Country getaways in Russia / TUE 9-9-14 / Cher's son Chaz / Discovery in British mystery / Pinball infraction / Old-fashioned charity

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Constructor: Ed Sessa

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging (*for a Tuesday*)

THEME: The Twist — long, cross-referenced theme answers give us the artist (CHUBBY CHECKER) (10D: Starter of a dance craze in 18-Down) and the year the dance craze started (NINETEEN-SIXTY) (18D: See 10-Down); Then circles descending the grid in a winding pattern spell out "Come on, let's twist."

Word of the Day: Chaz BONO (3D: Cher's son Chaz) —
Chaz Salvatore Bono (born Chastity Sun Bono; March 4, 1969) is an American advocate, writer and musician. He is the only child of American entertainers Sonny and Cher.[2][3]
Bono is a transgender man. In 1995, several years after being outed as lesbian by the tabloid press, he publicly self-identified as such in a cover story in a leading American gay monthly magazine, The Advocate, eventually going on to discuss the process of coming out to oneself and to others in two books. Family Outing: A Guide to the Coming Out Process for Gays, Lesbians, and Their Families (1998) includes his coming out account. The memoir The End of Innocence (2003) discusses his outing, music career, and partner Joan's death from non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
Between 2008 and 2010, Bono underwent female-to-male gender transition. A two-partEntertainment Tonight feature in June 2009 explained that his transition had started a year before. In May 2010, he legally changed his gender and name. A documentary on Bono's experience, Becoming Chaz, was screened at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival and later made its television debut on OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network. (wikipedia)
• • •

A number of problems here. First, "Come on let's twist" isn't a great stand-alone phrase, as there is no part in that song wherein that phrase is not followed immediately and without pause by "again." Wait … nope, sorry, I'm confusing it with "Let's Twist Again" (1961). OK, this makes the circled phrase even stranger, as "Come on let's twist" doesn't appear in lyrics to "The Twist" (1960) at all. Those words are all in there, individually, but not in that order. My point—the phrase is inapt. Close in spirit, but off in reality. At one point CHUBBY CHECKER says "Come on and twist." That's close. But again … not accurate. Second, the phrase, as represented in the grid, is a very poor approximation of the dance The Twist. It's more like a conga line. It winds. It oscillates. It travels across the grid floor. Close in spirit, but again, off. Then there's the fact that NINETEEN-SIXTY is a super dull answer. There is all kinds of good will and good intentions in this theme, but the execution is just … well, it's off.

Didn't appreciate the two long symmetrical Across answer with the same clue: [Electricity source]. Why the hell would you introduce a fake theme in the middle of your puzzle? Maybe there was some thought that it would be cute. Maybe that was an editorial decision. Don't know. But it was a distraction. The fill is subpar, for sure. I've got 12-15 examples of undesirable fill written down here, but I don't really feel like typing them all. You can see well enough yourself. It's not atrocious. It's just tedious. I was slow today, partly because of cross-referenced themers (always a time suck), and partly because I wrote in WALL OUTLET where WALL SOCKET was supposed to go. Major gaffe. A RAIL for A REED was another gaffe, though a minor one. Both my wrong answer and the right answer are partials you Really want to avoid because no one but No One wants to get tripped up on a cruddy partial. Getting tripped up is a part of solving, but when a cruddy partial does the tripping, yuck.

You probably missed yesterday's Mental Floss article, "How is a Crossword Made?", because it was yanked shortly after many knowledgable constructors and solvers (including yours truly) began mocking it on social media (but of course the Internet remembers all, so here you go). The misinformation was staggering. Mind-boggling. Hilariously erroneous. To Mental Floss's credit, they took the article down quickly. Both the original Mental Floss article and the Business Insider video it links to perpetuate the *tenacious* myth that Will Shortz "creates" the NYT crossword puzzles. Obviously the editor's role in shaping the crossword is crucial. Editing a puzzle well takes real skill and time and effort. But "create" the puzzles??? No. Not unless you clearly qualify the claim in a way that Emphasizes The Crucial Role Of The Constructor.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


wreck 12:11 AM  

Liked it better than Rex, and yes, it had a lot of crappy fill. At least we have had 2 straight days without SNL!
This was a faster than a usual Tuesday for me - I'm often just the opposite of many!

Whirred Whacks 12:23 AM  

Rex: I loved your sharing the Mental Floss piece on "How is A Crossword Made?" Quite amusing. And also a lesson to question the credibility of what we read in the media.

It reminded me of the Murray Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect coined by science novelist Michael Crichton. Crichton called it by this name because he once discussed it with Murray Gell-Mann, an American physicist who received the 1969 Nobel Prize in physics for his work on the theory of elementary particles.

According to Crichton, the Murray Gell-Mann Amnesia effect works as follows: “You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward-reversing cause and effect. I call these the “wet streets cause rain” stories. Paper’s full of them.

“In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story-and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read with renewed interest as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about far-off Palestine than it was about the story you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.”

This then is The Murray Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect.

Rex: will you ever again believe anything you read in Mental Floss?

Anonymous 1:11 AM  

how does will shortz fail to disabuse anyone of the notion he creates the puzzles? he's quoted once. do you think he was given the chance to read the final copy of the piece? how would he have known the piece even said he creates the puzzles?

wreck 1:31 AM  

I just went back and actually read the "article in question." It was pretty much a "puff piece" that did not warrant such an outcry in my opinion. Who really cares??? Those "in-the-know" need to lighten up a bit!

George Barany 1:35 AM  

Today's post by @Rex raises some interesting points, both about Ed Sessa's puzzle and other topics. Let's talk about the puzzle first. Creating something with triple-checked squares is by no means easy. Honestly, I don't know what the title dance "looks" like. I do remember being of a certain age when a Borscht Belt tummler taught the guests how to "do it" -- pretend that you are coming out of a shower and dry yourself by wrapping a bath towel around your waist. Ed's design does have some symmetry, but why not double it with biological significance as Liz Gorski did in an October 2002 Sunday puzzle dedicated to DNA?

@Rex noted the incongruiety of WALL_SOCKET and POWER_STRIP being long entries with the same clue, but I was as taken back with FIELD_TRIPS appearing later ... was this going to be an "anagram the second word" theme? Plus, Rex's point about the circled portion not being verbatim from any of the popular songs did cause a momentary hiccup in the solving process, since the start "COME_ON" and end "TWIST" were so obvious.

In an interesting TWIST that may amuse sports fans, this puzzle appears just as the Phoenix Mercury and Chicago Sky vie for the WNBA title. One of the stars of the former is Mistie Bass, daughter of CHUBBY_CHECKER.

As to the Mental Floss post, I found out about it in Eric Berlin's Facebook feed, and it had not yet been taken down when I checked it out. Good for the crossword community to rise up and correct common misperceptions about how we do things!

jj 1:43 AM  

Thing about Shortz is, he never really constructed many crosswords. I know of a few that were in Games in the 70s, but somewhere in the 5-10 range. He's done a ton in the puzzling community (editing, inventing types such as A to Z, e.g.), but he rarely has had a standard crossword that he himself constructed published.

I absolutely agree with Rex that Shortz doesn't do enough to disavow people that he doesn't construct the puzzles himself. It feeds his ego every time a media outlet does a feature on him. If you think that it's that publication's fault that they edited it favorably in Shortz's favor or whatever, Shortz still has the opportunity to set the record straight. He hasn't. For twenty years.

jae 1:53 AM  

Medium for me.  Had amass before GLEAN and @Rex Rail before REED.

Fun, nostalgic, TWISTy, @wreck also liked it better than Rex. 

chefwen 2:02 AM  

I'm not sure how Rex came up with the Medium/Challenging rating, he didn't really 'splain it in his write up. I felt that this was easier than Monday's puzzle, but I am a child of the 60's...

Didn't like the word RATTLY, reminded me of @Ellen S's EELS, I know it's a proper word, but I think it needs another E in there, somewhere.

A little more challenge tomorrow would be welcomed. (But not too much)

JTHurst 3:16 AM  

@whirred Whacks, Wow, Wet Streets Cause Rain. I loved it. Simple, yet explanatory of many people's thought process. The causality of this statement exemplifies what John Galt said, "You can't eat your cake before you have it." Similar to 'Tax cuts for the wealthy create Economic Booms' or 'Editor creates crossword Masterpiece'.

Thin as a rail. I looked it up and it derives from thin as a rake or slat or lathe and not a railroad rail but there is a slender bird called a 'rail' that slips through the reeds that may have been the origin. Either way reed was not my first choice and coupled with 'clew' and 'caro' created my final solving hurdle.

I also agree it seems that 'rattly must have an 'e' in there.

Gill I. P. 4:23 AM  

I'm waiting for someone to chime in and say they've never heard of CHUBBY CHECKER nor the TWIST.
Threw in the twisty reveal after COME ON....

Moly Shu 4:50 AM  

@Chefwen said it all, too easy and RATTLY.

@WhirredWhacks, nicely cited. Made my day.

CFXK 6:35 AM  

Several weeks ago Rex lamented the fact that his remarks in an article about the demise of crossword puzzles(in The Atlantic, I believe) were misconstrued, leading readers to believe erroneously that he subscribed to a viewpoint to which he did not actually hold.

Today Rex takes Will Shortz to task for not correcting the the assertion in an article on constructing crossword puzzles that Will constructs the New York Times. puzzles himself. However, nowhere in that article does Will make, or even endorse, that assertion. Rather, he merely provides a quote offering advice for creating crosswords. There is no evidence (as in Rex's experience above) that Will had seen the article in advance, was at all aware of the writer's misunderstanding, or that he had any opportunity to correct the misinformation.

It is fine to be critical of Will Shortz. But this was a cheap shot from someone who should know better from his own experience. At least play fair and not "twist" the facts.

Glimmerglass 6:58 AM  

Maybe I'm just grumpy today. No sleep, Red Sox and Patriots suck. But it seems to me that Rex is all about time. If he'd found the puzzle as easy as I did, he would have liked it better. He seems especially nit-picky this morning.

Frank Lynch 7:18 AM  

Perhaps I've been reading too much Pynchon, and overly alert to connections... But having the two long power source answers, and one of them ending the same as FIELD_TRIP... Well, that's a twist, not a distraction.

RAD2626 7:56 AM  

@wreck. No SNL or EELS. Bonus.

Agree with @ George Barany that FIELD TRIPS was jarring. Particularly the identical part at the end with POWER STRIPS. Almost like that was going to be the theme or was part of another of constructor's puzzles.

That said, limed the puzzle. Liked CARO/KARO. Liked clue Lab's coat. Cute. Funny how memory works. Immediately knew the answer CHICO but could not tell you anything about the show whatsoever.

AliasZ 8:05 AM  

The actual title of the song is "Let's Twist Again", and the lyrics are:

"Come on let's twist again like we did last summer,
Yea, let's twist again like we did last year..."

COME ON LET'S TWIST just doesn't cut it for me. I remember the song too well. I remember when, where and with whom I was when I first heard it. I was 16, maybe 17. But I think "Let's Twist Again" was greatest in hit in 1961, not 1960. "The Twist" on the other hand, the one that came out in 1959 and reached No. 1 on the Billboard Top 100 in 1960, has the lyrics: "Come on baby let's do the twist..." Neither fits the twisting phrase in the circled squares. True, it contains words that appear in both lyrics in one form or other, but it's not an exact quote. So much for the theme. Sorry, great effort, but it didn't work for me.

Nice visuals though, and I liked the electrically charged atmosphere. The RATTLY MANNERISMS and the STYLE weren't too shabby either. The large number of clumsy SDS, EDS, DTS, NLERS etc. were rather COSTLY, they took some of the shine off this one. I also thought CARO/KARO were too close for comfort.

So-so Tuesday.

I was considering offering a clip only of Maria Callas singing "CARO nome" from Verdi's Rigoletto, but I couldn't make up my mind if it would be better as CARO or KARO, so I decided to also show everyone that Maestro Toscanini was superb in lighter fare as well, like this all-too familiar waltz by Alsatian composer ÉMILe Waldteufel (forest devil) (1837-1915).

@Whirred Whacks,

Thank you for your excellent tie-in between the Mental Floss article and the Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect. My trouble is, I don't suffer from it. Beyond the sports scores of games I actually watched, I have a hard time placing much trust in what media outlets say.

Enjoy your Tuesday.

chefbea 8:06 AM  

Liked the's my era. Puzzle husbands favorite dance!!! A few foodie items - broil, pasta, karl syrup.

now to read the article - mental floss

Steve J 8:06 AM  

Regarding the puzzle: I noticed many of the same issues Rex noted. Especially that the theme phrase in the circles doesn't appear in the song. If you're going to have a quote puzzle (which this essentially is), you've got to have the quote right.

No issues with the visual, though. You're not going to recreate rotating hips visually in a puzzle. The answer twists through the grid. Find by me.

Fill, not so fine. False theme (the power answers), not so fine.

Regarding the article: Conmically inaccurate.

Regarding comments in Rex's commentary in the article: Unless Rex has edited his original comments, at no point does he accuse Will Shortz of perpetuating the myth that he creates the puzzles. It's quite clear that he's placing the blame for that on the cited articles.

Anonymous 8:17 AM  

Rex said the Mental Floss piece and the video it linked to perpetuated the myth that Will Shortz created the puzzles. He did not accuse Will Shorts.


NCA President 8:17 AM  

I am not trying to be pissy here, but I have a serious question about WS's degree in puzzles. If you are the only person on the planet with such a degree, who teaches you? I've seriously always wondered about this. It's always mentioned in articles like it's a thing to have a singular degree that no one else has...but on top of the teacher question, how would you know you're any good at it if you're the only one doing it?

I would be impressed with WS's degree if there was some standard by which we could determine his abilities. I don't mean to take away from his accomplishment or even his abilities, but it is almost always presented that just having the degree is the virtue and not how much having such a degree contributes to the world. Do you need a degree like that to be the NYT puzzle editor?

Anyhoo, I thought the puzzle was interesting for the same reason Rex didn't like it. The electrical counterpoint would have been nice if it somehow contributed to the twist theme. I was waiting for the punchline, but of course, it never came. So yeah, the twist along with the electricity was distracting.

Also, when I think of the CHUBBYCHECKER song, I think of the lyrics, "Let's do the twist." Along with "Come on, baby..." "COMEONELETSTWIST" sounds like someone who vaguely remembered the lyrics and kinda new that some of those were included. Mr. Sessa might have checked out YouTube before finalizing the puzzle.

Source: I have the only degree in the world in researching lyrics on YouTube.

Susan McConnell 8:18 AM  

Gotta agree,with Rex on all counts with this one.

joho 8:22 AM  

For heaven's sake, WALLSOCKET and POWERSTRIP are a bonus mini-theme alluding to the Electric Slide!

I thought the phrase down the middle was a fun "twist" to the theme that just added to the dancing fun. Also, I think COME ON LET'S DANCE is close enough so I'll be PRO while whoever wants to can join the ANTIS.

Thanks, Ed, your puzzle left me happily humming.

pmdm 8:25 AM  

Firstly, there is nothing that suggests the quote comes from Chubby Checker or a song. It just as well could have come from the puzzle creator. So it's not relevant whether it's a direct quote from the past. Lighten up, please.

Secondly, a road that has lots of S curves can be referred to as a twisty road. You can say that the circles look the way a twisty road looks from above. Personally, it reminds me a bit of DNA with is made of of twisted strands. Maybe I have more imagination, but I really don't get the complaints about the visual depiction of twist.

Lastly, the published puzzle bylines clearly state who the creator and who the editor of the puzzle is. In his interview, Shortz clearly states that he edits the puzzles. He does uses the unfortunate "create" word once in the interview referring to himself, but in a somewhat offhand manner. It's clear to me in the interview that he sees himself basically as a crossword editor, not the creator. The person who wrote the article should be taken to task, that is sure. But not Mr. Shortz. In the interview he several times says "you do this" and not I do this" when talking about crossword puzzle creation. But without a doubt the people who write these things should know better.

By the way, Mr. Short himself dislikes todays fill. But if you think the theme is good enough, sometimes you have to compromise. How much compromise is subjective. Today's gimmick impressed me more than entertained me, but for a Tuesday, with the need to have an easily solvable puzzle being a restraint, I think it's perfectly OK.

Leapfinger 8:40 AM  

I thought the grid looked like a RATTLY snake. Maybe a worm. After I was done, it occurred to me: wouldn't it look the same if the theme wasn't TWIST, but TWERK? Oh, well, grid art is tricky.

Had POWERPLANT before POWERSTIP, with a grump about the STRIP being a point of access, not a source. WALLSOCKET made that a double grump. The ALIBI was lame also. otoh, I did enjoy the devious way to work the clue for PASS GO.

I appreciate @George B's point about the difficulty of the triple-checked construction, but in this seat, the whole puzzle, with all its SEPIA MANNERISMS, just played...Old.

@WhirredWhacks, thanks for the Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect. That'll be today's high point, I think, a definite keeper. @JTHurst also, for addenda.

Sorry about the STYX 'n' stones, Ed Sessa. Not for this NANA.

cfxk 8:51 AM  

Re Steve J.:
"Regarding comments in Rex's commentary in the article: Unless Rex has edited his original comments, at no point does he accuse Will Shortz of perpetuating the myth that he creates the puzzles. It's quite clear that he's placing the blame for that on the cited articles."

In fact, Rex did edit his original comments. In the original he chided Will for not correcting the error. I appreciate that he has subsequently removed this comment, though it would have been helpful if he had noted the edit (given the discussion in this comments section): eg, "In a previous version I chided Will Shortz for not correcting the error. I have reconsidered that comment and have removed it."

Steve J 8:52 AM  

@pmdm: "Firstly, there is nothing that suggests the quote comes from Chubby Checker or a song."

Seriously? You're telling us that the circled phrase is just coincidental in a puzzle that mentions CHUBBY CHECKER, who sang a lyric remarkably close to that in a song that just happened to come out in NINETEEN SIXTY? I'm not buying it.

Nor would Ed Sessa. Over at XWordInfo, he admits he wanted to get a direct quote from the song in the circled letters but couldn't.

From my (and apparently many others') perspective, that is a serious blemish on the theme. When you're clearly echoing a song and you make up a phrase from it, your theme isn't working.

It's entirely possible to still like the theme despite that. But to go through such mental gymnastics as to pretend that the circled letters weren't meant to be in reference to Chubby Checker's song is an enormous stretch.

jberg 8:52 AM  

I'm with @leapfinger-- in my nerdy way, I couldn't accept outlets as power sources. Unless it's a battery-backup system.

Further nerdiness: The STYX is the border of Hades, not HELL; and SHAMU is not a 'noted performing whale' but a generic name given to the stars of all Sea World orca shows.

But hey,these are crossword CLEWS and don't have to be all that precise.

As for having two themes -- why not? I think we don't like it just because we're not used to it. But I agree with @George Barany, in that case extend it to 17 and 60A.

Arlene 8:55 AM  

Interesting discussion - I enjoyed solving this - had no problem with how the twist is choreographed on paper, or the lyrics either - close enough for me. My time solving this was my fastest for a Tuesday (you all have gotten me into this crazy timing thing.)

As for the Mental Floss article - much ado about nothing - not much content in that article. I doubt WS ever saw it. I've been mentioned in books and articles without being contacted - seems really bizarre, but that's the reality. I discovered some of this by searching my own name on, for example.

@NCA President - as for researching lyrics on YouTube - when the videos are captioned, that enables word searches on YouTube videos. Captioning typically benefits people with hearing loss, but the benefit to the mainstream is that it enables lyric/word searching capability. The exact time location on the video will be returned in a search like that. I guess that makes me the expert who can teach the course and bestow the degrees.

Hartley70 8:56 AM  

Is RC Cola still around? I wanted more of a 1960 theme! But all in all it was a fun few minutes and the lack of accurate lyrics in the downward twist didn't bother me at all. I saw it as an exhortation to us crossword nerds to get up and DANCE!

Z 8:59 AM  

It is Tuesday. "Come on Baby, Let's do the Twist," Did not fit in the circles so that didn't help much. stAt before ASAP. CARO/KARO are missing FARO/TARO to complete the Wiliam Tel theme. Stepping back a little this is a fine puzzle. The fill looks like the glue that it is, nothing to really rail against. The theme doesn't grab me, but that is more of a taste thing. Rex is spot on about the circled letters, but that doesn't bug me much. I can read the circled letters as a comment from the constructor to the solver to justify it in my mind. So, a fine Tuesday.

@Steve J - Thank you. @Others - Can we please, PLEASE, read what is actually written before commenting. To psychoanalyze Will Shortz based on comments Rex did not make and an article Shortz did not write is incredible hubris. Please stop.

@Whirred whacks - I find Crichton's "effect" insulting to people's intelligence. People can, in fact, tell the difference between an error-filled article and an error free article when necessary. Many, maybe even most, people also realize that the two might be right next to each other on page one.

Z 9:02 AM  

@cfxk - I must have been typing while you were posting. I stand corrected. In my defense - posters in the past have gone wildly askew in misinterpreting things written by Rex, so I unfairly put the early posters in that group.

Casco Kid 9:19 AM  

Conga line. Gotta agree with Rex on that one. Definitely a conga line. So, how to make CH_BB____ into something Latin? CHa . . . Hmmm.

'Couse, it looked to me like mRNA on first blush, Dr. Rorschach.

002-20-10 RATTLe/COSTLe. #GottaCheckMyCrosses #ImLazybones

Bob Kerfuffle 9:21 AM  

I enjoyed the puzzle.

With respect to the Amnesia effect, I long ago heard it boiled down to, "Newspapers are remarkably accurate about almost everything . . . except for things you happen to know something about!"

One or two people have called out 67 A, EDS, as just bad fill, but I prefer to see it as a signature, and I say, "Good for you, Mr. Ed!"

quilter1 9:28 AM  

I thought it was dead easy and I liked PASS GO as I play endless games of Monopoly with the grands. I did not read the article in question but I did read BEQ's excellent comments on it. He reinforced my conviction that I could never construct a puzzle.

Elle54 9:39 AM  

Great fun! Good memories!

Maurice 10:06 AM  

I've been coming to this space for many years. Why does Rex persist in parenthesizing "For a Monday" or "For a Tuesday" when he finds a puzzle a bit more challenging for that day of the week than normal? We get it. Is he that insecure that he doesn't want people to think that he found an early week puzzle to be a challenge? Come on, drop it.

r.alphbunker 10:14 AM  


There is a constant influx of new readers to this blog. I am sure that Rex Parker does this to reduce the number of emails that he gets telling him that Tuesdays are easy

Leapfinger 10:24 AM  

Hmm. Autographed at the very last moment.

Leapfinger 10:34 AM  

@CascoK, re mRNA
I think you need 2 strands to make it coil, but I admire your coily thinking.

@jberg, I prefer precision to nerdiness.

Martin 10:44 AM  

A note on Creategate: prior to the tenure of Will Shortz, daily crosswords were printed in the New York Times without any constructor credit. "Edited by Eugene Maleska" or "Will Weng" or "Margaret Farrar" was all that appeared. (Sunday puzzles were the sole exception.)

Most early puzzles that were converted to Across Lite format by David Steinberg's Pre-Shortzian Puzzle Project are "Author Unknown" despite a lot of research (much by Will Shortz) to recover constructor identity when possible.

One of the first changes WS made was adding constructor bylines so that the public would finally know who actually came up with the imaginative themes now favored.

Anonymous 10:55 AM  

Did anyone else question the SEPIA clue at 55-across? I've never heard of SEPIA as a "brown-toned photo"--I thought it WAS the brown tone IN the photo. Stupid miss by puzzle "constructor" Shortz. 11:01 AM  

Full Definition of SEPIA
a : a brown melanin-containing pigment from the ink of cuttlefishes
b : the inky secretion of a cuttlefish
: a print or photograph of a brown color resembling sepia

: a brownish-gray to dark olive-brown color

Anonymous 11:16 AM  

I enjoyed the puzzle. Didn't mind the missing "again" from the circled phrase. And I was only slightly distracted by the four long Across answers since the theme answers are all Downs. So huzzah, Ed Sessa. Carry on.

Oscar 11:26 AM  

I think the twisting of the circles was meant to play on this meaning of the word:
To move or progress in a winding course; meander: The river twisted toward the sea.

And the actual text of the circles is from "Let's Twist Again" (like we did last summer).

@martin: he may have added bylines to dailies (disgraceful that it wasn't the case before that), but the size of the byline's font in the printed paper speaks volumes about the editor's ego.

A Hack Photographer 11:38 AM - I've seen, and have been accused of taking, a lot of boring photographs in my life, but I've never seen a photograph of a "brown color".

KRMunson 11:41 AM  

Had a deja vu moment with "Dacha". A Russian business associate just told me a few days ago that it is a Russian summer home. Now I get to use Dacha in a NYT XWord. I'll remember the meaning now, for sure!

Kinda surprised it wasn't Rex's Word of the Day...

Matt Gaffney 11:48 AM  

Yeah Martin all due respect to you and Shortz, but that logic is way past its sell-by date.

It was a complete disgrace that the NYT didn't publish the puzzle constructor's name at all (except Sundays) pre-Shortz, and the font size from 1993-2004ish (don't recall the exact year) for the constructor's byline was comically small and underneath the puzzle. That's disrespectful to constructors.

It's also disgraceful that in 2014 the constructor's name is *still* in font smaller than the clues (this is literally true) and that the editor's byline is enormous.

This should not happen, ever. It diminishes the role of the constructor and overemphasizes the role of the editor. No other medium does this, and hopefully, once the Times equalizes the bylines, no one ever will again.

RooMonster 11:52 AM  

Hey All!
I was going to comment on the constructors names being added to the Daily Puzzles, but @martin beat me to it. It's true, before Will, dailies were anonymous. Just editors name was there. Shotrz started the "Puzzle By" part. Although, I think he does change quite alot of clues, I get this from reading the constructor blurb on xwordinfo. There are times he changes parts of the grid, also. I believe the integrity of the constructor and the clues he/she writes should be less rewritten by Mr. Shortz. He should only change really obscure clues, IMO. I've also read he changes clues based on difficulty for the day of the week he is going to put in on. How he chooses puzzles, and days of the week is a difficult process, I'm sure. That is his job, however, and you really have to be into puzzles to do that for 5 days of the week. Although it sounds like I'm defending Will, I'm not, just presenting the situation. I've sent in a bunch of puzzles (as have a few more bloggers here), and most come back as "didn't excite me enough". So I'm not sure what criteria a puz needs to get the Will Stamp of Approval. Of course, I think my pizzles are good. I wouldn't submit what I think is a bad puz.

Digressing -- the point is everyone should know Will doesn't create the puzzles, but does have a hand in redoing (which is editing, after all).

Okay, the puz itslef was easy-medium for me, I got hung up in the N-Central part. DACHAS and SDS were new to me. The theme was neat, I though the TWISTy center was cool! Stand in front of a mirror and sway your hips back and forth and visualize the circles in the grid -- Viola! Hands up for RATTLY not looking like a real word, RATTILY, maybe. Then also NATTY with same clue, and the CARO/KARO twosome. Also, had teeNS before NANAS.

With MANNERISMS to all.


Z 11:59 AM  

@A Hack Photographer - I noticed the following down around the 7th or 8th definition of "of," "indicating the material or substance constituting something." Make sense, now?

@Martin and @cfxk - and yet the complaining continues. Too many car alarms, today.

Ellen S 12:11 PM  

@Z, wait, wait, I have a complaint, too! Isn't "Electricity Source" = POWER STRIP or WALL SOCKET, kinda like "Milk Source" = carton (or bottle, if you're of a certain age). Shouldn't it be "cow" or "boob" or "nuclear plant"?

Anyway, I enjoyed the puzzle, and the quote didn't bother me because I never consciously heard either song, despite having been 17 years old in 1960 and the radio in in my mother's home never budged off of WFMT, the classic music station. But there was enough ambient Chubby Checker in the world for me to be able to fill in the answers without the angst that people suffered who actually knew the songs.

Martin 12:14 PM  


I agree with you that font sizes could use a bit of adjustment. But the roles are now clearly stated: "Edited by" and "PUZZLE BY" (and yes, constructor byline is the only text all in caps). I also wouldn't say that the constructor byline is so small as to be illegible. In other words, relative importance aside, I think that the contributors to the puzzles creation are now both credited, whereas they weren't before.

As to this being old news, I commented because I get the feeling that this history is unknown to many commenters. If that's not the case, I apologize for the waste of bandwidth.

Ellen S 12:22 PM  

Oh, as for how Mr. Shortz could get a degree in enigmatology, Wikipedia (puzzle clue: "Source of all human knowledge.") says:
Will Shortz was born and raised on an Arabian horse farm[1] in Crawfordsville, Indiana. Graduating from Indiana University in 1974,[2] he is the only person known to hold a college degree in enigmatology,[3] the study of puzzles. Shortz achieved this feat by designing his own curriculum through Indiana University's Individualized Major Program.[4] He also earned a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Virginia School of Law (1977), though he forewent the bar exam and began a career in puzzles instead.[5]

Hey, here's a question I would ask but it's too snarky: what do @Rex's students get a degree in? Actually, I'm not (in retrospect) snarking. If Rex encourages and develops critical thinking, it doesn't matter what the content is. And compare and contrast with universities of yore, where men were sent to make future business connections (unnecessary for women).

And, yeah, if OFL didn't say it was challenging (FOR A TUESDAY) some people would have a fit, saying no, it wasn't challenging, it was easy.

I wish we would go back to arguing about word meanings.

Matt Gaffney 12:32 PM  


So you do or don't think it's OK that the editor's name is larger than the constructor's?

Of course it's not OK. That's why nobody does it except this one case. The constructor's role is much greater in the process than the editor's, and certainly not smaller.

And give me a break on the constructor's byline being in all caps. The font itself is smaller than the clues so no credit for the capital letters.

And yes, before 2004 (or whatever the year was), the constructor byline was close to being illegible. And I believe it also said something ambiguous like "puzzle by XYZ" instead of "puzzle written by."

Anonymous 12:34 PM  

I am tired of this thin as a reed BS. Thin as a rail.

Moly Shu 12:42 PM, where can I get some cuttlefish? They sound tasty.

Masked and Anonymo5Us 12:50 PM  

The puff piece on the Shortzmeister is kinda schizo. Will pores over "hundreds" of submitted puzzles, since 1993. He pays 300 bucks a puzzle. Then he goes ahead and ignores all that stuff and creates em himself. har. Meticulous fact-checkin. Is this how we got into Iraq, in the first day-um place?
Really admired the suggestion for doin the black grid squares, tho: Put all the words into the grid, then chuck the black squares into whatever's left over. Et Voila! Runtpuz!

I liked EDS. It has used-by-Patrick Berry immunity, btw.

I liked them twistin circles. Does anything in circles automatically have to be a direct quote? Good to know.
And what would twerkin circles look like? Whatevah. Come on, let's...
* Swim.
* Philly.
* Mashed Potato.
* Rock Agin Now.
* Freeze.
* Cool Jerk.
* Boogie.
* Do It Gangnam Style.
* Do the Locomotion.
* Do the Fly. [zzuzzzZZZz]
* Go (Ritchie Valens song).
* Digress.

Thanx, ED S.


Let's do the...

r.alphbunker 1:00 PM does not include the editor's name

Begin joke
How about giving the constructor an option of putting his/her name in the grid clued by {Constructor's name}. I would rather figure that out than some opera or musician that I have never heard of.
End joke

Anonymous 1:10 PM  

very interesting discussion --NOT

Matt Gaffney 1:15 PM  

I should add that I believe this byline imbalance is the Times' doing, not Shortz's.

If so, it would be nice if he would lean on them to equalize the bylines.

Anonymous 1:54 PM  

I hear that Will Shortz was really born in Kenya.


LaneB 1:56 PM  

A medium Tuesday with only having RATTLe instEad of RATTLY causing some confusion re d47. Otherwise
a steady and pleasant solve.

AliasZ 2:26 PM  

My byline's bigger than yours.

Put them away gents, and let's get back to the puzzle.

- Did you realize ABABA spelled backwards is ABABA?
- My throat feels scratchy, gotta get me some RCCOLA and an alphorn.
- Don't you hate it when people use too much eau de TOLET? Me too.
- Re: commercialism in NYT puzzles. IPOD appears on the same day as the iPhone 6 is introduced. Coincidence or intelligent design?
- Was CHUBBY CHECKER known for checking out Rubenesque women?

Hey, let's listen to some enthusiastic kids play a brief excerpt from West Side Story conducted by Simon RATTLY. Let's mambo!

M and Also 2:31 PM  

But don't get me wrong...
If the words in the circles had been a perfect match with lyrics in "The Twist", that certainly woulda been the ultimate in theme elegance.

I got nothin against elegance. I also have a soft spot for, and have much more experience creating, crossword puz in-elegance. Sometimes impressive grid elegance begets a dash of grid inelegance, elsewhere, I find. I celebrate both persuasions. (RATTLY... mmmm.)

Interesting observations by @MG. If/when M&A ever theoretically has a puz published in the NYT, he'd be delirious, if his name was on display in any font size or style whatsoever. If the puz lays an egg, tho, he'll also be thankful, if the byline is printed out "Masked and Anonymous" real small like, in disappearin ink.

Fave inelegant stuff: CLEW. CARO KARO. UNIE.
fave weeject: DAL. Heroically standin its ground, in defense of RATTLY's right to sit there and rattle.

I honestly loved this puz. Especially admired how, after all the fill was constructed and they blacked out the remaining squares, the black squares happened to come out symmetro. Elegant. U don't see that, every day...


Anonymous 2:50 PM  


Casco Kid 3:10 PM  

@leapfinger well, I only saw one strand, and mRNA is single stranded, so that's how I made the leap, as it were. mRNA forms super-structures by coiling back on itself, but that seemed a bit much for a 15x15 TuesPuz, anyway. ;)

Speaking of nucleic acids and dance, does anyone remember the famous short film Dance of the Biomolecules produced by Prof. Kent Wilson at UC Berkeley in the NINETEENSIXTYs. The young asst prof dragooned 500 undergrads and the entire dance department to perform a semi-choreographed interpretation of the central dogma. Quite a feat. I saw it once. Can't find it on YouTube. It is a classic.

Anonymous 3:31 PM  

I call bullshit on a SEPIA being a photograph. Nobody EVER uses it that way. Here's Oxford: "NOUN

1A reddish-brown color associated particularly with monochrome photographs of the 19th and early 20th centuries.
1.1A brown pigment prepared from a black fluid secreted by cuttlefish, used in monochrome drawing and in watercolors.
1.2A drawing done with sepia.
1.3A blackish fluid secreted by a cuttlefish as a defensive screen.

Back to top
Of a reddish-brown color:
old sepia photographs"

Note it says a "drawing."

RooMonster 4:01 PM  




sanfranman59 4:06 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)

Tue 7:29, 7:54, 0.95, 33%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Tue 5:28, 5:25, 1.01, 52%, Medium

leah712 5:38 PM  

The last region to report election results in two of the last three presidential elections was Florida, although that wouldn't have fit. But I'm still angry about it.

leah712 5:43 PM  

Sorry, forgot what year it was. Two of the last four: 2000 and 2012.

mac 5:53 PM  

OK Tuesday puzzle, but I did have trouble with the serpentine line not matching the songs.

I guess I also agree with a problem with 32 and 41A: when I had the W at 32A I thought of "white water".

Clearly a signature at the bottom, Ed. S.!

mac 6:00 PM  

P.S. MAS's post is hilarious!

Steve J 6:11 PM  

@jberg: I had the same thought about the River STYX being Hades-adjacent, not Hell-adjacent. However, Dante's has the river in Hell, so I think the clue for STYX actually works in this specific instance, since Hell's clue referred specifically to Dante.

L Finger 8:32 PM  

@Leah712 (who btw is not me), are you angry about the puzzle answer or about Florida?

@CascoK, I dearly want to talk to you about nucleic acid stereochemistry, but there's limits on fat finger typing on a cell. If my Puter ever finishes its malware run, watch this space!

HAR! @ M&A, and esPESHally at the culmination of the byline size wars.

Shall now eat my soup with a runtzible spoon.

Another day when the blog addax immeasurably to the puzzle.

L. Finger

Mohair Sam 8:59 PM  

Easiest Tuesday ever for us. C'mon, when you're asked to name a "Starter of a dance craze" old CHUBBY is always your first guess. Checked for X in 59a to make sure of the year (with the near gimme STYX) - puzzle essentially done.

Twisting a circled suggestion that we do the twist does not require that the encouragement to do the dance be from the original twist song, or any other for that matter. Lighten up.

As far as all the crap today ripping Will Shortz - He has to satisfy a couple of million solvers, 19-year-old computer gurus, and 100 year-old lifetime analog cruciverbalists day in and day out. He gets it done and presents us with a good puzzle almost every day. Don't let the bastards get you down Will.

Questinia 9:18 PM  

@steve j
Perhaps the Styx is the outflow from the Lake of Fire, aka the final Hell. Hades is temporary, kind of like a purgatory before eternal damnation in the Lake of Fire, aka Hell.

I'll try google maps...

Leapfinger 9:23 PM  

Sorry, sometimes I get my MAS and my M&As conflated; it must be that small type. Hars all around.

@CKid, my knowledge about nucleic acid stereochemistry is pretty dated, but I think RNA life-forms [viruses and such] are thought to be more ancient; they're still around because they figured out how to hijack the DNA-based system, a big plus if you're small and travel light. It seems as if the ancient nucleic acids might all have been single stranded, but then some of them lined up and got up-close and personal, and their bases touched in a certain special way that made their backbones go all curly. Whatever it was made that happen, it was so good for all concerned that they just stayed stuck that way. You see that sort of thing all the time on the NYC subway.

Let me know if this helps with future solving. Or anything else, ever, at all.

r.alphbunker 10:22 PM  

@Casco Kid
The Dance of the Molecules

sanfranman59 11:01 PM  

This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 8/1/2009 post for an explanation and my 10/15/2012 post for an explanation of a tweak I've made to my method. In a nutshell, the higher the ratio, the higher this week's median solve time is relative to the average for the corresponding day of the week.

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

Mon 5:28, 6:02, 0.91, 10%, Easy
Tue 7:28, 7:54, 0.95, 33%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:42, 3:57, 0.94, 17%, Easy
Tue 5:18, 5:24, 0.98, 41%, Medium

Whirred Whacks 1:07 AM  

To @ralphbunker

Many thanks for sharing "The Dance of the Molecules."
Within 30 seconds, the music, attire, and ambience transported me back to my early 1970s days as a student at Stanford. Just like a fountain of youth!

Mind blown!

spacecraft 11:34 AM  

I am right with OFL and others. NINETEENSIXTY is dull--but acceptable in form. You would never put "19SIXTY" or "NINETEEN60" in your puzzle. That would be like writing "AANDE." Get it?

So here we are with the two long down theme gimmes, and fully expecting the center down--five letters--to be TWIST. But what do we find there instead? The awful NLERS. Barf bag, please.

As to the helix inaccuracies, again what OFL said. This and other things threw me off enough to agree with the M-C rating. Stuff like "Crossed swords," which I most naturally read to be in the passive voice, thinking it was some heraldry term (on a Tuesday? Ah, you mean like DACHAS??). No, it was just...they crossed swords; they DUELED. OK.

Highway = PIKE. Yeh, OK, a term that has fallen into disuse, but OK.

To call the DTS "the shakes" is never to have seen anybody in full-out DTS. It is far more than just shakes, my friends. When I was working as a corpsman in an Air Force hospital, we had a guy who was convinced that thousands of huge cockroaches were crawling all over him. Took five of us to hold him down. Shakes is just the "tremens." The delirium part, that's a whole nother story.

I did like the STYX/HELL pairing; woulda been great if appearing on symmetrical lines instead of just one line

off. So I echo OFL: "Well, it's off." So, taking off for the non-lyric helix and iffy fill, we go with a second straight C+. COMEON, constructors, you can do better. I know you can.

475. Just a

DMG 2:48 PM  

First glance at this one set me to expect something about snakes, maybe Cleopatra, so, "doin' the twist" was a fun surprise. Only slow downs in solving were ACCEpt for ACCEDE, and Niece for NANAS. Fortunately any other hang ups fell unseen from the crosses (e.g NLERS, DAL). I'm always surprised when I read the comments to find discussions of things I never saw. Recall someone here in Syndieland (@SIS?) saying he always read over a completed puzzle for every word. Perhaps if I did I'd learn a thing or two, but I'm always eager to come check out my results against Rex's world, where I indeed learn a lot. Retaining it may be something else again!

142 for a tie with @Spacecraft.

rain forest 4:46 PM  

Imagine a graph where the Y-axis is Time, and the X-axis is . The squiggly line containing the phrase, "come on, let's twist", is an apt depiction of one's hips while doing the TWIST. Could also be snapshot of a conga line; could also be half a DNA strand. Could also be the path of drunk individual trying to walk a straight line prior to suffering the DTS. So, I think Will Shortz has created quite the elegant theme here. However, I think I'm important and deserve a larger font. It would make my turgid comments easier to read. Just thinking about the commenters here who really sweat the important stuff.

243 Well, dog my cats.

rain forest 4:57 PM  

The above was supposed to say "the X-axis is displacement from the origin". Kinda took the pith out of my idea.

108 Hey! Double winner. Gimme the big font!

Dirigonzo 5:06 PM  

I liked Chubby Checker, I liked the Twist (it's still my go-to dance to anything that's not a waltz, I just disguise it a little), (is that an Oxford comma?) and I liked this puzzle.

About the NLERS in the exact center of the grid, has anyone mentioned that the Reds and the Pirates are both in the Central division of the National League? That made me like the answer a lot.

@rainy - yeah, I read too many of the comments, too. Sometimes it feels like going by a car wreck - I don't really want to see it but I can't look away.

3565 - a digit too far.

Z 7:01 PM  

@Dirigonzo - 1. Yes. B. Where do you stand on SEPIA Shortz fonts for constructor names issue?

Dirigonzo 8:06 PM  

@Z - I'm thinking neon colored italicized bold 14 point font, underlined, for constructors, or maybe they'd settle for equal billing with Will and a bigger paycheck.

324 - oh sure, now it shows up.

Wiko Getaway 1:50 AM  

(wikipedia). • • •. A number of problems here. First, "Come on let's twist" isn't a great stand-alone phrase, as there is no part in that song wherein ...

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