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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Constructor: David Phillips

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: MIDTERMS (56A: Some tests … or what's found literally in 17-, 24-, 30-, 39- and 44-Across) — letter string "TERM" appears in the "mid" section of each theme answer:

Theme answers:
  • "LATER, MAN" (17A: "Catch ya on the flip side")
  • UNDETERMINED (24A: Up in the air)
  • MASTERMIND (30A: Genius)
  • BUTTERMILK (39A: Ingredient in some pancake batter)
  • MONSTER MOVIE (44A: "Mothra vs. Godzilla," e.g.)
Word of the Day: AMAR'E Stoudemire (6D: Stoudemire of the N.B.A.) —
Amar'e Carsares Stoudemire (/əˈmɑr ˈstɒdəmaɪər/; born November 16, 1982) is an American professional basketball player who currently plays for the Dallas Mavericks of the National Basketball Association (NBA). […] Listed at 6 feet 10 inches (208 cm) and 245 pounds (111 kg), the highly athletic Stoudemire has suffered from chronic knee problems, including undergoing microfracture surgery on his knees. In spite of this he won the 2003 NBA Rookie of the Year Award, made six appearances in the NBA All-Star Game, was a first-team All-NBA selection in 2007, and won a bronze medal with the United States men's national basketball team at the 2004 Olympic Games.
His off-court ventures include a record label, a clothing line, acting and a series of children's books for Scholastic Press. In addition, Stoudemire owns a significant share of the Hapoel Jerusalem Basketball Club.
Stoudemire's first name had previously been listed in the Phoenix Suns media guide as Amaréor Amare, but it was changed to Amar'e in October 2008. Stoudemire told that his name had always been spelled Amar'e, but the media had been spelling it incorrectly since he joined the NBA. (wikipedia)
• • •

I liked this basic theme … seven years ago, when the NYT did it the first time. '08 puzzle was superior for a couple of reasons: fill quality and consistent breakage of "TERM" across two words / word parts. I liked BATGIRL (39D: Barbara Gordon's secret identity, in comics). That's about all I have to say about this one. Sorry. I can't work up the energy to do a new review if the NYT couldn't even work up the energy to publish a new puzzle. Please feel free to read the review of the '08 puzzle. I loved that thing. But then I was not the jaded husk of a man you see before you today. (Sincerely, though, constructors should do their due diligence—at least do a basic search of databases to see if your theme has been done) (But bigger fault lies with the editor, of course—I discovered the replication a. because of my memory, and b. through the simplest of searches)

(Of course, most solvers will not remember the '08 puzzle, so who cares, right? No. There are issues of craftsmanship and professionalism at play here—you don't redo an idea, except, perhaps, if you can bring something fresh and new. This puzzle does not do that. So either the constructor was lazy or the puzzle is a ripoff) (I'm told the constructor believes the placement of "TERM" at the *exact* center of the theme answers is what makes it new … I'll let you be the judge of that) (If you want to see a virtuosic variation on this theme (two-TERM answers!), go here—crazy.)
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


    Whirred Whacks 12:21 AM  

    I enjoyed this puzzle.

    But what gave me great amusement was Rex's linking to his 2008 writeup of the midterm puzzle.

    I feel like I went on time machine! Rex and fresh and enthusiastic. And so are the commenters and their comments. A few names from the present are there: @chefbea @jae and even Andrea Carla Michaels. It makes me wonder what kind of "commenter churn" there is, i.e., do people comment for six months to a year and then move on? Anyway, lots of fun!

    Steve J 1:21 AM  

    Completely disagreed that just because a theme has been done before it cannot be done again. If a constructor reused the theme fill or clues, then there's an issue. And I wouldn't want to see the same sort of thing in rapid succession. But eight years is plenty of time in between. I have a hard time remembering what the puzzle was eight days ago, let alone eight years.

    Judging this puzzle on its own merits, it's fine. There's nothing particularly great, but there's nothing particularly undesirable. There's more three-letter fill than I care for, but the bulk of it was real words or common abbreviations, with a couple exceptions.

    I did not like including Boy Scouts in a clue and the abbreviation BSA - Boy Scouts of America. It's easy enough to clue TAM without essentially repeating one of the puzzle's answers.

    And I'm glad that the clue for 48A clarified that we were talking about Star Wars' Darth VADER. That helped me avoid filling in any of the other very famous people named Darth.

    Carola 2:04 AM  

    @Rex is right - I had no recollection of the 2008 puzzle. I liked this one: again today I needed the reveal - despite taking a CLOSE LOOK after the completed SOLVE, I didn't SPOT the TERMS. I thought they were nicely disguised - well, except in UNDETERMINED. BUTTERMILK I thought was especially lovely.

    I also liked ADAM and EVE and the HEIR and his POP.

    Steve J 2:10 AM  

    I meant seven years above. Still past the statute of limitations, in my (simple-math-challenged) book.

    Ellen S 2:24 AM  

    I don't remember the '08 puzzle; don't know if I even worked it, but I liked yesterday's ... I mean the Monday puzzle better than this one. I wish I were more analytical about what appealed to me in yesterday's but this was more "Fill In The Definitions Except When It's Some Sports Figure You Never Heard Of".

    This one kinda reminded me of a million years ago, when I watched my brother's first wife (first of many) work a puzzle. There was some clue, some German city probably, the answer was three letters and without hesitation my sister-in-law filled in "SPA." and I realized that, at least at that level of puzzle, there was no intelligence involved (part of my "realization" was a judgment about sister-in-law, I admit); it was just a matter of knowing what the answers are: if it's a plant, it's an ALOE, if it's a fish, it's an EEL, if it's a tree, it's OSIER, and so forth. If the answer is a German city, it's ESSEN, but if the clue is some other German city, the answer is SPA. This puzzle, I'm sorry to say, was too much one of those, even without any actual EELs or ALOEs. No amusing misdirects, puns, cleverness.

    Maybe yesterday was too challenging for a Monday, but today was only challenging if you (read: "I") never heard of Alison Brie (I think she was in more episodes of "Hot Sluts" than "Mad Men"). Ah, well, we'll see what Wednesday brings.

    jae 2:40 AM  

    Medium- tough for me.  Quite a few clue/answers that seemed more Fri./Sat than Tues...NEY, AMARE, MALAMUD, MONET, ALISON BRIE...

    Absolutely zero memory of the eight year old puzzle.  I read my comment from '08 and (a) I miss Ulrich (and others from that time) he is/was a delightful guy and  (b) I went to paper only solving shortly after that (and by shortly I mean somewhere between 1 and 3 years). 

    @Whirred - There is a considerable amount of "commenter chum".

    Liked it despite the unremembered repetition,  and  speaking of ALISON BRIE, Community returns tonight via streaming from Yahoo! Screen. 

    chefwen 2:52 AM  

    Easy Tuesday for me. Had a little problem with some proper names of movie people. Never heard of ALISON BRIE or EMMA STONE, not a big movie watcher. Had no idea ESPN was owned by Disney/Hearst. Live and learn. Thank the crossword Gods that the crosses made it easy.

    LOVE BUTTERMILK pancakes, now I'm hungry!

    JTHurst 3:24 AM  

    Does this mean that Mr. Phillips owes Mr. Bessette $7.2 million dollars because of lyrical plagiarism or is it just that the melody has to be similar and in the same genre.

    I suppose if that was the case then the first person who put eel in a puzzle must be collecting mega remuneration.

    My oeuvre has come to term.

    Congratulations ChefBea on your longevity.

    GILL I. 4:39 AM  

    Hey @Rex...a bit like "Got to Give it Up" morphing into "Blurred Lines"...
    Is it my imagination or have Tuesday's become more difficult? And...what's with all the proper names? I mean who is BRIE BLINI or TIMID AMARE? Why isn't KAN clued as Toto's home and EMMA as an Austen villain?
    ANIS always looks so wrong. It's like using annals in a sentence and then pronouncing it correctly.
    I had everyone's favorite RAP instead of POP so....damn...I just didn't finish.
    Has anybody opened GOOGLE today? Cute little leprachauns doing the dance!

    Loren Muse Smith 4:41 AM  
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    Loren Muse Smith 5:12 AM  

    I don't remember that 2008 puzzle, either, so no problem here. Alert the presses. I liked that there are five themers and a reveal. I like that there are four long downs.

    I like OEUVRE, which I always manage to spell correctly thank you very much. (I told y'all before that I received an email once when I was an event planner asking for a list of our club's "house devours." I know, I know, it's ridiculous to ask anyone to spell hors d'oeuvres right, but still.)

    SINE wave. Sheesh. I bet those of us who had "heat" early on are legion.

    You can be AGOG. Or agasp. Or agape. Maybe all three.

    Dad had a true R AND R vacation in those days before computers and smartphones. Nowadays?. . .I dunno if anyone truly can relax on vacation anymore.

    Liked the BUTTERMILK/MOIST cross. I like BUTTERMILK period.

    @Carola – good catch on ADAM and EVE.

    So I was happy to see the theme, and I immediately zoned out considering other ways to play with TERM. (TERM LIMITS – tennis arm, tenant farm, terror storm. . .nah.)

    Basically what @Steve J said. Fun SOLVE, David. Keep'em coming!

    pfb 5:29 AM  

    I probably didn't do the 2008 puzzle, but if I did I have no recollection of it. Mr. Phillips was well aware of this theme being used before; see his comments on Wordplay.

    I enjoyed the puzzle even if it took me a little longer than a typical Tuesday.

    Greg 5:49 AM  

    It was nice seeing Alison Brie show up on the same day that Community season 6 debuts.

    George Barany 6:59 AM  

    Congratulations to @David Phillips for seeing the publication of what the constructor notes over at tell us is his second-ever submission, and his first-ever acceptance (five later puzzles actually made it to print earlier). As others have already noted, this puzzle has quite the theme density, lower-than-usual word count for a themed puzzle, and some nifty cluing.

    The big question, which David addresses forthrightly, is when is it OK to reuse a previously done theme, and please keep in mind (as @Rex rightly points out) that this decision is not made unilaterally by the constructor. David was aware of the 2008 precedent but went ahead and submitted anyhow, and he also became aware, well after the fact, that Anna Shechtman had done something very similar for a college newspaper, as per this 2014 interview.

    The question of theme duplication has been discussed considerably. I refer you to this "midrash" for a puzzle called Think Twice by @Marti DuGuay-Carpenter. Certainly gives one something to think about, doesn't it?

    Z 7:00 AM  

    If you see an idea you like and do your own copy of it, bad. If you come up with an idea for a puzzle and then find you're not the first, shrug. This "every theme has to be a virgin" notion seems excessively puritanical to me.

    dk 7:27 AM  

    🌕🌕 (2 mOOns)

    I agree with Z. In the fast paced art world there are common motifs painted, photoed, etc by many. Think seagull on pier post.

    This one just limped along for me and that is my issue not Mr. Phillips.

    Off to Boulder and points west as I scout out a location for a new manse. Still have soft spots for Santa Fe & Durango so we shall see.

    chefbea 7:51 AM  

    Happy St. Patrick's Day to all!! Was expecting a green puzzle. This was tough and DNF

    Of course I liked that Bee was in there but @JThurst...How do you know how long I have been around???

    Now off to get the corned beef and cabbage started!!

    AliasZ 7:54 AM  

    If a crossword theme rang a bell seven years ago but nobody remembers hearing it, did it really make a sound?

    The first thing that struck me about this puzzle was that yesterday's MRI and ELUDE made a curtain call. Of course, David Phillips had nothing to do with that. The second, that LATERMAN looked misspelled, I so wanted Letterman. The third, I didn't know EMMA Stone (but knew EMMA Peel), had no idea who ALISON BRIE was, and never heard of AMARE Stoudemire, but stumbled upon Darth VADER due to the thankfully detailed clue (@Steve J: funny!). This is when it occurred to me: these are a lot of obscure names for Tuesday. Not to mention MALAMUD. (Wasn't an Alaskan dog breed named after him?)

    I liked the theme. There aren't too many words or phrases in which the word TERM occupies the cenTERMost position -- betTERMent, inTERMix and PeTERMan come to mind -- so kudos to David for a fresh look at a tired old (?) theme. Five themers plus the revealer make a dense puzzle full of restrictions in every quadrant, which made me appreciate A AS IN APPLE and BAILING OUT that much more, and forgive the large number of threes including BSA and NEY, KAN and BOL, ILA, TMZ and EWW (East by West-West?), and the less than ideal LAIRD and LALALA. In my experience "I can't he-e-ear you!" was always followed by LA-la-la-LA-LA.

    Since I already gave you an ELUDE and Fugue yesterday, today I would like to mention two TERMs.

    The first is composer and one-time Juilliard president PeTER Mennin (1923-1983) born in ERIEPA, whose compositions have a muscular, purposeful, energetic drive and sober seriousness that I find quintessentially American. Here is the closing section of his Cello Concerto.

    The other one is Swiss conductor PeTER Maag (1919-2001), mentored by Wilhelm Furtwängler, who at the height of his conducting career in the late 1950's, abandoned it and withdrew (1962): "I decided it was time to retire because I was having too much success." Wise man, Herr Maag. His performance of Mendelssohn's Symphony No. 3 (you know, the one with the Scottish headwear) remains in print since 1957, and it is perhaps the most inspired and sought-after performance of this piece.

    Happy St. Pat's!

    ArtO 7:56 AM  

    Pretty easy but how is LALALA "I can't he-e-ear you"? Louder went in first but went out fast with MALAMUD.

    Lewis 7:57 AM  
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    Anonymous 7:58 AM  

    Not only is rex being unnecessarily nasty; he is also completely wrong. The constructor was not "lazy," nor was the puzzle a "rip-off." Mr. Phillips came up with the idea on his own, made a fine (if not earth-shattering 15a) Tuesday puzzle, was aware that the idea had been used before, and got it published in the New York Times. Rex's little childish spat has made him shortzited, and he comes off looking like a complete ass.

    Lewis 7:58 AM  

    This puzzle had some wonderful answers that don't come around that often -- OEUVRE, METROAREA, MALAMUD, AASINAPPLE. It was easier than yesterday's puzzle. The clues were direct, but that's to be expected on Tuesday. Quick solve, a good waker upper.

    Rex, I respectfully disagree with your rantrum. There is a line where a theme repetition seems wrong, and that line is different with anyone. I don't think about it as much as you, but seven years, Tuesday puzzle, pretty innocuous theme, different answers -- that's okay by me.

    There are many more theme answers possible, such as outermost and determined. We have Dubya in one of the clues -- Oh of course it's not a real word, but UNITERMAN came to mind.

    joho 8:00 AM  

    JOLT/JARS got me off to a great start!

    Don't you know that great minds think alike? Lots of times constructors come with the same ideas. It's important to be sure you're not repeating, though. I don't remember the puzzle from 2008, anyway, but this version of the MIDTERM theme only has one repeat answer (and a half with "MONSTER.") To some that's one (and a half) too many, I'm sure, but I enjoyed this solve. It know it's not the themers at question here, though, it's the concept. In the end, that is up to Will. Obviously he thought it strong enough to revisit. In fact, being that he does run repeat themes over the years, I'd love to know his rationale.

    BUTTERMILK was my favorite.

    Thanks, David Phillips!

    Happy St. Patrick's Day everybody!

    grammar nazi 8:03 AM  

    joho@800: Did you mean "given that..." instead of "being that...?"

    Rhino 8:07 AM  

    I agree with @stevej (and others). Seven years is a big enough gap.

    That said, I didn't really like this puzzle. Found it dull.

    I did like FOOD PORN from the mini; that's a phrase I didn't expect to see.

    Lewis 8:12 AM  

    Factoid: On average, an OLIVE tree can live between 300 and 600 years.

    Quotoid: "Every once in a while, someone will mail me a single popcorn kernel that didn't POP. I'll get out a fresh kernel, tape it to a piece of paper and mail it back to them." -- Orville Redenbacher

    pmdm 8:20 AM  

    The issue of repeating a theme is a non-issue. Revisiting an old friend can be very enjoyable.

    This issue reminds me of the frequency that music composers reuse other composers' themes. Here's Paganini's 24th Caprice for solo violin.

    Many other composers "copied" the theme. These variations by Rachmaninoff are perhaps the most famous. (I'm not sure the performers here are what is claimed.)

    [AliazZ, maybe you can find some of the lesser known variations on this theme.]

    Of course, pop musicians are "covering" past songs all the time. It's a non-issue if Joe Cocker or Richie Havens appropriates a past song. But here's one example from the realm of jazz: Rondo a la Turk and Rondo 69. These are both live performances.

    And a bonus - the first movement from Bach's Brandenburg Concerto #3. Kind of.

    jberg 8:36 AM  

    LA LA LA, I can't hear you as you put both LATER MAN and LATELY in the puzzle. Aside from that, I loked it, the long downs were excellent. But I had to be really confident of that LA LA LA, or I would have gone with A iS aN APPLE.

    @Steve J, I'm not sure I understand -- there's a clue using Boy Scout? You mention TAM, but in my puzzle that's clued as "Headwear for a Scot" --did you mentally add a U there?

    BillyC 8:47 AM  

    There goes Barany again, using this space to promote a puzzle in which he has an interest. In this case, he edited it.

    What IS it with you, Professor? Why can't you just get Rex to list your name in the column on the right, rather than periodically polluting this blog with your self-serving posts?

    Bird 8:56 AM  

    Happy Saint Patrick's Day everyone!

    Since I don't recall the previous midterm puzzle, though I'm sure I solved it, I am not nearly irked as much as @Rex is. Hell, even if it came out last year I probably wouldn't remember or mind.

    Anyway, I liked today's puzzle. My first entry turned out to be wrong (tins), but quickly corrected. Others were espy at 37A and rapt at 49A. The nit for we is at 11D because my alphabet book starts with "A is for APPLE"

    I liked LALALA


    FreddSmith 8:57 AM  

    ArtO: re: "LaLaLa" :"

    Think of a little kid with his fingers in his ears who doesn't want to hear his mother's insistence that he finishes his veggies, while he loudly trills "La La La."

    Leapfinger 9:06 AM  

    @SteveJ -- D'ARTHagnon, non?

    I had to go look for the theme, but could SPOT it pretty quickly: ah yes, there it is -- MIDTERM!! Or is it "Grand Central TERM in All"?

    Yup, I went all literal-minded in the NE, put in LOUDER for [I can't hear you!], and tried to remember Superman's home planet. Didn't think he was in KANsas anymore. Alsohad to remind myself not to put any E's in MALAMUD...

    Granted that I only have the ONE offspring, but I think @Rex has more, which oughta prove to him that some things can be done (and enjoyed) OEUVRE and OEUVRE and OEUVRE again. Remembering, of course, you might not WEAN 'em all...

    Anyone else notice that after you TEE off, all that's left is your UNDERMIND? (Golf will do that to you...) Also, that 11D is very close to AASINAAPSE? btw, @oldtimer, someone did read your late post, and APPreciated your lucid clarifications.

    Melvin LAIRD crossing MIT in the center? Someone could make something out of that...

    No more time to HAMM around. ONE more buzz/ high/ JOLT of Java (hi @'mericans!) and I'm off to attack the day. Meanwhile, perhaps someone will tell me if TMZ is any kin to DMZ.

    ADAM good SOLVE, Mr. Phillips. I think RATERS will give it a decent RANDR quotient.

    "No EEWS is good EWWS"

    Welcome to the internet 9:13 AM  

    RE: yesterday's Nancy/Nancy flare-up: It is not clear to me which comments of Nancy@836 Nancy@1139 thought were " ugly, hostile, [and] angry." I mean calling "Kiss Me Kate" REAL music? Them's fightin' words!

    Anonymous 9:17 AM  

    Question: How long will it take @Rex the ultimate nitpicker to blow out Shortz and become the new target?

    Ludyjynn 9:32 AM  

    Loved the clue and LALALA answer. Although, technically, the correct answer in my experience is LALALAlala. Something about saying it five times does the trick! Also liked EWW, but again, feel the better answer is EWWww!

    On the subject of music plagiarism, I have a strong opinion in favor of scrupulously protecting intellectual property rights. Why do I feel ambivalent then on the subject of alleged cruciverbalist copying (MIMING?)? Just can't seem to get as worked up over it as Rex.

    Some nice words, esp. OEUVRE, for a very easy Tues. puzz. Thanks, DP and WS.

    Tita 9:32 AM  

    @jberg - ha - you sussed it out - I was wondering what @SteveJ was talkin' about...
    Clue misreading is a pretty common affliction - gets us all from time to time...

    Liked to see the whole phrase as fill, instead of the more common "ASIN" answer to A __Apple clue.

    Thanks @Carola for the pairings...
    Also clue pairing - "I can't hear you." is what the other guy says when the call gets cut off.

    @Lewis - my cousin restores farmhouses in the Alentejo - there are many 600 year-old olive trees in that region.

    Puzzle? I totally agree with Rex. This is worst than when that Liebniz guy ripped off Newtown's whole calculus thing.

    Or, maybe Rex oughtta take a deep breath and consider these quotes:

    "When the time is ripe for certain things, these things appear in different places in the manner of violets coming to light in early spring."
    — Farkas Bolyai to his son János in urging him to claim the invention of non-Euclidean geometry without delay.

    Mark Twain:
    "a favorite theory of mine—to wit, that no occurrence is sole and solitary, but is merely a repetition of a thing which has happened before, and perhaps often."

    It was fun to guess the theme before reading the reveal - I was trying to make sense of TERMAN/TERMIN/TERMIN/TERMIL, when I figured it had to be just TERM.

    Thanks, Mr. Philips.

    Tita 9:34 AM  

    @jae - Ulrich was at the Westport tournament - as delightful and creative as ever!

    @lms - none of us in the northeast plunked down 'heat'WAVE, I bet!! (Unless it was wishful thinking...)

    Tita 9:40 AM  

    “Everything that needs to be said has already been said. But since no one was listening, everything must be said again.” — André Gide


    Anonymous 9:53 AM  

    My dad was an oysTERMan in Oregon. Clue could be "anonymous poster's dad."

    Anonymous 10:01 AM  

    Yeah well my uncle was an astronomer who specialized in the atmosphere of ouTER Mars. So there.

    Leapfinger 10:02 AM  

    @Whirred, @jae, Dang sans serif! I can't tell if you-all are saying commenter 'churn' or 'chum'.

    We definitely need to ID the constructor who first used EEL.

    I like BUTTERMILK Period and never outgrew mine. Besides the MOIST cross, I'm fascinated by the fractal pattern left on the glass. I remember Howdy Doody's recommendation to make a Purple Cow: equal amounts of buttermilk and grape juice. Kids loved it, and it made the parents AGaG.

    @Z, do you have a vestal interest in this? Haw.

    @Lewis, UNITERMAN? Marvel Comics may come a-knocking! Also enjoyed your 'rantrum'.


    We had one cat we named Stoudemire, another was Tisdale. LATELY, would draw the line at calling any pet of ours Laettner.


    Trollbane 10:06 AM  

    @Billyc - what is your major malfunction? Presumably you get some gratification from being this blog's troll despite having been told a dozen times that @Rex has blessed Dr Barany's posts and that other commentators like them and welcome him here.

    There is reason to believe that you love crosswords and have something to contribute. Please do that, with a real, verifiable ID. Become a member of the community rather than an unwelcome annoyance to be skipped over.

    Steve J 10:10 AM  

    @jberg: Gah. I even reread the clue a couple times. My brain clearly wouldn't stop inserting a U into Scot. My mistake.

    @Ludyjynn: I'm with you on five LAs being the required amount. And, like you, I'm a big supporter of protecting IP rights but am not bothered by this instance. You can protect specific works, not themes and ideas. Two people may paint the same scene and come up with very different interpretations. One may prefer one interpretation over the other, and that's totally acceptable. To say that one is unprofessional because someone else also painted the same setting is a heavy charge and unwarranted absent signs of deliberate and slavish copying.

    @BillyC: You do realize that all you're accomplishing is making yourself look a bit like Pavlov's dog, don't you?

    NCA President 10:12 AM  

    It makes one wonder what the equivalent reuse scenario is in other creative arts. In visual art, is the equivalent the still life? Is it the use of a vase and flowers? of a bowl of fruit?

    In music there are several fugues written based on the name of Bach (B-natural, A, C, and H, which is B-flat)...I think Bach himself was the first to do it, but I believe Brahms and some organ composer did it too and probably a couple of other students who had to write fugues and chose that theme. Is a composer less creative for having used a previously created theme/conceit?

    I read just recently that Ravel (I believe) said that you should to try to copy other composers as much as possible, and where you fail, that is your voice. In other words, creativity doesn't necessarily come ex nihilo, but often it is built on what has come before it.

    So yeah, long story short: X-word puzzles have a handful of themes (and an interminable amount of puns), so why would Rex be surprised that this theme was used before? The question might be whether it's a "better" one than previously, or, you might simply say...hey, just like the thousands of other themes I've seen before, I've seen this one before too!

    Face it, a grid structure with across and down "clues" is going to start repeating's no big deal.

    Bob Kerfuffle 10:29 AM  

    @Bird, 8:56 AM - I've often thought that if one were being absolutely literal, one would say, "A as in cat," or "A as in warm."

    Elephant's Child 10:35 AM  

    Well, well, well. @Tita unearthed some Rexville connections. Farkas Bolyai made his home in Kolozsvár, at different times part of Romania or part of Hungary. 'It was there he met and married Zsuzsanna @Benkő and where their son János Bolyai – later an even more famous mathematician than his father – was born in 1802.'[wiki]

    Anonymous 10:47 AM  

    Ironic that Trollbane@1006 posted anonymously while telling someone else to post with a real, verifiable ID, no?

    rorosen 10:48 AM  

    Sure would love a ban on anonymous. He was a great poet many centuries ago,..

    Roo Monster 10:49 AM  

    Hey All !
    @AliasZ, awesome opener!

    I liked this puz, don't think I was doing puzs regularly (if at all) in 2008, so no hair in my soup. @chefbea, if you scroll back to the first post, you'll see what @JThurst was talkin' 'bout.

    Got hung up a tad in NE, AAISINAPPLE took a second or two to see, didn't help I had ryE for ALE, and espy for SPOT. Also wanted ouzo for ANIS first. Rest of puz pretty smooth. Nice 9-10 letter Downs next to each other. I did like the Scrabbly NW corner.

    MONSTERMOVIE, when I make it to the Silver Screen? Har! Too bad there wasn't also a Roo somewhere in here! Put new rubber on a car=RETIRE. Emergency areas for rodents=RAT ERS. I see R AND R and E LUD E! Second rate Pancake=B LINI? Can I get an A LINI?

    Enough torture for today!


    Anonymous 10:52 AM  

    I have no comment on Rex's write up as it was used seven days/weeks/months/years ago. He hates everything, right?

    Anonymous 11:05 AM  

    You can't ban anonymous. We are changing the world.

    Joseph Michael 11:07 AM  

    Played tough for a Tuesday, but liked it. Then liked it less when I came here and learned that the theme had been done before with the same MONSTER and MASTERMIND. Perhaps it's similar to Hollywood doing remakes of old movies because they couldn't find anything better.

    Liked all of the A's in LALALA and A AS IN APPLE. Thought about Bernard MALAMUD on the David LATERMAN show discussing his latest OEUVRE.

    @lewis -- great popcorn quote!

    KenB 11:10 AM  

    I don’t agree that nobody will remember the 2008 version of the Midterm theme. I remember it well for two reasons: A. Rex really liked a Tuesday puzzle, and B. I wrote it.
    Note: Mr. Phillips need not worry about me bringing him to court over this; that would not be “Gaye” — in fact it would be “Petty”.

    This does bring up a point though that I think would be interesting to constructors in terms of repeat themes; i.e. the opinions of editors (the only ones that really matter) on this matter. I’m certain that many, many, many theme ideas have honestly popped into constructors’ heads but the puzzles went unwritten since the themes have been done before. No doubt many of those would-be puzzles would have been fun for solvers which, likewise, is all that really matters. It would be helpful if constructors had a better feel for how close is too close.

    It has been suggested here that this puzzle is different from mine because the TERM is exactly in the middle. One could argue that his is a distinction without significance. Midterm exams are not exactly in the middle of school terms and certainly midterm elections are never held in the exact middle of a Presidential term. So, MID does not actually connote the exact center. (If it did, a midlife crisis would be quite a rarity!)

    Also, others have suggested that a gap of seven years between publications is sufficient and maybe it is. Dunno...but that’s the point.

    Since there are several puzzle editors who visit this site, it would be interesting to get their take on how close is too close in terms of themes. Certainly there is no hard rule on this that all editors go by but each of their respective submission specifications indicate that theme need to be “fresh” without actually defining what that means either in terms of precision or frequency. Maybe constructors have taken this too literally and lots of good puzzles have gone undone as a result.

    That said, none of this is to take away from Mr. Philip’s puzzle, Congrats to him on his first NYT acceptance.

    rorosen 11:14 AM  

    but perhaps not for the better. but i see your point when it comes to holding governments and businesses accountable. But here all of you anons merge into one big hurt monster lashing out because of some petty or imagined slight. lacks integrity. and spoils the fun.

    Bob Kerfuffle 11:19 AM  

    FWIW, the sharp-eyed folk over at Blaine's Puzzle Blog pointed out that the weekly challenge given for the NPR Weekend Edition Sunday puzzle last week was exactly the same as one used in April, 2011. Some editors are not too concerned about re-use: the repeat wasn't even acknowledged!

    BetterMoveIt 11:21 AM  

    Yes, a great popcorn quote from @Lewis,and I won't be a TERMagant over his having used it before, in the last month or two. If it's good once, it's good twice.

    Now let's exTERMinate those anonyTERMites and have Billy C go to his room. We need some TERM limits.

    Whirred Whacks 11:21 AM  

    @Leapfinger 10:02 churn vs chum? Made me smile! And some commenters do provide chum. Here's a link to shark men discussing what's in the chum.

    @Steve J Your misreading of the Scot clue made me smile. We all do it every three days or so.

    @NCA Prez I liked your discussion of using past themes in the other arts. Gee, I don't know where I'd be if I couldn't use some of my favorite stories again (in my writing).

    old timer 11:25 AM  

    I was real grumpy when I finished the puzzle. "Too easy for a Wednesday!" I snarled. Oh. It's Tuesday. NEVERMIND! But you know, I still really did not like the puzzle. I think Rex felt the same way, but had to come up with some high-falutin reason.

    Looking at the interview with the constructor, I can see why he thinks this is better than the older version. I don't think so myself. Reason #1: It really was almost too easy for a Monday. An easy puzzle that qualifies for the Times ought to have some sparkle. This didn't, except for OEUVRE.

    Reason #2: UNDETERMINED. All of the other themers broke across two words. I immediately had put down the word, knew it was part of a theme, and was searching for what the theme might be. "I know!" I said to myself, "Take out the TE and you get "undermined". Wrong! It was actually quite frustrating to find the revealer and realized it was just stuff with TERM in the middle.

    So I still don't like the puzzle. I did like that interview with Will's former intern/assistant.

    JFC 11:51 AM  

    Rex remembering some puzzle seven or so years ago with a similar theme reminded me of this scene:

    Oh, to be young again and have such a memory….


    AliasZ 11:59 AM  


    The name of my Alma Mater:

    Bólyai University, Kolozsvár. Named after Farkas Bólyai (1775-1856).

    @pmdm et al:

    Here is another Paganini piece, "La campanella" in its original form, from his Violin Concerto No. 2 in B-minor. Franz Liszt had the audacity to transcribe it to piano. Then here is Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco (1895-1968) quoting it on guitar via Andrés Segovia. The nerve of these people!

    andy 12:10 PM  

    Agree with@Steve J... The concept that reuse is unacceptable is ludicrous. I don't see Rex griping about the lift-used cluing in 6D, in fact, Amar'e was his word of the day. But way to pat yourself on the back for that razor sharp memory, Rex... Atta boy!!

    mathguy 12:13 PM  

    The fact that the theme was not original gave rise to some terrific comments today, including the gracious one from the inventor. I especially liked the virgin comparison by @Z (I'm a sucker for sexual analogies -- oops) and the mathematical references by @Tita. The history of mathematics has many examples of independent discoveries of important theorems.

    Like most of us, the duplication wasn't a problem and I found the puzzle just fine.

    For those of you who don't know Emma Stone, let me recommend Magic in the Moonlight, the latest Woody Allen. She is absolutely charming in this under-appreciated romantic comedy.

    I had a surprising (and humbling) crossword experience last week.

    chefbea 12:15 PM  

    @Roo Monster - thanks..Didn't see that in the first comment.

    meant to say earlier..I used buttermilk in my Irish soda bread yesterday. Made the buttermilk myself instead of buying a whole quart.

    Tried to post this a while ago but got the message that there were too many people posting at once and then all the posts went away!!! weird.

    mathguy 12:17 PM  

    I was going to tell a crossword story but decided to save it for another day. I forgot that I had already typed in the intro.

    mac 12:21 PM  

    Good puzzle, especially for a Tuesday. Not a straightforward NW - SE fill in the blanks, so with enough bite, and plenty of theme space.

    @Ellen S: 3-letter German city is Ems to me (a spa), and Spa is in the Ardennes, in Belgium.

    Benko 12:35 PM  

    I didn't really mind the repeated theme given the time lapse in between publications. But I have to ask--how do we really know that the idea came spontaneously to the later constructor? It seems we have to take the constructor's word for it that he/she didn't rip off the earlier idea. Not to say that Mr. Philips was lying--I sincerely don't think so. But often things we think we have forgotten are still there in our subconscious minds. Take the case of George Harrison, who had to pay royalties for his unconscious imitation on "My Sweet Lord." Better to avoid the implications of specific theme repetition altogether unless there is some overriding reason not to, in my opinion.
    @Elephants Child: Ha! Had no idea I was Hungarian. (Or a woman!)

    Anonymous 12:38 PM  

    Rex, now that you know that it was you who didn't do enough research and some of your complaints are just plain wrong, you should correct your write-up.

    I've read your blog for years and never felt the need to comment on your opinions, but you got this one wrong every way possible.

    Themes repeat. Add a letter or letters to make a different phrase. Have the answer turn a corner. Replace letters with a number. How about the puzzles that have no gimmick at all? They're all repeating the same non-gimmick idea.

    We'll all be dead in 100 years, and all new people will be doing the puzzles. Will it matter then that an idea repeated?

    Masked and Anonymo4Us 12:44 PM  

    @63: Goooooodmornin, U jaded husky dude! [Really wish I could make the ooo's dance a little, like the clue to 16-Across did today, in my puz version]. Let M&A be the very first, to compliment U on your discernin color selection of jade green, for STPAT's Day. Tres shiek.

    This constructioneer in the ever-popular MIDTERMs puz series had m&e, at that there "Mothra vs. Godzilla" clue. thUmbsUp.

    Where's the day-um write-up? Too busy makin wardrobe color choices? M&A Silver Bullets (tm) to the rescue...

    * JARS. Wanted CANS, which really trashed me, out of the pantry gate.
    * LALALA. I put LOUDER.
    * AMARE ALISON MALAMUD. What's this guy doin, in my TuesPuz?!?
    * OAEIOUVRE = Body of work? Ok, I'll grant that, grudginly. A jaded, husky body.
    * LAIRD. Lord a la Scotco. Wanted BAIRD. Then TAIRN. Then I went off & read some other clues, for a while.
    * RATERS. har. Winner, for most deperate looongish fill.
    * DER. fave of a nice sparkly array of weejects. Honrable mention: ILA. BOL. EWW. NEY. EWW.
    * RANDR. Ampersandwich! Easy, once U stop goin for a real word.
    * HAMM. Wanted cinnammmmon roll.


    Anonymous 12:46 PM  

    chefwen said...
    Easy Tuesday for me. Had a little problem with some proper names of movie people. Never heard of ALISON BRIE or EMMA STONE, not a big movie watcher.

    It's not about being a movie watcher, or knowing foreign languages, or Roman numerals, it's about being a crossword solver, which involves keeping lots of random data in your head without having paid any special attention to it when you first read or heard it, but when you see a couple cross letters and read the clue you can yank it out of memory anyway.

    It's not about run-on sentences, though.

    M and Aeiouvre 12:53 PM  

    Sorry. Misspelt "tres shrek", in prev. msg.

    Primo loooong downers, in the NE and SW, btw. Notice they were safely separated from their surroundings, by thick walls of black bricks. HAMMBOL! har. May need more bricks.


    Martel Moopsbane 12:56 PM  

    Was anyone else bothered by 39D? I always thought that Barbara Gordon was BATGIRL's secret identity, not the other way round. I don't think anyone KAN say that Superman was Clark Kent's secret identity, or that Batman was Bruce Wayne's.

    Arlene 12:57 PM  

    I think themes can be repeated if the puzzles are "different enough" (whatever that means.)
    @Benko brings up an interesting point as to whether this theme really came to the constructor spontaneously. It reminds me of the experience of Helen Keller, who was accused of plagiarism in her first book - and she realized she had included themes that she had read years before and never realized they weren't her own original thoughts when she wrote them into her own book.
    For puzzles - how close is too close? I think you'd know it when you see it. In the meantime, makes for some interesting discussions!

    R. Lien 1:08 PM  

    O hell. "You know it when you see it" makes an unreliable foundation to build on.

    Just sayin'

    Anoa Bob 1:18 PM  

    Here's an option that might have some merit for a later-in-the-week clue for BSA

    mathguy 2:06 PM  

    I never do the LA Times crossword but I did this morning. It's runs in The Maui News which they give out at our hotel. The theme was "Central Park." The circled letters in four of the long entries were BALL, DOG, THEME, and RV. The first two were in the exact center. The author was C.C. Burnikel.

    Zeke 2:07 PM  

    My, totally unbiased*, take is that themes should never be re-used, regardless of the timespan between two instances, or the complete innocence of the authors. Those attempting such should be shunned from any polite community, and remain unpublished to their dying day.


    * On a completely different topic, I was about 2/3 of the way through my PhD thesis when, as a dutiful scholar does, I went to the library to read the recently received journals. There, in a respectable journal was the portion of my thesis I had completed, with promise of my un-finished portion to appear next quarter. I remain PhD-less. I offer this only as dutiful full disclosure. None of this backstory has effected in any way my belief that those who independently come up with something second should wander shamefully, unrecognized, in the wilderness as did I. Nope, it would be a bitter man who would want others to feel that.

    Anonymous 2:54 PM  

    I, for one, would much rather have a theme that is reminiscent of a theme from 7 years ago than the same old clues for the same old words over and over again. "wide mouthed pitcher," RANAT, EELER, etc., etc. Has anyone ever compiled a list of "same clue, same answer" over the decades? Might be interesting.

    chefwen 3:45 PM  

    @mathguy - A spoiler alert would have been nice! I was just getting ready to do C.C's puzzle. BAH!

    Anonymous 4:02 PM  

    Batgirl is Kathy Kane. Bob Kane the writer on Batman named her after his daughter. When di her name change to Barbars Gordon. She was also Kathy kane on the 670's TV show.

    mathguy 4:46 PM  

    @chefwen. Sorry.

    M and A Help Desk 4:48 PM  

    @Anon 4:02pm:
    Batwoman 1956 = Kathy Kane. Batman love interest.
    Batgirl 1961 = Betty Kane ( Kathy's niece). Robin love interest.
    Batgirl 1967 on = Barbara Gordon (police commissioner's daughter). No investigation was held.
    Flamebird 1989 on = Mary Elizabeth "Bette" Kane.
    Masked and Anonymous Flame Girl 2001 on = Scarlett Johannson.


    JTHurst 5:34 PM  

    Two notes:

    First note, initially there was Bruce Wayne and Barbara Gordon and then there was Batman and Batgirl. Therefore, the crime fighting duos were their secret identities. While first there was just Superman and Clark Kent was his secret identity. There was an excellent movie dialogue that discussed this very logically demonstrating Superman's adoption of the Kent 'persona' showed his perception of the weakness of the human race.

    Second note, Leibniz perfected the concept of calculus on his own (as much as any mathematician has conceived anything original since Pythagoras). And he especially received no help from Newtown, maybe Newton, but it seems Americans love to add the 'town' to anything British considering the recurring mispronunciations of Downton Abbey to Downtown. Maybe the source of this was Petula Clark's mispronunciation of her song "Donwton" into downtown.

    jae 5:56 PM  

    @tita - thanks, that's good to know.

    Roo Monster 6:21 PM  

    Har! Count me in as a Scarlett *admirer*. Sexy, that one. Of course, I AM a sucker for a RedHead!
    Let's see... That one in the first GI Joe movie, Wendy's ad girl Red, Arianna Grande on iCarly (I know, see was a tad under-age then [don't tell no one!]), Alyson Hannigan, Felicia Day, Amy Yasbeck, Kari Wuhrer, Rose McGowan, Molly Quinn...

    I think that's enough for now, gotta stop before my computer overheats!


    Teedmn 6:26 PM  

    Ah, BUTTERMILK. Brings back the memory of my college orientation. All of the incoming freshmen were invited for a weekend to stay in a dorm and get a tour of campus, meals provided at the dorm. Going through the line at the cafeteria, I SPOTted a carton of BUTTERMILK as one of the beverage offerings. Not having been exposed to it but having read of it, I put it on my tray, anticipating a sweet, creamy accompaniment to my meal. I was soon disabused of that notion. But I like it just fine in rhubarb cake.

    Thanks, David Phillips, for a nice puzzle and no MIDTERMS!

    Anonymous 6:43 PM  

    @Lewis....we just don't get enough Orville Redenbacker here anymore, especially since Rex says he "skews old."

    Then again, if you've seen one kernel pop, you've seen them all, so really there's no point to making popcorn. It is not enjoyable. At all. And not worth writing about either. Good day.

    Anonymous 7:28 PM  

    The ScarJo thing from internet crossword dweebs is a tad creepy.

    LATimes solver 7:54 PM  

    Hey, mathguy, the NYT puzzle is not the only one worth doing! No spoilers!

    Tita 9:23 PM  

    @JTHurst - give a gal (and an erstwhile Physics major) a break!

    I assume that any typos or grammatical mistakes made by this ERUDITE group are autocowrecks, and not indicative of any failing other than failure to proofread, and only point them out when they're inadvertently hysterical.
    (I live in the next town over from Newtown, so smarter-than-me google musta won out.)

    How I Got My Ex Husband Back 9:49 PM  

    OMG!!,I am out here to spreed this good news to the entire world on how I got my ex husband back. My name is Natasha Johnson,i live in Florida,USA,and I'm happily married to a lovely and caring husband ,with three kids. A very big problem occurred in my family seven months ago,between me and my husband .so terrible that he took the case to court for a divorce.he said that he never wanted to stay with me again,and that he didn't love me anymore.So he packed out of the house and made me and my children passed through severe pain. I tried all my possible means to get him back,after much begging,but all to no avail.and he confirmed it that he has made his decision,and he never wanted to see me again. So on one evening,as i was coming back from work,i met an old friend of mine who asked of my husband .So i explained every thing to him,so he told me that the only way i can get my husband back,is to visit a spell caster,because it has really worked for him too.So i never believed in spell,but i had no other choice,than to follow his advice. Then he gave me the email address of the spell caster whom he visited.{}. So the next morning,i sent a mail to the address he gave to me,and the spell caster assured me that i will get my husband back the next day.What an amazing statement!! I never believed,so he spoke with me,and told me everything that i need to do. Then the next morning, So surprisingly, my husband who didn't call me for the past seven {7}months,gave me a call to inform me that he was coming back.So Amazing!! So that was how he came back that same day,with lots of love and joy,and he apologized for his mistake,and for the pain he caused me and my children. Then from that day,our relationship was now stronger than how it were before,by the help of a spell caster. So, i will advice you out there to kindly visit the same website {},if you are in any condition like this,or you have any problem related to "bringing your ex back. So thanks to the Dr Brave for bringing back my husband ,and brought great joy to my family once again. { }, Thanks..

    Abu Fora 3:26 PM  

    MY HUSBAND DIVORCE OUR MARRIAGE. because he was dating my
    best maris. ever since then things has changed for us and
    also toward my kids he nolonger care about us. i have warn
    her several times to leave my family alone but she kept saying
    that it is my husband that always keep coming to her. and when
    she told him what i have told her he will come home and beat me
    up. 2yrs ago he wrote up for divorce and we got divorced i am
    still very young this apriel i will be 30 but my age does not
    stop men from coming my way they were asking me for marriage
    but i can't because my heart belong to him i can't just love
    some else. 6month ago i contacted a spell caster who scammed
    me and collected all the money i have and kept asking for more
    with that i was discouraged. i know that there are real magician
    but can't really figure out one of them, 3days ago my younger
    sister her husband junior sister came to my shop to buy some food
    stuff then ni was surprise because it was her husband that brought
    her i took her into my office and was asking her what the hell i'm
    i seeing because they had a divorce then she was telling me it's
    was about a month ago when sh contacted sunlight and that after
    everything she brought back her husband. i thought it's was a joke
    what trip me most was that just as the goddess says that he will
    swear never to hurt me again and really he did. right then i asked
    for her contact she told me she will send it once she get home right
    then i wrote my email for her to send it on.2;30pm that day she sent it
    then i mailed she concerning my issue and problems then the goddess replied
    and gave me hope and some strong advice i was very strong in faith when
    she was able to advice me in such manner. so she told me what to do i did
    everything later it was 6:00pm she wrote to me that she is through with it
    and that 2hrs from now he will coming i thought a joke.and i was checking
    the time i sat down in the stting room with my kids later i slept off after
    a while my phone rang text message it was my husband begging me he said he
    couldn't call because he don't know what to say. i called him he was crying
    i can't believe it though i was crying too but we spoke on and he told us
    to come over i said he then he sweared just as the goddess says he will never
    gonna leave us again i said ok because mother sunlight already told me that.
    30mins later he dove to my place my kids where shoucked when they saw their dad
    though never wanted to huge but when they sees me crying and begging they went
    he took us out for shopping and we have settled. i want to use this opportunity
    to annouce that if anybody needs help please contact mother sunlight because
    spell casters are all fake ok mail her at she is the
    queen mother of peace. thank you once again ma'am i love you.

    Burma Shave 9:59 AM  


    LATELY BAILINGOUT banks showed us a SINE
    to take a CLOSELOOK at our economic MASTERMIND.
    ANIS yet UNDETERMINED, did that ADE SOLVE all our worry?
    The RATERS say, “LATERMAN, don’t BEE ONE in a hurry.”
    NEY, it’s like a MONSTERMOVIE, intended to scare ya,
    SEE if it gave you a JOLT in your own METROAREA.

    --- ADAM RITZ

    BS2 10:34 AM  


    I’d POP ONE for BATGIRL unless she’s gone TIMID,
    Then I KAN RETIRE, ONE MOIST SPOT over the limit.

    --- SILAS vanDER WIMP

    spacecraft 11:22 AM  

    My comment on today's puzzle appears at 57-down. The theme to me is ho-hum; the fill horrendous. That is all. F.

    rondo 11:47 AM  

    Kinda Naticky with those names in the NE. Especially having Louder for LALALA (really!?) and also ILu; without looking at the clue I filled in unison. But then fixed it.

    BATGIRL, spandex outfit, 1960’s hormones, yeah baby.

    Lotta nerve for OEURVE again.

    And look at all those 3s as abbr.s What have Tuesdays come to? LATERMAN.

    DMG 3:02 PM  

    I'm impressed that anyone can remember a puzzle, or anything equally less earth shaking, from 8 years ago. A war, an earthquake, a new baby- those I would remember, but something as ephemeral as a crossword. Not me! That said, my problems with this one came from all,the proper names. Finally worked out the SE corner, but I seem eternally doomed to recall,the "pier grp" as the ILo so ended up with the unlikely Ms. oLISON and couldn't see a way out. On to tomorrow!

    Anonymous 3:08 PM  


    Ron Diego, La Mesa

    rain forest 3:37 PM  

    I think that 2008 puzzle appeared right around when I found this blog--in those days, it was great--and if I did it, I certainly don't remember. What did I have for breakfast this morning?

    About the only things that remain "great" about this daily exercise are the puzzles themselves, and the commentors.

    So, while not "great", or maybe it is, I can't really tell, I liked today's puzzle. I had a near-triple Natick in the NE, not knowing the actress, the author or the liqueur, but I correctly guessed all three.

    Didn't see the theme until the revealer, as is my wont, so this one worked for me.

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