Brazilian people / WED 3-25-15 / Food additive banned in 1976 / Eight days after nones in ancient Rome / Thou aloft full dazzling Whitman / Film whose sequel is subtitled Sequel / So-called Giant Brain unveiled in 1946

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Constructor: Jacob Stulberg

Relative difficulty: Easy-Challenging

THEME: NUDE DESCENDING A STAIRCASE NO. 2 — circled letters "descend" the grid, spelling out that title, and then two other random themers are thrown in:

Theme answers:
  • 28D: Like the work spelled out by the circled letters (AVANT-GARDE)
  • 12D: Event at which the work spelled out by the circled letters was first exhibited in America (ARMORY SHOW)
Word of the Day: DELAWARE / BAY (7A: With 31-Across, Cape May's locale) —
Delaware Bay is the estuary outlet of the Delaware River on the Northeast seaboard of the United States. Approximately 782 square miles (2,030 km2) in area, the bay's fresh water mixes for many miles with the salt water of the Atlantic Ocean.
The bay is bordered inland by the States of New Jersey and Delaware, and the Delaware Capes, Cape Henlopen and Cape May, on the Atlantic. The Cape May-Lewes Ferry crosses the Delaware Bay from Cape May, New Jersey, to Lewes, Delaware. Management of ports along the bay is the responsibility of the Delaware River and Bay Authority.

Delaware Bay
The shores of the bay are largely composed of salt marshes and mudflats, with only small communities inhabiting the shore of the lower bay. Besides the Delaware, it is fed by numerous smaller rivers and streams, including (from north to south) the Christina RiverAppoquinimink RiverLeipsic RiverSmyrna RiverSt. Jones River, and Murderkill Rivers on the Delaware side, and the Salem RiverCohansey River, and Maurice Rivers on the New Jersey side. Several of the rivers hold protected status for their unique salt marsh wetlands bordering the bay, which serves as a breeding ground for many aquatic species, including horseshoe crabs. The bay is also a prime oystering ground.
The Delaware Bay was designated a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance on May 20, 1992. It was the first site classified in the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network. (wikipedia)
• • •

This thing gets points for effort and originality. But it gets almost no other points. This is a picture-perfect example of a fine idea botched all to hell. So many problems, but I'll start with the first: the circled letters fill themselves in, especially if you start in the NW (as humans often do) and have even a passing familiarity with major artworks of the 20th century. Here is my grid, very early in the solve:

Now at this point, I can go either way on this puzzle. I love the idea of basing a puzzle around a painting, I love this Duchamp painting in particular (though I confess to not knowing there was a "NO. 2" on the end). But I can already see that the fill on this is heading toward terrible (ANO was my first thing in the grid :( and then TUPI!?!?!), so I'm basically waiting for this puzzle to wow me in the corners—to become something less straightforward and less easy and a bit more clean. Sadly, none of those things happened. No, I take that back—it did get less easy. I foundered in the SW because the ultra-vague 49D: Utterly yielded nothing even though I had ST-. I wanted STONE, as in "STONE fox" or "STONE drunk." But no. Even with STA- I had no idea. Then there's the 62D: Amount to be divided up … starting with a "P" … three letters … so clearly it's POT! (Not!). [Little nothing] was super-ambiguous as well. I had TWEET. Yeah. I know, pretty sad. But that corner's not bad, fill-wise. In fact, it's the best part of the grid, fill-wise. Problems were more in those EENSY little W and E sections. The 3x3s.

The fill in the far west section has a problem that much of the fill in and around the circled squares has: it's bad. AHA ASA ALA all jammed together like that? Individually, those are suboptimal but forgettable. Together, they're a blight. True, fill toward the middle of the grid is worse—*far* worse. ONEON, AST, ASIM (!?!?!?) and CRS (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!?$#@). Those last two shouldn't be allowed to play in any puzzle, ever. But western section has no good excuses. At least fill on the staircase can argue it was coerced. AHA ASA ALA … well, the themer placement isn't doing them any favors, but still. But minor point, probably. At least that section was easily gettable. Unlike its eastern counterpart. This is what my grid looked like at the end:

Looking at it retrospect, I don't know what I didn't guess SHOW. Oh, no, I do. Because 40A: Prepare for planting, say looks like SOW. So I wrote that in. Then I also wrote in ART at 45A: "Thou ___ aloft full-dazzling!": Whitman. And then I was just stuck. In a stupid little 3x3 section. Here's what I resent most about that—"NUDE DESCENDING A STAIRCASE" is a widely known title. AVANT-GARDE is a widely known style. ARMORY SHOW … I guess if you are an aficionado, you know what that is, but general recognizability plummets with that answer. That answer screams "I Am Desperate For Symmetrical Answers Related To This Painting Because MARCEL DUCHAMP and DADA and FUTURISM Just Aren't Working!" So, design-wise, ARMORY SHOW gives you a painful outlier in your theme set. Overall: Good idea, terrible fill, ill-considered execution.

The fact that some solvers will, in fact, know ARMORY SHOW doesn't change the fact that most solvers will never have heard of it. Whereas all will have heard of AVANT-GARDE and most will have head of the painting in question (which is at least inferable with the help of crosses).
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


    Glimmerglass 8:18 AM  

    I thought this was an excellent puzzle. Some of the short fill was junky, but forgivable given the difficulty of the construction. However, I object to plurals of things that have no plurals. EDDAS is like Iliads. King Lears? Oxygens? No such thing.

    Danp 8:20 AM  

    Completely engaged (in) = Knee deep? Seems to me that they have opposite connotations. One suggests strong positive interest. The other is stuck and trying to get out.

    wreck 8:21 AM  


    Rug Crazy 8:22 AM  

    CRS was awful.
    I winced at the Numeral 2 (first had hoo)
    Knew the painting , without No. 2 at the end.
    SW corner was most difficult for me.
    I Robot

    St. John Travel Forum 8:22 AM  

    Approximately 9 of 10 on Rex's snit meter.

    Jim Walker 8:22 AM  

    The Southwest of this one took longer than the rest combined, by far. For little nothing had teddy. The clue for AIRPLANE was devilishly clever. Should have gotten it sooner as this is one of the Walker family's favorite films. My kids can recite long passages from memory.

    I liked this puzzle a lot. Hard for me to see what aggravates Rex. De gustibus, I guess.

    Rhino 8:25 AM  

    Same experience as rex: the puzzle went easy, easy, medium, then impossible. Big thumbs down for me.

    Someone dropped the eggs, though, as they reached for the milk, and then we all got to enjoy French toast for breakfast, so the morning wasn't a total bust.

    Anonymous 8:31 AM  

    I know the picture, that it's avant garde and the Armory Show but I had no idea it was No. 2. I suspected it because how else could H-- be water, but couldn't accept the number. Besides, how could "I did so" be the answer?

    The staircase was great. Otherwise horrible puzzle.

    NCA President 8:32 AM  

    I am just going to admit upfront that my education has huge gaping holes in it. Modern art, well, okay almost ALL visual art, being one of them. I don't know this Duchamp work (I have only barely heard of Duchamp...I blame the Nebraska school system for this), but the title of the work was easy to suss out because, once I got NUDE, I could see it was a descending stair case. NO2 was easy to get (though weird for a Wednesday) seeing that "Water" wasn't going to be HOH.

    In that San Luis Obispo area, I would recommend CHA in place of least that way you get rid of the AHA/ALA/ASA triumvirate of redundancy. CHA/CSA is at least an EENSY TWERPY bit more interesting.

    Otherwise, I did notice (even with a Nebraska education) the cross reference of Norwegian lore with EDDAS and SAGA. I'm not a complete rube.

    UNPEN is just plain silly.

    I kind of remember the ado around the banning of RED dye NO2...along with, maybe about the same time, saccharine.

    Jeff 8:33 AM  

    Thought this was a terrible puzzle. Was stumped more from all the forced abbreviations than any of the theme answers.

    AliasZ 8:37 AM  

    What a gorgeous nude! Just admiring her curvaceous, buxom contours infused with a fervid concupiscence, and the glowing, velvety skin that exudes torrid eroticism and whose perfumed, dizzying aroma one can almost smell, makes me want to walk down those stairs with her arm-in-arm, or even better, walk up from the bottom of the stairs week-kneed, agasp in awe and wonderment of, and helplessly overtaken by, the ravishing beauty. Clearly, I am ENAMORED.

    If this NUDE is No.2, one must wonder how much more stunning No.1 must be.

    Although it would have been much more imaginative if the staircase were a spiral, so I could admire her descent from every possible angle. To be honest, so much beauty I could not bear.

    TUPI, or not TUPI, that is the question--
    Whether 'tis Nobler in the mind
    Of Crossword wizards to suffer
    The Slings and Arrows of outrageous junk fill,
    Or to take Arms against a Sea of crosswordese,
    And by opposing, END them? To TAI, to ASIM--
    No more; and by a CRS, we UNPEN
    The Heart-ache, and the thousand unnatural TSOS
    Cruciverbalists are heir to? 'Tis a consummation
    Devoutly to be wished. To HULU, to ASA,
    To AST, perchance to EENSY; AHA, there's the rub,
    For in that ONEON of death, what dreams may come,
    When we have ODED off this mortal coil,
    Must give us EDDAS. There's ATOAST
    That makes Calamity of IDIDSO...

    A Voyeur 8:39 AM  

    Southeast tough. Knew NUDE DESCENDING A STAIRCASE but unfamiliar with NO2. Knew ARMORYSHOW. Led to lots of problems, particularly when I wanted REDDYE. Southwest not a problem. That flowed well. Agree with Rex - clever construction, lousy fill. I'm posting again as A Voyeur, confirming my status as anonymous but at least consistent. By the way, I was encouraged by the comment a couple days ago urging me to continue posting, even though I am in awe of the regular posters on this blog. At least most of them!!

    Rex Porker 8:40 AM  
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    Bird 8:41 AM  

    Very similar experience as @Rex. Vaguely remember the painting but no idea on NO2 so was stumped (is water HHO or H2O and what the heck is 66A?!). Didn't like all the abbr and 3s.

    Happy Humpday!

    Charles Flaster 8:42 AM  

    Wholeheartedly agree with Rex. Liked theme but ARMORY SHOW? led to a DNF.
    Sod and dip instead of HOE and EBB.
    In retrospect should have known WEB.
    Lower left's three 8's were all terrific-- AIRPLANE (extremely creative comedy especially the bar fight),
    Cape May is a beautiful shore town well worth a visit or a weekend stay!
    Thanks JS.

    Rex Porker 8:42 AM  

    Well, this theme has been done many, many times before, but I am a cultured and sophisticated guy, and it has to do with art that is neither too old, too new, or too obscure (meaning I've heard of it), so I like it. Did I mention the painting is one of my favorites? In fact, it was seeing this painting in the armory exhibition in 1913 that inspired me to start this blog, because the painting is like a well-clued crossword with dazzling, non-abbreviated fill. But wait, if it is a NUDEDESCENDINGASTAIRCASE does that mean there a teat involved somewhere? Never mind, I hate this puzzle.

    John Child 8:43 AM  

    It's clear that we're in for a day of vastly different reactions. Over at xwordinfo this is Puzzle Of the Week, Amy Renaldo is lukewarm, and Haley Gold made me spit my coffee with her metaphor for the (IMO) unappealing grid design. Already here we have the same spread - some serious love and some folks who didn't like the puzzle at all.

    Your mileage may vary...

    Elephant's Child 8:43 AM  


    Huff: Did you do it?
    Puff: I did.
    Huff: I don't think you did it.
    Puff: Yes, I did!!
    Huff: No, you didn't!
    Puff: I DID SO!!
    Huff: I don't believe you.
    Puff: [tears head off Huff and spits down neck]

    George Barany 8:43 AM  

    Unless someone else mentions it in the time it takes to write up this post, let me be the first to point out that @Jacob Stulberg's puzzle inspired @Hayley Gold to create a webcomic, found as always at Hilarious!

    Also, the positive features of today's puzzle reminded me of a terrific puzzle that my friend @Tom Pepper constructed for the Chronicle of Higher Education, edited by @Brad Wilber. To find that, click here and then download the puz file for "Pet Project" (2/27/2015). You'll be glad you did.

    Charles Flaster 8:46 AM  

    Wholeheartedly agree with Rex. Liked theme but ARMORY SHOW? led to a DNF.
    Sod and dip instead of HOE and EBB.
    In retrospect should have known WEB.
    Lower left's three 8's were all terrific-- AIRPLANE (extremely creative comedy especially the bar fight),
    Cape May is a beautiful shore town well worth a visit or a weekend stay!
    Thanks JS.

    Anonymous 8:47 AM  

    It's a puzzle, folks. It's supposed to be "puzzling".

    RnRGhost57 8:48 AM  

    Lots of history in this one: IDES of Ancient Rome, the Canterbury Tales, the ARMORY SHOW of 1913, SARDI the NYC restaurateur of YORE, New Deal of 1930s, ENIAC, banning of RED NO. 2 in 1976, "AIRPLANE: the Sequel" (1982), EDDAS, family history = SAGA.

    What is Jacob Stulberg's day job?

    Elephant's Child 8:49 AM  

    You know, some posts just make everything worth while.

    [big grin]

    Hartley70 9:09 AM  

    Hey try and remember this is Wednesday! And we have a rebus! Even if it is a little afterthought. And an interesting grid design! I thought this was terrific for a Hump Puzzle and could start @Nancy's puzzle week off with a bang.

    I will admit that it skewed a little New Yorkish with SARDI and ARMORYSHOW, but if you had lived in NYC and read the paper, it would be hard to miss these references. How unfair is it to construct a NYT puzzle for NYT readers?

    Don McBrien 9:10 AM  

    LOL @ Rex Porker! quickly becoming best part of this blog.

    calving 9:10 AM  

    Does this mean that John Child named his daughter "Elephant's?"

    F.O.G. 9:11 AM  

    A bizarre coincidence that yesterday a NYT headline read:

    "Netflix, Amazon and Hulu No Longer Find Themselves Upstarts in Online Streaming"

    I didn't mind the cluing like Rex and many on this board. Knew about the Armory Show and the painting (except for that #2 thing).

    I found the SW corner the hardest with KNEE DEEP being the last fill to fall.

    Zeke 9:17 AM  

    I like to think I've been a good sport regarding puzzles. I know, whenever someone starts a sentence with "I like to think..." it really means they're the opposite of the balance of the sentence, but that they consciously fight against whatever they're saying. They fail in this fight 99.9% of the time, but they think that since they try to be otherwise they are otherwise. When someone says "I like to think I'm a good judge of character" they're really acknowledging they're a terrible judge of character, but they try to double check themselves. They double check, then go with their original bad judgement. Anyway, at least I have for the most part stopped posting major harangues about puzzles that drive me up the wall.

    But this, a puzzle devoted to Duchamp? The man who killed art? It's bad enough that art was mortally wounded by the Impressionists who enabled simian daubers who thought skill and an artistic sensibility were optional in art, but Duchamp killed it. Every.single.talentless.idiot now can call himself an artist and get gallery space because of him. A sock on a 3' section of a staircase? Art.

    Anonymous 9:22 AM  

    @Zeke that was hilarious. Reminiscent of the old codgers on this blog who lament these kids today and their awful [insert "music," clothing," "language," "ignorance," "math skills," "disrespect," "prolonged adolescence, "selfishness..." Everything was better 100 years ago.

    Aketi 9:23 AM  

    @Alias Z, coffee went up my nose over TUPI or not TUPI. Foruntnately I did before I read your post or I'd have to mop up more than coffee.

    NCA President 9:26 AM  

    I just googled the NUDE painting and spent a good five minutes looking for the nude. Kind of like an upscale artsy "Where's Waldo."

    I'm :ahem: still looking....

    Nancy 9:29 AM  

    @Hartley70 -- You're right. It DID start off my week with a bang!
    (Yesterday doesn't count; I was bored). I loved the NYC refs, loved the trick with the staircase, and loved the unexpected "2" at the end. Basically, it made me struggle, caused me to "suffer" a bit in the SW, and kept me fully engrossed. That's all I ask of a puzzle, and to get that on a Wednesday is a nice surprise.

    You've heard of poetry slams. Tonight, after 10, I'm going to be involved in a "sleuthing slam". Perhaps I'll tell you all about it tomorrow. Or not.

    joho 9:36 AM  

    I agree with @Hartley 70 that this puzzle is skewed to New Yorkers, but, hey, this is the New York Times after all. I loved seeing AMORYSHOW because my mom and I loved going to the antiques show at the Amory. Different show but still, the memories are wonderful and unforgettable.

    As is this puzzle! I thought the theme descending the staircase was elegantly done right down to the unexpected NO2 at the bottom.

    Bravo, Jacob Stulberg, for your AVANTGARDE creation which is as artistic as its subject matter!

    Loren Muse Smith 9:43 AM  
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    Loren Muse Smith 9:44 AM  

    Just a couple o things to point out –

    “bmoc” before PROF, “pot” before PIE, like Rex, and “kayak” before CANOE.

    I absolutely blanked over in the due east because I had no idea about ARMORY SHOW. I was guessing it would be SHOW (or shop?) and off that W and the tough clue, “go down,” I was just stupidly mired in thoughts of an old friend who sang with the Atlanta Boys’ Choir. He told me of the time right before they went on that he asked the director if he could run to the bathroom. Director wouldn’t let him. So now they’re singing on a stage that slopes downward toward same director.. . Well, yep. The director noticed the small “stream” coming down the stage toward him, looked up and saw my friend singing his heart out with tears running down his face, and knew. So I was thinking “wee” instead of WEB.

    I don’t think I would want a SEA SCENTED candle in my house. When I do a mental sniff of the ocean, I get seaweed and fish. Maybe sunscreen.

    BESMIRCH is a great word.

    “What subjects and verbs must do.” AGREE. Really? Is it the end of the world if the talk around the dinner table at a student's house goes something like

    “Man, we was sure mad today at lunch.”
    “Why was you mad?”
    “Them lunch ladies wasn’t giving us enough Tater Tots.”

    Because of the lack of our approved AGREEment, are these people murdering the English language? Is their communication inferior to that of, well, of ours, sniff sniff?

    I’m pretty sure there are languages out there that don’t even bother with subject/verb agreement. Maybe I’s just itchin for a fight.

    Anyway. . . count me among those who didn’t know the ARMORY part.

    I liked it just fine because I love circles and tricks like this. All of Rex’s points are well-taken, though.

    Anonymous 9:46 AM  

    Never heard red dye #2 being called red #2; a better clue might make sense. Fine for numerals to be in the grid, so long as the motif is repeated elsewhere, but a "one of a kind" trick basically means you can get away with anything. Great puzzle idea, but not ready for prime time.

    Bob Kerfuffle 9:47 AM  

    Not for the first time, @Hartley70 has summed up my thoughts quite nicely.

    I would just add that as I read Rex's blog, I had to look up some of the Bad Fill he cited, because these little spots had just filled in automatically in the course of entering longer answers, and I had never seen them, which I suspect is the case for many people.

    mathguy 9:48 AM  

    Got a big kick out of finding the title of the painting actually descending a staircase. But, sadly, the fun stopped there. Still, a cut above the average Wednesday.

    Tita 9:50 AM  

    @NCAPres - lol re: artsy Waldo!
    Maybe it will help you to check out Miro's reciprocal painting - Naked Woman Climbing a Staircase.
    (Ooh - I hope I'm not spoiling next Wednesday's theme!)

    I will sheepishly admit that both the painter and the painting were on the mere fuzziest fringes of my knowledgebase.
    But yes, pretty inferable.

    I suppose I did wince at lots of the fill, but overall, I enjoyed the solve, with that SW the last/hardest for me.

    Thanks, Mr, Stulberg - you sent me on a worthwhile journey through a part of the art world that is not my favorite, but inspiring none-the-less

    Zeke 9:51 AM  

    @LMS - Absolutely it is the end of the world, and you should have spoken up. What does simply human decency have to go for it in comparison to the smug feeling one gets when you correct someone's grammar? Nothing I say, Nothing!. So what if you, as invited guest, insult people in their own home? You got to correct their grammar! The ultimate coup

    grammar nazi 9:54 AM  

    @Zeke, well said! Spoken like a true GN.

    Z 9:55 AM  

    Easy-Challenging is my difficulty rating as well. I'm in the "theme is good enough to forgive the fill" camp, though.

    I'd quibble that a century-old work cannot be considered "AVANT GARDE" anymore. Still, at the time many considered that it was so the clue is fine. Personally, I always think of this Goya when I see the Duchamp. Hmmmm - can you be derivative and AVANT GARDE at the same time? I also fine the pairing of AIRPLANE with this theme a,, fascinating choice.

    Side note - Great clue for DEERE. Digging deep for some creativity there. Much appreciated here.

    Whirred Whacks 9:55 AM  

    Thought bubble over the Shortzmeister's head last Friday:

    "I'm going to have my puzzle-solvers climbing the walls on Sunday and descending a staircase on Wednesday!"

    This puzzle was fine with me. For "what many prayers are said in," I first had PANIC before LATIN.

    Enjoyed Hayley Gold's latest offering. I am, though, thinking of sending her one Bit Coin so that she can buy her 'toon character some new shirts to give her wardrobe a litte variety.

    cheeseguy 10:07 AM  

    Awful puzzle.

    Nancy 10:12 AM  

    Got interrupted, so just finished reading the comments posted so far. @Alias Z and @NCA President,
    in their respective searches for the Nude, made me laugh out loud. They can be my personal Art Critics any time.

    pfb 10:22 AM  

    Realizing that I had no knowledge of the work of art or where it was originally displayed made this that much more enjoyable in solving (which went pretty fast). A double pleasure in solving the puzzle and learning something new after completion. I'll take the less than stellar fill to get the descending staircase.

    Anonymous 10:25 AM  

    @cheeseguy: Finally, someone with some piercing insight and thought-provoking criticism of a crossword puzzle. You make rex look like Lodovico Castelvetro.

    old timer 10:32 AM  

    DNF for me. Why? I was angry. Angry at SEASCENTED. Angry at the numeral all there by its lonesome. Looking at the answers, maybe I should be angry at myself, though, for not seeing the cleverly clued TWERP and the obvious PLATE, with which I would have gotten KNEEDEEP. Which is way too misleading a clue, for a Wednesday. But if it was Thursday, I might have expected it.

    I don't think I've ever seen that painting nor do I want to. But I've heard of it, and heard of the ARMORYSHOW. In fact, I put that down with just a few crosses, filled in the entire E side (except for the numeral area) and got back to the center and to the NW by writing the painting's title in the shaded squares. And then was stuck in the SE corner, having wanted STONE before STARK, etc.

    Danp 10:35 AM  

    @Tita - I'd hate to see what Haley Gold would do with a theme based on Miro's painting. Thanks for the laugh.

    Puzzlebroad 10:37 AM  

    I pretty much like any Wednesday puzzle I can complete over a large cup of coffee. This puzzle had an elegant design, some lovely long answers (besmirched etc) a difficult SW corner, and some very crappy fill. The painting itself was recently shown at The NY Historical Society exhibit titled ( you guessed it ) 'Armory Show at 100'. Fair game & nice work, I'd say.

    Generic Solver 10:44 AM  

    The point is that many solvers are likely not art lovers (as I am not), so even if one figures out the circled answer (as I did), the reward factor is an absolute goose-egg, big-time zilch. And that's why we solve these puzzles, for gratification. Do I dare say I would have preferred to see the circled answer and theme to be about some sort of rap tune as the "work of art"? Why yes, I would actually have preferred that (and that's saying something)!

    Ludyjynn 10:49 AM  

    The SE corner was irritating because I immediately knew RED dye Number Two was the answer, but it wouldn't fit and neither would REDdye work. I feel it was a cheat on the constructor's and ed's. part to call it REDNO2 and expect solvers to find that clever or satisfactory. It was, to me at least, just annoying.

    Ranting aside, I liked DEERE and THRESH in the same grid.

    Knew ARMORYSHOW, and it was easily gettable via crosses if I hadn't.

    Most satisfying part of the solve for me was reminiscing about my Cape May
    visits. The DELAWAREBAY is an ideal spot for bird watching, being an integral component of the Atlantic flyway/migration. Looking forward to returning there and esp. to nearby Stone Harbor, NJ, home to The Wetlands Institute, a wonderful bird and turtle conservation facility located directly on the marshlands. Last time I was there, got to watch a nesting osprey family feeding the chicks. Awesome.

    Masked and Anonymo4Us 10:49 AM  

    day-um. Not sure which generated the most controversy: that Duchamp painting, or this here crossword puz.

    1913 art critic at Armory Show, of painting: Looked like "an explosion in a shingle factory". har.

    M&A in Comment Gallery, of crossword: "Looks like an explosion of weejects in a superbly funny puz".

    I, for one, am now artistically inspired. Stay tuned, for the "Dude Descending a Staircase, for Two" runtpuz. Or somesuch.

    This WedPuz could not have been an easy enterprise to pull off. Sorta like buildin a grid that has to interlock in 3-D. Got yer horizontal, vertical, and hystaircaseical word dimensions, to intertwine together. woof. Lovely, flagrant desperation must inevitably exude from every pore. M&A says Great, let the unpenning begin... I'll bring the popcorn.

    Thanx for the fun, Mr. Stulberg.

    "Dudechamp #2"

    Mohair Sam 10:54 AM  

    Agree with Old Rex only on the rating, Otherwise we loved this one. Clever theme, lots of terrific cluing (DEERE a classic), and a mini rebus. Rex points out the weak threes - and he's right. But we never noticed til we got here, they filled off AVANTGARDE.

    Just like Rex we sped through the NW and the staircase, and suffered miserably on the little East coast box (the area that would be Cape May if the puzzle were a map). ARMORY filled quickly, but SHOW? Yikes! Yeah, we wanted sOw, but the clue said "prepare to plant" and sowing is planting - so we were patient until EBB made sense and the section fell.

    Mrs. Sam and I visit the Philadelphia Museum of Art once or twice a year and have seen the title painting in the flesh more than once. Therefore I can proudly say we are of the few here who knew "NO2" cold. Interesting piece - some days I'm fascinated by it, some days I'm with Teddy Roosevelt who compared it unfavorably to a Navajo rug. Depends on one's mood I guess.

    @Whirred - Prefer your pAnIc answer to LATIN, it's probably truer.

    Great puzzle Jacob Stulberg, thanks.

    Arlene 11:08 AM  

    I didn't know the work of art, but did fill it in - and liked the NO2 crosses. I knew ARMORYSHOW - I guess it is a NY thing - and AVANTGARDE. But had a DNF in the SW - had POT instead of PIE, so that stymied that area, even though I wanted STARK. I did get AIRPLANE and AVIAN.
    I have no problem with puzzles featuring works of art - I was at MoMA last week viewing a lot weirder stuff. I wonder who decides what is "good" (for puzzles or art?!)

    M and Also 11:09 AM  

    p.s. to art critics:
    It coulda been worse.
    Check out Joan Miro's "Naked Woman Climbing a Staircase".

    p.s. to today's crossword critics:
    It coulda been much worse.
    ** gruntz **


    Anonymous 11:15 AM  

    "old timer said," just above, was "Angry at the numeral all there by its lonesome."

    As an old timer myself, I have often wondered over a half-century or so of doing NYT crossword puzzles why they have never in my memory included digits.

    Now here's a digit all by itself with no clue, no forewarning, and so far no one else has had anything to say about it. I guess it's 2 much to wish 4.

    r.alphbunker 11:19 AM  

    43D PEA is a reference to DuChamp's urinal. And the symmetric entry 25D PAN clearly refers to Baldessari's bed pan piece which many think is a pee-on to Marcel Duchamp.

    LMS must have had this in her subconscious when she chose to write about the Atlanta Boys' Choir.

    Pete 11:19 AM  

    Noun/Verb AGREEment, and Loren's take on it, reminded me of a piece I heard on NPR years ago, about a Native American language. Linguists were documenting it as quickly as possible before the few remaining native speakers died off. They had literally dozens of verb forms - singular, a pair, a small group, a mob, others I can't remember. They also had many more tenses than do we, long ago past, recent past, near future, distant future, probable future, possible future, ...

    What idiots they must have thought us.

    Jisvan 11:27 AM  

    Interesting puzzle, stellar comments! @AliasZ-you are hysterical! Have to stop reading now, but you guys made my morning! Happy Hump Day.

    chefbea 11:32 AM  

    Late to the party. Had a dentist appointment and tried to do the puzzle there. DNF. Had to google a few things and still DNF. Now to see Haley Gold

    Joseph Michael 11:34 AM  

    Great theme but puzzle was for me a DNF due to the SW corner.

    Lost clue for ODED - wrote a tribute poem.

    Lewis 11:37 AM  
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    Lewis 12:01 PM  

    Factoid: SARDI's is the birthplace of the Tony Award; after Antoinette Perry's death in 1946, her partner, theater producer Brock Pemberton, was eating lunch at Sardi's when he came up with the idea of a theater award to be given in Perry's honor. For many years Sardi’s was the location where Tony Award nominations were announced.

    Quotoid: "You have undertaken to cheat me. I won't sue you, for the law is too slow. I'll RUIN you." -- Cornelius Vanderbilt

    Lewis 12:13 PM  

    Across Lite wouldn't accept my "2"; it would only take a rebus "two" -- should have taken both.

    Rex -- good critique without going whiny.

    I learned from Wikipedia that it's really known as Red No. 2, rather than Red Dye #2. I believe that "Duchamp" should have been a theme answer. I enjoyed KNEE DEEP and BESMIRCHED as answers.

    Subtheme -- double EEs. Count 'em, there are eight. I do like the ASA/AHA/AVA/ALA square. Was the puzzle worth the abundance of yuck fill? I don't know, but deep down, I think the puzzle could have been improved. Still, I had a grand old time solving it!

    Bill from FL 12:30 PM  

    There's an excellent centennial retrospective volume on the Armory Show (Marilyn Kushner, et al.) on my coffee table. I'll take a gimme when I can get it.

    djogba 12:42 PM  

    @John Child: "Haley Gold made me spit my coffee with her metaphor for the (IMO) unappealing grid design." Actually, the metaphor "an explosion in a shingle factory" was originally applied to Duchamp's painting in New York Times art critic Julian Street's Amory Show review. Double irony.

    dk 12:47 PM  

    🌕🌕🌕 (3 mOOOns)

    Like the other curmudgeons and codgers I object to SEASCENTED and EDDAS (the non-plural).

    I do not think color photography, Op-Art or conceptual art ruined art as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, etc., etc. and blah blah blah.

    The puzzle was fun. Only 2 groaner fill words and the rest was what it was: a puzzle.

    Leave it to a Jacob to have a ladder theme - lest you think we did not notice.

    Back in WI and it is snowing. Cue theme from Midnight Cowboy about here.

    Numinous 12:51 PM  

    Loved today's tribute to Eadweard Muybridge. As indirect as it may be, NUDE DESCENDING A STAIRCASE NO2 is said to be inspired by the motion studies of Muybridge though with a cubist angle (pun intended). Muybridge developed the Zoopraxiscope, a device which allowed his multiple still images to be viewed in animation. It was an early forerunner of the motion picture projector.

    The painting is familiar to me though, as with others here, I was unfamiliar with the NO 2 appendix. The ARMORY SHOW is something I've always vaguely known about and as the crosses began to make it evident, I had an "Oh yes of course" moment. MIsspelling AVANTGuard totally messed me up in the SW and left me FLAILing about in that sector. I finally gave up and looked up AIRPLANE which gave me all the rest.

    Like others here, I didn't mind the dreck fill, The stunning Muybridge image more than compensated. And, Like someone above, (too lazy to go back and look) I didn't notice many of them as I just never saw them.

    (IN RE the Muybridge references here,
    I checked out the Wikipedia article on him and down at the bottom Duschamp is listed as having been influenced by him. Then I checked out Tita's link and this section also mentions Muybridge.)

    Fun puzzle for a Wednesday and a Jeff Chen POW.

    Guy who's experienced the EDDAS in the wild 12:53 PM  

    There are the prose and poetic EDDAS. It's a fact. They are categorized as such, as two different objects. They are published in separate volumes.

    Tita 12:55 PM  

    @M & tU?

    Sigh - well, all I can do is to trUmp Ur Unacknowledged dUpe...

    Here are 2 tribUtes from Calvin:

    (There, @lms - I broke that silence - IDIDSO...)

    Anonymous 1:00 PM  

    @Guy ... - You're forgetting the Laufás-Edda, tales of sponges and other exfoliants. Many find it the most spine-tingling of all the EDDAS

    Sandy 1:04 PM  

    Stark? Nope, starkly! Adverb to adverb, doncha know?

    mac 1:04 PM  

    Easy-challenging alright, quite a surprise on a Wednesday. Otherwise I agree with @Hartley as well.

    I wanted a roast instead of a toast, which the Brazilians couldn't fix.

    My favorite part of the puzzle was the 2 used 3 times.

    jae 1:05 PM  

    @Everyone who thought it was easy except for the SW - Check

    @Everyone who was looking for RED dye - CHeck

    @Everyone who liked it in spite of the cringy fill - check

    @Everyone who didn't know ARMORY SHOW - check

    Interesting Wed.

    Anonymous 1:18 PM  

    Paying customer: I liked the puzzle just fine.

    I use across lite and didn't get a happy pencil when I was done because whoever enters the data did not provide "2" as an acceptable answer. Had to be "two" to be judged a successful finish. I didn't like that. The 2 looks so much better.

    Who took all the captcha pictures? Does that job pay well?

    Steve J 1:42 PM  

    The problems with having the Spanish for year in the puzzle absent its tilde has been pointed out many times in the past, but I don't think anything tops today's "Happy new anus!" at 1D for unintended hilarity.

    My take on this one has been well-covered by many. I also crashed and burned in the SW, making an otherwise easy puzzle hard. Forgot that the painting had No. 2 at the end of the title. Wanted to see Duchamp as an answer (actually, at first I wanted to see Kandinsky, as I got the artist wrong in my head for a while). There's a ton of ugly fill.

    Still can't make up my mind on whether I liked this or not. @jae's "interesting" may be the best take.

    Z 1:48 PM  

    @Sandy - STARK naked. Utterly naked. Yep - it works.

    @Guy - 1. You're dead. 2. You're right. 3. Or maybe you're not dead and you just like to read really old literature while nudely descending a natural staircase?

    @Tita - Thank you. Everything worth knowing about art and music I learned from Bugs Bunny and Calvin and Hobbes. Okay, maybe not "everything."

    @LMS - I've never understood why people get so tense over noun/verb agreement....

    Z 1:50 PM  

    @Steve J - I have ÑUDGED at 15 across. Seems utterly raving mad, I know.

    GILL I. 1:57 PM  

    @AliaZ, @Hayley Gold, @Zeke and the rest of the comments, win the prize today.
    The puzzle....? It's, well, it's Wed.

    Masked and Anonymous 1:57 PM  

    @Tita: har. Cool cartoons. @Hayley's was kinda cool, too -- she even used the same 1913 art critic quote.

    M&A is totally global, and hence always U.N.-Aware.

    While I'm here:
    fave weeject: H2O.
    fave fillins: KNEEDEEP, AVANTGARDE and BESMIRCHED. Honrable mention: ASIM.
    fave island shootout: TONGANS.
    fave runty yelp: "CRSes! Foiled again!"

    Hey, I hope everybody understands that I really got a kick out of this WedPuz. It's becoming my fave puz day. Scruffy different. Keep em comin.


    ** descendin gruntz **

    Chip Hilton 2:01 PM  

    No.2 had me flummoxed as did the SW corner. But even with the sub-par fill, I rather enjoyed the puzzle.

    Is @RexPorker the same guy who mimics Mike Francesa on YouTube? Uncanny.

    I love Hayley Gold.

    Andy R. 2:06 PM  

    also had trouble with the 3 x 3 square that vexed Rex - had SOW and DIG before HOE and ART before ORB.

    Biggest complaint was throwing in the 2 - seems it shouldn't be NYT-crossword-acceptable to throw in a number exactly once...

    in case it hasn't been linked up above (don't make me go through all the comments), check out the talented Hayley Gold's take on this odd puzzle:

    M and A AutoCorrection Desk 2:07 PM  

    Had "shoutout" - Autoincorrect wanted "shootout".
    Rat fudge and other CRSes.

    "Can Go Either Black or Blue"

    TonySaratoga 2:28 PM  

    Can someone please let me know what I'm missing with SEND for THRILL? I don't get it.

    wreck 2:30 PM  

    My one word review of the puzzle was in homage to Z's suggestion!
    Actually, like most others, it was fairly easy except for the SW. The staircase filled in quickly, but I didn't know the artwork or ARMORY SHOW, so it was not much help. Al-in-all, I had pleasant solve trying to suss it.

    Aketi 2:32 PM  

    @ Nancy, I missed my third gold star in a row today because I had a typo at the end of LATIm. I actually do live in your neck of the eoods, so next time there is buddy week at the dojo, you are welcome to try a free class.

    @ lms, loved the wee/web story.

    @ art lovers, Disclaimer, I probably have less education in the arts than @NCA president. I thought the nude descending a staircase looked like one of the creatures I'd find in a Dwemer cave in Skyrim

    @ Rex Porker and his followers. I'm crying mercy, raising the white flag, or tapping out as they say in BJJ over TEATS whether or not they are MOIST or dry. I was away for a professional workshop with over 400 private practice lactation consultants a week and a half ago. Near the end, the Boobettes performed their rendition of it's all about thr breast" to the tune of, "it's all about the bass". For the finale they unhooked their bras (worn on the outside of their shirts) and flung them out into the audience, At one point I was so saturated with breast talk I fled to the jacuzzi thinking it would be a safe haven. Unfortunately the jacuzzi was filled with a group of lactation consultants who were intently discussing the color, texture and amount of what typically ends up in INFANCY PANTS. (I just caught up on the puzzles I missed today.

    Guy who's too lazy to look up, or link to, the song 2:33 PM  

    @Tony "Darling you-ou-ou send me"

    Lewis 2:59 PM  

    @z - your comment to LMS made me smile. Reminded me of a joke I recently heard: The past, the future, and the present met in a bar... it was tense.

    Ludyjynn 3:24 PM  

    @Tony: Sam Cooke's 1957 No. 1 song, covered by multiple artists.

    Carola 3:35 PM  

    Agree on easy-challenging - and I liked that. Easy: NUDE DESCENDING A STAIRCASE and ARMORY SHOW ("known" to me as "a somehow sort of scandalous event in art history"). Challenging: why is there a basement level under "STAIRCASE"? (I had no idea about "NO. 2) and the STARK x KNEE DEEP area, which I really liked, once I got it. Kind of cute that you could be KNEE DEEP in DELAWARE BAY, too.

    Joseph Welling 4:06 PM  

    Anonymous said:

    "Never heard red dye #2 being called red #2;"

    Look on labels. I have two in front of me: a package of cough drops says, "FDC Red No. 40," and a box of candy (Spree) reads "COLOR ADDED, BLUE 1, BLUE 2 LAKE, RED 40 LAKE, YELLOW 5, YELLOW 5 LAKE, YELLOW 6." The word "dye" does not appear.

    Hartley70 4:09 PM  

    @Nancy, "sleuthing slam"? That's done it! I'm too too jealous. The old homestead is going on the market and I'm heading out of the burbs and back to the Upper East Side. I'd like a deluxe apartment in the sky if possible and Peter Wimsey as a sidekick for the next detecting contest, if it can be arranged.

    Hartley70 4:12 PM  

    Aw shucks @BobKerfuffle, that's sweet of you to say.

    Anonymous 4:15 PM  

    Yeah why you people be so worked up about noun/verb agreement?

    mathguy 5:12 PM  

    If any constructors liked the clue for MODE the other day, here's a similar one. " Square root of 2 for {1,2,3,4,5}." It's the standard deviation, which is too long for a weekday. But SD and std. dev. are common abbreviations. Or you could use the universal symbol for standard deviation, sigma.

    If you would prefer a whole number, you could use the example in the Wikipedia article. The standard deviation of {2,4,4,4,5,5,7,9} is 2.

    I might be able to come up with a whole number standard deviation for a smaller set.

    Teedmn 6:24 PM  

    A fun puzzle that was part challenge, part crosswordese, leading to many clever comments and Hayley Gold's comic - what's not to like? Though the SW was about to send me STARK raving mad until I got an inspiration at CLAW.

    Seems the West part that @Rex hated could have been:

    I NPEN

    No less crossword-ese-y, but not so heavy on the three letter words starting with A.

    A few years ago I was very excited to see a Cape May warbler on my feeder. They only stop on their way north, and I've only seen them in the spring. Must be in too big a hurry to get home in fall.

    Thanks, Jacob Stulberg. Great clue for DEERE.

    And @LMS, nice avatar tie-in with yore verb/noun comment.

    Teedmn 6:27 PM  

    Rats, my positioning of INPEN got out of whack. The "I" of INPEN should be where the U of UNPEN is, doh!

    Anonymous 6:33 PM  

    Always enjoy your jokes, Lewis!

    Caffeine 7:03 PM  

    Had SEASCENTSY for the longest time. I own several Scentsy flameless candles. Wouldn't doubt if they actually have SEASCENTED Scentsy bars (scented wax cubes).

    Anonymous 7:17 PM  

    This was shit. Rex was too nice.

    Caffeine 7:31 PM  

    Yup. Scentsy has 3 different SEASCENTED Scentsy bars to choose from: "Ocean", "By The Sea", and "Sea, Sun and Fun". In case you were wondering.

    Anonymous 8:47 PM  

    "Utterly" is entirely too close to "Udderly" and violates the No Teats Allowed Or Alluded rule laid down by Rex. Heads will likely roll. It could be nip and tuck.

    Z 9:53 PM  

    I just finished this week's AVCX by David Steinberg. Anybody got some chili cheese Fritos?

    N.G. 10:19 PM  

    @Hartley70 -- A bit belatedly, but I found the real estate info I promised you earlier. First, David Delaney is still an agent with City Connections, which is where he was when he found me my apartment. I know your friend will find him totally honest, unfailingly punctual, good-natured and someone who won't waste her time showing her a lot of dreck. And the photos he puts on his website are actually photos of the apartment in question, not some nicer-looking DIFFERENT apartment. But before she contacts him, she should go to his musical theater website: As I told you at lunch, David is also a composer and passionate about his theater work. Your friend will have a "leg up" over hundreds of other apartment seekers if she familiarizes herself with, at a minimum, the title and concept of
    "Dowager Heights," his most recent project; the name of his talented collaborator; and maybe even the titles of a couple of songs. I checked this all out ahead of time for her: the bio info is on the "Team" page and the songs (with lyrics printed below) are on the "Songs" page. I'm convinced I got the apartment I'm now in, because I was taken to see it TWO DAYS AHEAD OF THE OPEN HOUSE! And that's because, unlike his other clients, I was able to talk intelligently about his music and not just about square footage and is-there-a-laundry-in-the-basement? and where's the nearest subway station? I can't suggest more emphatically that she become knowledgeable about his work, since I know from first-hand experience that it does make a difference.

    But whatever happens, I'll be really interested to hear what transpires. I do hope you'll call me and let me know. The best time to reach me is 10:15-
    11:15 a.m. If I'm not there on a given day and you don't wish to leave a message, please call back. I hope the info I've given will be of help and do the trick.

    I think you said you were going to the ACPT? If so, I wish you much success. Let me know how that goes too!

    All best--

    kitshef 12:03 AM  

    Following the easiest NYT puzzle ever on Monday, and an unduly easy Tuesday this week, it was nice to have a puzzle with a little bite to it. SW was particulary hairy, 'tho Airplane was a gimme for me. Fell into the POT with Rex, and convinced myself that of the downs, CLAD must be the problem. Took a while to undo that damage. I dislike the puzzle as a crossword, for some of the same reasons as RP (that awful west), and some of my own (SEA SCENTED? AST? the three consecitive abbrevs. PCT, CRS, TVA). But ... I love that the puzzle sent me to look at the painting, which I knew by name but not did not remember.

    Anonymous 5:13 AM  

    Why, once again, did I know where Stark's critique was heading simply by reading the constructor's name?

    Anonymous 8:40 AM  

    My comment has nothing to do with today's puzzle. I have a question about a clue and answer in a long-ago NY Times crossword. The clue was "It makes a bit of a stir" and the answer was "CELL." I can't figure this out. Does the answer refer to a terrorist "cell"? What other explanation is there for this? I have found many references online to the clue and answer but no explanations. Can anyone here help? Many thanks.
    *Longtime blog reader, first time poster.

    Billy C 8:45 AM  

    I think "in stir" is old slang for "in jail."

    Part of a "jail" is a "cell."

    Bob Kerfuffle 8:52 AM  

    Here's a possible answer.

    Anonymous 8:53 AM  

    Thank you, Billy C. I am 63 years old and never heard or read that use of "stir" before. I will try to be happy I learned something new today instead of pissed off about being bamboozled! Thanks for helping me out.

    Anonymous 8:56 AM  

    And thank you Bob Kerfluffle. Very interesting! I definitely got stir crazy in Massachusetts in February and half of March.

    Billy C 9:01 AM  

    @Anon8:56 --

    Thank goodness I'e been in SW FL since NewYears day. Returning to MA on April 17. I hope the snow's gone by then. ;-)

    Anonymous 9:05 AM  

    I hope so, too. Going to Fenway on the 15th.

    +wordphan 2:08 AM  

    Forget the H2O!

    spacecraft 11:14 AM  

    I like to think that @Zeke is right. Very insightful, sir.

    After I forced in ARMORYSHOW 100% on crosses, I looked it up out of curiosity. Wow, another big deal I neber heard of. Well, big deal in the artsy-fartsy world, anyhow. I was thinking, some World's Fair somewhere. No. An art show in an armory. What does that say? The brush is mightier, forget it.

    I read Dilbert every day; I sorta have to, since it's printed right alongside this puzzle! EEN so, I was confused by that clue, Generic G(note the capital!)uy. Yeah, there is a TED, and unlike the other characters there doesn't seem to be anything particularly maladjusted about that what's meant by "generic?" Just another clue that muddied the H2O.

    Speaking of, I too started in the NW and before long "descended" my "staircase--" only to stop short when I realized I had three too many spaces. I think I was at ..TAI.. when I noticed it. Oh dear, I thought, this grid is gonna be a mess of writeovers. The 1% of you who are true intellectuals knew about "NO2;" the rest of us slobs had no clue.

    Meanwhile, the fill was so bad I almost didn't get into the SW at all. Luckily I was able to dredge TVA out of my grade-school American history class of 60-some years ago, and that yielded AVIAN. Still, until I sussed out the "Navigator" as being Lincoln's SUV, I was in trouble. AVANT-GARDE I do know, but don't ask me to go to an armory to see it. The vibes would be all wrong.

    I have to agree with OFL's amusing "easy-challenging" rating. BESMIRCHED as it is with so much horrible fill, I have to give it a Patty special: D-. Meaning, don't quit your day job. Sir.

    Burma Shave 12:06 PM  


    The ESTEEMED attorney was KNEEDEEP pleading a fair case
    The jury was ENAMORED with what would ENSUE,
    And what would DELAWARE (if she was CLAD) and what would she do.

    --- TUPI REEVE

    rondo 12:20 PM  

    About the only thing to like today is the vision of a naked lady on the steps. A lot of doggerel went into creating that staircase. The NE and SW corners are OK on their own, but the rest is lacking, IMHO.

    99% of the time a leadoff single will give you ONEON. But if the batter (now runner) tries to stretch it into a double and gets thrown out, there is noONEON, but the batter still gets credit for the single. Nitpicky? Yes, but accurate, if accuracy is supposed to count.

    Not ENAMORED with this puz.

    Anonymous 2:05 PM  

    I'm a little taken aback by all the grumbling. I guess (I'm NOT bragging) it's because this one fell in less than 10 mins. And I never heard of the Armory and Nude Desending, etc. It just sorta all filled in with some guesses. Needless to say, I enjoyed the puzz and thank you Mr. Stulberg for an easy Wednesday.

    My next action will be to access Wikipedia to fill in the details and maybe learn something. Never too old for something new.

    Ron Diego, La Mesa, CA.

    DMG 2:22 PM  

    Wended my way through this one, and, like others was surprised by the NO2. Was surprised to learn from @Spacecraft that ARMORY stood for for an actual armory- I has always somehow (??) associated it with Cleveland Armory. A little knowledge......

    2410. These things get worse!

    Anonymous 2:32 PM  

    Back from Wikipedia and got all the details. I've had the briefest education in art appreciation and I don't care for cubists, futurists, modernists and especially anyone who takes a big canvas, paints it orange and places one red dot in the middle and calls it: "Bleeding Orange." A French friend of mine, who absolutely hates Dali, told me Dali "the fake" used to pay his restaurant tabs by presenting a marked up drawing on a napkin as payment for his meals.

    I'm outahere! Ron Digo

    rain forest 4:39 PM  

    Liked it a lot.
    That "2" was a real aha moment.
    Those 3x3's were essential to get AVANT GARDE and ARMORY SHOW. That's good construction.
    SW was the sternest, but very good fill in there.
    So, did I finish? I DID SO!

    4660 I win!

    DMG 7:22 PM  

    @rain forest- I do believe it is draw!

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