Writer Osnos of New Yorker / THU 5-28-15 / Technology inside Kindles / Savoriness in Japanese / Palo Alto-based car company / Duke's ride / Star Wars whistler

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Constructor: Jeff Chen

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: ALTERNATION (54A: Duke's ride + slowly = this puzzle's theme) — theme clues refer to three different answers: the first + second answers alternate letters in the grid, combining to create a third answer, which is what's clued on the other side of the "=" sign; actually, I guess the theme is EVEN / ODDS (33A: With 34-Across, 50-50 chance … or a hint to answering six equations in this puzzle). It's really more ODD / EVENS, since the first addend starts with square 1, then square 3, etc., but whatever:

Theme answers:
  • CELLO SUITES (16A: Hits hard + famed spokescow = some Bach compositions)
  • RAIL PASS (20A: Rends + word of regret = commuter's purchase)
  • CIA SPIES (22A: Cloak + Egyptian deity = some spooks)
  • BLUETITS (48A: Rear + floral rings = colorful birds)
  • FREE MEAL (50A: Relief org. + stagger = soup kitchen offering)
Word of the Day: CLERISY (1D: Intelligentsia) —
  1. a distinct class of learned or literary people. 
    "the clerisy are those who read for pleasure" (google)
• • •

This theme is a kind of curiosity, but it's not very compelling. It has no personality. The theme answers have nothing to do with each other. Answers occasionally feel contrived (CIA SPIES) or highly arbitrary (BLUE TITS). Needs another level of … something … to be good. The theme is both the easiest and least interesting part of the puzzle.  Honestly, the theme is like one of those one-star (difficulty) Games magazines puzzles, shoe-horned into a grid. Diverting little bits of wordplay, but not worth building a whole Thursday puzzle around. The theme is dense, but because it does not take much thought to figure out, and because it's not funny or otherwise engaging, our attention turns more to the fill, which sputters. What's worse, it sputters *and* it's made tougher than usual (to make up for the easy themers), so you have to work harder, but the results are the results, and they include ATTA ETTA CUEIN AYS NSC UAE ARTOO … the justly reviled two-H version of AHH … and the horrid-masquerading-as-hip E-INK (28A: Technology inside Kindles). There were some entertaining bits, and it certainly had enough bite for a Thursday, but no cleverness, no humor, no real cohesion, so not much to be gladdened by. Plus (side note) how does no one, from the constructor to the editor(s) to the proofreaders, pick up the REAR dupe (it's the answer to 42A *and* the clue for half of 48A)?!

Here's where I figured out the basic gag:

Here are some things that I thought might need explaining:
  • 5D: Good name for an R.V. inhabitant? (STU) — STU = the letter string between "R" and "V" … so STU "inhabits" an "R.V." question mark? Get it!? Yeah, you get it.
  • 17D: No longer available, as a book: Abbr. (OOP) — this stands for "Out of Print." How could you not know this, you illiterate jerk? A gimme for all the members of the CLERISY, no doubt.
  • 39A: Jumper line (HEM) — I know "jumper" as a sweater (Brit.) (also NZ), but here it's a collarless, sleeveless dress typically worn over a blouse.
  • 24D: Writer Osnos or the New Yorker (EVAN) — like you, I have no idea who this is. And I subscribe. :(
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. two days til this!:

Go here for more info!

[Follow Rex Parker on Facebook and Twitter]


Wood 12:31 AM  

Wow. Completely stopped by almost every clue in the SE. DNF and I never DNF on a Thursday. Brutal!

Moly Shu 12:34 AM  

Couldn't disagree more with @Rex. I found it inventive, fun, engaging. All the things he didn't. ( CLERISY, EINK, and OOP notwithstanding ) I enjoyed trying to figure out the theme answers by skipping squares and seeing what resulted. BUTT inside BLUETIT, was of course, the highlight.

Johnny Vagabond 12:34 AM  

Even after Rex's explanation I still don't get theme answers. Can anyone else explain?

Johnny Vagabond 12:37 AM  

Oh now I see it. Thanks Moly

paulsfo 12:40 AM  

I agree with Moly Shu; very pleasant. Also, btw, i found it easier than usual.

:Liked the clues for STU and HEM, a lot.

jae 1:02 AM  

Tough Thurs. for me too.  Figured out the theme reasonably early, but filling in the answers took some time.  Plus CLERISY was a WOE and I was iffy about ACACIA, ISN'T, and AYS, so NW went very slowly. 

 Liked it more than Rex did, but he makes some good points, and, that NW corner was a tad irritating.

RAD2626 1:48 AM  

I liked the puzzle a lot. Thought the theme was clever and fun, but fairly easy after EVEN ODDS which was early fill in. Some clever cluing like Drops out? and Exceptional start? Would have liked more diversionary clues to make puzzle a little harder. Only bad fill to me was AD PAGE but all in all another very nice puzzle from Jeff Chen.

Anoa Bob 1:59 AM  

Confidently dropped in VAN at 5D "Good name for an R.V. inhabitant?" I'm surprised that STU was clued to make it just a letter run between R and V. I think letter runs are right in there with random Roman numerals in the bad-fill department.

In addition to the five themers Rex lists, there are three more---33A: EVEN, 34A: ODDS & 54A: ALTERNATION. So the puzzle is top heavy with theme space and that can take a toll on the fill quality. I noticed quite a few more POCs than usual, including several of the two-for-one variety and even some of the themers. ODDS but not EVENS, e.g.

So if you like the theme then this will be an enjoyable solve, but if it doesn't tickle your fancy, there's not much else to make up for it.

Z 2:16 AM  

Here is the problem with "theme" density. Maybe if the themers had been cut down to four plus the middle rather than six plus the middle the short fill wouldn't have suffered so much.

I'm thinking I'm with Rex on the "theme." A heart felt "meh." I don't mind anagrams, which this sort of feels like, but this puzzle doesn't do much for me. CIA SPIES seems really forced, the double reveal seems redundant, even BLUE TIT seems, I dunno, asphyxiated(?).

MDMA 2:27 AM  

A real delight, and the appropriate level of difficulty for a Thursday. The all-too-rare science and geography/history clues in the southeast and northeast were also much appreciated.

@jae, for me the northwest corner started well with CSI, ALUM and ARTOO falling into place quickly and from them the cross SULTANS. The rest had to wait until the two themed ACROSS answers provided crosses for the Downs.

PS to Rex, I must be a card-carrying clerisiac, because OOP was indeed a gimme.

chefwen 2:29 AM  

Abigail, from yesterday, so very sorry for your loss. Zeke was well respected and I thought very wise, I always enjoyed his comments. I don't think the Zeke on Sunday was the "real Zeke". His/her comment didn't quite match up to his style.

@Leapy - Loved the Happy ChefWen's Day, brought a big chuckle.

Re. Puzzle, Utter fail on my part. I still can't grasp it. Oh well!

Ellen S 2:30 AM  

Hmmm. As I was solving, I thought to myself, "Now, here's a theme!" Even though I DNF, thanks to never having heard of that OPAL, and thinking it was maybe a track for some extra long footrace, so OvAL, and the light rain was "SvIT" which seemed like "Spritz" or what's the Yiddish for sweat? Still it was great fun until I read Rex's blog, which made me think maybe I didn't enjoy it.

But I did enjoy it because
a) it was fun, darn it, and
b) earlier today I found mini-bottles of Glenfiddich Scotch at Bev-Mo, which I bought to see what all the fuss was about. Oh, my -- take a swig of that and the in-flight magazine puzzles will be fun.

So, I am unshakably content (though unsure how to spell unshakably, and maybe slightly shaky now that I think of it), so I bid you all goodnight and ADIEU.

MDMA 2:36 AM  

The writeup could have spelled it out a bit more clearly:


Charles Flaster 4:07 AM  

Difficult but treated theme as anagrams. Missed CIA SPIES as there is no indication of an abbreviation.
Why does the clue for 2 Down have an abbreviation but SULTANS is not abbreviated. This made my NW a real slog and DNF.
Write overs-- ROE for dOE and ENTROPY for iNeRtia.
Liked kluing for ABBESS and BAD EGGS.
I helped George B. write a puzzle with a baseball theme entitled "EVEN ODDS". Give it a whirl.
Thanks JC.

Carola 5:20 AM  

Jeff Chen always has an interesting way with words, I think, and I liked this ingenious interweaving. I paused at RAILPASS with ??? over my head - I feared some sort of random anagramming, but then saw the ALTERNATION of RIPS and ALAS, which allowed me to work back and forth on the other theme entries and get them fairly quickly. Tricky cluing kept the puzzle more challenging for me overall. CLERISY was new to me, as well as the clued meaning of CLOUTS (I knew them only as archaic "clothes," from Shakespeare's "swaddling CLOUTS").

Looking back over the "equations," I thought 22A made some sense: I can imagine a cloak-and-dagger effort entitled "CAPE ISIS," involving CIA SPIES.

PAIRS UP coming down right between EVEN and ODDS seemed like it could be theme-related, too.

Anonymous 5:24 AM  

This was a great puzzle: clever, scintillating, fair. Rex is like a color-blind critic reviewing art: he cannot understand or appreciate structural elegance in a puzzle.

Nancy Klein 6:23 AM  

Took me twice my usual Saturday time! Brutal for me.

Anonymous 6:37 AM  

jerky puzzle in my estimation

Anonymous 6:47 AM  

Zeke died on Saturday and posted on Sunday. Now THAT is dedication!

Muscato 7:18 AM  

I wonder if I'm the only solver who, because I predate the age of universal air-conditioning, thought that STU was an RV resident because they're more likely to be hot? I have to admit the alphabetical alternative never occurred to me...

Loren Muse Smith 7:22 AM  

Man oh man oh man. I know I have no credibility here, Little Miss Gushpot, but honestly – I didn’t have an aha moment. I had an Oh. My. God. Moment. I put my pencil down, stared at the refrigerator, and silently worshiped the constructor waters that Jeff walks on.

I’m normally kind of surprised when people do a “Ho-hum. Ok. Next puzzle, please” comment, but this morning I’m truly stunned that people aren’t falling all over themselves to admire this beauty.

1. Find words with alternating letters to spell two separate words. Check
2. Do this again ‘til you have symmetrical pairs. Check
3. Make sure a lot of the downs are very good. (This is Chen, after all.) BAD EGGS, I’M LOST, BEER MUG, HOT SAKE, ENTROPY, PAIRS UP…Check.
4. Throw in a center semi themer hint. Check
5. Find a word that follows the trick and is the revealer and then find a matching 11 for that symmetry. Check and mate, buddy.

“nods” before NAPS
“anarchy” before ENTROPY. I tell ya, ENTROPY just isn’t what it used to be, right?
“Teresa” before ABBESS

I’m liking this new prefix e that makes words electronic. E INK, its appearance, what it represents, pleases me. This whole new escape is growing bigger and bigger, and it’s pretty cool. So I don’t go along with the grumpy etude about this. An online vote for someone could be an eyes. A rant about E INK could be dubbed an event. This pithy statement could be an equip.

Anyway, I’m with @Moly Shu, @paulsfo, @RAD2626, @MDMA – I loved this one and will remember it for a very long time.

Jeff one, er, three words. “Footwear + frigid=” my avatar, which is how this fledgling constructor feels.


Jim Walker 7:42 AM  

I thought it was great as well. Medium tough for me about 40 minutes with one error: oNeSEC for INASEC.

r.alphbunker 7:46 AM  

Another way to describe the theme is that 54 letters in the grid are triple-checked. I used this once or twice to my advantage.

For example, I had F_EEM_ _ _ for 50A {Relief org. + stagger = soup kitchen offering} and saw that relief org was FEMA giving me F_EEM_A_. The next letter I entered was the R which initially came from BEE[R]. The R looked good because it provided REEL for stagger and the R looked really good when I saw that it allowed FREEMEAL

The theme also brings to mind Marching Band puzzles where each letter is part of one row clue and one band clue. And of course one thinks of cryptic puzzles where each answer has two clues: a straight definition and a cryptic one.

A theme that has flavors of three different types of puzzles is interesting in the way that fusion cuisine is interesting.

I was baffled by 28 {Technology inside Kindles}. Surely this was something I should know because I have taught a course on developing mobile apps and I own a Kindle. I had to focus on the {Winter serving in a Japanese restaurant failing at HOT SAgE and HOT SAmE before I saw HOT SAKE. Then it all made sense. However, not all Kindles use E ink. Mine has a color LCD screen. Wouldn't it be better if the clue read {Technology in some Kindles?} or most Kindles?

Mike in DC 7:49 AM  

Well said, @Loren Muse Smith. It wasn't easy to solve, but it was a virtuoso construction job and a beauty to behold. Plus, it was fun.

Debra 7:56 AM  

Evan Osnos writes wonderful pieces about China for New Yorker.

dk 8:15 AM  

🌕🌕 (2 mOOns)

Too clever by far for this solver. Found the theme answers a slog and began humming: Is this all there is.

That was my solving experience.

On to the construction. Here form trumps function. Smartly done even if dumbly solved by yours truly.

So sad to read of Zeke's death. To all you posters -- your tags and little pictures are like a breakfast club. As virtual "pals" you cannot be beat. The only thing better is when I meet you in person. Zeke I never had the pleasure but I shall raise a glass to you as the sun sets over the yardarms in WI.

imsdave 8:16 AM  

Put me squarely in the Moly Shu/LMS camp on this one. Brilliant construction. I have reread this post 3 times and still cannot understand the harsh review.

r.alphbunker 8:16 AM  

In his most recent runt puzzle, M&A revealed the source of Rex Parker's avatar image. At the moment the book is available on ebay

chefbea 8:25 AM  

WOW!! Too tough for me!! A feat of genius to construct...but no feat of genius to solve. Got rail pass and blue tits but had no idea about the alternation.

L 8:25 AM  

Thank you for spelling it out. I did finally sort it out after reading Rex's write up, but that too required lots of head scratching. This made it perfectly clear.

Generic Solver 8:36 AM  

The clue and answer at 45 across both aptly sum up my solving experience on this one. But a novel idea.

joho 8:49 AM  

OMG the jaded review has gone to a new level today!

Kudos to Jeff! I was truly amazed by what you managed to create here. The basic concept is brilliant in itself and your ability to execute it as beautifully as you did, well ... Bravo!

Rex Porker 8:49 AM  

I have feelings about themes. They are either a) tedious and done many, many, many times before, b) clever but poorly executed, c) novel but uninteresting, or d), my most mysterious category: I like them for no apparent reason. So yesterday, there was inconsistency and stretching of imagination, but I gave it a pass. Sunday was a thing of beauty despite the fact that it forced the worst fill in the history of this puzzle. But today? A novel idea that was tight as a drum, beautifully executed, with a minimum of bad fill? Terrible. The only thing consistent about my reviews is this: they depend on my mood and my fondness for the constructor far more than any qualities of the puzzle itself.

AliasZ 8:49 AM  

The problem with E-INK is that people who do not own a Kindle have no idea what an EINK is. It sounds like a pig with severe laryngitis. Jeff confesses that he is an avid Kindle fan (see xwordinfo), but such perverse affliction should not be foisted upon unsuspecting crossword fans. True, the crosses were all fair, but it could have been easily avoided by OINK/PROPS. I prefer real ink on real paper myself. Call me an antikindlite.

Was the only purpose of EINK to add another debut word for NYT puzzles? Did it make the puzzle more fresh and sparkling, or did it instead add a WTF blemish onto one of the facets of this otherwise perfectly polished gem just to irk us? It would irk EVEN EVAN Osnos, but I am sure EVAN Osnos knows what E-INK us. Who the heck is EVAN Osnos anyway? Did he win a Pulitzer or Booker Prize or something that we should know him? No, he won the 2014 National Book Award for his "Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China." Good for Mr. Osnos. Maybe we should know him. Jeff does.

These are the only complaints I have today. I found the theme superbly inventive, elegant and amusing, and the fill very clean, virtually free of blemish. I had tremendous fun with this one from beginning to end. About perfect for a Thursday, methinks.

Let us therefore listen to the first of six CELLO SUITES by Bach, this one in G major.

Thanks Jeff.

Anonymous 9:01 AM  

Summary of Alias Z's whining: "There were some answers I never heard of, therefore they were bad answers."

RnRGhost57 9:10 AM  

Tough but ultimately rewarding. Good work Jeff Chen.

What @MDMA said about CLERISY.

RIP Zeke.

Anonymous 9:13 AM  

I've never ridden a horse, so MANE isn't a fair answer. Crossword answers should be limited to things in my direct experience, or else I will accuse the constructor of foisting their obscure interests on me, the unsuspecting solver.

Sir Hillary 9:16 AM  

Like some others, I found this quite enjoyable, and quite difficult. Took me much longer than @Rex to figure out the theme, so I was reduced to jumping around from place to place until the bigger picture finally came into view. I didn't help my cause by speed-reading the clue for 51D and writing in KOFI.

Some random groupings:
-- SULTANS from the UAE.
-- Food corner in the SW -- a FREEMEAL of BADEGGS and MELON in a BEERMUG. Probably not UMAMI.
-- Science corner in the SE -- ENTROPY next to MESONS.
-- Column 4...IMLOST is a line in some EERIE movies.
-- CELLOSUITES would be apt Berklee HOUSING, no? SUBLETS permitted?


NCA President 9:17 AM  

I completely disagree with Rex's take on the theme today. Finally we have (what I consider) to be an innovative, fresh theme. The kind of theme he's been pining for for a long time. No personality?? As the youth say today, "dafuq?" This theme has loads of personality and is one of the few kinds of themes that, even though you know the conceit, it still challenges you to figure out the answers...i.e., it isn't just fill in the blank monotony/TEDIUM.

And how the heck can you not appreciate a puzzle with BLUETITS? How is that not personality?

I've built going to xwordinfo.com into my morning routine of 1. do the puzzle, 2. read explanations of it. Now the second step includes reading xword and it has made all the difference. Now I can actually see what it takes to construct a puzzle rather than just prattling on about 3-letter fill this, and dreck that, and pot shots at the constructor/editor for including OOP as some kind of jab at someone's intelligence. JC's take on puzzles is far more optimistic, so between the two of them, it's more balanced. Plus xword offers comments from the constructor and sometimes WS.

Anyway, I really liked this puzzle. It was challenging and there were zero groans from me. Sure there's the usual fill suspects in there, but seriously...have we not done these puzzles often enough to expect that? And sometimes we call those answers "getting a foothold."

I'm really surprised that Rex didn't call out EINK. That was the only word/thing that stuck out as a little wonky.

NeilD 9:23 AM  

This is the best puzzle I've solved in a very long time and I am absolutely baffled how anyone could not like it. I found it very difficult, but I still thought the theme was good.

Nancy 9:23 AM  

Very hard, but rewarding and I solved it. Like @Charles Flaster, I treated it like an anagram puzzle, and never saw the alternating letters. Many thanks to @MDMA for providing the clear explanation that Rex didn't provide.

Some early mistakes threw me off. Mainly, MULLAHS for SULTANS at 2D. Also BEER KEGS instead of BEER MUGS at 36D and OUT before BUT at 18A. (As in OUTstanding and OUT of this world.)

A nice challenging Thursday, always welcome, even without a rebus.

quilter1 9:42 AM  

Never figured out the theme though I got everything but the physics stuff in the SE, so DNF. Challenging but satisfying.

Lewis 9:47 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lewis 9:48 AM  

EINK is a thing, and not exclusive to Kindles (I've just learned this from the Wikipedia "E Ink" entry), so it was nice to learn today. Wouldn't have learned it if the puzzle went with oINK/PRoPS.

@ellenS -- That would be "schvitz" -- to sweat (Yiddish).

Where is SteveJ -- missing your comments!

This puzzle was hard and satisfying to solve. Theme answers didn't come easy. Tricky cluing. But I didn't find it to be an ugly stunt puzzle that leaves the solver feeling empty and resentful, rather, it was a clever and intricate thing of beauty. Not so hard as to make me give up, and plenty motivating and interesting to make me want to continue to solve. Thanks for this Jeff and Will!

I couldn't help but notice CLAP crossing CVS...

Anonymous 9:48 AM  

Capriciousness, thy name is Rex.

mac 9:51 AM  

Very clever puzzle, but it took me a long time to get the trick! All my fault, of course.
Packing and preparing for a month in Europe, but I will get the puzzle every day!

I adore my Kindle, but had no idea about the E-ink. As my son aften says: read the manual!

So sorry about Zeke.

mac 9:51 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous 9:52 AM  

Phew! I agree with Molly Shu, too. Woo!

Roo Monster 10:06 AM  

Hey All !
Had a hard time in spots on this one. Was leaning towards the not-like side, but then read @Lorens take on it, and gave me a new appreciation of the brilliant construction.

Iffy clue for MANE, and agree with @AliasZ on the EINK thing. OINK definitely better.

@NCA Pres, can you find todays Cheater Squares? Hint: there are only two.

Good job on this one Mr. Chen. But next time, give us a little break on the clues! :-P


Steve M 10:07 AM  


Z 10:07 AM  

How do I love you? Let me count the ways:
CLERISY (Blogger says I misspelt something - then again Blogger doesn't know how to spell "misspelt")
STU (alpha-run - really?)

My "aha" moment was reading, "The theme answers have nothing to do with each other." Rex exactly explained my reaction. This is a themeless that has observed that letters are like Lego blocks, you can put them together in different ways. I really wanted to like this puzzle for many of the reasons listed by others. I didn't. I'll also lay blame a little on the cluing; Don't give me random trivia as clues (OPAL and HAITIAN), or make easily clued names into linguistic oddities (-ETTA and STU), or cross obscurities (CLERISY and AYS) and expect me to care much about your construction feat. I have a strong suspicion (as I said earlier) that this would have been much improved by cramming in less theme material.

Re-reading the above, it comes across as harsher than I actually reacted, as if I hated it when I didn't. Still, people wondered how others could not love this puzzle - so I'll leave it as is to show how one could not love it. Feel free to love it, Little Miss Gushpot, I get it, just wasn't my cuppa today.

Hartley70 10:13 AM  

So very difficult for me, but I'm dumbstruck with admiration. I was looking for a gimmick and couldn't find it, so I solved the themers without the alternating clues. I didn't find ALTERNATION until the end when I quit in the SE. After BLUE could have come any 3 letters. I was thinking parachutist for JUMPER. I tried ing, ive, ies and xyz at the end of ALTERNAT. And inertia instead of ENTROPY. I've never heard of a MESON, nor of CLERISY, EVAN though I'm a subscriber, or the OPAL. It must be Saturday and I Rip Van Winkled the week, was my first thought. Going back over the theme answers and alternating the letters was a sweet surprise. Excellent challenge, though I failed the test.

Steven M. O'Neill 10:20 AM  

The REAR dupe totally wrecked my time. Fortunately my 8-year-old was watching and convinced me that it had to be REAR :)

NCA President 10:22 AM  

@Roo Monster: in the NW and SE corners?

Anonymous 10:25 AM  

So Zeke, a guy who nobody here ever met, who may or may not be real, may or may not have died, as announced by an anonymous woman claiming to be his wife. And the heartfelt sympathies keep coming. I'm starting to understand how Nigerian princes make their money.

Arlene 10:27 AM  

I saw the Jeff Chen by-line, began the puzzle, and then understood why I had such a hard time on Crossword Puzzle #5 at the ACPT - same constructor. I didn't even think I'd get into this puzzle, but persevered. It turns out that I need more time to do his creations. I got the theme at RAILPASS - really stared at that clue until I could possibly understand what was going on here.
And I kept going - slowly - and finished! YAY!
That's quite an imagination Jeff has to pull off a theme like this!

Bob Kerfuffle 10:40 AM  

Very tough for me getting started, for many of the usual reasons, including that CLERISY lies outside my working vocabulary, and I thought Gum arabic might come from ARABIA (and only as I am typing this do I notice the near-duplication! But of course that issue could never rear up in a puzzle, could it?) But I held off until I could confirm crosses, so no write-overs.

But once I figured out the gimmick, I loved it! @lms has already said it all, better than I could. . .

Roo Monster 10:42 AM  

Hey hey @NCA! You're getting better by the puzzle(a)!
(Just to kerp the rhyme!)
(Yes, I know I'm odd!)


jberg 10:44 AM  

Old McDonald had a Kindle, E-I-E-I-O . . .

I liked it. goth the theme from EVEN ODDS, but it still wasn't obvious how to fill them in. And most of the long downs were fine. I took a wild guess at EVAN/SVU (what's an SVU?), but that came out right. I do agree the double REAR was a fault, and BLUE TITS are British, while the jumpers were, as @Rex points out, American, so that was confusing (but then, it is Thursday).

My main problems were looking for another kind of head at 47D, and for John Wayne at 54A. And of course, like everyone else but Jeff, I'd never known that Kofi Annan had a middle name. But a wonderfully clever puzle, all the same.

Billy C 10:44 AM  

I agree fully with @Moly et. al.

Very clever and inventive.

Where the heck is OFL coming from????

Anoa Bob 10:46 AM  

Thanks @r.alphbunker for relaying M&A's discovery of the source of Our Fearless Leader's avatar. My guess had always been it was a stylized portrait of a WWII B-17 bomber pilot who was staring death straight in the eye with an unflinching dedication to duty, honor, and yada, yada.

Now, M&A, for your next mission, find out why it is always a couple of minutes before nine o'clock in RexWorld. Everyone has noticed that, right?

old timer 11:23 AM  

Thanks for the cello suite, @AliasZ.

I find myself agreeing with OFL that the puzzle was a slog, and produced no smiles. The fill was often very poor. Saved by a few very good words (yay, CLERISY!). But I agree with those who say this was an amazing and impressive feat of construction.

I got the theme (sort of) as soon as I put down EVEN and ODDS. I got it for sure when I wrote in CELLOSUITES and could verify that each of the two clues must be answered by using every other odd, and every other even, letter. Didn't need the trick for CIASPIES (and I see nothing wrong with that clue: Not all CIA folks are spies, you know -- many work in data analysis or administration. I did need the trick to get BADEGGS, because before that I had "bad guys" and then "baddies". And of course I had "Doe" instead of ROE, to ALTERNATION saved me.

Actually, I now see I had a DNF. Put town the imaginary SVIT to make "oval"on the theory the Olympic Australis must be the world's biggest football stadium. I think the correct SPIT is just wrong. I've never heard that usage in the context of a slight rain.

wreck 11:32 AM  

I too enjoyed this one and like some others groked the theme, but still had trouble filling the theme answers. I finally had enough of the grid filled in to complete the theme answers by only looking at the "= clues" by themselves.

I will miss Zeke and believe that whoever posted as an imposter is probably the same pathetic individual that impersonates others and then comes on and castigates everyone else anonymously.

Joseph Michael 11:39 AM  

I agree with @lms and @nca president. The theme was pretty amazing. I can't imagine how Jeff ever came up with the idea and then managed to execute it so well. To see A TRAIN and LENTO inside ALTERNATION, for example, was a stroke of brilliance.

I have also begun reading Jeff's blog which focuses more on construction technique and comes from a positive place, a welcome counterbalance to Rex's daily rants which used to be informative but now often border on the ludicrous.

Especially liked BLUE TITS, BAD EGGS, and HOT SAKE.

Anonymous 11:57 AM  

@Old timer said: "I think the correct SPIT is just wrong. I've never heard that usage in the context of a slight rain."
This, in a sentenceI think the correct SPIT is just wrong. I've never heard that usage in the context of a slight rain., epitomizes what is wrong with so many commenters here. I've again, people: Just because you haven't heard of a thing doesn't mean it's not a thing.

All This and Blue Tits, Two 11:57 AM  

@r.alph: har. Didn't know I was actually the first to "reveal" that avatar source. I learned about it many moons ago, over at @63's other site, Pop Sensation.
When I followed yer Ebay url, I got this:
"The original item has sold for $9.99. We have selected another similar item below." Followed up by a pic of ...

The Boy Scouts Down in Dixie (1914)

@63 now must -- must, I tell U -- add this lil boy scout jewel to his collection!

"oooOooh... I wish I was in the land of cotton ..."

"Look Away, Look Away"

Anonymous 12:01 PM  

@Old timer said: "I think the correct SPIT is just wrong. I've never heard that usage in the context of a slight rain."
This, in a sentence, epitomizes what is wrong with so many commenters here. Once again, people: Just because you haven't heard of a thing doesn't mean it's not a thing.

Masked and AninermoUs 12:26 PM  

Nine U's! Blue tits! Eink! Atom Rfr! Free Mesons! Primo loopy, Chen dude. No alternation required. Just Ayin'.


****** Moment of Zeke ********

Rest in peace, Caleb Rogers. Hurts for us all, to lose such a good blog buddy.

So sorry for your loss, Abigail Rogers.


r.alphbunker 12:35 PM  

It's probably not there because I bought it. Here is a link to the book at amazon.com

Searching google using the query
The Galactic Invaders 1976 Laser 31 Paperback by James R. Berry
will probably produce other results

Nancy 12:39 PM  

@old timer -- My mother always used to say: "It's spitting out" to describe rain drops so tiny and infrequent as to be almost imperceptible. (My mother, however, always perceived them and, in the event she had an umbrella with her, she never failed to put it up.) "Spitting" is much, much less rain than you have when it's drizzling and much less rain than you have when it's sprinkling. It's a real term. (Or at least it used to be.)

demit 1:01 PM  

I like a difficult Thursday and this was.

So funny. OOP is a gimme for anyone who has ever gone searching online to buy an old book. Even if you're not familiar with abbreviations in old book descriptions, the clue practically tells you the answer. It's, like, the $200 question in a Jeopardy category.

I'll never get the whinging about unfamiliar words. I don't think I've ever heard of MESONS but it wouldn't occur to me to bitch about it because I know other people have. And now I have too, and that's one of the reasons I like crossword puzzles.

Masked and Anonymo9Us 1:08 PM  

This ThursPuz was kinda tricky, at times. Shoot, I had C?ASPIES/CLER?SY, and just went ahead and assumed that I had figs (in-house term for random wrong answers) all over the place in that corner. Sealed off the NW corner as a biohazard, and worked the rest of the puz. Came back and decontaminated it later, after sussin out the cute theme.

Tonight's top headlines:

1. Famed Spokescow Hit Hard
2. Word AYS Rends Regret
3. Egyptian Diety Uncloaked
4. New Summer Look: Rear Floral Rings (!)
5. Relief Org. Staggers Once Again
6. Duke's Ride Slowly Gets Even Odds



Ludyjynn 1:11 PM  

Like @Hartley70, I solved the themers w/o using ALTERNATION clues, only the final clue. JC was just too clever for my pea brain. Speaking of which, new word for me: CLERISY. I like the sound of it. Wonder why I have never heard it used by anyone in my life thus far. We must not be the sharpest tools in the shed!

@oldtimer, like @Nancy's Mom, I constantly use the term SPITting when referring to a very fine rainfall. It literally feels like you are being spit upon! Better than being shit upon, which unfortunately happens to me sometimes courtesy of my garden birds. No BLUETITS, but titmice galore in the yard.

Despite a stupid, stupid DNF, because I had BEERkeg instead of BEERMUG, and didn't proofread to catch 53 and 57 A errors, I appreciate JC's ingenuity w/ this puzz. Thanks, JC and WS for the challenge. Favorite word: UMAMI. Learned it watching "Top Chef".

Anonymous 1:20 PM  

Loved it. Loren Muse Smith nailed it. So did Mr. Chen

Leapfinger 1:29 PM  

@Alias, when I saw the 16A CELLO unfold, I was all like fain to hear some Bach done SUITES, and delighted that you were CELLO-fain also. While it was loading, I was agog with anticipation that it might be J du Pre, but am now well satisfied with Der Starker and am sure you ARTOO.

Eugene Maleska 1:36 PM  

Little-known fact: If you send Will Shortz a list of the things you don't know, he'll be sure not to use them in future puzzles.

mathguy 1:40 PM  

I loved it. It was gratifying to see that so many of us whom I respect also loved it.

I take Rex's comments to mean that he didn't like it. Not that it's a bad puzzle, just that he didn't like it. He cited unmet criteria which are quite personal. That's fine. But I'm beginning to agree with many of us who have been saying that Rex has become jaded. I've been paying less and less attention to what he has to say.

JC66 1:45 PM  


Hartley70 2:09 PM  

@Lewis, schvitzing is so much more descriptive than spitting. I happily changed spit to schvitz soon after I got to NYC and had my vocabulary enriched.

Lewis 2:19 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lewis 2:20 PM  

Factoid: Two images of the STATUE of Liberty's torch are on the $10 bill.

Quotoid: "Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to SPIT on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats." -- H. L. Mencken

DigitalDan 2:40 PM  

EINK is definitely a (brand name) thing, one of a number of ways to achieve information display without using any power unless the screen is changing. But I would not say it is "inside" a Kindle. More like outside. Otherwise you can't read it. Sigh.

weingolb 2:46 PM  

Solving this was a delight for me, despite the initial resistance brought on by fill such as SVU, CSI, ARTOO, ISNT, et al.

Yeah, it seemed like it was going to be a slog, but then the theme quickly came out. To my mind, today was an example of how puzzles can be delightful. Words woven inside other words presented a chance to admire the construction. But not just that — it's more than an elegant constructor's puzzle. The pattern to the words inside other words gave solvers a different angle to solve the grid. I think this is where the real sense of delight comes from. Themers had one clue that was actually three ways to get a toehold.

In the SE where MTETNA crossed ALTERNATION, the clues for both were so strong I said "That is great!" out loud as I put the answers in.

Maybe I'm a cryptic fan without ever having done one?

Rex's Blog: Research Department 3:24 PM  

One possible scenario is that, after last Thursday's dust up with the faux Zeke, the real Zeke decided to bail on this blog and go out in a blaze of sympathy, forgetting that he had posted three times on Sun. 

 Zeke said...
Less than 1 minute in I had the same grid as Rex, guessed it wasn't "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea", so the circles had to spell out ATWI80D, somehow. I didn't care how, whether they started at the middle of 90A or the end of 12,000D. You may question how I came up with 12,000D, but that's got to be a conservative estimate of the number of 3 letter entries in this puzzle, 12K minimum, right? It sure felt as if there were 12,000 of them. 

So, the first minute of the solve was OK. The rest was a pain, a super-sized basked of short, iffy fill.

12:32 AM

 Zeke said...
I enjoyed this puzzle and finished in 22 minutes. Easiest weekend of New York Times puzzles in a very long time.

1:59 PM

 Zeke said...
I suppose if "memorable" is the most important criterion by which we judge a puzzle, this one makes the grade. I suspect we will be talking about this one for a while as an amazing feat of construction. "Memorable" and "unique" are clearly different from "great."

Sure sounds like Zeke.

further Zeke research dept. 3:37 PM  

I think it is very likely that fake Zeke, or real Zeke, is playing a sadistic game and suckering some quite naive people.

NYer 3:37 PM  

I'm with LMS on this. Brilliant construction of trilevel themes. Jeff Chen is a genius.

OOP was a gimme for me. Barnes and Noble used to keep a reference book called "Books Out of Print" in every store. Wonder what happened to that,

I think JC and WS are friends. Which may explain, to some extent, Rex's disdain for this puzzle.

Anonymous 3:48 PM  

Another day, another puzzle where the vast majority of solvers here liked it and Rex tore it to shreds. We must all be wrong.

JFC 3:58 PM  

@Rex is usually very supportive of Jeff Chen's creations. I am usually on Rex's wavelength about puzzles. But I am at a complete loss on this one. Have no idea why Rex is super critical of this puzzle. It is ingenious. It is also fun and interesting from a solver's perspective. When I figure out the theme of this type of puzzle I always wonder how the constructor thought of it and then managed to put it together. So, I am willing to chalk this one off as Rex having an off day and not appreciating an art form.

Z 4:09 PM  

@Research Department - Of course, the other possibility is that @Zeke recently passed away and his wife wanted to let people here know. Nah, that can't be it. We're all immortal here.

BTW @lovers of this puzzle - It is possible to be an "amazing feat of construction" and not be beloved by everyone. In fact, the more I read about how Rex was unfair and this is obviously a fantastic creation the more I think I was too kind in my 10:07 post.

Anonymous 4:24 PM  

@Z, it's also possible that you could enlist the help of a genuine spellcaster to save your love life. You should definitely take everything you read on the internet at face value.

Anonymous 4:26 PM  

It is quite depressing to me that @Zeke spent so much of his final days posting on a crossword blog.

Tobias Fünke 4:41 PM  

I BLUE myself.

Anonymous 5:01 PM  

I understand OMG, but since when is "holy OMG" an expression. What am I missing here?

Anonymous 5:06 PM  

Anon @ 5:01: The clue was in quotes, meaning OMG is another way to say "Holy..." . The clue was not "Holy ____."

Nancy 5:29 PM  

@Z (4:09 p.m.)-- Finally! A post that doesn't make me think I'm completely losing my mind. I've been too cowardly to post, re the whole Zeke faking his death scenario, since I came home at 3:15 today and saw, to my horror, the various sarcastic comments of the self-described "Zeke Research Dept." I was afraid that, if I in any way revealed my feelings, I'd be accused of naivete of the worst sort. Like being the sort of person who would fall for a Nigerian Internet scam or give my personal financial information to a Phisher from India. (I assure you that I am the scammer's worst nightmare. It's rumored that even the lowliest 20-something Telemarketer, fresh out of college, has been known to say: "I'll walk barefoot across hot coals. I'll walk barefoot on a bed of nails. You can tar and feather me and ride me out of town on a rail. JUST DON'T ASK ME TO EVER TRY TO SELL NANCY ANYTHING, WHATEVER IT MIGHT BE! EVER!!!!"

With all that said, I believe with every fiber of my being -- and with more sadness than I can expess --that the post by @Abigail Rogers yesterday afternoon was true. It could not have been written by any of the snarky Anonymice on this blog. Nor could it have been written by @Zeke, himself. Every writer has a voice. And @Abigail's voice seems distinct in it's complete lack of snarkiness; it's lack of edginess (@Zeke, as often as not, could be edgy); it's lack of irony (irony being a recent, perfectly dreadful late-20th-century development), and the sweetness of Abigail's open-hearted reaching out to all of us here on this blog -- much more sweetness than any of us deserve, I should think. And so, to @Abigail, I say: Please forgive the doubters and understand that the rest of us thank you for letting us know and grieve with you for your loss.

Anonymous 5:40 PM  

Maybe Abigail would be so kind as to post a link to her husband's obituary, since he meant so much to so many of us on this blog.

Michael 5:41 PM  

This is a clever puzzle that I enjoyed solving. "Clerisy" is a new wore for me and eink baffled me until I divided it into e-ink. I didn't understand stu until I came there. Can't imagine being able to construct this.

Anonymous 5:45 PM  

I hope I don't get any of that e-ink on my hands, since it's not inside the Kindle.

michael 5:46 PM  

I really don't like being cynical, but I can find anything about Caleb Rogers' death on the web. And I tried googling "Caleb Abigail Rogers" and came up with nothing.

I hope I'm wrong.

Anonymous 7:05 PM  

@michael you are so cynical. In general, you should believe anything anyone says on the internet. Trust, do not verify. Email me (with EINK) to discuss: awesomespellcaster@spellcaster.net.

Mohair Sam 7:47 PM  

Everyone is right today. I struggled with this one, eventually finished it, and really enjoyed the challenge. But, in spite of the clever theme, the fill and cluing were stretched to allow the theme density. So in spite of the fact I liked it, I can see where @Rex's comments make sense.

Anonymous 8:26 PM  

Everyone can't be right. Zeke, and/or fake Zeke, is/are either alive or dead.

Schrodinger 8:41 PM  

@Anon - Are you sure of that?

CTomey 9:12 PM  

I agree, I used to love reading Rex's review but lately his curmudgeonous attitude is getting a little old..I think someone needs to get some, ifyaknowwhatimean..wink wink

Anonymous 9:12 PM  

Good one, @Erwin

bwalker 10:15 PM  

Hey, any Thursday I can get through is okay by me. And I did finish today for the first time this month. I liked the theme answers, especially the reveal which had me trying to fit John Wayne's horse into the answer until the head slap. Nice.

OISK 10:41 PM  

Great puzzle, but I have been sloppy lately, and got a DNF - I am sure I have seen "UMAMI" before but couldn't remember it, don't know Kofi's middle name, and ended up with contos(?) instead of mottos. If that seems really stupid - I first had "cantos" which I think makes sense for "lines often in Latin". When I got "melon" I just changed cantos to contos instead of realizing the "C" and "N" had to be wrong. I don't like "EINK", have never heard of it, BUT, once I had a few letters, it made sense there might be something called E _ Ink. There seems to be "E" - everything else...

GILL I. 10:48 PM  

I have a wish about this blog...well, maybe several. I hope you posters keep up the sense of humor that just falls out of your comments, the wonderful stories lots of you tell, and the incredible sense of decency the majority of you display.
I'm saddened that @Rex no longer seems to care about this incredible blog he created. If you think about it, it has brought lots of people together in a really fun cyber party way. All you need is a little picture and maybe a lie or two about the things you love! (It doesn't matter what it may be because we will know who you are because of the way you write)..
I miss the likes of @Green and his Broadway stories, Foodie and @Questinia and their esoteric (hi @Z) take on a puzzle, @ACME and just about everything about her..the list goes on.
I keep coming back here because we then have a new curtain to open, laugh and applaud. @Leapy who never fails to bring a chuckle, @AliasZ who gives us a dose of (fill in the blank), @Nancy (who will never give you her phone number) @Akita (who will knock you flat on your ass), @Maruchka (who will pour you the best martini this side of Brooklyn) and, yes, the list goes on.
I suppose this is brought on because of some of the comments that have been made about @Zeke...I hate meanness...I saw this yesterday and I'm seeing some of it today. (sigh)...I do read Deb from time to time as well as Orange and I've yet to see the nastiness that can rear its head the way it does on occasion here....I really wish it would go away.
Rant over..Eat cheese and drink good gin....it's good for you!
p.s. Jeff...Your puzzle rocked!

Austin_blue 11:05 PM  

Finished it, but wasn't sure it was correct. It was.

Why is an exceptional start "but"? Because it starts an exception to the rule?

Did Shakespeare really drop the e in "ays"? Just thought it was clunky. It gets a "Meh." from me.

GILL I. 11:05 PM  

@Aketi...Please be gentle...It's just that I love those dogs...

Rex' Blog: Research Department 11:58 PM  

@Z - Zeke did not pass away "recently". According to Abigail he passed away Saturday, one day before those 3 posts that sounded a lot like Zeke.

Anonymous 12:02 AM  

Silent Spring didn't just kill DDT it killed millions of Africans. Thank you Rachel Carson and bogus science.

Anonymous 12:41 AM  

A jumper is a dress in the US. My sisters wore them so hem was an obvious answer. Rex is correct that it is a sweater in Great Britain.

A jumper (in American English), pinafore dress or pinafore (British English) is a sleeveless, collarless dress intended to be worn over a blouse, shirt or sweater.[1] In British English, the term jumper describes what is called a sweater in American English. Also, in more formal British usage, a distinction is made between a pinafore dress and a pinafore. The latter, though a related garment, has an open back and is worn as an apron. In American English, a pinafore always refers to an apron. This is from our Wiki friends.

Steve Lewis 8:04 AM  

What a wonderful puzzle! It was a lot of fun to solve. (I'm always a day behind if not more.)

NattyGold 12:09 PM  

I loved this puzzle! Once I found out the trick, I was completely engaged. I just started doing the NY Time crossword puzzles a few weeks ago, and this was the first time I almost finished a Thursday. Wednesdays have been my stopgap.

Rick Schindler 4:02 PM  

I'm with Moly Shu et al.; I found it clever and engaging. I filled in the first two theme answers without understanding the theme, I confess, and then the light dawned and I was able to fill in the others using the alternation method. So for me the puzzle had a narrative arc; a mystery unfolded and came to a satisfying conclusion.

Rug Crazy 5:40 PM  

thank you Rex, for explaining STU

BronxPuzzler 4:07 PM  

Evan Osnos also won the National Book Award for non- fiction this year. Practically the only answer I was certain about.

jrosenb1 11:02 PM  

Mr. Parker: You have not explained this puzzle. I solved all of it but for the nine squares at lower left (a rare circumstance for me, as I have solved completely about 98% of all Thursday-through-Saturday puzzles--the only ones I take on). I also understood the principle behind the construction of theme-related answers throughout the puzzle. But I do not understand "alternation.": Your commentary basically skirted this issue. I invite further explanation from you or from any devotees of your column.

spacecraft 11:13 AM  

Sometimes I truly wonder whether OFL's comments aren't mismatched with some puzzle other than the current day's. "No cleverness????" Oh, no. Just take two words, write them out with alternate letters--and come up with ANYthing intelligible. No cleverness there, eh? OK, YOU try it.

Jeff Chen's is one of those brains that frighten me. They say we use no more than 15% of our mental capacity; this dude's got to be operating at around 20. Are all the clues his? They are almost all uber-tough. And amid all that CLERISY (?? Needed every single cross for that one)-testing stuff, here comes 42a Back = REAR. It's so simple and straightforward that it nearly threw me because of the company it kept.

This one belongs no earlier than Friday, IMO. I steered through it, but it was anything BUT easy. I have no quibble with the fill, either. I give this an A.

BUT...braided MANEs? On a farm? On a show horse, sure, but on a farm?

Burma Shave 11:17 AM  


with the TEDIUM of background CELLOSUITES . . . BUT wait! The ASPECT’s the deal!
CIASPIES in ALBANIA using a HAITIAN RAILPASS informed me that BLUETITS are birds,
and that EVEN and ODDS ALTERNATION is the EERIE ARTFORM to CUEIN those words.


today’s stream of unconsciousness is sponsored by TESLA

Anonymous 11:23 AM  

Does no one else object to ROE for 55 down? That was not an anonymous case. Should be DOE. Grrr.

rondo 11:49 AM  

Well, IMLOST. Or was. At first it was TEDIUM with sporadic answers filled in, including EVEN and ODDS. Eventually the light came on at BLUETITS. Then the chase was on back to the other themers. Biggest hold up was the crossing of dOE and oNeSEC which finally gave way. So I went from feeling this puz was some junk to appreciating the search for answers. This one took a lot of time; good thing today’s a vacation day – probably wouldn’t have had time during break and lunch to finish if at work.

Tough clues – ETTA not James, ATTA not with boy or girl, OOP not Alley, STU not a chefs name.

Lotsa chances to go off-color with MELON, BLUETITS, PAIRSUP, REAR, ASS . . .

Which flavors are the CIA’S PIES?

I once contracted CLERISY, BUT some ALUM cleared it up.

I usually SPIT at Thursdays, BUT I CLAP my hands for this challenge.

rondo 11:56 AM  

@Anon 11:23 - Jane ROE was actually an alias for Norma McCorvey, so is an alias the same as anonymous? Probably not, but I'm a law school dropout.

BS2 12:23 PM  


BUT when UMAMI stands like a STATUE, OMG, that PAIRSUP!


DMG 3:19 PM  

Struggled once again. Couldn't make sense of what seemed to be successful answers until at the very end I got ALTERATION and realized what was happening. As things turned out, got them all except ST?/CELOS?ITE crossing which refused to yield to anything I tried. So a one letter DNF. Didn't help that I thought CELLOS .. was a plural and wanted the RV name to make some kind of "camping" sense. I think of STU as a cook! ! I'm left impressed with the skill of the puzzle maker, and a wish for more straight forward clues in this mind bender.

@Waxy.: We got rain again, but surely not the kind you are experiencing. Here records are gleefully posted in the hundredths of an inch. Not like when I lived in hurricane country where this amount wouldn't even be mentioned. Still it was good to hear the sound of tires on a wet road again.

rain forest 3:38 PM  

I am with everyone who was extremely impressed by the ingeniousness of this puzzle, and also with those who solved it very slowly. Mind you, I started it at the auto service outlet where I tried to converse with other car owners while also trying to fathom what was happening in the grid. Anyway, once I got back home, I quickly got pretty well all the centre part, and thanks to @Dirigonzo, who educated be about FEMA (where are you, @Diri?), got the trick with FREEMEAL, corrected BAD guyS, corrected dOE, and gradually worked up to the NW where, like @Spacey, used all crosses to get CLERISY, a group of which I am clearly not a member.

Yes, I liked this one a lot. EINK, eh?

strayling 8:17 PM  

John Doe/Jane Roe.

DPJ 9:53 PM  

Solved it correctly, helped by an hour-long nap in mid-effort. Surprisingly, I didn't get the theme until filling in ALTERNATION near the end. I did pick up on the anagram aspect and that was enough to complete the puzzle. And one mystery for me-- I've probably read close to a hundred books on my Kindle in the past year, and I never heard of EINK.

leftcoastTAM 10:25 PM  

Clever as hell, a scheme I've never seen before, but I'd much rather deal with a good ol' fashioned Thursday rebus.

Blogger 7:29 PM  

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