Bird with forcepslike bill / WED 9-28-16 / Vashem Israel's Holocaust memorial / Bunt villainess in On Her Majesty's Secret Service / Specialty skillet / Murder crows turkeys

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Constructor: Morton J. Mendelson

Relative difficulty: Challenging

THEME: Across/Down answers that share a first letter also share a clue

Theme answers:
  • ZEST / ZILCH [Zip]
  • STERN / SPONSOR [Back]
  • BEAK / BANK NOTE [Bill]
  • GRIN / GIRDER [Beam]
  • STY / SELL [Dump]
  • SEVER / SHARE [Cut]
  • AFRESH / AT AN END [Over]
  • SCREEN / SKIN [Hide]
  • TAKE FIVE / TAME [Break]
Word of the Day: PORTO (15A: City north of Lisboa) —
Porto (Portuguese pronunciation: [ˈpoɾtu]; also known as Oporto in English) is the second largest city in Portugal after Lisbon and one of the major urban areas of the Iberian Peninsula. The urban area of Porto, which extends beyond the administrative limits of the city, has a population of 1.4 million (2011) in an area of 389 km2 (150 sq mi), making it the second-largest urban area in Portugal. Porto Metropolitan Area, on the other hand, includes an estimated 1.8 million people. It is recognized as a gamma-level global city by the Globalization and World Cities (GaWC) Study Group, the only Portuguese city besides Lisbon to be recognised as a global city. (wikipedia)
• • •

Wow, this was bad. Worse than yesterday. This is as bad a two-day stretch as I can remember. Not just bad. Old. Like, really stale, written 20+ years ago old. Yesterday, a word ladder with not a lot of sense and a grid with awful fill. Today, a theme ... that has even less internal logic, and a grid with fill that's nearly as YAD. Sorry, bad. Bad. This is a cry for help. The best constructors in America simply aren't giving their best work to the NYT any more. In some cases, those constructors aren't giving Any of their work. Think of constructors you used to love whose names you rarely if ever see any more. Good chance they have, for various reasons (at least some of which has to do w/ slow production schedule and insultingly low pay) moved on. So we're getting hack work. Not always. But way too often. So what if every time an Across and Down share a first letter, they get the same clue? Who cares? Nine times this happens. What is the pattern? Do the clues spell out a message? Why Am I Suffering Through This Stupid Exercise?

Because there are so many one-word clues doing double-duty, the puzzle plays way harder than normal. Just seeing BANK NOTE (a phrase I never use) took a Lot of crosses. So Many of the clues are lame one-worders—all the themers, but also a substantial number of others. This added to the overall tedious and dull feel of the puzzle. PORTO APSE KETT EPEE ISLET ENE etc. Yet another grid that makes me want to just list the junk. Not even any good longer answers today. None. NAMER? Come on. Do people really call groups of turkeys RAFTERs? Ever. Wife, answering my bewilderment from next room: "Those [animal collective names] were all made up by some lady in the 19th century." I'm not going to bother fact-checking that, 'cause it *feels* true and I'm American and that's enough "evidence" for us. ADES?! Are sources of vitamin C. Literally no one has ever thought or claimed that in the history of humankind. I barely know what an ADE is. Juice you add sugar to? In which case, uh, it's the juice that provides the C. No one uses ADE as anything but a suffix anyway. Crosswords are the only place where people pretend this isn't true. Dear NYT, please double the pay rate for constructors so some of the talent comes back. Pretty please. The crossword is your one true cash cow. You can afford it. Thanks.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


chris 12:13 AM  

this review. as i read it, so much yes, yes, yes. as opposed to the puzzle, which was a lot of no, no, no.

the review reminds me of politics, too. a large number of people, more so the old guard, still hold up america as the best country in the world, when it's not. not any longer, at least. has its moments, for sure, but it could be so much better much more often. and so it goes, too, for the NYT.

Anonymous 12:17 AM  

53D is just plain, flat out, clued wrong. The sale of IVORY is not illegal, the sale of new(ish) ivory is. Ivory that can be documented as 100 years old may still be sold.

Ranter 12:24 AM  

When I saw the dashes I said wtf.

John Child 12:27 AM  

I rather liked this. The pairs clued the same all had quite different meanings, which was fun, and it felt challenging. In fact my time was just what Wednesday should be.

I was put off by the amount of political discussion yesterday. I like hearing occasional personal bits about other people in the forum. It makes you all more interesting. But I would be thrilled if political opinions weren't aired here. Just my $.02.

increasinglydisappointedeachday 12:29 AM  

Mendelson has two published puzzles in NYT. Both were DNFs for me. Not for incorrect letters, but just frustration halfway through each puzzle with the tediousness from terrible fill and poorly executed concepts.

mathgent 12:33 AM  

I do the WSJ puzzle every day and I agree with Rex. They're getting better puzzles consistently. C'mon, Shortz. Get your budget increased.

I'm giving this one an F.

hawkins 12:54 AM  

Mathgent-- The pay for WSJ is worse.

puzzle hoarder 1:08 AM  

I was going to do the puzzle on my tablet and I thought I'd somehow downloaded a different format. I kept swiping at those clues trying to get the other set to show up. I finally printed out the puzzle and then saw the special instructions.
The solving was actually fun. I liked that you looked for dissimilar answers for the theme clues. Sure there were some entries like OAR and APSE where I hesitated to put them in just because I didn't want to see them but there were also ones such as PORTO and IRMA. For those latter two I appreciated the debut or near debut cluing.
Those animal group names are majorly bogus but Sting has given "a murder of crows" real currency and it helps to elevated the others.

Sailor Steve Holt 1:29 AM  

Relative difficulty is so subjective. Rex's easies are usually my challengings. (To be honest, most post-Tuesday puzzles are my challengings.) This one: challenging for him but easy for me. A group poll would probably show overall agreement one way or another (...I'm gonna find ya...) but without one my 'feeling' is that "relative difficulty" doesn't mean much. (Also, building on the political aside: polls can't be trusted because black helicopters!)

I didn't mind the puzzle. (But did anyone find the instructions really awkwardly worded?) Wordplay (homophones, homologous, puns, etc.) is at the heart of crosswords, right? The theme kinda seemed like a tribute to that even if it was a little underdeveloped. For me it was an enjoyable diversion.

Glad to see Portugal's 'second city' get a shoutout, but I'm not sure why the Portuguese spelling of Lisbon? PORTO is the same in both English and Portuguese and it's not like "Lisboa" threw anyone off the trail. ADES might be more sugar than vitamin C, but I didn't think it was a huge leap once you couldn't come up with a pluralized four letter citrus fruit. (ADES immediately makes me think of the lemon and lime VARieties.) I don't ever say BANK NOTE but I 'feel' like it's something I regularly see in newspapers and The Economist.

RAFTER is new to me. I suspect Rex's significant other is right, but I still find these nonsensical collective animal nouns delightful. AT AN END made me groan a bit. I thought it would be some verb's past tense and initially had endER instead of NAMER. (Because whistle-blowers end the thing they're blowing the whistle on...?) And "over" doesn't mean/connote AFRESH/again/anew/once more; that'd be something like do-over.

The one that really got me was GRIN/GIRDER. I had NaP instead of NIP and was trying to force GRaN or some alternative, esoteric form of structural support ending in _IRDER. To be fair, it was the only across/down clue for which the down portion said "see _-Across" instead of just "-". I thought the answers were maybe supposed to relate in some way.

Off to stare at the ceiling and pray for sleep. Any AutoCorrect/grammar mistakes are the price I pay for commenting by iPhone. Please find it in your heart to forgive.

Oh No Jono! 1:46 AM  

I was a bit disappointed when 2D didn't turn out to be EBONY - would have had some nice symmetry with IVORY in the opposite corner.

AskGina 1:50 AM  

Hmm. I had fun. But I can see where this type of puzzle would almost enrage a constructor. Like restaurant spaghetti did to my father, who came to America from Italy with his parents when he was 15. My grandmother grew and canned her own tomatoes and made the dough with eggs from her own chickens. She'd hand roll the dough into giant thin rounds (the rolling pin had a broomstick's diameter and was handmade by my grandfather), dust them with flour and roll them up like long, tight jelly rolls. Then she'd hand cut it consistently and with lightening speed. The sauce took hours to cook. It was the art of pasta. This puzzle would be restaurant spaghetti for rex et al and pity the fools who know no better. At last I understand.

Greeny 2:06 AM  

I share your displeasure of far out obscurity bordering on torture. Bring back the joy and humor of puzzling.

Ellen S 2:09 AM  

I was finding it easy, but only about 80% through, the phone rang, and then I took out the garbage and washed the dishes, and by then I forgot that I hadn't finished the puzzle, so I went to the blog. The last part of the puzzle was *really* easy because the answers that @Rex railed against, and the early posters here, were the ones I hadn't filled in yet: RAFTER, IVORY, ADES.

I don't know what @Rex found challenging about it; maybe I'd have gotten stuck at the bottom without the giveaways, but things like PORTO I got enough from crosses, and anything that was a little sticky was likewise not hard to find my way through. The very crosswordese that OFL hates made easy.

@PuzzleHoarder -- the Puzzazz app always shows the notes, if any accompany the puzzle, and it matches the print version, a trick which the official NYT app doesn't seem to be able to accomplish.

@AskGina - thanks for the interesting metaphor. I have an old book of Tough NYT Crosswords which I find really tough, both the wordplay and the culture references, though I used to be able to do that level. Puzzles from the 90s when it was the 90s. I wouldn't mind them coming back, but it occurs to me, when I started doing puzzles, my hubby told me all those words I needed to know: if it's a sea bird it's an ERNE, if it's a plant it's ALOE, if it's a tree it's an OSIER, if it's a church part it's a NAVE or and APSE (I read a Ken Follett novel that explained church architecture, and I tried to remember what naves and apses are but it didn't stick. Doesn't matter for puzzles--the answer is always one of those), all that stuff. If "all that stuff" was required background for doing the puzzle then, I don't see how things have deteriorated. Well, except I do. I (dimly) remember some really clever themed puzzles that drove us mad. They may have had NAVES and ERNES/ERNS but they also had wicked puns and crazy misdirects.

jae 2:28 AM  

I'm on a mini vacation so I did this on my iPad with the Standalone app instead of printing it out. There were no dashes, the clues just self referred. Tough for me too, it took almost twice as long as a typical Wed., although alcohol may have negatively skewed my solving experience.

Liked it slightly better than @Rex did, but found it more annoying than fun.

Martín Abresch 3:25 AM  

Part of my brain wants to defend the puzzle a little. The best thing about the puzzle is that the theme answer pairs used different senses of the theme clue: zip refers to ZILCH and ZEST, not ZILCH and ZERO. This works well in a few of the pairings, like zip and beam. Also, a puzzle like this could not have been easy with all those theme answers taking up real estate and interlocking.

The other part of my brain was completely bored doing this puzzle and agrees with Rex 100%. One word clues, bad fill, boring long entries. I'd like to add NO TURNS (Sign to continue straight) to the list of boring longer entries.

I liked one or two of the clues. EDEN (Starter home?) was the only one with strong wordplay. CLARINET (Mozart was the first major composer to write specifically for it) was a nice bit of trivia. I liked the clue for LIAR (Mythomaniac) for it's political overtones.

On the other hand, I hated the clues for APSE (Something that sticks out in a church?). That clue isn't fooling anyone. I hated the clue for BIRTH (What to expect when you're expecting). It seems wrong to reduce "what to expect" to BIRTH—the one basic fact that you already know about—when the whole point of the phrase is to refer to the myriad ways that said birth will change your life. Finally, why clue IBIS (Bird with a forcepslike bill) with a reference to its bill when one of your theme clues is Bill and one of its answers is BEAK? That's just sloppy.

Loren Muse Smith 4:32 AM  

Man oh man, y'all are a tough crowd. I saw the trick with BEAK/BANKNOTE and settled in to solve all the little "riddles." "Every across and down themers share the first letter. Who cares?" Well, me, I guess. I enjoyed this for the same reason @Sailor Stever Holt mentioned – the wildly differing meanings of the two words. I'll just go stand over with him and @Gina.

@Z – I think when I first shed my lurker mantle and stepped forward to speak here, I would finish a grid and then look back for anything objectionable so I could join in the whining about gluey fill. It seemed to me that, like those Geico commercials, "it's what you do." But more and more I felt like a Hater Wannabe. I started just reporting on my gut reaction to the whole experience. It felt fake for me to scour the grid for the problems when I hadn't really noticed them along the way. Yesterday I noticed ATWT. And AER because I always want "der." That was it. When I see a big list Rex compiles, I have the vague thought that I have a high tolerance for ick. Same with those gloriously, delicious, cheap red hot dogs – they have BEAKS and STY droppings in them? Hah. Who knew? I sure like'em.

But I'm not comparing this to a cheap red hot dog. As usual the price for admission for me is to be shown something, however small and incidental, about my language. Today it was quite different meanings for the word in the clue. Oh, and both words begin with the same letter. (Favorite pair was SKIN/SCREEN). A simple, innocent diversion (Hi, @Sailor Steve Holt) to savor before I face the hell that has become my 1st, 2nd, and 7th periods.

Wanted "non kept" for UNKEPT.

@Martin – I totally disagree about the word "bill" in the clue and BEAK in the grid. I liked it. They both reminded me of this ridiculous new invention.

So, Mr. Mendelson – I enjoyed every minute of this. And I appreciated the tough job of designing a grid to work. Keep'em coming, buddy.

Now off to begin my foggy, scary drive to school along the Little Kanawha River. I always count the critters, many that I almost hit. Rabbits, foxes. possums, deer, raccoons, a cow once. Actually twice. Little groups of turkeys rafting downstream…

Charles Flaster 5:10 AM  

Did not see any notes or hints but puzzle ran very easy. I know it had to be difficult to construct.
Liked cluing for EDEN and LIAR.
Only one write over that gave me a chuckle was NAMER for NAdER.
TAME and TAKE FIVE were my favorite, cleverly clued themers with TAME being my final entry.
Thanks MJM

Mark 5:40 AM  

I liked the puzzle. I'm not sure why Rex disliked it so much. It was challenging, and probably hard to construct. It was new to me and I've been doing the crosswords for a while, so I think it had novelty too

da kine 6:22 AM  

I thought it was a fine puzzle. I was a bit surprised it was so challenging for a Wednesday, but other than that I really enjoyed it.

Glimmerglass 7:10 AM  

Sorry, Rex and his fellow whiners. I don't share your outrage. (In fact in this election cycle, I think I'm all out of outrage.) This struck me as an adequate Wednesday puzzle, maybe a bit harder than average, but well short of "challenging." The gimmick (let's not call it a "theme") was interesting, as a couple of apostates above have pointed out. It's clever of the constructor to find so many words with two different definitions beginning with the same letter, and then fit them into a puzzle as across/down pairs. That was challenging for the constructor, but solving them was not. As for the fill, some of it was dull, but not so dull it spoiled the puzzle for me. A couple were interesting (CLARINET, SITAR). I give this one a B-.

GILL I. 7:14 AM  

Ah...the English language - such a puzzle. Are these called contronyms?
I rather enjoyed it but it gave my head a bit of a spin. To go from ZEST to ZILCH confused me no end. I SO respect ESL teachers.
My PORTO always has an O in front of it (Hi @Tita) but then I spell Habana the correct way and get all kinds of grief.
I can thank @B Kerfuffle for introducing me to collective nouns. (Where are you?) I looked them up and so RAFTER made a bit of sense. I think turkeys take to them when they are scared and little old ladies notice these things.
Don't men have a T STRAP on their shoes?

Hungry Mother 7:43 AM  

I liked the puzzle, discovered the theme early, and found it very easy.

Anonymous 7:47 AM  

Meh. Didn't think this was challenging, just boring. The single list is really annoying.

evil doug 7:51 AM  

Way to lead off, Chris--trying to somehow bridge a lousy crossword with the state of America.

"Shut up," he explained. And then get out.

John Child: You're right.

kitshef 8:03 AM  

As much as I agreed with yesterday's pan, I disagree today. I like the theme, and it had more bite than an average Weds., and I love collective nouns.

In Namibia black rhinos seemed to be anything but rare ... we saw at least a dozen. Only place in the world with free-ranging (not in a preserve) black rhinos. Collective for a group of rhinos is a crash.

Irene 8:13 AM  

Challenging but fun and I loved the pairs that played off different meanings of the clue.
Once again Rex overreacted.

r.alphbunker 8:18 AM  

I loved this puzzle. One of things I like most about going through all the clues in the puzzle without seeing any crossing letters is the plausible correct answers that I come up with. I suppose I enjoy the flexibility of the English language as a nice counterpoint to the raw logic of computer programming languages. The replay of my solution is here. The best wrong answer I came up with on the first pass was ABABY for {What to expect when you're expecting}

I felt that the review was particularly harsh. There is no need to demean the constructor in that way. It inspired me to find a web page that created word ladders and create this one

Cassieopia 8:22 AM  

Typically I don't understand why Rex gets so ranty about a puzzle; usually I love them despite "drecky fill" or "stale concepts", but today I rather have to agree. I didn't have much fun solving this one, and got stuck on clues like "whistle-blower" (NAMER???) and "French 'to-be' " (ETRE).

There were bright spots, though - "starter home" was very clever, and as my children used to have a poster on their bedroom wall naming groups of animals (a murder of ravens and a clowder of cats being my favorites), RAFTER was a gimme and fun to see.

But in general, and this rarely happens, I have to agree with Rex on this one.

Mike E 8:39 AM  

Definitely enjoyed this one, the double clue meanings, the concept and the occasional challenges of the gear-shifting. And for one more thing that I guess might be singular to me - the print-version adjustment for my eyes of finding the clue number in a not-so-usual spot. I could feel my eyeballs building up muscle tone as they pivoted from the down/across find-the-clue sprint to the single clue system.

Jamie C 8:53 AM  

Rex is right. These puzzles could have been published 30 years ago. Way back when Hillary started fighting ISIS.

QuasiMojo 8:55 AM  

Wow back at ya. Was not expecting such an "exaltation of snarks" over this puzzle. Such a sting of the "apse." I found it a slog but I got my money's worth. Do I want to shout it out to the "rafters"? Hardly. But I also don't feel the need to "murder" it as it were a wild "turkey." I have a feeling Alias might be posting a link to some Mendelsohnn today, or perhaps a piece by Thomas Adès. In the key of "HI-C"? I hope so. :)

Bonnie L 8:55 AM  

I am a relative newcomer to crosswords and i rely on your blog to help me solve the puzzles and learn the "lingo". So thank you for that. I do wonder however if you ever like the NYT most often I find that you are harshly critical. I kind of liked this puzzle today.

QuasiMojo 8:57 AM  

Ouch... above... Mendelssohn. My bad.

Lewis 8:59 AM  

Well, I liked this one a lot. Coming up with the different answers and meanings for the one-word clues was not easy, and each correct solution felt like an accomplishment, a good reward for the work put in. This was a puzzle in the truest sense for me, in that I had to work to figure answers out rather than just bark out something in my memory. The construction was interesting, with no answers larger than eight letters -- whether you like that or not, it's RARE. And I respect the construction -- it couldn't have been easy to come up with the design for all the theme answers, much less the theme clues/answers themselves. Bottom line for me is always the solving experience, and this was right up my alley: Effort followed by self-pat-on-the-back. Morton, thank you for this!

There seemed to be a Trump mini-theme: HARASS/ERRORS/BIRTH(er)/EVADE/and hopefully, AT_AN_END, and LOSES_TO.

Finally, when I saw the IVORY/TAKE_FIVE cross, I couldn't help but flash on Dave Brubeck.

Z 9:02 AM  

On occasion we've seen the same clue twice in a puzzle, often separated by some distance. When it happens once or twice in a puzzle there has been some "bug or feature" debate here. Remembering those side discussions, strong negative reactions to an entire theme around the idea hardly surprises me. As a novelty, a one off, this is fine, adequate. But it hardly warmed the cockles of my solving heart. @glimmerglass - Is adequate the standard? That's far more damning than anything Rex has ever written.

Conversely, I don't buy Rex's "hack" and money contentions. First, money alone is barely the consideration people think it is. Around the margins it might matter, but deciding to construct a puzzle was never done for the cash. As for the marketplace for puzzles, the internet has increased the market far beyond just newspapers. Still, I strongly doubt that anyone (besides maybe the WSJ in the future) approaches the kind of circulation the NYT has for its puzzle. If I'm an indie trying to build or maintain an audience it still behooves me to get some of my best work published by the NYT. It's like advertising that I get paid for. As for "hack," even if one doesn't like today's effort, Mendelson did take a xword trope and do something original with it. Not my cuppa, but hardly routine.

@John Child - As one who tends to see most things in political terms, I don't think it is possible to avoid politics. We must either learn to communicate with some acceptance of those who disagree with us or hide from our fellows until a war starts because we have no other way to settle how we are going to allocate stuff.

@LMS - "...I have a high tolerance for ick." Now that I believe. Why you would worry about having such a tolerance is another question.

And, speaking of politics and a high tolerance for ick, I love this ad so much I just might buy some of their beer.

Norm 9:15 AM  

I was lukewarm toward this puzzle as I started but ended up liking it a lot. Thinking through the different meanings of the clue words was challenging. My bottom line? This was an excellent Thursday puzzle. No gimmicks; no trivia; just word power.

Anonymous 9:24 AM  

"Why Am I Suffering Through This Stupid Exercise?" Best question you have asked in a long, long time. If you hate the NYT puzzles so much, why not write about something else? You don't seriously believe your constant whining is going to accomplish anything more than waste the time of your readers, do you?

Z 9:24 AM  

@Gill I - Not contronyms, those are words that are their own opposites and i don't think any of these are that. Which reminds me that I also thought the themers would have been better if pronounciations differed between the across and down clues.

@Evil and @Chris - Could a country be the greatest and imperfect?


{I just saw a political ad as I got the above link that had the exact opposite effect as intended - Gotta love a country that preserves rich people's right to waste their money on political ads}

Nancy 9:29 AM  

Old habits die hard, so this puzzle annoyed me to death. What's that song lyric? Looking for love in all the wrong places? And I don't even time myself. I haven't read anyone's comment yet, but I would imagine that the unfamiliar clue placements added at least 15% to everyone's time. Maybe even 20 or 25%. And it didn't make the puzzle any better or more interesting. It just made it irritating. I don't agree with Rex that it was Challenging. It wasn't especially, at least not for me. But I couldn't wait for it to be over. Going to read y'all now.

Sir Hillary 9:33 AM  

Not the greatest puzzle, but certainly a serviceable one. Anyone is obviously entitled to like it or not, but that is @Rex's most absurd review in months. Now ISLET is unacceptable? And @Rex, your wry sense of humor is great, but the fact that you never say BANKNOTE and your wife's excellent comment regarding animal group names are both irrelevant to the matter at hand. I also love (not!) when @Rex and others try to tie a puzzle they don't like to some broader complaint, like Will's stewardship or...wait for it...the reputation of our country. Just stop already.

As for the puzzle itself:
-- Great to see IRMA Bunt in there. Both my alias and avatar are rooted in "On Her Majesty's Secret Service".
-- YAD is unfortunate right there in the middle, but the only answer I scrunched my nose at was NOTURNS.
-- I'll take Ronnie LOTT over Trent any day.
-- I didn't notice "bill" in the IBIS clue when solving, but agree that it's sloppy.
-- Favorite clue is "starter home" for EDEN.

Wm. C. 9:42 AM  

Ok, @Chris -

re: America [no longer] "the best country in the world."

Kind of a provocative statement.

Defend it: (a) what are your criteria; and (b) according to these, who are the better countries?

I'm not a "mindless America Firster," or whatever. And I do believe there are some areas in which America falls short. Also, I think there are several other admirable countries in the world, though theses are all quite smaller ( don't have to deal with the challenges of scale), and aren't burdened with other challenges either accepted (open immigration) or self-inflicted by a minority of the population and trading partners (our Original Sin" of Slavery).

Yet there are some strong arguments for "American Exceptionalism." As President Lincolm said, in the midst of wrenching national trial,
In his December 1862 address to Congress: "We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of Earth." Here we did step up to, and painfully (though not fully, even to today) expiated our a big part of Original Sin.

Yes we're a far larger, much evolved country today. And we do make mistakes and carry on with some evils of our past. But given our scale and our challenges, I believe that we are the best country in the world, countries like Holland, Norway, and NewZealand notwithstanding.

[Oops: this, after complaints about politics in yesterday's commentary.]

Anonymous 10:05 AM  

I'm surprised no one else has griped about 25D. On the phone app the clue reads "See 25-Across." I roll my eyes and skip to the comments when Rex starts going off on Will, but this was a huge pain in the @$$. It's the only themer without a dash, so I expected it to be a correlated clue. I spent half my solve time trying to figure out what the hell was going on there. I'm sure Will has a separate editor for alternative sources outside of print, but that's just laziness and shouldn't happen.

Whirred Whacks 10:05 AM  

If you like Patrick Berry, Matt Gaffney, ACME, and other stalwart NYT X-Word constructors from five years ago, you are significantly more likely to find their work -- on a regular basis -- in the WSJ.

Competition is good; complacency is bad.

Alicia Stetson 10:18 AM  

Well one guy who clearly doesn't think America is a great country is The Donald. According to him, Russia has a more modern nuclear arsenal, our military leaders have no idea what they're doing, our economy is in a bubble created by a politically motivated federal reserve, minorities are unhappy criminals, our women are fat pigs, and China is using us as its piggy bank by devaluing its currency. What a miserable place! I mean, why would we need to "make America great again" if we're already great? The overarching Republican theme this election is how awful America is--why would a Republican be upset when someone (1st commenter above) agrees with them?

the redanman 10:22 AM  

The last two days are great examples of why I do the WSJ first every day and the NYT if I can find time to do it.

Painful fill, I so lost interest

Roo Monster 10:27 AM  

Hey All !
Found this puz to be easy-medium after I finally fully woke up. Tough going trying to do a puz when one keeps nodding off! Didn't mind the "theme", although it didn't blow my skirt up either. Was a bit wonky solving, as I kept looking for Across and Down clues, and kept having to locate them on the page. The clues were UNKEPT. :-) Not many ERRORS, only a couple of writeovers, for CREPEPAN had the CR___P__ and wrote in CRockPot! Also YEAh-YEAS, as the clue seemed to ask for a singular answer.

Message for @Rex, the NYT I believe pays the best, or right there at the top. The whole criteria (as I'm sure you well know) of getting a puz in is if WS likes it. I've submitted quite a few myself, (granted, some of them weren't the greatest) and have yet to get a Yes, or even a "Redo it and we'll talk". (So maybe they aren't that great...) I do think at least a few of them are good enough for the NYT, given some of the ones we've been getting. I'm curious if there's a way to send a puz to you, have you do it, then give me your (criticism, praise?, opinion) on it.

Seems this could've been a WedsPuz? Maybe. But, not truly terrible, at least it was an attempt at some kind of a different thingy.


chefbea 10:37 AM  

Took me forever!! Tough puzzle. Too much back and forth. Wanted Cast Iron for 39 but then realized it was crepe pan.

TomAz 10:41 AM  

I was sitting at the table sipping on my ADE and thinking about all the different ways I can conjugate ETRE. After working through the pluperfect subjunctive I was about to start AFRESH when I noticed a RAFTER of turkeys had TROD into my YAD. I guess they'd all escaped the KOOP and wanted to TAKEFIVE .. or perhaps to EVADE the PLOT to SEVER their heads before Thanksgiving. Soon they were joined by a pure white IBIS named IRMA DRESSed in a Trump "Make America Great Again" hat that fell down to her BEAK. The turkeys began to HARASS the elegant bird, fearing she would be a NAMER on their escape attempt. Or maybe they just take a STERN view of ERRORS like having Trump INPOWER, who can say? I know I hope he LOSESTO Hillary. Trump can stick it up his APSE.

Anonymous 10:46 AM  

I get the feeling that if it's a tougher puzzle than expected, it slows down Rex's time, which, apparently, is a blow to his huge ego. Thus, a bad review. Get over yourself, Rex. It's a crossword puzzle. There are 365 of them in a year. This was something new. Embrace it, even though it brought your average solve time down.

Roo Monster 10:46 AM  

Har! It is a WedsPuz. Thinking it was Thursday! Maybe not quite fully awake yet... :-)

ArtO 10:54 AM  

I really don't understand the scorn heaped on this puzzle. I found it challenging but fun to suss out the different meanings of the clues (some of which had multiple options...e.g. shear, sever). Why does it need a theme? Give the constructor credit for working out what had to be challenging. I've seen this before, as @Rex noted but so what. It gave me a tougher than normal workout for Wednesday and that's not a negative. Is it possible that earlier in the week puzzles that OFL finds challenging tend to get negative reviews?

Jamie C 10:57 AM  

Oh, and one comment on yesterdays puzzle: "You might trip if you drop it?" The answer is TROU.

Cassieopia 11:06 AM  

Love it!

r.alphbunker 11:14 AM  

@Roo Monster

Email me. I can post a link to your puzzle in my program so that anybody can solve it and comment on it.

Numinous 11:15 AM  

I thought the gimmick of this puzzle came closer to a Thursday than a Wednesday. Maybe somewhere in between like for the second or third edition of the Wednesday paper in years gone by. I liked wrenching my brain around the various possibilities presented by the A/D clues. They all gave me an, "Oh right. There's that too" moment. I'm with @Loren generally on "ick" – it only bothers me sometimes. Someone above commented about rote shout-outs to fill in answers. I found none of that here (or at least so little of it that I barely noticed). I actually liked YAD. Hebrew has some interesting words.

I don't speak a lot of French but you learn ETRE in the first two days of a French class. Ok, so not everybody took French. Portuguese mystifies me. So like Spanish and yet, so not. I get the idea that PORTO is to Lisboa as oPORTO is to Lisbon. The clue was fair.

Many collective nouns are commonly in use: a pride of lions, a pod of whales, a murder of crows, a pack of dogs, and even from the title of that amusing book, An Exaltation of Larks. In my Renaissance Faire years, I was a member of A Crye of Players. Just because they are uncommon does not mean the venerial terms don't exist. In the past, the English language and its use for entertainment was far more colorful than it is now. Hell, we are so dim and dull we can't get a large part of what Shakespear is on about without long and boring footnotes. Come to think of it, crosswords are probably as close as we come to being entertained by language. Let us be grateful that there are those with the wit and skill to create these entertainments for us and let us not applaud the notion that we can cram our heads so full of synonyms that puzzles will automatically fill themselves for us.

Today, I couldn't agree with @Rex less. This puzzle did something for me that obviously annoyed him. It made me think. I actually enjoy thinking this or that about a clue only to discover, "How could I have been so wrong?" Having those moments are what make a successful solve so rewarding.

Hartley70 11:25 AM  

The NYT app didn't give me the single clue list on my phone so I don't know what all that was about. I didn't feel hampered by the standard Across and then Down format, however.

@r.alphbunker, you're killing me today! As my Smith Hill Granny used to say, "You've got a bit o'the divil in ya."

This was by no means challenging level, but it did take me longer than the usual Wednesday. I'm surprised to see the negative comments. I think it's super to see something different before Thursday, and this was a trick I haven't met before. The one word clues were fine with me. Any more specific and the double meaning would have been impossible to clue IMO.

How does one dislike the fabulous words used to describe groups of animals? These are what help to make the English lexicon interesting and fun. The murder, the RAFTER, the clowder (thanks @Cassieopia!) all give me a chuckle and I loved learning the RAFTER today. It will come in handy since I often have a rafter of 40 plus wandering through our yard on any given day. If they are feeling romantic, it's wise to pull down the window shade if you like your entertainment to be PG or don't want awkward questions from the kids.

I learned something about Mozart and UN official language that I didn't know before this morning. I loved the clue for EDEN. There was almost no dreck. APSE is overused but it was clued differently so I was entertained anyway. Add all this together and I say this was a terrific Wednesday and I'm giving it an A+

Hartley70 11:34 AM  

Oh and ditto to everything @Numi said because he said it more beautifully than I.

timjim 11:50 AM  

I thought the puzzle was fine. OK if you didn't like it, but to refer to it as "hack work" is not only inaccurate, in my view, but needlessly cruel.

Joseph Michael 11:53 AM  

Count me in with those who really liked this puzzle.

Took a while to get used to the uniclue gimmick, but enjoyed the change of pace and the discovery of paired words joined at the hip with different interpretations of the clue.

It was fun to learn that a GIRDER and a GRIN, for example, could have something in common. Or that STY and SELL could share a meaning.

So I, for one, felt like I got my money's worth. Thanks, Morton, for your clever puzzle.

[No politicians were harmed in the making of this post]

old timer 11:53 AM  

Without the standard separation of acrosses and downs, it was way harder and way slower to do the puzzle. Reason: if you have an across you think may be right you need a quick glance at the corresponding down to see if it is likely to fit. And vice-versa. Add to that a bunch of clues that are so vague you are not going to get them right off, and you get irritated. I was, anyhow. APSE was one of the very few clues that were obvious at first glance. And ETRE, of course, and for us old guys and long-time solvers, KETT and KOOP. You and I can kvetch, but OFL has an outlet for his irritation, this blog.

Besides the slowness of the solve, my only WOE was writing in "ayes" instead of YEAS. It's true, in Congress they "call for the YEAS and nays." But the actual vote is "aye" or "no". Dirty pool, IMHO. And I don't care what Wikipedia says, PORTO is the English name for the city, and "Oporto" the Portuguese. It means "the port" just like Le Havre means "the harbor". In this case, the port at the mouth of the mighty Douro. I suppose by now millions of gallons of delicious port wine have crossed the bar of that river. Oporto is a fun city to visit and at least when I was there decades ago, the port houses across the river gave you free tastes.

G. Weissman 11:57 AM  

And you read this blog and post to it because ... ?

Anonymous 12:12 PM  

The most time-consuming part of this puzzle was the layout of the clues. I kept looking for separate ACROSS and DOWN sections, It was hard for a Wednesday.

QuasiMojo 12:15 PM  

People might not know this but that somewhat unctuous guy from the Actors Studio show, James Lipton, wrote "An Exaltation of Larks."

Karen Coyle 12:16 PM  

Easy. Fun. Maybe puzzles should be coded for their generational level. Nothing here was beyond my ken.

Dick Swart 12:22 PM  

I thought the double meanings for the words were interesting and fun.

I had a hard time breaking my eye-movement habits to this single form and found it quite annoying.

The puzzle wasn't all that hard. I found that the single meaning words were pretty much crosswordese and I filled in as many as I could first. This at least opened the starters for the doubles.

Masked and Anonymous 12:37 PM  

I say give the constructioneer a break, here. This was the 13th puz he submitted, before getting a "yes". At, say, 10 hours per puz (don't forget the time spent to come up with theme ideas), that's 130 hours of work. Divide $300 moneybucks by 130, and U have a wage of around $2.30/hr. And the NYTPuz pays higher than everybody else except for the PeterGordonmeister, who always pays one buck more, comewhatmay. (Gotta be a backstory, there.) Then U gotta pay for the postage to send em in. People just ain't doin this gig for the money, even if someone doubled the payout.

But, people who make xwords for the luv of doin it probably do enjoy gettin some sorta smudge of positive acknowledgement for their efforts, after goin to all this toil and trouble. It's called the "encouragement" concept. Callin them a "hack" and droppin the mike ain't gonna hack it. If U beat em down long enough, they'll take up watercolor paintin, once they got their one NYTPuz published, instead.

If I had any advice for the Shortzmeister, it would be to cut the turnaround time down, on how soon constructioneers get word back on their submissions. Long times (or, sometimes in my case, never) before hearin back can also discourage constructioneerin work. Just sayin is easier than just doin, I know … but, just sayin.

This WedPuz was fine, by m&e. Have seen this kinda theme before, but not sure I've ever seen it where the Across/Down theme pairins had totally different meanins. That was all fun to unravel, during the solvequest. Also, my eyes got an extra good workout, absentmindedly flittin all over the page, to try and get to the right clue. Different clue listin played with M&A's soft head.

staff pick stuffins: INPOWER. T-STRAP and A-FRESH. TAKEFIVE (yo, @Dave Brubeck). NOTURNS (yo, @soloU). BANKNOTE BEAK. GIRDER GRIN.

fave weeject: VAR. Made me laugh, U-know-how*.

fave clue: 30-Both: {Starter home?} = EDEN.

@Jamie C: *har. Well now -- that kinda depends on what the definition of IS IS is.

@muse: NON-KEPT. Like.

Thanx, Mr. Mendelson. Congratz on NYTPuz #2. U are not a fluke, and your work is very promisin. Hope U keep at it; minimum wage is way overrated.

Masked & Anonymo1U

Ray Yuen 12:42 PM  

I would not have rated this puzzle as challenging--quite the opposite. A lot of the thought in a crossword is the misdirection to the meaning of the word. However, when you double up on the clue, it immediately makes you think of multiple meanings for the same clue. Right from clue one, I was thinking the answers will be "nothing" and "energy." I smoked through this in half the usual time and if I didn't put "no u-turn" instead of the correct answer, I would have set a personal best.

Passing Shot 12:43 PM  

DNF, but I liked the "idea" of the puzzel. The answers, not so much. This was way harder than a typical Wednesday, at least for me.

Chip Hilton 12:52 PM  

Maybe it's because I had a troublesome bout of vertigo a few weeks ago, but I found this one really annoying because of the way my eyes kept going to the wrong part of the clue list. Dizzying. Boring fill, too, so put me in the negative group.

Carl 1:01 PM  

Sorry, purist, but I enjoyed thie puzzle immensely. Getting your brain from one meaning of a word to another was hard but enjoyable.

Mary 1:07 PM  

I enjoyed this but found it quite challenging. I had quit doing crosswords because of the dull crosswordese but started up a few years ago helping my mom finish the puzzle. Really enjoy themes, wordplay, puns, rebuses, you name it! This one was clever with the contrast in word meanings.

Wondered why you would put your key in an "I - slot" but it sounded plausible and what kind of baseball box score would start with "Orr". Sure looked like Orioles to me! Groaned when I finally got it!

Get a kick out of collective animal nouns. My students always enjoyed hearing the funny names.

Thumbs up for me!

SailorSteveHolt 1:15 PM  

Okay, so I'm still trying to figure out how to "comment as." I think I've gotten it down now.

Following up on PORTO: In Portuguese, "o" is the definite masculine article (like "el" in Spanish and "le" in French). Porto is literally "port" and o Porto "the port." As far as I can tell, Porto and o Porto appear with equal frequency in writing/speech. When/how native speakers distinguish between the two seems arbitrary to me but maybe it's one of those things you feel in your gut after growing up with a language. Some placenames never take a definite article.

I didn't know Oporto was an English option till well after learning the city as Porto. Maybe it's a bit of an anachronism in the same way we say Ukraine and Sudan instead of the Ukraine and the Sudan?

In English I say Lisbon and Porto (though Oporto seems perfectly valid). In Portuguese I say Lisboa and Porto. In a sentence, I might say o Porto but I would NEVER say a/o Lisboa. (I don't even know what gender to assign it.)

tl;dr Lisboa : Porto :: Lisbon : Porto/Oporto

Probably needlessly confusing. Maybe just vainly showing off a skill I never get to brandish.

@AskGina That metaphor is nice and makes me salivate. @Loren Muse Smith, you nailed it, too. Maybe one day I'll empathize with the icks. Until then, I'm okay being the rube.

@Hartley, I also use the app. I guess that's why the instructions didn't really make sense to me; it wasn't one long list like they said. Maybe it was easier for app users because the clues were structured like they are in a typical puzzle?

@TomAz earnest thumbs up emoji (can we use emojis here?)

@Wm. C. I appreciate your comment. I don't want to contribute to a downward slide into commenter tribalism, but that's pretty much how I feel, too. I also think some historical perspective is important: Was America great when we rounded up Japanese Americans and sent them to internment camps? When McCarthyism flourished? When millions of White people fought to maintain segregation? (I mean, that happened in my parents' lifetimes!) When Vietnam? Blind eye to HIV/AIDS epidemic? I think people on both sides of the aisle who lament our country's 'decline' believe all our current flaws/missteps to be uniquely horrible in US history. (...not that I think the criticism from the left is equivalent to the criticism from the right. The former, at worst, makes me roll my eyes. The latter downright terrifies me.)

jack 1:22 PM  

I thought the double-clues were challenging in a good way. "Screen" and "skin" for hide: OK by me, just shows the great variety of how English words are used. And "rafter" for a groups of turkeys sound as crosswordese as it gets, once again, in a good way.

Teedmn 1:22 PM  

I'm more in the "tolerant of ick" crowd than with the nit-pickers. While I've been persuaded to like a few puzzles better due to comments pointing out their merits, I rarely back off my liking due to their being panned. This holds true for today. I was highly amused to observe my in-grained habit of looking for Across and Down clues in certain areas of the page. @Nancy, you are completely correct - this added a good 25% in time to my usual Wednesday, but I was enjoying the challenge.

I had NO U-TURN at 9D before it became obvious that 18A was not going to end in U. I think AT AN END and AFRESH were the toughest theme pair to suss out. I liked having to picture a bird with a forcepslike bill to get the answer to 14A. And jumping into the political maelstrom, I remember the hiss that went through the crowd when Trent LOTT entered the arena where the memorial for Senator Paul Wellstone was being held, back in 2002. The usually polite Minnesotans weren't, that day.

Yeah, DNF due to WOEs IRsA and ROsO crossing. But, Mr. Mendelson, I appreciate your creativity and hope you'll keep constructing.

jberg 1:36 PM  

There were two different parts to this theme:

--The paired synonyms that started with the same letter
--Having all the clues in numerical order, not divided into across and down.

The first part was fine; the second unnecessary, and mostly slowed me down (and others: @Nancy,@Roo Monster, @Oldtimer) because whenever I wanted a down clue I started by looking at the end of the list until I remembered the gimmick.

Aside from that, an OK puzzle -- and sadly DNF for me. I was so convinced of ZEro at 1A (even while complaining that it meant the same thing as ZILCH), and I could visualize an o-STRAP, so I decided that either there was a very obscure instrument called the rITAR, or else the puzzle just had an error. I should have known better.

Anonymous 1:45 PM  


Tell me more about the Times's balance sheet and how those numbers came to be.
You may be an expert on pulp novels, but you ought to leave the paper's financials to grownups.

tea73 2:24 PM  

I enjoyed the theme.

I've had a thing for those collective animal names ever since reading "A Business of Ferrets" and "A Parliament of Owls" by Beth Hilgartner.

Did anyone else put NADER down confidently instead of NAMER? It took me the longest time to get that sorted out.

tb 2:35 PM  

I love the irony of people who dislike Rex's blog who post that Rex shouldn't waste his (or their!) time posting about something he doesn't like.

Masked and Anonymous 2:36 PM  

@RP: Not that M&A aims to come down all hard and harsh on U, when U don't happen to like a puz. I get it, that the snark-factor is part of yer shtick. But … a couple examples of how U coulda worked in a dash of encouragin words, here and there at home on the electric range:

* "YAD. Now there's a cool set of letters. Could be clued as: {Back in the day??}!"

* "Wow -- T-STRAP and A-FRESH. That's a fun concept to explore. Could even have a whole theme made up of these puppies: L-OTT. P-LOT. S-EVER. K-OOP. Neat stuff."

* "Crossing words that start off the same and can be clued the same, but have totally different meanings! That can't be an easy list to compile and fit into a grid. Well done!"

* "TAKEFIVE paired up with CLARINET was a nice bonus, even if Dave Brubeck did mostly play the piano."

* "Not even close to being a pangram. Well played!"

* "RAFTER of turkeys. It was really fun, researching where all these odd animal-collection names originated. A lot of these can be traced back to the creative genius of Dame Juliana Berners. Learned something, there. Thanx, Mr. Mendelson; I'm feelin' the bern, with these weird-ball animal groups! Let's have a whole puzzle of those, sometime!"

* "Although not one of my personal favorite theme types, it was well-executed. I, myself, like to execute things welly."

Just humbly-offered-up examples, U understand. Keep up yer by far mostly good work!

M&A Help Desk


Gregory Schmidt 2:51 PM  

Agree that this played horribly. Screwball sidebar is that I actually knew RAFTER. A friend has some land in upstate NY which she has named "Rafters", after the flocks of wild turkeys which are seen around the property. Other than that chuckle, a joyless trudge which took longer than average for a Wednesday.

Dolgo 2:53 PM  

A hint on how to remember nave/apse. I was surprised to learn that the traditional church shape is patterned after a ship. "Nave" and "navy" come from the same root. So the long part is the ship part. Yeah, I know. The ship thing kinda came as a surprise to me, too.

Bob C 2:55 PM  

Had trouble in NW until I figured out CLARINET, which led to my favorite non-answer:

* Instrument with 18+ strings: "raTe x"

Roo Monster 3:03 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brian 3:04 PM  

This makes me so mad! I was using the app, with no special instructions available. It's crazy they don't think of the app users!

Anonymous 3:04 PM  

I enjoyed this puzzle

Kimberly 3:15 PM  

I disagreed with Rex yesterday but today I agree with every word (except for the animal collective names: while they're mostly arbitrary and completely inane, they're great trivia and every gamer should memorize as many as possible. Plus knowing the odd ones will make you feel as proud as an ostentation of peacocks).

Mostly today was a tedious chore.

Roo Monster 3:32 PM  

Hey, found a couple of places to check out Animal Collective Names! This one is a bit hard to see, but the very bottom makes it worthwhile! This one is clearer. Have fun!


GILL I. 3:40 PM  

@Z - thank you. There must be a name of something when a word can be used for several meanings...Homograph?

Z 3:50 PM  

The Wikipedia entry on animal names has 78 citations. Clearly, the number of people interested in things like collective animal nouns is non-zero.

@M&A - Your rousing defense of Morton makes me wonder ... Are you really Andy Kaufman?*

*Seriously? I post the best links.

Z 3:52 PM  

@Gill I - yep.

Masked and Anonymous 3:54 PM  

@Roo: Only the second list worked, at my house, but it was a good one.

@Kimberly: I betcha at this point, @muse woulda probably gone with a "non-p.c. of PeaCocks".

* Dontdewit of pewits.
* Basket of de furry balls. [more of a general category]
* Infliction of runtz. [more of a generally bad category]
* HAR-ASS of hyenas.
* Desperation of NAMERs.
* Abyss of IBISes. [Also applies to: budgies]

M&Also again.

AskGina 4:02 PM  

@Mask, WHOA! This might've been easy to miss: that kinda depends on what the definition of IS IS is. Touche

Chronic dnfer 4:39 PM  

It costs upwards of $5000 to put an obit in the nyt. I agree with Rex. They need to pay better.

foxaroni 4:50 PM  

I'm with @LMS (as usual). And @M&A.

@Roo--the first link doesn't work (404 error). The second link is excellent--thanks!

Thanks, too, to Mr. Mendelson.

kitshef 5:31 PM  

@tea73 - hand up for serious flirting with NADER.

Penna Resident 6:13 PM  

i adopted my name a while back when rex said penna is not a legit abbrev for PA. i posted a keystone shaped sign from I-76 "Penna Turnpike", proving its legitimacy - because we all know street signs don't lie.
i just returned from driving around portugal, including porto, and whether you are on the E1, the A29, or the A4, the exit signs all say PORTO. imagine the added paint cost if they labeled the tollroad OE1.
and you have to pay for samples in gaia now, but not much.

webwinger 6:27 PM  

This didn't seem particularly hard to me--got most of the trickily clued answers quickly--but somehow took me almost twice my average Wed time. No annoyance from the altered clue list when using the app.

Learned today how little it matters that there are separate across and down clue lists--really only needed for the relatively small number of squares that start answers in both directions.

Here's a thought--maybe Congress could pass a law exempting crossword constructors from paying income tax on what they get paid?

And another--why not "Rex Parker does the WSJ crossword" for the next 10 years or so? Is WSJ available for phone/tablet solving?

Mohair Sam 7:07 PM  

Something different, lots of fun. Played medium in this house. Loved how the two answers across and down were totally different. Always get a kick out of those wacky names for animal groups (RAFTER), and learned something about the CLARINET and ARABIC too. A fine Wednesday.

Oh heck, what @Numinous, and @Hartley70, and @Lewis said.

*** politics alert ***
@SailorSteve - Yup, America was great during each one of your "whens" - because America is so constructed as to be able to right every one of those wrongs. And it did. (They used to teach that is schools)

mathgent 7:33 PM  

The fact that so many of us sophisticated folks liked this puzzle, which I found to be a bore, makes me happy. It's a testament to the power of crosswords. It makes me feel better about spending so much time doing them. They are important.

Nancy 8:13 PM  

Isn't there an Internet acronym -- FOMO? Fear of Missing Out? Well, that's me right now, reading for days on end, nay, weeks on end on this blog, about how wonderful the WSJ puzzle is and how superior it is in every way to the NYT. And, sob, I can't access it online -- not even to simply look at it. So here's what I did just now:

I sneaked down to our building's basement where tossed newspapers are collected at the end of the day from the bins on each floor, and I rummaged (guiltily) through the newspaper bin, casting N.Y.Timeses and N.Y. Posts and Observers aside and -- voila --"liberating" a Wednesday & a Sunday WSJ. This is an immense paper, with a lot of sections. Does anyone know in what section the crossword resides? It would keep me from having to tear each issue from stem to stern searching for it. Thanks, in advance for your help. [Signed] Your friendly neighborhood Newspaper "Borrower".

Anonymous 8:17 PM  

I mentioned it before with the recent anagram puzzle & the outrage it got, but it really seems to me that a "bad" puzzle to a lot of veteran solvers is really just a puzzle that was difficult for them. When people say they want difficult puzzles, what they actually mean is that they want easy puzzles that they imagine would be difficult for other people, but that they were smart enough to figure out quickly. I think a lot of you just want an ego boost, and when the puzzle doesn't give you that, it must be the puzzle's fault.

Remember when you were first starting out and even finishing a late-week puzzle felt like an accomplishment? And now you're griping because a mid-week puzzle took you a few minutes longer than average.

Amelia 9:03 PM  

I am going to repeat what so many are saying. Every day, I look forward to the WSJ puzzle. Every day, I dread the NY Times puzzle. The WSJ puzzles are fun, they're clever, they're a pleasure to work. Even when they're easy. This puzzle today was so bad, so boring, so irritating, that I'm tempted to stop altogether. Oh, well. First world problems. Let's get Hillary elected first before we change the world of NY Times puzzles.

Anonymous 10:03 PM  

As usual, Rex's challengings are my easies, and some of his easies are just beasts for me. I appreciate the work Will Shortz puts in to hit ALL of his constituents.

Anonymous 11:36 PM  

@Dolgo Nef in French is a large sailing ship as well as the long part of a church. I imagine that nef became nave when the English pronounced it and spelled it phonetically. Less sophisticated folks would then pronounce the e of nave to become navy. Recall that upper classes switched from Latin to French and the lower classes spoke Germanic languages. Later English just became a jumble with mispronunciations and odd spellings.

Pete 12:15 AM  

@Nancy - Go to the Today's Puzzles page on Amy' site (Diary of a Crossword Fiend), and download the puzzle to your heart's content.

@Randy - Today's puzzle took me Friday level time, and I both consider Friday puzzles difficult, and my favorites. It's not the difficulty, it's how it's achieved. On a good Friday, there's wit, wordplay, mindgames to achieve the difficulty. Today, while clearly difficult for me, had none of that. Besides an overabundance of bad fill, the theme was based around the fact that several words have multiple meanings or synonyms, some of which start with the same vowel. There's now wit in that. There was no wit, wordplay, or mindgames in cluing two answers with simple one word clues. It's not difficulty, it's quality.

Selwyn-Lloyd McPherson 7:00 AM  

The moment I realized this wasn't really even a crossword, I was over it.

Actually, no, that's not entirely true. I was kind of psyched at first, honestly.

But then I realized that this wasn't really even a crossword. And I was over it.

Leapfinger 7:55 AM  

@Pete, you're right, there's n lack of homographs: the dictionary abounds in them. However, to my mind, it takes a smart wit to conceive of the idea of homographs that can be well-clued by a single word AND that both begin with the same letter!. Suppose you try it, with the clue "Rose", f'rinstance: you have at your disposal PINK, FLOWER and STOOD, among others; however, none of them begin with the same letter. You'd certainly want to avoid uglies like UNSAT and DEBEDDED. After you find the first one that fits these criteria, go find eight others, and fit them in an eminently decent grid.

I see this most definitely as an example of 'wordplay' as well as a 'mindgame' played on the solver. I was pleased to find a third homograph with SLICE before SHARE, and didn't mind too much being led astray by NAdER. So, good job, Morty!!

@Nancy, love the vision of you surreptitiously scuffling through the recycling.

@r.alphbunker, Most excellent! Your word ladder rung true.

Tom 1:24 PM  

Annoying, in general. Agree with Nancy, kept looking in the wrong places for the clues. Meh puzzle

Devin W 1:40 PM  

Uhh... solving this on my phone was massive DNF. You don't get the additional clue

TLH Ed 4:10 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dr. Bunger 5:59 PM  

@Dolgo, Your mention of the similarities between a ship and a church reminds me of a passage from a favorite volume: "for the pulpit is ever this earth's foremost part; the pulpit leads the world. From thence it is the storm of God's quick wrath is first descried, and the bow must bear the earliest brunt."

Anokha 1:57 AM  

100% co-sign this review

Steve 7:10 PM  

Rex - This is my first post on your blog after a couple years of lurking. I used to visit your sited to check my puzzle answers. Of course now the NYT does that function for me.

But I still enjoy your site and comments although I often disagree with the negative ones. I tend to give the constructors more credit because I think it's a difficult job - but then I'm only a Wednesday and a half solver (without the answers). Keep up your good work! Thanks.

Blue Stater 12:09 PM  

I gave up on this mess; meant to come back but got distracted, so this is way late. What needs replacing isn't the constructors or the budget....

NM Robin 10:44 AM  


spacecraft 11:04 AM  

Instructions? I didn't get no damn instructions. Nothing, just the grid, and 69 clues. Challenging to be sure; if OFL graded anything else I was going to hunt him down.

Wow, Mort, you really succeeded in polarizing the populace here, didn't you? I'm on your side. The triumph factor alone would put this one over the top. I had to write over Zoom; either that or the correct ZEST is perfectly OK as "zip." I do not love TSTRAP, or most other single-letter add-ons. I don't even know what that is. Jimmy Choo I ain't.

For the second day in a row, a disappointing central across entry. Perhaps YAD shouldn't be obscure anywhere, lest we forget, but the fact is, here in the States your average solver on the street is not going to know this. Centerpieces are linchpins; they should have more...ZEST.

Had trouble with the "Break" thing; first trying (but not yet writing in) LAME--you know, if you lame someone maybe you break their leg...I didn't think of the sense of breaking a horse. Couldn'tcome up with anything across, until the Brubeckian aha! hit. No direct DOD today, but I will stretch a point and invoke "Irma laDouce," so fetchingly played by one of my all-time DODs Shirley MacLaine. You go, girl. Birdie. This blog is ATANEND.

Diana,LIW 11:52 AM  

Read the instructions a couple of times - lightbulb!

Then I jumped all around as I usually do, charmed by having to actually THINK about where to find a clue. More fun than a rebus for my money.

Read Rex's review a couple of times - still scratching head. He doesn't explain why it seems old or stale. I found it to be a delightful change up. Hoped that all the clue-sharing words would have different meanings - they did.

Learned AFRESH name with YAD. Didn't know SITARs had that many strings. Mythomaniac cracked me up. Will add to vocab. Come next week we'll be hearing less from some mythomaniacs. TSTRAP - nine times out of ten, in crosswords I've encountered, if a woman's shoe feature is featured, it's a TSTRAP. (You know, like the Vette's ttop.

The duo of SEVER and SHARE put a GRIN on my face.

Once again, I'm glad to be easily amused.

Hey folks - check out my post yesterday. See what you think - it regards "fill." Not Phil.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

Burma Shave 12:38 PM  


a BANKNOTE, he ROARed with a GRIN,” I’ll TAKEFIVE.
You SEE, I’ll TRYFOR one of those RARE SOAKERS of a WAVE
that ADES at my STERN OAR, and I LOSESTO no man alive.”


Anonymous 1:43 PM  

A fun, rewarding, challenging puzzle. What's wrong with that?

rondo 2:06 PM  

I’m glad a coupla other folks mentioned looking in all the wrong places for clues. I’d bet that was the biggest irritation for speed solvers who are so trained to find the downs and acrosses in their proper places and it cost them time. So it’s AFRESH way of going about it that upset some folks. I’ll just GRIN about that. Vive la difference!

Burial instead of cremation? Coffins, NOTURNS.

Only hint of a yeah baby is you-know-who EDEN, an answer that rivals EPEE or APSE in frequency.

I suppose the challenging rating comes from losing that precious time searching for clues. I had no write-overs and didn’t notice if it took longer or not. So I say not challenging, medium at most. That’s about all I have to SHARE.

Anonymous 2:17 PM  

From Syndication Land:

@Diana, LIW you should know that if Rex finds the puzzle challenging, that he will pan it in his blog.
He is all about speed solving, and this one took extra time just trying to find the clues! My eyeballs got a workout going from looking at the customary spot for the clue to actually finding the clue.

Your list yesterday just proves my point. It's not about the fill. That's just an excuse for a negative review.
All puzzles rely on crosswordese to some extent. I say slow down and enjoy the puzzle for what it is. This puzzle was actually very easy to solve...just not if you're in a hurry.

BS2 2:22 PM  


IRMA’s a LIAR who’ll TAKEFIVE from you fast,
so stay ERECT from the ONSET, OAR last,
and with a LOTT of ZEST
she’ll remove her NEAT DRESS
and give you AFRESH TRYFOR the SKIN of HARASS.


rain forest 3:26 PM  

Continuing with my resolution to not read @Rex's post, I am so glad I didn't today. I gleaned he didn't like this. Too bad @Rex. You missed a good time.

I found this a refreshing change of pace, and the dual clues were great, as different in meaning as they were. At first, finding where the clue was in the list was challenging, but as I moved through the puzzle, I sort of got into a bit of a rhythm. Only one w/o: NAdER, briefly causing me to wonder that the heck TAdE is. Clever.

Actually, lots of cleverness in this puzzle, and the "conceit" was carried off with aplomb, even though I don't know what a "plomb"is

Agreed, @Rondo, and @Spacey - Barbara EDEN and Shirley MacLaine are right up there.
@BS - loved the BS2.
@Diana - right on. If OFL wants to trash a puzzle, he'll list words he doesn't like from on high. Fatuous.

wcutler 6:33 PM  

I liked the puzzle. It surprises me, though, that people are so taken with the two answers for one clue. I hardly ever get the right answer right away for a clue. So I always have to tell myself to think of other meanings. Here, we get that admonition at the first think. It was just incorporating my thinking into the puzzle. That was fun. And the single list was fun too. Yes, I kept looking at the wrong place, but i found it fun to try to remember what was going on. I kind of prefer the single list. I have only seen it once before.

IdahoConnie 8:18 PM  

I am doing this puzzle as syndicated on Nov. 2. I also did the WSJ puzzle entitled "Take it in Stride" on Nov. 2. Many of you criticized this NYT puzzle and praised WSJ puzzles as being of a higher quality. The WSJ puzzle was indeed better. I was surprised to notice that the constructor of each of these two puzzles was the same person, Morton J. Mendelson. Go figure.

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