Verdi aria for baritone / WED 7-15-15 / Some Deco illustrations / First name in Jellystone Park / Mythical predator of elephants

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Constructor: Bruce Haight

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium


THEME: TOP / ROW (10A: With 66-Across, place on a keyboard to find all the letters in 16-, 28-, 46- and 60-Across) — all the theme answers contain only letters found on the TOP / ROW of a standard US keyboard:

Theme answers:
  • REPERTOIRE (16A: Everything you can perform)
  • PROPRIETOR (28A: Business owner)
  • PERPETUITY (46A: Time without end)
  • TYPEWRITER (60A: Apt example of this puzzle's theme) 
Word of the Day: "ERI TU" (42A: Verdi aria for a baritone) —


• • •
Fascinating! ... is something I didn't say upon figuring out the theme. I don't get how this even qualifies as a theme. Also, your theme is TOP / ROW and your themers don't even touch the "Q"? Yet you Scrabble-f**k like a maniac in the SW?! No. Hard no. God those themers are boring. Not as boring as the fill, but boring. And the fill—look, I'm just gonna direct you to the SE corner (ATTA ERTES ERST all huddling together for warmth in a tiny little hut...) and leave it at that. Hard. No. The concept here is so thin and the fill so poor that I think we have real cause to worry about future mid-week puzzles. If *this* is passing muster ... yeah, we're in trouble. TYPEWRITER—that is what this whole puzzle hangs on. That is the one winning element of the theme: all its letters are in the TOP / ROW of the keyboard that the TYPEWRITER itself possesses. Nice. But we've gone from the low bar of "if the theme's OK, who cares, good enough" to the lower bar of "if the revealer alone is OK, who cares, good enough." Should've been sent back with the note: "Love the revealer. But you need to do something more interesting and bold with the theme as a whole. Revise and resubmit. Love, person doing his job."


Here's what's good: OPEN MIC! CAMERA CREW! EYESORES sort of! That's about it

Here's what's not (with exclamation points, for added irony):
  • Verdi aria!
  • Suffix and prefix!
  • Cinematic beekeeper of yore!
  • Abbrs!
  • 4-letter European river!
  • Whatever ATTA is!
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

123 comments:

JFC 12:06 AM  

I read Rex and all I can say is, WOW!

Except I liked it. Even without QWERTY.

JFC

Steve J 12:13 AM  

Well, at least it wasn't as horrible as the eight-letter stunt puzzle the same constructor put out a few months back.

wreck 12:13 AM  

Puzzle of the week? No, but it wasn't nearly deserving of the vitriol from Rex. Pretty average Wednesday puzzle in my books - I tended to like it much more than not.

Anonymous 12:22 AM  

I know Amy and Rex are doing their best to get Will Shortz fired but I'm wondering if that's the general consensus among the other top constructors. I liked the puzzle but I'm not a constructor.

Moly Shu 12:44 AM  

Finished and thought 'oh boy, @Rex is gonna hate this one' glad he didn't disappoint. EATcrow before DIRT which gave me DO I cARE. Which seemed appropriate when I was done. The answer, maybe a little bit. It was OK to me, not the worst I've ever done, certainly. The one thing I did like was learning that ROCs preyed on elephants. That's something I'd like to see.

Anonymous 12:45 AM  

"Love, person doing his job."

SLAM!

-Brennan,

Matt Gaffney 12:46 AM  

@Anon 12:22

I would give this a D as a letter grade because:

1) The wordplay in the theme has been known for decades.
2) The TOP/ROW revealer is awkwardly placed. 1-A and the last entry across would be better, or just TOPROW as one entry on the bottom row, which would've added a little ironic humor.
3) The fill is unnecessarily bad. Just four 10-letter theme entries plus the two three-letter revealers, but ERST ERTES and ATTA in one 4x5 block? That was subpar fill in 1995, but in 2015 it's just not acceptable with no serious theme constraints. Also SERE, ULEE, EDER (why not EDEN there?), UTE, ELEV, ROC, TIA, ERITU, APO, ASST., MER, OSE -- no need for any of this, much less all of it.
4)As Rex mentioned, not hitting the Q of the TOP ROW is a big blot. ETIQUETTE would've been a nice 9, easily balanced out with another 9.

--Matt Gaffney

Whirred Whacks 12:52 AM  

@Steve J That was April 14, 2014 and it was voted the top puzzle of April. You loved it! It used only the letters: E I G H T A R S

BTW: Rex's silly writeup yesterday over the clue and answer for MALE EGO got picked up in Ann Althouse's blog.

Anoa Bob 12:53 AM  

Having four vowels up there makes the TOP ROW the easiest to use for this sort of theme. Don't expect to see a BOTTOM ROW puzzle anytime soon.

The letters in the reveal TOP ROW are also in the top row, as are those in UTE & ERITU (41 & 42 Across).

The highest frequency letter from the second row? In most standard texts that would be "A", but in xword grids, it's often "S", as is the case today. It is typically appended to a base word to boost its letter count, get-the-grid-filled power, i.e., to make a plural of convenience (POC). For a real S-fest, check out yesterday's East and South East sections.

MDMA 12:56 AM  

Missing fifth themer: pepperwort! Rex complains about no themer with Q, but there aren't any 10-letter words that fit the bill. You'd have to drop to nine letters and go with etiquette, pirouette, potpourri, propriety, prototype, puppeteer, repertory, territory, typewrite. And that's unsatisfactory because the canonical and well-known TYPEWRITER is 10 letters. And for what it's worth, there are no suitable words at all with 11 or more letters.

Jeff Chen at xwordinfo.com suggests "Might have been really cool to make the first themer from all keys in the top row, the middle themer from all keys in the middle row, and the final one from the bottom row." Did he look at his keyboard? Second keyboard row has slim pickings, "alfalfa" is about the best you can do. After that, only five-letter entries like flash, flask, glass, salad, salsa, slash. And the third row has no vowels! No words at all.

Bottom line, constructor made the right choices, and both Rex and Jeff Chen didn't think it through.

Moly Shu 1:03 AM  

@MGaffney EDER because that's where he put the ROW. Now if he'd have just taken your ironic humor suggestion, then EDEn works. Thanks very much for the post. Informative and well put (and not full of anti-Shortz-isms). It's nice to have a glimpse inside the mind of a constructor.

Matt Gaffney 1:08 AM  

@Moly Shu -- D'oh! on EDER/N.

@MDMA -- yes it's a choice between leaving the Q out and going with 9/9/10/10 theme entries vs. the superior four 10's. Neither way is ideal, unfortunately.

Who can think of a nine-letter, two-word band name using only letters in the top row?

Moly Shu 1:12 AM  

Cum on feel the noise ???

Charles in Austin 1:13 AM  


Another completely sick rant from a tortured soul who could be a character straight out of Dostoevsky ... were he not so tedious and boring.

Rex is consumed with hatred and envy, and would obviously love to have Will's job. I pray, pray, pray that he never, ever gets it.

Probably every constructor who piles on with Rex would to some degree or another like to have Will's job. But the constructors out there don't speak for all of us.



MDMA 1:16 AM  

@Matt Gaffney,

You and Rex both want a Q ("etiquette"), yet at the same time you both complain about the bad short fill. But bad fill happens when a constructor is constrained by highly specific themers... and now you want to exacerbate that by going Scrabbly with a Q thrown into the mix?

You're asking for a contradiction.

Matt Gaffney 1:16 AM  

@Moly yup!

@Charles -- Not me. I much prefer writing crosswords to editing them.

Matt Gaffney 1:26 AM  

@MDMA

That the theme entries are four specific words isn't what constrains the fill, unless they're crazy Scrabbly like RAZZMATAZZ, FUZZY-WUZZY, stuff like that. That's not the case here, though.

The important point is that there are only four of them and they're ten letters long, plus the two mini-revealers. That's 46 theme squares, which isn't a lot -- and certainly nowhere near enough to necessitate this fill.

After I finish a grid, I take out a pad and write down every piece of fill that's suboptimal; there are usually three or four, and I try to work as many of them out as I can.

On this grid I would have flagged 16, which are ERST ERTES ATTA SERE ULEE EDER UTE ELEV ROC TIA ERITU APO ASST MER OSE DECI. That's a huge amount of dreck.

Another good way to handle this theme idea would've been to put the four 10's in a pinwheel pattern in the grid instead of all horizontal, because the way it is now there are two fill entries (CAMERA CREW and TELLS TALES) that are the same length as the theme entries (10 letters), which is inelegant. And then TOP and ROW could have crossed in the center square of the grid as the revealer.

Music man 1:33 AM  

Or maybe the constructor should've scratched this "theme" idea long before

Matt Gaffney 1:34 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
jae 1:37 AM  

Easy Wed. for me.   Almost liked it, until I didn't.  Sometimes ignorance is... 

Nice long downs though.

Attention BEQ fans:  Guess who's in the Sun. Boston Globe puzzle rotation?

jae 1:41 AM  

@Moly - did auto correct get you on noize?

Music man 1:44 AM  

Just because something sounds fun in your head, that doesn't mean it will work. Once you realize there are no available words with Q, done, that's that, fun idea, but it simply doesn't work. I wrote in all caps above my printed puzzle. WHERE'S THE Q?!?!? I didn't even like the revealer, unlike rex, which I'm honestly surprised he liked it. TYPEWRITER, okay, who cares.

Besides that terrible, terrible flaw, I actually had a good solving experience. Liked DO I DARE, OPEN MIC, DID UP(yes I liked that lol), had EAT crow for a bit, and....embarrassingly had to run the alphabet to get the U in SUITE. Just, embarrassing, a [classical] music clue (though mostly baroque, you know what i mean though)

TFTF

chefwen 2:45 AM  

After reading the comments so far, think I'm going to sit this one out.

I'm giving this one a MEH which is a terminology I hate, but it fits today. Better luck tomorrow.

JTHurst 4:35 AM  

@Moly I believe in the illustrated book of a "Thousand and One Nights" had a depiction of a Roc flying off with an elephant in his claws. Also I had "Do I care" and "Eat Crow".

Why is it so hard to give up on an answer you have thought was right even though you know 60a answer must be typewriter

allan 6:00 AM  

I don't always agree with @rex, but I appreciate the fact he's trying to get this puzzle back to respectability. Shortz is a horrible puzzle editor. Early on Anon 2:22 asked what other constructors thought. @Matt Gaffney responded in kind to what @rex said. Yet there are those who feel he has some kind of vendetta towards Shortz. I sometimes wish Rex liked a puzzle better than he did, but after reading the blog I get his point. And the BOTTOM LINE is that it's an opinion. As a retired educator, I learned early on that opinions are just that. They are not right or wrong. I hope @rex keeps up the good fight.

WWSR

Z 6:01 AM  

Meh. I will put this in the "meant for people with different tastes than me" category. Besides, isn't the TOP ROW symbols and numbers on a typewriter?

jberg 6:19 AM  

It has all been said.

evil doug 7:36 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
NCA President 7:54 AM  

I could be wrong here but when you humiliate yourself you are made to eat crow, when someone humiliates you they make you eat dirt. So I'm calling shenanigans on the clue for EATDIRT.

And maybe it's just me, but Rex's sign off ("Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld) used to be read as tongue in cheek...it's now taking on new "off with their heads!" meaning. Power corrupts, but absolute power corrupts absolutely. I know Rex has mentioned he consults with others occasionally, and I've heard he has ceased to read the comments section here...but somewhere he needs to come back to reality or at least some perspective. He might as well just write, "This Puzzle Sucks. Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld." for every puzzle from now until the time WS leaves the NYT. It's automatic.

Hey, I'm as critical as the next guy and I sometimes find Jeff Chen being way too nice about a puzzle, but it feels like Rex isn't even trying any more. I only read the blog because I believe that's the price one must pay to post here.

I judge puzzles now by the amount of groaning I feel with clues/answers. There was little groaning today...so...it was at least an okay puzzle. I wasn't bothered by the lack of a Q. I mean seriously...there is no BFHJKQ or Z either. Are we criticizing puzzles based on what they don't have now? Because if those letters were included Rex would have accused BH of scrabble-f**king...oh wait, he did that anyway.

Sigh.

AliasZ 7:55 AM  


What is everyone talking about? The TOP ROW on my TYPEWRITER has 1234567890-=. Plus of course, SHIFT !@#$%^&*()_+. Is everyone else's different?

Tempest in a teapot.

I still vividly remember another keyboard-related theme a few years ago. In that one ALL the entries are typed with only the left hand by a touch typist. I remember how surprising and refreshing it was to discover that the theme relied on the mechanical aspects of typing rather than the meaning of the typed words. Another was one in which the only vowel was O. Such trick puzzles stick in my mind because they are out of the ordinary. You expect wordplay or tribute or some such based on the meanings or sounds of words, instead you get keyboard play. I consider such themes a welcome diversion from the ordinary.

I liked this puzzle like white on rice. True, some of the fill was unnecessarily poor, but I still liked it.

It would have been so much neater if all non-theme squares only used letters NOT in the TOP ROW. As it is, ERI TU, UTE, PEER, POOR, OREO, OPT OUT, TERP and YEOW were also TOP ROW-only entries, some of them not even near a theme square, thus diluting the theme somewhat. I wonder if it's even possible with A as the only vowel left, but would've been worth a try.

The sound of a TYPEWRITER is music to my ears.

chefbea 7:57 AM  

I liked the puzzle!! Found it easy and fun. Nary a thing to complain about.

The Rhino 8:14 AM  

We're moving in less than two weeks which makes me anxious. Because I am already anxious, it is extra-hard for me when things don't go my way. Because it is extra hard for me when things don't go my way, I became unreasonably angry when I had to cheat to solve a Wednesday puzzle. Because I was unreasonably angry when I read Rex's review, his word 'easy' made me lose track of reality and I found myself floating in a rage-bubble outside of time and physical space.

Dshawmaine 8:17 AM  

Interesting conversation, and I agree that Rex's critique seemed excessively bitter today, even for him. Did not realize Shortz was so loathed by the xword elite, if that is indeed the case. I liked the theme, and disagree that SERE is dreck - evokes Macbeth, what's not to like?

joho 8:17 AM  

The puzzle wasn't nearly as predictable or boring as Rex's write up.

I would like to thank Bruce Haight for his thought, time and effort he put into creating this puzzle and also Will Shortz for the millions of hours he's devoted to editing the NYT crossword. He's been at it for a very long time and still is able to see a fresh idea with fresh eyes. Remarkable.

Rex Porker 8:19 AM  

It's like I'm not even needed anymore. I have become such a caricature of myself that, rather than enjoy a reasonable (if not stellar) Wednesday puzzle, all you can think about while completing it is how vehement and VENOMous my rant is likely to be. "I think we have real cause to worry about future mid-week puzzles" implies that I have been pleased with late-week and Sunday puzzles as of late. False. I have not been pleased with ANY puzzle as of late (except, of course, Patrick Berry's mediocre effort). I have not been pleased with my life. Or yours. I hear children singing and I plug my ears. I see pretty flowers and I pour Round Up on them. I go to baseball games and heckle the players. I go to museums and cry over lost ARTISTRY.

I see pretty things and I must destroy them, for if I, the King of Crossworld, cannot be happy, then you shouldn't be happy either.

Loren Muse Smith 8:25 AM  

"…if the revealer alone is OK, who cares, good enough." Man, oh man, I struggle on mornings when I'm exactly the person Rex is talking about. Sheesh. FWIW, Rex's negative comments about puzzles don't turn me off; they're helping me go back and see, appreciate, exactly the issues that are problematic. The thing is - despite the warts, I always I enjoy any given puzzle and theme and am grateful that we have, what, around 260 themed puzzles every year? That's a huge number of theme ideas; sometimes I almost panic that the theme well will run dry, and we'll have to have only themelesses.

I hesitate to use a food metaphor. But I kinda see it like sometimes we get an elegant, perfectly-balanced Berry tart and sometimes we get instant chocolate jello pudding. I enjoy every bite of that pudding, too, and usually slink back and grab a second and third helping that I eat standing over the sink.

Yes – the themers here aren't sparkling, but the fact that they all use only the top row and have TOP ROW and TYPEWRITER as themer/revealers was, for me, cool. And I like the word PERPETUITY. I agree with @Matt, though, that ETIQUETTE and another nine would have been better and flipping the positions of TOP and ROW would've made more sense.

I liked the clue for SUITE and it had me staring off. Office suite, Nutcracker Suite, hotel suite, bedroom suite (that we always pronounced like suit). So then I wonder about suit. If you're DID UP in a suit, your outfit is a "multipart composition." I'm not going to research to see if they're related.

One more thought - you could call a box of chocolates a SWEETS SUITE.

I was fouled by YAO. YEOW!

I, too, liked DO I DARE, especially crossing EAT DIRT. When I was a kid, I ate an entire ROCk from JoAnn H's driveway – and it was not a dare or anything. I just did it. Chewed it up and swallowed it. Because it was there. Just one of the many things I dared to ingest when I was an idiot rough-and-tumble kid. Dog biscuits, soap, flowers, leaves (Sweet Gum leaves were a favorite)… Mom would have had a conniption fit if she had known what I was up to.

Despite its shortcomings, I enjoyed the solve. I'm with @AliasZ and @joho on this one.

Haiku Nerd 8:28 AM  

(a tribute to Rex)

RAIL, PROPRIETOR!
AVENGER EXCESS TELLS TALES
VENOM REPERTOIRE

J. Alfred Prufrock 8:31 AM  

Shall I part my hair behind? DO I DARE to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

I do not think that they will sing to me.

joho 8:37 AM  

@Loren Muse Smith, LOL, I join you in that I know I ate dirt from my driveway -- I am impressed that you went for the rock! -- and shared more than one Milk Bone with my dog.

Anonymous 8:39 AM  

@Loren Muse Smith said "One more thought." If only.

Anonymous 8:46 AM  

The TOP ROW on my every typewriter I've ever seen are number: 1 2 3 4 5 .... with symbols above them: ! @ # $ % ...

Just saying.

Anonymous 8:47 AM  

Anon @ 8:46: What a wonderful, original thought. I wonder if anyone else came up with that thought, say, an hour or so before you did?

Anonymous 8:58 AM  

This blog = culture of complaint.

Ludyjynn 9:02 AM  

Solved this puzzle as a themeless so I will OPTOUT of the VENOMous repartee. DOIDARE disagree with the erudite critics? Yes. Although I did not XOXO the puzz., I liked it well enough. Easy, for a Wednesday, with plenty of suitable vocab. to set the PACE. Fill was not any more onerous than usual.

As an ASIDE, I am now drooling while I envision PIGging out on a humongous corned beef on rye at the Carnegie DELI. I've never found its equivalent in Balto. Have had it shipped from NYC, but its just not the same. Maybe I'll make the trip... Hey, @Nancy, want to meet for a nosh there?

Thanks, BH and WS.

Anonymous 9:06 AM  

A lot of negativity in this puzzle:

VENOM, SERE, AVENGER, EMT, RAIL, PLEAS, POOR, RADIUM, PIG, EYESORES, YEOW, MIRES, EATDIRT, TELLSTALES, STADT (anything in German counts as ugly).

Andrea Ojeda 9:10 AM  

Thank you Matt Gaffney for your comments. It really helps to read what other constructors think about.
What's the criteria to become or stop being the NYTXword editor? Is he/she appointed for life? Who appoints? Can he/she be ousted by the angry people gathering outside the palace waving sharp, long pens and pencils and chanting loudly: "off with his head!" "no more sub-par!" "what do we want? decent fill!"
It is very easy to complain about someone's performance at a job we've never done. I suppose Rex believes he can do a better job, though, and I for one would love to see him try. Not out of spite or anything; I truly would like to see the difference in editing and how the NYTXword will change if/when someone else is in charge.
But I'm just a commoner, a neophyte if you will, who doesn't know much about the intricacies of puzzle-making, but who has been doing these puzzles for 15 years and still enjoy them, some more, some less, everyday.

pmdm 9:14 AM  

NCA President: Often enough comments here are deleted. That must mean he does read the comments if only to delete inappropriate ones.

Alias Z: Since the word "letters" is included in the clue, it's implied that the theme is "the top letter row of a typewriter." Interesting (to me, at least) that these days most use keyboards, not typewriters, and the top row is actually the function keys, not the numbers etc.

The constructor's comments suggest to me a possible alternate way of stating today's theme.

"The four longest common words spelled with only the top row of letters on a keyboard or typewriter."

I guess the four words only seem boring unless you understand what they share in common. Or maybe not.

The constructor notes this longest word claim is disputed. Anyone know of counterexamples to the claim?

Sir Hillary 9:20 AM  

Not a fan of this puzzle.

Huge fan of Gaffney commenting here.

Did anyone mention that TOP/ROW itself also consists solely of letters from there? Seems like that could have been worked in somehow.

Anonymous 9:26 AM  

Satyagraha said...

Every morning I awake
I urinate into a kiln-fired clay vessel
I then drink my piss
I proceed to do the NYT xword puzzle
After which I peruse this blog
Life is beatific

NCA President 9:26 AM  

@pmdm: I think we've talked about deletions here before (just recently too). Most are done by posters for assorted reasons...if you go to a mobile version of the site, you can see who deleted the comment. It isn't often Rex, if ever. When you think about it, that would take a huge amount of time and it would be a slippery slope that doesn't seem to be a Rex-type thing.

Mike D. 9:29 AM  

To the critics of Shortz: Do you really think it's likely that he's receiving multiple high-quality puzzles that are appropriate for the correct day of the week, and he's choosing to publish the weaker among them? Until you know the denominator, your criticism seems hollow.

George Barany 9:40 AM  

I'm late to the party, having solved @Bruce Haight's puzzle with nary a hiccup last night, shortly after it posted on the New York Times crossword site, and then retired for the evening. Woke up to find a spirited discussion on this forum, organized around @Rex's initial review but raising many interesting points to which I have little new to add. The ironic clue for 1-across does seem to beg for commentary, though.

My main purpose is to rise in defense of ERI_TU, which today makes its 28th appearance in a @Will Shortz-edited puzzle, and seems to have never been used in the @Maleska era! (ERI, used alone, is another story). Listen to the aria, please (BTW, excellent choice of a clip, by @Rex), and allow its context to swirl in your imagination. The baritone singer has just found out that his best friend, the tenor who happens to be his boss, is having an affair with his wife, a soprano. With great fervor, he addresses a portrait of his boss, which happens to be hanging in the living room: "you too?" (or am I mixing it up with Caesar's remark to Brutus?). Dramatic, emotional, timeless ... and keep in mind that in his time, Verdi was every bit as popular as any of the rappers who seem to populate puzzles these days.

Side note about @Leonard Warren, the singer in the clip. About 10 years later, in the middle of a live performance at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York of Verdi's "La forza del destino" ("the force of destiny"), he dropped dead mid-aria. An eyewitness account by a French-born reporter for the New York Herald Tribune, @Sanche de Gramont, won a Pulitzer Prize the following year. Later, de Gramont anagrammed his last name to @Ted Morgan, and achieved considerable fame as a biographer and historian. There is also a personal connection, and those who are interested can contact me about it off-Rex.

Pete 9:46 AM  

@Mike D - To the extent that Will is restricted to what he receives, you're only partially right. The part where you're wrong is that the job of the editor is to edit, i.e. to, in conjunction with the author, make the product as good as it can be prior to publication. All of Matt G's comments ring true, at least some of them could have been implemented to improve the puzzle. Attaching importance to these, and implementing the improvements is the job of the editor - to produce a better final product. That's the argument, and it rings true.

JFC 9:47 AM  

@AliasZ, the clue for TOP ROW does not say typewriter. It says "a keyboard." Think QWERTY keyboard and the clue works just fine.

@Chefwen, I guess it's easier to chill out while listening to the waves slap ashore. Two more weeks to preseason....

JFC

COIXT RECORDS 9:49 AM  

GRR I HATE CROSSWORD PUZZLES GRRR

EVERY LITTLE SQUARE IS LIKE A CAGE

FROTHING WITH DISTILLED ANGER

-I didn't say
-I don't get
-Scrabblefuck like a maniac
-No.
-Hard No.
-God
-themers are boring
-boring
-boring
-look..
-Hard. No.
-concept so thin
-fill so poor
-real cause to worry
-*this* is passing muster
-we're in trouble
-low bar
-who cares
-good enough
-lower bar
-who cares
-good enough
-should've been sent back
-Revise and resubmit
-sort of
-what's not
-irony
-!
-!
-!
-!
-!
-Whatever
-!

x34 RAGING FURY POINTS

old timer 9:56 AM  

DOIDARE say I thought this was a wonderful puzzle. Not because of the fill (begone, ATTA, eat it, EDER!) but because of the cluing. From the moment I wrote in NOPE, I found myself agog at the freshness of some of the clues. The ones for CAMERACREW, ROC, SEEDS and DORA impressed me, and the one for ASIDES wowed me.

I don't know. Maybe I just woke up in a good mood, glad I had not dreamed of crosswords.

Tita 9:58 AM  

As I was grokking the theme, I do confess to a "meh" mixed with nostalgia.
It is a bit thin, but the tipping point towards liking the whole package is once again, I like the subject.

I have two TYPEWRITERs that were my mom & dad's. Him for his books, my mom for her business. She still uses the little Hermes Baby from time to time.

On one of their Atlantic crossings (he hated flying), someone sitting in a nearby deck chair asked my dad if it would be at all possible to borrow his Hermes for a short while. It was Noel Coward!!

That was the Macbook Air of it's time - sleek and beautiful, light as a feather (in the context of typewriters), and easily portable.

@AliasZ - great link - I do like the melody of a typewriter!!

Thanks Mr. Haight.

mathguy 10:02 AM  

The problem with junky fill is that it squeezes the delight out of the puzzle. Having to fill in all those dull quasi-words. As @Matt Gaffney points out, today was a junkyard.

The only hint of legitimacy to the theme was found in the constructor's explanation in Jeff Chen.

I'm part of a group which takes monthly walks in San Francisco. Yesterday's started at 17th and Church in the Mission district and scaled some formidable heights along its two-mile length. One of the points of interest was Jeff Zuckerberg's house. He bought it a year or so ago and extensively remodeled it. It is near our General Hospital where his wife works. Very pretty multi-level with a brick chimney and no visible satellite dishes. A tasteful black iron fence enclosing it. A pleasant-looking middle-aged man was sitting in a car in front of the house. Someone saw several phones in the car. We chatted with him and he amiably denied being a guard.

Carola 10:08 AM  

I was actually surprised at Rex's harsh critique. I thought that the theme was fine for a Wednesday puzzle, that REPERTOIRE and PERPETUITY were lovely entries, and that TYPEWRITER a super reveal.
It was interesting to read @Matt Gaffney's take on the fill; however, today nice entries like CAMERA CREW, ARTISTRY, RADIUM, EYESORES, DID UP and little grid treats like the already noted echoes of YAO-YEOW and SWEETS, SUITE along with EXCESS-EXES and neighbors like MIRES and DIRT stood out for me more than the seen-once(or more)-too-often.

@Dshawnmaine - I wrote in SERE with a mental smile, thinking how nice it was that the word survives at least in crosswords. My reference, though, was Poe.

Tita 10:09 AM  

Meant to also mention the ironic juxtaposition of the IMACS vs the TYPEWRITERs - OLAY!

Aketi 10:12 AM  
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Aketi 10:13 AM  

I initially looked for anagrams with a one letter shift, but it didn't add up.

@lms and Joho, my sister was the dirt eater in my family. She also, much to my mother's horror, ate a potato bug. I don't think she ever ate a rock. When my son was little he preferred finding chewing gum on floors and under benches much to my horror.

@lewis, loved the Mr. Ed Factoid yesterday.

I actually have been enjoying the jokes that have emerged from the recent KERFUFFLES. Harder to spot tongue in cheek when reading than in person, and sometimes miss it, but definitely worth looking for while skipping over the VENOM.

10:12 AM Delete

Leapfinger 10:16 AM  

'Allo, VERA? How nice to see you again!!

For 21D, my first answer was TOPTEN. When the 'reveal' of TOP ROW came up, it struck me also that the theme was weakened by using only eight of the TOP TEN letters. Pity our piety? Uh-uh. That's all I have to say on the subject.
I always adMIRES the ARTISTRY of TERPsichoreans all DID UP in their ERI TUtus, but 'DID UP'?!!? YEOW, YAO!! Nope, 'Done UP'!!
Also seemed perhaps it was bad CESS to have that EXCESS of EXES clustered in the ESS-double-U

Contrary to popular misconception, Ogden Nash did not write:
"Do you like your RADIUM
Rare or madium?"
[It's sad, but I'm surie
That rhyme has no curie.]

Is it parsible there's a difference between TELLS TALES and TELL STALES? I try to avoid both, so let me know if this qualifies: I've been taking care of an old Spaniel by name of MIC (pronounced Mick); he has a litany (perhaps it's a plethora) of problems by virtue of being 14 years old, so OPEN MIC rather brought me up short. Sooner or later, all PET owners have problems PERPETUITY.

Hi @Teedmn! Did you get to 'DO I DARE to eat a peach?' yet?

Liked that the CAMERA CREW TELLS TALES, and the SUITE of themers were SWEETS, nothing to [newel] RAIL against.

So. TO PROW or not TO PROW? that is the question.

@AliasZ, your opening line was literally marvelous.

Knitwit 10:20 AM  

I liked this puzzle. I loved reading Rex AND the comments that followed. That's why I love visiting here each morning. For a rookie puzzle person, it is interesting and informative! Thanks!

Anonymous 10:22 AM  

I think Rex is hysterical. I don't know which I enjoy more - doing the puzzles or reading Rex's [content of hate mail] afterwards.

Aketi 10:24 AM  

@Alias z, I too liked the typewriter link. For a while, the American Museum of Natural History had a typewriter in their Discovery Room for the kids to play with, otherwise, my son would never have seen one.

Anonymous 10:34 AM  

My TOP ROW has a bunch of numbers and symbols. My SECOND from the TOP has QWERTYUIOP

Roo Monster 10:39 AM  

Hey All !
Well, as a constructor that has sent in a bunch of puzzles to Will, so far none of which have been accepted (maybe they are too good? :-P ), I'd have to say that this wasn't the most ideal puzzle, but did get in alot of themers, which perpetuates some dreck fill. Now, not saying the amount of dreck fill in this particular puzzle is okay, just trying to defend the constructor. And hey, he got accepted. So there's that. And I've felt some VENOM towards Will myself, but apparently I don't hold a grudge like Rex. According to Will's assistant, Joel F, they receive about 100 puzzles a week. That's alot of clue reading, answer mulling, testing, rewriting, editing, etc. Just sayin. One day, I will get an Accepted e-mail from Will. Then Rex can tear it down!

Something that didn't make sense in Rex's write up, he mentioned Scrabble f#@%ing the SW. Huh? There are only two X's, and that's it. Hmm. I'm sure the constructor, and Will, tried to redo the SE corner, that might be the best iteration.

I happened to like this puz. Seems like long time puzzle solvers have seen/done a theme like this before, but the word play to me is cool. Sure, no Q, oh well. Lots of good words along with some dreck. I do agree with Matt Gafney that 2 Acrosses and 2 Downs would've been better, but this is okay. Was med-hard side for a WedsPuz. A couple of writeovers, epeE->PACE, enE->OSE, saTOUT->OPTOUT, sentrA->ALTIMA. All that wrongness in the center at first led to a longer than needed solve! Nice symmetry on EYESORES and ARTISTRY.

Overall, good. (Maybe I should have just said that!)

YEOW
RooMonster
DarrinV

Loren Muse Smith 10:41 AM  

Oops - forgot to share this. @jae (and @AliasZ) -"Attention BEQ fans":. . . he's the surfer dude:

TYPEWRITER Orchestra

Anonymous 10:43 AM  

@joho: "The puzzle wasn't nearly as predictable or boring as Rex's write up."

And liking every single puzzle isn't boring or predictable?

Arlene 10:49 AM  

I really was looking for the Q in the puzzle - anywhere - even QWERTY.
I also thought of newer solvers who don't know about ULEE yet, or how versatile OREOs are. Other than that, this puzzle was an interesting concept.
On a related note, I don't think the younger generation actually knows what a typewriter is - I believe they refer to this arrangement of letters as a "keyboard." This discussion actually came up a few days ago.

Anonymous 10:52 AM  

Anon@10:34: Congrats: 3rd person to make the same comment today! Let's try for more!

Anonymous 10:54 AM  

Stay with me folks, because this is complicated:

All typewriters have keyboards.
Not all keyboards are on typewriters.

Jamie C. 11:00 AM  

So Rex, who berates constructors regularly for pangrams and scrabblese, today berates a constructor for NOT completing a TOP ROW mini-pangram? Lame.

r.alphbunker 11:04 AM  

Entered AXES for {They've split} but noticed that EDaR was wrong before checking the puzzle.

I counted the frequencies of answers using only top row letters and found that the puzzle with the most top row answers had 14 and was today's puzzle! The vast majority of puzzles have 5 or fewer top row answers. Details are here.

Hartley70 11:06 AM  

@JTHurst thanks for sending me down a delightful rabbit hole. After imagining an elephant being carried off by a roc, I unearthed a copy of the Arabian Nights, published 1946, that I had seen as a child in my parent's library. And then I got lost for several hours. I found an illustration of Sinbad and a joint of meat being carried off by an eagle, and one of two rocs in a fury over their chick being served for dinner, dropping huge stones to sink Sinbad's ship. There were elephants galore in my edition, but to my horror they were being shot for ivory by the Sultan and the hapless Sinbad. Wikipedia tells me there are many, many editions so I'm sure you did have a airborne elephant in yours. Thanks for the diversion!

I'm in. Sign me up for the pickle, @Ludy. I know I can handle that! The height of Carnegie's sandwiches is scary, but I can always get a truck to take the leftover half home.

It's all been said, and particularly well by @MattGaffney. I appreciate his insight. I haven't been doing the daily long enough to be jaded by repeat theme schemes, so I finished this thinking it was a particularly inventive Wednesday.

Anonymous 11:13 AM  

Boring. Stupid. Atta? Dora?
And for what its worth, it is time for Will Shortz to go. As is pretty clear by the inanity of the Puzzle on NPR on Sunday mornings, Will seems to be calling it in these days, more interested in ping pong and his other hobbies than overseeing the NYT puzzles. Just once, just once, I'd like Will Shortz, when asked by whatever bimbo is working Sunday mornings, what are you doing now, and I'd like him to say "my day job."

GAR 11:14 AM  

@Matt Gaffney

Nine-letter, two-word band name using only letters in the top row - Quiet Riot

Doug Garr 11:22 AM  

Let me predict the Thursday critique right now, before Wednesday noon, EDT:

You call this a theme? I call it a poor excuse for a puzzle. Or, it was used 7 years ago in a slightly different form.
The fill is is just plain horrible. It stinks. Did I tell you I didn't like all those awful 3-word answers? Just pick a region. Especially SE. No, I mean NW.
This should have been on another day (pick a day, any day).
Will Shortz is lowering his standard. He has reaches a new nadir every day. Did I say that I can't understand why he published this puzzle?
I usually like this constructor's stuff because he says nice things to me at crossword puzzle tournaments, but I'm always in a bad mood, so today, I dislike it (rather than particularly hate it).
I am the king of crossword puzzles, so what I say goes, no matter what you solvers think.

I think that Rex's reviews have become more predictable than the puzzles.

Doug Garr 11:23 AM  
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AliasZ 11:24 AM  


Oh @JFC, if you don't know me by now, you will never, never, never... etc.

- EYE'S ORES: Those crunchy bits you dig out in the morning.
- ERI TU, Brute?
- ATTA two days in a ROW. My money is on three. Any takers?
- E-MOTE -- remote for an electronic speck of dust. Similar to e-tail, e-reader, e-ticket (Fr.: e-tiquette, typed all on the TOP ROW).

It could be the English SUITE, the French SUITE or one of the Cello SUITEs, but today it is the Orchestral SUITE No. 3. Why the third SUITE? Because it wears a g-string.

Joseph Michael 11:25 AM  

Liked the theme idea and the four themers, especially TYPEWRITER. Fun to think of words that can be typed only from one row of a keyboard.

But the POOR fill takes most of the fun out if it. From APO to OSE to UTE, this puz includes almost every crossword cliche in the book. Oops. He forgot ODE and OGLE.

Let's see. ULEE and ALI were in the LEA with their IMACS writing about their EXES and eating OREOs when a ROC suddenly swooped down and...

No, I think I'll just wait for Thursday and hope for a better day.

JFC 11:27 AM  

@AliasZ, I wasn't really addressing you....

JFC

Matt Gaffney 11:29 AM  

@SirHillary -- Nice find re TOP ROW! Should certainly have been included.

@Mike D -- I think there are multiple reasons, but one factor is: a lot of constructors are turned off by the long wait times for response and then publication at the NYT -- years to get an accepted puzzle published is not uncommon. Constructors can now publish right away on blogs and else so those that can make the $ factor work are more and more are choosing to do so. Competition from AVCX, Fireball, and soon Buzzfeed. AVCX essentially hired an All-Star team of NYT contributors, so that's 30-40 puzzles a year under bylines like Walden, Heaney, Hinman etc. that go there instead of NYT. So it must lower the quality. At my Crossword of the Month site, the AVCX and NYT are tied for most wins (6 apiece). http://gaffneyoncrosswords.com/

@RooMonster -- Scrabblef***ing just means the constructor made too many compromises in the fill the get one or more X, Q, J or Z in the grid. It's the crossword equivalent of using a $5 word in conversation when a ten-cent one will do, and using it incorrectly. Although in this specific case the charge surprisingly doesn't stick because I can't find a better fill than what he had with ACCESS or RECESS in place of EXCESS.
.

@Jamie C. -- apples and oranges. Going out of your way to make a grid pangrammatic when it 1)has nothing to do with the theme and 2) compromises the fill is bad, completing a theme's idea as here by making sure you use all 10 letters in the keyboard row you've built your theme around is good.

Mohair Sam 11:48 AM  

@matt Gaffney - Didn't care for this puzzle and just didn't know why. Read your comment and understood. Thanks. Rex take note, for those of us who don't construct a little insight is worth a ton of rant.

Masked and Anonymous 11:49 AM  

I'm with @Gaffney -- change the theme revealer to TOP NOW. It provides an escape clause, if that toppier row of numbers start to complain. Even the TOP NOW row of letters are startin to grumble a might...

Q: "I get no respect!"
U: "Know how U feel, dude. I just barely squeaked in there, without U along, to do our usual twosome with."
Y: "Why! Why? Why…"

fave weeject string: ALI-ROC-TIA-PIG. Sounds like one of them animal-shaped things that U grow primoweed sprouts out of.

Woulda been neat if all the rest of the non-themer grid entries **Didn't** use QWERTYUIOP's. AAA-fest! Talk about yer desperate fill! The M&A mind boggles. This here puz probably brokered a better compromise, on desperation.

ARTISTRY and EYESORES. yep.

M&A

**gruntz**

Masked and Anonymous 11:58 AM  

p.s.
4 U's. Count coulda been much worse, if they'da gone the AAA-fest route…

Thanx for all the great fun, Mr. Haight. Produced extra cool Comment Gallery comments. Plus, U scored a "Fascinating!" from @009, for a split second, there. That's how to quote him, in yer compilation book blurb.
M&A grade: AAA-.

Masked and Anonymo4Us.

dick swart 12:00 PM  

Even I: old guy, easily satisfied, trying to get my brain firing for the day ahead, writing in pen on paper with a pain au chocolate in one hand; Even I found it annoying to have such a collection of thoughtless, cliche answers as fill!

Shades of that anoa ox!

dick swart 12:00 PM  
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joho 12:18 PM  

@Matt Gaffney, I took at whack at that corner and came up with:
RECESS
EZRA
AGES
ROW

However, I'm familiar with EZGO golf carts but I imagine that's pretty obscure.

Anonymous 12:18 PM  

@Haiku Nerd:
You've outdone yourself today! Topical and hilarious. Keep it up!

Lewis 12:21 PM  
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Lewis 12:24 PM  

I like TOP on top, the mini double-e theme (ULEE, SEEDS, SWEETS, REED, PEER), and the beautiful REPERTOIRE and PERPETUITY. I like how this puzzle made my brain shift into a higher solving gear and zippy solve after a halting start. I like having a backward AROD so close to a backward LIAR, as well as the backward DEER and OXOX to keep that PIG company. Not happy about the crosswordese (ERTES, SEER, EDER). ULEE is also crosswordese, but I really liked the film, so it trips off good memories. And I'm grateful for the varied opinions on this blog. Not a wow/memorable puzzle, but my day has been richer for it.

Nancy 12:33 PM  

Because this was a bit more challenging than yesterday's, I enjoyed the solving of it more than I enjoyed solving yesterday's. And yet, this theme -- the top row of a typewriter, who cares? -- wasn't nearly as playful as yesterday's delightful Dr. Seuss verses. For me, it's always about the difficulty of solving and not about the charm of the fill.

Why was I so much more aware of the various keyboard rows when I used a manual typewriter than I am now, using a laptop keyboard? Could it be that I've just become a better, more instinctual typist? Naaahh. Not bloody likely. I think it's because typewriters have keyboards where there's a slope and the top row is actually above the other rows physically.

What's with all the RAILing against Rex today? There seems to be even more EXCESS VENOM than usual. Is this sort of thing fated to go on in PERPETUITY? As I've said before, if you don't like Rex's posts, don't read Rex's posts. So very simple. I seldom read them, myself; I come here for the brilliant insights of the rest of you. :) And for those of you RAILing against Will: I can tell you from a few brief phone conversations I was privileged to have with him, he is an enormously warm, charming and unpretentious man. If you haven't seen the delightful documentary, WORDPLAY, rent it ASAP. It's an endearing look at not only Will but at the entire crossword puzzle community. Including Bill Clinton and Jon Stewart.

@Ludy -- Love to see you in NYC, but not at the Carnegie DELI. It's much too noisy. But if you come in, I promise to find us a great spot. I left you a phone message just now. Would have left it earlier than noon, but Hartley 70 had me on the phone for quite a while. Do hope to talk to you soon.

Hartley70 12:37 PM  

@MathGuy, in an attempt to keep current with my pop culture expertise, did you perhaps mean Mark?

Lewis 12:44 PM  

Factoid: Bill Haast, the “Snake Man,” was bitten by poisonous snakes at least 173 times. He injected himself with snake VENOM every day for a span of 60 years. He saved countless lives by donating his antibody rich blood. He lived to be 100. Also, regarding VENOM, the only plane allowed to fly on 9/11 post attacks was a plane from San Diego to Miami delivering an anti-venom to a man bitten by a highly poisonous snake. It was accompanied by two jet fighters.

Quotoid: "You better cut the pizza in four pieces because I'm not hungry enough to eat six." -- YOGI Berra

John Child 12:48 PM  

@Mike D
> To the critics of Shortz: Do you really think it's likely that he's receiving multiple high-quality
> puzzles that are appropriate for the correct day of the week, and he's choosing to publish
> the weaker among them? Until you know the denominator, your criticism seems hollow.

What we do know is that puzzles with more interesting theme answers and better fill are routinely rejected. The editor likes what Mr Haight does as his trademark - limited letter themes. That's what counts.

Anonymous 12:55 PM  

@John Child: How do "we" know this to be true?

mathguy 1:12 PM  

Is it Shortz's fault? I just did the Wednesday LAT puzzle by Jeff Stillman. Delightful. Cute theme and very little junk.

@Hartley 70. Thanks for catching my mistake. Mark Zuckerberg it is.

Anonymous 2:51 PM  

I liked it.

Music man 2:51 PM  

Didn't notice the EYE SORE/ARTISTRY symmetry before. That's a nice touch. I like it.

@whoeversaidthis,iforgetandamtoolazytoscrollallthewaybackuptofindit.

I would've loved to see QUIET RIOT in here!

Steve J 3:40 PM  

Some days, it seems like the comments can largely be boiled down to, "It's not what you said, it's how you said it."

@Whirred: The eight-letter puzzle ran in 2015. And I loved it about as much as I love no-anesthesia surgery.

aging soprano 4:18 PM  

Pmdm, when I post to this blog my post inevitability comes up 2 and even 3 times, so, when I feel like it and want to take the time, I delete the extraneous posts. I have noticed that many of the deleted posts are next to undeleted ones by the same posters. I imagine that they themselves have done the deletions. I have never noticed a Rex delete.

Masked and Anonymous 4:19 PM  

@joho: har. EZGO. Superbly done.
Best M&A could do, for that SW corner:

ACROSS
53. Word often suffixed by -ory or -ion
59. ___-kiri
63. Licked by a gorilla, after you've been licking on an ice cream cone?
66. See NE TOP
DOWN
53. "Well, eureka -- there's yer rodeo!"
54. Dude who'll make you an offer you can't refuse

M&A
"Filled Without Haight"

Z 4:20 PM  

The NYT decides who to employ as its crossword editor. Shortz is a contract employee, so I presume that means "at will.' However, the notion that Rex or Orange or any other Blogger has a big impact on whether or not Shortz remains employed is laughable. That's akin to thinking that bad reviews would have stopped the umpteen Batman sequels. It's the bottom line that matters and Shortz seems to be delivering quite well there. How do I know? Pick up today's print edition and look for the Bridge column... I'll wait.... No, the NYTX is doing quite well. Remarkably, so too are the indies, all of whom should issue a big "Thank You" to Mr. Shortz. During his 20+ years as editor the crossworld has bloomed and he is a significant contributor to that development.



Also, "Besides, isn't the TOP ROW symbols and numbers on a typewriter?" - @Z6:01 a.m.

Masked and Anonymous 4:27 PM  

p,s,
oh, yeah… and
DOWN
47. Desperately ask

(Outlaw M&A)

William Palmer 5:03 PM  

Please keep the lousy puzzles coming, NYT. I enjoy Rex's rants as ridiculous and snotty as they are. What a whiny little temper he has. Rex, now go stand in the corner, take ten deep breaths and come back when you calm down.

Anonymous 5:05 PM  

Anon@2:51: Thank you for that really interesting, insightful, and helpful comment.
@Z@4:20: Bite me.

Lewis 5:21 PM  

@Z -- "at will" -- good one!

Whirred Whacks 5:30 PM  

@Steve J
Yeah, I noticed my typo on that Bruce Haight (April 14, 2014 instead of the correct April 14, 2015) when I got up this morning, but I figured you knew what I meant. I remember how much that puzzle irritated you. It really bugged you. :-)

Teedmn 9:26 PM  

A week ago Monday my face swelled with bee VENOM but it was nothing like the amount accumulated in today's comments. Maybe it only seems overwhelming because I come to them so late on weekdays so I get it all at once. Seems like the REPERTOIRE is more limited than usual today. I stand with @Ludyjynn, @Carola, @LMS, that the puzzle was SWEETly Wednesdayish and I will not join the H8ers (as coined by the constructor, if I remember correctly, after people RAILed at him re: the notorious 4/14/2015 eight letter puzz).

@Leapfinger, by the time I get home, eat dinner, do the puzzle, and read the comments, I have hardly enough time to decide to DOM white flannel vs, ecru linen pants, let alone delve into Prufrock. But I shall pull the book off my shelf which should double the odds of it being perused in the near future.

@Nancy, I loved the movie Wordplay, and it left me with the impression that WS was very likable. And the comments by Constructors on Deb Amlen's Wordplay column have pointed out how much of some puzzles are due to Will's efforts.

@MattGaffney, any suggestions for the NY Times on how to streamline the process, if that is indeed what is preventing the top constructors from sending in their work? I suppose it is a function of the Internet, as in so many avenues: music, literature, television, etc. The great dilution of effort makes it hard to gather in the best because who can be the arbiter over such a widespread enterprise. And you can all sigh in relief over my last rhetorical question/statement for the day.

Thanks Bruce Haight and Will Shortz

Hartley70 10:18 PM  

@Lewis, most illuminating factoid today!

kitshef 11:31 PM  

Easy Wednesday on the heels of an easy Tuesday. Feeling crunch-deprived at this point.

Almost a DNF due to ATTA/ERTES cross. Guessed right but ATsA/ERsES seemed about as likely.

Thought it was OK. REPERTOIRE and PROPRIETOR were clearly ... odd ... so you knew something was going on. But I did not know what until the revealer. I like it when the revealer indeed reveals the theme.

@M&A - sorry to say, the Us today were a major contributor to some of the bad fill: ULEE, UTE, DIDUP. On the plus side, the PERPETUITY/RADIUM cross is aces.

@Lewis - fantastic factoid today. I wonder though about the quotoid, which I've heard attributed to a half dozen people (including Yogi).

MDMA 1:03 AM  

@AliasZ,

"It would have been so much neater if all non-theme squares only used letters NOT in the TOP ROW."

Impossible. Take a look at your keyboard. Five out of six vowels are on the top row (E I O U Y).

@pmdm,

"The constructor notes this longest word claim is disputed. Anyone know of counterexamples to the claim?"

Amy Reynaldo's Diary of a Crossword Fiend gives a link to this webpage, which gives the following info:

"TYPEWRITER (10 letters) can be typed using only the top row of keys on a standard keyboard. Other ten-letter words with this property are PEPPERROOT, PEPPERWORT, PERPETUITY, PEWTERWORT, PIROUETTER, PREREQUIRE, PRETORTURE, PROPRIETOR, REPERTOIRE, REPETITORY, TETTERWORT. If hyphens are allowed, then TEETER-TOTTER (12 letters) is possible, as is TEETER-TOTTERER (14 letters), although the latter is not found in dictionaries. Another possible 12-letter word, POWERTRIPPER, is also not in any major dictionary."

In other words, the constructor picked the only four non-obscure words.

Mermaid of Windsor 7:39 AM  

I'm holding out for QUIP-PORTER, POWER-QUEUE and other PORTmanteaux.
[QUIETRIOT be a fine phrase, but only a 9-letterer, so not for this puzz. Maybe a QUIET ROUTE is the way to go.]
Actually, I'm really holding out for @dick swartz' pain au chocolat.

Yup, Baroque... like Ferde Grofé's Grand Canyon SUITE...

And maybe someone needs to remind @MattGaffney about ye olde 'Three and out' roule.
Anarchist!

Mackenzie 9:05 AM  

I'm admittedly a technological idiot, but how does one subscribe to the American Values Club? Also, for those who have, is it worthwhile?

Matt Gaffney 11:29 AM  

@Mackenzie

http://www.avxword.com/

Buy a couple a la carte for $1 apiece and see what you think.

Fred Romagnolo 2:32 PM  

Not the top row; the t-o-p row; Sir Hillary came closest

spacecraft 11:24 AM  

Absolutely brilliant @haiku, nerd! I had a problem which I'm sure @Cathy shared: our illustrious paper printed the wrong grid! Very soon out of the box, it became evident that--despite 1-down fitting--the numbering was all messed up. 44a SEEDS also works; there may be others, but I didn't check. So what did we do? Why, we did what all good solvers do: we turned it into a diagramless! Well, I did, anyway. And solved it! Which means it can't have been too tough; the easy-medium rating holds, even though we had to uncover a pair of cheater squares. Strange that OFL didn't mention it.

One of the theme answers, PERPETUITY, evoked an unpleasant memory. Never, EVER buy a time share! Read the language: it will belong to you--AND YOUR HEIRS AND ASSIGNS--in PERPETUITY. That means for ever and ever, amen. That means it is absolutely, positively, 100% UNSELLABLE. I had to PAY to have it taken off my hands. Those maintenance bills would have come rolling in, year after year after year....and those people are NASTY when it comes to collecting. You do NOT ignore a timeshare maintenance bill--or even an "assessment" bill, which the association may drop on you at any time. It's as bad as dealing with loan sharks. Just...DON'T. EVER. BUY ONE.

rondo 11:26 AM  

Isn't the TOP ROW numbers? or is it the T-O-P ROW? didn't read above comments as vacation won't allow.

VERA Miles, well-remembered yeah baby.

I still have a TYPEWRITER somewhere. I think.

Not a TOP puz, but OK for me on this particular day. Just trying to finish quickly over my wife's PLEAS to get moving,

Cathy 3:37 PM  

Absolutely brilliant @spacecraft!!! I tried looking for a wacky keyboard. For a Wednesday I thought? Nah...has to be a mistake, so I came here to be sure. Damn!! Didn't think about doing a diagramless!! I bow my head to you!

@rondo- funny about your wife's pleas! My husband does that sometimes and tries to "help" me (give me a clue) to speed things up. NOOOOO!!!!

leftcoastTAM 4:28 PM  

"Can we all get along?"
--Rodney King, RIP

Anonymous 7:04 PM  

I didn't care much for the puzzle. I did it, and that's all. Usually Wednesdays are enjoyable but not today. Better luck tomorrow.

Ron Diego, La Mesa, CA. (Harummph!)

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