Abbr in Guiness logo / THU 3-24-16 / Washington Post March figure / Washington Post April figure / Author who wrote Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Constructor: David Liben-Nowell and Tom Pepper

Relative difficulty: Medium, except for the part where I had an error that wasn't actually an error, which took my time to Infinity, so ... Medchallengimpossible?

[ZIP your LIP]


The "self-descriptive statement about a 16-Across [LOGICAL FALLACY]" is:

CIRCULAR REASONING MAKES NO SENSE BECAUSE, which reads in a rectangular loop in the middle of the puzzle

Then there is another theme answer at the bottom: BEG THE QUESTION (64A: Reach a conclusion by assuming one's conclusion true)—so, another form of circular reasoning

Word of the Day: "The Washington Post March" (34A: "The Washington Post March" figure => SOUSA) —
The Washington Post is a march composed by John Philip Sousa in 1889. Since then, it has remained as one of his most popular marches throughout the United States and many other countries.

• • •

This was joyless, largely for technical reasons, but also for circular reasoning being represented in a ... rectangle. Sad trombone. But the concept is cute, and clever, in its way, and deserved better treatment than it got in the online and downloadable versions. In the latter, an important element of the puzzle (the "AROUND" clue) simply wasn't there. But apparently in the app and on the NYT site, as well as in the Across Lite (.puz, downloaded) version, the puzzle simply has a flat-out, no-doubt-about-it error. There appears to have been a late change to the grid, but not a commensurate change to the *clues*, so ... the clues said DAZE / ZIP (21D: Flabbergast / 33A: Nada), but the "correct" grid said DALE / LIP (see grid, above). So no one got a Happy Pencil or congratulatory message or anything ... just seconds to minutes of bewilderment wondering where the damned error was (answer: nowhere). So spectacular technical incompetence overshadows the damn puzzle. I feel bad for the constructors. [UPDATE: I am told the error was fixed sometime last night]

There's not much to say here. The theme is self-explanatory and you liked it or you didn't. Fill is not very interesting, but it's not terrible either. It just is. CUBANO is nice and timely, given the recent presidential visit to Cuba (29D: Castro, por ejemplo). I flew through this pretty quickly except for in the west, where I couldn't get the circular phrase to meet up until I (finally) figured out BEACON (25D: High light?). I was thinking much higher, like up in the sky. I had BE-CO- and decided to run the alphabet for the first missing letter. Luckily for me, the first letter of the alphabet is "A." Clue, solved. Puzzle, finished.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. in case you were befuddled by the clue at 35A: The Washington Post April figure (NAT): the Nationals (aka the NATs) are Washington's baseball team, and baseball's regular season begins in April, and presumably the Post writes about ... them.

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Jonathan 12:13 AM  

I solved it. It took over an hour. I didn't want to lose my streak.

George Barany 12:22 AM  

Just delighted to open the New York Times crossword site and find a Thursday puzzle that represents a collaborative effort of two Minnesota friends, @David Liben-Nowell and @Tom Pepper. Alas, I too ran into the glitches from the on-line solving implementation. Glad that @Rex's review does not fault the constructors for this.

SOUSA's "Washington Post march" that @Rex links to is one of those instantly recognizable melodies that most would not know by name. Perhaps it would have been too personally regional to clue to this SOUSA composition, which is actually a University of Minnesota fight song played at numerous Gopher athletic events [full disclosure: David teaches at Carleton College, whereas Tom is a University of Oregon alum -- so neither has obvious Gopher ties].

Carola 12:38 AM  

Medium for me, had fun figuring it out. Neat idea, lots of fine non-theme entries.! Two do-overs: opeRAS before EXTRAS and Ucla x lycra. Learned from previous crosswords: CEELO

Nice little lingerie corner with C-CUP, SATIN, and LACY.

TomAz 12:44 AM  

I did this on my iPad and had the same time going to infinity thing Rex describes. Finally in frustration I got on the NYT website on my laptop and it registered my puzzle as correct and complete.. but included the extra 1:32 of time I spent on my iPad trying to figure out what the deal was when I had it right.


ZenMonkey 12:53 AM  

As an annoying pedant on the subject of critical thinking, I especially enjoyed seeing BEG THE QUESTION used correctly here, as it usually isn't.

jae 12:56 AM  

Easy except for sussing out the @Rex West side of the AROUND part. That was tough.

I keep forgetting that UTAH is part of the Pac-12. I want either UCLA or UCAL which is really just CAL.

I also forgot that Alex is Canadian, so the eraser was required.

I really liked this one, not just for the clever theme, but because I now have a much clearer understanding of the phrase "BEGS THE QUESTION". I've heard it misused so often that it's become meaningless for me. Thanks guys and thanks to JimH at Xwordinfo for confirming the definition.

Martin 1:16 AM  

Re "Washington Post" figures, SOUSA is good. But, NAT? Forgive me, but Mr. Parker's baseball "explanation" seems quite a reach. I would love to hear another. If the baseball connection is really what was intended, meh. Otherwise, "joyless" seems an apt overall description. Sorry.

Trombone Tom 1:27 AM  

I enjoyed this imaginative puzzle by David Liben-Nowell and Tom Pepper. It took a while to resolve the circular answer, but overall the puzzle was not too challenging. My own goofs on the way included Ucla for UTAH, gRoSSEST for CRASSEST and atOm for DROP. Enjoyed seeing CUBANO for its rarity and timeliness. No problem getting 34A as he wrote a really nice trombone part in the "Washington Post March." I don't recall seeing our computer friend HAL being clued this way previously.

Virginia 1:37 AM  

"Joyless"? Seriously? Rex, you can be a sad and cranky fellow. This puzzle was clever and fun to solve, with a great theme and some pretty inventive fill. I particularly liked "Cubano."

Ok, I'd have been cranky too if I'd encountered the error in the "solution." But it was fixed by the time I got there, so for me it was all good.

Johnny Vagabond 1:48 AM  

Best Thursday puzzle in a long time. Loved it maybe because I got the circular reasoning feature so quickly but I beg the question...

Elaine2 2:44 AM  

Hi -- I'm confused by Rex's comment about the problem with DAZE/ZIP and DALE/LIP. I use Across Lite; I had DAZE/ZIP and did, indeed, get Mr Happy Pencil.

I thought the concept was cute even though the circular reasoning was in a rectangle. It was still linked up.... And I felt satisfied with the result when I was done.

So, it worked for me!

chefwen 3:13 AM  

I was ready to close out an unusually crappy and frustrating day when this puzzle came along and put a lid on it. Dang, there are no words to describe how much I disliked this thing, and I so look forward to Thursday puzzles. Thank god for tomorrows.

O.K. Mom's Apple Pie was pretty cute. Gotta say something positive!

Loren Muse Smith 4:43 AM  

I saw that there was a note but deliberately looked away as I printed the grid just to see if I could solve it without it. I did. (And I still don't see any kind of "AROUND" heading.)

So for me, not an elite solver (at least among those of us in the blogosphere), this was The Perfect Thursday. I really think I could've figured it out even without knowing there was some kind of note and even without the circled C because of BEG THE QUESTION – the spot-on hint to the theme.

Now there's a phrase that's been hijacked, and it's one that belies my whiny, loud-mouth acceptance of language change. When I hear people use BEG THE QUESTION to mean "raise the question," my vile little pedant side rears its ugly head, and I secretly feel smarter than the speaker. (I'm sure most phraseologists wring their hands over this USAGE.)

Rex for you "This was joyless, largely for technical reasons, but also for circular reasoning being represented in a ... rectangle." Not for me, that EKAM in 49A finally had me considering going backwards, and that was all she wrote. Uncovering the circular statement was thrilling, and the aha moment was delicious.

And, hey, the rectangle works just fine for me as the "circle." "Circular" just means it closes back on itself.

John's not a liar.
How can you be sure?
He told me so.

Though this is a circular argument, I don't picture a real "circle" in my head when I think about it.

Serendipity – I've been logical fallacizing this past week because I'm experiencing a lot of presyncope. And I've been trying to drink more water, so I'm blaming the episodes on the water. Post hoc ergo propter hoc and all that, right? (All you people I poke fun at for talking about your thyroid medication – have at it. I deserve it.)

HAL scared the bejeezus out of me in that movie. Had to change "coarsest" to CRASSEST. Loved the symmetry of APPLE PIE and UNFROZEN. Marie Callender, anyone?

The clue problem had been fixed by the time I came to play, but I really feel bad for David and Tom. If they read any of the blogs, I bet they'll find that tons of comments will not about how clever this was but rather about how solvers couldn't get that alarm thing to ring that they had a successful finish.

Figuring out that circular argument loop was so, so cool, guys. I loved this. And it's a pangram.

George Barany 6:24 AM  

My earlier post pointed out that @Tom Pepper has no past or present affiliations with the University of Minnesota, and also referred to a SOUSA-written march that often gets played at our athletic events. Nevertheless, Tom constructed Goldy Oldie this past Fall of 2015 -- give it a try to learn more about our school.

JayWalker 6:32 AM  

Sorry, but I don't see your point on 21D (daze) and 33A (zip). To flabbergast is to daze and nada is, in slang, zip. What is the problem? Can you please help me out? It all made perfect sense to me.

Anonymous 6:47 AM  

Dale/ lip? Daze / lip got me the "congratulations! " screen....

Sir Hillary 6:51 AM  

A little too wonky for my taste.

I solve in the newspaper and completely missed the "Around" clue. Never even saw it. Not sure it would have helped me much.

I don't think of BEGTHEQUESTION as having anything to do with reaching a conclusion. To me, it is just the notion of one answer leading to a follow-on question. Like I said, the puzzle is a bit wonky.

Interesting 14x16 grid. Obviously dictated by the "Around" answer.

Nice pangram -- doesn't seem forced at all.

smalltowndoc 7:06 AM  

Very clever theme. Also reminds me how many otherwise well-educated people incorrectly use the phrase, "it begs the question".

GILL I. 7:13 AM  

Should I feel bad for the constructors because of technical incompetence? How else would this appear if not in a rectangle? I'm so confused. It was supposed to be circular? WHY? What is this I ask my OUIJA board? I need help, guidance and wisdom. I was offered APPLE PIE and BRIE, and a nice little SATIN C CUP for my troubles.
Should I like this Thursday I kept asking and I decided that yes was the polite way to go.
You know how something sticks in your craw and you just can't let it go until someone admits a mistake and then you can get on with your life? Well, Obama's visit to that CUBANO Fidel has done it to me again. Here's our fearless leader welcoming the Cubans and in his welcome speech he says LOUD and clear "Es una nueva dia" almost as proudly as JFK did when he was in Berlin and told everyone he was a jelly doughnut. OK, I feel better now
Of course Woody Allen would say that SEX is definitely the answer....Does he know any better?

Lewis 7:35 AM  

To continue on a riff that graces this commentariat occasionally: 24D (ESNESO) -- Worst spelling of Enescu ever.

This one was fun and kept me highly motivated throughout. I loved discovering the roundabout phrase and a good amount of quirky cluing (two clues I especially liked were for SRS and MOSQUE). What a great idea for a theme!

Why do I like this puzzle? Because I do.

Mark Taylor 7:39 AM  

Very, very frustrated with the error in the puzzle. I finally had to break my streak to get the app to tell me what was "wrong". To those wondering what we're talking about, 21 Down's clue was "Flabbergast" and 33 Across was "Nada", and I had "DAZE" and "ZIP", but the app insisted I wasn't done. When I finally checked the puzzle, it indicated that the Z was incorrect. I started plugging in other letters and the app finally said I was done when I tried an L. "Flabbergast" is DALE? "Nada" is LIP? What?!

Unknown 7:53 AM  

Natick for me at CBC/CEELO; also NAT seems to me nearly an impossible leap from the clue.

Anonymous 8:01 AM  

Best time ever for a Thursday ... under 13:00, so I guess that's easy for me. I assume good solvers would find 12 minutes for a Thursday to be an eternity.

Debra 8:03 AM  

Best puzzle for any day in ages. Lots of fun, challenging enough, not too obscure. Brilliant!

Anonymous 8:04 AM  

Can someone please explain 66 down to me? SRS means nothing to me...Thank you.

Lobster11 8:10 AM  

I always print the pdf from the NYT site and solve on paper, sans timer, so I didn't have any of the technical problems that befuddled others.

I liked this one a lot: just the right difficulty level for me on a Thursday, some clever cluing, and an amusing theme.

I can't get on board with the criticism that the theme doesn't work because a rectangle isn't "circular." I've been known to pick some nits in my day, but this is going way too far.

I also don't understand the objection to 35A. As OFL explained, the "Nats" are DC's baseball team, which begins its season in April, and the Washington Post is a DC newspaper that writes about them. What's wrong with that? And what about the juxtaposition of this clue (The Washington Post April figure) at 35A with the clue for 34A ("The Washington Post March" figure)? No bonus points for that?

I just don't see what's not to like here, and suspect that technical glitches just made some folks grumpy.

chefbea 8:27 AM  

Fun Thursday puzzle.Got out a piece of paper and wrote down the letters that I had for 28 Around and it was easy to fill in the rest.

@chefwen Of course I agree with you...moms apple pie

Nancy 8:28 AM  

I loved this puzzle, which provided a wonderful "aha" moment when I saw the CIRCULAR REASONING circle. I picked it up from the U in USAGES: there was a word that wasn't going to be CIRCLE; it looked like it was going to be CIRCUs; but something involving a CIRCLE was really what I wanted. And then I saw the AR from SOUSA and TBAR and I knew what was happening. Which was a very good thing, since I was hardly going to get ONSEKAMGNINOSA and ESNESO on their own. A fun, clever gimmick that I enjoyed -- made all that much harder because the word BECAUSE begins in the 2nd, not the 1st Across square.

This didn't play hard for me at all. Having never heard of CEELO, I had to guess at CBC, rather than CBS, at 56D. But knowing that Alex Trebek is Canadian enabled me to make the right guess. A fun puzzle.

Roo Monster 8:34 AM  

Hey All !
Twas mentioned before, but grid is 14x16, so able to neatly fit the "Around" answer. Could've been regular 15 Downs, but the Around was 6 letters Down, so must lengthen for symmetry. If that made sense... (my explanation, that is.)

And a pangram! Snuck that Z in there at DAZE, though apparently not at first re: Rex. Liked the dreck-liteness, tough to pull off with a big theme constraint like this one. (Doh! Just saw the other Z in UNFROZEN)

Many writeovers, thankfully did online today ( as grid otherwise would've been three layers of ink! bBC before CBC, Iam-IGO, NE biga(Big A)-HALO, each-APOP, nIl for ZIP, which couldn't suss out, after not getting Congrats music, hit Reveal to find my nil wrong. So, DNF, but still liked puz. Very cool concept, executed well IMHO.

I stand by my theory of Will alternating tough/good puzs with easy/bland puzs week to week. Think about last weeks puzs and the week before that, then this week. Just sayin.

No EELs, ASSes, RRNs, RGLs. But TEE NEE SEX on a TBAR.


Hungry Mother 8:35 AM  

Used online solving, so no hint. I used the "K" to figure out that the bottom of the rectangle should read backwards and then solved the puzzle. It took me 47 minutes, which is about normal for me on a Thursday. Since I solved it, I liked it.

Z 8:39 AM  

Never. Even. Saw. It. I even had to look twice after reading that there was an "Around" clue in the printed version. Like @LMS, seeing KAMtNIN, then changing CLOt to CLOG, and boom - the middle made sense. I'm actually glad I never saw the clue. I was wondering how I was supposed to go from the two other themers to CIRCULAR REASONING, but I did. Here's another vote for NOT making puzzles to easy.

A very clean grid here, ESTb to ESTD and CIRCle to CIRCUL, otherwise no writeovers. I agree on the streeeetch on the NAT clue. Trying to be all tricksy on the doubling up of "Washington Post" and "months," but putting that N in last got more of a "yuck" than the "wry smile" response here.

Interesting quotes trifecta, HAL, Woody Allen, and CS LEWIS. Too bad they couldn't work in a CEELO Green quote. (NSFP)

jberg 8:50 AM  

I solve in the paper, but failed to notice the "Around" clue for 26 -- and there was no circle around 26 either. But onece I had enough crosses to see CIRC, I noticed the AR going down, and filled in the CIRCULAR REASONING part. I still needed almost all the crosses to get NO SENSE, as a) it's not a common saying, and b) like everyone else, I didn't get or understand NAT. I'll accept @Rex's explanation, as I certainly can't think of anything better.

Now for pedantry: @Sir Hillary, go back and read @Loren, and more briefly @ZenMonkey. Your definition of beg the question is what they (and I) are complaining about. The 'true' -- i.e., original -- meaning is a debater's trick to get your opponent to agree to something without his or her realizing that they are really agreeing to the point you are arguing or. E.g., if you think the federal deficit is a terrible problem, and I don't, you might ask me whether I think tax increases or spending cuts are the best way to reduce the deficit. If I answer either way I have lost the argument, and you have begged the question.

I complain about this all the time, but I think it's a lost cause. It takes all my energy to tell people it's 'free rein,' not 'free reign.'

jberg 8:53 AM  

@leapfinger, from yesterday -- all of @LMS's SLEDGE terms had an S on one EDGE and an L on the other.

Sorry I didn't see your questions earlier -- the sleepness night must have been tough.

kithshef 8:57 AM  

Enjoyed it a great deal, though as a paper solver did not have to deal with DAlE/lIP. Smooth fill, clever theme, and a smart puzzle.

Had ASTe before ASTI (a frequent error on my part), so eNdS before INNS, which gave me UNFROZEd. The mind boggled that the NYT would allow UNFROZEd in a crossword, but then I remembered to look back at ASTe and all was good.

Similar experience in the SW. Figured the network had to be NBC, CBS or ABC, so filled in the B which gave me BEGTHEQUESTION, which led to REED which led to CRASSEST, which gave me CBs, which left me with sEELO Green - an inexcusable error by NYT. Then I remembered Trebek is Canadian; gruntlement followed.

atOm/iota/mote were all considered for tiny amount before DROP.

Living in the DC area, and NAT is absolutely fine. It's the most common name used for the team, like A's for Athletics. Nobody says "I'm going to the NATionals game"; it's always NATs.

Glimmerglass 9:13 AM  

The Bible is all truth. How do I know? Because it says so in the Bible.

Hartley70 9:19 AM  

I thought this was fantastic! The theme and the visual were so unusual that it kicked a rebus to the curb today. I'm not bothered by the square/circle issue. It's still CIRCULAR to me. And my time was spot on for Thursday. Of course the error was fixed, the C was visible, and I read the note before I began, so I didn't start with a handicap. Kudos to the constructors!

APPLEPIE went in first and as I worked my way around the puzzle I had the same thoughts as Rex, loved CUBANO and BEACON was last to fill.

I appreciate the BEGTHEQUESTION lesson because I needed it. Luckily it's just not a phrase I use so I haven't embarrassed myself lately.

Yesterday the doctor talked to me about starting thyroid medication. Now I'm looking forward to it.

Mohair Sam 9:23 AM  

Delightfully different Thursday marred by a technical glitch. We print ours out straight from the Times web site in the morning (7AM today) and got the DAZE/ZIP cross with matching clues, no problem. Thanks to @Elaine2 for saving me the time of testing Across Lite to prove we had the puzzle right.

Not in the least bit troubled that Will didn't create a round puzzle today to make the CIRCULAR LOGIC truly loopy. Jeez Rex. Hand up with the gang who appreciate the timing on CUBANO. But no hand up with the grouches who hated the NAT clue - it is near the start of baseball season, late in the week, and did pair nicely with the SOUSA clue. Someday I will learn that it is EE in CEELO not Ei, someday. BEGTHEQUESTION just such a great fit in this puzzle, nicely done.

Speaking of which: @LMS - Go easy on those who misuse BEG THE QUESTION. I misused it once as a Freshman in English 101, I was verbally assaulted by the professor in a manner that made military basic training years later seem a lark. I have never used the phrase since, hence have never made the mistake. I do note internally when others use the phrase incorrectly, but rather than feel smug - I fear for their safety.

Again, terrific Thursday - different and fun. Thanks David and Tom.

Horace S. Patoot 9:42 AM  

Add me to the voices who are delighted to see BEG THE QUESTION used properly. I know everyone learns it differently these days, and they can't be blamed, but I just hate to see the people who were dozing in the back of the classroom in my generation own the language.

Steve M 9:44 AM  

Annoying but finished
Not a fan of gimmicks

Sheik Yerbouti 9:45 AM  

I thought that TOES/ESS (62D/71A) worked just as well as TOED/EDS. Not sure why the latter is necessarily more correct than the former.

Chuck McGregor 9:45 AM  

Absolutely loved the quotations for both the clues and answers. What’s not to like about a mom or APPLE PIE? Well…there are those “Evil Step Mothers” on the ID (Investigation Discovery) channel.

When I first made a CIRCULAR tour around the puzzle, most of it made NO SENSE. Gradually things started to POP. With (sadly) a one-letter reveal I got it.

The way NEATO CIRCULAR statement was the most fun to figure out as I was stuck on some of its crosses. That ultimately lead me to the (almost) solve. I thought it was a true gem (like that OPAL) and just kept saying it several times, loving the thought.

It seems to me that both BEG THE QUESTION and LOGICAL FALLACY are also CIRCULAR statements, though I can’t explain it in a really LOGICAL way. All I got is something along these lines:

To BEG THE QUESTION is to provide an answer for the question it BEGS.

A LOGICAL FALLACY is illogically LOGICAL which is, LOGICALly, a FALLACY.

Years (and years) ago, I learned NEE from doing crosswords. I could be wrong but It seemed to be almost as popular and variously clued then as “Oreo” is now.

AGR: During the JFK / LBJ administrations, my half-brother was (using today’s title) Under Secretary of Agriculture for Research, Education, and Economics.

/Music Ed:

AD LIB: Roughly half the music I play these days requires me to AD LIB my bass part, better known among musicians as playing by ear or improvising if you will. Of musicians I’ve played with, more than not are either good at that or are good at reading music, not both.

An exceptionally good violin player I’ve often worked with, played in the pit orchestra for the “Das Barbecu,” the country and western based musical I mentioned yesterday. At one point in her score there were 32 measures with just the chords noted and the instruction “Fiddle.” That meant to AD LIB it like a country fiddler. At the first rehearsal she saw that and panicked. She is a reader and had not the slightest clue what to play. So, the music director wrote out a NEATO “fiddle” part for her. She played it like she had been doing AD LIB “fiddling” all her life. (I said she was good.)

Moral of the story: If you think someone is playing a killer AD LIB solo, they could very well have learned it from or are even reading it from a music score.

Sight-reading music is a refinement of simply being able to properly read and play a score, which often takes practice. It is reading and playing the first time like you HAD practiced it. My pianist buddy is also an organist. He can sight-read an organ part (left and right hands plus feet for the pedals) while simultaneously sight-reading the choir’s soprano, alto, tenor, and bass singing parts so that he can conduct them. Scary!

I haven’t verified this since, but as a kid I learned that when the saxophone was invented there was quite the conundrum whether it should be a REED or a horn. Though nothing to do with that question, SOUSA was primarily a horn guy, that marvelous piccolo (a REED) solo in the “Stars and Stripes Forever” notwithstanding.

/End Music Ed


Tita 10:24 AM  

@Martin - agree - that NAT clue is trying way too hard. Ugh.

Circular in this sense just means a closed loop - the continuous rectangle is a much better visual than a circle in a grid, which can never be a real circle anyway.

I am so happy that I saw no note, no shaded squares. I had to REASON this out all by my lonesome. Made it more fun.
Even though I DNFd!! I just had to give up and get on with my day, so I revealed the A of NAT, but still couldn't see BECAUSE because I had D_NE/NIL instead of D_ZE/ZIP. Sloppy mistake.
Oh - I naticked at sEELO/CBs.

More self-referential fill - 15D NYT?

And wrong, wrong, wrong - SOUSA crossing CUBANO - everyone knows he was Portuguese/Hessian. Sheess.

Lastly, I take umbrage at 8A. I confidently put in bCUP. From my vantage point, that is medium.

Tom Pepper is one of my favorite constructors ever since GOINGCOMMANDO one Monday long ago.
Thanks for a very different kind of Thursday workout!!

Anonymous 10:36 AM  

Newspaper does not have a circled square. So no way to know where the quote begins. Also missed the Around clue completely, though I see it there now.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:39 AM  

Nice puzzle; quite logical!

Must agree with those who find the clue for 36 A very weak (The Washington Post April figure, for short - NAT). The only thing it has in its favor is the echo of the clue for 35 A ("The Washington Post March" figure - SOUSA), which is a very odd wording in itself. Yes, March - April, very clever, but quite a stretch.

Howard B 10:45 AM  

Liked the concept here and was not fazed by the rectangle, since it was symbolically 'circular'. Somewhat fun to solve except for the similarity to the old Stepquote style.

That said, I could not parse the clue for NAT at all. Thanks Rex.

Anonymous 10:56 AM  

Zen Monkey and Loren Muse Smith,

I beg to differ. Neither of you are being pedants ( can't imagine LMS ever being vile). Begging the question is a hugely important phenomenon to understand. People do it all the time and don't realize it. They're knuckleheads. Exactly the kind of people who no doubt say they're beg the question when they're doing nothing of the sort.
I'll be pedantic and admit that when I correct those dummies I use the phrase used in logic 101 for the past 2500 years: petitio principii . You can imagine the blank stares.



Sonia S 11:03 AM  

Shame about the typo.

USAGES gives me the sufferings.

Anonymous 11:04 AM  

Rex is all wet. Loren Muse Smith and Zen Monkey aren't.
Neither of you is being a pedant when you cringe at the misuse of begging the question. If more people knew what it meant, maybe they wouldn't do so often. Logic matters. So do the terms used in its operation.
I'll play the pedant and admit that when some knucklehead says something begs the question when he actually means it raises the question I ask him where the petitio principii is. You can imagine the slack jawed stares.

Sir Reginald Van Gleason 11:07 AM  

Capital puzzle

Joseph Michael 11:40 AM  

In my printout of the puzzle, the "C" in AVEC is not a circled square but a shaded one. This caused a lot if problems in that area until I finally wrote in the "C" and saw CIRCULAR.

Aside from that, this was a vey cool puzzle.

John V 11:41 AM  

DNF. Clever, but not even close.

RAD2626 11:45 AM  

Anon 8:04. Seniors, college or high school, take it easy their final semester.

Liked this a lot. NAT clue way overwrought. Thought sliders in April were baseball players at first. Biggest glitch was eNdS for final down stopping points which gave me UNFROZEd. Really wanted that to be correct to hear all the howls. But knew ASTe was wrong so I was disappointed.

Clever construction and really good fill considering. Have to admit as Spring is upon us, I am really sick of TBARs. The new eel. Send them back to the SKI SHOP for the summer.

Andrew Heinegg 12:08 PM  

Dull, dull dull. These kinds of puzzles are never my cup of tea and this one is a good example of why. In order to enable the solver to fill in indirect clues and get the conceit of the theme, the constructor needs to have a bunch of easy and uninteresting clues which, in turn, spoil the puzzle. Sigh.

Fred Romagnolo 12:14 PM  

CBC and CEELO a natick for me. The NAT explanation is as weak as it's inclusion in the puzzle. Hands up for seeing EKAM as being backward so solved it. Amusingly I had HArp instead of HALO (both fit with Angels).

Chip Hilton 12:21 PM  

Paper solver who completely overlooked the Around clue. That makes me especially pleased that I was able to work out the theme answers. Fun being pleased by your own carelessness.

I enjoyed this a good deal, excepting the NAT clue and CCUP as an answer. Isn't it time to bid such entries adieu? I find them a handful.

Sonia S 12:31 PM  

With pondering, I think Washington March figure and Washington April figure would have been considerably more pleasing, and I still think you could get SOUSA from it.

Mohair Sam 1:04 PM  

@Anonymous 10:56 and 11:04

You're not Marco Rubio, are you?

Masked and Anonymous 1:29 PM  

Day-um. Third day in a row, that two constructioneers have ganged up on us. Doing the newspaper version was somewhat easier, as no Mr. Happy Pencil givin me LIP. Still, lost precious nanoseconds, just feelin out-gunned by the L-N & P tag team.

AGR. har. Desperate lil darlin.

That there circular argument themer was hard as nails for M&A to piece together. It had those 4 unchecked letters of mystery, in the corners of the circular rectangle dealy. Somehow, the "AROUND" category and clue seemed to help. Despite the feisty CUBANO/AGR, trying to mess me up.

fave fillins:
* ESNE SO. Shoulda replaced the {--} clue with {Logical only to thralls of yore??}.
* LARREA. Cool-lookin nonword. Cross between LARIAT, LARRY, AREA and -- hard to avoid thinking of it here -- DIARRHEA. The double-?? clues pretty much write themselves, on this puppy. Clearly, y'all can improve on the obvious {Lariat Larry's locale of looseness??}. Could tie it into the IGO answer, somehow, too boot!
* CRASSEST. Intriguin Guiness World Records category. Also, looks like part of a circular argument involvin ACCRA'S SESTET.
* The whole pangram vibe. And, as others have mentioned, doesn't feel very forced upon us.
* CALC. Ain't this still considered an abbr for calculus? Ergo, shouldn't the clue throw us a bone -- somethin like an added "taking away two precious U's" phrase, or somesuch? Speaking of which …

Agent 007-U will return, in:
"The SPA Who Loved Me"

AGEE, AGER, AGR, amamus, amatus, amant. (It's like a dern Love Hotel.)


Teedmn 1:33 PM  

Great puzzle. Of course I say that BECAUSE I was successful in solving it. I caught on, like @Nancy, at the CiRCle/CIRCUs area. I'm not sure why I decided that turning the corner made sense - oh yeah, it was the "-" clue, but I got around to the end of REASONING and then had to use crosses to figure out the rest of the phrase. I like that it started one square in; for some REASON it emphasizes the endlessness of the phrase, in my opinion.

BEG THE QUESTION - I knew that one because I have used it in the incorrect but well-accepted way, and now that I know it's real meaning, I cringe a little when I hear it misused, which is pretty often. Unfortunately I wrote it into a song which has been recorded and lives on the Internet so I'll never be able to deny - thus full disclosure here is my way of atoning.

Didn't see the note and solved on paper so no lack of Happy Pencil angst here. A nice clue for SRS at 66D and the Olympus Australis is new info to me. Having SOAKS at the SPA provided by fancy INNS while eating BRIE and drinking ASTI sounds like what David and Tom should enjoy after giving us this clever puzzle.

kitshef 1:54 PM  

@jberg - thank you for the explanation of yesterday's LMS post. I was also nonplussed by it - and remain convinced that I'm still missing part of it, her posts being so generally clever.

I think BEGTHEQUESTION, in the 'incorrect' sense, is common in current usage and so has become correct, at least if you are a descriptive grammarian. If you are a prescriptive grammarian, wait ten years.

Dick Swart 1:55 PM  

As an old marching band tuba player, I am always happy to write in 'Sousa'. The fill was pretty easy except for the non-sense downs. The ipso facto of 'circular' was a rewarding reveal!

A solid Thursday!

Anonymous 2:18 PM  

I've never looked this blog before; it's too much like cheating. But I was glad that I looked at it today. Like many others, I had daze/zip, so I kept checking and checking (and checking). If the puzzle people get it wrong, shouldn't they award happy pencil man either way? I did get the 'circular reasoning' thing fairly early on. Some of the letter sequences were really peculiar and the only way to make sense of them was to read them backwards.

phil phil 2:39 PM  

Not a good nit, Rex.

I would never think circular reasoning has any relation to geometry but the basic of fact that circles have noo beginning or end. That it has to resemble a geometric circle is not picking at its worse.

the redanman 2:46 PM  

HAVING Logical fallacy and beg the question, I thought ANINCONVENIENTTRUTH would be the reveal. Disappointing to say the least.

No sour grapes, filled it in like a good rote.


Leapfinger 2:50 PM  

@jberg, thanks for coming through. So it's an S&L joke? SNL? Gotta work on it. Yeah, I lay awake, but got to lie in all morning.

Circular-shmircular! Sometimes you just have to cut corners. Have to hand it to DL-N and TP --- as I understand it, people have been trying to square the circle for donkey's years. Help yourselves to a kudo APOP, boys.

Didn't see a note and glad of it. Noticing that the four ?? clues formed a perimeter put me in the loop, and made sense of the GNI sequence. Guess that if you get to Rome,it doesn't matter what road took you there.

@GILLster, you keep your troubles where?? LACY SATIN C-CUPs aren't exactly TEE NEE... Not some kind of a FALLACY thing going on, is it?

@Lewis, enjoyed your little spelling joke, but you have to be careful. Sometimes you scratch a Romanian and find a Hungarian.

Disappointed I couldn't squeeze a MINARET into the space for a MOSQUE, but was pleased with the LOGICAL clue for 18A: If it's Australis, it's got to be OPAL! Also have to appreciate the array of quotables on offer.

Say, isn't that Mom & APPLE_PIE thing baking the question? OTOH, I think BEGGING THE QUESTION rather trumps the issue.

Time for a refreshing NINOSA.

Chronic dnfer 2:50 PM  

C cups good. Puzzle ok. Dnf'd at cbs/seelo. Victory streak still alive (in my mind). Onto Friday.

lg 3:09 PM  

Seniors, as in letting their grades slide at the end of high school because they don't care.

lg 3:12 PM  

Trouble in the west, took me forever. Had SOUSA and CUBANO but very little else. Had I heard of the phrase "CIRCULAR REASONING MAKES MORE SENSE" I could have shaved off a lot of time. Bummer.

Unknown 3:35 PM  

San Francisco print version omitted extra clue and circled square at 28

Z 3:43 PM  

Since Woody has given the answer I don't know why everyone is going on and on BEG(GING) THE QUESTION.

@Lewis - Top notch Enescu observation.

@Anon8:04 - You'll probably get >6 answers but SRS is the abbreviation for those suffering from "senioritis."

@jberg - Yes except for "lost the argument." If, as in your example, I think the issue is really insufficient income redistribution to mitigate against inefficiencies derived from socialized markets and not the deficit per se, I might allow the faulty premise to stand to argue for increased taxes, perhaps through the elimination of corporate tax deductions. Petards were invented for a reason, after all, and hoisting someone who is begging the question on their own is three quarters the fun of debating. It would be all the fun except they almost never know they've been hoisted.

@Sheik - I don't recall ever seeing Pointy-TOEs, but I guess it is defensible. However, the "for short" in 72A tells us it will be an abbreviation, so EDS, short for "editors," fits the clue while EsS does not. Also, "at work" seems to exclude the EsS answer.

@E/Anon10:56 - Not to be out-pedantified, Aristotle never said, "petitio principii," so I think your "past 2500 years" is less than accurate.

PPP Analysis
Pop Culture, Products, and Proper Nouns as a % of answers
22/73, 30% - Getting high but not in the 33%+ range that seems guaranteed to generate complaints. I am a little surprised that nearly nothing has been said about Luis TIANT, a baseball player whose prime was 40 to 50 years ago (I see he pitch until 1982, but 1975 was his last great season). He can hardly be a household name anymore and that N goes right in the middle of the backward reading section. I expected at least as much complaining about Luis as about the NATs.

puzzle hoarder 3:47 PM  

I'm at work today and forgot to print out the puzzle before leaving home. This forced me to solve on my phone. What a royal pain in the ass. I came away with a clean grid but it took about three times as long as it's would have on paper.
As for this puzzles' theme I say it begs the question of critical thinkings' relevance. Thankfully none of that was needed to solve the puzzle. The NE was the last corner to get straightened out. Why SATIN was hard I'll never know. I was working with NYLON and RAYON. Maybe it's just cheap taste in lingerie. After that I just had to complete the circular entry. I instinctively began with BECAUSE. Why? Because it was the only complete word. See I am logical. The rest of it fell right in place and I was done.
One more note, for a long time I had MOUSE and CAT before SOUSA and NAT. I blame the phone. Now I'll have to go to the chalkboard and write "I will not forget to print out my puzzle." 500 times.

beatrice 5:41 PM  

'All generalizations are false, including this one.' - Mark Twain

CSLEWIS,'Where, except in the present, can the Eternal be met?'

For Maundy Thursday, a piece by Victoria

OISK 5:43 PM  

Agree with many others that the clue for NAT was just awful. Wanting to be cute by having two consecutive "Washington Post" clues can't justify it. I finished this one after a struggle, but I liked it. Knew Ceelo from prior puzzles. I see that i am not the only solver who keeps track of his "winning streaks." Last error was the word(??) "dap." On a Monday!

Someone asked, and I didn't notice an answer, but SRS are seniors who slack off in the spring.They sure do, once the college admissions come in!

Unknown 8:15 PM  

Uh...21 down should be daze.

Skinner Bachs 8:32 PM  

Let's hear it for the Symbolic Circle: Kumbaya, m'Lud, Kumbaya!

Mutatis mutandis, this was an excellent puzzle; logic dictates continuing collaboration in the future.

I'm willing to go with the "all things in moderation" idea, but this is getting to be reductio ad absurdum. Even a lowly lab rat is rewarded with a food pellet after it presses the lever often enough.

Jon 10:22 PM  

I can't say I enjoyed this one either. It felt more like high school homework than an enjoyable diversion I do when coming home from a long day. I don't think it is the technical limitations of solving on my iPhone, I just didn't care for this theme. At least its already 10 here so Fridays is already online.

Joe Bleaux 11:29 PM  

You're referring to 67, not 66, D. The clue is about a "grp" (group abbreviated) known for slacking in the spring. The answer is SRS (seniors, anbreviated) ... students on spring break.

Joe Bleaux 11:32 PM  

And don't get me started on "just deserts," NOT "just desserts." ;)

Joe Bleaux 11:35 PM  

Neither of you IS, Now, THAT's pedantry :)

Rabi Abonour 11:57 PM  

I've gotta disagree on the joyless thing too - I liked this one. This is the sort of construction gimmick that I find fun. I liked figuring out the circle (or rectangle). Fill isn't amazing, but I thought it was fine given the constraints of the theme. LIVE CHAT is a nice current answer.

Definitely agree on NAT. I just got it from the crosses. Is that really the explanation? That's awful - not worth the March/April thing.

Anonymous 3:39 AM  

Srs is short for "seniors" (the high school and college variety) who - if they planned correctly - are enjoying life more than concentrating on academics.

Anonymous 8:19 AM  

So here I am doing the puzzle a day late and the online cluing for 'dale/lip' is still wrong. I finally came here to find out WTF. Not fun at all.

RMK 4:26 PM  

Piccolo is not a reed instrument.

paulsfo 3:20 AM  

I see all the "explanations" for 66D. How, it still doesn't make sense to me. If the clue clue they (their grades or their effort) "slipped" in the spring that would make sense but what is it that is "sliding" (unless we're supposed to insert "...downhill" into the clue)?

Z 9:29 AM  

@paulsfo - I took "sliding" to be slang for not trying hard. Like "skating" or "slacking off."

paulsfo 6:05 PM  

@Z: Thanks. I guess you're right but it seems that they (unnecessarily) used a bit of slang that none of us have heard of. :D

Burma Shave 8:37 AM  


I’ll make her BEGTHEQUESTION as a LIVECHAT offense,
Is it SEX or the LOGICAL,FALLACY for gents?


rondo 11:19 AM  

I just love when folks get all crabby when having trouble solving on their toys. But that shouldn’t have an effect on whether the puz was good, bad, or otherwise. As compared to the usual Thurs-puz nonsense, I liked this one. Got the top and bottom tiers and saw something backwards was happening after some midsection crosses. As soon as I got up the mountain on a TBAR instead of a TrAm I was done in no time; those two squares made a world of difference. And there was no additional note in my paper to help out.

AGRee with someone above that a piccolo is not a REED. Woodwind, yes. REED, no. And the original poster tries to seem like an expert thereon? Har. Maybe on longwind.

I knew an LPGA player one Friday night about 10 years ago. Have photos to prove it. When they miss the cut, they seem to be interested in two things. Booze and SEX, as long as both are free. As the old sports cliché goes, you just have to put yourself in position.

A CCUP is a good SIZE for a yeah baby, but certainly not required. But DEFINEd as medium? Not in my experience. And where are said yeah babies lately? We have the SATIN CCUP for one today, but nobody to put in it. Volunteers?

Well done by MN constructors, a nice DAZE work.

spacecraft 11:47 AM  

I smirk every time a glitch in the electronics occurs. Give me paper every time. I have DAZE and ZIP and count myself right, because they fit the clues--which DAlE and lIP do not. I don't NEED any damn "happy pencil."

Like it or not (I do), you have to admit this puzzle has a different gimmick. I agree that the west was toughest; I thought "...CAUSE" was the whole word there and wasn't sure how the "around" statement would finish. The BEACON shone the light on me as well. The Allen quote is a solid gimme: they don't call him Woody for nothing.

Fooled for a bit in the NE with that school beginning with U. I started running through all the U(niversities) and it was just UTAH.

And now tell me: where do YOU come from, constructors, where CCUP is considered "medium?" I WANNA MOVE THERE!

Nary a Damsel to be seen; let us pluck one from the LPGA: how about Natalie Gulbis? I'd do her right on the first TEE. Fill not bad at all; the CRASSEST one is...well, there goes your circular reasoning! A-.

rain forest 2:24 PM  

I'm elated and confused at the same time. Elated, because this was a puzzle worth doing; confused because, here in Syndi-time, we (or at least, I) had no note or extra clue or circled letter (and no error), and the references to 67D seemed to indicate the word "sliding". In my paper, the term was "slacking off".

@Rex, you get the sad trombone for your "joyless" comment and your unbelievable nit about the circle being a rectangle. Like, if I circle the block to try to find a parking spot, do I have to say, "I rectangled, or squared the block"? Come on, man!

The joy in solving this puzzle came from using, ahem, LOGIC to determine that the key phrase was going in a circle, which resulted in an "aha" and a warm sense of satisfaction. Indeed, BEG THE QUESTION is universally misused, and I can't let it pass. I don't think that is pedantry.

@Z - were you making a reference to Luis TIANT's practice of looking backwards before he released the ball? Actually, he was such a memorable character that I didn't find the clue dated in the least.

@redanman - you don't seem to like any puzzle. Why do them?

Anonymous 2:37 PM  

Thought it was Mom, baseball (which fit), and apple pie...

leftcoastTAM 4:16 PM  

Fortunately, I got a cleanly constructed and printed puzzle, and I thought it was first-rate. Tricky, but not too tricky, and well-executed.

The CIRCULAR (even if rectangular) REASONING theme actually does MAKE SENSE, supported by the top and bottom long entries as well as USAGES and DEFINE.

The latter two fill entries also call to mind long debated questions about the correct usage of "beg the question" wherein corruptions (to evade, to literally beg) of the phrase as originally used (to assume) have become standard.

Boring but interesting to me, as is the puzzle.

Diana,LIW 5:07 PM  

I lost, because they won, because I lost, because they won. Had a DNF from the start as the "medium/CCUP?" question was posted in yesterday's comments. Fie!

But had more DNF, so all's not lost. Had another Horse Shoes "almost" today. Very enjoyable Thurs gimmick. Oh yes, no circle in the paper, but the extra clue was there.

@BS - per your poem yesterday - at last SOMEONE was able to complete an act of congress.

@Rainy - saw your post in Futureland (I had posted to LMS and was looking to see if she got it, but she hasn't appeared in the last couple of days.) Don't let moderation get you down. As one of my prof's used to say, "Shift happens."

I, too, am a hard core paper solver. With a pencil and well-worn eraser.

My gym in Calif has only 8 parking spaces (on-street parking is pretty dicey, too). But here in Spokaloo we have three lots to choose from. So I'm off to there, and shan't have to rectangle the block. (Waah waah.)

Diana, Not Waiting for a Parking Space

Bloomsday is Sunday, so think of me as I walk a 12-K in lieu to a.m. puzzle solving. S'posed to be sunny and hi 60's.

Anonymous 5:10 PM  

A perfectly fine and entertaining Thursday puzzle, I thought, except for the various unfortunate glitches. My newsprint version had no shaded or circled square, but it did have the "28 around" clue, which made it perfectly solvable. Hats off to the appearance of Luis TIANT!

It just seems odd that such an otherwise competent puzzle would contain the bizarre clue for 36A, which is absolutely one of the worst in recent memory. And the otherwise clever clue for CALC suffered from the lack of any indication that the answer would be a shortened form. An odd day. Gremlins, I suspect.

Left Coast Semi-pedant

Keith Shapiro 5:32 PM  

Missed the "Around" clue entirely. "Nat" threw me.

Z 6:26 PM  

@rain forest - I wish I had thought of that. Makes his inclusion a bonus.

Regarding Moderation - It sure doesn't seem like Rex is apt to change anytime soon. I suspect (not that he's ever said, just by inference from things he has said) whatever discomfort it causes the Commentariat in no way outweighs the decrease in complaining emails he was getting. It has been harder to find a good spellcaster, though.

As for shouting into the void - I know I get follow-up emails most days (at least 50% of the reason I make late comments is to check off "email follow-ups" so I get your comments). I am pretty sure others do, too. And, of course, you have a pretty vibrant Commentariat of your own and Burma Shave.

leftcoastTAM 8:55 PM  

@Anonymous 5:10 PM:

Thanks anyhow for including "semi" before "pedant." BTW, I meant to convey that my pedantry was "boring", but not the puzzle, which I thought was one of the most interesting I've done this year.

Diana,LIW 9:48 PM  


See, nyah nyah, see. We do come back and read you. I read over the end posts for the last 2 days, usually. So there! ;-) Many do that. Don't give up! NEVER give up!


Salamander Calamander 8:22 PM  

The solution grid for this puzzle contains every letter of the alphabet.

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