Szezecin resident / WED 2-15-17 / Poet who wrote in dreams begins responsibility / Obama adviser Valerie / Crewmate of Sulu and Bones / Prov north of Northumberland Strait

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Constructor: Jesse Eisenberg and Patrick Blindauer

Relative difficulty: Medium


THEME: snowman made of food — Themers are food items that contain the names of body parts, clued as if they were being used to build a snowman...

Theme answers:
  • CHERRY PITS (17A: "We used some food to make a snowman. Under his arms we put ___")
  • BUTTERFINGERS (27A: "The we gave him ___")
  • HEAD OF LETTUCE (44A: On top we put a ___")
  • EARS OF CORN (58A: "Finally, we stuck in two ___. Yum!") 
Word of the Day: TROY (55D: Weight classification) —
Troy weight is a system of units of mass customarily used for precious metals and gemstones. There are 12 troy ounces per troy pound, (373.24 g) rather than the 16 ounces per pound (453.59 g) found in the more common avoirdupois system. The troy ounce is 480 grains, compared with the avoirdupois ounce, which is 437 12 grains. Both systems use the same grain defined by the international yard and pound agreement of 1959 as exactly 0.064 798 91 gram. Although troy ounces are still used to weigh gold, silver, and gemstones, troy weight is no longer used in most other applications. (wikipedia)
• • •

[A note on this new and apparently recurring "Celebrity Crossword" phenomenon. Celebrities are human beings, and deserve all the basic considerations afforded to other human beings, so my objection to this way of "marking the 75th anniversary of the NYT crossword puzzle" is in no way personal. Having famous people co-construct is a simple publicity stunt that has nothing to do with making good puzzles, and has no clear relationship to crossword puzzles, period. How about you "celebrate" your anniversary by paying your crossword constructors (much) more. Then you might get back some of the constructors you've lost. Then you might get a better overall quality of crossword submission. Constructor pay actually relates *directly* to puzzle quality, which is all any solver cares about in the first place. The NYT crossword is, pound for pound, the most profitable part of the paper (esp. in stand-alone digital form), so how about you double constructor pay immediately and maybe I won't be so put off by self-congratulatory publicity stunts. That said, I think Jesse Eisenberg is a good writer and actor and I saw him in LAX once and he was far shorter than I imagined but still handsome. Oh, and Patrick Blindauer is good at making puzzles. I was at his first wedding. Just kidding, his only wedding ... so far! Just kidding, he is happily married and his family is adorable. OK: puzzle]

The snowman is oddly constructed. I don't expect realism in a nutso puzzle like this. I mean something about the themers and their clues doesn't quite cohere. Two of the clues give you location, two don't. BUTTERFINGERS is the answer that's bothering me the most, for several reasons. It's got one of those non-anatomically-specific clues, so figuring it out was tough. It's also the only themer where the food is not a fruit / vegetable. It's also the only themer where the food word changes meaning in the full answer, i.e. BUTTER is one thing, BUTTERFINGERS (candy bars) are another. So are the snowman's fingers made from sticks of butter, or candy bars? The former, I think, but the fact that the addition of FINGERS creates another, separate, not-on-the-snowman food ... was awkward.


Let me try again to say what's weird about the theme: with CHERRY PITS, I assume that it's actual cherries that go on the snowman, and that (arm) pits are what the cherry represents, i.e. you aren't putting the pits on him, you're putting cherries on him *as* (arm)pits. With HEAD OF LETTUCE, however, I assume the head of lettuce represents the snowman's head *and* is the actual thing you put on the snow man. Same with corn: you put the whole ear of corn where the snowman's ears should be. HEAD OF LETTUCE is the head, EARS OF CORN are the ears, but CHERRY PITS are not the armpits. Cherries are the armpits. Same for BUTTERFINGERS—I don't put BUTTERFINGERS on the snowman; I put butter on the snowman *to represent* the fingers. So with two themers, the answer is the literal, actual thing I would put on the snowman, but with two others, there's a different form of wordplay involved, where I have to reimagine the literal meaning of the themer in order to picture what goes where on the snowman. This lengthy explanation is one of the saddest things I've ever written, but I feel it is necessary to convey the offness of this theme, which, otherwise, is harmless and even mildly enjoyable (the idea that one might think a snowman's pits in need of a visual signifier is absurd in the best possible way) (Kid, building snowman: "Ma, what're we gonna use for his pits?!" Ma: [worries her son has been out in the cold too long])


The rest of the puzzle is solid and smooth. Normally a whole lotta Scrabble-f***ing in a corner (today, the SW corner) would get side-eye from me, but all the JAZZ crosses work out very nicely. Nothing forced. This puzzle missed DARWIN's birthday by just three days (and Paula ZAHN's by nine). I had the most trouble in the SE, starting with CUT-OFFS, which I never considered a "style" of "jeans." Just something you do to your jeans with scissors when the lower part gets messed up or when you just need shorts real bad. So CUT- did not give the access to the SE that I needed. Then I couldn't get FELON (wanted FAKER or FEIGN or something actually [Counterfeiter]-specific). No idea where Szczecin is and since my brain pronounced it like "Chechen," that's the part of the world I kept thinking of (i.e. Chechnya, not Poland). Lastly, I had no idea, none, that TROY was a "weight classification"; that "T" was the very last letter to fall. So that corner was rough for me, but everything else fell to the easy side.

More snowman treatises tomorrow! Just kidding! Probably!

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

102 comments:

Loren Muse Smith 6:35 AM  

Man oh man oh man was this fun. You two had me at CHERRY PITS. Some of Rex’s points are well-taken; I, too, hesitated at BUTTERFINGERS, but none of that analysis spoiled the fun for me. At all. The next snowman I build, I’m gonna put a little cherry under each stick arm for a private little joke.

This place is going to sing today with all the other ideas for body parts. My first thought was pork butt. (Funny to see CARESS right under BUTT there.) But you can’t stop imagining, right? Give him some angel hair, some chicken fingers to excavate that fuzzy navel. Hah! I loved this puzzle.

I found myself going back to look at the clue for DARWIN. “Champion of evolution.” I keep reading “champion” as a guy who’s all for some kind of crusade, like women’s rights or a minimum wage increase. Like you can choose to sign up for being born without an appendix, to jump on the bandwagon and evolve. Or not, I guess. Dig your heels in and remain an slimy despicable spineless little lowlife. Big league.

You can also read “champion” as in the best. The person who exemplifies the highest form of evolution. I’ve been trying to think who I’d nominate. Audry Hepburn maybe. Or Tom Hanks. David Sedaris.

Loved the clue for STENO. Now that’s when anagrams really do it for me. So, Jesse, I wonder if you could tell us if there are any RATS in your world of ARTS?

This puzzle is well-crafted, light-hearted, and funny. I. Loved. It. Bravo!

Lewis 6:45 AM  

@rex -- You said it yourself, it's a nutso puzzle. That's how I took it, after CHERRYPITS, and took an "anything goes" attitude toward the theme answers, as long as they basically adhered to the theme's premise. It wanted to make me smile and take fun stabs at the theme answers, and it succeeded. Also, it felt like a M/Tues puzzle to me, and I was surprised to see your medium rating.

I like how it ends with SEEYA, and that clue for BASEHIT tricked me for a bit. The puzzle was fun and lively. I know it had to run today, so, IMO, those clues should have been toughened. There was an opportunity to connect the crossing JAZZ and JARRETT, if the latter was clued as the jazz pianist (who I adore).

Congratulations, NYT, on your 75th. That anniversary is symbolized by the diamond, which itself symbolizes endurance. And may you and your puzzles, which marvelously enrich and charge up my life and the lives of so many -- obviously the commenters here, for example -- and bring us @rex, persist with vigor in perpetuity!

Anonymous 6:51 AM  

This puzzle was a lot of fun and I really liked the theme. I too took it as fun things that you can put on a snowman so it didn't matter to me if the cherries actually would be put under the arms. My one problem is the southwest corner that has Zahn crossing Roth. Puzzles should not have proper names crossing each other.

With respect to celebrities, I completely disagree with Rex. While I really didn't notice that there was a celebrity constructor, this does add to the fun for me. Rex, don't you watch Celebrity Dancing with the Stars just to see the celebrity? Or would you prefer only to see the best dancers in the world?

However, I do agree on the pay thing. The New York Times should pay more than any other paper for puzzle constructors.

mathgent 7:02 AM  

A cherry pit is the seed-stone inside a cherry. The puzzle suggests that these messy little hard things are embedded under the arms of the snowman. A snowman is supposed to look something like a person. This would be a person with a purplish rash under his arms. Ugh.

Cassieopia 7:07 AM  

Agree to pay constructors more.
Agree that celebrities is a cheap gimmick that I don't much care for.
Agree that CHERRYPITS was beyond awesome as a solution.

The Brady Bunch song is just wrong on so many levels, thanks for sharing it - I think?

Except for this puzz being unbelievably easy for me, I agree with Rex's review in every sense. Excellent review, Rex!

Lobster11 7:10 AM  

I would have liked this theme better if it didn't involve a snowman. This is, of course, not how one would ever build a snowman, and my mental image of the final product (whether the fingers are candy bars or sticks of butter) is not pleasant. Yeah, yeah, I realize it's supposed to be wacky, but there's a difference between wacky and downright weird. Isn't there some other way to tie together four food-related phrases and body parts other than via a bizarre snowman?

Anyway, I found this very easy (for a Wednesday) until I got into the SE corner, with POLE, TROY, and ANNA all very difficult as clued. If any of the crosses down there hadn't been fair, it would've been DNF for me.

evil doug 7:14 AM  

Head cheese.

Moly Shu 7:16 AM  

AVer before AVOW, then I saw DARWIN, but the incorrect r made me enter DAwrIN. That resulted in JA_wETT crossing _eTH, and me lamenting 2 people I didn't know. Finally saw my error and then had to guess on the R in JARETT/ROTH (who and who?) still 2 people I didn't know. I liked the puzzle, thought it was fun.
@Rex, sheesh, hi @LMS, some serious nit-picking today. If you ever own a company, I'd sure like to come work for you. You seem like you'd just give all your profits back to your employees and keep nothing for yourself. Nice. Has it ever occurred to you that part of the reason "the NYT crossword is, pound for pound, the most profitable part of the paper" is because they are running a business to make money? I just never understand why being successful and making money is seen as a negative. If the constructors don't like it they can (and do) go elsewhere. If I don't like the quality of the puzzles or feel like my subscription is overpriced, I'll go elsewhere too.

evil doug 7:20 AM  

Donut hole.

evil doug 7:21 AM  

Pretzel rod.

Glimmerglass 7:22 AM  

@Rex, you are seriously overthinking this theme. As you say, it's nutso, so let it go at that. The food items are also names of body parts, period. There's no point at all in speculating about how or why one would use the real food in a real snowman.

evil doug 7:22 AM  

Toe jam.

blinker474 7:28 AM  

I have never read a more tedious dissection of something that needed none. I speak of the paragraph starting "Let me try again to say what's weird about the theme:..." and ending with "Ma: [worries her son has been out in the cold too long])" It's a puzzle, a pleasant diversion (and this one sure was), not a differential equation that needs to be precise.

As for the proposal that the NYTimes double the price paid to constructors, I think that's something best left to the Sulzbergers, who are trying to continue to publish their newspaper in an increasingly hostile environment.

evil doug 7:38 AM  

Big article in the WSJ about money-strapped states introducing bills to eliminate tenure in universities and the recent steep reduction in full-time faculty. As long as people like me love to teach, especially as a second career, then absurdly low pay (I made about $2,000 per course) with no benefits will prevail. Same with the NYT crossword. Constructors will continue to gripe about the low pay, but the cachet of having their names published in the Times will continue to overrule. When these people finally get their shit together and withhold their product en masse, maybe the Times will feel pressure to up their rates--but I don't see it happening soon....

kitshef 7:44 AM  

Good puzzle with a nice food/body part theme. The 'snowman' angle was unnecessary and offputting. Just leave it with foods/body parts.

For some reason, even spotted the central AZ, I could not see JAZZ for the life of me. I mean, there aren't that many Grammy categories, and there are not a lot of _AZ_ words ...

I seriously flirted with gAZe there (as in shoegaze). Didn't help that JARRETT was a complete WoE. I tried bARRETT and gARRETT (which fit in with gAZE). Funny how one blind spot can destroy your puzzle.

Never for a second thought of BUTTERFINGERS the candy.

Lily liver.

Anonymous 7:46 AM  

Obviously, the folks writing crosswords for the NYT, or anywhere else for that matter have gone past the first three levels of Maslow's hierarchy of needs. If they haven't, then they need to find another way to put food on the table.

Peter 7:53 AM  

I'm with kitchen. Big problem with this puzzle's theme is that the entire snowman aspect made no sense. There wasn't an overall joke about a snowman. There wasn't anything visual representing the snowman. There is nothing connecting the date to snowmen, other than the fact that it is winter. ( perhaps the only connection is the fact that we stereotypically use carrots or a snowman's nose.) Also, as Rex suggests, if you actually make the snowman out of whole pieces of food, you are going to hit a point where it's not a snow-man anymore.

Perhaps this could've been a Mr. potato head themed puzzle

Unknown 7:53 AM  

The answers didn't bother me nearly as much as the quotes. Who's speaking? Why are they saying "Yum" at the end?? Are they going to eat the snowman?? Surely nobody would say Yum about a head of lettuce. Is this something Eisenberg thinks we should recognize as something he or someone said? I am entirely too upset about it.

Rhino 7:58 AM  

I did that thing where I put SaT instead of SIT which forced AMaE instead of AMIE so at the end instead of getting the congratulations screen I was told to keep trying. And I love puzzles but having to go back clue by clue to find that one little mistake is maddening. I found it and my streak continues (but only since Sunday due to that damned LEHI/ITEA cross), but it was touch and go there for a bit.

r.alphbunker 7:58 AM  

I liked the theme. Gave up solving with downs only almost immediately when I saw 2D {Comeback in a cave} ECHO.

Details are here

chefbea 8:01 AM  

What a yummy puzzle!!! and at this time of the year when many people are making snow men.

When I printed the puzzle out from Orange's site it came along with Ken Ken. That has never happened before. So the crossword puzzle was so tiny I could hardly read the clues. Anyone else have this problem?

TomAz 8:04 AM  

Yeah the puzzle was weird.

But I agree with Rex about the celebrity constructor thing. A cheap pandering move by the NYT. If Gwyneth Paltrow shows up with a puzzle I think I'll puke.

Instead of celebrities, perhaps for its birthday next year the NYT can invite ex-trump administration officials who have resigned in disgrace to be co-constructors. Throw in a few typos and misspellings. It'd be a riot.

Hartley70 8:10 AM  

Been there in Westport with this puzzle, and done it again, but even the second time around I get a kick out of the year of the celebrity co-constructor. I thought it was just going to be a week when I heard WS explain the idea, but it's even better to space them out through the year. I hope Jon Stewart and Clinton participate. What puzzler could pass up the chance?

We saw JESSEEISENBERG as a clue recently and now he's the celebrity constructor. Could Valerie JARRETT be next?

wgh 8:21 AM  

Liked the cluing and fill more than the theme.

Nancy 8:28 AM  

To borrow a word from yesterday's puzzle, today's puzzle was TWEE. Very TWEE. Much too TWEE for my liking. To borrow a phrase from QEII, we were not amused.

QuasiMojo 8:42 AM  

"From hunger." One man's celebrity is another man's person. We had Jesse what's his name in the puzzle last week and I had never heard of him. I am seriously offended that the NYT thinks it's a good idea to use "celebrities" (whatever that means) to honor its 75th anniversary of publishing a crossword puzzle. What on earth do "celebs" or "famous people" have to do with puzzle-making? And who decides what a star is? Hollywood? The ghastly fashion business? Rap music producers? Cheesy sitcom directors? Formula horror novelists? Publicists?

I'm glad that Mr. Eisenberg is a puzzle-enthusiast and apparently an able constructor, but I've no interest in his celebrity aura being brought in like some decorative bow. As I have been complaining for I don't know how long now the NYT is becoming a celebrity kiss-ass fest. Aside from the front page, most of the articles in the paper now (especially the ARTS section -- that one threw me as I had APTS for the longest time...) are completely celebrity-driven. Or celebrity drivel, as the case may be. I have NO interest in knowing how awful it is for a second-rate TV star to have to move into a borderline neighborhood in order to gentrify the block, just so the NYT can stuff the pages with ads for overpriced condos. I realize it is America that has become increasingly celebrity driven and the NYT has to reflect that. But do it well, Mr. Sulzberger. Don't beat us over the head with it in a tacky feeding frenzy.

That said, I thought this puzzle was barely adequate for a Wednesday and while I did not have the same problems Rex had with the theme, I thought it was forced. Is this supposed to be a famous quotation or something? Wouldn't stuffing Butterfingers into a pile of snow count as littering? haha. Frankly, this whole concept felt like a child's puzzle from Highlights Magazine. Puerile at best.

I actually had decided to stop posting here as all I have is vitriol for the NYT puzzle these days and have switched over to the Guardian and the WSJ, but today's "announcement" really had me seeing red. I might even go out and buy a parrot so I can have something to put in its cage. That's how much I respect the NYT now.

Wm. C. 8:45 AM  


@Evil --

On the subject of tenure and pay for University (Full) Professors, IMO ...

These people have an incredible sinecure. They typically work in a University with no more than 26 weeks per year of work. They MAY lecture six times per week, using materials prepared years ago. They have TAs to do the heavy lifting of class sessions, test prep, grading and monitoring, etc. For many, they are able to consult tens of days/year with the companies of ex-students at exhorbitant rates. AND, that get very well-paid by their Universities. All-in-All, they play a significant role in the burdensome debt load that many grads carry forever. (It's been reported that some grads live with parents, with ALL of their take-home pay going to interest only.)

Now to be fair, I was fortunate to have, for the most part, excellent and principled professors at both undergrad and grad levels. However, this is not uniformly true, and -- I think-- OFTEN not the case.

(Now I await the condemnation for this post...)



Nancy 8:48 AM  

Please, please don't leave, @Quasi! Who else would come up with the review "From hunger" for this nauseatingly *food*-related puzzle?

Z 8:51 AM  

This was far better than I expected because my reaction to celebrity publicity stunts is the same as Rex's. Put Stephen Hawking on Star Trek and my reaction is "Quit trying to manipulate me," not tittering with excitement.

As @Evil Doug has been pointing out, there are lots more possibilities, so my feeling is more in keeping with Rex. If you're going to go absurdist with CHERRY PITS and BUTTER FINGERS, don't have the almost practical HEAD OF LETTUCE or EARS OF CORN. Still, I did enjoy this and the only side-eye was the ENO clue. Way to call attention to tired, trite fill.

@Moly Shu and @Evil Doug - The relationship of pay to profit (or long term organizational health) is a lot more complicated than "minimizing cost = more profit." The NYTX is having top talent hired away. Birnholz by WaPo. Schenk by the WSJ. KAC is in the AVCX rotation. The list goes on. The dearth of women constructors also suggests they've lost half the talent pool (why? who knows. but it is demonstrably so). Part of being an organizational leader is not just understanding what is, but seeing the pitfalls on the path ahead and avoiding them. Rex is doing Shortz's bosses a huge favor by pointing out pitfalls for them. The only question is will they recognize what he says as truth and respond to it. The newspaper industry has not shown itself to be very good at avoiding problems.

Charles Flaster 8:59 AM  

Theme idea was good but agree with Rex that it contained obvious inconsistencies. I did like cluing for SAIL, PGA, and ROTH.
JARRETT/ ROTH was not a natick and rest of puzzle played very easy.
DIOR could have been clued as "Designing Christian".
Bali HAI is just a mesmerizing song from one of my favorite shows-South Pacific.
Thanks JE and PB.

GHarris 8:59 AM  

Today's write up by Rex is a rank example of over analysis, like debating how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. How about according some poetic license, in this case constructor's license. The test of a puzzle should be whether it is aptly clued for the particular day and the degree of fun it afforded the solver. Come on man, we don't need an exegesis, it's just a romp in an otherwise dark world.

evil doug 9:05 AM  

Wm.C.,

I agree, and let me add this: In my seven years experience, I came to believe that students were gaining more value from lecturers like me--with decades of life experience literally around the world--than they got from book-smart PhD's who'd spent their whole lives in classrooms. We had some USAF instructors we called "plowbacks" because they'd gone straight from being students to instructor pilots. Nobody wanted to be paired up with them because they couldn't teach us anything about real world Air Force culture. Add to that the incest of liberal administrators and faculties ensuring the harvesting of people just like them joining those schools? The side benefit of adjuncts with varying views provides at least a little dose of contrary insights....

Nancy 9:32 AM  

About the Saturday 7/15/95 puzzle so many of you were raving about last week (no spoilers): While I again thank the thoughtful people (jae and Hartley70) who got this to me, I was surprised at the letdown I felt when I tried to solve it. Yes, it was considerably harder than most of the current fare, but I didn't think in a good way. It was sort of like taking a midterm exam in your least favorite class. I didn't come close to finishing it -- and, since there was no completed grid I could find online, I began to Google like crazy. Even so, I still don't have 51D, 62A or 64A. I doubt you'd see 8D or 61A in a puzzle of this era, and I don't think it would be a loss. What this shows me is that there's plenty of arcana lurking around that's not pop culture. Now, I see that WS edited this, so this puzzle was part of his legacy. And yet it doesn't seem very Shortzian. I think his preferences have (mostly) become more playful and less weighty in recent years -- and I don't think that's a bad thing. He's been getting a great deal of flak recently (and I didn't like today's puzzle, either). But I also think that if puzzles like the 7/15/95 example were to appear regularly, he'd be getting flak for that, too.

Pete 9:50 AM  

@Evil Doug - There was a Princeton psychology professor who won the Nobel Prize in Economics for explaining why people made so many stupid decisions when assigning value to things. He admitted he knew absolutely nothing about Economics, he simply showed why people made stupid economic decisions. It all boiled down to people over-valuing what they had vs the value of that possession that was clear to everyone else. So, is your 'decades of life experience' really more valuable that someone who has in-depth, panoramic knowledge of a subject or do you just think that has greater value because that's what you brought to the table? I'm guessing the latter.

Tita A 9:54 AM  

@quasi, Rex, et al...
"Celebrity" added to something isn't just "meh" to me, but actually detracts from the thing.
And no, I have never watched any Dancing with Anyone"tm.

In Will's defense, and to give me a glimmer of hope for these "special" puzzles, other celebs are going to be Neil deGrasse Tyson and Bill Clinton. The one connection to crosswords is the celeb needs to be an avid NYT crossword solver.
Btw, the deGrasse Tyson puzzle is co-constructed with ACME! Now there's a celebrity ... I hold her in far more esteem then I do Gwynneth Paltrow.
Oh...first time I heard of Eisenberg was in the puzzle the other day.

I thought the puzzle was cute, but weird. That CHERRYPIT thing did not sit well, but I was solving for speed last weekend, so didn't get to analyze.
I think Rex's analysis ought to go down in he Rexword Hall of Fame, however. Loved it.

I liked the equal time given to DARWIN and Intelligent design (over at DIOR). Inherit the Wind was on 2 nights ago. I fear we are devolving as a country. Why do we not value teachers?

Tita A 9:58 AM  

In Germany, one local pop station has a daily bit where they give a 30 second bio of a German celeb born that day. It was as likely to be a composer, scientist, politician, teacher...I suppose some famous pop person makes it in there too...but they are not the majority.

Do any of you teachers know how teachers' salaries compare around the world?

Anonymous 10:05 AM  

According to information found at cruciverb.com the NYT pays the most for puzzles. The list is not exhaustive but includes the WSJ, Newsday and other mainstream publishers.

Oscar Madison 10:07 AM  

Celebrities are people, yes, but they are people who are uniquely positioned to parlay their fame in one area into queue-jumping-past-more-talented-people success in other areas ... like politics.

I'm a big fan of Jesse Eisenberg the actor, but his forays into humor writing and (now) crossword puzzle constructing remind me of Michael Jordan's foray into baseball.

I found this puzzle very uneven, with a bunch of Monday-level fill peppered with abruptly much harder answers, so that it averaged out to Wednesday.

AZPETE 10:08 AM  

Wouldn't it hv been great if the black squares formed diamond(s)? Would hv made for an interesting meta. Like it anyway. Write up is a tad bit anal imho.

G. Weissman 10:09 AM  

I completed this puzzle correctly, but wouldn't say it was fun. Rex's detailed explanation of the failed logic behind the themers is exactly right. And celebrating the puzzle by involving celebrities is simply dumb. What was Eisenberg's contribution? "Hey, I've always thought it would be fun to have a crossword about making a snowman out of food! Because you know how some kinds of food include body parts, like EARS of corn? Wouldn't it be GREAT to imagine a snowman with actual corn for ears!!!" "Ok, Jesse. That's comedy gold, and top notch crossword material."

GILL I. 10:09 AM  

I thought this was kinda cute except when I was done I had a hell of a time imagining CHERRY PITS in a snowman. Maybe a few sprouts....Would you really put BUTTER on the FINGERS? I think carrots are more in line. I would definitely put some LETTUCE on the HEAD but my EARS wouldn't be CORN.
I had to look up Jesse Eisenberg because I didn't know he was famous. Did you come up with the DIOR clue? That was my favorite.
I don't know why this strange looking snowman amused me, but it did.
@Rex...if you ever collected coins, you'd be familiar with TROY weight.
JAZZZAHN.

Joseph Michael 10:14 AM  

So first we find out that Jesse EISENBERG is not a grid answer but rather a grid constructor.

Then we start the puzzle by thinking about a snowman's armpits.

Then we get Rex's overanalysis of the puzzle that borders on parody.

And now we find out that TROY is not an ancient Greek city but a "weight classification?"

I'm going back to bed.

Passing Shot 10:26 AM  

Late to the party so I haven't read the comments, but I didn't mind this at all. I get OFL's point re the body parts, but it strikes me as much ado about nothing, ultimately. On the other hand, I absolutely agree with him on the self-congratulatory missteps of the NYT puzzle. We don't need or care about celebrity constructors (and this puzzle could stand on its own regardless); what we want are good, solid puzzles by constructors whom we know have been paid fairly for their work.

G. Weissman 10:27 AM  

I'd assume that the puzzle began with the idea of head of lettuce and ears of corn. The resulting mishmash of a puzzle can be explained as follows: they simply couldn't come up with other examples along the lines of those two. At that point, instead of giving up on this theme, the crossword designer and his celebrity pal went with other answers that don't make sense. Are we to imagine a snowman made of food or a snowman made of snow to which items of food are attached? My sense is that even the puzzles designers have no idea which is the case. This is just laziness in theme development.

DJG 10:34 AM  

"This lengthy explanation is one of the saddest things I've ever written..."

But your proclamation that the explanation is one of the saddest things you've ever written is not one of the saddest things you've ever written. On the contrary, it made me laugh.

Don McBrien 10:43 AM  

This morning's CBS segment on the NYT puzzle's 75th anniversary. Apologies if already posted.


Will Shortz 10:44 AM  

I don't usually read this blog, but I popped in today to read about the anniversary puzzle.

Just one response -- about constructor pay. It's gone up quite a bit over the years. The Times was paying $40 for a daily puzzle when I started in 1993. It now pays $300 each for a constructor's first 10 puzzles, $360 thereafter. The pay for Sundays was $150 when I started. Now the rate is $1,000 each for a construtor's first 10 puzzles, $1,200 thereafter. These are by far the highest rates paid by any newspaper, as well as the highest rates for any venue that has open submissions.

We receive about 10 submissions for every puzzle that is accepted.

Rex is right that crosswords are profitable for the paper. I'm very proud to be helping support the quality journalism in The Times, which these days is needed more than ever.

--Will Shortz

Happy Pencil 10:45 AM  

This puzzle was so, so weird that I couldn't help enjoying it. Rex's analysis has merit, but with a puzzle like this I think you just have to go with along with it. I agree with @LMS, however, that chicken fingers would have been a much better answer.

@Pete, you're thinking of Daniel Kahneman. I highly recommend his book Thinking Fast and Slow to everyone here. And I completely agree with your analysis.

@Z, you mentioned the lack of women constructors, which is an issue that has come up here several times in the past few weeks. Here's something I've been wondering: Has the trend toward computer-based crossword constructing made the task less appealing to women? Yesterday's extremely young constructor and his comments over at Jeff Chen's site made me start thinking about building crosswords as an exercise in database management, and if that would explain why we seem to be seeing more and more teenage constructors over the past few years. And then I wondered if this could also explain where all the women constructors have gone. (And before you jump all over me, let me state clearly that I know there are many, many women who excel at working with computers and dealing with databases and other analytics-related tasks. But in general, this still seems to be an area of human endeavour that appeals more to men than women.)

Anyway, I don't know if any of the keepers of statistics here could work out if there are fewer puzzles by women published each year than used to be the case, but it might be interesting to know what the real trend is.

Numinous 10:56 AM  

I've never built a snowman,
I'd never hope to build one
But I can tell you, anyhow,
I'd rather build than be one.

Over at xwordinfo, Jessie says that this is a puzzle he expected to run in late November as a nod to his family who celebrate ThanksLiving. He says they are all vegans. This brings me to @Rex who discusses Butterfingers at length and cant tell if it is the candy that is intended here. If the puzzle is intend for vegans then actual butter would not be appropriate. I am not a vegan by any means. I have nothing against them but I find most of the ones I know to be annoying and prissy, asking waiters who probably have no clue what is in this or that dish. "Are your retried beans made with lard?"

This seemed about average for a Wednesday to me and i thought the "whackyness" was pretty good. By the time it was done, I had a pretty silly image in my head of a snowman with CHERRY PITS beneath his twigs which were holding a fistful of BUTTERFINGERS. EARS OF CORN protruded from the sides of his HEAD OF LETTUCE. I wonder if he had buttons down his front made of tofu. @Peter, maybe Mr. Potato head would have been more appropriate.

@Loren, while your alternate ideas are cute, I'm afraid they don't fall in with the intentions of the founding constructors.

Referencing yesterday's commentor wondering at Sydney Sider. I suppose it all depends on where your ship has been that influences what is in your wheelhouse. I was a Sydneysider for five and a half years untill I moved to Melbourne which I hated. Sydneysider would be pronounced more like Sinneysidah. I also find it ironic that Sydney and San Francisco are sister cities. Sydney is much more like Los Angeles and Melbourne has the arty-farty pretentiousness of San Francisco.

Don McBrien 10:59 AM  

@Happy Pencil -- this info is available at xwordinfo.com: Link

Anonymous 11:02 AM  

Best laugh of the day @LMS avatar.

Snowflake, formerly Not a Robot 11:03 AM  

You gotta love an actor who can also construct a crossword puzzle.

But here's the thing. Snowmen (persons of the Snowflake, and so part of my own tribe) don't have fingers. They also don't have armpits because their arms typically are sticks. THAT's what confused me and made the puzzle more difficult than it should've been.

If this had been a scarecrow puzzle, it would have made more sense.

Happy Pencil 11:10 AM  

@Don McBrien, thank you! I really need to spend more time exploring all that site has to offer.

For those who are interested in this discussion but don't want to click Don's link, the total number has fallen from a high of 27% in 2003 to just 17% last year and 15% in the two previous years (the lowest percentages for the years they list). So that does kind of support my theory, it seems to me, since the numbers started falling steadily around the mid-2000s, which would be roughly when people started to abandon constructing by hand, or so I would guess.

old timer 11:26 AM  

@Quasi, you and I seem to be the only ones who think this puzzle really sucked. The theme was not at all amusing. No clues brought a smile to my face. And the skill level needed to solve it was comparable to that needed to solve the puzzle in my local paper -- so simple I never bother with it. As a daily NYT solver, I feel disrespected.

I do look forward to whatever puzzle Bill Clinton co-constructs though.

Roo Monster 11:31 AM  

Hey All !
Was that the real Will Shortz? Whoever it was, did get the pay amounts correct.

The puz was... different, for lack of a better adjective. I try not overthinking "nutso" puzs such as this. Just go with the flow. Themers corny? Check. Somewhat consistent? Check. That'll work. Fill is fill. You just try to make it as un-ick as possible to get words to make sense. That's my AVOW, and I'm sticking to it.

aaA-PGA, SNit-SNAG, hAIr-nAIL- SAIL, HarD-HUED (had CARESS spelt CARres at first, sniggling that area). Timer ran long, as had to read blurb before doing puz!

TACO LIP
RooMonster
DarrinV

Laura Hoke 11:46 AM  

My fastest Wednesday ever, by half. Of all the complaining you did about Butterfingers Rex, you aren't at all bothered about snowmen never, really having fingers other than perhaps the ends of twigs?
I'm getting bored with all of the non puzzle related whining. So what if they're bring in celebs to contribute. Big deal.

Vancouver Nana 11:55 AM  

Some celeb puzzles will be fun; some a slog. As for me I'm hoping, and looking forward to, a puzzle co-constructed by avid NYT solver President WJ Clinton. Bet it's a Thurs or Fri and a rumbus. :-)

Joe Bleaux 11:58 AM  

RATS in the ARTS? Maybe -- but a STAR in the byline for sure 😏

pauer 12:00 PM  

@QuasiMojo--but I love Purell™! It keeps my hands germ-free, and that's OK by me!

#hatersgonnahate

Trombone Tom 12:06 PM  

Today's puzzle was light-hearted and kind of funny. No problems on that score.

But count me among those who are not fans of celebrity-ANYTHING. Whether it's Jeopardy or the NYTX, it seldom brings real value to the effort. Jesse E. was in the puzzle the other day, so his name was certain to get some attention. But his contribution was??? On the other hand I do understand the concept of a publicity stunt.

As to @Rex's write-up, I felt it was mostly on point. However, as others have suggested, it's possible to over-analyze something. Today's posting epitomized that. I'm mostly content to work on the puzzle, enjoy the wordplay, and get that AHA feeling when I sort out some devious cluing.

So, to Will and Patrick (and Jesse?) thanks for an enjoyable morning.

QuasiMojo 12:28 PM  

@Nancy, don't worry about me. I'll still be around. I'm sort of the boy who cried woof! And I wouldn't want to miss your valuable commentary and company.

QuasiMojo 12:36 PM  

Pointless factoid. Did you know that the composer of the "Frankenstein" film theme sued Richard Rodgers for plagiarism over "Bali Hai"? I have no idea if the case was dismissed or whether he won. But I can't hear Juanita Hall singing it now without thinking of Boris Karloff.

Anonymous 12:49 PM  

@Happy Pencil This was a theory researched extensively by David Steinberg several years ago. He presented a brief summary of that research at the 2014 ACPT—here's a link to the video, where the part about this research starts at approximately 5:20: http://www.crosswordtournament.com/2014/youtube.htm

e.a. 12:50 PM  

constructor pay has gone up over the years - do we have corresponding stats on how much the paper's xword profits have gone up over those same years? @Shortz?

Masked and Anonymous 1:02 PM  

PITS = CHERRYs. check
FINGERS = BUTTER. check.
HEAD = LETTUCE. check.
EARS = CORN. check.
Clever puztheme … Hey -- where's the rest of the anatomy assembly instructions, tho?
M&A was forced to improvize. [Pic of "chowrunt" results will be posted separately, as havin *lotsa* trouble (6 times!) getting my msg past The Blorg.]

staff weeject pick: IRR.

Thanx, PB2 & Jesse Eisencelebrity.
Thanx, Shortzmeister, for the raise in pay.
@RP: har!

Masked & Anonymo(4 cherries on top)s

Molson 1:06 PM  

For 10-D, with "RA" in place when I saw the clue, I wanted to put in "RACIST" but then remembered I was doing a NYT puzzle and not an AVX one.

Masked and Anonymous 1:06 PM  

p.s.
chowrunt pic is at: puzzlecrowd.com/kf/chowrunt.jpg

M&A

Tomato Butt 1:06 PM  


As I was solving I said to myself, "this is going to provoke an epic rant from Rex." Not disappointed. Well, disappointed, but, you know...

puzzle hoarder 1:19 PM  

I don't care for celebrities pairing up with constructors. It really does comes across like some cheesy version of "Dancing With the Stars." The puzzles don't need any celebrity connection they just need to be good. This was weak for a Wednesday. The only unfamiliar elements and therefore the only things I came away with are Bareilles, Szczecin, and this "Will" clue for ENO. These were so easy to work around that the puzzle was Monday like in difficulty. Once again a puzzle with out any puzzling.

Teedmn 1:21 PM  

Today's theme is as silly as it gets, in a good way. I'm more with @Lewis than @Rex on consistency for this one though I do like the idea of Ma having a kid who's outside too long rather than rotting on the couch with a game console.

I had @Rex's hold up in the SE with Faker before FELON but ANNA Karenina was my heroine there. And a minor SNAG at 25D when DRoned didn't fit. Otherwise this slipped SPRYly through my BUTTERFINGERS and SAILed away.

@Nancy, loved your royal dismissal!

Thanks, JS and PB2.

Masked and Anonymous 1:30 PM  

p.p.s.s.
And another thing…

Puz was *awful* hard for M&A to solve. When I printed it out, there was this KenKen puz mashed into it, up top. So half the crossword printed on the first page, and the rest (sorta) printed on the second page. Some puzclues along the in-between-page margins got lost in The Blorg [hisssss]. Lost precious nanoseconds, lookin at a screen and pencil-writin in the missin puzclues, during the solvequest.

Did Eisencelerbrity do the KenKen part?

Still, enjoyed m&y-self, figurin out the puz. 75 years. Old, dude. Let me tell yah … When U get that old, stuff starts growin on U. Like KenKens.

M&Also


**gruntz**

jberg 1:34 PM  

I enjoyed it, but seeing the theme made it awfully easy -- and you can't miss seeing it once you read the clue for 17A. But still, fun.

I've got a different take on CHERRY PITS, though, viz.: They are not a food! You have to take them out of the cherry before you can eat it. I grew up in Door County, WI, which is a cherry-growing area, and a guy whose family owned the biggest orchard plus their own processing plant once came up with the idea that you could make some kind of medicine out of the cherry pits -- but even that did not involve eating them! So I'll accept it as a pun about food, but the other themers are foods themselves.

On the other hand, the constructors really deserve congratulations for finding a crossworthy ENO other than Brian.

And Rex deserves congratulations for finding an image of a BUTTERFINGER with a STENO! It should probably have been clued as 'former worker,' though.

foxaroni 1:38 PM  

Two of the answers had "of" in them: head of lettuce, ears of corn. Would it have helped if the second answer had been "fingers of butter?" That falls down, though, because I'm not sure how to get around "pits of cherry."

Because I wasn't doing any deep analysis, looking for literalism or internal theme consistency, I enjoyed the puzzle very much.

@Anonymous 11:02 is right--@LMS's avatar today is a hoot. I keep giggling when I picture a "real" snowman in the front yard, and he has "melon balls."

Forest Hills Curmugeon 1:39 PM  

More Archimboldo than Snowman. I agree with Rex that this was a terrible puzzle, not worthy of the Times. Using Celebrities to construct puzzles is as gimmicky as that time the NYT's used Brown Students to construct puzzles as poor as this.

chelseadweller 1:39 PM  

Turkey breast. Heart of palm. Big eye tuna. And somehow, the eggplant emoji.

jau 1:47 PM  

So agree with you about the celebrity points. Must say that the 13-year-old's puzzle yesterday was cute but pretty weak, which is excusable given his age and experience, while today's was weak but for different and many reasons -- the illogic you mention being chief among them. I also must vent my own top annoyance which is lingo/abbreviations/slang without even a hint like a question mark -- today's "ratedg" and "NFLteam" being perfect examples.
Thanks, Rex, as always.

forest Hills Curmugeon 1:51 PM  

BTW Stu-CHIN as Jessie's and my grandmother would have pronounced it, would not have been considered a Pole, by the Poles.

Mohair Sam 1:57 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Happy Pencil 2:08 PM  

@Anon 12:49, thanks for the link. I'll definitely watch the clip. Very curious to hear what David Steinberg had to say.

Larry Gilstrap 2:29 PM  

I've got nothing to offer about accessorizing snowmen with grocery items. Imagine a first time visitor to this blog dropping into today's discussion. I admire OFL's flirting with self-effacement. He has to write one of these reviews almost every day, after all.

The puzzle does include DARWIN and references Melville, authors of two of the greatest books of the Nineteenth Century. Both men were well aware of the fact that they were venturing into dangerous territory. Melville confided with Hawthorn, "I have written a blasphemous book and I feel as spotless as a lamb." As a result, any hopes of further success as a writer were destroyed. Darwin, the scientist, continually questions his assertions throughout The Origin of Species. Although, he experienced success in his lifetime despite his blasphemy, theorists rage against him today. How would they have fared with a Twitter account and a comment section filled with trolls?

Ola 3:21 PM  

The thing I'm most annoyed about in this puzzle is my own brain-deadness. I'm Polish, and I kept reading "Szczecin" as "Szechuan" and having no idea what to fill in. Argh! Lost time over that.

Got stuck in the middle for some reason (DRAGGED/PGA/PAL/SNAG) -- had "SNit" and "liL" instead, and it just went downhill from there. Silly reason not to DNF (although, I also didn't know the A for ZAHN/AVIA, so would've been a DNF anyway. Sigh!)

Ola 3:25 PM  

Oh -- and Szczecin is pronounced "Sh-ch-eh-cheen," except the second 'ch' sound is softer (more front of the mouth). At least they didn't mention Szczebrzeszyn!

Coach K 3:30 PM  

@Ola,

Shuh-CHEF-ski should DOOK!!
(heehee)

Hungry Mother 3:33 PM  

Luckily, I haven't had to build a snowman in a while, but this one was very easy to construct.

mathgent 4:10 PM  

It was wonderful that Will gave us the information on what NYT pays for puzzles. The fact that they publish only about ten percent of what is submitted is also very telling.

So why is WSJ puzzle better, particularly early-week? It must be that Shenk gears his choices more toward people like us, experienced solvers, and Shortz gears his choices more toward the great majority of readers who like to play with the puzzle in the morning and enjoy it whether or not they finish..

My wife is in the second group. She enjoys filling in squares but when she gets stuck she doesn't sweat it. Filling in squares is fun for her. Sometimes she'll complete a word and not worry about whether it makes a word in the other direction. She prefers NYT to WSJ because she fills in more squares. (My wife doesn't read this bog.)

Oscar 4:49 PM  

Wow, this blog is full of nitpicky a$$holes who need to get out from under their troll bridges once in a while. SAD!

thursdaysd 4:52 PM  

Hated it. Puerile.

Am totally unwowed by "celebrity" pseudo constructors, and I wouldn't recognize this Jesse person if he was standing on a street corner with a sign round his neck.

jae 6:02 PM  

Yes, too easy for a Wed., but I enjoy whimsy and the "snowman" is whimsical in a creepy sort of way. Liked it.

Carola 8:34 PM  

I couldn't get past the snowman having a HEAD OF LETTUCE instead of snow. And the EARS OF CORN are affixed to it how? For me, this one missed the whacky mark and landed on dopey.

Z 9:08 PM  

@Happy Pencil - I don't know why women would be any less likely to construct using a computer rather than pencil and paper. And the reasons don't really matter, it's a problem that would benefit the NYT to solve.

andrea carla michaels 10:13 PM  

Damnit just spent an hour explaining why celebrity puzzles are not just a stunt and blogger erased

andrea carla michaels 10:17 PM  

Short version: celebrities, like in Wordplay, bring hundreds of not thousands of new folks to the table... Resulting in new solvers, new constructors, new competitors (like Dan Feyer!!) maybe even new blog commenters who will donate!!!!
So win win win win win win

So to the celebrity haters, take a deep breath! It might be a good thing for everyone involved!!!!

G. Weissman 11:16 PM  

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz . . .

G. Weissman 11:17 PM  

Then don't read a blog dedicated to analyzing crossword puzzles, dummy.

Mister Mzyxptlk 11:55 PM  

I agree with Rex generally, and specifically about the nutsoness of this puzzle and the shoddiness of the "celebrity" gimmick. However, Jesse Eisenberg is neither a good actor nor handsome.

Also, Ha! Shortz shows up with an "I don't usually read this blog" bit of malarkey.

pauer 12:03 AM  

Thanks for the nice comments. We had fun making it, though I would certainly have steered us toward something trickier if I'd known it was not going to appear on a Monday as we were initially told.

All the haters can stick some dynamite in their CORNHOLES and light it up!

phil phil 2:51 AM  

Haven't gone thru the comments uet, but I don't understand Rex's point
The last two terms are a common thing but you can reword them like the first two.
Pits of cherry, fingers of butter. I mean how frozen is that kid to think cherries used for the arm pits is in the realm of reality.

Selwyn-Lloyd McPherson 5:03 AM  

Wednesday! It's Wednesday! FOOD + BODY. Don't get too crazy on syntax now, Rex.

Amy Sedaris 5:10 AM  

@phil phil, it's called 'whimsy'. You might just gave to deal with it.

@Loren Muse Smith, no problem with AHepburn and THanks, but Brother David is an evolutionary dead end, you know what I'm saying?

Anonymous 8:16 AM  

In case anyone is still reading the comments day-after:

* Celebrities bring attention to the puzzle and it is FUN to see who might be puzzle fans. Totally agree with Andrea Carla Michaels and

* THANKS TO:
Don McBrien said...
This morning's CBS segment on the NYT puzzle's 75th anniversary.
Was a great little highlight from CBS - watch it!

*THANKS to Will Shortz for popping in
Note to Will: don't listen to grumpy Rex and the naysayers -- good for you for doing something different to celebrate the puzzle!

* Puzzle itself was cute and i also noted the food theme with the Wednesday

-- CS

QuasiMojo 11:25 AM  

@pauer -- thanks for the chuckle. Purell. I missed it yesterday. Good one!

Anonymous 12:12 PM  

I found this one on the easy side, but amusing. Food on a Wednesday! I was let down when I inserted the last down answer. The whole discussion of the knowledge v. experience thing
reminded me of a paper submitted to my husband, a philosophy professor. There were numerous footnotes. When you followed a number of them to their corresponding number at the bottom of the page, the attribution was "As I have often said"

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