Socialite who inspired 1950's "Call Me Madam" / MON 9-1-14 / Carpentry spacer / Old politico Stevenson / 1957 hit covered by Creedence Clearwater Revival in 1968 / One of 1980s demographic /

Monday, September 1, 2014

Constructor: Allan E. Parrish

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

THEME: TAMES anagrams (30D: Breaks … or an anagram of the ends of five Across answers in this puzzle):

Theme answers:
  • PERLE MESTA (17A: Socialite who inspired 1950's "Call Me Madam")
Word of the Day: PERLE MESTA —
Perle Reid Mesta (née Skirvin) (October 12, 1889 – March 16, 1975) was an Americansocialite, political hostess, and U.S. Ambassador to Luxembourg (1949–1953).
Mesta was known as the "hostess with the mostest" for her lavish parties featuring the brightest stars of Washington, D.C., society, including artists, entertainers and many top-level national political figures. (wikipedia)
• • •

I finished this in normal Monday time, but the times posted at the NYT website are running much more Tuesday than Monday, so I think this played slightly harder than usual. There might be many reasons for this. PERLE MESTA, for one. No one under 50 knows who that is. And when I say "50" I'm being generous. Clue is no help, as no one knows what "Call Me Madam" is either. Trust me. That's a rough Monday themer for the pre-retired set. I know her because of that one time I didn't know her and fell flat on my face. Since then I've seen either her first or her last name several times in puzzles. Never her full name, though, that I recall, so I almost want to give the puzzle credit for originality there. The theme in general is surprisingly rudimentary—the kind I'm surprised make the grade any more. Feels very MUSTY, to say the least (28A: Stale-smelling). The number of plurals necessitated by the theme makes the puzzle especially blah. And SSGT is bad enough in the singular. In the plural, it literally makes me laugh (49A: Army NCOs). I enjoyed the banks of 7s in all the corners, especially ZERO SUM ICECUBE (3D: Like a game with equal winners and losers + 2D: Drink cooler), which would make a nice band name or title for a dadaist sculpture of some kind. Fill is not terrible, but neither is it above average. It just is. This puzzle is. See you tomorrow.

Happy September.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Whirred Whacks 12:08 AM  

Nice straight-forward puzzle and: no puns!

I'm growing very fond of the newly-added NYT MINI puzzle, which is a 5x5 grid edited by (created by also?) Joe Fagliano. It comes daily on the NYT app that I use on my iPhone/iPad. The MINI is a good warmup for the main puzzle, and can usually solved in 40-80 seconds (no reason to rush).

Question: how widely available is the MINI? (Is there a print version as well?) What do you think of it?

jae 12:22 AM  

Tough Mon.  for me too.  More like a medium-tough Tues.  PERLE MESTA @Rex and MALI I only know from crosswords and I had ELhi before ELEM and UCla before UCSB (which is embarrassing because UCSB was my daughter's alma mater).

My granddaughter has been doing Mondays this summer.  She picked a good week to go back to high school.

At least 2d wasn't clued as a rapper.

Liked the puzzle.  Reasonable Mon. theme and pretty smooth fill.  However, as I've said before, I have low expectations on Mon. 

Steve J 12:24 AM  

I definitely found this harder than a typical Monday. And I was, indeed, largely done in by PERLE MESTA and the north-central section. For a while, the only thing I had there was a STAPH infection (thankfully a little penicillin cleared that right up). Couldn't remember JIM Davis. Couldn't see JAPES. I WON'T never occurred to me with that clue.

Finally somehow pieced it together and finished this one well above my average time.

The blocks of down 7s were indeed the strongest part of the puzzle. The rest was, to paraphrase Rex, just there.

Moly Shu 12:54 AM  

Yep, challenging Monday. RUNIC and PERLE, the main culprits. Also had SUzIEQ which caused some problems. DISSECT has 2 esses? Hmmm. Who would have known? Not me.

jae 1:32 AM  

@Moly Shu - Me neither. Fortunately they sorta filled themselves in. And, speaking of embarrassing I don't want to talk about how I screwed up STAff on my first pass through this one.

George Barany 1:46 AM  

@Rex is spot-on today, including how he pinpoints the dividing demographic line. I don't usually work Monday puzzles, and was startled to receive a text message from a friend who is on the young side of 50. Paraphrased, it said "WTF is PERLE MESTA?" Without skipping a beat, I replied "Hostess with the mostest," and the conversation-ending reply was "Not for a Monday."

Add me to @jae as one whose daughter is @UCSB. The University of California system is big, and if you have a four-letter UC??, options besides LA (99) include SB (3), SD (4), and SF (0). Numbers in parentheses indicate number of appearances of each in the Shortz era.

Interestingly enough, according to the "analyze" function at, the only debut words in this puzzle are the five longish theme entries.

Finally, coming back to @Rex and his concluding observation, only in the whimsy of Garrison Keillor's Lake Wobegon is everyone (or at least, all the children) "above average."

Oscar 1:53 AM  

"Of puns it has been said that those who most dislike them are those who are least able to utter them." - Edgar Allan Poe

chefwen 2:07 AM  

Jon breezed through this one like nobody's business, I however, didn't. I'm going to blame the two glasses of wine I had when we went out to lunch, he stuck with water. Smart boy.

I guess I don't know how to spell DISSECT (I do now), never heard of PERLE MESTA, have no idea how Jon knew that, must have gotten it with crosses. Had honor badge before MERIT (what the hell was I thinking?) Pause before QUALM @24D

All in all, an utter mess that did finally get done.

Next time a diet Coke at lunch.

phil lacy 4:11 AM  

Wanted to put aERIe badge just to be a wise guy. Maybe there was one along with the eagle badge..scout.. or something..sound good, no?

Z 6:16 AM  

ETHYL but no Fred?

I've heard "Hostest with the mostest" and "Call me Madame." PERL MESTA I got from the crosses. I'm definitely mid-50's range, so teetering on the line it seems.

Agreed, the 7's are nice, especially the NW.

Gill I. P. 6:38 AM SSTS? Thinking of your head exploding @Anoa Bob!
The only thing I know about the 50's is "I Love Lucy."
@Carola from yesterday. Hee hee! I can thank Dave Barry for everything I know about Mondegreen's.

Robert Landman 6:40 AM  

tough for monday, 51, never heard of perle

Greg Patent 6:47 AM  

Well, count me in as being 50+ in age and knowing Perle Mesta instantly, largely from Ethel Merman's portrayal of her in the broadway and movie classic, "Call Me Madam." You can rent the video and hear all the glorious Irving Berlin songs.

I loved the longish downs, didn't find the shorter fill objectionable, and give a shout out for a highly enjoyable Monday puzzle.

evil doug 7:08 AM  

Call Me Madam? That was Xaviera Hollander's column in Penthouse. Never heard of Perle.


Gill I. P. 7:09 AM  

@Greg Patent: Just read your Bio. What's your take on DELI MEATS???
Hope you chime in more often along with @chefbea and @chefwen......

Mohair Sam 7:23 AM  

Well north of 50 here and never heard of PERLEMESTA. How could they make a musical about a lady who can't even spell her own first name?

Speaking of spelling - I'll line up behind @MolyShu and confess to STAff before STAPH. Isn't it a staff infection when everybody in the office has a cold?

I'll wager that those who knew PERLEMESTA actually needed the "covered" hint for CCR's SUSIEQ.

Played challenging here because of PERLE, misspelling DISSECT, and Audi before OPEL. Thoroughly enjoyable Monday however - thanks Mr. Parrish.

Anonymous 7:49 AM  

Yeah, tough Monday! 8 min 30. Longest in ages for a Mon. But you know what, for a change I don't mind it.

Glimmerglass 8:02 AM  

Someone yesterday asked about the original "shaggy dog story." It did not end with a pun. Since the point of the "joke" (on the listener!) is a very long story, I won't try to write it here. The basic story is that a man in New York finds a dog which he concludes is the one advertised as "lost" in the London Times as "very shaggy". After much, much complication, he arrives at the Sussex address with the dog. The man who answers the door looks at the dog, shakes his head, and says, "He wasn't THAT shaggy."

chefbea 8:17 AM  

I agree - tough for a Monday..We had to LABOR over it. I did know Perl Mesta

Is there any way we can get the mini puzzle on the computer and print it out??

RooMonster 8:20 AM  

Hey All!
There were a few odd answers in here, but it was still easy. About 7 mins. here, which for me is fast on a Monday. I had a similar theme in a Sunday puz I sent to Will (stop anagrams) and it came back as "didn't excite me enough ". Huh. Anyway...

MEMO: NICE to PICKAT an easy puz after NAPALMing my brain Sat and Sun. It APPEASEs me that the puz wasn't a MUSTY ENTITY. I PHASEdIN fairly fast with no SNEEZE or QUALM as I DISSECTed the grid. IWONT tell you I had no ERR, had audi for OPEL.


chefbea 8:21 AM  

@Greg Patent Welcome!!! Chime in more often. We do a lot of recipe exchanges here

James Dean 8:40 AM  

Pearl Mesta used to be a staple of crossword puzzles. Her utile combination of letters seemed to pop up at least once a week. She has since been replaced by EELER and SIDEB, both of which are thankfully absent from this well done puzzle.

NCA President 8:42 AM  

I got JAPES purely by crosses...a word I've never encountered in my normal life...and so I checked and double-checked the crosses and couldn't see anything wrong except maybe luSH for POSH...but I really believed in IWONT. So I left it and got it right. Heh.

The cross-referenced African bordering countries was interesting. It would be like 12 down "US state bordering a 16 across" and 16 across would be "US state bordering a 12 down." Pretty soon we'll see clues like 12 down "Word that is in the same language as 16 across" 16 across "Word that is in the same language as 12 down."

All in all, I'm cool with a Monday puzzle being on the more challenging side...especially on a holiday.

beaglelover 8:49 AM  

I think that the Opel is a Ford car so the autobahn clue was off putting. I wrote Audi but got it right in the end from crosses.

Susan McConnell 8:52 AM  

I'm a couple steps over the 50 line and had No Idea about PERLE MESTA. But if she's gonna be a theme answer the reveal has got to be better than just an anagram of TAMES. Blech.

Steve J 9:35 AM  

@beaglelover: Nope, OPEL is not a type of Ford. It's owned by General Motor. And it's its own brand, equivalent to Chevrolet or Cadillac.

joho 9:46 AM  

Seems to me five anagrams of TAMES (nicely placed smack dab in the middle of the grid) is a more than suitable Monday theme with its interesting, to me, play on words. Maybe I just find anagrams more interesting than others.

It also seems to me the downs were fair for everybody to get PERLEMESTA.


I liked it! Thanks, Allan!

Casco Kid 9:55 AM  

0006-16. That's no googles, no cheats, no errors, and 6 blotches in 16 minutes. I used @R.alph's program to count the blotches.

audi before OPEL. I think you'd want to be in an Audi on the Autobahn, and save your Opel for the Hinterstrasse. Also, Jef Davis before JIM Davis. Clearly, I was thinking of Bil Keane. Just as clearly, I was NOT thinking of Jefferson Davis. Right? Right?

@jae I waited on UC.. since I couldn't tell whether it was UCSB or UCSC, and I thought of you, then! @stevej, is UCSF more than a grad/medical school?

I had to suss Anita ODAY (shame) and MERLEMESTA (50, shameless). Nice to learn the origin of the expression "Hostess with the Mostest."

@JamesDean SIDEx (I don't want to be a spoiler) made it into today's WashPost. In case you are missing it.

mac 10:09 AM  

Toughish Monday with lots of little, but also interesting words.

I know Perle Mesta only from puzzles. She must be from the era before less became more.

I thought this was going to be a pangram, but no.

Fred Smith 10:15 AM  

Casco9:55 --

Yes, I think UCSF is only a Med School. UCSx could also be Diego or Cruz. Lotsa saints moved up from Mexico in the 18th century, when these missions were established.

Frank Lynch 10:21 AM  

I really object to the clue for ZERO SUM. My understanding of a zero sum game wasn't that there are an equal number of winners and losers, but that the gain on one side was equal to the loss on the other (imagine, if you will, a pie with two slices, where the size of the pie is held constant: no matter how you slice the pie into two, the loss on one equals the gain on the other).

Bob Kerfuffle 10:23 AM  

Wouldn't want to have to work too hard on Labor Day, and didn't.

Don't work hard most other days either, being retired.

Fine puzzle for me.

Anonymous 10:36 AM  

I really appreciated this tougher than normal Monday puzzle. I usually give Mondays and Tuesdays to my 16 year old son because they're so boring, but was intrigued by the cross of the African countries so I decided to do it myself. Both Mesta and Jape were new to me. Thank you Allan Parish and Will for the best Monday in many years.

jberg 10:48 AM  

EGAD, I loved this puzzle! Took me back to the good old days when ADLAI was running for President, PERLE MESTA was the hostess with the mostest, you could still put tetraETHYL lead in your GAS TANK, and OPELs were still GERMAN. We'd given up the RUNIC writing by then, though there was a guy in my town who was a big fan of the supposed rune stone found in Minnesota.

@Evil, pretty sure Ms. Hollander took her column title from the musical.

I always thought the singular was YUPPy, though.

One writeover, hAhas before JAPES. I was going to claim that it should have been clued as a landscape feature, maybe mentioning Capability Brown, until JIM Davis set me straight.

I don't get the gripes about UCSB, though -- the second half of the clue, "up the coast from L.A." eliminates most of the other possibilities.

Happy Labor Day, everyone!

Anonymous 11:04 AM  

I'm a lurker who's well over 50. Just want to thank Will S. for a puzzle which was easy for us oldsters, with no rap references.

AliasZ 11:05 AM  

This one had a somewhat MUSTY odor to it: zoot SUIT, art DECO, Anita O'DAY, SUSIE Q, ADLAI, EGAD, RUNIC, JAPES and PERLE MESTA, the US Ambassador to Luxembourg (1949-1953). Not that there is anything wrong with that. It is fun dusting off some of these oldish concepts, expressions and persons and air them out once in a while to displace some of the "fresh and hip" entries that will only be displaced by another set of "fresh and hip" entries in ten years. Not that there is anything wrong with that either.

PERLE MESTA neé Pearl Skervin (1889-1975) married steel manufacturer George Mesta in 1916. I wonder if she married a guy by the name of Gates, would she be known as PERLE Gates.

I enjoyed the ATEMS-METAS-EATMS anagrams, one of my favorite word games alongside puns.

ZERO SUM is an interesting game theory and mathematics concept studied and developed by the likes of John Von Neumann and John Forbes Nash, Jr. of "A Beautiful Mind".

There is plenty of juicy tidbits to PICK AT if you really DISSECT this Monday puzzle, which with a little tweaking could have been a Wednesday -- except for the straightforward simplicity of the theme. But I feel my GASTANK close to being on empty, so I'll leave before I suffer a NET LOSS.

But before I do, let me present these two pieces of music inspired by the same two poems by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: Meeres Stille and Glückliche Fahrt (no, it's not what you think). The musical titles became the Cantata Meeresstille und glückliche Fahrt, Op. 112 by Beethoven, and the Concert Overture Meeresstille und glückliche Fahrt, Op. 27 by Felix Mendelssohn. By the way, my second selection is performed by the orchestra whose Music Director was Felix Mendelssohn from 1835 until his death in 1847.

By the way, Meeresstille und glückliche Fahrt translates to "QUALM Sea and Prosperous Voyage."

Ellen S 11:07 AM  

At 70+, PERLE MESTA went in right away, but i spelled it PEarl first. @Jberg, we haven't seen a haha lately, have we? (In fact, I've never seen one in real life; they're like ernes, or adits.

Thank, @Frank Lynch, for bringing up the question on ZERO SUM -- I thought the same thing. But I think Mr. Parrish had it right. If's a situation where if you subtract the number of losses from the number of wins, the result is zero. Google says:
In game theory and economic theory, zero-sum describes a situation in which a participant's gain or loss is exactly balanced by the losses or gains of the other participant(s). If the total gains of the participants are added up, and the total losses are subtracted, they will sum to zero.

So, that doesn't necessarily mean the number of wins, but the amount of gain. Oh, so you are right, we are right; the puzzle is wrong. If I wind up with 3/4 of the pie, and you wind up with 1/4, then of my 3/4, I won 3/4 and you lost 3/4 = 0. Of the remaining 1/4, you won 1/4 and I lost 1/4 = 0. The total number of wins and losses aren't equal, but each win is balanced by a loss.

David Streever 11:12 AM  

This was my toughest Monday I've done this year.

Hey, how do you review times for other solvers on the NYT site? I can only see them if I 'solve against the clock' (but I hate that app) and my times are not competitive. I'd rather just get to review them.

Carola 11:18 AM  

I wondered if Rex was going to comment on the MUSTY air of the puzzle, which, as @jberg noted, harks back to the O(lden) DAYs when people had COAL-fired furnaces and responded to JAPES with "EGAD!"

To echo @Ellen S - PEarl MESTA went in right away - apparently she was in her heyday before I learned to read, and I was surprised to have to correct it. I thought SHIPMATES and LOSE STEAM were very nice, and liked the SUIT-PLEAD-APPEASED line-up.

Foreign Language Korner: QUALM is German for "fumes, smoke," so the cross with MUSTY is kind of nice as is the proximity to SNEEZE.

quilter1 11:49 AM  

Creeping up on 70 here and so PERLE and ADLAI were no problem. This was geezer friendly for sure. Zipped through. The joke was on me, though, as I printed out both NYT and BEQ at the same time, proceeded to the dining table, coffee in hand, and worked and worked cussing Will for such a hard Monday. Then I noticed it was BEQ I was solving not NYT. Well, no wonder. Then I patted myself on the back for getting so much of that puzzle. Feel good Labor Day and no labor to be done.

Z 11:52 AM  

No problem with the ZERO SUM clue here. The clue doesn't say "equal number of," just "equal." Winners and losers are equal in the end, even if the number of winners are fewer than the number of losers.

I see now that I am a member of the Cult of Fine Whine, the Order of Rex. My mum will be so proud.

RnRGhost57 11:58 AM  

More challenging than a normal Monday but then many of us, because of the holiday, had more time to spend on it.

Good call Shortz and fine puzzle Mr. Parrish.

Hartley70 12:17 PM  

I love any puzz with PERLE MESTA! Actually and amazingly I mentioned her several days ago to a friend who looked at me like I'd started babbling in Urdu. Short, stout and plain, she was the Hostess with the Mostest! In her day, which I guess was MY day, her DC parties were the place to be for politicos and got lots of coverage in the news for who attended and what they wore. She was a real powerhouse!

Steve J 12:25 PM  

@Casco Kid : Yep, UCSF is only med school, all graduate-level.

@jberg: I've always seen the singular spelled as "yuppie"; it's like the singular "hippie" ("hippy" having an entirely different meaning).

@AliasZ: Got a nice chuckle out of your parenthetical after referencing "Glückliche Fahrt". Even though I know exactly what it means, my inner 12-year-old never stops giggling over that word. Especially when reading the exit signs on the autobahn.

jae 12:41 PM  

@jberg - The reason I had UCla at first is that I never read the second half of the clue and didn't realize there was a second half until I read your post. One of the hazards of trying to zip through a Mon.

RAD2626 12:46 PM  

Hand up with all the other 65+ who knew PERLE MESTA. Since ADLAI and GAP were my first entries I guessed it had to be PERLE. Otherwise I was a PEarL fisher as well. Thought all the great 7's in the corners was genius for a Monday puzzle.

Happy Labor Day everyone. Put your white solving clothes away for the winter.

Leapfinger 12:54 PM  

PERLE MESTA good on two counts, besides knowing [of] her:
1. My brain linked her with La Perla, probly on account of the plethora of bras in recent grids. Best I know, La Perla does lace, maybe plether, never chocolate ...All for big bucks. Either way, LaPerla does a lot to cut back on the MUSTY.
2. Clue tied in nicely with a comment inclusion from yesterday, CALM MEME ADAM. Today, that would be QUALM MEME ADAM.

Honey soit qui MALI pense.

Been some time since my game theory course, but I also had an issue with the ZERO SUM clue, thinking everyone comes out with a balance of wins and losses. Maybe a little Prisone's Dilemma oozed in there. Thanks for clarification, FrankL, ElaineS.

@Carola, you shouldn't be timid about your slide into pedantry; you were right. Mondegreens only in the most elastic sense, but what other word to apply? Ever since my word-guru let me know how inverted/ converted the homonym-homophone issue has become, I've been leery of nomenclature.

Now I want to know whether ETHYL works as a stand-alone thingy? Maybe a chemically-oiented person will chime in. One nice assistant-type lady in our clinic went by the name ETHYLene; I was forever wanting to add 'glycol'.

Also bemused that the grid indicates GA STANK; I always had good times there. DIS SECT, Dat SECT, who cares?

Overall, though the grid well DECOrated with interesting fill, am awarding it it big slice of that "YUP" PIE.

AZURE were.

wreck 1:08 PM  

Agree with the "tough for a Monday" crowd. I'm 55 and knew Perle Mesta -- I'm officially old (sigh).

Mark 1:13 PM  

I turn 50 in three weeks, and I knew who the "hostess with the mostest" was. But that's partly because she was from Oklahoma, as am I.

Leapfinger 1:13 PM  

Mmm. I am beetholden to Mendel's own way of skating on the thin edge of Gefährtlichkeit.

wreck 1:14 PM  

@ Mark
So am I -- that's my excuse as well!

Arlene 1:42 PM  

I passed the PERLE test - got it easily, so I guess that makes me old!

I opted for UCSF - that's where much of the research for the cochlear implants that are sitting in my head came from (see Advanced Bionics). And, if you go there and ask nicely, they might even give you copies of my books.

So this puzzle was talking to me - and it said, "Don't worry about FASE (44A)"!

Now back to watching the US Tennis Open.

AnonyMichigander 2:16 PM  

@Mark, @wreck,

I see from Wiki that PERLE MESTA lived in several places, was buried in Oklahoma but born in Sturgis, MI.

Doesn't that make her a Sturgeon?

sanfranman59 3:21 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 (this week's median solve time, average for day of week, ratio, percentile, rating)

Mon 7:41, 6:02, 1.27, 98%, Challenging (5th highest ratio of 243 Mondays)

Top 100 solvers

Mon 5:33, 3:57, 1.41, 100%, Challenging (highest ratio of 243 Mondays)

@David Streever: You can scroll through the solve times (under the "Scorecard" heading) on the main NYT Crosswords page. That's where I get the times to calculate these statistics.

LaneB 3:22 PM  

Plenty old enough to get PERLE etc., ADLAI (always one of my tragic heroes badly treated by the JFK gang) and the Call Me Madam reference, so I didn't find this edition particularly hard ( for a Monday.). Only advantage to being over 80 that I can think of at this moment.

Lee 3:41 PM  

I'm also a fan of the mini-NYT puzzles on the iPad. A fun way to spend a few minutes.

Clement 4:13 PM  

@Lee, your minutes are your own, to spend wherever you like.

Masked and Anonymo6Us 4:37 PM  

Less moo-cow, more varieties of MEATS. Well-done, Mr. Parrish.


fave weeject: THE. This *is* THE weeject, after all.

Hey! -- Where's the METAS?!! Mesta left that for the next puz...



chefbea 6:17 PM  

Trying to get the mini puzzle on my iPad which is free. Finally got to the app and they wanted my credit card number!!! thought it was free. what's going on??

Queenoid 7:18 PM  

I know not this mini puzzle. It intrigues me.
I had a shamefully difficult time with today's, right after being a bit boastful about "give me a minute - Monday is always very speedy." Especially the North Central area.

r.alphbunker 8:12 PM  


If this is the first app that you have purchased on your iPad then I think the card will be saved with your Apple account.

The crossword app won't charge anything to your card until you subscribe to the regular puzzle which you can do through the app.

If you already have subscribed through the site then you can get puzzles on your app by logging into your nytimes account. In this case your credit won't be charged either.

FYI, I have put Monday's Mini here

OISK 8:29 PM  

I am 68, well on the long side of "Heard of Perle Mesta." I also played the lead in a camp production of "Call me Madam." On the other hand, I have no idea what "SusieQ" was. Never listened to Credence Clearwater if I could help it. (I went on a snorkeling trip in the Caribbean, and the "Captain" played Credence Clearwater all the way back, as I tried to enjoy a beautiful tropical sunset despite what is mostly noise to me. ) I am a chemist - never heard of a chemical called "ethyl." "Ethyl" is a group, C2H5, that doesn't exist alone. There is ethyl alcohol, or ethanol, and that is the gasoline additive. Nice puzzle for a Monday.

chefbea 9:05 PM  

@Ralphbunker..thanks. I'll go to my nyt account

sanfranman59 10:07 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)

Top 100 solvers

Mon 5:20, 3:57, 1.35, 100%, Challenging (highest ratio of 243 Mondays)

There were only 275 successful solvers who submitted times online today, a new Monday low-water mark by 36. These ratings should therefore be taken with a larger than usual grain of salt.

Z 10:54 PM  

@sanfranman59 - I find it doubtful that the NYT will maintain the play against the clock option for fewer than 300 customers. Or maybe they will add that functionality to the new app at some point. It certainly seems as though no new solvers pick that option.

Aaron Riccio 9:42 AM  

@Z and @sanfranman59, I can confirm as someone who used to do "Play Against the Clock" that unless they allow the new app to track it (and I don't see why they don't), it's a feature that will probably ATROPHY.

spacecraft 11:34 AM  

I kind of liked this one. Out of the gate with GIZA and ZEROSUM, I thought: "nice one." When I hit JIM I thought sure we were headed for pangram alley--but no. My JAPES were JEERS without checking the downs; my bad. Later, the assumed UCla had to go crossstate to UCSB, making two writeovers on a Monday. Just carelessness.

Some of THE fill entries ARE a tad simplistic, and SSGTS is a mouthful for sure, but most of the longer stuff is pretty lively.

With PERLE as a forced beginning, Ms. MESTA became a gimme, and as soon as the second themer went in I grokked the trick right away; it was going to be anagrams of MESTA, of which there are ample real words. I guess "LEGALTEAMS" is a thing, but a bit of a stretch to call a familiar phrase. Overall, call it a B+.

4312. Where did I ERR?

DMG 1:00 PM  

Loved PERLEMESTA, and despite the above description, see her as looking just like Ethel Merman. Oh, for the days of real movie musicals! Enjoyed the puzzle and all it's anagrams. Paused at JAPES, would have written JeerS, but I already had the A in place, so what else?
A nice Monday.

575 Almost!

rondo 3:16 PM  

I've been around a long time and can't ever remember hearing of PERLE MESTA. Was once accused of being a YUPPIE, but wasn't that Y and really not so UPPIE, just liked having a car that wasn't a beater.

204 - meh

Dirigonzo 6:29 PM  

I managed to finish with no write-overs and no wrong squares but it was certainly no cake-walk. My initial run through, which often produces a completed grid on Monday, left me with several holes to fill in but eventually the crosswords worked their magic to produce the needed words. I do believe this puzzle raises the bar a bit for what a good Monday puzzle should be.

37374 - that a lot of digits just to get to 6.

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