, WORLDwide, and so "insider" stuff that only a native NYer would know ought to be kept off the grid. I know it's tough, guys, but resist the temptation.

HIQ to me is that little wooden triangle with golf tees that you see in some ONESTAR restaurants. You have to jump the tees like checkers and leave yourself only one. As an old academic quiz? Never heard of it, and I'm that old.

ISSA and MELISSA; POLITEST crossing EST. CANITBE?

Wanted pierCINGLY; that describes the sirens I hear every day. Oh, THOSE sirens. Gotcha.

ALAR? SLS? I'm in a DAZE. It's scary sometimes, how ignorant I am.

15832 = 19 = 0. The fact that we have more than two digits to deal with means we should use numerology. Baccarat only gives you two cards to start with; max hand is three if you take a card. Nobody ever got dealt 15832 in that game. Does that help clear the air?

rondo 1:12 PM  

I've always considered the Kama Sutra as more of an operators manual than EROTICART.Wasn't paying attn to the Qmark.PREX or PREXY used to be in old-time headlines alot, OFL hasn't ripened sufficiently to know that IMHO.
9512=7 nomo

Anonymous 1:18 PM  

Interesting puzz even though I DNF. I just couldn't get The OC, Hi-Q, TTyl part. Too tired to think is used in my circles and really enjoyed jumping N,S,E,W like a jumping bean to get the rest. Well done, Mr. Polin.

Ron Diego

Bananfish 2:33 PM  

For those whining about figuring out which question-marked clues were the twenty, our newspaper had them written in italics. So stop doing the puzzle on those infernal computers and go back to paper, the way Arthur Wynne intended!!!

rondo 2:46 PM  

Yes!! What @bananfish said!!

8309 = bust

vadne 4:24 PM  

I must say this is one of the easiest Thursday puzzles I have encountered in NYT.

DMG 4:33 PM  

Strange things going on here, POTSY being one of them, but I managed it all except the center north. No idea about the TV show and wanted something to do with strata for the rock thing, so EAU and CASH weren't enough to give the acrosses. I found the italicized type annoying, and kept looking for a clue that would refer to it. It would never have occurred to me to count them! As my mother always said, it left me TOOTIREDTOTHINK!

235. Guess that's as bad as it can get.

Dirigonzo 4:55 PM  

I eventually got it done but it ain't pretty thanks to the likes of cashesout/MONETIZES and allurINGLY/ENTICINGLY - with that many wrong letters in the first run-through. As an example of just how visually oriented my solving process is, I had PO_ERLINE in place and couldn't get the answer until I wrote it out horizontally above the grid and POWERLINE was instantly apparent. Finished with a hail Mary on TIARA (and I just now understood the clue). This was a thoroughly enjoyable Thursday puzzle IMHO. TTYL.

I'm glad that we're settled on the numerology method of totaling scores, not that it helps me today: 239. Thanks to @spacy for the ruling.

Anonymous 6:42 PM  

Cats do indeed have a sense of humor; my calico loves to sit on the crossword and finds my frustration hilarious!
Cats are aliens on vacation.

Anonymous 6:46 PM  

Haaaaated it! Next!

Waxy in Montreal 10:52 PM  

TWENTY QUESTIONS was a great quiz show back in the day so like @Gill I. P. I searched the grid in vain for its animal, vegetable, mineral catchphrase.

Not aware of any exotic dancers named MELISSA so early attempts were to shoehorn variations of GYPSYROSELEE and SALLYRAND into 42A. Didn't help that I thought 42D had to be TOTEMS.

PREX? TTYL? LEONIA? THEOC? TMI? In an ENORME DAZE... Need some strongly reinforced EAU to fend off one form or another of DELIRIA.

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