Cabbage with crinkly leaves / WED 11-1-17 / Pollutant that's portmanteau / Polynesian finger food / That's son Foghorn Leghorn catchphrase / Lode analysts

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Constructor: Herre Schouwerwou

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium


THEME: ANIMAL / CRACKERS (54A: With 56-Across, lunchbox snacks ... or a hint to the black squares before 18-, 29-, 35- and 45-Across) — those black squares "crack" (?) (as in "break into two pieces) the names of different animals. So:

Theme answers:
  • MCGREGOR ILL ASK
  • PERSIMMON KEYED
  • IN A DAZE BRANAGH
  • STELE PHANTASMS 
Word of the Day: STELE (42A: Engraved pillar) —
A stele (/ˈstli/, STEE-lee) is a stone or wooden slab, generally taller than it is wide, erected in the ancient world as a monument. Grave steles were often used for funerary or commemorative purposes. Stelae as slabs of stone would also be used as ancient Greek and Roman government notices or as boundary markers to mark borders or property lines. // The surface of the stele usually has text, ornamentation, or both. The ornamentation may be inscribed, carved in relief, or painted. (wikipedia)
• • •

Weird. I was taking my time with this one, waiting for the gimmick to present itself, but it never did, and meanwhile I was writing in answers as soon as I looked at clues, zip zing. Couldn't figure out what the hell was going on? Why is my Thursday puzzle so weirdly easy?, I wondered. I finished in the high 3s—very fast for a Thursday ... and then remembered that tomorrow is Wednesday, not Thursday. Thaaaaaat ... actually makes sense now. This theme is essentially invisible, and having the revealer reference the "black squares" actually makes the whole endeavor kind of awkward. Further, those black squares don't "crack" the animals—they *break* them in two. If I crack a plate, it isn't in two pieces. I finished never having seen the damned animals, and then when the revealer told me, "Hey, look!", I looked and didn't care. Those sure are animals. *Broken* animals. Thanks for putting STELE in my grid. Hope you're satisfied.


Weird to have rows 2 and 14 not be themed when their adjacent rows (with identical white/black square patterns) are. AJOKE is a pretty bad partial. I don't really believe SMAZE exists in real life—I have only ever seen it in crosswords (and I spent a good chunk of my young adulthood in southern California). I had NO-GO ZONE instead of AREA at first, despite the fact that the clue has "zone" in it (that's how much better NO-GO ZONE is as an answer) (3D: Forbidden zone). Just watched "Clueless" last week, so STACEY Dash was cake (would've been cake even without the rewatching, to be honest; I know that movie really well). PALSY-walsy is an absurdity, both because people rarely say it in the 21st century, and because the clue word has 80% of the same letters (in the same places) as the answer word. "I HOPE NOT" and "OH COME ON!" are pretty lively answers. But they weren't enough. From a real-time solving standpoint, this was essentially a dull themeless.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. about those successive [Cars are "parked" in it] [Cars are parked in it] clues (49A, 50A). That is very cute, except, *again* from a real-time solving standpoint, the cuteness is not visible—unless you are either a neophyte or a psychopath and solve your crosswords by reading the Across clues in order (?). Successive *Down* clues have a much higher chance of actually being read successively, because successive *Down* clues will often be in the same general section, whereas successive Acrosses *never* are.

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

118 comments:

Anonymous 12:18 AM  

Rag paper is high quality paper. The clue for 4-Across is incorrect.

Anonymous 12:28 AM  

True, unless you’re talking about a newspaper of dubious journalistic integrity. Ambiguous, though, for sure.

puzzlehoarder 12:46 AM  

This only took seconds longer than yesterday's puzzle. Initially I was coming south from the NW but a COMA/DAZE write over at 33A caused me to go clockwise instead.

The west side of the center stair step was not a complete cakewalk. The bigger slow down in the SE was misspelling 37D with a single M and then pluralizing to cross compensate for the missing letter.

Overcoming minor glitches is about all the typical early week will throw at you. They kill very little time and I used to not bother with them. I'm learning now that I missed a lot.

Today I got to practice spelling BRANAGH and be reminded that I know that SAVOY is a cabbage. That is if I have that V first which I did. I enjoy prattling about this stuff too and that's the real reason why I now do the whole week regularly.

After solving I did figure out the theme.

Anonymous 1:06 AM  

Wait, why am I a neophyte or a psychopath for doing the Across clues in order?

Anonymous 1:09 AM  

Paper as in newspaper. A gossipy tabloid may be called a rag.

Anonymous 1:24 AM  

You are not. Lots of people solve that way.

Dave Hogg 1:56 AM  

I do all the Across clues, all the Down clues and then fill from there. Hopefully, that makes me a neophyte and not a psychopath.

Anonymous 1:56 AM  

Not every one is psychologically concerned about shaving seconds off solving time.

Larry Gilstrap 2:00 AM  

One clever theme wasted on this solver. The black squares are doing something before certain answers and I'm not sure what that has to do with ANIMAL CRACKERS. Hey, all the squares are filled, I'm spiking my pencil, and moving on. It was a very busy day is no defense for my carelessness.

I once had a girlfriend who did a terrific imitation of Foghorn Leghorn. She would curl up her face and say, "That's A JOKE, son." Endearing is an understatement. Not so much when that face turned POUTY.

Two nits: BRINY and Sea are synonymous in what colloquialism? 7A is an awkward cross reference, especially with that town line clue for ESTD lurking below. City limits are what we call them in these here parts, son! And that's no joke. It seems AGASSI has himself squared away. I wonder if Steffi imitates cartoon characters. I hope so.

Remember when you first started doing the puzzle and you learned all these new words? STELE where have you been lately? So much more than a pilaster.

tkincher 2:02 AM  

The clue for POP threw me. There was also the abundant initialism in one corner: HMS, LSTS, RCMP... but mainly, my last square to fall was the the SMAZE (?) and SAVOY crossing. (Had SAVOY had a Beatles-related clue, it would have fallen faster.)

I also did not see the theme, until coming here. I thought it was going to be shape-related, then forgot to look back at it until coming here. Enjoyed it mostly, though.

chefwen 2:52 AM  

The theme was lost to me also and I even went back to look for it. DOH! Muttered, I finished, but I don’t get the theme. Husband says “so who cares” I do. Why? Because I finished, but I didn’t get it so I didn’t finish. Major eye roll was not appreciated.

Other than the evasive theme pretty easy after I worked around a couple of the actors.

Loren Muse Smith 4:10 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Loren Muse Smith 4:11 AM  

Rex, you said, “I finished never having seen the damned animals, and then when the revealer told me, "Hey, look!", I looked and didn't care.” Exact opposite of my reaction. I was delighted. On two fronts:

*…that Herre had deftly slipped the theme in right under my nose. Right under my nose, and I couldn’t see it until I allowed myself to look at the reveal. Hah!
*…that it’s a different take on breaking words up, using the black square and not just a gap between words in a phrase. ( Like DOW INDEX to break wind.)

Wanted “loonie” but changed it to TOONIE for STELE.

The disdain shown for people who liked the two parked car clues startled me. @Z may argue that it was meant to be tongue-in-cheek. If this is the case, I’d say the delivery needs some tweaking.

Herre – I really, really liked this puzzle. Nice job.

A Martin 5:27 AM  

Another who wonders why going across first is a sign of a psychopath. Having done crosswords for close to seventy years, I dom't think I can call myself a neophyte.

Nice Guy Pete 5:29 AM  


I'm not a neophyte but I like to solve in my victim's blood.

S. Pruitt 5:30 AM  

Not sure if smaze is a thing, either. But wouldn't a more accurate clue be "Pollutant that's a portmanteau of a portmanteau?" That is: fog + smoke = smog; smog + haze = smaze.

But with Rex, I tend toward smaze denial!

BarbieBarbie 5:41 AM  

I’m 100% in the @LMS camp for this one. A fun romp with a reveal that made me hesitate and then laugh. My definition of a great puzzle. More please!
@LMS, break wind, har...
Thanks @Anons early, for explaining the “rag” clue. Misdirected me all the way to now.
Easy, by time, and this was an evening with uncoordinated fingers putting letters in the wrong squares.
Smaze is new to me and seems like an unnecessary word since smoke is already hazy and smog is already hazy from the “og.” What is it?

BarbieBarbie 5:51 AM  

Whoa Rex, I just re-read your “parked” complaint. Invalid for sure. Most people see the clues printed out in a stack, no matter what oder they solve in, and whenever successive clues are the sameor have a lot of overlap, it creates an instant of cognitive dissonance that makes you look twice to be sure you’re on the right number. Of course people notice-unless they are solving with some kind of app that serves up only the clue they need AND makes it easy to solve geographically instead of listwise. Hint: that’s not a majority of solvers. It’s not even a majority of well-adjusted solvers.

Muscato 5:57 AM  

Add me to the crowd, and blame my mother who taught me crosswords - I honestly didn't know there was any other way than starting with the acrosses and then going for the downs. How else does one go at it? Seems awfully clumsy to solve by sector, but if it works for our host (and it clearly does), more power to him...

Ted Cole 6:42 AM  

Really liked this one, too.

Anonymous 6:45 AM  

Another vote for going through all the acrosses. If I really want faster times, I solve all the downs first as I don't have to deal with the ambiguous theme clues. Solving by section is likely faster if you are into that thing. So better to be an experienced solver psychopath than an obsessive-neurotic speed solver. Hah! @LMS If you stay a bit in Canada, it is hard to forget that two loonies make a Toonie. Today was a shout-out to Canada with RCMP as well. All that was lacking was hockey and poutine.

Lewis 6:47 AM  

There is no right or wrong way to go through the grid solving a puzzle. If you're a speed solver, yes, there are more and less successful ways. But there are no rules overall, and whatever floats your boat is the way to go, IMO.

Would Herre (or someone who definitely knows) come in and say how "Herre Schouwerwou" is pronounced?

This was a solid outing to me, with some nice clues (i.e. PONE and SON) and answers (HEYDAY, HAMMER AT), and just-right Wednesday resistance. I like the diagonal line dividing the grid. The theme was cute and well executed. It brought back memories, as I haven't thought about animal crackers in a long time, and as a kid, I was a big fan. Now that I think about it, why didn't anyone come up with plant crackers? Or Presidential crackers? Or car crackers? Or safe crackers?

TonySaratoga 7:11 AM  

How could disdain in this blog startle anyone?

Jenny E.M. 7:16 AM  

LSTS plus RCMP, ugh. That really ruined it for me. I'd never heard of LSTS before, and I guess I have heard of RCMP but would never have thought of it given the initials only. I had SSTS for 53D, having seen that in crosswords before and knowing they were some sort of war vehicle, and then having 52A dependent on 52D created a real bind. I had _OYAS, leading me to "Hoyas? As in the Georgetown basketball team? Maybe there's a northeastern college basketball conference called the HCMP?" Too many initials.

Exubesq 7:17 AM  

Well, there was pouty.

Anonymous 7:18 AM  

For a more civil, informative, and constructive discussion of today's NYT puzzle, go to Deb Amlen's blog.

Hungry Mother 7:18 AM  

Very fast for a Wednesday for me. Not that anyone should care, but I start with the acrosses until I am stumped (usually soon) and then work the downs for a while. The rest is haphazard.

Robert A. Simon 7:23 AM  

Here'a how I solve:
1, Look for fill-in-the-blanks.
2. Proper nouns.
3. Get out my paperback Dell Crossword dictionary, which I bought in 1964 when I was a junior in high school. It cost $2.95, and is one of the first five non-living things I would take out of a burning house.
4. Okay, okay. Here are the other four:
--my 8" chef's knife
--my first Clio
--my Wilson Gil Hodges model first-baseman's mitt from Little League
--the 1/4-cup metal scoop with the chipped red and white wooden handle that I used to fill the family sugar bowl. It was the first chore I remember doing. When our mom died and it was time to divvy up the household items, my sister and I flipped a coin to see who went first. She won, and took the baby grand Steinway. I took the scoop, but insisted I also get the wonderfully over-sized spoon that Mom used to make her soups and stews. My sister gave me a very odd look and took the silver. To this day, she thinks she got the good stuff.

kitshef 7:24 AM  

Crossing I HOPE NOT with OH COME ON is simply terrible. To then put ILL ASK right next door … I was tempted to quite right there.

I am glad I stuck around, because the rest of the puzzle was nice enough. Cute theme, decent fill (he said, while looking daggers at SMAZE), learned some things.

So overall, D plus? But here’s hoping the constructor becomes truly famous, so we can see HERRESCHOUWERWOU as a 14x16 grid-spanner.

Anonymous 7:30 AM  

Dow futures up 135. This aint Obama's economy (thank goodness).

kitshef 7:38 AM  

Isn't it odd that animal crackers are called 'crackers', when they are clearly cookies?

@Lewis: Presidential crackers - https://www.dickandjanebakingco.com/presidents

QuasiMojo 7:39 AM  

Plates crack in half all the time, Rex. What on earth were you thinking? And a lot of us solve crosswords by doing the Across ones first. Sometimes I really do think you're "Clueless" -- especially for watching that movie even once.

This puzzle, despite the weak ROYAL/RCMP spot, deserves some credit for being ambitious. A for EFFORT.

Mary Ambridge 7:44 AM  

What the heck is PALSY-walsy? Why not Cerebral _____?

Cassieopia 7:46 AM  

@robert 7:23, what a lovely story.

Dan Murphy 7:55 AM  

If you use a dictionary on a puzzle you're not allowed to tell people that you successfully solved it.

Cassieopia 7:58 AM  

Enjoyed the puzzle although DNF because I’d heard only of loonies, and slele seemed right up the alley with other weird crosswords such as iamb, oed, amo. Had to come here to understand the theme; I wanted the black squares to be a word or make a shape. For the life of me I couldn’t figure out what Branagh and phantasm (phantastic word, btw!) had to do with each other or animals. Now that the trick has been explained, I wish I’d hung on a bit longer for the win...although toonie would have still sunk me.

I sooooo wanted magma or lava for melted marshmallows. I’ve burnt my mouth on that stuff more times than I care to remember.

What a nice Wednesday puzzle, I don’t even mind the DNF as it was done fairly. And I really enjoyed the freshness of the words. Thank you Herre!

DuPont Dow IV 8:00 AM  

I don't solve the acrosses first nor do I solve the downs first either. No, my manservant Manolo solves the puzzle for me because I am extremely wealthy.

chefbea 8:10 AM  

finished the puzzle but did not get the theme!!!

pmdm 8:31 AM  

A Jeff Chen POW and what do we get here? Overthinking the word "cracked;" greatly insulting solvers who solve differently than you do (intolerance to the nth degree). Unless the write-up is tongue-in-cheek, would many think it was written by a psychopath? Ugly.

I thought the puzzle was cute. But the clue for 58D? You decline the present tense of "to love" in Latin as follows: amo, amas, amat, amamus, amatis, amant. A sextet, not a trio. True, the singular forms do form a trio, but in Latin class (as least my Latin class) you learned the different tenses as a sextet, not a trio. Did those of you who studied Latin in school have the same experience?

Lewis 8:34 AM  

@robert -- Fantastic post!
@kitshef -- Hah! Thank you for that!
@DuPont -- Hah!

Z 8:45 AM  

Regarding "neophyte or psychopath:" These are crossword puzzles. The whole point is that words cross. To solve linearly suggests a level of naiveté about efficient and effective solving. Perhaps you just don't care and want to solve the way you solve, but your solving method is still that of a neophyte. Note that "Downs-only" solving is a thing, a way to raise the challenge level of easy puzzles. This is, somewhat confusingly, a more advanced solving style, but still one that (intentionally) takes the "cross" out of crossword. Heathens.

@LMS - I don't think Rex was criticizing people for liking the clues, he was pointing out that the charming wordplay of consecutive "alike" clues is lost on most solvers if you do consecutive across clue. Indeed, I thought I had erred when I got to the western clue and only then noticed that, no, it was a repeat. I do think the "psychopath" addition was intended as hyperbolic humor.

@anon12:18 and 12:28 - This is a feature, not a bug, aimed specifically at people who know that rag paper is high quality. I had forgotten that fact so the more plebeian usage got me to the desired answer easily.

Two Ponies 8:51 AM  

Wow, I haven't had this much fun with a puzzle in ages.

At first I was annoyed by the casual conversational answers but then I relaxed and savored the fun. Fabulous revealer I never saw until the end. That's the way it's supposed to play, right?

If you live in or near a big city you've probably said at least once in your life that "the I-95 was a parking lot today!"

Any puzzle that has Foghorn Leghorn in it is OK by me.

Hey day or hay day? Palsy-walsy was very familiar to me but I'm old.

Japan and persimmons caught my eye, who knew?

Whether you are a fan of Kenneth Branagh or not you would love him in the Harry Potter movie (Sorceror's Stone I believe). He usually seems so full of himself but in this role he uses that big ego with such a sense of humor that he steals the show. Wonderful to see the comic side of an actor who is usually so serious as he makes fun of himself.

I have gotten so many good referrals on this blog for books, movies, and music that I would like to make a recommendation. "Mr. Holmes" with Ian McKellen. I won't do a synopsis or review but there are people here who I am certain would love it.

Sir Hillary 9:07 AM  

I really enjoyed the theme. Broken vs. cracked is an issue? Whatever.

Second puzzle in a row with some nice long downs as connective tissue. OHCOMEON looks extremely weird, especially going down.

For some reason, I frequently get Ewan MCGREGOR and Kenneth BRANAGH confused.

Awesome clue for SON.

SMAZEing that such a non-word makes it into a grid. And PALSY-walsy? OHCOMEON!

mathgent 9:21 AM  

I'm not a speed solver and go through all the clues in order and fill in the gimmes. That's enjoyable for me. It gives me an idea of the shape of the puzzle. If it has a theme, I see the revealer early.

I'm not offended by Rex calling me a psychopath. I know that he's kidding. He really loves me.

I liked Rex's term, "Invisible theme."

Some of us geezers will remember "That's a joke, son" as Senator Claghorn's line on Allen's Alley.

The theme was OK, but I found a lot of things to dislike in the puzzle. Too many Terrible Threes (22). Very little wit in the cluing. Things like IHOPENOT, ILLASK, OHCOMEON.

I went to a Jesuit university and took a course in Thomistic-Aristoteleon philosophy every semester. PHANTASM has a technical meaning there. It's part of the process of forming an idea.

Nancy 9:24 AM  

I missed the theme entirely, too. Since I don't read Rex, I picked up the fact that there was a theme with @Larry Gilstrap's early comment, then went back to Rex to see what the theme was. It's a nice theme, a very nice theme, in fact -- but it was entirely wasted on me. I found this a bit harder than usual Wednesday (a good thing), but with many, many 3-letter words and what seemed like a lot of names (a bad thing.) I was screwed up for a bit in the SE, because I had RMCP instead of RCMP at 52D and I had carelessly put in PHANTomss (don't ask) instead of PHANTASMS at 46D. This gave me GAS-somethingorother at 37D, which sure looked like it was going to be right. Thought the clue for SON (21D)was great, btw; wish they'd all been like that. And I wish I'd noticed the theme; I would have appreciated the puzzle a lot more.

Hartley70 9:26 AM  

I'm feeling a bit CRACKERS myself today after Rex bashed my occasional solving method, but word of warning...don't mess with the psychopaths, Rex. Today you managed to insult both the constructor and the solvers.

This was a charming puzzle, Herre. I needed the reveal to see the animals in the grid, but was delighted with the trick.

Reference to yesterday: See MCGREGOR, the name begins with MC and the man is a SCOT.

Mohair Sam 9:39 AM  

A fine puzzle with the exception of BOOED at 19A. Riding the ump is "Hey Blue, you're missing a great game out there", not BOO.

@Nice Guy Pete (5:29) - I have no idea why I can't stop chuckling at your post.

@Kitshef (7:28) Excellent point on ANIMAL CRACKERS. Never thought of it.

@Robert A. Simon - I hear ya. I was fourth and last in line when we divvied up my mother's un-willed goodies (I was youngest and my siblings hated me because Mom loved me most). My first pick a then 100-year-old jar top opening gizmo. They thought I was nuts - but that sucker sits in my kitchen drawer today and has never ever failed. And on Gil Hodges? Hah, I got his autograph when I was in Little League - eat your heart out.

Nancy 9:45 AM  

Rex has just called my good friend, @mathgent, a psychopath???? Where was that? How did I miss it? So I went back to Rex, only learn that he'd called me a psychopath, too! And maybe you. And you. And you. His comment about the order in which you should solve and the conclusion he comes to if you don't is beyond ridiculous. FWIW, I also solve in order, until or unless I get stuck, and then I go somewhere else. You might call people who solve in order, let's see now...

Organized
Deliberate
Linear thinkers
Plodding
Unimaginative
Dependable

But hardly psychopaths. So to everyone here who solves in order whenever you can: don't worry your pretty little heads about it! Rex has really lost his everlovin' mind.

Crocodillo 9:47 AM  

WTF is that video Rex? I thought I was in for treat listening to Karen Carpenter's perfect voice and I get this crap?!? Epic fail.

Anonymous 9:54 AM  

Count me in the across then down solvers. I may be a psychopath, but at least I'm not an asshole.

GILL I. 9:54 AM  

I was afraid of being rusty - not having done puzzles for a while, and while I'm psychopathologically challenged, I managed to get her done and enjoyed every minute of it....!
I had to finish her first and then go looking for the chocolate truffle. I found it looking at GORILLA. What a treat; what a clever and fun puzzle.
I just have one question because it made me want to scratch my head and perhaps pour me a drink. 40D. Does it mean there are 400,000 CHURCHes in the USofA? Can you pluralize CHURCH? And how does one know how many we have? Seemed like a very odd clue to me. I also get confused on HEY vs hay and I went with the cattle eating variety so the Canadian coin stayed as a TOONIA which didn't make sense but I don't really understand Canada and why they pay such high taxes. Well, almost as high as California now that Moon Beam thought it was high time to raise the gas tax by 12cents a gallon. I'm going back to ABQ.
@Robert A. Your story made me smile. My youngest sister wanted my Mother's silverware - it was quite beautiful and was handed down to her from my great grandmother. I said sure, you can have it. She hates it now because she has to polish it all the time. Ha Ha.

Stanley Hudson 10:17 AM  

A fun puzzle with a clever theme.

I tend to solve by region but in a rather haphazard manner. More idiopathic than psychopathic, perhaps.

Two Ponies 10:21 AM  

@ GILL I.
I wondered the same thing earlier re: hey or hay.
Hay makes more sense to me as in "make hay while the sun shines."
Hey just is an attention-getter like "hey you" as I see it.

@ Mohair 9:39, I have to confess that I chuckled at that joke as well but sometimes the Venn diagram of what I think is funny and what will send me to hell is a circle!

Joseph Michael 10:21 AM  

Fun puzzle and a particularly annoying review today by Rex. The themers have a "crack" through them. It's a witty concept with a great revealer. Took me a while to see what was going on and then had a satisfying aha moment when the GORILLA jumped out at me.

What's "psychopathic" is searching relentlessly for what's wrong in every puzzle, overthinking trivial details, and complaining that crossword rules you arbitrarily made up have been broken.

Sorry to rant, but your critique of this and many other puzzles is petty, unfair, and an insult to a talented constructor who obviously put a lot of thought and work into the effort.

Thanks, Herre, for a great Wednesday workout.

Heloise 10:23 AM  

Silver that is stored in an airtight container will stay bright after you polish it.

Anonymous 10:27 AM  

@Heloise - Silver tarnishes because of contact with sulfur in the air. If you weren't Satan, you wouldn't exude enough sulfur to ruin your silver.

kitshef 10:32 AM  

@Two Ponies - the Harry Potter movie you are thinking of is Chamber of Secrets.

And it really is heyday, and it comes from 'hey'. Nothing to do with hay - nor with day, for that matter.

cristiano valli 10:38 AM  

why solving crosswords by reading the Across clues in order makes me a neophyte or a psychopath, exactly?

GHarris 10:41 AM  

Hi palsy walsies. This was easy peesy. Didn’t drive me crackers, required no hammerin. Gonna record my triumph on a stele and burnish my phi beta kappa key.

Tita A 10:42 AM  

Great stories from the gallery today...thanks!

Nobody noticed the turtle in the grid? First thing I saw when I opened the puzzle. Have they added a turtle to the ANIMAL CRACKER menagerie?

GAMMARAYS reminded me of Radium Girls, which I read recently. While they were harmful, it was the alpha rays that got ingested by the young instrument dial painters that did the most, and most gruesome, damage.

Imagine Rex saying that sentence around the kitchen table or bar. Imagine yourself saying it. Sheesh...it's just hyperbole, folks. I don't even think that it rises to the level of his oft-used technique of grenade-lobbing.

Having said that, I used to be a psychopath, when I was more of a neophyte. I disciplined myself to do all the acrosses in order, not looking at the downs for corroboration. The. Do all the downs, then, and only then, would I bounce around the grid to fill in the holes.

My favorite thing when I finally let loose and solved by sectors is that on a particularly tough puzzle, I would invariably find a clue that I had overlooked, and that clue often helps.

It's hard to hate a puzzle based on ANIMAL CRACKERS. They were a rare treat on our house. I just loved the little box, and the little ribbon that turns Box into purse.

Thanks, HS!



Tita A 10:49 AM  

@GHarris...it's palsies walsy.

221b BakerSt 10:49 AM  

When I was a neophyte, I learned to solve one section at a time out of necessity-often alternating across and down to make sure I was on the right track. So much more fun (and less frustrating!) to watch those little staircases form when I was on a roll :)
My jam is inferring answers to make up for the gaps in my knowledge, and this gets me through much better than focusing on some of the potential gimmes that I somehow refuse to learn. My focus is rarely speed, though an occasional low-end time makes me feel like one of the cool kids. And if I'm being honest, by the late week, I'm just trying to fight my way through. Ack!

As a kid, I thought you were "supposed to" do Acrosses first. Yikes! So that's why I thought I hated Crosswords!!

James Marrow 11:02 AM  

@ Dan Murphy 7:55, I do hope you're kidding. If not, bullisht. He can tell people whatever he wants to.

@ Robert 7:23, I agree with Cassieopia. Wonderful story. You mom obviously raised you to value the important things in life. I love to do the dishes as an adult because my mom often asked me for help with the dishes when I was a kid, and I treasure those moments and our conversations.

Anonymous 11:05 AM  

Personal suddenly connected memories: An advice column that began with "Dear Abby, I am twelve years old and still a virgin" passed with little excitement. A later column that insisted there was the "right" way to mount toilet paper, insisting it should roll out from the bottom. Suitably struck and amazed, Abby reported a flood responses. More readers argued about over vs. under than any other issue... how to best get ready tissue for a proper wipe.

Here we go! The across vs. Downs! Deep passions astonishingly placed!

Joe Bleaux 11:14 AM  

Once again, the egregious absence of a "like" button or a Twitter ❤️

cristiano valli 11:14 AM  

@Z

"Regarding "neophyte or psychopath:" These are crossword puzzles. The whole point is that words cross."

the point is solving it, it's not a race. reading it sequentially has the advantage that once I finished I don't have to go back to read clues again, I memorized them.

also, don't need the downs to check my crosses. that sounds like a rookie move... something like... using a pencil!

Always be honest 11:16 AM  

James Marrow 11:02 -- I hope Dan's not kidding, because he's absolutely right.

Anon 11:16 AM  

A little trouble top middle. Had ELEV for ESTD, and didn't know SAVOY, or get AMITY.

evil doug 11:21 AM  

Am I the only one who thinks of this place as a writer's workshop/improv class/Halloween party?

I don't think the real Michael is the same as Rex--except when he goes off on a political tangent which, thankfully, he seems to have learned to avoid since it only detracts from puzzle chat.

You may even be surprised to learn that many people find me to be a pleasant, genial, Good Neighbor Doug instead of the slimeball role I occasionally play here to keep my creative juices flowing and to find some friggin' way to tolerate the frequent inane crap most of you dish out (See how I did that? How easily I assumed my alter ego so I could enjoy being the character my wife would tolerate for about 1.6 seconds before smacking me if I was lucky?).

So enjoy the Rex hyperbole. He's actually pretty clever as a writer - - if you don't get wrapped around the axle by taking him too seriously...morons....

Joe Bleaux 11:24 AM  

Females ALWAYS over, males under: Urban legend?

jb129 11:31 AM  

Finished the puzzle, then got the theme.... I liked it!

Masked and Anonymous 11:32 AM  

Liked it. Puztheme reminded me a bit of a Manny Nosowsky NYTPuz from back in 10 Feb 2000.
"Crackers" worked, for m&e.

Us neophyte masked psychopaths tend to savor all aspects of their puz while a-solvin it. Them two "cars are parked" clues stood out like a cracked-open elephantasm, just because they were right there together in the (printed version) Across clue list, and obviously looked so similar.

fave cross: POUTY/CHURCH. One of about 1 such crosses, in this WedPuz. Really admired the BOAT clue, btw. Didn't know the BRANAGH half-zebra dude.

@RP: Get a grip, nhu breath. It's Wednesday. har

Thanx, Mr. Sch. Fun solvequest.

Masked & AnonymoUs

Anonymous 11:32 AM  

Yea, my future earnings are projected to be $100 Billion.
You can say anything about phantom futures.

Tom 11:33 AM  

Obama saved the economy, doofus. It has been climbing steadily since the actions he took to bring it back from the brink. He laid the foundation that is allowing the continuing rise. It has very little to do with Anything T Rump is doing. But don’t sweat it, Darnold will figure out a way to screw it up.

tkincher 11:38 AM  

@evil doug: I agree, I think that cranky old Rex uses a pseudonym for just that reason. It’s a bit.

old timer 11:43 AM  

Geez! I figured OFL tries to get the top acrosses then uses them to solve the downs left to right. It's what I do *if* I can get those top acrosses, which today I did. Never bothered to figure out the theme though.

DavidL 11:45 AM  

The revealer clue only referred to one of two split up answers. So I'm thinking, ..."BLACK ILL ASK"? "BLANK ILL ASK"? and WTF does it have to do with animal crackers?

I might have spent the rest of my life staring at this completed grid and not seen split up animals, so I came here.

So now I get it. Very mildly cute, but totally unconnected with the solving experience.

RooMonster 11:52 AM  

Hey All !
Psychopath here! I always see Across first, then Down in order, then go back and randomly fill from there. I actually like to read each clue, even when the answer auto-fills. So I must be extra psychotic. (The voices!)

Add me to the not-grokking-theme group. Couldn't see the "CRACKED" ANIMALS. Even after the Revealer.

Had some writeovers, had lOONIE first, but actually knew STELE, so took TOONIE on faith. HEYDeY, why not? BRINe-BRINY, had KRAFT, but thought COIF was ClIp, so changed to KRApT, chuckled, then saw BlAT wasn't working, and ended up changing everything to the correct answers. Oh, one more GAMMetes-GAMMARAY.

Overall, good puz, but theme seemed to be lost to a bunch of us. Was it ALL A JOKE? :-)

BOOED BRR
RooMonster
DarrinV

Larry Gilstrap 1:05 PM  

I solve like a bacteria spreading across a Petri dish filled with an agar-based growth medium.

joannamauselina 1:05 PM  

I guess I’m a psychopath, because I do the acrosses in order and then the downs, and try to see how much puzzle I can get done before going back. I’m usually only a total winner on Mondays. On Sundays, I am not a psychopath.

QuasiMojo 1:19 PM  

@evil doug 11:21, I think you are right. "Rex" is just pulling our chains. Sometimes it feels like he's deliberately parodying us and/or his reputation as a curmudgeon. I guess after 11 years or so of churning this blog out day after day one has to spice it up in order to make it worth the effort.

Teedmn 1:22 PM  

With this new, internet-based life many of us are living, I have lost my ability to stick to acrosses first, downs second solving unless using @r.alphbunker's app which lets you hide one or the other set of clues. I have become a rather scattershot solver which seems more related to being a psychopath than the other, more-orderly type of solving.

@Tita, I love, love, love that feeling when I'm down for the count on a tough themeless and I stumble across a heretofore overlooked clue, especially when it CRACKs open the grid. It happened to me recently on a Saturday Stumper and I thought, "Where have you been hiding this whole solve?"

@Lewis, Safe CRACKERS' crackers, har!

This was easy except for my inability to spell MaGREGOR or BRANAtH at first. The first was easily fixed, (though, @Hartley70, you can see I was trying to make him a Mac Scot). The second one had me wondering what tAM__RAY radiation was. At that point, I was stuck on A____, son, and had missed the quotes of "parked" in the 49A clue. So I decided to go back to the theme and figure it out to see if it helped. I was picturing the truncated animal parts were lurking in the black squares so I started writing down GOR, ZE, MON, when suddenly my eye lit upon the end of MCGREGOR and voila, theme revealed. I went back and circled the poor, cracked CRACKERS and had an aha on JAM and finished with a SPLASH.

GOOd stuff, Mr. Schouwerwou!

Nancy 1:26 PM  

@kitshef (7:38) -- I was about to say I think I remember that when I was a child, ANIMAL CRACKERS weren't sweet, that they were indeed crackers and not cookies. Then I remembered how the other day, right here on this blog, I got the winner of the 1954 Best Actress Oscar and my strong emotional reaction to it at the time bass-ackwards. So rather than risk another memorable misremembering, I'm going to pull an Emily Litella re animal crackers and just say "Never mind."

Paul Rippey 1:26 PM  

SMAZE instantly reminded me of one of Lord Buckley's things, "My Own Railroad". He says, early on, "And I was drinking of the good juice. Suddenly I decided that I'd go to the Club Deliza. I didn't want to go to the Club Deliza. But I had to go somewhere. So I'm going up State Street, in this elongated car, and there's a sweet dew wild crazy illiterate smooth cruddy smaze on the street."

But - not everyone will know that reference...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S0tCJKVySWI

Anonymous 1:46 PM  

Smoke + haze

Anonymous 1:51 PM  

Agree. It seems more than a few people take this so seriously they lose any enjoyment from solving a puzzle

Richard 1:53 PM  

The reveal was useful to me in solving, from just the clue. When I saw the clue, I looked at 17 and 18 across and saw the split with "gorilla." I then realized that the reveal was "animal crackers" and I also used this knowledge to get the answer to 45 across. I liked this puzzle a lot due to what I perceive as an interesting and novel theme. To me, this was far from a dull puzzle.

Mike 2:02 PM  

VAUDEVILLE, PALSY-WALSY heck even AGASSI feels so old. What a boring lame puzzle, and STELE crossing TOONIE sucks. After 3 years of everyday NYTCW I’m starting to understand Rex’ general POV.

Anonymous 2:23 PM  

@Anon 1:46 is right.

Fred Romagnolo 2:36 PM  

Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 4: "You cannot call it love, for at your age/ The HEYDAY in the blood is tame" meaning excitement. @Lewis: my best guess is Shoovervoo FWIW. I start with 1 Across, then check downs; then progress to the next Across & ditto: on M T W, I start with downs only, no crosschecks, then go to the Acrosses. That makes me "normal," I guess (there are those who would question that). Isn't "psychopath" politically incorrect? Shouldn't it be "reality-challenged?" Shame on you, Rex!

Shelby Glidden 2:44 PM  

Rex has indicated that it's quicker to solve a puzzle
(once one was established a toehold) with any means at hand (including immediate use of downs.) Whether he has ever solved a puzzle using only acrosses remains a matter of conjecture. ��

Carola 2:47 PM  

Very cute! I really puzzled over the theme - had to put the paper aside and then come back to it. At that point, for some reason, KEY popped out of the grid and triggered a glance back to see the complementary MON. Loved how nicely the ANIMALS are hidden.

Solving method:
M and T: See how far I can get doing Acrosses only, resort to Downs only in dire need.
W, Th, F, Sa: Criss-cross from 1A on.
Su: Look for first "for sure" cross and solve from there, no skipping around or looking ahead at clues allowed.

@Two Ponies, Gilderoy Lockhart is also one of my favorite characters - makes me laugh right now to recall Branagh's priceless preening.

Lewis 2:57 PM  

Regarding pronunciation of Herre's name, here's what he says on WordPlay:

"I get that question a lot believe it or not. I pronounce it as "Harry Skower-wow". Of course my relatives in The Netherlands might pronounce it completely differently.

As Deb mentioned, I had written about that when my first crossword was published. Here's the link. The original response is under the NYT Picks tab.
https://wordplay.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/01/14/put-in-for-extra-time/

Trombone Tom 3:08 PM  

Another psycho here. And hand up for having to do a double take on RAG as my first thought was the old Crane paper ads in the New Yorker.

This wonderful puzzle gave me quite a bit of resistance and I'm sure I went through it a couple of dozen times to finally nail it. But, like some of you, I completely missed the theme until I came here.

I am a member of the Order of the COIF, a somewhat obscure legal honor society.

@Gill I, I went by Costco yesterday and the gas lines were outta sight in anticipation of the tax change. We can only hope and pray that the pols in Sacramento will actually apply some of this to road maintenance.

I join the chorus in praising Herre Schouwerwou and simultaneously requesting that he teach us how to properly pronounce his name.

I enjoyed the selection of words in the puzzle: MOLTEN, PERSIMMON, SITAR, PHANTASMS. Great Wednesday puz.

Trombone Tom 3:19 PM  

Oh, and RCMP was a gimme for those of us who were glued to our radios listening to the adventures of Sgt. Preston and his wonderdog, King.

Mohair Sam 3:30 PM  

@Two Ponies & @Carola - Favorite Branagh in this house is his turn in "Dead Again" with his then wife Emma Thompson. Although we still doubt the man's judgement in divorcing her.

Tita A 3:31 PM  

@Gill... I'm not very popular when I say this, but gasoline is still too cheap.
When I see those ^%$@ing trucks driving around town carrying only a billboard. When a plane flies above the beaches pulling a sign to save 15% on insurance. When the soccer mom or dad has the engine running on the 8-cylinder SUV.

Put the extra revenue towards alt energy, mass transit, bridge repair...
The problem is that we're so bad at using tax revenue wisely. Oh - and the fossil fuel industry, who would rather live in the dark ages then innovate and lead.

Sorry for the rant. Can you tell it's one of my major concerns? I'll stay tuned to see how well California does with this experiment.

Bob Mills 3:33 PM  

SMAZE? Really?

thursdaysd 4:27 PM  

I am neither a neophyte nor a psychopath. I do not solve worrying about how fast I am, I solve for pleasure. Plus, I grew up solving English cryptics. Solving those for speed would mark you as a psychopath, perhaps, solving across and then down, perfectly reasonable.

jberg 4:47 PM  

Back from 10 days in Belize, where it rained 13 inches and was cloudy over for 7 days of the 10, but I still a) got a sunburn, and b) had a great time. If you want to go, search for SabreWing Travel.

Oh, the puzzle -- I'm very late, so I'll just say that:

-I loved it.
-I solve by doing acrosses in order until I get one, then working the downs from that answer until I get one, then working the acrosses from THAT one. Only if I can't get any of the crosses do I back up to the last one I got and go on from there. Anyone who does it differently is a raving loonie -- or, if there are two of you a TOONIE. (Since some seem puzzled -- the one dollar coin is a loonie because there is a picture of a loon on it; toonie for the two is just an extension of that).
-haze plus for = HOG
-I would have fallen for the trap of complaining about rag paper's being high quality if I hadn't got here so late.
-Funniest comment of the day is @Nancy's 'since I never read Rex...' (paraphrased)
-Political comment of the day: I'm with @Tita on gas.

Aketi 4:50 PM  

@Rex, somehow that off-KEYED remake of a Carpenter TOONIE turned my POUTY mouth upside down on a Wednesday when it's cold enough to make me go BRR and the world seems to have gone sufficient CRACKERS that I have temporarily retreated indoors.

@Robert 7:23 am, great choices.

@Tita, right now, having almost had to dodge a truck had my destination been a mere 18 blocks further south on the Hudson Parkway yesterday, I'm appreciating the adjective you used to describe them. (I know, I know, trucks don't kill people, people do. But I'm entitled to a moment of hating them and even more of a moment of despising the coward that drove it.) May the Argentines who passed me on the bike path yesterday and met their demise as well as the other victims Rest In Peace. May the Argentine who passed me did survive and others who were injured recover quickly.

Here I thought a pathway supposedly free of motorized vehicle traffic was safer than riding through midtown traffic. Thankfully the headwind was so bad yesterday that very few bicyclists were cycling south on the Pathway. On a warmer less windy day it would have been so much worse.

FYI, @Nancy, I just looked at the stats on bicycles killing pedestrians and the total is 0 this year. So I'm still happy to continue to be your human shield in Central Park.

Aketi 4:56 PM  

@Larry Gilstrap, your solving method inverted my POUTY face even more.

Joe Dipinto 5:13 PM  

Wow -- I can't even fathom the concept of doing all the clues in one direction first. The whole point is that each filled-in answer helps you get the answers intersecting it, so you look at those next. And you keep going back and forth and around the grid thusly.

It would never occur to me to do it another way. It must take ages longer.

A Martin 5:21 PM  

I will admit I do it differently electronically than on paper. Actually before the cursor was being moved when I came to the end of a word, I liked working from the bottom up. Now I tend to go across first, while noting the downs. Depending on the format toggling can be as much of a time waster as clicking "next" or the equivilent.

GILL I. 5:43 PM  

@Trombone...Crazy isn't it....!
@Tita. Compared to maybe Europe,our gas prices are somewhat low. The difference is that if I lived in Spain now, I probably wouldn't own a car - or, for that matter, If I lived in NYC. See, they have decent infrastructure. You can take a bus, train or metro. You walk to get your groceries, you walk to your favorite restaurant, you walk to just walk. Not in California. We are totally dependent on our cars. If I wanted to, I couldn't even take a bus to downtown. This isn't the first tax increase in order to better our roads. What's even more dubious, is that we don't even know if the tax increase money will in fact go to repair the roads that it's intended for. Special interest and "I need that wind-fall in my back yard and you 'owe' me" politics prevail in the "Golden State."
Yeah...hybrid car tax credits. Make me laugh a bit harder, please.

Aketi 5:52 PM  

@GillI, it's sad that all my relatives that still live in California say the same thing about politics there and the infrastructure. My brother treated me to a lengthy rant yesterday and my engineering friend in Belmont says similar things.

TomAz 6:04 PM  

Way too many proper names related to movies/TV for my taste. One or two seems ok, but I count six today (LON, ANG, STACEY, TREVOR, MCGREGOR, BRANAGH), all crammed into the top half of the grid. Imagine the howls of protest if the puzzle instead included the names of six baseball players in that same space.

Overall, the puzzle was just ok, I suppose. Not a lot of fun for the actor-indifferent.





Nancy 6:09 PM  

@Aketi (4:50)-- Thank God you're OK!!! The whole thing's a complete and utter nightmare, but when someone you actually know comes that close...

I'll give you a call in the next day or two.

mathgent 6:26 PM  

Solver alert!

In today's WSJ puzzle is the clue "It's A in hexadecimal." The answer is TEN. NYT may now start giving clues about numeration in non-decimal bases.

Those of you who took seventh- and eighth- grade mathematics in the New Math era may have learned hexadecimal (base sixteen) numeration. There are sixteen digits: 0, 1,2, ..., 9, A, B, C, D, E, F. A is ten, B is eleven, ..., F is fifteen. Then the two digit numerals begin. 10 is sixteen, 11 is seventeen, 12 is eighteen, ...

MAK67 6:43 PM  

I try to solve Monday puzzles by completing successive across clues. Makes the puzzle more challenging. I did not know that it makes me a psychopath! 😝 next Monday I will go for the downs!

Two Ponies 6:53 PM  

@ mathgent,
Why base 16? I understand numeration in other bases but besides binary what would I use other than base 10? This not a rhetorical or sarcastic question. I'd really like to know. I was not in school during the New Math era.

Mohair Sam 7:56 PM  

@mathgent - Takes me back centuries to my most primitive programming days. Brutal.

BarbieBarbie 8:50 PM  

@ Ponies, when working with bits that can only be 1 or 0, you are forced to work in base 2, where the places are 1s, 2s, 4s, 8s, 16s, etcetera (for example, 8 in base 2 is 1000– a 1 in the 8s place followed by zeros in the 4s, 2s, and 1s place). But it’s a pain to write out base 2 numbers on paper. So you can collapse them by converting to a “2 to the nth” base, and base 16 is very convenient. Sorry if I’m clear as SMAZE.
I agree with whoever said solving method varies with solving tool, electronic or paper.
@Robert, nice inheritance story but I want to hear about those Clios!! Please tell me you are responsible for “that’s a spicy meatball.”
@Evil, no dice on the chink-less mask. You always let it slip when you mention your grandchildren. We see you in there.

Aketi 9:30 PM  

@Two Ponies, pounds and ounces are an example of a base 16 system. There are 16 ounces to a pound. The decimal system of grams is far more efficient. People make lots of math errors when dealing with pounds and ounces.

Sam 10:15 PM  

I'm no nneophyte so....

thursdaysd 11:39 PM  

Hexadecimal? Common in programming circles back in the day. Eight bits to a byte, 16 bits to a double byte...

mathgent 11:43 PM  

@Two Ponies: As @BarbieBarbie said. It's easy to change a long binary numeral into hexadecimal numeral one fourth the length. You mark the binary numeral into groups of four from the right.

Fred Romagnolo 2:28 AM  

on and off are universal qualities: binary; works everywhere. Decimal: from humans having 10 fingers; limited to such critters. If 12 were the base math would be much easier. Blame our math problems on our ancestors.

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