Japanese salad herb / Hardwoord percussion stick / WED 7-6-16 / Corcoran of Bachelor Father / Nonpro sports org / Biophramaceutical company that makes Enbrel / Cudgel made from knotty stick

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Constructor: David Woolf

Relative difficulty: Challenging


THEME: TWO-STATE SOLUTION (39A: Topic of international negotiations ... and a hint to every four-letter answer in this puzzle) —four-letter answer all made up of two two-letter US state postal codes

Word of the Day: CLAVE (64A: Hardwood percussion stick) —
n.
1. One of a pair of cylindrical hardwood sticks beaten together as a percussion instrument.
2. A syncopated two-bar musical pattern. (thefreedictionary.com)
• • •

Well, first, this should've been a Thursday. I was two minutes over my normal Wednesday time, which is to say it took me 40-50% longer than normal. The grid *is* extra (16) wide, so that accounts for a little of the time, but not nearly all of it. But appearing on the wrong day of the week isn't this puzzle's main problem. It's not even top three. What a joyless, horrible, painful slog this was. The worst, most obnoxious kind of puzzle, in that it exists *solely* to satisfy the constructor's sense that he pulled off some architectural feat ("look at me, ma!"), and is in no way—not one—geared toward the enjoyment or pleasure of the solver. Tell me, please, how interesting / entertaining / enthralling it is to know that the four-letter answers (ooh, four letters, exciting!) are made up of two state codes. How on god's green can that be interesting? What's worse—much worse—is that not only is it horribly uninteresting, it *causes the fill in the puzzle to be terrible*. Laughably terrible. You can't have walls of hyper-restricted four-letter answers like this and expect *anything* good, fill-wise, to come of it. For instance, we call it SAINTHOOD, not SAINTDOM. A HOST, OK, fine, I can let that particular partial slide, but then, hot on its heels, A FARM!? A bleeping FARM? Also, something called TRIAMORY, of which I'm hearing for the first time today ("polyamory," sure, but this? gah). Something called a CLAVE. Someone named MAE (?). Someone named NOREEN (??). Dreaded short stuff like UDO and AAU. And ... OAKED? For real?? EST GAIA LETTS TWI TNUTS etc. make it stop stop stop. And for what? For what? Four-letter words. I've got some four-letter words for this puzzle, that's for sure.


The best (read: not best I'm being sarcastic) part was having to guess on the final square. Just ... guess. Now, it was an educated guess, and I guessed correctly, but ... AMGEN!? (18A: Biopharmaceutical company that makes Enbrel). I laughed out loud at the clue, because ... Enbrel?? What futuristic planet is all this happening on? I've literally never seen either of these ... names ... in my life before today. AMGEN, dear lord. I guessed that "M." That clunky clue for ROM (2D: It can't be written to, in a PC), yikes. I knew a CD-ROM was a thing, so I guessed ROM. Ill-conceived theme, terrible fill ... just astonishing. I got the revealer very very early and instantly ceased to care. "Oooh, look, an OR *and* a CA," I failed to imagine myself thinking. What kind of bored masochist is going to go back and check to make sure that, indeed, those four-letter answers are all made up of two-letter postal codes? Oy, HOI, no.



Good night.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

129 comments:

jae 12:18 AM  

Easy-medium for me and for me the "stunt" trumps the iffy fill. That's a boat load of postal codes and I liked it a boat load more than Rex did.

You know you are of a certain age when NOREEN is a gimme.

Is SAINTDOM really a thing?

I have a RAMPAL vinyl album stashed somewhere.

In defense of MAE she was a regular on the amazing Parenthood and was also Michael Cera's "girlfriend" on the cult favorite Arrested Development.

George Barany 12:25 AM  

@David Woolf has created some memorable New York Times puzzles within the past three years, but this one has issues already identified by @Rex. Compare to a Sunday puzzle by @David Kahn from a few years ago (click
here for a link to @Rex's review) to see a truly imaginative and multi-layered theme built on two-letter abbreviations of states.

This puzzle did add three words to my vocabulary: TRIAMORY, CLAVE, and SHILLELAGH, though I don't see any of these coming up in household conversation anytime soon. The latter does remind me of the joke, "What's brown and sticky?" Contact me off-Rex if you want the answer.

Anonymous 12:28 AM  

C'mon, Rex. Just because YOU aren't familiar with Amgen, clave, etc., doesn't mean none of us are. I breezed through this puzzle with only one correction - and that was a typo (or maybe a "writo" since I do it on paper). A simple theme and generally fairly easy (for me) fill made for a typical Tuesday. Quityerbellyachin"!

David Krost 12:57 AM  

I agree this puzzle has problems, but honestly. You have to have lived in a cave for someone your age not to have heard of Amgen. They are one of the first biotech pharma companies and received TONS of press. From Wikipedia:

"AMGen is the world's largest independent biotechnology firm. In 2013, the company's largest selling product lines were Neulasta/Neupogen, two closely related drugs used to prevent infections in patients undergoing cancer chemotherapy; and Enbrel, a tumor necrosis factor blocker used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases. Other products include Epogen, Aranesp, Sensipar/Mimpara, Nplate, Vectibix, Prolia and XGEVA." They also one of the S&P 500 companies.

You really can't expect puzzle constructors to ignore everything outside your humanities bubble. The problem on that one, dear Rex, is with you, as you would have found out with that simple look-up. Can't you ever admit the problem may be a hole in your knowledge?

David Krost 1:00 AM  

I should have mentioned that Amgen has revenues over $20 Billion (with a B) and employs about 18,000 people. Yes, you should know who they are.

Anonymous 1:01 AM  

While I often agree with Mr Parker, I have never agreed with a puzzle critique with as much fervor as I do this one. A long winded way of saying "+1". ROM v SAINTDOM v CLAVE? Which is worse? All of them.

David Woolf 1:16 AM  

Just want to clarify two things. 1. The comment I made that was highlighted on twitter was in regard to a change made by the editor to the way the theme was presented. I thought the change took away from the visibility of the theme answers, and hence, made it feel like a themeless (particularly to speed solvers). 2. If I'm making a puzzle, it's always for the enjoyment of the solver. Sometimes, that means trying to create a unique aha moment at the expense of polished fill. Some puzzles end up better than others, but if I don't think an end product is worthy of publication, I don't submit it.

So while its genuinely fun to finally be the recipient of a scathing Rex Parker pan, it would be nice if you wouldn't make assumptions about this constructor's motivations.


Larry Gilstrap 2:33 AM  

I think I once was in a TRIAMORY: Me, myself, and I. Some clever commenter, please, create a name for the kind of clever misdirect I notice in 5 Down and 50 Down. MANY and DRUNK are devilishly hiding in plain sight. I'm grinding on LIT, STINKY, TIPSY, drunkese and I end up just drunk. Not even Monday level,so to experienced solvers a terrific misdirect.

Larry Gilstrap 2:37 AM  

Oh, wait! There's a theme.

Loren Muse Smith 4:24 AM  

Well, Rex – we can agree that this felt Thursdayish both in gimmick and fill. But that's it.

I've never heard the term TWO STATE SOLUTION, and that TWO came later. Before that, I saw that the four-letter words began with state abbreviations. OH, OK. HMM. But when I revisited them and saw that they were made up of *two* states, I whooped. Yes. Whooped.

You asked, "What kind of bored masochist is going to go back and check to make sure that, indeed, those four-letter answers are all made up of two-letter postal codes?" Me. I did.

"…and is in no way—not one—geared toward the enjoyment or pleasure of the solver. Tell me, please, how interesting / entertaining / enthralling it is to know that the four-letter answers (ooh, four letters, exciting!) are made up of two state codes. How on god's green can that be interesting?" Yeah – this group of four-letter words was exciting to me. I was interested, entertained, even a bit enthralled. And I couldn't help but try to play the game, too…

MAINLAND MOMS IN ARMS - DEMAND WINE!

If you allow the three-letter abbreviations we sometimes do in grids, ALAMO and ALAIN could work. Cool. Oh, and my one erasure before PACT – DEAL. That one would've worked, too.

First thought for 25D hair removal system – blow torch. There's a story there. Quite the misadventure.

Two weird sticks – SHILLELAGH and CLAVE. WAND coulda been a themer.

Funny – AMGEN went right in no prob. ASGARD, though, since I had "triamour" first, was harder. Different wheelhouses and all that. I thought there might be some grumbling about RAMPAL – since I had a Ragtime Period when I played the piano, this was a total gimme, but it was my plan to be all modest and stuff.

And I marveled at how the clue for 10A immediately elicited A FARM and not just FARM. I actually thought about that briefly. If I'm talking about Old McDonald, it's A FARM for me and not just FARM. I liked that clue/answer.

So, David – reporting here from COALMINE LAND that I really, really got a kick out of this. Now to go dig up that CALAMINE… picking blackberries and I *still* can't recognize poison ivy.

Martín Abresch 4:51 AM  

I loved this puzzle.

I'm not saying that it is objectively good: I absolutely agree that the fill is bad. I'm just saying that I, personally, enjoyed it.

I loved the east, where SHILLELAGH stood next to MOOCOW. I knew SHILLELAGH immediately, but I also knew that I didn't know how to spell it. It's one of those words that I can never spell unless I'm looking right at it. MOOCOW reminds me of James Joyce's "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man": "Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a MOOCOW coming down along the road and this MOOCOW that was down along the road met a nicens little boy named baby tuckoo. . . " Like James Joyce, SHILLELAGH comes from Ireland.

The tough fill nearly stumped me, but I stuck to it, worked my way through, and solved it—and that's always a nice feeling. My time was about twice that of my average Wednesday. Also, as someone who quite often has to make an educated guess (or 2 or 4) on the final squares... I just can't sympathize with your problems on AMGEN/ROM, Rex.

But most of all I really enjoyed the theme. The fill may be bad, but the theme is rock solid. I had MANY of the four-letter words solved, and I was stumped as to how they could possibly fit a common pattern. Solving the revealer and grasping the theme was a genuine moment of delight.

After finishing the puzzle, I immediately wanted to see which states had not been used: AZ, KY, MD, MN, MT, NV, NH, NJ, NM, NC, SD, TX, VT, WV. Of those, Kentucky is the only one with a real grievance (CAKY, INKY). A few others require stretching to be used: New Hampshire (Ho Chi MINH City), Nevada (CONV, abbr. for convention), New Jersey (CONJ, abbr. for conjunction), South Dakota (RISD, Rhode Island School of Design).

I typed out a quick computer program to see what other, longer words can be made using only state postal abbreviations. Doing this led me to a 2003 PAtrick MErrell puzzle that had four longer examples: NEW_YORK_SPA, COAL_MINE, LAND_DEAL, and FLORIDA_KIN.

Other words that my program found: ALMOND_WINE and MALAGA_WINE, ARCADE_GAME, Stephen Colbert's "I_AM_AMERICA (And So Can You!)", COCA_COLA, CONCORDE (which uses North Carolina!), OH_DEAR_ME, DEMONYMS, COMERICA Park (for you Detroit Tigers fans), GANYMEDE, MEMORIAL, MANDARIN, MAHI_MAHI, MONY_MONY, LALA_LAND, ARCANE, Hank AZARIA (which uses Arizona!), Antonin SCALIA, Julia ORMOND, Mahatma GHANDI, Sir GAWAIN, Blaise PASCAL, RIMSKY-Korsakov*, CONDOR, MODEMS, NECTAR, ALARMS, INCOME (or COME_IN), MISDID (which uses South Dakota!), MT_COOK (which uses Montana!), VANDAL, ORDEAL, and IN_A_RUT.

*Which reminds me of one of my favorite business name puns. In Portland, Oregon there is a café named Rimsky-Korsakoffee House.

So, yeah, I'm one person who found it interesting that the words were made out of state codes. Are there others?

Brian 4:59 AM  

Wait... You let SHILLELAGH slide? That's ten letters of whatever.

Thomaso808 5:40 AM  

Didn't seem that hard to me. ROM was pretty mutch a gimme. I thought the theme was pretty clever.

OldCarFudd 6:18 AM  

Rex, I usually think you overdo the rant and snark. Not this time. As I was solving this, I was thinking every single thing you said. I eagerly anticipate 10 pm so I can solve the next day's puzzle on line before bed. Last night I should have packed it in early and gotten more sleep.

James Joyce 6:40 AM  

Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a moocow coming down along the road and this moocow that was coming down along the road met a nicens little boy named baby tuckoo

A Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man » Chapter 1

RAD2626 6:41 AM  

Well I guess I am a masochist because once I got the revealer I did make sure all the four letter words were two states. Agree it could have been a Thursday but perhaps because I am not a constructor, I marvel at feats of construction, including this one. Finished 25% below average Wednesday time - a serious multiple of Rex' time nonetheless - perhaps because I knew AMGEN. Did not know NOREEN or MAE but got from crosses. And thanks for posting the Bolling/RAMPAL album. It is a cute work and a great cover. I have an autographed copy framed.

smalltowndoc 6:49 AM  

I agree with @rex on almost everything he said. The fill was horrendous! That said, two of the words he had complaints about seem ok to me. A little computer knowledge lets one know that ROM stands for read only memory, i.e, you can't write to it, unlike RAM or storage devices like hard drives. Also, Enbrel is a commonly used and very important medicationused to treat a variety of auto-immune disease. You cant watch TV without getting bombarded with commercials for the drug. But the other stuff, just terrible.

Anonymous 7:19 AM  

I still don't get Hair-Removal System being Sneakers.
Anyone?

Anonymous 7:23 AM  

I guess there are no other golf fans to note that the awarder of the green jacket, Augusta National Golf Club, has no affiliation with the PGA. Also the PGA Tour and the PGA are separate organizations.

kitshef 7:28 AM  

Brilliant. This puzzle won me over. First in was A FARM (ugh), but that was redeemed by ASGARD. Then soon came OHOK (ick) and I was well on my way to hating this thing. HMM almost sealed the coffin.

But the theme! Spectacular. Not only are 36 of the 50 states used, but none are repeated.

For for me, the theme was essential to avoiding a DNF, thanks to the ALLA/CLAVE cross. I hate crosses of bits of trivia from the same subject - in this case, music - but because of the theme my original guess of ALtA (still sounds right) and C-tAVE could be corrected.

Theme trumps fill, every time.

Glimmerglass 7:41 AM  

This review is symptomatic of speed-solving. If your time is two minutes slower than your average, you find reasons to hate the puzzle. All of @Rex's reasons to hate this puzzle are absolutely justified, but I enjoyed solving it. For me, it was a themeless, as the revealer (TWO STATE SOLUTION) came very late, and then it was just a curiosity. Lots of obscure names I didn't know, but the crosses were all fair, so they didn't get my underware in a bunch, the way they did Rex's. I got SHILLELAGH off the S -- trouble is, I had only a vague idea how to spell it, and the crosses led to several edits. I learned a fancy word for the inelegant "three-way." Does a king bestow a "knightdom"?

Austin 8:04 AM  

the best part about not knowing Mae Whitman is that she played Michael Cera's girlfriend (aka "Her?") on Arrested Development.

"The Duff" in a clue is easily Friday- or Saturday-level obscure, however. should've referenced AD or Parenthood.

Roberto 8:20 AM  

Maybe it's because I love and collect maps, but I really liked the the two state solution theme. I found it a lot of fun. As for the rest of ithave to agree with Rex, it slow going.

da kine 8:20 AM  

I really enjoyed this puzzle. It was more challenging than a Wednesday normally is, but that's not the constructor's fault. I didn't know AAU, SERIO, CLAVE, RAMPAL, or NOREEN, but that's on me, not Mr. Woolf and the crosses were good enough to get me there. I like challenging puzzles. It would be boring if I could breeze through everything. There's a reason I subscribe to the Club72 puzzle: it's very challenging and makes my brain hurt a little bit every time I do it, but that's enjoyable to me. If I didn't want to me challenged, I'd stick to the stuff by Tim Parker or whoever he stole it from that day.

Z 8:20 AM  

The flautist lost his A. I know "flutist" is a more sensible way to spell it, but that would deprive me of my moment of snootery.

I had to use Evan's Heuristic to finish the SE. Fortunately, SHILLELAGH is something I recognize because the Old one is within walking distance of home. TE HEE and Tepee both look like they lost an E to mee, which didn't help much. I had "laugh" first.

AMGEN and Enbrel? I'm with Rex. Who gives a flying F--- about pharmaceutical companies and their weird non-word names for drugs. When I see the ads what I tend to focus on is the litany of potential side effects. The most innocuous or laugh inducing side effect always goes last because the last one is the one most likely to be noticed and remembered. Cute. Now, if it had been InBev I would have gotten the corporate name immediately. @David Krost - Do you really think pharmaceutical companies are well known and cross-worthy? Maybe Rex could run a Twitter Poll and tell us the results. My guess is 70-30 against the crossworthiness of PCs. Maybe slightly higher on a Saturday.

@Martin Abresch - let me introduce you to Ms. Smith.

@Muse - Hand up for sealing the deal before sealing the PACT.

@David Woolf - Even when I agree with Rex's assessment I always wince a little when he ascribes motives.

Mary Perry 8:27 AM  

I found it challenging for a Wednesday. But I enjoyed it.

Mary Perry 8:29 AM  

@David, Ouch, right!?!? Glad you posted your defense. I enjoyed your puzzle, BTW.

QuasiMojo 8:37 AM  

Who's Afraid of David Woolf? I thought this puzzle was okay. Take out "A Farm" and "A Host" and the fill isn't too terrible. Annoying at times perhaps. I am not a fan of abbreviations in crosswords (they seem like a cop-out.) And there are some egregious examples here. AAU, RXS, HMM, PGA, ROM, ETC. But these were balanced out by unusual entries such as "Inglorious"; "Triamory"; "Shillelagh"; "Asgard" and "MooCow." It was also nice to see Rampal and Miro in the grid. And who doesn't like being reminded of Steve Allen? If only the idiot crew on Late Night TV these days had a dash of his charm, talent and wit. I guess Mr. Woolf will continue to get "FLAK" for the groaners. But overall I enjoyed tackling it.

Generic Solver 8:41 AM  

I wonder what the statistical correlation is between OFL both saying the puzzle was poorly constructed and his solving time being way above normal. Is that just grousing? There are plenty of times when the puzzle is constructed well-enough, but just not in my comfort zone, and I admit to myself that I simply got schooled in those cases.

In this case I thought the fill was at least passable, and the interesting longer answers offset any weaknesses there, making it a fun solve.

CARL 8:55 AM  

I ENJOYED THE PUZZLE VERY MUCH.

Z 8:59 AM  

The more I ponder pharmaceutical companies' penchant for random strings of letters used as drug names, cf@David Krost (Vectibix? Really?), the more I wonder if they hire rappers as name consultants.

@Anon7:19 - You've conflated 4D and 25D. HOT WAX is the hair removal method (ouch) and you tie-up your SNEAKERS before going on the court.

@Austin - None of your suggestions would have helped me.

Mohair Sam 9:00 AM  

Fall firmly with @Martin Abresch and @LMS this morning - enjoyed this one tremendously. And yes, we checked every damned four letter answer. I particularly like it when I get to enjoy a puzzle and then double my pleasure when Rex rants about a PPP noun he's missed in his travels which most of the crossworld knows (AMGEN).

C'mon Rex, the puzzle had two ten letter downs and they were INGLORIOUS and SHILLELAGH, beat that! MOOCOW a beauty anytime, but next to SHILLELAGH was pure genius - and you pretended not to notice. Sure SAINTDOM was strained, but how many DOMs they got goin' there in the Vatican anyway? We're going to figure it out. And Old MacDonald did not had farm - the brain screams the "A", clue and answer are fine.

RAMPAL alone made this puzzle a beauty - Hand up with all you fellow insomniacs who would bet anything that he and his pan flute lead the world in hours of Midnight to 5 AM advertising all-time.

First entered "day" for TWI at 59D - rarely see TWI-nighters anymore, they split them now so we suckers have to pay twice.

Wondering why TRIAMORY was a gimme for Lady Mohair. Hmmmm.

seanm 9:11 AM  

well above my normal wednesday time, but also well below my normal thursday time. though ended up having to cheat at the end to finish, which hasn't happened on a wednesday in a long time.

one minor woe was TWI, which despite being a lifelong baseball fan just didn't click at all

much bigger woe was the bottom right corner. didn't know RAMPAL and more importantly, didn't know SHILLELAGH at all. don't know CIGAR or MAE, and didn't expect to see TEEHEE without a second E before the H (though i see now at xwordinfo that this spelling is much more common in crosswords). cheating to get the GH end of the cudgel let the rest fall into place. in hindsight, not knowing that CIGAR was groucho marx's thing was the more important failing on my part, and that's probably pretty fair for a wednesday, though dated.

Hungry Mother 9:14 AM  

Kind of an easy Wednesday for me. I often struggle in the middle of the week, but this one was pretty smooth.

Elle54 9:14 AM  

Two things: Mae was on Parenthood, so I know her.
And, David, you got the AHA! From me!

Suzy 9:15 AM  

@lms--- I loce your posts and totally agree. with this one! Rex, get over yourself!

GeezerJackYale48 9:16 AM  

Yes, Anonymous. Someone besides you knows that the PGA and green jacket are not at all the same thing. But it was obvious that PGA was the answer, so I griped to myself and continued.

NCA President 9:16 AM  

This played like a themeless to me. I got the TWO in the revealer right away because of the clue's reference to "negotiations" and the T from ONSTAR. The rest of the revealer did take a while to fill in and even then "TWOSTATESOLUTION" doesn't sound like a thing to me. As for the 4-letter words using state postal codes, meh. And I say that not because the "theme" was non-existent, but because evidently there are only so many 4-letter words that use state abbreviations. I've see those words countless times in other puzzles for the same reason. I didn't like OHOK. That one seemed like an outlier since it's two words instead of the two codes creating a single word like the others.

I'd also agree that it played more Thursday-like than Wednesday-like. AMGEN. I get now that it is a huge company with a huge bottom line...but as my knowledge of pharmaceuticals go, I didn't know it. I know Eli Lilly, Merck, and a couple of others, but not Amgen. Maybe it's because I never take their medicine and/or that I don't watch TV any more to be pounded with their ads.

There were some groaners...AFARM and AHOST. I really think those are class-A misdemeanors in xword law. You can't just add an indefinite article in front of a word, can you? And then have two of them in the same puzzle?

The clue for SNEAKERS made me groan. Actually it made me say, "Oh my god..." out loud.

SAINTDOM...no. That's just wrong. I don't doubt it as a word, but with that clue, which implies a simple straight ahead answer, no.

Rosé > Blush for wine. Maybe in the 60s they called in a blush wine...but these days, rosé is what it's actually *normally* called.

As for SHILLELAGH...I know what it is, but spelling it is another thing.

I finished the puzzle with a bad taste in my mouth...and it wasn't my oatmeal. I wouldn't call it a "slog," because it moved smoothly for me apart from the things I mentioned. But at the moment the puzzle was completed and I got the jingle, I felt nothing. Just..."Huh," and then a blank stare. I'm not surprised Rex hated it.

jberg 9:17 AM  

The great thing about solving crosswords as an activity is that you usually don't have to actually know most of the answers in advance -- just have an ability to think what looks plausible. I got lucky on spelling SHILLELAGH (the pronunciation isn't much help on that one!), but if I hadn't the crosses would have fixed it. And I did know AMGEN existed (I think they have a building here in Boston someplace), but not which drugs they made. (No TV, so I've never seen the ads.) And I wanted Jack Paar (who doesn't fit), having forgotten that STEVE ALLEN preceded him. TRIAMORY was pure logical deduction from polyamory. But it was all good.

But -- ALL the four-letter answers! Symmetrical by definition, stacks of three of them that have to work -- yes, I enjoyed that immensely. I didn't get the revealer (brilliant!) until very late, so it didn't help me get any answers, but it was fun to go back and look at them all.

I did resist SAINTDOM (not only the wrong word, but it's a status that requires a lot more than the Pope's nod), and LAYMEN can certainly be experts -- my friend is a professor of religious ethics at a seminary, but she is not ordained. But hey, that's just the clues.

I had Much before MANY, and A Heap before A HOST. The latter led to my thinking that the constructor had moved the Lapps (i.e., Sami) several hundred miles South -- I was drawing mental maps to see if some arm of the Baltic reached up to them. neaRS before STIRS held me up as well. Challenging indeed, but rewarding, IMHO.

What I learned today: there are people who have never heard of the TWO-STATE SOLUTION, and others who don't know what ROM stands for. See my opening comment.

Teedmn 9:20 AM  

SHILLELAGH is a fine Irish word. Gout runs in my family (I'm hoping it skips me) so there is a knobby cane that belonged to my great-grandmother that they called her SHILLELAGH, that she used when so afflicted. This didn't mean I was certain of the spelling - I put in SHILLE and was pleased that DEWY confirmed it to that point.

I left 42D as a partial TOLD A ___ , waiting to determine if it was A fib or A LIE. But I dealt myself a blow by putting in "deal" (somehow a PACT seems too serious to be sealed with a mere handshake) and the RAMPAL and MAE WOEs made the SE look undoable but I finally remembered the ALAMO and was saved there.

I liked having a MOO COW on A FARM. I TEHEEd (like @Z, I'm missing an E on that one) at the clue for 53A's WAFT IN. And it was interesting to see 31A all alone when I'm used to something being tacked onto its HIND end but the Devil take the HINDmost while we wait for a TWO STATE SOLUTION.

Thanks, David Woolf, for the interesting concept and Wednesday challenge.

Jeff Lewis 9:22 AM  

I find that I enjoy the puzzles Rex loves and the puzzles Rex hates about the same.

Hushpuppy212 9:27 AM  

Ha! You're all too young, but this Baby Boomer clearly recalled that 'Bachelor Father' starred John Forsyth, Noreen Corcoran, and Sammee Tong (I'm hoping I live long enough to see Mr. Tong in a puzzle)

Hartley70 9:27 AM  

This was a tough Wednesday but that's good news to me! I had a Thursday time and I enjoyed every minute (lots of them) unlike Rex. I only got stumped by the L in CLAVE but a lucky guess put things right.

AMGEN is an easy one if you are over 60 and still tuning into the 6:30pm network news every night. I have no idea what Embrel does, but I know the nightly ad tells me I'm supposed to ask my doctor for it at my next visit.

I had just learned LETT this month when my Latvian friend returned to Riga for the first time since WWII. The old city is gorgeous and she reports that BMW's are the car of choice for most everyone. Those Latvians are doing fine!

Ah NOREEN! Yup @Jae, I'm that age, and she had the bounciest ponytail and the cutest nose.

SHILLELAGH was fun! A touch of the Irish makes coffee better. Why not the puzzle too? Oh and don't forget your PGA green jacket if you're lucky enough to have won the Masters! Go Rory McIlroy! I have a soft spot for that last name.

I'm the doofus who enjoyed the theme and went and checked the state abreviations once I saw the themer which was nicely clued BTW. Thank you David for including RI. It's so often overlooked.

chefbea 9:30 AM  

Too tough for me DNF. figured clave would be WOD

Anonymous 9:31 AM  

Aren't the constructor and editor aiming to do exactly what Rex asks for....to have a convoluted and freshly conceived theme? Can they get props for trying that at least, even if the execution wasn't necessarily there?

Pete 9:36 AM  

My puzzle enjoyment is based 100% on actually solving/completing the puzzle, 0% on post solve "oh, look what they did". I realize that for some this is not true, and maybe the "oh, look what they did" factor adds significantly to the overall pleasure of solving the puzzle. De gustibus...

When solving the puzzle, after a minute or so I wondered why the puzzle was so bad, so joyless. When I filled in TWO STATE SOLUTION (seriously, never heard of it? Never heard of Israel/Palestine?) I realized why it was so bad. How many four letter words, maybe 20 in the puzzle? All picked from (at most) 2450 possible words, out of how many million four letter words available? That's why it was so bad. I'm sure it was done as well as possible given the massive constraints the theme placed on it, but to my mind the constraints weren't worth it. And if the solve doesn't make it, knowing why only explains the pain, it doesn't mitigate it.

Jim 9:39 AM  

Doing Tuesday's puzzle, I was struck by the utter lack of any currency on any answers. But at least it was from the 90s or so. This puzzle -- in addition to agreeing 100% with what Rex said -- was even worse. All the main references (NOREEN, MIROS, RAMPAL, STEVE ALLEN, ALAIN, even TWO STATE SOLUTION) are from the 60s. The attempts to be cute were not (SNEAKERS as tie-ups, yuck). No joy and too old.

Hartley70 9:45 AM  

RAMPAL is a favorite of mine and in the 70's I wore his vinyl recordings down to the nub. Shillelagh and RAMPAL together in the puzzle gave me a laugh today. My WASP mother-in-law had not yet learned to love me when she came to dinner for the first time at our newlywed NYC apartment. She walked in and demanded that I turn off that terrible Irish flute music! It was Vivaldi. I wanted to smack her with my SHILLELAGH.

r.alphbunker 9:53 AM  

I cannot think of any revealer that I have enjoyed more. It references an important current event, relates it in a clever way to the puzzle and it pointed out something that I would not have recognized otherwise (I had filled in most of the four letter words without noticing anything remarkable).

I can see why this tickled Will.

But, for the life of me, I don't understand how a crossword puzzle could enrage someone the way that this one did Rex Parker. He evidently has a problem with grid rage. One thing that might improve the quality of the NYT is for constructors to imagine that he has a gun and knows where they live.

Steve M 9:55 AM  

David you did just fine as many friends of my age take enbrel and Amgen has a facility nearby so Chill Rex

Rob Arbelo 10:05 AM  

Both definitions of CLAVE are very important and commonly used in Latin American music. I'd argue CLAVE is about as likely to be known to the average person (though apparently not the average NYT crossword solver!) as any of the usual classical music trivia we see around these parts. As someone who is always looking for more diversity and less outdated stuff I thought you'd appreciate that one a bit more, Rex. I, for one, was actually excited to see it.

John Hagen 10:19 AM  

Plus, the PGA is not the green jacket org. August National Golf Club is. Another annoy

Laurence Katz 10:20 AM  

Not to go all PC on you, but if you want to see the NYT xword break out of its upper-class white ghetto – and I know you do – then you should cheer "clave," which is familiar to tens of millions as both an essential percussion instrument and a key Latin rhythm.
Yeah, I agree that there is a lot to dislike in this puzzle, but the theme is clever enough – and inglorious and shillelagh are fantastic. Wonder if shillelagh ever gets used in spelling bees. It would get me eliminated!

Roo Monster 10:21 AM  

Hey All !
Well I think it's a construction marvel. Every four letter word comprised of two State Abbrs.? Amazing. And to have them make words (except OHOK...) is tough. And to have them together in spots so the crosses are words, real tough. And to end up with light dreck, amazing. (Sure there's some... AAU...but every puz has some.) It may have (small may) detracted from the solve, but don't we all kvetch when a puz is too easy? Agree with the Shoulda-been-ThursPuz crowd, as it was rather tough in spots. But man, what a puz.

Did anyone also happen to see there was no repeat States? 18 4's, 36 States used, without repeating. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

LOLed at M&A fave MOOCOW!

Needless to say (isn't that a funny preface? Cause you say it anyway...) I enjoyed this puz. Not terrible from a solving POV, Unreal from a constructor view.

Not for the LAYMaN
RooMonster
DarrinV

Mohair Sam 10:25 AM  

Yikes! It was Zamfir on the panflute, not RAMPAL - I pulled a Rex.

I am suspending myself.

Donkos 10:41 AM  

I'm with @Rex on this. The fill is 3-down and the theme landed with a 48 across thud for me. I would have been okay without so many obscure proper nouns and triamory - fuhgeddaboudit.

old timer 10:46 AM  

I don't always time my Wednesdays but did today: 19 minutes pen on newsprint and really 17 or 18 because I have the Tour de France on too and had coffee to finish. So OFL's feeling this should have been a Thursday does not match mine.

I thought this was a great puzzle with a fine gimmick, a great revealer, and some fill tat made me grin. Especially AFARM. Totally OK to break the convention there, for Old McDonald had exactly that. EIEIO! You know what? toddlers and older babies are just as charmed by that song as they ever were in the past.

I loved SHILLELAGH. And loved seeing a reference to M. Rampal, the flautist on some records I bought decades ago. I loved CLAVE, too. Always good to learn something new. There was only one overused word in the puzzle, IMO. But into every life a little ORCA must swim. ATEIN used to be overused but I haven't seen it for a while, so OH OK on that one.

I think the two things I disliked were GETAT (as clued) and SAINTDOM which is not a word, or if it is, it is a needless word because "Sainthood."

Blackbird 10:47 AM  

I listen to Latin music, so clave -- pronounced clah-vay -- was a gimme for me. I visited my brother and sister--in-law this holiday weekend, and they have a shillelagh. Another gimme, but I've known the word since I was a kid. Triamory -- not a word I knew, and not a word to remember either.

G.Harris 11:14 AM  

When Rex sees words he doesn't know, he gets pissed and denigrates the constructor (how could he not know shillelagh, from those fine Irish songs?) I often see words I don't know and when I somehow, sometimes work them out correctly as I did today, I am happy and proud.G.Harris

Anonymous 11:16 AM  

Felt just Wednesday to me, not too difficult. Except for the spelling of 32D.

Chris Adams 11:17 AM  

David, while I'll not say anything about Rex, let me clarify my thoughts re: my tweet.

Short answer: take it as a heat of the moment reaction from just one person after a frustrating solve, and nothing more.

Longer answer: now that I've had some sleep, I don't dislike the theme. Not my cup of tea, but then again, nothing pleases everyone. Mostly I'm a fill-first solver, and so that's where my feelings came from. Themes are great (and I've loved some of your themes in the past, including the red/green light one recently), but the fill is something everyone can connect to. But that's just my opinion. Still, wrong of me to attack the theme when my issue was with the fill.

Will also note that, like your quote, my tweet was out of context. I did note your caveat in subsequent tweets. But at least for this solver, the puzzle solved as a themeless anyway. Hadn't heard of the reveal entry, and that area is actually where I finished...so by the time I got the theme, I was done, save for two or three squares. So it really did solve as a themeless for me, regardless of subsequent state searching.

Won't say anything about your suggested theme idea, if only because I don't know the order of the states, and I suspect that's a generational or educational issue. But I do agree that having some indication would have helped, if only to point out that there is a theme, and that it's not all fill. Maybe asterisks at the very least.

Anyhow, like I said earlier, it's just a hot take. Thank you for your added comments/input, and sorry if anything came off the wrong way--certainly not my intention.

Anonymous 11:19 AM  

Z,

That's not conflation. It's simply mixing two clues up. Nothing was combined.
As for pharma companies, they don't do anything randomly. I'll grant the names are awful, but they're arrived at with more consideration than you can imagine. Literally years of market research, focus groups, consultants and other creatures both in and outside the walls. ( Never the lab folks however).
And the next time you get chance, class a flutist a flautist and see what happens. I did once. Lesson learned.

A@ anon 7:23. Yes! Augusta is famously separate from the PGA. They take a lot of pride in that.

GILL I. 11:21 AM  

Well I guess I'm one of the Neanderthals that immediately circled the 4 letter answers and recited the States they belonged to. Hah!
I rather enjoyed the romp. I was immensely proud to spell SHILLELAGH correctly with the help of a CIGAR and a TEHEE. I love Irish words. Hey @Hartley70 did you have a plobaireacht moment with your mom-in-law?
@Z..."Weird non-word name for drugs" That's exactly how I feel about the names of rappers that appear here.
Loved the clue for SNEAKERS, winced at HOT WAX because I have it done once a month on my legs and it hurts, A LOT.
@Larry Gilstrap..another Hah! I liked your stinky.
The only thing that bothered me was trying to find a word that bothered me but I wasn't bothered at all today. Thank you David Woolf

Andrew Heinegg 11:29 AM  

I too noticed this. The green jacket is given (on loan!) to the winner of the Masters, which could theoretically be given to one of the number of amateurs in the event, however unlikely. The winner is virtually always a professional golfer and it could be a professional golfer from Europe, Africa or elsewhere. As stated, there is absolutely no association between the green jacket and the PGA. Poor acceptance of this clue by Will.

Wm. C. 11:39 AM  



Several pieces of fill I've never heard of (triamory, Rampal...), a couple others a reach (saintdom, oaken .), but get table for me via crosses. So, like others above, it played " later than Wednesday" for me.

My main issue is that I saw no relation from the theme clue (I got it about halfway through) with the four-letter fill until I came here. I think I would've gotten it if I thought about it more before coming here, but still.

I suspect that most solvers, like me, solved it as a themeless. So what was the point?

I admit that it was probably a feat for the constructor, so I can see where OFL is coming from in (uncharitably, perhaps) ascribing motives.



Numinous 11:40 AM  

@David Woolf
I did not have an "AHA" moment. I had an "OH WOW" moment. Once I got the TWO STATE SOLUTION, I glanced around and realized what that meant. Then I had a "HOLY S***" moment. What a construction feat that was. In the comments at xwordinfo you mention hundreds of iterations in Crossword Constructor. As someone above said, "Theme trumps fill," you certainly trumped this one*. I dabble in construction or, more accurately, "setting" of crosswords so I do appreciate the effort. (Sadly, my PC is in storage and I only have an iPad to work with therefore no access to Crossword Constructor.)

I probably spent four times as long on this as @Rex but I still finished about 30% faster than my Wednesday average.
• RAMPAL was a gimme
•AMGEN was not
•AFARM made perfect sense to me
•AHOST did not
•CLAVEs I had not thought about since elementary school music classes when some of us had to bang the tempo out
• I still can't spell SHILLELAGH, but oh my, this iPad certainly can–it popped up on this iPad at the second "L".
*I don't believe I ever watched Bachelor Father, I was probably watching Paladin or something

I'm actually surprised this didn't get a Jeff Chen POW. Can't wait to see what does get it.

*No reference to Donald intended.

Numinous 11:44 AM  

A Little Nod to Louis Nye & Don Knotts
"Heigh ho, STEVEareno."

"Are you a little nervous?"
"Nup"

Numinous 11:51 AM  

I know @Rex doesn't get my last little post. My mother and I both loved STEVE ALLAN's vox populi "Man on the Street Interview" feature. However, we hated that his time slot conflicted with that of Percy Dovetonsils. Hands up boomers who recall these late-night SHEnanigans.

Joseph Michael 12:05 PM  

Except for the fact that it had a theme, this felt like a Friday to me. Very tough. Can't say I "loved" the solve, but was extremely impressed by the TWO STATE theme. It made up for a lot of the agony caused by the esoteric names, abbreviations, and other bad fill.

Rex's critique today is an over-the-top rant that is more about himself than the puzzle. I was glad to see David Woolf taking a stand. This puzzle was obviously a lot of work. It must be frustrating as hell to see it trashed so carelessly.

So, as a reward for his toil and suffering, I hereby nominate David Woolf for SAINTDOM.

Nancy 12:15 PM  

I loved this puzzle, loved the fact that it was challenging and clever and a worthy opponent. (Though I didn't like -- or understand ROM.) I didn't know DOREEN or AMGEN (though, after the fact, it rings a bell) and probably wouldn't have finished, without a tiny Roget's cheat. Having IN----IOUS at 3D, nothing was coming to me, so I looked up synonyms for "shame" and "humiliation". I then was able to finish the NW, my bete noire. I liked the theme, which I found original and well executed.

IF YOU HAVEN'T WATCHED ANY OF TODAY'S WIMBLEDON MATCHES YET, BUT PLAN TO, STOP READING RIGHT NOW!

I'm getting to the blog late again, because I was watching one of the most thrilling Wimbledon matches I've ever seen. Since giving away a tennis result, however inadvertantly, is at least as bad as giving away a crossword puzzle (actually, I'd say it's even worse!), I won't even say which match it was. That's for you in different time zones and for you who tape. I did 4/5 of the puzzle before the match began, and then put it aside for (?) hours. BTW, you should know I watch much less tennis on the tube than 90% of my tennis friends. But it's 92 in NYC today and, though I do have to go out for milk, darn it, it's a good day for watching great tennis on TV. There's more coming, but I may have run out of tennis-watching stamina.

CFXK 12:33 PM  

Just a reflection...

It's hard to have it both ways, i.e., engaging in an ad hominem toward the the constructor by ridiculing his motivation, but objecting earlier in the week to ad hominem comments re Annabel's write-up. If ad hominems are acceptable in the write-up, it's hard to make a case against them in the comments.

Anonymous 12:37 PM  

I find it remarkable that people have the time, energy and inclination to criticize a crossword puzzle. The NY Times puzzle is a great diversion; I look forward to it every day. I hope I never get to the point where I am looking for reasons to dislike or discredit it. It's a PUZZLE for crying out loud!

I cannot imagine how difficult it is to construct these things. And, to make sure that ALL four-letter words are comprised of state postal codes is totally cool.

To all you constructors out there, keep up the good work. To all you critics, get over yourselves.

Masked and Anonymous 12:55 PM  

Luved the SNEAKERS clue.
fave bi-state themer: TNUT. I (boredly & masochistically) count 18 4-letter words. This means that 14 states did not make the cut. Will try to compensate them, somehow, below.

With this puz, it was important to know yer obscure sticks. And fancier words for THREE-WAY. And flutists. But, hey -- the dude went for a different theme gimmick that was hard to implement. And M&A likes to learn stuff beyond yer run-of-the-mill, seen-it-a-jillion-times LEMMAs and CHROMO-ZOMEs, so … ok.

Due to an enchantin glorious aura of desperation, we have multiple fave weejects, today:
* AAU. What U get, when you cross EAU with AWE.
* HMM. As in: "HMM … flutist names …"
* UDO. One Japanese gardner to another: "I dunno what to call this weird new herb; U DO it."
* SMS. Duh-what? It does have MOOCOW-crossin immunity, but, still … SMS OBSCUR.

Missin states (I think), were: TX, MN, NM, KY, NJ, SD, VT, MD, NC, WV, NV, MT, AZ, and NH. Not a big snot-load of vowels, in them lil leftover jewels. Still, nothin that a few choice runtpuz-esque double-?? clues can't overcome … [answers later, possibly]
1. {Dis-emvoweled monkey??}
2. {Nasal "ahem"??}
3. {Veejay channel's giveaway??}
4. {Looney Tunes devil with part of a treasure map drawn on him??}
5. {RN's deadly sin, phonetically??}
6. {Low grades for Beetles in reverse gear??}
7. {Confused 24-7 news org. still including a bit of O.J. content??}

Thanx, Mr. Woolf. Cool idea. Magnificent desperation. Rodeo.

Masked & Anonymo3Us



**gruntz**

Mike Rees 12:56 PM  

In a rare twist, I'm totally with OFL on this one. Tedious and obscure. And as an added bonus, as a Canadian, I couldn't give a beaver's tail about the four-letter theme. Finished in "medium" Wednesday time for me (about a minute fast on a 12-minute average) but that was entirely due to some lucky shot-in-the-dark guesses, such as the Natick at ALLA and CLAVE, TWI (which should be spelled WOE), Natick at LETTS and ALAIN - apparently L is my lucky letter today. What the #%$& is a LETT? Lapps, sure. LETTS? Beats the heck outta me.

Hoping for a legit challenge tomorrow.

Anonymous 1:24 PM  

I’ve played CLAVEs. CLAVEs are cool – they make a distinct sound that cuts through the rest of the band/orchestra, and they often emphasize syncopation, so they’re a major part of what’s most interesting about the music. One CLAVE, though, is useless. It’s literally like the sound of one hand clapping.

Blue Stater 1:39 PM  

Right on the money, Rex. Worst in years.

D 1:46 PM  

jeez, a 20 billion sp 500 company isnt notable enuff for Rex. i thought puzzle was a breeze... though i feel cheated when i get all the clues filled before understanding the theme. and pretty name heavy, but at least all were relatively common spellings.

Carola 1:50 PM  

After my "wowie-zowie!" of admiration after finishing the puzzle, I felt like I had a bucket of ice-water dumped over me when I read @Rex's review. I only wish I'd looked at the reveal earlier; it happened that I worked my way around the perimeter, so I wasn't aware I was filling in TWO STATEs all over the place. It would have been fun to anticipate them while solving (and would have helped with ALLA x CLAVE). But after finishing, I did go back and appreciate every one of them. And I thought the reveal was very witty.

Like others, I thought the SHILLELAGH-MOOCOW neighbors were great, as well as the INGLORIOUS SNEAKERS and the mythological pairing of ASGARD with Charon's FERRY. I also liked the mirroring of TRIAMORY and SAINTDOM, though I'm not sure exactly what the relationship between the two might be.

Sheryl 1:54 PM  

I knew what ROM was, so though I'd never heard of AMGEN I got it from crosses. The problem for me was the cross in the southwest of ALLA and CLAVE. I didn't know the expression "alla breve" and I never heard the word "clave" before, so I had to guess at the L where they cross.

Also, though I finished the puzzle, I somehow couldn't see the theme. I stared at the 4-letter words and couldn't see the reference for some reason. Seems obvious, in retrospect.

Mohair Sam 2:01 PM  

@Hartley 70 - Breaking my three day personal banishment to thank you for the wild LOL in your 9:45 post.

Tom 2:03 PM  

I agree/disagree with OFL. SAINTDOM is weird to this Catholic boy. Never heard it. Forced entry. AMGEN should be gettable as they advertise Enbrel every ten minutes on TV, with a little AMGEN on the lower corner. Details. The nice pictures are supposed to make you forget about the side effects, like death.

The puzzle redeemed itself a bit with SHILLELAGH, which even the Irish can't spell unless they use Erse.

TRIAMORY sounds made-up. I got 800 on the SAT verbal, mainly 'cause I know all the words in the OED, and never heard this one. My dashboard dictionary never heard of it either.

Last, GeezerJackYale48 was right on about the PGA answer. The Masters is its own entity. The only thing it has to do with the PGA is that most of the players belong to the Professional Golfers Association Tour, officially the PGA Tour. None of the four majors are run by the PGA Tour. Now that you know more than you want to, I look forward to Thursday.

Oh, and I did go over all of the four letters to see what they were; being a Left Coast CA resident, I wanted to make sure I was represented.

Sheryl 2:04 PM  

You read it wrong. The clue for SNEAKERS is "Court tie-up?"

Larry from Solana Beach 2:18 PM  

Before figuring out "triamory" I thought perhaps there was a slang term relating to the details of a couple's affair so I penciled in "trystory". You are welcome.

Da Bears 2:35 PM  

Sometimes I don't like a puzzle and don't know why. I just know it was not fun solving. So, today, I thank Rex for explaining why I did not like it. He said it far better than I could.

Z 2:36 PM  

Didja know that The Masters Championship, which awards a Green Jacket to the winner, is part of the PGA Tour? Yep. It's right there on the Wikipedia page for The Masters, and then if you look up the PGA Tour website you will find confirmation.

Also, If you aren't doing the American Values Club Crossword Puzzle you're missing out. Byron Walden's effort today is top notch, although the grid evoked Brexit, which has nothing to do with the puzzle (unless there's a deep meta on the Leave supporters post vote politics - nah, I'm making that up).

Anonymous 2:40 PM  

Because it isn't. Sneakers is 4D "court tie-up?" And "hot wax" is 25D hair removal method.

AskGina 3:25 PM  

Greetings from the cave. I knew Amgen to be a bike race but that's it. It must be a cave in Ireland though because somehow I dug Shillelagh out of that section of my brain known as the attic (the only thing I can brag about because this was mostly a non-starter for me).

@Hartley70 I did love being reminded of Rampal. Suite for Flute and Jazz Piano was a revelation when it came out.

Anonymous 3:25 PM  

I found this one easier and more enjoyable than Rex did. I liked this puzzle. There is room for everybody in this big tent of crosswording.

the redanman 3:33 PM  

Agree more Thursday-ish. Awkward in spots to say the least, joyless was a great descriptor. TRIAMORY - AHOST - LETTS as an anchoring I-beam in the middle gave me utter fits.

OH OK ....

Gregory Schmidt 4:07 PM  

It was a slog for me. I didn't hate it, but it took me quite a bit longer than my usual Wednesday, due in large part to things like AGORA crossing MIROS. The last letter I just had to guess at. ALAIN/LETTS. Never heard either of those.

beatrice 4:26 PM  


The constructionists v. the anti-constructionists - oy vey. While I am firmly in the anti camp - along with anti-pun - and so agree completely with Rex in his assessment, I also realize that many folks enjoy both, and as some wise ancient Italian personage wrote, 'de gustibus non disputandum est', or, literally, 'about tastes, it should not be disputed/discussed'. What more is there to say?

Several above - thanks for the Joyce quote! That's what always comes to my mind as well, and on the odd occasion when I've uttered the word - when driving past a lea, say - I'm always questioned about it. I've always wondered whether Joyce coined it or if it was in the language.

Years ago, an Irish friend gave me a SHILLELAGH he made himself. It was quite top-heavy. From a cursory glance at images on-line, it looks as though they vary quite a bit.

Finally, as I've said before, I truly hate to correct someone in print, and it's just possible that I am mistaken (but I really think not!). @Mohair Sam, I believe you are thinking of Zamfir, and not Jean-Pierre RAMPAL. Rampal was a very dapper, courtly gentleman, who was the most celebrated classical flautist of his generation. I doubt he ever came near a pair of pan-pipes. So here is an example of his playing, alongside the most celebrated violinist of his day, Isaac Stern, in a double concerto by Vivaldi.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DKN8gpqpaWQ






Nancy 4:46 PM  

@Hartley70 (9:27 a.m.)--"A touch of the Irish makes coffee better." Wasn't it you who told me recently that you didn't drink much? In fact, hardly at all? Now, @Hartley, you can hide whiskey in your coffee and think it doesn't count, but I'm here to tell you the truth. It counts :)

Very amusing comments, btw.

Sheik Yerbouti 4:52 PM  

Favorite crosswords of my lifetime

(1) Clinton/Bob Dole
(2) Double Features
(3) The Francis Heaney candy cane puzzle
(4) Today's AVCX puzzle
(5) The entire Patrick Berry canon
...
(A billion) Today's NYT Puzzle

Z 5:12 PM  

@Gill I - Great minds and all that.

@Anon11:19 - Uh, the earlier anonymous conflated the clue for 25D with the answer for 4D. That's pretty much a textbook example of conflate. Also, you and others are wrong about the PGA clue. You're not wrong about the separate nature of Augusta and the PGA, but that's not what the clue requires to work. BTW - I seem to recall similar discussions the last time the NYTX used this clue (or something much like it).

TRIAMORY - I have several mean puns based on current events, but I'm sure you can work them out yourselves.

David Woolf 5:19 PM  

@Chris Adams,

Thanks for the comment. Twitter's sole reason for existence is hot takes, so no harm done. I had seen your full conversation with Rex on Twitter I was trying to draw attention to Rex pulling the one tweet out of context on his blog, especially since he was at least passingly aware of my own critiques of the puzzle.

Beyond that, I second all of the things @CFXK said.

Thanks everyone else for your comments both for and against. It's been fun to read all the strong opinions.

Mohair Sam 5:32 PM  

@Beatrice - Hi. Thanks for the link and the incredibly polite (and much-deserved) scolding. You may have noticed that I corrected myself shortly after posting. I hoped in the shower immediately after hitting "publish" and had a hideous "aha moment" when Zamfir popped into my mind. I had thought the clue used "flutist" rather than "flautist" as a hint that the musician was not playing a true flute, and just ran with the answer. I don't know RAMPAL's work but the name was obviously familiar - my flautist list ran one deep unfortunately, James Galway. Now two.

The Vivaldi concerto was amazing, btw - thanks again for the link. I'm wondering if it was the same Vivaldi work that caused @Hartley70 to dream of wielding a SHILLELAGH against a certain noisy mother-in-law.

Jonathan Alexander 6:36 PM  

Ugh...just ugh

Fill was awful, and themers being four letter words gave me ZERO enjoyment (even though I did like the revealer)...just way too much obscurity that wasn't saved by a subpar theme

Anoa Bob 6:38 PM  

TWO STATE SOLUTION brought to mind a conversation with a couple of Israelis who play in one of our local poker games from time to time. When asked what they thought would be a possible SOLUTION to the Israeli-Palestinian problem, they both unhesitatingly and vociferously replied "There is no SOLUTION!"

Tom@2:03, in the psychology of sensation & perception, what you speak of is called "Visual Capture". When we are presented with information visually that conflicts with information presented via another sensory channel, say hearing, we perceive the visual info as correct. If we see a person's lips moving on the video screen and hear the voice coming from speakers off to the side, we perceive the voice as coming from the person. It happens automatically, without any conscious effort. In fact, it's hard to override this misperception, even if we try.

Since the FDA mandates that advertisements for AMGEN and their ILKS must list possible side effects in their ads, they take advantage of the principle of Visual Capture to minimize the negative impact of the side effects on the overall perception the viewer comes away with. While we hear a list of sometimes frightening possible side effects, we see happy, healthy, attractive people who seem to have an inner glow, and who move with a comforting, reassuring, slow, graceful motion. We automatically buy into the visual. Try watching one of these ads with the audio off. Then listen to the ad without watching the video.

And who are those women pushing Viagra lately? What are they going for in the visual capture in those ads. HMM, I have an idea. At least they aren't pushing TRIAMORY (yet). Good one @Sir Mohair!

And what the heck is OAKED (67A)? That has NIL legitimacy in my book.

Gabe Tuerk 7:29 PM  

Ditto, ditto. But I liked Clave. That may have been the only clue I liked. Oh, ok, I liked shillelagh. So two sticks and then the "stick" of this puzzle.

Masked and Anonymous 7:47 PM  

@Mr. Woolf: Thanx for droppin by. I just hope some of us puzlovers can encourage U to dare to be weird, in choosin future crossword theme ideas. My fave part of NYTPuzs is their inventiveness: in themes, fillins, and clues. If one of em flames out with some of us solvers occasionally, that sorta comes with the territory, IMO. Awful hard to be different, and still please everybody. The Shortzmeister normally keeps things from gettin too over the top, while still lettin a few clever experiments slip thru. I'm still a happy customer.

So … keep it up.

And I finally caught on ... SMS = Southern Mississippi.

M&A

p.s.
1. MNKY
2. NHNM
3. MTVT
4. TXAZ
5. MDNV
6. SDWV (clued as VW D'S in reverse)
7. NCNJ (clued as CNN+J, scrambled).

Rabi Abonour 7:55 PM  

Super challenging for me. I definitely noticed AMGEN - it was easy for me, but I grew up around doctors. Even then,I got it from the crosses. Might as well not even name a drug.

Warren Howie Hughes 8:08 PM  

When the (David) Woolf arrived at Rex's door, it really got his Irish up and feeling his OATES he promptly reached for his ever handy SHILLELAGH and LETT him have it, both upon David's HIND and on R.P's blog!

OISK 8:42 PM  

Great puzzle! "Lithuanians and Letts do it..." (Cole Porter) Shillelagh and Amgen were no problem for me,; only Noreen and Clave were unfamiliar, but Alla breve I filled in immediately. Got the theme late, and smiled while filling in Two State Solution - I am really shocked that people say they have never heard of that. It has been in the news for decades, and that includes recently! (but I never heard of the Ramones until they appeared in the puzzle, so who am I to judge?) Triamory was unfamiliar as well, but made linguistic sense.

All in all, a tough Wednesday, but pretty much in my personal power zone. Really enjoyed it.

Disappointed not to see at least one answer like "Wench", "crone," "hag..." I'm kidding. You all know I'm kidding...

Bella 10:23 PM  

I only knew SHILLELAGH because of Baldur's Gate. Who said video games were a waste of time!

Tita A 12:10 AM  

Ok...way late here...drove up to the Cape, tried to finish this in fits and starts, avoided the revealer until desperate, then thought...are you kidding me!!??! A theme only a constructor could love!

Read Rex, and it's late, so didn't read the rest of you yet, so haven't the benefit of y'all who find the good in every puzzle.
I am only able to agree - a rare wholehearted agreement - with OFL.

Except for AFARM... I actually smiled at that answer. Though was pretty forced, the cross with "Like an environment difficlult for FARMing...isn't that verboten?

STEVE ALLEN gets a free ride....one of my earliest memories was my parents letting me stay up late and watch The Tonight Show. And one of the few memories of my dad at all, who died when I was 9.

104 comments...let me guess... 26A?

Tita A 12:22 AM  

Ok...read the comments, and as usual, like the puzzle more, but really, only a little more. mr. Woolf, thank you for visiting and for your thoughts. Much appreciated.

Let me say that I did just love SHILLELAGH! Or however the hell you spell it. Knew the word, no idea how to spell it. Great.

And, I really hesitated on 33D, because I know MOOCOW only from a fabulous rant by Lewis Black. If you're an almond milk aficionado, do NOT google that video.

Anonymous 10:31 AM  

Z,

Insist all you want but Augusta National is the green jacket organization. Period. It's incidental that the PGA has a tour stop there. That's what the clue call for.

Mickey Bell 6:40 AM  

David - I rarely read the reviews here. Usually I do after I have a tough time with a puzzle and check to see how others did with it. I was frustrated by this one (an work in the biotech industry - so Amgen was one of my first true finds).

No problem with the theme. In a Wednesday puzzle, to me, finding the theme should lead the the solver directly to a fill-filling frenzy. Not this time, for me. I found the clues to be seemingly almost purposely obscure and clunky as almost a misdirectional ploy. I got stumped on HIND (rearmost) for Heaven's Sake - because my brain was so weary/wary from close-to-punish clues all over this grid.

Other Thursday faire: AGORA, FERRY (because of the clue, RIME (never heard of it), TRIAMORY (eyebrow-raiser). Some of this felt like intentional cuteness, which just makes one's eyes roll. I eventually raised a white flag. As a solver one should feel rewarded when the theme is learned but to me this one just turned on me and made me feel like I wasn't in on a cruel joke.

Sorry. Thumbs down.

Bruce Fieggen 9:55 AM  

I think What Rex meant when he said "...and is in no way—not one—geared toward the enjoyment or pleasure of the solver." was "...geared toward the enjoyment or pleasure of Rex Parker"

Since some of the clues were outside his wheelhouse, it messed up his speed and angered him.

I enjoy learning new words every day and I'm sure CLAVE and LETTS will remain in my brain. Not so much words like SAINTDOM or TRIAMORY which I doubt I'll see again.

I liked the theme. Once I had solved some four letter clues I tried in vain to puzzle out the theme until I had S AT SOLUTION. That gave me the theme and I was able to get the rest of the four letter clues.

Of course I checked the four letters for state abbreviations and was impressed at how many states were represented. What's so bad about the theme being on the four letter clues if there are so many of them?

Well done David.

But I do agree this was more of a Thursday puzzle.

s 10:40 AM  

This was a NO-day puzzle. It should never have blotted out the sun today, tomorrow...ever. This may well be the worst puzzle I have ever bothered to finish. Where to start?

Non-words: TRIAMORY, OAKED. Obscurities: MIROS, RAMPAL, MAE as clued. Absolute nonsense fill: SMS, UDO, RXS, TWI...I can't go on. Just...no.

I too thought it was SAINThood, but that's not listed, whereas SAINRDOM (?) is. I don't even mind the silliness of MOOCOW (must be one of those on AFARM). Couldn't WACO have been clued better? We're all trying to forget the atrocities at that place. AMGEN is familiar; haven't you ever seen those ads that begin "I'm Philmickelsonprogolfer?" He says it like the whole thing is his name.

And for what do we suffer this? The theme, plus SHILLELAGH. Not NEARLY enough. This hole's score is "other." Lots of squares around the number. LETTS put it behind us and go on.

Burma Shave 10:43 AM  

LETTS GETAT MANY

OHOK, it’s VAIN and/ORE INGLORIOUS,
she’s GONNA go all TRIAMORY again.
Tho’ DRUNK on WINE she never TOLDALIE to us,
MOM’S AHOST and loves to LAYMEN.

--- NOREEN ASGARD-CLAVE

Longbeachlee 12:43 PM  

Count me in with OldCar Fudd. I have never agreed with Rex so completely. Especially with regard to getting bored after checking a few four letter words for postal code validity.

Anonymous 2:24 PM  

From Syndication Land

I liked this puzzle! Sure it was challenging, but it was one of those puzzles where the theme did help me finish down in the alla/clave corner. I like learning new words, and how to spell shillelagh!

Thursday googler 3:15 PM  

Mae West!

rain forest 3:26 PM  

I have lots of comments.
I have A HOST of comments. QED

What did Old MacDonald have? A FARM. QED

PGA/Masters. The prize money for the Masters, and all the other majors, counts as PGA winnings.

I make wine with three friends. Depending on the type, it may be OAKED, by storing in an oak barrel or by oak chip infusion, or it may remain unOAKED.

You must listen to the brilliant Rheinhart/Grapelli/RAMPAL album. Sublime.

I rarely go all out when I laugh; I tend to TEHEE rather than the blatant TEeHEE.

So, I liked this puzzle a lot, for many (A HOST) of reasons. I hope that I never succumb to timing myself lest I get a bad time and thus blame the constructor for putting in words I don't know.

leftcoastTAM 3:36 PM  

What Rex said in almost the same detail.

Labored over it for much too long and cheated to finish in the NW, that old coffin corner.

Hope not to see the likes of this one soon again.

Peace. Particularly in the Mideast, but not counting on it.

rondo 4:29 PM  

One w/o having an E for the I in the Irish cudgel and an educated guess on the (last blank filled) M in TRIAMORY. So the TWOSTATESOLUTION was late in coming and did not help in the solve, just a curious look around ex post facto.

So it’s back to the fifties for NOREEN and jump ahead 50 or 60 years for that particular MAE. Talk about a generation, or two or three, gap. So I’m GONNA give ‘em both a yeah baby just because. John Forsyth played such a cheesy “playboy” in Bachelor Father. There should be outrage about that. Talk about sexist. Watch for that show on one of the oldies networks. I’d forgotten how bad it was. NOREEN and Sammee both acted better.

If quadamory is a word, I’ve been there. Once. July 1983. Lady softball players from the ex-wife’s team. Who knew? Now I suppose I just seem VAIN.

RAMPAL a gimme since my daughter played the flute and I bought recordings of some of the great ones like him and James Galway. She did very well, BTW.

@teedMN – “. . . finally remembered the ALAMO. . .” – you’re killin’ me. TEHEE.

Odd puz, but almost spotless. Is TRIAMORY something U DO? HMM.

rain forest 4:46 PM  

@rondo - it might be called Tetramory, but whatever, that has to be fun. You must be some sort of stud, as well as a jack of all trades, or maybe an old sea dog.

Diana,LIW 5:22 PM  

As @Beatrice said, 'de gustibus non disputandum est'

We seem to be a house divided today. I'm in @Rainy's camp - not the best puzzle ever, but it delivered a lot of fun, IMHO.

TWOSTATESOLUTION kept me thinking of the mid-east, so I didn't get the US zip code ref. Duh. And dnf'd in the NE.

OTOH, even I, a non-TV fan, see AMGEM ads whilst at the gym. Where I'm about to go.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting, de gustibus non disputandum est

kitshef 5:37 PM  

It's fun when the Syndicated puzzle and the current puzzle harmonize. In futureland today, we have a highly polarizing puzzle and a 'degustibus' reference posted right around the same time as DLIW posted hers, that one by Masked & Anonymous. Has anyone ever seen them together? Is this the reason for the mask?

rondo 5:58 PM  

@rainy - Viewing it through the PRISM of time, I'm GONNA say I mighta been something like one or more of those things you mentioned more than half a lifetime ago. Only one of 'em was what you might call good looking, the others may have had trouble finding dates, so. . . But that's what can happen when you're the only guy invited to a women's softball team skinny-dip. AHOST of the MANY other dippers observed but did not participate in the -AMORY part. Pretty sure it was planned on ALLA their parts, maybe as sympathy or encouragement for a newly re-singled guy. I wasn't exactly sure what I was getting into. And I think they all disliked my ex as much or more than I did. Also pretty sure we were all DRUNK, or on the way. It will not grant me SAINTDOM

Diana,LIW 7:24 PM  

PS

Just in case you missed his post, Mr. Mohair gets my "best laugh of the day" award. Perhaps Mrs. Mohair has more in common with @Rondo than we think!

Diana, Waiting for comments

Diana,LIW 7:47 PM  

I'm in TrepidiciousLand here, posting this comment.

At least one commenter didn't recognize Groucho's cigar prop.

So, I must remind y'all, of a story, true or not, about his show, "You Bet Your Life." (Where folks really bet very little.) Anyway, interviewing a contestant, a man or woman according to various versions, the contestant mentioned having many (10, 12 172?) children.

G - Why so many children? (Questions, according to stories, vary.)

C - I love (kids, my husband, my wife)

G - I love a good cigar but I take it out every now and then. (variations abound)

Even if you didn't know G&cigar, that story is rampant.

Sorry

Still the Lady

Di

Jimmy W. 9:11 PM  

Surprised at the wrangle over CLAVE, I guess because I joined a group of salsa musicians and, though a long-time piano player, could not bang those damn two sticks correctly. Clave (Sp. var. "key") is also the name of the rhythm pattern with which they are knocked together to provide the basic beat for all the other musicians.

leftcoastTAM 9:35 PM  

Just an afterthought after doing this and many of these x-words:

Our memory banks probably have much more than enough extra space to accommodate lots of otherwise useless trivia. And x-words can test our brains' capacities to make often elusive connections. The testing is mainly what makes them SEEM worthwhile to me.

There is more--ego, enjoyment, personal satisfaction, opportunity to correspond and to criticize, etc.--making the time spent worthwhile to most. Not sure about myself.

A little late here, but any thoughts?

Diana,LIW 10:39 PM  

@Lefty
Mulling on your thoughts...

Lady Di

rondo 10:50 PM  

@lefty - probably all of those things you mentioned are part of it for me, plus the dredging up of memories which I, as people have seen, am not too shy too share. Most folks probably don't care (nor believe), but that's what I lived. For the past 30+ years(back into Maleska days) I have enjoyed getting to the solve, if I get reminded of a story from my life, that's a bonus of not speed-solving. Solving does connect you to folks you wouldn't otherwise. Thanks to this blog. @D,LIW and @teedMN are lovely people that I otherwise would never have met. And I appreciate the viewpoint of other commentors, even if I don't agree. Worthwhile? Sure. It's what you make of it.

Teedmn 11:43 PM  

@rondo, re: your first post, I was holding back on asking who had *educated* you on TRIAMORY but I see you have already answered the question :-).

Thanks for the compliment above, which I can return, for both you and our wonderful LIW.

Unknown 12:19 AM  

I am out of my league here, enjoy every one of the NYT crosswords, idolize those who can construct them. They must have the kind of brains that bend spoons. If physics were their chosen fields, I'm sure they'd out-Einstein Einstein. I got hooked on an L.A. Times crossword in the '70s, a simple clue, "Pound forte," could not shake the image of a kid pounding piano keys. The 4-letter answer was "poem." Aha! The Pound is Ezra. But when I've tried to build even a simple puzzle I paint myself into a corner with words that look like Motor-Vehicle eye charts. Honestly, how do David Woolf and others do it?

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