Early Sony recorder / TUE 6-30-15 / 1990s Indian PM / Singer Josh whose self-titled 2001 debut album went 4x platinum

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Constructor: Susan Gelfand

Relative difficulty: Tuesdayish, maybe a tad harder than normal

THEME: famous person does something — noun phrases are reimagined as verb phrases involving famous people of various sorts:

Theme answers:
  • ROCK GARDENS (17A: Comedian cultivates flowers?)
  • POUND SIGNS (23A: Poet inks a contract?)
  • PRICE TAGS (33A: Opera singer scrawls graffiti?)
  • FIELD TRIPS (48A: Actress stumbles?)
  • BACON STRIPS (53A: Philosopher removes his clothes?)
Word of the Day: BETACAM (38D: Early Sony recorder) —
Betacam is a family of half-inch professional videocassette products developed by Sony in 1982. In colloquial use, "Betacam" singly is often used to refer to a Betacam camcorder, a Betacam tape, a Betacam video recorder or the format itself. (wikipedia)
• • •

This felt a bit hack-y, the noun-to-celebrity-name gimmick. ROCK GARDENS in particular seemed really, really familiar. So I did a little archive digging. Actually ROCK GARDEN(S), though it has been used many times, has never been used in a Chris Rock switcheroo theme answer, the way I had imagined. But I knew this basic concept had been done before, possibly to death, so I went after a few more of the theme answers. Then I just searched *POUND* in the cruciverb database and, well, bingo, of sorts. A Monday NYT puzzle from seven years back with the following themers:
  • 18A: Poet Ezra's favorite desserts? (Pound cakes)
  • 4D: Writer Anne's favorite dessert? (Rice pudding)
  • 27D: Writer Jack's favorite entree? (London broil)
  • 62A: Essayist Charles's favorite entree? (Lamb shanks)
Now, it's been seven years, and the theme this time around has a different slant (verb phrases intstead of food types), so, probably no harm done. It's just ... two things. One, I'm quite sure this one example of the theme type is not the only one out there. With more digging, I'd certainly find more. And two ... this earlier puzzle, this food one ... is by the same constructor. She seems to have semi-plagiarized herself, or at least recycled a basic (very basic) wordplay concept that she had used before. I think as a constructor, if you have only one guiding principle, let it be that you don't make lame Ezra Pound jokes twice in your career. Pound me once, shame on me, etc.

In terms of difficulty, it's interesting that this puzzle didn't provide the famous person's first name, the way that 2008 puzzle did. Definitely adds a modicum of difficulty, withholding that name. But providing it, esp. in the case of someone with a name like Leontyne (!), would perhaps have rendered the puzzle too easy. Who knows? My time came out Tuesday-normal, so this cluing seemed fine to me. Fill is OK today—more junk than you want to see, but lots of interesting longer answers in the Downs. I had trouble coming up with both LOSER and POSER, which is probably telling, hopefully to my credit but maybe not from where you're sitting. My only real struggle, though, was in the SW, where I went with BRAVERY and BETAMAX, side by side. Luckily, the wrongness thereof was readily apparent. Finished with the "G" in Josh GROBAN, whom I once saw on the streets of Carmel, CA. This was peak GROBAN (so, like, a decade ago), and man the middle-aged ladies were happy to see him. He wasn't mobbed (Carmel's too sleepy for mobs), but he was, let's say, surrounded. Politely and lovingly surrounded.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Whirred Whacks 12:10 AM  

Regarding POUND SIGNS:

I bet if you ask most people under 30 what this is: #
their first response will be a "Hash Tag."

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to think of any notables with the name of "Hash."
It would've been fun to have had another answer (HASH TAGS) based on the same symbol with a clue like "What _______ does when the ball is hit to deep left."

Z 12:18 AM  

Too bad # doesn't include query tag as a name to go along with POUND SIGN, number sign, and hash tag.


"Actress takes LSD" would have been better.

JFC 12:26 AM  

@Rex, I don't feel like being creepy tonight or wanting to freak out your bloggers, so I will only say you made Rex Porker's day. The puzzle seems fine for a Tuesday.


jae 12:38 AM  

Medium- tough for me.  Cute theme, some nice long downs, liked it.  Pretty solid Tues.

Major hang ups:  (1) Had TOMES, erased it for @Rex BETAmAx and then...  (2) Spelled ABBEYS  wrong (ABBIES) which gave me ReE NY and SNIPiTS.  Fixing those moved this to the tough side of medium.  Your milage may vary.

Moly Shu 12:46 AM  

@Rex, you are neither a loser or a poser in my book. I appreciate what you do. Thank you. This one came in very easy for me. Just flew through most of the acrosses and then the downs that were missing fell in. No hang ups and the theme was OK. Liked BOLSTERS and ABALONE, but i love BACONSTRIPS.

Just remembering now, I did pause at the RAO/ATOI cross. Not up on my French or Indian PM's

McFly 1:16 AM  

Disclaimer: Please note the following comment you are about to read is from an amateur solver that rarely finishes past a Wednesday. Reader discretion is advised.

First Take: Keeping in step with yesterday's Monday, I thought this Tuesday continued the trend of solid, basic crossword puzzling. Basic, but amusing theme, pretty solid fill with lots of 6+ letter fill. RAO and AMOI crossings should be rare on Tuesdays, so the one doesn't bother me. My biggest hangup was having SATE instead of BITE and not seeing BOLSTERS right away. Overall, I enjoyed this one.

Favorite Clue and Answer: Philosopher removes his clothes? (BACONSTRIPS) This was probably my favorite of the theme answers. Inane, but a humorous moment when you get it. I'm sure with good thought there was a lot to do with this theme.

Thing I learned: OBELISK. Huh, new word for me. I'll pocket that factoid for the next time that I'll...well, who are we kidding I can get by just fine without ever using OBELISK in my vocabulary.

Final Take: I wait to read all reviews until I get to the Final Take. I would say to Rex: It's a Tuesday. If you're looking for crossword innovation, wait a couple of days. Consider innovation on Monday and Tuesday pleasant surprises and other than that accept that they are for people (like me) to lick their chops of the amusement of accomplishing a puzzle.

chefwen 1:47 AM  

Another super easy one for me. My biggest pause came at the end with the SERIO/STASIS crossing, guessed at the S which turned out to be correct. Yea me!

Thought it was very cute as MANATEES are. Love the Florida license plates with the Manatees on them.

Liked all the theme answers and don't really care that a similar one was done before.

J Caspi 3:53 AM  

I follow you religiously as I struggle with the puzzles. Unfortunately what you published above did not appear in today's international edition. Spoiler - we had Kentucky Derby winners.

Questinia 5:00 AM  

@ McFly, I seem to try and fit *truncated obelisk* into conversations more than is probably warranted. Wonderful write-up and final-take.

Repeated themes are sometimes the balm of a cruel chaos. Guess some might call it ritual or refrain. Some seek out puzzles and their repeated themes like tea-time and finding the inane in some mundane. Truncated obelisk.

Thomaso808 5:37 AM  

@WW it could have been "What Tiger David does when the long ball is hit to left." But that would only happen in interleague play. Too obscure for Tuesday.

MDMA 6:09 AM  

@J Caspi,

The Kentucky Derby puzzle ran on June 9th in the US edition of the New York Times. Click on the link.

Z 6:40 AM  

I can think of a few people here who might find this Interesting.

Lewis 6:47 AM  
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Lewis 6:52 AM  

@rex -- I feel like you tried very hard to find something to criticize in this puzzle. Finding an analogous-but-not-the-same theme from seven years ago by the same constructor and pontificating on how uncool this is feels like a stretch to me.

I love OBELISK and GAZELLE, and the cluing felt so accurate (but not insulting) that the puzzle felt easy. It also felt smooth as silk. More threes (28) than I'd like, but I liked the stacks in the NE and SW. Mini theme of answers that start with A (13). The theme answers didn't make me laugh, but I had fun trying to figure them out with no crosses.

Nice bounce, fun solve -- thank you, Susan!

Loren Muse Smith 6:57 AM  

Perfect Tuesday for me. I realized when ROCK GARDENS fell that this is a pretty common theme type, but I never tire of it. Comedian, poet, actor, philosopher. Cool. Could've switched out the comedian for a musician for ROSE GARDENS,but Axl might be even less accessible than Chris for some solvers. Hi, Dad.

I'm still noticing eye rhymes. (Think of the mileage you could get out of ABALONE: Begone, stone abalone - I'm done!) I guess if you're a POSER, you're a LOSER?

Funny, I've incorporated the word POSER into my speech, I think, from solving, and no one seems to ever understand it. Now there's a real poser for you, huh? Blank stares. At least I'm not asking the secretary if she has an etui.

I got PRICE TAGS before I looked at the clue and was picturing Vincent in a beach store pricing t-shirts. What I like about Susan's choices is that the resulting phrases are utterly in the language. With themes like this, it's impossible for me not to stare out the window and imagine other possibilities. I had WONDERLANDS before I had finished the grid. Meh.

"Actor Harrison shows off his muscle?"
"Actress Sharon matures?"
"Musician Axl gets two strikes and a spare?"
"Actor Tom sends packages?"
"Musician Taylor dances with the Rockettes?"

Trying other themers invariably gives me even more respect for the ones in the grid.

Rex –I put in BRAVADO without considering "bravery," but I like your answer better, I think. For me, BRAVADO almost always feels fake and overdone. "Bravery" is subtle and quiet and the real deal; BRAVADO is loud and posturingish.

@Z – really interesting read. Language is constantly morphing, and hearing variant "incorrect" speech never fails to fascinate me.

Susan – nice seven stacks in the northeast and southwest. I especially liked POSER/ANSWERS and MANATEE/BITE. (They don't, do they?? No!!!!) Great job!

Hartley70 7:14 AM  

I would classify this as an easy Tuesday. My only brief pause was BETAmax which was a quick correct. I'm sure this was much harder for the younger solvers who wouldn't remember Sony's defeat and find Leontyne, Bacon, and even Field a tad "old", no Gidget or Flying Nun in their memory bank. Otherwise this was a smooth solve with some rare answers that were very welcome. I echo @Lewis' comment.

dk 7:48 AM  

🌕🌕🌕 (3 mOOONs)

As good as Tuesday gets. Misspelled 61a and liked the mini swine theme.

When in New Orleans go to Elizabeth's and order the Praline Bacon.

Odd sight of the day. I live in a small town in Western Wisconsin. One of my town mates drives a "jacked-up" black Ford 150 whose bed has never seen dirt or lumber (think loud and posturingish as Loren may and did write). As of two days ago it now sports the Stars and Bars on a pole along with the Stars and Stripes. At times I 30a for humanity.

jberg 7:53 AM  

I liked the theme, a nice highbrow/lowbrow combination of proper names. But what I really liked was SHREDS next to SNIPPETS. I don't know why, I just do.

@McFly, just watch, you'll see OBELISK every day for the next week, I bet. If you go to London, you might hear it as well -- people will tell you "it's near the OBELISK," a monument pirated from Egypt and plunked down on the Thames Embankment.

@Z, thanks for the link. I moved to Boston from Wisconsin 51 years ago and still can't get the feel for when you say "and so didn't I."

Rex Porker 7:53 AM  
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Lewis 7:54 AM  

Factoid: In January of last year, a vacationing fire captain driving from Austin to Houston passed an 18-wheeler whose brakes had caught on fire. He and the driver snuffed the flames using the truck’s cargo, COORS beer. They shook cans and put the fire out with the spray, saving the entire rig from going up in flames.

Quotoid: "People think that I must be a very strange person. This is not correct. I have the heart of a small boy. It is in a glass JAR on my desk." -- Stephen King

AliasZ 8:00 AM  

I don't know if I would find pleasure in researching every crossword theme to see if a similar one has been used in the last, say, seven years. I do however find amusement and satisfaction in solving an easy but clever puzzle, and discovering wordplay that is well thought out and expertly filled like this one on a Tuesday.

Twenty-eight threes are about sixteen too many, what with ABE ABS, JAB JAR, NOI, TIS, TSK and the like, but GAZELLE SNIPPETS and MANATEE BRAVADO BOLSTERS the approval rating in my book.

These additional theme possibilities occurred to me:

CROSS OUTS -- Musician reveals long-held secret.
KING CRABS -- Novelist tries to catch some crustaceans.
WISECRACKS -- Movie director caves under pressure.
MASON JARS -- Attorney shocks with surprise witness.
HALL PASSES -- Game show host is elected NAACP president.
BUSHWHACKS -- President gives it a slap or two.

The opera singer Susan Gelfand had in mind may have been just as likely Margaret PRICE as Leontyne.

Is it Tuesday already?

joho 8:04 AM  

I loved how most answers actively and visually describe famous people doing livel, for them, things. POUND inking a contract not so exciting but PRICE with a spray can, FIELD taking a pratfall, ROCK up to his elbows in mud and especially BACON ala "Magic Mike" is really fun. Brilliantly done, Susan!

Easier than yesterday for with my only writeover BRAVery for BRAVADO. @Loren, I agree with you about meaning of both words. Also with your fascination with eye rhymes -- LOSER and POSER!

Liked it a lot, thanks, Susan!

joho 8:10 AM  

Hmmm, don't know what happened : Should read "unexpected" things.

Haiku Nerd 8:23 AM  


Ryan 8:25 AM  

RYE Playland! I have fond memories of going there as a kid. Otherwise, pretty normal Tuesday.

Rex Porker 8:26 AM  

Has anyone else noticed my reviews of puzzles constructed by women tend to be harsher than those of puzzles by men? Hmmm.
Themes should never be repeated, but my criticism of repeated themes should be repeated often. I have a few "default" review templates, and "tired theme" is one of my favorites. This theme was done in the Luxembourg Der Tageblatt on November 12, 1983, and it was done better. Because infinite themes are available to both Will Shortz and constructors, a theme should never be repeated. Unless it's from a constructor I like, in which case they are clever and entertaining. This was a pretty perfect (if a tad easy) Tuesday, with less-than-average bad fill and some clever theme answers, but rather than point out anything positive about the puzzle, the best I can do is "probably no harm done." Because really bad puzzles do real harm--they make the world a colder, sadder, emptier place.
Today's lazy, boilerplate review just reinforces the fact that I should find better things to do on Mondays and Tuesdays.

JackM 8:28 AM  

Monday easy for me. Had Grogan for Groban resulting in "ogelisk"making me wonder if the monument was a statue of King Lear.

Rethinking today's puzzle 8:33 AM  

But a lot of rhymes and almost rhymes today:

The smell of graduation: DIPLOMA AROMA

Jerk pretending to be cool: LOSER POSER

Seen at the news stand: MAG PRICETAGS

School journey to the diner: BACONSTRIPS FIELDTRIPS

Place for tips: BAR JAR

Beer Snob 8:36 AM  

@Lewis @ 7:45: Probably the only thing for which COORS should be used.

Z 8:42 AM  

@Lewis and @Alias Z - I wonder how much life as an English prof informs Rex's concern with xword "plagiarism." Seems a tad excessive to me, as well.

@DK - I'm reminded of the Tea Partier flying a "Don't Tread on Me" flag in suburban Dearborn, MI. Stupid is as stupid does. If the worst they do is fly a flag that let's the rest of us know that they lack any real understanding of our history (or are racist) my reaction is, "thanks for the heads up."

@jberg and @lms - You were two of the people I thought would find it interesting. There are a few more.

Lewis 8:45 AM  

@Questinia -- You comment spurred my inner teen to notice the phallic mini (truncated?) theme: BAR/ROD/TOOL/OBELISK. Thank you for the post, as it were.

grammar nazi 8:50 AM  

Z: I agree with the sentiment, but "fly a flag that let's the rest of us..."?! TSK.

Whirred Whacks 9:05 AM  

Late in 2014, Chris Rock announced his divorce from his wife of 18 years, Malaak Compton-Rock. The Washington Post had fun with his headline:

Rock's Papers Scissors Union

Jeff Lewis 9:08 AM  
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Ludyjynn 9:09 AM  

My favorite OBELISK is the Washington Monument, the tallest structure in D.C. It took $15 million to repair the 8/11 earthquake damage and the monument did not reopen until 5/14. $7.5 million came from David Rubenstein, a private citizen. The National Cathedral, also seriously damaged by the earthquake, is still seeking donors for its ongoing restoration, which is further complicated by the sophisticated nature of its architecture.

Query: is IMPish @Rex Porker on point about OFL's overzealous criticism of female constructors? I liked this puzz. a lot, but my gut told me that Rex would nit pick it apart, and he did. Hmmm...

@Hartley, I vividly recall the Sony BETAmax debacle. One of my tech-savvy friends, an 'early ADoPTer', bought into the visually superior format. Ms. Luddite waited it out, as the prices of the VHS format were so much lower and worth the pictorial quality trade-off, before commiting to the cheaper option. So did the rest of the country. Bye, bye BETA!

Thanks, SG and WS, for a smooth Tuesday.

Billy C 9:11 AM  


One needn't go to London to see an obelisk. In fact, the twin to the London obelisk, both originally erected in the Egyptian city of Heliopolis, is in New York's Central Park, near the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

There's another obelisk, which together with the above pair are collectively called Cleopatra's Needle, in the Place de la Concorde in Paris. This one is also one of a pair, its twin remaining in Luxor.

Alicia Stetson 9:12 AM  

@ Ludy: I would say that Rex has a special (dark) place in his heart for women and new constructors.

pmdm 9:18 AM  

Beethoven composed a little dance whose theme he reused twice for a set of theme and variations, first for piano solo, then for orchestra. Has ever anyone complained that he plagiarized himself? Schubert plagiarized the main theme he used in the last movement of his late A Major piano sonata from one of his earliest piano sonatas, and he plagiarized the theme from his song The Trout when he wrote a piano quartet. And Bach? He not only plagiarized from his own music frequently, he "stole" the themes of hymns written by others. And this is just the very small tip of a very large iceberg.

I guess we could say that, in the world of art, only the first painter who painted a Lady and Madonna picture was not plagiarizing. Or does that sound silly?

Think about it. In all the Fine Arts, great creators borrow in various ways from the works of previous masters. In music, not just with musical themes. Mozart was not the last composer to write an opera based on The Marriage of Figaro. And Rossini was not the first composer to base an opera on The Barber of Seville. I guess these last two examples demonstrate that it isn't the originality of the theme, it's what you do with the theme that matters.

Some here seem to believe that crossword constructors should be judged differently than the great masters of the Fine Arts. (At least one does.) And I doubt anything anyone says will change their minds one iota.

Yes, JFC, the write-up certainly plays into the hands of The Porker. Especially since this Tuesday puzzle seems about as good as you get on a Tuesday.

Billy C 9:21 AM  

@JBerg --

Oops, I forgot ... The London Obelisk was not "pirated." It was presented to the city in 1819 as a gift by the Ruler of Egypt and Sudan, Muhammed Ali, in commemoration of earlier British victories there.

Lucy 9:21 AM  

This puzzle worked for me, and I agree with Rex that it seemed Tuesdayish.

Here is a question to anyone reading the comments: do you solve the puzzle on paper, online (aka using a regular keyboard), on your phone, iPad, etc.? How does that affect your solve times?

Up until this week, I've always used my phone because it always conveniently nearby. These last few days I've tried solving on my computer to see how it impacts my speed, etc. The sample size is too small to make a real comparison, but at this point I've beaten my average each day. The computer still feels a little awkward. Occasionally I waste time trying to get the cursor into the right square, and sometimes I look at the Down clue when I should be looking at the Up.

I'd appreciate your feedback.

NCA President 9:23 AM  

I don't usually criticize Rex's reviews...I figure sometimes we agree and sometimes we don't. But today's weird convolutions are too much to go unmentioned:

"But I knew this basic concept had been done before, possibly to death..."
"...I just searched "POUND" in the cruciverb database and well, bingo, of sorts. A Monday NYT puzzle from seven years back..."
"Now it's been seven years, and the theme this time around has a different slant..."
"...I'm quite sure this one example of the theme type is not the only one out there. With more digging, I'd certainly fine more."

I have to agree with @Lewis: not only were you trying to find things wrong with the puzzle, but you were doing it badly. The concept that you seem to vaguely remember (and possibly done to death) turns out you had to do some digging to find just one instance seven years ago. It would be at that moment that you should have hit the backspace key and deleted the part about it being done to death. And yes, if you did more "digging" you might indeed find more instances...but what does that prove?

As for the fact that Susan did that very puzzle seven years ago, why is that a problem? One previous puzzle of hers seven years ago hardly counts as having "one guiding principle." Sheesh. And riffing on a previous puzzle, especially your own, hardly counts as plagiarism. Double sheesh.

Indeed, shame on you Rex. I don't often read Rex Porker either, but clearly today you lobbed him a big fat hanging curve ball.

Otherwise, I liked the puzzle fine. I liked that Susan refrained from using Kevin BACON in lieu of keeping all of the clues diverse.

Now if you'll excuse me I'm going to go back through all of my posts and see how many occurrences of the word "diverse" I've used. I'm sure I've used it to death. I'll keep digging until I get tired of digging and then decide for sure that I've used it to death...which I probably have.

Generic Solver 9:29 AM  

I think it's typically called slow-pitch softball, not "slo-pitch". While there may be some usages of the latter, it sounds like some sort of arcade game rather than a sport.

Roo Monster 9:30 AM  

Hey All !
Two similar themes by the same constructor? Shocking. And only seven years apart...

This was a fun theme, as mentioned by others, actual in the language phrases, not just a random name with a random verb. Like Chiklis Burns, or something. And hey, at least Susan gets submissions approved.

Agree with the too many threes. 28 is quite high. Normal-ish is 18 or less. Lots of For Short clues also. Just sayin.

Did like the puz. Zippy theme, nice open corners. My two day 100% streak has ended though, :-( , on one letter, no less! Argh! Had hOSER for LOSER, then when didn't get Congrats jingle, changed to pOSER (not realizing it was already in puz!). Finally saw ABALONE and head slapped and put in the L and jingle time! Was looking for the pangram, alas, no Q.


Jamie C. 9:32 AM  

@LMS: Is your avatar today clued "Singer Johnny's vocal range?"

Pete 9:38 AM  

There are things in life that are way more important to me than to the average Joanne. These are not necessarily important things, they're just important to me. As such I see nuance, anomalies, errors, sometimes elegance and beauty in these things that others likely don't. I'm not going out of my way to find these, they just appear to me because I've paid attention for decades.

In this vein, claims that Rex looks for faults in puzzles is an absurdity, and a petty and vindictive one at that. I didn't notice the theme repetition because I don't pay attention to themes, but that doesn't negate the fact that someone who does pay attention would notice. The fact that Rex did notice and, took the effort to verify what he thought, isn't searching for some excuse to pick apart the puzzle, it's doing the job he set out to do when he started this blog.

Mike C. 10:05 AM  

@Pete (or should we call you Rex?): The average Joanne is very important to me.

It's fine to be an "expert" and to notice and comment that a theme has been done before, and to even find such instances and compare puzzles. To imply that this is some kind of important failure, or worse, "plagiarism," is absurd, and in your words, "petty and vindictive."

Anonymous 10:15 AM  

As has been pointed out by many, I think the clue for BRAVADO is just wrong. I agree with M-W that BRAVADO is "confident or brave talk or behavior that is intended to impress other people," and NOT and "impressive show of courage."

Laurence Katz 10:17 AM  

Sorry, Rex. Criticizing a constructor for offering an entertaining variation of a theme she used seven years ago is unfair. And your suggestion that this is "semi-plagirized" implies that it would be better puzzle if submitted by a different constructor, which is nonsense. You simply should admit that the theme felt "done to death" to you, but your search proved you were wrong. Instead you have proven your critics right by straining to find a reason to knock this puzzle. Lighten up, dude.

Nancy 10:18 AM  

Didn't expect everyone to like this as much as they did. I found it a bit of a yawn. Tried to amuse myself by guessing at the theme answers without reading the clues, based on a few letters. For 3 of the 4 answers, I got the verb, once I had the person. For BACON STRIPS, I got the whole answer without reading the clue. Then I guessed at the wording of the clue. My clue would have been: "British writer bares all." Their clue was: "Philosopher removes his clothes." Close enough. Anyway, hope tomorrow is harder.

kitshef 10:20 AM  

Nice Tuesday puzzle. Only complaint is that ROCKGARDENS uses the second part of the answer with the same meaning as in the clue, where all the others use a different meaning (voyages/stumbles, removes clothes/narrow bits, etc.)

Gemsbok before GAZELLE. Since the day I thought I had spotted a personal trend in all my overwrites being on across clues, things have completely reversed. All my overwrites yesterday and today on downs.

Some nice long downs today: OBELISK, MANATEE, ABALONE, GAZELLE (mini-nature theme going on with three of those plus RATS, TAZ, PAW, ANTS, PIG).

Carola 10:29 AM  

Liked it a lot - I thought the verbs-to-nouns switch was clever and, like @joho, found the pairings witty. So many other fine ANSWERS, too: GAZELLE, OBELISK, BRAVADO, ACROBAT, ABALONE, SNIPPETS...

I liked LOSER over POUNDS and the bouncy array of rhymes: STRIPS-TRIPS, JAR-BAR, SCOT-HOT, GABS-ABS, PAW-LAW.
@loren, I"m always looking for eye rhymes now, too. Besides LOSER-POSER, I noticed AMOI-NOI.

Loren Muse Smith 10:38 AM  

@Jamie C- thanks for noticing! I was thinking more along the lines of "Vocalist signs in, gets hotel room key?"

Jamie C. 10:40 AM  

As usual @ LMS, yours is better. Sticks with the noun to verb theme. I bow to your greater intellect.

Nancy 10:46 AM  

@Lucy (9:21) You asked for feedback, and here it is: You might want to call it "The Feedback of a Luddite."

Although some of my best friends solve on gadgets, the few times I have tried to solve on my computer made me want to tear out my hair. The only reason I made the attempts was that these were puzzles, enthusiastically recommended by people on this blog, were only available online. Most of the recommendations were unavailable to me anyway, because I didn't have PDF, whatever the hell THAT is. But a few were available -- that is, when I typed in a letter, the letter actually appeared on the puzzle. (Miracle of miracles.) But then the woes began...

I COULDN'T SEE THE ENTIRE GRID, PLUS ALL THE CLUES, AT THE SAME TIME. What an enormous handicap not to be able to see all of it simultaneously. I had to scroll up and down and up and down and back and forth just to enter 2 or 3 bleeping answers. I wanted to scream with frustration: "How the bloody hell can I be expected to do this puzzle under such absolutely ridiculous constrictions?" And I stopped. Just like that. (Sound of fingers snapping.) Because the greatest puzzle in the world, done under these circumstances, is a punishment. And that's my feedback, @Lucy. Pen and paper every time. A happier way of life. Sincerely, yr Luddite friend, Nancy.

Anonymous 10:55 AM  

@NtL (Nancy the Luddite)--or you could hit F11 and go full screen. Grid and clues will magically appear at the same time. Also, fast solvers on computers use arrow and tab keys, not mouses.

Malsdemare 10:57 AM  

@Lucy, I solve the NYT xword on my iPad and I think I'm a tad slower than I am when I do (other) crosswords on paper. I can't get the NYT delivered here in the boonies so a direct comparison isn't possible.

But I don't care about my time, just the mental gymnastics. I enjoyed today's puzzle; it was perfect for Tuesday and I agree with @NCA President. However, it's Rex's blog and he gets to do whatever he wants.

Whoever wrote about his western Wisconsin neighbor: the addition of the stars and bars to the pickup AFTER last week is a gut punch. But I agree; it gives us a headsup. Back when I taught at a junior collge, I drove onto campus one evening and parked next to a truck with the following bumper sticker: Cash, grass, or ass; nobody rides for free. I was deeply hoping the jerk had something similar on his T-shirt so I'd recognize him if he were in my class. It was alarming and a little frightening to think he might be one of my students. (And, yes, I recognize that it was the jerk's truck and HE could - and did - do whatever he wanted.)

Illinois has had nine inches of rain this month. The mosquitos are the size of hummingbirds, we have to mow every other day, but the tomatoes, peaches, blackberries, pears, and herbs are spectacular. Last night, my scaredy-cat 90 pound malamute got himself stuck in the woods at 2am and we had to go rescue him; he didn't want to leave his secure den to cross the open space to the house! See avatar.

Malsdemare 10:59 AM  

Junior college

old timer 11:00 AM  

Slightly harder than usual Tuesday for me, and the reason is all those themers Across were vaguely clued. Which, actually, made it a far better puzzle because when I got POUNDSIGNS and BACONSTRIPS and the rest, I was amused every time.

I too have seen similar conceits, and usually the resulting puzzle was quite Lame. This was not Lame at all, and one *could* take the "don't plagiarize yourself" remark as, "You know, this was a pretty good puzzle, which shows me if you came up with a brand-new theme, you could create an excellent puzzle."

Only @Rex reserves his effusive praise for only a handful of constructors. With the others, a backhanded compliment is the best you can expect. Just as if you go to work for a Frenchman (or woman) the highest possible praise for your efforts is "pas mal".

Anonymous 11:07 AM  

@malsdemare: I would love to see your mosquito-mower!

Nancy 11:17 AM  

@Anon 10:55. Thanks. I'll give it a try the next time someone here recommends an online puzzle. Maybe you've opened up a whole nother world for me!
Appreciatively, NtL

Anonymous 11:20 AM  

@Nancy, as always, happy to open your nother regions.

pheeps 11:22 AM  

Fun, slightly challenging Tuesday.

Can someone explain what the single, red, seemingly randomly placed square is about? Haven't been able to figure this out.

Masked and Anonymous 11:23 AM  

Nice 7-stacks in NE and SW. Nice almost-7-stacks in the NW and SE.
GAZELLE down the middle, bounding thru 3 themers, is kinda elegant, somehow.
I really like this TuesPuz.

Like for @muse, it just sorta tugs at the M&A, to dream up more themers. Brit comedian Russell crosses stuff out? Comedian Martin crosses his wires? Actress Nastassja springs?? (partial qualifier)*

fave AR- word: ARRS.
fave weeject: RAO. = {Rewor's equipment??}.
fave U-ser: aUf.

Masked and AnonymoUUs



mathguy 11:23 AM  

@pmdm: What a beautiful rebuttal to Rex's criticism. Bravo!

I often don't get the posts here. Someone (I looked back, but couldn't find it) referred to Rex's comment about BRAVADO. I just reread Rex and he doesn't mention BRAVADO.

The Washington Monument never fails to take my breath away. Even on TV, where it appears often. It's a staple on House of Cards. I don't know of many of the obelisks mentioned here. I'll look them up. I'm guessing that TWM is the tallest.

Bill Butler's blog seldom has celebrity gossip, but today he mentions that Josh Groban dated January Jones for three years. It strikes me as similar to the Marilyn Monroe-Arthur Miller pairing.

@Nancy: I agree with your evaluation of today's puzzle and your feeling about solving online. I solved online a couple of months ago when we were on vacation and I couldn't get the printer at the hotel to work.


Anonymous 11:26 AM  

Hey @ pheeps: see rex's FAQ's. Somebody asks this every month or so, so he made the answer readily available on his blog.

Z 11:28 AM  

Hmm, @Porker and @Alicia Stetson - I believe you are extremely off base. Start here and use the google to find more on the gender gap in xword construction (Rex has not been quiet on the issue) then get back to us. I'd encourage you to go back to early Rex and read a year or two worth of posts and comments, too. Recognize, though, that this discussion is a little old. I haven't noted a huge change in NYTX since this was a hot topic, but it would take some time.

Regarding Rex "only finding one example," I get the feeling that some think Rex spent a large amount of time on his research. I read a description of 2-5 minutes of work done before bed, not an exhaustive hours long search in the depths of the internet.

My issue with today's post is different and two-fold: I think Rex is applying academic standards to xwords which is not a fair standard and I'm not sure what he means by "this basic concept." Does he mean just "noun to celebrity name?" It does seem like the NYT just ran something like that recently but I can't come up with an easy way to search for it. Or does he mean noun/verb inversion? That's like going to Comerica and complaining that they're using mitts to play baseball.

@grammar nazi - You caught me. I obviously meant "allow's." Did you read my earlier link? (not that this was that. Typos happen)

AZPETE 11:32 AM  

A common '60s expression. Why the angst? Doesn't equate with the "stars 'n bars" with me.

mac 12:09 PM  

Fine Tuesday, I needed some crosses to figure out who was meant in the theme answers, but they
all were fair.

@Loren: perfect description of the difference between bravado and bravery!

I have to admit I love Josh Groban's voice, although I can't stand most of his songs....

Gerry Kahle 12:23 PM  

There is a major error in this puzzle. The "cable inits for film buffs" is TCM, not TMC. The only TMC I could find is a Spanish language station.

Anonymous 12:28 PM  

@Gerry--thank you--I noticed this too and forgot to comment on it.

AliasZ 12:31 PM  

@Gerry Kahle and Anon @12:28

TMC = The Movie Channel
TCM = Turner Classic Movies

No error.

r.alphbunker 1:04 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
cwf 1:15 PM  

I thought this was pretty snappy.

@Whirred: I like to annoy them by calling it an octathorpe.

r.alphbunker 1:20 PM  

FWIW, the grid pattern of today's puzzle has been used exactly once before during the Shortz era ... by Susan Gelfand

Gelfand: 5/15/2012

Repeating grid patterns are relatively rare. 7,053 of the 8,211 puzzles published during the Shortz era have had unique grid patterns. This is surprising to me and makes me wonder how many symmetric patterns are possible in a 15x15 puzzle.

Masked and Anonymous 1:45 PM  

@r.alph: Cool question! Probably around 10 to the 36th power combinations. Subtract one, if U would prefer not having a completely blacked-out grid, tho.


grammar nazi 1:59 PM  

@Z: I am glad your use of the language has improved to the point that you can use apostrophes whenever and wherever you please.
Would be great if you could respond with your fifth comment of the day.

mathguy 2:19 PM  

@r.alphbunker: I'll take a crack at calculating the number of symmetric grids. By symmetric I presume that you mean both vertically and horizontally. I'm also surprised that such a high ratio of grids have been unique.

I did a little research on obelisks. Wikipedia has an excellent article. The Washington Monument is the world's tallest obelisk depending on how you define it. A few inches more than 555 feet. The one in the puzzle, Bunker Hill, is only about 221 feet. Some people claim that the San Jacinto monument near Houston is the tallest. It was completed in 1939 to commemorate the Battle of San Jacinto, the decisive battle of The Texas Revolution. It's 567 feet from the ground to the top of the Texas star which sits at its top. But that counts the base which contains some rooms. The obelisk itself is 552 feet. Also it isn't like the original Egyptian and Roman obelisks which were four-sided. The San Jacinto is octagonal, they say. Although the pictures don't look that way.

r.alphbunker 2:20 PM  

You bring up an interesting point in your usual creative, humorous way. Some grids that are combinatorially possible may not be possible to achieve semantically. For example a 15x15 grid with exactly one black square in the middle is probably not doable.

To avoid this let me restate the problem. How many 15x15 grids are possible using between 17 and 56 black squares (inclusive) where all letters are checked and there are no one or two letter answers.

I chose 17 and 56 as limits because those are the fewest and most number of black squares in a 15 x 15 puzzle published during the Shortz era. Curiously Joe Krozel has published puzzles with both of these counts.
Joe Krozel 17 blocks
Joe Krozel (56 blocks)

mathguy 2:39 PM  

@r.alphbunker: Using your conditions, it's a tough problem in combinatorics, but I'll work on it. You don't mention what kind of symmetry were talking about. Today's grid isn't symmetric either vertically or horizontally, but it is symmetric about the center point.

Hartley70 2:49 PM  

@Lucy, I've been solving on my iphone since I got here and I really like it. Portability is great, obviously, and the little light lets me type away at night without disturbing anyone. Of course it effects my time because the little letters are so small and my finger tip so big that I make errors that need to be corrected as I go along. Autocheck made it worse so that's off. I tried my iPad and it took me longer than the phone because the set up of the app was distracting. I've never wanted to solve sitting at a computer though touch typing would be so much quicker. Paper was nice, but the extra speed isn't worth the convenience factor for me. I hope that helps.

JFC 3:12 PM  

@Z, Thanks for the tip yesterday.

@Chefwen, while Fantasy Football will help fill the void, I have to behave myself with the grandkids. This Blog is losing steam. Anons are no longer anonymice and Evil Doug has a new gig and can no longer call Acme names. AliasZ has given it refinement and Leapy new wit. Pretty soon this will be just like Wordplay.

It will be fun to see if the Pack is back or whether that crushing loss will end their North Division dynasty. What they have going for them is how bad the other teams in the North are. The Bears will be another .500 team, at best. Only one month to go before pre-season!!!


Billy C 3:14 PM  

@Mr. Nazi--

Re: "Would be great if you could ..."

Would be great if you could use a subject in your sentences. ;-)

Leapfinger 3:19 PM  

@Z, seventeen years in Canada and never heard any say 'I'm done my homework'; nine years in New Haven and "I'm-a done my homework' alla da time. [I read 'this' also.]

@AlasZ [sic, per @NYer], fool me twice! Yesterday, I thought surely we'd get Massenet's The SORROWS of Young Werther; today, given the incomparable Leontyne P, I was betting on Ariadne AUF Naxos -- regardless of what @GBaranyi calls it. You sure know how to keep a lady (ahem) guessing.

This is the kind of puzzle I'm happy to have the time/ guts/ HOTS for. It was only disCRETE to not have had dat POC be 'the balls'. A smooth little theme which felt not at all repetitious, and A MOI (ie, TO ME), it's worth doing something enjoyable over and over again.

I admit before all and sundry, however, that occasionally I still have to stop and sort out which is the OBELISK and which the Odalisque.

My only other observation is that, if there's a LAW about not seething a kid in its mother's milk, there oughta be some kind of humane injunction against a grid setting a PIG near to BACONSTRIPS.

Remember, if you GAZE LLEong into the ABBEYS, the ABBEYS will lleook back at you.

Thankee, Susan G. Hope you're firing up the sequins.

Lucy 4:12 PM  

Thanks to those who responded re: what device you use to solve the puzzles. I probably will vary between the phone and the computer. Appreciate the feedback.

pmdm 4:43 PM  

Thank you very much, Mathguy.

r.alphbunker 4:51 PM  

I hoped you would get interested in this. Why not solve a simple case first? Perhaps how many 7 x 7 grids and then combine them.

Anonymous 5:24 PM  


I'm thinking that would be a high proportion, rather than a high ratio, of unique grids.

Sometimes math doesn't ADAPT to language entirely EASELy.

Aketi 5:54 PM  

@ Lewis, loved your factoid today. My brother is a firefighter and that seems like the type of thing he would do. He once won the contest during a training for arson detection. They all had to set fire to a building and then the others had to figure out how it was set. He used a big bag of potato chips and it was undetectable. No one figured out how he set the fire.

grammar nazi 6:14 PM  

@Billy C,
Sometimes a sentence can have an implied subject. Happens all the time.

AnonyMunchkin 6:21 PM  

Hah! The bag of potato chips trick was once used in an episode of Criminal Minds, if I remember correctly. Further evidence that television isn't entirely worthless.

jae 7:13 PM  

@Lucy - Several years ago Rex temporarily switched from solving on line to paper and pencil to prepare for the ACPT. He commented then that his times were more than a minute slower on paper. If you are reasonably proficient with an iPad I suspect paper would also be slower. No idea about a phone solve but I find texting annoying.

@Z - Every now and then I read something that is off just enough to motivate me to comment. The nice thing is that in almost every case you address it before I have a chance to get to it. You did it again today. Thanks.

Teedmn 7:55 PM  

@Z, thanks for the link. I've never heard any of the examples except for the Dramatic So, which seems really common. (Which means I've used it myself :-) ).

I liked this puzzle a lot. I consider "this type" of puzzle (common phrases twisted into puns) to be very common, just like rebus puzzles or puzzles whose theme entries have the vowels change or the sounds change or use alliteration, or whatever. For me, if it is done well, that's all that counts. And the image evoked by PRICE TAGS was worth a laugh for me today.

@M&A, Short Shorts, har!

I'm trying to figure out why the autocorrect hates apostrophes. When I write something using 's, autocorrect almost always adds a space between my ' and the s and adds the s to the next word, possibly adding other letters to make a real word which then makes no grammatical sense. For example, I had "that's all". Behind my back, autocorrect changed it to "that' small". Sneaky thing, no wonder we're all prone to typos, it's not our fault!!

Thanks, Susan Gelfand, for a great Tuesday.

Billy C 8:02 PM  

Mr. Nazi --

Heh, heh ... "Happens all the time."

So does a lot of informal posts here for which you have ZERO tolerance.

Your pal, Billy

Big Steve 8:43 PM  

@Loren Muse Smith
I think it's polite if one poses some questions, to also show answers.
Can you confirm or give answers, please.

"Actor Harrison shows off his muscle?" REX FLEXES
"Actress Sharon matures?" STONE AGES
"Musician Axl gets two strikes and a spare?" ROSE BOWLS
"Actor Tom sends packages?" HANKS?? SHIPS/MAILS
"Musician Taylor dances with the Rockettes?" SWIFT KICKS

BTW, I had Betamax at first. This is a case study in marketing over engineering.
It's studied in many B-schools.
While the Betamax may have been a better quality, VHS came out with 1-hr. + tapes to record TV shows. Also, Sony kept the Betamax, while VHS was licensed to many manufacturers.

We had the first machines in the country, as my father worked for a major TV manufacturer.
So for a couple of years in high school, video nights of all manner were a popular attraction.

Thanks. -- Big Steve

Anonymous 8:48 PM  

@Billy C..."
So DO a lot of informal posts...." In other words, a lot of informal posts DO happen all the time.

--grammer nazi's friend

Loren Muse Smith 8:50 PM  

Hey, @Big Steve. Sorry. I shoulda given the answers. FORD FLEXES and CRUISE SHIPS. The others you got.

Tita 10:04 PM  

So little love for Playland??
I spent many many summer days there as a kid, teen, and college kid.
Winters too, skating at the rink.

My favorite was, and still is, Derby Racer - a high speed merry-go-round.
I always pick a horse on the outside, because, of course, they go the fastest!

Operating since Playland opened in 1928, and hand-carved.
Bring me some cotton candy, please, @Ryan!!

Thanks for the memory, Ms. Gelfand, and for a solve that made it fun to guess each themer.

Jamie C. 11:40 PM  

@ Billy C,
Just when I thought you had embarrassed yourself as much as you possibly could on this board, you took it to the next level. As far as I know, language has not evolved to the point that a verb does not have to agree with its subject. Your comment is especially pathetic in the context of trying to outdo a someone who obviously knows grammar.

Elephant's Child 6:55 AM  

Anyone else suspect that @Billy C and @Jamie C. are related by marriage?

Billy 9:17 AM  

@anon8:48 ("Grammar Nazi's Friend"), et. al. --

Sorry, but the entire context was: "Sorry, but so DOES {your response to} a lot of informal posts..."

In which @GN unfailingly issues a correction.

Obviously from the context I was referring to his (implied) response to EVERY post, not the referred posts themselves.

Read the context, friends. The content thereof makes the grammar clear ... and correct. ;-)

spacecraft 12:01 PM  

This one was...okay. I mean, all the ANSWERS are right there, save GROBAN and BAO for which I needed every cross. The theme is...fine. Not scintillating, but fine. The fill is...well, you can guess. C.

Burma Shave 12:12 PM  


ABBEYS got the HOTS for me on FIELDTRIPS from school,
she’s a GAZELLE and an ACROBAT, that IMP is a jewel,
and she ANSWERS with BRAVADO and no FUSS (she’s so cool),
when I say, “The PRICETAGS still nothing to SLO WAX my TOOL.”


today’s stream of unconsciousness sponsored by ICY COORS

rondo 2:25 PM  

BRAVery and BETAmAx made a mess of the SW for a while, but that was it for write-overs.

Going to play golf? Give that MANATEE.

Really sad to say that I knew GROBAN. Had a date once who thought he was the bee's knees. Yes, that bad. Or at least that bland.

Think I might head to the BAR for a COORS, ICY cold. Or a shot of RYE?

OBELISK, ROD TOOL. Really Ms. Gelfand, TSK.

Another puz by a lady and no yeah baby in it. But it has the "adorable" Mr. GROBAN. Now I WAX pathetic. Tomorrow I'll try again.

DMG 3:47 PM  

Fun puzzle. Had to replace Tut with TSK, and my doctor had to replace his Degree with his DIPLOMA, Otherwise smooth sailing.

On a side note, my iPad now, annoyingly, flashes some kind of hint words at the top of the keyboard as I type. Unbelieveably, when Imwrote
doctor had to replace", the suggested words were "own first wife"! I think the spooks are tunning the joint!

rondo 4:54 PM  

BTW - just banged out the July Harper's Puzzle. That was 3-1/2 hours of solid work.

rondo 10:54 AM  

@Syndi-solvers - go to the June 9 puzzle for the one with the horses

Cathy 4:18 PM  

Very pleasant puzzle. I would have liked if Vincent Price were the tagger though.

Went by to fast.

I'm thinkin bout July Harpers Puzzle. Hmmmm, laundry or new puzzle......

Thanks @Rondo!

I'm AUF!!

Ginger 4:46 PM  

Thank You @rondo With the Syndi-linc unlinked, it's a pain to find the correct puzzle, and a double pain when the 'right one' isn't.

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