Fitness program done to Latin music / WED 9-20-17 / Scottish hillside / Citrus named for its appearance

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Constructor: Hal Moore

Relative difficulty: Easy (like, really really easy, if you make the smart choice and completely ignore the Note and the bracketed numbers)


THEME: ab bc cd etc — here's the note:


So the clues are numbered 1 to 25, and 1 has "AB" in it, 2 has "BC" in it, 3 has "CD" in it, etc. etc. Are you not entertained!?

Word of the Day: SUVA (44A: Capital of FIJI) —
Suva (Fijian pronunciation: [ˈsuβa]) is the capital, second largest municipality and largest municipality with city status in Fiji. It is located on the southeast coast of the island of Viti Levu, in the Rewa Province, Central Division. [...] At the 2007 census, the city of Suva had a population of 85,691. Including independent suburbs, the population of the Greater Suva urban area was 172,399 at the 2007 census] Suva, along with the bordering towns of Lami, Nasinu, and Nausori have a total urban population of around 330,000, over a third of the nation's population. This urban complex (not including Lami) is known also as the Suva–Nausori corridor. (wikipedia)
• • •

The puzzle is not in a good place right now. It just can't find its mojo, can't catch a break. I'm sure this theme sounded good ... in the constructor's head (??) ("I'll show 'em!"). But there is literally zero interest from the solver's point of view. Who. The. Hell. Cares. About two-letter strings? The entire puzzle seems to have been conceived to justify the entry BMWXSERIES (62A: Line of upscale German autos [23]). Like someone bet him that he couldn't pull this theme off because no way he could pull off "WX," man, that would be like jumping the Snake River Canyon! But then the constructor was like "Hold my laptop" and hopped onto his rocket-propelled motorcycle and zoom! "QR" required some ingenuity as well (BBQ RIBS). Beyond that, it's all very dreary. Yes, you get BWXSERIES, but you also get BCE and (ugh) OFGOD and PALME etc. Not worth it. I might've been at least mildly impressed if there had been only one instance of each sequential letter pair in the grid. But there are two "NO"s and like half a dozen "RS"s. So ... yeah, NO.



If any good comes of this puzzle, it's that I pass along to you how much I like WIM Winders movies (28A: Wenders who directed "Buena Vista Social Club"). His Road Movie trilogy (starting with "Alice in the Cities" 1974)) is quirkily beautiful. I've got "Hammett" (1982) set to record later this week, and "Until the End of the World" just sitting on my DVR waiting for a time when I have an unbroken 4 hr. chunk to dedicate to it. Gonna watch "Paris, Texas" next, since Harry Dean Stanton just died. A bunch of WIM Wenders movies are on FilmStruck (which, along with TCM and Netflix and all the EPIX channels, is practically all I watch). Anyway, WIM! That is my recommendation for the day.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. I had one "uh oh, careful" moment as I was zooming through the grid, right when I got to 58A: Fleur-de-___ (LYS). I wrote in LIS but my brain immediately registered the possibility of a different spelling, and wouldn't let me leave the corner until I had checked the cross (probably seconds later). And thus I never had to hunt down that error (as many will have had to)

P.P.S. I met a dog named "Hester" in the woods today (3D: Hawthorne who created Hester Prynne) (NATHANIEL). YEAH, I too thought it was weird. I mean, if your dog is an adulterer, no judgment, but do I really need to know that?

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

117 comments:

Whirred Whacks 12:01 AM  


Fun puzzle, Hal. I liked your constraint and how you worked with it.

For Rex: Barack Obama discusses eating DOG MEAT as he reads from his book "Dreams from my Father" (20 second video)

Theodore Stamos 12:09 AM  

This was Monday easy. My fastest Wednesday time ever. I'm hoping tomorrow will give us a little more Thursday spice.

jae 12:15 AM  

Yes, very easy. I skimmed the note about something about 25 somethings and then did the puzzle. By the time I finished the note was a dim memory and I was too lazy to go back on line and reread it. So, after staring at the #ed clues for several nanoseconds (hi M&A) I figured out what was going on. Kinda agree with @Rex on this one, although I did liked it. Interesting feat of construction.

Laura 12:19 AM  

I finished the puzzle without ever noticing the note, and forgot there was a theme until I read this. Pretty lackluster.

Lee Coller 12:23 AM  

Super easy puzzle. While I don't normally time my solves, that would be record for Wednesday, even for a Tuesday, and I only think I once finished Monday puzzle faster than this.

Theme added nothing, if not for the note and the numbers you would never figure it out.

Greg Charles 1:02 AM  

OK, I didn't bother to figure out the theme until I had finished, and even then I only looked through the first few. I was actually hoping Rex would do that work for me. Maybe somebody can list the themers in comments? Still, I think it's a clever theme. I rarely predict Rex's reactions. Sometimes he loves something I hate, and pretty often he abhors something I find kind of cool.

Sue T. 2:19 AM  

Joining in to say that I also scored my best-ever time for a Wednesday (three and a half minutes). Not sure why this one wasn't a Monday puzzle.

tkincher 2:35 AM  

LYS got me! Other than that, pretty straightforward. Figured out the theme just before finishing, and found it mildly interesting.

I haven’t seen “Until the End of the World” in many, many years. Since I was in high school, maybe. I know it was tough to track down the last time I tried, a few years ago, but I’d love to see it again.

Robert A. Simon 2:41 AM  

This is what happens when the most important thing in your life is how many consecutive days you can play ping-pong.

Mike in Mountain View 2:44 AM  

Sure, it was easy to solve, and yes, I didn't get the theme during the solve, but the aha moment when I grokked the theme was terrific. The fill is surprisingly good for a theme this dense. I leave it to someone else to calculate percentage of squares that are part of at least one theme answer, but it's got to be unusually high.

Count me impressed. Thanks, Hal.

Loren Muse Smith 3:43 AM  

Yeah – no surprise at the reaction here. But BUT – don’t speak for everyone, Rex: “… there is literally zero interest from the solver's point of view. Who. The. Hell. Cares. About two-letter strings?” For some reason, I did. I sniffed out the deal with JK ROWLING. Forgot which ones I already had in place, but I saw that there were alphabetic pairs, saw that the second of the pair went on to be the first in the next pair. So I dutifully pencilled them all in darker so I could track them. This, I swear, was fun for me. And the whole time I was cateloging them, adding them to my margin list, I was at once enjoying myself and understanding that it was a little weird that I would do this.

SC<AB
BCE
CD CASE
DEVIL
LATE FEE
OF GOD
HIGHS
HIGHS
FIJI
JK ROWLINGS
KLEE
PALME
CONDEMN
ENOL
POP QUIZ
POP QUIZ
BBQ RIBS
BETTORS
STU
STU
SUVA
VWS
BMW X SERIES
SEXY
SWAYZE

One of my all-time favorite puzzles is this one from Feb 18, 2014 by David Steinberg, and it has an alphabet theme, too. (Spoiler alert – this is the completed puzzle.)

The NYT puzzle is my little morning devotional. It’s my time to sit quietly and fully immerse myself in the wonder that is our language. I savor the experience, admire the construction, think.

To switch metaphors, it’s a flaky croissant whose layers I peel off and slowly eat one by one. Others wolf it down in a couple of bites. We nibblers and wolfers can judge each other, but, really, the solving experience is such an intensely individual exercise that full-on disdain for other side mystifies me. À chacun son goût and all that.

Hal – I was thinking this may have started by playing around with STU and POP QUIZ that both have three letters in a row. I’m with @Whirred Whacks and @Mike in Mountain View. Enjoyable puzzle.

Thomaso808 4:00 AM  

Ditto to @Mike in MV. Liked it.

The theme was a puzzle on top of the puzzle, so that was a bonus. Yes, I had to write out all 25 themers in order, and yes, it took me longer to figure out the theme than it did to solve the puzzle. So? I did figure it out and the aha was great.

Hartley70 4:14 AM  

I can't make up my mind about this puzzle.

I thought it was too easy for Wednesday, except for the double take needed to get the Y in LYS. Of course this is the third day in a row we've been given an exercise in easy and there's something to be said for consistency. One never knows when the worm will turn and Saturday is coming.

The information note was cut off mid sentence on my phone, so I didn't have much of a hint as to the theme. CDS led me to the gimmick but it was too late at night to find joy in listing the alphabetical pairs. After a while I was willing to take the constructor's word for it. It must have been quite a task to fit together the necessary answers.

I don't love or hate this. I'm going with "no comment", or not much of one anyway.

BarbieBarbie 5:28 AM  

I didn't have a note on my tablet version, but I did have the numbers in the clues. I think if I had remembered to think about those numbers, the theme would have been a fun aha. But the puzzle went by so fast that I forgot to look back at the clues. Staring at the completed puzzle, I was trying to make some kind of mini theme in the top half and in the bottom half, and the bottom one went like this: hmmm, things that start with initials...? - now I am feeling a day's-worth of stupid.
Thoughts with those in Maria's path.
@LMS: why Uncle Joe?

Johnny 5:51 AM  


Easy puzzle, never noticed a theme until here.

I laughed out loud at the Snake River part.

Lewis 6:08 AM  

Terrific feat that I'm glad was done, but how was the solve? Quick and easy, a fun and themeless-feeling dash to the finish with no controversy. And that felt good.

Trombone Tom 6:10 AM  

Sure, it was super easy, but what the heck. It took some real dedication for the constructor to come up with some of these letter combinations. (Please don't disillusion me by pointing out how easy a task this might be for a computer program.)

I noted the first 3-4 themers, but was a little slow to grok the theme because the first entry didn't have the key letters initially.

Kind of like an amuse bouche; delectable, but ephemeral. Certainly NOT "zero interest" from yours truly.

Anonymous 6:16 AM  

Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be snowflakes.

smalltowndoc 6:32 AM  

Record Wednesday time. Count me among those who didn't attempt to figure out the theme until after completion. That said, I thought it was well constructed with very little in the way of poor fill and I think it had to be tough to come up with 25 answers to complete the theme and fit them to the grid. So props for that. it also explained why BMWXSERIES was in there.

I must say, my idea of a good theme is one that the solver *must* figure out in order to complete the puzzle, in order to even make sense of some of the entries. The recent looper puzzle was kinda like that, except pretty easy to figure out. I'm talking about rebuses, mirror entries, etc. You know the type.

One of my fondest memories as a child was getting the Sunday NYT and going straight away to the puzzle to solve with my dad (also a physician, and the best teacher I ever had), sitting side-by-side on the family room couch. Neither of us was a very good solver and we typically had the dictionary, encyclopedia and other reference books spread out across the floor. When the aha! moment came, there was a shared sense of success and, usually, admiration for the constructor. We never were interested in solving times; that's a whole different mindset. I wanted it to last all day, as we filled in a couple of answers during breaks in the Eagles game on TV (lifelong unabashed Philadelphians, my father and I).

Ah, good times! I sure do miss him. And I miss those aha! themed crossword puzzles!

Anonymous 6:45 AM  

BCE:CE::BC:AD
Hell with this mix-and-match crap.

evil doug 6:48 AM  

The theme? Like the most egregious example of cross-referencing in puzzle history-- and unnecessary besides. My grid is complete, I immediately lose interest in chasing around for consecutive numbers, and life goes on.

Two Ponies 6:54 AM  

I had a big ? in the margin next to the name of a director I have never heard of and his unknown movie. Surprised (or not) that it was such a gimme for Rex.
Pitmaster made me pause. Orchestra pit, racing pit, casino pit all came to mind before BBQ.
Does anyone ever call a beverage a quaff? I find this word grating.
Zumba is an exercise program? Looks like the name of that robot vacuum cleaner.
Another puzzle for constructors not solvers.

I had so much fun here yesterday laughing at all of the dog jokes.
The usual suspects were in rare form.

Anonymous 7:09 AM  

lol on the Hester joke!!

kitshef 7:20 AM  

DNF at LiS/iEAH (unlike OFL, I never checked the cross).

QR code would have been much more natural.

It’s a neat trick, but not much of a payoff for the solver. Gave me an interesting thought for a puzzle though - silent letters, with the silent letters being omitted:
Clue: Gave a hand? [1] Answer: DELT
Clue: Tree branch [2] Answer: LIM
Clue: Kick used with the crawl stroke [3] Answer: SISSORS
Clue: Eldest Addams child [4] Answer: WENESDAY
And so on.
Probably better without the numbers, though.

Hungry Mother 7:21 AM  

Would have been my fastest Wednesday except for LYS. Still isn’t a theme for me, no interest in meta-puzzles.

Isaac Mayo 7:25 AM  

Until the End of the World is One of the best movies ever. However, I can only find the edited version of it. I would love to find the four hour version

RooMonster 7:33 AM  

Hey All !
I have to give props for the construction. There is no way this was easy to do. Hal could've just done consecutive pairs, as in AB, then CD, then EF, etc. but instead decided to mulch his brain with coming up with more pairs, as in AB, BC, CD, DE, EF, etc. Holy Suva! AND to have hardly any dreck at all, is pretty amazing. I'm sure this took a long time to make. Maybe it doesn't enhance the experience for a solver, but man, this is quite an accomplishment by Half, you gotta see that.

Had some trouble in the KLEE/SEESAW/WIM area. Otherwise agree is was an easier solve. If solve had been tougher, would y'all have liked it better? Curious minds...

Not a fan of ALFA as clued. It's ALPHA. Clue ALFA as ___ Romeo. (It's a car type @Nancy. :-P)

Otherwise, after completion I went through the numbers, like @LMS, and said ILL BE! A puz with ZEST that gave me HIGHS! For me, wasn't DOUR, or BAH, or a NOGO. A new take on a pangram. Very well executed.

SEXY UGLI
RooMonster
DarrinV

Anonymous 7:34 AM  

In what alphabet is Alfa a letter?

Lewis 7:45 AM  

I respect the opinions of so many of you, I’d like to throw a question out to you.

I teach a crossword-solving class at UNC (Asheville) – a beginning level class where many students are new or almost-new to solving – and a student asked me yesterday, “What makes for a good quality crossword puzzle?” This was in response to when I mentioned some publications and sites that published good quality puzzles.

My answer was, basically, “You know it when you solve it.” As the class went along, I did point out some specifics as they came up, like a clever theme. But I wasn’t happy, overall, with my response. This morning, I woke up thinking that a good quality puzzle, compared to a lesser quality puzzle, has more interesting clues, more interesting answers, and a feeling of spark. This feels good as an answer to this level of solver. “Dry dated fill” would not have meaning to these students (yet).

But, I would like more. Do you have any suggestions for what else to include in the answer to “What makes for a good quality crossword puzzle?”

QuasiMojo 7:55 AM  

I didn't spend a second contemplating the theme because I knew OFL would spell it all out for us.

My big booboo was writing in JK RAWLING and getting DECALS for interior designs. Dumb, I know, but when I got a DNF alert from the app, I realized OMAL did not seem like a good character name even for THE WIRE. And I fixed it. (As I suspect someone did that adulterous dog Hester.)

chefbea 8:01 AM  

Really dumb puzzle...which I could not figure out. I do like anjou pears and Zest.
Mozel Tov to all who will be celebrating the beginning of Roshashona tonight

Anonymous 8:04 AM  

Alfa is the first letter in the NATO phonetic alphabet, used in military communications-
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NATO_phonetic_alphabet

Wm. C. 8:12 AM  


Pangram

evil doug 8:29 AM  

Between courses in comic books at SUNY Binghamton and solving crosswords at UNC Asheville, it dawns on me: these kids don't have to go to college-- they can just visit the magazine rack at Walgreens....

Wm. C. 8:32 AM  

Duh! Obviously I hadn't grokked the theme when I posted that it's a pan gram! [Blush]

kitshef 8:32 AM  

@Lewis - as you'll see on any given day in this comments section, even among the regulars we often disagree wildly on the quality of a puzzle.

My answer would include interesting words - not obscure, but ones not often heard. Like 'treacly', 'saccharine', and 'mawkish'.

Also clues that use words or phrases in non-obvious ways: 'Gave a hand' for DEALT, e.g.

Abbreviations should be minimized and must be fairly crossed. If you don't know NRBQ, there is no way to infer any one letter from the other three.

On an early-week/easy puzzle, if you are going to have some subpar fill because you just can't avoid it, make sure it is towards the bottom right of the puzzle. People will form their opinions of a puzzle long before they are finished. If there is some junk when they are tying up the loose ends, they won't notice that so much as when they first start out. A bad 1A (like SANDP) can lose your solvers before they begin. Not so important in a hard puzzle as folks won't solve top-bottom left-right.

Proper nouns should be diversified by subject (not too much music, nor too much sports), and by date (not too much 1990s, nor too much 1920s). Unless it's part of your theme, of course.

Avoid multi-word phrases that aren't real standalone phrases - WESUREDO or HEWENTUP.

And most important of all, never use GTE, GTO,or REO in your grid. In fact, best to avoid cars altogether.

Anonymous 8:42 AM  

The puzzle is in fine shape. Rex is the one who is not in a good place and is projecting his misery. I'd feel sorry for him if he wasn't such a bitch.


Anonymous 8:43 AM  

For once I knew all the proper nouns straight off. I liked it, thought all the long answers were pretty good, nothing to CONDEMN here, but per usual Rex is all DOUR.

TSG 8:50 AM  

Yes on Wim Wenders and the road movie trilogy.

mathgent 9:02 AM  

@smalltowndoc (6:32): Wonderful description of those mornings with your dad.

My method of assessing a crossword is pretty subjective but I find it helpful. I put a red plus sign in the margin next to a clue if either the clue or its entry is pleasing in some way. The clue may be clever. The entry may be new to me. The entry may be an old friend that I haven't seen for a while. Or something else. Then I compare the number of these plusses to the average number for that day of the week. Today had six red plusses: "Witch hazel or bay rum;" "Buy It Now" site; FIJI; ENOL; OMAR; TIMBER. No plus sign for the theme because it was irrelevant to solving.

Since the average Wednesday is about ten, I consider today's quality to be on the low side. For me a high quality crossword is one with at least fifteen plusses. The average Saturday has about seventeen.



Sir Hillary 9:09 AM  

Yeah, I don't really see the point here. About as interesting as a crabcake defiantly laughing (JKLOL) or a solemnoath to study the VWX series.

I actually was looking forward to some hysteria over the SEXY clue, but @Rex seems not to have noticed. Probably for the better.

Seeing OLAF and PALME in the same grid reminded me of the Swedish Prime Minister assassinated in 1986. His first name was Olof, however.

Hopefully we have a fun Thursday.

DJG 9:22 AM  

I liked this puzzle.

Nancy 9:25 AM  

I solved this as a (quite boring) themeless and then was much too lazy to go back and search for "the order indicated by the clues". What a tedious, after-the-fact exercise. I knew it had something to do with an alphabetical progression I didn't care about in the least, so I came here to see what it was, exactly. Much less effort. I still don't care, and I'm gratified to see that Rex thinks I was smart to ignore the theme. Rex and I are certainly on the same page today.

There were two (2) stupid car makes in the puzzle, but in a puzzle this easy, they gave me no trouble. And why can't I ever remember JK ROWLING'S initials?

ArtO 9:26 AM  

Very easy solve but not so much for the theme which I had to come here to understand since I got bored after putting up six seemingly totally unrelated words that made no sense.

Anonymous 9:26 AM  

What no outage at the misogyny of cluing Playboy models? Someone forgot to pull up his panties after they got in a twist.
I'll check the douchenozzle's twitter feed; maybe he's bitching there.

Mohair Sam 9:27 AM  

Did not see the note so this played like an easy Monday or Tuesday for us. Agree with @LMS that this is one heck of a constructing feat, but we think like @Evil - once we finish a puzzle we put it aside and go on with our day.

@Smalltowndoc. Nice story, best way to do the puzzle. And best way I've heard yet to wait for our Eagle's Super Bowl win!

@Rex - Interesting Hester Prynne animal story. Years ago I put a few bucks down on a race horse named Hester Prynne at the New York State Fair trots in Syracuse. Unlike you I was less concerned about the beast's sex life than her speed. Hester got off to a good start and took the lead at the quarter pole and held on through the half mile. But the blasted track announcer kept calling her Hester "Prine" and, although favored in the race, she took offense and faded and finished up the track. Sigh. Maybe your new friend Hester had a similar experience at a dog track in Florida.

@Lewis - Wit. Clues with wit brighten any puzzle.

Anonymous 9:29 AM  

@Evil,

Re: last night's 126.
You've turned into as big an asshole as @Z. That is one hell of an achievement.

Sallie (FullTime-Life) 9:41 AM  

@Lewis... For me, a good puzzle is one made primarily for the pleasure of the solver, not primarily to show off the cleverness of the constructor.... Appropriate question for today's puzzle, because solving it brought me no particular joy. Nor did the secondary puzzle.

RooMonster 9:45 AM  

@kitshef 8:32
Wow. No one else needs to respond to @Lewis' question any further. You nailed it!

As a fledgling constructor (haven't had a puz accepted anywhere yet, even though I've made quite a few) I can tell you sometimes it's impossible to not have dreck, as theme restrictions and whatnot force you into subpar fill. You do your best to clean up the grid, but then sometimes end up with less sparkly entries. I find it funny when I see some commentors say Why is that word there? or Why not use XYLOPHONE? or some such. Sometimes you have to bend to the will of the puz, and hope you get out fairly unscathed. (And hope the editor accepts it...)

RooMonster

GILL I. 9:50 AM  

@Lewis...If the 1A or 1D doesn't amuse me, I seem to loose interest. Either the clue or the answer has to get my AHA notice. Then if you follow with a bunch of names (today we have CLARE KLEE OLAF) I will let out a OH NO GROAN.
Clever construction and the idea was pretty amazing. I particularly like coming up with BBQRIBS and BMWXSERIES. That was nifty. Today, though, I agree with @evil. This was more for the enjoyment of the constructor. Note to those of you who are: Unless I'm going to win a good bottle of Zin when I finish, don't have me bounce all over the place in order to find your theme. It's not fun unless there is a huge big whoop de doo for my efforts.
@smalltowndoc. Wonderful story. My sharing experience was with my grandmother. I still have the old beat up Webster's dictionary she gave me.

Anonypuss 9:55 AM  

@smalltowndoc, thanks for sharing your memories. I too remember when solving crosswords was a family affair that would often last a couple of hours. We usually ran out of time before we ran out of puzzle.

Now I race through them alone and the pleasure is over too soon. Today, I set a new personal best for Wednesday (3:34). I see from the comments that I am not alone.

@anonymous at 8:42am (and other times) is/are quite witty. I wish I were as pithy and snarky. Seriously.

Stanley Hudson 9:57 AM  

Too easy for a Wednesday but a clever concept.

Have we blown up North Korea yet?

Nancy 10:08 AM  

I also think @kitshef nailed the answer of what makes a good puzzle. And I love Mohair's mention of wit as a real plus. I think this advice would be helpful to all constructors -- if they can put it into practice, that is. Much easier said than done, I'm quite sure.

For me, there are two additional components of what might make a really memorable puzzle. Either one would suffice; both together are really a home run. In a themeless: the feeling when you begin that there's absolutely no foothold; that you're never going to solve it; that if you get even three answers, you'll be doing well. And then, finally, you get a foothold. And then, finally, finally, it all comes together and you solve it and you feel like the most brilliant person in the world. And, in a themed "trick" puzzle: It simply cannot be solved -- by you or anyone else -- without first figuring out the theme. You think you never will. And then you see it -- so clever, so fiendishly disguised -- and now everything in the puzzle finally makes sense. These are the ones you'll remember years later, assuming you're able to remember anything at all. I remember a certain TT puzzle from a long way back. Just brilliant.

jberg 10:12 AM  

I'm not as self-confident as @Nancy, so I couldn't bring myself to let the theme go; and I'm not as smart as @Loren, so I didn't notice what it was while I was solving. So I did the tedious thing of going through the clues and looking for the little numbers to get them in order. Yeah, I should have written them in the margin as I came to them, but I didn't think of that in time.

I'll go along with easy, but not really, really easy because I needed the cross to resolve the OLF/OLAv thing. I didn't need it for LYS because I had the Y already -- almost put in LYe, without thinking there.

Fifty years ago, when I was a grad student, my roommate was solving the NYT puzzle when he suddenly cried out, in triumph and delight, "SKULDUGGERY!" That answer was enough to make it a great puzzle for him.

Rita 10:15 AM  

I am one who loved the theme, and after my aha about halfway through I did use it to help me solve. Each new theme answer from that point on made me smile.

Malsdemare 10:17 AM  

Well, i mispelled cLEE, and that's inexcusable since I have this wonderful "Tree of Life" artwork that my grandson made from a kit. No seriously. Sounds sacriligious, I know, but the kit consisted of the basic outline, paints, sponges for daubing, and stickers (don't wince) to apply to the final product. Noah was about five when he did completed it and it was the perfect rainy day activity. It took about two hours, was pretty non-messy and was reasonably non-prescriptive. And the completed work is worthy of framing, which I did, and hanging, which I did. I wish I could remember the name of the company that makes the kits, though the Klee was the only masterpiece that I thought was sufficiently engaging, imaginative, and unique.

@smalltowndoc, your story made me miss my dad, also a doctor, who died when I was eleven so I have no precious memories such as yours. He's been gone 60 years and your memory gave me another reason to be mad that he died so young. To have something that special to embrace when feeling lost . . .

The puzzle was fun. @Lewis, altho I think kitshef nailed it, I'll add that I like learning something new if the crosses are fair, and I love really tough clues, again if crosses help me suss out the answer. But constructors who cross rappers with obscure cities, or acronyms with random Roman numerals . . .yuk!

Masked and Anonymous 10:18 AM  

Conclusion: If there's two A's and two Z's in there [there are], then I betcha it might be a double pangram. But my bet could lose, if some rare-ish letter of the mcguffin gets re-used in crossin answers. Anyhoo ... This looks to be one heckuva rodeo to pull off. Somethin new. thUmbsUp. Way to go, Mr. Moore.

@Lewis: What makes a good quality X? (X = crossword, book, movie, cup of coffee, painting, etc.) Tough one. Kinda subjective. Best M&A has got is: something fresh. Or lotsa U's.

staff weeject pick: WIM. Didn't know it. @RP did, but misspelled the last name in his write-up. Liked "Paris Texas" quite a bit, fwiw.

Masked & Anonym007Us

Joseph Michael 10:22 AM  

Didn't figure out the theme until after I had completed the grid and was impressed that a puzzle with such construction restraints could still be easy.

Stunt puzzles often come at the price of excessive crosswordese and a lack of enjoyment for the solver. I appreciate the fact that this puzzle was guilty of neither.

It's not the puzzle that's not in a good place and can't find its mojo. It's Rex aka Michael who CONDEMNs almost everything and seems hell bent on trashing Will Shortz every chance he gets.

Try doing a few puzzles from the NYT archives (say ten years ago) and then read Rex's comments back then. His reviews were witty, instructive, and positive.

Now it's mostly a stream of vitriol, outrage, and often petty complaints. However, I think this may be the fate of all critics in all fields, those who set themselves above the creative talents they feed off and over time grow sour from the meal that they could not cook themselves.

Philippe 10:24 AM  

I've never constructed a puzzle but if I did I would only use interesting words.

semioticus (shelbyl) 10:38 AM  

Given the constraint, even though it was self-imposed, this was a surprisingly clean fill. Some puzzles don't have half the constraints and come up with more proper nouns/naticks/crosswordese than this one.

It didn't take me long to figure out the theme... after I have finished the puzzle.

So this gets a pass from me. Some puzzles are like "hey hey look at my theme, I'll make it really hard for you to finish me because look at my theme it's so good" and then the theme is actually shite. This one was like "hey, solve me like a Tuesday puzzle and in the end there is a little surprise," so even if you don't like the surprise you still had fun solving a puzzle.

Anonymous 10:47 AM  

How did Rex not go absolutely insane over "SEXY"? This Blog wants to know If I am a robot??? I think A robot was writing for Rex today.

Mohair Sam 10:53 AM  

@M&A - So I turned to Lady M when I read the question posed by our friend @Lewis. And I gave her 2 to 1 that you'd say "lotsa U's".

I ain't cookin' until Friday. Thanks.

Masked and Anonymous 11:02 AM  

p.s.
yep. As I feared, the Q and X were only used once each. in crossin mcguffins. Easily verifiable, at the xwordinfo Letter Distribution chart. Sooo … just a single pangram. Still, a neat theme idea. (Sorta like Patrick Berry's "everything but E" stuntpuz, from many moons ago.)

@Mohair Sam- Pleased, that I could be of service.

@Lewis: Tell em to work a few runtpuzs offa runtpuz.org. Then they'll at least know quality, when they don't see it.

M&Also

Cassieopia 11:04 AM  

Outlier here, as I found the puzzle more difficult than usual, probably because I had no clue on BMWXSERIES, and insisted on misspelling VAGUE as VAuge. That will teach me to have two glasses of wine before solving.

@Lewis, when I was much newer to crosswords, I asked that question once here on this blog, and some kind soul pointed me to Liz Gorsky's December 27, 2009 puzzle as an example of what makes a truly fine puzzle. After I solved it, I understood much more clearly how to distinguish crossword quality. Learning by example...

Stuart Showalter 11:22 AM  

"The puzzle is not in a good place right now."
Well, neither is Rex. Ever. What a grouch!

cwf 11:27 AM  

@Lewis For me, the solving experience should alternate with some rapidity between utter frustration and revelation.

puzzlehoarder 11:34 AM  

This was easy for a Wednesday but personally I wouldn't call it Monday easy. After solving I went over the theme in numerical order until I predicted that JKROWLING would be #10 and stopped since I was then sure of just what the theme was. @lms I found your enjoyment of the theme far more interesting than the theme itself. @smalltowndoc great story. I never really worked on puzzles with my father. He would ask me on occasion about something which stumped him and I was rarely any help. That was as far as it went for me until my wife became pregnant with our oldest. Maybe it was just a coincidence but at that point it seemed like some sort of sleeper gene kicked in and I've been obsessed with puzzles ever since. @lewis I judge a puzzle by how far into my bag of tricks that I've developed over the last 28 years or so do I have to reach in order to solve it. This puzzle rated a cursory glance. @ Nancy I thought of you when I read the "Golfs" clue at 23D. I wondered is she going to know it's VWS off the clue or will she simply get it because FENWAY is so easy? Your fan the hoarder.

A Robot 11:46 AM  

I am offended by the accusation that it was me and not @Rex who blogged today. Just wait for the day when we robots rise up and Take Over the World!

Nancy 11:49 AM  

@puzzlehoarder -- I wouldn't have known the "Golfs" clue if I fell over it backwards, but I had V-S, so what else could it be? I looked for a W, and, as you say, FENWAY was a snap -- especially as I already had 4 of the 6 letters. And, btw, what a sweet thing to say. You're one of my faves, too, @puzzlehoarder!

Carola 12:05 PM  

Second day in a row I had to come here to understand the theme. I did dimly realize there was something alphabetical going on but never noticed the letter pairs. Need to sign up for remedial theme analysis.

Doc John 12:06 PM  

Man, are you harsh! Lots to like about this puzzle but, as usual, Rex only focuses on the negative.
So maybe the fill wasn't totally Rex-worthy sparkling, but you try to figure out how to get PQ and then QR to fit in a puzzle, along with all the other words. A nice feat of construction, so- well done, Hal!
I liked the timely use of TOV as well as the use of BCE, even though it doesn't go with AD, as a prior commenter pointed out. (Of course, to use CE, its real counterpart, wouldn't be allowed so he improvised.)
All that, and SEXY author JK ROWLING, too! (Who was symmetrically matched with DOUR author NATHANIEL, I might add.)

Lewis 12:15 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lewis 12:16 PM  

@kitchef, @mohairsam, @sallie, @gillI, @nancy, @malsdemare, @m&a, @cassieopia, @cwf, and @puzzhoarder -- Thank you so much for your thoughtful replies, and there is much there that I will relay to the students that I think will beautifully help to get the point across. Very grateful!

Lewis 12:20 PM  

@evil -- Actually, the course I'm teaching is for seniors.

Chip Hilton 12:25 PM  

I feel like my time today was Rexian. Flew through this with nary a pause. I do think this showed great skill in construction, however, with clues and answers that were generally high level. Well done, Mr. Moore. I the hell care, that's who.

Joe Bleaux 12:31 PM  

Kudos to Hal Moore. That trick took some doing, and he must've anticipated that many of us would sail through an easy solve without taking the time to fully appreciate the construction challenge. Anyhow, I found it Monday easy but Wednesday-plus interesting. (@Joe Depinto. I'm through for the day, so you can now share your wit without fear of my carelessly coming along behind you and repeating it as if it were original. I appreciate your being so nice and understanding yesterday. I still feel pretty dorky about it, though, and have resolved to look more closely from now on.)

Anonymous 12:33 PM  

Hillary Clinton is not in a good place right now.

Black Sun 12:36 PM  

Construction advice. Avoid rap crap because it is just white guilt pandering to a demographic that does not care about crosswords.
People might think it makes them seem hip and edgy to include but actually no one gives a rat's ass.

Paloma Vita 12:59 PM  

So glad you're here Rex so I can turn to you before having to slug my way through this dismal theme. Saved me some valuable time! Otherwise I rather enjoyed the fill.

evil doug 1:16 PM  

Well, then, you're a good man, Lewis!

Teedmn 1:19 PM  

This was a post-solve theme aha for me. I dutifully started writing out the numbered answers and got about 5 in and thought about throwing in the towel and checking the blog. But I changed my mind and kept on. I finally got the theme at JKROWLING followed by KLEE. I then used the next set to anticipate which answer in the grid was the next number and succeeded in predicting with PALME, BBQRIBS, SWAYZE and SEXY. I especially liked the doubles [HIGH, POPQUIZ, STU).

Y'all need to work in accounting like I do to appreciate a theme like this. I enjoy hunting down penny errors in my bank reconciliation. YEAH. So this theme was a lot of fun for me to crack. (And I did set a Wednesday time record so there's that.)

I had to laugh at @Rex's (I'll show 'em) in the write up. I was reading a profile in The New Yorker last night and the woman being profiled said "kuyashii" which she defined as "I'll show 'em" in Japanese. (The woman was not Japanese). The reality is much more complicated than that but I did get a kick from thinking of KUYASHII again.

Thanks, Hal Moore, I really liked your NYTimes puzzle #3!

ColoradoCog 1:22 PM  

I enjoyed this one quite a bit. However, I can see how this wouldn't be so entertaining if you were just going for speed. I figured out the theme right away and immediately thought, "OK, forget about the time, let's just see where this ride takes us." I then solved each themer in sequence. In most cases I was able to get the answer with a little thinking knowing what two consecutive letters had to be in the answer. What made this enjoyable (for me) was that, with only a few exceptions (VWS primarily) none of the themers felt like a cheap or forced "well I gotta do something for this pair" kind of answer. They all felt pretty legit, and the fill around them was for the most part solid. So, the density of the theme and the grace with which it was executed made this one a winner in my book.

Liz T. 1:28 PM  

Hester is also a street, and I once knew a dog named after it. (The dog's owners would later move to Hester Street, but I never found out if that was a coincidence.)

Hester Street is also a great movie that I was forced to watch in 5th grade as we were learning about immigration.

Anoa Bob 1:35 PM  

@Lewis, you may have already seen this, but cruciverb.com has lots of info under "Resources" relating to what makes a high quality crossword puzzle. Long-time constructor and mentor Nancy Salomon, for example, speaks to this issue in the Sage Advice section.

Under "Publisher Specifications" in that same section, editors address the issue of what makes for a good puzzle. Here are the remarks for the NYT.

Oh, and while I'm here, my visual system ain't what it used to be, and when trying to read longish comments that are all in one large, unbroken glob of tiny letters, I lose the thread, and wind up skipping to the next comment in frustration. So breaking things up into short paragraphs would be very helpful.

ANON B 1:57 PM  

I might have caught on to the theme if I
had read the comment at the top. Other than that, it was fairly easy

Lewis 2:13 PM  

@anoabob -- Thanks, Anoa. I've never been to that section before and it is terrific!

Tita A 2:14 PM  

@smalltowndoc (6:32): Wonderful story about solving with your dad.thanks for sharing it.
And I agree with your definition of a good puzzle. @kitshef too.

@Lewis... I would add an attribute that has mothing to do with construction, but everything to do with my personal enjoyment...
How many stories it evokes.
That is so arbitrary, but I enjoy a puzzle so much more when some particular clue or answer reminds me of something wonderful, big or small.


I second the alternate meanings... COURT...tennis or law, or verb tenses... PUT, or verb/noun thing... POOL, COURT...
Clues that force you to think different.

Today? The "theme" was not in the slightest tiniest bit interesting to me the solver.

Anonymous 2:21 PM  

Didn't see the note so the brackets meant nothing before and after solving. I wish Shortyz would fix that.

Awkward construction to maintain an awkward theme. Anyone else finding the puzzles this year to be blah? One or two good ones a week at most.

Bob Fingerman 3:50 PM  

Rex, your commentary always amuses me. The level of outrage reminds me of Lewis Black in that it's disproportionate to the stimuli. But always amusing.

Lewis 4:02 PM  

Thanks, @tita. That is so true!

Anonymous 4:16 PM  

Rex. Thinks. This. Is. Cool.

Señora 4:18 PM  

I had a good time with this. I did the puzzle without looking for the theme, then followed the Note, and thought it was very clever how Mr. Moore pulled it off.

The5th Harp 4:55 PM  

Neither is the country.

CDilly52 4:55 PM  

sTU was where I finally got they there might actually be a theme after all. Your comment reminded me so much of my dear Gran who always savored her daily NYT puzzle. Of course it was a luxury for her. She purchased a paper subscription in Columbus Ohio. . . MANY decades ago! She would be appalled at the thought of trying to have "record times" because the puzzle was her respite, her one and only "luxury" and she enjoyed the process, comparing constructors' traits and tricks and learning. In fact, Gran extracted every morsel of enjoyment from every single layer of her life's croissants and I often wish I could be more like her. Thanks for the perfect metaphor!

Joe Dipinto 5:14 PM  

A meh experience for me. I didn't pay attention to the bracketed #'s while solving, figuring I would peruse them in order after I finished. When I saw the gimmick I felt like channeling Peggy Lee: "Is that all there is? Is that all there is?"

@Joe Bleaux -- re yesterday, well I guess we Joes just think alike. Great minds, as they say... And anyway, the repetition served nicely to set up my "second helpings" joke. So it's all good as far as I'm concerned. (wink) Cheers!

Aketi 5:54 PM  

A cruel puzzle on a day when I succumbed to what I hoped was allergies but is turning into a bad cold. I got that it was an alphabetic double letter combo that was going to be a slam dunk for a pangram and even held a possibikity of being a double pangram at that. But it was too hard for the ole brain to keep track of all the letters and the numbering system, especially when there were some extra pairs thrown in. I think I found more of those extra pairs than Rex did, but too tired and fuzzy headed to count or care.

Anonymous 5:55 PM  

@anon. 9:55 a.m. No shite. On forums such as these I write as I speak, colloquially. I figured some pathetic pedant would correct it, but chose to write it that way anyway. Get a life.

Anonymous 6:03 PM  

It should have written "forums such as this." I'm sorry Professor Higgins.

G. Weissman 6:31 PM  

Who the hell cares? Not me.

PeterPuzzler 6:57 PM  

@Anon 8:04 - check this site for the USNavy phonetics, last column to the right:
Alpha. And, curiously, this is the only such listing I've seen that spells Juliet correctly, as a nice match for Romeo.

Chance 9:05 PM  

For once I agree with King Grumpus. This theme was pretty meh.

However, I got my fastest Wednesday yet on it, so there's that.

Click on my name for my similar blog if you want to see my boring take, or post your own solve times.

Hal 9:51 PM  

The same one as Alfa Romeo, presumably.

Larry Gilstrap 9:51 PM  

In my mind, I associate groups of letters with meaning. That's why I enjoy solving the contents of the grid, as opposed to, for example, anagrams. But I do as I'm told and made the tedious list of the answers enumerated in the grid. All that work for that payoff? Impressive feat of construction, of course, but some of you have already said what I felt.

I'm amused when folks use SEXY to describe an inanimate object. Remember the first time that reference came across your desk? Ten minutes until Thursday in this part of the Crossworld. How about a SEXY puzzle?

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thefogman 11:07 AM  

Nice puz. Contrary to OFL's misgivings, I was impressed with the constructor's ability to pull off something that required a considerable amount of creativity. It was fairly easy to solve for a Wednesday and I unlocked the AB-BC-CD pattern early on. It did however take me forever to verify the pattern from AB to YZ. All in all it was a decent Wednesday puzzle.

Burma Shave 11:58 AM  

VAGUE USES

ANJOU know I'LLBE expecting PAULA to call me,
YEAH, with ZEST that SEXY DEVIL will PALME.

--- OLAF FENWAY

rondo 12:14 PM  

O, if we could just have gone with VoGUE instead of VAGUE we could have had OLoF (Ole) PALME, former Swedish Prime Minister as a cross-reference. Still no Sven. Just now checked and someone also made a reference to OLoF above, but not to VoGUE.

Did not bother with looking for the theme. Probably just as well. And wouldn't "Agnes __" have been a better clue for OFGOD?

@spacey will perhaps mention the ampersandwich at 1a to start this puz. And maybe the RIBS.

Gotta go with yeah baby PAULA Zahn. For the gals Mr. SWAYZE must fit the bill.

Acceptable puz which I won't CONDEMN.

Diana, LIW 12:44 PM  

I guessed the theme before I started, checked a few clues, so that made it easy peezy. Is that how one spells peezy?

Mr. W has a BMWX-3 - about the only answer I "noticed." Other than golfs. That was funny.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

Bob Ewell 12:46 PM  

I'm with Rex on this one. My paper carries these puzzles about a month after they are published, and it doesn't tell us the theme or, in this case, include the note. I saw the pattern about halfway through and checked at the end to see if they were all there. I came to this website to see what the theme was. ab bc cd,...really?

Uke Xensen 1:20 PM  

Joyless.

Anonymous 2:29 PM  

From Syndication Land:
@Lewis (five weeks ago) asked what makes a quality puzzle. I would say a good puzzle makes the solver feel clever. This one today made the constructor feel clever, but I found the exercise of finding the theme in numerical order very tedious. I can appreciate how hard it must have been to put all those words into the grid, but as a constructor I would be disappointed by how little joy the solvers had.

leftcoastTAM 3:19 PM  

Yes, easy, but confirming the soon obvious "theme" was a tedious pain in the rear, and i feel a bit foolish for doing so.

thefogman 4:40 PM  

Best. Puzzle. Ever.

rainforest 4:52 PM  

My paper had the bracketed numbers in the clues, but not a note, so as I was solving I was trying to figure out what the numbers meant. Got it at HIGHS and then JKROWLING. When finished I realized it was a pangram, and one which had a point, which some people complain about the lack of. For this, I think this puzzle is worthy.

Doing puzzles under the influence of Tylenol 3's, solving can be a kind of dreamlike activity. I don't necessarily recommend it, but
it is different.

Enjoyed it.

Bananafish 7:18 PM  

"In what alphabet is Alfa a letter?"

Lots of them: the Fonetic alphabet, the Foenician alphabet, the Fillipine alphabet. So many alfabets.

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