Czech reformer Jan / THU 8-14-14 / Lovable 650-pound TV character / Biblical betrayer / Commercial start for Pen / Former Ford full-sizes / Another name for Odysseus / First mass-production auto company outside the US

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Constructor: Jason Flinn

Relative difficulty: Challenging

THEME: UNDER/PASS (52A: One of two engineering features depicted in this puzzle) — six different answers go through an UNDER/PASS, i.e. start on one side of the grid but then get interrupted and continue on the other side of the grid:

Theme answers:
Additionally, two long Downs represent things an UNDER/PASS might go under:
  • ELEVATED HIGHWAY (5D: One reason for a 52-Across)
  • RAILROAD TRESTLE (7D: Another reason for a 52-Across)

Word of the Day: HEL (15D: Daughter of Loki) —
In Norse mythologyHel is a being who presides over a realm of the same name, where she receives a portion of the dead. Hel is attested in the Poetic Edda, compiled in the 13th century from earlier traditional sources, and theProse Edda, written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson. In addition, she is mentioned in poems recorded inHeimskringla and Egils saga that date from the 9th and 10th centuries, respectively. An episode in the Latin workGesta Danorum, written in the 12th century by Saxo Grammaticus, is generally considered to refer to Hel, and Hel may appear on various Migration Period bracteates.
In the Poetic EddaProse Edda, and Heimskringla, Hel is referred to as a daughter of Loki, and to "go to Hel" is to die. In the Prose Edda book Gylfaginning, Hel is described as having been appointed by the god Odin as ruler of a realm of the same name, located in Niflheim. In the same source, her appearance is described as half black and half flesh-coloured and further as having a gloomy, downcast appearance. The Prose Edda details that Hel rules over vast mansions with many servants in her underworld realm and plays a key role in the attempted resurrection of the god Baldr.
Scholarly theories have been proposed about Hel's potential connections to figures appearing in the 11th centuryOld English Gospel of Nicodemus and Old Norse Bartholomeus saga postola, potential Indo-European parallels toBhavaniKali, and Mahakali, and her origins. (wikipedia)
• • •

Ambitious but faulty. A real UNDER/PASS would not divide the road (here represented by the broken words/phrases) in two—it would obscure the road from view. Lack of precision was one of several reasons this thing was Off The Charts hard for a Thursday. I don't know what the newspaper version of the puzzle looked like, but all the clues for the second parts of the split phrases were just "-" in the e-version that I solved. When I've seen this convention in the past, there is some kind of continuation from a previous or adjacent clue. Not so here. Also, big problem—the revealer was one of the clues affected by the phrase division. So I had no idea, none, for a very long time. Managed to put down everything on the east side of grid *except* those little 3-letter Downs (15D, 55D), so I had no clue how things were supposed to be pieced together. HEL??? (15D: Daughter of Loki) Ugh. I mean, super-ugh. PTA was gettable (55D: Org. concerned with pupils), but NEA could've gone there too, so I left it blank and kept flailing. Stalling, more accurately. All those (So Many) threes in the middle of the grid, too—ugsome to work through. VAL? AIR? HUS? WIT???? ASL? (as clued, "?"-wise). There was just nowhere to get traction. I forget … oh, no, now I remember. I figured out the broken phrase thing with 12A: One who gets a charge out of charging? (again, like this wasn't hard enough—damn "?" clues…). I could see SHOP- and thought "SHOPpers …" then the "-OLIC" bit across the grid called out to me. SHOPA HOLIC! After that, the puzzle sped up considerably, but man that took a lot of (often unpleasant) work.

`Biggest obstacle to me, in coming up with the theme, was that I figured a "C" was somehow involved. You see the letter "C" there, right? Two of them, one top middle right, one bottom middle right. Because I didn't have HEL (again, ugh), I had -OLIC (so … COLIC?) and -RATE (so … CRATE?), but then there was -EBEN (no such thing as CEBEN). Down below, same issue. -ASS (so … Mama CASS?). -NOTE (so … C-NOTE?). But then, again, the outlier: -DOIT (CDOIT???? No). I sort of knew that "C" couldn't be involved (what were those reverse "C"s supposed to be, then?), but I couldn't shake the suspicion. Stupid "-" clues really had me thinking "adjacent." So I'm half-mad that I got stumped and half-mad at the fact that what stumped me was an inaccurate representation of the physical phenomenon in question (again, underpasses obscure—they don't divide). I like how CEE-LO showed up to taunt me later on (26D: Green formerly of "The Voice").

Hard clues. CITROËN, rough (26A: First mass-production auto company outside the U.S.). OMICRON, rough (45A: Head of Olympus?). NOMAN (!!?), super-rough. Thank god most of the 7-letter Downs in the corners were pretty easy, 'cause otherwise I'd've been staring down a pretty empty grid (although Woe Unto You if you never knew / forgot about THE GAME; yikes!) (2D: Rapper whose 2006 album "Doctor's Advocate" was #1). EMO pop is not a thing. It's just not. EMO is a thing (or was). [EMO pop] is a Tuh-errible clue. Other possible confusion: RAIL for REED (35A: Epitome of thinness); ARTY for EDGY (63A: Avant-garde); AID for RID (43D: Relieve).

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Zeke 12:11 AM  

I had fewer problems, or fewer relative to my normal slate of problems, with this puzzle. What I did have in greater abundance is ire at the utter failure of the theme.

The overpasses should blot out what's under them, not space them apart. And why, oh why, was the center down column not something along the line of CENTER ISLAND? Or at least have one letter there for the acrosses.

A really good idea, but epic fail.

wreck 12:12 AM  

While I agree with many of Rex's complaints, I really, really enjoyed this. I finished in a fairly quick Thursday for me - 50 minutes. I too had RAIL before REED and did not know NOMAN (I had ROMAN penciled in),but corrected with the crosses. The vertical middle finished last. I still can't make an underpass from the grid art! This puzzle was ambitious, but he pulled it off!

Casco Kid 12:14 AM  

Today, if you guessed right at all the forks in the road, you probably found it to be easy puzzle. If on the other hand, you did it my way, it probably took you an hour with much frustration and wringing of hands.

[5A. Divide by zero in a computer program, maybe] screams out to be NAN. Actually, technically it is "NaN" which stands for "Not a number." NaN is the infamous three-letter run-time error statement that computers report when you, say, divide by zero or try to take the square root of a negative number (with a real-valued variable.) Beautiful clue for a very nice three letter fill, except in this case where the expected answer is the mundane ERR. ERR? Is that all? Man, that hurts.

[8A. Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer, e.g.,] boyS. Because they were. And unless you know ALABAMA is an Iron Bowl team, then you won't see what's wrong with boyS and will be sussing the very vague [10D. Like some interpretations] and [11D. Trees, hills and streams, e.g.,] from the Y and the S. And you can add many minutes there. I did.

Never mind the crosses. Truly. Never mind. They are the underpass gimmick, so there's no getting them early on if you made a misstep, and you are on your own until you decide that [30A Mess up] isn't erR after all, but MAR. Yes, never mind that that's where ERR was supposed to go as NAN sits elsewhere.

40A. TRAITOR amounts to a synonym for "betrayer" but is inelegantly obfuscated by running its clue through the vaguely clued 39A. DELILAH. Great.

And on top of it all, I looked at the grid art and saw a slide rule, so my engineering mind wrestled with trig functions and logarithms as the theme concepts, while the civil engineering feats of ELEVATEDHIGHWAY and RAILROADTRESTLE lay far afield.

1:01. Clean line score, but it felt like failure.

George Barany 12:18 AM  

I'm a big fan of using black squares in creative ways, and this puzzle by Jason Finn adds to that tricky tradition. Rex makes several well taken points, and it is refreshing to be reminded of the "C is for cookie" song.

If you'll indulge a change of pace, my friend Martin Ashwood-Smith remembered a published puzzle of his from 2007 which was based on a short and rather funny quip by the late Robin Williams. Even though it's already August, we do hope that you'll give March Madness a try.

Mark 12:25 AM  

For those who may not remember: when Odysseus escapes from Polyphemus (the Cyclops), O tells P, "My name is 'No man'" (or in some translations, "Nobody"). So, when P screams to his neighborhood giants, "No man has blinded me," they reply, "We can't help you find vengeance if no one committed this violence against you!"

wreck 12:29 AM  

LOL -- now I really feel stupid!

chefwen 12:48 AM  

I so look forward to Thursday's puzzle, but this one was a total UHG for me. Hate blanks in a puzzle and it took me forever to catch on. What could be Googled got Googled and it still took me forever. Got the thing done, but it was without joy.

Fingers crossed for tomorrow.

chefwen 12:49 AM  

Hey, I just found a new way to spell UGH!

jae 12:54 AM  

Still on vacation, still drinking more than usual, still on the slow side. But, booze aside, this seemed tough too me also.  Thin as a Rail @Rex before REED DIDN'T help.  Also erR before MAR which turned out to be a malapop.  Plus I did it on an iPad instead of my usual paper so the "- clues" were not immediately visible (yeah, like anyone looks at the stuff on the sides).

@Rex - I hesitated putting in EMO because I thought it's origins were more punk than pop.  So, thanks for the validation.

All that said, I don't think Rex's structural criticism is deal breaker.  It's Thursday after all so some leeway is due.  It was clever and ultimately doable (I got the "puzzle completed" message without having to look for an error/typo) but, my penchant for paper was reinforced.  

Actually  liked it a lot.  I'm a sucker for tricky Thursdays.

Whirred Whacks 1:00 AM  

I liked NOMAN for Odysseus, but for a while I was thinking, "the man of many ways," "Ulysses," and "the wily one" (none of which would fit into five spaces).

Clever puzzle, but I thought that the 3-letter Acrosses in the center section should have had some relation to either the theme, or else the words (or expressions) they were breaking up.

jae 1:01 AM  

Meant to add @Casco on my erR MAR comment.

JFC 1:05 AM  

I got the trick with UNDERPASS. I agree with much of what Rex says. But I was so impressed with the concept and its execution that I gave all the flaws a pass. This is what a Thursday non-rebus should be.

I skip M-W 2:15 AM  

I think @Rexis being a bit unfair. The black bars denote the underpass. Hel is Loki's daughter, Citroen had to be first mass produced non- US car, wit made sense, etc. I quickly guessed meaning of dashes, and everything became clear. Relatively speedy Thursday for me and lots of fun. No man for Odysseus is very clever, and not so hard to remember.
Maybe I was just lucky to put in reed and emo right away, but it seemed as though everything fell into place.

Moly Shu 2:25 AM  

So-so for me. Got the gimmick at UNDERPASS, like @JFC and then it was relatively easy. Couple of mistakes, mred before GENT (a horse has to weigh more than a bear), sat before GRE, hEE before YEE, teak before ONYX and of course ERR before MAR. Got footholds at ALABAMA and DELUISE.

Those threes inside the C's were the most difficult. ABT, HEL, both unknowns and RNS and PTA which both could have been any number of other answers, sucked some of the fun out of it for me. Agree with @Rex, EMOpop is not a thing. Maybe EMUpop is, though.

Anoa Bob 2:27 AM  

I never do well with these black squares represent something puzzles. If you can see an UNDERPASS in this grid, then pass me some of that 1D you be doing. (Window Pane?)


TOO SOON, LET ME BE & I DIDNT DO IT (sans apostrophe), along with some recent I RESIGN, YES WE DO, I MEAN IT, etc., seem to be heralding in a new era where crossword puzzles morph into crossrollyourowncasualphrases puzzles. Aintworkinforme.

Anonymous 3:55 AM  

Agree with @I skip M-W. This was a wonderful puzzle. Who ever said, @Rex, that a blank for a clue has to be connected to an adjacent word? And what's wrong with a clue having two possible answers (REED/Rail) that you have to work out from crosses.

Only nit: wouldn't 45A "Head of Olympus" be Omega, since "Olympus" is capitalized, and didn't we learn from a puzzle awhile back that O-mega is capital "O" in Greek and O-micron is small "o"?

Overall a great puzzle and very enjoyable.

Anonymous 3:59 AM  

@Mark - Tks for info on "No man." It's fun to be reminded of things like that, and then say to oneself, "DOH, I KNEW I knew that!"

JTHurst 4:41 AM  

Also I believe that Ulysses, the Roman name for Odysseus, is a generic name for a man or means nobody special.

I liked the puzzle except for the three letter clues in the center of the overpass. They did not contribute much to the puzzle.

While I thought the traffic circle in the center had great clues except for 'traitor'. The month of January in Buenos Aires for summertime, head of Olympus - kept trying to fit a Japanese name in there, and outlier clue were all great.

Much better than Wednesday's blah.

Charles Flaster 5:16 AM  

Medium(26 minutes) but very enjoyable.Had ELEVATED railway for a while but didnt ( no apostrophe) think the long downs would both contain rail.Also fell for all the erasures Rex stated.
55 A --- AMA (org. concerned with pupils)
Loved calculated and outlier clues.
ANOMALY is a favorite word of mine.
The center words REPAIR AND CRUISE are two good transportation words related to a great theme.
Thanks JF

Anonymous 5:23 AM  

Good puzzle marred by a center overrun by threes.

Anonymous 5:23 AM  

Good puzzle marred by a center overrun by threes.

imsdave 5:48 AM  

I had the S--PA part of SHOPAHOLIC and that was enough to get the gimmick, so medium here.

Just wanted to complain about the clue for ERR. In my 30+ years as a programmer I've seen only one divide by zero condition that wasn't done on purpose by the programmer. We use the technique of dividing by zero when we get a condition we weren't expecting to force the program to stop so we can examine it.

mathguy 6:10 AM  

Of the ten threes running down the center, LEA was my only gimme. I got the three long entries motoring through the bottom underpass easily but blanked on the three on the top. I suspected a Thursday trick. Could the top three be written backwards? That made some sense in terms of the direction of traffic. But then I got ANOMALY which gave me SCENERY and things started to fall apart.

I had the same thought as @Anonymous 3:55 wrt long O omega and short O omicron. I think that we have some classics scholars out there, don't we?

Some terrific clues. "One way to see a talk ..." for ASL was my favorite.

The hardest puzzle of the last three weeks for me.

Emspop 6:23 AM  

I really admire what the constructor has done here.
1. Theme is physically represented in the structure - cool
2. Not one but two 15-letter theme clues
3. The whole bridging over the long downs in the middle for six theme answers
4. Theme revealer that also uses the bridge

Brilliant. Little nits didn't impact my love of the puzzle. My favorite in recent memory (and there have been several good puzzles recently)

Kris in ABCA 6:32 AM  

Medium for me. Like Rex, I wanted some kind of C clamp at first but then picked up on the continuation of the words across the gap, Thanks to @Mark for the reminder of the No Man story.

Jason MacBride 7:03 AM  

WTF - I kept trying to figure out the connection between the three letter fill and the phrases they separated. Obviously that was a waste of my time. Made the whole idea seem half-baked. Shame too, because tnere was some really fine cluing in the puzzle: lots of bonus points for ANOMALY and TOOSOON.

RAD2626 7:16 AM  

Does not speak well for me that I knew THE GAME, DELUISE and CEELO right away but not only had trouble with the clue for Odysseus but don't get the explanations here for the most part either. Puzzle was structurally amazing however. Really very special. Had tOED for digging dirt which dug me into a hole for a while.

Gill I. P. 7:42 AM  

I got it but I couldn't get it..
Knowing HEL sorta gave me SHOPA HOLIC but what to do with the middle? GENT LEBEN, OK, but what the HEL does VAL in the middle mean? VAL de vee, VAL de va, VAL de vee, VAL de ha ha ha ha...
THE GAME pffft. OMICRON pffft. CITROEN (ugliest car on the face of this earth) pffft.
I DIDNT DO IT RIGHT, so I'm sad I couldn't appreciate this more.

Jon88 7:49 AM  

For future reference: The NEA is a teachers' union, not a pupil-support group.

Anonymous 8:00 AM  

When I saw that it was a construction-themed puzzle, I originally thought the vertical column down the center was an I-beam. Now that it's done, what I see is an aerial view of an overpass (vertical column down center), with a two-way road going underneath it. Now it makes sense! Hard for me, but Thursdays are always tricky for me, so I wasn't surprised that it took a while for me to complete it!

RK 8:14 AM  

ASL ? Somebody please explain.

RooMonster 8:14 AM  

Hey All!
Took me most of the puzzle to finally figure out just what was going on. Had U_D__, thought that 49D might be REDDY, so I said if that was true, then had U_DE_. Already had both 15's, plus PASS on the other side... Lightbulb! Finally hit the Aha moment! Which was awesome, because the TDOIT below PASS was worrying me! Finished after that in about 2 seconds. One nit at the split answers, GENTLEBEN is a bit of a stretch, as that isn't that well known of an old TV show. Especially crossing THEGAME. Who the hell is that? I don't listen to rap, but have heard of quite a few rappers, though not him...

Nice clues for OMICRON, ENERO.

Thanks @Mark, that was a mystery.

Can someone explain 61A? ASL?

gETlost, then LETMEgo, finally LETMEBE, hEE before YEE (50/50 shot), thinking Rail or Rake before REED, Meh before MOI, bic before EPI (lived in Milford, CT for 17 years, Bic Pen HQ is there!), gas before AIR, erR before MAR. I see GRE again!

Overall, cool idea, not 100% sure it was pulled off accuratly, but the grid looked pretty cool! I will tell you that I'm sure it was a chore to get any kind of good fill with the grid restraints, so Kudos to Mr. Flinn on that.


Mohair Sam 8:14 AM  

Quite a battle, but we finished it before we finished breakfast so it measured as a medium Thursday for us.

Lost a ton of time because we misspelled DELUISE as DELouis. Once we guessed he might spell it differently we got UNDERPASS, and hence the theme and things went quickly from there.

Didn't know THEGAME but it filled quickly once the theme was revealed. Somehow remembered CEELO so CITROEN filled quickly and opened up the middle for us.

Loved the DELILAH clues, something different. Had TempTOR for a while (I know, I know).

Rex's complaints make sense. And the idea of having the revealer clue as part of the theme did seem odd. But we like different constructs and found this one lotsa fun in spite of the technical flaws.

Glimmerglass 8:15 AM  

Everything Rex said -- except that for me they are not complaints. This puzzle was indeed off-the-chart challenging, for any day of the week. I loved it. Would I have loved it if I had't prevailed in the end? Perhaps not. It was Saturday-hard but with the expected Thursday twist (and an especially hard one). Oddly, it was the revealer (52A) that saved my bacon. I had UNDEx across the way from xASS when the light dawned.

AliasZ 8:16 AM  

CITROËN was not only the first mass-produced car outside the USA, but was also the most technologically innovative car company. Their slogan "Creative technology" aptly describes this. They mass produced a super-cheap, front-wheel drive, ultra-light on-and-off road transportation for farmers and urban areas nicknamed "umbrella with wheels", made from corrugated metal for stiffness without increasing its weight, with an air-cooled 9hp engine that weighed a mere 100lbs, called the deux chevaux. They were the first to mass produce a car with a hydropneumatic self-leveling suspension system, which was able to run on three wheels, they were the first to use swiveling headlights that followed the steering wheel, and disk brakes.

Oh, there was a puzzle today? I couldn't see it because it was just going through the underpass.

To atone for the deep-dyed hokiness of yesterday's Oak Ridge Boys, let me offer two, count them, two quite different musical gems today. The first one is the Overture Husitská, Op. 67 by Antonín Dvořák commemorating the Hussite wars that erupted after Jan HUS, the church reformer before Martin Luther and Jean Calvin, was burned at the stake.

The second is the closing chorale from the cantata Herz und Mund und Tat und LEBEN BWV147, by J.S. Bach. If you don't recognize it, I don't even know if I can tell you what then.

Have a cheerful Thursday!

Susan McConnell 8:25 AM  

I found this about average for a Thursday in terms of time and difficulty, but I agree with Rex about All Those Threes. Ugh indeed.

Blue Stater 8:46 AM  

Good Lord. This epitomizes what the NYT's puzzles have come to under WS. Time for a change. Long past time for a change.

joho 8:46 AM  

Anybody else read REPAIR CRUISE in their head as REPAIR CRewS? Sounds like those are what @Rex wants to come fix this puzzle!

Not me. I love tricky Thursdays and this one didn't disappoint. And while an UNDERPASS obscures the road visually and doesn't literally "break" the road, isn't that still a visual interruption or break?

I did fall for Rail before REED and aID before RID, but those were easily corrected.

Thank you, Jason Flinn, I loved your puzzle which takes the meaning of "construction zone" to a whole new level!

Fred Smith 8:51 AM  


Who can forget Inspector Clouseau's Deux-Cheveau?

Actually, the name is a bit of a misnomer, since it actually had 9 HP (but who cares?)

My friend and co-worker (when I worked in Paris in the late 70s) was Dave Gilbert, an avowed Francophile and now American expatriot, as part of his Parisian meme, tooled around in a 2CV. How well I recall looking up at the up-lit Arch de Triomphe thru the open moonroof as he fearlessly squeezed into the Etoile after several pops at our local after-work pub. Thank God I'm still alive!

AnnieD 9:25 AM  

Before I got the schtick, I kept wanting LEVER instead of UNDER and was thinking the answers were somehow offset from each other and expected to see a reference to Archimedes....

Rooomonster, ASL is American Sign Language

Z 9:26 AM  

Put me in the "Perfect non-rebus Thursday" camp.

About an average time for me at 25 minutes. Finally got the theme at I DIDN'T DO IT, after which the corners fell quickly. I made my life harder in the middle by starting with sur-de-MARNE before VAL-de-Marne, but the long themers helped me fix that. My only other writeovers were Rail before REED and Mr. Ed before GENTLE BEN.

I posted this link last night after seeing a tweet from Rex about it. Thinking about this puzzle in these terms is an interesting exercise. I've also seen a similar discussion about Wikipedia. In a general sense, Steinberg may have been less than artful in how he said it, but it seems pretty clear to me that something is going on. My own hypothesis (based on experiences as an educator) is that our culture at large views math and science and conflict as unfeminine. As a result we evolved all sorts of mechanisms to discourage girls in these areas. Long term outcome - the gender numbers are skewed in Tech Fields and in settings where conflict is a norm. This results in a feedback loop where, since there aren't many women doing these things, it is hard to attract women into these areas. I wouldn't bet a large sum of money on my hypothesis, but it fits in with my experience.

Anonymous 9:33 AM  

Made me glad my iPad app expires with no renewal next week. Too many good puzzles on line elsewhere.

Joseph Welling 9:35 AM  

I never understood why the false morpheme derived from "alcoholic" gets the "a" in SHOPAHOLIC.

chefbea 9:39 AM  

Too tough!!! Didn't get it at all and too busy today to read all the posts...maybe later

CBXW 9:41 AM  

Managed to complete this in not terrible time, though not CRUISE through it—or UNDER it. Never saw the theme, couldn't make sense of those strange split words at all and was puzzled by the - clues, but the vertical 15s helped. Now that I look down on it from the OVERPASS it works.
Thanks, AliasZ, for the CITROEN info.
And yes, O-MICRON is the small o. O-MEGA, get it?
ASL American Sign Language

jyocum3 9:45 AM  

Loved the puzzle. Great visual representation. I don't see all the complaints about splitting the road. Had the black squares not been there, the puzzle would have looked horrible with the across clues running into unused letters. And if the letters were used, the visual representation would have been lost.

I'm surprised to see such difficulty for everyone. Played pretty easy for me, and 17 minutes is a decent Thursday time for me (12 being my fastest). Then again, I am an engineer, albeit chemical, but as soon as I saw UNDER-PASS, I immediately got ELEVATEDHIGHWAY (which had me remove sat and put in GRE) and RAILROADTRESTLE (thankfully I had jumped off one into a river many times as a kid). I also don't see the complaints about the "-" clues. They don't have to be adjacent. I've seen the answers come in from every angle. The passing under of the middle section wasn't too hard to notice when none of the threes in the middle left any gap for remaining letters at the end. Hopefully this puzzle taught some people to think outside the box a little more instead of "this is the rule, follow it!"

Great, creative puzzle.

John Child 9:45 AM  

Very difficult here, and I would have left a lot of blanks in the NW without help on the rapper and The Voice star. Never heard of either.

dk 9:54 AM  

OOO (3 mOOONs)

Once I got into the groove thanks to GENTLEBEN it went slow but okay for a Thursday.

As always the relevance of the grid pattern escaped me until I got here. I am amazed that at one time I CRUISED the GRE.

I did want to jot a note but whatever.

Z 10:10 AM  

Before The Voice CEE LO Green had this hit single. (WARNING:profanity)

Z 10:11 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Norm 10:20 AM  

Yes, I struggled -- but I also liked it a lot. People complaining about how the underpass them was pictorially represented would have preferred huge blocks of black squares? This was very clever, even though I initially saw those "C" shapes as clamps before I realized that 55A went with 52A. Never heard of THE GAME, so parsing _ENT/LEBEN was the hardest part of the puzzle for me.

evil doug 10:24 AM  

Big news! We can all look forward to some new crossword fill, because the Oxford Dictionary has just added "douchebaggery" and "side boob" to the lexicon. Update those word databases and algorithms, computer constructors!


bswein99 10:24 AM  

Use of the underpass theme was confusing, but once I figured it out (courtesy of "do it" in "I didn't do it"), it went quickly. Loved the clue about Citroen. My first guess was Renault. Daimler would have fit, too. But the "oe" nailed it for Citroen.

Leapfinger 10:27 AM  

Just lost the whole comment due to 'conflicting edits'. Hit the back button *as instructed* and Poof! all gone. Oh well, that saves all y'all some aggravation.

@Rex, there's many a divided UNDERPASS out on the Interstates; drive I-85 or I-95 and you'll see them.
@Z, ConGRADulations!!
@CascoK, you reminded me of a
classic old New Yorker squib that read "Calculations were made with a sly drool". Obviously, from the days of typing dictation.
@Mark, @Anon3:59, thanks for the NOMAN reminder; and @JTHurst, for that extra about Ulysses.
@mathguy, ASL lipped right past me, and I've even read Oliver Sacks' book about sign language in the US. Terrific clue, indeed!
@Gilly, the early CITROENs did look like little Quonset huts on wheels, but the later ones were really cool in a retro aerodynamic kind of way. Also, as @Alias points out, very technologically innovative. I wouldn't turn one down.
@Alias, Dvorak and Bach today? in penance, I s'pose. HUS to say, but I was expecting something more ...DELIBesERATE.

This puzzle was about as quirky and EDGY as I can go, but I DID DO IT. Half my time was spent with a halo of ???s circling my head, till I caught on to the dashed trick. LET ME BE clear: I wasn't 'in like Flinn', but I loved it. "YEE-haw!"

Fred Romagnolo 10:31 AM  

I had to Maltin DELUISE and Rand McNally TAOS (hate to Google). Got CITROEN from crosses. Never heard of CELLO or THE GAME. Finally saw the light at UNDER HUS PASS. Hands up for Rail to REED, and Hee to YEE. Also Metes for DOLES. I'm guessing "chocaholic" preceded SHOPAHOLIC. I'm pretty much with @Rex on this one. Too contrivedly intricate.

Malsdemare 10:34 AM  

I really liked it. I was sure i wouldn't finish it, took forever to get a toehold, but when the penny dropped (at UNDERPASS), I flew through the rest. I don't understand Rex's complaint; an underpass runs under trestles and highways and unless the constructor 'hid' part of the acrosses 'under' the downs (which could get him lynched in my book!) the conceit wouldn't work. I thought it was lovely, but then I'm pretty pleased when I can get a Thursday in good time without a google.

Malsdemare 10:37 AM  


Sly drool reminds me of the freshman essayist who wrote with awe of Faulkner's ( or someone's) pullet surprise.

Anonymous 10:38 AM  

Doesn't "e.g." imply the answer is an abbreviation? Relatively new solver here, so please help.

Steve J 10:42 AM  

Agreed with Rex in pretty much every regard on this one. The UNDER/PASS visual/concept didn't work for me, as it bifurcated the words instead of passing over them. All those threes. Etc.

One thing Rex didn't note: This was essentially six mini puzzles. The four corners have only one way out, the vertical center is largely isolated, and then you've got the big center left. Made for a very, very choppy grid.

I ultimately gave up on this one with 19A. Proper name crossed with three other proper names (THE GAME, ABT, HEL). If you knew one of them, GENT/LEBEN probably fell into place quickly. I didn't know any of them. I'm not someone who objects to proper names in puzzles on principle, but I do believe you have to be very careful in how you cross them - namely, with things that are widely known or easily inferred. This didn't do that.

Regarding the Omicron/Omega question that several people brought up: No, they're not the same letter. While the word "omega" means "great O" and "omicron" means "small O", that's in reference to their different pronunciations in classical Greek (apparently they're pronounced the same in modern Greek). Each letter has it's own upper- and lower-case forms. (Sometimes it's good to google things; it took me all of 5 seconds to confirm that they're not the same letter.)

Bob Kerfuffle 10:42 AM  

As others have said, top rating available to a non-rebus Thursday.

Challenging but doable for me.

One letter write-over, had ANOMOLY before ANOMALY.

And for those who questioned 45 A, Wikipedia shows that Odysseus in Greek is Ὀδυσσεύς. Compare the letters:

Ο ο omicron
Ω ω omega.

The "mega" does not refer to a capital letter, but a different sound. (Never studied Greek myself, but seems fairly clear.)

Casco Kid 10:45 AM  

E.g. means for example. Abbr. means abbreviated. See 22D.

Zeke 10:47 AM  

@Z - I don't know if it's that women don't like conflict, it's that women don't like men's approach to resolving conflict. In my experience, women seem more than ok with conflict.

I read a recent article discussing why there are so few women getting degrees and academic positions in philosophy, and it all boiled down to this issue. To defend a position in a discussion on a philosophical issue the men's approach was to argue their point, ignoring other viewpoints, until their opponent quit. It's about arguing to win rather discussing to reach a greater understanding.
This has been the trend in every meeting, excepting for the most carefully moderated, I've attended in my business career.

Nancy 10:54 AM  

Wonderful Thursday. One of those puzzles where you know Something Is Wrong and if you can figure out what, you probably can solve it. Figured out the theme (belatedly) at I DIDN' TDOIT. Then it all came (slowly) together. Slowed down by HEE (or HAW) for YEE (hence couldn't see HIGHWAY for a while. PUN for Wordplay instead of WIT threw off that whole section. But eventually figured it all out and solved and am feeling very, very pleased with myself!

Anonymous 10:56 AM  

Having worked in high tech and software development for 35 years, let me assure you that the "divide by zero" clue does not lead to ERR. I've never heard anyone use the word ERR this way. It may be an ERROR. Or a BUG (I had this in there initially). But never ever ERR.

jberg 11:02 AM  

I'm gonna count this one, even though I finished with DALILAH/AMENDED, figuring you can just as well transliterate her name that way. Or rather, I'm gonna kick myself.

Challenging indeed. I had finally decided that people might say DELIB, and wrote it in -- then noticed that there was _RATE sitting there just across the way.

I don't agree with those who want the central 3s to relate to the entries to their left and right -- the point is that they are up in the air, on the overpass, so they DON'T relate.

Did you know that Renault has the same number of letters as CITROEN? Took me a long time to recover from that one; and if my wife hadn't known Helen REDDY, I'd still be looking at mEmoS for 60A.

@RK, ASL is American Sign Language, one way to see a talk.

I really wanted suppoku for 24A "Display one's guts," -- didn't fit, and probably too gruesome for the Times.

It's getting late, off for more vacationing.

RnRGhost57 11:11 AM  

Google "emo pop":

Don't hold your breath waiting for an admission from OFL that he is wrong. Just not his MO.

Anonymous 11:25 AM  

I thought this puzzle sucked. Nothing more infuriating than answers with no clues requiring the crossing answers to be placed in order to solve the puzzle. Not fun for me at all.

Carola 11:26 AM  

I thought it was terrific, with the two UNDERPASSES running under the ELEVATED HIGHWAY and RAILROAD TRESTLE, with the automobile-related REPAIR and CRUISE running between them. Wow.
Thanks to @JTHurst for the added image of the central traffic circle.

But, man, tough! Much fruitless grappling until I had enough letters in 5D to see HIGHWAY, and then I got the UNDER-idea and finished.

Had to erase: Deal OUT, sat, err, hEE.

Remembering CEELO from a previous crossword, where the then-unknown-to-me name sank me, was a huge help in getting CITROEN and OMICRON, which jogged my memory on NOMAN.

Thank you, Jason Flinn. This is one puzzle where I can't lament that the solving fun was over TOO SOON!

Leapfinger 11:34 AM  

@Zeke, there IS a center island; it's the REED-DEMO row.

The center column of 3s is the overpass; REPAIRS keep to the center. I agree there ought not be CRUISing in the breakdown lane.

One diabolical option would have been to require a pencilled-in [CAR] in those 6 dashed spots.

Have to limit these graphic parallel requirements at some point.

DigitalDan 11:55 AM  

I'm sorry, but divide by zero is a BUG. @imsdave, isn't that what breakpoints are for? Or throwing an error you don't catch? Anyway, that set me back quite a while.

Z 12:01 PM  

@RnRGhost57 - I took Rex's point not as "it is not defensible as a clue/answer" but as "the people who keep dividing and subdividing these 'genres' are splitting split hairs." Living with an aficionado of "pop punk," I just smile and keep my opinions to myself (I know, hard to believe).

@Evil Doug - I can't wait to see the usage notes.

@Zeke - Is it that women don't like men's approach to conflict resolution or that our culture denigrates women when they use the "male" approach so they develop other strategies? I'm thinking of the whole discussion regarding the word "bossy."

I've used my quota today. Off to the baseball game.

Norm 12:16 PM  

Anonymous @ 10:56 & DigitalDan @ 11:55 -- "Divide" is a verb so "err" seems perfectly fine as an answer IMO.

Nancy @ 10:54 -- perfect comment: "One of those puzzles where you know Something Is Wrong and if you can figure out what, you probably can solve it." Exactly! That caught the essence of this kind of puzzle.

Leapfinger 12:27 PM  

@Joseph Welling, if I understand your point, an intervening vowel is needed to avoid the word looking like 'SHOFFOLIC'; A vs O is moot.

I'll quibble there's no umlaut E in ENERO.

Was reminded of Tony Hillerman's The Great TAOS Train Robbery, one of the funniest short stories I've come across.

Have also been trying to make sense of 'LET ME BE AN O'MALY'. Am doubting it relates to the Aristocats, nor to the Irish Queen of ancient days. Most likely, the wife of the one-time owner of the L.A. Dodgers was the one who proposed marriage.

Hope everyone's having a good Thursday, no one needs an EPT-pen.


LF 12:33 PM  

@Fred Smith, I love it. With your Deux-Cheveau, you've come up with horse-hair! ;)

anonymous 12:41 PM  

I could still be working on this tomorrow. Cured my cockiness after nailing a couple of Saturdays

michael 1:05 PM  

I really struggled with this for a while, but finally got it and appreciated the cleverness of the construction. Saturday difficulty for me, but of course I understand why it ran on a Thursday.

Took me forever to get the gimmick, but once I figured it out, I finished quickly. I suppose that if I I had figured it out earlier, I wouldn't rate the puzzle as hard as I did. More like a regular Thursday, perhaps.

michael 1:05 PM  

I really struggled with this for a while, but finally got it and appreciated the cleverness of the construction. Saturday difficulty for me, but of course I understand why it ran on a Thursday.

Took me forever to get the gimmick, but once I figured it out, I finished quickly. I suppose that if I I had figured it out earlier, I wouldn't rate the puzzle as hard as I did. More like a regular Thursday, perhaps.

Joe Dipinto 1:15 PM  

I think 52a would have been better clued as "Engineering feature depicted twice in this puzzle." Once I got "underpass", from the way it's clued I was expecting a second, different engineering feature to be elsewhere and I found it odd that there was no separate clue for it. Then when I got the top I realized what it meant.

Other than that and the barrage of 3-letter answers in the middle, I did like the puzzle.

AliasZ 1:19 PM  

Sorry folks, I could not pass this up:

Bacchanale from the opera Samson and DELILAH by Camille Saint-Saëns. I love the youthful energy Gustavo Dudamel injects into this old war-horse.

I could've gone with the Londonderry AIR, Tom Jones' DELILAH, any song by Helen REDDY or ALABAMA, a concerto for a REED instrument, a SHOPA Polonaise, a piece by DELIBes, LETMEBE by the Beatles, a CEELO concerto, the HOEDown from Copland's Rodeo, quelque chose DE LUISE Armstrong, or this section from La Marseillaise:

Aux armes, CITROËNs,
Formez vos bataillons,
Marchons, marchons!
Qu'un sang impur
Abreuve nos sillons!

As you were.

Anonymous 1:35 PM  

After that last DEMOnstration, I need to fortify myself with a glass of CITROËNella. GENTLEmEN?

Is it TOO LOADed to ask what's a SHOPAHOLIC cost?

nemo paradise 2:10 PM  

@CBXW, anonymous: omicron is a short "o" (as in Tom); omega is long (tome.) Completely different letters.

retired_chemist 2:11 PM  

Hand up for wanting NaN @ 5A but knowing it wouldn't be right.

No problem with the 3 letter stuff across in the middle (except some of it is c**ppy). Underpasses go under something, so why not answers representing traffic? Cool would be to USE that concept and have one of the down 15s 5D or 7D actually go UP?

Had trouble seeing the gimmick, but once I did the puzzle was pretty easy.

Thanks,Mr. Finn.

Lewis 2:57 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lewis 3:01 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lewis 3:03 PM  

So, to make this a "true" overpass, ala Rex, one way would have been to make rows 2, 3, and 4 spans of 15 letters, still have the three-letter words in the middle, with each three-letter word numbered. The long across phrases should be 15-letter phrases, with the middle three letters hidden by the three-letter word. Let's say the long phrase on row two was clue #12, then after the three-letter phrase in the middle, the resumption of the word would also be numbered #12.

So let's say the answer for clue 12 was THELAYOFTHELAND, and the three letter word in the middle was LEA. Then row 2 would read THELAYLEAHELAND.

What was done in rows 2-4 would also have to be done with rows 12, 13, and 14.

I'm probably giving you a headache here and not describing this as well as is possible, but it would actually be pretty cool and a wild solve.

Nonetheless, I prefer what Jason did. It just looks better and is more elegant, I believe. And we know how Rex feels about big stacks.

Masked and Anonymo3Us 3:45 PM  

@Lewis: har. Like the way U think. Another idea: have the hidden underpass letters spell somethin neat out, like "These lanes closed by Gov. Christie", or somesuch. Or have diagonal-like on and off ramps, with car names on em? Scary how much trouble a constructioneer could get oneself into...

Really, really excellent ThursPuz? HEL, yes! thUmbsUp.
Hard, but fun.

Very good work, Mr. Flinn.

Peace on earth, good crosswords to all,

sanfranman59 4:14 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 20:49, 17:28, 1.19, 81%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Thu 14:36, 10:49, 1.35, 86%, Challenging

Anonymous 4:50 PM  

The nigglers are kidding, right? Did everyone get bent out of shape when Gorski's dove didn't look like a REAL dove? Haven't heard this amount of moaning since that Sunday Titanic sank.

You want to see an overpass? Go take a drive. If you're feeling logy, Google "overpass, images". A real overpass is mundane; a witty, innovative puzzle is a pleasure.

Susannamac 4:57 PM  

Had such fun with this puzzle, even after it was filled in!
Couldn't figure out how to embed a photo, so had to use a link. Please take a sec to check it out! :)

Susannamac 5:14 PM  

Tried to post the photo here, but didnt work. Any ideas how to accomplish this?

Z 5:21 PM  

@Susannamac's great photo of a well reconstructed puzzle.

Mark 5:24 PM  

@Susannamac Love your underpass. (But now my ipad is ruined :) ! )

Tsarina 6:00 PM  

I'm with Anoa Bob and Blue Stater 200%. Do-it-yourself puzzles, every man/woman their own answer and interpretation.
If your imagination and fancy jibes with the creator's, it's all hon and dearie. If not, it's absurdity.
For me, it's absurdity. I resent giving up Thursday's puzzle to another category that chooses to call itself a crossword puzzle.

geordiegirl 6:27 PM  

@anonymous - Abbreviations can also be signaled by another abbreviation within the clue - such as Washington, D.C. or NYC - but I think e.g. is usually just what it means.

Arlene 6:54 PM  

I Google for rappers, songs and movies - as needed - and this puzzle had all three! Once I got that out of the way, I could appreciate this construction - and found it fun. I'm no nitpicker of the minutiae - and appreciate the creativity!

jae 7:32 PM  

@Anonymous 10:38, Casco & geordiegirl - e.g. can occasionally imply an abbreviation or truncation. This happens mostly in later week (i.e. more difficult) puzzles.
So, geordiegirl is pretty much right -- e.g. is usually just what it means.

The most common use of e.g. to signal an abbreviated answer is with sports teams. You might see a clue like "Lions and Bears, e.g." and the answer would be NFLERS or NFL Teams.

Anonymous 8:32 PM  

Technically, Delilah was not a traitor. She was a Philistine prostitute who betrayed Samson to the Philistines, so she in fact was loyal to her own people.

Susannamac 8:42 PM  

@Z Thank you for simplifying the link to my photo!
@Mark Yikes! What happened to your iPad? :(

Anonymous 9:03 PM  

Great demo, @Susannamac! I think @Mark tried to replicate, went from fold straight on to mutilate.


Andy Nelson 9:04 PM  

Those empty lanes were obviously the bike lanes or the shoulders of the road, or the walking space on a railroad trestle.

LaneB 9:26 PM  

Managed to do a good part of this whilst sitting with the dogs at the Humane Society. They didn't do as well as usual today, probably because the puzzle was a challenging one--which I later finished with the help of Googling @ a54,d26,d29 d37 and d49. Did not really have to for Reddy, but her name escaped me for too long and I grew impatient. The googling did open up the lower SE.
A clever idea but as Rex contended, the clues were odd and I still don't know what ASL has to do with seeing a talk. I'm sure it makes perfecxt sense, but not for me.

Susannamac 9:36 PM  

@AndyNelson: Yup!the Citroen hit the guardrail and wrapped itself around the overpass.

Zed the Answer Man 9:38 PM  

@LaneB - ASL=American Sign Language, someone "talking" in ASL would be seen, not heard.

Tita 11:28 PM  

Very late to arrive.
I completely agree with Rex & @zeke. I did guess the IBEAMs, but struggled like mad to fill in those blanks.
That's not what made me not like it - I just really wanted there to be some kind of obscured bits of the things going under the UNDER PASSes.

Liked learning about CITROEN. My dream car is a shiny (well, probably it won't be too shiny), red rolltop Deux Chevaux. @AliasZ - do you know of a creampuff one for sale??

@Susannamac - perfect!
@Mark - lol!

While it wasn't my cup of tea, I thank you none-the-less, Mr. Flinn, if for no other reason than the ASL clue. Actually, for lots more than that.

Hartley70 6:12 AM  

A day late again, but loving this puzzle. SHOPAHOLIC got me there. Thursday is just my weekly happy place. @AliasZ your musical links add to my solving experience and give me such a smile, thanks! I rode around in a boyfriend's deux cheveaux in 1966 and felt way too cool for high school...thanks for the memory. @Susannamac, love the photo!

Anonymous 7:25 AM  

@Tita, it seems you don't "completely" agree with @Rex and @Zeke.

@Hartley70: Shoot. Right up till that 'boyfriend' statement, I thought you were an XY kind of person. ...Hmm, maybe you still are...

Anonymous 8:30 AM  

Cliff notes version of Rex's review: "This puzzle was hard for me, therefore it must be bad construction. Bad puzzle."

Anonymous 2:50 PM  

As far as the theme, it was a good one and I thought the complaints about its logical inconsistencies were making a big deal about something very small. My issue with this puzzle was inaccurate cluing (5A, 33A, 36A, 29D, 46D), the pop culture (2D, another moronic rapper), forcing us to share his personal interests (26D), clues I can't even fathom (17A, 61A). I felt like I was doing a puzzle created by an alien. I was so disgusted with the cluing and some of the answers that I doubt I'll ever do another Jason Flynn puzzle again. Too bad, the concept itself was a good one, but if you can't give good clues then the theme doesn't matter.

Anonymous 9:41 AM  

Was about to comment on the crews/cruise, takes a little breath out of Rex's griping

spacecraft 11:52 AM  

Beastly tough! I started OK with the 1's, LTDS and LSD, and wondered when I might encounter my first vowel. But --of course-- I HADNO idea about the &$^#* rapper (grrr!) and hadn't yet picked up on the gimmick, so the NW was left half undone while I progressed, almost LITERALly, letter by letter down the center.

There were a couple of "bridges" that helped: OBI/OBESITY and, don't ask me how I knew it, probably from some TV ad for a show, CEELO (guessed at the spelling). But in the main, this puzzle had a hard-to-get trick amid some pretty dicey entries. CITROEN is just not a make of car that comes to mind here in the States. I did manage to retrieve the name from just the -TRO-; I think that was just luck.

Even after completing the grid with but a single-letter writeover (my interpretation was LIbERAL at first), it took a few minutes to visualize the UNDERPASS. I'm assuming the other ("One of two features...") was the overpass.

While I agree that some of those myriad threes were a bit wifty, I enjoyed this solve. Considering the restrictions imposed by the demanding theme, I'd have to give it an A.

1720; oops, I overshot my exit!

rondo 1:16 PM  

Lost interest - DNF. Again too many 3-letter words for my taste. Also general dislike for Thursday puzzles; gimmick must be really good to keep interest.

658 - bingo! Or whatever one says.

Noe Thanky 3:18 PM  

Once again proof that there are no bad crossword puzzles... only bad clues. Two thumbs down.

Waxy in Montreal 3:28 PM  

Didn't need to DELIBERATE long before gimmes LTDS and EMU confidently led to DIVVYUP at 3D. Tilt, or should I say ERR?

Back on the tracks with DELILAH & DELUISE (definitely an odd couple) but off them again with RAILWAYCROSSING aided and abetted by the S from HUS.

In the end NOMAN, OMICRON, GENTLEBEN and THEGAME as well as the Iron Bowl school (thought it would be played between colleges in Minnesota) required googling to prevent a DNF.

Loved the theme though. Much better than just a PASS, IMHO. Thank you, Jason Flinn.

3344. Hmmm, think I'll divide it by zero and see what happens...

DMG 4:12 PM  

Just lost interest in this one, partially bogged down by the trivia, and partially by thinking an "engineering feature" would be some portion of a project, e.g. a keystone. In my opinion, the Golden Gate Bridge is not a "feature", but an "accomplishment". Anyway, put this one aside and came to see what it was all about. Seems I in the minority, but some days are like that!

263 = 2, so no winner there. Maybe I,m wrong, but I think @rondo crowed too soon. Doesn't 658 = 19 = 1?

Dirigonzo 4:51 PM  

I thought the puzzle was a marvel of engineering, although I shared the confusion expressed by @Joe Dipinto concerning the wording of the reveal clue which seems to imply two different engineering features, not one feature (the UNDERPASS) depicted twice in the grid. I thought the theme worked just fine from a visual point of view as the theme answers start on the left, disappear into tunnel and emerge from it on the right side.
A wonderful Thursday exercise IMHO.

1510 - nope, I'm not going to win THE GAME today.

Dirigonzo 8:08 PM  

From "Today in History" as published in my local daily: "On September 18, 1851, the first edition of The New York Daily Times, which later became The New York Times, was published. It seems happy birthday wishes to "The Old Gray Lady" are in order.

Anonymous 9:39 PM  

I really enjoyed this puzzle, because the "dash" clues were driving me crazy. When I got UNDER and IDIDN and SENDS I was able to guess that the other side must complete them, and somehow UNDERPASS leaped into my Surf City head. (Here in the OC, we get the Times crossword 5 weeks later.) And I was lucky; thru my love of old French films, I knew CITROEN. Normally, I struggle with Thursday puzzles, but I lucked out with this one, therefore, I LOVE IT....Surf City Dude.

Anonymous 6:47 PM  

Here in earthquake country we are wary of collapsing freeways. So there is a natural gap in underpass traffic during heavy commute hours as we all strive to protect ourselves from certain doom.

That's the only explanation I can come up with, except it isn't true. Maybe for a week in October of 1989, but yeah, we're all in a rush to get where we're going so we close that gap. We're hidden from aerial view. Theme is stupid.

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