Start of recuperative word ladder / TUE 9-27-16 / Taiwan-based computer maker / Orbital high points / Service symbolized by blue white eagle / brand of bubbly familiarly / Andrea ill-fated ship / Morsel for aardvark

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Constructor: Robert Cirillo

Relative difficulty: Challenging (For. A. Tuesday.)

THEME: SICK to WELL word ladder — clue on SICK = 1A: Start of a "recuperative" word ladder ending at 73-Across; Word ladder = SICK SILK SILT WILT WELT WELL

Theme answers:
  • AN APPLE A DAY (30A: How to avoid becoming 1-Across, so they say)
  • CHICKEN SOUP (49A: Aid for getting 73-Across, so they say)
Word of the Day: DAKAR (53A: Capital of Senegal) —
Dakar (English pronunciation: /dɑːˈkɑːr, ˈdækər/;[5][6] French: [da.kaʁ]) is the capital and largest city of Senegal. // It is located on the Cap-Vert Peninsula on the Atlantic coast and is the westernmost city in the Old World and on the African mainland. Its position, on the western edge of Africa, is an advantageous departure point for trans-Atlantic and European trade; this fact aided its growth into a major regional port. // According to 31 December 2005 official estimates, the city of Dakar proper has a population of 1,030,594, whereas the population of the Dakar metropolitan area is estimated at 2.45 million people. // Dakar is a major administrative center, home to the Senegal National Assembly and the Presidential Palace. (wikipedia)
• • •

Hello darkness I mean Tuesday, my old friend. You've come to be terrible again. Was really hoping for a pleasant diversion (I am current solving / writing in the middle of a self-imposed news blackout 'cause I just can't deal with the debate stuff right now), but this was painful. First, word ladder? What year is it? Always a terrible, boring, old, played-out idea—unless you do something truly remarkable with it, I suppose. That's the thing about Great puzzles: they can sometimes take an old idea and make it new. This ... is not one of those puzzles. Unremarkable word ladder that simply takes up space—and with unclued words (this largely accounts for the "Challenging" rating). Also, AN APPLE A DAY does not fit the word ladder. At all. Sorry. No. Give me another "cure" or give me nothing. And the non-theme stuff, just dreary. Old and stale. KOP THOS ONS. BONA MORA ORA DORIA. LESE AER ECRU ELLA ERIE ELI ERLE. TSETSE TSO OREOS OLIO oh oh oh please dear god send help. The two longer Downs, fine. The rest, scrap.

I fell into one very dark hole, which is the *other* reason (besides the unclued words in the word ladder) that this played harder-than-average for me. With --LEAS- in place, I wrote in RELEASE at 22D: Let loose (UNLEASH). What are the odds you're going to have four letters in place, come up with an answer that fits perfectly, and botch it. Low, I'd say. But today, I botched it. Not an easy pit to climb out of. OUT TO WIN was vicious to parse (21A: Seeking victory). [Socially unacceptable] and NON-PC are not the same. In fact, I don't think NON-PC is a thing. Most "socially unacceptable" things have Zero to do with whatever PC is (and usually "PC" is just what bigots call it when their bigotry gets pointed out). Farting in an elevator—socially unacceptable, nothing to do with "PC." On the flip side, in plenty of social contexts, being so-called "NON-PC" is perfectly acceptable, even encouraged. I hate UNPC and NONPC as answers, generally. Would never ever use them. Bad fill in every way. Delete them from your word lists, please.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


P.P.S. my wife is SICK and I wish she were WELL, not least because today is our anniversary.

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Z 12:17 AM  

I remember that the old LAX blog used to list all the crosswordese in each day's puzzle. It seems like the word list came right from there.

As for word ladders - Hey! Looky! Words are made from letters and you can substitute in different letters to make different words. Neato! I realize some people like word ladders. Am I one of those people? I Am Not!

jae 12:18 AM  

Happy anniversary Rex, and that's all I really want to say about this one.

Gil 12:21 AM  

God bless you, Rex. I love your blog but I also love the fact that you are the only other person I know who can't stand to see that bloviating fatuous monstrous fascist pretend he is anything but the end of democracy as we know it. The hair. The fat hating face. The lies. The grotesque gesticulations with his clinched little fingers. I couldn't watch either. People thought Moussolini was funny also.

Warren Howie Hughes 12:34 AM  

It certainly doesn't HIRT to see a Tuesday Xword Puzz that MORA LESE ends WELL @73 Across. In fact,it seems it's been IANS...the MOET, the Merrier!

David Krost 12:38 AM  

Except for the short fill, I think every aspect of your review is wrong. Non-PC is a term, of course, and is used to mean generally thought to be currently unacceptable in situations, especially public ones. Also, and maybe one of these days you will get this, Monday and Tuesday puzzles are for relative newbies. Go back to letting a student review days like that. They will satisfy you so infrequently you are approaching Einstein's definition of insanity: reviewing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

Finally, this one was on the faster side for me, so I even disagree with the Medium designation of difficulty.

Warren Howie Hughes 12:44 AM  

Rex, I just espied at the bottom of your blog that this was your wedding anniversary. I trust your currently ill better half will quickly recoup over the next few days and will be good as new before the month is out. All the best to both of you along life's highway in the years to come.

Anonymous 12:56 AM  

..Not to mention that natick at ERLE/MORA

Andrea Ojeda 1:10 AM  

I'll take any excuse not to waste my time watching the orange clown. But an anniversary is actually a great one!
Hope you spend many more together.
(I ate an apple today; will that make me well? How well?)

George Barany 1:20 AM  

I solved @Robert Cirillo's Tuesday puzzle while multi-tasking, so my time was leisurely. I too fell into the reLEASe/UNLEASH "trap" mentioned by @Rex (the quotes are in case the "trap" was inadvertent rather than deliberately set by the constructor).

So much else of the fill and/or clues felt familiar from puzzles past, but let's DON'T_GO_THERE (and far be it for me to be unhappy about anything from the Periodic Table, here's looking at you, AT_WT with a bonus element no. 26 as part of IRON_ON). I personally would have preferred a musical clue for SONATA, rather than yet another car model.

I can also vouch for the recuperative efficacy of CHICKEN_SOUP, aka "Jewish penicillin." The last two letters of this word did set up two adjacent 6-letter entries that were linked, i.e., USMAIL and POSTAL. That's nifty, @RC.

The Sunday puzzle of a bit over two weeks ago, co-constructed with Ned White, had LSD, clued simply as "Acid" (our original clue, before it was edited, was "Acid that's actually a base"). Eight days later, on a Monday, @Zhouqin Burnikel's LSD clue was "Drug for tripping." Eight days later, i.e., today, we see ACID, clued as "If you drop this you'll trip." Whatever happened to a simple proton donor?

Loren Muse Smith 4:06 AM  

Happy anniversary, Rex. Sorry your wife is sick, and I hope she recovers soon.

As usual, I'm surprised to see an isolated list of the gluey fill; the theme upstages the drek every time for me, so I just don't pay much attention to the crosswordese. When presented with a list like that, I have to acknowledge that it's a lot.

I just don't notice it, and it rarely interferes with my pleasure while solving.

As someone who sits down every now and then to try my hand at a word ladder, I must be one of the few people left who likes this trick every now and then. I think they're Neato. I appreciated this, liked the beautiful stair-stepping down symmetry of the rungs, indicative of a descent into sickdomhood.

I do agree on the NON PC answer and its clue. Rex – your example of farting on an elevator was perfect. Also – I never stopped to carefully consider how AN APPLE A DAY is preventative and not curative. Fair point.

I zipped right through this, not ever considering "release" for UNLEASH.

I did notice ONS – there are seven in the grid. Hah!

@George pointed out – really nice to have US MAIL and POSTAL. *And* they're right next to each other. Cool.

(On attempting word ladders -this would be the time to share my latest masterpiece: TRUMP – THUMP – CHUMP. I stopped watching, too. I wasn't solving this last night, but as I turned off the tv, I said to myself, "This guy makes me physically ill." So I kinda went backwards on the ladder – WELL at 9pm to SICK by 9:45.)


Oh yeah, and the timely XENOphobe, RAT, DODGE, SKEW, and (famously) UNREAD.

Nice job, Robert.

Lise 4:54 AM  

I liked the puzzle in general - especially ZIPLINE. But I don't think "Football coach Jim" is a fair Tuesday clue. There must be dozens of football coaches named Jim. Little help needed there for someone who just follows the ACC (Go 'Hoos!) and a few NFL teams.

I don't mind the crosswordese so much but until your review I hadn't realized how much there was. Wow.

Happy anniversary to the both of you, and best wishes for a speedy recovery.

Hungry Mother 7:02 AM  

I thought it was easy, even though I didn't see the "Jim" in the clue for MORA. I've always liked word ladders.

Lewis 7:09 AM  

Happy anniversary, Rex and wife, and may your wife's healing be swift.

My sick-to-well puzzle went from blank-to-full in a little longer than usual for Tuesday, and this is a good thing. Refreshed and jogged my brain -- thank you, Robert! Answers that appealed: OUT_TO_WIN, COALESCE, SUBMERSE, and (Andrea) DOREA, speaking of which, I like how that answer is so close to SUBMERSE. Nice cross of DODGE and DONT_GO_THERE, and EAST, indeed, is. YEAR and RAT come together, as in Year Of The Rat, and, suddenly, I'm flashing on last night's debate.

I successfully didn't look at the ads below the puzzle. You know that saying about ladders.

NCA President 7:34 AM  

Debate? What debate?

I found this puzzle super easy. I guess when people talk about a puzzle being in their "wheel house," this is what they mean. I did not hesitate at all.

While I'm with Rex on the pun-hate, I am not with him on word ladder-hate. I like them. And further, I don't know how much more can be done to them to make them any more interesting...unless someone did one with 5 letters. Or somehow made each step relevant to a themer. If anyone creates a puzzle like this, I expect some credit.

I am truly confounded by Rex's reference to a debate though. Unless by "debate" he means that thing that was on last night when reasonable, rational discourse was murdered in front of 100 million people.

Anonymous 7:38 AM  

It's ok @Gil, 70% agree with you and no one I know thinks he's funny. But you should get a Pulitzer for the phrase "grotesque gesticulations with his clinched little fingers." That is genius

GILL I. 8:13 AM  

Hey whom are you referring?
Yes, a bit on the stale side, but still enjoyable for the dreaded Tuesday. I was born in the YEAR of the RAT. My bucket list includes booking the ZIP LINE in Dubai but DIO mio it's expensive. $160 for a two minute thrill. Doesn't AZTEC need an S at the end? I will have to memorize Hyundai and Kia models one of these least I know a DODGE when I see one.
CHICKEN SOUP for the Soul....If you are UN READ, try this one for a smile. It is not NON PC and you won't go POSTAL.
Did Jefferson's wife really call him THOS?

r.alphbunker 8:14 AM  

SUBMERGE sunk me. It looked so right that I didn't check the crossing downs and ended with APOGEEg. Details are here.

I too loved how close SUBMERSE and SUBMERSE are. :-)

chefbea 8:15 AM  

Happy anniversary Rex and Sandy..She will get well if you make her some chicken soup!!!
Fun puzzle...don't mind word ladders.

kitshef 8:27 AM  

Yes, just awful. Weak abbrevs. like ATWT and THOS, awkward partials like GUNG and AER, obscure PPP like MORA and LEN, a gratuitous word ladder, ECRU and ACER and OLIO.

On the plus side, finished way ahead of my Tuesday average, and @Rex called it challenging, so yay!

@Rex, much happy on your anniversary, and hope SWMBO feels better soon.

L 8:42 AM  

@Gil, I agree with Anon above. Brilliant phrase!

Hartley70 8:44 AM  

Rex, you were wise to avoid the debate. TV can be harmful to your health. I have an aunt who expired in her easy chair while cheering "USA USA" during the Olympics. I hesitate to think how many family members were in danger last night. I swore I wouldn't look, but I broke my vow and discovered that blood truly can boil.

I generally don't see the point of word ladders, but I welcomed the distraction after my near death experience. I liked the SICK to WELL theme and the ladder made sense in that regard. Unfortunately the patient may have succumbed to OREO-itis before he was cured by that APPLE. I too feel sick by the sight of the bazillionth OREO in my daily puzzle, but thank goodness it doesn't HIRT.

The sporty MORA would have done me in without ERLE, unless they were linked and clued as an Italian mystery lover. No trip to Natick today.

I thought I was seeing a vertical governmental theme with CENTRALBANK, USMAIL and POSTAL but DONTGOTHERE let me down, unless it was a comment on long lines or crazed employees.

Since I don't ever give word ladders a thought, this took me a bit longer tha usual. I would label it a medium difficulty level for a Tuesday. I liked it.

L 8:44 AM  

Happy anniversary Rex!

Cassieopia 8:56 AM  

Under my Tuesday average, so easy for me. Liked it 'cause not only do I like puns, I like how one word can change into another and there were two long related clues, too. Maybe not perfect (as Rex so ascerbically pointed out), but one went with "sick" and the other with "well" which I appreciated and thought was clever.

I did get stuck at MOËT/STwhatever on the T; I wanted MOEN perhaps because I spend more time appreciating plumbing than I do fine champagne. Talk about skewed priorities!

Happy Anniversary, Rex, and wishing your better half a very speedy recovery!

pmdm 8:57 AM  

The big restraint on a Monday and Tuesday puzzle is the need for them to be simple for beginner solvers. From that viewpoint, this puzzle seemed to be just about right. From that viewpoint I can understand why expert solvers often complain about early week puzzles.

Consider this. If every puzzle were a great puzzle, then there would be no great puzzles. They all would be average. While I don't espouse beating one's head against the wall (to experience how wonderful it is when you stop and the pain goes away), I suppose I'm appreciative of decent average puzzle that help me better appreciate the truly great one.

Perhaps one can say the same about presidential candidates and debates. But I would rather not mix crosswords and politics.

Mohair Sam 9:15 AM  

Maybe the first time ever that a challenging for @Rex plays as an easy solve for us. Probably because he's racing the clock on screen and we're lazing on paper and judging the ease by how clean the sheet is when we're done.

I'm very much with @Z on word ladders, just don't enjoy them. And pretty much with @Rex on his review. Especially his feeling on the NONPC clue (although, mind you, I might have gone with a burp rather than a fart in my example of why the clue is wrong).

Had MaRA before MORA (have a Giant fan in the family), and Lady M. had to tell me how to spell COALESCE (best word in the puzzle, btw) - otherwise we flew right through this one.

Got a Facebook post from a liberal niece and a blast email from a conservative friend within minutes of each other soon after the debate ended last night; they both were headlined "Lester Holt Sucks". I guess he did a good job.

Z 9:24 AM  

@Muse - I don't believe you. You are far too observant to have missed the plethora of tired ese. TSETSE and OREOS had to start the alarm bells ringing, reaching a cacophonous calamity at MORA-AT EAT-ACER-STES-ERLE in the south. I can accept that people like word ladders. I can accept that the way the ladder steps through the puzzle is a nice touch. I can even accept that the opposing themers (preventative clued by SICK and cure clued by WELL) is a feature not a bug. But I just cannot believe that an experienced solver did not quail at least a little at the ABBA AMTOO ATWT line.

Being a little bit of a political junkie, there was absolutely no need for me to watch the debate, so I followed it through Twitter as my Tigers warmed up the fat lady. Favorite tweets were the "Hillary comes out dressed as tabasco sauce. A play for the Hispanic vote?" line and the "Is Donald Trump really Andy Kaufman?" article link from Newsweek (I think it was Newsweek - I'm sure Uncle Google can help you find it). My feed skews blue (I'm sure you're all shocked) but I do have saner conservatives that I follow. The number of times "mansplaining" was used in Tweets was very amusing to me, along with the count of how many times the "debaters" interrupted each other (no surprise here, Donnie was far ruder). Oh, and the "I never said that" followed by the campaign deleting the tweets where Donnie had said exactly that. The internet never forgets.

QuasiMojo 9:32 AM  

Was this puzzle constructed thirty years ago? Certainly not at the Times, however. Maybe in one of those Dell paperbacks you bought at the old Penn Station. What an ill, ailing, weak, and "quaint" puzzle. Which reminds me. I wish people would stop clueing "inn" as being "quaint." Most of them that I've stayed at are anything but. Inn usually implies the lowest end of the "ladder" when it comes to accommodations. Less than Motel 6. haha. Just kidding, sorta. Also I am surprised people naticked at the Erle crossing. The author of the Perry Mason series has been a staple of puzzles for decades now. It irks me since I am YUGE Erle Stanley Gardner fan (even going to Austin to read up on his archives there; they have a complete replica of his office at the Harry Ransom Center) and he certainly deserves to be recognized for more than just his crosswordese-friendly first name. Yesterday, I tried out one of the 1993 puzzles in the Times archive. What stuck out most for me during the solve was the absolute lack of any pop-culture names or TV stars or trendy music fill. The only names were either historical or literary, stuff anyone with a good high school education or interest in the world at large would know. I wish we'd go back to that standard.

ArtO 9:36 AM  

I don't particularly like word ladders and understand the criticism of the overwhelming amount of crosswordese. Nevertheless, liked COALESCE, DONTGOTHERE and don't have the @Rex problem with either ANAPPLEADAY or CHICKENSOUP. Both are accurately clued.

In any event, trust your wife will feel better soon so you can properly enjoy an anniversary celebration.

RAD2626 9:36 AM  

I actually liked both yesterday and today's puzzles about the same. Word ladder was enhanced by APPLE and CHICKEN fill and without the latter the reLEASe problem would have been exacerbated. I truly thought reLEASH was somehow correct for quite a while, perhaps because I was in fact watching the debate while solving and releash seemed somehow fitting. Like @lms the long answers made the short fill tolerable and once Harbaugh did not fit MORA was a natural fit. Seems I am definitely in the minority.

Steve M 9:39 AM  

Happy anniversary
What Gil said

Roo Monster 9:43 AM  

Hey All !
Knew Rex wouldn't like puz. He didn't disappoint! Word Ladders are not to his liking. Me, I like them, although WELT was a tad tough, thought WILL at first, with MOET being ASTI first also. That little S center was crancky!

Every puz has dreck, I've said this before, now I'm saying it again. You can list all the bad -ese, from just about every puz and end up with a bunch of answers. I tend to SKEW with @LMS, as long as theme is good, fill can be overlooked if the crappier fill is spread out enough. And this theme, not only the Word Ladder, but also two other themers corresponding to the Ladder, makes it a good theme in my book.

The NON-PC issue, originally PC was Politically Correct, as in what is acceptable in public so as not to offend anyone with opinions different than your own. It sorta morphed into "Don't be an ass in public", basically. Rexs elevator analogy, you wouldn't want someone farting in there, as you shouldn't want to fart in there just to be an ass. Or somesuch.

As for the debate, I have to LOL at people who watch expecting great things. First, all, ALL politicians lie. How do you know when they're lying? Their lips are moving. Second, they tell you what you want to hear so you'll vote for them. Sure, I'll change this, I'll support that, you can count on that, just send money and vote for me... Third, doesn't matter what Trump says or does, every Republican is going to vote for him simply because they're sick of Democrats. Even with dissent amongst other known Republicans. He can say he'll charge a "Support Trump Tax" (as a hypothetical example) of $1000 to every household, and Reps would still vote for him.

I consider myself an Independent, as like I said, I don't believe anything Politicians say. When you go to vote, there is no law that says you have to vote for Everything. You can skip some stuff, like Presidential votes, for example. Or hell, write in your own name!

Back to puz, besides the bunch of gluey bits, the long Acrosses and Downs were very nice. I've made some word ladders, never submitted them anywhere. I got into them from Games Magazine. Do they still have that mag? Haven't seen it in a while.


Tita A 9:53 AM  

Could not feel more meh about word ladders, but had a fine time doing the puzzle.

When we travel, we have a knack for selecting routes that put us square into some mammoth local holiday, triathlon, or 500th anniversary of the Reinheitsgebot.
We booked a room in a charming hotel on the main square in quaint Arras, France.
When we arose, that huge town square was crammed with every rally car on the planet, getting ready for the Arras-DAKKAR rally.
I never saw so many snorkeled cars - they were obviously expecting to SUBMERSE often.

Puzzle also made me think of the Mistake on the Lake [ERIE] and my relatives there. They like it.

Happy anniversary, Rex and Mrs. P. And get WELL soon.

Tim Pierce 9:56 AM  

I liked the word ladder, and the CHICKEN APPLE sausage connecting them. That seems to make me an unimaginative dinosaur, but whatever.

Agreed that much of the fill was subpar. Both ATWT and NONPC made me cringe (and I agree 110% with Rex on the ridiculousness of NONPC).

On the plus side, I really liked seeing TOR clued as something other than "rocky peak". Other nice cluing: "Place to get outta, in a saying" (DODGE), "If you drop this you'll trip" (ACID), "A busy mom might keep a child in this" (TOW).

Numinous 10:15 AM  

While I'm not a fan of word ladders, neither do I dislike them. They're a thing and as such, they will occur in crossword puzzles. I can't picture Will ever banning them. How many devices might crop up in X words? I'm sure the number is limited so why eliminate one of them? The appeal is the contrast between the initial and terminal words. Yahoo! Whoopy do! Going from SICK to WELL in six steps does nothing to change my world. But, hey! It's a Tuesday. I found this easier than @Rex. I never thought of reLEASe before UNLEASH. The only writeover was HIRT for HuRT.

I will say that all of the ESE bugged me. It all filled in by rote with nary a thought to embellish the answer. To be fair, I can picture a relative newbie spending twenty or thirty minutes over this – all the while marvelling at the rungs of the ladder. And to that newbie i say, "more power to ya. You'll be proud of yourself when you're done as long as you don't Google MORA." And didn't we ALL cut our teeth on this sort of thing? @LMS, like you I wouldn't normally notice this sort of thing but it all kept compounding to ultimately COALESCE into an ESEfest. The long downs were ok but they virtually solved themselves from the crosses so no real challenge there either.

The USMAIL/POSTAL pair was utterly gratuitous. Why call attention to something that has no part in the theme? I imagine pairs like that might make an interesting theme but to stick them randomly into a puzzle that's about something else?

Two annaversaries in three days! Wow @Rex. Well, maybe one and a half since your wife may not be up for the full celebration. I'm sorry to hear she's under the weather. Here's hoping that whatever you do today for her will bouy her spirits and speed her back up the word ladder.

Jerry Atric 10:15 AM  

Word ladders are kind of vapid when the only clue is to make a word into some other word by changing one letter. Fork me.

Otherwise, I agreed with Rex about tuning out the debate and its journalistic aftermath. The news channels now offer little but partisan hacks eagerly promoting one major party candidate or the other and dodging any serious discussion of major issues.

Nancy 10:18 AM  

I looked at 1A, with the giveaway clue "recuperative", and knew immediately that the word ladder would go from SICK to WELL. I checked a few crosses before writing the two answers in, because that's just the kind of solver I am, but I absolutely knew. This is going to be a big yawn, I said to myself. But it wasn't. AN APPLE A DAY and CHICKEN SOUP made the puzzle lively and amusing -- at least for me. And the puzzle gave me a bit of trouble as well -- always a good thing. RCA before MCI at 42D led to ARE SO before AM TOO at 41A. Which kept me from seeing AZTEC at 32D. Which meant I had rIPLINES before ZIPLINES at 37A. (Well, how should I know? Do you think I do any of those dangerous sports where you can fall and kill yourself? Not bloody likely!) It was the 2nd C of CHICKEN SOUP that enabled me to straighten out all the above mistakes. Thank goodness, because otherwise there would have been a tribe called the AREES (32D) -- and I was quite sure there was no such thing. A very nice Tuesday.

Rob C 10:23 AM  

Hi all, This is Rob C, your constructor for the day. I’m glad the general consensus is a bit better than Rex’s opinion. When I was opening up Rex’s review, I sort of expected it to be negative. “farting in an elevator” – how many other constructors can claim that phrase in a review? This puzzle definitely had an old-timey feel, even when I was constructing it. But I kind of like word ladders. My daughter and I used to have fun coming up with them. To the main point, I can’t argue that there’s not some less than ideal fill in this puzzle, but I do draw a distinction between crosswordese and dreck. Many of the words pointed out: ERLE, ERIE, ELLA, ECRU, ELI, TSETSE, OREOS, OLIO, TOR (as I originally clued it), IANS are all crosswordese, but fine words and names in and of themselves, which wouldn't be objectionable to an early-week or novice solver. I’m sure crosswordese bothers one who solves multiple puzzles a day more than the general population. I dislike obscure entries more than crosswordese. Some of the other fill, THOS, ONS, TSO and partials, is the price I paid for getting some entries that I wanted: USMAIL next to POSTAL, DON’T GO THERE, ZIPLINES, CENTRAL BANK… I had an earlier version of this puzzle where the fill was cleaner, but the longer entries were less zippier. Wish I could find that – probably deleted it cleaning up my computer. I decided to submit this version. And I think this puzzle was within an early-week solvers grasp with not too much difficulty.

In any case, I hope everyone who solved it found at least a few things to like. Have a great day!

@ George B - SONATA was originally clued with a moonlight pun. I'm glad some of my other clues (TOW, DODGE, YEAR) made the cut.

Alex 10:23 AM  

I hate to face this evident fact - I'm becoming old. Every danged time a puzzle is identified as old, dated, tired or something similar, I have found it to be fun. Sigh. Grotesque gesticulations. Clinched little fingers. Hee hee hee. Thanks, Gil.

Amy 10:26 AM  

oddly I thought this was easy. 🙃

Greater Fall River Committee for Peace & Justice 10:29 AM  

I was pleased that it was so easy, as I have a busy day today. I think ERLE was the first piece of crosswordese I ever learned, 50 years ago or so. Was surprised any Times reader was supposed to care who wrote Perry Mason then, more so now. THOS used to be a common abbreviation in telephone books, for whatever reason.What did I take away from the debate? They both told us to look at their websites. I didn't, but I was reliably told that Hillary's was up and Trump's was down. Yay.

Rob C 10:30 AM  

PS - I used to comment regularly on this blog several years ago. It's nice to see so many familiar names and a bunch of new ones.

puzzle hoarder 10:37 AM  

It seems that even the lamest early week puzzles have some redeeming facet that makes them worth doing. Today it was learning how Jefferson signed his first name. Somehow I've managed to overlook that one. An entry like that could be a leg up in a more interesting and difficult puzzle. LEN and MORA were two more unfamiliar forms of ese.
At least most people watched the debate in the comfort of their own homes . I was at the firehouse with Trump's cheering section. I just did an old Saturday and pretended I was deaf.

Doug Garr 10:42 AM  

You mean you didn't want to watch the Babe Ruth of debaters? After last night you might call him the Mario Mendoza of debaters. Anyway, if it's Tuesday, Rex must be in a foul mood.

Joseph Michael 10:49 AM  

Still SICK from watching The Donald and his IRON-ON hair for ninety minutes last night.

He was OUT TO WIN, but must not have eaten his CHICKEN SOUP because he had the sniffles big time through the first half of the debate and GREW more orange than usual as the evening wore on. It was ironic to watch him slowly WILT after his complaints about Hillary's stamina. Oh WELL. No APOGEES or excuses. You can't make a SILK purse out of a cow's ear.

Hoped the puzzle would cheer me up and renew my faith in the future of Western civilization, but word ladders unfortunately don't do lit for me, especially when SUBMERSEd in bad fill. I XENO reason to say anything more about it, so I guess I'll have to break open the MOET and call it a day.

Nancy 10:59 AM  

My take on the debate, FWIW: I was (figuratively) chewing my fingernails during the first half-hour, the trade segment, because I thought Trump was winning. But thank heavens I didn't turn off the set. What seemed very much like a meltdown followed shortly thereafter: the grimaces and the perpetually baleful expression, the interruptions, the incoherent ramblings, the repetitions -- even the chug-a-lugging of water (who has more stamina now, Donald?) I tried hard to watch objectively -- pretending I was a moderate Republican woman in the PA suburbs, wanting to vote for Trump if I possibly could, but could I? And, objectively, I think I could not -- even if I were a Republican woman. The one bar Trump had to pass -- possibly the only one that counts -- was to look and sound "Presidential". And I think he failed miserably. I think that Hillary did look and sound Presidential, although I fully accept that there will be people here who disagree with me.

the redanman 11:22 AM  

Not even as interesting as the debate. I lasted two minutes last night


Warren Howie Hughes 11:27 AM  

Let's all join in and give Gil a big hand for his reference to the Combover Kid's "Clinched little fingers" during last nights universally televised Debate, where The Donald unfortunately took de-bait straight from Hillary's plate!

Andrew Heinegg 11:31 AM  

I switched it on and off last night, going over to a baseball game as I got ill from watching one of the debaters ignore the rules of the debate and common courtesy by constantly interrupting when it wasn't his turn to speak. It gives one a tremendous sense of confidence for the diplomacy he would use if elected. You can imagine an allied nation representative coming to the U.S. to confer and leave after giving a news conference that his/her country was switching sides. His bullying of Lester Holt was disgraceful and then, as you would expect, he criticizes Holt for being on Hillary's side!! It is that 'the world is against me and the USA' business that helps him get people to support him who are convinced that the most powerful country in the universe has somehow been beaten up, battered and exploited in the last fifty years and he can fix that.

He creates his own reality and has managed to get 40 plus percent of this country to support the narcissistic Fantasyland he lives in. Heaven help us. I am not an admirer of Hillary but, she did her best to make a reasonably good batch of chicken soup in dealing with a lot of chicken ---- that she was given. And, of course, Donald announced that he crushed her. What would you expect?

I am on all fours with OFL on this one. It was relatively challenging for a Tuesday and relatively uninteresting for any day. While I cannot articulate it the way Rex can, a successful puzzle should induce a certain amount of intellectual enjoyment and this puzzle fails at this IMHOP. It shows you that, just because a puzzle takes longer to solve than is normal for that day of the week, it does not mean it will be a pleasurable experience. I should add that I think word ladders are a tedious form of crosswords.

Andrew Heinegg 11:35 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jerry Atric 12:09 PM  

@Nancy: What difference does it make whether Trump won the debate? His supporters have already demonstrated their abysmal ignorance. The Donald wouldn't lose any votes if he howled at the moon.

mathgent 12:13 PM  

@Rob C: Thanks for joining in. I agree that there is a strong difference between crossword else and dreck. The closest you had to dreck IMHO is AMTOO.

As a kid I used to do word ladder puzzles. I enjoy playing with them.

I liked the ladder and some of the cluing. "Place to get outta ..." for DODGE, "'Can we not talk about that!'" for DONTGOTHERE. But these two were almost lost in a sea of ordinariness.

Because of the word ladder and only 14 Terrible Threes, I'll go with a C plus.

Colby 12:17 PM  

Painful. Not difficult, but above my average time because of all of the cross-referencing required. Glad I worked this one on the computer and not in ink.

Nancy 12:41 PM  

@Jerry Atric (12:09)-- Fortunately, the supporters he already has won't win him the election. He needs to add to them, in no particular order: at least some Republican moderates (read women, here); the preponderance of independents in swing states; and some of the 16-20% of millennials who are right now planning to vote for a 3rd party candidate. And I don't think his debate performance will help him with any of those demographics. That's why I'm happy right now -- at last for the moment.

Masked and Anonymous 12:44 PM  

NONPC = {MAC??}. Solves all the world's problems.

Fartin in the elevator: Only non-NONPC, if U are conscientiously attemptin to harmonize with the elevator muzak.

Speakin of NONPB … The Patrick Berry Usage Immunity Antidefamation League just called. They asked, "Whatsamatter with ERIE, OREOS, and TSETSE?" Tellingly, they failed to ask about IANS. Surprisinly, they failed to ask about ECRU.

@RP: Happy anniversary! U married a very patient woman. Hope to hear about her quick & full ladder descent from SICK-to-WELL , mucho pronto.

This TuesPuz, on the other hand, started out SICK, and ended up down there with one TOW in the WELL. It did have its moments along the way, but left me a bit out of sorts, overall. (yo, @Prez Debate)

fave desperate-lookin whether they are or not stuffins: GUNG. BONA. THOS. IANS.
Ok, but just sorta lies there, winner: TSO. [May have been a skosh too many candidates, in this category.]

Thanx for droppin by and payin yer respects, Mr. Cirillo. My all-time fave word ladder puz was one that started out with SOUP and ended up with NUTS. Can't remember, by who(m). Yours kinda reminded me of that one, cuz it had the CHICKEN(hold-the-noodles)SOUP in it. And thanx overall for the puz; I liked how U had three S-words and three W-words, in yer ladder. Felt like some pleasin order had been brought, to the ladder universe.

Masked & Anonymo4Us.

p.s. Has anybody ever made a word ladder usin 5-letter words? I have seen ladders with 3-letter words (runt). And plenty with 4. But how'bout 5? Could go MEANS --> ANEND. Or MOVED --> TEARS (yo, @RP)


Cassieopia 12:46 PM  

"To be fair, I can picture a relative newbie spending twenty or thirty minutes over this – all the while marvelling at the rungs of the ladder." Oh gawd that's me! (Although I clocked in at 15 minutes, not 20, but still...). This is only the second word ladder I've encountered in a puzzle so am still enthralled by the magic of one word turning into another. Rebuses seem to be much more common, and puns commoner still. The word ladder was a welcome change for this newbie :)

Mike Rees 12:48 PM  

I blasted through this is amazing time, well under my norm for Tuesday. The only challenge here was finishing it before I got bored of it. I'm with Rex on this one, aside from difficulty rating.

Aketi 1:10 PM  

@Rex, hope your wife feels better soon and that you enjoy your anniversary.

@George Barany, there actually was a peer reviewed controlled study that proved that CHICkEN SOUP was beneficial.

I debated with myself last night about going to Martial Arts because I was tired. Then I realized it was debate night and my husband (who ossessivrly reads, listens and watches all things political would be watching the debate. It was a great motivator to go to not just one, but three classes last night. Usually I SUBMERSE myself in a bubble bath after the evening BJJ class, but I was so exhausted I fell blissfully asleep after not watching the debate.

@Gil, good one. I didn't watch because when he wags one of those "clinched llittle fingers" like a school teacher tsktsking you in elementary school for doing something along the lines of Rex's definition of socially unacceptable that doesn't qualify as NONPC.

Loved the ZIP LINES.

Teedmn 1:12 PM  

I did not have the SICK to WELL swings from watching the debate that some of you experienced. I sat in my kitchen, solved a BEQ crossword, listened to music and checked the NY Times once in a while. In the second half, I heard laughter from where my husband was watching the proceedings so I felt it couldn't be going too badly.

I was like @LMS today - while I noticed OREOS and LESE, I didn't notice ONS, ORA or half a dozen of the others @Rex listed so I liked the puzzle just fine. I was shocked to see AN APPLE A DAY after the fact - somehow I worked right around that one without reading it so it was a nice, post-solve treat, metaphorically anyway; I don't like apples unless they are cooked in dessert - too much work for too little pay off. (But I do like peas (not in dessert!), so go figure).

@ralphbunker, your mention of SUBMERgE made me run to my grid, thinking I had had an inadvertent DNF but I had put in APOGEES way before reaching 57A so I was safe, whew.

Thanks for visiting, Robert Cirillo, and count me among the fans of this puzzle (it did take me a couple minutes over my usual Tuesday time).

And @Rex, happy anniversary, albeit one needing CHICKEN SOUP instead of MOET.

Hartley70 1:14 PM  

@Rob C, thank you for taking the time to comment here. It is really appreciated when a constructor braves @Rex's review with good cheer and explains the constructing process and adds a backstory for us, the solving audience. There were way more than "a few things to like" here! Congrats on a fine Tuesday.

Happy Anniversary Mr.&Mrs. Rex! Even if sickness has cancelled the dining festivities, might I suggest that a split of champagne, sipped judicially, might help to wash the Tylenol down?

NCA President 1:28 PM  

@Rob C: welcome back! And I wouldn't read too much into Rex's critique. My daughter is an aspiring ballerina and she (weirdly) longs for "correction" from her teachers. Evidently, when you get correct it is a sign the teacher is a) looking at you, and b) cares enough about you to tweak your technique and help you improve.

So, cheer up! If Rex didn't think your puzzle was worth anything at all, he'd write some pissy comment about how he can't deal with this and just leave it at that.

One quick question much of the finished product that your puzzle became was actively edited by WS? Clues? Fill?

And to your point about dreck v. xwordese: I completely agree. I've been reading Rex's blog for a while, and I still don't know what makes some three letter words good and others terrible. It seems like there are only so many three- or four-letter words you can I really don't know what makes what what. As for your puzzle today, I do like word ladders...and am even more happy with your puzzle because of your story of making word ladders with your daughter. It's too bad these puzzles don't come with back stories printed along with them.*

*I know I could go to to get some backstory, but I can hardly handle the reviews there. They are like the exact opposite of the degree he is cynical, they are pollyanna-like. Brutal.

Kimberly 1:30 PM  

I am a unique dork who loves word ladders in crosswords. I haven't seen one in a while so instead of feeling stale, it felt kind of retro. They work well for a Tuesday because they make even a tricky little puzzle much easier. I even liked AN APPLE A DAY as the preventative and CHICKEN SOUP as the curative,

Some of the nonsensical crosswordese answers were annoying but at least they were familiar.

I enjoyed this morning (I too have a terrible political hang-over... or maybe it was the Valium I took to get through the debate without throwing things at the screen... the only other thing that helped was live-mocking the affair on twitter). The crossword was a nice little panacea (haha) for my woes.

Call me silly or call me unique; I dug it.

Chronic dnfer 1:35 PM  

Easy although I dnf'd at Erne/went. On to Wednesday.

foxaroni 1:55 PM  

Guilty secret: I've always liked ABBA and enjoy finding it in a puzzle. After two failed marriages, Abba's "Knowing Me, Knowing You" always gives me chills.

I don't drink, so MOET was a complete unknown. And M_RA could have been MARA, MYRA or MORA, for all I knew.

I enjoyed the puzzle, Mr. Cirillo.

Happy anniversary, Rex, and best wishes for a speedy recovery by Mrs. Rex.

AskGina 2:33 PM  

@Rob, I thought it was fun and yards better than the standard Tuesday fare. I suspect that people who are speed solvers don't like that it took a bit longer than the average Tuesday. But if you're someone who does the puz for a the slower thinking joy, it was awesome! More like on Tuesday.

Z 2:38 PM  

@Rob C - I thought I recognized the by-line but then convinced myself I didn't. As for ese v. dreck, I don't believe it is inherent in any word to be either. For me it is about the balance. If I liked word ladders more, the ese may not have glared so brightly. But you combine an "oh - a word ladder" reaction with such mildewed stalwarts like OREOS and TSE TSE, and the ese detector goes on high alert. Wanting to keep ZIPLINES and COALESCE explains ABBA AM TOO AT WT. And cramming three Ws into the southern word ladder explains some of the fill there. Still, I spent most of my solve thinking about the fill, not the theme.

Anonymous 3:03 PM  

Amazing. All the ad hominem attacks on Mr. Trump. His ideas should be attacked, but his hair? His skin tone? The PC crowd is going to be very unhappy in November.
Thanks Rob C. it was a fine puzzle.

Andrew Heinegg 3:27 PM  

I think people that did not watch the debate at all, such as yourself, are a lot smarter and no less informed than the rest of us. Everyone knew what both candidates would say and yet 80+ million tuned in. I think this was the equivalent of being unable to stop to look at a horrible accident on the highway even though you know you should not and be one of the folks who backs up traffic for miles on an unimpeded portion of the road. The debate was nearly as ugly as an accident to view but, maybe worse, because the accident was just that, an accident. The statements and behavior by Mr. Trump were no accidents.

chefwen 3:38 PM  

Staying at a very quaint and beautifully appointed INN right now in Vermont called Rabbit Hill INN. No T.V.'s so we weren't even tempted to watch the "dog and pony" show. Sounds like I didn't miss much.

Word ladders are not really my cuppa, but this one wasn't bad. Other than the ARE SO/AM TOO snafu, no mistakes.

Rob C 3:43 PM  

Hi @NCA - In my experience (5 puzzles + a number of that were rejected), WS may only make a tweak to a grid. For one of my 5 published puzzles, he changed one letter. Anything more than that, he'll send it back with a note that he likes the theme, but to get rid of some of the 'junk' fill which he will point out. About 30-50% of the clues get changed, usually to increase or decrease the difficulty of the puzzle. And sometimes to avoid clues that have been used recently. I understand from other constructors this is fairly typical. He usually keeps clues that haven't been used before and are 'clever' in some way. As I mentioned above, in this puzzle the clues for TOW, DODGE, YEAR were mine. Although TSETSE was his clue.

Andrew Heinegg 3:43 PM  

I am in complete agreement with your comments regarding the attacks on Trump. While he may seem like caricature of himself at times, it is just that kind of smearing of people not for what they espouse but rather how they look that Trump engages in and for which he is rightfully vilified. It is this very boorish and infantile manner about him that scares me most.

Numinous 3:48 PM  

Re the debate: in the iPad news agglomeration I saw a headline from Esquire magazine where a guy who has called the last eight elections correctly says that Trump will win. Let's hope he comes a cropper this time.

Evan Jordan 4:09 PM  

Happy Anniversary(ies) @Rex! Sorry you got such a dud puzzle to kick off your next decade of blogging. I'm not a prolific enough solver to be completely sick of old crosswordese, but I know an incoherent gimmick when I see one. This was really muddled in conception and execution. At least it was kind of challenging albeit for all the wrong reasons.

Nancy 4:10 PM  

@Rob C (3:43 p.m.) -- If the clues for TOW, DODGE and YEAR were yours, then you should be very proud. I thought they were three of the best clues in the puzzle -- zippy, offbeat, and original.

QuasiMojo 4:28 PM  

@Rob C, seeing that you took the time to come and offer your helpful insights into your puzzle today, I feel I was unnecessarily churlish in my earlier comments. But I am one of those old farts who prefer gimmick-free puzzles (I guess I'm NON-PG...? I know I am in the minority.) And as a side note, Rex's citing "farting in an elevator" made me laugh since it reminded me of Brian Eno, another crosswordese fixture.

David in CA 4:57 PM  

To the Muses of the world:
"I liked this" equals "I liked this"
The Rexs of the world:
"I didn't like this" equals "this was terrible"

Why not leave it at you don't like word ladders? Why do you have to declare them therefore inherently evil terrible things, implying strongly that anyone who does like them is a dimwit.

I'm so trying to cultivate my inner muse! Though it is difficult on puzzles that are loaded with names I don't know - which this one blessedly wasn't.

Thought it was a fun and for me easier than typical Tuesday. I suspect that the "Challenging" rating is due to the lack of a bunch of long PPP gimmes, especially at 1A?
And Rob C. said it all re. crosswordese v. dreck! Much better than I could have.

Anonymous 5:53 PM  

On the PC question. I know that Trump et al. have so militantly attacked political correctness that those of us, on the left, who complain about political correctness have to feel like reactionaries. The question is complicated. To go back to retro humor, about half of the jokes of the old TV groundbreaking liberal shows "Maude" and "All in the Family" were anti-PC. Whether these shows were as progressive as they claimed to be is another question. The more consistently funny and progressive comic strip, "Doonesbury" (sp.?), had about half of its humor directed against political correctness. Trump is an idiot, but he may on occasion have a point, and the term "political correctness" should be rescued from neanderthals.

GILL I. 6:11 PM  


Andrew Heinegg 7:24 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rob 7:32 PM  

THOS is big-time garbage. I didn't mind the rest of the fill, but that one is just unacceptable. You don't get to abbreviate things by just picking which letters you feel like leaving out. AT WT was similarly terrible, but not quite as egregious.

Happy anniversary Rex!

jberg 8:05 PM  

@Rob, THOS is not arbitrary -- it was a common 18th-19th century abbreviation, similar to Jos, Jno, etc.

I did enjoy the word ladder; since the interior 4 words were not clued, it gave us the chance to solve another puzzle within the puzzle. So I had a good time.

On the other hand -- didn't we see exactly the same clue for KARATS just a day or two ago? That could have been fixed in editing.

I enjoyed the debates, too -- I'm pretty partisan, and it was fun to watch Hillary wipe the floor with that guy.

Kimberly 2:36 PM  

I RABIDLY tweet about politics, but I would love for Rex's comment board to be a politics-free zone. I want to feel the sense of community shared by crossword lovers and not run the risk of judging someone for liking the "wrong" candidate.

Wednesday's Child 3:21 PM  

Well said, Kimberly!

Wednesday's Child 3:21 PM  

Well said, Kimberly!

Burma Shave 9:19 AM  


THOSe mailroom guys SKEW SICK, like ALL or most will,


rondo 10:20 AM  

I found this puz rather easy. If I kept time it would not be different than any other Tuesday. Not a big fan of word ladders, but not as much dislike as OFL. I’d give it a ho-hum.

As a lad when I was a budding trumpet player, Al HIRT was one of my idols. How he could play those sixteenth notes in “Flight of the Bumblebee” at such a frantic pace still bewilders me. Just looking at the sheet music makes me SICK (not music).

Speaking of music, ELLA has one of those voices that makes me WILT. Smooth as SILK. Yeah baby.

MORA is a small town in EAST-central MN named after a city in Sweden. Jim MORA seems to be more well-known (or remembered) these days for his “Playoffs! Playoffs?!” audio clip.

I’ve done ZIPLINES in different areas of the country. Favorite so far is at Whitefish Mountain, MT where they are up to 1800’ long and as far as 300’ above terra firma in the middle. If you can’t stand heights, DONTGOTHERE. But I’ll do MORA that.

So have ANAPPLEADAY and maybe some KARATS and the fill won’t make you so SICK.

spacecraft 11:39 AM  

I have some problems with this:

--> If you must word ladder, at least make all the steps necessary. SICK SILK sill will WELL--that's five. Don't pad them! Plus, the solve might have been a tad more enjoyable with straight clues and NO MENTION of a ladder, letting the solver dig that out for himself. Then 30- and 49-across would be theme-related extras without raising OFL's objections.

--> ABBA is NOT a "band." They are a singing quartet; they need a band to back them up.

--> What would you call the YEAR before the YEAR one?? Also, in that same corner, do you really see RATs that often in the subway? I suppose if you're LOOKING for them, up and down the tunnel or whatever, but a "sighting?" Ye gods. As long as they're not on the platform, or heaven forefend IN THE TRAIN ITSELF, we're good. That corner, with its unclued ladder rung, gave me considerable pause and SKEWed this otherwise really easy puzzle into the medium category.

--> the RPR (random playground retort). Bad enough anywhere, it really stings from that CENTRAL location. Ban all RPRs, please.

--> along with the rest of the short fill: DONTGOTHERE.

I did like other parts of this, specifically the longer fill. For her immense talent, I agree with @rondo's yeah baby ELLA. If you want to stick to the physical side of it, we can nominate co-DOD's Agnetha and Anni-Frid of ABBA. And now I'm gonna ZIPLINE on outa here, not before awarding (?) a bogey.

Diana,LIW 1:43 PM  

WARNING - Spoiler Alert - do not read if you have not finished Monday's synderland puzzle and still plan to play it.

Now - for something completely different. I enjoyed this puzzle almost as much as yesterday's, so I came here, as usual, wondering how the review(s) would go.

Yesterday, OFL says "totally reasonable fill." Well, that reasonable puzzle included: AMP, BYE, ALP, ROT, AFT, ADS, NOT, IWO, ONS, OTIS, IAN, SUV, CUT, ANA, DAS, IFS, PAR, SHH, PAC, TAP, TAB, OVA, OLE, and TBSPS. Not to mention SAKS, SNAX, PRIX, and DORK. (AGITA, BUSHWA, EXSTAR)

So yesterday the ONS and IAN get a BYE, but today they're TAPped out.

Just sayin' - I solved it like a crossword.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords and maybe answers?

rain forest 3:03 PM  

I don't mind word ladders at all, and even though the constructor told us where the rungs were, it was interesting to get two straddling rungs and try to figure out the middle one without looking at the crosses. Kinda fun.

Like @LMS, I really don't notice most of the (dreck/ese, take your pick), especially if I am enjoying the puzzle in a general way. "Hey, I'm enjoying this puzzle in a general way". Love it.

Really don't understand the mentality of someone who will actually "wince at" and/or list entries they find objectionable, for whatever reason. What's that about?

This was a crossword puzzle appearing on Tuesday, and it was just fine in that role. Easy, but fun, thematically interesting (viz. APPLE---, and CHICKEN---), and it had a nice flow to it with many good longer words and a few excellent clues.

Chris Ortega 12:31 AM  

Your comments on the debate were very succinct and I agree wholeheartedly. The puzzle - not so much. I liked it but I ignore the ladders.

Glenn Swift 1:56 AM  

Did no one else comment on the fact that the SICK-TO-WELL ladder can be shortened? - Not that it matters, except to word-ladder competitors, who win by having the fewest steps in the ladder.

Shorter version: SICK-SILK-SILL-SELL-WELL.


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