Newswoman Bakhtiar / WED 3-15-17 / HGTV personality Yip / Long-snouted fish / Elegantly designed trinkets / Angsty music genre / Lowland poetically

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Constructor: Bruce Haight

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium


THEME: pffft, do I really have to type this out? — Note: The five rows of circled squares reveal an unusual* feature of this puzzle.

*your definition of "unusual" may vary

CIRCLED SQUARES:
  • EVERY / STARRED ENTRY / IS IN / ALPHABETICAL / ORDER
THE AMAZING "UNUSUAL" MYSTERY ANSWERS:
  • CHIMPS
  • BEGINS
  • CHINTZ
  • ALMOST
  • ABHORS
  • BIJOUX
Word of the Day: VERN Yip (29D: HGTV personality ___ Yip) —
Vern Yip (born June 27, 1968, in Hong Kong) is an American interior designer based in Atlanta, Georgia. He periodically appeared on TLC's Trading Spaces through its fourth season, and was known for frequently including silk, candles and flowers in the rooms he designed. He is one of the panel of judges on HGTV's Design Star. Yip hosted four seasons of HGTV's show Deserving Design.[3][4] Yip just hosted an HGTV special called Urban Oasis, in which he designed a Chicago loft in the Trump International Hotel, to be given away to a winner. (wikipedia)
• • •

I continue to be amazed that the NYT runs puzzles this joyless and tedious. So much constructing talent out there, but not nearly enough of it is coming to the NYT (any more). Where to begin here ... Let me get this straight: you start your puzzle (1-Across) with a [See blurb] (off to a roaring start!); then the blurb is actually not a "blurb" but a "Note" (Wife: "See blurb ... is the note the blurb? Why isn't it called "blurb"? FAIR QUESTION); then the "Note" tells you ... basically nothing—I mean, *presumably* the circled squares are important For Some Reason. But OK, "unusual feature," tell me more. Then the circled squares are just More Instructions (basically). And finally, what we're left with are ... six short answers that have this actually Completely Unremarkable and not-at-all "unusual" feature. Is anyone looking at ALMOST and going "Oooh, look at that the unusual feature of that word!" No. No. No. So, to recap: [See blurb] leads to instructions leads to more instructions leads to the saddest assortment of theme answers known to humankind. More (far more) real estate given over to Stupid Instructions than to the alleged "features" of interest. Only someone actively committed to joylessness could've produced this.


The fill is blah and old-skewing, but that hardly matters after the theme disaster. I would, however, like to say that BZZT is decidedly not a thing. Not cute, not clever, not a thing. I think Ben here had the right idea:



Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

PS I mean, come on. These "unusual" theme answers are straight out of some dumb Buzzfeed listicle (actually, most of them are, in fact, in this Buzzfeed listicle)

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

108 comments:

RTWhite 12:46 AM  

What about
6A: AAS
22A: EMO
44A: CDT
11D: ITT
Would have liked "Fashion Designer Grenich" for 26D
and pretty much any other definition for 15A!

Randy 1:00 AM  

I don't get the point of having a theme when the clues for the themed answers are almost all giveaways anyway. I could see how adding those constraints, along with the long sentence, might make constructing the puzzle more challenging, but it really adds nothing for the solver. Also, I watched quite a bit of CSI back when it was on and while I remember the term "crime lab" popping up a lot, I don't think DNA LAB was ever a phrase they used.

I liked the clue for RESOLE, at least. And as a fan of both ABBA and ANNA Kendrick, it was nice to see them cross.

CDilly52 1:05 AM  

I can usually find some redeeming quality in any puzzle simply because I am not a competitive solver or a constructor but this left me absolutely underwhelmed or possibly "non-whelmed." Were it not for CHINTZ which calls to mind Bert Lahr's Cowardly Lion singing "not cotton, not satin, not chintz" and BIJOUX which is one of my favorite words to say and write, I would have had nothing to say at all (because as Thumper the rabbit's mother told him in Disney's 'Bambi,' "I'd you can't say mothon' nice, don't say anything at all." Nuf said.

CDilly52 1:09 AM  

Oops, should have been, "IF you can't say nothin' nice...". Fat thumbs solving on the phone.

Anonymous 1:17 AM  

Rex, if you think the NYT puzzle is so lousy, then why in the world do you blog about it? Why waste all this time...why not blog about something that makes you happy? Life's too short, pal...

Vincent Lima 1:23 AM  

Instead of the theme helping me solve or giving me joy, I finished then spent minutes tabbing around, trying to understand how CHIMPS,BEGINS,CHINTZ,etc., or the clues could be considered to be in alphabetical order. Oh, it was the letters within each starred answer that are in alphabetical order. Oooh! Actually, so what? It's like noticing that the price of a $2,357.89 item has its digits in numerical order. I like numbers, but this is not what makes them interesting or remarkable! Same with language.

TomAz 1:26 AM  

Anonymous, if you think Rex's blog sucks, why do you post comments on it? Life is too short, pal....

I understand that Will has to edit the xword to different standards than Rex applies. One is trying to please all levels of solvers, while Rex is a connoisseur. I'm ok with that.

But this has been two dumb puzzles in a row. If I were a beginning solver I'd be like, meh, why bother.

Carola 1:38 AM  

I went through the same "Wait, what?" process as @Vincent Lima. To me, the statement "Every starred entry is in alphabetical order" makes no sense: don't things have to be plural to be in alphabetical order? Like the letters in every starred entry?

Plus points for the "unusual" answers all having 6 letters and being symmetrically placed - and, I guess, beginning with A, B, and C. But what a sadsack theme.

@CDilly52, I agree that CHINTZ and BIJOUX were bright spots.

Anonymous 1:50 AM  

Holy cow. Is the NYT really this desperate for content?

chefwen 1:55 AM  

My Buddy @ Carola said exactly what I was thinking, NO, WAIT, WHAT? Utter nonsense!

I wish someone would make up their minds between AHA and OHO, you're driving me nuts.

Fingers crossed for tomorrow, this one didn't cut it.

Mr. Fitch 2:04 AM  

Rex,

Given the poor state of the NYT crossword, I'd consider realigning the focus of the blog. Maybe review the NYT puzzle if it happens to be interesting that day, but otherwise highlight other puzzles/constructors who are doing good work and/or are adequately paid.

Otherwise you doom yourself to the thankless task of reviewing a puzzle that has become a dreck-filled slog on almost a daily basis. It's like being a movie reviewer who limits himself to the bargain bin. Your talents are being wasted.

Anoa Bob 2:11 AM  

Wow.

travis 2:24 AM  

An exhaustive list of 6+ letter words in the 2006 scrabble dictionary[random wordlist I have available] that are in alphabetical order without repeated letters:
ABHORS
ALMOST
BEGINS
BEGIRT
BEKNOT
BIJOUX
BIOPSY
CHIMPS
CHINOS
CHINTZ
DEHORT
GHOSTY

Some of those would be pretty absurd answers, but I'm not sure the 6 chosen were the best 6[biopsy stands out]. The problem is that I thought that these words would be much more common which made it seem very unimpressive.

Larry Gilstrap 2:42 AM  

Poetry was once described as "interesting words in interesting patterns" and that pretty much describes a good crossword puzzle. See where I'm going here? Forming a puzzle theme around anagrams is bad enough, but now we have words formed by letters in ALPHABETICAL ORDER? What is this, a field sobriety test?

And then we get VERN, EGAN, LUND, and RUDI which are pretty much WTF's, am I missing others?

Keeping on the sunny side, I did enjoy the cluing of BIJOUX. I learned something there.

I don't have the patience to check, but please tell me this isn't something called a pangram, which should not even be a thing.

mathgent 3:08 AM  

If @travis (2:24) is correct (that there are only twelve long words whose letters are in alphabetical order), I think that it's pretty cool to have seven of them in this puzzle. I think that the blurb should have hinted at how unusual these seven words are.

Robin 3:35 AM  

Theme? Meh.

Some okay clueing. Personal kudos for BIJOUX, PRISM and RESOLE.

But can we have CETERA clued to a certain musician from Chicago? Give some love to someone other than Brian ENO.

jae 4:16 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
jae 4:19 AM  

DId this on an iPad which did not have a blurb which would not have been helpful anyway which...

underwhelmed and irksome

Moly Shu 4:37 AM  

Kept thinking that I was missing something. Evidently not.

Anonymous 4:56 AM  

Michael Sharp hate Bruce Haight . . . . and Will Shortz . . . . and well, just about everything and everybody. Tortured soul. Sad.

BarbieBarbie 5:55 AM  

Thanks, @Travis, now I get why the constructor thought this was interesting and challenging. If the descriptive phrase had been better, or maybe clued better, to make that aspect clear, it would have made me go Huh, which is for me an OK end-reaction to a puzzle. As it was, it didn't float my boat enough to lift it past the misbehavior of the ipad app (first would not load, then set my streak back to 1-- arrghhh). BZZT! Which I actually liked. Almost had a Natick in the West, but coffee fixed that.
Ok, out into the ice-encrusted world, powerpoint day. Sigh.

Anonymous 6:15 AM  

Have to concur I didn't realize at all how rare 6+ letter words were. Thanks @Travis. Wonder if OFL did.

evil doug 6:16 AM  

EKES ETTA EMO ERNE EGAN?

ECCE....

Sallie (FullTime-Life) 6:30 AM  

Solved last night, fell asleep sitting up thinking "they are not "(in alphabetical order). Came here this morning without looking at the puzzle again....probably would have figured out the within the word thing after a couple cups of coffee ... but who cares! Good grief.

Loren Muse Smith 6:33 AM  

Man, y’all are a hard crowd. From time to time, I think of the word facetious, with each vowel in alphabetical order. I love that. I like bookkeeper for obvious reasons. Never occurred to me to think about words whose vowels And consonants are in order. So I was really happy to be shown this.

Rex – you asked, “Is anyone looking at ALMOST and going "Oooh, look at that the unusual feature of that word!" Well. Uh. Yeah. I pretty much did just that, but it was with CHINTZ at first. And then I examined all the abecedarian (now there’s a great word) entries and sat and took them in, committed this phenomenon to the facetious bookkeeper part of my brain. Cool.

I don’t mind it when Rex points out aspects of a puzzle he doesn’t like, but, sheesh, to attack the constructor himself – imply he’s “actively committed to joylessness.” That’s tough.

I agree that the blurb isn’t really needed. I liked that the instructions are part of the grid. BIJOUX and ABHORS cross the instructions. Nice.

BZZT was my favorite entry. I'm gonna start ending my buzz sound with the T. It sounds more final.

SEAT – boarding pass info. I immediately thought of the little “zone” assignment that tells you when you’re allowed to join the line to get on the plane. I’m always in the last zone. And, ever obedient, I sit in my chair and refuse to join my other Last Zone members hovering at the back of the line, waiting. Jealous. It’s mystifying that I’m always so disappointed to be in the loser zone, to be forced to wait in a larger room, in a bigger seat, much longer than everyone else before I’m allowed move to a cramped nasty little seat next to a mouth-breather with a magnificent cold who hogs the armrest as he loudly delivers the fine print* of his travel woes to Rudi in Suredo.

I got SUI pretty quickly because yesterday in 5th period we were looking at all the prefixes for _ _ _ cide. The vocab word that started us off was genocide. You can imagine there are a ton. I proposed a word for when you put a penny on a railroad track – coincide. No reaction. I tell ya, I’m the Rodney Dangerfield of Calhoun Middle High.

@Bill Feeney from yesterday – I loved your “Greek” GREEN mistake. Made total sense.

Bruce – I really enjoyed seeing these words, and I liked the circled explanation. I’ll remember this for a long time.

*I stole this from David Sedaris, the “fine print” metaphor. It’s just so perfect. Just like I mute the tv when the commercial launches into all the side effects of a drug, I wish I could mute my seatmate when he begins, “So the plane we were supposed to get on had mechanical trouble and was late leaving Pittsburgh so it was late getting into Atlanta before it could take off to get here and they told us we would board in thirty minutes but then they changed our gate to a different terminal and the moving sidewalks were not working and what with my bad knee blah blah blah…”

Lewis 6:37 AM  

I like that the alphabetical order answers are symmetrical, the clue for RESOLE, the answers BZZT at SUREDO, the Scrabbly letters, and the fairly clean grid given the theme density. Brilliant me didn't even see the blurb until halfway through, and it helped me fill in some circled letters.

I counted 13 first/last names (not counting HAL or SANDY and counting ELTONJOHN as one name); the four in the Oregon area made me do some guessing. If the NYT titled all its puzzles, I would have called this one Appellation Station.

Lewis 6:41 AM  

@lms -- Coincide... HAH!

evil doug 6:50 AM  

gettinsomeonnacide

Gregory Nuttle 6:52 AM  

Okay, am I the only one here who is hung up on the blurb calling attention to an "unusual feature" of this puzzle that is actually completely unremarkable while totally ignoring the VERY unusual feature of it being a 16x16 grid?

Anonymous 7:13 AM  

The only unusual feature of this puzzle I noticed was the triple Natick at 29 and 30 Down and 43 Across. Well done!

Anonymous 7:22 AM  

Stop reviewing the puzzle Rex. Don't listen to this putz Will. He is an angry and unhappy little man taking out his Trump derangement syndrome on you.

kitshef 7:37 AM  

Yep, terrible puzzle. Weak theme. Every mouse I have owned takes AAAs.

Never heard of VERN Yip or RUDI B, but that's OK - fairly crossed.

BZZT??

The worst feature is the trio of SURE DO, NO WAIT, and ALMOST. Here is my guideline. If you have to put your whole clue in quotes, try again.

chefbea 7:58 AM  

too many comments already. Too tedious for me...who cares???

@Roo monster from yesterday...great Pi thing. I actually wrote it down and took it to the mirror!!!

Glimmerglass 7:59 AM  

I thought BZZT was an excellent answer. However, it's a partial. The whole answer is "BZZT--thanks for playing." If @travis is correct, six-letter words with the letters in alphabetical order is much more unusual than @Rex thinks. It is also quire unusual that the hint is in the grid with no individual clues to its parts. Haters gotta hate.

Bill Feeney 8:08 AM  

Interesting restaurant scene at 55 across. "Gar, sir?" "Jus, Alec Obiwan?" "Not so much!"

Bill Feeney 8:12 AM  

Oh oh did I commit a flame inducing mistake by including revealers?

kitshef 8:17 AM  

Upon further review, I do have one AA mouse. Now I think it's a great puzzle.

David R 8:23 AM  

@LorenMuseSmith: I enjoyed coincide; you might like the New Uxbridge English Dictionary, from the British radio show I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue, if you haven't seen it already. E.g

Gladiator---Unrepentant cannibal

Bratwurst---the naughtiest child

Assassination---country populated entirely by pairs of donkeys

And so on....

Z 8:27 AM  

Hey! Everything But the Girl did an Elvis Costello cover. Cool.

Hef 8:46 AM  

Only one word
UGH!!

Frank LaPosta Visco 8:58 AM  

Couldn't agree more. If the constructor wants to be interesting, base the idea on words that have the vowels in alphabetical order, he said facetiously.

Anonymous 9:00 AM  

Exact same reaction as Rex. Uninteresting theme. Instructions taking too much space. Based on the negative/positive ratio of comments, this must be the worst puzzle in recent memory.

Roo Monster 9:02 AM  

Hey All !
Had the "Big Deal" reaction Rex had at first, but seeing that not too many 6 letter words are actually in alphabetical order, I have more respect for this puz. Must've been difficult to construct, with all the constraints on the grid. So kudos to Bruce.

But, of course, do have some nits. (Don't we all?) First, is puz 16 wide just to get a four letter themer in the middle? Second, I now forget what my other nit was! BZZT to the ole brain.

@Gregory Nuttle 6:52
Grid is 16x15.
And no pangram, as missing F (@M&A!) abd Q.

If you missed my late post from yesterday, here's a neat thing to do on Pi day, 3/14. Write on a piece of paper Pi, 3.14, with the 4 enclosed like it is here, then look at it in a mirror. Coincidence??

ALMOST OHO
RooMonster
DarrinV


QuasiMojo 9:03 AM  

To all of you mostly anonymous people chastizing (or condemning) Rex Parker for constantly slamming the NYT puzzle, do you even read the comments here? He is not alone. Many of us are as equally disappointed and hypercritical. He's performing a service, often an onerous one. Sometimes he may go overboard but today was not one of those times. This puzzle was mortifyingly tortured. Starting off with EKES going down sort of sums it up! Over a dozen names. Stale fill and a tortured theme. Yawn-a-rama.


G. Weissman 9:04 AM  

Wow, anonymous poster, if you think it makes no sense for someone to blog about something one comments on critically, why read such a blog or post on it? Life's too short, oh wise one

G. Weissman 9:05 AM  

Well put.

Roo Monster 9:05 AM  

Oh, second nit is why 6 letter themers?

Roomonster



pmdm 9:07 AM  

Instead of the note (or blurb) as published, I would have liked it to have simply said this: "Note: The letters in ..." so that when you append the reveal in the puzzle, you get a sentence that makes more sense. But then you would have to change $) to AREIN.

Loren Muse Smith, I really liked your comment. I am surprised at the vitriol being aimed at this puzzle. I'd add more, but I now have to spend the entire day digging out snow. I'll take this puzzle over my impending task any day.

GILL I. 9:11 AM  

When I saw barely manages right from the git go, I thought oh great, I bet we have AGORA. I was really praying for EEL but at least ABBA ETTA ERNE GAR ITT SUI HAL didn't disappoint.
I think BEEFILY AEGILOPS would have added piZZaZ to the CHINTZ BIJOUX's of this world.
I really want to OHO and AHA this puzzle. I can't. ECCE CHER takes all the pleasure away. Damn BZZT.
Hi @Leapy.....

GHarris 9:13 AM  

I find many commentators here are too clever by a half. One either views these puzzles As attempts at creating works of art which May justify the in depth critiques and scathing reviews or treats them, as I do, as an opportunity for a mild mental workout that is generally fun and often a source of personal satisfaction. The world is daunting enough without turning frippery into agony.

G. Weissman 9:15 AM  

There's a reason most of us gathered here did not know there are so few six-letter words spelled in alphabetical order: it's just not that notable or interesting to most people. This puzzle is devoted to a not very notable or interesting factoid.

L 9:16 AM  

I was scratching my head as well, figuring out how these words or clues are in alphabetical order...and never saw it until I came to the blog. #fail

L 9:17 AM  

I was scratching my head as well, figuring out how these words or clues are in alphabetical order...and never saw it until I came to the blog. #fail

LKinney 9:17 AM  

bzzt

G. Weissman 9:19 AM  

Why not a little bit of both, GHarris? A problem, as I see it, is that the mild mental workout is less fun and satisfying when the puzzle is crappy -- in which case it may be fun and satisfying to discuss its perceived deficiencies with others. I doubt this little discussion space makes the world any more or less daunting.

Mohair Sam 9:37 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Blue Stater 9:39 AM  

"Joyless and tedious" indeed. Right on the money as usual, Rex. I do not understand how the editors of the NYT could do these puzzles day after day -- and I assume many of them do -- and not conclude that it is time -- that it is long, long past time -- for a new crossword puzzle editor.

Nancy 9:43 AM  

Quite probably the most "who cares?" theme I've ever seen. Then stir in the plethora of proper names that cross each other. The less said about this puzzle, the better. It's awful.

JC66 9:54 AM  

As @ RTWhite pointed out at 12:46 AM there are several other answers that are in alphabetical order that are not starred.

My list includes: AAS, EMO, CDT, ITT and BITS. This is another a major flaw.

@LMS Loved coincide.

@Roo Loved the Pi trick

Nancy 10:04 AM  

My favorite blog comment so far? @Vincent Lima: "...It's like noticing that the price of a $2,357.89 item has its digits in numerical order." Nice. Btw, are you aware that the time of your post is 1:23?

Stanley Hudson 10:06 AM  

Certainly a dull puzzle. More appropriate for Highlights Magazine than the NYT.

@Larry Gilstrap, genuine LOL@ "field sobriety test."

Anonymous 10:28 AM  

AWFUL. Just awful.

Cassieopia 10:33 AM  

@lms - your post is a bright spot on a dull day. "coincide" - hahahahahahaha! "I'm the Rodney Dangerfield of Calhoun Middle High" was omg priceless. I aspire to write like you.

Masked and Anonymous 10:41 AM  

And … Losin the coin toss for SuperBowl O.T. = flipcide. (yo, @muse -- M&A laughed)

BEER-ME! BEG! FETCH! HEEL! ROLL-OVER! SIT-UP! STAY! [Alphabetical orders]

This innocent, well-meanin lil WedPuz seems to have committed some kinda -cide. Blurbocide? Instructocide?
But … M&A kinda feels strongly both ways. Theme was real different -- viva la different. On the other cide, this was a little like havin to solve a crossword to get instructions on how to set up yer fitbit bong machine. Also, I reckon some mighta eventually come to realize that ZZZZZZ has got alphabetical orders, too.

I got no problem with BZZT. Other than it's outta order.

fave themer: BIJOUX. Now … How'bout for tomorrow's puz: Words that are in reverse alphabetical orders? Let's get some more U-words in the mix.

Thanx, Mr. Haight. Shoot -- Don't see no good reason to get all upset at U -- U were just followin orders ...

Masked & Anonymo4Us


**gruntz**

Gregory Schmidt 10:44 AM  

Blech. Also, LUND/ALEC = Natick for me.

Mohair Sam 10:57 AM  

Quoth @pmdm - ". . .but I now have to spend the entire day digging out snow. I'll take this puzzle over my impending task any day."
That may be the best example of damning with faint praise I've ever seen.

If @Travis' list from 2:20 this morning is accurate (so few words qualify) then this is a heck of a puzzle. The problem is we have the situation where the comedian had to explain his joke to most of the audience after the fact, hence the negative reaction here - and especially from @Rex. Personally I was more bugged by the PPP placement on a Wednesday - especially VERN/EGAN/ANNA - but we muddled through.

Don't know why I love the word BIJOUX, but I do - and I finally learned the definition today. Learned where CHINTZy comes from too. Nice misdirect at RESOLE, don't you think? And @LMS convinced me that BZZT is cool, I hated it at first.

I thought I was a good poker player my freshman year in college until I got into a game with a group of older townees. I learned a game that night called "Deuces and Jacks, Man With the AXE, Natural Pair of Sevens Takes All". I also learned that night the poker axiom "If you don't know who the mark is at the table, it's you."

AZPETE 11:04 AM  

Agree

Anonymous 11:04 AM  

Although I give the puzzle two thumbs down, I certainly agree with LMS that it is unkind to attack the motivation of the editor. Ad hominem attacks on either the constructor or the editor really serve no purpose and detract from the critique . . . but can a leopard change his spots?

Joseph Michael 11:08 AM  

From Pi Day to Cry Day, this puzzle gets a BZZT for both theme (who cares) and fill (whaddaloddacrap).

I might feel kinder toward its lack of glory were it not for the abundance of proper nouns adding insult to injury, such as ABBA, VERN, and EGAN crossing ANNA.

And then there is the unnecessary appendage of a "blurb" that should have been removed during surgery since it has no function.

Rex, I often think that your criticisms are too harsh, especially when it cimes to Bruce Haight puzzles, but today you're right on.

Rug Crazy 11:35 AM  

Rex is RIGHT ON BZZT isn't a thing. & boring puzzle.

Andrew Heinegg 11:54 AM  

That some contributors to today's blog are criticizing Rex for his write-up of this puzzle is a complete head scratcher to me. Of course he is going to be harsh when faced with a puzzle like this one. If you are expecting kind and gentle, you have clearly come to the wrong place.

This construction method lends itself to tedious clues and answers so as to make it doable. And, knowing that, I get immediately discouraged before I even begin to solve. When completed, the puzzle is so rife with crossword cliches that you are left with a 'why did I bother' feeling. Oho, agora, Obi Wan etc.

In a possible defense of Mr. Haight, an experienced and often competent constructor, I wonder if this was submitted many moons ago or was sliced and diced by Mr. Shortz. But, no matter, the end product is still unacceptably poor. The Sun will come out tomorrow, right?

Numinous 11:54 AM  

@M&A, Mohair Sam et al. If you like BIJOUX check this example from one of my favorite groups.

A friend of mine, many years ago made the facetious remark that facetiously was the only word in the English language with all of the vowels in their correct order. I don't believe I've ever found another.

I don't usually dislike Bruce Haight's work but today, Haighters gonna Haight. Me too.

I think @Loren's comment on coincide and being the "Rodney Dangerfield of Calhoun Middle School" was the true highlight of today's puzzle.

Numinous 12:09 PM  

I'm gonna point out again and again and again. @Rex is an English Lit teacher. English Lit teachers criticize. That's what OFL does. I wouldn't expect anything less of him. His reviews run the gamut though more often he features the negative than the positive but he gives credit when it is due according to his standards. When y'all signed up for your college classes did you check the reputations of the various professors offering a given class? Well, you probably should have. Except to pass tests and quizzes, nobody is required to agree with the professor and even then, with a good argument, you needn't have agreed.

Whether I'm right about OFL or not, I fully appreciate @Rex. He invariably provides insights that I've most likely missed or just not noticed.

Jeff Chen gave Monday's puzzle the POW. He's seen the whole week already. How can anyone here be disappointed in the less than stellar puzzles presented this week? If Monday's puzzle was the ACME, the only question remaining is, which one will be the absolute NADIR?

Andrew Heinegg 12:10 PM  

While I disagree with your praise of this puzzle, I am compelled to back your dismay at Rex saying that Mr. Haight must have been committed to joylessness. Not only is it a personal attack on Mr. Haight but, it is palpably false. Rex should apologize for that one.

Anonymous 12:24 PM  

Hatred is its own poison.

Joe Bleaux 12:32 PM  

Hu hu! (Re yesterday: You DID, in fact, address "aerobat." Mea culpa, bud. Sorry for the oversight. Please don't kick me out of your fan club.

Anonymous 12:40 PM  

I've been happily doing the NYT puzzle (and Merl's when he was around) for 15 years. Now I wonder if I'm missing out or have unsophisticated tastes.

What are some other sites with a daily puzzle that people like? Paid is fine. I'm already paying for the NYT.

Roo Monster 12:45 PM  

I know it's been said here before (by @LMS, I think), but there are other words with the vowels in order. Not as common as facetious, but I found a site that listed a whole slew of them here . (If that worked.)

BEGINS BRAY :-)
Roo

Roo Monster 12:47 PM  
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Roo Monster 12:55 PM  

The tenth one down is good. The last one, not good. :-)
Oh, and I did find an all only vowel word, albeit not in order, Iouea, Capirai i in front. A kind of sea sponge. I want to see that in a puz!

Addendum Roo

Teedmn 1:16 PM  

I liked that the circles were unclued, giving it a taste of downs-only solving. Staring at _TAR_EDE_TRY, I mentally tried to fit SEDENTARY - nope. I finally *stared* hard enough to get STARRED because RUDI wasn't going to be any help.

@chefwen, I see AHA as = "Eureka" where OHO has a smarmy, schadenfreudish connotation to it. However, as clued at 65D, either could have worked.

@LMS, at least that annoying seatmate is probably talking on their cell phone to some poor schmuck rather than expecting you to react with bated breath, the downside being the volume increase by the cell phone user.

Interesting factoid that so few 6 letter words are in alphabetical order. I would have guessed a much, much higher incidence. But it appears the commenters here are being CHINTZy with their appreciation of learning this. Thanks, BH.

old timer 1:17 PM  

If there had been ten 6-or-more-letter words with all the letters in alphabetical order I would have been impressed. As it was, meh. And if I had started from the bottom and gotten ALPHABETICAL early, it would have been super-easy. Starting from the top it was a challenge, with no adequate reward for my effort.

Marco Polo 1:27 PM  

I hate to say it but Rex's ranting at the "failed NYT" reminds me of him whose name rhymes with clump.

Joe Bleaux 1:45 PM  

Someone, anyone ... hep me, please: 27D, "Hold it -- hang on" = NOWAIT. Say what? What am I not getting? On the puzzle overall, ditto on the chorus of boos. Bruce Haight's byline usually ensures a much better puz than this, even at midweek. @Mohair (and Joseph Michael) -- Yup, pretty heavy on the PPPs, a regular cluster bomb of 'em in the central west. @Numinous -- Keep pointing it out. Hell, Rex is Rex, and most of us understand his role and appreciate his expertise. The fiery damnations are becoming tedious.

John 2:09 PM  

I concur. Guessed right, but total guess.

kitshef 2:44 PM  

@ Joe Bleaux.

If someone is about to pull the trigger on buying that new punch bowl to replace the one you just can't find, and you have a sudden inspiration as to where it might be, you might tell them "Hold it - hang on", or you might tell them "No, wait".

jberg 3:01 PM  

@Joe Bleaux, someone's in a boat, looking for small islands: "Hold it . . . Hang on . . . NOW, AIT."

Everybody's right about this one -- a marvel of construction, not so much fun to solve. Depends on your values if you think it's good.

That ABBA/VERN/EGAN/ANNA mishmash almost got me. Heard of ABBA, but can't name any members, the rest were total mysteries. I almost went with VERa AaNA, but sanity prevailed.

@Loren, Hercule Poirot was once called in to investigate a murder at a B&B (BANDB in Crossworld). With his usual brillaince, he remarked right away that it must be an INN-CIDE job.

Devin W 3:42 PM  

This was terrible. Horrible "theme". Not fun. Feels like watching paint dry.

Joe Bleaux 4:33 PM  

OHO! Clue called for a third, similar but separate, two-word expression! I read it as calling for THE two words needed to complete a six-word phrase. Thank you. @jberg (below): AIT indeed pops up often as fill, so it's as legit as it is funny. Thanks for that one, too.

Happy Pencil 4:45 PM  

@Mr. Fitch, I'm in total agreement with you. I'd love it if Rex switched to reviewing the best puzzle of the day out of the many, many he does. I have started doing the American Values Club puzzles and occasionally do others that are recommended by posters here (thanks, @Z and others), but I know there are many good puzzles I'm missing. Also, it would be a boost for those indie sites that Rex supports, some of which would surely appreciate the added traffic a review from him would bring. Why not cast a wider net and start rewarding excellence instead of mediocrity?

Fargo 5:26 PM  

Hmmm...of roughly 166,000,000 possible 6 letter combinations...there are 22,157 English words. Of those 22,157 words, 12 have their characters in alphabetical order. Of those 12 words, 6 are included in this puzzle, along with a 38-character explanatory sentence distributed symmetrically throughout the grid. Of 198 occupied squares, 72 contain theme-related entries. IMO, that qualifies as both unusual and notable. I think many posters may have greatly underestimated both the numbers and the challenge.

Dick Swart 5:30 PM  

My rewards were "chintz", "prism", and "bijoux"... words that feel good to say aloud!

Nancy 6:03 PM  

@Fargo (5:26) -- I'm sure there was a challenge. But it was the constructor's challenge. It wasn't my challenge, nor was it your challenge. And therein (as Hamlet would say) lies the rub. The difficulty of construction was completely irrelevant to the solver's solving experience.

Jordan Glassman 6:45 PM  

If not the NYT, then where are the best puzzles to be found?

LAT? CrosSynergy? Are those really generally better?

Please be more constructive. If the NYT is so terrible "these days", where should we go instead? Where is this "constructing talent"?

Stanley Hudson 7:00 PM  

@Numinous, well stated.

Rad 7:16 PM  

As a non-competitive solver (yet?!), I found this puzzle surprisingly easy. 15 minutes faster than average, haha. I realize I've just started, and my crossword-ese is bad, and the Natick's still get me pretty stuck sometimes. ALEC/LUND was the last letter for me today.

Difficulty in this puzzle was: EKKS instead of EKES (still learning this one), needed all the fill for 9A and was still only 90% sure for 9D, and I had ALUMS where CLASS belonged. As a matter of age (33) 43A was no problem, and combined with BRAY, made that section bearable.

AUTO for AMER held me up until I filled out the circled clues; E_E__ was first, and then the rest fell into place (and helped correct my misteps). The clue was enough for me (perhaps because I am inexperienced) to realize the theme, and actually help me get a few letters in place (though I can no longer see where).

DNALAB and SUREDO are gross, in my opinion. I was curious how Rex would feel about BZZT, but like others, after reading the comments, I'm all for it.

Anonymous 7:23 PM  

Rex Parker should blog about another puzzle. It's clear that he isn't happy about the quality of the Times's puzzles. Maybe WSJ, Newsday, Binghamton Post ? He should leave the New York Times crossword alone. It's one of my favorite things and he's trying to sabatoge it. I'm not a psychiatrist, but I'm guessing it's due to his inferior abilities as a a constructor despite his superior abilities as a solver. Please go away Rex. Will, don't listen to the haters. I'd give today's puzzle a B-.

Anonymous 8:16 PM  

Z,
You're wrong on so many counts. Calvinism. Republicanism. Puzzleism.
OK, I may have to rethink that last one.

Glad to see you back.

One of the,ahem,haters

Anonymous 8:43 PM  

Thank you! That was the first thing I noticed and kept looking for an X (in sixteen) that never came

Anonymous 9:44 PM  

I'm starting to loathe themers. They're vanity projects to please the constructor, not the solver.

Anonymous 9:47 PM  

@7:23 - If you don't like Rex's blog, and you feel he's sabotaging your enjoyment, then surely the simplest thing is for you to stop reading his blog?

Anonymous 9:59 PM  

He has influence you dope. He should go away as should you, but he won't and nor will you , therefore neither will I . Resist the haters .

Anonymous 10:12 PM  

Well, I'm certainly persuaded now that you've resorted to 4th grade insults.

It does seem odd to say he's sabotaging your enjoyment as if he knocks on your door every night to tell you how bad the puzzle is.

Fargo 10:17 PM  

@Nancy(6:03) - You are correct that it wasn't the solvers' challenge. Nonetheless, I still admire a difficult construct in the same way that I can admire the mastery of a Renaissance artist -- even if I don't share his taste in subject matter. The avalanche of opprobrium heaped on this puzzle by today's posters suggests that I'm in the minority -- or, as I previously hinted, that the math challenge might not have been appreciated by some English majors.

Anonymous 10:48 PM  

Reading comprehension is hard.

Hartley70 3:39 AM  

I don't mind appreciating a theme in retrospect, and I do have admiration for this one. The payoff comes late, but it was a surprise for me.

I don't think I have ever considered the alphabetical order of the letters in a word or just the vowels for that matter. English major here, not a math wonk for what it's worth. Bruce has given me a new nit to pick when I'm perusing the OED, which is never. I looked at the reveal phrase and went "huh?" for an embarrassing amount of time. "I before E except after C" will now permanently annoy me!

Mickey Bell 5:15 AM  

Not a fan of the clump myself but when a puzzle bugs me like this one did I want to know if it's just me or...? Appreciate the alignment with Rex after my brain leaks out of my ear during solving of this nightmare.

Rilesmiles 9:45 AM  

Rex rantings are the only reason to solve the thing in the first place! He's like Simon Cowell. The more he hates it, the more fun it is.

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