Abu Bakr others / THU 9-29-16 / Staples of Indiana Jones films / Designer Mode of Incredibles / Numero of Disney Caballeros / Onetime Venetian leaders / Sullivan who taught Helen Keller / Uber calculation briefly / Noted exile of 1979 / Spanish provincial capital / Like Aramaic language

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Constructor: Jonathan M. Kaye

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: DIVIDED [BY] (61A: ÷ — word "BY" in theme answers reads as [DD] (for "B") in one Down and [VI] (for "Y") in the other because


See, it's like someone took the word "BY" and "DIVIDED" it in two, horizontally.

Theme answers:
  • BYPRODUCT (17A: Carbon dioxide or water vis-à-vis cellular respiration)
  • MADE BY HAND (29A: Artisinal, maybe)
  • BOOBY TRAPS (46A: Staples of Indiana Jones films) (I just remember the one, but if you say "staples," I'm gonna trust you...)
Word of the Day: GSA (44A: Fed. property overseer) —
The General Services Administration (GSA) is an independent agency of the United States government, established in 1949 to help manage and support the basic functioning of federal agencies. The GSA supplies products and communications for U.S. government offices, provides transportation and office space to federal employees, and develops government-wide cost-minimizing policies, and other management tasks. (wikipedia)
• • •

Clever theme (I've seen the bifurcated letter gimmick before, but not like this, I don't think). Fill was ecru-boring—exceedingly unremarkable and stale—but not, it is worth noting, Bad. Not ugh-laden. Just boring. Not a clever, interesting, remarkable, noteworthy answer In The Bunch. That in itself might be a feat. A terrible feat, but a feat. But (as is not atypical) the theme carries all the interest, and it is interesting. There's only one issue with this puzzle—grasping the gimmick. After that, ho hum. In fact, the puzzle gets considerably easier after that. So the issue is, how / when did you grasp it. I got the "DD" / "VI" thing pretty early, after I could tell in the NW that IN VITRO was gonna have to be the answer at 2D: Kind of fertilization. Thought at first there'd be a state rebus ("NV"), but no, it was the "VI." After a "DD" pulled up right alongside it, my first thought (not surprisingly) was "Oh, a Roman numeral ... something. So, what is that ... hmm ... carry the 2 ... 1006 PRODUCT? What the!?" Sometime a little bit later, as I was working on another part of the grid, the fact the answer had to be BYPRODUCT occurred to me, and there was my aha moment. After that—fill in the blanks.

NE might've been the hardest section to get into, largely because I didn't know who Abu Bakr was (10D: Abu Bakr and others => CALIPHS), but SHAH was a gimme (9D: Noted exile of 1979) and OVERLAID wasn't too hard (I had -LAID in place) (11D: Like veneer), so that corner wasn't actually hard at all. None of it was. I'd've rated this Easy, but the time spent figuring out the gimmick, plus the slightly time-inflating trick-square-hunting put this one overall in average difficulty territory. I wish the fill had any life to it, so that I felt like commenting on it, but it doesn't, and I don't, so I'm off to watch Sam Bee. Good night. 

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


SactoMatt 12:30 AM  

Refreshing after 2 days of absolute dreck. Great review; favorite part is comment on the themes. I am a huge Indy fan and I also remember only one booby trap. I went back to consult my Indiana Jones comics and indeed, I can only verify the fertility idol from the Chachapoyas that was in the Temple of Doom. Thanks for the ride down memory lane!

Richard Rutherford 12:35 AM  

Thought it was Three Amigos, not Caballeros...oh well.

Richard Rutherford 12:37 AM  

Indy also faced booby traps galore in Last Crusade, seeking the Grail.

Richard Rutherford 12:38 AM  

Indy also faced booby traps galore in Last Crusade, seeking the Grail.

Anoa Bob 1:33 AM  

I count twelve themers, including the reveal at 61 Across. There are the four Acrosses, where BY remains united, and eight Downs where BY gets bifurcated. That's a ton of space taken up by the theme. So fill like STRASSE, IGUANA, CALIPH & MAESTRO, all interesting to me, is bonus and commendable. All that plus only 33 black squares, which is quite low for a middish-week themed puzzle, makes this a top-notch puzzle in my book.

One quibble. I do the puzzle on the NYT web page and there was a rather convoluted note about there being some elements of the puzzle that could not be reproduced digitally, but that the puzzle could still be solved digitally, and if there are any questions or need for further explanation, then go to www. yada yada yada. Whaaaat!? Confusing and distracting.

I recall reading advice on the publishers specification sheet at cruciverb.com to the effect that an aspiring constructor submitting a puzzle should not include any explanatory notes on what the theme was intended to be, because if the theme needed additional, extra-grid explanation, it was it would not be accepted anyway.

So I think the above mentioned note was not only distracting but unnecessary and seemed to go against the editorial policy in the spec sheet.

AliasZ 1:42 AM  

I found this a fun puzzle to solve. I had no idea what was going on, even though I always keep rebus in the back of my mind on Thursdays. Until I got to TREVI, that is. Aha! no. 1. I still didn't know there was a DD preceding VI until WEDDINGS a little later. Aha! no. 2. Then I saw that the word BY is DIVIDED along its horizontal axis. Aha! no. 3. Too bad that the online version had the DDs and VIs sit alongside instead of atop one another.

After I finished, it was a pleasure to survey and appreciate the completed grid. The re-parsing of DIVIDED "BY" was quite clever. Did you know that the ÷ sign is called obelus (ὀβελός)? Yeah, me too.

Very clean fill as well (except an IRED here and an ELS ENT EST there), and better than average cluing. I especially liked NUDE beach, and "Buona SERA" definitely beats the plural of serum. The overuse of "like" as silence filler is one of my PEEVES among many others, like: "So..." or "Dude" at the start of a sentence, and "just sayin'" at the end of it. "Just sayin'" implies that s/he didn't seriously mean what s/he had said before. If you don't really mean something, don't say it. Just shut up.

Looking at the word at 11D, my mind started wandering (a BYPRODUCT of exhaustion): could some people like Casanova, Don Juan, Hugh Hefner, et al. be considered, or did they consider themselves, "like veneers": OVERLAID?

Let me close with some medieval music by LÉONin (second half of 12th-century), of the Notre Dame school of polyphonic organum: Alleluya Pascha nostrum. It is mesmerizing.

@Rex, happy belated anniversary.

puzzle hoarder 1:56 AM  

I found this to be difficult but in a satisfying way. The trickiness was compounded by write overs and difficulty remembering some of the newer entries. I knew there had to be a rebus for INVITRO. Having TEVI at 32D for awhile slowed down the V/I discovery. BUDDYS at 1D did the same for the D/D rebus. Do they mean BUBBAS? When I got the theme I "divided" the solution by using a single B and a V/I rebus. It was accepted and I got the congrats but even knowing the trick to the theme it was never easy. ETSY and ELBA were hard to recall. The EDNA clue threw me completely. I never caught on that Mode was a name. I put in EDNA thinking it must be some CGI type of acronym. All of this was easy to correct compared to the S E corner. I really thought 48A must be virus with a V/I rebus. ANCIENT disabused me of that idea but left me clueless and NSFW had to go in from the crosses. I came away with a clean grid but it took Saturday time.

Anonymous 2:26 AM  

That note about seeing the blog was horrible. I saw the /divided by/ sign and caught the gimmick right there.

jae 2:58 AM  

So I loaded this one up on my iPad Standalone app (I'm still on a mini vacation) and got a @anoa bob cryptic message/warning about non digital aspects of the puzzle and instructions to go to Wordplay. I ignored the warning and dove into the solve. When I hit the reveal it confirmed what I had already figured out and I went back and put a "rebus" in the eight BY squares. That got me the Standalone's app version of Mr. Happy Pencil. Medium for me too for the reasons @Rex mentioned.

Unlike yesterday's which was a tad annoying, I liked this one, pretty clever, @lms never noticed the fill.

Scott 3:31 AM  

This puzzle was very easy for Thursday for me. Yesterday's puzzle was also easy, so maybe it's just an easy week. Got the rebuses right away, with IN VITRO and then BUDDIES and the themer told me it was B and Y the other way, but it wasn't clear why that was until I got to DIVIDED BY and the division symbol, which I must say is a lousy way to illustrate stacking letters. I guess Jonathan Kaye and Will Shortz want us to divide the letters but it seems more more natural to be stacking them, and I would argue that the division symbol is a "visual" hint, not a "literal" hint. When I finished, Puzzazz gave me a Show Explanation button, which neatly showed me exactly how it worked with big stacked letters, a visual payoff of sorts. My guess is it's exactly what we'll see in tomorrow's PDF.

Martín Abresch 3:40 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Martín Abresch 3:53 AM  

If I'm seeing this correctly, the only capital letters that can be split horizontally into two separate capital letters are B, Y, and P—and P (D + I) is less elegant than the others because the I is on the left rather than centered. If you want to stretch things, I can be divided into itself (I + I) and E could be F + L if you squint. B and Y are easily the best letters to work with, making DIVIDED BY fortuitous indeed!

My solve began similar to Rex's (albeit much, much slower). I got BUDDIES and IN VITRO but couldn't make sense of DD and VI. My first guess was Roman numerals. (That the letters allowed for this deception is another bit of fortuity.) Unlike Rex, I gave up in the NW and struck off for greener pastures. My eureka moment came after I had entered MADE BY HAND and wanted desperately to cross it with VISES. Wait a second! VISES begins with VI! Ha-ha! That laugh was out loud, and it startled some of my compatriots at the bus stop.

A lovely trick. Well done, Jonathan M. Kaye!

Rex commented that the fill was remarkably unremarkable. Out of curiosity, I went over to XWordInfo, checked today's puzzle using that site's Analyze Puzzle feature. I'm sure that many of you know this already, but one of the tools for analysis is a little gizmo called Freshness Factor, which "compares the number of times words in this puzzle have appeared in other Shortz Era puzzles." Today's Freshness Factor was more fresh than only 7.5% of all puzzles and 4.1% of Thursday puzzles. According to this, Rex is spot-on.

Digging just a bit deeper, some of the rarer words don't strike me as new or rare. I am surprised to see that BUDDIES has only been used once (in 1959!). FREDDIE and CALIPHS haven't been used before in the Shortz Era. IN VITRO was used in 2008, DETAINEE in 2007, WEDDINGS in 1989 and 1951. Unlike the Freshness Factor gizmo, I wouldn't call any of these words "fresh." So it seems to me that digging into things further confirms Rex's intuition.

All that makes it sound like I didn't like the fill, but I was incredibly impressed by how clean it was. This wasn't just four theme answers, it was four theme answers each crossed by a DD and VI word. That's a lot stuff to work with, but the only square in the entire puzzle that I didn't like was at the RES/SERA crossing. Everything else was clean as a whistle.

I liked the clues for BY-PRODUCT (Carbon dioxide or water vis-à-vis cellular respiration), WHIR (Drone of a drone, say), ATARI (Its version of table tennis had a square ball), NEIL (Buzz preceder, famously), EST (Is written on papyrus?), and FREDDIE (Big Mac?). And, of course, I loved the simplicity of the clue for the revealer. Always fun to have a non-alphanumeric symbol* in a clue.

*An obelus! Thanks, @AliasZ!

Last, there most definitely were BOOBY TRAPS in all three Indiana Jones films.** Raiders of the Lost Ark opens with the famous boulder scene. Temple of Doom had a spiky room with a lowering ceiling. In The Last Crusade (as @Richard Rutherford pointed out), Indy faced three trials before reaching the Grail.

**There are only three Indiana Jones films.

Loren Muse Smith 4:00 AM  

I feel so crestfallen. I got the entire thing filled (with one error: "calyphs/whyr" – didn't cotton to the terrific wordplay for "drone" and hence accepted that "whyr" was some technical drone word describing some technical drone spawn or whatever. Besides, I would've thought WHIR had two R's. Oops.)

But I never figured out how the trick worked. The thing that kept interfering was the coincidence that the letters DD and VI are part of the word DIVIDED. (@Martin A – fortuitous indeed!) I kept writing them in the margins trying to see how they worked vis-à-vis the word DIVIDED. This was all with magnificent disregard to understanding that they stood for the word BY. My MO for filling in two letters in one square is to put them in diagonally so as not to commit to a vertical or horizontal placement; I was never going to see the literal representation today, especially since I was fixated on the letters in DIVIDE. Now I feel dumb.

How. Cool. What a great idea. I especially liked disguising the BY in BOOBY TRAP. I was hoping that people wouldn't complain that it was the outlier.

"Sugar" before SCARE. Was thinking "water" before I wrote in "sugar." Personally, I love having the hiccups and I'm not kidding. I never look to get rid of them. They just lift my spirits a little bit. They feel so silly.

"Isolate" before SECLUDE. I can't be alone on that one.

Oh, and I liked NUDE beach crossing SECLUDE. Yes, please. I'm not evolved enough to be all cool and ok within eyeshot of a bunch of nekkid people.

Liked the clue for 43A ELS. How 'bout this one -"center of excellence?"

The few times I've been around IGUANAS, I've felt a little better knowing they're herbivores. Evil looking, those guys. Grumpy. (I paused at the "a" before the word "herbivore" in the clue. I would say "an herbivore." Guess it's a British/American thing?)

@Alias Z – I disagree with your take on "just sayin." For me, it feels more like, "Look. I know you might not like what I just said – I simply threw this out for consideration, but I'm not coming down on either side." I like "just sayin' ". And peppering speech with "like" doesn't really get to me anymore.

Subject me to someone, though? Who upspeaks? Like every phrase? Out of their mouth? Sounds like a question? I cannot concentrate on the content of the statement. I just listen and listen and listen for the final statement that will be the "down speak" part, the end. Sometimes it never happens. Bugs the bejeezuz out of me.

I love this puzzle – TRES SWEET - and wish I had been able to have that huge aha moment. Just figuring out the rebus was satisfying, but, well, oh well.

da kine 4:12 AM  

I thought this was an excellent puzzle. The constructor should be very proud of it.

Lewis 7:40 AM  

I got the double rebus, but I don't think I ever would have figured out the stacking of DD and VI to account for "BY". As it turns out, figuring that part out wasn't necessary for the solve, but I'm wondering how many people figured that out. I did notice a mini theme of double E's (5). Anyway, I may not have fully understood the theme, but ddvi golly, I at least solved the durn thing!

Glimmerglass 7:55 AM  

@Rex, I don't really know what to do with your comment that the the fill today was "boring." You say it wasn't bad, or stale crosswordese, or not real things -- just "boring." What comes to mind is a 17th century French nobleman who affects a world-weariness. He's seen it all, done everything worth doing. Nothing impresses him. So he just sneers at the world, perhaps taking a pinch of snuff.

NCA President 7:56 AM  

Like @Lewis, I finished the puzzle by sheer force recognizing the rebuses could only be DD and VI. What that meant, for me, was absolutely nothing. I came here to find out. But knowing that BY was divided in half did nothing to help the solve. Did it help anyone with the solve? I knew that DD/VI was a substitute for "by" and I knew that the pattern was DD/VI, which, after I figured that out, I just filled in the blanks. So yeah, nothing.

I will give the puzzle the usual "wow, you thought of that?" props...but there seemed to be something missing I can't quite put my finger on.

A lot of gimmes for me for a Thursday: SCOPE, ALERT, ITSADEAL, among others. Monday-easy gimmes.

I like the clue for ATARI.

Apart from that, easy Thursday except for figuring out the actual theme...and I guess for that, I get a DNF.

Passing Shot 7:58 AM  

Enjoyed Wednesday's, DNF. Did not enjoy today's, finished. Go figure...

Carola 8:06 AM  

Very fun. I caught on to the DIVIDED letters at WEDDINGS and VISES; the crossing MADE BY HAND allowed me to go back and get the earlier BY-PRODUCT. But the next one was appropriately a BOOBY TRAP for me: I neglected to divide the second B, thinking that for opperating (a corporation) you'd need an MBA...but I couldn't find a way to wrestle an MBA 'GREE into a full deGREE. Anyway, I loved that hidden "BY" when I finally saw it.

I agree with @Anoa Bob about the fine entries. I especially like SHAH next to CALIPHS.

@Loren, I join you with sugar and isolate, but "Just sayin'" is one of my PEEVES.

I'm on the road this week so missed earlier puzzles, but now I'm intrigued by yesterday's and will try to get to it.

Charles Flaster 8:14 AM  

Big time DNF in SE. Never changed DIVIDE bys to DIVIDED BY so that discombobulated
three answers.
Had the gimmick immediately in NW with IN VITRO. Thought 42D should have had (abbr.) in clue for MD DEGREE.
Liked cluing for TOW and ELS.
Many write overs: WISE for anew, ELS for Ese, SHAH for Amin, SCARE for water, and
SWEET for SWEll.
ELBA (Idris) needs to become part of crosswordease.
One of my more recent pet PEEVES is BTW,
especially in an oral conversation.
A thought provoking exercise, so thanks JMK.

George Barany 8:14 AM  

Today marks @Jonathan Kaye's third New York Times puzzle, all Thursdays, and all within the past four months (debut end of June, then early August, and now end of September). So when @Rex writes that he's seen bifurcated letters before (though not exactly in this implementation), he's actually referring to this constructor's previous work!

I'm pressed for time, so let me just congratulate @Jonathan, thank @Rex for what--by the standards of earlier in the week--ranks as a relative rave, and express my appreciation to the first wave of the commentariat, especially @Anoa Bob, @AliasZ, @Martin Abresch, @Loren Muse Smith, @Lewis, @NCA President, and @Carola, for their insights and grace.

Finally, to reasonably regular commentator @Tita, happy birthday!

Vincent Lima 8:15 AM  

The fill wasn't bad, just boring, @Rex writes, adding, "That in itself might be a feat. A terrible feat, but a feat." Echoes of Ollivander: "He Who Must Not Be Named did great things; terrible, yes, but great."

I enjoyed the puzzle.

John Child 8:16 AM  

@Glimmerglass "Boring" is sort of harsh, but objectively there is a lot of thoroughly-used fill and relatively little that's uncommon. xwordinfo.com has a measure of this called "freshness." Today's puzzle, while very clever, has an unusually low freshness score.

I too saw the B = DD trick pretty quickly and remained baffled about Y = VI for a long time. Fun and just about right on Thursday.

kitshef 8:20 AM  

Loved it, but I'm a sucker for a fun theme. Neat theme plus the theme density means minimal junk is all I hope for, and we got that plus some nice non-themeres (as pointed out by Anoa Bob).

MAtador before MAESTRO slowed me down a bit, as did being unable to read my own writing and trying to figure out what cross could be incorrect in 'SELLUDE'.

In a word, SWEET.

Dean 8:22 AM  

Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi is a name in the news. He is (not, alas, "was") the self-proclaimed caliph of the self-proclaimed Islamic State, aka ISIL.

Bob C 8:24 AM  

Happy that actor Idris ELBA is getting his due and we can forget about Napolean's island and palindromes for a bit.

chefbea 8:32 AM  

Still don't get it????? what does DD and VI have to with BY???? can someone explain...please!!!

jberg 8:39 AM  

I'm trying to remember how I got this. I wanted BUDDIES and IN VITRO, but I couldn't figure out how to make the across work. Then TREVI confirmed the VI rebus, so I just went ahead -- and eventually noticed that the two Ds made a B. Only then did I notice that you can make a Y out of VI.

I was bothered at first by the stray B in BINS and Y in ETSY -- but since they are not part of a BY, I guess that's OK.

My biggest problem, once I had the theme, was seeing the O in MAESTRO and figuring there must be a thick and fluffy oreO.

@Dean, the original Abu Bakr was the first caliph after Muhammed -- the current guy took his name for propaganda reasons.

IRED is absolutely horrible; but there is nothing boring about a NUDE beach, or about cluing it that way. Just luck that I didn't write in'sand.'

Hungry Mother 8:46 AM  

I actually wrote down BY and DV
without seeing the gimmick, but got the theme very early and cruised through the solve anyway. This is the kind of puzzle that I really like.

Generic Solver 9:01 AM  

Count me among those who sussed out the rule that "DD" followed by "VI" is somehow equivalent to "BY", but never figured out why that equivalence holds. The "revealer" clue did not help. This rule was easy to determine knowing that Thursday is (sadly) "Rebus Day", and getting the fairly obvious answers for BUDDIES and IN VITRO. From there I mechanically placed those in wherever a "BY" was needed.

GILL I. 9:01 AM  

BUBIES made perfect sense to me so I never saw the DD. INVITRIO gave me the VI and I never went looking for the frickin DD.
EGGO is Thick and Fluffy? I'd rather EAT DIRT than pop those in my toaster. My PEEVE is basically it is what it is. That about sums up my experience today.

evil doug 9:06 AM  

The Buzz/Neil and New/tax clues were inspired.

Sir Hillary 9:27 AM  

@chefbea - If you write BY in caps, then bisect (divide) it horizontally, the B looks like two Ds, and the Y looks like a V on an I.

Hartley70 9:28 AM  

I too figured out the DD and VI squares and so answered the clues correctly, but I didn't understand the horizontal division of the word BY since on the phone app the letters can't be written vertically. I read the note before I began, so I was prepared for frustration.

Here's a thought. Since the NYT sells an online crossword subscription, why not publish puzzles that work equally well in both formats? This was an excellent puzzle for a print only venue. If the NYT wants to grow its future digital subscribers, and it must, it would be wise not to treat them as second class solvers.

Wm. C. 9:28 AM  

@LMS4:00 --

Another clue for ELS: "Six-Putter". ;-)

Sir Hillary 9:36 AM  

Nice puzzle -- just what a Thursday should be. The grid was easy to fill in, but it took me forever to figure out the physical division of BY into stacked Ds and Y over I. I got hung up on the fact that the word "DIVIDED" contains both multiple Ds and VI. I had the all-too-familiar feeling of flailing on a Gaffney meta. Very clever indeed.

Jack Lee 9:37 AM  

Would someone please explain 5A ("Fresh" – WISE) and 8D ("Is written on papyrus – EST)? Thanks.

Wm. C. 9:55 AM  

@JackLee --

A "Wise Guy" (not the Mafia type) could be callers "fresh" (as in:disrespectful).

Papyrus was used for writing in ancient times when Latin was broadly spoken. "Est" is third person singular of the verb "to be." (think: I'd Est => To Be)

Wm. C. 9:59 AM  

Sheesh, spell correction got me twice above!

That should be "called" and "Id Est."

Wm. C. 10:01 AM  

Oops, Id Est is "that is." Three and Out -- I hope!

Z 10:10 AM  

Abu Bakr is a pretty important person to know about. There's an old joke in my hometown, "If you have two Dutchmen you have a church, three Dutchmen and you have a schism." It seems the joke applies to more than just Calvinists.

I fully intended to print the puzzle out. I think the trick would be easier to see in written form.

@Evil Doug - Agreed. Those make up for the low freshness factor.

@LMS - "I can't be alone on that one." I see what you did there.

QuasiMojo 10:14 AM  

Sometimes I think I have a split personality, but this time I am of one mind. I despise the concept of dividing letters in crossword puzzles. First off, why not slice them vertically? Oh, I see. Because then you can't make different words out of them. But do these letters actually function as stand-alone letters if cut in half? They don't look like real letters, not in any alphabet I've seen. So it's a phony concept. The whole conceit is lame, like some sadistic premed dissecting live frogs and making them twitch just to show off.

mathgent 10:15 AM  

Wonderful puzzle. I needed one small cheat to finish. I had gotten two other BYs before getting to BOOBYTRAPS and I thought that it also was more than one word. So I looked up ELBA and saw BOOBY TRAPS.

Like @Sir Hillary, I saw that DDVI represented BY but thought that it had to do with dividing up the word "divide" in some way. I wasn't able to see the dividing of the character. I probably should have, because I'm quite sure it was in another puzzle I've done.

I liked the cluing, some fine misdirection clues which were pointed out by some of us above.

I didn't like that the gimmick was used in the revealer. That's my only criticism. It was a great workout and so a solid A minus.

Ilana 10:19 AM  

Didn't want that Y at the ETSY/TIDY cross, though, as all the other Ys are part of the theme.

Filliam 10:29 AM  

I didn't mind the ETSY/TIDY Y since it wasn't in a theme answer, but I was really bothered by the first B in BOOBY TRAPS. I get that it wasn't part of BY, but it still hit me as vastly inelegant.

CDilly52 10:32 AM  

Finally an interesting theme. Groked the theme in exactly the same way. Thank you all who have been entertaining and enlightening me for years. I enjoy this blog enormously as much for the comments as for the initial blog content!

chefbea 10:50 AM  

@Sir Hillary..Thanks for the explanation

TomAz 10:50 AM  

Ddvi George this was an clever theme.

Anonymous 10:57 AM  

I thought the Romans wrote on vellum. The BY in BOOBYTRAPS is too an outlier - just "saying"! or was that a BOOBETRAPS?

Nancy 11:19 AM  

@Sir Hillary -- 9:27: Bless you, bless you, for explaining to @Chefbea, and therefore also to me what on earth DD VI had to do with BY. I had a coupla DD VIs in the mix, with no idea whatever what they were or why they were there. I had DIVIDED BY for the 61A revealer, which didn't work for two of the Down clues -- though I had no idea why. I had the same reaction others did: that DD VI were letters contained in DIVIDED -- but what had happened to the other letters that weren't included. To have seen that bisecting B and Y gives you a D on top of another D and a V on top of an I -- well that would have required the ability to see things visually. And as I've said a million times: I AM NOT A VISUAL PERSON. I was going crazy, Sir Hillary, so thanks for being a real knight in shining armor and rescuing me from what was about to be a nervous breakdown.

This is a very clever puzzle. If I'd finished it, not to mention actually understood it, I know I would have absolutely loved it.

Malsdemare 11:30 AM  

What @LMS said. All of it. I had to come here to get the trick. Sheesh!

Masked and Anonymous 11:35 AM  

Top-notch ThursPuz. FUN.

"Boring fill"? Sounds like a personal problem. Seemed ok, to m&e. Everybody's certainly entitled to their own opinion -- [yawn] -- of what's boring. xwordinfo's Freshness Factor stat -- [yawn] -- is indeed low, for this puz. Then again, it is -- [yawn] -- possible to have a negative -- [yawn] -- Freshness Factor. Some runt puzzles -- [yawn] [snort] [gurgle] -- have done that. Have also had a runt puzzle -- [yawn] [yawn] [pound on tabletop] -- with Freshness Factor -- [yawn] -- of 100, but it contained mostly gibberish.
Dude (yo, @Alias Z). Nap time. Just sayin.


fave thing to re-say: "Get along, little DOGES!"

fave desperate-lookin, but probably then not boring at least, stuff: NSFW. IRED. MDDDEGREE. Donald [yawn] Trump.

Mucho thanx, Mr. Kaye. How'bout this one:

(yeah…didn't think so)

Masked & Anonymo3Us

p.s. fave weeject: NER. (Weren't actually in the puz, but I really really like it.)

Unknown 12:08 PM  

Ugh. Arggh. Ick.

Numinous 12:43 PM  

What a slog, whew, glad that's over. Did I like it? DD VI VImmineVI, I did. "Down" to say a technical DNF 'cause I had to look up ELBA and mouthwashes to remember SCOPE (Tele terminal?). I had thought INVITRO early on but didn't enter it. At some point I thought INuteRO but I couldn't rebus it to fit anything. For a long time I had BUDIES but figured I'd fix it later. After I came to "artisanal" I put in MADE by HAND straight off. Then I looked at BUDIES and INVITRO again. Somewhere in there I figured out byPRODUCT and decided that [DD] [VI] equaled BY. Looking at those letters I finally realized that a D atop a D made a B. Took me a little while to realize that a V atop an I made a Y. Suddenly I was all, "Oh wow!" Deciding that the conceit was damn clever. Looking at the solution at xwordinfo made it abundantly apparent that the stacked letters also worked perfectly as rebuses for the downs. One delaying factor for me was having DEVIDE [DD] [VI] ?. I needed time to figure out WE[VI]LS.

As far as I'm concerned, for a Thursday, this is just what the MD DEGREE ordered. I wasn't at all bothered by the lack of freshness factor as the cluing was wonderfully opaque. I join with all y'all who liked this in thanking Jonathan Kaye for a good workout. Like any workout, I'm glad it's over but I'm enjoying the "endorphin" rush.

Numinous 12:50 PM  

Oh yeah, the Roman used clay tablets as notepads. They imported tons of papyrus for thier scrolls. Rome had a huge "book" publishing industry. Julius Caesar preferred the codex form which was loose pages stitched together along one edge. He also more or less invented the sentence. Actually less but what he did was to create the space between words. He would put a dot between the words to separate them and make his text easier to read.

Jim Finder 12:51 PM  

DNF here, having put in Alba instead of ELBA and then having no idea how to complete E_S.

Inspired by some of you, I've also started working the archived puzzles, starting in 1993. The most challenging (read: annoying) aspect of this project is ... wait for it ... big surprise ... the trivial pop culture from that era. Here it is, 2016, I'm looking for a mental challenge from The Greatest Puzzle from The Greatest Paper, and they ask me the name of some minor singer who hasn't been heard from since '95.

I've said this before--putting this kind of crap in the puzzle makes The Greatest Puzzle into a Future Embarrassment.

old timer 12:56 PM  

DNF in the SE. WEEVILS did not come to mind. Nor did NEIL, Now I see it, of course, and I am back to the summer of 1969 at an old dance hall near Ocean Beach in San Francisco watching the moon landing on a giant screen. I also went a few times that summer to the Devils Slide NUDE beach. In those days, most of the people you saw naked were in their 20's and 30's, and were more pleasant to look at.

I'm hitting myself in the head for not getting the divided-letters trick, since that one has been used at least once in the last year.

Anoa Bob 1:05 PM  

"Freshness Factor" seems more like it would apply to a personal hygiene product than to a crossword puzzle. I'm a card-carrying, word-nerd pedant, and even I think that caring whether an interesting entry like, say, IGUANA or MAESTRO, has appeared, say, two versus four times in an NYT puzzle in the last 16 years, is quantification run amok.

Just saying.

Teedmn 1:21 PM  

Ha, @M&As comment made me realize @Rex was declaring disdain for WEEVILS fill today.

I'm with @LMS, et. al. My hand-written DD OVERLAID the B and the same for VI over the Y so the physicality of the gimmick was lost on me and I was merely baffled by the letters excluded from DIVIDED.

I thought that the SCOPE of this puzzle was great - the clues didn't have clever wordplay but they weren't trite either. I got caught putting "oreo"s on my EGGOs because Thick & Fluffy seemed like it would rightly describe the filling of one iteration of our favorite 1912 originating sandwich cookie. And NEIL vs. Buzz WHIRred in my head until I started reading the comments.

I like the idea of calling the Pong balls "square" as if the rest of the graphics in that game were so realistic!

Nice puzzle #3, JMK.

Masked and Anonymous 1:32 PM  


Had fun guessin what NSFW meant, before doin research. "Not Safe For Weevils?" was best stab at it.

Ok, all U smarties that immediately knew what NSFW was …
What the N@S#F*W%! does this mean? --> NCFOM.

Got the theme pretty quick, off the BUBIES + INYTRO pair. Was hopin, at that point (perhaps a little like @RP did), for a little more variety than just the same old B/Y pair, but I guess there ain't many other real choice choices left to use. Still like doin STUCCO as STUEO, tho. How'bout STUPO for STUDIO? That works middlin good. Of course, addin more choices do tend to mess up yer DIVIDEDBY revealer. Would maybe then have to go with DIVIDEDUP, instead. Could strongly argue that J is a U with an I on top, right? Talk about non-boring: TEDJM. … whoops … wait, that's not so good ... here's a dandy: PJSY.

Come to think about it, if U introduce other split-up letters besides B+Y, then the solvers might get kinda fouled up. For instance: is TIDY supposed to = TIDVI? The whole thing might become as confusin as a Donald Trump debate discussion/scat on internet security. So … never mind.



NCFOM = No Country For Old Men.

Cassieopia 1:33 PM  

Oh my. I guess it's puzzles such as these that separate the wheat from the chaff. This was an enormous DNF for me. I expected a rebus when BUDDIES and WEDDINGS didn't fit the way they needed to, but completely missed that the fill could be read one way down, and another across. It didn't help that the cluing was exceptionally diabolical: for "hiccup cure" I had water or sugar, both which fit and both of which were wrong. "Boring things" were augers; "kind of beach" was sand - and on and on I blundered, finally giving up and coming here.

The concept is completely new to me, and uber cool, and it's clearly an awesome puzzle, meant for awesome solvers as most of the posters here seem to be. Next time I'll try to stick with it a bit longer, to get that oh-so-satisfying "aha!" moment, but the time it would have taken me to get there would have been definitely NSFW!

Cassieopia 1:45 PM  

PS - I have only seen NSFW on Reddit; has it been spotted in the wild? Perhaps because I mostly haunt major news sites, I've never seen it elsewhere. I'll have to start paying more attention.

Joe Bleaux 1:47 PM  

@chefbea -- Me, neither. @QuasiMojo -- I could not have said it better. Thanks.
What a dreary D II < > I L (PUZZLE, if you have a few drinks and attack the letters with a razor blade).

Jack Lee 2:15 PM  

Thanks, @Wm. C.!

Tom 2:28 PM  

Liked it a lot. Got the V/I division right away, but took a little longer to get the B divided into two D's. From there on it made sense.

Had MADE AT Home for Artisanal at first, which slowed me considerable, so that was the last section I finally filled. A good Thursday challenge.

Wednesday's Child 3:25 PM  

DNF with alba instead of ELBA.

Loved the puzzle, possibly because I was able to figure it out.

Are bras at a NUDE beach BOOBY TRAPS?

Thanks, Jonathan.

Wednesday's Child 3:26 PM  

DNF with alba instead of ELBA.

Loved the puzzle, possibly because I was able to figure it out.

Are bras at a NUDE beach BOOBY TRAPS?

Thanks, Jonathan.

puzzle hoarder 3:47 PM  

I just wanted to make a note about the "freshness" rating at xwordinfo.com. I've never used it myself but it sounds very similar to my own scoring system. Actual difficulty is very subjective and the only objective measurement are the xwordinfo.com fact finder lists. Most of the themers are unique in and of themselves. When even a common entry has a rebus I count it as singularly unique. The one entry where it really makes a difference is TREVI. One is far more unique than the 27 appearances it's racked up.
Where the real differences come in are with fill like ELBA and EDNA. I use only the numbers from the Shortz era and ELBA scores a 90. However this is a first as the actor's name. For a debut clue like that I'd give it a 1. The first name IDRIS, has only been used twice so I might make it a 3. EDNA scores a very stale 174 but as a reference to today's character it's a much fresher 2. I can't imagine the software can pick out these nuances. The work is quite tedious. Speaking of tedious that is all.

Mohair Sam 3:53 PM  

Well hand up with a surprisingly large group that finished the puzzle and had no idea what was going on. We did an @Nancy combined with an @Sir Hillary - sat here counting D's and a "VI" in divide and wondering what the hell we were missing. Came here and learned that we should be using capital letters when filling in the grid.

Just took a break to watch the Jose Fernandez funeral on ESPN. Wind is out of my sails for the day.

Masked and Anonymous 3:59 PM  

@Teedmn: har. yep. WEEVILS could indeed be considered a boring detail, in this here puz.
But, to stay encouragin and all, I'd like to think they decided it was the lesser of two WEEVILS.

M&Also again.

OISK 4:01 PM  

Almost finished it, but it was an unrewarding slog most of the way. Got all the DD VI but had no idea what they corresponded to until I came here, and still don't care for it. Never heard of NSFW OR ETSY. ( For the 20th time - I HATE acronyms. They are among my pet peeves!) But a better clue for "Peeves" and I would have finished it. ETSY made no sense, so I had ETRY (makes sense for crafts, i.e. try this...) and peever.

Never thought "peever" was a word, (something that peeves one?) but I was just tired of it by then.

Another acronym - GSA, product names - EGGO, (never tasted it..) Atari, Scope, just added to my overall displeasure. But like Aramaic, I am ancient...

I seem to be part of a tiny minority, but I really did NOT enjoy this puzzle.

Anonymous 4:15 PM  

All the answers make sense except for 42 down. The dd represents b then that makes 42 down mbegree... am I missing something?

Anonymous 4:26 PM  

@Anon 4:15 DD = B only in acrosses. The answer to 42D is MD Degree

Z 4:27 PM  

@Anon 4:15

So, yes. Remember, B for the across and DD for the down.

Nancy 4:33 PM  

@Anon 4:15 p.m -- Only after the fact and post-Sir Hillary, can I help you as others have helped me today. 42D has a DD where you have a B in 46A (BOOBYTRAPS) and therefore 42D is MD DEGREE. Or M DD EGREE. (Prior to coming to this blog I actually did have MD DEGREE, with a double D written in on the 2nd square -- but I hadn't the least idea why.)

Blue Stater 5:11 PM  

Cheated again. Not a crossword puzzle. How long must this go on?

Roo Monster 5:14 PM  

Hey All !
Well, this puz took some twisty brain... um, twisting. Had the DD and VI but no idea why. Knew it stood for BY, but like in Rex's grid, had 'em side by side. Was thinking, "Roman Numerals? D is 500, DD is a thousand? No, that's M. Hmm, let's say anyway, one thousand plus six? Just what the heck is going on?" Finally wrote it down on the paper and saw DD on top of each other coukd look like a B. Aha! Couldn't see it at first because I make my capital I's with a line on top and bottom of it.

Other than that rather wonky silliness, rest of puz ok. Seemed kinda clued difficult for a ThursPuz. Took me some time to "get" a bunch of them.

Posting late, and haven't read anyone yet, so I'm sure I repeated some of youse. It happens...


Numinous 5:48 PM  

@Roo Monster: I'm going to give you some advice. Drop the serifs on your "I"s. Unless you put serifs on all your capital letters, putting serifs on just the "I" is aLmost as bAd as mixiNg caPs and lowEr casE lEttErs. I know, I know, some habits are hard to break and this will seem almost irrelevant but in order to have beautiful handwriting, one must be consistent. I no longer have beautiful handwriting but when I put my mind to it, I can.
And then you would have seen instantly that
Equals Y.

But don't let me tell you how to live your life.

Larry Gilstrap 5:49 PM  

I knew it had to be BUDDIES and IN VITRO, but how to make that into end PRODUCTS? Figured it out around the WEDDINGS/VISES area when artisanal cleared up MADE BY HAND. I agree with OFL about the fill, but "boring" is such a boring word; how about, "ennui inducing"? I stared hard at the SE, like others, but finally was pleased with the clever DIVIDED BY reveal. I know ETSY is a thing, but gawd! I hate crafts! I thought Caballeros translated to cowboys, oh well!

I listed to a lot of smart,creative people being interviewed on NPR and sometimes the PEEVES of oral communication rear their ugly heads. Yes, @Mrs. Smith, hearing up-talk is maddening. It usually occurs when someone is expressing a personal opinion. "This is what the evidence shows and this is my conclusion and, like, don't blame me if, like, you don't agree with it." Spoken like a series of questions. Hopefully, that vocal trend is waning. One more: ever hear a British creative type, designer, writer, etc. use the hell out of "kinda" or "sorta" to qualify everything for no good reason. Hand up here, I'm no kid but sometimes when I get rolling I start talking all hipster and if people like what I'm saying, they do to.

foxaroni 6:08 PM  

Chaff here, just thrashing around. (Thanks, @Cassieopia)

Never got the DD/VI=BY gimmick. So, tough solve. Medium fun factor. I solve in ink on the actual NYT printed page. What a mess today!

QuasiMojo 6:12 PM  

@Joe Bleaux -- Mon plaisir. :)

Chip Hilton 6:21 PM  

@Blue Stater - It's a Thursday crossword puzzle. My favorite day, because of the curve balls.

Martín Abresch 8:50 PM  

@puzzle hoarder - Good point about words having multiple meanings. A new meaning to an old word is fresh, but that doesn't show up in the Freshness Factor.

I fear that, in my dive into that gizmo, I didn't make my larger point clear. Rex often states critical opinions, and commenters often accuse him of just being biased. His opinion on the fill today (boring but not bad) struck me as one that was (in a small way) testable. Freshness Factor is certainly an imperfect measure, but it has its uses, and today it confirmed that Rex isn't being biased in his criticism. This doesn't mean that one can't disagree, but it does indicate that his opinion today is a fair reading of the puzzle.

Brendan Doyle 8:52 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brendan Doyle 8:53 PM  

Stack em.

phil phil 1:20 AM  

Excellent puzzle, nothing wrong with fill, scope vise weevils
I loved the symetrical themer with the reveal at the end.

Wondered a bit about the strange var sp INUTRO. But otherwise. Lot of fun.enjoyed it.

Richard Rutherford 1:27 AM  

Plus Crystal Skull = 4 Indy films!

phil phil 1:40 AM  

Reading half the posts i thought i should mention (in case it wasn't in the second half)...the puzzle solves fine without rebus entries. In fact it looks better too

Alexandra 2:40 PM  

Ugh to this one. Sorry, not for me.

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Unknown 5:38 PM  

Coming in very late here, but I am very surprised that no one picked up on the "metatheme": double Ds next to a rebus that suggests cleavage. And featured near the center? BOOBYTRAP!

David Dunning 5:38 PM  

Coming in very late here, but I am very surprised that no one picked up on the "metatheme": double Ds next to a rebus that suggests cleavage. And featured near the center? BOOBYTRAP!

Dian,LIW 9:50 PM  

Well...I'm coming here early, for a Synder. Posting Wednesday nite.

I got the rebus. The DD VI = BY rebus. Worked it out. Got it. By...My...Self. Yes. Yes. Yessshhhhh! I am now a puzzle mid-schooler! Maybe just 7th grade, but I just jumped a couple of grades. I'm so smart! And tweeny ;-) (Happy dancing - can you tell?)

So, in my tweeny mode, I continue my meme of the week, which is, what is Rex trying to say? Huh? Let's look for the bad fill...

We'll try - SOTS, ETA, ELS, RES, DNA, EGGO(?), TRES, ODE, EST, PER, ENT, INON, ADS, - what am I missing? Doesn't seem nearly as "bad" if you rate it bad, as Monday, or Tuesday. Wed was a total winner in my book. What say y'all? Why is today "ugh laden" vs. Monday's "totally reasonable" fill?

I can't remember asking y'all to do this before, but take a look at my posts this week and look for the pattern(s). Seems a few of you agree that many of OFL's reviews are either random or only based on his "time" issues.

Don't get me wrong. I love Rex's posts - when they teach me something about crosswords, especially. But when they are merely rants, I get a kick out of his "Lewis Black" impersonation, but don't really get any better/worse feel about crosswords.

Oh well - I loved conquering this puzzle. I did a Thursday rebussy thingy - OHO!!!AHAQ!! TeeHee!!!

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting forCrosswords

rondo 8:54 AM  

@spacey - don't blow a fuse

Burma Shave 10:01 AM  


those SWEET little BUDDIES, so her TIDY RATE I paid.
ITSADEAL, she LETMESEE her NIPSAT night in the NUDE,


rondo 11:27 AM  

@spacey – I meant that as a BYPRODUCT of the DIVIDEDBY, they were all RRN lookin’ things.
LETMESEE, I have a general dislike of a rebus, (they are my PEEVES) and knowing what 1d and 2d were supposed to be, didn’t actually catch on until the BOOBYTRAPS area. Need new specs, as that DIVIDEDBY sign looked like a plus sign due to the itty bitty agate type size, so that wasn’t helpful right off. And for a while I left a blank in CAL_PHS wondering if it was I or Y.

I have friends who once had an IGUANA for a pet. Never really understood it. The dang thing had free roam of the house so you always had to watch where to walk or sit.

ANNE coulda been several yeah babies like Bancroft or Hathaway if ONE really wants to SCARE ONE up.

Can’t count the times I was MADEBYHAND.

I guess we’ll be going with that actor from now on since NapoLEON’s exile place is no longer “fresh” enough (coupla hundred years ago), it’s ANCIENT, maybe even STONEAGE.

In the end only EATcrow was overwritten because I left those rebus squares alone for the most part until the aha light went on. Glad to mostly fill this ONE cleanly.

spacecraft 12:29 PM  

Fuses intact. My worst PEEVE today is "Lawful ends?" for ELS. That's not enough to trip the space-breaker.

Wow, I thought yesterday was tough. After this it seems like astroll in the park. I did not get the trick as early as OFL did, but even if I had, it would be a stretch to call this anything but full-bore challenging. Started in the west with ELBA/ANNE, did the SW corner and pretty well locked into M[DD]EGREE and TRE[VI]. But I could make nothing out of 46=across. Left that to work on the NE and stumbled across those same squares: DD and VI. That had to be it. Finally dawn broke, but the SE was still terribly hard. Hand up for preferring crow over DIRT--and it took a long while to dislodge that one. IRED is not a word. IRE is a noun. IRKED, OK. IRED, no. Flag. Never heard of ETSY, and it didn't help that I had DETAINEd for captive instead of the -EE. And finally, would someone please explain "Buzz preceder, famously" for NEIL? Famously????? Who the hell is NEIL Buzz??

At considerable length (two full hours) I was able to sort all this out, incredibly sans help, but boy, does my grid look like a dog's breakfast! The ginormous triumph factor brings this up to a par.

Oh, DOD. Too tired to look for one; oh, there's ANNE. I thought her name was ANNIE--but no matter, she was played by ANNE, so no harm, no foul for grand actress and DOD Bancroft. Yikes, I dread the weekend after these two!

Congrats goatless Cubs!

Moonie 12:56 PM  

@spacecraft, given your nom-de-crossword, trust you're kidding. NEIL Armstrong set foot on the Moon at on July 21, 1969 preceding BUZZ Aldrin (from their ah...spacecraft).

Anonymous 1:15 PM  

The more incomprehensible a puzzle is, the more the phonies write how easy it was for them, how quickly they did it, and, in general how they are just the smartest folks in any room...

Steven J. Wangsness 2:01 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steven J. Wangsness 2:03 PM  

How the DD/VI thing relates to anything is beyond me. Could just as easily have been XX/YY for all the real relationship it has to "divided."

Also, three of the DD/VI "by" answers are pronounced "buy" and one (in booby traps) as "bee." Sloppy.

Also, ALS for "legal endings"? OK, I get that's a plural of "al" in "et al," but if you're giving a Latin ending, stick to Latin -- the proper plural is ALIA.

Frankly, I thought this was a pretty stupid puzzle.

rondo 2:45 PM  

@Steven - That's ELS for LegaL endings, one L at each end of the word.
Rex's write up shows how a B can be made into two Ds. DIVIDE a Y the same way and there's a V over an I.

Longbeachlee 4:04 PM  

@Rondo; Me too on the plus sign. Waiting for the optometrist to call and tell me my new glasses are ready.

spacecraft 9:55 PM  

Oh, the astronauts. Big, hard Gibbsslap. That was just long enough ago to befog my excellent but short memory. Could've eased things a tad in that corner.

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