Subatomic particle named for weak force / SUN 8-21-16 / Enigmatic one in Hobbit / Regimen adopted by Bill Clinton in 2010 / Ring around classical column / Jumps higher than in sports slang / Harry's Hogwarts enemy / France's so-called capital of ruins

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Constructor: Kathy Matheson and Jeff Chen

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging ?? Or just Medium, maybe

THEME: "Wonder-Ful!" — tribute to the NATIONAL PARKS SERVICE (80A: Federal agency established on August 25, 1916) on its (roughly) 100th anniversary. Features of national parks are spelled out in circled letters that form the shapes of those features. Then there's some other relevant answers like YELLOWSTONE (32A: Home to more than half the world's active geysers) and YOSEMITE (69A: Subject of many Ansel Adams photos).

Theme features:
  • OLD FAITHFUL (spouting upward) (10D: Erupter at 32-Across) 

Word of the Day: Henry W. SLOCUM (14D: Henry W. ___, Union major general during the Civil War) —
Henry Warner Slocum (September 24, 1827 – April 14, 1894), was a Union general during the American Civil War and later served in the United States House of Representatives from New York. During the war, he was one of the youngest major generals in the Army and fought numerous major battles in the Eastern Theater and in Georgia and the Carolinas. While commanding a regiment, a brigade, a division, and a corps in the Army of the Potomac, he saw action at Bull Run, the Peninsula, South Mountain, Antietam, Chancellorsville, and Harpers’ Ferry. At Gettysburg, he was the senior Union General in the Field. During the battle, he held the Union right from Culp’s Hill to across the Baltimore Pike. His successful defense of Culp’s Hill was crucial to the Union victory at Gettysburg. After the fall of Vicksburg, Slocum was appointed military commander of the district. Slocum participated in the Atlanta campaign and was the first commander to enter the city on September 2, 1864. He then served as occupation commander of Atlanta. Slocum was appointed the commander of the left wing of Sherman’s march through Georgia and the Carolinas, commanding the XIV and XX Divisions, comprising the Army of Georgia. During this campaign, he captured the capitol of Georgia, Milledgeville, and the seaport of Savannah. In the Carolinas campaign, Slocum’s army saw victories in the battles of Averasborough and Bentonville, North Carolina. The March to the Sea and the Carolinas campaign were crucial to the overall Union victory in the Civil War. After the surrender of Confederate forces, Slocum was given command of the Department of Mississippi. Slocum declined an appointment in the postwar Army. He was a successful political leader, businessman and railroad developer. (wikipedia)
• • •

Pffffffff ... OK, so ... here's the thing. It's a nice idea. 100th anniversary, sure, tribute puzzle, why not? And I think you've got something there with the names of the parks forming the geographical / topographical features whence they got their names (even though I've definitely seen this done before with hills, mountains, etc.). But there are two main problems. The first is the awkwardness of having to include YOSEMITE and YELLOWSTONE separately. I thought all the geographical features were going to be intersecting their park names in some way ... until I realized DENALI *was* the name of the park. Ditto ARCHES and GRAND CANYON. So there are these two parks just shoved in there and clued pretty straight (albeit with oblique reference to the geographical features in the grid). Something just felt wonky about this whole set-up. But by far the bigger problem here was sheer boringness. There are really only a handful of theme answers, and they're all dreadfully straightforward, and once you see what's going on with the theme, the whole puzzle is just a dull exercise in fill-in-the-parks. The one great moment was spouting OLDFAITHFUL (LUFHTIAFDLO!) shooting right through YELLOWSTONE. Otherwise, none of the wordplay or cleverness that makes crosswords fun.

Between sick pet last week and sick daughter this week, end-of-summer things haven't been so great chez Parker. Don't have the time or energy to go into this puzzle too much. I did appreciate that it was sufficiently hard, for once, although the toughest two sections were a little ... nuts. My tough sections were the NE and dead south. I have never ever heard SKIES as a transitive verb. "I skied you"? I'm sure it's part of the lingo, but I'm not unfamiliar with basketball terminology, so this answer threw me. Also, [Enigmatic one in "The Hobbit"] was bizarre to me. I took "one" as a person, but it's just ... RUNE. One RUNE. I also had TAO for [Life force in Chinese philosophy] and had No Idea who SLOCUM (?) was (14D: Henry W. ___, Union major general during the Civil War), so I actually *needed* the help of the theme / ARCHES to sort all that out. Same thing with GRAND CANYON down below. MIND CANDY? I think I know it as BRAIN CANDY, if I know it at all. SANDP (ampersandwich!) got me (100D: Wall St. "500"). Totally forgot Dick ARMEY existed. Lots of things conspiring to make that section hard for me ... until I realized I could just call in the aid of the theme. GRAND CANYON to the rescue. The rest of this puzzle ... I don't remember at all, and I just solved it. Hope you enjoyed it more than I did.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. the title is no good. Supposed to be a pun, but it's not nearly Parks-specific enough. Oh, and W. BOSON!? (102A: Subatomic particle named for the weak force)  Oof. Just because you have a giant word list doesn't mean you should let it push you around. May the weak force be with ... someone else.

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


chefwen 12:34 AM  

Some of my friends call me Wender and a few go as far as to say Wenderful, so, of course, I fell for this before I even got started.

Caught on with YELLOWSTONE and LUFHTIAFDLO early on and had fun looking for the other parks and formations. DENALI is the only one we haven't been to. It's on the bucket list now.

NE corner was the challange, but we finally got through it. SLOCUM didn't help the cause.

Da Bears 12:36 AM  


1. Please stop with the grades. You are not Matt Gaffney.

2. I think you should make your catch phrase: "MAKE THE NYT PUZZLE GREAT AGAIN."

3. This puzzle was not wonderful.

Wednesday's Child 12:54 AM  

I have never thought of constructing a puzzle. Until this week.

Sorry, I'm not commenting on the current puzzle yet, I haven't done it.

My local newspaper prints puzzles that are ridiculous. Horrible things. How do you get started? What's the best app for construction?

Any tips?

Wednesday's Child 12:55 AM  

I have never thought of constructing a puzzle. Until this week.

Sorry, I'm not commenting on the current puzzle yet, I haven't done it.

My local newspaper prints puzzles that are ridiculous. Horrible things. How do you get started? What's the best app for construction?

Any tips?

George Barany 12:59 AM  

Sorry to hear about the sicknesses in the @Rex Parker household ... here's wishing a speedy recovery to all. As for today's puzzle by @Kathy Matheson (a debut! -- congratulations) and "veteran" @Jeff Chen, I didn't need a PHD to solve it.

Nice little alphabet soup of federal agencies with NIH, CDC, and FDA, and other fun stuff as well. What's not to love about the full ERI_TU, undoubtedly sung at one of the annual MET_GALAs? And I noticed that the (non-existent) NATIONAL_Science_Fund [sic; the F actually stands for Foundation] is the same number of letters as NATIONAL_PARK_SERVICE.

However, my enjoyment of today's puzzle was attenuated the moment I noticed a resemblance to this recent masterpiece (May 2016) by the incomparable @Liz Gorski. So, may I suggest that @Rex-ites savor once more this amazing Gorski puzzle (April 2014), reprised today because it is again stunningly relevant.

ICYMI, @Rex-ites who enjoyed yesterday's puzzle by @Mark Diehl may also appreciate He's So Shy, with a recognizable grid and the letters W, X, Y, and Z in the puzzle's four corners.

PS to @Wednesday_Child, please contact me off-Rex and I may be able to share some pointers.

Anonymous 1:21 AM  

Not sure I've heard of 48D, but I was confident it wasn't going to be LADYPArtS.

Larry Gilstrap 1:25 AM  

Kinda what OFL said. 10D turned into a fumble zone when I threw in Yellowstone as a result of some careless clue reading, then tried to cross it with a 32A Old Faithful, then changed them around but had my geyser squirting the wrong direction, finally, got my LUFHTIAFDLO in place. Who knew they have the same number of letters? I did use the themers to my advantage. Anybody remember the flap about Mt. McKinley a few hundred news cycles ago? I know it's Sunday, but boy, this puzzle had a lot of three letter answers. How about two, count them, two spanners made up of three letter answers. Isn't that a bit odd? Random weird thought: WBOSON triggers Red Sox Nation media outlet in my brain. According to that old calendar on the wall, we have one more month of summer. That's worth celebrating.

Charles Rosenzweig 1:57 AM  

9 Down: ATF ?

jae 2:00 AM  

Breezy Sun. for me. My only problem area was the center south where I had MdS before DRS for a while. The theme actually helped me sort it out.

Liked it more than @Rex did.

jae 2:01 AM  

@Charles - Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms - They raid miscreants.

Trombone Tom 2:08 AM  

No surprise, I liked this better than @Rex did, but overall his review is spot on. The "terrained" theme answers were fun, but once you saw one the rest were kind of a gimme.

I'm sure I've seen it somewhere before, but the "Mayo container" clue stumped me for quite a while. Good misdirection.

Misread the I C U clue as ICU so naturally I plopped in REhab before REBUS.

Since it's football preseason I put in Afc before ATF.

I liked seeing all the parks, especially YOSEMITE, which is truly a natural cathedral. Who could go up to Glacier Point and not be in awe?

I felt the difficulty level was more toward medium. The puzzle wasn't tedious, but it was definitely an experience of just plunking away at it until completed.

Never heard of ANNULET and guessed at SLOCUM but all were covered well by crosses. The LADY_____ waiting room plant had me wondering, too.

Not a lot of "Wow!" but still an enjoyable puzzle.

'mericans in Paris 4:07 AM  

AAA, Wenderful to see you as the first poster, Chef Wen! And sorry, @Rex, to read about your bouts with sickness in the family.

Our solving experience was similar to that of OFL's. Were stuck in the New England and the Gulf States areas, until we filled in the circled themes at ARCHES and GRAND CANYON. Had ExertiOns for a long time before ENDEAVORS.

Can't say I'm IN AWE at the construction of the puzzle, but I'll concede that it's cute. A missed opportunity, however, to have TEATS but not Grand Tetons.

Am HOME aLOAN this Sunday, so will END IT here. As Mork might have said, "APU NIH, SEI NEE AUS ATF!

General Lew Wallace 6:31 AM  

General Slocum is well known in NYC from the maritime disaster that took place on the boat named after him. All told, 1,021 perished out of the original 1,358 who boarded the ship that morning.

Lewis 6:43 AM  

Bit of irony in the crossing of TEATS and VEGAN_DIET.

pmdm 6:47 AM  

So this puzzle rates a B- but the write-up seems to mostly complain about it. I'm confused.

As someone from the East (who incidentally greatly enjoys visiting all wonderful National Parks in the West), I'm sorry Acadia wasn't in the grid. I wonder if there's a way to insert Carlsbad Caverns into the grid in the shape of a bat.

Nancy, sorry about yesterday. I indeed has to be away from the computer the rest of the day after my post. It should have included a reference to XWordInfo which had a link to the answer. Happily, someone else came to your rescue.

Speaking of, can I point you, Wednesday's Child, to that site that has a link to Jeff Chen's email address. Mr. Chen seems to love helping new crossword constructors. As a matter of fact, his helping hand resulted in today's new constructor coming up with today's new puzzle.

pmdm 6:52 AM  

Forgot to mention this. The location in the grid of the names of the parks (with one exception) mimic their actual geographic locations. I don't think anyone acknowledged this yet. It's a nice twist to the puzzle. Nice to know the names of the parks were not"just shoved in there."

Lewis 7:09 AM  

@pmdm -- No cigar, but that Boggle-style ACADA beginning with the A in MINDCANDY is close, and if you squint at that row of four black squares nearby it could represent your cavern.

smalltowndoc 7:20 AM  

I thought it was pretty easy (one of my fastest Sunday times) mainly because most of the clues were pretty straight forward. "Home to more than half of the world's active geysers" was a gimme, although I had trouble with the inverted (?) OLD FAITHFUL, despite knowing it *had to be* the answer. DENALI was the first circled answer I got, and it was pretty smooth sailing from there. Had a big problem with SLOCUM, but got him from the crosses.

Unlike Rex, I have no issue with W BOSON, but my son is a post-doc in particle physics, so it's a term that gets thrown around a lot when he visits his parents (which is rare; what's wrong with kids these days! After all we did for them. They never call! Or text. Oh, God, I sound like my mother! Better give her a call.)

Loren Muse Smith 7:41 AM  

Rex – hope your daughter and dog start feeling better soon.

I feel dumb. The very last entry I got was NATIONAL PARK SERVICE. I'm not really abreast on all the parks we have and what's in them. I was thinking DENALI was just the mountain and gave not one thought to the fact that it's a national park. Heck, I would've accepted that it's a state park, anyway. And I'm not too familiar with HALF DOME, but once I saw the picture Rex shared, I remembered it.

And I missed the significance of the date for NATIONAL PARK SERVICE. I usually don't even notice dates in clues. So I didn't see that this is an anniversary. My bad.

Rex nailed it – when I finally got that OLD FAITHFUL ran upwards, I had a terrific aha moment.

Early on, I was thinking ALP interfered with the circled stuff. My bad again.

Let me throw in my "yin" to the other wrong answers for CHI.

@Trombone Tom – yesterday I bought the smallest Hellman's "mayo container" I could find. I'm gonna wash it and fill it with Greek yoghurt and stand in the hall between classes and eat out of it with a spoon. What. You don't like straight mayonnaise? It's delicious. It's my plan to act surprised.

ENDEAVORS 121A – Last week on this blog, I almost used the word "concerted" and then looked it up to make sure it was ok. I was referring to my own private effort. As in I made a concerted effort not to eat more than six Rice Krispy treats. I discovered that it still officially means that it involves a group acting together toward a goal. After a lot of digging, I found that I wasn't all that wrong, but I'm still a weenie when it comes to PEDANTS. If I could talk/write/use slashes the way I want to and wear a big placard assuring people that for the most part I know The Deal but choose to use such language anyway, it'd be easier to publically go with the flow of language change. I seethe when someone corrects someone's "incorrect" something because for me it smacks mainly of Look How Smart and Educated I Am. But as a good friend keeps telling me – I'm pretty much doing the same damn thing when I fuss at them. In my defense, I feel like I'm bullying the bully. Still, though, my driver I guess is close to the same; I want to come across as smart and educated – even smarter and educateder. So, yeah, I'm a big fat hypocrite.

"Like the name Nguyen in Vietnam"

The clue for WEAVE 102D is terrific. Terrific.

I also first threw in for 87A "be mean."

I saw on Facebook that this is Kathy's debut. Congrats! It was hard for me, but I enjoyed the challenge and got a kick out of the visuals. Jeff is the best. I used to pepper him with emails about theme ideas, and he is ever so masterful at deftly telling you that the idea pretty much stinks without making you feel bad. What a gift. Reminds me of the quote, "A diplomat is a person who can tell you to go to hell in such a way that you actually look forward to the trip." Jeff certainly doesn't tell you to go to hell, but you get the picture.

And a beautiful finishing touch – the last down answer 114D is SETS.

chefbea 7:44 AM  

What a slog...did not enjoy the puzzle at all. Knew most of the parks...but old faithful threw me...and the title of the puzzle makes no sense!!!

AliasZ 8:41 AM  

The first thing I noticed today was that EDMOND was not Dantès.

The downfall of mirror symmetry is that the junk fill attracts attention to itself by its being up front and at eye level, almost advertised. Consider row 24: DEC LAP HOE CHI (Minh?), row 41: FDA NILLA CDC, and row 73: APU DOC SPA EMO NIH. The same can be said of columns.

43 threes can break the back of even the most imaginative, visually and thematically pleasing, well-thought-out grid. They did for me today.

Favorite entry: LUFHTIAFDLO, and not because it's sorta portmanteau from Luft & diablo.

Signing off with the Fontane di Roma, TREVI the most famous among them.

Weekend cheers to all.

NCA President 8:46 AM  

SKIES/RUNE and BYNOW/WBOSON were two spots that slowed me down considerably. Otherwise pretty easy to suss out where there were snags. Like Rex, the E was invisible to me. And of course WB next to each other was a huge red flag I've instinctively learned to avoid in my xword solving career. I was very surprised it was correct.

Another common annoyance I experience with puzzles are circled squares. This puzzle had a lot of them. I did not care what the theme was, it didn't help me solve the grid, and at the end I just didn't feel like going back and figuring out what the circles were circling. Way too much work for whatever payoff there might be. OLDFAITHFUL was the only one that was particularly helpful in solving that section, the rest...meh.

Yet another Sunday puzzle that just went on too long. Maybe these puzzles are meant to do over the course of a long Sunday afternoon...the approach should be more relaxed and less pressed to finish in one sitting. I dunno. I just know they're too damned long to do in one sitting in the morning. I should do have of it and then go about my day and finish it up a bedtime. The Sunday puzzle is like a couple of puzzles in one.

JimD 8:56 AM  

I also had CHI wrong but mine was because it is usually written QI now.

I love the letter grades and when Rex gives a grade that seems different from his write-up I figure he is just grading on a curve...

RSP 8:58 AM  

Can someone explain the ANO answer for the "Mayo container?" clue? That hasn't clicked in my brain yet and I've been unsuccessful trying to Google it. By the way, I like the grades for the puzzles.

Dan Steele 9:03 AM  

I'm kind of surprised. Week after week I check this blog, and realize sadly that you're all better at these things than I am. Today, I show up to read all the comments about how this was the easiest puzzle ever. But not so much. I breezed through this thing in near record time. Easy, and fairly lame. IMHO…

Teedmn 9:13 AM  

I had my (by now should be trademarked) DNF today in the top center. I quit paying attention to the circled entries early on so when LeFtTIAFDLO at 10D didn't make sense, I didn't use the theme to fix it, just let it go. But I did think, with 28D's clue for OOO, that 27A's crossing "Row maker" could be tOE (tick, tack tOE, right?).

The over-abundance of three's wore on me a bit; normally I don't notice but it was hard to miss today. Otherwise it was a great debut for Kathy Matheson, RESPLENDENT with NATIONAL PARKs and gems like LIP LOCK, GRILLES, VEGAN DIET. I SOLEMNly swear that someday I will visit at least one of these places. It seems ridiculous that I'm as old as I am and have never been to any of them BY NOW. My only excuse is that we didn't do family vacations when I was a kid (we once went to Iowa, which was fun but short on amazing natural features) so trekking around the USA is not an acquired habit.

Good job, KM and JC.

kitshef 9:14 AM  

Funny that this gets a B- given the negative review. Agree with the review, not the grade, which is too generous.

I love that the National Parks are getting the free pub, but at what cost? The abbrevs are irritating enough (FDA CDC AAA NIH ATF VIP, PHD, AUS, BLT, MGR, but we also get a Roman numberal (VII) and tic-tac-toe (OOO). PAP, indeed.

Nice to fly through a puzzle and find @Rex rates it medium-challenging.

Oprah’s BFF? Never again, I beg you.

Andrea Ojeda 9:20 AM  

Mayo is a month of the año, between abril and junio.

Mohair Sam 9:21 AM  

@Wednesday's Child - I purchased Patrick Berry's "Crossword Constructor's Handbook" online. Highly recommend.

NCA President 9:37 AM  

@Andrea Ojeda: LOL...I thought it was to be parsed: AN in MAYO contains the letter O. I like your answer better.

JC66 9:51 AM  
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JC66 9:54 AM  

@ Da Bears

Suggesting @Rex should make his catch phrase: "MAKE THE NYT PUZZLE GREAT AGAIN."


billocohoes 10:01 AM  

A basketball player who outjumps everyone SKIES for a rebound.

Nancy 10:04 AM  

One letter missing. Because I didn't know whether 104D was HTTL or HTPL (it was HTML, but who knows that? Not me.) and because I didn't know the missing letter of 106D (LE-O), I ended up with "Portions" (120A) having to be either tE-ES or pE-ES, and I couldn't find anything that worked. Now I see it's METES. Oh, well.

I finished everything else, but other than OLD FAITHFUL, I have absolutely no idea what's going on with all the other annoying little circles. I've scanned Rex's explanation and I know it has something to do with National Parks, but what exactly I'm not sure. Maybe if I focused hard on all those annoying little circles, I'd *see* it, visually speaking. But I'm not gonna. I'll take your word for it.

Despite the totally ignorable little circles, I actually enjoyed this one. No lame Sunday puzzle puns and more than a little thinking required. Besides, even if it didn't "skew old", it did the next best thing. It spewed OLD.

Charles Rosenzweig 10:16 AM  

Thanks. I thought it was the Raiders football team!

Z 10:31 AM  

There are two major media outlets for Ultimate news, Ultiworld and Skyd. No problem here with SKIES. Or you can wander over to Ultiphotos and enjoy the slide show.

@pmdm and others - I don't recall if I have already mentioned this, but I thought the grading system would mitigate some of the over-reaction to Rex's reviews. Rex opens with a list of positives of the puzzle, but he doesn't love it. Too often his "I don't love it" has been interpreted as "Rex hates the constructor, Will, and the NYTX in general he should quit."

@Dan Steele - I know it doesn't feel like it, but the commentariat is full of a wide variety of solving levels. Join the fun and don't worry about who is better or faster. FYI - Rex typically finishes Saturday in my Tuesday/Wednesday times.

@trombone tom - You probably have realized it already, but it was an "I love you" rebus, not an I C U rebus. As for it being football preseason, I stopped watching football a couple of years ago. My reasons (it's an incredibly boring game, violence, treats players poorly, encourages gambling, the list keeps growing) were reinforced when I heard that some retired players say that NFL stands for N****rs For Lease, a phrase that is all too appropriate if you know anything about the economics of the sport compared to other professional sports.

Overall I agree with the general sentiment. Competently made puzzle with some neat features, but just too much puzzle to sustain much interest. As I finished up the SE with what seemed like answers I've entered too many times before I wondered why we don't see more stacks on Sunday. All those areas of short answers just invite ennui. Throw in what seemed like too many wikipedian clues and the good qualities get buried by the mundane. Does one really want the last impression of your puzzle to be SETS of TWIT TEATS?

kitshef 10:34 AM  

@Nancy - although there is no reason for you to know it, when you learned to use italics you were using HTML. Don't know if that will help you to remember it or not.

Tita A 10:56 AM are indeed brave to publicly go where so many have gone before. (That's the only thing I could fuss about, in my decidedly no concerted effort. Thanks for learnin' me that.)

And lol to the NGYUEN link. Clever ladies.

I too love the idea, but wish it were a little more ... umm ... monumental? Like, the first national parks, maybe? You know, those that were parks by 1916. But overall I liked it. In great part thanks to everything I learned post-solve. Like DENALI was made a national park in 1917...I would have picked 1964 out of a multiple choice list, knowing that it wasn't even a state till the 50's. And that there are 27 states that have no national park. I woulda gotten that one wrong too.

@NCA Pres...amen to your last paragraph.

Thanks KM and JC, and congrats on the debut.

Alysia 11:00 AM  

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) regularly conducts raids for guns, bombs, etc. Thusly, in crossword-land, its agents are "raiders."

Joe in St. John's 11:01 AM  

whenever I complete one I figure it must have been easy. At the end of this one I was wishing it had been a bit more "Occupy My Mind" ish. But there's always the acrostic.

evil doug 11:09 AM  


"So, yeah, I'm a big fat hypocrite."

No. I believe pedants cling excessively tightly to polar extremes. You and I may differ in where we would draw the line on acceptable degrees of language rule enforcement in the great gray center; but I think with a little time together in a, ahem, concerted effort we could reach consensus on most of our disagreements. You're many things, Loren, but pedant and hypocrite aren't among them.

evil doug 11:10 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Carola 11:11 AM  

I agree with @Rex that the theme execution was a little IMPRECISE, but I'm ALL for the tribute to the NATIONAL PARK SERVICE. The GRAND CANYON saved me from a DNF at ARMEY and WBOSON.

I liked YELLOWSTONE over EXPEDITIONS. At a museum exhibit years ago, I learned about the 1871 U.S. government-sponsored EXPEDITION to the YELLOWSTONE region, in which the painter Thomas Moran was included to provide visual documentation. His "Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone" was the RESPLENDENT result. Please note the size of the painting - 7 x 12 feet. It is very magnificent.

@pmdm, interesting comment about the position of the parks on a U.S. MAP. If only ARCHES hadn't wandered off....

Anonymous 11:12 AM  

I agree with Mr. Steele. After checking the comments, I usually see that what was medium or challenging for me was *not so much* for everyone else. So, it was a pleasant surprise to finish and reach for the Easy Button. I find success a good way to start the day.

Although I had 91D "ANO" from crosses, I was clueless as to what it meant. So now I feel somewhat estupido that there are two fairly obvious meanings.

Just want to thank Rex for a job well done over the years. I get as much pleasure reading the blog as I do from solving the puzzles, and I think this community can often be overly critical.

Anonymous 11:13 AM  

THe W boson was my Ph.D. thesis topic, so I loved seeing it---what a gimme!

Jim Powers 11:18 AM  

I found this the easiest Sunday I've ever done. Beat my previous best time by over 5 minutes (finished in 20). I didn't dislike it but found the cluing extremely straightforward. "Organized hikes" = "expeditions." Well yes, they do. "Concerted efforts" = "endeavors." Can't argue with that. But yawn.

Malcolm Gibson 11:20 AM  

Easy-medium (leaning to the easy side) for me, perhaps because I got the "scheme" quickly (including OLD FAITHFUL) AND because I was stationed at Ft. Slocum, a small island post just off New Rochelle, N.Y., in the early '60s, so I knew that general. Overall, a nice Sunday, but wishing (as with many, including Rex, I believe) that they should be more of a challenge each week. (Oh, as for WBOSON, I found it unusual, clever and challenging. I liked it, even though I'm no scientist.)

jberg 11:22 AM  

I liked this more than most, mostly because of the fill -- RESPLENDENT, AVAST, MET GALA, VEGAN DIET, and much more. I also liked the RRN misdirect with the XXX clue. And I liked that you had to figure out for yourself what the circles were all about, except for 10D.

I'd never heard SKIES in the basketball sense -- but in a parallel usage, a few centuries ago when the Royal Academy had an annual exhibition of new art by its members, paintings they didn't think much of would be 'skied' -- hung so high on the wall that they were hard to see -- which was enough for me to get it as clued.

I'd've given it a B.

Norm 11:24 AM  

AZ : How is "I C U" an "I love you" rebus? I could accept "I see you" but how does C = love? Was the C a tiny heart in the print edition?

'mericans in Paris 11:30 AM  

@Norm: Yes, the symbols in the print edition, or at least in the International New York Times edition, were an eye, a heart, and the letter "U".

@Kathy Matheson or Jeff Chen: Speaking of crosses, I just noticed the cross in the center of the grid. Is this a subtle nod to the Wiccans? One of their mottoes is "Nature is my church":

Anonymous 11:32 AM  

* Been to Jerusalem and the skyline I saw was water heaters on roof tops not HALFDOMEs. The (full) domes I did see were on top of mosques. And I did see a lot of UZIS

• Am I really suppose to know who Oprah's BFF is? GAYLE somebody. At some point I can only hope the national love fest for O will disappear. Her views on, really, anything, though books especially, have no sway.

• Who the hell cares about Bill Cllnton's diet? Unless it's foregoing interns.

• SHARIA for Islamic law is just too bland for such extremeness. Why not cite a few examples? Here's one: Death to gays. How inclusive.

Katie 11:46 AM

Churlish Nabob 12:35 PM  

Week after week certain people gripe about Sunday puzzles being too long. News flash: you don't have to do them.

Anonymous 12:40 PM  

Super Easy!

phil phil 12:46 PM  

Keep up the grades...yes some of us associate it with the inventor and copyright owner of that exclusive MG invention...but
Its a good idea I say ok.

I DNF drat it. I had NIs giving me sEALS for mends. But I was thinking NIST. It's in Maryland.

The personal names were all crossable I think. Which starts my grades out in 'A' territory.

Paleo alternative to me made me think atkin(s) diet so I thought that was more than just alternative to vegan. But it seemed to work for him. He should have a good look for 'first gentleman'. Or has he backslidded, haven't seen him in the news lately with H.

Mona 1:06 PM  

I agree with the B- grade. Not a very interesting puzzle this morning.

Joseph Michael 1:09 PM  

The two best parts of this puzzle are OLD FAITHFUL rising up through YELLOWSTONE and learning about DENALI National Park.

The rest was kind of a slog. Which is to say that it was OK but far from RESPLENDENT and I was glad when it was over.

Got hung up by my misparsing of BEST RONG. Had no idea of what that could mean until the ST finally migrated west. Didn't know W BOSON either, but was able to infer it from the crosses.

Knew the Six Million Dollar Man had a BIONIC something but thought iat first that it might be an arm.

With this puzzle, I have come to the conclusion that I am not a fan of crossword puzzles that try to be visual. That is NOT the Grand Csnyon and
never will be.

QuasiMojo 1:10 PM  

Recently watched "Three Coins in the Fountain" which is perhaps more famous for Sinatra's "wonderful" theme song. Uncredited, I might add. But watching an ancient Clifton Webb woo his gorgeous secretary, Dorothy McGuire, was a bit de trop. This puzzle was as fun as climbing Pike's Peak. And for some reason the Times software is not recognizing my completed grid! And one last word, @Nancy, I wish you HAD written that NY Times op-ed piece on Verizon. It would have been a lot more charming and down-to-earth.

Alysia 1:13 PM  

I didn't love it...didn't even like it, really. I didn't hate it, either. I think a B- may have been generous, but only slightly.

There are two crossword "tricks" with which my brain always seems to have difficulty. The first is the spelled-out ampersand. As such, and much like Rex, I had trouble in the southern regions of this one. The other is when we get the phonetic "long e" or "short a"-type answers. These just never work for me.

Liked the clue for 1D and enjoyed seeing "resplendent" in a xword.

Silly question, should anyone see this: why is 67A clued with "say"? Wouldn't "insult" have been enough without the "say"?

Alysia 1:15 PM  

I don't understand, either. I assumed it was "I see you."

Roo Monster 1:27 PM  

Hey All !
HOLY COW. One letter DNF again! ARGH! Had it at ERIhU/AhF. Will I ever get ERI TU to congeal in the ole brain? It's like the ampersandwiches, like todays S AND P. I'm finally able to parse those, but that damn ERITU...

@Nancy, if you look at the shapes of each set of circles, thay visually represent what each Park is named. E.G. GRAND CANYON is a canyon shape, ARCHES is arched shaped, HALF DOME is half-arched shaped, OLD FAITHFUL spews from the ground, hence it's "backward" in 10D, and DENALI is a mountain, with a peak shape.

I thought it odd that YELLOWSTONE and YOSEMITE (who was it that pronounced it YO-SA-MITE?) were seemingly arbitrarily thrown in without some kind of symmetrical something or other.

Had iRa for ARI in NE, really messed things up a bit. Wanted RiNg for RUNE, but seen SLOCUM name before (not Henry W., but name) and SLOCiM just looks wrong. So managed to get RUNE from some abyss. SKIES a WOE, but sounds appropriate for the clue. WBOSON a definite Huh? also, it was hard to see. (Get it? Because it's a subatomic particle... Har...). What's the W stand for? Weak? Is there a SBOSON?

Had YEs for YEA, making FDA hard to see, which made DOMES hard to see. Don't like OD-ED ON as an answer. Are the BEASTIE Boys really Rappers? james before MOORE. Had BESTR__G, and kept saying BEST something? LADYPALMS a new one, had the PALMS, not the LADY till late in puz. Odd clue on ORDER. Liked clues for SNEEZE, OOO, ANIMAL, WEAVE.

So I guess overall a C. Not that my ratings matter... :-)


Alysia 1:29 PM  

I have Ira for Ari every stinkin' time.

Chuck McGregor 1:42 PM  

I’ve been having too much fun reading the political news and watching the Olympics to indulge in the NYT crossword for the past weeks.

Speaking of the Olympics, due to the often unintelligible diction of so many actors et many al on TV, I usually leave close-captioning “on.” What is said and what the captioner pens is sometimes often, shall we say, interesting. An interviewer asked Usain Bolt about his “...three gold medals in the Olympics.” One would think that for captioners covering the games, “Olympics” would rank up there with “the” or “a” as the most often typed word. Well, ”in the Olympics” was captioned as “not limb picks.” I kid you not.

@LMS re “concerted": Me, myself, and I made a concerted effort not to eat more than six Rice Krispy treats. There. Fixed it for you. :>)

I thought this puzzle was not going to go well, but perseverance pays off. A couple of errors left me with an official DNF, however I got the other 98% (+/-). Didn’t get what LUFHTIAFDLO was until I read @Rex. Loved it shooting upwards once I got it.

Agree with someone else that the clue for 102d was awesome.

I wrote a paper in college on the development of the Doric column. I probably came across ANNULET in my research, being such a distinctive feature of said column. If so, fifty years of intervening information into my MIND most certainly buried it.

Weird uses of plurals that I “see” re 52d -----

Last time I made a purchase (singular as clued) at an optometrist, I would say I bought a FRAME or FRAMES for my eyeglasses or an eyeglass frame or eyeglass frames. Of course the latter would mean a frame for each eyeglass (lens). However, I don’t think you would commonly say I have a frame or frames for my eyeglass (monocles excepted) or say I have an eyeglasses frame or eyeglasses frames, though either would be technically correct. I suppose it’s all in how you look (so to speak) at it...or them…or both. My lenses are actually polycarbonate, so wouldn’t eyeplastic frame or frames be a more accurate description?

Wiki: “Bifocals are eyeglasses with two distinct optical powers.” Because, for most people, each lens is tailored at least a bit differently for each eye, bifocals would more likely have four distinct optical powers. A bifocal always has two.

Would spyglasses be the same as binoculars? Of course a “pair” of binoculars is redundant or maybe just wrong, unless you actually have two of them. That should be a “pair” of monoculars or, better, “paired” monoculars.


Nancy 1:56 PM  

@QuasiMojo (1:10) -- Once again, what a lovely thing to say! Thank you! Right now, however, I am a huge Delia Ephron fan, because she took the time to immediately answer my email from yesterday re Verizon -- personally and warmly. It wasn't a long response, but it was thoughtful and down to earth. Whenever famous people do something like that, I consider it to be a class act.

@Roo (1:27) -- So I went looking for geological shapes, and I located GRAND CANYON -- which sort of goes down and then goes up. Very canyon-y, I agree. After which I thought: I've found one. That's enough. I'm pretty lazy about these things. But I do appreciate the explanation.

@Joseph Michael (1:09) -- For the reasons above, I'm totally with you on not liking visual puzzles. That's because I'm not at all visual, and therefore the puzzle and I are operating in entirely different modes. Such puzzles are always a problem for me.

@kitshef (10:34). Not. So I went to Google to look up the acronym HTML to see what it stood for. I read it. I said to myself: Just remember the M and you'll be fine in the future. I focused on the M. That was at 10:38 a.m. I've since forgotten what the M stands for :)

Sheryl 2:06 PM  

I finished this puzzle faster than I've ever finished any Sunday puzzle before - and with only 3 hours sleep, too - so I was surprised to see the rating of "Medium / Challenging". I blew right through it worth no hesitations, no rough spots. I filled in YELLOWSTONE first, then immediately saw the backwards Old Faithful. This was the first 10 seconds. The few answers I didn't know (including the names of some of the parks), I got with crosses.

For me, there wasn't enough there - not enough challenge to make it especially fun. Maybe my brain works better on 3 hours sleep? I can't recall a time previously when I blew through a puzzle more easily than Rex (and most likely it will never happen again).

Numinous 2:22 PM  

I was distracted during much of this solve by my roommate. I spend most of my days on the covered rear deck where I can see the veggie garden and watch the dog prowling the yard and whatever else dogs do from time to tome. Today, he chopped up branches he'd cut from overhangs above the roof and tossed into the yard. Then he had to stake the pepper plants and gripe and complain that the tomato plants have, in spite of blooming, not yet produced a single tomato. And he talked non-stop. Oh well.

There is a far more interesting 14D than Henry W.. Joshua SLOCUM who is the first man to sail solo around the world using only a tin alarm clock with no minute hand for a chronometer. And you thought Chichester was bad-assed? Joshua did this starting in 1894 and returned home in 1897 in a boat he'd built by himself, well rebuilt it resulting in virtually a new boat which he named Spray. His book, Sailing Alone Around the World can be found in HTML format here and in Kindle format here as well as several editions equally priced at about a buck. After the recent mention of William Henry DANA, I felt this was appropriate.

I guess I sort of have to go along with @Rex on this one. I wasn't thrilled enough to study all the circled letters to figure out which Wonder-ful monuments were highlighted here. I've never been to Yellowstone but I do know that geysers spew from the bottom up. I was pleased to see YO-SEM-ITE (tongue in cheek) jOSE MITE. In my teen years spending most of my summers in the Sierra Nevada, a good deal of that time was spent in YOSEMITE and environs. I'm sure we came up with every possible way of mispronouncing ti. Nevertheless, it is a magical place. In my day, you didn't need a permit to hike in the mountains and you could drive the valley floor in your own car. My current impression is that it has become the Disneyland of parks. Driving some of the mountain roads in the park you may come to a turnout, pull over and park next to a tree with a sign that says "TREE", OK, is say "Sugar Pine Tree" or something like that. Always struck me as rediculous.

And frankly, that's about all I remember of this puzzle but, as I said, I was distracted.

Numinous 2:32 PM  

Sorry I blew the Kindle "a" tag so try this. Not that anyone really will.

Aketi 2:35 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Numinous 3:04 PM  

Another apology, it is Richard not "William" Henry DANA.

JC66 3:11 PM  

@ Numinous

That's some dog you've go there. ;-)

Aketi 3:19 PM  

@Nancy, I like visual puzzles made a picture for you of the blocks as my avatar. There was one inconsistency in that DENALI and HALF DOME are not ARCHES so I just shaded underneath them.

Just got back from another EXPEDITION, this time visiting three Midwestern Universities. It was my husband's first trip and my son and I have already seen at least 20 Us so far. Itwas good t have him along for a fresh perspective. He was enthralled with all the old buildings and ARCHES and my son and I laughed and told him that all the Us we've seen so far have them.

Discovered my husband is actually fairly competitive when it comes to crossword puzzles. We fought over the scroll bar on the iPad when solving together.

Nancy 3:38 PM  

@Aketi (3:19) -- I don't know how you created your avatar today from the puzzle grid and answers, but you've done me a great service. By diagramming the precise placement of the theme answers, you've enabled me to view all the geographical features without having to make any real effort at all. Not making any real effort when it comes to locating annoying little circles is one of my great goals in life. To everyone else who couldn't be bothered to look for the ARCHES and the HALF DOMES, et al, don't miss @Aketi's avatar. In addition to which, it's very pretty. It sort of looks like a modern-day quilt or rug.

Mohair Sam 3:41 PM  

Wishing your daughter well @Rex.

Nice salute to the National Park Service. Easy Sunday for us. Liked the theme a lot, and got the 10D/32A relationship and flipflop right away so off we went. A few unknowns were crossed so fairly they didn't cause a bit of worry (ANNULET, WBOSON, GAYLE).

Fun to see here how the strange new thing to us (WBOSON) was a welcome gimme to others. Odd how Rex has only heard of braincandy and we have only heard the term MINDCANDY. @Nancy, we knew you'd blow a gasket on HTML! @Alysia, welcome to the Ira for Ari club - my wife has to correct "every single time".

@Anonymous 11:32 - Clinton's an Ex-president and his health has been in the news so the clue seems valid to me. But I'm with you on the Oprah thing. 92D "Oprah's BFF" may be the worst NYT clue ever, imo. What's next? 1A "She's been seen with Tom"?

Everybody has their favorite Olympic moment. Mine was when NBC stuck a microphone in the face of American Galen Rupp, long-shot Bronze medalist in this morning's marathon (it was only the second mararthon of Rupp's life). When asked how he'd done it Rupp explained that he'd taken inspiration from watching the Adam Sandler golf movie "Happy Gilmore."
He deadpanned this just minutes after running 26 miles faster than all but two of the greatest marathoners on earth. I like this guy.

Numinous 4:02 PM  

@JC66, Yeah, she's a great little dog, a Shiba Inu. Fortunately, she doesn't talk as much as the roommate.

Hartley70 4:15 PM  

@Nancy, I go away for the weekend and look what hijinks you get up to! When you get as close as possible to our dream lunch, remember that I'd like to be your plus one.

I started this puzzle 12 hours ago and it's kept me entertained through a bout of insomnia and an interminable car ride. I was really grateful that it lasted like a tootsie roll pop. It provided decent fill I could work on for a good long time and then the payoff. I didn't take a look at the circles until I had completed the grid and they were as tasty as a chewy chocolate center and easier on the dental work. Visuals are always a bonus and the reverse OLDFAITHFUL was terrific. Acadia with some ocean waves would have been lovely for this New Englander, of course.

I would put a gold star on this submission. Thanks Kathy and Jeff!

Doc John 4:19 PM  

You know, DENALI is a geological formation (originally known as Denali, then Mt. McKinley, then rightly renamed as Denali), as well as the name of the park. Ditto for GRAND CANYON. ARCHES is the only outlier but although I suppose that the individual arches have names, they're not well-known enough to include. So I will accept ARCHES as a geological formation, too.

Mohair Sam 4:22 PM  

@Numinous - Sent my history buff son (currently stationed overseas) Dana's book a while back, he loved it, and have been wondering what to follow up with. Thanks for the reminder of "Sailing Alone Around the World" - fantastic book, I'd forgotten it - It's on its way.

Have a hunch you've read it, but if not - you might enjoy Geoffrey Wolff's biography of Slocum, "The Hard Way Around" written in 2010.

Thanks again.

Joaquin 4:30 PM  

I liked this Sunday puzzle. Usually I find them a boring slog; this one was at least interesting (if easy) with all the properly shaped parks. Not much of a challenge but fun nonetheless.

Norm 5:12 PM  

@ Doc John : Arches is a national park in Utah.

Aketi 5:38 PM  

@Mohair Sam, I like your Olympic moment

I only got MIND CANDY from merging MIND crack (as in the addiction that comes from playing MIND craft which preceded playing crossword puzzles) with eye CANDY (which I consider t be a visually intriguing grid).

The PALEO diet is merely a modern version of the Atkins diet shored up by on an idealized notion of how prehistorical humans ate.

@Nancy, it wasn't that hard on the iPad. It's much easier to make shapes like squares over the top of images like a picture of a crossword puzzle than it is to type on the iPad. FYI, I actually saw this puzzles circles as a smiley face with one arched eyebrow, but I agree that crossword puzzles do look a lot like quilts.

@Rex, glad your dog is doing better, hope your daughter feels better soon.

Joe Bleaux 5:58 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Club des Gourmands 10:22 AM  

What is the simplest way to keep mayo off one's sandwich? Contain that mayo by responding with a "no" when it is offered.

Jimmy 10:00 PM  

AUS is Australia. AUT is Austria.

This really bothered me for some reason.

Unknown 9:15 PM  

👁 (eye) = I
❤️ (heart) = love
U = you
There is no "c"

Intrigue Van 9:18 PM  

I think a B- was really generous. I was three quarters of the way through the puzzle before I remembered there was even a theme. And it didn't help much once I went back to it.

Burma Shave 11:29 AM  


When ANNE bares her TEATS he’s EVERSO grateful,
and a SOLEMN LIPLOCK is not untoward.


spacecraft 11:46 AM  

Thanks to @jae for explaining ATF, which really had me going--but had to leave it in because it worked. "Raiders." Wow. You see, I live in Las Vegas, which is about to become the new home of the L.A. Raiders, if you believe the local hopefuls, so I was locked into the NFL guys.

Only one other spot gave me more than very temporary trouble--and it almost skewered me. I know someday one of these is going to: the dreaded "ampersandwich." (A big TY goes out to OFL for that one.) I also had oVERly for "Very, very" instead of EVERSO. That section was pretty tough, but the GRANDCANYON helped. It wasn't easy, I'm sure, to dig up an entry with the string __NDCAN__, and I think the constructors may have coined a new phrase for it. Makes sense, per the clue, so I'm not out of joint about that. SANDP, however: grrrr!

Apropos of that, I used to play tournament bridge before that UNFORGIVABLE international cheating scandal caused the invention of those ridiculous bidding boxes. When we arrived at a new table, they would ask "What system do you use?" We always replied, "Wall Street bridge."

"Never heard of that. What does it involve?"
"Standard...and Poor."

Anyway, despite that tough area, and another not-so-bad area to the right of the central cross, most of this was pretty easy. I'd give it no worse than easy-medium. I did enjoy it more than OFL; with few exceptions the fill was RESPLENDENT with good stuff. I must say that after almost twenty years in the flower business, I never heard of LADYPALMS, nor have I seen one in any waiting room (and I've been in a lot!). Must be a local thing. I know about thirty varieties, but not that one.

EVERSO clever with those shapes, though the depiction of the GRANDCANYON broadens the riverbed and shortens the walls too much.

A Y would be better, but you gotta go with what works. Birdie.

rondo 12:48 PM  

Ho-hum. I’m not INAWE. Not to DEMEAN it, it’s a nice tribute, but EVERSO plain. GRANDCANYON did help with MINDCANDY.

I’ve been on EXPEDITIONS to NATIONALPARKs from Maine to Florida, Washington to California, and many in between. Went to a dozen different parks on a road trip in 2112, including 4 named in the puz. Theodore Roosevelt came up with the idea for the NATIONALPARKSERVICE and I have also been to the park in ND named in his honor. GLACIER was in the Word Scrimmage today, been there too. It took some effort to get up to Delicate Arch in ARCHES, climbing a near mountain 90+ degrees at 9:30 a.m. I sent a photo of me and that arch to @teedMN and/or D,LIW so they could recognize me, har.

In the ENDIT was OK. I’ve got good memories and great photos from a lot of NATIONALPARKs.

leftcoastTAM 3:29 PM  

Have to rate this puzzle relatively easy and mostly fun.

Sunday fun-to-slog ratio: 1.50, very good.

6 points for fun, 4 points for slog. (10 points total to allocate.) Ratio of 1.0 is good, 1.5 is very good, and anything over 2 is outstanding. Anything less than 1.0 is poor.

Don't see how any Sunday puzzle rated by this method could ever be outstanding. Sunday's are inherently slogs to a greater or lesser extent mainly because of their size.

Surprised myself with the "very good" rating today, but the parks/wonders theme appealed to me, and the theme answers helped a lot in getting some of the tougher fill.

Only half tongue-in-cheek here.

Diana,LIW 3:39 PM  

There is a small indentation on my back where I was patting it for knowing such diverse stuff as SLOCUM, WBOSON, ARI, GAYLE, BEASTIE(!), ERITU, ARMEY, and PALEO. HOLYCOW, I might be a PEDANT.

Of course, having a METGAme for the fund raising event gave me a dnf. But the indentation on my back was already in place. Thought Penn would be Sean, - who is Kal?

Don't you hate it when you know you know a name and it won't come to you? You can picture the Dallas Buyer's actor, down to the number of visible nose hairs, but the name won't show up until you get some crosses. Well, I guess that won't make the NPRNEWS, but they did reference this puzzle this morning. Anyone else hear it? Mention of the "breaking up" clues. See? I do pay attention!

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords and Spoilers on NPR

Jentaps 4:58 PM  

Thanks! I may try one.

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