Chinese-American fashion icon / THU 2-19-15 / Game of Thrones patriarch Stark / Archaeological site along Nile / Silent Spring topic for short / Pacific port from which Amelia Earhart left on her last fatal flight / City that supplied granite for Egyptian monuments

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Constructor: Jason Flinn

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: LOOPS (51A: What the paths of three answers in this puzzle include) — three answers go up in a loop (signified by circled squares) before returning to the answers' original plane of existence:

Theme answers:
  • PAPER AIRPLANE (26A: Classroom projectile)
  • ROLLER COASTER (60A: Theme park part)
  • SHOELACE (62A: It may be on the tip of the tongue)
Word of the Day: OCTAVO (52D: Book size) —
  1. a size of book page that results from the folding of each printed sheet into eight leaves (sixteen pages).
    • a book of octavo size. 
      plural noun: octavos (google)
• • •

This puzzle does what most PAPER AIRPLANEs actually do—kind of fly off weakly and then nosedive or hit the dog in the ass or something else similarly unceremonious and unimpressive. There's just three themers, first of all, so there's not a lot to admire, even if the concept itself were admirable—which, in a way, it is. It's kooky fun. It's just … PAPER AIRPLANEs mostly don't loop, and a SHOELACE is not ever "on the tip of the tongue" [of the shoe]. Look at the tip of your shoe's tongue—go ahead, I'll wait. [hums "I Love You, Honeybear" while he waits for you…]. OK, see? The tip is sticking up there all proud and SHOELACE-free. The laces are on the tongue, over the tongue, for sure, but not "on the tip." No sir. Then there's the biggest problem: PAPER AIRPLANE—or, rather, PAIRPLANE, which is the answer you get in the Across. That … is nonsense. The other theme answers give you non-nonsense: a SHOE is a thing, a ROASTER is a thing. A PAIRPLANE is gibberish. So theme idea is cool, but execution is weak and wobbly. Add a loop answer, clean up the cluing, and then maybe. It's a hard theme to pull off because you have to depart from *and return to* a letter in the answer (i.e. the lowest answer in the 'loop' gets used twice). But if you can't do it right, then just don't do it.

["Everything is doomed / And nothing will be spared / But I love you, Honey Bear…"]

The fill here is average, maybe slightly better than average. Fewer wince-y moments than I've become used to, of late (LAE, as always, is The Worst thing in whatever grid it's in; today, it's just below AWW). WENT COLD, FIRE AWAY, DOTCOM, BITCOIN, GOES BAD, NAUSEATE, ATYPICAL … I like all of those. ANNA SUI I'm cool on (27D: Chinese-American fashion icon). In her full-name form, she's pretty fresh fill. But her name always makes me think "crutch fill." All the common letters and vowels … I don't know, I just can't get excited. It's like AMARNA. Valid, but crutchy. I like R. CRUMB, though (50D: "Keep in Truckin'" cartoonist). Hell, I'm teaching R. CRUMB next week. Double hell, I ordered a collection of his comics just today (as a reward to myself for refraining from buying the $350 Complete Zap Comix Box Set, which I may still cave in and buy… someday). He's one of the greatest cartoonists of all time, even if his work has a real capacity to NAUSEATE, at times.

TAE BO is not an [Exercise option] unless it's 1997.

See you tomorrow.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Charlene 12:07 AM  

Finished. Never heard of Robert Crumb or Anna Sui, but at least there were no arcane US federal investments.

Anonymous 12:13 AM  

Rex, if the NYT puzzle aggravates you so much, why in the world do you blog about it everyday?

I assume that writing the same crap day after day (the fill sucks, the theme sucks, the clues suck) makes you pretty miserable...

Greg 12:25 AM  

I found this to be an absolute delight. Exactly what I want in a Thursday, quirky and light.

@Anonymous12:13, part of the fun for me is trying to figure out what Rex will whine and cry about. Just embrace it.

dmw 12:31 AM  

The theme helped me finish, for a change, even if I never appreciated the loop part of it. P___Airplane gave it away.

wreck 12:31 AM  

Well, I pretty much agreed with Rex on this one for the very reasons he listed. Only "failed" paper airplanes loop and shoe laces don't really loop on the "tip of the tongue." Maybe it was just me and Rex!

jae 12:34 AM  

Easy-medium for me.  SW was the toughest.  Had to stare a bit to see SHOELACE.    

No erasures and AMARNA was a WOE.

I prefer Simpsons clues for NED.

Interesting/clever twist (LOOP?) on circle theme.  Liked it more than Rex did, but he has a point about PAIR PLANE.

I'm still waiting for a tough puzzle this week.  The hardest thing so far was finding those 8 presidents on Mon.

Steve J 12:37 AM  

I don't know what I think of this one. I appreciated the challenge of figuring out what was going on - which I didn't until quite late, with nearly everything filled except part of the loops. It was nicely satisfying to work through something that seemed tougher than most recent Thursdays.

But I didn't really come across anything that made me smile or admire the cleverness. I think it may be that the cluing was mostly pretty straightforward. The misdirections were pretty much just standard synonyms that made you think of a more common usage (and incorrect answer), like Shot for PHOTO. There wasn't any playfulness that I noticed.

Some nice downs, with BITCOIN, FIRE AWAY and WENT COLD. I'm completely unfamiliar with ANNA SUI, but she was fairly crossed (and I needed every one of those crosses).

Speaking of things I don't know what I think of: R CRUMB. Incredibly distinctive drawing style, a lot of influence on later cartoonists, but I can't say I've ever enjoyed his work. (And the documentary about him from the 90s - simply titled Crumb - is one of the more fascinating and disturbing things I've seen.)

Whirred Whacks 12:37 AM  

I liked today's LOOPY theme. Quite clever.

R CRUMB put a big smile on my face. Made me think of his "Mr. Natural" character (who was the opposite of PC). I wonder what today's SJWs would think of him (or his even cruder contemporary "Fritz the Cat").

"One way to walk". Thinking baseball, I had BALK, then BALL, before the correct TALL.

QUESTION THE DUCK reminded me of the 1950s Groucho Marx TV show "You Bet Your Life" in which a duck with a secret word would descend at the beginning of each program. Groucho would sometimes talk with the duck.

DebinSac 1:01 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
DebinSac 1:08 AM  

I had to come here to see that the theme answers were all things that looped (but then, I'm a bit loopy tonight). Clever! I wish there had been another theme answer or two, but it was fun to do a Thursday puzzle with a twist that was new to me.

Clark 1:12 AM  

@Rex you are hilarious today—but you're scaring the anonymice. You must have some very rigid shoe-tying practices if you have never had a shoelace touch the tip of the tongue of your shoe. My shoe-tying practices are much less disciplined. I'm sure there has even been looped touching.

I am going to keep mum about my keep-on-trucking days. I bet DK has some stories.

kirquito 1:18 AM  

Father John Misty eh?

R Crumb is cool

chefwen 1:50 AM  

@Lewis from yesterday, I think of @Jesser often and miss his hilarious comments. I once said that he should be doing stand up comedy down at his local. He said he was too shy. I also miss @Purple guy and many others that have faded into the sunset.

Puzzle was good and I caught the trick early on, but it didn't really help with the solve.

36A is what I say to Ricey. "stop being is cu u ute".

Anonymous 2:49 AM  

I thought Exercise Option was SAY SO which would've been better fill.

Anonymous 2:57 AM  

Rex makes good points with great humor but I think the spatial aspect of the theme is very impressive and deserves more notice.

I'm not a robot.

GILL I. 4:56 AM BFA PIA always says that. And good gravy, why is TAFT the Washington heavyweight?
I'm in the @Steve J camp tonight. I really wanted to enjoy this puzzle. Maybe I will in the morning after I read all the comments.
R CRUMB is too LSD(ish) for me. Give me Berkeley Breathed.

John Child 5:23 AM  

@Gill I.:
Taft is often remembered as being the most obese president. He was 5 feet 11 inches tall; his weight peaked at 335–340 pounds toward the end of his Presidency. The truth of the story of Taft getting stuck in a White House bathtub is unclear. However, he once did overflow a bathtub. (Wikipedia)

I dunno... I finished and said, "It that it?" 31 squares of theme material: Maybe you count a little differently, but it's not much. Constructor notes at xwordinfo and wordplay suggest it was hard to fill...

Factoid: Taft also served 8 years after his presidency as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the only person to hold both jobs.

George Barany 7:34 AM  

Elaborating on TAFT, legend has it that the seventh inning stretch originated when he attended a major league baseball game, and felt compelled to stand up (perhaps to yawn?). Out of respect for the President, all the fans in attendance stood up as well.

Knitwit 7:57 AM  

I liked this, loops and all! Some clever, funny clues.

Lewis 8:15 AM  

What an unusual and wonderful theme. I loved how the theme answers did their loop-de-loops. And the theme did help my solve as well.

This puzzle had sparkly answers -- CATALYTIC, DOTCOM, BITCOIN, SHERPA, RCRUMB, FIREAWAY, PHENOM. I agree with @SteveJ regarding the cluing, being direct, but it was also tricky, like "Shot" for PHOTO, and "Thirst" for YEN. The puzzle felt Thursday tough for me.

I've never heard of WENTCOLD in this sense. I wanted "slap" for TILT ("Illegal motion penalty?"). This puzzle had a very high double letter count (14), which is neither good nor bad, just unusual.

Rex, there are times when my shoelaces have been on the tip of the shoe's tongue, as the bows I tie are often big. The clue had a question mark, and it actually made for an aha moment and smile.

A creative theme, challenging and satisfying solve, spark -- this is why the NYT crossword puzzles are in the upper tier, IMO.

NCA President 8:33 AM  

One of the rare times I agree with Rex 100% with really nothing to add.

17A messed me up for a very long time since I was convinced that newT was correct. He fit the description (including the double entendre) nicely. That made 2D AMenrA look fine too. But 25A had to be ONION. Suffice to say, I succumbed to spell check and saw that the Washington heavyweight was the other, bigger heavyweight from a very long time ago. Newt was a better answer, IMO. But TAFT made everything go in easily.

I don't think, by the way, I will ever get my Arals and Urals straight. Ever.

mac 8:39 AM  

OK Thursday. I got the theme with paper air planes, but I found the R. Crumb /Argus still tough to piece together. The shoe laces/tip of the tongue set was a little wobbly.

AliasZ 8:39 AM  

I enjoyed the loopiness of the theme. A PAPER AIRPLANE can most certainly do LOOPS if it is constructed the right way, then hit the dog's ass. A PAIRPLANE is a PAPER AIRPLANE built for two. That's obvious. The clue for SHOELACE says it may be on the tip of the tongue, which means it also may not be there, although it may also keep you tongue-tied.

I am perfectly fine with having only three LOOPS, since by definition it requires more space in the grid geographically, thus I see one loop as roughly equivalent to two straight-line or rebus theme entries. I did notice that the wide-open NW area was not really invited to the party.

I know ASWAN as the pretty bird an ugly duckling becomes when it grows up, or as that dam city about 350 miles south of AMARNA.

- Did something the ALIEN ATE NAUSEATE it?
- I was surprised WENT COLD and GOES BAD were allowed.
- PAWAT is the new pewit.

I don't remember ELLA Raines, but I know this other ELLA.

Here is Sviatoslav Richter playing "Une barque SUR l'océan" from "Miroirs" by Maurice Ravel.

Enjoy your Thursday.

joho 8:47 AM  

Yes, there are only three theme answers but since it took me three times as long to figure out exactly what was going on I'll double that to six!

Delightfully different LOOPy theme with lots of fresh answers, too, made for an enjoyable Thursday solve.

Thank you for pushing the envelope, Jason Flinn!

Don McBrien 8:49 AM  

A little messy with more than a few write-overs, but fun puzzle. Couldn't see SHOELACE to save my life, but solved around it.

r.alphbunker 8:53 AM  

Liked the puzzle. Brought square dancing to mind which has lots of turns within squares.

Tita 8:59 AM  

I've made PAIRPLANES that loop! I got a book back in my college physics days - "Making and Flying Paper Airplanes. With no special materials or tricks other than the occasional paper clip - just applying the laws of physics to 2-D paper.

Though I do agree about Rex's opening lines about flight paths...
I worked for a software company that underwent re-branding - the new logo was a PAIRPLANE - a few of us more techie types pointed out that it might not be the best correlation, but, it went ahead. Company was eventually bought by IBM, so I guess it wasn't terrible.
(They thought it evoked simplicity - as in "child's play".)

Puzzle?? LOVED it! Really chewy - took me forever to get the theme - with a big AHA. Then 2 more AHAs left me wanting more.
Very very cool trick.

Thanks Mr. Flinn!!

Gracie H 9:03 AM  

Loops are quirky and fun, but cluing was just slightly off in several instances, and not in a clever, punny direction. I did like BREATHES clue.

Also, sorry for sounding like a broken record (yikes, that dates me), but the 3-letter entries such as GEE, DUH, EEK, and AWW are getting very old.

I hope I'm not being UNFAIR and don't want to ALIENATE constructors, but SEEMS to me URALS, OMNI, and especially ARIA are far from ATYPICAL in puzzles lately. Perhaps constructors should TAKETEN at a nearby RESTAREA and come up with something fresher.

Lewis 9:07 AM  

Factoid: In 1947, the FSU student body voted on the name of their athletic symbol, and Seminoles was selected. The other finalists, in order of finish, were Statesmen, Rebels, Tarpons, Fighting Warriors, and CRACKERs.

Quotoid: "Know what's weird? Day by day, nothing SEEMS to change. But pretty soon, everything's different." -- Bill Watterson

Aketi 9:18 AM  

I liked the loops, just like I liked the loopdelooodeloop a while back. I must confess that I didn't get the APER part of the PAIRPLANE Until the end.

When my son was little we made many paper airplanes, including one that actually did loop de loops very well. With enough patience and practice and airplane making kits, it is entirely possible to make a paper airplane that doesn't hit the dog or cat. On the other hand, half the fun of launching them is seeing if it will hit the cat before the cat swipes it out of the air.

As for TAEBO, I must confess to having a negative reaction worthy of Rex. They just rearranged the schedule at our dojo so that hip-hip kickboxing (essentially an updated version of TAEBO) was inserted in between the advanced sparring Mixed Martial Arts class and the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu rolling class. I went from feeling tolerant of the women who were intimidated by the Mixed Martial Arts classes to resenting them for making up it impossible to do both of my favorite classes on the same night.


Leapfinger 9:28 AM  

@jae, everyone has their own gout; I'm most comfortable with NED Rorem.

Oh, I thought it was clever! The LOOPS aren't only in the grid: PAPER AIRPLANES fly 'em, a ROLLER COASTER can LOOP the LOOP, and the SHOELACE LOOPS (where you TAE the bow) are near the tongue's end, if not at the tip. And it would be a tough design to work 2 themers into the upper half.

Was WREATHED in smiles to start with DAUB Provencale, which kept me thinking French for quiChEs/CRACKER, Lait?/LECHE and naturally, MARIE ONION_TAE_NED. (Let her eat gateau.)

Had a couple of WOEs with (i) hENNA/SENNA, mostly because ABCESS looks perfectly fine to me with only 2 esses, and (ii) with square 50, where I knew it was RCRUMB, but was equally sure of America del SUD. I'm riskinga facepalm, but need SUR explained to me.

Though this Thursday is a bit ATYPICAL and knocked some of us for a LOOP, it didn't ALIENATE or NAUSEATE me. NOAIR elicited some deep BREATHS, but mostly this PHENOM left me SERENE. Specially liked the CATALYTIC converter and OCTAVO. Welcome to FIRE AWAY if URALS' opinion differs.

Minor notes:
PAWAT: related to M&A's pewit?
TAKE TEN aspirin and I'll SEE YA in the I.C.U.

Hope all-URALS have a frabjous day.

Sir Hillary 9:38 AM  

Took me a while to get anything going, but once I did, I had fun with this one.

Only other theme idea I can come up with is HANSNOOSE with G/M/A looping above the first N.

Are the three black squares "in the loop"?

Good stuff.

Tita 9:38 AM  

Oops - forgot to pick the ONION nit paint, I say!

This is the 2nd time in recent history that it is clued as an ingredient of a well-known dish.
I'm wanting a *signature* ingredient, no? Cornmeal? Sage? Not salt, not pepper, not butter, not ONION.
Osso Buco ingredient - ONION? Beef Wellington ingredient - ONION?
Am I right, @Chefs?
End rant.

jberg 9:46 AM  

63D was a nice misdirect (fess up,folks, didn't you put in Eel at first?) Only it's clued wrong -- an EFT is "a its immature terrestrial stage." Once it gets to the pond, it stops being an EFT. "Aspiring pond dweller" would have been ok.

On the other hand, PAIRPLANE is fine with me, chiefly because it brings back fond memories of my granddaughter who, when her family was planning a trip to Dublin to visit her namesake great grandmother, excitedly told me that she would be going on a hair plane.

I had to read @Rex to realize that the loopy things made loops in the real world, which adds to it quite a bit. I'd have preferred that SHOELACE go on after the loop, the way the othre two did -- but then, it was especially nice to have CATALYTIC crossing two loops.

Only an inch or two of snow last night - feels like heaven!

pfb 10:01 AM  

This was a nice challenge. I have to agree with Rex on the PAIRPLANE which had me scratching my head, but that may be due to a dry skin with all this forced air heat. I got RCRUMB right away and figured I had to be wrong. I haven't seen his work since college; oh my, that's 40 years ago.

Nancy 10:04 AM  

Missed the whole point until I came here. That's the 2nd time this week I've "solved" without knowing what I was doing. Thought I had PAIR PLANE (???), SHOE and COASTER as bad answers to bad clues. So actually it's a good puzzle, which I didn't realize while solving it. Thought there would be many others like me, but I see nary a one. Maybe later in the day?

Leapfinger 10:05 AM  

@WW, "QUESTION THE DUCK/ Why a DUCK..." has possibilities in the style of "Who's on first?"
Not sure I would have pegged you for a Marxist.

What I don't know about US Presidents would fill muito books, but I knew TAFT because of @Z's Monday link.

@Lewis, 'They tracked him to the glacier's edge, but there the trail WENT COLD'.

@Alias, I looked at the NW as a possible for a 4th, but since a black square is needed to hang the loop, a corner would have to be at least a 7x7. Giving the grid any kind of symmetry would lose what we have in the South. I think it's good enough to be a keeper 'as is'. 26A might be abbrev Piper AIRPLANE.

Dang the first PAWAT/pewit, but thanks for the Ravelled sleave of care.

Lewis 10:19 AM  

"Then there's the biggest problem: PAPER AIRPLANE—or, rather, PAIRPLANE, which is the answer you get in the Across. That … is nonsense. The other theme answers give you non-nonsense: a SHOE is a thing, a ROASTER is a thing. A PAIRPLANE is gibberish."

To me, the gibberish is okay. It is like a rebus answer, which will also look like gibberish. If you "see" the rebus answers with the extra letters in the rebus square, it makes sense, but just looking at the grid, it looks like gibberish. And in today's puzzle, PAIRPLANE looks like gibberish, but if you "see" it with the loop letters, it makes sense.

Casco Kid 10:20 AM  

44 min. 4 errors.
America del Sol

So you see, I did not get the theme, although I did get the revealer LOOPS, which meant nothing to me other than that REPA or REAP or PEAR or AREP or PARE might be a thing, somehow.

Very nice trick of design. Too damned bad I wasn't able to see it right off, or use the revealer clue to find it. Maybe if the revealer had been clued as [Things that splice into the paths of three answers in the puzzle]. AHME.

Except for the weirdness scattered throughout the puzzle SENNA, SHOE, PAIRPLANE, it was a nice medium solve. Most of the wrongness was surmountable.
[Book size] quartO
[Silent Spring topic] eco, then bio
[___-worth] weLl
[It may be on the tip of the tongue] word then namE
[Hors d'oeuvre staple] stiCKER


I knew I would have heard of the cartoonist RCRUMB, after the fact. I thought I might know the designer, but when it wasn't verawang, I had nothing. Who is ANNASOI? Is she anybody?

Overall, an excellent puzzle, a frustrating solving experience, and I'm left with that emptiness that comes from taking a clear, unmitigated 4 error loss. At least it wasn't a trouncing.

Steve M 10:20 AM  

Un unh

Elephant's Child 10:21 AM  

@SirHillary, four squares, but who's counting? Good one, coming up with the loop of a Hangman's Noose.

Is turkey dressing the same as turkey stuffing? One would think dressing to be external, stuffing internal. Many things are improved by the addition of ONIONs, esp if caramelized.

Steve J 10:21 AM  

@Tita: Regarding ONIONs and stuffing. The clues when it has come up have never asked for a signature ingredient, so you're misdirecting yourself in looking for one.

As far as whether onion is just another ingredient in stuffing, I'd argue that it's essential. It's not quite as essential as bread (the dish doesn't exist without bread), but it's a close second. I can't recall ever coming across a Thanksgiving/turkey stuffing that didn't include copious amounts of onion. Along with celery, it's an essential ingredient. I think it works with that clue and isn't quite green paint.

@Leapfinger: "muito" books?

Anonymous 10:21 AM  

R CRUMB gave us Joe Blow and the Family aka cartoon porn complete with child molestation. Hardly a legend, unless you also count Larry Flynt as a legend. Plus this: Mr. Goodbar sez, "Go fuck yourself, Do it today!" Beautiful. Not.

Anonymous 10:35 AM  

We can thank Rachel Carson for the ban on DDT and in doing so add her to the annals of historic killers. The needless elimination of DDT accounts for the death of 100 MILLION Africans alone. So even if you incorrectly assume it's a carcinogen (it's not) that wiped out birds (it didn't), you would have to think that birds are more important than people.

blinker474 10:39 AM  

Liked this puzzle. Thought Rex criticisms were, as usual, a stretch.
One post called Taft the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. The correct title is Chief Justice of the United States. At at least one presidential inauguration the person introducing the Chief Justice to administer the oath of office made the same mistake.

Anonymous 10:57 AM  

Many running shoes anchor the lace at the tip of the tongue to stabilize the tongue. Rex porker must not do much running.

Norm C. 10:59 AM  

The puzzle was OK.

I enjoyed seeing RCRUMB (I was a fan -- it was the 60s, after all), but when it comes to great cartoonists, I feel compelled to bring up Walt Kelly, the creator of Pogo. Ah, back in the days when Pogo was a 'possum, or a stick, not a dance.

Whirred Whacks 11:13 AM  

@ Leapfinger "Not sure I would have pegged you for a Marxist."

Actually I read a lot of Marx 40+ years ago (you couldn't avoid him as a humanities grad student back then as his ideas were used to critique almost everything).

True story: in 1968 I climbed up on Marx's grave in London (the one with the big bust of his head) for a photo. About 20 seconds later, a cadre of "Red Chinese" students in uniforms came on to the scene to pay their respects. They were not pleased with my irreverence.

But I much prefer Groucho!

Fred Romagnolo 11:15 AM  

I'm with @Nancy completely; and with @Casco in general: I got LOOPS, but not the gimmick. hands up for cOASTER, and SHOE was O K "cause it's what's on the other (lower) end of the tongue! PAIRPLANE I never figured out. @Anon 10:24 pretty much sums up my feelings about R CRUMB, not only x-rated but uuugly. @Steve J: you've lost out on one of life's great experiences if you haven't had a rice based dressing (instead of bread). My Russian grandmother insisted on both. But, I agree on the necessity of onion. Shouldn't PHENOM have been clued as slang or abbreviation or something? I'm with @Leapfinger; someone explain SUR. Isn't TILT the illegal motion itself, and not the penalty? I hope someone will clarify.

Fred Romagnolo 11:21 AM  

@Whirred Whacks: talk about eerie co-incidences; I too made the (then obligatory) trek to Marx's grave in Highgate, and while I was there a huge delegation of young people from Soviet Russia came to venerate. I was sitting on Spenser's tomb, just across the path, fittingly a Social Darwinist.

GILL I. 11:23 AM  

@Leapster @Fred. SOUTH AMERICA....
@John. Wow...thanks.

Hartley70 11:23 AM  

I found this to be an easy- medium Thursday. I only got hung up a bit in the NE at the end because of TILT. I'm assuming it refers to arcade game machines? I'm also curious as to the paper version of the puzzle. The phone version had the loop spaces in gray, so it would be hard to overlook their significance. Was it different in other versions, @Nancy and @Fred?

Fred Romagnolo 11:26 AM  

@Anon 10:35: I agree that Carson has been over canonized by the environmentalists, but she did mean well, and who could know, back then?

chefbea 11:29 AM  

Too much going on this morning so late to the party. DNF but did like all the foodie things

I'll put some onions on my crackers and eat with some osso buco. and wash it down with some wine.

Don McBrien 11:30 AM  

I have always resisted timing myself doing crossword puzzles, because the stress of the timer diminishes my enjoyment of doing the puzzle. I actually like to take my time with a puzzle and try to complete it as neatly as possible and without any write-overs. This takes longer to complete, but that is the point…more time doing something I enjoy.

A few years ago, I considered entering the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. I’m no expert solver, but I live in Stamford and thought it would be fun. So I timed myself doing some practice puzzles, and found it to be a wholly unpleasant experience. When I came upon a clue or area of the puzzle that was giving me trouble, instead of being in a calm Zen- place that is conducive to the kind flowing ideas and creative perspectives that help solutions emerge, I would lock up and start thinking about how much time I was wasting trying to come up the answer….thinking about the timer instead of the puzzle. On the other side of that coin, when I could “see” more than one answer at a time, I would feel like my pen can’t keep up with my mind, and I get stressed and often make errors.

So I gave up on that idea and very happily embraced solving the way I most enjoy: striving for accuracy first, neatness second, and with no regard to time. Crossword tournaments were just not for me. Recently, however, it came to my attention that there is a “neat handwriting” category at the tournament, and this has re-piqued my interest. I think that focusing on doing well in that category could be a way for me to enjoy the tournament. My concern is that I believe that to compete in this category, one must still complete the puzzle within the allotted time. Therefore, I have been recording my times this week, without hurrying or trying to beat the clock. Just to get a sense of how long it takes me to complete a puzzle my own way. Tuesday was about 13 minutes and yesterday and today were both a few seconds over 24 minutes (all 100% accurate, although neatness suffered). Even though I think this week’s puzzles have been easier than usual, I thought I should have a fair shot of at least completing most of the puzzles.

Then, out of curiosity, today I went to to compare my times to those posted there. I could cut my times in half and I still would not make the top 500 leaderboard. I saw that someone completed today’s puzzle in less than two minutes. As an experiment, I tried solving online, having already done the paper version. I just hit every across, typing as fast as I could and it still took me over 2 and a half minutes (2:36) – knowing the answers in advance!!

Are these the kinds of times people post at the tournament? They seem to stretch the limits of what’s physically possible. Again, I’m not going for speed, so it doesn’t matter to me in terms of being “competitive,” because I won’t be. But I was feeling pretty good about solving the Wednesday and Thursday puzzles at my own pace and still coming in under 30 minutes. I haven’t timed a Friday or Saturday, but I think I usually complete those within 45 minutes (same for Sunday). Now I’m not so sure.

Fred Romagnolo 11:31 AM  

@Gill I: Duh! Headslap! Thanks

JFC 11:39 AM  

Rex says, "This puzzle does what most PAPER AIRPLANEs actually do—kind of fly off weakly and then nosedive or hit the dog in the ass or something else similarly unceremonious and unimpressive."

I have copied that, blown it up in size and framed it for posterity. Rex should now retire as he cannot ever have a funnier or more apt opening line.


GILL I. 11:41 AM  

@Don McBrien.....You brought a smile to my face because what you describe as being your fears at a crossword tournament are the same as mine.
I went to one in Oakland at the suggestion of ACME. I completely froze up on the easy ones but did OK on the hard ones....! I came in second from last! What made it tons of fun was meeting new enthusiasts. That was well worth my dismal crossword failure.
Oh...I like your avatar. It looks so, I don't know, neat?

Joseph Michael 11:45 AM  

Cool theme with enough good fill to offset the bad.

Liked the way PAPER AIRPLANE and ROLLER COASTER not only looped but also continued across afterwards. Was disappointed that SHOELACE didn't do the same, but it didn't ALIENATE me from the puzzle.

Masked and Anonymo5Us 11:56 AM  


Wheeee. That was fun! Some JAVA/COBOL programmer would probably enjoy loopin NEVERENDINGPROGRAM even more, tho.

thUmbsUp, for a clever, fresh theme idea. I can see why there were only three themers (actually, 3.5, countin the LOOPS revealer)... Them doggone loops start makin all yer themers plumb ram into one another.

Really liked ATYPICAL. Had ATY+? and could not get the M&A brain to parse it correctly. Started to doubt the crossers. Lost valuable nanoseconds. Hadta eat a cinnamon roll, to get my nerve back.

Real nice, bullet-worthy selection of weejects:
* LAE. The Desperado Award winner, today. This would rate a definite double-?? clue, in runtpuz land.
* LEA. It's like deja vu, all anagrammed again.
* MTA. Clue this puppy as a Kingston Trio song, and watch @63 sputter, and generally outdo his SHOELACE loop-de-loops.
* MTA. Better clue: {Nub preceder, alphabetically??}. See that, Shortzmeister? Double-?? Power. There is no substitute.

"easy Chicago Loop rider"

old timer 11:58 AM  

I'm going to offer an excuse for PAIRPLANE. With the other loopy themers, it was possible to fill in the entire section and not Get The Trick. It was only when I had PAIRPLANE that I was forced to figure out how the trick worked.

TILT is indeed a penalty, IMO. On the old-fashioned pinballs, if you maneuvered the machine too much, not only was the game over, but the TILT sign came on, and you lost your money on that game. Stores used to (illegally) buy your replays from you, so every TILT was a quarter wasted.

As for the people who solve these puzzles in 2 1/2 minutes, someone on the blog explained how it's done. You solve the entire puzzle in your head or on paper. Then you start the app and fill in words as fast as you can.

bwalker 12:03 PM  

ONIONs are the most widely used vegetable for cooking, found in nearly every style of cooking around the world.

R. CRUMB comixxx were nonexistent in the rural Texas of my youth, but Mr. Natch was on many semis. Keep On Trucking! He is also a major influence on B. Grace, the genius behind "The Piranha Club" (formerly "Ernie") in the funny pages of many NY Times competitors. Grace's art and humor are very R. CRUMBly. When the San Antonio Express-News dropped the strip, I dropped the Express-News, forcing me to start doing crossword puzzles online, and leading me to this blog. Huh!

I solved for the second Thursday in a row. It's a streak! A few seconds shy of 50 minutes, it was easy, especially since I got in the LOOP. Very satisfying.

@Leapy -- SUR is Spanish for "south."

Numinous 12:06 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Numinous 12:10 PM  

Anna Sui (born August 4, 1964) is an American fashion designer. Sui is one of the most celebrated names in American fashion, known for her timeless designs and ability to transcend eras with historical and culturally inspired collections. She was named one of the "Top 5 Fashion Icons of the Decade" and in 2009 earned the Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement Award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA), joining the ranks of Yves Saint Laurent, Giorgio Armani, Ralph Lauren, and Diane von Furstenberg. Her worldwide luxury fashion brand includes clothing, shoes, cosmetics, eyewear, and accessories, as well as her renowned line of signature fragrances. Anna Sui products are sold through her free-standing stores and distributors around the world in over 50 countries. In 2006, Fortune estimated the collective value of Sui's fashion empire at over $400 million. –Wikipedia
It SEEMS as if ANNA SUI is someone we should know though I'd never heard of her. Well, now I know.

I liked this one but it really had me going for a bit. PAIRPLANE troubled me until I looked at it carefully and saw the LOOP. SHOELACE troubled me not at all. I know that the way lots of people tie their SHOELACEs make the loops vertical which then do rest on the "tip of the tongue". That happens when the knot is a granny. When the laces are tied as a square knot, they rest horizontally, a LOOP on either side of the lacing. In any case, LACEs are generally tied close enough to the "tip of the tongue" for me.

Iffy fill? There is almost always goint to be "iffy fill" if the grid includes three letter words. This one had fewer than most.

I usually think of Rorem when I see NED tool
The clue at 49A is in Spanish. SUR is Spanish for south. The clue refers to the continent below us.
Just call me Captain Obvious!

Amazingly (to me) I got this with no write-overs and in about half the time Thursdays have been taking me since I got out of the hospital.

Tita 12:15 PM  

@Don too. Not in the slightest bit interested in speed.
But...have done 2 acpts and 3 low-key Westport tournaments. You should DEFINITELY do that one - it's the 1st week in Feb.
It's fun to meet fellow fanatics.

Last ACPT I came in at 382 out of 689 or 700 or so.

I went through your precise 'neat-handwriting' journey...
Oh - a category I can win at! :D
Oh - they expect you to not only finish but to be 100% correct... :(

If you want to ease your way in, and spend less money, go to Westport or Lollapuzoolah in midtown in July or Aug, I think.

See you there!

Anonymous 12:15 PM  

@Don McBrien... You made me smile indeed. You expressed perfectly my own experience of solving puzzles. For the record I have been solving the NYT puzzles for more than 30 years. Yet for the last 10 years I have not progressed one bit in my solving times nor in my ability to complete the puzzles. Monday - Tuesday puzzle are straight ward for me. I don't think I have ever solved a puzzle in less than 10 minutes. 13 minutes is more like the norm. Wednesday - most of them I solve without any help. The rest of the week is a always a struggle.
Thursday puzzle regularly stump me so I concentrate on solving as many clues as I can without regard to the theme or tricks.
Friday and Saturday is another matter. Depending on how many clues I get I then decide to either give up or try to get some Google help.
I have been taken to task on this board for giving up too early. The way I see it is that I know my abilities.

Leapfinger 12:22 PM  

Hey @Gillster, I was thinking South America, but made that as América del SUD. Now have it pegged as Spanish; Portugues would make it SUL. (oy)

@SteveJ, sorry! That should be 'muitos books' [Port.], cf muchos [Span.] and molti [Ital.]. The Portuguese dates to classes I took when I was hoping to run some studies in Brazil. At least partly in order to have time with good friends.

America del Norte 12:46 PM  

AWW, FI[GUREEIG]HT makes a double LOOP. Infinitely better!!

Some might think @Don McBrien's avatar looks neat; I think it looks jaded. ;D

@Numi, you know around Spivey's Corners and such places, ANNA SUI would likely be linked to Hog Hollerin'.
We may not always ask, but some of us have it in mind. So keep us posted on your and Mrs. Numi's progress, will you?

M and Also 12:47 PM  

@63: ROTFL, re: "hit the dog in the ass" with the PA(PERA)IRPLANE. ()=loop. Just think, when everybody and their brother in the hood has a drone in the game, dude! Not to mention drones the size of rhinos, deliverin the daily NYTimes. har... What could go wrong, there?

R. Crumb is one of my hall-of-faves comic artist, too. Spring for that comix collection, already. YOLO. And YCNHTMS.*. It's "Keep ON Truckin", btw. Yer blog had it as IN. Only more faver comics artist was the great Carl Barks. (See long Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge adventure stories of the 40's-early 60's. Primo.) But, I digress.


* You Can Never Have Too Much Stuff.

** gruntz, again **

Jack Gladney 1:16 PM  

Getting away with NOAIR by cluing it "Asphyxiation cause" is like using NOWATER and cluing it "Thirst cause."

Also can't get past the awkwardness of the RAPE circle at the top of the puzzle.

The fill is mostly really good, though.

Nancy 1:40 PM  

@Hartley 70: I solve on paper and, yup, the gray squares were there. But I tend to find such things (like those little circles that are sometimes put in squares)more of an annoyance than a help, when I don't need them, which is often. Here I DID need them; I just didn't know it and I never realized it in the process of solving. Even after it was pointed out, I had trouble seeing the sequence of letters in the loops. (I'm not very visual and I'm bad at spatial relations.) If I hadn't been so stubbornly dismissive of the gray squares and been paying strict attention, would I have seen what was in the loops? Probably not.

bookmark 1:41 PM  

R. Crumb gave an interesting interview to the NY Observer last month on Charlie Hebdo.

Carola 1:42 PM  

I thought it was terrific - a very clever and witty theme. The other day, we had the doggie silhouette mid-grid; today I got to draw loops. Fun with graphics!

I was thrown for a LOOP for a BIT, though, when I couldn't figure out how to fit PAPER into a rebus square. Then I saw how it swooped around, and that helped me get the other two loops.

Liked FIRE AWAY, WENT COLD, OCTAVO, WREATHED x BREATHES (single digits here; breath wreathes faces).

@Joseph Michael - I agree with you about that truncated SHOELACE. I guess it shows it's about be become untied :)

@Hartley70 - In the paper, the LOOP squares are gray.

Whirred Whacks 2:04 PM  

Interesting hearing about your R CRUMB experiences. As you point out, back in the 70s, you couldn't miss seeing "Mr Natural" just about everywhere.

@Fred R
Fascinating Marx's grave parallel experiences!

I have also been to Lenin's Tomb in Moscow and Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum in Hanoi. But those are state-run, and there's no room for frivolous behavior in either place.

My favorite Communist grave story is when I put a "Ball of Whacks" on Khrushchev's grave at Novodevichy Cemetery in Moscow in 2007.

I blogged about it, and you can see a photo of my Ball next to Khrushchev's big head here.

Z 2:09 PM  

The iPad software I use had neither circles nor grayed circles. As a result I never found the ROLLER or LACE parts of the themes even though I got the idea at PAIR PLANES. The SW gave me fits. I put in and removed CATALYTIC four or five times. I was certain that the ROLLER loop had to go around the single black square as in the PAPER loop, so I was certain something was wrong. When I got the congratulations screen I was surprised.

Jon Stewart did a fat TAFT joke recently, so that was pretty easy. As for DDT, I bet you can find someone asserting smoking doesn't cause cancer, too.

dk 2:27 PM  

🌕🌕🌕 (3 mOOOns)

Oddly satisfying. I knew all the theme answers so the challenge was how to make them work with the shaded squares.

My experience with a PAPERAIRPLANE is far different from Rex's experience. Used them in a statistics class to demonstrate mean, median & mode as well as what may lead to variance in data…. DUH: better planes fly further.

As a child of the sixties R. CRUMB is well known to me. One Halloween several of us went dressed as Mr. Natural… again oddly satisfying.

wreck 2:36 PM  

@ Numinous

I meant to mention to you about the wireless keyboard issue I was having on my ipad. It seems if you do the puzzle at the "website" for the NYT Crossword (via a browser), the virtual keyboard indeed disappears. I use the actual iTunes NYT APP, where the virtual keyboard does NOT disappear. Thanks for your help! I guess I can choose how I like best!

Don McBrien 2:52 PM  

@Gill @Tita, thanks!! Unfortunately, I only heard about Westport for the first time a few days after it happened, but I hope to go next year. I will also check out the midtown one and other you suggest!!

Abe Lincoln 3:38 PM  

I suggest that the name of this blog be changed to "Rex Parker DISSES the NY Times Crossword."

Anonymous 4:41 PM  

There is NO Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. The title is Chief Justice of the United States.

Mercy! 4:45 PM  

Well, apparently when they said "You can't be too thin or too rich", they had just seen ANNA SUI's Fall collection. They should have added "You can also dream up costumes that are unsuitable for any place but a fashion runway". Keep an eye out for the Viking helmets, complete with horns.

(Blame @Numinous for this.)

Anonymous 5:02 PM  

@dk: further -> farther

mathguy 5:15 PM  

A couple of loops short of a terrific puzzle.

I agree with @Steve J 12:37 wrt the cluing.

John 5:50 PM  

Seems to me that "Rex Parker, King of Snark" is more like it.

Teedmn 6:47 PM  

AWW, I didn't do so hot on this one. Four WOEs in the central/south left me scrambling for a decent DNF. I kind of follow fashion but ANNA SUI rang no bells here, along with RCRUMB, ARGUS and America del SUR. Wanted SoI. And MCcoMB, which gave me cOASTER. And having LOOPS tied into one of the theme loops just confused me.

But it was a fun exercise and I liked the clue for SHERPA.

In college I watched a paper airplane competition - can't remember if the prize went to the plane that went farthest or stayed aloft for the longest time, or maybe a category for both. A tube design won and I think they disqualified those in later years. But it was fun to watch everyone launch their planes off the third floor of the atrium in the Architecture building.

Thanks, Jason Flinn, for the LOOPy puzzle.

Anonymous 7:02 PM  

Oh, he was born miserable. What a jerk.

mac 10:31 PM  

@numi: I agree. Please let us know how you two are doing.

OISK 10:45 PM  

Ah, one "Crumb-y" clue cost me a three week winning streak. For some reason I had written Argos instead of Argus, and never having heard of the Crumb, left it as Cromb. Getting the gimmick saved me from other errors at "Sur" where I had written "Sud" ( DCromb making as much sense as R Cromb.). No real complaints about this one, which I found creative but difficult. Just annoyed that my winning streak "crumb-led."

the redanman 9:54 AM  

did it a day late, got it all right,, got the theme, but it wasn't too much fun. Rexie was right, the theme is weakly done and some of the fill was pure sheite,, valid lick, I say.

Debra Pollack 10:33 AM  

Small point here, but an EEG is not an ER Test (45A). I had EKG/ECG which tripped me up.

Anonymous 2:42 PM  

Speaking of neatness, I (honestly!) do crossword puzzles with my opposite hand. Takes all types.

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rondo 9:53 AM  

So many options available for spellcasters. Maybe I should take it up if I ever retire.

A bit tougher than earlier this week, but not that much. Two write-overs with hENNA and OSSa. Took a while to figure the first loop trick. Didn’t hate it, but kinda weakish I think, certainly ATYPICAL.. Some decent fill, especially the longish stuff.

RCRUMB was a super-gimme as I own many – maybe even most – of his comix. I have had Mr. Natural as a wallpaper on my work computer for many, many years; the millenials haven’t a clue about it and even some of the boomers seem to have forgotten (or are so “square” they never knew, there are those types, you know).

SEEMS like more French words than usual this week and of late in general. Before long at this rate I’ll have another language to go along with my Swedish, German, and Russian. Which is too much going on inside the cranium (lotta Latin xwords too).

Burma Shave 11:38 AM  


It GOESBAD. It WENTCOLD. It ain’t great,
when your girlfriend you ALIENATE.
SEEMS that the nude PHOTO
of your SELF caused her some WOE,
and when you TAKETEN you NAUSEATE.


BS2 11:44 AM  

ARGUS was an American maker of cameras and photographic products, founded in 1936 in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

LECHE - use your imagination

spacecraft 11:56 AM  

RCRUMB was my way in to this grid. Ah, those were the days.

I agree about the "tip of the tongue" clue: inexact at best. But once I grabbed the handle of that I could just glance at 60a and write in ROLLERCOASTER, taking note that, as OFL says, ROASTER is a thing--as is SHOE. So when I (finally!) broke into the north half, that loop gave me fits. I had C__CKE...and so was thinking chicken-something, or maybe cracked crab ("Can't we have both?"), but nothing worked. No wonder: I was on the wrong loop! Eventually, after "crack"ing the NE with FIREAWAY, there was the old PAPERAIRPLANE, but I was greatly disappointed that the straight across answer was gibberish.

That left the double natick at 27d, A_NAS_I crossing A_C and S_R. Had not clue one what any of those three were. You may argue this fashion designer's fame till you're blue in the face, but this guy is outside the fashion world...WAY outside. Out here, we never heard of her. Luckily, though, I picked the two correct letters, hoping that ANNA was a first name and just picking a vowel out of 6 (yes, I included Y).

That worthy lady and AMARNA--forced in on crosses--are true outliers to me; mayhap Thursday is too early for them. On the other hand, you kids would probably think the same about CRUMB.

Oh well, "Keep on truckin!"

KG 12:53 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
KG 12:54 PM  

Where in Sac?

DMG 4:24 PM  

I seem to be the only person in puzzledom who isn't familiar with RCRUMB, and he repaid by messing up my solution. Mispelled ARGoS and a cOASTER at the fair left me with (a) someone named RCcoMB and (b) wondering what was meant by the loop "ollerc" which didn't seem to hook up anywhere. Did get the equally unknown to me ANNASUI but only letter by letter from the crosses. some you get-some you don,t, but the challenge keeps me coming back!

rain forest 6:34 PM  

Great fun! Loved it.
Cute and novel theme, nice range of cluing, and virtually no crap. LAE was a gimme, as was RCRUMB, and I wasn't bothered in the slightest by PAIRPLANE.

leftcoastTAM 6:41 PM  

Got the theme at ROLLERCOASTER, and it certainly helped in figuring out that this was not a rebus. LAE sunk me, and LAi caused me to misspell NAUSiATE. Otherwise an enjoyable puzzle, though it ate up a chunk of my afternoon.

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