Title island of 2005 DreamWorks animated film / WED 7-9-14 / Hip-hop's Racist / Ancient fertility goddess / Some Scandinavian coins

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Constructor: Bruce Haight

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: STAR-STUDDED (60A: Like the Oscars … or the answers to this puzzle's seven asterisked clues?) — letter string "STAR" appears in seven answers:

Theme answers:
  • JUST ARRIVED (17A: *Words on a birth announcement)
  • SALES TARGET (26A: *Quota for a rep to achieve)
  • COSTA RICA (37A: *Oldest continuous democracy in Central America)
  • TOURIST AREA (51A: *Where to find money exchange shops)
  • LESS TAR (13D: *Cigarette ad claim) [note: AD is in the grid at AD MEN]
  • ASTARTE (40D: *Ancient fertility goddess)
  • STARE (!?!?) (27D: *Prefight psych job)
Word of the Day: BAL Harbour, Fla. (11A: ___ Harbour, Fla.) —
Bal Harbour is a village in Miami-Dade CountyFloridaUnited States. The population was 3,305 at the 2000 census. [Must be a major tourist spot? Because 3,305 … ?] (wikipedia)
• • •

I'm legitimately surprised at how deficient this puzzle is. The revealer is promising, actually, and five of the theme answers fulfill that promise adequately (all the longer Across ones + LESS TAR). But ASTARTE is a sore thumb, in that it's the only longer theme answer where STAR is *not* broken across two words (a really inelegant inconsistency); and STARE … I can't believe anyone is trying to convince anyone that STARE is a theme answer. It's practically just the word STAR. Not only is STAR not broken across two words, it completely destroys the thematical symmetry. It's not a bonus answer, it's a wart. There's more: you should never, ever have these long Across answers that are *not* theme answers. MADAGASCAR *and* WISECRACKS are both longer than the theme answer they abut (COSTA RICA). Clunky design, which is also evident in the way those little 3x3 sections in the E and W just sit there like sad appendages. Segmentation adds to the slew of three-letter words, which really downgrade the overall fill quality. And thus we come to perhaps the biggest problem: deathly fill.  Where to begin? Maybe ACRED? Maybe GIE!? Those just made me wince. CAS ASWAS SORORAL USEIN, all wince-ome. With the rest, there's just an overwhelming mediocrity. The S / SW is particularly illustrative here. EST and TEE and (put 'em together …) ESTEE and then TSE and (remonogram me!) RLS and then a lot more Es and Rs blah.

This could've worked. Find a replacement for ASTARTE. Get rid of the absurd STARE. Redesign grid so you don't have these awkward structural problems, i.e. over-long Across non-themers, on the one hand, and a hyper-choppy, 3-letter-heavy grid, on the other. Then completely refill the grid with a hell of a lot more actual words. Really sad to see a decent concept just mangled in the execution like this.

I did like the clue on BEER GUT, though (11D: Opposite of six-pack abs, ironically).

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


jae 12:05 AM  

Easy-medium for me too and what Rex said.  My expectations for Wed. are somewhat higher than for Tues. and this wasn't that interesting.  Plus, 2 GO answers, a bunch of initials, a WOE rap group...didn't hate it though.

Ugh 12:08 AM  

Or, rather than have the word STAR in the star-studded themers, maybe have star names there? To please those who've made it through the third grade?

Steve J 12:25 AM  

I loved the clues for BEER GUT and KEG.

I've run out of good things to say about this one. I could say a ton of bad things, but why bother? The quality of this one was a massive record-scratch sound compared to the two good early-week puzzles this followed.

On to Thursday.

wreck 12:27 AM  

I must be getting cynical as I find myself agreeing with Rex more often than not lately. I thought along the same lines as jae - I too noticed the 2 GO answers and was surprised Rex didn't mention them. Probably my ignorance, but I thought OATS were in bran muffins -- not on them.

Anonymous 12:38 AM  

I'll put it out there that this theme COULD work. But the theme answers aren't up to snuff. LESS TAR and JUST ARRIVED feel horribly contrived. SALESTARGET AND TOURISTAREA are pretty dull. Last but not least, ASTARTE is something from obscurity land.

And plenty of cruddy fill to boot.

Moly Shu 1:45 AM  

Agree with the coulda been better comments. 2 GO's (plus an AGO) and 2 AD's, 2 2 many. It feels like someone looked at the finished puzzle, saw STARE, and thought, "oops, we've got another theme answer here. Better make it 7"

I liked the long non- theme answers. Didn't like COMTE and whatever GIE is. Guess they didn't want to clue BAL as a baseball abbrev. because they already had TOR. But if you're going to double up on entries, why not clues?

Benko 2:10 AM  

I live in Florida and spend some time in Miami-Dade each year. Never heard of BAL Harbour, so there's that. The two GOs did bother me a bit.
Here's to the command performance by the Germans at the World Cup today!

chefwen 2:44 AM  

Bal Harbour was a natural answer for me. Spent a lot of time in Florida in my youth. A great escape from frozen Wisconsin. Just getting off the plane and breathing in the warm air. Nirvana!

Jisvan 3:33 AM  

OK, I'll try to like it: Imagine you have JUST ARRIVED in TORTUGA, or MADAGASCAR, or maybe COSTA RICA. As you walk through the TOURIST AREA, all the street merchants are trying to get your attention, because you are a such a good SALES TARGET. Then you see him waiting for you, the RAJAH, with ROSES! As the STAR STUDDED tropical night envelopes you, he reaches out and folds you into his arms all AT ONE GO, or else, maybe you throw yourself into his arms and whisper hoarsely into his ear ITS A GO. But not both, not even in MADAGASCAR. There are limits.

Leapfinger 4:49 AM  

STARE was passing strange, and it's probably significant that, in another culture, ASTARTE is ISHTAR.

To be honest, I got a kick out of that palindromic little ennead in the midWest: MOM-ABA-DAD, and a MAD-MAD sandwich, to boot. On the other hand, a bi-i-ig mistake to give "C AS in cat" STAR billing, front and center.

On a purely personal level, I found it too soon to use "Let's roll!" as a clue; for many of us, I think, that phrase will never be ordinary again.

[The above was typed but somehow not sent for about 4 hours. I suppose one might say that I slept on it. Good night/morning.]

RooMonster 6:24 AM  

Hey all!
I haven't done the puzzle, nor read any of the comments yet! (Like Christopher Walken says in Joe Dirt, "What nerve!")I came here to flaunt my latest runt puz! Comments welcome, good, bad, or ugly!
Have a great day!

Gill I. P. 6:54 AM  

This one grew on me - kinda like a new cartoon does...
@Rex is point-on though, and I like his comments today. Not snarky at all and something I'd like to hear if I were to construct a puzzle.
I liked the cluing but some of the answers had my head itchy. SORORAL just looks so wrong. RINSES are salon supplies? Then I thought how in the world is a land baron ACRED? I was scrambling around trying to think of a capitalist type word that might fit.
So, (hi @Questinia) while there might have been a GO-GO too many, how can you not like a puzzle with TORTUGA and MADAGASCAR in it even though they don't belong.
@chefwen: I know what you mean. When you get off the plane in Miami, go get you luggage and walk outside the terminal, you can smell that sea air. It's unmistakable....Puerto Vallarta has that same smell.

RAD2626 7:31 AM  

There must be something wrong with me. I thought the puzzle was fine, albeit easier for me than Tuesday. I thought the two down GO clues were a nice touch not clunky. I thought the long non-theme acrosses were okay as well. Maybe the construction was not up to snuff for construction fans but as a solver it was fun. Agree with others: BEERGUT and KEG were great clues. And the more stars the merrier.

chefbea 7:55 AM  

Easy puzzle but was confused by all the long answers that were not part of the theme. Also loved beer gut and keg and of course...mac 'n cheese!!

Arlene 7:55 AM  

I almost had STAR CROSSED, as that is sometimes a crossword gimmick - but it was apparent that the theme answers were STAR STUDDED - a much simpler concept, more suited to a Wednesday.

SORORAL is a new one for me! Is that the feminine for fraternal?

r.alphbunker 7:59 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
r.alphbunker 7:59 AM  

I think the anomalous STARE answer was something to stare at discretely like a beauty mark.

CAS ASWAS SORORAL USEIN, etc were just a little static that did not interfere with the good stuff in the puzzle

POST PUZZLE PUZZLE (PPP) (With apologies to @Lewis)

There are four parts to this one.

1. Replace one of the white squares in the puzzle with a black square so as to split an Across answer into two answers and to shorten one of the Down answers by one letter. Doing this will ruin the symmetric grid but otherwise the new answers will be acceptable. A possible answer is PPP solution

2. If my PPP solution were the actual puzzle do you think you would have noticed the asymmetry?

3. If you hadn't noticed the asymmetry but learned of it afterwards, would that have ruined the puzzle for you?

4. Do you think it is time to drop the symmetric grid requirement?

jberg 8:01 AM  

@chefwen - I grew up in frozen Wisconsin and always thought the people who headed South were silly. Now I live in relatively balmy Boston, and couldn't make it through the winter without my spring break in Captiva.

@leapfinger, thanks for clarifying what CAS in CAT meant! I'd failed to parse it.

Now that ORE seems to have displaced EEL, it was at least nice to see it clued differently today. That, and the return of the hairdressing clue from a couple of days ago, are maybe the high points of this puzzle.

A little research reveals that ASTARTE was the chief god of Tyre, Sidon, and Eilat, and now has her own hotel on Santorini -- hardly obscure!

Susan McConnell 8:06 AM  

Agree with Rex. The whole thing felt clunky and awkward.

AliasZ 8:24 AM  

A. COSTA RICA is not a STAR entry, it is a COSTAR entry.

2. STARE has no symmetrical theme pair unless S-TILT is a newly-discovered STAR in the TORTUGA (affectionately called by astronomers the Youvegottabekiddingme) Galaxy. By the way, wasn't TORTUGA eliminated early from this year's FIFA World Cup?

III. Since when are two GO phrases allowed in two long down entries in the same 15X15? Wow!
- 5D: Metroxylon sagu (true sago palm) is a species of palm in the genus Metroxylon, native to tropical southeastern Asia in Indonesia (western New Guinea, and the Moluccas), Papua New Guinea, Malaysia (both Peninsular Malaysia and Sarawak) and possibly also the Philippines (though may have been introduced there). Yeah, THAT SAGO.
- 12D: A super-heavy personality - A TON EGO. While "Taciturn priest's response in the confessional" would've been a better clue, it still is a GO phrase. This bloke sitting in the confessional says: "Forgive me Father for I have sinned." The response comes from the other side of the tiny window: "ATONE. GO."

Other comments:

- Target sells cheap gazebos called the "Threshold™ Madaga Gazebo Collection," a flimsy prefab atrocity that looks like it will collapse on you in a strong wind. That is exactly what happened to me. I had to get six stitches. Would you like to see my MADAGA SCAR?

- The "BEERGUT Plumber's Amateur Comedy Club" had its seventh annual convention in Las Vegas last month. Boy, you could feast your eyes on hundreds of disturbing WISE CRACKS.

- A native tribe was recently discovered deep in the Amazon jungles. Their language was named "Aswa" by Dutch anthropologist Arjen van der Füngerhooven. They have became known as the ASWAS.

PS. I made up these last three. Please don't call your lawyer ENSUE me.

"What are USEIN'?"

Nathan J. Lichtenstein 8:34 AM  

Am I the only one not a fan of RINSES? I thought the clue was a bit of a stretch. Same sentiments as others regarding ACRED. I was looking for an actual noble or social title.

RAD2626 8:41 AM  

@r.alphbunker. PPP I think two work if you accept a proper name and a weed. Answer: probably, no, no.

joho 8:47 AM  

STARSTUDDED is a great reveal and a brilliant concept ... but I have to agree with @Rex that the puzzle on whole didn't sparkle as much as it could have. I still enjoyed it, but did find MADASGASCAR and WISECRACKS confusing. In fact, I wanted it to be MADAGAStAR!

There's also a STARE in TOURISTAREA.

@Jisvan, nice!

And, yes, BEERGUT and KEG are great!

Anonymous 9:00 AM  

RINSES are indeed stocked in salons. How else would there be blue - haired ladies? Goes nicely with Monday's puzzle.

Sir Hillary 9:07 AM  

Liked the BEERGUT and KEG clues. Liked buffalo roaming the RANGE crossing RURAL Wyoming. Liked the stacked tropical vibe of TORTUGA, MADAGASCAR and COSTA RICA.

Disliked most everything else. But not for OBAMA, this grid could have been created as far back as whenever LESSTAR became a selling point for tobacco products.

I have to think that STARE was a leftover that was deemed a theme entry only after the fact.

Ludyjynn 9:33 AM  

@Rex, BAL Harbor is a chi-chi, high rent enclave due north of Miami Beach, w/ the ritzy Bal Harbor Shops, ideal for celebrity watching and emptying your wallet.

Despite the valid criticisms of this puzz. expressed by OFL and others, I enjoyed some aspects a lot, particularly the sub-theme of travel terms and phrases sprinkled throughout: JUST ARRIVED, TOURIST AREA, RURAL, RAJAH, NEV, TORTUGA, MADAGASCAR, COSTA RICA, EDEN, CSA, RANGE, THATS A GO.

Thanks, BH and WS.

NCA President 9:40 AM  

Over 20 comments and no mention of AAA. I've seen that a lot (doesn't excuse it), but in a puzzle with three GOs (ATONEGO, THATSAGO, AGO), two ADs (ADD, ADMEN), and the already mentioned initials and SORORAL?, AAA deserves mention as symptomatic of a larger problem.

This puzzle leaned in the challenging direction for me because I resisted putting in all of the above, second guessing the puzzle and thinking that couldn't possibly be it...could it? Well, it was.

This puzzle kinda reminds me of those summers playing volleyball with my family at reunions in various places around the country. I played volleyball for a time in college at a pretty competitive level. It turns out, that at a high level the play is pretty predictable so it's somewhat easier to defend. But when you get your spastic sister and several other terrible players on one side of the net, you can't predict what will happen at all. As terrible as they are, it makes the game much more difficult.

This puzzle is like my spastic sister playing volleyball. Clunky, spastic, and unpredictable. This puzzle scored way too many cheap points is what I'm trying to say.

Anonymous 9:43 AM  

Bal Harbour is famous for its mall, which is full of high-end shopping for the monied, international crowd the area attracts.

ArtO 9:49 AM  

Totally agree with @Rex. ASTARTE and SORORAL. UGH!

GvtCnslr 9:56 AM  

Choppy, inconsistent theme clues/answers and decidedly less fun than a typical Wednesday. The only bit of cleverness was the 6-pack/beer gut interplay.

Mohair Sam 9:58 AM  

Rex is on a roll in our book, completely agree with him again today.

We solved ignoring the theme and still didn't like it much, way too many three letter words always means too much "ese", there's no getting around that. But when we saw that STARE was a theme answer? Yipes. And agree with most that it's best when long answers in a theme puzzle match the theme (except on Sundays).

Always smile at crosswordese DRJ. Years ago my mother-in-law looked up from her Sunday Times puzzle and asked me if "D.R.J." were intials for a basketball player. I answered that DR. J. worked, and told her that I thought NYT crosswords were vocabulary tests for English majors and parochial school grads - What was Julius Erving doing in there? Soon we were helping Mom with the puz every Sunday and when she passed we took it up for ourselves. So for us DRJ was the door to a very happy daily diversion.

Anonymous 10:16 AM  

So many great alternative clues:

They wrote "I'm so gangsta, prissy
Chicks don't wanna fuck with me" DAS Racist

Harry Reids's state, abbr. Not NEV, but INSanity

Best of all, unlearned Nobelist and worst president in last 70 years per poll OBAMA

Bob Kerfuffle 10:24 AM  

@RooMonster - Tried your runt puz - OMG!

Carola 10:30 AM  

Gosh, I liked it. The theme was creative enough for me that I need the reveal, which I think is great. Also thought BEER GUT, DOODLES, WISE CRACKS, MADAGASCAR, TORTUGA were original. Loved the clue for CREATURE and am fond of the name ASTARTE (@Leapfinger - "Wait, Ishtar isn't going to fit"). SORORAL was fine with me (fraternity-sorority, fraternal...) as was Burns's GIE ("O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!"). I had fun with this one all the way.

@Jisvan - *swoon* :)

mac 10:40 AM  

I think we've all learned to solve puzzles more critically after reading Rex for a while. This one had too many weak points, just not good enough.

I needed the reveal to get the theme, Madagascar and wisecracks threw me off completely.

Ironing my orange shirt for this afternoon.

Lewis 10:42 AM  

@rex -- Excellent writeup; informative and critical without whining or decrying.

@ralph -- I see two possiblities, and the letters taken out make the abbreviation for Colbert's home state. Answers to your questions: yes, no, not sure. And now I see that one of my answers is equal to yours. Bravo on this!

Yes, there are the two GO phrases, and there is also a MAD above a MAD, and at the bottom an EST very near to another EST. My favorite part was the clue for BEERGUT. This puzzle won't go into my "memorable" column (reserved for extra good or extra bad), but it made for a pleasant solve.

POST PUZZLE PUZZLE (PPP): I've found three 9-letter squares -- like a tic-tac-toe board -- where if you start at the upper left and go clockwise, you find four 3-letter words, and also, if you go counterclockwise, you find four 3-letter words. I'd say one of them is Monday rated, one Wednesday, and one Friday. Can you find them? (There may be others I didn't find.)

If you wish to post an answer, so as not to give them totally away, just write the letters in the middle square.

Answer later this afternoon, and Ralph often posts them on runtpuz.org.

Lewis 10:51 AM  

I should add that for the PPP, the three letter words can be found in crosswords, so may be initials.

r.alphbunker 10:53 AM  


While searching for your weed I found 6 other possible places to replace a white square with a black one so that are modified words are 3 or more letters long and are acceptable. But I did not find the weed.

I have posted those answers at the link I gave. Please let me know what the weed is. Don't worry about a spoiler given that there are 6 other answers.

Numinous 10:53 AM  

In the '70s, I dated a girl whos nickname was DR. J. She was in law school working toward a JD degree. Her name was Julia.

I did this puzzle in ONE GO. I've never heard anyone say AT ONE GO. I'm not sure I've ever heard an American use a phrase like that at al. Brits and Aussies, sure. I'd buy THATS A GO with a NASA type clue. Over all, the AGO-GO-GO clues struck me as odd.

I must be getting cranky these days, I don't know why.
When I think of RANGE as in Wyoming, I think of deer and antelope. When I think of buffalo, I think of prairies or planes.

My external keyboard for my iPad runs on top rated AAA Energizers. I knew ASTARTE, I don't know why or how.

The last time we saw a puzzle from Haight, everyone was full of praise. Today it seems he's mostly getting HAIGHT.

loren muse smith 11:00 AM  

I had a bit of trouble with this one, too. I kept forgetting to pay attention to which clues were italicized, so MADAGASCAR and WISE CRACKS kept getting in the way. Then I forgot again about the italics and ended up with a big ole dnf: I had "scare" crossing "Cortuga." Both seemed reasonable.

Yeah, the clue for BEER GUT was really good – never thought about that suds-stomach metaphor sloshing back and forth between describing a cut gut or a somewhat uncut gut.

I didn't really understand the clue for SEEDS – can't you be a SEED but not be a favorite?

I like the clue for DOODLE – haven't there been studies done on what your doodling tells about you? I usually practice the few Kanji characters I remember, writing them all fast and pretending to be an old important Japanese person who's just scribbling in a hurry. Then I scrutinize the scribbles to make sure they look authentically casual, sloppy and real. I imagine they don't. Probably look like I formed them grasping the pen between my toes.

@Nathan J. Lichtenstein - would ACRED be formed in the spirit of "moneyed" or "landed?" I guess I could then argue that my garden is weeded and my living room dusted.

@RooMonster, @r.alph, @Numinous, et al – my computer time is limited here in Sebasco Harbor, Maine, so I'll have to catch up on the runts when I get home.
Looking forward to it!

All the points on the drawbacks are well-taken. The reveal was superb, though, and I enjoyed it just fine.

Leapfinger 11:26 AM  

Well, I finally figured out what POC isn't, and what WOE is. ow I'm stuck on GO. What the deal here?

I really liked all the exotic (ex-otic?...hmm) place-names. Have heard of the Dry TORTUGAS, so figure that somewhere there are Wet ones. MADAGASCAR [didn't realize she had her driver's license] because lemurs and vanilla. MADAGASCAR was the focus country when I learned the Big MAC method of international country analysis, but that cross of MADAGASCAR/ MAC must be fortuitous, since BHaight wasn't in my class. Among my stash of secondary arcana: resource-poor MADAGASCAR only has vanilla to export, so it really bummed me out to learn that some enterprising US lab figured out a way to produce it in plant tissue culture, or chid you not.

@McGILLIcuddy, you flored me with yer late comment. I give up, you nailed it. Do what you will, just be gentle.

@AtoZ, What can I say? You know I'm a sucka for taxonomic humour. I'll match your Metroxylon with Ruralphloem, and raise your Malaysia with Beneaysia. More Timorrow, after I've brushed up on my card-playing.

I draw the line on my own behalf at Catholic jokes, and plumbing jokes GO out the window with the first signs of flooding. Me, I've had two more than Noah.

Hello, Fodder!

ACRED? As in "God's Little ACRED"? I am only half-ACRED. Perhaps one day soon we'll shortly be HECTARED.

All y'all stop pickin' on STARE, okay? It has noble origins in Ye Olde Musick: 'Twinkelle, twinkelle, Lyttel STARE', 'STARE of Wondere, STARE of Lyghte', etc. etc.

Don't U ASTARTE up with me.
Can't we all just Fred a STARE?

Finally, I'm with @ludyjynn: there are some problems in the construction, but still plenty to enjoy.

TORT U, Georgia!

Jisvan 11:29 AM  

Akk! Of course I told the RAJAH with ROSES "THATS A GO", not "iTS A GO". Did I mention he works for NASA? Hi Numinous! Off to work, as if one could actually do work in July!

Charles Flaster 11:45 AM  

Knew I would finish but it was unwieldy and took longer than a usual Wed.(24 minutes).AT ONE GO is NEVER used.But loved DOODLES clue.
Symmetry not as important as the thrill of the solve. Also Madagascar is my daughter's favorite movie and that was only way I knew it.
Overall a decent puzzle.

SenorLynn 11:47 AM  

Spot-on, Rex.
The go-go's--@AliasZ I liked your repurposings as well as the actual answers. @Numinous i know what the phrases mean but have never heard them, not even in novels with British military characters. Ditto with ACRED.
@Moly Shu in search of my Scottish roots, I attempted "Auld Lang Syne" & looked up all the colloquialisms like GIE.
@Gill I.P. I don't know why SORORAL isn't as common as fraternal. Could it be GENDERBIAS?

Anonymous 11:58 AM  

Put yer politicks back in yer pants pocket and zip it.

Also liked CREATURE comforts, but now am wondering what are non-CREATURE comforts.

For future reference, LESSTAR Pearson, Canadian PM, won Nobel Peace Prize '57. Just for today, make that No-belly.

@lms: Cut? Ripped? All this body sculpting really tears the muscles, don't it?

Eu me sinto tão mal para Brasil.

ABA-DAD a DOODLE do? COMTE me in on the Plus side.

Karl 12:00 PM  

Yep. Some fairly sucky fill here. Maybe it's time to resurrect ARETE and TOR. Haven't seen those in a while. Apparently EFTs are on the vergeof extinction as well...

Anonymous 12:04 PM  


Buffalo pilots, har!

Anonymous 12:12 PM  

ACRED? Maybe for someone with not much street creds.

Casco Kid 12:17 PM  

@numinous I'd say I did the puzzle inONEGO, but it was really two. The second go was to figure out why the first was a DNF. Turns out that BiL Harbour is not a place and that EnE is not an aout. (But, as @r.alph may confirm a.out is indeed an ExE . . . Andwhat's a Random Consonant™ between friends.) In any event, that's what you get for inONEGO.

Andrew Heinegg 12:17 PM  

Far too many awkward answers to be any fun ; Note to constructors: if you want to do revealer puzzles, you need to come up with a concept whose revealer has some humor or cleverness to it. Otherwise, the solving experience is a bit on the wrong side of tedium. Interesting how Rex's reviews make the mob irate on some days and nodding their heads in reluctant agreement on others. You can't please all of the people all of the time etc.

Leapfinger 12:31 PM  

@Lewis, I wasn't clear whether your 3x3s are limited to true enneads, or whether they could be defined within a larger space. I went with the latter option, and am submitting B, S and E as the first three I found that yield 3 solid 4-letter fill.

A fun exercise, and I'm impressed at how you come up up all these varietals.

The Oxen of the Sun 12:45 PM  

First long answer I got was STARSTUDDED and thought this was going to be a themeless, with the "theme" being that the clues were asterisk'd. Rolled my eyes initially, but then realized I would've liked it much better that way.

The Oxen of the Sun 12:45 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dick Swart 1:11 PM  

Some Oscars …

Astare and Stare? Way down on the "C" ;lst

Madagascar and Wisecacks? Two wasted talents needing better management

Alas, not star-studded. Maybe the Lost Articles found after the show

David Cole 1:17 PM  

I got STARSTUDDED right away, and thought about a rare Wednesday rebus with STAREDOWN at 27D. Too many letters, though, so eventually the horrible STARE went in.

Symmetrical BEERGUT and DRUMSET were the highlights for me, solid answers with great clues.

RooMonster 1:49 PM  

Oh, title is Combilations

RooMonster 1:54 PM  

Was Kerfuffle kerfuffled?

Questinia 2:09 PM  

@ jisvan made me cotton to the puzzle, provided I don't associate her fantasy with Bowles' The Sheltering Sky.

Bob Kerfuffle 2:38 PM  

@RooMonster asks, "Was Kerfuffle kerfuffled?"

Yes, he was (not an unusual state when he is confronted by a runtpuz!)

pulkit chitkara 2:45 PM  

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AliasZ 2:46 PM  

@RooMonster, Re: your runtpuz. Here is my review - I hope you don't mind.

I'm legitimately surprised at how deficient this puzzle is. The revealer is promising, actually, and three of the theme answers fulfill that promise adequately. I can't believe anyone is trying to convince anyone that TACO is a theme answer. It's not a bonus answer, it's a wart. There's more: you should never, ever have these long Across answers that are *not* theme answers.

This could've worked. Find a replacement for PTG. Get rid of the absurd TIF. Redesign grid so you don't have these awkward structural problems, i.e. over-long Across non-themers, on the one hand, and a hyper-choppy, 2-letter-heavy grid, on the other. Then completely refill the grid with a hell of a lot more actual words. Really sad to see a decent concept just mangled in the execution like this.


jdv 2:48 PM  

Medium. Didn't like this very much. The across clue/answers are much better than the downs. Like @numinous THATSAGO and ATONEGO feel contrived. I hope we don't start seeing a lot of 35d clues CAS. DAS Racist? I keep up with music and never heard of them. Saturday level cluing for ORE. Last square filled in was STARE/TORTUGA.

Anonymous 3:08 PM  


@Kanga here.

Got everything except the #4-square, but only by dint of liberal use of 'reveal incorrect'.

Pickin' a bone on 12A. I know when I'm 'in reverse'. I spose U think a dbl ?? takes care of that ----

Krewel & UnUsUal PUNishment, eh wot??

Anonymous 3:15 PM  

Can someone provide a definition of "fairly sucky fill"?Am I the only one who thinks these are just an amusing pastime?

Z 3:16 PM  

Enjoyed the solve, Rex is on point on the puzzle's weaknesses.

More importantly, neither drinking nor OBAMA cause BEER GUT. The actual cause is a combination of too many calories and too little physical activity.

@whoever asked about SEEDS, in some tournaments only the top 16 players are seeded, so those people are the favorites to make the last four rounds. Everyone else is "unseeded."

Go Dutch.

sanfranman59 3:19 PM  

Midday report of relative difficulty (see my 8/1/2009 post for an explanation of my method and my 10/15/2012 post for an explanation of a tweak to my method):

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

Wed 9:42, 9:40, 1.00, 55%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Wed 6:38, 6:08, 1.08, 72%, Medium-Challenging

Anonymous 3:21 PM  

Rilly fun to see some regulars goin' threw a changin' of voice & practicin' ventricle-ism. Gettin' near the border state of never knowin' hoo yer lissenin' tu.

LaneB 3:55 PM  

Didn't care for TORIC, EST, CAS or EARNED but managed to get through with a few erasures. For me, a bit harder than the usual Wednesdays

RooMonster 4:16 PM  

Wow! @aliasZ is mad aT me! (Just
because it rhymes! ) Thanks for the feedback! I didn't realize there were that strict of rules for a runtpuz, I just thought it was an exercise in oddity! I'll try to do better next time!

Fred Romagnolo 4:17 PM  

If I'm not mistaken, Lana Turner was a priestess of ASTARTE in one of those MGM spectacles, possibly "The Egyptian." I"m somewhat surprised at the number of people who question ACRED, to me a fairly common term for the landed. SORORAL is another not exactly unique word.

Fred Romagnolo 4:19 PM  

GIE is essential to knowing Burns.

wreck 4:57 PM  

@alias Z
I resemble that remark!

Lewis 5:12 PM  





(A TEG is apparently a sheep in its second year.)

@leapfinger -- Thank you for your kind words. By the way, I've sent you two emails in the last two days regarding your comments -- not sure if you got them.

AliasZ 5:12 PM  

@RooMonster, now for the real review:


Leapfinger 6:04 PM  

@Lewis, I also came up with



SAL, if you'll allow that ARRAS [plural] implies a singular ARRA

Too bad that
didn't yield a 3rd 4-letter word to qualify.

That email address goes to an account I don't always check regularly; I really should link them, I know. Shall check it pronto, if not sooner.

@FredRom, I haven't forgotten.

Ditto the NEAT for @RooMonster.

Anonymous 7:13 PM  

@r.alph 7:59 a.m.

Just realized what @RAD2626 was talking about, and I agree -- TARE and TORI, which doesn't have to be a proper name, just a bunch of doughnuts.

I'd notice that change in symmetry because it's so central. A more subtle change on the periphery, like EM[T] or [R]EA, might slip by.

o/w, no and no. Symmetry adds a touch of elegance, and can be fun to play with, like SLO-MOM or
"Take me back to COMTE-STEAD-inople"

Lewis 7:38 PM  

@leapfinger -- I'm not sure of what you're doing in your solutions, and where the four-letter answers are. Could you "decode" on or two of them???? Thanks.

OISK 8:34 PM  

IIRC, "Would some pow'r the giftie gie us, to see ourselves as others see us…" If not accurate, it is close. Except for one clue, this puzzle was fun for me. Surely there are non-hip hop ways to clue "Das"? But you knew I would say that...

Leapfinger 8:41 PM  

@Lewis, I'm remembering those math tests, where you had to 'show your work'...



SAL yields ARRA[questionable], ALAS, LAST, ASTA

Maybe I'm misinterpreting the rules too regularly, and had better just play quietly by myself instead of leaving confusion in my wake.

Gill I. P. 8:47 PM  

@Z: I read your post. I blew it again didn't I?

sanfranman59 10:05 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 6:27, 6:02, 1.07, 80%, Medium-Challenging
Tue 7:50, 8:33, 0.92, 23%, Easy-Medium
Wed 9:49, 9:40, 1.02, 59%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 4:11, 3:55, 1.07, 80%, Challenging
Tue 5:28, 5:25, 1.01, 53%, Medium
Wed 6:32, 6:08, 1.07, 68%, Medium-Challenging

michael 10:42 PM  

For once i agree with Rex. Probably liked the puzzle even less than he did.

Zeke 11:02 PM  

People, the internet is virtually infinite, there's room for all. So please, create your own runtpuz.blogspot.com, ppp(tm).blogspot.com, talklikeafuckinghickoncrack.com, whatever, but take that stuff elsewhere.

You're like someone whose been invited over to Rex's for dinner, but wheedle your way into staying the night. Before anyone knew it you've set up housekeeping in the basement, and invited all your drunk relatives over. You've even had your mail forwarded to Rex's.

Numinous 11:42 PM  

@Oisk, I believe it's "Oh would The Lord the giftie gie us . . . "

I'm not going to look it up, and this is not in the spirit of correcting you. You speculated that you might not be accurate and this is the way I believe I learned that line 50 years ago or so. Probably nobody will read this so what the heck? Anybody? Feel free to correct me tomorrow!

Numinous 12:02 AM  

You are not obligated to read anything that you are not interested in. Just skip over the things you find irrelevant.
We have developed a community here which revolves around Rex and his comments on the NYT Crosswords. Many of us react to these puzzles in ways beyond merely commenting on Rex's remarks. One person here sees the puzzles as a way of creating further brain teasers. More than a few of us enjoy engaging them.
Rex enjoys discussing the ins and outs of puzzle construction. Some of us enjoy constructing puzzles built on the outs of conventional puzzle construction. More than three of us enjoy playing with them.
Basically, it's all more or less on point: what can we learn or discover from the puzzles we confront every day here? How many ways can we enjoy the crossword puzzle process?

I believe Rex appreciates this as an open forum, not merely as an ego massager for his thoughts regarding a given puzzle. I believe he appreciates and values the community of people he has given rise to who are fascinated with the vastly different ways words and the things that can be done with them can be interpreted. I believe that if he wants to throw us out of his basement, he will. As yet, he has not!

WTF do you think you are to presume to tell the whole community here what to say, do, or how to behave here? It's Rex's house, not yours! It's Rex's house, not yours. He'll tel us when to shut up!

Numinous 12:13 AM  

Oh, yeah, and BTW, Anonymous 12:04PM. Who the hell do you think fly the planes our of that airport near Niagara Falls?

Zeke 12:20 AM  


I've been around here as a regular commenter since nearly the blog's inception. Hell, I've even guest blogged for Rex.

Back in the day, before it degenerated so much, Rex used to make a point to moderate the discussion. Contrary to your recent assertion, Rex did ask for a 3 post limit. He asked that people not use this blog to do such things as swap (puzzle related) recipes, talk endlessly about beets, any number of things not related to the puzzle.

The current state is that Rex doesn't read the comments, and I can't blame him. The majority of the realestate here is not puzzle related, but individual's little feifdoms, which don't belong here. They may belong somewhere, but doing it here is just squatting on someone else's turf.

You want to make runt puzzles, fine: put it up where you currently do, point out a new one is up here, but talk about it somewhere else.

Just as you are free to assert that I can skip over things, I can assert that people should respect the point of the blog, and comments, which is to discuss the current NYTimes Crossword puzzle, and that substantial deviations from that are rude and inappropriate.

Z 12:29 AM  

@Gill IP - ?

Anonymous 12:50 AM  

Kind of on point, in some ways.

O wad some Pow'r the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!
It wad frae mony a blunder free us,
An' foolish notion:
What airs in dress an' gait wad lea'e us,
An' ev'n devotion!

Interesting exchange, guys. See ya tomorrow.

Gill I. P. 3:40 AM  

@Z: You: "Rex is on point"
Me: "Rex is point-on"

I believe you win in the correctamundo category...;-)

spacecraft 11:53 AM  

Um, then would Chippendales be a "STUD-STARRED" show? Even the theme, which OFL tries to GIE credit for, seems a bit thin to me. Certainly those one-pointers STAR should not be hard to find linking two-word phrases. I agree that ASTARTE is an outlier, and as for START--well, the clue should not even have been italicized. It's OK as part of incidental fill; surely not as a themer.

Then again NONE of the clues in my paper were italicized, not that that's a big deal. I agree about the choppiness; way too many three-letter entries, including TWO (!) monograms. I kinda think one ought to be the limit per grid.

I don't mind longer acrosses being non-theme, but thopse twin GO answers threw me for a bit. I thought I'd found the theme. Moreover, both were awkward enough to appear forced. ATONEGO is something I've never heard uttered, and as for the other one, MUST we clue it with a really tragic phrase? We all remember Flight 93, and don't need any refreshers. I'm afraid this one EARNS another D-minus.

142, knocking...

DMG 1:55 PM  

My paper Couple of hard spots in this one. Unfamiliar with EZER and REATA spelled with an "e", but they came from the crosses. Had a bit of a slower time in the SW where I eventually has to rework "sass" into GUFF. Not helped at all by CGI, just knew it was some "word" that has been used in other puzzles. But, My paper italicized, but I didn't see why until I got the revealer! So it goes. A total misread of 27D as "prefLight psych job" made STARE even more mystifying to me than to most of you. Hit a Natick at Sq 22, but decided O seemed the most likely choice, so learned the word SOROTAL, and finished with a smile.

I'm with @Zeke on keeping this blog related to the NYT puzzle. While I understand the Runt puzzles provide pleasure to a few people, discussions of them here are no less annoying than the posts from the soothsayers. Get your own blog, or headline your posts "off topic".

25446. So many "cards" for so little!!

Sayer of Sooth 2:34 PM  

. . . . but of course, a line or two at the end of every comment making a never-ending "game" of the meaningless numbers in one's Capthcha is always intellectually stimulating an on-topic.

DMG 2:36 PM  

Just checked my post. Guess the PASTE command messed up and posted part of some other answer! Today's comment starts on the third line with "My paper italicized.....". sorry 'bout that.

Another lousy deal 275

Waxy in Montreal 3:09 PM  

Don't get me STARted about 36A, more precisely about the fate of the first non-US MLB team, our beloved Expos!

As has been mentioned, too bad 32A & 43A couldn't have been tweeked to include an embedded STAR which would have enhanced the theme significantly.

Believe the Cigarette Ad claim (for L&M's) was "low tar, more taste" rather than LESSTAR. Maybe another brand...

Hmmm. Not sure why but have received the same captcha for at least the 3 posts: camiocam. No deal whatsoever.

Waxy in Montreal 3:11 PM  

Sorry. s/b "last 3 posts".

rain forest 3:47 PM  

I kind of liked this one, except for
ACRED (is that even a word?). Even with a plethora of three-letter entries, I'm always impressed how constructors get them in there.

@Sayer of Sooth - We here in syndiland are a kind of subsection of the blog, speaking among ourselves, largely ignored, and we find enjoyment in talking about the puzzle and in silly games, such as faux Baccarat. Harmless fun.

158 no GO

Sayer of Sooth 4:26 PM  

So perhaps those who live in Baccarat houses should not throw stones? ;>)

Dirigonzo 4:53 PM  

The RURAL/RANGE/(farm)STEAD connection gave the plains states a nice country feel, I think.

I liked the puzzle just fine and I also liked Rex's coinage of "wince-ome" to express his view of some of the fill.

473 - time to go work on my BEERGUT.

Dirigonzo 5:08 PM  

Rex posted a link on his facebook page that points to an excellent (I think) article on the problems faced by female constructors. It gives a lot of insight into how puzzles are made and sveral familiar names are mentioned. It's long but interesting, so if you have a few spare minutes go here.

DMG 8:24 PM  

@Diri. Thanks, it's an interesting article, but I doubt it will make me enjoy Steinberg any more.!

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