Winston's tormenter in 1984 / THU 8-11-16 / Capital south of Lake Volta / Longtime resident of New York's Dakota apartments / Font akin to Helvetica / No-holds-barred Q&A / Biogradable neckwear / Parts of Santa Claus balloon

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Constructor: Timothy Polin

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging


THEME: say the circled letters — all themers are clued [See circled letters]. If you say the circled letters aloud (i.e. if themer has two circled Cs, "seize"; if it has two circled Gs, "Jeez!"; etc.) you get the clue for that answer:

Theme answers:
  • CONFISCATE (Cs = seize)
  • LIFE OF RILEY (Es = ease)
  • GOOD GOLLY (Gs = Jeez)
  • FLIRT WITH (Ts = tease)
  • SCRUTINIZES (Is = eyes)
  • RUN THROUGH (Us = use)

Word of the Day: Niobium (24D: Mythical eponym of element #41) —
Niobium, formerly columbium, is a chemical element with symbol Nb (formerly Cb) and atomic number 41. It is a soft, grey, ductile transition metal, which is often found in the pyrochlore mineral, the main commercial source for niobium, and columbite. The name comes from Greek mythology: Niobe, daughter of Tantalus since it is so similar to tantalum. (wikipedia)
• • •

I've seen the "say the letters, get a word" conceit several times before. This was a hard version of that. Nice to have a challenge on a Thursday, though I can't say the experience was that pleasant. Bumpy. Very bumpy. With some superdumbass stuff like SPYFI (really?) (check out this ultra-not-legit-looking wikipedia page) (47D: "Mission: Impossible" genre) and especially IZZAT SO? (43D: "Oh, really?!") Stop. Stop. No. Stop. Not a thing. Who has that in their database? Remove it right now. I insist. IS THAT SO, THAT SO, even DAT SO is better than the gratuitously Z-laden abomination we have here today. Also, "Tease" is not a very precise clue for FLIRT WITH. The others are all spot-on, but, while one might (I guess) "tease" in an attempt to flirt, most flirting I've seen / heard of / experienced has not involved "teasing." That is a subset of flirting, if it's anything. "Tease" sounds like something a jerk (or SCHMO or NIMROD, apparently) might call a woman he *thought* was flirting with him when she turns him down. Boo.


Cluing was generally hard, mostly by being vague. The thing that might crash and break is a WAVE. Antarctica is ARID (not whatever cold-related adj comes most readily to mind ... COLD, maybe). Musical trio refers not to the players but the notes. Etc. etc. etc. On my first pass through the top, answers were pretty sparse. I thought Lake Volta was in S. America, and so I was thinking LAPAZ or SUCRE at 1A: Capital south of Lake Volta (ACCRA). RERUN for REAIR (14A: Show in syndication, say). I didn't know "Cant" and ARGOT could be synonyms. I think of the former as dishonest, self-serving talk and the latter as simply a specialized language. So that was weird. One of my first certain entries (besides TACO) was EDMOND (21A: ___ Dantès, the Count of Monte Cristo). Hurray literature. But then I totally blanked on O'BRIEN (38A: Winston's tormenter in "1984"). Boo, literature! Tough, but ultimately fair. Solid, acceptable work, even if I was irked more than I was scintillated.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

126 comments:

jae 12:05 AM  

Medium-tough for me too. Didn't grok the theme until I had about half of it filled in. Getting the theme came in very handy for completing the SW corner. The tough clues there would have been killers without SCRUTINIZES.

Really want satire for the Colbert clue, but DRY WIT sorta works.

Knowing O'KEEFE was also helpful as AMA (as clued) was a WOE and TACTFUL did not leap to mind for savior-faire.

Like @Rex I've seen versions of this before, but this one was very clever, had plenty of zip, and took some effort. Liked it a lot!

Pete 12:30 AM  

I got ARID right away and see how one could force it to fit, I just have an issue with calling a region arid when it's covered by water to an average depth of 1.35 miles. That's deeper than the deepest lake in the world, by a lot.

Anonymous 12:35 AM  

Rex was unbelievably generous with this dog's breakfast of a puzzle. I honestly have no idea which I hate more: izzatso or spyfi but both are egregious. And the big theme is just ridiculous. This puzzle is not worthy of the New York Times, and increasingly it looks as if Will Shortz has no business soliciting and editing these puzzles.

GILL I. 12:48 AM  

Well...I started out really disliking the puzzle. I thought to myself "who is going to know Qdoba... run-of-the-mill, pretty bad Mexican restaurant and their TACOs aren't that good?" I got it...barely... and continued on. Came to CONFISCATE via the downs, saw the two CC's = cease and thought "well dang, I just might enjoy this."
IZZATSO then reared an ugly head so I went back to dislike mode. NIMROD made a showing so I was back to loving the puzzle. I liked it even more when I saw TEDDY SCHMO HOS. ONO lives in the Dakota Apartments? I'll be!
A B+ for moi only because I really wondered how many people will even know who Jose Marti is....Cultivo una rosa blanca....

GILL I. 12:52 AM  

Oh...@DCDD and @Leapster rose. You both made me laugh really out loud after reading you late posts.
Second Oh...why is a NUN a frickin creature?

Virginia 12:59 AM  

This was hard but enjoyable for me. I couldn't for the life of me figure out the theme, even after I finished the puzzle -- had to go over to Wordplay and let Deb explain it -- but I was able to finish with only minimal assistance from Auntie Google. I agree that SPYFI is not a real thing -- although for a while I feared the answer would be ScIFI, which would have upset me much more, since Mission Impossible isn't. Not sure how I feel about IZZATSO -- it came to me after I had the two Zs from SNEEZE and SCRUTINIZES; I certainly never would have gotten it otherwise. I don't love TENET for "better to give...," which I think of as an "adage," but I guess it's OK if you squint at it in a certain light. Otherwise, I thought the cluing was tricky but fair. Particularly enjoyed the clues for OVINE, OPUS, and CHORD. "Missing nothing on" for ACING was maybe a teeny bit too clever for its own good.

Answers I had to look up: O'BRIEN (I've still never read 1984), O'KEEFE (never heard of him), and UNITY (am only minimally informed about Kwanzaa). But, on the plus side, I got ARID fairly quickly, at least after I erased "cold," and I knew that J.K. Rowling resides in SCOTland. Fun!

David Krost 1:07 AM  

"...even if I was irked more than I was scintillated." But couldn't you write that every night?

Laura the Kiwi 1:10 AM  

Hmmmm.... I wasn't a big fan. I ended up just googling... and then using the Rex completed puzzle. I didn't get the theme till I came here... and so many crappy clues with no relationship to the answer... like, what on earth does a santa *balloon* have to do with ho ho ho? The balloon feels ridiculously unnecessary, and IZZATSO and SPYFI were crap.

I'm always torn between admiration for the job of creating a puzzle, which is obviously a really difficult (and thus clever) task, and that it would be nice to have a chance to solve without cheating! IZZATSO etc kinda ruined that for me...

Beijingrrl 1:26 AM  

I managed to finish in a decent time for me without understanding the theme until it was all done. I realized that the two circled letters would be the same at some point but stupidly looked at them as ceecee not cees. Oh, well. It was enough to help me correct a few mistakes and figure out the themers, although I struggled to see what confiscate and life of riley had in common. So I did have the aha moment after the fact. Spyfi was a groaner but izzatso was plain awful.

Anonymous 1:48 AM  

I found this challenging. It took me more than an hour. Obscure commercial names leave me cold. The answers Rex get quickly are often totally unknown to me. Curiously the clues he finds difficult are often gimmes for me. It must have something to do with age, education and interests.

George Barany 1:55 AM  

@Timothy Polin's puzzle today was quite daunting, but eventually I broke through, recognized the theme, and then slogged through to the end.

The NIOBE clue seemed tailor-made for that huge intersection of chemists and cruciverbalists (insert emoticon for DRY_WIT), but SPY-FI and IZZATSO elicited more grimaces than grins. Thanks @Rex for pointing out both the strengths and weaknesses of the puzzle.

Mica Hilson 3:52 AM  

I'm amazed that Rex gave this one a B, because I thought it was one of the worst puzzles I've ever seen in the Times. IZZATSO is just inexcusably bad, and I still can't see how RUNTHROUGH is synonymous with "use." There's the germ of a good idea here, but the execution is just abysmal.

Martín Abresch 3:55 AM  

I loved much of this puzzle.

Lots of clever or just well-written cluing: WAVE (Something that may crash and break), BIOPIC ("Lincoln" or "Nixon"), ACING (Missing nothing on), OPUS (Score of a lifetime?), CAROL (Air when it's cold outside?), TEDDY (Purchase in a bear market?), HOWS ("___ tricks?"), REGAL (Uncommon?), SIREN (Blue wail?), and NUN (Creature of habit?). I appreciated the trivia in the cluing for ONO (Longtime resident of New York's Dakota apartments) and NIOBE (Mythical eponym of element #41). Several other lively entries: SCHMO, DRY_WIT, PHENOM, and TACTFUl. References to three great writers: Rowling, Orwell, and Dumas.

It took me a bit too long to catch on to the word play in the theme answers. At one point I had entered BOG instead of FEN, giving me BL--TWITH, and I thought that the answer was BLAST_WITH, as in T 'n T. Ugh. Once I did figure it out, most of the answers went in quickly.

Several sections gave me pause. The cluing in the NE made solving that corner a challenge. The W was harder, I think. ARGOT, NIOBE, EDIE, O'BRIEN, and TENET all presented problems. I didn't know the proper names, which always makes things tough. I had the same problem as Rex with not thinking of cant and ARGOT as synonyms (just checked the dictionary, and cant can mean a specialized vocabulary, so it's fair). I also question the clue for TENET ("It is better to give than to receive," e.g.). A TENET is a doctrine or principle, and I'm not quite sure if that statement rises to that level. It's good advice, an aphorism, an axiom, or even a maxim. I could be wrong on this.

Okay, I said at the start that I loved *most* of this puzzle. I did not like IZZATSO and SPYFI. At all. The rest of the puzzle is so good, and I was enjoying it, and then ... that junk. Just checked Google. SPYFI gets 113,000. That's a small figure. IZZATSO gets 11,000 hits. That is nothing! I just mashed my fingers on my keyboard.

• ";lkzx" gets 19,000 hits,
• "nkda" gets 140,000 hits,
• "uvzci" gets 1,440,000 hits, and
• "nafsd" gets 3,320 hits! We have a winner!

So UVZCI > IZZATSO > NAFSD. Now you know.

The SW corner defeated me completely. SPYFI ("Mission Impossible" genre) never occurred to me. SPY_TV did occur to me (and I rejected it). I put in CAPER first, but then changed it to HEIST. The T in HEIST led me to TALL instead of IDLY (One way to stand by). Yada yada yada. I got nowhere and eventually looked up synonyms for standout to get PHENOM, which set me straight. In retrospect, it's actually a nice corner, except for @#$! SPYFI.

My grade is B for Brutus. I loved it, then it stabbed me.

Martín Abresch 3:59 AM  

@Mica Hilson - It took me a bit to figure out how USE equalled RUN_THROUGH. Think of it in terms of running through a supply of something. Use all of your money. Run through all of your money.

Loren Muse Smith 5:09 AM  

@Gill I- ENERO was my entry into the grid; we always have a quiet celebration of José Marti's birthday around here. Talk about how he's impacted our lives. Right.

Like @Martin Abresch and @jae, I found the southwest fiendishly tough, and in the end dealt me a dnf. With "sci fi" firmly in place, I was doomed.

But with UPI and EPILOGUE down, I took a leap of faith and went around and filling in the second circled letters of whatever I already had one of in place (parse *that* buddy), and was able to get RUN THROUGH, SCRUTINIZES, CONFISCATE, and GOOD GOLLY using my finely-honed acrostic skill of squinting at some letters and inferring a word. I guess that's a Wheel of Fortune skill, too. I just don't enjoy the show because of all the shouting. Why can't they guess stuff using regular inside voices? Their enthusiasm makes my teeth hurt. And, yeah, I get the irony.

Once I figured out the theme, I whooped.

@Martin - I had "scamp" for 37D until I saw the clue for ONO.

I agree that a lot of the clues were tough, but it's Thursday.

Rex – I disagree with your take on tease and FLIRT WITH. They can be synonymous for me a lot of the time.

Liked DRY WIT crossing WHET. And the apropos SCRUTINIZES crossing IZZAT SO? Better watch what you say because those UPI guys are gonna check, buddy.

AMOK is such a weird word. Like the guys inventing English and spelling were asleep at the wheel for that one. I tell you, though, their ancestors are running around now telling us to pronounce Qatar as "cutter." GGGG.

@Unknown from late last night – I enjoyed your post and look forward to more from you. Why not get a blue name that'll be more recognizable?

I love, love, love themes like this! Remember Chen's A Cut above the Rest tour de force? So cool. I'm starting to shout as I type.

Timothy Polin – terrific puzzle. I'll remember this one for a long time!

Mr. Fitch 5:27 AM  

This one got me pretty good. I couldn't for the life of me work out the theme, even after getting CONFISCATE and GOODGOLLY from the downs. The crosses on the others weren't as easy, and I was sunk.

This would have been a clever-if-difficult little puzzle had it not been for IZZATSO and SPYFI. IZZATSO isn't a thing, and it's not clued properly even if it were a thing. There's nothing in "Oh really?!" that suggests an odd and/or colloquial spelling. SPYFI is as marginal as it gets.

I came away feeling that the constructor came up with a clever theme, but then wasn't able to manage the fill gracefully.

worst 6:45 AM  

Agreed re SPYFI and IZZATSO--and I too was surprised re ARGOT (and wondered about TENET). Got the theme barely in time to benefit from it. I knew ARID because I've recently started watching QI from series 1: http://old.qi.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=2991&start=0&sid=c1e2eadc854c7d5f9401ea8e936ac6e8

Lewis 7:05 AM  

I needed my boxing gloves for this one. I love tough-but-fair cluing as this puzzle was RIFE with, and the ahas it brings. @Martin lists a good number of them. And it shows the power of cluing. Patrick Berry, in his book, says the cluing makes or breaks a puzzle, and that is so true here. When you look at the answers in the grid, with a few exceptions, they are ordinary everyday words, but the cluing turns this ordinary collection into an epic battle, from which I came out all the YYser. Thanks for the workout, Timothy!

Norm 7:49 AM  

Not fun. Interesting in the end, but not fun to solve.

Anonymous 8:03 AM  

Hated it. In addition to the other badly clued, obscure stuff, I'll throw in OLY as a northwest brew. That's pretty obscure and a definite stretch. That's not what CANT means. And what was that AMA clue?

r.alphbunker 8:04 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
r.alphbunker 8:12 AM  

Timothy Polin is one of my favorite constructors.

I usually get off to a bumpy start on his puzzles and this one was no exception. At 5 minutes I had 9 correct answers and 6 incorrect ones:
SATIRE for DRYWIT
RERUN for REAIR
ADAGE for TENET
FIRM for IDLY
_ _ _ _ _S for GETS TO
_ _ _ED for DEALT

I saw LIFE OF RILEY at 13 minutes and then achieved Monday typing speeds.

Complete solution is here

I have no problems with SPYFI. When I typed "define SPYFI" into my browser, google asked if I meant SPY FI and then gave me the definition. Using "define" before the word your looking for usually gives better results that just searching for the word.

chefbea 8:15 AM  

too tough for me...didn't get it at all!!!Worst puzzle in a while. I would give it an F

AskGina 8:16 AM  

Is this comment from yestetday's blog a hoax? David C. Duncan Dekker12:14 AM. I'd truly like to know.

Anonymous 8:18 AM  

Struggled through it with no clue what was going on or how any of the theme answers made sense until I got here.

Caleb 8:18 AM  

Lewis, I think you mean YYer. :)

Also very slow to finish this one. TACO and WAVE were ins, but never gained momentum in an area that could carry me through.

The good: CHORD, WAVE, DEALT (Passed out), FRAT (Band of brothers? ...who often pass out), OPUS (Score of a lifetime?), NOSES (Trunks, of a sort), CAROL (Air when it's cold outside?), TEDDY (Purchase in a bear market?)

The bad (cluing): AMA (seriously, cluing this as a Reddit acronym?), TENET (this one is wrong), HOS, SIREN (Blue wail? ... The siren mythologically speaking is the creature that emits the sound, not the sound itself. You have to talk about ambulances to get that usage, but then it's no longer blue...)

Borderline: YOGI, WHETS (this word means sharpens, it's just that sharpening an appetite is the same as exciting it)

The ugly: SPYFI, IZZATSO

IZZATSO is brutal. But the cluing was so clever at times. The reason I think this puzzle is a B-minus/C-plus is because there were just too many clues that strayed from the literalism we rely on from Shortz and co. But at least it showed some effort to make the fill have character!

Chaos344 8:26 AM  

Today's puzzle was super easy for me.

Opened the puzzle.
Saw the circled letters.
Read the clues for the circled letters.
Closed the puzzle.
Went directly to the WSJ.
Elapsed time: Less thank 30 seconds!

Glimmerglass 8:27 AM  

Good, challenging puzzle, which I made more challenging by never understanding the theme. After a bit, I saw that each theme entry contained a pair of letters, so when I got one of them from a cross, I put in the other. Then the themers, common expressions, began to come out of the mist. But I never caught on to the puns (cc = seize, etc.). Even when I had correctly filled the grid, I didn't understand. This was already a pretty hard Thursday puzzle (a good thing), but I made it into a Saturday! So I loved it.

kitshef 8:28 AM  

Mostly very hard, with the NE and SW corners brutal.

IZZATSO seems like exactly the kind of garbage that drives me up the wall that @Rex dotes on.

But the worst entry was OLY - never heard anyone call it that, nor do I expect to in the future.

Had RErun before REIAR, then reRuN again before CAROL, thinking what a great clue it was in the latter case with all the reruns around Christmas.

Liked the theme, had some great longs (CANDYCORN EPILOGUES TACTFUL NIMROD), liked the sheer challenge of it, loved the cluing.

Hand up for not understanding HOS.

kitshef 8:32 AM  

@Caleb - policemen are often referred to as the men in blue or just the blues. Blue wail is being used as 'police wail'.

seanm 8:36 AM  

solving this without ever understanding the theme pushed into the challenging time range for me. izzatso is just so bad the puzzle deserves at best a C just for that single answer. spyfi I didn't find so bad because even though it's definitely not a thing, it was inferable off the F I thought.

I guess the next time something like this comes around I'll recognize it, but it was a very frustrating experience trying to solve without access to the themers

Z 8:44 AM  

@Gill I - I'm with Muse on the Martí birthday celebrations. Seriously, if there is ever a second Spanish month (5) in a puzzle I'm screwed.

@Ask Gina - As serious as I am about celebrating a 19th century Cuban poet's birthday.

@All - Not grokking a clue doesn't make it bad. Also, read more comics and you might realize that "ballon" references that thing above a character's head. The ones above Santa often have many HOS. I'm with Muse again on tease being an exact match for FLIRT WITH. That's not to say it can't mean other things depending on context.

AMA = Ask Me Anything. An Internet thing where someone of note agrees to answer anything thrown their way. I think they started on Reddit, but I could be wrong.

Tough. Lots of opaque cluing. I suspect we will hear from people on Polin's wavelength who found this easy. It won't be me.

@unknown4:30 am yesterday - Nicely stated.

Caleb 8:45 AM  

Thank you! That makes it more acceptable, and actually pretty good.

Irene 8:59 AM  

Really really hard, with challenging cluing, but I finished it and, therefore, loved it.

Lewis 9:14 AM  

@caleb -- Yer absolutely right! Good catch!

Steve M 9:19 AM  

FUgGedaboudit

Carola 9:22 AM  

Wow. Tough and terrific. In the home stretch, I had everything but the SW - everything, that is, except an understanding of the theme - and feared a DNF. Finally got PHENOM and erased "seer" after already erasing "sage." Only with SCRUTINIZES did I see how the double letters worked. Very neat. I especially liked RUN THROUGH's UUs. Super, diabolical cluing, I thought.

Learned from previous crosswords: NIMROD, ENERO (as above: Spanish month? Write it in.)
Other do-overs: EDMuND, Aim before ARC, soya before RICE.
Erased, put back in, erased, put back in: the Z in SNEEZE.
No idea: AMA.
@Loren - Interesting lore on the Malay origin of AMOK here.

Wm. C. 9:26 AM  

Some good stuff here ... And unlike most above, IZZATSO brought a smile.

But AMA??? Sorry, unless one is (apparently) a Reddit--er, no chance! And Niobe, OKeefe, O'Brien?.. Never heard of 'em. Hey, tough clues on Thursday are OK, but the fill should at least be recognizable after inferring from the crosses.

And my bad, didn't understand the conceit until I got here!

Nancy 9:31 AM  

Re: 67A -- Speak for yourself, Timothy P.!

A clever, clever puzzle. I wish I had realized just how clever, as I pushed my way through it in mystified mode. None of the theme answers seemed to have anything to do with any of the others, and I got those answers only through word recognition -- sometimes based on very few letters. Finally, with only about 6 squares left to fill in, I saw the theme at, of all things, GOOD GOLLY. Oh, that's what's going on, I said to myself very belatedly.

It took me forever to find a toehold. CAROL at 11D (the ? really helped) led me to SCOT at 10A and then to OVINE. But I crashed and burned at the SPY FI/PHENOM/YOGI crossing in the SW. I had SCI FI (which seemed wrong); ROYAL instead of REGAL (which didn't); and IOYI at 56A (don't ask!) So a DNF on what I found a really tough puzzle.

QuasiMojo 9:31 AM  

I've never seen "Izzatso" in any "argot,"lingo," "dialect," or "slang." Ridiculous. I "cant" stand it. Plus having never seen the endless new incarnations of "Mission: Impossible" I was surprised to find the genre now has a name. My first go at that was "Op-Sci" which did me little good. As did "sage" instead of "yogi." I think a "pussle" that "rezorts" to made-up words or phrases should be sent back for some "revizing."

mac 9:34 AM  

Tough puzzle, but once I figured it out it was a fun solve. Lots of beautiful words: phenom, scrutinizes, confiscate, pulley.

Afraid to go outside in NY, so hot and humid!

Mohair Sam 9:39 AM  

Well we were "hating on" this one for the longest time, then we gronked "ease" with LIFEOFRILEY and "just loved" the puzzle. But now that we're done I think we've landed exactly where @Rex did. All in all a fun experience, but . . . .

I'll bet you find "IZZATSO" at least five times in every Joe Pesci script. Tip of the cap to @Martin Asbresch for letting us know that nkda got more hits than SPYFI. I avoided the SciFI trap in the nasty SW by getting PHENOM off the OM. Easy for me, my Phillies have brought up several young PHENOM pitchers this year who toss a good game or two before hitting a wall.

Never heard of Qdoba, we assumed it was a Mexican city. You always learn something important in the NYT puzzle - just Googled and discovered a Qdoba 7 miles from here, heading there for a mango salad for lunch, TACO for Lady M.

Love Bill Murray, love golf - but "Caddyshack" is the most overrated comedy in movie history.

WTF is OLY? Anyone?

NCA President 9:46 AM  

F*ck it. This was awful on many levels. Seriously. Awful.

QuasiMojo 9:46 AM  

@Mohair Sam: I feel quite the opposite about Bill Murray, haha, but I love Michael O'Keefe. His work in The Great Santini, Mass Appeal (on Broadway), and in the little-known cult film (literally, a film about a cult) Split Image (1982) is excellent.

Z 9:48 AM  

@Mohair Sam - It's the water.

Don McBrien 9:50 AM  

Mohair, Olympia Brewing Company (or just Olympia).

Really liked this one. Fun and challenging.

NCA President 9:50 AM  

Mohair Sam: OLY is short of Olympia Beer. It had a cultish following back in the 70s...akin to Coors' early cultish following. Their slogan was "It's the water and a lot more."

Eric Blair 10:02 AM  

O'Brien is one of the great characters in dystopian fiction. Given the importance of Orwell and "1984" it's not an obscure answer.

Nancy 10:04 AM  

@QuasiMojo (9:31) -- Your last sentence made me laugh. A very fair point, I think, amusingly made. BTW, I hope it's not politically incorrect to ask if you're male or female. Your blog name gives nothing away, there's no profile to look at, and I've become more and more curious with every passing day. Possibly it's just me, and no one else on the blog really cares. But I'm always curious about the respective genders of the "regulars" here -- most of which I've already figured out.

AliasZ 10:07 AM  


I dunno -- this one left me cold. What pray tell is the connection between the meanings of the words seize, ease, jeez, tease, eyes and use to warrant their appearance as a theme? If the phrases with the double letters had some other element in common, that would have been truly snazzy. Also, they were not very consistent: "eyes" is a plural, all others are singular words.

My biggest disappointment: FLIRT WITH had two tease as well as two eyes, GOOD GOLLY had two jeez, three owes and two (Ernie) Els, LIFE OF RILEY had two Els, eyes, effs and ease, SCRUTINIZES two eyes and two esses, and RUN THROUGH two arse, two use and two aitches. Wuzzup with that? I also mind my pease and cues not being represented, as a [Y][Y] man once said.

The fill was decent enough with little crud. CANDY CORN, TACTFUL DRY WIT and a few others were very cool, but many of them merely pedestrian or downright cringy (OLY, IZZATSO, SPYFI, GRE, ONO, DINO).

In retrospect, I liked yesterday's puzzle more.

Greater Fall River Committee for Peace & Justice 10:22 AM  

Didn't finish didn't even try to finish. Giot as far as CANDYCORN. Who gives that out on Hallowe'en? Other than you put some in a bowl at a hallowe'en party. Really annoying cutesy poo cluing.

But I learned something right off the bat. Lake Volta! I immediately thought of Upper Volta, whose capital, back when I memorized capitals around age 10, was my very favorite capital of all time. Ouagadougou!!! Which didn't fit at 1A, at all. But I found out, 3 decades too late, that Upper Volta is now called Burkina Faso, is crossed by three rivers, the Red, Black and White Voltas, which coalesce to the south in Ghana to make a lake. Like the three Niles. Nice stuff. A lot more interesting than the puzzle, which has a "Caddyshack" clue.

Roo Monster 10:24 AM  

Hey All !
Well, what a difference a day makes. As much as I liked YesterPuz, it comes close to how I didn't really like this one. I did think the theme was cool, two letters= sounded out word. But the rest... Fill, rather odd/tough. Clues, bah. Some were way out there. Clues for NOSES, ACING, REGAL. Wha..? Also, FEN and OLY WOE-city. Add in two decidedly non-things, IZZ AT SO and SPY FI, and it lost its merits. Gonna have to say it, rework the entire S center to SE area to not only get rid of ridiculous IZZATSO, but also to change SNEEZE, as it sounds eerily similar to a themer.

Now see, Rex gave this a B. YesterPuz an F. Reverse here. Yesterday, B+, today, D. Theme only thing saved this puz from an F. GOOD GOLLY!

NONO
RooMonster
DarrinV

Mohair Sam 10:38 AM  

Thanks @Z, @Don McBrien, and NCA Pres. Never was much of a beer aficionado, as long as they were cold and not "lite".



Anoa Bob 10:38 AM  

I'm adjusting my estimate of how frequently the the letter S appears in the lower, rightmost squre, from 50% to more like 40-45% of the time. Today's HOS & NOSES is a prime example of getting painted into a corner.

Not sure how NIMROD (45D) developed such a negative connotation. In the book of Genesis, he is a hunter, and the great grandson of Noah. So maybe he wasn't all that great of a hunter? Did he shoot one of his hunting companions in the face?

@Gill I., I know who José Martí was, but your "Cultivo una rosa blanca" sent me scurrying to wiki. Among other things, I found that there is a statue of him in New York's Central Park. (@Nancy, have you seen it?) Also found the poem.

I cultivate a white rose
In July as in January
For the sincere friend
Who gives me his hand frankly
And for the cruel person who tears
out the heart with which I live,
I cultivate neither nettles nor thorns:
I cultivate a white rose.

John V 10:38 AM  

Major DNF. Never got on Polin's wavelength. It happens.

WA 10:41 AM  

I have been the NY Times puzzles for over 40 years and IZZATSO and SPYFI belong in the bottom three of all time worst answers.

How about as answers Shortzz and WHYOWHY?

For this they charge a supplement?

moomoomoo_oink 10:42 AM  

Did not get the theme *at all.* Had to come here to figure out what it meant, and it makes sense now. Only got the SW corner by guessing at SCRU after figuring out TINIZES was probably ok.

Like any normal person, I hated IZZATSO, even though I got it pretty quick, and I was thinking about SPYFI even before I guessed at the SCRU.

Overall, good puzzle that made me work with a few headscratchers.

Mike Rees 10:50 AM  

Boy oh boy. There was a ton of stuff in here I didn't known and I had to drag answers, kicking and screaming, out of the crosses. On my WOE list today: ACCRA, Qdoba, EDMOND (I haven't read the book), ARGOT, NIOBE, UPI, GRE.

I was so sure of IDLY that I stared in slack-jawed silence at 47D, and couldn't think of any genre that ends with an "I". CHORD and REGAL fell in pretty quick and got PHENOM off the HE, and then that still, small voice in my head said, "you don't think it's maybe SPY-FI, hm?" I wonder if it's still a portmanteau when it's abbreviated and hyphenated.

Almost a DNF for me. I confidently dropped in LIFEOFRosEs for 25A and spent about four minutes just staring at a puzzle that was complete except for the NE corner. Don't know where JK lives, it would never occur to me to refer to a giant block of ice as ARID, didn't know EDMOND. I finally hit upon OVINE, which gave me SCOT, but it was a long time before I took out roses and corrected it. I'm inclined to say the clue on 11D is not fair/not right.

Full-on challenging for me. But great fun to finish!

@LMS - Very fun comment. Loved the tongue-in-cheek opening.
@Gina - I sure hope not.

QuasiMojo 10:52 AM  

@Nancy -- thank you! At the moment I represent as male. :) Quasimodo was male too, I think. I can't figure out the profile thing. I have a blog but it's not something I want to advertise on here. It has nothing to do with crosswords. Not yet, at least.

Linda 10:53 AM  

I didn't exactly enjoy solving this one - I wasn't in the mood to work so hard so early in the morning. Had no idea what the theme was and didn't try to figure it out till I was done, so I found those clues really annoying.

Once I was done, though, I looked again at the themers and when I figured it out, it made me smile and think the puzzle was really clever. Wish I'd tried to figure the theme out while I was solving. I'm sure I would have enjoyed it more.

I realize that my standards for words and their meaning in my work as an editor and in crossword puzzles are very different. In my work, I don't want the reader to have to guess at the author's meaning, so the language and the intended meaning have to be really clear and connected. But in crossword puzzles, if the answer can mean what the clue says, it's usually just fine with me. So, no problem with flirtwith/tease, just a little problem with izzatso because it was so much more colloquial than the clue, and I liked spyfi a lot.

Joseph Michael 11:02 AM  

Gave up on this about half way through, then turned to Dr. Google to help me finish it. Even then I didn't get the theme. So it was not until I came here that I finally understood what was going on.

I have to say that I do kind of admire this puzzle, even though it was beyond me. This is often the case with Timothy Polin's work.

I agree with the objections to IZZATSO, but thought SPYFI was a cool new way to describe the genre. Also liked much of the cluing, especially that for PULLEY, TEDDY, and CAROL among others.

Hartley70 11:07 AM  

I agree that this is a Thursday to remember. The cluing made the NE corner, where I started, just about perfect. TEDDY is my first and favorite entry of the day. As @Lewis and PB pointed out, puzzles that contain ordinary words and extraordinary cluing are great fun. This was one of them.

I had some stumbling blocks. I still haven't memorized the periodic table. I'll do that as soon as I start ironing again. I can spell Kwaanza, but that's as deep as my knowledge goes. I have already forgotten what AMA means because it'll always be white coats and stethoscopes to me.

I wasn't bothered by IZZATSO because the first Z was a gimme. It needed an extra ? in the clue to make it fair or a heads up that it was slang, dialect, or whatever you call it.

The theme was a mystery to me for a ridiculous amount of time. I had to play around with sounding the circled letters out loud before I got it. Since I saw the theme before I had to skulk here in the surf of shame, I loved it.

In my imaginary school, Timothy Polin goes to the head of the class!

Madeleine Sann 11:28 AM  

Please, please. Ditch the grading. Izzat so hard?

Hartley70 11:30 AM  

@MartinAbresch, your last line at 3:55am slayed me!

Masked and Anonymo5Us 11:31 AM  

Circled U's! thUmbsUp.

CANDYCORN. mm-mm.

Circled P's mighta been interestin ...

@Anoa dude: Coulda been saved, with HOD/NOSED, I reckon.

Thanx, to one of my fave constructioneers.

M&A
on the road trip

GILL I. 11:33 AM  

@Anoa...I know Marti lived in New York for a while but I had no idea he has a statue. I'm actually surprised and also in awe. I'm pretty sure every single school age child in Cuba recited "Cultivo una Rosa Blanca." I still know every single word. It's so much prettier in Spanish, though. Marti for the Cubans was like Abe Lincoln for the Americans...but not too many people, other than Cubans and Cuban Americans, know of him.
@Hartley70. Do you iron your non-iron percale sheets? In front of the TV?

AskGina 11:37 AM  

Hated this because it was waaay over my head, leaving me with nothing better to do and no excuse for not getting to work on time.

jberg 11:52 AM  

I finished the grid, in about 2 hours (with breaks), but didn't get the theme until I came here. It just didn't occur to me to look at it that way -- next time I'll know!

A woman who flirts a lot is often called a tease -- not so for men.

As for remembering where the Volta is, the trick is to recall that Burkina Faso used to be named "Upper Volta." So when Ouagadougou didn't fit, it had to be ACCRA -- my first answer.

So many things held me up: CANDY bars, which hid OBRIEN; Body ScAn, which made me look for EPIC endings to my stories; 'noveL' for "uncommon." And when I saw "score of a lifetime?" I wrote in 'four' -- meaning to write a letter of protest, since I'm 3.6 score already. I was really glad when I saw it was OPUS instead.

Oh yeah, bOlES before NOSES, too, which made it pretty tough to see SIREN. If I'd got the theme, I'd have known it was SCRUTINIZES instead of IZEd, which would have helped with that.

@Laura the kiwi, I think's it's a speech balloon in a comic strip -- Santa is saying HO, HO, HO!

I think I've lost my youthful naievete -- I put in ELL immediately when I saw "late start." If you have to do that sort of thing, I guess it's a pretty good clue.

I can't wait to see what Friday brings us.

Anonymous 11:55 AM  

Gotta disagree with RUN-THROUGH as a synonym or USE. When you run through, say, your money, you don't use it, use it UP.

Ellen S 11:58 AM  

Still working on the puzzle, so I haven't peeked at the review or comments, I just wanna say, regarding 39D, "Back of a gun barrel", I will *NEVER* complain about a sports clue again.

I guess I'm glad that the answer about José Martí wasn't a Roman Numeral. Once if figured that part out, I had _ NE __, and worried it was going to be time of day, like oNE a.m. Shucks, I don't know what time of day *I* was born on.

Well, back to the puz. It'll be tomorrow before I'm done.

Hartley70 12:06 PM  

@Gill I, the last time I ironed was a sweltering hot afternoon in June of 1983. I remember the distasteful feeling of the sweat forming on the back of my neck.The ironing board and iron remain on display in the laundry room as a relic of the Age of Insanity and as a handy storage shelf.

Aketi 12:16 PM  

@lewis, if I took put on my boxing gloves to solve this puzzle I'd end up with far more typos than I already do.

@Martin Abresch, on the other hand, I could try my boxing gloves on my iPad to see if I could come up with some googalable letter combos that rate higher than yours.

@M&A, yes to the CANDY CORN! "Dammit, dammit, dammit" to the circled PEAS. Yes to the circled EWES.
As always, the cinnamon rolls are AWOL, I just have to imagine that their AROMA might appear one day in a puzzle

HO, HO, HO, I actually liked SPYFI but thought for sure that it couldn't be the answer.
Glad HOS wasn't clued differently than it was.

Nancy 12:28 PM  

@QuasiMojo (10:52 a.m.)-- Oh, if only I had a memory like everyone else. Someone here told me how to create a blog profile -- but I don't remember who. I then followed his/her instructions to the letter, but I don't remember what they were. I think I was able to do it because I already had a Google email account? Or maybe not. I don't remember. Many months later, @Hartley70 presented me with a surprise: all the way from CT (I live in NY) she posted a photo on my blog profile. "How did you know that a photo of Central Park is exactly what I would have chosen, if I had been able to figure out how to get it up there?" I asked. "Because you mentioned it to me in an earlier phone conversation," she replied. I hadn't remembered that. So, anyway, Luddite, ridiculously absent-minded me unfortunately can't help you out here, but I know there's someone on the blog who can. CAN WHOEVER GAVE ME INSTRUCTIONS ON SETTING UP A BLOG PROFILE HELP OUT @QUASIMOJO? Thanks so much!

old timer 12:32 PM  

I got bored and came here to see what I missed. Never got the trick at all even though I had the Ts, and the Us, and the Is. Solved the lower part of the puzzle (knowing my Spanish months helped there). Solved the right side of the puzzle too, with a fatal error: "nitwit" instead of DRYWIT for Colbert. Now if I had remembered ARIAL *and* gotten the trick LIFE OF RILEY would have been a gimme.

The problem with this puzzle is the lack of actual cluing. RUN THROUGH simply is not what "use" means. If Polin had written, (see circled letters) and added a word or two the trick would have been gettable. For instance, you could add "carefully" to the SCRUTINIZES clue and "up" to the RUNS THROUGH clue. I mention those because I got those answers without knowing why they are right. Also some clues seem just wrong. "It is better to give than receive" is an adage, but not a tenet. Charity is a tenet of many faiths but that's as close as it gets. PHENOM seems wrong, too. It only applies to outstanding young players, mostly in baseball though you could have called Tiger Woods a PHENOM, too.

It made me sad to read the ONO clue. Many of us remember the day John was murdered, and also remember that he and Yoko lived at the Dakota. Strawberry Fields in Central Park is near the Dakota.

When I was little, you sometimes got candy corn on Halloween. I don't think our kids ever got any, and we never offered it. Wonder why?

AliasZ 12:35 PM  


While we are at it:

SCINTILLATE -- tease
GOLF PLAYER -- Els
SOUP PART -- pease
QUICK REQUESTS -- cues
PASTURE USERS -- ewes
PROMISES TO PAY -- owes
DIRTY HARRY -- wise arse

Andrew Heinegg 12:48 PM  

Did this one bring out both sides of the opinion fence or what!? While I solved it, I must confess I did not enjoy the experience of doing so.

I have many of the same complaints as others e.g., izzatso, spyfi and O'Brien. I also consider 40a tenet as a lousy answer for a saying or adage. Tenet implies a fundamental principle or foundation for something, at least that is my sense of the word.

To be completely frank, I never enjoy the methodology employed in this puzzle. 'Mr. Polin's is a very skilled and experienced constructor but, I did not see this as one of his better efforts and I am mystified by OFL's criticism combined with the B rating. But, it was a good Thursday workout and perhaps that grade is reflective of that.

mathgent 12:48 PM  

I'm embarrassed that I couldn't figure out the theme even though I finished the puzzle correctly. I did notice that each of the theme entries had the same letter in both circles.

I'm reminded about a puzzle I once did. I don't remember it exactly but it was similar to this.

A 4x4 grid that looked like this when filled in:

C C C C

I I I I

T T T T

Y Y Y Y

The clues were like:

1A. Spots.

5A. Ogles.

6A. Seductress.

7A. Worldly.

1D, 2D, 3D, 4D. Urban area.





Andrew Heinegg 12:48 PM  

Did this one bring out both sides of the opinion fence or what!? While I solved it, I must confess I did not enjoy the experience of doing so.

I have many of the same complaints as others e.g., izzatso, spyfi and O'Brien. I also consider 40a tenet as a lousy answer for a saying or adage. Tenet implies a fundamental principle or foundation for something, at least that is my sense of the word.

To be completely frank, I never enjoy the methodology employed in this puzzle. 'Mr. Polin's is a very skilled and experienced constructor but, I did not see this as one of his better efforts and I am mystified by OFL's criticism combined with the B rating. But, it was a good Thursday workout and perhaps that grade is reflective of that.

crabsofsteel 12:50 PM  

I object to IZZATSO, next thing you know we'll see WTF.

phil phil 1:07 PM  

With a construction background I thought cant only meant tilt or slant, like the the tower of pisa is canted. Battered would be in the same wheelhouse for me. Its on a cant if its battered.

But dnf with CHOir for CHORD and googled argot
Toughy, glad Rex explained the theme. I think too tough, theme as 'say the circled letters' would have made it much less difficult.

Larry Gilstrap 1:22 PM  

Ever use the Touch Tunes app to control your local juke box? Great fun! So I got home late and was planning to knock off this puzzle and then head out to catch the Perseid meteor shower. The desert night sky offered perfect viewing conditions. Staring ensued as a result of cluelessness, both figurative and literal. How am I supposed to [See circled letters] when there are none? Ok,set this aside and stare at the sky instead. Finally finished this morning, despite that OKEEFE/EDMOND intersection. Not sure I have ever seen a Qdoba. Most of my life I have known NIMROD to be a hunter, both in Genesis and in sporting goods advertising. Somehow, the name has morphed into something else. When and why did that happen?

Unknown 1:26 PM  

Thank you. I couldn't figure out the theme even when it was all done. (with help from the check puzzle tool.)

Teedmn 1:32 PM  

This puzzle gave me a lot of trouble - I'm surprised I didn't have a SNEEZing fit. Six long acrosses with no clues and then trickiness in the other clues besides. I am so doomed for this weekend's tournament - this took me a half hour and I got the theme at CONFISCATE!

Lots of black splotches: at 44A, I entered ShEEsh off the EE. It is certainly an irritation reaction, albeit at myself, usually. 49D was "noble", then RoyAL, then REGAL. Not knowing 21A, I filled in "arMOND". I stopped 3D at CANDYC and couldn't think past CANDYCanes, not especially associated with Halloween. 15A was "free" before AMOK. Never heard of Qdoba, turns out there are three in the Twin Cities so new info.

At least I wasn't stumped by 11D, CAROL went right in. REAIR was my first entry in the grid. 42D, LEI, didn't hold me up at all. The SW was the only place I thought I was going to throw in the towel. I had the *eyes* of 47A but was convinced they referred to "ice", which wasn't ever going to give me SCRUTINIZES. I finally guessed FRAT, which gave me ScI-FI and I was able to scratch my way out of that.

Super Thursday, Mr. Polin. Please tell me you didn't construct any of the Lollapuzzoola puzzles :-).

Z 1:54 PM  

Qdoba, Chipotle, Moes, Salsarita, are there others? There's about as much difference between the cafeteria style Tex-Mex fast food joints as there is between OLY, Coors, Bud, Miller, Strohs, and PBR. If you want a good TACO visit your nearest food truck. It will probably be better and almost certainly will be at least as good.

Numinous 1:55 PM  

I loved IZZAT SO. Really. I was not the least bit surprised to see it once I did. It rings bells in the back of my head, I'm just not sure exactly which ones but as I say it to myself aloud, it rolls so LIFE OF RILEY off my tongue. Saying, "is that so,'" just sounds irritatingly pedantic to me. I'm a real stickler for some pronounciation and apparently pretty sloppy with some other pronounciation. My Australian perpetually accused me of saying, "ant" for "and". I swore I never did ant accused back that she listened sloppily. Fifteen years after the marriage ended, when I returned to OZ to see my daughter married, her mum still got on to me over that.

I give myself an F for this puzzle, I tanked it. Totally. It took me twice as long as it should have. Some days, I'm just not particularly bright; this is one of them. I googled for the proper nouns, I never read The Count of Monte Cristo, I couldn't cram Big Brother in for OBRIEN whom I did not remember. I'll buy that SPY-FI is a sub-genre but I tried mightily to put in Umoja for UNITY. Sometimes it doesn't pay to google after all. I really sucked at this one.

I'd have given this puzzle a straight B. IZZAT SO? Yeah except that little gem pumped it to a B+. Then I came here and learned the conceit which, for me, gives the puzzle an A. Handing out letter grades can be objective if there is some way of applying a scaled standard as in points for correct answers. Letter grades can also be personal and subjective. I don't believe @Rex's grades are absolutes. I like the way he adopted MGs approach. Clearly shows that @Rex can adapt and change. My second wife, the erstwhile PHd candidate in clinical psychology, thought adaptiveness was an ideal trait.

Lewis 2:05 PM  

@numinous: "It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change."

Teedmn 2:37 PM  

@Roo Monster's comment just made me realize that FEN and OLY are barely disguised protagonists in bad Minnesota Scandinavian jokes. (hi @rondo).

OLY was a thing for a while in southern Minnesota in the '70s, perhaps for the same reason that Coors was - it wasn't always available for purchase and then suddenly it was attainable. It never replaced PBR in popularity, however.

Vancouver Nana 2:40 PM  

But for the record (as a Washingtonian) Oly was terrible beer but cheap (popular with '70's college kids) and as soon as better options came along, Oly Brewing mercifully went out of business! You can no longer get Oly thank goodness!! Maybe one reason Oregon and Washington have such outstanding craft breweries is to atone for Oly--which I thought was the most dated clue/answer in entire puzzle. Hope this was a Shortz edit. Can't believe the wonderful Polin would come up with such a clue!!����

Nancy 2:41 PM  

@Hartley (12:06) -- It was the inimitable Judith Viorst who wrote the deathless line: "I am philosophically opposed to ironing." (Unless she said: "I am philosophically opposed to vacuuming." Since I'm philosophically opposed to both, I never can remember.) But I chuckled over your description of your ironing experience.

I ironed exactly once in my life. I was on a cross-country train trip with a bunch of other 16-year-old girls and one of them had brought her own iron with her. (!) I had packed a light blue man's shirt. (Girls wearing men's shirts were considered cool back in the day.) But nothing( gets more wrinkled in a suitcase than a man's long-sleeve cotton shirt. (There was no such thing as permanent press back then, I'm sure there wasn't.) I asked to borrow the girl's iron and began. I couldn't believe all those pleats! I know I would never have even started if I realized that there were so many pleats! I worked fiercely for at least 20 minutes, sweat pouring down me, too, @Hartley. And when I was finished, there were more wrinkles than when I had started. It seemed that I had ironed wrinkles in!

I handed the iron back to the girl who had loaned it to me. I have never touched one again.

Joe Bleaux 2:52 PM  

That balloon thing got me, too. Only thing I can figure is that it's an allusion to the areas that a comic strip character's words or thoughts appear in.

Joe Bleaux 3:02 PM  

I finished the SOB! And as for the puzzle ... some other time. I'm worn out.

Dolgo 3:43 PM  

Too many comments to read through this late. The pedant-in-residence has to agree with Rex that "cant" and "argot" are not really synonyms (look them up if you care!), but close enough, I guess.

Karl Bradley 3:47 PM  

Tough. I did like the gimmick. I did not like the SW where I could not come up with CHORD or SPYFI. Tried CHOIR FOR 48D, which along with no idea on 47D lead to a DNF. I was comforted by the fact that RP also thinks that SPYFI is not a thing.

Chronic dnfer 4:08 PM  

Dnf. Tougher than recents Saturday. Much

Mohair Sam 4:20 PM  

Having never hard of Qdoba before, we had lunch at the one in Conshohocken, PA today. Manager (maybe franchisee) seemed non-plussed that he'd been a clue in the Times today, and was markedly disappointed in TACO as the answer. The cashier, on the other hand, thought the clue thing was really cool and upgraded Lady Mohair's Drunken Yardbird Taco to a full Kid's meal while throwing in a two for one brisket Taco coupon for next time we're there. Can't beat that - this NYT puzzle thing has a real payoff.

Nancy 5:09 PM  

@Anoa Bob (10:38 a.m.) -- Sorry I missed your query earlier. "He" looked vaguely familiar to me, but I had to Google to find out where in the park he resides. He's evidently at the SW corner of the park entrance -- an area I'm not in that often. Still, over the decades I imagine I've walked past him scores of times. As I say, he looks vaguely familiar. But I'm not a big statue person -- I'm too busy oohing and aahing over the flora and the fauna. And flirting with every dog. There are lots and lots of statues in Central Park and I've seen them all, without really seeingthem if you know what I mean. Of course, if you happen to be a statue person, you may not know what I mean. I apologize in advance for my observational deficiencies.

Gregory Schmidt 6:18 PM  

Pretty challenging for me, but satisfying to finally crack. Some of the fill was groan-inducing.

Michael 6:36 PM  

I was doing fine on this until I got to the SW. Tried all sorts of things - "hold" for 'stand by", "scifi" instead of "spyfi" [!} though this didn't seem right, "combo" for the musical trio with "imam" for the wise guy (but neither of these seemed right), googled "kwanza" and saw a couple of five letter principles beginning with "u" (not "unity") finally gave up and came here. Got the theme reasonably early.

Diana,LIW 7:28 PM  

To all Lollapazoolers - have a great time! Looking forward to the stories. Lucky youse - you get to meet the fun and funny @Teedmn, who will talk Puzzle with you and make you laugh. Safe travels, all.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

Selwyn-Lloyd McPherson 6:08 AM  

I usually do the crossword after work, generally over a pint and a bit to eat. Apparently, everyone is primordially drawn to these things and so I always get to talk to strangers about words and puzzles. It very easily becomes a team sport and puzzles seem to be a kind of cultural language through which to chat about. . . things? Things.

Anyway, the first reaction, most often, is some form of "oh, I can never do these things" or "I don't know anything about trivia."

I'm plenty fine with Thursday puzzles but this one, as others found, was a good bit harder. I almost literally said to myself, "[$%*!], I don't know anything about trivia!"

Be thankful for the puzzles you don't finish. Be thankful for idiotic clues. It certainly doesn't hurt the squares none.

Anonymous 1:29 PM  

@Dolgo

Oxford American English Dictionary:

ARGOT: The jargon or slang of a particular group or class
CANT: Language peculiar to a specified group or profession and regarded with disparagement:

Not really that different, no?

Roz 2:27 PM  

I like Rex's comment: "Tough, but ultimately fair. Solid, acceptable work, even if I was irked more than I was scintillated." Because as a crossword puzzle fan, especially of the NYT, I like puzzles to be tough and that often means the puzzle-maker has to use misdirection and vague clueing to keep me away from a quick solve. So I'll take IZZATSO and SPYFI, even though, the solve "argot" for CANT, I can't.

Sheryl 11:04 PM  

Say the letters, get a word? Holy crap. I never saw this in a puzzle before and had no idea that this is what was going on until I came here and read Rex's post. Found the puzzle confusing and hard. I guess I'll know for next time.

eleveniss 6:47 PM  

AMA = Ask Me Anything on blogs and apparently, AMA can be clued as "fitness group", too, as per the Sunday August 14th puzzle, neither of which I had never thought of until now. Learned two new clues for the ubiquitous AMA ;]

eleveniss 6:48 PM  

*ever

Edac2day 11:00 PM  

Just now finished this horror, after four days. I never got the stupid theme, even though I figured out the double letters early on.

Burma Shave 10:00 AM  

ONO! NONO! SIREN AMOK (HOWS HOS?)

GOODGOLLY, if CAROL would IDLY SLIPON her TEDDY
and RUNTHROGH ANY FRAT house, the COTs would be ready.
She’d FLIRTHWITH each NIMROD while wearing no BREECHes
as she SCRUTINIZES who GETSTO play with her REGAL peaches.

EDMOND OBRIEN & SCOT OKEEFE

spacecraft 11:04 AM  

Wow, from the ridiculous to the sublime! But too early; this is Saturday fare. On my first RUNTHROUGH the clues, I thought: I don't know ANY of this! And the theme clues weren't going to be much help, either. I mean, "[see circled letters]" is not much to go on. I nearly quit before I started.

But...let's go with RErun, and...no. But then DOD EDIE Brickell came to me, and who was that Burton character, the Big Brother guy? The brain shook off the rust: OBRIEN! So there was a start.

Somewhat later, as I was (incredibly!) looking at the completed northern half, I tried to figure out what was going on with the themers. Stared and stared. and then the lights came on. A real honest-to-goodness epiphany, that one. How immensely clever!

No problem with "tease" being FLIRTWITH. Teasing doesn't ALWAYS mean withholding at the end... Nor do I mind IZZATSO or SPYFI. MI was one of my all-time TV highlights. There were no scheduling conflicts, ever. When it was on, I was THERE. I'm still waiting for the director of many of those episodes, Reza BADIYI, to make a xword appearance. Constructors?

Mr. Polin has knocked it out of the park. Ooh, wrong sport! EAGLE! TOUCHDOWN! Or, in Newspeak: doubleplusgood!

rondo 12:30 PM  

Not much to show for the first pass through the clues. RErun was a gimme the first time through, changing it to REAIR made all the difference in the whole puz as things finally fell together. Made a mess in the SW for reasons too dumb to mention. Had all the themers filled except SCRUTINIZES without figuring the trick, then aha and it’s done.

One bit of a nit: a PULLEY doesn’t do any of the actual lifting of a weight, it facilitates a mechanical advantage to the rope or cable that does the actual lifting. Unless it is a Howard PULLEY, which is an AAU summer basketball league here in the Twin Cities.

Lotsa Os in the SE with DINO NONO ONO ENERO and elsewhere for starters OVINE OLY OKEEFE OBRIEN.

I s’pose everybody’s heard about the guy who married a NUN?
NUN in the morning, NUN in the afternoon, and NUN at night.

Given the chance I would FLIRTWITH SIREN EDIE Brickell, yeah baby. Nothing to SNEEZE at there.

Speaking of SIREN, I played golf at SIREN National in SIREN, WI last weekend. When a SCHMO like me GETSTO play a course like that . . . GOODGOLLY.

Tough and different Thurs-puz which was no RUNTHROUGH the meadow. But no complaints from this NIMROD.

Diana,LIW 2:13 PM  

Haven't read the comments yet...

When the first few clues I laid my eyes on were "You've got to be kidding" woes, I knew cheating land wasn't far off. This puzzle threw me overboard and then refused to throw out a lifesaver. Is it really Saturday already?

Loved the word play, did as much of that as I could before looking up some obscure (to me) answers. Never got the theme, but I did get the themers. I do remember a theme like this before - must keep it in mind. For when it shows up in 10 years - har.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for EEs

eastsacgirl 2:59 PM  

Managed to get 3 of the "circled" answers with crosses but took a while to get that DOH moment. Otherwise was was a "medium" puzzle. Didn't hate it as much as others.

leftcoastTAM 3:21 PM  

After a first RUNTHROUGH with meager results, got through about half of it before caving.

Did get the double letters, but didn't connect them to a theme, and cleverness and elusiveness of clues left me without recourse but to cheat.

GOODGOLLY is not strong enough to express my reaction to this one.

Anonymous 5:01 PM  


Enjoyability rating on this puzzle: 0. (only because the systems does not use negative numbers.)

rain forest 9:46 PM  

I had a wonderful day on the links with three friends, and burgers and beer after the round, so I didn't get to the puzzle until this evening.

I haven't read any comments, but I found this to be delightfully challenging. Sometimes a puzzle is so difficult that you just want to give up, but this one had so many places where I had to work, and when a couple of crosses or adjacent answers worked out, I just felt like I had to persevere. It took a long time before seeing the theme, I had to get LIFE OF RILEY, then looked back at CONFISCATE before I saw what was going on. Even then, it was still a struggle, but a very enjoyable one. Maybe it was because I had 3 birdies in my round (which made me forget the outlandish slices on other holes), but I had a blast with this puzzle.

Mucho fun. Now let's go see what Mr. Curmudgeon had to say.

rondo 10:12 PM  

@rainy - impressed with your 3 birds. I had 3 pars on a champiionship course over the weekend and was delighted to have those 3 pars, even though that one bird atttempt sat on the rim of the cup. So much appreciate your puz comments. Rained out tonight after 3 holes. So it was just a TT.

rain forest 10:32 PM  

Figures. For me, IZZATSO was the highlight of the entire puzzle.

Sailor 12:05 AM  

Hand up for loving IZZATSO! I don't get why this great word caused such outrage. I thought the puzzle was fiendishly clever, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I did think it suffered from some imprecise clues, however. 40 A is an adage, not a TENET. Shooting stars do not ARC except in Disney cartoons; they flash in a straight line across the sky. Stephen Colbert is a comedian, which is a very different thng than a wit, in my book (and regardless of what Wikipedia says).

So: I would have enjoyed this puzzle even more if the clues had been consistently of high quality. But I enjoyed it plenty even so.

wcutler 2:52 PM  

I don't usually mind if I can't finish a puzzle, but I didn't even get half the clues. OK, so it was hard for me. But with so many names I didn't know as clues or answers (never even heard of Qdoba), and then all those long clues with no clues (since I only had one pair of circled letters and wasn't very confident of ARGOT), there was way too little to work with. It was sort of like doing an unclued puzzle. I got the top left, 5x7. I like the air when it's cold clue, though I didn't get it when I was doing it.

I don't understand NOSES for "trunks, of a sort". I kept this for an extra day to see if I fill any more in, and it's the syndicated one, so I hope someone is still reading these to reply.

George Barany 2:54 PM  

@WCutler in syndicationland. It's been a long long time since I looked at the puzzle, but could it be that "Trunks, of a sort" might refer to elephants?

Bananafish 3:41 PM  

This is the type of cluing that makes a crossword torture. Intentionally vague and worse yet, intentionally peripheral. It is not tough but fair cluing - it is tough and unfair. The constructor was intent on making this puzzle tough, so he selected clues that were peripherally synonymous rather than actually synonymous, or otherwise misleading.

Good golly, where do I start?

NIMROD and SCHMO for "Jerk." Just no. Neither NIMROD nor SCHMO is a synonym for "Jerk". In the universe I live in, a jerk is someone who is *intentionally* irksome while a nimrod or a schmo are unintentionally irksome dimwits. If there were no better synonym to use, use of a peripheral synonym like this might be tolerable, but there are *dozens* of wonderful alternatives that are not unfair: dimwit, dolt, lamebrain, pinhead, nincompoop, etc.

FRAT for "Band of brothers?". What does "band" have to do with this clue. Nothing, that's what. The constructor knew that "Brothers" (without a question mark) would have been perfectly acceptable ("Bros" would be even better since it would suggest the shortening of fraternity to frat). But he was intent on being clever and cute, so he added the "band of" to the beginning to call to mind the highly thought of HBO mini-series (from a decade and a half ago now, so that is not exactly fresh). Once he did that, however, he knew the added "band of" gave the clue a bit of a sheen of being a misdirection. "Hmmmm, how to fix that? Oh, I know - I'll just add a question mark!" No no no no no no no - the clue is still a literal synonym for the answer. The misdirection comes not from figurative or atypical use of a word or phrase - it comes from unnecessary baggage in the clue. That is not fixed by adding an unnecessary question mark that further murks up the clue.

TENET for "'It is better to give than receive,' e.g." Rex already discussed this - that is not a tenet. An axiom, adage, maxim, sure, but a tenet? No, not really. (And one could certainly argue that in reality, it is much better to receive than to give.)

CAROL for "Air when it's cold outside?" The word "air" just does not work here, either as a noun or a verb. As a noun, physical air is not a carol. As a verb, singers themselves do not "air" a song; a radio station might "air" a carol in the winter, but that does not mean the radio station is in the act of "caroling". The clue simply does not work.

TITAN for "Captain of industry." Captain of industry is a phrase that describes a certain type of businessperson. Titan of industry is another phrase that describes that same type of businessperson. But there is a reason in both cases "of industry" is added - without those words, the phrases describe something else altogether. So a titan (sans "of industry") is no more a captain of industry than a captain (sans "of industry") is a titan of industry. This is just imprecise cluing kept imprecise solely for the purpose of making the puzzle difficult.

Combine the above with other minor cluing imprecision (e.g., for WHETS, I prefer "Excites, in a way" as more accurate than merely "Excites"), and this puzzle was a slog.

P.S. As opposed to many here, I have no problem at all with IZZATSO or SPYFI. The idea that entries have to be common words, phrases or expressions is way overblown among the crossword cognoscenti on this blog. As long as an entry is inferable by using your brain -- i.e., to work out the puzzle of what the entry is -- they are fine. Both those entries easy qualify (and in fact, SPYFI is quite clever).

wcutler 7:19 PM  

@George Barany, thank you for the elephant trunks! Of course, now that you say so. I was never going to think of that.

Anonymous 5:04 PM  

How is late start? an ell??

George Barany 5:37 PM  

@Anonymous at 5:04 pm. The word "late" starts with the letter "l" = ELL. It's a Thursday clue.

wcutler 7:46 PM  

@Anonymous at 5:04, an el is an L, the first letter (start to (of)) the word late.

Anonymous 3:36 PM  

Ohhhhh, ok, Thank you George and wcutler

Anonymous 4:47 PM  

That irritated me, too. A NUN is a person, not a creature.

Hated SPYFI, merely despised IZZATSO (I thought of it, and discarded it as unworthy before plugging it in), and disagree with TENET.

  © Free Blogger Templates Columnus by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP