Helmet part / THU-24-JUL / Outwit, in a way / Big bang maker

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Constructor: David Phillips

Relative difficulty: toughish for a Thursday, until you get the trick

THEME: "Paint It, Black" — put the word IT into four different pairs of black squares

Word of the Day: PETER TOSH (32D: One of the Wailers of Bob Marley and the Wailers)

Peter Tosh, OM (born Winston Hubert McIntosh; 19 October[1] 1944 – 11 September 1987) was a Jamaican reggae musician. Along with Bob Marley and Bunny Wailer he was one of the core members of the band The Wailers (1963–1974). After which he established himself as a successful solo artist and a promoter of Rastafari. He was murdered in 1987 during a home invasion. --Wikipedia
• • •

Should I know the name David Phillips? I don't, but this is a very polished piece of work, especially impressive if he's a new constructor.

Theme answers:
  • (4D: Hit 2012 Disney film) WRECK IT RALPH 
  • (20A: "Looky here!") CHECK IT OUT
  • (59A: Not worry about something annoying) LET IT SLIDE
  • (22D: 1966 Rolling Stones hit ... or an instruction to be followed four times in this puzzle) PAINT IT BLACK
Crossing your IT's yields eight long entries the other way:  ENCIRCLED, COATTAIL, CUTS INTO, SELECTEES, DULCINEA, PETER TOSH, STAIRCASE and ANATOLIA. Essentially what we have is this (excellent) grid with eight black squares added:

Two elegant touches: 1) the letters IT are used as the word "it" uniformly in all four entries and 2) the ITs are symmetrically placed in the grid. A third elegant touch is that no stray ITs appear anywhere in the grid, which would've been slightly unsightly. Not sure if this was by luck or design but if the author is reading this I'd be interested to know in comments. 

Two dings on the theme clues:

1) The clue for LET IT SLIDE sounds off. "Not worry about something annoying" is more like "let it go," while "let it slide" means "decide not to punish a minor infraction." This is a minor infraction, though, so I'll let it go.

2) This one rankles a bit, though: I think the revealer clue at 22D should have read "1966 Rolling Stones hit ... or what the constructor did four times in this puzzle."  I can't find a way to interpret the clue where the solver is painting IT black. I put IT in white letters in the solution grid, for example, but I didn't paint anything black. If I'm missing a reading of this then let me know in comments, but it doesn't seem as on-target as a visual aspect-revealer should be.

But still, a good use of the letters-in-black-squares idea. And check out that grid: at 72 words, it's wide-open (and clean) enough to be an above-average themeless. Don't miss those internal 4x4 blocks in green in the solution grid above; it's one thing to do a 4x4 box in a corner or edge, but quite another to do it in the center like this with long words beaming out of it in all directions. Bravo.

Lovely week of puzzles thus far, isn't it? A-, C+, A, B, and I'm giving today's puzzle a grade of A-. Hoping for a B on Friday so we have all the letters of "Abacab."
Signed, Matt Gaffney, Regent for one more day of CrossWorld


jae 12:04 AM  

Medium-tough for me too.   Biggest hang up was hooCh, then juiCE before SAUCE.   That kept the middle sparse for a while. 

60's rock and roll helped as did finally committing PNIN to memory a while ago after seeing it 6 or 7 times. 

Would cluing RENNER with "The Hurt Locker" have been too easy?

Unless you know PETER TOSH and DULCINEA the middle South could be a problem because I live in CA and  have driven through the area and SOLANO was a WOE. 

Clever theme, excellent reveal, a fair amount of zip, smooth grid, fun tricky Thurs.  Liked it a lot!  Pretty impressive debut David.

Billy 12:04 AM  

FIRST to say that this is the cleverest piece of crosswork my newbie eyes have ever seen!

Billy 12:06 AM  

OK, second.

Joe 12:17 AM  


r.alphbunker 12:19 AM  

Perfect Thursday puzzle that I blew at the end. Confused Peter Tosh with John Tesh, thought DULCImEA more likely than DULCINEA ending up with SOLAme county (interesting self-reference there).

Solve was Jackson Pollacky.

Casco Kid 12:20 AM  

Damned clever puz. Best in a long, long time. I got the theme wrong 3 times before I got it right, so I was solving it basically themelessly. PAINTITBLACK needed every cross and was one of my last fills. Never heard of it, and probably never heard it.

97 min. Scratched at SELECTEdS/ATd. Fatigue had set in and I wasn't going to check the puz unless I had to.

COATTAILS was vesTsuIts for a long time. sEePAST was another major barrier. iAINT suggested that only I's were hidden, so while DULCINEA and CUTSINTO were OK, PETERTOSH and ANATOLIA were blocked by my misperception of the theme. And on and on. Remarkable that I came so close.

wreck 12:21 AM  

I was off and running in the West and was quite pleased with myself when I saw PAINT "IT" BLACK fairly quickly. I then went to the places in the puzzle with 2 black squares and entered the "imaginary" "IT's."
I thought I had solved the puzzle until I realized there were many more "-" for clues that did not have the 2 black squares with it. After a long struggle, I finally saw what was going on and started to complete the rest of the puzzle. *** At this point, I was once again cussing the ipad app because I could not "circle" the black boxes or write in "I" or "T."
Once again, I was thrilled that I was about to crack one of the toughest Thursday's I had ever encountered - only to become totally exasperated to find an extraordinary number of personal NATICKS such as the LEE/RENNER cross, SOLANO/DULCINEA, etc.
A BIG DNF! A lot of work for no payoff!

retired_chemist 12:24 AM  

Totally clever, irritating at first because so much is opaque, then WOW once you see the theme and the opacity clears. I interpreted it as black squares when needed being either an I or a T. True, but I didn't notice that each time there was the dyad IT (which of course isn't true for the crosses - just the I or T).

Hand up for hooCh. gOAt before TOAD.

Thanks, Mr. Phillips.

Mark 12:36 AM  

Very enjoyable, but I found it easier than a typical Thursday, and it would have been even a little easier on paper. A year ago, though, I wouldn't have gotten close to finishing. My method here was to whiz through the confusion and let everything unknown--including the dashes--soak in while I filled in everything that was easiest. It didn't help, of course, that BRAVE slid neatly into 4D to get me off on the wrong foot. My breakthrough moment came with ANATOLIA, which was the first partial that I "knew" had to be correct.

Steve J 12:41 AM  

Liked this a lot as well, even if keeping track of which squares were I and T got a little challenging at times. Like @Mark, I found this very easy. That's the one criticism I think you can throw at this puzzle: Once you get the theme, it all comes together very quickly. I happened to get it very quickly. The NE filled in first for me, so I had PAINT (IT) BLACK seeded with a few crosses, making it easy to fill in and see what was going on. (Great song, by the way.)

Truly impressive that this, indeed, is David Phillips debut. Very nicely done.

@jae: I had the same thought about SOLANO. It's a gimmee for me, living in the Bay Area. But of the various counties that make up the Bay Area, that's one of the one or two most obscure to people not very familiar with the area.

@r.alph: Only in crosswords would anyone ever say they confused PETER TOSH with John Tesh. That gave me a nice chuckle.

Questinia 12:53 AM  

Superb puzzle of the kind that I look for in the NYT.
Major applause to Mr. Phillips.

wreck 12:53 AM  

I have to admit, I got a chuckle over the John Tesh/Peter Tosh confusion as well! Crossword's make us all see things in a myopic view sometimes! :)

okanaganer 12:55 AM  

By my calculations, if the "painted" squares are counted as white, this puzzle actually has only 63 words.

I too enjoyed the toughness, and was lucky to guess correctly at that SOLANO / DULCINEA crossing, knowing neither. Impressive debut David Phillips! On the Wordplay and Xwordinfo blogs, he talks about the difficulties he encountered constructing this, including the detail (that @Matt noticed) of avoiding any "stray ITs".

JFC 1:08 AM  

Tsk, Matt, this is the first time I felt your critique was from a constructor's point of view rather than a solver's. True, this was no slog and, true, it posed a challenge, but in my case CHECK IT OUT came quickly, so the rest was a grind, perhaps because I am a tad older than the author. It might be an A whatever from your point of view, but it was a C from mine. However, I agree it was marvelous construction.


Evan 1:48 AM  

Pretty much agreed with Matt -- fun long answers all around, though like @Steve J, I locked onto the trick pretty early, so this was easy-medium for me. I also shared Matt's confusion about the clue for 22-Down. I figured that if the solver is supposed to PAINT "IT" BLACK, you should take white squares and actually shade them black with your pen or pencil, like you could do for this puzzle from January 2014.

As others have pointed out, that SOLANO/DULCINEA crossing is downright cruel if you don't live in California and aren't familiar with Don Quixote (TAVI and TOSH might cause several problems too). Hell, I've never read Cervantes -- the only reason I got that crossing right was because I've seen DULCINEA pop up as a fill suggestion when I've built my own puzzles.

Still, I enjoyed working through this one.

David Phillips 1:49 AM  

Not gonna lie...I was mighty worried when I saw that Mr. Gaffney was guest-blogging this week. Phew.

@Matt: Those three "touches" you mentioned were definitely by design. The third touch is (in my opinion) what caused some messiness in the direct S and a proper name pileup in the NE. I nixed a few fills that contained extraneous ITs.

@jae: I actually thought cluing Mr. RENNER in reference to "The Avengers" would be a tad easier since the movie was more recent and grossed so much gosh darn money that I figured some people had to have seen it (besides my 3 or 4 or 100 viewings, that is...) I was hoping that {Pebbles, e.g.} would be the big stumper in that section.

Thank you for the positive (and negative) comments everyone! I welcome all constructive praise/criticism. = )

Anonymous 2:19 AM  

The revealer is fine cause the theme is that the constructor has painted the ITs black.

Great puzzle.

Leapfinger 3:19 AM  

@r.alph, Really? You conflated Peter Tosh and John Tesh? I almost swallowed my teeth... And they're all still attached.

My solve was more o a vertical Rothko: right, left, center (from bottom up)

I tried to rebus Questinea into 41-67Down.

See you in the morning when I'm awake

Danp 5:44 AM  

Ding #1 suggests that if Matt were a professor, no one would ever get a solid A. My standards are a bit lower, so I give both constructor and reviewer an A. And while it's interesting to see a unique perspective occasionally(eg. a teenager), I prefer the insights of an expert. Bias isn't always a bad thing.

mathguy 6:03 AM  

Great one! Loved the theme and it had more than enough crunch. I had to pass it off to my sweetie twice for help.

Jon 6:47 AM  

Great puzzle...got the theme actually pretty quickly after fumbling on the western section for a minute or two. Fill was beautifully challenging but not forced...best one in a while.

Gill I. P. 6:52 AM  

Phew....what a work-out! I didn't find this easy at all but boy did I enjoy it.
El ingenioso hidalgo loves DULCINEA del Toboso more than Rocinante. It took me going all the way downtown to finally figure IT out. When I did, I scooted back up-stairs and kept saying AHH and OOH. I couldn't get enough.
As others, SOLANO gave me a hard time and I travel that SMF/SFO corridor.
Has anyone ever read PNIN?
STELLA crossword, David Phillips.
Congratulations on producing one of the best Thursday's this year!

Anonymous 7:26 AM  

Clever puzzle, and the two nit picks in the review are IMHO trivial to wrong. Let it slide is not improper in respect to a petty annoyance, but I'll let your comment slide, and second, the constructor did exactly what he said, he painted the "it"s black.

I actually for once was smiling when I caught the trick in the puzzle, something I rarely do on discovering a rebus or some other trite theme.

James Dean 7:27 AM  

Very high praise for this puzzle. Clever execution, above average cluing. Took me forever to get the revealer and then a while longer to realize the "i" and "t" had dual use.

Only quibble: carpet is not my normal alternative to linoleum. Still, easily one of the best puzzles of the year.

Glimmerglass 7:42 AM  


loren muse smith 8:04 AM  

I was wowed by this. David – this is your debut?? Wow, wow, wow. First of all, I *love* the song PAINT IT BLACK, so there's that. Second, themes that use the black squares as something more than just as, well, black squares, thrill me to no end. (See below on three that I still think about):


Bill Thompson

Barany and Barocas

This played much harder for me than what others are reporting. To sit with a puzzle for so long and with so little filled in, my ego kept telling me there was some funny business going on, but I couldn't see it for the longest time. That P in PNIN was so out of my wheelhouse, but once I took the plunge and filled it in, filled in IT between PAINT and BLACK, it all became clear. I can't believe I had both WRECK and RALPH in but didn't put two and two together there. Sheesh. To make matters worse, my dead-tree version had a plus sign in that first square of 1A and 1D, and I was so lost, I thought that was part of the trick for a while.

@jae, David – I didn't know any RENNER, but I did notice its anagramness.

Anyone else have "let pass" before GET PAST? Before OGRISH cleared that up?

And I'm in the group with the "Solane/Tesh" cross. Oh well.

Matt – I really appreciated your coloring the grid to see those two parts showing the internal 4x4s. That would have been completely lost on me. Essentially only 30 blank squares. Holy moly!! I'm always trying to fill grids with maybe 40 black squares, adding two here and there, vaguely wondering what the big deal would be with 50 black squares whenever I get stuck. Heck – a grid with 68 black squares? I'm all over it. Again, David, I take my hat off to you!

Also, Matt, remembering your yesterday's VC pattern of OUGHT TO – I kept considering the weird pattern of ISAIAH. When you're trying to suss out the word, well that pattern is just odious. :-)

And for me, LET IT SLIDE is definitely in my language. In fact, it feels just a tad different from "let it go." LET IT SLIDE – you'll overlook it. "Let it go" – you'll forget it.

So, David – I suggest framing this puzzle and next to it framing some of the rave reviews you're getting! I'll be looking for your name now.

Susan McConnell 8:10 AM  

Loved this. Got the theme early and so just kept my eye out for the other black ITs. Very well constructed!

Add me to the list of people giggling about @r.alph's TOSH/TeSH comment....so funny!

Matt Gaffney 8:11 AM  

@Anonymous 7:26 said:

"and second, the constructor did exactly what he said, he painted the "it"s black."

Right, that was my point -- the *constructor* painted the ITs black, but the clue makes it sound like something the *solver* is doing to finish the grid.

evil doug 8:12 AM  

Proof positive that Sunday's A- was grossly inflated.

Loren: This reflects the heart of our ongoing debate on the problem of over-praising average or subpar puzzles. When every construction is like the children from Lake Wobegon--above average--then how can a truly noteworthy grid like today's be appropriately commended?


Matt Gaffney 8:14 AM  

Also Anon 7:26: I've checked four online dictionaries and they all use my definition of "let it slide," and none have included the usage here. So I think I'm 2 for 2 on my nitpicks.

Matt Gaffney 8:17 AM  

"Every construction is above average" at Rex's site, Doug?

Not that you're trolling or anything, but if you were, I'd give that line a B+.

AliasZ 8:20 AM  

It disturbed me that at first run-through of the across only clues yielded ROTH as first and KAOS as second entries way down at the bottom, nothing else. I was sure the part of Turkey had to be ANATOLIA, but how can you rebus that into three squares? What the H-E-double-hockey-sticks is going on here?

Working in an east-to-west and south-to-north direction on my way up the grid, I arrived at DULCINEA whom I also know (she was sweet) then I realized what was up. Yeah, LET IT SLIDE! Soon after, the revealer. It did help that PAINT IT BLACK is an old-time favorite. ANATOLIA already that I knew ANATOLIA. What a neat puzzle! A whole lot of 11s, 10s, 9s and 8s all throughout the grid, all clean, smooth and common phrases worthy of a Fri. or Sat. themeless, except for WRECK IT RALPH. But it helped that we discussed IT here not long ago.

The problem is, the clue for the revealer is exactly the opposite of what you're supposed to do to get the theme. You are supposed to unPAINT "IT" BLACK to see IT. IT is painted black already which is why you can't see an IT anywhere in the grid. Right? Yet another level of misdirection -- perhaps unintentional this time.

But I enjoyed this puzzle so much, I could do KARTwheels despite this major misstep. I also agree that the SELANU / PETER TUSH crossing was OGRISH, and a real PNIN the asphalt.

@Matt, I was a little annoyed by the unseemly plural abbr. SCIS but looking at the puzzle as a whole, I won't let it worry me. It was well worth it.

Now it's time to join the knot of TOADS at work to earn my keep. How does that saying go, mucho trabajo, poco DENIRO?

Let me leave you with this song by none other than the great DINO Crocetti.

evil doug 8:32 AM  

Thin-skinned much, Matt? I'm enjoying watching you squirm, though, as you avoid the grade inflation charge aimed squarely at you.

And in spite of your selective edit job, my comment was directed at Loren, with whom I've had many conversations on hyperbolic praise by posters here.

No, Michael doesn't share that problem, which is why I look forward to his return....


Matt Gaffney 8:38 AM  


Amy Reynaldo gave it 4.33/5.00 at her site, so I'll share some of that grade-inflation love with her.

Matt Gaffney 8:39 AM  


Same thought re SCIS: sure it's not ideal, but considering the wide open grid, not a big deal.

Moly Shu 8:40 AM  

Challenging here until I got RALPH, and then got the theme and filled in the theme answers. Then, more trouble figuring out the individual I's and T's spanned answers both ways. No problem with the PETERTOSH/SOLANO cross. The NoCal thoroughbred fair circuit goes to SOLANO every year. Once again, being a degenerate gambler/reggae listener pays off.

Initially wanted Let It Bleed but couldn't make it work and knew it wasn't a "hit" song. I liked the combo of the Rolling Stones and Peter Tosh. If anyone's interested, find a copy of Walk and Don't Look Back, a duet between Peter Tosh and Mick Jagger. Pretty cool stuff.

joho 8:41 AM  

Oh, how I love a Thursday just like this! You start out knowing something's up but don't have a clue to what it is. Until slowly, for me very slowly, you plod along until aha! I finally got IT!
Loved, loved, loved this puzzle, thank you, David Phillips! And congratulations on your most impressive debut!

I did have one wrong square at SOLANa/TaSH but that in no way dampened my enthusiasm for this one.

@loren muse smith, I had sEe PAST before OGRISH got me GET.

This was a Thursday to remember!

Susierah 8:42 AM  

Toughish? Really! Challenging! After an hour , I didn't get it, so I came here. Too many obscure clues for me, and the hypens just confused me. I knew there was some sort of Thursday trick, but not knowing Pnin really did me in. When I googled that, I got the paint it black, but was still not getting the IT in the theme. Casco Kid, good for you for sticking with it for 95 minutes! A big dnf for me, and one of the hardest Thursdays!

CY 8:52 AM  

@David Phillips (great debut, by the way):

I'm afraid you blew your chances of having Pebbles be a stumper (at least for me) by referring to it elsewhere in the grid. Getting DINO made FLINTSTONE a gimme. Perhaps you assumed that people tend to solve the puzzle in order, but that's definitely not a given.

Ms. Absinthe 8:53 AM  

First time I've left a comment, although I've read you all for a while now. Call me lurker. But I loved this puzzle so much I wanted to say so publicly. My quibble was including the Disney movie. Am I the only one who had no idea what Wrecking Ralph is? Pnin, on the other hand, is one of the funniest books I know. Highly recommended, especially if you're employed in academentia, as I am.

Mohair Sam 8:54 AM  

Very, very impressive debut David Phillips. Wow.

Filled in what little we could and stumbled from clue to clue until we found the revealer - had the ACK down below filled and once we got the theme things filled nicely, although we had to suss out two possible naticks (the N in RENNER - remembered him in "Hurt Locker" - and last "O" in SOLANO; figured it had to be Spanish sounding). Luckily I reread Quixote a couple of years ago and DULCINEA was a gimme or we would have been buried in the South.

Excellent comments by @Matt. Never would have appreciated the two 4-squares if hadn't pointed it out. LETISLIDE irked me a bit too, but didn't even notice the PAINTITBLACK nit.

Hey @lms - if you love the song you might enjoy YouTubing a Tracey Ullman Show skit called "Decoration Day" (I don't know how to link things).

Is it just me or have we had a good run of puzzles lately?

Casco Kid 9:09 AM  

It seems I have heard PAINTITBLACK, probably a thousand times. But I didn't know it was called that, and I didn't know it was a Stones tune. Thanks for nothing, American deejays!

Z 9:13 AM  

Wouldn't matter how you clued RENNER, I wouldn't get it. OTOH, TOAD the Wet Sprocket's fourth album is titled DULCINEA, so that one was no problem here.

"An instruction to be followed..." doesn't actually say "by the solver" anywhere. If you want to criticize the passive voice I'm right with you, but the clue is otherwise okay. In a similar vein, I think the LET IT SLIDE criticism is a stretch. 'Let it go,' 'LET IT SLIDE,' 'don't worry be happy,' c'est le meme chose.

@Evil, I agree that if you praise everything you praise nothing. The Sunday blog is not an example of this, however. It was a fine Sunday puzzle and the write-up was an accurate critique.

Z 9:18 AM  

BTW- What hyphens? The dead tree version doesn't have any hyphens.

Norm 9:46 AM  

This was very enjoyable. I got CHECK[IT]OUT quickly and initially thought the theme would build on the "out" concept. What's the word for the incorrect "aha moment"? But, ANA[T]OLIA had to be right, so that put me straight. David, I can't believe you thought "Pebbles" would be the stumper in NE. RENNER was a complete mystery for me, so thank goodness for FLINTSTONE as a gimme. :-)

jdv 9:54 AM  

Medium. Perfect Thursday. Figured out theme halfway through. Four letter Nabokov novel is usually PNIN. Never heard of SOLANO. Revealer was good. My only nano-quibble is the extraneous pair of two black squares; one at the end of PANT and one preceding BAND. I thought there might be an IT concealed in them.

chefbea 9:57 AM  

Too tough!!! did not finish and came here. Too many comments to read will do that later

Knew Karo!!

pmdm 10:05 AM  

I seem to be in the super minority here, disliking this puzzle fairly strongly.

Things hidden under black squares (letters or rebuses) is hardly rare in the crossword world. While I do appreciate how the idea was implemented in this puzzle, for me I can remember far more interesting ways of using the black squares. My reaction to this puzzle's theme: nicely done, but no big deal.

(Some of my reaction may be a result of my finding the theme so easy to crack. Dulicinea was a gimme for me, which with a couple of crosses got me "let it slide" almost immediately into the puzzle.)

What transformed my shrugging shoulders into a scowling frown were the frequency of proper nouns. I envy all of you who enjoyed this puzzle much more than myself.

(While Evil Doug probably approves of a contrary evaluation of the puzzle, I suspect he would prefer my complaint to be expressed more acerbically. No way.)

AliasZ 10:09 AM  


I think you may have missed the point of my "...annoyed by the unseemly plural abbr. SCIS but looking at the puzzle as a whole, I won't let it worry me..." comment, which could've been replaced by "I can LET IT SLIDE," that is "not worry about something annoying."


If you read this, I hope you forgive me for encroaching on your exalted turf by swiping a few gems from your intellectual property, which once again, SLEW. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. I will be glad to mail your royalty CHECK (SOLANOs you send me a bill) to your usual address at TOAD Knots Landing of the rear STAIRCASE, Fingal's NAVE, PEORIA.

Steve J 10:12 AM  

@evil doug: On Sunday you noted you hadn't done the puzzle. Did you end up doing it? If not, how can there be proof that its grade was inflated? Especially when there were quite a few people who liked that one (and not all of them Lake Wobegon raters). It's like saying a class you never took at a college you never went to isn't graded properly.

I do agree with the sentiment that if everything is excellent, then nothing is.

@AliasZ: I was also bothered by SCIS for a bit. Like you, I quickly stopped caring as it was one small bit in an otherwise impressive puzzle.

@Mohair Sam: It's not just you. I think the quality of puzzles has been noticeably stronger over the last few weeks. Especially compared to a few months ago. At the time, both Rex and Matt in one of his guest stints had pointed out that the NYT seemed to be in a slump, and many people jumped all over them for that. But you have a stretch like this recent run, and think back to 3-4 months ago, and, from my perspective, there's a clear upgrade in quality that we're enjoying now.

@Z: Thanks for the reminder on who had an album called DULCINEA. When I filled that in, I said to myself, "I know I used to own an album from someone named that, so this must be right," because otherwise that was just a random string of letters to me (and I did read "Don Quixote" way back when).

r.alphbunker 10:15 AM  


I did not know enough at the time of the solve to actually confuse PETER TOSH with John Tesh because I did not know who Peter Tosh was. Here is what I knew:

1. There is a white new age musician named Tesh
2. Because of a serious genre clash, it is highly unlikely that he was ever a member of Bob Marley and the Wailers.

So applying the heuristic to favor the familiar I wrote in TeSH. This is somewhat like the sot searching for his keys under a street lamp because the light is better there.

These are also possible reasons for the mistake

1. I thought the "it" in WRECK[IT]RALPH referred to the crossword puzzle solution.

2. Since we had to replace black squares with white ones to get the theme, I thought it would be okay to replace a black musician with a white one.

Nancy 10:17 AM  

Too tough for me, by far. First time I've ever Googled, having already labeled this a DNF. But the Googling didn't help me at all. Would knowing the song "PAINT IT BLACK" -- damn, yet again ANOTHER obscure song title!!!! -- have helped me? Not at all. Had no idea what the trick was until I came here. If I'd solved I would have loved the trick of the puzzle, because it's very, very clever. But I hated all the fill, which was full of obscure names and arcane info. So great puzzle construction with lousy fill. Making this a mixed bag.

Laurence Katz 10:23 AM  

Loved this puzzle.
But one cluing error. Peter Tosh was NOT a member of Bob Marley and the Wailers. He was one of the original Wailers, who then became Bob Marley and the Wailers after Tosh and Bunny Livingston (aka Bunny Wailer) left the group.
I have no problem with the theme clue wording, which I think is entirely accurate. It is instructing the solver to see "it" in the black squares, hence "paint it black."

Arlene 10:26 AM  

I don't know pop songs - so had to Google to fill in the rest of PAINT IT BLACK - as I never heard of it.
And from there it was really a cute solve.
I'm glad to see I'm also not the only one who got stuck at SOLANO/DULCINEA. At least I'm in good company. And having something fresh and new on a Thursday - priceless!

evil doug 10:29 AM  

At least nobody thought it was Peter Tork....

"Hey, hey, we're the Wailers!"


John V 10:33 AM  

Great puz, great theme. Got snagged in NE with LEE/RENNER/PNIN cross which comes across as unfair; snagged at SOLANO/TOSH cross, too as I had no idea who he is; wanted SONOMA at the county.

All right, though. Great debut, David!

Leapfinger 10:33 AM  

I may be jumping in prematurely with both feet on this over-praising issue, but I think a fair part of the operative effect is currency...I ain't talkin' dinero here, but

When I'm not near the puzzle I love,
I love the puzzle I'm near.

The current pleasure is the one that's felt, the past ones are memories. So if you want to rate them all together cerebrally, that's fine, but there's an extra, um, frisson to mixing in the current, more visceral reaction. It doesn't have to be mind vs body.


mathguy 10:34 AM  

I agree @Steve J. The quality is on the rise.

Thanks @Matt for pointing out the two squares framed by the four ITs.

RAD2626 10:54 AM  

As strictly a solver, I find it amazing that a constructor can create something so complicated without getting lost. And the three 'touches" Matt outlined and David commented on make it that much more remarkable. Congratulations. Terrific puzzle albeit hard I thought even for Thursday and even getting at least the IT part right away from the Stones. Took awhile to realize the "I" and "t" were in the crosses as well.

Had trouble on the top since I did not know ECARTE and tried "spAdes" and "bridgE" first. STAIRCASE clue fooled me for quite some time as well. Wanted some airplane/airport answer to fit.

Carola 10:56 AM  

@David Phillips, thank you for the puzzling fun; @Matt Gaffney, thank you for pointing out the beauty of the construction.

I'd not heard of PAINT IT BLACK, so I had to figure out the theme elsewhere - loved seeing how it all came together. I think my favorite moment was seeing DULCINEA materialize next to PETER TOSH

Trouble spot: I thought that the "flight setting" was some sort of ????RoutE, so that kept me from seeing ENCIRCLED and COATTAIL until the very end.

@David, on "Pebbles" - FLINTSTONE was my fourth entry, after PNIN, PANT, and TOAD gave me the crosses.

Susannamac 11:02 AM  

Enjoyed the puzzle. And if done in pencil or black ink on paper, we do indeed paint "IT" black.
Loved the visual of Peter Tork singing with the Wailers!

loren muse smith 11:09 AM  

@Ms. Absinthe - you're no longer a lurker. Welcome!

@ED – I'll cheerfully (surprise, surprise) admit that I have little, if any, credibility here regarding my opinion of the quality of a puzzle. I know my predictably-nice comments elicit eye-rolls from legions of readers - those who don't just skip my stuff entirely. What is dearer to me when I comment is pointing out aspects of language that I notice in a grid. (More and more people are saying that they come here *only* to see a discussion on the puzzle itself, so I'll try to rein even those observations in some.)

That Sunday puzzle wowed me, too, so my comments, while hyperbolic as usual, reflected the kick I got out of figuring out the trick and solving it.

Ok, so I'll step up to be the president of the Lake Wobegon Posters Club.

r.alphbunker 11:31 AM  


To you a puzzle is not so much something to be evaluated but rather is a catalyst for your story-telling. I like that.

I think it would be interesting if you and M & A were to team up and do a sequel to "My Dinner with Andre" where you start to talk about a crossword puzzle with no idea where the conversation will end up.

Benko 11:33 AM  

Hello from Germany. Tough puzzle on 2 hours of sleep and lots of jet lag.
I'm confused about the wiki entry for Peter TOSH--it says he was killed in a "home invasion". I had thought that after several clashes with the police, including a bad beating at their hands, he was gunned down at his house by Jamaican authorities.

Anonymous 11:40 AM  

Paint It Black is an obscure song? REALLY?!? NO, it's not, and I grew up in the backwoods of the South. Clever puzzle. However, I do think the cluing for the "Paint It Black" clue could have been better, since it was key to the whole thing. What the puzzle required was really the opposite--that one "paint black 'it'" as in transfiguring the black to I-T'ness, not taking "IT" and painting it black. Not sure how I would word it differently, though. Not my favorite type of puzzle honestly, but very well done for its type, I'd say.

Leapfinger 11:42 AM  

@r.alph, pish-TOSH! you SLEW me twice today. Heurism is my-ism, and I thoroughly enjoyed your analysis. Perhaps it's just me, but I dread lox on white bread.

Good tough puzzle: O GRISH! O PNIN on ear? Thought I'd be needing an adVISOR.

Most of the enjoyment came from the solve's building crescendo, the alteration of ups 'n'downs:
*ANA[T]OLIA: caught the trick of entries spanning black squares
*Serious grump at having to see if subsequent clue was a hyphen [solve w/ small AL grid]
*Ha! on seeing black squares were letters, AHA! on seeing all were IT
*Reveal PAINT[IT]BLACK was the perfect wrap

Clues that tickled my fancy:
Remote power source = AAABATERIES
Picked locks = AFROS
Flight setting = STA[IR]CASE, great mix of themer & misdirector

Thought that Clara Bow might pop up, and I cannot believe I'm the only one who had Philip DICK before Philip ROTH

Othe wronguns:
points - NOFEES
No way - NOSIR
ring - BAND [long time since '66]
bed - INN
Aiello - DeVito - DENIRO [All likely goodfellows, per me]

@Gilly, I pick up PNIN from time to time, mostly to work my biceps. @Ms Asinthe has me reconsidering that.
@Alias, what? No Fekete? I thought maybe Gyula, if not Zoltan ;)

Altogether a nice prELUDEto the day.
SOLAN, it's been good to O you!

joho 11:43 AM  

@loren muse smith, don't you dare! I'm obnoxiously upbeat about most every single puzzle I solve, too. That's because I almost always find a lot more positives than negatives along the way in each fascinating -- to me, anyway -- solve. I see nothing wrong with pointing out the positives as there will be enough criticism heaped upon these complicated endeavors of love as it is.

Skfaris 11:44 AM  

One of those puzzles where I'm screaming at myself while I'm solving but pleased when I finish. I really wanted "select few" for SELECTEES but that didn't work with FLINTSTONE which I got from DINO. I live in the Bay Area and went to school in Davis so SOLANO/DULCINEA was a gimme.
Nice puzzle!

JTHurst 11:46 AM  

Ok, let me get this straight, the answer to 32d is John Tesh but since the theme is to 'paint it black' the answer really turns into Peter Tosh. Dave Phillips, this is the greatest crossword puzzle of all times. Of course I may be prone to overpraising or raising the grading curve but if this and other puzzles are also the greatest then none can be great as some would say. And as Eeyore would say, "Why strive for greatness, if achieving it you can't be great." Oh well, the harder they fall as we all sit here in blogging limbo.

Oh by the way I am sure I saw a 6 foot 5 inch, male, skinny with an afro, playing a white guitar with Bunny Livingstone and Bob Marley in a video, shot in London, titled Bob Marley and the Wailers.

Anonymous 12:05 PM  

"Should I know the name David Phillips? I don't, but this is a very polished piece of work, especially impressive if he's a new constructor."

I notice that bloggers often profess ignorance of whether a puzzle is a debut or not. If only there were some website where such information might be available.

But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends - there is! Wordplay always has constructor information, and often even includes photos.

Matt Gaffney 12:07 PM  

I intentionally don't read other sites' reviews of a puzzle before blogging it myself, hence the ignorance.

mac 12:35 PM  

Excellent Thursday, but it was tough for me!

Got into some trouble because of "ferile" at 43D but it had to be opals. Ditto with "porn" at 42D.

For a while I tried to turn corners in the areas that weren't numbered, but it slowly came together

Too bad @Bob Kerfuffle is on vacation, I think he would have liked this one.

Leapfinger 12:41 PM  

@JTHurst, 'the harder they fall' was Jimmy Cliff.

@wreck and @r.alph showed commendable modesty in not drawing attention to their selves in the grid. Ditto for all the other Ole PALS and BAND[IT]S, as well as KAOS, in case he's lurking. Would anyone be as surprised as I was if I TOAD you my premarital name popped up in the grid. Probably knot.

Inflation: 50 CENT, now 72 CENT.

[Don't reign in @lms!]

ISAIAH it's time to turn TAIL and REcomPUTE what's for dinner this EAVE.

Anonymous 12:42 PM  

@Norm - How about "epiphano?"

You don't have to have read Cervantes to know Dulcinea. Hasn't anybody here ever heard "Man of La Mancha?" Wonderful musical by Mitch Leigh.

Loved this brilliant puzzle and the writeup.

Renee Downing 12:53 PM  

Dulcinea appears in a review of the Bolshoi in today's NYT. Not obscure by any measure.

Anonymous 12:57 PM  

Does SAS (Scandinavia) really compete with KLM (The Netherlands)? If so it also competes with every other European or world airline in the same way.

evil doug 12:59 PM  

Loren knows, from comments here and our (ahem) "private conversations" how much I enjoy her tale-weaving. And she manages to find tangents to the puzzle which add to the discussion, rather than distract from it.

Now that the runt stuff has (appropriately!) moved on, her clever writing stands out all the more--in spite of a small cadre of Muse wannabes who offer weak imitations in their efforts to mimic her inimitable style.

So while I dream of the day that you find even a small gripe with a flawed puzzle, Loren, you are who you must be--and I wouldn't change a thing. Just send me the first copy when you write your book....


Gill I. P. 1:02 PM  

@Loren, if you change any part of your schtick, I'm leaving! And if anyone says other-wise they can stick a PNIN where the sun don't shine.
@Leapy: You must have some bodacious teeth and biceps...
@mac: I too thought of Bob K and the TOAD reference. I'll add @Tita as well. Has she been shanghaied?

Fred Smith 1:26 PM  

@Anon12:57 --

Re: SAS/KLM competitors?

You're right that, in principle, KLM competes with many carriers. In the puzzle, though, one would assume there was some kind of similarity to narrow the field. Like "Northern European airlines," e.g. With 3 letters, SAS should come quickly to mind as a leading possibility, with Denmark, Norway, and Sweden in the immediate neighborhood.

Bill from FL 1:31 PM  

This was a rare double: an amazing feat of construction that was also a (repeatedly)delightful solve. (PAINT... Wut? Aha!) And it fit neatly in my lunch hour.

Gene 1:48 PM  

Nice puzzle; my NATICK was SOLANi/TiSH.

Best Western Hotels, Inc. 1:50 PM  

@ED - Our Western Premier Mariemnt, conveniently located just off the Wooster Pike in Cincinnati has rooms available by the hour, day or week. We thought you might be interested, as it is approximately midway between your and LMS's respective residences.

We look forward to seeing you. Or not, wink wink.

The Staff of Best Western Premier Mariemont Hotels.

JTHurst 1:59 PM  


The Harder They Fall is Bogie's last film about a sham boxer who is made to believe he is better than he is with disastrous results.

While the Harder They Come is a film starring Jimmy Cliff about a country boy coming to Kingston to make good and becomes afoul with the police.

Regardless of the Beatle lovers, the soundtrack to this movie was the best ever made and introduced reggae to a large contingent of American listeners.

Mohair Sam 2:13 PM  

@loren - For heaven"s sake don't rein in anything, dig your spurs into the damned prose horse if you have to. I think everybody here enjoys your daily meandering in and around the puzzle, and off the beaten track.

@evil doug - Any opinion carrying a Lake Wobegon reference is a good opinion. One Kudo to you.

Casco Kid 2:19 PM  

@Susierah I was ATSEA on this one for the longest time. 45 minutes into it, I was still not getting the trick. Finally, I came to the Don Quixote clue, which I knew was DULCINEA. I had _ _ _ C [black] N _ A which was the give away that the I was hidden behind the black square. So that became the trick: hidden I's.

Interestingly, the C and the N in DULCINEA were correct, but the fill I had was incorrect for each. SOLANa County and ClIf (Clif) Notes. Later on, I fixed them. How's that for a bit of luck to pull it out?)

@jae, @stevej, @numinous and @Z have all told me to trust the clues I know to be true and be willing to throw out anything that was a guess. SDI and STELLA were the anchors in that whole area. Everything else was a guess, but at least I kept clear what was a guess and what wasn't!

The entire SW was a guess, which is why I couldn't tell that sEePAST was wrong as ROTH, IRE, SIR, HAY or PEORIA could also have been wrong. Nothing would give me OafISH, which was what I wanted for OGRISH, and AAABATTERY was _ _ _ BAETER_ for a long, long time until I finally gave up on sEePAST. Not an easy puzzle. Not at all.

Anonymous 2:27 PM  

FINALLY a themed Thursday puzzle I not only liked, but loved! The Stones have always been my favorite rock band, love some of their stuff (mostly earlier, from the Brian Jones and Mick Taylor eras (1962-69 and 1969-74 respectively)) more than others. The classic "Paint It, Black" (the comma was added, ungrammatically, by label execs and was not the title Jagger and Richards presented to them), from the album "Aftermath," featured highly talented/ill-fated Stones cofounder guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Brian Jones on sitar. For some reason, Rex did not include the famous clip of the Stones performing this on The Ed Sullivan Show, 1966, so I will:


Personnel: Mick Jagger: lead vocal; Keith Richards: guitar/backing vocal; Bill Wyman, bass; Brian Jones: sitar; Charlie Watts: drums.

RooMonster 2:47 PM  

Hey all!
This puz was a huge DNF for me! :-( I won't even tell you how many white squares I have left! Thought this very tough, not knowing alot of the big fills (since I did not see the theme at all:-( !) So I became exasperated and came here. Heck of a construction job. When I read what the reveal was, I still don't think I would have finished!

@LMS Don't go changin! I'm sure I'm not the only one here who looks forward to your posts.

@evil Your posts are always entertaining, and I'm impressed how you get your point across, if I can't actually put a word to it. (Wryly? Probably not...) (I just hope I didn't incur your wrath, that was meant as a compliment :-)! )


Lewis 2:54 PM  

Brilliant theme and execution. The cluing was tricky too, making this especially satisfying to solve. This is one of those puzzles that makes solvers AND constructors happy. Didn't know KART, SOLANO, LEE, and ANATOLIA -- they were good to learn. OGRISH is sure an ugly word. Looking forward to more from David.

POST PUZZLE PUZZLE (PPP): Two part Rolling Stoner -a. Aside from PAINT and BLACK, find a word in the puzzle that is in a Stones title. (Googling is allowed.) b. Find a word in the puzzle that is associated with Mick Jagger aside from STAR or BAND.

If you wish to post an answer, write the second letter of your answer(s), or use rot13.com .

sanfranman59 3:11 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 21:03, 17:28, 1.21, 83%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Thu 13:34, 10:31, 1.29, 83%, Challenging

Anonymous 3:13 PM  

I was having a hard time with the unnumbered squares until I cheated by Googling the Rolling Stones' song title. I knew there was a trick, but until then I was trying to turn words around the corner and that wasn't productive. Seeing "Paint it black" was the aha moment, and I fairly quickly filled in the other words with IT or I or T in them.

I'd say this was the cleverest puzzle I've done lately -- maybe cleverest ever. The reviewer's quibbles are just that -- quibbles. I'm a harsh grader myself (ask my students), but this was an A, and edging toward A+.

Anonymous 3:49 PM  

I found the puzzle to be challenging. I spent a whole lot of time trying to figure out how a rebus fit into the puzzle. Then was really frustrated with the center collection of "-" clues. Then I resorted to Googling. After 4 Googles to break the dam (PAINT[IT]BLACK, ANA[T]OLIA, SOLANO, DULC[I]NEA), I was on my way to a correct finish. ECARTE & ENC[I]RCLED were the last entries. (I've never heard of ECARTE.) The reward for sticking with it was a feeling of amazement and satisfaction at seeing Mr. Happy Pencil. Thanks, David! And, thanks to Matt for his comments.

@r.alph - you're killin' me!

@Casco - I put in SAUCE and took it out and put in SAUCE and took it out and put in SAUCE before I finally decided it had to be correct.


Anonymous 4:07 PM  

The puzzle was too clever for me. At least I realized there is a trick here. Mr. Gaffney I enjoyed your commentary very much this week. An A+ for you. When can we have you back.?

crossvine 4:55 PM  

This was a lot of fun. I worked it on and off all day (procrastinating at work. Shhh!) I also loved that this was a debut for David and that he commented here! Hello and Congrats David.

I got the theme pretty early since I have kids and we've all seen Wreck It Ralph. For some reason I had Vestsuit for the man's formal wear, like someone else here. That kept me from finishing for a while, till I just erased the whole entry.

I also had trouble with staircase. I kept thinking "flight" like airplanes, which I know was David's intent. But just stayed dim on that way too long.

This really was my favorite puzzle in a while. Thanks David.

RAD2626 5:04 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michael Dawson 5:08 PM  

One of my favorites ever! More David Phillips!

michael 5:56 PM  

A slow, but very enjoyable Thursday, Took me too long to get the gimmick even after writing in "paint it black" (which can't be too obscure if I know it though I am the right age).

Anonymous 6:10 PM  

Paint It Black was a #1 hit in the UK and US and in a few other countries, and has been on many Stones compilations over the years, as well as receiving plenty of airplay down the years. Not obscure by any stretch of the imagination. More like a huge hit. Did that help me figure out the puzzle? Sadly, no. :-p

dk 6:44 PM  

OO (2 Moons)

Form over function. Elegant design, yadda-yadda. I like solid clues and fill. You know like knot:TOAD.

Off to Barton Springs for a dip.

Norm 8:10 PM  

evil@10:29 classic! thank goodness I had put my chardonnay down before reading that one. hate to snort good wine out my nose. i have to admit that TORK actually crossed my mind -- very briefly.

Lewis 8:52 PM  


a. STAR (The Stones had a song called Star Star)
b. SIR (Jagger's been knighted)

Mette 9:01 PM  

DNF because of SDs (was thinking Star Wars, so the letter s sneaked in there), which gave me stAIA- for the prophet. Oh well.

Caught on, partly, at PAINT, though my brain originally put in red. What a clever theme. Great job David. Please give us more.

Anonymous 9:11 PM  

Matt said:

@Anonymous 7:26 said:

"and second, the constructor did exactly what he said, he painted the "it"s black."

Right, that was my point -- the *constructor* painted the ITs black, but the clue makes it sound like something the *solver* is doing to finish the grid.

I'm not this Anonymous Matt, but I said the same thing earlier.

First, paint it black doesn't have to be understood as a direction to the solver but a clue as to what's occurring in the puzzle, a puzzle made by the creator. Secondly, even if you want to read it as the solver, then it could be understood as direction to understand and solve the theme answers. Yes, painting an already black square black is not possible, it takes license from a literal standpoint you can argue, but the clue is understood.

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 5:42, 6:01, 0.95, 24%, Easy-Medium
Tue 8:38, 8:14, 1.05, 65%, Medium-Challenging
Wed 8:00, 9:31, 0.84, 14%, Easy
Thu 21:27, 17:28, 1.23, 85%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:57, 3:55, 1.01, 52%, Medium
Tue 5:41, 5:21, 1.06, 67%, Medium-Challenging
Wed 5:21, 5:58, 0.90, 22%, Easy-Medium
Thu 12:49, 10:31, 1.22, 80%, Medium-Challenging

Anonymous 10:07 PM  

Yup, remember what Einstein said about imagination.

Andrew Heinegg 11:50 PM  

Okay, a late (so no one will see it) rant. I have never liked the Rolling Stones. Oh no, a heretic! I have been to 2 of their concerts and came away unimpressed. You may like/love Mick Jagger but, he does not have a good singing voice. You may like the way this puzzle played out but, I do not like it because I do not like trick puzzles and that is what I consider this one to be. If you insist on constructing them, please be clever and humorous and have some good reveals. I just
don't feel it here.

jae 4:38 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
jae 4:52 AM  

I opened  this so I might as well finish it.  I realize that there are a diversity of opinions on what constitutes quality rock and roll, and Don McClean was certainly no fan of The Stones but...


Sympathy for the Devil

You Can't Always Get What You Want

kinda speak for themselves.

Hartley70 8:11 AM  

A day late but so much fun I have to say so. Without DULCINEA I'd still be scratching my head. xxoo to the constructor!

Anonymous 11:31 AM  

Good one!

Anonymous 11:40 AM  

Please don't pull the reins too tightly, Loren.

Anonymous 11:48 AM  

I love the idea of a dinner with Loren and M and A!

phil lacy 1:17 PM  

(20A: "Looky here!") CHECK IT OUT
Paint 'it' black and it is the answer in the puzzle.

I thought it unfair and incorrect to have a dash in the area that was already clued.

There should have been NO clue for those with the '-'

David Phillips 3:19 PM  

@phil lacy: The print version of the puzzle doesn't include the dashed clues at all and contains alternate numbering to compensate for the missing clues. Solving on Across Lite is usually very convenient for solvers, but, alas!, is not competently customizable for constructors. I would highly suggest checking out the print version.

Anonymous 6:15 PM  

Ladies and Gentlemen: I am awed by your taking this very difficult puzzle in stride ! I got the theme, but couldn't figure out how to fit it into the puzzle. Thanks for explaining, and demonstrating its elegance.Don't always finish Thursdays, but this blew me away...Maybe 40% done. Thank God, there are others courageous enough to admit their ignorance. Thanks to all.

Anonymous 2:02 PM  

I found the puzzle enjoyable but not at all difficult. It was immediately obvious that the Stone's "hit" was "Paint it Black", and it didn't take long before I figured out that it meant to stick "IT" in the black squares. Only difficulty I had was in the upper right, where 2 or 3 pop culture questions were essential to the solve and I had to Google them. I forget which one game away the theme, maybe Peter Tosh (obvious answer to the clue), but there were several others too where it didn't take long to see through.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:42 AM  

(Posting 8/4/14:)

Oh, my, both @mac and @Gill I. P. awaiting my reaction!

(See you at Lollapuzzoola?)

I grabbed this puzzle last night in my continuing jetlag haze (having more trouble shaking it than usual), thinking it was a Wednesday. How can this be so hard, I wondered, and why are there unnumbered slots? Are there, as someone noted above, answers that go around corners? It's funny how my expectations can affect my solving experience.

It also didn't help that my first entry, a faux-hold as lms once called it, was In TUNE with instead of In SYNC with, which also muddied the waters considerably. But it all settled out, and ultimately the whole gaggle of geese and the whole knot of toads enjoyed the clear water of a great solution.



spacecraft 12:37 PM  

Had a bear of a time getting started with this one, so I sorta cheated a little: went to the revealer clue, saw my all-time idols there, and licked my lips. Lessee: "Start Me Up" was the first title I thought of that looks like a crossword direction (anybody want to build THAT one?), but that was way later than 1966. Hey, I'm timeline terrible--but not THAT bad! And then it hit, PAINTITBLACK, and I was off and...staggering.

Even with this there were tons of things I didn't know: LEE Highway? PNIN?? Jeremy who? What county? And the Wailers. Somehow I missed knowing all their names. I never heard of ANATOLIA either, but at least THAT one wasn't naticked. The fact that I guessed all of these right was pure, simpe luck.

There are a handful of counties famous enough to avoid the obscurity tag: SOLANO is NOT one of them. But I figured: probable Hispanic ending = O. And RENNER? Total shot in the dark. Never mind running the alphabet for PNI_; those three letters ALREADY made no sense. Pick one out of 26. LE_? Most likely a vowel; I went with LEE--maybe after Robert E? Who knows? Anyway, REN_ER: I just stuck another N in there. Lordhavemercy, it was all right!

I see no real problem with the revealer clue. You have to think of the answers; then mentally PAINTITBLACK to enter it into the grid. It's just a different viewpoint, really.

Challenging, to be sure. Theme and execution: full marks. Detractions: aside from the naticks, we have a marvelous clue for 11d--then he gives the store away with 53d! Yeah, I did DINO first, which aha!ed me for the other. One of the few breaks we were given today; even the "fruit" is sneakily plural. Also NOFEES is a bit of a problem. It's commonly "no-fee," singular. All in all, I agree with the A- grade. A fun solve featuring my guys the Stones.

123: Hold on, Jacksons, wait your turn!

Dirigonzo 3:39 PM  

Wow - I marked several items for comment and @spacy hit on every one of them. I, unfortunately, guessed wrong on the PNIs/RENsER cross but otherwise it was a grand time, just what a Thursday puzzle should be!

322 - will it hold up?

DMG 4:23 PM  

Really stumbled around this one. Figured the "no number answers" were continuations of the previous clue, but even that didn't make room for ANATOLIA. so pluged on. Finally got enough solved to say "that song looks like it could be PAINitBLACK", and I was off and running. For those who don't know California counties, I grew up in San Francisco, and had to memorize all of them for some kind of 8th grade proficiency test. Did I know this one? Hardly, it came letter by letter. I finally got all but the NE. Couldn't remember how to spell the PNIN, and never heard of RENNER. I also thought the cross country route was the Lincoln Highway. Off to look that up!

Look: 306

Solving in Seattle 5:30 PM  

This was a high quality puzzle, David. Snapped to the gimmick with ANATOLIA, although I wanted Asia at first. The numberless boxes helped also.

970. @DMG takes it all.

Anonymous 6:06 PM  

Well dammed if the Lee Hghway didn't mess me up for the longest time. I only know of the Lincoln Hwy. Idid the puzzle all day in spurts until "check it out" fell into place. What a clever piece of work. Thanks, Mr. Phillips.

Ron Diego 8/28 3:PM PDT

Waxy in Montreal 9:51 PM  

Just back from several days at an INN midst the HAY of rural Vermont with no access to the NYT puzzle. So what a treat it was to be greeted by this amazing initial offering from young Mr. Phillips. A rare puzzle where grokking the reveal actually completely opened the doors to solving the rest of the grid. That was fun!

Only trouble was with the some of the same non-theme-related natticks others have reported: LEE, RENNER & PNIN as well as SOLANO & DULCINEA. WRECK-IT RALPH was also a big fat unknown for me (where are the grandkids when I need them?) as was ECARTE. OTOH, surprised how many people aren't familiar with PETER TOSH - I'm no reggae fan but thought he was about as well known as Bob Marley.

Will be most OGRISH if we don't have the opportunity soon to attempt more efforts by this innovative constructor.

925 - @DMG, you win the OPALS!

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