City between Turin Genoa / SUN 8-23-15 / Virginia's Hill Academy alma mater of 20+ NBA players / Unseen winning card in poker lingo / Epitome of desolateness / Saint with alphabet named after him / Pepper Iron Man's love interest

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Constructor: Joel Fagliano

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: "Musical Remixes" — Music-related anagrams of five "#1 Billboard artists"; anagrams get wacky "?" clues, while artists all get same clue: [#1 Billboard artist that's an anagram of ***-Across]

Theme answers:
  • INDIE CLONE (23A: Alternative band that sounds like every other alternative band?) / CELINE DION
  • USE MY LYRIC (45A: Invitation for musical plagiarism?) / MILEY CYRUS
  • HI, MAESTRO (66A: Greeting to a conductor?) / AEROSMITH
  • GENIAL ROCK (87A: Friendly music genre?) / CAROLE KING
  • NURSE'S SONG (112A: Part of a hospital playlist?) / GUNS 'N' ROSES 
Word of the Day: RUCHE (55A: Frilly trim) —
noun: ruche; plural noun: ruches
  1. a frill or pleat of fabric as decoration on a garment or home furnishing. (google)
• • •

This feels like a concept that wasn't allowed to ripen. I love that all the artists are "#1 Billboard artists"—gives the puzzle a nice consistency—just as I love that all the anagrams are themselves music-related in some way. But since they're (highly) inaptograms, i.e. anagrams that are not even vaguely related to the names they are rearrangements of, the whole thing left me with a "so what?" feeling. There's no humor. That lack of connection (in clue or in content) between anagram and base word made this one feel more like a mere exercise in letter rearrangement than a coherent and (more importantly) *funny* theme. There are a couple of smaller issues for me too. First, the title has "Remixes" in it, which a. makes the theme obvious, but b. really Really makes the cluing of the "artists" dull and redundant. This is what I mean when I say the concept wasn't ripe. There needs to be a hook in the cluing or anagram relationship or something, something to make the puzzle Pop as opposed to just sit there as an interesting curiosity. I also didn't like that the anagrams came first, i.e. were all on the left. If somehow phrases could've been made out of the anagram/artist phrases, GUNS 'N' ROSES' NURSE'S SONG, or CELINE DION: INDIE CLONE, with clever clues, maybe this would've worked better. But here, the theme is spoonfed to you, and while figuring out anagrams is inherently entertaining (uh, if you're me...), the disconnect between artist and anagram left the puzzle without snap. Or pop. Or crackle.

There's some good stuff in here, though. I love the longer Downs that crash through not one not two but three themers, i.e. SPOILER ALERT and LETTER OPENER. The former beats the latter for freshness (and I had an awful time parsing it), but both are nice. I also liked SAG AWARD, as it was tough and unexpected but perfectly legitimate. I also liked that the puzzle was clued pretty toughly. I got stymied several times, most notably in the west, where an error (TRY MY LYRIC) (?!) combined with tough cluing (and some rough fill) to cause a real problem for me. Don't really know the word RUCHE, so that hurt. Thought the [Till bill] was a ONE. Couldn't parse MERCY ME to save my life (puzzle's oddly heavy on quaint expressions like this. See also MY HAT (!?!?) and DOG IT. Putting in ASSAYS where HAS A GO was supposed to, uh, go, that also caused me some problems in the east, but not nearly as many as I had in that whole area in the west from HAM (fine) down to ANNUIT and ESA (ugh, not fine).

If you read yesterday's write-up some time after mid-morning, you know that crossword legend Merl Reagle died yesterday, quite suddenly and unexpectedly. I spent the first part of the day stunned and wallowing, and then my wife dragged me out of the house and we went up to Ithaca to see "Mr. Holmes" and eat tapas and drink sherry. That helped a little. But then I came back to my house and my computer and my crosswording life (here, now, right now, writing this), and I just feel lost again. Merl was my friend, and had been since 2008, when he wrote me the following email out of the blue—an email that is, in many ways ridiculous:

dear rex,

love your blog, as if you couldn't guess!

there are only so many hours in a week, so i don't expect you to ever solve my sunday puzzle, what with the time and effort you obviously take to make your blog so frigging entertaining! -- but on the occasional sunday when you have an extra minute, i'm hoping you might at least solve it. no need to write about it, but i'm always trying to convince new yorkers that there are some other weekly puzzles in america that might be worth solving! (i'm in the new york observer every week, so at least i do appear in new york.)

but mainly, i wanted to let you know how to remember that "riata" is a lasso -- "la riata" is where we get the word "lariat."

all the best,

Leaving aside the fact that he seems to have been unable to find the [Shift] key, let's consider how ludicrous it is that this man, who is one of the best known and certainly most beloved crossword makers in the country, wrote me, a total nobody who, if he was known at all, was known primarily for being a crankpot with computer access, and *he* asked *me* if I wouldn't mind solving *his* puzzles. Perhaps I'd be interested. It was as if Cézanne had written me and said, "Hey, you know, I think you might enjoy my paintings." You think?

So I wrote back sycophantically, making it very clear who was whose fan, and thereafter he became my regular correspondent and probably my most trusted crossword adviser. Anyone who knew him knows this: the guy lived and breathed crosswords, and wordplay in general. There was no pretension. No showing off. He couldn't help it. It was his way of being in the world, and it was joyous. It was contagious. It was inspirational.  At least a half a dozen times just this year (according to my Inbox) one of us wrote the other some grumpy note of commiseration about some issue in some puzzle or other (Merl particularly hated half-baked themes—he had a great quote on how patient he was when developing themes: "Sometimes an idea will wait 20 years to become a puzzle"). If I was ever really unsure of my reaction to something in a puzzle, I'd shoot Merl a note to ask for a ruling. From a purely egotistical standpoint, it was a huge (and until now, private) thrill to know that this guy respected what I was doing, that this guy wanted to talk to me, that this guy would take my calls. If you want to know where my confidence in writing about crosswords comes from, well, part of it probably comes from a mother who adored me, and part of it is a put-on to mask a fairly massive insecurity, but the Rest of it comes from knowing that Merl, the guy I respected and admired most in the world of crosswords, had my back. That he believed in what I was doing and deigned to have conversations with me as if we were something like peers. And now *that* guy is dead—that guy who made incredible, hilarious, carefully crafted, often wonderfully ridiculous Sunday-sized puzzles every week for years and years and years. Who gave joy to millions. I don't know anyone who disliked him. Scratch that—I don't know anyone who knew him who didn't actively admire him. Most of us loved him to bits. I'll do his memory more justice next week, when I can think straight. Right now, I'm in a selfish pit of mourning. As a crossword writer person, it's like the floor has dropped out from underneath me. As a human being person, it's like I got sucker-punched. Hard. My deepest sympathies go out to his wife and family.

Here are some nice things that have been written about him in just the past 24 hours.
Again, I'll compile more thoughts and pictures and stuff into something more coherent next week. In the mean time, go do / buy his puzzles. Outlandish puns, soaring (and often stacked!) theme answers, pitch perfect clues, etc. You will occasionally see some, uh, let's say "not great" fill, but Merl had special license. He was always working on a higher plane than the rest of us.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Da Bears 12:08 AM  

Very nice tribute, Rex. My condolences.

Pete 12:14 AM  

Unless CELINEDION anagrams to DIE DAMNED CANADIAN, DIE I don't care what it anagrams to. Exactly what's the use, the enjoyment, of a theme if it's pointless, if it makes the constructor generate nonsense clues for gibberish that the poor solver has to fill in, only to find that it's an anagram of something, some one, who cares what? Michael Sharp anagrams to CARISMA HELP, so what? I care no more about that than I do about what CELINEDION anagrams to, with the exception that I could write a good clue for CARISMA HELP - "What Rex Parker needs", which is more that I can say about any of the theme answers in this puzzle.

If you can't have a themed puzzle where the theme holds its own weight, generates its own interest, then don't have a themed puzzle. What's wrong with a good Sunday sized themeless puzzle, where none of the entries are nonsensical? Seriously, would the world end if every once in a while we had a good Sunday puzzle?

jae 12:15 AM  

Medium for me.  Very solid Sun.  Fun anagrams, smooth grid, liked it a lot.

Sad to hear about Merl Reagle, he will be sorely missed. 

Anonymous 12:41 AM  

I've done crosswords for ages. Every weekend for as long as I can recall I've printed out Merl Reagle's Sunday puzzle and enjoyed the heck out of solving it. I'll start to do that out of habit for weeks to come, I'm sure. I didn't know Merl personally, but for some reason news of his death hit me as if he were a close friend. RIP

Music man 12:45 AM  

Wow. Merl is the reason I started getting hard into crosswords. I'm shocked. I came here to give a simple "meh" on today's puzzle, but now I'm just utterly shocked. I just recently read something he wrote about finding the last relatives of the original creator of the crossword in his 100th anniversary book. Not sure what to say. Very sad.

CVB 1:32 AM  

My favorite Merl. A palindrome puzzle
Clue: cruise ship that Santa and Mrs Claus can't wait to get on in January.
Answer: The S.S. Elfless

chefwen 2:16 AM  

I haven't the words to express my sadness in Merl's passing. He was possibly my favorite constructor of all times. I would save up his puzzles so Jon and I could do them together on road trips. Way too young, he will be sorely missed.

Have to totally agree with Rex's take on today's puzzle. I'm not too fond of anagrams, so this one didn't really blow my skirt up. Kinda fell into the slog area for me. Fun part was 1D SLIP and 1A SPLAT which often happens simultaneously.

George Barany 2:59 AM  

So many fabulous and touching reminiscences of @Merl Reagle showing up on the internet ... including what we have just read from @Rex. Allow me to add these, lifted from an e-mail that I wrote to a friend shortly after meeting the legendary constructor at the 2014 ACPT in Brooklyn:

"[Within moments of meeting] @Merl Reagle, [he] opined that I looked like @Salman Rushdie. He also insisted that my last name should be spelled with an "i" at the end, and asked me what common 9-letter word anagrams to MINNESOTA. Apparently, he once met a woman named KRISTEN and tried to pick her up with the observation that her name anagrammed for STINKER."

I also sat next to @Merl for dinner at the 2015 ACPT in Stamford, as he traded puns, anagrams, and war stories with the likes of @Will Shortz and @Mike Shenk, among others. How I wish now that I had written down, with things still fresh in my mind, some of what was discussed.

Any other time, I would write about what I enjoyed about @Joel Fagliano's Sunday offering, as well as a couple of things that stymied and/or bugged me before successfully completing the puzzle. I would even share the story of how thrilled my then-teenage daughter @Deborah was after I scored @Carole King's autograph at a University of Minnesota campaign rally for @John Kerry in 2004. But with @Merl's unexpected and sudden passing, not to mention an early morning plane to catch from Philadelphia back to the Twin Cities, this is not "any other time."

F.O.G. 5:59 AM  

I did not learn of Merl Reagle's passing until reading Rex's blog. I had intended to write a few positive and cheery comments about this crossword, but my mood has dampened. My condolences to Merl's family and friends. BEQ's "A Loss for Words" is heartfelt.

Bob Kerfuffle 6:13 AM  

Again, shock and sorrow at the loss of Merl Reagle.

Today's puzzle was OK by me, something a little different.

Two write-overs: 85 D, SODA before COLA, and 117 A, PLOT before PROP.

RUCHE felt new to me, although I have a nagging feeling that we may have seen it before and it completely vanished from my mind.

pmdm 7:19 AM  

If I had to describe this puzzle in one word, it would probably be DRAB. Jeopardy! sometimes has this type of thing for one of the categories, often with fairly nonsensical anagrams of correct question. I guess it's OK in life to have unentertaining challenges. Especially when you follow-up the puzzle with a more entertaining acrostic.

ArtO 7:27 AM  

So very sad to lose someone of such good humor and talent, especially so suddenly. Just returned from the funeral of a "full of life" cousin who, at the age of 61, went to sleep and never woke up. There is just no end to life's tragedies.

A tough puzzle that was rewarding to finish.

chefbea 7:38 AM  

@Rex What a wonderful tribute to a wonderful man. Seems fitting that we have an anagram puzzle today.
Was fun trying to figure out all the anagrams which I love...and also puns. Never heard of the cyril alphabet.

Rex Parker 8:00 AM  


You missed. You want to zing MICHAEL SHARP with an anagram? The correct answer is SPHERICAL HAM.


r.alphbunker 8:40 AM  

Puzzle report
Given Merl's fascination with anagrams, the theme was appropriate for today. Did the NOVA/AVON clue the other day foreshadow this one?

I thought that Rex's tribute to Merl was very touching. I have the 100th Anniversary Crossword Book that he mentioned and opened it to a rando page and got "Tearfully Yours" which was an April Fool's Day puzzle whose theme was a lengthy explanation about why he was leaving the SF Chronicle and moving to NY to work for the NYT. He did the puzzle because he wanted to see if anybody was doing his puzzles. He had nothing to worry about. As he say in the book "After it came out, so many letters came in that the entire letters page of the magazine was devoted to just the mail from this crossword"

Merl's first NYT puzzle was 2/11/1967 published a month after his 17th birthday.
You can solve it by opening the following URL in your browser
and typing in
and then clicking the Fetch puzzle button.

An animation of my solution is here

My downfall was the Siberian antelope crossing an abbreviation of a curtain fabric. But for that and having to be told a couple of letters were wrong, the puzzle was solvable.

Loren Muse Smith 8:54 AM  

Like @G Barany, I'm enjoying reading all the stories online about Merl and his love for language. Sad, sad day.

I was relieved to see the "medium challenging" rating on this one; it put up a bit of a fight. I had a dnf because I forgot to go back and guess at the LOUIE/OUT cross, but I never would've gone with a vowel. I probably would've guessed "Lorie/ort." My finely-tuned viewing tastes lean toward Bravo, and I just don't speak poker.

Favorite clues were for LEASH and IMAC.

And I would tweak the clue for MUTE to "remote necessity." I will go to extreme measures to MUTE the two-minute-long verbal fine print to the newest Whatever Dysfunction medication. These companies cannot possibly think that anyone pays attention to that? (Granted, to ignore "erection lasting longer than four hours" is indeed hard on so many levels). I guess we have our litigious society for this mammoth annoyance.

Rex – me, too for "one" and "assays" first. That HAS A GO keeps morphing into a dook: Yeah, my lasagna needed something, so I added a little hasago cheese and some dried himaestro. Whaddya think? Needs more lyceum?

And I keep reparsing SAG AWARD. Coming this Friday in IMACs near you: MCCAW ON PATROL starring Sela Ward and her daughter, SAGA WARD!

Also had "my ear" before MY HAT.

My first thought with "acrylic" is manicure, so I wanted "polish" pot. Didn't fit. I also was thinking "tune-ups" for CAR CARE because my first wars were "turf" wars. But CAR CARE caught my eye

mod mode – '60s fashion
cur cure – mange ointment
dud dude - dweeb
gap gape – I'm thinking dud dude's reaction to a wrap-around skirt on a windy day
hat hate –distinct distaste for stetsons and and fedoras. Guilty.

Initially, I had the same kind of disappointment as Rex that these agagrams weren't a little more related to their names, like the DORMITORY/DIRTY ROOM ones featured by Matt Ginsberg, but this really grew on me. I bet it was pretty hard to come up with any kind of anagram that was musically related. I just tested the waters, and I was right. It is Really hard.

oral majesty

longer tonsils

Anonymous 9:02 AM  

Is there one last Merl Reagle Sunday on the internet somewhere today? I haven't found one in the usual places I look, and don't know any clever search techniques. I'd kinda like to work a final one knowing it's the final one.

Anonymous 9:14 AM  

A while ago I so enjoyed the Sunday Washington Post puzzle that I sent an email to Mr. Reagle thanking him for such an outstanding puzzle. To my shock and amazement, he wrote me back. That small gesture forever endeared him to me and I will miss his decency and fun.

joho 9:17 AM  

@Rex, today your eloquent, heartfelt words about Merl brought me to tears ... again. Yesterday I had the same reaction to learning of his sudden passing. I wrote a note, redacted here, to a blog member: "I felt like I’d been hit in the stomach when I heard about Merl Reagle’s death today. I never had the pleasure of meeting him but I did exchange emails with him some years back and I recall that he was a nice as could be – I was in awe. I thought he was just plain brilliant. What a sad, sad day it is." He was warm, welcoming and encouraging which it seems is what everybody who "met" him felt. Along with his talent, a unique gift to have.

Rex you say that,"He was always working on a higher plane than the rest of us." Today I'd like to think he's creating on a higher plane than the rest of us -- working his magic by out-punning, anagramming and flat-out entertaining better than the rest of us.

(Joel, I'm so sorry to be giving short shrift to your achievement today, but I think you will understand.)

CV 9:32 AM  

OCTOPI, ugh. Had the biologically AND grammatically correct SQUIDS there & so went to sleep last night with that whole corner unfinished.

Ludyjynn 10:18 AM  

The clue for RUCHE was MEH, IMO. 'Frilly trim' is not an apt description. Rather, the French word means to gather, ruffle or pleat fabric. More frequently the term ROUCHing is used. I say this w/ some degree of authority as a devoted fan of "Project Runway" for 14 seasons!

The number of other fashion references caught my attention: TYRA Banks, MODELS. LACY, ANORAK, MYHAT. ANOMALY or by design?

Only one of the anagrams, HIMAESTRO, tickled my funny bone.

Query: If MILEYCYRUS wore a HOCKEYMASK, would her MAMMOTH tongue stay in her mouth?

The sudden passing of Merl Reagle is a potent reminder for each of us to savor each day to the max and do what we love, sharing that passion w/ others. From reading about all of your interactions w/ him, in person or on line, he must have been one hell of an inspiration.

Thanks, JF and WS.

Nancy 10:24 AM  

Agree wholeheartedly with @Pete at 12:14 a.m. Once again, a marvel of construction that makes not one bit of difference to the solving experience. I wasn't remotely in the mood to do long anagrams this morning and I solved as a themeless. Fortunately, had at least heard the names of all the musicians, except for MILEY CYRUS, who does sound vaguely familiar. In this one case, I did glance at the anagram to find L in MILEY, as I didn't know Carson DALY either. I didn't mind the anagrammed phrases as much as some; I thought they were...pleasant. I just didn't bother to use them in solving the other half. An OK puzzle that doesn't justify the amount of work that obviously went into creating it.

Re: Merl Reagle -- I thought your tribute, Rex, was very moving, and I will go to the links you provide and read up. Yesterday, I tried to click on "Gridlock", but it required "pdf", whatever the hell THAT is. It's too late for Merl, but a plea to all constructors out there: when you put your puzzle online, please make it accessible to Luddites like me. How can I do puzzles other than the NYT, if I can't access them? Anyway, Merl's untimely death is very sad; I gather he was a really nice man!

Horace S. Patoot 10:29 AM  

I hate OCTOPI because it is incorrect in both Greek and Latin whether or not you buy the argument that it's acceptable in current English. Hate to be a bore, but it just rubs me the wrong way.

Roo Monster 10:44 AM  

Hey All...
Yes, very sad news about Merl. I bet he's giving St. Peter et. al. a good punning!

Today's puz was ok. I agree with Rex that the Artists should have been first, followed by the anagrams with a funny/punny clue. Would have given this puz a much cooler vibe. Then we'd all be saying what a fun puz this was.

On a personal high note, got puz 100% correct! Just a couple of writeovers, SahaRan->SIBERIA, one->TEN, andyOu->YOUTOO, COLd for COLA (who didn't have that?). Wanted (something) musIC for the LYRIC part, till SPOILER ALERT set me straight. Read 1A as pinball sound at first, leaving me scratching my head till I relooked and saw paintball! Cute clue for ATM.

As an aside, Joel being Will's assistant should be a disqualification for his puzs being in the Times. Just sayin, and definitely IMO, as I'm sure no one else agrees with me!


jberg 10:44 AM  

@r.alph, thanks for the link. I couldn't do that puzzle -- stuck on one of the 'bird' clues. I still don't understand it after buying a vowel (which turned out to be a consonant.)

I was never familiar with Merl Reagle or his puzzles, though if he was in the Times in the old days I probably attempted a few of them -- but @Rex's tribute, and those of others, are very moving.

So all I'll say about this puzzle is that a) the OUT / LOUIE crossing was a total guess, based entirely on the belief that LOUIE is somehow a funny person's name, and b) you've got an ___AGO/AGO cross over there in Georgia, which is less than ideal.

Guess I'll go look for Mr. Reagle's book.

mathgent 10:49 AM  

I thought that it was a wonderful puzzle. Fresh theme and very well-done. I thought that Rex's criticism was contrived.

Condolences to all of you who knew Merl Reagle. The obviously heart-felt tributes were quite moving.

Teedmn 11:05 AM  

RIP, Merl Reagle.

@LMS, thanks for the anagrams, nice.

19A, Spot check? was my favorite clue today also. But I put a big X next to 29D. Something about Twenty something? equaling ATM made me cringe - too strained for me.

I was lost regarding the theme for the first half the puzzle. I started in the NW and went down so I didn't see a single one of the #1 selling artist clues till I jumped back up to the NE. Up until then I had a vague sense of unease that I was way off the ARMY base (we got our ARMY answer today, folks!) when the themes on the west seemed totally unrelated to each other. While I too wish the anagrams could have had a punnier connection to the artists in question (in fact, some of them seem delightfully oxymoronic, perhaps ironic, especially INDIECLONE/CELINEDION and NURSESSONG/GUNSNROSES), I concede the difficulty of doing so. Perhaps, with enough time, Joel would have come up with five artists whose names could have related punny anagrams, but by then those artists would probably skew as old as yesterday's old timey puzz:-).

I liked the disparity of 'cleaning' and 'leading' both ending with LADY. Liked the DOOK of 39D - Chaucer's characters might have traveled ASAUNIT. PAINT POT brings an image of an actor applying makeup rather than anything to do with acrylic. USS was a good misdirect that had me thinking airline or UPS. I thought 62D would have something to do with a candlestick in the library.

I remember the COLA wars. They showed up at the U of M(inn) campus and let students sit down and compare Coca Cola to Pepsi. A friend said she took the taste test and after the palate cleansing cracker eaten between tastes, she couldn't tell the difference. Drink for thought? Probably not.

Thanks, Joel Fagliano, nice Sunday puzzle.

Lewis 11:34 AM  

@rex -- what a beautiful and moving tribute to Merl Reagle. I am truly on the verge of tears.

Regarding the puzzle, the theme didn't grab me, probably because of the disconnect between the star's name and anagram that Rex talks about. But there was some good cluing (ATM, ONPATROL, PROP), and SPOILERALERT was a terrific answer. The cluing was tough, but fair, just as I like it.

I solved last night, but when I first looked at the puzzle this morning, I glanced over that ANY WINERACK and my brain said "Amy Winehouse" and I was thinking "Why is she on the left side of the puzzle instead of the right?" I like IDEAS over COMA, that is, I'll take ideas over a coma any day. And I like the little TEN/ROT/PAINTPOT rhyme in the middle. For those wondering RUCHE is pronounced ROOSH (I had to look this up). I'm guessing Joel will be remembered more this week for his mini-puzzle retort to Slate than this puzzle, but I enjoyed wrestling with this one.

Leapfinger 11:51 AM  

Begging pardon, @ludy j, but that first observation may have been a RUCHE to judgment.
Your last para, otoh, I agree with wholeheartedly.

Howard Flax 11:55 AM  

Thanks for the touching comments about your friend/mentor! Very heartfelt.

Karen Munson 11:59 AM  

I also wrote to Merl once to tell him how much I enjoyed his puzzle. I was shocked that he responded! Never met him, wish I had, seemed like a great guy.

allan 12:02 PM  

@Rex Parker I don't think a week or a month or a year would make your tribute to @Merl Reagle any more heartfelt than what you wrote today. My condolences to Merl's family and all who he befriended.

Joseph Welling 12:08 PM  

I wonder if this theme wasn't inspired by the fact that Axl Rose adopted that name as an anagram for "oral sex" (which explains the odd spelling of "Axl").

Joseph Welling 12:10 PM  

Also, would my previous comment do anything to change the minds of people who thought little of this theme? I wouldn't have thought of this but for the final theme answer.

Leapfinger 12:21 PM  

I'm finding it hard to compartmentalize, with a sense of loss this palpable, this pervasive through the cruciverbal world. There's that trite advertising line: Reach out and touch someone. I didn't know the man personally, but from what I've been reading this past day, it sounds as if that's what Merl Reagle did --- with an open hand and open heart, and many times over throughout his life. A rare person.

I believe there's a break for intermission here.

Anonymous 12:39 PM  

I have to disagree that the anagrams were "unrelated" to the musicians, because all the anagrams had some connection to music.

old timer 12:48 PM  

Today, a huge DNF caused by an enormous DNC (do not care). I was depressed by the idiocy of HIMAESTRO and it went downhill from there.

Music man 12:59 PM  

PDF is probably the most common file format out there. If you don't have "adobe acrobat" I'm fairly certain you can download a read-only version for free almost anywhere on line. Having that will open a world of possibilities for you :)

Music man 1:12 PM  

Question: I read on another blog that Merl had no backlog of puzzles so there wasn't a Merl puzzle to review today. However, my Inquirer has the puzzle "things are people, too." Is this indeed an old puzzle pulled for the sake of filling the spot in Philadelphia? I would enjoy knowing if I'm solving his last published puzzle or not.

Forgive me if this isn't the place for that question.

Greylock Mansion 1:30 PM  

R.I.P. Merl Reagle.

Masked and Anonymous 2:24 PM  

Very touching words about Merl Reagle, @009. Merl has left us too soon; and Whenever woulda been way too soon.

In the "Word Play" book that was the movie go-with, Merl answered the question why all crosswords had symmetric black square placement. He wisely pointed out that any yahoo could make a crossword, if symmetry was not required. This was extremely inspirational to M&A, to go and try makin his first runt puzzles.

The SunPuz played very large. Kinda fun, havin a puz within a puz, what with the anagrams to unscramble, I reckon. SPOILERALERT is a great answer, and the symmetric answer shoulda been an anagram of it, without any announcement to the solver. Then U woulda had a heckuva Easter egg ahar moment.

Topmost best anagrams of SPOILERALERT:
1. ALERT SPOILER. nah. Too obvious.
2. REPEL TAILORS. M&A's magnificent frame often does this.
3. ELITE PARLORS. One step up from M&A's home office closet.
4. ORAL REPTILES. Great name for an evangelist.
5. LOITERER LAPS. What to do if U want to rubberneck, without drawin too much attention.
6. RETAILER SLOP. Sonic has some good offerings in this genre.

Anyhoo, thanx Joel and keep em comin.



Fred Romagnolo 2:39 PM  

I gave my tribute to the great Merl Reagle yesterday, before reading today's various tributes. What a great impact he had. I wouldn't even be here except for him. There is his regular Sunday puzzle in the S. F. Chronicle today. I hope his estate will allow reprints in the future. @Chefbea: the Cyrillic alphabet is used for eastern Slavic languages, Russian, Ukrainian, Bulgarian, Serbian, etc. It was concocted mostly from the Greek alphabet by the monk who was canonized as St. Cyril; he and St. Methodious introduced Orthodox Christianity to Eastern Europe. Modern Slavics often bear the name Kyril. I always enjoy a Fagliano puzzle; hard but doable. Of course not as much fun as a Reagle, but who else's are? There was his charm, and wit. Speaking of charm and wit (SPOILER ALERT), check out today's acrostic in the NYT.

Anonymous 2:52 PM  

That was beautiful, Michael. Thanks for posting it. "Selfish pit of mourning" is just where I am too. He wasn't "mine", but somehow he made everyone whose path he crossed feel like he belonged to them. -Anne E

mac 2:58 PM  

Thank you, Rex, that was another beautiful tribute.

I for once enjoyed the Sunday puzzle, maybe because it made me think of Merle. Now I'm wondering about Axl Rose, if that was the seed to this one!

Just one question: what school is called OXY? Got it trough crosses but I have no idea.

Steve J 3:43 PM  

I've read several wonderful, heartfelt tributes to the great Merl Reagle over the last couple days. Each one causes the loss to sink in more. Yes, he was one of the giants of our little corner of the world. More importantly, he was by all accounts a wonderful person. The world is always a less when we lose people like that. I never had the privilege of meeting or interacting with him, but I feel like I know him after reading so many tributes.

@Rex: Thanks for your tribute today. The raw emotion made it especially poignant. My thoughts are with you and everyone who knew Merl well and is grieving today.

Today's puzzle: I suppose it's inevitable that it feels a bit anticlimactic after reflecting on Merl Reagle. I agree with Rex's notes about the MEH-ness of the anagrams. It was a good idea, but I would have liked to have seen it go to the next level. I enjoyed lots of fresh, lively fill outside of the theme. Even though this went by in nearly half of my typical Sunday time, it was a pleasant enough Sunday-morning diversion.

@Music man: The Reagle puzzle you're seeing in the Sunday paper is probably new and recent. The sections that puzzles typically appear in are usually printed earlier in the week, so it was likely a recent submission from before Merl's passing. I would guess there are perhaps a few more that had been submitted but not yet published. It's sad that those will be the last ones. (Meanwhile, I am heading over to Merl's site to buy some of his collections.)

@mac: OXY refers to Occidental College in Los Angeles.

Unknown 3:43 PM  

The print edition of the Los Angeles Times (but not the online edition) has a new Merl Reagle puzzle today, called "Things Are People, Too". I don't know if any of the papers in your area run Merl's puzzle (he was syndicated to over 50 papers), but if not, It may eventually be posted on the site

wreck 5:24 PM  

I've seen the Merl Reagle monicker for many years, but wasn't aware of his "stature" until reading his tributes. He certainly will be missed.

This puzzle seemed harder than my time seemed to indicate. I thought it was nice Sunday puzzle -- enjoyed it.

Anonymous 5:26 PM  

Could some explain "ATM" as an answer?


Larry Allen 5:31 PM  

A new low in NYT puzzles. Easiest the worst since the Spring. "The Army"? Theme clues are "artists", but some are people, some groups. No continuity. Who uses terms like "Genial Rock" and "Nurses Song", either?

Just wrong, wrong, wrong. Rex is in mourning, justifiably, so others have to point out just how wretched this offering is.

F.O.G. 5:41 PM  

@Fred Romagnolo 2:39pm:

I too enjoy the NYT acrostic, and today's was nostalgic. From the few comments about that puzzle format, I don't think it gets a lot of play with this group.

OISK 6:54 PM  

Finished it, but this much pop culture is just not fun for me. In this case, I have actually HEARD of all the artists, but Gunsnroses, aerosmith, Miley Cyrus are just pop names to me. Have no idea who they are; in fact I thought that Gunsnroses and aerosmith were groups, not individual artists. Add Louie, Patts??, Chris Isaak(??) Pena, "Science Friday airer..." OK. I figured them out. Smiled when "Deli order" turned out to be "Ham." Not in any deli I have ever eaten at!!

An alternative band is an "Indie"? OK. This one makes up for the complaints about the "age appropriateness" in yesterday's lovely puzzle. Not my cup of tea, but still a good Sunday for most.

Music man 7:04 PM  

@steve j: thanks for the info. Hopefully that means 2 or 3 more weeks of back puzzles. I think I read somewhere that he submits them about 3 weeks in advance. Fingers crossed.

@rex: if the above turns out to be the case, I'm sure many of us would love a Merl puzzle write-up or two :). I know I've always been curious of what you'd say after solving his. Could be a nice tribute.

Looking forward to your write up for the Monday...just finished it...

PuzzleNut 7:17 PM  

I have been following Rex's blog for the past five years or so and he helped introduce me to this world of puzzle enthusiasts. Somewhere (not sure where), I saw a short video of Merl telling a joke about a vampire (my memory has greatly faded), but what I do recall is a wonderful raconteur telling a corny joke and it showed me that puzzles are made by real people with wonderful personalities. I never met or corresponded with Merl, but after reading all the other tributes I know I missed out on a great opportunity to connect with a truly amazing person.
Life is too short and Merl's passing only reinforces my desire to live every day to its fullest. I cannot overemphasize what a wonderful community that crossword puzzles have created. Thank you Rex, will, Brendan, Tim, etc, etc for making this life a little better.
Steve Smaby, aka PuzzleNut

Fred Romagnolo 7:40 PM  

@F O G: pity, it's love of language for me, and I would guess, for you. @Anon5:26: ATMs dispense 20's.

mac 8:08 PM  

Thank you, @Steve, and I agree with you, Steve Smaby, aka PuzzleNut!

Anonymous 8:19 PM  

We don't understand "Twenty Something?" yielding the answer "ATM." Would someone in the know please explain. Thanks.

Music man 8:20 PM  

ATMs dispense money, usually I'm 20 dollar bills, or, 20s, though I know at Wawa you can get 10s. So it's a "something" for "twenties"

Anonymous 8:58 PM  

"Twenty something?" yields "ATM." I don't get it. Would someone please explain.

Nancy 10:03 PM  

@OISK -- I also thought that Gunsnroses and Aerosmith were groups. You mean they're not?

@mathgent -- I like anagrams fine (as you'll see from the email I just sent you), but my problem with the puzzle is that it could be readily solved without paying any attention to the anagrams at all. I can imagine many puzzles in which solving the anagram would be key to solving the puzzle, but this was not that puzzle. I admire the great skill it took to construct it, but my solving pleasure was not enhanced by the constructor's accomplishment.

Leapfinger 8:25 AM  


The anagramishocity may not have been key, but in my case at least, it was definitely WD-40.

Leapfinger 8:25 AM  


The anagramishocity may not have been key, but in my case at least, it was definitely WD-40.

Hartley70 9:13 AM  

I didn't get to this until Monday morning, but I want to say that I found this zippy and fun and a bit tougher than usual. Really good one!

Anonymous 9:25 AM  

I am so sorry for the loss of your friend. You wrote such a moving tribute.

Hartley70 9:28 AM  

Oh my goodness, I just read the blog and posts after a Rexworld free weekend, and now have learned of the death of Merl Reagle. I just became acquainted with Merl and his talent by watching Wordplay for the first time this week. He was a delightful contributor to the film. Rex, I am so very sorry for the loss of your friend.

oldbizmark 11:54 AM  

found this extremely easy. i am not on the same page as rex, i suppose. friday, saturday and sunday were all very doable after trouble on tuesday and wednesday. not sure why there is such disparity here.

Ben 9:37 PM  

Nice one, Mike.

Margaux O'Nolan 10:42 PM  

Dear Rex,

Your tribute to Meri Reagle is one of the *best* things I've read in years: heartfelt, uplifting, real, direct. "It was his way of being in the world, and it was joyous" is a *great* line of poetry and a beautiful insight.

I'm fairly new to crosswords, so you'll have to forgive me when I write that I didn't know of Mr. Reagle prior. Thanks to you, I not only know his public persona, but I feel as though I have a deeper, more personal insight into the man. Your recollection does both of you immense credit.


Anonymous 1:17 PM  

Nobody wears a hockey mask in Friday The 13th. Jason isn't even the killer. He's a kid who dies. In fact the hockey mask doesn't show up until part 3. So no. No one named Jason Vorhees wears a hockey mask in "Friday The 13th." Harrumph.

Puffin 1:13 PM  

Here's a little tidbit: I found myself with "MILE_ _ _ _ _ S for 48 across in mid-solve, so I automatically filled in "Miles Davis." It wasn't long before I came around to the correct answer, but I was glad for the temporary mistake because I never noticed the overlap in the letters between Miley's name and Miles' name before

Burma Shave 12:05 PM  


Years AGO with less GENIALROCK we had AEROSMITH then GUNSNROSES to inspire us,


rondo 12:29 PM  

Didn’t really know about Mr. Reagle. I think I saw one of his puzzles in a paper where I was vacationing last week. By all accounts, I’m sure he’ll be missed.

Thought the top half of the puz was a real Y-fest, even beyond Billy Ray’s daughter and anagram. As I look back on the grid, I have no write-overs, so this anagram exercise couldn’t have been very difficult at all.

Admit it, you all wanted to pull out your wallets and check that Latin word, right? I almost did, thinking it only fair game, but let the crosses take care of it. Certainly didn’t remember it.

LACY could have been clued “Packer RB Eddie”.

I’m sure TYRA banks her yeah baby earnings safely. MILEYCYRUS is a yeah baby in a wild-child sorta way. Why the long face CELINEDION??

I thought the CAROLEKING anagram was the most apt of the LOT. Tremendous songwriter.

Finished this puz early, so I’ll be BUSY avoiding the PARKRANGERs on the St. Croix today.

spacecraft 4:24 PM  

Took a long time today. Often I fall asleep on the old recliner whilst meandering through a 21x21. I'm definitely NOT the guy you want to put a stopwatch to. And neither was American Pharaoh, yesterday. What is it about the Travers? Whirlaway still the only Triple+Travers winner--the year after I was born!

I like anagrams, so enjoyed this solve. The bottom seemed harder to get through than the rest, for some reason. Could be because I know neither STEWIE nor LOUIE. I call Fox's cartoon lineup "Animation abomination," instead of what they call it. My favorite--artist AND anagram in today's grid--is GENIALROCK/CAROLEKING. Also the most fitting. I feel the earth. Move. Under my feet.

MYHAT?? I don't get that one at all. I've heard of "You're full of s**t and yer hat don't fit," but never MYHAT. That is really out there in left field. I only filled it in with crosses, the last being my beloved PHILS. Next year, guys, next year.

RUCHE was my learning WOD too. Not much else outlying; remarkably clean fill for a big grid. For CAROLE, and for all-time top ten hottie TYRA, I'll give this one an A-.

Cathy 5:37 PM  

Funny @Rondo- yes, my first thought was having to get my wallet out for ANNUIT coeptis (phrase on the back of a dollar bill). Happily it filled in. Also happy belated birthday! Mine is today:)

DNF today out of sheer annoyance. Indie clone? Nurses song? Really?! And is it artist or artists? Blech..

Liked seeing STEWIE from Family Guy and Burma Shave:)

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