Classic letter puzzle parsed differently / THU 3-1-18 / Chewed stimulant in mideast / Karakum Asian desert / Tee shot goof / Blue area on Risk board

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Constructor: Timothy Polin

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: WORD SQUARE (61A: Classic letter puzzle -- or, when parsed differently, a hint to three Down answers in this puzzle) — so in the Across you get a SQUARE inside of which you squish the word WORD, and in the Down cross for that same SQUARE you can put "W" OR "D"...

Theme answers:
Word of the Day: WORD SQUARE (61A) —
plural noun: word squares
  1. a puzzle requiring the discovery of a set of words of equal length written one under another to read the same down as across, e.g., too old ode. (google)

• • •
[for example...]
My first reaction was: It's startling how unimaginative this is. It is the most straightforward, hyperliteral, utterly dull rebus I've ever done. Ever. WORD SQUARE ... well, indeed, that is so. I'm not even sure that qualifies as wordplay. Nothing is really being played with there. No playing. I feel like maybe a bot made this puzzle. Like, some beta version of Crossword Constructor A.I. is just getting its feet WET. . . *Then* I read the revealer clue more carefully and noticed the whole "W or D" angle in the rebus square crosses. Which changed my enjoyment of the puzzle ... not at all. So, OK, there was more going on than I thought ... but not so's you'd notice (which is to say, I didn't, and didn't have to). And even now, noticing, I don't see the appeal. The reparsing of "Word" to "W or D" does add a tiny bit of post-solve "Ohhh..." but during the solve ... when "W" alone works just fine and appears to be the only thing going on there ... It just seemed basic beyond belief. And the fill was atrocious. Truly, genuinely bad. And from generations ago. Why, in a grid with no real theme density, am I suffering through stuff like PASEO and ENHALO and UNTUNE and MASSE, to say nothing of the RAE YSL etc. stuff that suffocates the grid? No mas! (Actually, that 41A clue was one of the highlights of this puzzle)

15A: Castle with famous steps (IRENE) deserves commendation. IRENE Castle was a dancer, kids. Look her up. (I say that like she was from *my* time, which she decidedly was not) Only a few trouble spots in this one. The first was the worst, because it was a wrong answer that dropped down into a themer that was already an insane jumble of letters—I'm speaking of course of ANYHOO, which I had as ANYHOW (after I had it as ANYWAY) (4D: "Moving right along ..."). Hard to know it's wrong when you can see from the first few letters of the themer (WPR-) that something non-standard is going on with theme answer spelling anyway, so, sure, why not WPRW- as the opening set of letters. WPR- was already weird. Eventually got FIGHTING WS, and then backed into WPROCESSOR, but didn't stop to think much about what was going on. Thought maybe the puzzle was just dropping the "ORD" for some reason (coincidence: ORD is the airport code for OHARE (53A: Where many people make connections)). But no, nothing was being dropped. Instead the W stands for "word" and it's in a square so it's a WORD ... SQUARE. Dum dum DUM!

Good night, and here's wishing us all a classic, lovable Friday crossword. Happy March!

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

PS I was entertained by this puzzle precisely once—when I started spelling three-letter body parts backwards to see if I could get a girl's name: "MRA? PIL? GEL! Who names their kid GEL!?" Etc. That was fun.

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Michael Down 12:08 AM  

I thought this was the best puzzle of the last year or so, what a brilliant and entertaining idea - so tough to pull off and yet so smoothly done. Hats off to the constructor!

Anonymous 12:13 AM  

Boy, one jaded blogger here!

TomAz 12:16 AM  

Yes, Rex. And no, Rex.

I didn't get the gimmick until I was done. While I was solving I got the WORD rebus and I was fixated on the Ds. And yeah it felt a little dull. I didn't see why I should count it as WORD one way and D another. And the revealer didn't help.

But man, when the light bulb came on, wow. Unlike Rex, it increased my admiration for the puzzle substantially. I was positively giddy. This is the sort of thing where I want to tell my non-puzzle-solving friends (well I don't really have any puzzle-solving friends) and say "look at how cool that is!" I know it's only 3 squares but still. I like this a lot.

I don't mind the ICKY glue here so much. Except for the resurrection of ENHALO, which I had hoped had had a stake stabbed through its evil heart when it appeared last week (or the week before, I don't remember exactly). ENHALO is a word I have heard exactly twice in my life, both times in recent puzzles. Kill the beast before it kills again.

So yeah, this puzzle may have flaws, but I was charmed enough by the trick that I don't care. Thumbs up.

JJ 12:16 AM  

I thought that it was a play on WORD. I thought the constructor was first dropping ORD,then WOR etc. Had I done this on paper I would have had a DNF. Not getting the "Congrats" on my iPad made me try the rebus.

Harryp 12:55 AM  

Finally, a true rebus on a Thursday, and a very fun solve. WORD across, but W down. FIGHTINGWORDS and PAWS in the northeast got me started, and it went well from there. Had ABBA before ACDC, but CUPOFCOCOA set that right. ANYHOO was a blast. I have a sister who somehow picked up that expression and it grates on me, but I would never let her know that, because you shouldn't be pedantic with anyone, least of all your nearest and dearest. Slightly below average Thursday time, but welcome all the same. Thanks Mr. Polin, you made my day.

mathgent 1:26 AM  

Rex put it well. No sparkle in a thin rebus with a joyless gimmick.

I looked up Irene Castle. She and her husband/dancing partner were popular around 1915, before I was born. I don't think that I ever saw her dance -- she was only in silent films. But somehow I knew her name. Has she been in the puzzle a lot?

perry weiss 1:38 AM  

The most joyless solve in weeks.

chefwen 1:48 AM  

Got it with PAWS and FIGHTING WORDS, but it took me a long time to figure out how the downs worked. Sometimes it takes a hammer upside the head to clue me in. Doh!

Wanted Pau at 41A, Hawaiian for all finished, all gone. If I never see ENHALO again, it’ll be too soon.

My Thursday rebus satisfied, I am happy.

Larry Gilstrap 2:05 AM  

I was muddling along trying to figure out why WORD went across and W went down and then I forced myself to really look at the revealer and parsed WORD differently and realized it could be W OR D and I actually said "Wow!" WINING and DINING work for me. Hit me up!

I have a great story about being told, "Them's FIGHTING WORDS!" in a bar in Ouray, CO, and not only surviving, but also peacefully prevailing. Hit me up!

Liked it way more than Rex did.

Dolgo 2:37 AM  

ANYHOO? (Jesus!)

jae 3:07 AM  

I got this but semi-failed to grok the entire Schrodinger aspect of the theme....hence a @lms DNF. I should have paid more attention to the revealer, but I didn't. That said, I liked it a bit more than @Rex did.

Andrea Ojeda 3:09 AM  

Can someone explain PAS for No mas! (??)

Ando 4:21 AM  

@Andrea I think "No mas!/PAS" means "No mothers!/FATHERS" -- note the lack of an accent on "mas". I missed that and had it as PAZ, as in "No mas!" = "Peace!"

BarbieBarbie 5:42 AM  

I mis-read the 62D clue as Chewed stimulant in Midwest and filled in oAT. Hung me up for awhile. Had a real D’OH! moment when I kept finding myself deciding between W and D when they could all be...oh. This was so clever. More!

Passing Shot 6:22 AM  

@Andrea — I share your confusion re PAS = “No mas”; not sure I buy @Ando’s explanation. Ambitious premise (I recall another puzzle in the last year ir so where several answers flipped between M and F that was much better), but the fill in ths one was god-awful.

Lewis 6:30 AM  
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Lewis 6:32 AM  

I filled in the squares and just knew that it couldn't simply be WORD across and W down. First I looked up WORD SQUARE, because I forgot what that "Classic letter puzzle" was", but that didn't help. Then, when the W OR D finally hit me, well, that was an excellent aha, more than worth the effort to figure it out.

The solve in the north put up a bit of fight, which always makes me happy. Funny, the connections the brain makes. It saw the backward LARA as well as the TARA and flashed Lara's Theme (Dr. Zhivago), and Tara's Theme (Gone With the Wind), those two uber-famous instrumental movie themes.

Hungry Mother 6:39 AM  

Always love a rebus, but Thursday is an unneeded hint. Very fast for me today as the fog of my jet lag gradually lifts.

Aketi 7:21 AM  

Definitely having a brain foggy morning, I knew I was in for trouble when I initially looked at DOOR DIE for a moment before realizing the DOOR was A DOOK that needed one space of separation. Even at that I had to come here to finally get the two spaces of separation in WORD to fully grasp the W OR D SQUAREs.

ITERATE describes how I nag my husband over kitchen chores. I cant let go the false hope that if I ITERATE the same request a bunch of times he will follow through.

STREW is a skill that my son has mastered. He can STREW his belongings across a room within moments of returning home so that any attempt to walk through that room is guaranteed to make you TRIP.

kitshef 7:23 AM  

Clever and fun. Just what a Thursday should be. Knew something was going on when FIGHTING WORDS wouldn’t fit, but did not figure it out until the whole grid was done.


Fun fact that maybe everyone already knows, but PANAMA hatS come from Ecuador.

Kodak Jenkins 7:25 AM  

WOW. Surprised by Rex's jaded venom today, though maybe I shouldn't be ever again!

Clever puzzle! I was certain I wouldn't finish, utterly bogged down 2/3s through but knowing there was something going on with the theme and so slowly plodded away until things starting clicking.

So double my pleasure with the eluding of failure and the aha moment of solving the theme.

The fill is fine with me! The clues were a bit more devious than usual. I didn't realize ENHALO was such a sore spot for people. To me it's just another arcane word that the crossword has taught me. A few days ago we had ARSONS, which is much worse than anything here. UNTUNE is clunky and I don't understand PAS for "no mas" despite @Ando's explanation.

On to Friday!

Anonymous 7:34 AM  

The way to get PAS from "no mas" is to keep thinking in Spanish, especially for the NO part of the clue. In English no mas translates as "no more", unhelpfully, but you must remember that the construction is usually translated as "not". No bueno is "not good." . So the clue is getting at "NOT MA'S" which is of course "PAS".

Anonymous 7:49 AM  

Anon 7:34 here. I also was more impressed by the W/D reveal at the end than R. I solved the puzzle successfully on iPad but thought the clue got it wrong about the trick affecting the 3 Down clues, thinking it should have said "across", even though I had wavered on the wryly dryly one I didn't notice the other two. That was a wow for me when I read Rex's bit about it and looked back.

QuasiMojo 7:50 AM  

I've read all the comments and Rex's cute "rant" and I still don't understand the rebus theme today. I've done WORD SQUARES and they are fascinating things. I even have a clay tablet with the famous SATOR square on it.


I've managed to do a couple of six-letter squares and one seven-letter (although I had to use a non-English word to make that one work. They are extremely difficult. Go ahead, try one yourself. You'll have a ball.)

But what does any of that have to do with the W or D gimmick here? Like many of you I had DRYLY and WRYLY and PADS and PAWS etc. (Although isn't the word more often spelled "drily"?)

To the fellow above who vaguely remember Irene Castle, yes, she and her husband Vernon have been in the NYT puzzle as long as I've been doing them. Since the 60s. You may know them better in the biopic done by Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. (By the way, a friend the other day pronounced biopic as Bi-OPic, as if it were a medical term as in BIOPSY. I said "no, it's BIO-PIC," and he went online and corrected me. Apparently Bi-OPic is more common in the U.S. I don't understand that at all. It's clearly derived from BIOgraphical PICture. Hence BIO-PIC. Any help in that matter would be greatly appreciated.)

I had DOOK instead of HOOK since I am not a golfer. Luckily I fixed it.

ZETA is not a girl's name that spells a body part in reverse, alas.

Birchbark 7:54 AM  

Our snow is deep, but it is melting by day, then cold at night -- a perfect cycle to get the maple sap running. This is the the window between thinking about golf and playing, when no tee shots are errant. @aketi, my dOOK was HOOK, since for a while OHARE was edatE.

Fun fact: true PANAMAS are made in Ecuador.

Two whole months and not one AMENHOTEP. I did an archive puzzle from 2009 last night that had AMEN RA, greater in the Egyptian pantheon, but not as cool crossword-wise, IMO. Plus, there's only one AMEN RA, but with AMENHOTEP you get the whole random POPE variable ranging from I - IV.

Anonymous 7:57 AM  

Nothing about the {ORD} being a refernce to 53-A?

andy 7:57 AM  

Totally agree with Rex. Silly premise and weird fill. The puzzles have been on the easy side this week.

Jamie C 8:03 AM  

I stubbed my toe coming into the house today and shouted "DOOR DIE!"

Lewis 8:06 AM  
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Lewis 8:08 AM  

@Quasi -- My take is that the WORDSQUARE part of the theme is simply that the solver must put the word WORD in a square; then, on top of that, comes the W OR D part. Word squares, the fascinating things you are talking about, are a thing, and thus they justify having WORDSQUARE as a legitimate puzzle answer. FWIW.

J I 8:17 AM  

Moved kind of slow for me today. Got the theme (sort of) quickly but really wanted “PUTINAGOODW” for the second one and my brain just could not get off that idea. PUTINAWFOR seems ok but not as good....didn’t mind the fill, except for ENHALO, which I know I have seen before but completely forget about every time. I used to listen to AC/DC as a kid so that was an entertaining clue. I also noticed the ORD/OHARE coincidence. I fly way too much and have connected many times in ORD.

RavTom 8:17 AM  

Tough work doing the puzzle, but when I finally got it, it was all worth it. Just as a Thursday should be. The fill was fine. It's always nice to see ITERATE out on its own without being chaperoned by its re-.

GHarris 8:23 AM  

My only quibble about this puzzle; for all the theme downs you can use either a w or a d but in 49d you need to repeat and use both letters, otherwise it makes no sense.

Hartley70 8:28 AM  

This was an especially nifty little rebus. It wasn't until the end that I saw the W OR D aspect of the three down entries, since I solved using just the W, but it was a delightful surprise.

I didn't fully get the revealer since I've never seen a WORDSQUARE classic puzzle. It was just about putting WORD in the SQUARE for me and luckily I solved from top to bottom so the revealer didn't spoil the fun.

I popped RAE in right away because it's been used recently for Carly RAE. I don't understand why answers get repeated a day or two apart and then not again for months or years. It happens so frequently. Is it a test to see if we're really awake in the morning?

IRENE was nicely misdirected but it didn't trick me. IRENE should separate the oldies from the youngsters like a knife through butter. If I have to know NAS, IRENE is payback.

Do I know my MASSE? You betcha! Mr. Hartley70 has become obsessed with billiards since he sold his sailboat. It was a racer and apparently he's a competitive junkie. Cue and ball, wind and sail give him a similar rush. To each his own. Me, I love WORDS. I'll have to see if I love WORDSQUARES as well.

Anonymous 8:31 AM  

Easy - the only puzzle was the clue for 61A. Whoever wrote it doesn't know the meaning of "parse".

Nancy 8:38 AM  

As Gertrude Stein might have said, but didn't: a WORD SQUARE is a WORD SQUARE is a WORD SQUARE. The same square can't simultaneously be a W or D square And therefore this puzzle, clever as it is in one regard, is deeply flawed.

I'm embarrassed to admit that I missed the entire DRYLY/WRYLY; PAWS/PADS; WINING/DINING aspect of this until I came here. Even though before getting the WORD SQUARE theme, I stared blankly at 27D, wondering if it would be WRYLY or DRYLY. Yet, once I had the theme, I never thought about the W or D thing again.

I imagine I'm not the only one who was bothered by the inconsistency of the theme squares. I'll go back and read you all now and see.

Klazzic 8:40 AM  

Loved it. Rex, you grouch.

newspaperguy 8:44 AM  

Most days Rex complains about the use of words from other eras and today he declares that the use of Irene Castle is a delight. I thought it was fine, even though I am under 100.

Nancy 8:44 AM  

I knew someone would tell me! W OR D!!!!! Yesssssss!!!! I take back everything I said. This is a good puzzle. No, strike that -- this is a great puzzle! Everything makes sense now! Thank you, @Lewis (6:32).

Mohair Sam 8:48 AM  

A little Crosswordese is small price to pay for an incredibly clever rebus puzzle. Add in the IRENE and PAS clues and you've got the best Thursday puzz in a long time. We stared at the "W" or "D" at 27D for the longest time wondering which would it be - turned out both. Love that.

Terrible review by OFL today, and I'm still steaming at Rex for his lousy pic of Myrna Loy yesterday. Have you no sense of decency, Parker, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?

QuasiMojo 8:49 AM  

Yikes. Thank you @Nancy for pointing that out in a way that even I could understand. lol. Now I have to agree. It is a clever bit of word play.

David 9:05 AM  

What is with the NYT crossword and this insistence on normalizing Mao? An ICON? Sharing a clue with Gandhi? Mao, the brutal murderous communist dictator does not deserve to be such a frequent subject of this puzzle, and in such a cutesy way.

FrankStein 9:11 AM  

@Nancy, not to be a nit-picker but your paraphrasing of Gertrude Stein is a good example of people misquoting her famous line or at least misunderstanding it. She said "Rose is a rose is a rose." Not "A rose is a rose is a rose." She was speaking about a person named Rose.

Casey 9:15 AM  

I had the perfect answer for "no mas" . It was "tio", which afforded me much amusement until I realized it wouldn't work.

Tim Aurthur 9:16 AM  

I've heard that as a stunt Heifetz would UNTUNE the strings of his violin and still play perfectly in tune.

Which leads to a question if there are any string players around: When you play a long movement, often the strings will UNTUNE themselves, right? So you have to adjust your fingering. How hard is that to do? Is it something you practice?

Ryan 9:19 AM  

My word, Rex, you are such a jaded grouch. You’re like that guy who goes to a great superhero or fantasy/thriller movie and afterwards starts poking holes in the plot. Would it kill you to just enjoy a puzzle now and then? Or is this a blog meant for only the truly elite solvers, and commoners like me need not apply?

This puzzle left me, like other commenters, giddy. I showed my wife and immediately texted two of my solver friends. I thought it was genius. Also, complaining about old words and praising IRENE Castle...?

QuasiMojo 9:20 AM  

@Lewis 8:08, IMO it's worth a lot! Many thanks for explaining.

Steve M 9:21 AM  

Bad omen for my Thursday

Anonymous 9:25 AM  

@Tim Aurthur - yes, the string player has to constantly make tiny adjustments anyway, but when a string has really gone badly out you also have to adjust in a more serious way by avoiding the open string (not just your fingering but your choice of string). It might be considered hard, but it's an advantage over the fretted string - an out of tune guitar is much harder to play in tune than an out of tune violin.

Two Ponies 9:27 AM  

I have to admire a puzzle that makes me feel like yoyo.
I'm one of those people who considers it a DNF if I don't get the theme. I got it finally but just by an inch or a nose. I must be a glutton for punishment because I really enjoyed the struggle.

I'm starting to make peace with enhalo. It has a nice poetic sound to it.

Irene Castle has been a standard crossword answer since forever and she has a name that lends itself so well to word play so remember her if you don't know her.

@ QuasiMojo, As for your bi-opic friend...he's just wrong.

burtonkd 9:32 AM  

What am I missing about the confusion over no mas?
I didn’t get it until after I solved it, but seems to just be a classic misdirect.
The trick is that it isn’t in Spanish at all.
No mas(mothers) is pas(fathers). Mas and Pas - think The Waltons, or the Joads for a more crossword-worthy reference. Or the first ma and pa that comes up in google, Kettle.

I liked Gridiron clue also.

Nancy 9:47 AM  

@Quasi -- All the expert Hollywood commentators on Turner Classic Movies say BIO-pic. So that has to be right. Right?

@FrankStein (9:11) -- You could have knocked me over with a feather. I never knew that! Thank you! Although Wiki tells me that Gertrude Stein (any relative, Frank?) eventually gave in to the prevailing (wrong) wisdom and herself used "a rose is a rose is a rose" from time to time.

Speaking about the prevailing wrong wisdom, sometimes you have to give into it, even when you know it's wrong. Especially when you fear you maybe the only person who knows it's wrong. Two examples, taken from my own life:

I can recite the poem that begins: "To gild refined gold/ to paint the lily". So obviously I know that the correct phrase is "painting the lily". But if I say that, people will stare at me blankly. So, like everyone else, I say "gilding the lily".

I know that the correct phrase is: "A little learning is a dangerous thing." But if I say that, people will stare at me blankly. So, like everyone else, I say: "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing." Sometimes, when a thing becomes part of the zeitgeist, you just have to accept it and move on.

Stuart Showalter 9:51 AM  

@Kodak Jenkins ... one should never be surprised at “Rex's jaded venom.” The only surprises is when he DOESN’T exhibit it.

Wm. C. 9:54 AM  

@BarbieBarbie (from yesterday) --


True, John Kennedy did attend Princeton, but did not complete even one semester, so that hardly qualifies him as "a Princeton Man." Conversely, his four complete years at Harvard does qualify him as "a Hahv-ahd Man."

Also, he didn't "wash out" of Princeton as you claim. He withdrew when he was no longer able to attend classes due to having contracted Yellow Jaundice.

So there! ;-)

puzzlehoarder 9:59 AM  

I did the puzzle on paper last night and went fight to sleep. I did check the solution at xwordinfo and noticed the annoying animation but didn't read the comments. Interestingly the W/D issue was obvious but for me was just another hitch in solving. I didn't realize it was the whole point of the puzzle until I read the second comment here. I favored the W options for whatever reason and just put in a capital W with a lower case "ord" below it. That's the great thing about paper solving, rebuses are easy to write in.

The theme is that much more clever to me now that I fully understand it. As I've said before I try to ignore themes as much as possible.

ENHALO was what opened up that north central section for me. I'd really fallen for that "Castle" clue. That was the last section to be filled in. Prior to that I'd wasted a lot of time trying to make the theme entries work by running theme into squares of four boxes and going counterclockwise through them. That pointless thinking pushed this to the medium level. The fill was mostly easy.

Carola 10:00 AM  

So clever! That would be the puzzle, NOT I, as I totally missed the message in the reveal. Once I had PAWS, I just wrote Ws in the other theme SQUAREs, never considering whether another letter might work as well. I'd expected more from a Timothy Polin puzzle - note to self: maybe it's not Timothy Polin, it's you.

@Nancy, your citing "A little learning..." was so apt, with POPE in the grid :)

Mao 10:01 AM  

Thanks for the nod, NYT puzzle. I look forward to seeing my fellow ICONs Hitler, Stalin, Ted Bundy, and Lizzie Borden in future puzzles!

Sir Hillary 10:11 AM  

First of all, I found this very difficult for a Thursday. Lots of staring at white spaces.

The W OR D thing eluded me until I really studied the revealer and the three squares in question. Funny, because I initially had DRYLY but changed it to WRYLY because I parsed that themer as WOR[DPRO]CESSOR which fit with TORCHRELAY but left me with oASEO. Only when I got FIGHTING[WORD]S did I go back and fix things in the west. Still didn't see the W OR D angle because I put in PAWS and WINING without considering the alternatives. ANYHOO...

During my solve, I was questioning the odd PAS/CESAR cross, when PAd/CEdAR would have been better. Of course, it was because that would have duped the D alternative for 12D.

I found yesterday's puzzle rife with short junk. I didn't feel that way today, although ENHALO is really bad.

DOORDIE looks like it should rhyme with Geordie.

Big ACDC fan here. I wore out the grooves on my "Powerage" LP back in high school. Just fabulous. I chuckled upon recently reading that a Hungarian figure skater used "Back in Black" and "Thunderstruck" as the soundtrack for her short program in PyeongChang, while wearing a heavy-metal-inspired ensemble that included an image of Angus Young on her back. Somewhere up there, his brother Malcolm must have had a big laugh.

GILL I. 10:15 AM  

Jesus Maria...@Rex. I feel like I want t take you out for a drink, get you a bit tipsy, maybe hand you some of our legalized pot, then ask you for your opinion on this really adorbs Timothy Polin puzzle.
Had to come here to figure out the D part.....DANG! So, PADS DRYLY and DINING flew out the window. Even so, I loved the puzzle and when I got the W OR D, I loved it even more. "Love Is In The Air."
@Andrea Ojeda....I was about to scream bloody murder when I saw PAS without the Z. Now that I know it's baby daddy, I think the clue is supremo!
Nothing bothered me here - really. Not even UNTUNE nor ENHALO. I did like @Rex with the girl's name. Is GEL a name? CUP OF COCOA made me think about how much I hate marshmallows. You can't burn them enough for me. Can you imagine what they do to your insides? I wonder if they puff up on the way to your lower intestine.
QAT.!!! Now that is something else...When I went wandering around the Casbah in Tangier I met up with a basket of gorgeous cherries I wanted to buy. I watched as a very old woman - squatting on her haunches - carefully take each cherry in her mouth, swivel it around for a while and deposit it - all shiny and all- back into the basket. My guide told me she was chewing QAT and that is what makes the fruit sparkle.
I didn't buy any cherries but I did buy a rug.
@Nancy....From last night: " I missed all the double entendres today." I couldn't stop laughing at @LMS "Now there's a spectacular cross for you." to @Larry G's nickname RAMROD, to @Dan from Accounting "Danger Dog Stands, to @pabloinnh "At least it's not a TACO", to @Aketi's "Cunning Linguist", to @Monty Boy "Colonel Angus", to our wonderful moderators who were able to shut up the @Grammar Nazi."
Good stuff!

Idi 10:16 AM  

Hey Mao! Don't forget me and my buddy Che.

jberg 10:19 AM  

By the time I had ANYHOw, I could already see that the theme answers involved some kind of a rebus with Ws, so I figurred it must be right. Only at the end did I see that I could change that to ANYHOO and change DRYLY to WRYLE and CPRWCESSOR would become WORD PROCESSOR. Sadly, however, I never thought to generalize that WRYLY/DRYLY thing, or to notice that WORD is a DOOK for W OR D. So I finished putting in all the right letters, but didn't really finish the puzzle.

Despite knowing who IRENE Castle was, the clue made me think of the Odessa steps in "Potemkin," and I just couldn't get away from actual castles -- even when I got the answer from crosses, I thought "what an odd name for a castle!" Until I read the comments here, I would have bet money that the Castles were active in the 30s and 40s, and that I had seen them in a color movie. It must have been the biopic someone mentioned!

I thought No mas! = PAS was straightforward in Spanish -- both strong denials. But I'm not really a Spanish speaker.

@Nancy, @FrankStein -- Stein spoke variously of carving the line all the way around a tree trunk, or engraving it inside a ring, in which case she included the initial A -- it wouldn't work as an infinite line without it, so she wasn't just yielding to popular "knowledge." (And I've always heard that a little learning was the dangerous thing, anyhoo.)

Moksha 10:23 AM  

Like @Nancy, I was puzzled initially by the inconsistent rebus, and grokked the brilliance only after help from OFL, @Nancy, and @Lewis.

When a DNF looms, I've taken to solving with AcrossLite, where wrong letters can be highlighted without jeopardizing the NYT streak. (Interestingly, the correct solve there requires "WORD" to be entered as a rebus, where the NYT app needs only a W). Alas, karma struck and the streak ended when a typo forced a puzzle check.

Masked and Anonymous 10:33 AM  

Not bad, in a funky way.
During the solvequest, the three "special" squares were sorta more like WorWORD squares. The revealer didn't actually help change my mind a whole lot. Then I read the @RP write-up, and saw the WorD square mcguffin. Shoot. And I had been briefly wonderin early on if I should go with PAWS or PADS, up in the NE. Coulda been a contender…

I think that's what messed me up beyond all Hope, on the theme. PAWS just seemed like a better answer, at the time, than PADS. Sooo, then I got locked in to usin the WorWORD strategy, without any additional nanoseconds spent on ever re-thinkin it over. WRYLY. No problem. WINING. Well, sure. DINING by itself [without "WINING and…"] wouldn't even really work even if I'da thought of it, would it?


staff weeject pick: ARC. My previously desired TRIG function starter from yesterpuz. 'Bout time. Way late and a wollar short, tho.

Thanx for the fun-ky solve & really really late ahar moment, Mr. Polin.

Masked & Anonymo4Us


pabloinnh 10:46 AM  

To those who have commented on the origin of panama hats, nice job of spelling "Ecuador". Bien hecho.

Z 11:08 AM  

@TeedMN - Rust Never Sleeps and we had lots of fun doing it.

@Gill I - Feeling just a little slighted today.

@Two Ponies - Yep. Technical DNF here, too. I blame the whole “Oh, OHARE is a hint that ORD has been dropped from the WORD SQUAREs. D’Oh. And, just to be clear everyone, the grid in the blog is not correct. W OR D needs to be in those three spots to make them each a WORD SQUARE/ W OR D SQUARE. If the electronic version accepts anything else it is just further proof of the superiority of dead trees.

I knew we’d be seeing some MAO hate, especially with the Gandhi pairing. That MAO is ICONic is not valued laden the way some interpret it. An ICON can be a symbol of good (a red cross) or evil (a swastika). So pairing Mao with Gandhi is just the cluing trick of pairing incongruous people or things to misdirect the solver. The official line on Mao is “70% good, 30% bad,” but most certainly an ICON as the father of modern China in the mainland. Being responsible for kicking colonizers out of the country buys an historical figure a lot of slack at home.

Paul Rippey 11:08 AM  

This was all so clever it made me want to enhalo the constructor.

Suzie Q 11:11 AM  

My Thursday "watch for the trick" radar was on full alert, so much so that the dog leg clue had me waiting for a golf answer.
Is there some deep psychological reason for seeing either the W or the D first? (I'm saying deep with tongue in cheek)

No shiny cherries for me! Yuck!

Amelia 11:30 AM  

I was going to say I agree with Rex completely. But then I got to the W or D trick, which is very clever. I do the puzzle on paper, so no music telling me I've solved it. How did it work online?

Tita A 11:36 AM  

@Ando - I explained PAS to myself as meaning peace...thanks for the correction, though I think this clue/answer combo should go into the cruciverb dictionary next to "Trying to hard to be cute" entry.

Only thing I had in common with Rex today is the fun at coming up with 3-letter body parts and reversing them.

@JamieC - lol

So, by my own standard, a technical DNF. Yes, I did get the rebus part, but no, I needed to read the revealer to get the W OR D part. My brain never questioned the W-ness of the downs during the solve. (Hi @Nancy)
And even after giving up and reading the revealer, it took a long time for that light bulb to light.

(OK - I'm starting to get a complex here -- who was it from a week or two back that coined "Inferiority complex"?
@jae - it's my definition of dnf...NOT my dear friend @lms, or my blog twin TeedMN...sheesh!)

@Gill...don't know if I love your translation stories or your Casbah story better...

Robert A. Simon 11:37 AM  

I solve--or, more truthfully, try to solve--on the NYT site on a laptop. I didn't get the W OR D gimmick until I came here. (Genius. Just genius.) I just figured the gimmick was w=word. When I filled in the last letter (the Q in QAT) and got the happy music, the site had magically replaced my three w's with the entire word WORD in the 3 squares. It had never done anything similar that I can recall. Has it happened before? Anybody?

Anonymous 11:37 AM  

Everyone here should look up the definition of "parse" and then use the word properly.

Tita A 11:38 AM  

And thanks to Mr. Polin for a very cool and different puzzle - just what a Thursday should be...

GILL I. 11:45 AM  

"Well, I've looked at AXL ROSE from all angles now and I'm convinced it will take some cunning linguist to come up with the anagram everyone else is talking about."
I swear I had no idea what you were talking about until I got to @Aketi's take and then @Monty Boy adding his/her "Colonel Angus."
Credit where credit is due because your line is probably one of the funniest this year.....;-)

Harryp 11:46 AM  
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Anonymous 11:50 AM  
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Harryp 11:52 AM  

Only now do I get W or D! PAW/PAD, WINING/DINING, etc. Very clever!

Yargh 11:55 AM  

Stupid. Stupid theme, W OR D? Stupid. Makes no sense in the Downs or Acrosses. PA(W OR D)S? FIGHTING(W OR D)S? Stupid.

CDilly52 11:55 AM  

My experience was nearly ide rival to TomAz (12:20) including the fervent hope after the last time never ever to see ENHALO again! I enjoy having to suss out a theme that makes me revel in the construcor’s
Creative acumen. This took a great deal of perseverance and craft!

Bob Mills 11:56 AM  

This puzzle is enough to make somebody just skip Thursday and wait for the weekend. "Classic letter puzzle?" Oh, please.

CDilly52 11:56 AM  

Oops. TomAz was 12:16. Great comments

Joe Bleaux 12:13 PM  

Substitute "paper" for "iPad" and you have, very nearly verbatim, what I intended to post. (Although I probably would have dittoed the ENHALO boos, and added UNTUNE.)

FrankStein 12:24 PM  

@Nancy, 9:47AM -- True dat! And well said, as always. Sadly, no relation.

Z 12:25 PM  

@Anon11:50 - I agree with you but I am willing to cut @anon11:37 a little slack here. I found some online resources that only gave the grammatical “parse a sentence” meaning. Collins for example. Merriam-Webster gives the definition you and I prefer, but 11:37 is not alone. My advice for 11:37 and those who agree with them is “Sometimes, when a thing becomes part of the zeitgeist, you just have to accept it and move on.”

'mericans in Colombia 12:33 PM  

Put us in the camp with those who did not get the W or D trick. We struggled until getting enough crosses of PROCESSOR to guess that the letter before that must be a W. The rest of the puzzle fell easily after that.

And, yes, we hesitated between DRYLY and WRYLY, but didn't see the same thing going on at PAW & PAD and WINING and DINING until coming here. As for the fill -- about average I'd say.

I like @Rex's take on the "girl's name that when backwards spells a body part" clue.

OISK 12:34 PM  

Thanks, Nancy. I finished, never realizing that "D" was an option on the three down clues. But I don't consider it a "DNF." My solution made enough sense that I didn't look further - I had "W" which works well enough as "word square" for me to have been satisfied. Liked the puzzle very much despite not seeing the REAL cleverness of it until I came here!

Chip Hilton 1:12 PM  

I loved this. I struggled along, getting most everything except the top center and the gimmick . At one point, I even mentioned to my wife that either WRYLY or DRYLY would work but didn’t catch on to the trick. When that come later, I was tickled. My last word entered was IRENE. I know my castles and was wracking my brain over someplace in Europe that was eluding me. The lightbulb moment (I knew the dance team) actually had me chuckling out loud.

Just what I want from a Thursday puzzle. Thanks, Tim Polin. Very clever idea and execution.

JC66 1:20 PM  

Hand up for not grokking W OR D til coming here. At least I'm in good company.

@GILL How'd the rug taste?

Teedmn 1:24 PM  

Thank you, @Lewis, for spelling out what @Rex and Jeff Chen were getting at with the W OR D. I didn't get the WORD rebus until I got to 47A's PUT IN A D FOR. I had DINING going down. I went back to 18A and saw that it had the W in the down square. Aha, each themer will have a letter of WORD in the down spot. At 6D, I wasn't sure which period we were looking at but I had put in _____oIC (MesazoIC, cenozoIC, somthing like that, totally wrong) and tried to jam WORD in at that O, which didn't work at all with my other entries in 27A. Re-reading the 61A revealer clue, I saw there were only 3 themers so that shot my theory down, WORD having four letters in case you were wondering. At that point, I stuck with W's throughout and never got the 2nd part of the theme.

4D - ANdnOw to ANyhOw to, at long last, ANYHOO. 46A = ammO (dumdum bullets, ya know) to dOdO to YOYO. 5A Smear to STREW. 53D ruNS to OWNS.

Tough one here, and I missed the final elegance but thanks, Timothy Polin, for the marshmallows in my cocoa.

Masked and Anonymous 1:31 PM  

The more I think about this clever lil theme, the more it kinda grows on me…

* It's a rebus with a single-square WORD value.
* In Across answers, you just use the word WORD, as is.
* In Down answers, you use the phrase "W OR D".
* So the 3 special Down answers can be viewed as: PA[W or D]S. [W or D]RYLY. [W or D]INING.
* But, now, also: Each *completed* special Down answer can then be interpreted as a set of choices. For instances: {Entertaining, in a way} = WINING OR DINING ... {How some jokes are delivered} = WRYLY OR DRYLY … {Things at the ends of dogs' legs} = PAWS OR PADS.

Deep, dude.

M&A may be diggin too deep? … yeah. thought so.


Kimberly 1:39 PM  

Oh Rex. Sigh. You only hate it because you didn’t get it right away and you hate everything that doesn’t make you feel like the smartest boy in the room.

After the best week of puzzles we’ve had in a while, a week during which all of your attempts to be more positive turned snarky and sarcastic and then flew out the window, it’s time to realize it’s probably you.

This was clever, and even challenging in a few places. Solid Thursday.

phil 1:45 PM  

I got it by doing the across, but what am I missing about HASAT that solves the clue..attacks? Feels like I'm missing something obvious, but I'm not getting it.

phil phil 1:54 PM  

Stuck in WORDladder right off the bat but...ANYHOO I picked up on the theme atthe WINING OR DINING and thereby looked for the other two and that made the puzzle more fun.

I didn't check all the comments but rebus WORD works fine and that makes more sense than the strangeness Rex shows.

kitshef 1:58 PM  

@Tita A - I know I have in the past been guilty in citing LMS as the generator of the DNF based on non-theme-grokkery. I apologise retroactively for that. Memory is a strange and unreliable thing.

Noam D. Elkies 2:00 PM  

So, as usual these days, Rex thinks the puzzle is a real [W/D]RECK. I enjoyed it -- left the first square of 27D:?RYLY blank to await 27A, then got 61A:WORD_SQUARE and wondered what's up (words qua RE, perhaps?), then realized that this and the 27D dilemma had the same answer. It helped that I knew 62D:QAT (actually entered it before 61A, though I haven't played Scrabble in decades) and remembered 8D:ENHALO from a recent grid. And that this puzzle is meant for solving on paper, not screen: WORD across and W down would not make sense without further explanation.


P.S. @phil 1:45 -- 37D is HAS AT.

Sir Hillary 2:03 PM  

@Noam 2:00pm -- [W/D]RECK...very good!

Roo Monster 2:08 PM  

Hey All !
Finally got the ole brain to twist into grokking this theme, but only after reading y'all, so a Mass Thanks for that.

All that, and he even threw a Z in the puz! So puz ended up not ICKY. Had the DNF with ANYHO(WORD)/WPRWCESSOR. Made no sense, but hey, I wasn't OPENED to what was happening.

Writeovers, Imam-ICON (har), TerraSIC-TRIASSIC (close!), stOPIN-DROPIN. fall-TRIP, iNToNE-UNTUNE, ruNS-OWNS.

Seems the MASSEs here ENHALOed this. It LEAD TO a STREW of positive comments. GAME on! But I REGRESS... :-) ANYHOO...


Anonymous 2:22 PM  

Sublime puzzle.
Once again, Rex is clueless and with his banal diatribe.

Glimmerglass 3:04 PM  

I solved with just the W. That would have been a lame puzzle! Two correct answers for each down is brilliant.

phil 4:06 PM  

Thank you! Wow, I am a yoyo today. I kept reading Has a t. I knew it was obvious. Reminds me of a guy I knew who challenged his wife in scrabble on the word acid. Reading it upside down he said "acid isn't a word" pronouncing it "a-sid" He was a chemical engineer. True story.

sanfranman59 4:42 PM  

This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 1/2/2018 post for an explanation of my method. In a nutshell, the higher the ratio & percentage, the higher my solve time was relative to my norm for that day of the week. Your results may vary.

(Day, Solve time, 26-wk Median, Ratio, %, Rating)

Mon 3:40 4:09 0.89 13.8% Easy (almost goes without saying with an ACME puzz)
Tue 4:08 5:47 0.73 2.8% Very Easy
Wed 6:47 6:07 1.11 67.6% Medium-Challenging
Thu 9:37 10:01 0.96 44.4% Medium

I often struggle with Timothy Polin solo constructions, so this is a real good solve time for me. I really have nothing to add that's not already been said. I didn't get all of the theme until I got to OFL's review and the comments. I was on the fence about this one at puzzle completion, but now give it my endorsement. I'm sure Timothy will sleep much better now.

Joe Dipinto 5:44 PM  

I agree with @GHarris 8:23 -- 49d is not an *either/or* answer, it's a *both at the same time* answer, so the W or D aspect doesn't really work.

No mas! -- especially with the exclamation point -- for PAS is a clue that belongs in Puns & Anagrams, not the regular puzzle.

Laurel MASSE was one of the original members of the Manhattan Transfer. She left and was replaced by Cheryl Bentyne.

John 6:10 PM  

Hated it!! Can’t recall the last time a puzzle annoyed me this much, though it was surely within the past 2-3 months. What has happened over there??

GILL I. 6:26 PM  

@JC66.....Chewy. Flossing carpet fiber out of the Wisdom was difficult.

Alpha-Data 7:03 PM  

Almost cancelled my subscription over this one. What a crock!

Anonymous 7:13 PM  

Are you really humble bragging (on Twitter) about having memorized a 12-line poem?
God knows you're needy, but sheesh.

Anonymous 7:15 PM  

Please. Please. Stop misusing German words.

Azzurro 7:50 PM  

Meh. Strained theme and awkward fill. Rex was spot on.

Whatsername 8:29 PM  

I agree with Rex totally today. I got the rebus right away and then it was obvious what the down answers were but it was just a big bleh for me. Not one of my favorites.

Anonymous 8:38 PM  

Yeah, this one was just a slog, and no fun. But hearing Kirsty MacColl pretty much made up for it!

OISK 9:24 PM  

I got "pas" for a completely wrong reason. No mas means "no more" in Spanish. "Pas" means "not" in French...

Anonymous 9:38 PM

semioticus (shelbyl) 9:40 PM  

Once in a while NYT publishes puzzles that could have been great because it has a very strong foundation, but is not worked on enough and just relies on that aha factor. The W or D idea is actually pretty cool. WRYLY/DRYLY is great. "WINING/DINING" doesn't make sense. PAW/PAD is weak. So there you go. A brilliant idea is thus wasted.

On top of that, we also get a weak fill. CUPOFCOCOA was a tricky and cool answer. TORCHRELAY and DOORDIE were also to my liking. The rest was filled with long-time residents of Crosswordistan. QAT, NOTI, ORGS, ECLAT, HASAT, MASSE, PASEO and finally, a loud groan-inducing ENHALO. Twice in two weeks! ENHALO!

I'm getting used to Mr. Polin's clues, so that was actually the better part of the puzzle but there weren't enough of them. Why? Because the fill was so bad there wasn't room for word play.

It is just sad to see such a good idea hastily sacrificed.

GRADE: B-, 3 stars.

semioticus (shelbyl) 9:43 PM  

Also what I gather from all the comments is that people who got the theme after solving liked the puzzle a lot more (because then you forget about the terrible fill and just admire the idea), but those who got it while solving were not impressed (because the gimmick is not as strong as it sounds like and its pleasantness fades away quickly)

Z 10:02 PM  

@anon9:38 - Suggesting an Elvis Costello tune is one way to get on my good side. Unlike accusing me of using one of my 7 German words incorrectly without any suggestion of support for such a claim. Doing that causes me fremdschämen.*

Now to go do Rachel Maddow’s co-constructed puzzle.

*Besides, using a verb as a noun as one steals a concept from a foreign language isn’t misuse. “Sometimes, when a thing becomes part of the zeitgeist, you just have to accept it and move on.”

Malsdemare 10:05 PM  

Rachel Maddow just announced with great fanfare that she's the celebrity constructor for tomorrow. Her excitement is just too cool. I do not know this woman but I don't think I could be more excited if I did. Her excitement was absolutely electric. Something to keep in mind when someone gets a puzzle published for the first time.

Nancy 10:29 PM  

My God, he's quoted me verbatim not once but twice today! As though I were Mark Twain or Oscar Wilde! I think I love you, @Z!!

MGTopAgent 10:57 PM  

Absolutely awesome, clever and well-done puzzle. Knew there had to be a rebus but took a while to find it... Wine or Dine was the part I got first and that helped with the other two. No way this is easy to medium Rex. You are a huge grouch. Maybe you are just jealous that you could not construct such an awesome puzzle yourself. Get over yourself.

muskox 1:51 PM  

Astaire and Rogers film from the 50s, their last together I believe: The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle. Might have done better with a snappier title, but at least it helps a lot of us recognize a name otherwise unlikely to register.

medookubgu 10:42 AM  
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Linda Gibson 11:36 AM  
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