Rules in force in England before Norman Conquest / TUE 1-10-17 / Disc-flipping board game / Perfumer Nina / Creator of logical razor

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Constructor: David Poole

Relative difficulty: Challenging (solid minute over my normal time)


THEME: OTHELLO (23A: Disc-flipping board game hinted at by a word ladder formed by the answers to the nine starred clues), also known as REVERSI (50A: Another name for 23-Across) — word ladder going from BLACK to WHITE because those are the colors on either side of an OTHELLO piece

Theme answers:
  • you can figure it out, I'm not even deigning to type the damn steps on the stupid ladder
Word of the Day: DANELAW (42D: Rules in force in England before the Norman Conquest) —
The Danelaw (also known as the Danelagh; Old English: Dena lagunema; Danish: Danelagen), as recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, is a historical name given to the part of England in which the laws of the Danes held sway and dominated those of the Anglo-Saxons. Danelaw contrasts West Saxon law and Mercian law. // Modern historians have extended the term to a geographical designation. The areas that constituted the Danelaw lie in northern and eastern England. // The Danelaw originated from the Viking expansion of the 9th century AD, although the term was not used to describe a geographic area until the 11th century AD. With the increase in population and productivity in Scandinavia, Viking warriors, having sought treasure and glory in the nearby British Isles, "proceeded to plough and support themselves", in the words of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for the year 876. (wikipedia)
• • •
SPECIAL MESSAGE for the week of January 8-January 15, 2017

Hello, solvers. A new year has begun, and that means it's time for my week-long, once-a-year pitch for financial contributions to the blog. The idea is very simple: if you read the blog regularly (or even semi-regularly), please consider what it's worth to you on an annual basis and give accordingly. In making this pitch, I'm pledging that the blog will continue to be here for you to read / enjoy / grimace at for at least another calendar year, with a new post up by 9:00am (usually by 12:01am) every day, as usual. Despite my regular grumbling about puzzle quality, constructor pay, and other things that should be better in the world of crosswords, I still love solving, I still love writing about puzzles, and I love love love the people I meet and interact with because of this blog. Well, most of them. Some I mute on Twitter, but mostly: there is love. The blog turned 10 in September, and despite the day-in, day-out nature of the job, I can't foresee stopping any time soon. The community of friends and fellow enthusiasts are all just too dear to me. You can expect me to be here every day, praising / yelling at the puzzle—independent and ad-free. Some people refuse to pay for what they can get for free. Others just don't have money to spare. All are welcome to read the blog—the site will always be open and free. But if you are able to express your appreciation monetarily, here are two options. First, a Paypal button (which you can also find in the blog sidebar):

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Now on to the puzzle!

---------------------------
This was a quintessential Tuesday, i.e. a train wreck. Its wreckiness was worsened (for me) by being far tougher than it ought to have been, for all the wrong reasons (namely LEMAT—??????—and that entire NW corner, ugh). Bad fill, bad clues, and a godawful theme. I thought we agreed the word ladder was dead. Dead. Bye bye. Go away. There is no joy in you, word ladder. "Oooh, look how it goes from WHILE to WHITE!" said no one except LOCOS (which is not a word anyone uses at all, btw). GENL!? What is happening!? The fill is soooo bad. The NW is a disaster all on its own. LEMAT goes straight to the "Let's Not" list, where it will join ... LEK!!? Well, whaddya know? I've had the "Let's Not" list only one week and *already* a banned word has returned. LEK. I mean, LEK. Just ... LEK. Twice in 2017 already. LEK. AGA LEK. NIA LEK. EEO LEK. ERN LEK. ENIAC LEK. TEL LEK. MII LEK. ENT LEK. EPH LEK. ANO LEK. I can keep doing this! And why are we enduring this bad fill avalanche? Well, for one, no one cared to polish this thing. And for two, it's the damned joyless theme, which is dense and therefore taxes the grid tremendously. SLAPDASH, DANELAW, and KISSERS are the only things I would rescue from this thing.

[OMG this video! Macaulay Culkin and George Wendt!?]

But back to that NW for a second. On first pass I had AMASS (17A: Aggregate) and absolutely nothing else. Clue on KGS is absurdly vague (5D: Metric measures: Abbr.). Thought VAST might be RIFE (20A: Widespread). Couldn't come up with BRAVO at all (1D: "Congratulations!"). Wanted CASTE but didn't trust it. And about REBAG(14A: Switch from plastic to paper, say) ... OK, first, it's just bad fill. Second, [Switch from plastic to paper] is a tuh-errible clue. The switch from plastic to paper is a broad switch, a general switch, not a rebagging. Who actually literally removes things from a plastic bag to put them into a paper bag. What is the context of that? That is idiotic. Why did you put *&*%# in the plastic bag in the first place? And what are you gonna do with the empty plastic bag now, ya wastrel? It's nonsense. Like a sane person, I wanted some answer related to being eco-conscious. Also ... wait ... I'm sorry, I just caught plural TSKS (!?!?!) out of the corner of my eye and suddenly realized I can't go on expending energy on this puzzle. Inexcusable, this thing. STALE sits in the center of the grid, as if the puzzle knows. It knows exactly what it is. It knows.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

124 comments:

jae 12:06 AM  

This was medium for me, except for the part where I found an error when I went back over my grid (I always solve on paper so I double check my grids for errors because there are no electronic confirmations). I'd put in SEc for SEV and luckily caught it. So, my medium rating is kinda meaningless.

I have nothing nice to say about this puzzle. AMERCES on a Tues., really??? Plus everything that @Rex said.

jedlevine 12:12 AM  

This. Was. Hard.

Mark Barrett 12:15 AM  

I was at the intersection of 14A & 5D after working out that LEMAT looked good to make RE-something across for the plastic to paper. For metric measures I had KMS or KWS while missing the G that would have given me the correct KGS to make REBAG that I could not spot even though I only needed the last letter. Annoying and it's only Tuesday.

Thumbs up to today's rant. I hear ya.

Mr. Fitch 12:17 AM  

Good write up. This is the worst puzzle I've seen in a long while. Hackneyed word ladder, poor fill, bad clues everywhere. Othello/reversi is about the lamest choice for a theme subject I've ever seen.

George Barany 12:22 AM  

I managed to get through @David Poole's puzzle just fine, although maybe I was subliminally affected by a BLACK to WHITE word ladder that a friend of mine tried--unsuccessfully, it should be noted--to get accepted for mainstream publication.

Two days in a row now for people expected to play roles in the incoming administration to receive more conventional clues (NIKKI yesterday, ICAHN today). Nice Shakespearean subtext, with ELSINORE, GENTLEMEN, and (obviously) OTHELLO.

I was in my late teens when "American Graffiti" came out ... saw it in the theater and bought the soundtrack on an LP record ... so Paul LE MAT was a gimme. Others who had breakout roles in that film included Richard Dreyfuss, Harrison Ford, Cindy Williams, Mackenzie Phillips, and Suzanne Somers.

What a finish to the college football season! (assuming no more changes in the final second) ...

Z 12:22 AM  

What is OTHELLO doing at ELSINORE?

I did see ANO near AÑAL for our tilde purists. I imagine @Burma Shave will have some fun with WHALE GAY PITT in five weeks. I know some people like word ladders. I used to like them, too.

Brett Chappell 12:23 AM  

Living in Denmark, it was nice to see Danelaw and Elsinore. The latter is known as Helsingør here. But I agree with Rex. The puzzle was meh.

Carola 12:27 AM  

The only disc-flipping game I know is tiddly-winks, so the theme was lost on me. The word ladder did help me finish the puzzle, though: I'd left the NW blank until I finished the rest, then was able to go back for SLACK and BLACK. I see that we're going from one side of the disc to the other, but I'm not sure why "flipping" entails transitioning through seven intermediate stages.

I liked the Shakespearean mix-up of placing OTHELLO at ELSINORE, along with EMBASSIES, SLAPDASH, DANELAW, and the pairing of LAPBELT and STRETCH. And, of course, I got a good laugh out of can't-drive-a-stake-through-its-heart LEK.

jedlevine 12:27 AM  

Below are the constructor's comments from the NYT Crossword blog. Not sure how he can be so pleased with this puzzle, and the NYT blog writer liked it too!

Constructor’s Notes

"This puzzle grew out of a failed attempt to construct a different puzzle. Beginning with the not-exactly-earth-shattering observation that BLACK and WHITE have the same number of letters, I spent some time trying to create a “Schrödinger puzzle,” in which the central five-letter entry could be either BLACK or WHITE with the crosses using the same clues either way. It didn’t take too long for me to realize that my constructing chops aren’t good enough to pull this off.

So, Plan B: Construct a puzzle around a word ladder, BLACK to WHITE. There are lots of possible ladders for this, but I settled on the one I used in today’s puzzle. However, the puzzle still seemed to be lacking a raison d’être, something that changes from black to white. The discs in the game Othello! O.K., now we’re getting somewhere, but just sticking OTHELLO into the grid as a revealer of sorts seemed inelegant. Then the crossword gods smiled on me: The game Reversi, on which Othello is based, also has seven letters! So I could put both OTHELLO and REVERSI into the grid symmetrically.

On to construction. With a ladder of nine, five-letter words needing to be placed in a particular order, along with OTHELLO and REVERSI, there are some serious constraints on the grid. I had wanted the ladder to flow down, for example with SLACK at 15-Across and WHILE at 63-Across. However, I couldn’t get decent fill with this placement. So I settled for the grid you now see and, all in all, I’m pretty happy with it.

Will and Joel tweaked some of the clues to make the puzzle Tuesday-friendly but, for the most part, they either kept the spirit of my original clues or improved upon them. For example, at 15-Across, I had “Actress Melanie’s actress mom” for TIPPI, which is now “ Hedren of ‘The Birds.’” I like that change for a Tuesday puzzle.

I’d say the only changed clue that I don’t like is for 60-Down: MII [The year 1002]. I had “Personal avatar in Super Mario Galaxy.” Maybe that’s not a good for a Tuesday, but I have an aversion to random Roman numeral clues. Minor quibble. I have to say that Will and Joel did such a good job with the clues that I had to go back and look at my original puzzle to know which clues they changed.

Thanks! I hope the solving experience is enjoyable.

Your thoughts?"

Carola 12:27 AM  

@Z-Jinx!

Anonymous 12:47 AM  

Puzzle was rather ho-hum although I don't so riled up about word ladders. I agree that there were too many difficult words in the puzzle. On to Wednesday!

Larry Gilstrap 1:03 AM  

Word ladders normally appear with no theme to support the effort, but at least this one went from BLACK to WHITE, OTHELLO to Desdemona, a game I have only heard of, and REVERSI, a game which I once played with Josephine TEY in Natick, MA, I made that up. Shakespeare's tragic play is terrific with all kinds of intrigue, sexual tension, racism, and poetic dialog. Kinda like OJ. I like the version starring Anthony Hopkins with Bob Hoskins as that rogue IAGO. I rarely play board games.

AMERCES is a third person singular form of the verb amerce, according to my iPhone.

Knowing something about OCCAM's Razor makes me feel smart, although it is a tough concept. Maybe, "Keep it simple, stupid," results in stupidity, possibly? Discuss amongst yourselves.

Now about me, I was the first kid in a large extended family of Oakie immigrants to finish college. I began at Cal Poly, Pomona, graduated from San Diego State, and later earned a Masters Degree from Cal State, Fullerton. I owe everything to CAL STATE universities for providing an affordable, accessible, and inclusive education system. The opportunity was there and I was lucky enough to use it.

Crane Poole 1:09 AM  

First word ladder to appear since I started reading Rex and that's about what I expected. The form has been mentioned in unloving terms, I'd been primed. Less hate from me though, some challenge, average time. Did not know AMERCES or RICCI. 'American Graffiti' was huge, I've never forgotten Paul LEMAT both there and in his less spectular follow-up role in 'Melvin and Howard'. Liked DANELAW and SLAPDASH, SEV and GENL ummm not. STALE is dead-center but there's a STRETCH LIMO in there maybe headed to Wednesday.

Gregory Nuttle 1:14 AM  

I'm sure there have been worse NYT puzzles then this in the 5+ years that I have been subscribing, but I certainly can't remember one. I actually had a "could not finish without a guess" on this in 2 places. That never, EVER happens. Maybe on an occasional Saturday, but almost never. And yet most of it was so easy. Usually, I'm am annoyed by @Rex's sour reviews, but if ever one was deserved, here it is.

Father Mapple 1:21 AM  

He goes down in the whirling heart of such a masterless commotion that he scarce heeds the moment when he drops seething into the yawning jaws awaiting him; and the WHALE shoots-to all his ivory teeth, like so many WHITE bolts, upon his prison.

puzzle hoarder 1:40 AM  

What made this puzzle difficult for a Tuesday was that cold start in the NW that hits you over the head with the theme before you even get started. On top of this it was the section with what was probably the hardest fill. The flip side was the easy but STALE ese throughout that allowed me to mostly ignore the theme.
ANAL is not an asset to any puzzle but in it's own way GENL is even uglier. The games were a bit of mystery so that was another issue. Once again the biggest slow down was using a tablet. Late night solving at the firehouse.

John Child 1:47 AM  

@jedlevine, Deb Amlen at Wordplay, the official NYT blog, is paid to be upbeat about the puzzles. Jeff Chen at xwordinfo.com is usually kind while pointing out things he didn't like, but he struggled today to find something nice to say. But since it's giving week in Rexworld I thought OFL might be muted in his critique. Nope... BTW Rex, I just gave. Thanks for what you do.

chefwen 1:54 AM  

Got through the puzzle with no hiccups, but there was little joy. Word ladders are not up there with my favorite puzzle themes. The joy came with Rex's revue. I had tears of laughter as I read it to my puzzle partner who also found it amusing as he hated the puzzle and agreed with everything Rex said.

And it's not a LAP BELT it's a flipping seat BELT.

Larry Gilstrap 1:57 AM  

Okie, would be more correct, but Hillbilly would be more accurate. Thank goodness my mom is not around to see any of these characterizations.

phil phil 2:23 AM  

Lek in anglo spelling of Thai means small.

It's also a name of a Thai woman in the north who runs a refuge for mistreated and discarded elephants. Most have been mistreated by mahoots using them for monetary gain. The Elephant Nature Park

A true worthwhile cause. I give my donations abroad. They don't ask for them but I do anyway because they are worthy and needed.

I just returned from Bihar India, Bodhgaya. Yes the beggers gather for the Kalachakra but if you run the back streets, the local Indians are poor but don't beg and are happy and greet you with a smile though they could use more help then the very worse in USA.

phil phil 2:25 AM  

My comment is not a slap on Rex. He is not begging. He has a service that is not a charity and needs support from those that use it.

But I just had to mention a better clue/use of the word LEK

Nate Smith 2:42 AM  

Aw, I'll be the minority report -- it was hard, but I kind of liked it (we're not doing "phrasing" anymore, right?).

The fill was bad, but I thought OTHELLO/REVERSI was clever, and the stack (which as a casual solver I did not realize was so hackneyed) was symmetrical, which struck me as a nice touch. Maybe it usually is, because word lengths? Again, I don't feel like it's as common as y'all do.

VAST pissed me off because the NW corner was hard AF and RIFE was the answer to a nearly identical clue a few days ago, where I was sure VAST was correct.

LEMAT can die in a fire (the clue, not you, Paul).

Theodore Stamos 5:16 AM  

I agree it was too hard for a Tuesday, but I'm still pretty impressed by the theme and construction. Thought it was very clever, actually.

Anonymous 5:38 AM  

Can you imagine this loco melting down in the classroom? Please someone post video.

I am not a robot 6:22 AM  

I always enjoy a Tuesday puzzle that puts up a little fight so this one didn't offend. Inelegantly dabbed here and there until it was filled in.

When I was done I thought about how important board games were during winter when I was a child. I wonder how many more years it will be before no one plays them at all.

Good heavens, I think this puzzle made me feel nostalgic. So this is what that feels like.

Lewis 6:59 AM  

I like the challenge of making word ladders for fun, trying to get from one word to the other in as few steps as possible. I also like it when word ladders in a puzzle help with the solve, but that didn't happen today; except for the NW, the puzzle filled quickly from the clues alone. Best part of the puzzle for me was finally filling in that tough NW section.

While there was some fill drudgery going on because of the theme density, I liked seeing the STACK up, the CHEW out, and the LOW down.

Maybe in a new version of the game the disks will be WHITE and ORANGE since orange is... oh, never mind.

I am not a robot 7:28 AM  

@Phil, I just pray that one of these days I'll be the center of attention at a party when I note that, "Lek in anglo spelling of Thai means small."

It's going to be a witty retort to something that's going to make me look hecka smart.

kitshef 7:29 AM  

Not being offended either by word ladders nor LEKs, I was OK with the puzzle, which played hard for a Tuesday, for sure, but other than LEMAT not unduly so.

Never liked OTHELLO - give me chess any time. Lately we've gotten into cooperative games like Pandemic and Forbidden Island, where you either all win or all lose.

Ted 7:34 AM  

Essentially DNF'd

Naticked by RIGA/AGA, then there's AMERCES, LEMAT, TEY, RICCI, STOAT, and ERN all trying to crush my soul. I had to check the day three times.

Glimmerglass 7:45 AM  

Even if I agreed with today's rant (and I don't), I can't see how @Rex found it "challenging." How many other disc-flipping games are there? Tiddlywinks? After a quick mental check of a couple of the downs, my first entries were WHITE and BLACK and then OTHELLO. Word ladders may be dumb and juvenile (maybe even boring) but this one produced seven virtual gimmes. If an answer is going to be only one letter different from one next it, where's the "challenge"?

HairyNosedWombat 7:46 AM  

Wow! I'm so surprised at all the comments stating how difficult this puzzle was. I found this surprisingly easy.

I guess my college experience writing an OTHELLO game 30-ish years ago came in very handy as I suspected it right off the bat and was confirmed by BRAVO and BLACK. The rest came out very easily.

GHarris 8:01 AM  

Spent a lifetime in courtrooms and never heard amerces or Dane law. Other names were unfamiliar and I never played or knew of that board game. Yet I was able to work it all out rather quickly and the word ladder was helpful and, for me, fun. Bravo me.

Lobster11 8:03 AM  

I haven't been solving for long enough to have developed as strong an aversion to word ladders as Rex, and the word ladder actually aided my solve in a couple of places, so I was okay with that. In fact, I though the combination of the BLACK->WHITE ladder with the OTHELLO/REVERSI symmetry was pretty clever. So, I'm giving this one in A for ambitiousness. However, as Rex noted, the this theme density puts so many constraints on the grid that it's not surprise that the rest was a painful slogfest of God-awful fill -- including too many proper names that are unusual and uninferable from crosses. SEV as the answer to "A few: Abbr." literally made me angry.

As some of us mentioned when LEK showed up a few days ago, I think it could be a perfectly good answer if the clue were changed to refer to its meaning in the study of animal behavior rather than as a currency.

Leapfinger 8:08 AM  

I say, when the NW starts with only RIFE and a single final S, I wouldn't call it STALE. Even when you toss in ENIAC, the Mother of All Computers. Those flippin' discs also had me thinking Tiddly-winks (hi Carola!), and I had to back into OTHELLO ASCENDS first. That's when I finally saw it in BLACK and WHITE, and realized that RIFE was only half VAST. AMERCES me, if that doesn't make it a STRETCH (at least for a Tuesday), I don't know what does.

'Panthers of the ACC' kind of steamed my grits. The ACC used to be, what, seven teams? all of them pretty close to the Atlantic Coast. Then it expanded from mid-Atlantic, going North to Boston and South to Florida, but OK, still Atlantic Coast. Now it has PITTsburgh, Syracuse and even Notre Dame -- in 'coastal' Indiana, I guess. Too many, and too much. How far inland do they figure the Atlantic will extend? Just because people don't REBAG their plastics?
/rant

otoh, I have to say it was pure pleasure to come across Josephine TEY's "Daughter of Time", which I read an EPOCH ago, but remember as a terrific example of a very post facto cold case investigation. It's a highly rated criminal analysis of the alleged murders by which Richard III safeguarded his reign. His nephew, who was to have been Edward V, and the younger brother Richard, Duke of York, are commonly accepted to have been imprisoned in the Tower of London and subsequently drowned in a cask of Malmsey. At the time, Edward was XII years old, and little Richard only IX. Tey's twist is that the case's solution is based on pure cerebration in the MCMLs, while the alleged crime occurred way back in MCDLXXXIII.

You can blame the preceding on 60D MII.

Actually, some may be aware that, a couple of years ago, the remains of Richard III were recovered (discovered or uncovered, really) from under the car-park of a church in Leicester. Apparently there's been a deal of poring over Richard's SKELETON (oops that was yesterday), and I've just read that, based on his dentition, there's zero likelihood he was genetically related to the murdered boys thought to be his nephews for all these years.

Apparently, sometimes history can be re-written.

So, @chefwen, does the BELT go across your LAP or across your SEAT? Me too ;)

That little EPH-MII-GENL section down South was SHEER EMBArraSSIES, but for the symmetry of OTHELLO/REVERSI and associated trick of flipping BLACK to WHITE I say BRAVO. Cruciverbia SHALE do well to Poole its resources.

Nil NIECE-y bonum.


Anonymous 8:09 AM  

Meh Tuesday. I'm not a daily commentator here but I try to check in from time to time and make it up by my long windedness. So here goes: I think we all need to go over the new Newspeak as per puzzle protocol:Hitler and Osama bin Laden are personae not gratae. Mass murderer Mao is ok even as clued "crosser of the Yangtze" or ___ Tse Tung. Tiffany and Eric Trump are out (can't normalize them ). It's not ok to clue Betsy DeVos as "school choice advocate, " more normalizing, therefore unacceptable. Nikki Haley clued as Republican pol no worries, same goes for Orrin Hatch. Vlad the Impaler clued as a mean guy is a go. I think Idi Amin is acceptable though preferably clued as a tyrant. This is so confusing. I think I got it, the problem is that the Newspeak is constantly updating. Tomorrow Osama may be ok and Obama verboten. Hillary's "deplorables and irredeemables" remarks and Meryl Streep's condescending speech at the Golden Globes (imagine if a conservative actor -I think there may be one or two-had ripped President Elect Obama eight years ago) , were probably a big hit in Hollywood, San Francisco, Manhattan, Chicago and in academia , but they certainly didn't play well in Peoria or other towns in middle America. Keep it up and you'll keep losing. The Electoral College is a thing and it ain't gonna change anytime soon. Here's an idea: Leave the NYT Crossword alone, stop trying to ban words and stop trying to ban clues for God's sake, and try to get some perspective on life. I get it. Trump's an ass and a boor and possibly dangerous, but the election is over and Trump won. Trying to marginalize his family and Cabinet appointees is only going to backfire and empower him even more. Thanks to Harry Reid's killing of the filibuster in 2013 Trump's Cabinet and Judicial appointees will sail through. The best way to win back the Senate (sorry House not gonna happen) in 2018 is with intelligent debate. Win the argument, and have better foresight than Senator Reid, and better candidates than the Democratic Party had in 2016, or keep living in denial, keep blaming Putin, keep banning words and keep losing. Time for the obligatory "and I voted for Hillary," well I didn't. I live in a solidly blue state so was able to vote my conscience and voted for a third party candidate, but if I had lived in a swing state I would've voted for her. For the one or two people who read my whole rant, thanks feeling a little chatty today. p.s. let's stop banning things we are not fascists

Cassieopia 8:10 AM  

Once I discovered the word ladder, I was, like, Oh, a word ladder! Then I thought about coming to this blog to read the write up and I was, like, Uh oh. A word ladder.

I get a great deal of fun and enjoyment from both word ladders and puns, so am not sure why they are the pariahs of the crossworld. Perhaps I am just more easily amused than most. I enjoyed BLACK going to WHITE and it did help me with the solve, especially at REVERSI (which I have never, ever heard of) which made just as much sense to me as RaVERSI (crossing the unknown-to-me TaY). However the app did not make its happy music and the E made more sense with black rEversing to white, and there I was, average time to solve so thus an average Tuesday for me, not too hard and not too easy.

Agree with OFL on REBAG which made no sense to me, I wanted "go eco" or some such. Also learned a new word today: AMERCES. LAPBELT instead of seatbelt did not bother me, perhaps because I've heard "pull the strap until the belt is low and snug against your lap" too many times. Finding OCCAM was a delight and made me feel smart, all before my first cup of coffee.

Since LEK is an actual word, it does not bother me as much as random abbreviations. KGS, GENL, TIL, and SRS, I'm looking at you.

Happy Tuesday, everyone!

chefbea 8:23 AM  

36 comments already!!!!! No time to read them now. Tough puzzle. Got the word ladder but what is occam?
and never heard the word amerce!!! Also never played Othello...or Reversi. Did not like the puzzle

NCA President 8:30 AM  

I solved this on the website applet, and when you don't finish it correctly, a window pops up with a comment like "Dash it all!" or "Consarn it!" or, in today's case, "Worst Puzzle Ever!!" Never has a truer word been spoken about a puzzle...admitted by the NYT itself.

Adding to Rex's comments, I would only point out that OTHELLO/REVERSI is ridiculous. I don't know that the game was ever really that popular that you would create a theme around it. I've heard of Othello...I grew up in the 70s and watched Saturday morning cartoons and remember it being advertised...but we never played it. We played Sorry and Parcheesi and Yahtzee. Othello was just one of many. And Reversi? What about its predecessor "Go Bang" (or Gomuku)? Just no.

Given the constructor's comments about MII and how WS changed it to a RRN™ clue...we get some insight as to where those keep coming from. Although, the constructor's original clue on that was just as bad...MII in any case shouldn't have been in the puzzle.

I do wonder if this was so bad because of the plethora of 3-letter answers in the puzzle. Am I crazy? Are there more 3-letter words than usual in this puzzle?

One last nit: 56A is clued as "Part of L. G. B. T." where the abbreviation is spelled out with those periods like it was some kind of clue or something. Usually we see that group of letters just as LGBT...no periods...so it seemed logical that the answer was going to be an abbreviation. Of the four categories, Lesbian was the only logical 3-letter possibility. Gay is a word. It isn't an abbreviation. And Bisexual or Transgender aren't easily abbreviated in 3 letters. But no...we get GAY. Surely that could have been clued better than that.

But that is a symptom of the entire puzzle. Funny that OCCAM's razor appears in the puzzle...because if anything this puzzle tries to be far more complicated than it needed to be...and AMERCES didn't help matters at all.

thfenn 8:36 AM  

I enjoyed how it went from WHILE to WHITE, and the rest of the word ladder. Call me LOCO. Completing a puzzle completely on my own is still fun. The NW was tough. Also, right off the bat I was thinking KINGS instead of WHITE or BLACK and trying to make CHECKERS fit instead of REVERSI, so it took me awhile to remember REVERSI was also OTHELLO, but that just made me look forward to the rest of this. Can't say I like seeing the CASTE system confused with social standing, as I was looking for something considerably more benign, and when I'd done the rest of it and returned to the NW, I knew it was LaMAT or LoMAT or LEMAT, and sat there trying KlS and KmS before KGS (as REBAG just wouldn't click). Tedious, but getting there was ultimately worth the trip.

I like the way clue answers sometimes make you remember stuff you'd never come up with in another context. Can I name people who played in The Birds? No. But give me Hedren and I'll say Tippi and remember something about sexual harrassment allegations in the news last year. OCCAM reminded me of The Razor's Edge and Bill Murray. STOAT reminded me of a long debate during a night time car ride in Maryland around whether my daughter and I had seen a fisher run across the road. And if you've never heard a fisher cat...well, I'll see if I can find and most a sound clip here...

I thought the whole REVERSI/OTHELLO BLACK to WHITE thing was fun and clever, and hey, it reminded me of an old friend of mine from college who taught me to play OTHELLO and I've enjoyed the game ever since. So now I need to get in touch with him.

Still wish PITT was in the BIG EAST...

Anyway, today's puzzle gave me plenty to CHEW on, so I liked it.

Anonymous 8:44 AM  

Anon 8:08. Hear hear!

Arlene 9:02 AM  

Ah well - just have to put in my two cents - I like word ladders. So thumbs up here.

Anonymous 9:02 AM  

... and here I was, about to say that it seemed to me that Rex has been going easy on puzzles late=ly.

Nancy 9:06 AM  

OTHELLO, the game???? REVERSI, the same game???? What they? I've scanned enough of the comments, plus Rex, to see that most found this challenging. And so, surely, did I. Of course, I am so, so happy to be challenged early in the week, that I can almost forgive the arcane theme. And I finished -- though not without the woeful feeling that I might not finish in the NW. I could only think of RIFE for 20A, which didn't work at all. On a Tuesday, you'd expect VAST to be clued by a synonym for "big", not by "widespread." I was expecting HEADS or TAILS at 1A, since 1) I didn't yet have OTHELLO and 2) it wouldn't have mattered if I had, since I don't know what it is. And I wanted EOE (equal opportunity employer) before EEO at 62A. I skimmed enough of the comments to see that the constructor's explanation -- or is it an excuse? -- has been posted here. I'm going back now to read it. But thanks for the challenge -- always welcome to me on a Tuesday.

Tita A 9:19 AM  

Needed the lame theme to finish the NW.
Word ladders are one step above anagrams to me, so was hard to get excited about this.
And SEV just put it out of my misery.

OTOH, I liked seeing LEK - I actually remembered it from Rex's recent rant!

Wait - @Crane Pool - STRETCH LIMO is a cool find.
And reminds me what a world-class performer one of my cats is at a STRETCH after waking up.
His innumerable catnaps give him ample opportunity to hone his skills. Sometimes, it seems he wakes up only to STRETCH, then reposition himself and sleep some more.

My favorite is if I can pick him up just so and turn him on his back. He will do a full-body stretch in mid-air. Or he'll remove the skin on my forearm. Usually it's the former.

Felice Gelman 9:26 AM  

Not that hard but AMERCES? I think that's worth a mention.

Anonymous 9:27 AM  

Unity? Inclusion? Tolerance? Hypocrisy.

Tita A 9:31 AM  


Wait - liking this puzzle more - tildless ANO right-turns into ANAL.

Also, seeing my dog AGA here reminds me that I wanted to thank @mals and @Andrew H yesterday for their hilarious stories of how their animals wake them.

Sherm Reinhardt 9:32 AM  

The pretty simple issue with this puzzle is that Othello the game is not well-known enough for it to be picked up on by the average (and in this case, many above-average) solvers. I'd heard of the game, but it took a long, clarifying conversation with my wife (who does know it) to figure out that it's more like Go than Boggle-- I was fooled by the word ladder into thinking Othello was a word game.

That said, my attempts at cruciverbalism have given me huge respect for those who do it well. This one was overthunk and arcane, but still, I admire the effort.

Nancy 9:34 AM  

@Andrew Heinegg yesterday. @Tita today. Is there no end to the abuse people are willing to endure from their cats?

PunJab 9:36 AM  

There must be a "vast" conspiracy at work here. I thought this puzzle was rife with pleasure. Clever, fun, and downright easy. Kudos to the constructor for bringing some Shakespearean panache into our Tuesday "Welt." Just watched "The Birds" the other night and loved "Tippi" in her motorized canoe, (and Tyler too!?") He even managed to sneak greenmailer Carl Icahn into the mix. No "tsks" here.

Z 9:40 AM  

@I am not a Robot - Settlers of Catan or Ticket to Ride mean anything to you? The kids who grew up with Pokémon and Magic are now driving a board game boom.

@Leapfinger - Can we talk about the mathematical prowess of the Big 10?

@Lobster11 & @Lewis - Word Ladders are interesting to mess with for the puzzle minded. The whole "how few steps to get from a to b" can especially be a nice challenge. Shortz likes all kinds of puzzles, which has infused the crossword with a freshness at times, so it is hardly surprising that he would like this type of theme. Nevertheless I'm with Rex on this. Word ladders are not really a theme, nothing really connects WHALE to WHILE, for example. This non-themeness quality makies this more of a forced marriage of two puzzle types. Time for a good long trial separation. Lesser venues may run word ladder puzzles, but the Gold Standard should refrain unless a constructor comes up with a fresh take, something that puts the spice back in the marriage.

Advanced Beginner 9:48 AM  

Wow, what a tough crowd ! The word latter makes the puzzle easier - isn't that the way it is supposed to be on a Tuesday? I'll say one thing, the posters here are passionate - parsing every single clue. Is this a crossword puzzle, or the Zapruder Film ? Why is LEK so reviled (if you ban that one, why not ban all references to foreign currencies?). As a relative newbie, I enjoyed this puzzle and was actually able to complete it. I like the fact that the NW was tough - makes you start somewhere else in the grid and backfill. It is interesting to see Rex (who probably finished the puzzle in 3 or 4 minutes) go absolutely ballistic about something as minor as AGA and MII. Who hasn't heard of Aga Khan, who is not familiar with Roman numerals? Like I said, . . . Tough Crowd !

jberg 9:49 AM  

First of all, AMERCES deserves way more hate than it has been getting, it's the sore thumb of this puzzle.

Second, the NYT should stop normalizing that traitor Robert E. Lee.

I was so disconcerted by having some of the word-ladder words on the same line that I failed to notice that they were symmetrical; now that I have, I like it more than I did.

@GHarris, you may not have heard about DANELAW in the courtrooms you frequented, but 1200 years ago in NE England it was all the rage.

@chefbea, OCCAM, or William of Ockham, was a post-Danelaw medieval philosopher who asserted that if there were two possible answers to a question, the simpler one should be accepted as true. Philosophers call this principle "OCCAM's razor."

oldbizmark 9:49 AM  

holy hell this was awful. SE corner was a nightmare that led to a DNF. Had LOONS in lieu of LOCOS and couldn't get out of that mess with those godforsaken crosses of STOAT, RICCI, and others. Die, puzzle, die.

GILL I. 10:00 AM  

I don't mind word ladders. I use to play them all the time when I was learning English...The problem with this puzzle according to my SLAPDASH way of thinking is that the clues were just plain dull. Hey, I looked up REBAG in the Urban Dictionary and it informs me that the opposite of douchetard is a REBAG. And you could always use Taco Bell Fiery Dorito LOCOS...
I learned all about OCCAM's Razor and AMERCES and LEK from this blog. So glad I read it here because I wouldn't know them if they were out in the wild.
CAL STATE University doing better than the UC system but both suffer from unequal faculty pay and huge student debt. Now I read that 1 in 5 students are practically starving to death. My University of Madrid education was free. When I returned to the States I took a semester at NYU and lived off of McDonald's. My brother would take pity on me and invite me over for a good meal... but man was I poor.
I liked VAST ANO STACK and see that STENOS got a raise. Now she's working as a trial figure.

Anonymous 10:05 AM  

Hands up re: go eco for REBAG (14A), and LOonS for LOCOS (61A). Those two slips killed me.

Roo Monster 10:11 AM  

Hey All !
Usually I like Word Ladders. This one kinda didn't do it for me. Was on the cusp of the ole brain not remembering OTHELLO the game. And definitely forgot alt. name REVERSI. The TEY SEV area to get the EV sucked. But the theme restraint made that happen. Lots of -ese, some drecky, but considering the restraints on the grid from the themers, have to give this one a pass. Especially on a Tuesday. Besides, BLACK to WHITE with 7 steps is pretty good.

GENL again. ENIAC again. Seen that clued once as something like, "Computer with actor Michael spelled backwards", or to that effect. Always spell OCCAM as OChAM first. REBAG-Put items into different plastic after handles tear.

No BRAVO, AWGEE, or AHAs on this one, unfortunately.

CHEW SAND
RooMonster
DarrinV

Malsdemare 10:16 AM  

I usually like any puzzle I finish easily -- which I did with this one -- but this puzzle was flat. I thought maybe it was the cold, ultra windy (45-50 mph gusts) weather out my window, but for once, I think Rex nailed it. An awful lot of uninspired stuff, all for the sake of an uninspired word ladder. Meh! I knew OTHELLO and REVERSI rings a very faint bell. I've never heard of AMERCES or DANELAW so filled those with crosses. I think court recorders would object to the STENO reference but what do I know?

Appearing here as my avatar, for one day only in honor of the Packer win, is a photo by a friend of a pair of Goldeneye Ducks whose coloring of green and gold suggested a fun photoshop project by photographer's friend. If you would like your very own copy, with photographer credit, pm me.

@anonymous very late last night. You make a good point -- several really -- but it's tough to legislate visceral reactions. We all have our hot buttons and this blog has become the kind of community where people occasionally let 'er rip. But in general, those rants are relatively few and eminently skippable. Who knows? There may be a moment when you just need to vent; and we'll probably let you, especially if you adopt a persona.

Now I'm going to read what ya'll had to say about Mr. poole's puzzle.

DJG 10:27 AM  

I didn't mind the word ladder, but Rex is spot on with his criticism of the fill. I don't understand why this is acceptable in 2017 -- the bar has been raised, constructors and editors need to keep.

Mohair Sam 10:27 AM  

Yeah, pretty much in agreement with OFL today. Especially about REBAG, sheeesh. Theme(s) was(were) a good idea - just too much going on might have led to the problems @Rex pointed out.

Josephine TEY! I Don't read a lot of mysteries, but after reading "Daughter of Time" years back I read all eight of her mystery novels. Amazing story teller. Different. Good stuff, really good. Googled her this morning and noticed that "Daughter of Time" was voted best mystery novel of all time by the Crime Writers Association in 1990. I see old @Leapfinger has detailed the book, so I needn't bore you.

Speaking of @Leapfinger - You were concerned about the Atlantic's waters lapping up to Pittsburgh and South Bend (rising seas you know) in the ACC. In 2011 both Texas and Baylor were considering joining the conference. Now that would have been a stretch of the shoreline.

Mr. Benson 10:29 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
r.alphbunker 10:30 AM  

Solved this without the across clues. Needed to google {Actor Paul of "American Graffiti"} LEMAT and 52D {Perfumer Nina} RICCI. Also needed 4 wrong letters to be highlighted. Did not get the theme until I revealed the across clues. Details are here.

Airymom 10:30 AM  

This is a puzzle where Rex should have "Bad word of the Day". Unfortunately, this puzzle would have many contenders, but amerces wins the prize. I've never even heard of the word. By the way, what does OCCAM mean?

I missed last night's game, because college football is not on my list. I've always been a college b'ball fan (hubby went to Duke), but now that puzzle daughter is likely headed to Michigan that will change. Congratulations to the Clemson fans on an exciting win.

Passing Shot 10:30 AM  

AMERCES?? LEMAT?? Like Rex, I hated the clues for REBAG and VAST. On the other hand, I knew the game OTHELLO and don't mind word ladders; they're quite creative. This one had too many short answers, though, and made it feel like a slow hard slog.

Mr. Benson 10:32 AM  

Same as oldbizmark above -- a bizarre Tuesday DNF due to a ridiculously awful SE corner. I have never heard of "REVERSI"; never heard of anyone named RICCI who wasn't the actress Christina; never heard of Josephine TEY; think SEV is ridiculous; wanted LoonS for LOCOS; and am familiar with the uber-crosswordese STOAT but wasn't going to get that without crosses.

GILL I. 10:46 AM  

If you've every smelled L'Air Du Temps you'd never forget Nina RICCI. One of my first grown-up perfumes that my Dad gave me. It's exquisite...

tkincher 10:52 AM  

I liked the theme in theory but this was a DNF for me which seems insane for a Tuesday.

Like Mr. Benson above, I've never heard of Nina RICCI or Josephine TEY. Like everyone, had LOonS for LOCOS, because that's not a word. Wasn't familiar with STOAT, and I don't know much college football so PITT was also out-of-reach for me. That whole SE corner was too much.

Malsdemare 10:55 AM  

@ Z. Don't get me going on the Big 10; I cannot believe for a second that people are so stupid that they would be totally lost if they simply changed the numeral when teams are added. Really? Illinois fans would be confused (well, maybe . . .) if the Illini were suddenly in the Big 13?

@Gill - and the gorgeous little bottle! I still have mine, though it's long been empty.

I am not a robot 11:05 AM  

@Z, Thank you! You wiped out the nostalgia. I've heard of Settlers, but it was quite some time ago. Glad to hear there's a boom.

old timer 11:51 AM  

Word ladders bring a smile to my face, as I remember working through the big book of Sunday puzzles published in the Maleska era. Plus, when I had BLACK it was pretty obvious we would have WHITE in the opposite corner. My only problem was not knowing OTHELLO (REVERSI I could easily guess).

Spent a happy few minutes with the Wikipedia article on DANELAW. I had thought the clue was wrong because i only know it as an historical term for a part of England. Turns out it was also a term for the system of laws under the Danish kings of England or parts of England. I was reminded too that Dublin was founded by the Vikings. They got around, that's for sure, even going as far as Sicily. In England, no doubt they AMERCEd many a Saxon landowner.

Some clues were way to hard for a Tuesday, but were exceptionally well edited. For instance specifying that a LAPBELT is found on an airplane. You have seat belts crossing shoulders in cars, but the term used on an airplane technically is LAPBELT.

Anonymous 11:52 AM  

Paul Le Mat was wonderful in that movie about billionaire recluse Howard Hughes: "Melvin and Howard." Both Nina Ricci and Josephine Tey are world famous. So people who complain about not knowing them have only themselves to blame. Get out more! Read a book sometime.

G. Weissman 11:57 AM  

Well HE'S "pretty happy with it." As our idiot-elect would tweet it, "Sad."

wgh 12:03 PM  

A Tuesday DNF for me. Ugh

Anonymous 12:04 PM  

Small business optimism highest in decades. Surging since last November. Damn, we're unleashing some potential here folks. Great to live in this country again.

Nick Saban's Yoga Guru 12:08 PM  

It seems like everyone's in a bad mood this morning. Did you all bet money on Alabama?

I liked this puzzle and thought it was easy. I like word ladders in early week puzzles because they blow open the grid. I've never heard of OTHELLO (the game) or REVERSI (the game) but come on what else would go in there? Paul LEMAT was a gimme because he was in "American Grafitti" and "Melvin & Howard" and nothing else and you should know this because those are two very good movies and his name is easily remembered. I had no confidence in AMERCES but all its crosses were easy and sure; LAPBELT is an absolutely proper term for a 2-point seatbelt, just as a 3-point restraint is also a seatbelt (4-points and you're up into harness territory). Plus I love ENIAC and never get tired of seeing it even though UNIVAC is even better.

So this was real easy for me, really really easy, except I had a DNF because I spelled OCCuM and STOuT wrong. I blame society.

Happy Pencil 12:12 PM  

I agree with @Glimmerglass 7:45 a.m. This puzzle played super easy for me. In hindsight, I can see all the answers that made it tough for a Tuesday, but some of those I never even saw when solving. I went straight to the word ladder, filled in those nine answers as fast as I could type, then went back and filled in OTHELLO. (REVERSI did have to wait for some crosses to confirm the last letter.) I finished the puzzle in about two minutes less than my average Tuesday time.

I knew as soon as I saw the word LEK that would we be in for an epic Rex meltdown this morning, and he didn't disappoint. This constructor has had only nine puzzles in the NYT, and his own comments at Xwordinfo.com acknowledge that he's still honing his skills. So I'm willing to cut him a little bit of SLACK. But on the whole, I agree that these puzzles need to be better than this.

Joseph Michael 12:17 PM  

In my world, OTHELLO is a play not a board game, so, if there is cleverness to be had here, it was lost on me.

And speaking of Elizabethan England, that's about the time that word ladders grew STALE.

However, the LOW point of the solve for me wasn't the word ladder. It was LAP BELT.

Masked and Anonymous 12:25 PM  

No U's? Well, EPH MII.

Some dandy desperation, just LEK @RP mentioned, to make that there OTHELLO piece flip colors. It was TIPPI.

fave weeject: TIL/TEL symmetric weeslers. fave plural weeject: TSKS.
staff pick fillins, GENL-ly: STRETCH. OCCAM. SLAPDASH. SEV others.

@RP: Good mornin, Sunshine. STALE in the middle. har. Also, primo LEK rappin. moUthapplesUp.

Thanx, Mr. Poole. But I kinda pity the fool that gets a word ladder puz published tomorrow. [Word Latter]

Masked & Anonymo s


**gruntz**

Numinous 12:27 PM  

I've shopped for perfume quite a few times, RICCI wasn't that hard to come up with. Back during the years of my transition to majority, before the pleasures of booze were legally granted me, during the use of other pleasures I used to play deeply contemplative games of OTHELLO. I learned it was also called REVERSI when looking for an OTHELLO app for my iPad. I was, however, thinking tiddlywinks at 1A. Since I was thinking it was played with coins, I was contemplating heads or tails at first but didn't enter anything. When I finally hit the bottom and got WHITE, I knew that 1A had to be BLACK. That gave me BRAVO and the woeful REBAG and the whole rest of that corner. I was surprised to see LEK again so soon.

I did not find this difficult at all. In fact it came in at three minutes under the Tuesday average. Most of the fill y'all are complaining about made this easy for me. I'm not fond of word ladders either but once I got into the swing of this one, it also helped with the solve. I finished this even before my coffee was cool enough to drink.

Remembering Paul LEMAT was an effort. My first thought was it's something like donAT but I knew that wasn't right. I was gratified that my memory was fairly close. I found American Grafitti on Hulu recently. Maybe I'll watch it this afternoon. When I saw that movie originally I wondered if the Mel's Drive-in was in Concord, Calif. I now know it wasn't but back when I was in junior high I hung around with some HS kids who drove and our typical evening went from Mel's in Berkeley to "the Main" in Walnut Creek and then on to the other Mel's.

Those were the days my friend
We thought they'd never end . . .
Those were the days, oh yes, those were the days!

TIPPI Hedren, Rod Taylor, Suzanne Pleshette, and Jessica Tandy were in The Bird's. Ok, so I cheated and looked on IMDb. I remembered Rod but a last name wouldn't come. So, all in all, this puzzle stirred some memories. I remember being scared watching The Birds but not so nearly scared as when I watched that movie about the homicidal cats. The Birds was filmed mostly in Bodega Bay. I had a friend who was caretaking a ranch on the coast just south of there. When I visited, I would go outside to hang out or do something and would suddenly notice a tree full of crows nearby. They were said to be the descendents of the original flock that was used in the movie, I tell ya, it was seriously creepy. It looked for all the world like they were just staring at me. Ah the memories.

foxaroni 12:28 PM  

REVERSI was bundled with the Windows operating system for many years. Not sure if it still is. I never understood it and wasn't interested enough to learn how to play it.

In "The Wind in the Willows," the STOATS take over Toad Hall. (The hall is later reclaimed by Mr. Badger, Ratty, Mole and Mr. Toad.) Look up STOATS on Wikipedia. They're really cute little rascals. They're also called weasels and, when their coats turn white in winter, ermine. More than you wanted to know, I'm sure.

Had "slaphappy" instead of SLAPDASH and "benjamin" instead of BANKNOTE. Otherwise, everything except AMERCES and DANELAW were gettable.

@Anonymous 11:52 a.m.--your post was supercilious and condescending. I think we long ago agreed here that one person's "gimme" is another person's complete unknown. It's aggravating to you because you know the answer, and frustrating to me because I don't. Having "only themselves to blame" (blame? Get real) and "get out more--read a book sometime" is pure snottiness. In my opinion.

Happy Pencil 12:29 PM  

@Andrew Heinegg, thanks to Tita's prompting I went back and read your very funny comment from yesterday. Our cat does many of the same things, but the one that truly gets to me, even more than the painfully close face-to-face staring contest, is when he puts his nose close to my mouth, seemingly to check if I'm still breathing. It makes me very uneasy -- as if he knows something I don't!

Anoa Bob 12:32 PM  

As testimony to it being the largest univ. system in the U.S., at least two commenters on this board, @Larry Gilstrap & myself, are CAL STATE alums, and both from San Diego State no less. That's what they called it back then and still do, but my diploma has California State University, San Diego on it. And it's signed by Ronald Reagan, so that gives you an idea of my graduation EPOCH. And tuition was free for California residents. Imagine that.

I minored in Spanish and was taught that Ñ is more than just an N with a tilde over it, it is a different letter of the Spanish alphabet, and that in English AÑO means year and ANO means anus. So you can see why I got a chuckle today when it was clued as "Julio is part of it". But my favorite was a few months back when ANO was clued "Julio is in it"! Naughty Julio!!

Nancy 12:57 PM  

To Teedmn, George B, and any other Minnesotans out there -- I just love, love, love your Senator. I've been watching the A/G Senate Confirmation Hearing, and Amy Kubuchar (sp?) just got finished querying Jeff Sessions. What a delight she is -- smart, charming, probing (but warm), articulate and eloquent (but succinct). If she'd been the one to run, we might right now have our first female president. Damn.

L 1:05 PM  

Excellent and well deserved rant!

My rant? ENOUGH with the Tolkien clues. Ugh, I just hate them. I haven't read the books and don't plan to.

Uncle Milford 1:08 PM  

this was fun like licking lead paint. like the good old fashioned lead paint that would cause you to see through time. i watched 10 minutes tick away to finally realize it's NOT occum and stout but occam and stoat.

Teedmn 1:18 PM  

The NW was tough! With that itty-bitty opening, I just was able to guess OTHELLO to back into that section and then stood there saying, "Now where am I going?" I agree totally with @Rex's REBAG rant - I wanted "go eco" there. Finally I guessed CASTE, realized 1A was BLACK and left that section feeling like as if I were TIPPsI or ASCENDSing heavenward. I can't be too hard on LEK since OTHELLO only came from having those two LLs and if LEK hadn't been in a recent puzzle, I would still be locked out of the NW.

The SW presented a somewhat similar situation when I put in Sable for STOAT. Only good old OCCAM's razor sliced me a space where I could suss out RICCI and EPOCH though I suppose I would have eventually gotten WHITE.

I avoid celery unless cooked - I stuck with STicK for a while and the word ladder's previous rung of STACK did not refute this. In fact I was ready for a rant on seeing iGA in the puzzle again at 31D until I read the clue and changed my STALE STicK to STALK.

This puzzle did make me STRETCH my brain (as well as ScraTCH my head) so thanks, David Poole.

Uke Xensen 1:29 PM  

I guess I was lucky. Finished this quickly. Didn't love it but didn't hate it either. The word ladder helped: I known nothing about the games but picked up on the black ... white ladder right away.

tea73 2:33 PM  

I don't mind word ladders and as they go I thought the OTHELLO/REVERSI theme was clever. I'm surprised so many hadn't heard of either. We owned Othello way back when - Reversi was a big improvement because it was always hard to keep track of everything that needed to be flipped. Reversi came with our first desktop and I played way, way too much of it.

Yuck to REBAG and double yuck to AMERCE. I've watched American Graffitti a few times but don't know the names of anyone in the movie besides Han Solo - er I mean Harrison Ford.

My kids, nieces and nephews all play a lot of board games. Current favorite is Dominion. Great game.

Andrew Heinegg 2:35 PM  

I found this to be an inappropriately difficult puzzle for a Tuesday but, that could be because I never heard of a game called Othello or Reversi. It could be because I have never been particularly fond of board games. I gather from Numinous's comments that it requires some thought and decision making. But, it being laced throughout this puzzle meant I was going to be flying blind and get tortured all the way to the finish.

A dnf on a Tuesday due to the Tey/Reversi cross is aggravating enough but, when you read comments to the effect of the puzzle being easy and enjoyable, sheesh. My final slap in the face is that I am a lawyer and I have never seen or heard of the word amerces although I sussed it out from the crosses.

I have two comments on political entries on this blog. The first is a suggestion when making them. Ad hominem attacks on another blogger are both unwelcome and unproductive. The current political goings on are an unfortunate example of this.

Our President elect cannot stop himself from attacking the character or the abilities of the person who criticises him. He certainly had cause to respond to Ms. Streep's speech at the Golden Globes. Assuming she is overrated (please!!), what does that have to do with her comments? They are either true or not. Tell us why we should not agree with them. Don't tell us she is overrated as an actress because that leads us to believe that you feel threatened by her comments and your reaction seems like it comes from someone who is very immature at the age of 70. So, pick apart the logic or dispute the factual presentation of the blogger. But, don't attack the blogger. It only makes you look petty and vindictive.

My second comment is regarding the use of names that puzzle solvers consider offensive. I concede in advance that I will be in the minority on this issue. But, I don't see how putting the name of a historical figure in a crossword normalizes that person. In my opinion, keeping the names of people of history, good, bad, or indifferent serves to remind you of them and to be aware and/or wary of them is never a bad thing. Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it. If you are disturbed by the seemingly overwhelming nepotism of the incoming President, you will not make it go away by never seeing the names associated with that nepotism in a crossword. Likewise, none of the people murdered by Mao, Hitler, Stalin etc. will be brought back to life if those names are never mentioned in crossword puzzles. But, maybe, just maybe, keeping them in mind will help keep us alert to the danger posed by their ilk in the current world. Because, without awareness and doing something about the awareness would not be good for all of us.

Sandy 2:46 PM  

It was informative getting "amerces" as an answer and the context reference of Mercian law re:Danelaw. Learned something today.

Happy Pencil 2:58 PM  

I agree with you, @Andrew Heinegg and the original poster (sorry, I've lost that post now). I'm not offended by seeing Eric Trump's or even Hitler's name in a puzzle, but I also agree with those concerned about "normalizing" (so far the word of the year for 2017) these people in the way they are clued. If you clue Hitler as a "Viennese painter," that is not a neutral clue; it's an attempt to whitewash history. That's what I disliked about the Betsy DeVos clue from a few weeks back, which if I recall correctly referred to her as a "school choice advocate," or something along those lines. To me, that's the same as cluing someone as, say, "a pro-life [or anti-choice] campaigner." Either way, you're making a political statement.

But in general, I agree that censoring who can and cannot appear in the puzzle is a slippery slope that only runs downhill, and I also agree with Santayana's thoughts about remembering the past so we don't repeat it. I know, however, that many people here will argue that a crossword puzzle is not the appropriate forum for that. Different strokes for different folks, I guess.

Mohair Sam 3:15 PM  

Apologies to Peter Broda and Erik Agard for my complaint about their ERM from Sunday. Sitting here reading Ian McEwan's latest novel and there it was - ERM - right where this Yank would have written uhh. Ya live and learn.

Leapfinger 3:22 PM  

@Mohair Sam
'Old' @Leapfinger?? Here, let me hand you a knife, and you show me your special technique in twisting it! I'm just glad I didn't know about Texas' and Baylor's plans to join the ACC; I'd have worried about Rick Perry (that dancing fool) laying bets with our Governor in NC.

Meanwhile, I discovered a neat subtheme in the southern grid: Canute, as the second son of the powerful Viking chief Sweyn Forkbeard (and grandson of Harald Bluetooth, first Christian ruler of Denmark) was never expected to become King of Denmark. However, he was quite the fighting man, so he assembled a Viking Armada, and eventually conquered part of England. Canute first instituted DANELAW in the lands north of London, and after Edmund died, London and the south of England fell to him also, by prior agreement. Even though the English economy improved greatly under Canute (largely because there were no more Viking raids), many Anglo-Saxons resented DANELAW, and occasionally expressed their feelings with scrawled graffiti of BAN KNOTE (var. Knut, Knute*, Canute).

Canute ruled in England for 19 years and died in 1035, aged either 40 or 50. He also was King of most of Scandinavia at the time. I suspect he connects in some way to William of ORANGE. Since there are 16 Williams of ORANGE over several centuries, I can't be sure which one, but feel safe in ruling out the one that was a pigeon used by the British military in the Battle of Arnhem (Sep 1944).

Most of this history has been in ERNest and minimally REBAGged.

AMERCES beaucoup.



*Dang Notre Dame again.

Anonymous 3:41 PM  

Anybody know what plans Ben Rhodes has after the 20th?

Donna Singmaster 4:12 PM  

Rex,
I scanned the comments, but too many to read thoroughly, so forgive me if I missed a discussion of this.
You and I exchanged some emails the other day after I complained of abbreviated answers without indication in the clues. You correctly pointed out that my example was flawed.
Ok, here are these two. Help me:
STENO is short for STENOGRAPHER. Clue is "Trial figures."
LIMO is short for LIMOUSINE. Clue is "Prom night rental."
I don't see how these clues indicate that answer is abbreviated or is this a new rule?
Thanks to anyone who can help!

Don McBrien 4:21 PM  

Hi Donna,

I think your examples are words in their own right. While they may originally have been shortened forms of their respective words, I don't know that I would call them abbreviations. To me, an abbreviation is something like Mtn. for mountain or cir. for circle. Usually a shortening of a word for written convenience. It is still pronounced the same -- it's the same word, written in shorthand.

Your examples, however, are words that have been shortened for conversational convenience. The shortened form of these words is derived from the longer word and has the same meaning, but it does not "stand for" the long form of the word. These words can become their own words that can stand on their own, especially informally.

iamjess 4:48 PM  

Yikes!

I was okay with the theme, but the rest was, in my mind, much too difficult for Tuesday. Tuesday!!

Also a Natik for me at AGA/RIGA.

Z 5:13 PM  

@Happy Pencil - I think you did a nice job of distinguishing between a call to not use versus a call to not normalize. Thank you.

@Not a Robot - Having a son who travels to Board Game competitions helps. Catan is so huge that I saw an article on Slate (I think) asserting that it has replaced golf as the casual networking game of choice in some industries.

@L - Regarding Tolkien and puzzles... Bad guy three letters will be ORC. Tree or forest being three letters will be ENT. Remember these two short words and you are good for 80-90% of all Tolkien clues. It is similar to so many "classic musical work key" clues, write in IN and wait to see if it is A,B,C,D,E,F, or G for three letter answers or -M--OR and wait for letter and MAJOR or MINOR. No need for any actual classical music knowledge required.

Joe 5:38 PM  

I know about the logical razor, but didn't know how to spell Occam (Ockham? Ockham?). And I have no idea who Nina Ricci is. So that cross felt a little unfair to me (since I had to use the check function to get it).

jessica cohn 5:40 PM  

Way too hard for me . Looking forward to Tommorrow

Mohair Sam 6:02 PM  

@Leapfinger - That was, erm, Old as in "Good Old Charlie Brown" not "Old Yeller."

old timer 6:55 PM  

The House of Orange-Nassau was the inheritor of the Principality of Orange right there on the road from Lyon to Marseille in France. The original WIlliam of Orange became hereditary King of the Netherlands after a very hectic period in Holland. His descendants are kings or queens there to this day I believe. But France took over the Principality.

One of those descendants was William who married thew elder daughter of James II of England (and VII of Scotland), James was a Catholic. When he produced a potentially Catholic heir, the people rose against James, and called in William to come over and become king. Of course, his wife Mary was the proper heir, but he insisted that he and Mary be joint monarchs. Hence "William and Mary". When both Mary and William were dead, her younger sister Anne became Queen. When she died, an Act of Parliament decreed that the closest Protestant heir to the Throne would be monarch. Turned out to be George I, ancestor of Victoria and now Elizabeth II. George's grandmother (I think) w0as a daughter of James I.

There were of course people closer to the English throne, including the man who became King of Italy in the 19th Century. Bug they were Catholics. As was the last Pretender to the British throne, who was in fact a Cardinal. And the Jacobite church in Rome is well worth a visit.

Mark 8:12 PM  

I found it pretty easy but it might be beacause I solved if differently than usual. I knew the name of the game was Othello, so realized the word ladder must go from black to white or viceversa. So then I did all the word ladder clues first. "Leeway" was probably "slack", so then the ladder started on black. Knowing 4 of the 5 letters of each ladder clue made them easy. So then I had seven ladder words and Othello filled in making doing the rest very Tuesday like

Mark 8:18 PM  

I should add that I think it was more fun doing it that way

Jared 8:31 PM  

This reminded me very much of the puzzle with all of Charles' royal titles. If you don't know or care about the theme, it's just totally alienating.

I'm sure Othello is a great game but come on New York Times. You're better than this.

Hartley70 9:02 PM  

I couldn't care less about word ladders, so I just nod and continue when I see one. Nevertheless I liked this puzzle a lot. Of course it's too difficult for a newbie, but some of the clues were right up my alley and I had a good time.

TEY made me happy because I remember how much I enjoyed reading "The Daughter of Time" in 10th grade. I think it was the first mystery I'd read. Now RICCI was easy but unexpected. I have the beautiful bottle within sight and I wear L'Air du Temps most days. It never gets tired or too heavy. (Hi @Gill and @Mals). AMERCES, what a gas! I never thought I'd see that here. DANELAW sounds so awkward I can't believe it isn't an error. Paul LEMAT never made it onto my radar. I guess he wasn't People Magazine's darling. And finally, OTHELLO/REVERSI... never heard of them. When I say something is a flipping game, I mean I'm not a fan. I must be out of the appropriate age bracket but it was a pleasure to figure both titles out. All Tuesday's should be this interesting.

Anonymous 9:32 PM  

I had the same experience as @Glimmerglass -- it had to be Othello and it wasn't particularly tough from there. I did have to guess at a few answers from the crosses but that's typical for me. So not particularly difficult nor problematic.

I always appreciate the difficulty of puzzle construction so points for the technical feat.

Maybe these puzzles should be scored like ice skating in the Olympics -- separate marks for technical and artistic qualities!

-- CS

Billy C 10:42 PM  

Maybe tomorrow there will be a GOLDEN to SHOWER word ladder.

Cliff 2:46 AM  

Interesting. The NW of my puzzle filled in quickly and easily. Maybe because I immediately saw "disc flipping board game" and thought of othello, and so knew 1 across had to be black or white, and the B of black and the O of othello gave way to bravo, and the rest fell into place. The entire puzzle played easy after that.

spacecraft 11:11 AM  

This is pretty nasty for a Tuesday. I mean, AMERCES? Yeah, it's a word. Raise your hand if you have ever heard anyone speak it. Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Now, LAPBELT, that's a bit different. Fully two out of 100,000 say that. The other 99,998 go with "seatbelt." Another rarity is DANELAW, fitting in with the Shakespearean sub-theme but definitely NOT Tuesday material.

I tell ya, thank goodness for the ladder; it helped me through this morass of LEK TEY SEV EPH...and RICCI (don't lose that number). I don't have the same aversion to word ladders as OFL does, but they do have a defect: it almost feels like cheating to solve otherwise unknown sections aided by the obvious next rung.

Some of the cluing felt...off. BRAVO! doesn't translate well to "Congratulations." See? One takes an exclamation point; the other, not so much. How does this look: "Congratulations!"? It just doesn't feel right. And then "Aggregate" as a VERB?? Yeah, technically. Sometimes I feel as though I'm solving crosswords in another whole language. I long for expressions that I actually HEAR from HUMAN LIPS! ITSME is grammatically incorrect--but I HEAR it!! Thank you for the humanness of 54-down, David!

GENTLEMEN, before I depart in my *STRETCH LIMO, I offer a previously rejected NIA Vardalos for DOD. Sorry about that, sweetie. Theme: aims too high; compare yesterday's in stark contrast. It's enough to lay waste to the fill. Net result: bogey.

*rented, of course

Burma Shave 11:32 AM  

STRETCH LIMO CASTE

Those GENTLEMEN from the EMBASSIES
esCHEW both BLACK and WHITE fellows.
As ANAL KISSERS they do AMASS jealousies,
and they’re ABASHedly just ALL GAY OTHELLOs.

--- GENL. TIPPI OCCAM PITT-RICCI, CPA

Diana,LIW 11:37 AM  

Didn't know: OTHELLO (as a game) or REVERSI - I suppose those two would have opened things up.

But here in Natickville, I didn't know AMERCES, TEY, RICCI, STOAT, LEK, ACCAM, or LEMAT. So we go from a really fun Monday to an impossible Thursday. The rest of the puzzle was Tuesday apt, but the NW and SE were what Rex said.

Didn't know. Didn't care. Even St. @Lewis had to search for things to like. I wish to REBAG this.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for a puzzle

rondo 12:25 PM  

Like Howard Cossell, I never played the game. So that made it a WHALE of a lot tougher start than a usual Tuesday, but no w/os. And like OFL, more than an extra minute for me, too.
What @spacey said about the word ladder. I definitely used it to get some of those strange answers. At least 20 threes is pushing it.

A buddy of mine had a Honda ELSINORE dirt bike back in the 70s. I rode it twice. That thing had so much SHEER LOW end torque it could throw you off the back if you didn’t hold on.

Both TIPPI and NIA as yeah babies sitting right there next to each other. BRAVO!

Don’t know whether to cut any SLACK on this puz or not. Won’t need another like it for a WHILE.

Anonymous 1:12 PM  

From Syndication Land:

I liked this puzzle! Reading the constructor's notes made me appreciate it even more. Making a nine word ladder and having othello and reversi to tie it all together was quite an achievement! I happened to solve it with a pen today (which I never do) and that made me slow down and be sure of every cross before I put it in. I couldn't get anything in the NW to start, so I saved that area for last. When I got white for the last answer, that gave me black for the first! I am not familiar with the game othello, so I learned something today. This was a fun solve!

Anonymous 1:32 PM  

A blend of quite easy, studded with absolute pissers. Forgot all about the theme - a good move. Redeemable, but needs editing.

leftcoastTAM 2:40 PM  

Not your usual cup of (STALE?) tea. Hard to tell where it belongs in the early-mid week lineup.

Some real WOEs in the NW and SE. In the latter, the cluster of crosses REVERSI, TEY, SEV, RICCI. In the former, OTHELLO, LEK, ABASH. Untangled the SE, but stymied in the NW with AbASe/OTeELLO. Mea Culpa.

AMERCES was another outlier on a tough Tuesday.

Sorta liked the challenge.

Longbeachlee 4:31 PM  

Well, at least this mess got my internal calendar back in sync. I don't do Tuesdays, but I thought it was Wednesday. When I got to the blog, I saw the hard for Tuesday comments and reset my clokck. To add to the misery, no LMS comments.

rain forest 4:32 PM  

Way late, but what the hey! I started to do this on plastic, but switched to paper. That was my resolve.

I can understand the dissers here, in some way, but the constructor's thoughts had me achieve some admiration for the result. I've played OTHELLO (and I think REVERSI is identical in concept, but maybe smaller (?)), and the whole flipping thing from BLACK to WHITE via a word ladder was kinda neat.

I don't remember the last word ladder in the NYTXword, so this was a change of pace, and thematically well done. The only word I didn't know was AMERCES, and I may not remember that one in the future.

Decent Tuesday in my opinion. Also, @Rondo, and @Spacey, in The Birds, Suzanne Pleshette was the total yeah, baby in my opinion.

BS2 5:22 PM  

CALSTATE STALK

AWGEE, STRETCH out his LAPBELT, I TEL EWE, give him some SLACK,
then REVERSI how it’s spelled, EWE know Michael’s name is not ENIAC.

--- SEV TEY LEK

spacecraft 8:15 PM  

@rainy, I agree about the luscious Suzanne. Had she been a blonde (Hitch had this thing for blondes, you may have noticed) she might well have landed the lead. Tippi was never my type. Nose a little too high in the air.

Diana,LIW 8:29 PM  

@BS2 - I see what you did there with Michael's name. ;-)

Lady Di

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REVERSI was bundled with the Windows operating system for many years. Not sure if it still is. I never understood it and wasn't interested enough to learn how to play it.
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