Atomic clock part / SUN 9-7-14 / Expensive Super Bowl purchase / Ayatollah predecessor / Small flycatcher / Dutch Golden Age painter / Die Meistersinger soprano

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Constructor: Tracy Gray and Jeff Chen

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: "All-Encompassing" — 8 different squares in the puzzle have to be entered as mini-compasses; that is, like so:

W       E

WE works in the Acrosses; NS works in the Downs. Unchecked squares near the center of the grid reenact the same compass construction

Word of the Day: MASER (80A: Atomic clock part) —
maser (/ˈmzər/) is a device that produces coherent electromagnetic waves through amplification by stimulated emission. The word "maser" is derived from the acronym MASER: "microwave amplification by stimulated emission of radiation". The lower-case usage arose from technological development having rendered the original definition imprecise, because contemporary masers emit electromagnetic waves not just at microwave frequencies, but rather across a broader band of the electromagnetic spectrum. Hence, the physicist Charles H. Townes suggested using "molecular" to replace "microwave" for contemporary linguistic accuracy. (wikipedia)
• • •

It's weird—as I was solving, I thought, "OK, so you've got all the cardinal direction letters in those theme squares … WE in the Acrosses, NS in the Downs … seems kind of arbitrary …" And herein lies the only problem with this theme, which I now think quite ingenious: you have to write really, really tiny to make it work visually (and if you're solving on screen, as I do, the fact that the letters are actually laid out like a compass doesn't register visually at all). So the unchecked squares are kind of crucial today, as they give you a large-scale vision of what each individual theme square is supposed to look like.

I first grasped, or semi-grasped, the theme with CLEANS HOUSE, when I knew that had to be the answer, but then it looked like actual answer was going to be CLEAN HOUSE. Naturally, this caused alarm in the Grid Patrol region of my brain, as I figured the puzzle had a major clue/answer correspondence error. But no—"NS" occupied the single square, so the right answer worked after all. Hmmm, now that I look at the grid, I think I actually figured out the cardinal point thing with the westernmost theme square, i.e. SENSEI / TWEEN. I'd written in TEEN, but couldn't get SENSEI to work in the Down … and then something clicked. Then I went back and cleaned house in the NW. After that, the theme squares were mostly easy to uncover (with only one little hiccup—see below).

There's some very nice fill, including a bunch of stuff I've never seen before. PALEO DIET is great (as an entry, not as a diet). Mary QUANT rings only the faintest of bells—she's a big reason that section of the grid took me longer than any other. That, and the fact that I couldn't parse the compass points right the first time I threw ORSON WELLES in there (I put the "NW" in one square instead of the "WE"). A PEWEE (53D: Small flycatcher) is a bird, right? [Looks it up…] Yes. I had it as a PEWET for a bit, perhaps confusing it with a godwit or … oh, no, my confusion is much more reasonable, as there is in fact a bird called a PEEWIT (or PEWIT). Also known as the northern lapwing. NORTHERN LAPWING is 15 letters long, in case you're interested in that sort of thing, you crossword constructor types. Where was I? Um … MASER! That was the one part of the puzzle where I got every letter from crosses, then double-checked all the crosses, then just crossed my fingers that that was a thing. And it was! Thought 11D: Expensive Super Bowl purchase was an AD SPOT, not a TV SPOT. With -A-A- in place at 92D: Stick on the grill? I went for KABAB. So that was some kooky fun (real answer: SATAY). The puzzle in general felt clean and pleasant. Nice work.

Puzzle of the Week this week is the one I mentioned on Friday—Patrick Blindauer's brutal "Bi-curious" (an American Values Crossword production). Get it here for a buck. It will take you ten times longer than most puzzles take you, so your buck will go a long way.

Since I really dropped the ball on Puzzles of the Week over the summer, I'll direct you to Matt Gaffney's survey of his favorite puzzles for August (and July).

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Ellen S 12:44 AM  

Well, of all my amusing errors, my favoriet was Tin POT for 11D. I thought (a la yesterday), you would pay a lot for a receptacle to pee in if you managed to get a Super Bowl ticket and were paranoid about taking precious ... hours? getting to the restroom and back and missing something important. So you could use your TIN HAT (I always thought they were "tinfoil", I mean, they are and that's what I call them, but a real TIN HAT would be easier to turn upside down and use as a TinPOT.) Although football seems to me to be all timeouts anyway.

I thought it was fun, more fun after I figured out the rebus; before that it was just random-looking, which is how the world always looks to us TIN HAT wearers.

JFC 1:11 AM  

Rex, Sometimes I wonder about you. The theme was so freaking obvious. Logic, Rex, logic. All-enCOMPASSing and a grid that looks like a COMPASS with four unchecked letters that could only be NESW. DUh. It was a slog.

John Child 1:19 AM  

Unchecked squares plus holes in each section where good answers didn't fit certainly signaled rebus, but it took me quite a while to decide what rebus and why. But then their symmetry sped things up a lot, so this was medium here too.

It all looked sort of arbitrary while solving, bit I liked it a lot better when finished - the unchecked W in pewit's, er, PEWEE was my last letter

Good fun. Thanks Ms Gray and Mr Chen.

jae 1:47 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
jae 1:50 AM  

Medium for me too.   Although I printed out the AcrossLite version,  I checked out the  PDF on line and saw the compass rose.  So, expecting a rebus,  I got the theme following pretty much the same path as Rex.

I've seen AVALON with two different clues this week.

Me too for PEWEt but I was thinking could M&A have been spelling it wrong all this time? 

Very clever rebus, nicely executed, liked  it.

chefwen 2:43 AM  

Got the NSEW right away in the middle and thought O.K. We are going to take out the N in 8D, the W in 63A and thought I was onto to something big. Not so, little one, there is more to this puppy than meets the eye. Finally got it at 98A when Jon and I were haggling over how to spell BOLL WEEVILS and how COMMON SENSE were going to work together. Light bulb moment. It was still very time consuming, which was O.K. as we had plenty of it.

Had a blast and we both were quite impressed with the difficulty that must have gone into the construction of this great puzzle.

Thank you Tracy Gray and Jeff Chen.

Bob Kerfuffle 6:36 AM  

Really fun puzzle, though a bit on the easy side. I worked N to S for the most part, and I caught on to the rebus at the cross of 17A and 8D, which sped things up considerably.

But only last night reading Amy Reynaldo's blog was it revealed to me that the eight rebus squares are all located on the lines of the eight compass points radiating from the center! Great construction!

Loren Muse Smith 6:55 AM  

I knew we had us a rebus almost out of the gate. Both the UNSER/TAUPE and ACORN SQUASH/ORSON WELLES crosses were screaming at me, so I left those squares blank and then moments later saw the compass trick with SENSEI/TWEEN. From the get-go, I filled in the tiny letters the way Rex is talking about, and thought it was just so damn elegant.

Knowing that Jeff was involved, I guessed correctly that the rebus squares would be symmetrical. (They had to be, really. Thanks for explaining that, @Bob K.) So I filled those in and then went ahead and put in the N, S, W, E letters in the middle.

@jae, et al – me too for "pewit" and thinking of M&A.

"Ovian" before OVATE, "ave" before TIA, and "in a rut" before IN IDLE. Also, off that V, I kept trying to fit "Ivanhoe" for AVALON. Ivanhoe, Avalon, and Camelot all splash around in my head together whether they're supposed to or not.

What a timely theme for me. Last week I had a class of sixth graders drawing maps, and they had to include a compass rose. (Update – they've hired a math teacher, so I'm now long-term for a position responsible for 5 different classes: 6th grade Soc. Stud, 8th grade WV Studies, 11th grade History, 6th grade Art, 8th grade Art. The man they hired for the position just left his keys and school computer on his desk last week and vanished into thin air. Won't even answer his phone. Five different lesson plans every day. Sheesh. Hey – at least these subjects are a little more Just-Hum-a-Few-Bars-And-I'll-Fake-It-able! The art classes are a real problem because all I have is a bit of construction paper, some yarn, and the creativity of an acorn squash.)

In Chattanooga, I used to pretend I wasn't feeling well on Sunday mornings so I could skip church and watch LOST IN SPACE. I guess like every other tween lass, I had a wicked crush on Don and envied Judy. Fiercely. I tried mightily not to hate her.

Tracy, Jeff – I loved this puzzle with its cool theme and terrific entries like PALEO DIET, DON'T SWEAT IT, and LOST IN SPACE. Really, really nice job, you two!

TokyoRacer 7:01 AM  

Once I worked out the NS-WE theme (from ORSON WELLES/ACORN SQUASH) I thought it was pretty obvious that each 4-letter square was going to be in the same place along the eight lines of the compass. So that made solving much easier, as those squares could immediately be filled in (once you worked out where the horiz/vert ones were).

And you don't have to write small - I just wrote NWES (in proper arrangement) on the side and blackened in the squares in the puzzle to indicate where they go.

The Paleo Diet, by the way, is very good for you. Or an abridged version of it. I cut out most carbs two years ago and lost a lot of weight. And have been vindicated recently with articles in the NYTimes and elsewhere about the study showing that a high protein/moderately high fat/low carb diet is good for you for many reasons. Remember: the thinner you are, the longer you'll live!

ArtO 7:40 AM  

Got the rebus at ACORNSQUASH/ORSON WELLES but it was still a slog. Credit for an especially ingenious puzzle. Great constructing.

charlesr55 8:29 AM  

why is there always one red square in the puzzle?

NCA President 8:43 AM  

Even after solving successfully I thought PEWEE was a variant spelling of PEeWEE, which to me is a junior baseball player or a "Small flycatcher." Get it? fly catcher? I know, it was weird to me too but it made the kind of sense that sorta makes enough sense you don't question it.

Seems like ALERO is getting a workout this week. Is it me, or was this in a very recent NYT puzzle?

I solved this online on the NYT applet site...which I've come to like. Does anyone know if there is a configuration in the rebus square that makes the puzzle think it's correct? Not that it matters...I figured it out and went with WNES so that the letters alternated. The puzzle thinks I'm wrong.

Overall I liked the puzzle well enough.

Casco Kid 8:49 AM  

Clean solve. Medium is a good assignment. Took 2 hours to get the rebus. Everything else had to fall and, like @ArtO, it was ORSON(WE)LLES and ACOR(NS)QUASH that finally made the rebus clear. I had ORSONWellS for a nice long time. Before then, the rebus square was taking on random values, creating havoc for the solutions of 16 clues and their crosses. "Trust nothing; change everything" meant this solve was a wide-ranging tour of shallow rabbit holes.

Other candidate tricks, from LOSTINspac, I figured the trailing E was lost because we ran out of space. Then when it seemed to become LOSTINPACE, I figured the trick was to lose the second instance of the letter S.

@R.alph's expert solve is compared to my hunt-and-peck here. After I got the trick, I cleared all of the rebus squares, then made them all W in the last few steps. Come see my rabbit holes!

AliasZ 8:50 AM  

The first thing I noticed when I opened the puzzle was the super symmetry -- the black squares arranged in the shape of a compass rose, and the four unchecked squares into which I immediately entered NEWS. I said to myself: Self, this was stupid easy. Is that all there is to this puzzle? What a disappointment! I SWEAR, that's what I said.

Not so fast, bucko. That's just when the fun started.

Then I realized there must be rebuses when I couldn't figure out certain answers in the NNW and WNW areas, so I thought I will see NNW, NW, WNW, etc. correctly placed around the grid. But then I would end up with NEWS once again, which didn't make any sense either. That is when I realized that the rebuses were mini-compasses themselves. The CLEA_HOUSE / FOUL_ATHER crossing gave it away. That is so cool. Quite a few AHAS in this one. I REARENDED it under the MISTLETOE in no time after the trick finally revealed itself. The only area that befuddled me was the South, where I could not see BEFUDDLES for a few minutes. Call it solver's myopia. Likewise with MASER which I knew. Same as LASER except completely different. Having BBC News in there for a while is what killed me.

Never heard of PALEODIET, but I take Jeff's word for it. And Tracy's of course. Or maybe I'll just ASK AROUND.

I was surprised that SO APED and APED was allowed. Besides ORSON WELLES, we also have Francis Ford CUPOLA, and the Dustin Hoffman character RATSON shows its ugly face again.

All in all, a super clean and fun puzzle, SETSTO, QUANT, DELT, OPER and a few others notwithstanding. Thank you, Tracy & Jeff.

To show my gratitude, allow me to offer you the HAVA Naise in E major, Op. 83 by Camille Saint-Saëns played, by ZENO Francescatti. You may also notice EUGENE Ormandy and the Philadelphia fillies on the same LP. [Yeah, I know. SAMUEL Barber is in the building, but I gave you his Adagio with Toscanini a few days ago].

Happy Sunday.

Anonymous 8:51 AM  

I don't think most people know that today's co-author Jeff Chen also writes a daily crossword blog at xwordinfo. It's a rather different take on blogging than Rex uses but it's also interesting.

Anonymous 8:52 AM  

You can jut put W in the compass squares on the NYT app and it will accept it as correct

Casco Kid 8:55 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Casco Kid 8:56 AM  

@R.alph's expert solve is compared to my hunt-and-peck here. Come see the rabbit holes!

Nancy 9:13 AM  

Oh happy day! A trick puzzle on a Sunday and it's a real beauty! I'm not sure exactly where the aha moment came: I was struggling in 3 or 4 different areas at the same time, trying to fit in ORSON WELLES; BOLL WEEVILS; LOST IN SPACE; COMMON SENSE; DON'T SWEAT IT, et al. No single rebus letter was working. No two rebus letters were really working either. But something HAD to work: I had just enough letters filled in to know that the above answers had to fit...somehow. And then I looked at the illustration in the center and saw the 4 compass directions in my answers. And then I re-read the title: ALL-ENCOMPASSING. (Everything in 1 square, right???!!!) And Eureka! (Or "aha", as we say in the puzzle-solving biz.) What wonderful revealers: so subtle at first and then suddenly they become clear. What a beautifully constructed puzzle and what fun it was to solve!

RAD2626 9:45 AM  

What a terrific puzzle. I always do puzzles online but wife was done with Magazine section early so did the hard copy which I think today made it easier. Beautifully laid out with picture of the compass. Glad MASER had the compass point for S or would have been total guess. Loved the long clues. Some of the fill was early week easy like SW; some was weekend hard. Great fun.

@charlesr55. See Rex's FAQ's. Irrelevant. Just where he finished.

Anonymous 9:45 AM  

Hate to point it out, but shouldn't the second NS in "commoN SeNSe" (66D) be a rebus?

Maruchka 9:57 AM  

Did not see the rebus until after I "solved" by placing N S in all the right squares. Why? I don't always get Jeff Chen's thinking, so I assumed any clunkiness was his doing.

Nope, nope, nope. I messed up - that's it. Apologies to Mr. Chen. It's a s W E et puzzle.

Fav of the day: The compass rose.

Completely agree with @chefwen, @Loren MS, @Bob K that the constructors are to be congratulated. Thanks, Tracy and Jeff.

Blue Stater 10:20 AM  

Predictably, I hated it, chiefly because I hate to see the tricks obsession invading even Sundays. I Could Not Get the gimmick and had to come here to find out what it was; even then I had a great deal of difficulty finishing. Not a happy day.

r.alphbunker 10:23 AM  

@Casco kid

I'm strictly Triple A. One day I hope that we can see how a real expert solves one of these puzzles. Maybe it will be you!

jberg 10:33 AM  

Thank ALLAH that 'ashen' hosiery never caught on, or I would have been stuck with ave Maria for much longer. As it was, I quickly went to TAUPE, and once I remembered AKELA (yes, I was a Cub Scout back in the 50s), 8D just had to be UNSER, so the rebus came pretty quickly. It took a bit longer to see that there were 8 of them, not just the cardinal ones but I eventually got ORSON WELLES/ACORN SQUASH when I couldn't get 'courgette' to fit.

Speaking of which, @Loren, here's a good example of the creativity of the ACORN SQUASH.

@Rex, didn't we have a puzzle with PEWIT a month or so back? But they are neither small nor flycatchers, so the clue was unambiguous.

But on the subject of birds, I have to respond to the terrible slur against the DODO. Common sense had nothing to do with their extinction, it's not something birds have in general. Most of their behavior is pretty programmed; the dodo's bad luck was that the conditions they lived in suddenly changed and no longer matched their programming.

I'd blame the people who killed them, not the birds.

Oh yeah, whoever asked about the red square (@charlesr55) -- it's all explained in @Rex's FAQs, well worth a read!

Anonymous 10:49 AM  

I figured out the trick fairly early on, but had to cheat to see that they had to be entered "WENS" in Across Lite. the more obvious entry would be, to me, NESW.

Ellen S 10:51 AM  

@jberg, thanks for the creative Acorn Squash link. I think I'll try it this Halloween!

Leapfinger 10:51 AM  

1. Look at grid, see a snowflake; dive in without reading title.
2. Want CLEANSHOUSE, but have BADWEATHER. Wha' #1
3. Want SENSEI, but have TEENS. Wha' #2.
4. I SWEAR I know it's UNSER! See the intersection WENS. WENS? WENS??
See howthat works for #2, 3. Aha #1.
5. Fill, fill. Realize the snowflake is a compass. Aha #2.
6. Fill, fill. Realize the symmetry tells me where the other rebi go. Pitch them in. Aha #3.
7. Bothersome MASER (let's call it a semi-educated guess) points to unchecked squares N,E,W,S. Aha #4, and a strangled WOW!
8. Epilogue: I'd been lazy, figured A-L would accept a W, but I do like my rebbe to stand out, so I erased them and let 'Reveal' fill them in. The grid looks very festive with the 8 red flags.

Very likely, many solvers caught the Big Picture much sooner, but I think 4 smaller Aha!s trump one big one, even lumping Ivana, Ivanka, Marla and both the Donalds.

Did think we were somewhat constrained with 4 minis and 4 midis, but considering the elegance of the concept plus the snappy fill and cluing, that's certainly the lesser of two WEEVILS.

Had a lovely hour [or so], Tracy and Jeff. Please do more!

chefbea 10:54 AM  

What a great puzzle...starting with printing it out...a beautiful design in the center and all the central squares were robin's egg blue.. Hadn't realized that the placement of the rebuses were all lined up..

Thanks Tracy and Jeff

chefbea 10:55 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
chefbea 10:57 AM  

Don't know why my comment appears twice. Keep trying to delete one of them and get the message that I cannot

chefbea 10:58 AM  

now it got deleted

Anonymous 11:01 AM  

In the iPad app, WENS was accepted for the rebus.

Master Melvin 11:05 AM  

The dead tree version has a compass rose superimposed on that cluster of squares in the middle of the grid.

Anonymous 11:11 AM  

@Tokyo Racer, I had no problem with what you said about the PALEODIET; in fact, I think that ancient grains are probably a good dietary choice, as well a an interesting verbal construct.

No problem, that is, until your closing sentence: '...the thinner you are, the longer you'll live'. Really now, are you sure you mean that, considering anorexia and WWII 'reeducation' camps?

Anonymous 11:24 AM  

I really hate crossword puzzles that are more about thinking-outside-the-box contrivance than challenges to what one knows on account of useful and trivial learning.

Jason 11:26 AM  

I just want to brag for a second. I finished every puzzle this week and I'm pretty proud. That is all, thank you!

Mohair Sam 11:40 AM  

Well we enjoyed immensely, thanks Ms. Gray and Mr. Chen. But this played much tougher for us than most because . . . .

Got the rebus early and anticipated where it would be located on the grid (a beauty, btw). On two of the rebus squares I moved the East to the left side of the map (change is good). Throw in a missed gimme kAbAb and the fact that we don't watch the Simpsons nor know Kierkgaard's first name. What a battle in the SE. Finally moved to the NE and ORSONWELLES became evident, as did my mistake. Puzzle finished.

Not a student of classical music, but Barber's "Adagio for Strings" is an exceptional piece imo.

@Tokyo Racer - According to recent studies you can indeed be too thin, however you still cannot be too rich.

Anyhow, great Sunday puzzle.

Whirred Whacks 12:04 PM  

In my iPad version, any one of the four letters -- WENS -- was acceptable for a "correct" solve.

My compliments to the constructor: nifty idea and execution.

Started in the NE, and got the rebus early on with the ORSON WELLES answer.

Favorite clue and answer:
"The dark side" for YIN

Both my teams (Stanford, Ohio State), lost yesterday. Hoping for a 49er win today.

Enjoy your Sunday.

RooMonster 12:04 PM  

Hey All!
Still in the midst of solving, but thought I'd pop in anyway. This puz is a bigger version of my Directional runt, nicely done, with the NEWS squares. In case no one noticed, this puz has super symmetry. My only gripe is too many blocks. All told there are 85! Granted, the big compass takes up 13 by itself, which leaves 72, but still a big number. I have all the E, but the W is slowing me up. I will finish it, though!

Like Rex, had TEEN in, but the downs weren't making sense. I finally got thr rebus squares with the CLEANSHOUSE/FOULWEATHER cross. Led me to the SE with COMMONSENSE/BOLLWEEVIL. Fun so far, off to do the rest. Trying for No Googles again today!


OISK 12:16 PM  

I enjoyed this clever puzzle, but it ruined my one week run of error free solutions. Never a cub scout, and never needing to diet, I got Naticked at Akela and Paleo. I had Aketa and pateo. Careless of me, had I gone through the alphabet and tried the "L" I might have preferred the common prefix "Paleo" to the meaningless "Pateo." There was plenty of unfamiliar pop culture, but all so well placed as to minimize the annoyance. ( Never heard of One Direction, Mary Quant, Their Satanic Majesties, Steve Perry, Betsy Brant, never watched "the help" (Emma Stone), nor Monty Python, (Tim) but they were all inferable from the crosses) Very clever, inventive, well constructed puzzle.

Susan McConnell 12:38 PM  

Solved on paper, got the rebus at UNSER/ISWEAR....I thought this was great and lots of fun. I love that the NSEW work the same way they are laid out on the compass, love the unchecked squares, the fill is mostly free of junk, the 8 rebus squares are symmetrical and appear as compass points...This was a pleasure.

joho 12:53 PM  

This is near the top of my list of favorite Sunday puzzles .. thank you Tracy and Jeff!

I had the same experience at @Rex with the "S" in MASER. It was the last square I filled it, thinking a MASER is cousin to a LASER. I obviously hadn't figured out yet that the unchecked squares mirrored the NSWE rebus squares: brilliant!!!

Loved this puzzle!

oldbizmark 12:54 PM  

easiest sunday in a while. NESW came right away (compass was a dead giveaway) and everything else fell into place. one questionable clue/answer was ORDEAL for Kidnapping, e.g. No other complaints. Really loved being able to run through a puzzle like this with a nice rebus.

Anonymous 1:02 PM  

@oldbizmark - The compass image only appeared in the paper version, not in the app version.

Carola 1:10 PM  

I add my voice to the PAEAN - such a pleasure to solve, with the beautiful grid, ingenious construction and wealth of original entries.

I caught on the same way as @Rex, but I DNF, as my atomic clock contained a MeSon rather than a MASER. The cross with BEFUDDLED was truly apt.

For pewit lovers, the word if not the bird, Pewit's Nest Gorge gives you another reason to visit beautiful Wisconsin.

RooMonster 1:52 PM  

Me again! Finished! Two wrong squares though, aarrgghh!! RICcE for RICHE, & TEeS for TEAS. Rasafratsa! So close. Hands up for SE being the hardest.

Loren!!!!! Welcome Back!! Don't stay away so long next time! I'm glad your math class is done!

@Charlesr55, the red square and the highlighted clue is just where the cursor ends up on Rex final entry.


Melodious Funk 2:21 PM  

I believe that dodo has not to do with the extinct bird, rather it's slang for a doofus, dipwad, dingbat sort of person, one with little common sense. Nice obfuscation.

Excellent puzzle all around, a real keeper of a construction. Give yourself a POW, Jeff and Tracy.

wreck 2:32 PM  

Medium in difficulty, but took a long time via the ipad. Even after I figured out the rebus, it was difficult to visually "enter the letters" into the square to make both the across and down answers clear. (I don't think even I understand what I just said!)
I liked the puzzle itself, the logistics were tedious.

Steve J 2:39 PM  

Struggled with this quite a bit, but I loved it in spite of (or maybe because of) that.

Sniffed out a rebus early on, but it took me forever to figure out what was going on. I expected the usual rebus that works in both directions, so it took a long time to figure out the NS/WE orientation. It finally clicked at BOLL WEEVILS/COMMON SENSE.

Made a mess of the NE, with ad SPOT, Boca del Rey instead of Boca del MAR, and not seeing ORSON WELLES forever. Also struggled with the mini-puzzles in the N and S, never having heard of AKELA up north and not remembering GIRLS down south.

@Bob Kerfuffle: Thanks for pointing out the radial orientation of the other rebuses. This was a rare treat where impressive construction also led to a fun solve. One of my favorite Sunday puzzles I can recall.

Anonymous 2:47 PM  

How does one enter a rebus on the standard NYT puzzle site? ( I could not find a way to enter more than one letter in a square. Also, I discovered that it would accept either N or W but not E or S.

Gill I. P. 3:09 PM  

Does the PALEO DIET promote SATIETY when SATAY is also EATEN? Or is STASIS my mortal ENEMY when I'm INIDLE?
Everything I wanted to say has already been said...except this took me ages to get the WE/NS concept. Gadzooks, I felt dumb. I think I stared at ACOR QUASH for about an hour and then I got hungry so I left the puzzle to just sit and fester while I tried to figure out why there was a cute little cross in the middle of the puzzle. OK, read the theme at the top of the page. Think!...think! OHHHH. I get it!
Wow Tracy and Jeff, this is a marvelous puzzle. Brilliant, I say! Yes, I'll take more and next time I bet I cotton on to your trick!
p.s. I agree with @Melodious F about the dodo being a dipwad!

Moly Shu 3:28 PM  

Fairly easy, enjoyable solve. Put the NEWS in the unchecked squares early and got the rebus at SENSEI/TWEEN. Then kinda just sailed through. One early mistake, felony before ORDEAL. Thing I know only from crosswords -SOREN.
Solved last night, but couldn't get the app to accept my solution. Tried NEWS and just the SW but no luck. Figured I'd come here and someone would explain the correct Order of Rebus. Sure enough, went back and the pencil guy appeared. Thanks all, good comments today.

paulsfo 4:05 PM  

This may have been the ultimate in hard to construct but really boring to solve. I wish that Mr Shortz would realize that, when every theme answer is exactly the same, with the rebus in symmetrically-placed squares, it makes for a boring puzzle.
A crossword be primarily for the solvers' enjoyment, rather than the constructor's. To quote Mr. Knightley from 'Emma', "very badly done."

Campesite 4:19 PM  

Nice to see Orson Welles in the grid. Just yesterday I finished an entertaining book called My Lunches With Orson, in which a young acolyte director, Henry Jaglom, is permitted to tape his conversations with the great filmmaker during the final years of his remarkable life. A very funny and candid peak into an amazing mind, replete with hilarious digressions on a range of topics and several bawdy tales of old showbiz.

Masked and Somethin Blue? 4:50 PM  

Got home from a weekend roadtrip just a short time ago. Worked the SunPuz at our local pancake joint, over an early afternoon brunch. (Motel's freebie breakfast was pretty gruesome, by the time we got to it... that's yer trouble, with sleepin in.)

Pretty easy puz; just need to follow directions. But, hey -- our grid printed out all blue, except or a yellow sorta Christmas ornament in the center. Typical printout behavior?

I got no problem with PEWEE birds,... or pewee grids, for that matter.
Had some minor problems in the NE with STELLAS and QUANTs.

@muse: I gotta see the Art class lecture plan... A whole semester of yarn and construction paper creations? har. M&A proposed class projects:
* Best 3-D model pewit bird contest.
* Boxing paper puppets wars.
* Build voodoo idols to hang in creatively odd spots all around the school. See which student's idol has the best likeness of either:
a. School mascot.
b. School principal.
c. Kim Kardashian.
d. All three at once.

But I have digressed.


Martin 4:55 PM  


It is not their fault, but because of the lack of predators on Mauritius, dodos had no fear of humans. This was the same reason they had no need for flight.

A large lumbering bird that could be walked up to and dispatched, and wouldn't run even as you bashed it -- you're surprised that it became a metaphor for stupid?

Anonymous 5:36 PM  

So much for trust.

DODO sol, sol me fal-la DODO sol fal DO

sanfranman59 6:09 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 7:40, 6:02, 1.27, 98%, Challenging (5th highest ratio of 243 Mondays)
Tue 8:11, 7:54, 1.04, 61%, Medium-Challenging
Wed 12:10, 9:31, 1.28, 93%, Challenging
Thu 15:20, 17:28, 0.88, 25%, Easy-Medium
Fri 15:32, 19:53, 0.78, 14%, Easy
Sat 29:52, 25:49, 1.16, 86%, Challenging
Sun 31:18, 29:27, 1.06, 66%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 5:20, 3:57, 1.35, 100%, Challenging (highest ratio of 243 Mondays)
Tue 5:27, 5:24, 1.01, 52%, Medium
Wed 7:25, 6:08, 1.21, 90%, Challenging
Thu 9:42, 10:49, 0.90, 26%, Easy-Medium
Fri 10:12, 13:00, 0.78, 14%, Easy
Sat 18:07, 17:17, 1.05, 64%, Medium-Challenging
Sun 27:47, 21:45, 1.28, 85%, Challenging

Anoa Bob 6:33 PM  

Anon@2:47, to enter multiple letters in a grid square on the NYT puzzle site, hit Ctrl/Insert. A box will open and you can type in multiple letters, up to 3 or 4, I think. Then hit Enter and the letters should appear in the selected square.

Sounds like the Dodo was a real bird-brain.

ANON B 7:10 PM  

What is an unchecked box, please?

Carola 7:17 PM  

@ANON B - An unchecked box is one that isn't crossed by another word. In this puzzle, the N, S, E, and W around the central "compass" are unchecked. They appear in only one word, rather than also in a crossing word that would confirm the letter.

Anonymous M 7:25 PM  

OK, solved it, but still puzzled about 68D. How do you get "PDA" from "bussing on a bus, briefly?"?

ANON B 7:27 PM  

What is an unchecked box?

ANON B 7:37 PM  


Thanks. I understand your definition but I still don't
understand the meaning of
unchecked. Please don't
bother to try to get it
through my thick head.

ANON B 7:45 PM  

@ANON M at 7:25

PDA=Public Display of Affection.
Bussing is kissing although
I find it to be a silly

Charles Flaster 9:43 PM  

DNF at all. Did not get the rebus because never thought of two letters per some squares. Liked the creativity of construction.

LeapF 9:59 PM  

You confirm, or 'check' a given letter in a word by having that letter be correct in the crossing word.
If there is no crossing word, the letter/box is unconfirmed, unchecked.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:28 PM  

But in this case, the letters N S E W are checked in a way, in that they are the appropriate points of the compass rose. A cryptic crossword, on the other hand, will usually have many truly unchecked letters.

Leap 10:53 PM  

@BobK, you're thinking outside the box again.


Anonymous 9:24 AM  

Brilliant architecture of the puzzle somewhat undermined by dull cluing. Not one "aha" moment for me. DNF upper center and upper right due to ignorance of Mary Quant, akela and stellas (what on earth is that?) Like Rex I did myself harm by putting in "ad sport" where the puzzler wanted "tv sport". I recall reading about the paleo diet though I didn't recall it's name. Makes a lot of sense: it basically says that people should eat whatever apes eat, because that's what their bodies are meant to eat. Of course those like me who believe in the "aquatic ape" theory need to adjust the diet to place a greater emphasis on seafood.

Jenskis70 2:38 PM  

Stella Artois is a Belgian beer.

Andy 8:02 PM  

Beautiful puzzle, both to look at and to do. Bravi!!!

Anonymous 9:57 PM  

Odd bit was that I got EUGENE right away wince I was out there just over a month ago for their fine half & full marathon event, and having already deduced the compass theme, the ENE at the end of EUGENE, placed somewhat in the East-Northeast of the grid, sent me on a bit of a wild goose chase looking for NNE, NNW, WNW, and so on. Obviously some of those would have been REALLY hard to clue. Red herring! After that it got pretty easy pretty fast, but fun.

Anonymous 9:58 PM  

Er, I meant SINCE...sorry, typo.

Tita 9:35 AM  

Very late reporting in.

Loved this - got it right away, even though I saw no compass rose imprint, Glad I didn't - that would have been a real spoiler! The title and the symmetry led me pretty quickly to guessing the theme, though not the execution. UNSER gave it away.

Maybe it's the genes handed down from the Portuguese explorers that made it pop. I have always loved staring at maps, old and new alike, and compass roses are varied and beautiful.

Loved what everyone else loved.
Thanks Ms. Gray and Mr. Chen.!

Tita 9:39 AM  

@lms - I wish I could send my mom down to help you with you class. She loves that sort of thing. A screaming brat, or shy toddler, can walk into my mother's house, and within 15 minutes is rapt, playing a game that she made up on the fly with whatever was hangin around - an empty paper towel tube and some dried beans anyone?
And for sure, some kind of lesson will be learned too.

Anonymous 11:48 AM  

Loved the puzzle and Rex's site with folk's commentary. Had to Google 'rebus' although I thought it must be some kind of more-than-two-headed Janus. I got the rebus very soon, which means I always buy hard copy since the Times is my guilty pleasure. My favorite rebus was the Sunday NYT xword years ago that had stars making the Big Dipper. I got Naticked plenty this week, but would never have gotten Naticked myself since I grew up near mile 12. Thanks all.

otr 9:22 AM  

Work from home theory is fast gaining popularity because of the freedom and flexibility that comes with it. Since one is not bound by fixed working hours, they can schedule their work at the time when they feel most productive and convenient to them. Women & Men benefit a lot from this concept of work since they can balance their home and work perfectly. People mostly find that in this situation, their productivity is higher and stress levels lower. Those who like isolation and a tranquil work environment also tend to prefer this way of working. Today, with the kind of communication networks available, millions of people worldwide are considering this option.

Women & Men who want to be independent but cannot afford to leave their responsibilities at home aside will benefit a lot from this concept of work. It makes it easier to maintain a healthy balance between home and work. The family doesn't get neglected and you can get your work done too. You can thus effectively juggle home responsibilities with your career. Working from home is definitely a viable option but it also needs a lot of hard work and discipline. You have to make a time schedule for yourself and stick to it. There will be a time frame of course for any job you take up and you have to fulfill that project within that time frame.

There are many things that can be done working from home. A few of them is listed below that will give you a general idea about the benefits of this concept.

This is the most common and highly preferred job that Women & Men like doing. Since in today's competitive world both the parents have to work they need a secure place to leave behind their children who will take care of them and parents can also relax without being worried all the time. In this job you don't require any degree or qualifications. You only have to know how to take care of children. Parents are happy to pay handsome salary and you can also earn a lot without putting too much of an effort.

For those who have a garden or an open space at your disposal and are also interested in gardening can go for this method of earning money. If given proper time and efforts nursery business can flourish very well and you will earn handsomely. But just as all jobs establishing it will be a bit difficult but the end results are outstanding.

Freelance can be in different wings. Either you can be a freelance reporter or a freelance photographer. You can also do designing or be in the advertising field doing project on your own. Being independent and working independently will depend on your field of work and the availability of its worth in the market. If you like doing jewellery designing you can do that at home totally independently. You can also work on freelancing as a marketing executive working from home. Wanna know more, email us on and we will send you information on how you can actually work as a marketing freelancer.

Internet related work
This is a very vast field and here sky is the limit. All you need is a computer and Internet facility. Whatever field you are into work at home is perfect match in the software field. You can match your time according to your convenience and complete whatever projects you get. To learn more about how to work from home, contact us today on and our team will get you started on some excellent work from home projects.

Diet food
Since now a days Women & Men are more conscious of the food that they eat hence they prefer to have homemade low cal food and if you can start supplying low cal food to various offices then it will be a very good source of income and not too much of efforts. You can hire a few ladies who will help you out and this can be a good business.

Thus think over this concept and go ahead.

JN 7:25 AM  

So one reject for the Sci Fi clue was Twilight Zone minus the NE, figuring that might have something to do with the compass. Fortunately solving other clues dismissed that early in the game.

spacecraft 1:08 PM  

Instead of black squares in the center, my puzzle sported a lovely 8-pointed star; really nice artwork. Noticing the four uncrossed squares around it, I suspected at once they'd be the compass point initials. Still, other than INNER, it was tough to get started here.

I finally saw a gimme cross: IVANA/HAVA, and plowed in there. '60s sci-fi series? How many were there? Star Trek didn't fit, so it had to be LOSTINSPAC...oops. Danger, Will Robinson! But then, the bottom part of it worked out to -PACE. This just had to be our campy favorite. Ergo, rebus time--and right away the compass thing clicked, and I tried WE in the across: BINGO! That was a momentous AHA! moment. For a long while I thought I was going to DNF till I grokked that.

Then, when I couldn't get the central south (I don't know from Dadaists, except for ARP, the xword fave), I thought again I wouldn't finish. Then I stumbled across another NEWS square in the east...hmm, why not the south, too? I tried ADWEEK, never heard of it but it seemed to make COMMONSENSE, and that part was done.

Thus, by the time I got to the NE, I knew the big SB expense couldn't be ADSPOT, as AD was already in the grid.

Very cleverly done, guys! And since I don't remember groaning over the fill, it must've been pretty solid. Gotta give ya an A.

1734, a bit short.

rain forest 2:04 PM  

Excellent puzzle, both to solve and to look at when finished. The placement and configuration of the rebus squares is hardly arbitrary, as some said. The n/s and w/e rays are longer than the diagonal rays, and symmetry abounds. Perfect, rather than arbitrary. The unchecked NEWS is icing on the cake.
Wonderful construction, nice cluing, and zero crap fill.

I wonder though, does one have to track animals and carry crude stone tools in order to indulge in the PALEO DIET? Did they play Baccarat back then?

440 pretty good

Dirigonzo 5:17 PM  

Well, I caught on to the NEWS rebus early-on at ISWEAR/UNSER and that helped a lot, but what really sent me off to the (snail)races was discovering that they were in fact symmetrically placed at the 8 compass points that were so artfully pointed out by the compass rose in the center of the grid. This puzzle really is a thing of beauty construction-wise and solving-wise. Huge kudos to the creators.

OK, that's either 196 or 496, either way it's not good enough today.

LHS 888 8:35 PM  

I thought this was the best Sunday puzzle ever. I had a technical DNF due to 1 google for BETSY Brandt of whom I've never heard, and I needed that one word to break into the Deep South. All in all the solve was thoroughly enjoyable. I was so impressed with the beauty of the thing... A real work of art. We'll done T. Gray & J. Chen!

Louise Aucott 7:55 AM  

I loved that puzzle, and have been looking for a reprint of it. The only time I ever saw Will Shortz in person, he made mention of that puzzle as his favorite of all time. I remember it because it was the Sunday puzzle on August 26, 1973, the day after my wedding my husband of (now) 43 years. Any idea how I could get my hands on a copy of it?

Louise Aucott 7:59 AM  

The above referring to the Sunday rebus puzzle titled "The Big Dipper".

  © Free Blogger Templates Columnus by 2008

Back to TOP