Daughter of Loki / 4-28-16 / Contemporary of Wordsworth Coleridge / Extinct creature with armored spikes on its back / Nascar stat for short / Rappeller's need / Goldfinger's first name

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Constructor: Kurt Krauss

Relative difficulty: Challenging (mainly because of having to remember exactly how the gimmick works, not because of Inherent difficulty)

THEME: compass directions —Downs run North in the North, South in the South; Acrosses run West in the West, East in the East. Words extending from the center (which is supposed to house a compass rose, the note tells me) start with the relevant words:

Theme answers:
  • NORTHER (which has the direction meaning of "north" in it)
  • EASTMAN (which doesn't)
  • WEST END (which has the direction meaning of "west" in it)
  • SOUTHEY (which doesn't) 
Word of the Day: SOUTHEY (43D: Contemporary of Wordsworth and Coleridge) —
Robert Southey (/ˈsði/ or /ˈsʌði/; August 12, 1774 in Bristol – March 21, 1843 in London) was an English poet of the Romantic school, one of the so-called "Lake Poets", and Poet Laureate for 30 years from 1813 to his death in 1843. Although his fame has long been eclipsed by that of his contemporaries and friends William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Southey's verse still enjoys some popularity. (wikipedia)
• • •

I've seen this type of gimmick before, for sure. I'm quite sure that I've solved a puzzle that had a compass rose at its center before. And I know I've done puzzles were the answers appear to go backwards. The question is... why? What's the hook? Where's the fun? Here, there is none. I mean, yes, there's the NEWS thing (north east south west, I mean), but even that is slightly botched. You should bury your direction words in non-direction answers, or (less good but still acceptable) make them all direction answers. This grid, however, decides to split the difference. I say "decides" as if anyone was even thinking about this issue, which clearly they weren't. Filling this one grid was an unpleasant experience. Gimmick was obvious early, and then there was just this slog... because once you see that the answers run the "wrong" way half the time, all you're left with is a not-very-well-filled grid. There's no reason backwardsness alone should cause you to put PES and SCH and SATRAP and ADE into one little corner of the grid. Baffling. This lack of polish, or, rather, this reliance on Whatever Works without any care to make it Better, pervades the whole grid. It's choked with ARIL ELOI EFT AURIC SENAT HEL (?!) ELEM NOT I, and there's nothing to mitigate that onslaught. There's just this 1/2 backwards gimmick, which is not so much challenging as it is tedious. Even the clues don't look like they're really trying—mostly one-worders or straight trivia. Come on, man.

Do people know SOUTHEY? I have an English Ph.D. and I took a Romantic Poetry course in college and I've never read him and have barely heard of him. He's totally acceptable as a crossword answer, but he seemed very much like a familiarity outlier today. I wish I liked *something* about this grid, but I don't. SALIVATE and ERGONOMIC are fine answers, but they're not scintillating, and this puzzle really really needs some scintillating to pull itself out of the quicksand of crosswordese and tedium that makes up the rest of the grid.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Lewis 7:11 AM  

This type puzzle might be anathema to a speed solver, like ankle weights might be to a sprinter, especially if the solver is solving on computer and has to type backward on many answers. But for someone like me, just looking for something different on a Thursday, I got my satisfaction quota today from figuring out the gimmick and successfully solving. I was forgiving of the crosswordese, considering that there must be many constraints in putting a grid like this together. The cluing could have been more clever, giving the puzzle more spark (although I loved the clue for BUTLER).

Gotta give Kurt "points" for this! Thank you sir!

Anonymous 7:18 AM  

Here is how I remember Robert Southey: he was not much liked by his fellow Romantic poets, apparently for his establishment politics and contacts. In Don Juan, Byron famously rhymes "Southey" with "mouthey".

Andrew Goodridge 7:21 AM  

Major DNF for me. Did fine on the SE portion, and, now that I see the gimmick, my instincts were right on many other clues ... Just couldn't make them fit as I never put the directional thing together.

I figured it was either a rebus or some sort of letter-omission thing, as I was sure 1A was Eisenhower, which has NESW in there. Couldn't make it work, but now that I see I was off by a century I feel a bit foolish. Oh well.

This week has been much harder than last week. If this trend continues, I'm screwed tomorrow and Saturday.

Rex Parker 7:23 AM  

There are no "constraints" on putting this grid together. Backwardsness is not a "constraint" that should hamper decent fill. You have only four true themers, all short. Fill should've been amazing.


Anonymous 7:26 AM  

For once I agree with Rex's crankiness. Having to remember the NSEW directions just took away from the fun.
(But I do know Southey.)

Bageleater 7:32 AM  

I, for one, will forgive less-than-stellar fill if it is offset by a clever overall gimmick. This puzzle worked for me and I felt very satisfied when I finally figured out the trick of it.

Anonymous 7:36 AM  

Grant was not a '50's president. He was a '60's president, after the Civil War. Maybe a typo on the part of the editor.

LaurieG in Connecticut 7:37 AM  

Can someone please tell me how "Grant" is the answer to 1A? 50s president? I can't make this work.....

doorslam 7:45 AM  

I'm with Andrew, above. Swept through the SE, had lots of the right words for the across clues on the north half, but could not make any sense out of the downs until I gave up and came here to check some of my answers. After reading the explanation, I just closed the app. I don't think I'd have ever figured out the theme on my own, especially since the app doesn't have the compass hint in it.

Anonymous 7:48 AM  

Can someone explain the 50s president Grant clue? It wasn't the 1950s and it wasn't the 1850s
What am I missing?

Lewis 7:56 AM  

Jeff Chen: "...overall, Kurt filled the grid pretty nicely given the extreme difficulty involved with the constraints".

Denise 7:57 AM  

Just not enjoyable at all, especially on a computer. I figured out the gimmick early and if I was really smart I would have quit before I had to aggravate myself trying to put the letters in the right order.

Generic Solver 7:58 AM  

One problem with this gimmick is that only half the answers are in a reversed direction (actually fewer than half thanks to the palindromic answers TET and OTTO), so the other half of the solve was a breeze, given the fairly straightforward cluing.

The reversed words were annoying to fill in because the software wants to move in the normal direction of your solve, so the alternative was to be able to spell the answers backwards in your head, which I suppose is at least some sort of mental challenge to break up an otherwise tedious solve.

Glimmerglass 8:04 AM  

I agree with @lewis and not with @Rex. You'd have to be as jaded as Rex to grumble about this fun and challenging exercise. Lewis has it right that speed solvers would have fits with the extra step of reversing half the answers. In addition to the gimmick, there were some challenging clues (for GRANT, for example. Before I caught on to the gimmick, I was trying to fit a 1950s president of Israel or some other country with the letters I had from the correctly running downs) and NANAS. There was also a lot of trivia (not a bad thing for a Thursday): HEL, SOUTHEY, AURIC. This may have been a personal best time (i.e. slowest) for a Thursday. For me, it solved like a Saturday. Great puzzle!

John Child 8:04 AM  

I bailed out once I saw the gimmick. I really don't like putting gibberish in my puzzles, and there was a great deal of it today. Perhaps solving on paper I would have gone along, but it is terribly tedious to enter backwards or upside-down answers on a computer or tablet.

Vincent Lima 8:07 AM  

Joyless. Got the gimmick at AURIC (after putting down ACT and BIN, which would later become TCA and NIB) and the rest was a slog: a themeless with no sparkle and the inconvenience of typing backward.

Mary Perry 8:15 AM  

Dyslexia on steriods. #ImOverIt

Anonymous 8:23 AM  

I posted about Grant. I just got it! He's on the $50 bill, currency I don't see often. Ignore my question.

NCA President 8:31 AM  

I'm not sure how I feel about this one. On the one hand, I agree with @Lewis...I found most of my satisfaction in figuring out what the hell was going on before I gave up. Just at the moment where I thought, "Nope," I discovered the conceit and finished the puzzle. Although, I have to admit that once I figured it out I was a little disappointed in myself that I didn't see it sooner since I've seen this before with those "hurricane" type puzzles. But on the other hand I agree with Rex in that once the theme was sussed out, there was nothing left to do but fill in the blanks (continuing to remember that words were backward) since the puzzle offered very little resistance from a clue/answer perspective. At least for me.

But overall, I'd go with Lewis' assessment that if time is your thing, then the conceit was probably more of an annoyance and if not (in my case) then I felt good about myself (yeah, I know...I really need therapy) for figuring it out and not quitting. Which I almost did.

Funny, in my first pass I got almost all of the answers in the "north" and "west" correct, but things just didn't jibe (obviously)...so once I figured out the theme, I went back and fixed TUBAS, AURIC, ELOI, WESTEND, SIFTS, etc.

I did like the misdirect on GRANT. Ah...those 50s!

My only nit with the puzzle is the presence of palindromes like OTTO, TET, and ANA. In a puzzle like this where direction of a word is everything, a palindrome is kinda cheating. I suppose you could argue they help obscure the theme, but I would say they add to the confusion unnecessarily. I doubt they were put in there intentionally to obscure the theme...given the randomness of placement, my guess is that they were just in there because they fit. I would have liked for them to be smoothed out and so every word that was backward would truly be backward. It's still too early in the morning for me to try to make that point clearer...but hopefully you get the point.

Anonymous 8:34 AM  

Backwardness alone wouldn't be a constraint, but this sort of pinwheeling? You run into columns and rows of letters that have to double as initial letters of one word and the final letter of another, for example. Some letters serve more readily as one or the other, so maybe that could be considered a constraint. Reminds me of the hurricane grid from a year (?) ago or so. Enjoyed the relief of tearing through this one once I *finally* got wise. The proper name cross in the NW was the tip-off.

Tita A 8:37 AM  

I agree with every word @Lewis wrote.
I had plenty of fun scratching my head waiting for the gimmick to appear...
Stared at the grid aftrer my initial run through, and had the SE totally filled in, and nearly nothing anywhere else. Hmmm...the only section where both across and down are normal...

When the light bulb came on, it was still a mental struggle with almost every single backwards clue.
Which is quite ok for Thursday.

I do agree that all themers should have non-directional meanings, but it still made for a fun solve.

Thanks Mr. Krauss.

marysue 8:58 AM  

I struggled to remember what direction to put the (mostly uninteresting) answers as I moved around the grid. Often I solve in a smooth process starting from the NW corner and working contiguously across the grid toward the SE. That approach was a giant FAIL until I started in the SE and began to suss the directional clues. Even when the gimmick became obvious, this old brain couldn't keep up with which clues went which direction. It killed my average time for a Thursday. A fast solve time really isn't the point of solving, but it does offer one quantifier. And sacrificing time to a parlor trick is just one big bleh. Enjoyed ROGETS THESAURUS, ERGONOMIC, OOMPH. Hated AURIC, SCH.

Z 9:15 AM  

Running words backwards is no more of a constraint on construction than running them forwards. It's an interlocking grid of letters that are combined to make words. I suspect it may tax a software program, so I guess in that way it might be a constraint. Otherwise, no. The paper has a nice little icon in the middle so when ROPE/ENO didn't work but ROPE/ONE did the conceit was solved. But then it was a slog through the Ese; PES, ADE, ITALO, SCH, ELOI, NANAS, EBB, OTTO, TET, ERS, ENO, ASAP, TAU, NOTI, ELEM, EAVE, ANA, EFT, MIDI, ARIL, NYSE, SNL, IOS, ROWS, IVE.

I can forgive SOUTHEY, how many 7 letter words starting with SOUTH are there? But I have to agree with Rex, this grid needs more spit and polish.

I see at least one person figured out that GRANT is the president on the $50 bill. I wonder how clue writers will misdirect us on Tubman.

LaurieG in Connecticut 9:19 AM  

Thank you!!

Rabi Abonour 9:22 AM  

I figured you'd hate this, but I actually enjoy this sort of gimmick. Fill is weak and the gimmick isn't new, but I really did enjoy filling this out. Would have been nicer to solve on paper, though.

cwf 9:22 AM  

Although I agree with @NCA President about the palindromes, I liked this more than @Rex did. Once I had figured out the theme, I drew a little diagram (a square with 8 arrows in it) and the rest was pretty much a breeze. Sure, the fill wasn't all great, but the struggle to "aha" made it worthwhile.

Donkos 9:29 AM  

I agree with Rex. I couldn't get the theme. At the least the grid should have hinted at a compass rose or one clue should have suggested directionally. Then complicate the flying with almost words like stegosaur, did you mean stegosaurus? Then hint that it's a variant. I disagree that Rex is just being grumpy because his critique explains how this puzzle could have been better

Anonymous 9:30 AM  

Quite simply it gave me a headache to solve this puzzle. And something I do for fun should not give me a headache.

WA 9:41 AM  

How can you be in four places at once?

Nancy 9:46 AM  

OMG -- Is this a great puzzle or what?! It took me from thinking I was absolutely losing my everloving mind to thinking I was one of the smartest people in the world for solving it. As I realized that CLAUDE Monet was not going to work at 11D, I started shouting at the puzzle: "His first name is CLAUDE, you stupid cretin! Don't you dare tell me it's anything else!" Now, I might have had this reaction earlier, at JABBA and AURIC, except I don't know JABBA and AURIC. (These pop culture clues in the NW made the puzzle even harder for even longer.) I knew there was a trick, but I wasn't exactly sure what it was. But I had ----MAN at 38A and I knew EASTMAN was involved with film and cameras, and I saw the EAST and the arrow, and I said "Aha!" WEST END (reversed) followed, and the north- and south-arrowed clues came next. I got a bit dizzy trying to remember which answers reversed and which didn't, but things got clearer and clearer and my solving got faster and faster as I went along. Just wonderful! I'll remember this one.

Roo Monster 9:47 AM  

Hey All !
Seems most liked this one. Not me. Yuck. I'm all for tricks, et.al., but 2/4 of the sections backwards? And the Frontways and Backways don't start exactly in the center, e.g., SENAT, THESAURUS, ERGONOMIC, TURNSTILE, WHITESALE, SEVER. And the Downs (Ups?) are the same. And the fill! Holy frijole... How do you cross ON A JAG (WTF, BTW) with AURIC?? Bad enough to cross them regularly, never mind backwards.

All the answers I'd wanted in the N and W were correct, but before having the "trick" had them in straight, and nothing was jiveing. Had to hit Check puz to have it cross out ENO, where I said it has to be ENO. Already had the NEWS in the Center, and was suspecting that the NORTH and WEST themers were backwards, but said, "Oh no, the Whole N and W are backwards? Please, no." But alas... So went back through and put my answers in reversed, and voila. Still, the NW corner was brutal.

So, obviously, didn't enjoy this one, thankfully another day when I did puz online, only way I finished (DNF, technically, as hit Reveal a couple of times.)

So now, be on the lookout for a complete backwards puz. Ugh.


Steve M 9:51 AM  

I was tired when I started this and now I need to go back to bed

Anonymous 9:52 AM  

That was a slog. My least favorite puzzle in months.

Susanne 9:55 AM  

Question: what Grant was a 50s president? U.S. G. Was 1870s. What am I missing!

Robert Rothschild 9:55 AM  

Thought I must have had a mini-stroke when I could only solve the SE. Fortunately, remembered it was Thursday! Took me a while to get it! LOVED THIS!

Anonymous 9:57 AM  


kitshef 9:58 AM  

I suspect the split on this one will come with speed solvers and online solvers going 'ugh', but recreational solvers and paper solvers enjoying it. I was in the latter camp. I, and enjoyed it thoroughly.

A rare case where the PPPs really help the solve. When AURIC and STEGOSAUR, and ROGETS, all of which are great, by the way, wouldn't fit, something had to be up. Finally got it when I got to WITT, with the W falling opposite the E from EASTMAN.

Do I want ENO, ELOI, ARIL, ASLOPE AND ELEM in my puzzle? No. But I'll certainly take it for both a fun and clever gimmick, plus good stuff like AURIC, ROGETS THESAURUS, ERGONOMIC, WESTEND, EASTMAN, PIQUE, TURNSTILE, WHITESALE, PUPAE, ETHYL, STEGOSAUR, WITT, SALIVATE, and CLAUDE. Some full weeks go by when we don't get that many good words.

I do call foul on the clue for GRANT. It should have an apostrophe if it is to mean the money - 50's president. The only way it could work is to mean he was president during the decade of the 50s, which he was not, or when he was in his 50s, which he was, but that's overly obtuse cluing.

Nancy 10:08 AM  

Thank you, thank you to all who explained the GRANT clue. I was flummoxed by that, too, and thought it was an egregious error. Glad to see it wasn't.

@Anon 7:18 a.m. -- What an interesting, amusing observation about SOUTHEY. I didn't know that and I bet many, many others here didn't either. Who are you, Anon 7:18? I bet lots of people here would love to know you.

@marysue (8:58) and others with a similar time gripe -- To me, being a time solver is a benign enough preference, until one day it isn't. It's fine not to like this puzzle, even to hate it, we're all different and that's what makes this blog so interesting. But to not like a puzzle simply because it's spoiled your speed in solving -- aren't you just sabotaging your own potential pleasure for no good reason? It's not a tournament and no once cares about your solving time but you. If you wouldn't have enjoyed this puzzle in any event, fair enough. But if you might have had fun... I say: shove your watch in a drawer and turn your clock to the wall.

QuasiMojo 10:13 AM  

Not to be a bore, but isn't there a distinct difference between "Now!" and "ASAP"? I mean, "as soon as possible," even if yelled, does not mean "at this very moment." Ahem.

Bookin' the Cooks 10:20 AM  

I figured out the gimmick fairly quickly, which made the solve go much faster. Like others, there was difficulty for me to come up with GRANT as the 50s President.

Rex made me chuckle at his irritation with SOUTHEY being unfamiliar. Unless you share the exact same cultural background and/or experience with some of the puzzle creators (and apparently I don't) being unfamiliar with certain answers and clues is to be expected. When I first started solving the NYT puzzles and came across NANA I remember thinking "who the heck calls their grandma NANA? No one that I'm aware of. And isn't that the name of the family dog in Peter Pan?" ;)

Don't even get me started on the sports related clues... Yipes. LOL

jae 10:22 AM  

This was mostly easy once I caught the trick which happened early with the ELOI/NOT I/DISC section. Then it was just a matter of keeping track of the directions.

I'm with @Rex on this one, more annoying than fun. Not much of an "a ha" experience and too much backward printing of weak fill.

Bookin' the Cooks 10:22 AM  

I agree, Quasi. STAT as an answer makes more logical sense but I don't think it's the first time we've seen such bending of meanings.

Hartley70 10:24 AM  

Thank you for saving my sanity, @Rex. I filled this in correctly and got the happy noise, but I couldn't make sense of what was going on until I got here. A compass rose would have been a big help, but no such luck on my app. I got that different areas skewed in different directions, but didn't grasp the NESW of it. Right answer/No reasoning!

I was too busy trying to spell backwards in the middle of the night to worry about how easy the fill was. Looking at it now, I'm flummoxed that I was expected to remember CIRUA, or ABBAJ since these are old movies. So many movies, so little time to ever watch them twice. I got them with crosses. Duh, when it came to SOUTHEY or MELE (I still don't get that when it's read ELEM). The dinosaur is missing a US at the end/top as far as I'm concerned. Thank goodness I didn't fall for the TNARG misdirect. NANAS was sort of sweet too.

I had a great Thursday workout here, and certainly without the compass rose, I would rate this challenging because I prefer not to feel like a dope. Thanks, Kurt, or is it Truk?

Anonymous 10:25 AM  

Sorry you didn't like my comments yesterday about your uneven responses to perceived sexism, Rex. I guess there must have been some truth in them though for you to feel the need for censorship. I'm disappointed.

Tita A 10:29 AM  

@marysue who said " And sacrificing time to a parlor trick is just one big bleh"...
Ummm...it's a *puzzle*. Some of us love puzzles with multiple layers of tricksiness, others prefer themeless.

But as @Nancy said, you can't be mad at the whole puzzle package for costing you time. That is the solve.

Joan 10:31 AM  

We had fun!! Sitting in the sun on a lovely spring day with our two foot cherry tomato plant soaking up the rays.

kitshef 10:33 AM  

@rain forest from yesterday. In case you don't see my response to your post, know that at least some of us do read and appreciate the late comments.

Matt Damon 10:35 AM  

"Do people know SOUTHEY" - Hell yeah, I know Southie, I came from Southie, I am a Southie. Oh, you mean the 27th most famous of the "Lake Poets"? Not so much.

Chuck McGregor 10:40 AM  

When a PhD in English (@Rex) says, “I've never read him and have barely heard of him,” it’s no wonder I didn’t know him, also having taken a course in Romantic Poetry. That made me feel better.

It took a while but I finally figured out the backwards thing. My second entry was ROGETS THESAURUS. Because it fit perfectly, I thought, OK that’s a great foothold. However, 22d had to be DISC (or DISK) so the “R” made no sense. As a writer, albeit a technical one, I had no idea what other reference could it be.

Once I got the backwards thing, it was a lot easier and also confirmed other “it HAS to be this” answers that did not otherwise work, e.g. SPOUTS, SIFTS, ACT).” My insight was cheating for 11d. EDUALC Monet? Who in the H E double hockey sticks is that???….OH!! I get it. So it then became a game of, “Is this answer spelled backwards or forwards?”

I don’t know where the “note” is that @Rex refers to. It is neither in the NYT online nor printed version, although I saw the center was clearly a compass rose. Only late in my solve did I get that N/E/W/S emanated from the center, in spite of EASTMAN as a very early entry. I thought it odd that the E and SE blocks had no backwards answers, while all the other six compass points did, as did the center of it all. It was also odd that no matter whether I chose to print the “print” or “puzzle” version, only the print version would be printed.

Without Googling, a couple of PPPs are still a mystery as to which way they read.

As a game it was fun to solve almost all of it. It’s a Thursday, so a DNF for me is no big deal. Actually a DNF never is for any day. My mind does not contain the entire OED nor a Who’s Who for all subjects, e.g. art, history, business, politics, etc. Therefore, “almost all of it” is always a quite OK solve.

Hey @Roo – “Be on the lookout for a complete backwards puz.” You really, really want one? Print one out, turn it over and upside down and any day can be one....just for you (‘cepting one like todays’s). Just sayin’ Ha!

If my online AVATAR is my identity, then I’m a lighthouse.


Greater Fall River Committee for Peace & Justice 10:41 AM  

When did Stegosaurus lose his Latin ending? I know Tyrannosaurus Rex got shortened to T. Rex.

Got everything but the little Northeast corner.

Silas King 10:44 AM  

Regarding 50s versus 50's...both ways make sense. "50s president" implies "president on fifties" (plural) and "50's president" means "president on a fifty (singular possessive).

Similar example: "states location" and "state's location" can both mean "America".

AliasZ 10:49 AM  

This was one toh mess of a zupzle.

For a compass theme, the grid should have had super symmetry imitating the shape of a compass rose. But in such a grid, how would you enter words that span both the east-west and north-south quadrants? Simple: the words that span both the west-east and north-south quadrants, spell half of them backward. For instance: OGRENOMIC, GETSOSAUR, etc. With the standard crossword symmetry it was too inconsistent for my taste.

On the other hand, I enjoyed discovering the trick. It was especially ingenious to clue EDUALC as Monet. Before the trick became obvious, the EDUA_ _ made us all wonder if there was another Calvino besides ITALO, because for shirr, that must be Eduard. But wait, Manet is EDOUARD, and the clue... let me read it again: Monet, not Manet. Doh! It's gotta be spelled backwards. No other clue would have worked so well. Debussy would have been a dead giveaway. For me, this was the highlight of the puzzle. The NEWS theme has been done before.

If you are not familiar with the music of Georges CIRUA (1899-1983), his lighthearted boisterous Erutrevuo is a perfect intro.

Enjoy your yadsruhT!

Blue Stater 10:57 AM  

Worst in a long time, for all the reasons cited above and more besides. Kind of majestic in its irredeemable awfulness.

Get Over It 11:09 AM  

As usual, "Lighten up Frances". Gotta love Harold Ramis.

Nancy 11:18 AM  

@Hartley (10:24)-- Re: ELEM. I was confused at first, too. But He = Helium, which is an ELEMent.

Mark 11:25 AM  

I liked the puzzle and I'm not bothered that some of the clues were mundane. In this puzzle the major challenge is figuring out the trick. If the words had been obscure and/or clued very difficultly, the puzzle would have been impossible.

old timer 11:40 AM  

I got the trick when ITALO and ROPE and TAU seemed not to work. But I found it very tiresome to complete the puzzle, and I agree with OFL, not enough thought and work was put in to make the clues and answers really sparkle.

Question: How is ELEM (abbr.) an answer for "He, for one"? Oh! got it! Well, there's one very clever clue and answer.

In my wife's family, a grandma is always a NANA. Her grandmother was NANA. My children's grandmother i NANA. And now my wife is NANA. So that was easy enough for me.

I know SOUTHEY because I've read all of Macaulay's essays, and Macaulay loathed SOUTHEY. As did most of the poets you've heard of from that era, such as Coleridge and Byron and (I'd guess) Keats.

Ellen 11:51 AM  

Right there with you, almost word for word. And yes, I did know Southey -- he wrote a poem featuring a character with my middle name, which is otherwise pretty obscure :-)

Joseph Michael 11:53 AM  

Have to agree with Rex on this one.


Thanks for the explanation of the GRANT clue. but can someone please also explain how HE equals ELEM?

Churlish Nabob 11:57 AM  

I believe Ulysses S. Grant was from Ohio, not Hawaii.

I skip M-W 12:00 PM  

Well, I had fun. Southey was in my high-school English textbook a mere 57 years ago. I saw Goldfinger once. Jabba was in popular conversation, maybe in the 90's. Solving on the iPad and iPhone just added to the craft aspect.

RAD2626 12:01 PM  

Katarina WITT had to be right which meant WEST END had to run backward, all making Thursday sense, but did not get the four distinct quadrant gimmick for a long time, thinking instead there was a randomness to it all, like a verbal Ken-Ken. I think the words crossing the center line like ERGONOMIC and WHITESALE threw me. After enough words got filled in, I just filled in however abutting words were headed which worked just fine. Hardest part was using iPad. Hard copy would have been easier.

All in all thought it was a clever puzzle and a good Thursday. Fill did not bother me nearly as much as it did others here.

puzzle hoarder 12:14 PM  

Before I discovered this blog I never would have used the compass points to describe a grid. I've become quite accustomed it so it's fun to see it used as a theme. I caught on pretty early when I had ENO, CLAUDE and ELOI written in and the obvious answers around them offered no support. Flipping ENOS around so the O lined up with ROPE got the ball rolling. Even knowing there was a reversal theme I didn't fully understand it until I'd finished. It took another moment to get 1A. While solving I tend to not see the forest for the trees.
@Rex seems a little testy this morning. I've never seen him jump in that fast to respond to a comment. Maybe his speed solve got screwed up. Sure The theme makes a silk purse out of a bit of a sows' ear but it's not the sows' ear he makes it out to be. For whatever reason this puzzle has 20 three character entries and that's a lot to overcome. He does an admirable job of moderating the dreck and if you take out the threes it scores well into end of the week range. Southey is the one debut. That's unusually slim for an NYT puzzle. The editor must have felt the cleverness made up for it. Personally I agree as this was a fun solve.

Tom 12:22 PM  

Quickly caught on for some reason ('cause it's Thursday!) and solved on paper. Easy cluing made it way too quick a solve. Transparent once you figure out the directional theme. Looking forward to a more challenging Fri/Sat...

Anonymous 12:33 PM  

I must be a little thick. Had to choose between ROGET and MALE. So I end up with MELE as a forced answer to "He, for one: abbr". MELE??

Fred Romagnolo 12:38 PM  

The ease with which I got the southeast was my bane. Southey and Eastman were gimmees. I began to hurt when WHITE SALE didn't cross with ROWS. It got worse when I knew the answers but they didn't jibe. Putting WEST and NORTH next to the compass made it worse. Then it dawned on me so I finished. It was a slog, but a fair one for a Thursday. Since I'm a paper solver you can imagine what a mess I ended up with. I do think OTTO and WITT was an unfortunate sports names cross, if you don't know them, your sunk.

Ludyjynn 12:50 PM  

@John Child, believe me, this puzzle was just as tedious entering backwards or upside downs on paper. In a word, HGU!

Z 1:00 PM  

I'm not a speed solver and had a less than positive reaction. I think the the real break is going to be between "seen this kind of thing several times before" and "What a neat new trick." As I said, I got the trick earlyish. From there the fill was the most salient aspect of the puzzle for me. But I'm fresh enough to still remember wondering at veteran's reactions to puzzles I loved. Reading @Nancy9:46 reminded me of those reactions I have had.

@SAUR doubters - Either with or without US is O.K.

@Bookin' the Cooks - See @Matt Damon.

@Quasimojo - ASAP doesn't mean "now," it means "as soon as possible, preferably yesterday." Seriously, if your boss says "ASAP" do you think it means "when you can get to it"? If you do she won't be your boss for long.

@kitshef - I'm with @Silas King, with or without the apostrophe works to indicate money or decade.

Joe Bleaux 1:00 PM  

Hand up on the hangup on ELEM. I knew it was right, but not why, long after I'd finished ... and it finally dawned on me that HE is the symbol of an element (helium, I presume). As a recreational solver (and paper only) who's feeling like hell and had nothing better to do, I kinda enjoyed this little time-gobbler today. However, I appreciate others' finding it a murky, tedious, slog-fest.

Chip Hilton 1:11 PM  

My head hurts . . . but in a happy way. Good old Thursday - it's so disappointing if there's not a major league curve thrown your way. So I'm willing to put up with the sub-par fill in exchange for getting to exercise my inverse reading and writing skills.

Like Rex, I'm sure I've seen this puzzle before. I never would have 'seen' the trick so quickly, otherwise.

Thanks, Kurt Krauss. Fun one.

blinker474 1:14 PM  

Very unpleasant, unlikable puzzle. Please, no more of these.


h_lina_k 1:17 PM  

THESAURUS, SENATE, REVES (SEVER), ELASETIHW (WHITESALE), RUASOGETS (STEGOSAUR), and STARTSOUT were all quite annoying because they weren't exclusive to one quadrant. I think if you are going to do this it needs to be set up so everything going in one direction is in correct quadrant solely.

John V 1:20 PM  

Not my cuppa. Could not get the usual PDF from the Times this morning. Looked like the newspaper version. Anyone else have this issue?

Masked and Anonymous 1:23 PM  

TNARG! Is M&A ever a wuss; feels strongly both ways, on this.

Theme bullets:
* Different. Good.
* Puzzling. Good, if U is a puzzle.
* Annoying. Once M&A caught onto the theme, he started lookin up clues based on the square numbers at the wrong ends of entries. Ow. Headache. First puz in a looong time, to give m&e a hangover.
* Awesome constructioneerin. Obviously (yo, @indie009), the constructioneer [who, judgin from his xwordinfo pic, is about age 6-7] had to build this … this … this corkscrewer by hand. Them auto-construct programs don't do backasswords.

Fillins bullets:
* Great TNARG (5-A?) clue! I mean, day-um, the unsuspectin solvers have to plant a reverse answer here, and the puz serves em up a non-? clue of {50s president}. har. Boehner would call it "Lucifer in the flesh", dude.
* OTTO. It was like a nice temporary truce had been called.
* TET. See OTTO.
* HEL. Hel of a weeject. Looks weird, no matter which way U spin the grid page.
* CIMONOGRE. {Fiend who sneaks up & eats part of yer cinnamon roll??}.
* ONE and NIB. Right wrong weeject answers!
* Snowman's worth, on the U scoreboard. So … ok, I'm off the fence, now. thUmbsUp.

Thanx, little Kurt. Now, go sit in a NW corner for awhile, like M&A had to.

Masked & Anonymo8Us

no offense intended, here

Teedmn 1:29 PM  

DNF here due to Googling AURIC. It's hard to trigger the memory of things you vaguely know when seeing them backwards. Why is it harder to read backwards than it is to read something upside down? (At least it is for me). So the NW was my downfall with only STEGOSAUR in there and ACT perching uneasily. GRANT blew my mind because I couldn't get past the 50s referring to a decade. 50 dollar bills, yikes.

Got the aha at DNETSEW and STFIS and then it was just a matter of remembering the orientation. But I thought it was a lot of fun. Thanks, Kurt Krauss!

Drew 1:36 PM  

The clue was "50s" as opposed to "'50s," so I assume they were referring to $50 bills.

Teedmn 1:47 PM  

@Leapfinger, from yesterday, thanks for the additional info on the Brontë Soror. I've never read Anne and despised all the characters in "Wuthering Heights" so that leaves little "Jane Eyre" as my favorite. It appears that Charlotte exposed the secret of the pseudonyms after Emily and Anne had died. Not a very robust trio - Charlotte living the longest to the ripe old age of 39.

marysue 2:09 PM  

To @Nancy and @Tia A, I actually agree with you and appreciate your responses. In reality, solve times are an important measure only in tournament play. But when the app shows the time & how much faster or slower than my average time, I notice. Maybe I'm the lone ranger on this, but for me, part of the joy of solving is seeing how efficient I can be. I love an elegant design, and aspire to be an elegant solver. Watching my solve times improve gives me a sense of improving as a solver. It isn't as important as the language play, clever word tricks, or making my brain focus and see things in a new light. My only complaint about this puzzle is that I gave up efficiency for a trick that revealed itself early on, not affording me the pleasure of working it out as I solved. To each his own, and I added my two cents here just to share my singular point of view. Again, I thank you for allowing me to reconsider my initial remarks (which, fyi, were written before coffee.)

Masked and Anonymous 2:09 PM  

@indie009: Ooooo … Just realized that this here ThursPuz theme is a kinda reverse-gear version of the 26 July 2015 NYT SunPuz. It's like U are in the universe connected to that SunPuz's black hole, watchin its sucked-up contents spewin out into today's ThursPuz. Far-out astronomical, dude.


Bronxdoc 2:45 PM  

Argh. A slog. Delighted to find Stegasaur, Monet and Witt to point me in the right directions during my spout of pique.

Blackbird 2:55 PM  

Impossible. Eventually went to Rex to find the gimmick. Totally annoying gimmick. Even so, impossible. Oh, I knew Southey. So what? The most interesting part of the puzzle wasn't the puzzle -- it was Rex's comments and other' s comments as well.

Hungry Mother 3:08 PM  

It took me longer than it should have to recognize that some answers were "backward." I never quite got the exact pattern, but knowing that some answers were backwards and seemed to be in groups was enough information for me to sail through it.

Evan Jordan 3:36 PM  

Haha, nice:)
Can I have your autograph?

Bookin' the Cooks 3:36 PM  

☺️ He is missed 💔

Anonymous 4:07 PM  

And I thought they were talking about poets from the south of boston......

GILL I. 4:22 PM  

Haven't had this much fun with a puzzle in a long time. I didn't care about any directional compass thingie because I wouldn't know one even if it showed me where the sun don't shine.
No, here's what baffled me...I had THE SAURUS ST AGOR as the reference book for a writer. At least that's how I read it. He sounds like someone famous (like SOUTHEY), and why not? My "he's" are MaLE damn it and boy did I have fun correcting CineMAx, the inventor of the roll of film...
Oh, if you're so inclined, you might want to go back to yesterday's late post and read our friend from syndiland @rain forest. Very interesting post....

ZenMonkey 5:01 PM  

First time I can remember abandoning a puzzle halfway through and not because I didn't get how to do it. An inconsistent slog.

Tita A 5:23 PM  

@marysue...welcome! Thanks for your thoughtful response, and for your singular point (pun intended.) of view...
Vibe la difference, in general and in puzzlers in particular. Your annoyance today is my fun.

And as for me, I can admit to many posts either pre-coffee or post-Merlot that I cringe at in the light of day... (Though they're often the funniest...)

Z 6:12 PM  

@anon12:33pm - I'm guessing that by now that you've realized MELE is to be read upward as ELEM, short for ELEMent, as in He is the abbreviation for Helium.

As for CIRUA (AURIC) Goldfinger, it helped me to remember that the periodic table will have gold as AU, short for the Latin "Aurum." I didn't remember the name, but did remember that it was some play on the Latin. I wonder what Latin root was the source for "Pussy Galore."

Thanks @M&A for the earlier puzzle.. This line from Rex caught my eye for some reason; "I praise the constructors for using corner cheater squares in exchange for (what I assume is) cleaner fill. That's an unexpected decision."

Z 6:28 PM  

Speaking of backwards entries, check out today's syndicated puzzle.

Anonymous 6:56 PM  

For me, the word of the day is "satrap." I guess I've led a sheltered life. Got Grant but not the $50 tie-in. Thanks all for the reveal.

Anonymous 8:12 PM  

As one who saw "All About the Benjamins " three times, the Grant clue was fairly easy.

Anonymous 8:49 PM  

Helium (He) is an element, abbreviated elem, then written backward because of the trick.

Anonymous 8:50 PM  

Any puzzle with "senat" should be re-worked immediately.

kitshef 9:16 PM  

@Donkos, @Greater Fall River ...
Stegosaurus is the name of a genus of dinosaurs. Stegosaur is used to mean any member of the suborder Stegosauria, which includes many genera in addition to Stegosaurus.

A somewhat analogous situation that you might be more familiar is with Homo, which refers only to members of our own genus, versus Hominid, which also includes orangutans, gorillas and chimpanzees.

Carola 10:24 PM  

I like this kind of brain-racker. STARTIng OUT, I was greatly helped by the compass rose in the middle of the grid. I first checked how WEST END would fit, and Katharina WITT confirmed the direction it had to run. And I happened to know SOUTHEY and EASTMAN. Still, I found the puzzle a challenge, especially the NW. Last in: TRARG. Do-over: Grit to GUTS.

tea73 10:29 PM  

I'm frequently surprised at what Rex the English PhD doesn't know. Southey was a gimme. And I haven't taken English since high school. (I admit we read a lot of poetry.)

Avalon Knight 11:11 PM  

50 dollar bill

Anonymous 11:33 PM  

There simply are no words for how awful this puzzle is in essentially every conceivable way. I think it's slightly better than Wednesday (which was an epic fail thanks to "minim"), but this one was simply a slog, and in no way enjoyable – which is increasingly the case under the aegis of Mr. Shortz.

Hartley70 9:00 AM  

Ahh! Thanks Z for the ELEM explanation. I fall for that periodic table every time.

ulysses 1:38 PM  

holy crap. i had no idea what the hell was going on with this one. most empty space i may have ever had. thankfully, friday was E-Z.

Mikey 12:36 AM  

I didn't realize that it was a compass in the center. I thought it was a light bulb. My wife glanced at it and hipped me to what it actually was. Then I understood how the rest of the puzzle went.

Burma Shave 9:20 AM  


IVE seen WESTEND girls on a WHITESALE date,
Through the TURNSTILEs they’ll run,


rondo 10:10 AM  

Tough hop for all of you who solve on your toys. Buy a paper. I’d rather do a puz like this than a stupid rebus. And apparently anyone can get a Ph. D. in English wherever OFL went to school; it should be retracted. Although SOUTHEY should have been changed to J.D. SOUTHEr and YEWS to rEpS, STEW to STEp.

Ultra yeah baby Katarina WITT saved the puz for me. Along with the EFT to the left. Knew it was the WESTEND since IVE been there (sat next to the Royal Box at Phantom of the Opera), but my DISC was headed in the wrong direction until WESTEND headed me in the right direction. Finally knew what the HEL was going on, so I turned around CLAUDE and ENO and AURIC with his crossing BRA. AURIC always easy to remember because it means “of or containing gold” as in ELEM Au.

Nobody else remembers “WESTEND Girls” by Pet Shop Boys? That song and album worked like magic. Or maybe it was me?

This puz was not a slog, but took time because it made me lysdexlic. Reminiscent of that hurricane puz some years ago. Looks like some of the PPP saved me today. I approve.

spacecraft 10:43 AM  

I think that @Lewis, right out of the gate, hit it on the head. OFL worships the speed god, and this "ankle-weighted" puzzle would be a huge annoyance. Poor Kurt was beat before he began.

I, who refuses to bow before the Great God Time, did not see nearly as much to hate. He complains about dull clues. "Gable part?" I almost wrote in DORMER. There are a lot of clues like that. And the fill to me is fine, for what was accomplished. Plus, sprinkled about are a few palindromes, just to keep you on your toes. ANA, OTTO, TET. Wait, which way ARE we going here? And then the devilish ONE/ENO, BIN/NIB, PASA/ASAP and ARIL/LIRA. One's head is spinning as if stuck in a TURNSTILE--which, naturally, sits directly atop TOLLS. I thought this whole thing was a big delight and proudly award a birdie.

Our DOD is, perforce (but it wouldn't take much force for me!) the lovely and athletic Katarina WITT.

Diana,LIW 1:40 PM  

DNF due to many sci fi, Bond, Persian, Italian, etc. WOES.

Not sure which way I'm going, left? right? up? oh no, down...feeling a bit light-headed...where are my smelling salts?


Diana, Waiting for Direction

Torb 2:18 PM  

Had fun once I caught the gimmick. Fun puz!

kitshef 3:21 PM  

@Diana, LIW from yesterday - or tomorrow, or early July? Thank you, that will help a great deal.

Longbeachlee 3:31 PM  

Rex never got it. In the northwest the horizontal words go east to WEST, and the vertical words go South to NORTH, etc.

rain forest 3:51 PM  

Heh, heh. I started off confidently with ENO and CLAUDE, and then just stared at the rest of the entire top of the puzzle. Moving to the middle, I got WITT (totally agree with @Rondo and @Spacey) and EASTMAN, and said "Aha" for the first time, so Robert SOUTHEY (learned about him in Grade 12 Literature, maybe I can get a PhD), went in. Then the SE fell fairly quickly. In the SW, I saw that across words were going backwards (second "Aha") but the downs were as normal.

So, back up to the upper section, where I finally saw DNETSEW (third "Aha") and then the downs up there were really ups (4th Aha), and then the entire conceit was laid bare.

Not a constructor, but I believe this would have been a bear to put together, despite what @Rex says about no constraints. If it's sparkle you want, the entire feat sparkles for me, and there were some excellent clues as well. Didn't notice any dreck because in this puzzle that would really be pick-nitting. Lotsa fun.

@kitschef In your description of hominids, I was sure you were going to end with orangutans, gorillas, chimpanzees and Donald Trump.

kitshef 4:35 PM  

@rain forest - I seek always to avoid politics in my comments, though I (no longer) secretly enjoy it when other folks dabble. Living and working in a solidly right of center area, it is nice to see some counterbalance.

leftcoastTAM 5:39 PM  

Got the gimmick early enough, but had to keep in mind what compass directions to use in filling in the grid.

This was a bit of a drag, but OK. I liked figuring it out anyway. The NW came last.

Had confidently put in Obama (he's in his 50s) as a first entry, and later reversed the name. Didn't work.

Finally found that GRANT did the job, but didn't connect him with the 50 dollar bill. Ended up thinking the clue was in error. Of course it wasn't. Just too tricky by half.

Sorta fun, but not enough.

Teedmn 7:29 PM  

@rondo, when I bought my first CD player in 1986 (no early adaptor am I), I bought three CDs at the same time and the Pet Shop Boys with WESTEND Girls was one of them, so that song will always be cool to me. I still buy CDs so my collection is up in the 750 or so range, almost all rock or alt-rock. I'm guessing we have a few in common.

Anonymous 9:09 PM  

Wow! What simultaneously maddening and entertaining puzzle. This paper-and-pen solver made kind of a mess before catching on. Far, far more write-overs than usual. So many of the answers were obvious…only they weren’t, because none of the crosses fit. Like some others, I finally got it at EASTMAN. Oh, that’s a compass!

You have to be ready for something tricky on Thursday, and, not having seen this particular trick before, I thought it was a good one. Hats off to those who caught on quickly and found it boring!

My only complaint is that stack of names in the NW. I never like trivia in a crossword, and a three-high stack is over the top. And if “Hidden means of support?” deserved a question mark, then so did “50s president” IMO.

tom gillespie 12:11 AM  

I liked it.tough,but satisfying solve. Lighten up, Rex

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