Proto-matter of the universe / TUE 5-3-16 / Coyolxauhuqui worshiper / Longtime oreo competitor

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Constructor: John Westwig

Relative difficulty: Normal Tuesday (medium)


THEME: Jeremy's iron — famous names, where last name is a make of car, have apostrophe-S added to end of first names to make it sound like the famous person drives said car ...

Theme answers:
  • ABRAHAM'S LINCOLN (20A: How the Great Emancipator got around?)
  • HARRISON'S FORD (25A: How the star of the Indiana Jones films got around?)
  • ICHIRO'S SUZUKI (42A: How a Seattle Mariner great got around?) (why are Ford and Suzuki in past tense; they're still alive) (also Suzuki is a former Mariner current Marlin, just FYI)
  • FREDDIE'S MERCURY (48A: How Queen's former frontman got around?) (Mercurys are bygone, but OK)
Word of the Day: PICOT (36A: Embroidery loop) —
noun
noun: picot; plural noun: picots
  1. a small loop or series of small loops of twisted thread in lace or embroidery, typically decorating the border of a fabric. (google)
• • •

It's official. Crossword brain drain is real. I was thinking about it earlier today—how the best constructors I know are less and less often selling their stuff to the NYT, choosing instead to work with other organizations or to go the independent route. And then tonight I open this puzzle, which is ... I don't know where to start. I haven't seen such a weak, antiquated theme in a while. This is almost a non-concept, or ... a parody concept. You just add apostrophe-S ... for some reason. This puzzle is like a "joke" that goes "Isn't it funny how some people's last names are also the names of cars...?" and then that is the joke, right there, all of it. It just stops, and maybe you smile and nod but you almost certainly walk away. I feel like the NYT is running on fumes, propelled forward largely by the inertia provided by its former fame. It's become hyper-reliant, for its good puzzles, on former and current Shortz employees, or people who are otherwise part of the "NYT Family" (a phrase I did not make up). It does not in any way feel like it's moving forward, becoming more inclusive, more modern, interesting, daring. It tells you (in ads) it's the "best crossword in the world" ... because it is because of course it is because it is. Meanwhile, it's not. It's just not. Today's theme alone should've made this one DOA. *Would've* made this one DOA if submission quality had been what it was even five years ago.


The fill is stale but that hardly matters at this point. The fact that you couldn't fill that simple little corner in the SE without resorting to RAGA *and* ET AL *and* (the real kicker) YLEM ... it's astonishing. I don't even have RAGE at this point. Just disbelief. The "P" in PICOT (36A: Embroidery loop) and the "N" in NIMES (60A: City near Avignon) were my last letters because I don't know those things (or, I do, but not terribly well). Thank god I know who the hell Xerxes was (36D: Xerxes' people = PERSIANS). I could've summed all of my feelings about this puzzle up like so: "Hackneyed theme concept and oh yeah YLEM wtf?" The end. See you tomorrow.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

108 comments:

jae 12:11 AM  

Tough for me, more like a Wed. I suspect the PPPs are on the high side.

Problems:
Did not know the SUZUKI guy,
vaguely remembered PICOT from previous crosswords,
ALECTO and NIMES were WOEs...

So, if I had not known the South Park boys, the Salt Flats local, the cookies, ARUBA's capital...and @Rex who XERXES was...bad things might have happened.

I liked it more than @Rex did, but not by much.

Jeff 12:41 AM  

I'd encourage Rex to solve dailies without knowing the name of the publication beforehand. It's so evident that his analysis is completely tied to the quality expectations he has attached to the puzzle. His value judgments are a reflection of the New York Times marketing campaign rather than the puzzle itself. In terms of valuable criticism, Rex has been pretty much useless for the last few years, as he's basically trolling the New York Times at this point, often unabashedly.

He also likes to compare the Times to weekly indies such as the American Values Club Crossword. I love this puzzle, more so than I do the Times, but it's completely unfair to compare a weekly to a daily. If you want to compare the Times to another venue, compare them to another daily venue - LAT, WSJ, Newsday, USA Today, etc. In this regard, I'd still say the Times is the best among the other dailies. I'd venture that over 90% of regular crossword solvers would agree with this notion.

This puzzle wasn't super, but it was a lot tighter than Rex puts it. Try to think of another theme answer - a notable celeb that has a car name for a last name. Off the top of my head I can't think of another. Thus it's a taut theme, nothing earth-shattering, but perfectly suitable for an early-week puzzle. The fill is not great, but to categorically dismiss this puzzle merely on the theme is just lazy trolling.

Now, trolling in the vein of "get off my lawn" satire could certainly have entertainment value. But it's clear that this isn't satire, which leaves us with a blog of little useful value - no criticism that helps constructors or editors improve, no encouragement for new solvers who may want to develop their solving skills, and no entertainment value. I'd say he should just go full satire and change the name of the blog to "Rex Parker Trolls the New York Times Crossword Puzzle."

Anonymous 1:49 AM  

Well, Jeff, he did approve your critique for inclusion in the comments, so Rex is not without integrity. I do agree with some of your comments, in the sense that one of the reasons I do the NYT puzzle is to read the reactions of Rex and his commenters.

It was an easy theme for a Tuesday, true. In fact, after the first, I filled in the rest of the theme answers fairly quickly.

Not sure what is meant by "moving forward, becoming more inclusive, more modern, interesting, daring." If that means last Saturday's slog that took me 4 hrs of on-again off-again attention, then let's confine those to Saturdays, m'kay? ;-)

Cheers,
Brennan

jae 3:42 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jeff Anderson 4:49 AM  

I just came here to say that Lincoln, Ford and Mercury were all sort of under one umbrella of a company, or they were at one time. Suzuki, though, is the odd one out in this group. For a bit I though the theme was going to be Ford Motor Company cars.

chefwen 5:41 AM  

Don't know quite what to say after Jeff's little blurb, so I guess I'll just comment on the puzzle. Thought it was a little on the difficult side for a Tuesday. A few ot the names I did not know like ALECTO, EZRA and ICHIRO. PICOT I knew but it was slow to come to the forefront, and YLEM was a "what tha" ??? Must study up on my Porto-matters.

I like a little crunch on a Tuesday and that's what I got.

Julius Handford 6:06 AM  

I have to agree with @Jeff. I started reading this blog a few years ago when I was first getting started on crosswords. At the time it was helpful and interesting to read about the solving process and especially to hear that others had difficulty (or not) in places that I did. Over time it has become the last blog that I read (after Deb Amlen's NYT Wordplay blog and Jeff Chen's posts on XWordInfo), and I often skip reading it because it is so often sour, cruel, and cliquey, whereas Deb's is about helping new solvers get on board and Jeff's is thoughtful and insightful and has drawn me into the construction process. Today's puzzle may not have been top drawer, but Deb and Jeff both had constructive comments (and criticisms). Meanwhile, Rex says it is terrible and not worthy of the NYT that he used to know and all the good crossword constructors are running away from the NYT and boo Will Shortz and his cadre and blah blah blah. Really? Well, okay, but all that does is make me feel shitty about the fact that I got some pleasure from this puzzle and apparently shouldn't have because it is so third rate. I haven't commented before, but I can't sit back in silence this time. Reading this blog makes me feel bad, and that's not why I solve crossword puzzles. I solve them because I enjoy the challenge, and I read the blogs to learn and to feel a small sense of community with others who get pleasure from solving and constructing them. Far too often now, reading Rex feels like listening to Regina in Mean Girls, except he's not a character in a comedy. He's just mean.

Loren Muse Smith 6:36 AM  

When I got ABRAHAM'S LINCOLN and immediately saw HARRISON'S FORD, I liked it. I enjoy the wordplay of taking famous names and repurposing them in a silly way. Never gets old for me. Give me a BRITTNEY'S PEARS or an add-an-S SALLY'S FIELD any day. (Glad this one today added only an S and not some other letters to get, say, DONALD'S TRIUMPH.)

I agree with @Jeff – this theme feels pretty tight – are there any other possibilities? Anderson's Cooper? (Hi, @Tita). Nope – that's a model and not a make. I've stopped wondering if Rex will like a theme or not – so often our takes are completely opposite – but I'm a bit surprised this morning. My first thought upon reading such a review is to question myself and feel unsophisticated. Sheesh. How could I enjoy such a "weak, antiquated" theme? I don’t have the years under my belt to hold my own in an argument over the objective appeal of a theme; in the end all I can do is report my own level of entertainment. (And I get that I have about zero credibility here because I like'em all. Cue collective eye-roll.) But I do. And I liked this one. I grew up with a HARRISON in Chattanooga – he used to chase me around a big bush at the bus stop and scare the bejeezus out of me. I wondered this morning if he drives a FORD. I was amused.

DUBAI. I was on the phone last night with a guy from DUBAI. I swear. My daughter is on her way to a Europe College Student Backpack Hostel trip and is as I type on an Emirates plane big enough to have its own restaurant en route to Milan. At the airport, the signboard listed her flight as Jet Blue terminating in DUBAI, and she panicked because

1. She doesn't fly a lot.
2. No one would help her; they kept telling her to find an employee in a red hat. Apparently the red hat people were all on their dinner break.

So I called the 800 number for Emirates Air and this really nice guy looked into it for us and put her at ease. I couldn't believe I was on the phone with DUBAI. And that it's in the grid this morning. I was making DUBAI jokes with her trying to calm her down. Texts like

Sigh. Dubai Guy doesn't lie. Why cry?

DUBAI this and DUBAI that. No, your luggage will not end up in DUBAI. (Didn't tell her about my college advisor Dr. Krug's luggage that ended up once in TEL Aviv when she was just flying to Salt Lake City for a conference and I'm not making that up.)

But if you happen to end up in DUBAI, do buy me a snow globe.
Stop, Mom.
Will do. Bye.


Anyway, the guy on the phone has been up in the Burj Khalifa and reports that it's way cool.

John – I really liked the play on the names with the cars. Cute theme.

George Barany 6:42 AM  

Hard to DISAGREE with @Rex. Use of YLEM, BIOMES, and a non-biblical clue for ONAN were all fine, but overall @John Westwig's puzzle wasn't good enough to go all Annabel on.

For his SOPH (word borrowed from yesterday's puzzle) New York Times crossword, our teenage constructor noted elsewhere "I remember coming across a puzzle from many years ago that used HARRISONSFORD as an entry." The link was provided by me, however, and is to a review by @Rex at the time (November 18, 2013); I also supplied the italics to emphasis that to one of @John's age, two or so years may seem like a long time.

ICYMI, the incredible @Elizabeth Gorski has created a puzzle entitled Strong and True to commemorate the launch of this book by award-winning author Judith Dupré about a New York City architectural marvel. I recommend it highly!

Finally, as the eyes of the nation are on @Will Shortz's home state, I would like to thank all @Rex-ites who commented favorably on Craftily Rerun Zodiac. This is also to remind Hoosier primary voters that they have An Embarrassment of Riches to choose from today.

Lewis 7:10 AM  

I found this tougher than the normal Tuesday, and I'm not complaining, but some crossword newcomers might find it frustrating. Knowing YLEM, ABAFT, and LEDA from crosswords helped. The theme was cute and helped the solve; in a couple of cases the last two letters of the theme answer was enough to figure out the whole answer. I liked the answer BOUNCERS. Also I see that LEVI can be found under ABED, and there's a FELL down. There's also a low SCORE.

I'm having a hard time coming up with other theme answers. Closest I came -- no cigar, however -- was BARBARASBOXTER .

Craig Trueblood 7:28 AM  

Can somebody tell me how a CURL is a "permanent thing?" I'm not getting it.

pat433 7:38 AM  

I wouldn't have said that this review is in keeping with Rex's haughty arrogance .... but how could someone who uses dreadful text-isms like "wtf" be arrogant?

fuzzle 7:43 AM  

Having come to expect.the mean-spirited, caustic negativity of Rex's comments, I don't bother with his intro any longer, rather going straight to the more enlightened and entertaining comment section instead. His personal vendetta against Will Shortz and the Times is depressing and wearying. I've often wondered how he can do this job day after day if he hates it so much.

ArtO 7:48 AM  

Agree with@Jeff. Found getting going tougher than a normal Tuesday. Also agree that NYT far better than WSJ, New York Magazine, USA Today, etc. While I mostly come upon those others just occasionally, I'm pretty much just a NYT guy who can accept the (to Rex) often sub par constructions without getting my dander up. Obviously, many who come here are truly gifted solvers who go to the sites cited by OFL for an extra challenge. But seems to me even they're more tolerant of the 365 puzzles a year Will has to provide than Rex.

NCA President 7:56 AM  

I usually judge my enjoyment of a puzzle using my Groan Scale™. It uses a highly complicated protocol taking into consideration the intensity of the groan and the actual number of groans. This one scored very low but wasn't without some dings. TEL, YLEM, and NIMES registered as near-groans but were mitigated by the easiness of the crosses. I did have BABy/TyL as my only true write-over that showed up after I didn't get the jingle when I completed the puzzle. But still, the score was low on the old Groan Scale™. FWIW, puns score the highest since no amount of easy crossing will do anything to make those better...but I digress.

I personally have no problem with the theme. I've said it before, but themes (for me) are just organizational material for the puzzle. Sometimes it's amazing and unique and sometimes the theme just functions as an excuse to make a puzzle. I'll admit when I first got the theme I thought it was particularly lame, but after coming here and reading posts about how very few options of people/car makes there are, I am okay with it. Even without, it didn't exactly make me groan.

As for Rex's "trolling," you have to take it with a grain of salt. You could always go read the JC reviews on xwordinfo and get regular pollyanna reviews. Quite honestly I don't read those any more...those "reviews" are almost too sweet. Cloying, even.

So I read Rex's critique and I read the comments. There's usually a balance in there. I'm sure he'd agree (I don't mean to speak for him) that this blog is just his (informed) opinion, but it isn't the only way to look at it. If that were the case these comments sections would be heavily moderated. Here you are very free to disagree with him and praise or pan any puzzle you like.

This puzzle didn't exactly make my day, but it was just another puzzle I did that I didn't want to throw stuff after I did it. Like Saturday's puzzle, for instance. But again, I digress.

Joseph Welling 8:20 AM  

@ Jeff Anderson: exactly what I was thinking. It's like the theme was FORD, LINCOLN, MERCURY, and then they slapped on the SUZUKI thus watering down the theme to be any car make.

. . or we're playing the old Sesame Street game: "One of these things is not like the others. . . ."

QuasiMojo 8:27 AM  

I don't think Rex is being a SAAB at all. This puzzle was an embarrassment. Abed, Abaft, Abcs? Nuff? Fros? Babe? Yes? Et Al? Osso? I Do? Tel? etc. Plus, anytime I see a brand name in a puzzle I feel that the constructor is not working hard enough. It cheapens the experience.

Anonymous 8:30 AM  

One of the main reasons I come to this blog is to see the COMMENTS! THANK YOU to those who take the time to write in. the comments provide insights and value more than the usual snark that I now skim through, and it has been fun to share the crossword universe that way. I appreciate the input from Jeff and Julius and agree. I think I will take a closer look at the other blogs referenced as well. That information sharing is what I like about this community.

Regarding today's puzzle: the theme was fine for early-in-the-week but the fill was definitely harder and relied on insider or trivia knowledge (I notice that Rex complains about the triviality when he stumbles upon something he doesn't know, otherwise arcane knowledge that he happens to know is totally fine. SO annoying). I often resort to googling something just to get through but this time i managed to guess my way through based on crosses. But it was overall more Wednesday-ish as others have remarked.

Happy May!

CS

Nik 8:32 AM  

The fabric used for LEVIs hails from NIMES, or "de Nimes," whence comes the word denim. Corduroy is another lovely term: cord du roi. Imagine having to RAZE all those little PICOTs by hand.

marysue 8:32 AM  

Didn't love love the theme, but didn't hate hate it either. I liked the occasional challenge (YLEM, ICHIROSSUZUKI), but found most of it Tuesday worthy.

The pointed blog criticism is a bit flashback-stressful (Yikes, the grown ups are fighting!), but blogs are by nature a voluntary contract between reader and writer. The writer expresses an idea, and readers choose to read or not. Civil, reasoned disagreement is OK too, and I'm grateful to see it welcomed here.

Like @Julius, I work the NYT puzzle because of the pleasure it provides, including the days I find fault with various elements. There is an art to critique, which I'm still learning at this old age. Part of that art is being willing to add your voice to the mix, even when it isn't a popular or warm & fuzzy opinion. While I may not always agree with the critique, I always learn something and see the world from a different point of view.

chefbea 8:35 AM  

Tough puzzle. Never heard of Freddie Mercury or Ichiro suzuki. and lots of others. Too many tough clues. Of course knew osso buck!!!

Roo Monster 8:38 AM  

Hey All !
For the person asking about "Crunchy" the other day, well, here ya go! This was definitely a bit tougher than a normal TuesPuz. I believe should've been tomorrows puz.

I think the theme is good. Cute, adequate. Looking for the pangram after all the Z's and the X, but no. Missing J, Q, W.

Had kyle in for ERIC for a while, twisting the ole brain into thinking FREDDy krueger! And I like Queen! Sheesh. (Hi @Loren!)

Fill decent. The BEEB is a new one, thought that only referenced a young girls dreamy singer. Liked LIED close to IDO.

Kinda disagree with Rex on that SE corner. That is actually tough to fill. Did come up with this, not sure it's much better...
CURY
ELEV
RANE
SNOS
Oh well.

Lost my TRAIN (SET) of thought, so gonna RIDER out on my REAR in my LINCOLN.

ARUBA!
RooMonster
DarrinV

kitshef 8:50 AM  

I think the theme is very tight - I'm sure someone on this blog will come up with another name that works, but coming up with one at the level of name recognition of the four themers - well, I can't. I have to go to foreign diplomats and figure skaters to come up with anything.

Up top I was thinking it might be one of those 'cram in as many Bs as you can' puzzles. ABED, ALBA, BEES, BEEB, ABAFT, ABCS.

I enjoyed this one, and for me it played like a Thursday. Not hard, but a gimmick that you need to figure out before you can finish.

My first problem was I was sure the Great Emancipator would get around in ABRAHAMlincolns, so then confidently put in HARRISONfords. But none of my crosses were working.

So then I decided they were looking for specific models, like ABRAHAMcontinental or HARRISONfestiva, but I couldn't come up with models that fit. So I kept moving down the left side, getting nothing on the right, until I got to the former Mariner, and thought aha! ICHIROSamuraI! DUBAI and SOMBER appeared to confirm this.

Finally got the theme from the SE, when SOMBER and UTAH and YLEM and SUMO let me see FREDDIESMERCURY. So then I went and fixed all the other themers and was done in a trice.

In general I think the fill is solid - TEL was the only thing I marked as awful, and that is offset by the likes of BIOMES and AZTEC and the cleverly-clued TRAINSET (surprised @Rex didn't 'go all himself on' FROS).

Tim 8:52 AM  

DNF: that PICOT LEDA ICHIRO stack did me in. I thought LEDA was LEtA and guessed hEsSIANS for PERSIANS, and couldn't dig myself out.

Apart from that, I thought the puzzle was mostly decent despite some iffy vocabulary, and I don't have such a problem with the theme. It's not particularly flashy, but no more dreary than, say, last Sunday's "Starred Crossings" or whatever it was.

Nancy 8:54 AM  

Another hand up for tougher than the usual Tuesday -- and that made me very happy. Not knowing ISHIRO SUZUKI, nor the fact that there's a car called a SUZUKI (who makes it, I wonder, or is SUZUKI the manufacturer?) did not make me very happy. I also never heard of FREDDIE MERCURY, but I did know that MERCURe is not a car. (I had eLEM before YLEM; what in the world is YLEM???? Even Google spellcheck is telling me it's wrong.) I initially had trouble with finding SCORE at 63A, because I had SUMa at 52D. And it seems that every puzzle there's a South Park boy I don't know. How many South Park boys are there, anyway? But nits aside, I like this for the struggle it engendered. I don't understand Rex's rant at all -- but then I seldom do.

cheeseguy101 9:02 AM  

I agree with Rex. This puzzle was awful and the overall quality of the puzzles in the NYT has been much lower in the past 1-2 years than previous.

Why? 9:08 AM  

I feel sorry for Mr Westwig. This is not a bad puzzle per se. It has some words that are pretty difficult for a Tuesday, like YELM, PICOT, and ALECTO. The Tuesday placement is not the constructor's fault. The theme has been done recently (two and a half years ago) in the same publication, including one duplicate theme answer. That's not the conttructor's fault - he wasn't plagarizing or hiding it, as his contructor note show clearly.

This puzzle should have been rejected with a kind note saying that the theme had been used recently. A year ago, or whenever it was accepted, the earlier puzzle should have been fresh in the editor's mind. I remembered the November 2013 puzzle as I solved today. Fairly enough, @Rex ripped into that one too: http://rexwordpuzzle.blogspot.com/2013/11/self-esteem-as-french-would-have-it-mon.html

So why was this puzzle accepted and published? Inquiring minds want to know.

jberg 9:10 AM  

Why all the hate for YLEM? It's just our old friend XYLEM without the X!

Seriously, though, how could I not love a puzzle with ABED, ABAFT, ABCS in the top row? And the bottom row all starts with S, although he didn't manage the double alliteration there. Fun!

And then there's the hint of a new theme with TE(L)L A VIVIAN at 34A. @Loren, please come up with some more of those for us!

Actually seriously, though, I'm OSSO ambivalent about the theme. Neat to think these things up, but if you've seen one, you've seen them all. And sort of confirming @Rex, yesterday's Boston Globe puzzle was by Liz Gorski. No pictures in it, though, unless I missed something.

Last night I taught the last class of my regular career (I have a summer course, but that is as an adjunct). Mixed, but mostly great feelings. Grading those papers is getting more and more tedious. I'm sure if @Anabel was in my class, I'd be good for another 3 years, but no.

Brown Bag 9:13 AM  

I continue to wonder why Rex bothers to critique the NYT puzzles and why this blog hasn't found a new puzzle source. Year after year of the sort of misery that Rex seems to be inflicting on himself would drive anyone else to make a change. Yet, he continues his daily flogging through this column. Why is he doing this?

I haven't run the numbers - does anyone know if there is a 'Rex score card' keeper? - but I would venture a guess that he is dissatisfied, disgusted, and disappointed about 85% of the time. Who would keep pushing a rock up a hill with that batting average of misery? I can only conclude that (a) he has something very personal against the NYT or Will Shortz and will not let go until he get's some closure, (b) he needs an outlet to vent his rage at the world, (c) he's basically a negative person and this is just another proof that the world disappoints him, or (d) in some weird way he thinks he's providing honest criticism and that this blog is helping the puzzle world.

The NYT puzzle is not gourmet food for me. Maybe that's Rex's problem. Sitting down with a puzzle, my standards are pedestrian enough that I can get some intellectual sustenance from either a Monday or a Saturday. Yes, occasionally, some puzzles are significantly better or worse than others but I know I'm a variable in this equation as well. Rex holds the NYT to a gourmet standard of his own choosing without regard to the other patrons in this puzzle restaurant.

I'm pretty tired of his act. When I don't like a meal or two at a restaurant, I don't go back.

Peter

PS I liked this puzzle. It's a Tuesday. 'Nuff said.

Anonymous 9:14 AM  

Gonna skip the personal stuff. Nobody's bragging about times today. Howzat?
Ferdinand's Porsche
Harry's Stutz
Louis's Chevrolet
Soichiro's Honda
Gottlieb's Daimler
Karl's Benz
Ferrucio's Lamborghini

Zippy

Thomas 9:17 AM  

Lincoln Motor Company was literally named after Abraham Lincoln. Even if you think the theme is fine in concept, that entry is total bullshit.

Thank You Josh 9:17 AM  

A way better version of this puzzle would be celebrity land ownership. Sally's Field, Doc's River, James's Woods, Jonah's Hill. That took me 4 minutes to think up.

Hartley70 9:19 AM  

A little bit of easy, a lotta tough was on the menu today, ergo a great Tuesday offering!

ABe and HARRISON made the first two themers a piece of cake. However, ICHIRO was impossible for me and SUZUKI wasn't far behind. While I have heard the name FREDDIE MERCURY, I have no idea who was or wasn't a member of "Queen", but "Bohemian Rhapsody" is epic in "Wayne's World".

Add to my list of embarrassing difficulties, PICOT, YLEM, ALECTO, BEEB, ERIC, STAN, and EZRA. I was only saved from adding DUBAI to the list because I watched The Real Housewives of BH duke it out there recently. I like the idea of having a golf cart zip me around a DUBAI mega mall because then I'd be out the door faster, but all the potty mouths in the world had better think twice before planning a jaunt to DUBAI, where what you swear can get you a room in the pokey.

My two cents on Rex's opinions is that it's his party and he can cry if he wants to. The rest of us are invited guests who should remember our manners or make an unobtrusive exit. Oops, I forgot this is the Internet.

I'm adding WESTWIG to the list of words/names that intrigue me this week. Did the first Mr. Westwig have one that slipped to the left? Thanks for the challenge today.



Anonymous 9:46 AM  

Wanted MONEY and FUR which threw me off greatly. No idea what the Furies are. Isn't it spelled MOOLAH anyways?

The hell is YLEM?

- newish millenial to crosswords, glen

Tita A 9:48 AM  

Must agree with @Jeff @ @Julius - well put.

We've been down this road many times before. I like Rex's sharp criticisms - that's his job - even if it is often tiresome and predictable and off the mark.
I learn from coming here most days.
Thought it would be a cool, if impractical, experiment to have him critique puzzles without knowing byline or source.

Anyhow, this theme made me smile. What's not to love? I looked at a list of automakers, and couldn't find another solitary one that would fit.

I thought the clue for ABAFT was awful. ___ Avivian - really?! That's just trying too hard, and embarrassing.

Anonymous 9:53 AM  

What Jeff said!!!!!!

Charles Flaster 9:59 AM  

Felt there were two different parts to the puzzle.
Medium BEFORE seeing the theme.
Easy AFTER seeing it.
Mucho CROSSWORDease--PICOT, LEDA, STYX, and STAN.
Favorite clue was for CURL.
I had many writeovers --RAGE for sAmE, GIT for ouT, BOZO for dOlt, CZAR for tsAR,
and RAGA for RAmA.
This theme brought to mind the graduation "slam books" of the fifties. We used to write
"dated tills". A popular one was --"Dated till Bert Parks his Glenn Ford".
We were wild and crazy in those days.
Thanks JW

Anonymous 10:05 AM  

Sadly, I must agree with commenters above who say that Rex's blog is primarily an angry, demeaning diatribe against the New York Times Crossword rather than an analysis of it. His comments come across all too often as "disgruntled would-be contributor", rather than "insightful crossword connoisseur", and smack, to my eye, of jealousy or resentment rather than objective critique.

I've been reading Rex for a couple of years now, and hope he'll decide to shift to a discussion of (not an endless rant against) the day's puzzle, with some peeks behind the scenes at how puzzles are constructed. He's too smart and funny, it seems to me, to allow this blog to remain the prolonged polemic against "Shortz" and the "NYT Family" it has become.

lg 10:05 AM  

For me, the theme was super easy. In fact, I solved all of the theme answers first. The fill however, was tough. Absurdly tough for a Tuesday. From awful answers such as YLEM to extremely overused answers like BOZO, FROS and ADOS, this one did indeed suck. Good riddance to this Tuesday puzzle.

Chuck McGregor 10:11 AM  

The PPPs almost did me in, especially in the South. Added to that in were those in the NW, NE, W, and E. However, my only cheat was to look up Xerxes to get the PERS for 36d. Awaiting @Z’s PPP analysis.

There seemed some decidedly non-Tuesday stuff: YLEM, BIOMES, ABAFT (though I well knew it), PICOT, BEEB, and OSSO (though I’m sure this was a gimme for our resident chefs).

Several other theme possibilities include brands and models. Some are obscure but, with good clues, I think not much more obscure than YLEM.

Sieur’s La Salle (brand)
Buddy’s Hackett (brand)
John ‘s DeLorean (brand)
Ellery’s Queen (brand)
Willy’s DeVille (a double header, Willy’s also being a car brand)
Frazier’s Crane (brand)
George H W’s Bush (brand)
Loni’s Anderson (brand)
Hanna’s Montana
Marie’s Windsor
River’s Phoenix
Tony’s Orlando
Mac’s Fleetwood & Sally’s Mustang (unfortunately thematically backwards)

If the themers could have been 14 letters, there were more good candidates:
Prince’s Rainier (brand)
Prince’s Valiant (brand)
Leslie’s Nielson (brand)
Marilyn’s Monroe (brand)
Howard’s Stearns (brand)
Chubby’s Checker (brand)
Jiminy’s Cricket (brand)
Walter’s Brennan (brand)
Marshall’s Dodge (brand)
William’s Bendix (brand)
Carmen’s Electra
Maltese’s Falcon
Claire’s Windsor
Jay Leno’s Camero (a one-off concept car GM built, though not exactly fitting the theme)

Though the letter count is far off:
Ted’s Cruze (not exactly how his campaign is going, YES, it’s misspelled)

“REAR Window”: A Hitchcock masterpiece. It gets a well-deserved 95% “Liked it” on Rotten Tomatoes for 148,363(!) user ratings and a 100% plus rating for 63 critical reviews.
And it leads to Alfred’s Hitchcock (a one-year brand in 1909)

‘NUFF and OUT….

Cheers

Anonymous 10:12 AM  

How do I find jeff chen's blog? I went to xwordinfo but I don't see his blog. As to other daily puzzles In comparison with the ny times, I find newsday too easy and boring from Sunday thru thurs. I find the lat too difficult. Neither has the satisfying feel that the nyt's has.

Airymom 10:24 AM  

There is Congressman Mike Honda of California. No idea how I know this. Maybe because I have two Hondas in my garage and have been a Honda owner for 35 years.

But few folks would know of him, I guess.

I do agree with Rex that this theme seems very dated, and a number of words were obscure.

One person's obscurity is another person's "gimme". I sew and embroider so "picot" was a gimme. But I do see how it would be tough for many.

The southeast corner was subpar, but I've just spent 15 minutes trying to improve it and have not succeeded.

That's why I hesitate to criticize puzzles. I've been doing the NYT puzzle since my days in Endicott Hall (Rex's school) in the 1970's, and couldn't construct a puzzle if you gave me a million dollars. So, I admire every puzzle, even the weak ones.

John V 10:35 AM  

Only snag here was correctly spelling FREDDIE; pen had a life of its own this morning.

I agree the the standard is daily for the NYT puz. I do the AVX puzzle, too; enjoy it, it is hard. Different kind of challenge. Totally fine with today's offering, YLEM notwithstanding. Kinda tossed this senior solver back to days of Big Gene.

Anonymous 10:41 AM  

A GENE cannot be patented unless is has been altered. More lousy science from a lousy science source.

Anonymous 10:48 AM  

@LMS - Cooper is just fine, it's the name of a line of cars, as are Ford/Mercury/Lincoln - they're model lines withing FMC. So, we have ANDERSONSCOOPER, CLINTONSDODGE ("it depends what the meaning of is is) ATILLASRAM, SIEGFRIEDSJAGUAR, and that's in 5 seconds.

Anonymous 10:51 AM  

Remember that old commercial? "Even Caddilacs drive Subaru!." I can't remember the other ones. Wasn't Jerry Ford's daughter in it?

Z 11:04 AM  

Set my iPad down to refill my coffee and came back to a blank comment box. I didn't swear much, honest.

@Jeff - You make some good points (comparing daily to weekly puzzles) but your "trolling" comment is just wrong. Not every comment one disagrees with is "trolling." Every one of of Rex's criticisms today can be objectively defended. This doesn't mean I agree with them all, but it does mean that they are far from "trolling."

@Julius Handford and @LMS - Huh. Me, when Rex's opinion differs from mine I just assume he's wrong. I would not take it as in any way related to my intrinsic self-worth. And @LMS, my mother would often tell me to look for the good in people. Thanks for highlighting the good in every puzzle.

As for Rex's "brain drain" comment, his is definitely a glass half empty take. If top constructors seek other venues for their works this does not have to be to the detriment of the NYTX. Rather than seeing this as shrinking the NYTX share of the pie it can also be seen as a growing of the pie. It does mean that the NYTX will have to move forward, become more inclusive, modern, and daring or risk becoming just another USA Today. But it has a structural advantage that it can use. It sure wouldn't hurt if it changed its copyright policies and shared the gravy train a little more with constructors.

Pop Culture, Product Names, and Proper Nouns Analysis

25/74, 34%

Yep, it felt like it to me, too.

Harry 11:17 AM  

While I agree with most of Rex says in this blog, the thing we should all remember (and I'm sure is obvious to Rex) is that these puzzles are not made for him. Or for us, who are mostly experienced, habitual solvers. I'm sure thee are numbers on this sort of thing, but I bet most of the people who do the Times puzzle are casual solvers who do the puzzle only once in a while. There are also a steady stream of beginners, in fact so much that I bet beginners outweigh experienced solvers at any given time. It's for these people that Will keeps including obvious, silly themes like this. Agreed that the fill could have been better (even the constructor thinks so), but I think we have to give credit for Will continuing to give very young constructors a seat at the table. That is a big key in keeping the crossword relevant.

old timer 11:18 AM  

YLEM? On a Tuesday? I pretty much agree with OFL today. I did think he would use the term "ScrabbleF***er" too. This has to be the ugliest puzzle I've solved in weeks. Though, YLEM aside, it was easy enough for those who like I could write in ARUBA and PERSIANS without hesitation.

I was amused by the first two themers, but the SUZUKI and the MERCURY made me think the concept was not worth pursuing and definitely not worth putting in the paper.

RAD2626 11:24 AM  

Like @lms I tend to like every puzzle and every theme, and this puzzle was no exception. I thought the theme was fine and the fact that there do not appear to be (m)any alternate theme answers makes it even more acceptable. I know they don't fit but I would have laughed at PINK'S CADILLAC or CHEVY'S CHASE. But again, I am easily amused.

My quarrel with this puzzle is I always start at 1a and the NW here was hard for early week. ABED, BEEB, ABAFT and BIOMES started me off on a bad foot. Overall my time ended up about 15% over normal Tuesday. But I liked the puzzle. I completely agree with @Jeff that the NYT is by far the best daily puzzle, although I think the WSJ has been a very positive entry into the field. I have long liked their Friday (now Saturday) offering and the Friday meta is fun. Maybe 15 years ago on a long flight a flight attendant handed me a half done WSJ Friday puzzle and said they could not finish it, so could I help. I must have looked bored. I completed the puzzle and have been a regular solver since.

GILL I. 11:28 AM  

All the comments so far have been so good that I don't know what to even say....When I read people like @Jeff at 12:41, @Brennan and @Julius H, I say to myself "why can't I write like that?" Then I read my fave @Loren and KNOW I could never match her wit....That's about it for my enjoyment factor these days; the blog interactions have long gone, so you better get your best shot in first thing in the AM.
I'm so easy to please that I rather enjoyed this meaty puzzle. I guess I should try all the other "fabulous" puzzles lurking out there but I don't have the luxury of time. I enjoy a BEQ and @George B's puzzles, but that's about it.
So, did I mention I enjoyed this? BEEB and BEES and BOZO LOUT and having a wonderful name like ICHIRO SUZUKI added pleasure. The Theme was fun (I thought) and I'm glad the old neurons are still working, remembering where Toussaint led a revolt, Xerxes people and Coyolxauhqui and all the Aztecs.
You can call me Ray or you can call me Jay, just don't call me BABE.

Prof. Gary Weissman 11:33 AM  

So ... Critics shouldn't be TOO critical of the texts they review (films, books, crossword puzzles) because members of the public who enjoyed those texts might feel badly about themselves for having enjoyed them? I want to say buck up, folks, but here I am feeling shitty for having enjoyed reading Rex's column, which I'm now told is sour, mean-spirited, and cliquey. I mean, I feel just terrible for having taken some pleasure in reading it.

Leapfinger 11:36 AM  

Where to start? Where to start?

Without casting asPERSIANS, a hearty Hooroar to @Jeff and @JuliusH for expressing OUT RAGE at having pleasure in simple solving spoiled with the CITE of STYX 'n' stones when it's just as EASY to HYDROX and OSSO, me bucko. Not asking OFL to change entirely, just somewhat dispense with the SOMBERero, and LIED by a SUNYer example, okay?

In an axillary vein, @George Barony, I enjoyed the LEVIty of your idea about OFL going all Annabel. Interesting that you raise Gorski and Dupre today, what with DUBAI being in the grid and (in)famous for having this amazing indoor ski center. I'm not sure whether rigor's key or whether vigor's key, but I understand the Dubai ski bums do pray to the A/C gods f'r EASE , since so often the snow by night turns to dew by day.

The puzzle: quite solid (for a Tues) though I've only HERD of retired X-YLEM and needed every cross for MR(?) SUZUKI's given name. The theme I thought on the slim side, MERCURY beaucoup, and thought there'd be more grist with OLD'S MOBILES:

GRAHAM'S NASH
HENRY'S HUDSON
ANDERSON'S COOPER
STEPHEN'S AUSTIN
DON'S HEALY
WILLIAM'S MORRIS
JAN'S PIERCE
BEN'S FRANKLIN
ALEX'S CORD (this CORD person might not be uniformly well-known, but I couldn't do Thing One with Duesenberg, my other top choice)

Was also reminded of seeing this stretch limo turning the corner at Franklin & Columbia (very out of character for Chapel Hill), and comforting myself that it couldn't possibly be Isaac Bashevis SINGER'S HUMMER

That's all for today, so AWAYS YUGO! TATRA!!

PS @Aketi, plan to be back later, on a different note re yestercomment.

Dr. Haber 11:40 AM  

Why has no one pointed out the one stupidest aspect of this theme which is Lincoln died long before cars were invented let alone named after him. Whereas all the other celebs could at least conceivably drive or ride in their namesake vehicles. Didnt this bother anyone else?

emily 12:08 PM  

I think some of you have too much time on your hands! I was happy that I could finish without cheating (much, didn't know the Persian clue)--

Mohair Sam 12:29 PM  

@George Barany - You absolutely made my day with "overall @John Westwig's puzzle wasn't good enough to go all Annabel on." Can't stop chuckling. Thank you.

I'm gonna agree with @Rex today (save the NYT bashing, of course). The theme was awfully blah (would have liked @LMS's idea of Anderson's Cooper however - a little pizzazz there). My man ICHIRO left the Mariners years ago and has bounced around since, currently with the Florida Fish - Will could have checked a baseball almanac, it just may be online. Freakin' YLEM on a Tuesday? PICOT? ALECTO? ABAFT? NIMES? OK stuff for crossword vets - but not for early week solvers.

@Rex Rippers - One thing about OFL, he'll print his critical rage - and then he'll print yours.

puzzle hoarder 12:49 PM  

I agree with the comments by @jeff 12:41 am and @Julius Hanford. Once I've solved a puzzle I got to xwordinfo to read the comments by the constructor and Jeff Chen before I come here. For those who don't today's constructor is an actual child who's managed to get two puzzles published by the NYT. Just because @Rex has some kind of love hate thing going on with the NYT is no reason to trash this kid's puzzle. The upper tier makes it look like you're in for dreck fest but south of that first themer things become much more interesting. I've been solving the NYTP for 27 years and HYDROX, YLEM and ROARK are new to me or at least seem that way. The only actual debuts were the theme entries with the exception of HARRISONSFORD which the constructor points out was his inspiration.
I can't figure why @Rex comes off sounding so nasty. If it's based on any real concern about quality puzzles being drawn to other venues the Times can stop that anytime they decide to throw around some of that money they're sitting on. Money talks and bullshit walks. Today's review did not sound like money to me.

Dolgo 12:52 PM  

I agree about the rather inane theme, but I kinda like it when you get credit for knowing some stuff (yeah! like who Xerxes was or the names of the Fates) that USED to be knowledge educated people have instead of just trying to figure out a lot of lame but oh-so-clever puns!

Masked and Anonymous 1:07 PM  

Yep. I'm more kinda like @muse. I enjoy almost all crosswords. Some more than others, of course.

Themer Thoughts:
1. The good ol "Somebody's something" theme. This one specializes in all cars, tho. So it's tryin to be somewhat original.
2. First two themers are famous and could've even both been presidents, if U went with GERALDSFORD. Good stuff.
3. ICHIRO SUZUKI is well-known to Seattle Mariner fans, I'm sure. Maybe even ravenous baseball fans at large? M&A is more of a Casual Twins fan, so the name looks only slightly familiar. Sorta like YLEM.
4. FREDDIE MERCURY … very very very vaguely familiar-soundin name. Might be ok, with heavy metal groupies & groupers. Sorta like RO-ARK, for Ayn Rand fans. In sum, them last two themers may spell trouble brewin, for casual crossword fans.

Fill Fthoughts:
1. 007 U's. This would normally be an auto-magic mic drop (yo, @Obama), but wait a nano-sec, here …
2. NIMES? YLEM? PICOT? RO-ARK? Them is real interestin word aberrations, and it is always nice to learn new stuff, as long as they ain't crossin my toughest two themers [See "Themer Thoughts"] that I'm in the middle of tryin to carve out of the crossins.
3. PICOT ain't actually crossin anything major; more of a semi-innocent bystander, so … ok.
4. Primo TRAINSET clue. Also ditto for CURL (Wanted COIL, at first. COIL is a Brooklyn CURL.)
5. ALECTO. Hey, if U say so. Coulda been another "South Park" boy, for all M&A knew. But was carved successfully out of its crossins, so … all righty, then.

Don't like YLEM? Got RAGA RAGE? (yo, @indie009)
Then try:
CURY
EPEE
ROLO
SNOW.

Don't care for *another* South Park kid and NIMES?
Then try: changin ERIC/NIMES/SCORE to ERAT/NAMES/STORE. QED.

Personally, I kinda liked YLEM, tho. Pleasingly desperate, somehow.

Thanx, Mr. Westwig. We both know that respect for the Rodney Dangerfield of vowels is what really matters, here. Keep em comin. Just don't play the YLem card too often.

Masked & Anonym007Us

Teedmn 1:11 PM  

I found this puzzle fairly entertaining, but like @LMS, I'm a cheap date, theme-wise. It ranged a bit from ARUBA to DUBAI and had the prerequisite non-PC FROS and Hey BABE. I had my usual range of stupid to funny writeovers: SUburu off the SU before SUZUKI and Yang before YLEM, off the Y (couldn't Proto-matter be the Yang to Yin's Anti-matter?)

On "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me" last week, they were discussing LEVI's wedgie jeans. Has anyone gone for this style yet? Sounds as comfortable as 6" spike heels to me.

Thanks, @George for reminding us of Annabel's "go all Rex on".

Pcrest Bob 1:18 PM  

Graham's Nash
Margaret's Dodge
Chief's Pontiac
Hernando's Desoto

Margaret Berger 1:21 PM  

YLEM killed the whole puzzle for me. YLEM does not belong in a Tuesday. Ditto ABAFT and PICO and NIMES. And by the way, I've never seen MOOLA without the H. Boola (boola!) has no H. MOOLAH has an H. So sez I.

Masked and Anonymous 1:24 PM  

p.s.
@muse:
Donald's Triumph. har

Raise U one Victor's Yugo.

Ted's Cruz Control? Whole 'nother theme universe? Thought so.

M&A

oldbizmark 1:27 PM  

ABAFT i thought must be a mistake. Puzzle was lame. Thought it was a bit touch like @Lewis mentioned. Knew LEDA, never heard of YLEM and the whole GENE/HERD cross area was a slog for me. Not a fun puzzle. And theme is played out. Boo.

Masked and Anonymous 1:30 PM  

p.p.s.s.

Just noticed that this TuesPuz has only 74 words. [73, if U don't count YLEM.]
More long words & phrases for yer money!
Did have 40 squares go over to the dark side, tho. Mostly because of 2 themers nesting in cheater squares.

M&A Help Desk
"Trying Hard To Beat Morning Moderation 3 Times in a Row"

RJB 1:31 PM  

I have to agree with Jeff and Julius. I enjoyed Rex's analysis a few years ago, soon after I first discovered the site, enough that I contributed to it. But I read it only infrequently now; some critical comment may be helpful but here it's come to feel like sour grapes. Sad.

Sheryl 1:32 PM  

I agree with Jeff and Julius Handford. They were both so eloquent that I don't have much more to add beyond my strong concurrence. I came to this blog today after finishing the puzzle (which I thought was okay and enjoyed solving), read the rant, and just thought Ugh. This blog has become relentlessly negative.

Tom Baum 1:34 PM  

I admire Rex, but what Jeff said needed to be said. I’m generally in sync with the difficulty level, but less and less with his critique. He has a bug up about the New York Behind the Times—have they passed on one too many of his puzzles?

I guess Wes’s Bentley is too obscure, and Fritz’s Chrysler and Victor’s Yugo don’t really qualify.

Vancouver Nana 1:54 PM  

Surprised no one noted, maybe no one cares!, that Ichiro is no longer a Mariner--has not been for MANY years! Fros/Afros two days in a row after discussion that this clue/answer should be long gone (with the wind?!). As a fairly new xword solver, and a Boomer, I strongly agree with @rex. Had trouble with xylem, picot etc others mentioned. Did not like it much at all. :-)

Martín Abresch 2:00 PM  

Yawn. I had the ABR before reaching the clue for ABRAHAM'S LINCOLN, but I expect that I could have answered it without a single cross. Filled in all the theme answers straightaway. Glad to see ICHIRO('s) SUZUKI make an appearance.* The longer downs were forgettable: DISAGREE, TRAIN SET, BOUNCERS, PERSIANS, ARMANI, BIOMES, ALECTO, HYDROX, SOMBER, UNEASE. Not one winner in the bunch.

*I have zero issue with the ICHIRO clue. He is known for his days as a Seattle Mariner. The photo of him dressed in those fugly Marlins uniforms makes me sad. P.S. Go Mariners!

Other commenters have pointed out that the theme is tight, but the tightness of the theme is not the issue here. A puzzle's theme may be tight, yet the puzzle might not be worth publishing in the New York Times. There is nothing lively about this theme. It's dry as an overused simile.

One other thought, and I wish that I could explain this properly. I just wrote and deleted a paragraph trying to explain it, then wrote and deleted another, and I guess I'll see if this third time will be the charm. My gut tells me that the basic layout of the grid—the theme answers and the black squares—is all wrong. I really do wish that I could effectively explain why my gut feels this way. It's partly due to ICHIRO'S SUZUKI being placed so that IC---OS----KI are the letters that end words. (Why do that to yourself?) It's partly due to the 15-letter answers being placed in the 4th and 12th rows instead of the 3rd and 13th. It's partly due to the 13-letter answers being centered in the grid, a black square at either end. It's partly due to the large amount of mirror symmetry in the black boxes.

It all adds up in my gut to a suspicion that the constructor became enamored of the tidy appearance of this grid and that this aesthetic infatuation overrode logical considerations and the exploration of more dynamic grid layouts. But keep in mind that "my gut" is a rank amateur at crossword construction. I have not yet had a puzzle published anywhere. My gut could be full of it.

Chronic dnfer 2:33 PM  

Dnf'd at hydrop/styp. Also got frustrated and googled for ichiro even though I know who he is as he once played for the Yankees. Good puzz. I agree with Rex in that I thought it a bit corny. Good way to kill 45 mins or so on a rainy Tuesday in Connecticut.

Doug 2:39 PM  

I guessed way beforehand that Rex was, um, not going to like this puzzle very much. It took me a long time to solve, so I thought it was hard. But then I didn't hate the theme. And I think he's having a bad day if he's never heard of NIMES. Or maybe just never saw a map of the South of France. YLEM -- and ABAFT threw me, even though I've been a sailor for some time. So what. It's just a crossword puzzle. It's not life or death.

Anonymous 2:47 PM  

"Alecto," one of your less-common Greek-mythology references, does not belong in a Tuesday puzzle. I honestly had not heard of "Alecto" previously. "Ylem," yes, but not "Alecto." I agree that the theme is about as stale as last week's matzoh (thank God Passover is over; usually by the fourth day my father of blessed memory would look morosely (or moror-sely; my Jewish brethren will get it) at the matzoh on his plate and say "no wonder they call this the bread of affliction" but I digress). And I also take umbrage, at least a bit, when someone who died is referred to as the "former" so-and-so. Freddie Mercury (also of blessed memory, but in a different way) is only the "former" lead vocalist of Queen because he died (too young). If he were still around and Queen were still active (they are, sort of), he'd be their singer, no question- he was nonpareil, just like Prince or Bowie. You can call someone the former, in my opinion, if they are still alive but not currently in their previous position. Otherwise it strikes me as insensitive or a little insulting.

janet 2:55 PM  

Thank you Julius. I too have never commented but I do wish there was a more generous and upbeat spirit in this blog. I suppose we readers are partly to blame: the pull of a curmudgeon's voice is powerful. Still, Rex, if you want a more "inclusive" crossword puzzle, acknowledge young constructors and offer a few constructive suggestions. It won't threaten your independence or authenticity.

Bronxdoc 2:57 PM  

Actually found it easier than usual, although had no idea re picot and never watched South Park, then I remembered it was only tues not Wednesday. So, perhaps a little tougher. As for the theme, once you've got Abe's Lincoln, you've pretty much got the puzzle.

Phil 3:03 PM  

Have to agree that the crossword-ese in this puzzle was a little out of control. Alecto and Leda are at least culturally relevant as classical mythology, but ylem? I have a PhD in physics and I've never heard of ylem. I have some colleagues who are astronomers and have never heard of ylem. This is bad. Can't say much in defense of picot or abaft either. Has anyone ever said the word abaft?

Jeremy Mercer 3:04 PM  

@Jeff - I think you are missing the larger point behind Rex's work. Crosswords are a big business and the medium is evolving into an important culture yet there is no corresponding critical community. Most blogs are written by fans or acolytes and WordPlay is outright house propaganda. If @Julius loves Deb's work so much, he must also prefer Simon & Schuster press releases over Michio Kakutani reviews. Rex is imperfect and we would all be better served by a blind reviewer who didn't know the author or the publisher of the crossword, but for the moment he is one of the few critical voices the community has. And the criticism of Shortz is legitimate, just as the criticism of a fading actors or novelists is legitimate. Shortz revolutionized the NYT crossword but it seems he is more occupied with other media pursuits these days and may be resting on his laurels. Rigorous criticism is essential if crosswords are to be considered a proper culture and if the art form is to evolve.

Geoffrey Boltach 3:14 PM  

A teacher once told me that the grade depends on what time of day and how his mood was while grading. Perhaps Rex pulled an all nighter?

woolf 3:21 PM  

I think when ABED is your 1A, close all windows and reboot. Though, to be fair, ABED is potentially a decent alternate answer for "how the Great Emancipator got around." You know... he Abe'd. (This would also work for Harrison Ford and "soloed.")

George NYC 4:04 PM  

Gotta side with Rex on this. When the very first answer in the puzzle is ABED, and the second across is ABAFT--two words I've never said in my life (and I spend plenty of time In bed, and on boats) you had better come up with something better than ABCS for the 3rd. When I got to "How the star of the Indiana Jones films got around," I felt like I was back at the dentist's office when I was a kid, reading that magazine Highlights (I think) where you looked for hidden objects in a drawing while trying to ignore the screams of pain from down the hall. Too easy, yet associated with pain. Since this is a NEW YORK Times puzzle, it's odd that the clue for ICHIRO SUZUKI seems ignorant of the fact that he played (quite well) for the New York Yankees as recently as two seasons ago. Yes, the same Yankees who play in the Bronx, up the street from the Times' HQ.

Austin 4:16 PM  

You can (and should) compare the NYT puzzle to weeklies. Elizabeth Gorski puts out a solid Mon-Tues difficulty puzzle every week. Matt Jones puts out a solid Tues-Wed difficulty puzzle every week. Evan Birnholz at WaPo puts out a solid Sunday difficulty puzzle every week. So that's three people who put out half a week's worth of quality puzzles every week. Three people!

The NYT, with all of their money and reach and influence should easily be able to find The World's Best Puzzles. Or they should be able to mentor or mold whatever puzzles get submitted their way into The World's Best Puzzles. When the NYT claims to be the best crossword in the world, you should absolutely hold it to a higher standard.

aging soprano 4:34 PM  

ALECTO! Right out of Purcell's "Music for a While". It's amazing how often song lyrics help me SCORE. I don't know how to put a recording up for you all to hear. I guess I'm a little like Aunt Hillary. But AliasZ can ABED. I mean, inbed it for me.
@Loren, your posts are delightful. Today your DONALDS TRIUMPH made me laugh out loud. For crying out loud, I hope we don't all end up weeping in November.

Aketi 5:21 PM  

There were a lot of LFC entries for me today so I didn't find it to be excessively difficult.

I liked seeing BIOME and CORAL REEF in the puzzle.

@rex, I thought you'd object to the AFRO being followed by its abbreviation to FRO today. So, today's FRO tribute goes to one of my teammates in Brazilian Jui Jitsu who is now ranked #11 in the world for male white belts, Ronnie Tisdale. The tribute is not merely because of his athletic prowess in diverse sports such as BJJ, football and wrestling (of the non SUMO variety), but because he also enthusiastically embraces the academic side of life as a Stanford Grad and now med student at Mt Sinai, as well as dabbling in singing and acting. Nothing is better than coming into an early morning class than to be greeted by Ronnie singing one of his silly songs, an ability helped him win scholarships to pay for school. I swear I have never met a more cheerful person other than Annabel.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=RNdjqPbPqv0

chefbea 6:11 PM  

Darn auto-correct...I meant osso Buco

Norm 6:38 PM  

I'll vote with @NCA President.

Z 7:20 PM  

@puzzle hoarder and @janet - Last Sunday I had a league game immediately followed by my HS team having a game, so the HS kids came out to watch the old man play. My league team was short, so I recruited one of my high schoolers to play. I didn't take the best player, I took the best athlete. After the kid scored five times the other team put the best player in the league on him. Afterwards I told him just who had been covering him. Neither his age or relative lack of disc skills mattered because I put him in a position to succeed. This is what I expect Shortz to do with young (all new) constructors, put them in positions to succeed. Publishing a puzzle that needs re-working is no favor. Neither is, "your puzzle is a good one for a kid." We've seen other new constructors improve with time, so I'm sure Mr. Westwig will, too. That has nothing to do with his age.

@Harry - Good point about the many different audiences that Shortz has to please.

Chronic dnfer 7:49 PM  

I detect some sour grapes from some of the criticism about Rex. I think Rex is always right. This is the New York Times not the Greenwich times. We deserve better.

RAD2626 8:17 PM  

@jberg. Congratulations and best wishes.

kitshef 8:26 PM  

Applause for @Dolgo. " stuff ... that USED to be knowledge educated people have". There are two kinds of PPP; that which is part of a classical education (ALECTO, AZTEC, LEDA), and that based on something temporarily popular, and which may or may not hold up over the years (STAN, ERIC, ALBA). A nice mix or a tilt to the former makes for a good puzzle. Favoring the latter leads to drek (for me).

And my two cents in defense of @Rex - this is his blog, which he updates (almost) every day, and moderates the comments, for FREE (donations appreciated). No one HAS to read it; no one who does read it HAS to pay for it. Personally, I disagree with an awful lot of his commentary - but I appreciate, and learn from, his point of view.

Anonymous 8:37 PM  

100% agree

KevCo 9:02 PM  

Hm...I've been solving these puzzles daily for about a decade. I can pretty consistently finish Saturdays, and I almost always finish every other day. I say that not to brag but to establish the perspective of a seasoned solver. This puzzle wasn't very good, but I think Rex is way overstating the problem. For one thing, I think he gets way too wound up by the quality of the theme. Great themes are fantastic, but I don't think a lesser theme is a net negative, especially on a Monday or Tuesday, when the straightforwardness of the puzzle demands a simpler theme.

The quality of the puzzles has declined, but it is still the best newspaper puzzle out there, by a wide margin.

And to Rex, whose blog I love, a criticism with good intentions: it may be that the Times's quality is sagging, but so too does your blog when you spend your energy griping. When you offer pop culture arcana, amusing anecdotes about how the puzzle somehow relates to your life, or cheeky commentary on lesser clues (like your "Natick rule"), this blog is an absolute treasure. When you gripe...well, it's not fun to read, even if your criticisms are valid. So if you believe it important for content producers to heed the word of their fan bases when it comes to sagging quality, as you seem to think it is for NYT, I encourage you to consider it in your own work. This blog is so great. Please do not let it slip.

Debra 9:57 PM  

I didn't mind the theme, though I never heard of this Suzuki fellow, but I thought the fill was atrocious. Way too obscure for Tuesday.

old timer 10:26 PM  

Now I do have to say that the kind of person who subscribes to the NYT has probably been to Nimes. I went as a college student and took all my children there, too, to see the amazing Pont du Gard and pay a quick visit to the Maison Carree in Nimes, second only to the Pantheon in Rome as a building dating back to the Roman Empire that is still more or less intact. And for those of you who have not been, you can't do better than to spend a few days in Avignon, with a car and side trips to Nimes and Arles and all those other xword friendly places in the South of France.

Alex 11:07 PM  

I found this to be VERY challenging for a Tuesday!!!

Larry 11:28 PM  

As a longtime solver, I am increasingly dismayed by the deteriorating quality of the New York Times crossword puzzles -- especially over the last week and a half to two weeks. As soon as I saw today's cheap gimmick I thought "seriously?" and had a little debate with myself about whether I would even bother to finish it. I finally decided to do it just to see how bad it was going to be.

Maybe novice solvers and recent devotees find this sort of thing clever or challenging, but to someone who has been solving puzzles for 40 years, this is a terrible piece of work. If I didn't know it was from the New York Times I would have suspected it was from a second-rate newspaper syndicate.

Today we had EASY and UNEASE, yesterday it was YOWZA and YOWIE. This sort of duplication should not occur in a well-done puzzle. I can't even remember the last time I saw the old chestnut ONAN in a puzzle -- it's been years.

I'm old-school and still get the New York Times in print, primarily for the puzzle -- but if it keeps publishing dogs like this one I going to cancel. Seriously, this is really inferior work.

Jeff Lewis 8:02 AM  

Hair

Leapfinger 9:47 AM  

FEER not. DE ZAR's ETIC-ETA bars A RUB when your ARZE is OSSO ICHI. Yes, SIRRAH! A SEMINal LATE thought TOCIP in MINED when there's SODA on your SACROiliac.

LET NATS bite! FFUN, FFUN, FFUN!!

(Just a quick look back at yestergrid before closure)

spacecraft 11:28 AM  

Not sure what happened here; I got a message that I "must have double-clicked" something that caused "conflicting edits." So here is what I hope is my only post; I have to assume the first one is gone.

Conflicting is a good word for today's puzzle. As soon as I had the AB in the first theme line I had them all; that's 56 squares filled. This could be a record-breaker. Ah, but that was the Dr. Jekyll of it.

Mr. Hyde said, "NOTSO fast there, BABE!" [more on that later] My original post contained a rant about South Park; suffice it to say I don't watch it and thus knew neither of those names. I do watch all those science shows like Wormhole and How the Universe Works, yet until this morning I never encountered YLEM. This IS Tuesday, right? ALECTO, NIMES...are you SURE it's Tuesday?? L'Ouverture?? I'm not even counting PICOT; I know that one because I used to work in a bra factory (and no, before you ask, I didn't get a chance to see them being modeled). But all this doesn't belong this early in the week.

Now to the "Hey BABE" thing. That clue is just SO wrong. I say that to a woman, I'm liable to get slapped upside the head. I say that to a man...not. Not EVER.

Who wouldn't pick ALBA as the DOD? Yet there's also GENE Tierney of b&w movies; Hawkeye Pierce thought her overbite "sexy." And as mom to the Face that Launched a Thousand Ships, LEDA deserves at least honorable mention.

Now I will try and not hit anything twice--and forgive me if both blogs appear. Score for today: bogey. NUFF said.

Burma Shave 11:34 AM  

RAZED SCORE

YES, she was a RIDER in ABRAHAMSLINCOLN,
a SOMBER BABE with UNEASE and no Accord,
and REST EASY to DISAGREE with her thinkin’
when she FELL ABED OUT in HARRISONSFORD.

--- GENE “UTAH” ROARK

rondo 12:54 PM  

It’s a Tues-puz folks, not known for brilliance, so I didn’t think that hard about the quality. And there were a few toughies mixed in, as mentioned above. The thing that almost caused a DNF was my mis-spelled YLuM which made a perfectly good RAGu, until I read that clue. Might have let it go otherwise.

I thought the NW corner started with a bit of trickery. Jessica could have been yeah baby Biel so check crosses, right? Big name in denim coulda been LEes, so I stopped at LE__. But it certainly showed me that Jessica was yeah baby ALBA. Smoother sailing from then until the YLEM inkblot.

ICHIRO will likely be most remembered as a Mariner, but plays for Miami now. He’s closing in on 3000 hits, and that’s after playing for years in Japan before MLB in the U.S.

For anyone who might care, I solve on paper, with pen, and don’t notice how long it takes unless there’s a convenient accident. Been doing it that way for 30 years. Solving on a device doesn’t interest me, but to each his/her own. And it does seem that some of the constructors’ names that used to show up frequently don’t appear much anymore. But I’m probably not about to go searching them out. The NYT puz is syndicated to both the Mpls and St. Paul papers, so that’s the puz to do. After reading the sports page. And then the paper gets re-purposed, as kindling in the wood stove or for streak-free window washing, etc. Can’t do that with a device. And syndilanders get to re-live the holiday themes 5 weeks later. The only puz I do in real time is in Harper’s magazine; now there’s a challenge, and I won the mail-in contest once. If I’m really bored I might print out a WSJ puz.

I had a ’68 and a ‘73 Belvedere and a ’71 Fury: PLYMOUTHSROCK!

leftcoastTAM 1:38 PM  

Outlier puzzle for a Tuesday, though the theme was pretty transparent and filled lots of space.

But ALECTO? PICOT? YLEM?? Yikes! Needed the crosses for those and a couple more.

Fun exercise.

Sailor 3:47 PM  

It is endlessly fascinating to me that, whatever my take on a given subject, there will always be intelligent and experienced people with a completely different perspective. Which is a big part of my enjoyment of these conversations. Thanks, @rain forest, for being willing to consider the comments of someone you have so very little history with.

My take on today’s puzzle: comparing this to yesterday’s (both meant to be relatively easy) you see the difference between the work of an experienced, highly competent constructor and a relatively inexperienced one trying to accomplish the same thing. It was perhaps unfair to publish them sequentially.

Today’s theme seems no more simplistic than yesterday’s, but suffers from being so obvious that the solver can pretty much just go down the grid and fill them all in. Much of the fill was the opposite, with lots of crosswordese and obscure trivia, which I have to think would be quite opaque to the casual solver. It seems a little more challenging than yesterday for the experienced solver, but, I thought, less fun. And two South Park kids is at least one too many.

The constructor’s notes , as has been mentioned already in the earlier comments, make it clear that he thought this puzzle could have been improved. He’s certainly right, and I wish he had received the editorial help he needed to make it so.

leftcoastTAM 5:30 PM  

@rondo: We have some things in common:

-Twin Cities, Minnesota (born and raised on Mpls. side, but now an Oregonian).
-Paper and pen solver (the only reasonable way to do it).
-Fan of Ichiro (from his Mariner days on; looking forward to his 3000th hit).
-Agree with your selection of yeah babes (but a bit, only a bit, put off by sexist implication).
-A Harper's subscriber (though I don't do the puzzle).

Cheers, @leftcoast

rain forest 6:22 PM  

The last thing I wish to do is to pile on a puzzle. In one sense this puzzle was very easy as the theme was a give-away after the first themer. The only entry with which I was unfamiliar was YLEM, but that kind of thing never bothers me. I know my vocabulary/knowledge base is not completely comprehensive (probably diminishing as I age), but as I have said many times, I don't think there is such a thing as a "pick your day of the week" clue or answer. So, YLEM is just fine by me.

And another thing, tomorrow is another day and another puzzle. Yay.

D_Johnson 7:27 PM  

The word YLEM had me stumped. According to Wikipedia, the word was coined by physicist Ralph Alpher, an associate of George Gamow. I attended a four-part lecture series by Alpher back in the 70's, and I don't recall him mentioning the word. I do recall that he resented that the Nobel prize went to the guys who experimentally detected the background radiation, but not to the physicists who predicted it would be there.

Diana,LIW 8:21 PM  

As soon as I saw the clue for FROS I was pretty sure we'd have an exploding Rex head today. But I didn't expect the reaction we got for the reasons he gave.

As a relatively new solver, I've been trying to catch up by solving puzzles in NYT (and a few other) anthologies. Sorry, I don't see the quality going up or down when I compare them to current puzzles. My reactions to those (and the current ones) are fairly consistent. Some are easy, hard, not my cuppa, o wow!, etc. Some folks like lotsa trivia, some word play. It always amazes me that Rex doesn't like puns (what is wordplay about???) so that might explain his outrage today - the themers were too close to being punny.

As a wiser-than-I-am person once said, my use of words is just some antics.

I must say also that I don't allow Rex's opinions, or yours Dear Reader, to make me feel better or worse about my own opinion. But maybe that's because of my fairly non-competitive nature. I compete with myself. But when I play with others, I tend to try to help the other person out. In tennis I always tried to give my "opponent" a well-placed shot. And I kept forgetting to remember the score.

So I found today's theme answers somewhat easy and fun, and some of the fill to be a bit above the level of wheelhouse I'd expect for Tuesday.

And, for the record, I had a dnf as I didn't fill in the B in ABAFT. So...do I get an F?

Diana, Awaiting the Minnesota Tournament this Sunday, Sunday, Sunday!

Dan Christian Roehm 8:35 PM  

Ford Lincoln Mercury was the name of the character in the book/movie Postman. In example where they book and the movie were both excellent. Could have been a good revealer clue. Not that we needed one.

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