Mecca's holy Kaaba / THU 10-5-17 / uplifting remake / Bygone fords / Fictional ship on five-year mission / Madly for 1952 campaign slogan

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Constructor: Alan Arbesfeld

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: Uplifting remakes — movie titles have qualitative adjectives changed to be more positive:

Theme answers:
  • "SPECIAL PEOPLE" (from "Ordinary People") (20A: Uplifting remake of a 1980 Donald Sutherland/Mary Tyler Moore film?)
  • "THE KIDS ARE SUPER" (from "The Kids Are Alright") (26A: Uplifting remake of a 2010 Annette Bening/Julianne Moore film?)
  • "AS GREAT AS IT GETS" (from "As Good As It Gets") (45A: Uplifting remake of a 1997 Jack Nicholson/Helen Hunt film?)
  • "MY AWESOME LADY" (from "My Fair Lady") (51A: Uplifting remake of a 1964 Audrey Hepburn/Rex Harrison film?) 
Word of the Day: Kaaba (42A: Mecca's holy Kaaba, e.g.) (CUBE) —
The Ka'bah (Arabic: ٱلْكَعْبَة‎‎ al-kaʿbah IPA: [alˈkaʕba], "The Cube"), also referred as al-ka`bah al-musharrafah (The Holy Kaaba), is a building at the center of Islam's most sacred mosque, that is Al-Masjid Al-Ḥarām (Arabic: الـمَـسـجِـد الـحَـرَام‎‎, The Sacred Mosque), in Mecca, Hejaz, Saudi Arabia. It is the most sacred site in Islam. It is considered by Muslims to be the bayt Allāh, the "House of God", and has a similar role to the Tabernacle and Holy of Holies in Judaism. Wherever they are in the world, Muslims are expected to face the Kaaba when performing salat (prayer). From any point in the world, the direction facing the Kaaba is called the qibla. (wikipedia)
• • •

I don't understand how neither the constructor nor the editor can see what's wrong with the execution of this theme. It's too bad that the people involved didn't have the Merlesque patience to wait for the Perfect fourth themer to come along. Actually, I think "MY AWESOME LADY" is slightly wobbly, since "Fair" in the original title does not mean "so-so" (the way that "Ordinary" and "Alright" most definitely do in their titles). But the word "Fair" *can* mean "so-so," so let's allow it. But "AS GREAT AS IT GETS" is a face-flop failure. Not only does "Good" not not not mean "so-so," the original title, "As Good As It Gets," *already contains within it the concept of ideality, and thus greatness*. "AS GREAT AS IT GETS" doesn't change the meaning of the original title—it just sounds ****ing stupid. This puzzle has four tires but one is flat. Driving = hazardous, unpleasant.

I finished this one in four flat—pretty dang fast for me, for a Thursday. I know and have seen all the movies involved, so that helped. My biggest struggle was with CUBE, as I did not know what "Kaaba" was. And now I do. Hurray. (I hope this will do away with the idea that I "don't want to learn new things" or "only like answers from that are in my wheelhouse" ... but it won't). TRALA is gruesome and there are too many crosswordesey answers overall. I do like the clue on SEURAT, even if it is a little corny (perhaps because it is a little corny) (25D: Artist who went dotty?). When I finished the puzzle, I was quite prepared to be upset at 31D: Beats quickly, in a way (RACES) because I thought "racing has nothing to do with defeating anyone, per se!" But then I realized the clue was talking about the heart. And then I thought, "Oh, OK, that's fine. Nicely done." Did not like the ERA clue (47D: A good one is under 3.00, for short) because a. ERA is not the greatest stat for measuring pitcher quality, and b. an ERA under 3.00 is in fact *great* in today's game, especially for a starter. Only eight starters in all of baseball this year had ERAs under 3.00. Under *4.00* is better than average (i.e. good ... or at least fair).

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Anonymous 12:21 AM  

"As Good as it Gets" does, of course, not necessarily express the ideal.

mathgent 12:29 AM  

Two sticking points. I had ?H?P for 1A and confidently made it CHOP. Wrong, of course. And then I had AME?A for 30D and the variant spelling AMEBA didn't come to mind. Absent these two gaffes, it would have been quite easy.

I love movies so the theme was pleasing.

Happy to learn what Kaaba is.

A nice puzzle but I want something more exciting for a Thursday.

Anonymous 12:47 AM  

Surprised you didn't mention what was (to me) the most glaring issue with this puzzle: the inclusion of both ILIED and ILIE as answers?

Lee Coller 12:51 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lee Coller 12:53 AM  

Not knowing my rapers, and never having heard of Emmy winner Gunn, I had a natick at 13D/16A. Anne/NES seemed like perfectly reasonable answers.

Johnny 1:00 AM  

See? Rex DOES read the comments!

So anyway . . .

Speaking of HERESY and the Inquisition, I think I would have made an awesome Conquistador. Not that they had anything to do with the Inquisition, I'm just saying I probably would have been pretty good at that.

Trombone Tom 1:03 AM  

Breezed through this in what for me must have been record time. Sort of ho hum for a Thursday NYT puz.

Now if you want some crunch and real pizzazz check out the WSJ puzzle by Julian Thorne. It's what the NYT ought to be putting out for us on a Thursday. I put + marks by several of the clues. Mr. Shortz, are you listening?

@Lee Coller, I think you have to know a few of the rapers (sic!) like NAS to do the contemporary puzzles.

puzzlehoarder 1:06 AM  

I didn't find this to be completely easy. 26A was an unfamiliar title and that caused some resistance.

The NW corner was where I finished. When CHOP wouldn't work I actually thought of WHIR before WHIP. For some reason PANCAKE was probably the hardest entry for me to recognize, strange.

jae 1:37 AM  

Too easy for a Thurs., but add me to the cHoP before WHIP contingent. This would have been an OK (although a bit @Trombone ho-hum) Wed.

Anonymous 1:39 AM  

We thought it was boring.

Hartley70 1:53 AM  

Well I have seen all the movies and found the puzzle too easy for a Thursday too, except I had to go back and rework the NW corner. My nit is with the "about" clue for INRE. I expected to see an abbreviation sign "for IN REgards to", so I kicked INRE to the curb and went with CHOP. Once I got over that fundamental error, I was fine.

Wow, I had to reach way back for Cat BALLOU. Even Jane may have trouble remembering it. Lee Marvin's outstanding performance is all I can recall of the film. Even he said half his award belonged to a horse.

I have to wonder why this is a Thursday puzzle. There's no kick or twist, so it's bound to disappoint, and everyone's a critic. Will deserves the complaints today, not the constructor.

Deep Mac 2:08 AM  

Of course I thoroughly enjoy solving crosswords or I wouldn't be on this site. But today, for the first time ever in my long crossword-solving history, a puzzle answer actually made me laugh out loud (it was MY AWESOME LADY). Maybe it was seeing the word "awesome" in the NY Times, which was somehow even more amazing than was seeing the word "f**k" when they finally printed it.

I, like Rex, did not like the ERA clue, but for a different reason. I hate sports clues, because I don't follow sports and have no interest in following sports. The end.

Anonymous 2:36 AM  

"Super" easy for Thursday. Felt like a Wednesday puzzle as it did not have a Thursday level (i.e. tricky enough) gimmick. Otherwise, I liked it.

Idothecw 2:42 AM  

Isn't it supposed to be spelled "amoeba"? What am I missing here? Great review by the way

Thomaso808 3:48 AM  

Very disappointed in this Thursday puzzle, which could have been a good Wednesday. IMO the NYT should put out more $ to get clever, tricky, rebus, or stunt puzzles for Thursday. This doesn't cut it.

Loren Muse Smith 3:53 AM  

Rex – I had the same hiccup with GOOD, but then I get that the entire title expresses that kinda so-so vibe. Listen, buddy, this is as good as it gets. Deal with it.

I’m surprised more people aren’t talking about the BALLOU/BEAN/NAS cross (Hi, @Lee Coller). That one about did me in. @Hartley – I know, right? Buit I see Cat BALLOU and think only Lee Marvin. I must have forgotten that Jane Fonda was in it.

We switched from DIRECTV to Dish and have never looked back. Dish has excellent customer service.

I didn’t get the heart vibe for RACES until it was explained here. Nice!

At a Starbucks in New Rochelle, they could have Mona’s IONA KONA.

I got a kick out of playing around with the adjectives, so I liked the conceit here.

Theodore Stamos 5:03 AM  

Definitely too easy, but I still enjoyed it. I could be biased because I like all the movies mentioned in the grid. I also like the hat tip to this new viet nam documentary - so far it is great.

evil doug 5:05 AM  

Moron guy delivered McPaper McFishwrap instead of NYT, so--anticipating the customary engaging Thursday puzzle--I ran over to Kroger and bought one. Not worth the trip....

Anonymous 5:27 AM  

I could do better, and one of these days I will darnit!

Anonymous 5:54 AM  

@puzzlehoardet - amused by the idea of a WHIr button. Imagining an old Hamilton Beach with spin, hum, wobble, whine, and purr settings.

smalltowndoc 6:30 AM  

I’m very disappointed in this puzzle, especially for a Thursday. Just nothing very clever about it.
It makes me wonder: Is this AS GREAT AS IT GETS?

Abby Friedman 6:35 AM  

Isn't it terrible form to have both "Ilie" and "Ilied" -- I realize one is a name and the other is technically two words, but they are literally the same thing except for the one extra letter at the end....

Glimmerglass 6:56 AM  

I though the puzzle was fine. The revue, I found a bit disappointing.

Anonymous 7:04 AM  

@Hartley70, "in re" isn't an abbreviation, it is a Latin phrase. "In re" = "in the matter of..." The "re:" at the top of a memo or email is the Latin word for "the thing we're talking about here" (res, rerum), not a shortening of regarding, relating, or other English words.

Hungry Mother 7:10 AM  

No complaints here for a quick solve toward the end of the week. Theme was OK and helped a little.

Exubesq 7:14 AM  

Channeling my inner Rex, I found this one too old, too easy, too dull. I get psyched for Thursday’s puzzle so this one was a real letdown. Thank goodness I have the AVX one to do.

kitshef 7:23 AM  

Another day, another woefully easy puzzle. Only holdups were BEAN, because it’s such a poor clue, and cHoP befoe WHIP. Oh yeah, winDS before REEDS.


But one problem I did not have with the puzzle was the theme consistency. ASGREATASITGETS was fine.

On the plus side, the puzzle does at least attempt to spread the misery on the PPP. Somebody named ANNA Gunn crossing NAS, SHEB Wooley and Cat BALLOU, ADLAI Stevenson, all the way back to SEURAT.

Crane Poole 7:35 AM  

Took me longer than you but it always does. Still zingless and should've been a Wednesday. Cat vs. Wally Ballou.

QuasiMojo 7:46 AM  

I almost stopped halfway through because I disliked this puzzle so much. It seemed to bend over backwards (or forwards, if you catch my drift) to fill itself with names, movie trivia, TV actors, pop clues, everything from rap stars and reggae to beer and cars. Clueing Mick Jagger to get STRUT was a typical stretch. The Seurat clue was daffy but I bet there are some who will find the use of the word DOTTY as non-PC. Somehow the constructor managed to squeeze in tired crosswordese as well: Inuit, Alpo, Erno, trala, inre, omit, ameba and ilie! Which reminds me, I didn't get I LIED coming before SO SUE ME. Wouldn't there be a comment from the person the speaker is talking to beforehand? As in YOU LIED?

Funny to see Jane Fonda mentioned in a puzzle containing NAM.

And since when is the brain a PIECE? Isn't that what some LIMP souls wear over their BEAN?

Jordan Silverstein 7:48 AM  

Also no mention of the inclusion of both YEN and YEARN, both with almost the exact same clue. Never seen that before.

Cassieopia 7:49 AM  

Like @lee at 12:53, got Naticked at the ANNe/NeS cross. I finished under my Thursday average and while this was a decent puzzle, I missed having a rebus or some other clever trick. This felt like a Wednesday, with ho-hum movie title wordplay.

GHarris 7:51 AM  

Thoroughly fun, nitpicks notwithstanding.probablly easy since I had no write overs.

ghthree 7:56 AM  

Like Lee Coller, I knew neither the actress nor the rapper, so I mentally flipped a coin and put ANNE for 16 Across. I'm not bothered by ILIE and ILIED in the same puzzle, but I don't like the clue foe 4 Down. I guess there is no word in English that can't be verbed. I originally had FROWN for 43 Across, but 39 Down VITAE fixed that. Easy for a Thursday.
I found Rex's "Flat tire" complaint nit-picking.

CFG 8:13 AM  

@idothecw - AMEBA bothered me a lot, too, as when I took biology class we learned just one spelling, with an O. But according to this is as acceptable alternative. According to Wkikpedia, fwiw, the O-less version is an American English spelling. So did we collectively misspell it for so long that it became acceptable? That’s my suspicion.

I agree that it was easy for a Thursday. I would have been Naticked, as others were, but my husband knew ANNA. I often get a little assist from him on the pop culture clues! (Also he had to explain PANCAKE as a verb when I started ranting that it was wrong.)

Beaglelover 8:16 AM  

ERA is the best indicator of a pitcher's talent. A pitcher can be on a lousy team and still be a great pitcher. Wins are not important in my estimation and it is unfair to use wins as a benchmark in the Cy Young voting. ERA all the way!!

G. Weissman 8:25 AM  

Can someone please explain 30D? Is it just that one could possibly see an amoeba on a microscope slide? If so, how does that make an amoeba a "slide presentation"?

G. Weissman 8:27 AM  

Is an amoeba a "slide presentation" in the same way that a car is a street presentation, i.e., present on a street? If so, that's just poor.

John V 8:39 AM  

Nothing. Don't know movies. Big DNF.

Two Ponies 8:41 AM  

Agree that this is Wed. puzzle. Taken on its own merits it is clearly the work of a pro so criticism should be toward Will.
Expecting a Thursday surprise I was disappointed and found my mind wandering mid-solve.
We do not have a TV but get our internet via a dish. I am anxious for the day when they become outdated so I can get rid of that eyesore hanging from the side of my house. I'm tired of looking at everyone else's too.
Speaking of TV, looking closely at an old color CRT screen is the same illusion as viewing a Seurat. I was so impressed with that as a kid.

JHC 8:50 AM  

I agree with another commenter that a "Var." on AMEBA would have been nice, but the rest of the puzzle was so easy, I'll take it.

Of course, any mention of SEURAT (especially one that contains a Dot pun) always takes me here.

Sir Hillary 8:52 AM  

I've been traveling all week and unable to do any puzzles until today. I was really looking forward to digging into a fun Thursday.

Wow, what a letdown. This is a (barely) Monday-worthy theme at Wednesday-level difficulty.

About the only interesting thing for me was putting in cHoP at 1A and having to extricate myself from that mess.

At one point I was thinking that, like Sunday's offering, this was somehow a sly commentary on spinmeisters in and around the White House. If so, it was a UUUUUUUUGE disappointment.


Z 8:53 AM  

NAS and Dr Dre are the Yma Sumacs of rap.

Not the review I thought I’d see. Here’s what screamed out to me: The ‘20’s (prohibition), 1952, 1958, the late ‘50’s (ska), 1964, 1965 (Cat BALLOU), 1966, 1966-69 (Star Trek). Sure, there are some modern touches but does cluing NAM by the documentary rather than the event really count as “current?” The most current themer is 20 years old. This puzzle felt like a newspaper comics page that still runs Peanuts, Beetle Bailey, and For Better or Worse. Sure, comforting for us old folk who have seen too much change in our lifetimes, but not exactly inviting to someone under 50.

Sir Hillary 8:55 AM  

One more usual, @LMS's avatar is a high point of my crossword day. Today, it is the only high point, so thanks @LMS!

RooMonster 8:58 AM  

Hey All !
Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!

Thanks to everyone yesterday for the kind words and warm feelings. What an AWESOME community here!

Liked the puz, but agree with the Why is this a ThursPuz? group. Nice misDIRECT (ha, get it?) on 37A, wanted onieda for a bit. Fell into the cHoP trap, but never let it go. Ended up with
ergo, a DNF. cuTS and ofRE? Sure, why not?

Puz was easier than a Thursday should be. Has closed off NW and SE corners. Couple cheater squares (4). But overall nice. Fun theme. E Center sums up the past week for me, SUPER RUE IRE, IM SAD. Need to GETS a COORS! :-)

STRUT RACES (that'd be neat!)

chefbea 8:59 AM  

Had to check my blender to see if one of the buttons said's there...I just puree and blend in my blender

Fun puzzle

Linda Vale 9:06 AM  


Mr. Benson 9:11 AM  

The title of "As Good as it Gets" comes from a line in the movie where someone asks a group of depressive people "what if this is as good as it gets?". It's an expression of resignation that most certainly does not contain "the concept of ideality."

Mohair Sam 9:14 AM  


Very easy Thursday if you're a crossword freak like us. ERNO meet ILIE, ILIE meet SHEB and ALI, I'd like to introduce you all to the TMAN. - I'm surprised 10A wasn't clued Orson ______. In a puzzle where the theme is based on pop culture I'd hope the crosses would be devoid of same, but not the case here. None of the PPP escaped us, so the complaint is not personal.

@Beaglelover - I hold that the pitcher's WHIP is a better indicator than his ERA - interesting they're both in the puzzle (although WHIP is foolishly clued outside of baseball).

@Johnny (1:00) - Yeah, Rex does read the comments a little, doesn't he? Nice catch.

Tita A 9:23 AM  

@Hartley - thanks for posting - I had the same issue. And now I've learned about IN RE - I bet we're not alone in thinking it was an abbreviation.
orso was my entry until the very end, confirmed by cHoP.
Thanks @Anon@7:04.

Saw the Met exhibition From Rembrandt to Matisse on Tuesday. A Seurat study for Poseuses was there - but not done in his dotty style. Rather, it was done in crayon on a very rough paper (that he made).
So I liked that clue.

I also dnfd with ANNe/NeS.

I saw ILIE play Jimmy at IONA.
In spite of being born and raised in New Rochelle, that was literally my last entry.

My brother had a cat named BALLOo. He didn't know he was restricted to 9 lives. I think he went through more like 15.

OK, so I kind of liked the theme. It was fun to guess the movies. Not the Thursday trickiness I was looking for, but a good enough substitute.

GILL I. 9:30 AM  

Then we get the uplifting remakes only I wasn't even sure about that. I started from the bottom up (which I hardly ever do) so my first theme entry was MY[average]LADY. You know, thinking fair was so so average. I got a little bored with that so went back up to the first floor and got SPECIAL followed by SUPER. Aha! So that's the game plan.
Held up like the rest of y'all with chop/WHIP....@chefbea: I, too, went and pulled out my blender to see if I was missing something...! Can't stand Jane Fonda. She should have married Woody Allen and they could play angst all day long. But I got BALLOU. I don't understand 22D POS? It looked like one of the OMG or maybe LOL thingies.
Went back down to the basement and fixed MY AWESOME LADY. Sat back and thought this was kinda cute.
OK Thursday but agree with @Two Ponies - it might have been a better Wed. although the one we had yesterday was truly SPECIAL SUPER GREAT AWESOME.

kitshef 9:40 AM  

@Gill I - a number that is greater than zero is positive, or POS when abbreviated.

pmdm 9:41 AM  

I'm not surprised that most solvers (myself and Jeff Chen included) were disappointed with this puzzle. I do think Jeff makes a good point today. The realities of supply and demand may force Mr. Shortz to accept puzzles for the Thursday slot that he'd prefer to reject. If so, today certainly would be one such puzzle. I suppose my point is that it is unfair to aim some of the criticism that's aimed at the editor unless you take a look at the universe of puzzles that you have to choose from. Could any of us do better? I don't know.

I started the puzzle and thought I would hate the theme. I wound up having a neutral attitude towards it. Perhaps one just needs to pretend today is a Wednesday.

Anonymous 9:45 AM  

Maybe this just shows my lack of pop culture (or crosswordese?) knowledge, but I found this to tilt incredibly old. As in, I do crosswords almost day and still hit clue after clue that was just completely before my time and not, in my opinion, general knowledge. SHEB BALLOU RENEE, to start, plus movies that I haven't seen (which is more a lack of pop culture, I know) made this one a complete flop.

Ran into the same CHOP issue, but oddly didn't have a problem with the Kaaba clue.

Nancy 9:47 AM  

Because of my always fuzzy memory, I needed a lot of letters to remember the titles of the movies, as none of them popped immediately into my mind. So that made it a teensy bit crunchier. I found the solving enjoyable, but, still, it's no substitute for a rebus.

Running out right now to avoid construction -- which, thankfully, the contractor said will always be held off until 10 a.m. What a huge difference that makes, and I'm grateful. Read y'all this evening.

wgh 9:53 AM  

I agree. A bit disappointed that we got a Wednesday for a Thursday, as those are my faves

Anonymous 9:55 AM  

That is a fascinating anecdote.

jberg 10:09 AM  

FWIW, The Kids Are All Right, not alright. I checked.

That said, I kind of liked it. The hardest thing for me (after guessing between g MAN and T MAN) was that I never remember movie actors (except Jane Fonda), so I had to get enough crosses to see that there was part of a movie title there. Once I figured out how the uplift worked, it was kind of fun.

@JHC, thanks for the Sondheim link! I've never seen that show, and I can tell that I'm missing something. In return, for those who say they're too young to know it, here is a little Sheb Wooley.

Anonymous 10:19 AM  

It's not that you don't enjoy learning new things(who doesnt?).
It's your tiresome some denigrating of things that you don't know that riles the inmates here. You obviously have a wealth
Thursday of know,edge, but having read your for some time, I'm fairly certain you're not terribly smart. This last past is just a guess, but I think your almost endless arrogance is the way you cover for your mental deficits.

mac 10:29 AM  

Nice puzzle, had me smile a few times!
Ameba/races/cube were the last to go down. I didn't even think of the pointilism, just "I didn't know he lost his mind".....

Bob Mills 10:30 AM  

Rex, you might be a crossword puzzle expert, but you sure aren't a baseball expert. ERA is in fact the best judge of a pitcher's value, because it doesn't consider his team's offensive support (as wins and losses do), and it doesn't consider his team's defense, because unearned runs are excluded.

Please, Rex. Leave baseball to the baseball experts and stick to crossword puzzles.

semioticus (shelbyl) 10:48 AM  

I liked the clues. The theme was OK. The fill was rough in the corners but there were some good answers.

Average grade from me.

NeilD 10:56 AM  

I loved the DIRECTV clue but the theme fell flat for me. Other than My Fair Lady, I haven't heard of any of these movies except via the Offspring song "The Kids Aren't Alright".

Anonymous 10:59 AM  

Rex's animus toward Will Shortz renders him incapable of objectively reviewing the NYT Crossword. I'll give this one a B+ - not enough crunch for me but I liked the theme. Thanks Alan.

Two Ponies 11:00 AM  

@ mac, Very funny about Seurat.

@ GILL.I, Excellent post late last night.

Malsdemare 11:12 AM  

Yup; cHoP/WHIP, NES/NAS. I misread the 0> clue and entered Neg at first. Fixed most of the bad stuff but had to search for the NES error and got hung up on the ILIED; had to check the clue that it wasn't a Homer thing. I've seen all the movies except "The kids are all right," but at least I'd heard of it so it went in without too much fretting.

It wasn't as satisfying as yesterday's puzzle, but it lasted through a cup of coffee and brought me here in due time. Thankful for that.

@Nancy, I hope the construction ends before bad weather sets in. Drizzly here today, which is super welcome as we've had almost no rain all summer (corn stunted, grass brown, trees stressed, Sangamon River, the river below my house that Lincoln poled, is nothing but a trickle). I wouldn't want to be evicted from my snuggle zone in this.

REX’s review was measured; I appreciated that.

Tom 11:31 AM  

Try proofreading your entries, please.

old timer 11:36 AM  

My first thought for 1A was WHIP so I found the puzzle Easy. My problem was I did not know any of the movies just from the year and the date.

I was looking forward to a rebus or something more SPECIAL than this.

James O'keefe 11:39 AM  

My blender does not have a "whip" setting.... so I was hosed for a bit in the NE corner....

James O'keefe 11:40 AM  

um nw corner...sigh

Matthew G. 12:00 PM  

Rex is wrong about the puzzle but right about baseball.

The puzzle: the theme was solidly executed and I don't buy Rex's criticisms. The fact that the adjectives are not used in the entries in exactly the same meaning as in the original film titles is why the themers are funny. Not sure how Rex missed that. Anyhow, I grinned at this puzzle in a way I don't at most NYT puzzles. Four stars from me.

Baseball: Rex is correct that ERA is not the best measure of a pitcher's value. Bob Mills, nowhere does Rex suggest that wins or losses are better, and I am sure he would not argue that they are. Moreover, though ERA is surely better than wins and losses, there are other stats that are better still. Bob, you're mistaken in saying that ERA isn't affected by defense. Although it's true that unearned runs aren't counted against ERA, defense still affects ERA because there is a difference between error-free defense and exceptional defense--a pitcher with an exceptional defense that gets to balls most fielders wouldn't could wind up with the same ERA as a pitcher whose defense is good enough to avoid errors but not good enough to make exceptional plays. So stats that strip out defense entirely are better than ERA. One example is FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching), which strips out the role of defense as well as the luck involved in whether a ball hit into play drops for a hit or not. FIP measures strikesouts, walks, hit batters, and home runs, all of which are almost exclusively decided by the interaction between the pitcher and the batter and not by anyone else on the field. It's true that other players may affect FIP at the margins (e.g., a home run robbed at the fence), but overall it purges the role of defense and therefore is a much better measure of a pitcher's true skill than ERA is. And then there are other stats, such as WHIP and SIERA, that many would argue are also superior to ERA.

Anonymous 12:02 PM  

Would-be baseball snobs who think defense doesn't affect ERA make me laugh, especially when there's a stat called "fielding independent pitching" nowadays. You can have one errorless defense that prevents more runs than another errorless defense

Masked and Anonymous 12:02 PM  

Good puz, but a kinda tame one, for a ThursPuz. Biggest challenge in the theme was knowin the movie names. That's somethin U either know or U don't. I knew all four, so no big problemo, there.

Only 72 words, so lotsa longish stuff. faves = (Starship) ENTERPRISE. ICANWAIT. DIRECTV [cool clue]. SEURAT [cool clue].

staff weeject pick: ARG. As in ARGesfeld.

@RP: As Good As It Gets does not imply that "It" is anything all that primo. Take runtpuzs, f'rinstance.

Thanx for the unusual suspects, Mr. Arbesfeld.

Masked & Anonymo4Us


jb129 12:10 PM  

To "Anonymous" @ 5:27 am - if you could do better, why are you still posting as Anonymous?

Stop criticizing everyone - it was a fun puzzle.

Joe Bleaux 12:14 PM  

Fun, but kind of zip-through, letdown easy for a Thursday. And just as I thought it wasn't going to get anymore political than ADLAI to whip up the commentariat, along comes 33(A), RENEE, by ... The LEFT Banke! Damn, that outrage felt good.

ColoradoCog 12:24 PM  

IN RE ERA: (a) The clue didn't imply that ERA was the greatest measure of a pitcher. You can argue that it is or isn't, but under 3.00 is, indeed, a (very) good ERA. The clue was accurate. It's as if I said "Over 50 is good MPG" and you respond "MPG isn't a great way to evaluate a car." Yeah, ok, but I never said it was. I just said that over 50 MPG is good, which it absolutely is. And (b) are we really going to criticize a clue for using the word "good" instead of "great"? Really? Or was that supposed to be self parody?

Passing Shot 12:27 PM  

Do not miss the rebus puzzles, but this managed to be both too easy and joyless.

timjim 12:37 PM  

Too easy, and the themers were dull -- with the exception of MY AWESOME LADY.

Cassieopia 12:54 PM  

Agree MYAWESOMELADY was the best. Made me wonder about themers going the other way:

Magnificent Seven = THESOSOSEVEN
It's a Wonderful Life = ITSANOKLIFE
The Incredibles = THEEHNOTSOBAD

Fun to think about. More fun than work, anyway :)

Anonymous 1:14 PM  

in re: 47D "ERA". Maybe its clue should have been given to 1A (WHIP). Rex is being a little bit hard on ERA. Among the traditional stats - the ones that have been around for decades - it still carries some weight, even among sabermetricians. WHIP (Walks + Hits per Inning Pitched) is among the more modern stats, but even it has its limitations (all hits treated equally being the most obvious). To evaluate a player, no single stat paints a complete picture. Many experts would choose WAR (wins above replacement) as the best single stat, but it has little mass appeal because of the degree of difficulty in understanding it.

My apologies to the commenter above who says he hates sports clues. My weak area is rap - I don't really mind it, I just don't follow it. So I'm not real crazy about how it's the go-to place for 3-letter answers these days. But one just has to work around the things in which one is weak.

I don't understand the objection to ILIE (pronounced IH-lee, btw) and I LIED being in the same puzzle. This breaks no rule of which I'm aware. I hadn't even noticed it until I read the comment. They could have had more fun with the clue, maybe "Nasty tennis player."

Teedmn 1:27 PM  

Easy, yes, and not a rebus, yes, but it was a pleasant puzzle all the same. My challenge was in seeing what the theme was doing. My fault because I've never seen the movie, "Ordinary PEOPLE". I read the book when it came out, when I was in high school. Knowing that Robert Redford was involved with the film, I always assumed he played the father, so when I saw Donald Sutherland, I thought there was some sort of movie mish-mash going on. Kat BALLOo getting in the way of SUPER didn't help my bewilderment any. I got it early enough for MY AWESOME LADY to go in unimpeded. This theme seems as if it would have lent itself to a Sunday sized puzzle, and Alan Arbesfeld has enough Sunday experience to have pulled it off.

I saw Seurat's study of "A Sunday on La Grande Jatte" at the Metropolitan some years ago. I loved standing back and then moving forward to see the dots and then moving back again. "Dotty" indeed. My own attempt at pointillism was pretty LIMP.

mathgent 2:14 PM  

@TromboneTom (1:03): Just finished the WSJ puzzle by Julian Thorne. It's everything you said about it and more. An almost perfect creation.

Mr. Thorne is new to me. Has NYT published any of his work?

Carola 2:44 PM  

What a difference a day makes. Running this puzzle on a Thursday-->disgruntlement instead of appreciation for a cute idea and the nice Downs. I couldn't remember what adjective belonged to PEOPLE before they became SPECIAL, but the idea was clear enough, and the other titles came quickly. Well, I made a start on My Ador... but saw that was going nowhere, and AWESOME is so much better. Eye-opening to discover that Cat BALLOU was Jane Fonda; I'd thought it was Lee Marvin.

@RooMonster, glad to see your usual sign off - I always like to see what you'll come up with.

@TromboneTom, thanks, off I go to the WSJ.

DigitalDan 4:53 PM  

For those of us in the forgotten West, the Gaels can only be some euphemism for St. Mary's. Google thought so, too, coming up with IONA only on page 3 or so. That plus being convinced that WHIP was CHOP put me well behind where I would otherwise have finished.

@Rex, if you only interpret the pairs of words as "less than" and "greater than", the thing works OK.

Joy2u 5:02 PM  

@DigitalDan's comment pretty much says all I wanted to say, however that will not stop me from saying it anyway:

@mathgent - the cHoP and WHIP mess seems to have messed with many of us, myself included, for far too long. However, there is also the 'Gael' thing - @Loren Muse Smith - what does "Mona’s IONA KONA" have to do with "Gaels of the N.C.A.A." and 'IONA'?

@G. Weissman = Couldn't agree more that clue [slide presentation]/answer [AMoEBA] are nowhere NEAR each other, hardly even in the same dictionary.

RAD2626 5:06 PM  

Although all of Alan's themers are "upgraded" adjectives I would have laughed at "The Meh Gatsby".

Nancy 6:52 PM  

Catching up with the comments now, I see that others also thought of CHOP before WHIP. I did, too, but something obviously wasn't working and so I corrected fairly quickly. Or else I may have never written it in. Probably the latter. To tell the truth, I don't remember.*

From your lips to God's ear, @Malsdemare (11:12). Thank you.

*See my 9:47 a.m. comment.

David Schinnerer 7:35 PM  

The best part of the review was learning that pompous ass, Michael Sharpe reads these comments, revealed by his admitting that learning what Kaaba was might stop certain comments here.

My favorite quote ever here was “The Sharpe household must be a mirthful one”. Whoever posted that, I am buying if we ever meet.

And I know people have railed on the “anonymous” snipers who post what a dick Mikey is, but i’m Not hiding. He is like the dudes in high school who think hating everything is the only way to sound superior. Get past high school, Mike. There’s enough negative shit in the world.

GILL I. 8:29 PM  

@kitshef. Ahh, yes. The good old POS. Thank you for clarifying.:-)
Gee @David Schinnerer, there is indeed enough negative shit in the world and you just add to the pile. Just say what you really mean.....

Chance 9:47 PM  

I'm not one to carp about the theme, but I think the use of FAIR meaning pretty and not average is the real flat tire.

I had a very hard time parsing > 0 (if it was meant to evoke a second emoji, I fell for the trap) and "beats quickly" for RACES. Clever clues all around!

Let's all just be nice, how about.

Nancy 10:26 PM  

Yes, @JHC, thank you for that wonderful Sunday in the Park link. I saw the show and I'd forgotten that song. @jberg -- If I remember correctly, the Broadway production was taped and shown on PBS. So you may be able to see it. Try to -- Sondheim is a genius and this may be his best work.

Shelby Glidden 11:03 PM  

I wonder where Anonymous would sit in Rex's class.
Back row making spitwads or front row waving her/his hand?

Shelby Glidden 11:09 PM  

Maybe, i can sit next to David and crib off his puzzle.

Maruchka 9:19 AM  

Lalala, love to see a PB anytime, anywhere, anyway. BTW: DS is a young, clever and sophisticated constructor who also doesn't wallow in over-much pop culture. What a relief!

BARBARA JORDAN - if you don't know of her, you've missed a terrific American SOCIAL STUDIES lesson. As Uma Thurman famously said in 'Pulp Fiction' - Ketchup!

Maruchka 10:00 AM  

Oops. Wrong day comment. Ignore, please.

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Burma Shave 9:59 AM  


“I’MSAD but ICANWAIT for some HOT foreplay


@Diana, LIW - It seems that my original count was off by a week, so I was thinking that this upcoming Sunday would be 1000 days in a row. When in fact , after a recount, it appears that last Sunday marked 1000 and today is 1004.

spacecraft 10:39 AM  

I had the same thoughts as OFL about MYAWESOMELADY. It's not "fair" (equitable) to use "fair" (so-so, in keeping with the theme) because the "Fair" in the original title means "beautiful," or even HOT, like DOD ANNA Gunn. Also I agree that there's not a ton of difference between AS [Good] and [GREAT] AS IT GETS. Both expressions seem to put a cap on the goodness, or greatness, while wishing for still better. We illogical humans are NEVER satisfied!

I was struck by the awkward bunching of both consonants (TMAN, LTDS, DIRECTV, MGMLION, ATTN) and vowels (AGEE, IONA, ILIE, ILIED, VITAE, INUIT). TRALA? Well, that's just ugly. Center was the last to fall because I was stuck on food with the clue word "dishes." Minor aha moment on that one. I didn't understand the clue for RACES till I came here--and I have a medical background. OK, the heart. At best the clue's a groaner; at worst it's simply BAD.

On the "uplifting" side, how can I dis a grid that includes old NCC1701 AND its five-year ENGAGEMENT--which, IMSAD, lasted only three? I'm AFRAID it deserves better surroundings, but I still can't score it worse than par. You found my weakness, Alan.

The weekend approaches; ICANWAIT.

thefogman 10:52 AM  

I liked this one. After I caught on to the theme I was able to bust through most of it with ease. I also had a little help from MYAWESOMELADY which is always appreciated. I was almost Naticked at the NAS-ANNA crossing. I took a guess and got it right for the final letter (A) not knowing if it was Anne or Anna Gunn and having almost zero knowledge of rap. Not sure if that kind of cluing is fair. Maybe it's just me...Looking forward to the comments now from the SPECIALPEOPLE (aka fellow Syndies) who frequent this site.

thefogman 10:59 AM  

PS - My final entry was the STRUT, AMEBA, and CUBE area. That variant spelling for amoeba threw me for a bit. And I didn't know the holy Kaaba by name. I like when a puzzle teaches you stuff. It was a bit tricky but not insurmountable. Just right for a Thursday.

rondo 11:55 AM  

Finished the center last, right after the NW which had me confused for a while. That PANCAKE kinda tied it all together. I’ve only seen the bottom two of the uplifted movies; My Fair Lady was on TV just the other night (early A.M. as awakening in the recliner); yeah baby Audrey Hepburn was tremendous.

Speaking of 1960s movies, Cat BALLOU was where I first got YENS and YEARNs for yeah baby Jane Fonda. Hallelujah brother! And a better appreciation for Nat Cole just before his passing. Lee Marvin was just too damn good.

Better than a rebus. As for my comments for today, that’s about ASGREATASITGETS.

LongBeachLer 1:43 PM  

I liked the theme. So sue me.

rainforest 2:10 PM  

This was a pretty good puzzle. I have no patience for those who bleat, "this belongs on (insert day of the week)!". Who cares what day of the week a puzzle appears?

I liked the theme idea, and the four chosen themers were just dandy in my book. Also worth note were some nice downs and a few good clues. Not knowing what the "holy Kaaba" is, and not immediately picking up on the spelling of AMEBA, I briefly considered CUlt for the Kaaba. Har.

Re Rex: As syndies know, I rarely read his posts, but some of the comments led me to read today's. I've come around to the feeling that Michael Sharpe is a pretty good guy. Knows a lot about crossword puzzles...and comic books. Likes dogs and loves his family. I like his politics, except for the adherence to extreme PC he frequently demonstrates. Rex is his alter ego whose "personality" is one that has developed over the ten years of the blog. His personal vendetta with Will Shortz has become tiresome, as has his almost unyielding negativity. Michael Sharpe doesn't seem to be that guy, though.

I must remember what I just said anytime I feel like attacking him/them.

Diana, LIW 2:44 PM  

Congratulations to the bard Burma Shave - 1000 days of poetry and counting.

I thought it was surprisingly "untricky" for a Thursday, but I shan't bleat about it. Of course I enjoyed renaming the movies - sure, it could be "more" elegant if @Rex's suggestions were followed, but it was as elegant as it gets.

I agree with @Rainy about the @Rex persona. I've often said he's the Lewis Black of crosswords. Everyone I've met who has met Michael in person has said he's a nice guy and somewhat self-effacing.

The Natick of AMEBA and CUBE did me in - I wrote in CUrE - not confidently, but I did. Me AMEBAS of Syndieland will understand.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

ramroot 4:52 PM  

How is a Think piece? answer BEAN?? 10 A?

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