Rock band known for its energy domes / TUE 4-17-18 / Archipelago west of Portugal / Bruece Lee role based on old radio character / Loosening of government controls for short / Giant four-legged combat walker in Star Wars films

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Constructor: Wren Schultz

Relative difficulty: Easy (3:01)


THEME: VOWEL (65A: Every other letter in this puzzle's grid(!)) — that's the theme; pretty self-explanatory

Theme answers:
  • All of them
Word of the Day: KIWI (57D: New Zealand bird) —
noun
  1. 1
    a flightless New Zealand bird with hairlike feathers, having a long down-curved bill with sensitive nostrils at the tip.
  2. 2
    informal
    a New Zealander, especially a soldier or member of a national sports team.
[Actual solving outfit]

• • •

I have no idea how hard or easy this is to do, and I don't really care. You'd never notice the gimmick unless someone told you about it, and it has no relevance to the solving process. I guess if you somehow got really stuck and knew the "every other letter" = vowel gimmick, you could maybe narrow down your letter choices, but in a puzzle this easy, that seems highly unlikely. It's basically a profoundly easy and pretty dull themeless, with a very weak one-word revealer that points out an invisible stunt. If a stunt falls in the woods and there's no one ... etc. I genuinely don't understand this. Or, rather, I don't understand going forward with this when you have no zippy wordplay, no revealer, no phrase that you're reimagining. The punchline is just ... VOWEL. It would be great if the NYT thought for a dang second about what it would be like to solve this thing. You're humming along, it's easy, there's absolutely no discernible pattern or theme but you don't care 'cause you're crushing it, and then you hit dum dum DUM ... VOWEL. And you look at the grid and you see that indeed every other letter is a VOWEL but also it looks like any other blah crossword except w/o the pesky theme, I guess. But at least you got to see ODER and BOLA and ONED and NAGAT, though, so at least you've got that going for you.


I nearly broke 3 minutes on a Tuesday, which hasn't happened for me in a long while. I was half a minute faster today than yesterday. I had almost zero areas of trouble, and very few times when I looked at a clue and didn't know immediately what the answer was. ODER required crosses, but other than that, every answer seemed to just fall before me, without my having to do much of anything. At the very end (NE corner) I lost a few seconds because I hesitated at ___ DEPOSIT (10D: Lode). Figured it was ORE, but wanted confirmation. Then didn't get DEVO at first pass (11D: Rock band known for its "energy domes") and then of course fell in the old COLA / SODA trap at 9A: Pizza party drink (SODA). And so, 3:01. Really, really want those two seconds back. Curse you SODA! I shall never drink thee again ... I mean, I don't drink thee now, but ... moreso!

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

116 comments:

Ben Silver 12:02 AM  

I ended up filling in the SE corner first, so the VOWEL revealer did help with the rest of my fill.. Still ended up with a relatively slow 13:42 for a Tuesday

TomAz 12:15 AM  

I finished this before I even started it. I'm so good even the laws of physics don't apply to me. Einstein and Newton bow before my greatness.

But seriously folks... this puzzle was the very definition of 'meh'. I'm a fan of clever wordplay, misdirected cluing, and genuine 'aha' moments. Yesterday at least gave us the great Ming clue -- on a Monday! today? a lame parlor trick.

btw I finished in 8:38. I had EDER rather than ODER which made the OBI/BOLA cross hard to see. My bad, but, you know, whatever.

Anonymous 12:32 AM  

it was a monday minus. but the vowel thing makes sense. Wren Schultz = simple case of "vowel envy." 'nuff said!

Since there were no books, cooks, dooks, or ... to cause an outrage, here's some trivia about 1A.
Bono got his nickname from a hearing-aid store.
His mother passed away when he was 14 years old.
Bono once interviewed Bob Dylan, just before flubbing the lyrics to ‘Blowin’ in the Wind.’
He’s been married for nearly 30 years and has four children.
Excuse me, Sir, I mean Mister: Bono is an honorary knight of the British Empire.
Bono: Musician, Humanitarian…Actor?
He gave the Class Day speech at Harvard in 2001.
Try “friending” Bono: He’s a part-owner of Facebook.
He’s the only person to be nominated for a Grammy, an Oscar, a Golden Globe and the Nobel Peace Prize.
Bono is not a fan of the band name U2.





Paul Rippey 12:47 AM  

Saw theme and thought, “Well, how about that.” It was interesting for at least five seconds. Didn’t help at all with the solve, but no animals were hurt in the construction of the puzzle, so... whatevs.

chefwen 12:51 AM  

Had no problem with this except for a little slowdown in the NW. I filled in the usual tsp at 13D not realizing it didn’t say abbr. so CARIB and UNEXAMINED took a wee bit of fixing.

We were visiting New Zealand a few years ago and met some people who owned a rare animal zoo. They took us on a “behind the scenes” tour after closing time and I got to meet a KIWI up close and personal, I even have a picture of me giving the little guy a kiss on the head. My brother who lived there for three years and never saw one was extremely jealous. Too bad Mikey.

The theme actually helped me in a few places.

Monty Boy 12:53 AM  

The wheel house syndrome for me. Yesterday’s challenging puzzle was easy for me. Today’s “easy” took longer (about average time, slow by the standard you pros have). Another word I’ve learned from crosswords, but haven’t had a chance to use: AGAR. Maybe because I’m not a chef.

I was impressed with the vowel trick; done for both the acrosses and downs. Didn't help with the solve, but brought a smile and aha from me.

Yesterday, late, I posed several questions I have as a newbie. Most I found answered in the FAQ at the top of the page. A couple I don’t see there:
How do I put in the personal info (Avatar, interests, competitive arm wrestling, etc …)?
Why do name references have an @ (hi @LMS)?
How do I know when the Syndies comments begin?

Per Ferris: Anyone? Anyone?

Ellen S 12:55 AM  

I liked yesterday better (except for ANTIMMIGRATION, but it’s a real thing, sadly, and the clues and answers made me feel like I’d had a bit of a workout. Today, not at all. I think all the fun got leached out because of the constraints of having to alternate vowels and consonants.

Anonymous 1:21 AM  

so sunday's puzzle had RUN crossing RUN, plus RAN for good measure...and today's has ONE plus ONE ONEs. lazy

Anonymous 1:39 AM  

Damn! Missed Monday's opportunity to comment. I love the theatrics when yfl is intentionally trolled, and subsequently replies with his pseudo-offended, pseudo-pc rants, designed to play to his base! Entertaining, or amusing as the NYT calls it.

Moly Shu 2:01 AM  

None of the words I would use to describe my feelings about this puzzle fit the pattern so...... oh wait, hate (hi @yesterdays rant), yea that works.
Not really, can’t hate a puzzle with ATAT (hi@Nancy) and DEVO in it, but did not like it.

tkincher 2:09 AM  

I don’t expect much from a theme on a Tuesday, so I thought it was an interesting bonus.

jae 2:26 AM  

Easy-medium for me but I had a fat- fingered typo I had to track down, so maybe it was easy after all (makes me think about going back to solving on paper). Liked it more than @Rex did, but can’t really disagree with his take on this one.

Mark 3:02 AM  

UBER is a pioneer in self-driving cars? Only if you consider stealing rivals' technology and killing pedestrians "pioneering".

Jeremy Mercer 3:18 AM  

Curious to know what kind of challenge it is to put together this kind of alternating vowel puzzle... Is this a feat of construction that we should be impressed by?

Hartley70 3:43 AM  

I don't know how difficult it was to construct this "every other letter is a vowel" theme, but I bet it was more fun for the constructor than the solver. The placement of VOWEL had me looking back up the completed grid and thinking, "okay."

This was a Tuesday time filler and will be easily forgotten. Ah, where was I?

Loren Muse Smith 3:58 AM  

Yeah – I missed the wordplay I look forward to (hi, @TomAz), and the longish entries were kinda WAH wah wah: DECELERATED, ORE DEPOSIT, UNEXAMINED. POPE MOBILE is cute, though. But the phrase feels circus-ish, right? I’m not Catholic, so I don’t really have a dog in this fight, but still. Shouldn’t he be riding around in something that sounds more serious? Some kind of, well, Pontiac? I just googled an image, and it doesn’t look that silly, actually.

“Hurled weapon” – four letters. Hmm. I had the O in place, so I thought “rock.” Then

Bowl – I read that most marital fights occur in the kitchen
Soup – see above
Foot – if you hurled a human foot at someone, you’d certainly get their attention.
Word - possibly the most damaging weapon
Tome – we teachers are supposed to come up with a game plan with our students in the event of an active shooter in the building. Used to be, we were just supposed to lock our doors, turn off the light, and sit in a corner away from the door. But now they’re saying we’re supposed to do a fight or flight deal. The first-floor classes will just escape out the window. I’m on the second floor. My door doesn’t open in so that we could barricade it, so our plan is to grab textbooks – all of us – and hurl them at the guy if he chooses our room. We can only afford 30 textbooks for each grade, so they’re on a cart that we roll around to share. I feel this warm, happy sense of security when the textbook cart is in my room. Whew.

@chefwen – I’m adding “meet a KIWI up close and personal” to my bucket list.

@Monty Boy – If anyone knows how to change an avatar, it’s me. Why don’t you email me – nerol 2 at msn.

I bet this was tough to construct. Just look at any words you type. See? And I went back to check how he dealt with Y – turns out there’s nary a Y in the grid. Good move.

What with the Me, Too movement, Cosby trial, and, ahem, everything else these days, here’s a possible headline that fits the pattern:

TODAY AHOLE MENACE COPULATES ONE MORE TIME BEFORE MEGA NOSE DIVE

But the Y has to be a consonant. And the Y has to be answered and dealt with.

Wren – cool trick. Without the reveal, I don’t think I’d have noticed, but that’s ok. I’ll be on the lookout all day now for phrases that follow this pattern, and that’s a good thing.

Oh – and by the way – who puts SALAMI on a pizza? And drinks SODA instead of “beer” with it? My only erasure.

Diywriter 4:38 AM  

I'm from Chicago, and won't get into the usual pizza kerfuffle with New Yorkers. (Like the majority of Chicagoans, I usually prefer thin crust.) But salami as a topping? Huh?

Anonymous 4:42 AM  

@Monty Boy - the @name convention is because followup comments / replies do not attach to the original comment in any platform except iPhone. It makes it easier to understand who's talking to who. m.

John Child 5:03 AM  

Construction of a puzzle in this age uses a piece of software that tries a huge number of word combinations until finding a solution or declaring there to be none. The software needs a list of word to use, and that is a much more interesting part of the process. There are freely available lists and lists to buy; the top tier constructors have proprietary lists they have invested countless hours in. (Or “into which...,” but never mind.)

To make a puzzle with special constraints, like no Bs or a limited set of letters or words with an alternating vowel/consonant pattern, the constructor writes a very simple program that reads a word list and spits out only words that meet the criteria. That word list goes back into the constructing software, and things proceed as normal, using only the selected words.

Aketi 5:19 AM  

No double letters and almost Uless. What fun is that?

@LMS, me with anchovies too. But I admit I would pair it with beer.

'merican in Paris 5:58 AM  

Actually, I thought the VOWEL-consonant-VOWEL trick was pretty cool. And it did help me in a few tight places. But I Naticked at the K_TO-_TAT cross, and the _ONO-_ANA cross, so DNF.

I think that ODER SODA would be a great name for garlic cola. (To be consumed while tossing around a BOLA.)

But only two U's! M&A deserves better! Note to
Will Shortz: Next time please think of how to improve that old vowel balance. For example, 2A could have been BuNO ("literally, 'to throw' in Tagalog: a system of Filipino wrestling like Dumog"), and 2D could have been uREL ("How one pronounces an Internet address.")

Speaking of Will Shortz, could Wren Schultz (noth WS) be a nom de plume?

QuasiMojo 6:22 AM  

I'm not sure SALAMI as a pizza topping passes the breakfast test, although luckily I am up doing this puzzle today well before breakfast.

Now if every other space were AVOWAL we'd have a very tight grid.

Does the every other letter trick work, however with the three letter words? CUP, SEL, etc?

I didn't notice the gimmick until the end but was rattled by the two RATEs in the puzzle and a certain lack of ingenuity in the clueing. But other than that it seemed like a pretty standard Tuesday.

I must admit I thought the POPEMOBILE was invented after Pope John Paul was shot, as a means of protection, but the internet tells me Mercedes Benz has been making them since 1930. Apparently Pope Francis was given a Lamborghini when he took office but DONATEd it to charity.

Airbag 6:23 AM  

Didn't love "People or Us, for short" because People is the full name of a magazine, while Us is actually Us Weekly. DNF because I've never heard of either Oder or an obi

Two Ponies 6:40 AM  

Very odd and annoying puzzle.
Worst Star Wars answer ever.
Salami is not a pizza ingredient.
Name is usually the first fill of any form, online or not.
Why add Kickstarter to that clue, just say contribute.
Chicken for cooking? OK, a capon cannot lay eggs but again why?
Messy unnecessary cross-references and overly wordy clues.(There's your Ys!)
Bono is way too full of himself and hasn't done Ireland any favors.
Tell me why I should know Eric Bana since I don't.

Will might have scrapped Tricky Thursdays but he has kept the Stupid Tuesday reputation intact.

Glimmerglass 7:00 AM  

Too easy to be any fun. Too simple to be clever.

Brian Miles 7:07 AM  

I thought the theme was an impressive construction but the solve was kind of meh. Just a bit boring.

kitshef 7:23 AM  

Slow day for Lewis and M&A.

Not a lot of joy out of this one. Would have liked it if a ‘Y’ could have been worked in as a vowel somewhere along the way.

Had up for SALAMI on pizza – SALAMI and onion, specifically, is my favorite topping combo.

@Monty Boy - with very rare exceptions, Syndies begin commenting five weeks after everyone else on Monday - Saturday, and one week after everyone else on Sunday. Exception 1: about once per year, for reasons unknown, Syndielanders get a different puzzle than everyone else. Exception 2: Diana, Lady in Waiting has a time-traveling DeLorean and occasionally visits us Futurelanders.

gberg 7:29 AM  

Not entirely accurate. It works on my S7 (Android) too.

Mac 7:30 AM  

Kata crossing Atat?? If you are neither a Star Wars or Bruce Lee fan, a true Natick.

Anonymous 7:39 AM  

When I was in grade school, I learned the VOWELs as “a, e, I, o, u, and sometimes y.” It might have been a neat trick to include a y as a VOWEL and a y as a consonant.

- Jim C. in Maine

Birchbark 7:41 AM  

I've been on an old GENESIS kick lately -- The Musical Box, Supper's Ready, Cinema Show, etc. Complex moods.

Before computers, Eugene Maleska made lists of alternating vowel-consonant words, sorted by number of letters. "Longer words of this ilk were hard to find, but it was a thrill to dredge up such 'tens' as (27D) DECELERATE, ECUMENICAL, ANEMOMETER, and PALITINATE ... The 'alternating' technique can be overdone. An experienced pro seldom resorts to it. But it does give confidence to a beginner." -- Eugene Maleska, "A Pleasure in Words."

Hungry Mother 7:43 AM  

@Monty Boy: edit your profile in Blogger to add a photo; I think the use of ‘@‘ originated in Twitter, where it directed tweets to an individual.

Z 7:54 AM  

This won’t be easy for for everyone.

PPP Analysis
Pop Culture, Product names, and other Proper nouns as a percentage of the puzzle. Anything over 33% tends to give some subset of solvers problems.

32 of 74 for 42% including the first four downs and three of their four crosses. BANA/PALOMA especially will cause games of Whac-a-VOWEL.

BONO
ODER
CARIB
ARES
LEVI
PALOMA
PIPER (Pan)
UNER
OXO
GENESIS
EVE
SELIG
EVAN
AT-AT
ERIC

BANA
OREL
NIXON ERA
OBAMAS
DEVO
MAG (People or Us)
AZORES
JULES
EXILE (Napoleon)
ROSES (Kentucky Derby)
LON
EVA GABOR
NEPAL
KATO
ETON
ERE (‘Twas the Night Before Christmas)

SJ Austin 7:57 AM  

Huh. This one seemed trickier than the average Tuesday to me. That's not too surprising, because Rex and I often have opposite opinions of the relative difficulty. My theory is that more crosswordese makes it easier for him, while it makes it harder for me because I haven't been doing these puzzles for decades.

Z 8:01 AM  

@Monty Boy - Welcome. Regarding the syndicated comments - if you’re going back to those puzzles to catch up on the comments there is no real way to tell when the syndicated readers start. One option is to read them every day and you’ll soon get to know the regulars there. The second option is to check the “Email follow-up” below “Choose an identity” and then you will get all comments in your email.

Kaby 8:03 AM  

A fine example of the Parker Principle: the worse the puzzle, better the blog.

Anonymous 8:05 AM  

The revealer should have read "every other letter in each answer" not "in this puzzle's grid." In this puzzle's grid would mean that, for example, 5-Across would have to begin with a consonant since it follows a vowel in square 4, etc.

Calman Snoffelevich 8:15 AM  

It's not even an accurate description: it's every other letter within every word, but if you go between words then the "theme" doesn't hold up anymore. So it's not really every other letter.

chefbea 8:31 AM  

What a hard puzzle to construct!!!! At least it had some food in it - avocados. kiwi,...no taco!!! . I have many OXO thing in my kitchen

mmorgan 8:32 AM  

It wouldn't have made for a more pleasurable solving experience, but it would have made for a more impressive construction, if the vowel-consonant-vowel-consonant pattern had continued across words as well.

Nate 8:37 AM  

Puzzles that are interesting only because of the puzzle construction are pretty lame. As a solver, I generally do not care about what into constructing the puzzle.

Anyways, this was ridiculous easy for me... with the exception of the North-Central portion of the puzzle. OBI (probably should have remembered that), ODER (bah), and BOLA (?!?) mystified me. I should be upset with a Tuesday DNF, but I just don't care. So what if I don't know what a BOLA or an OBI is? I don't care.

Nancy 8:44 AM  

Idle question to constructors on the blog: Is it harder to have two I's next to each other three or four times in a puzzle or is it harder to have vowels and consonants alternate on every answer in the puzzle? Just wondering. I have plenty of remaining brain power to wonder with, since solving this puzzle didn't use up any of it. Meh and mindless for the solver. A feat of sorts, I suppose, for the constructor.

BocaBoy 8:52 AM  

I made the same mistake with cola/soda, but I liked this puzzle. I agree it was easy but kerosene and Nixonera are two fills you don't normally see. And salami? Who the heck tops pizza with salami!?

Also one of my best times for a Tuesday.

Glenn Patton 9:00 AM  

Pepperoni,perhaps one of the most common pizza toppings in the U.S., is a type of salami.

Amelia 9:04 AM  

Nice puzzle, one I had a teeny bit of trouble with, which I like on any day of the week.

Oh, by the way, I think yesterday's clue about the ming worth millions was a misdirect.

(appropriate emoji goes here.)

Robert A. Simon 9:16 AM  

I wasn't in the meeting, but I'd bet the producers of "Casino Royale" took one look at the then only-known-in-England Daniel Craig in "Munich"and said, "Get that guy in here. There's our next James Bond." There are many reasons to re-screen "Munich," (which I just did) and his performance seen in hindsight is certainly one of them.

That reminded me of my favorite quote about making movies--or plays for that matter: "Directing is what you do to make up for the mistakes you made in casting."


Sir Hillary 9:22 AM  

Meh. I like but one sole facet of it: OXO "love" tip. I was in "aw" of it. Alas, it is a loner.

'merican in Paris 9:23 AM  

Now hold on a darn minute. For all you gripers about the construction -- namely that the puzzle didn't alternate between VOWEL and consonant between words, look at the grid again. The pattern is maintained in any given row or down AS IF the black square were the alternating VOWEL or consonant. Hence

BONO [consonant] ODER [VOWEL] SODA

CUP [VOWEL] JULES [VOWEL] KATO

And so forth. C'mon, give WS a break. That is pretty ZEN, in my book!

'merican in Paris 9:26 AM  

In otherwords, if you looked at the whole grid, including the black squares, it would look like:

VCVCVCVCVCVCVCV
CVCVCVCVCVCVCVC
VCVCVCVCVCVCVCV
CVCVCVCVCVCVCVC
VCVCVCVCVCVCVCV
CVCVCVCVCVCVCVC
VCVCVCVCVCVCVCV

etc.

Mohair Sam 9:27 AM  

Only hiccough (hiccup?) was trying to squeeze Ava Gardner where EVA GABOR belonged.

I'm curious - does the Wall Street Journal puzzle have almost daily "Star Wars" clues? I've only ever done Times puzzles, but I'm looking for something aimed at grown-ups.

Neat to see the two most liberal Presidents of my lifetime side by side.

Nancy 9:32 AM  

@Birchbark (7:41) -- A most interesting look at Maleska's thoughts on creating this kind of puzzle. Thanks for citing. It proves, of course, that there's nothing new under the sun.

@Loren (3:58) -- I love BOWL as the answer to 14A, along with your reasoning.

@Two Ponies (6:40) -- Nice last two sentences. I agree with them both.

Re SALAMI: @Glenn Patton (9:00)-- I was just going to say that, but you beat me to it. Still, once you've had pepperoni, why would you ever settle for mere salami? And @Aketi: I love anchovies on pizza, too. But I never order them since just about no one else likes them, so you know they've been sitting, unused and unnoticed, in the freezer for the last 15 months. They might still be fresh, but probably not so much.

Marco Polo 9:38 AM  

Pepperoni, yes. Salami? No.

irongirl 9:39 AM  

@Monty Boy, I'm a newbie, too. Mainly a lurker. I had to log on today to say I finished this thing in 7:30. I'm so darned proud of myself.

Something about the vowel thing was weirdly satisfying to me keyboard-wise. I don't know why. It's like knowing I can type "stewardesses" with only my left hand.

@LMS, I switched careers from teaching a while back. My last year was the year of Columbine. It rattled all of us. I can't even imagine having an escape plan as a matter of routine. Wow. So sorry.

Roo Monster 9:46 AM  

Hey All !
Great construction feat. Really tough to do and end up with clean fill. Bravo Wren.

Surprised at the non-OBI knowers, seems it's been in quite a few puzzles. SALAMI is sometimes a pizza topping, depending on the place.

ATAT, Har. Liked the Star Wars movies, although haven't seen any of the new ones. Is an ATAT a new thing?

Almost a pangram with the alternating vowels. That really, really would've been impressive. Missed opportunity on ODER; One who drugs too much? :-) And ONED, riding Wilburs horse?

ROTATOR fits this theme, and it's a palindrome!

I VOTED ONE MAN LOSE TO ERIC BANA.
RooMonster
DarrinV



CashPo' 10:04 AM  

NIXONERA sounds like a lice removal cream.

QuasiMojo 10:08 AM  

@'merican in Paris, the clue says "every other LETTER," not space or box in the grid. So I think not.

GILL I. 10:11 AM  

Yep...Did the dum dum Dum then hit VOWEL. Oh. Okay. Go back, look, Oh. Now what? Well, the first thing that pops in the head is that SALAMI thing on a pizza and drinking SODA with it. If you're going to eat SALAMI, it better be Columbus Italian Dry on a little cracker with some good Vermont cheddar. If you're going to drink SODA, it better have Scotch in it. I don't really like Pizza except maybe that flat French kind with artichokes on it and I'll join @Nancy and @Aketi and add some anchovies from Spain (in a jar) and fresh bits of Basil. I want a crossword dedicated to food and drink.
So, this VOWEL thing is clever but boring. And then @John C tells me that this came to be because there is a software program that spits out answers to suit your needs? Cool. What next?

'merican in Paris 10:25 AM  

@QuasiMojo -- Perhaps some serious topographers need to chime in, but I don't see how one could do it every other letter with black spaces in the grid. On the second and third rows, for example, you would have this conflict:

|CVCV|CVCV|CVCV
CVCVC|VCVC|VCVC
VCVCVCVCVC|VCVC

Maybe it wasn't a good clue at 65A, but to do what people have asked for would be nigh impossible unless the grid were solid letters and 15-word answers both across and down.

Mohair Sam 10:37 AM  

@John Child - Thanks for the lesson. Explains all the constructing wunderkinds. Still, the magic is in the cluing.

And love that you (like me) are still uncomfortable ending a sentence in a preposition. We gotta get over it.

Suzie Q 10:42 AM  

Words like obi and bola are so commonplace that I'm surprised at how many people were stumped.
The theme was pretty vanilla to me and sure would have gone over my head if it hadn't been pointed out to me. Even then it barely got a shrug and didn't make it any more fun.
If one more person mentions that vase I'm going to scream (insert emoji @ Amelia.) Good one!
Talking about anchovies makes me want some home made Caesar dressing.

kitshef 10:54 AM  

@Roo Monster - AT-ATs were in The Empire Strikes Back and you may think of them as "Imperial walkers". Big improbable robot camel-looking things used on the ice planet Hoth.

Graham 10:57 AM  

It had been so long since we’d seen that cliche of clunky airline magazine crosswords crop up in the Times: the “random European river.”

I didn’t miss it.

Fashionista 10:59 AM  

Exactly. Salami on a pizza? What’s next, pineapple? Oh wait....

Carola 11:03 AM  

Nifty execution and some nice entries: UNEXAMINED, PALOMA, AVOCADOS, GENESIS, KEROSENE. My favorite line contrasted two forms of transport, the ATAT (All Terrain Armored Transport) sowing destruction and the POPEMOBILE blessings.

@Roo Monster - The ATAT isn't new. See here for nice clips from the ATAT attack on Hoth in The Empire Strikes Back.

Whatsername 11:07 AM  

I don’t do Monday puzzles because they are so easy. IMO that’s where this one belonged. It was probably a lot more entertaining to construct than it was to solve. Certainly more of a challenge.

Fashionista 11:11 AM  

Is it a holiday in France today?

rosebud 11:14 AM  

We all need a few easier days in life, I enjoyed this puzzle. My son’s name is Evan and he loves baseball, camping and politics, so having his name below Selig, above kerosene and in the middle of I Voted was perfect. Not sure how he relates to togas...and oddly, i never knew avocados were alligator pears. Hmmm. Thanks!

jberg 11:23 AM  

Well, the theme did help me increase the probability of my guess at the KATO/ATAT cross. Lots of those Star Wars weapons have titles like "X-Wing," so it could have been a consonant --- maybe crossing KSTO? But once I saw the revealer, it pretty much had to be KETO or KATO, and I guessed right.

I did like UBER crossing ABOVE.

@Loren, you are always one step ahead of me! I had to do a web search to see that your avatar was a palindrome--and one that backs up a day to have two Is in a row! Too bad you couldn't get rid of the NG - GN thing, to fit today's theme as well. (Actually, 2 steps -- only just now noticed "Pontiac!")

I thought it was a joke when I heard it, but there are reports of teachers bringing in buckets of rocks. TOMEs are better, though -- both for the surprise factor, and maybe the aspiring shooter will learn something.

jberg 11:24 AM  

Hey, @gberg, are you my brother in Florida?

old timer 11:24 AM  

Easy for me, and count me among those who because it was easy, solved top to bottom, and only came to the revealer near the end.s

When I eat pizza, it is usually from Round Table, and their most famous combo is the King Arthur, which has both salami and pepperoni, and while pepperonis is an excellent topping by itself, I find salami preferable if there is a wide variety of toppings on the pie. (Side note: I first ate at Round Table when there was only one, on El Camino in Menlo Park, and the King Arthur was a favorite even in the 1960's -- the joint was basically designed to sell a lot of Coors beer, and to sell beer you want to have spicy food).

I usually leave out the anchovies, which are way too salty. But of course you need anchovies on a Caesar salad, and the ones the better restaurants use are the ones from Spain, piquant but not so salty.

I loved the Maleska citation.

GILL I. 11:26 AM  

@Carola...Thanks for the AT AT clip. I'd forgotten who they were. Why I don't know since our son owned every single one of those Star Wars toys. I always felt sorry for the AT AT since they reminded me of elephants and who would kill an elephant?
@SusieQ..Ha ha. Have I told you my Ming vase story?

Mark N 11:31 AM  

Fun trifle of a puzzle & theme. UNEXAMINED was the highlight for me

Joseph Michael 12:04 PM  

Rex's review pretty much sums up my feelings about this one. Alternating VOWELs may be a feat for constructors to admire, but didn't do much for my morning as I solved, though I did get a kick out of POPEMOBILE.

During the solve, as I tried to suss out a theme, I thought it might have something to do with the CAD in AVOCADOS, or the CAT in LOCATOR or perhaps the ROSE in KEROSENE.

The latter seemed most promising since it tied into that Kentucky Derby clue at 32 down. But nothing really made sense until I got to the VOWEL revealer which then left me with Peggy Lee's famous question "Is that all there is?"

The answer that keeps attracting my eye now is ONED which looks like the past tense of a verb I have never heard of before.

Instead of asking a date to the prom, he ONED it. Or instead of writing a ten on her scorecard, the judge only ONED it. Or he wanted to play his musical instruments alone, so he ONED it and went on tour as a ONE MAN band.

Wren 12:07 PM  

Some constructors choose to bypass the creator programs, instead taking a more hands on approach. It's not all robot overlords yet.

Hungry Mother 12:11 PM  

Are indirects often used in puzzles, ala Ming?

Kimberly 12:13 PM  

Mostly solved on the downs so I didn’t even see the revealer clue or answer until I went to Rex.

I’m generally a slow solver because I’m usually watching tv and doing other things and just crosswording in fits and starts, but even with the tv on and a call to the cable company about my never ending internet troubles I was faster than usual. Mostly I ignore my time because I firmly believe rapid solving is like modern debate or speed chess: speed kills. Or it at least kills the beauty and joy of a thing. But I did notice that this was a relatively zippy solve,

Masked and Anonymous 12:26 PM  

Well, it is kinda different … hard to beat Different.
Not sure row #1 (for example) really has a vowel for every other letter, in: BONOODERSODA.
OTOH, if the shady squares are "wild cards", then *BONO*ODER*SODA works, with wild card choices of Vow.-Con.-Vow. Sooo … ok.

staff weeject pick: CUP. This brings up an important point of vowel respect order, that several of U sweet people have already brought up on my behalf. [My work is made easier, once again, by sleepin in.] But, to summarize the body c(aei)ount:
A-24
E-33
I-9
O-22
U-2 [Ahar! I see. A BONO reference meta?]

This TuesPuz coulda been more impressive, if it did this vowel trick using a grid without any shady squares. That might have enabled m&e to see the theme trick, mid solvequest. Also, it probably woulda boosted the difficulty level for solvers up a smidge. As is, it was pretty darn eazy-E.
har. Us Comment Gallery folks don't ask for much, do we, Wren Schultz?

Best Wren-nest of desperation: ODER/OBI/BOLA/ELEV. All that guacamole mighta been worth it, for AVOCADOS, tho. Also: Cool havin NIXONERA next to the OBAMAS. BANA/BONO was a nice grouping. ATAT is primo schlocky. And … peace-de-resistance, first time I've ever seen EVAGABOR in the POPEMOBILE.

On whether this one was hard to construct: Sorta doubt it. U ain't bound by any theme answers, other than VOWEL. And since vowel respect was not an issue for this constructioneer …
Ergooo … Just circle every other square in the grid, and go to work on buildin it.

But, vive la differents and thanx, Mr. schUltz.

Masked & AnonymoUUs


**gruntz**

tea73 12:57 PM  

The best thing about this puzzle was LMS's new avatar. Not a record for a Tuesday, but still pretty speedy. When chickenwalker didn't fit, I had a hard time remembering what the elephant things were called. And I've seen the movies twice in theaters and about a kajillion times in both the enhanced and less enhanced versions at home as the series were my younger son's favorite movies for all too long. (He's a fan of less enhanced BTW.) I thought the fill was dull, the gimmick duller. Did like the OXO clue.

Anoa Bob 1:01 PM  

So, I'm saving the lower right for the end like I usually do because that's where the reveal most likely resides and I always try to figure out the theme before the reveal is revealed and for the life of me I couldn't see anything even close to a theme with this one and when I finally saw the clue ""Every other LETTER in this puzzle's GRID" (hi, Quasimojo), the first thing I noticed was that the sequence of LETTERS in the top row of the GRID was BONOODERSODA and the second row was CARIBBOLAARES and I thought "Wait a minute. That ain't right".

I forget who said it, but regarding ending a sentence with a preposition, it goes something like "That is nonsense up with which I will not put". Winston Churchill maybe?

Teedmn 1:02 PM  

So Rex's mantra might be that the UNEXAMINED crossword is not worth solving?

Like @Sir Hillary, (nice shout-out to you in 50D's clue!) my favorite clue/answer was for OXO. Post-solve, I tried to determine if the "love" tie-in was the constructor's (or editor's) discovery or if the brand was deliberately named OXO for the hugs-and-kisses symbols. Nothing was stated directly on the OXO website but since in the origination story the product line was conceived to save a wife from pain while using utensils, you could say it is in fact true.

ATAT reminds me of the sounds the Martians made in the "Mars Attacks" movie. Nice sophomore NYT puzzle, thanks Wren Schultz.

Nancy 1:27 PM  

@Anoa Bob. It was Winston. I cited his quote on the Preposition Puzzle day -- this past Sunday -- at 4:45 p.m.

Anonymous 1:47 PM  

Wow I so completely disagree with this review! I've been doing crosswords for a couple years but I'm not particularly good. Mostly finish Mondays and SOMETIMES Tuesdays but nothing more.

For me this theme was amazing. I figured that it was vowel fairly early on and though I barely had any of it filled in at the beginning once I had the theme I was able to solve the majority of the puzzle.

I've never had a theme before that was so useful as it informed every solve. So for those who are not instantly filling in every box the theme was very nice

Roo Monster 1:51 PM  

@Teedmn 1:02
I Googled OXO once, I believe it said the name was chosen because it looks the same horizontally or vertically.
O
X
O
Cool, huh?

RooMonster

michiganman 2:10 PM  

66A-ONED puzzled me, too. Then I realized it's ONE D as in ONE Dimension. (Lacking width and depth)

GILL I. 2:13 PM  

Wren. Thank you for stopping by.
This is a tough crowd and you had the bad luck of drawing the dreaded Tuesday slot. I'm thinking that we are now expecting a Kentucky Derby prize for the Monday after step-child.
I'm glad you cleared up the hands on approach. Made me appreciate this more than I did. I'm afraid after reading @John C's explanation of availability of software, I erroneously jumped to the conclusion that your puzzle was the result of software.
Hey...you had AVOCADOS and AT AT and made many of us think of anchovies and Spain. Not sure about your SALAMI and SODA though...:-)

Chris 2:27 PM  

Easy for me. New Tue time by a few seconds. Saw the high PPP count, but not the theme. Nice puzzle.

Lewis 2:29 PM  

As your resident alphadoppeltotter, it is my duty to inform you that today's puzzle had zero double letters! However, because this was a result of the theme, it is disqualified from alphadoppel consideration, I am sorry to report. Even so, seeing a grid bereft of double letters, did cause my pulse to quicken for a brief shining moment.

Masked and Anonymous 2:59 PM  

M&A Random Stuff Dept.

TuesPuz vowel count: 90 [2 U's]
MonPuz vowel count: 78 [6 U's]
SatPuz vowel count: 79 [6 U's]
FriPuz vowel count: 78 [9 U's]
ThursPuz vowel count: Rebus. Sooo… depends.
WedPuz vowel count: 72 [4 U's]

Conclusions, class?

M&Also

Honeysmom 2:59 PM  

Well, excuse me, but I was impressed with the every other vowel both up and down. Sad that so many commenters are so bored and jaded!

DigitalDan 3:22 PM  

Would have been much more impressive if every other letter really were a vowel, disregarding word boundaries.

JOHN X, THE MAN WITH X-RAY EYES 3:24 PM  

If you're an intermediate or above solver, how do you not know ODER? It's in the puzzle once a month. It's buddy is YALU, another border river on the other side of the world. They might be connected to each other I don't know I don't own a map.

Diana,LIW 3:31 PM  

Hoped in the deLorean since I heard my name called in the Futurelanders site. Hi @Monty - and thanks for the love, @Kitshef. Not everyone remembers the Syndielanders, but once you meet them, you can't forget...

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords (from the Future in 5 weeks)

And now, back to the past...VROOOOOOMMM!!!!

Jason Webster 4:16 PM  

I'm a little put put off by the AZORES clue. They're not really west of Portugal since they are part of Portugal. Like Hawaii to the US.

Anonymous 4:43 PM  

Google tells me that the Azores are an autonomous region of Portugal so you are rightly offended.

Joe Dipinto 4:57 PM  

Sopressata and pepperoni are both types of salami (they are often referred to as "spicy salami"). So yes, definitely salami pizza.

The thing about this puzzle is...if every other letter is a VOWEL, then every other other letter is a CONSONANT. So why single out the vowels as the "theme"? The consonsants play a precisely equal part in the construction. Where is the consonant love? It would have been tighter if CONSONANT were also somewhere in the grid with the same clue as 65a.

Joe Dipinto 5:12 PM  

(Oops, one too many consonants in "consonsants".)

Masked and Anonymous 5:29 PM  

@Honeysmom (2:59pm): U raise perfectly valid points. Glad U liked it, btw. This VCVCVCV theme idea is quite impressively clever, IM&AO. [Full disclosure: Very few NYTPuzs ever bore me … or turn me to jade.] Nuthin about this puppy was able to put even one arm of me to sleep. I think it deserves mucho r-e-s-p-e-c-t.

Out of endless curiosity, M&A did try constructin up a 7x7 runtpuz grid that used today's NYTPuz theme (with a slightly below-average 6 shady squares), just to see how long it would take. Didn't me take long; certainly no longer than average, for the 1250+ runtz I have made up.
Will try to clue it up, and hopefully put er out here, tomorrow. It has 2 "U's" in it [lil darlins].

M&A
"Small Crossword Testing & Analysis Div."


sanfranman59 5:33 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 5:15 4:24 1.19 86.2% Challenging
Tue 4:38 5:37 0.82 12.5% Easy

FWIW, had Will used this puzzle yesterday and yesterday's puzzle today, my solve times would have been Medium-Challenging (62.5%) and Easy-Medium (62.5%).

My only erasures in this one were tsP before CUP (13D) and BOLo before BOLA (14A). I can never remember what's a bolo (tie or knife) and what's a bola (a hurled weapon with a string and hard balls). AT-AT ... so that's what those Star Wars contraptions are called. I needed all the crosses for that one. "Energy domes" ... so that's what those things were that the DEVO guys wore on their heads. OK. Other than that, this was nonstop, fill-in-the-blank.

John Althouse Cohen 5:36 PM  

I disagree: I found the VOWEL theme helpful in solving the puzzle, since I could automatically rule out a bunch of letters for each square. I used that for a lot of the clues, and yet I still found this puzzle harder than the average Tuesday.

SALAMI threw me off. As others said, I hadn't heard of it as a pizza topping — but I've been a vegetarian since age 10, so I thought, "Well, maybe some people do like salami on pizza and I just hadn't paid any attention to it." Apparently so!

LON (Chaney) — I thought it was RON. Ron Chaney is Lon Chaney's grandson, and they were both in "scary" movies. I should have known that the R couldn't be right since that would make the other fill ROSE TO, which doesn't mean "be beaten by"; it must be LOSE TO.

I had to look up "alligator pears." I had never heard of them, and I thought "avocados" ended in "-es" (turns out they're alternate spellings).

jae 5:42 PM  

Anyone else having trouble downloading the LA Times puzz from the Cruciveb or xwordfiend sites?

semioticus (shelbyl) 5:46 PM  

Here's my very brief review: WHY?

Here's a more elaborate version: BUT WHYYYYYYYYY?

Seriously. Jading fill (some good long entries but they don't justify the short crap), no theme, almost zero pleasurability. Clues are trying hard enough for a Tuesday, so there's that. Not enough.

GRADE: C-, 2 stars.

Anonymous 5:54 PM  

Just reading this for the first time today in late p.m. Interesting remarks on the grid and alternative selections made by 'merican in Paris (9:23 and 9:26 a.m.), which I do not think had been made elsewhere, at least on this site. I too noticed that consonants abutted consonants across black squares, and vowels did the same (someone else expressed this differently, by imagining a consonant or vowel in the black space). Result also is that every diagonal row is all-consonant or all-vowel.

Anon. i.e. Poggius

JC66 5:56 PM  

@jae

I did the LA Times puzzle this AM. No problems downloading via CrossWordButler.

Chance 10:12 PM  

I thought it was a good puzzle. Clever theme with no real grabber or punchline, sure, but still you have to admire the construction. And there's NIXON ERA and POPEMOBILE. Come on!

Z 10:31 PM  

@‘mericans - Nice catch. I’m never a big fan of letter-play themes, but that does turn my appreciation up a notch. I agree that considering the blocks as the missing vowels/consonants is the way to go to be most consistent.

@Wren - Thanks for stopping by.

Regarding @LMS’ “new” avatar... Everyday people. Every. Single. Day.

@AnonOddlyPreOccupiedWithZ - You’ll be happy to know that we got smoked tonight, a full 10 points behind the winners. Bogart’s year of birth? Patty Duke’s Oscar winning role? Jay North’s title TV role for four years? I can’t feel too bad about those. Forgetting that vanilla comes from an orchid and putting Albania across the Aegean from Greece, on the other hand, were totally D’Oh moments.

Joe Dipinto 1:21 AM  

@Z - 1899, Helen Keller, Dennis The Menace. You should have had me on your team. :-)

pcardout 2:11 AM  

Just got around to it. Like others, appreciated ATAT. Any Star Wars or Trek or LOTR reference is always appreciated. The vowel thing was cute, and I did get a little aha on seeing it. Dont be such a crab Rex! Have a good weekend all!

Western Wear 2:44 PM  

crossword puzzle, the game that i love when i was young

Burma Shave 9:13 AM  

ZEN NAME LOCATOR

In the NIXONERA, ONEMAN I adore,
Who, UNEXAMINED, became LORE.
He AWAKES to make a DEPOSIT, ORE
hide the SALAMI with EVAGABOR .

--- JULES SELIG

rondo 10:09 AM  

Invisible stunt? Nope. Unnoticed? Nope. After filling everything north of yeah baby PALOMA Picasso and AVOCADOS (both of which I thought, “Great xwords, VOWEL, consonant, VOWEL, consonant . . .”) I decided to take a trip to the SE via OREDEPOSIT, crossed by VILE, in turn crossed by one-time yeah baby EVAGABOR, of whom I thought, “Great xword name, VOWEL, consonant, VOWEL, consonant . . .”, in turn crossed by VOWEL. So . . . , OFL, not invisible nor unnoticed. It RATES ATAT least as good as common Tuesday fare. Just ONEMAN’s opinion. Except who tops pizza with SALAMI?

spacecraft 11:37 AM  

OK, I got an error message and didn't see my comment after refreshing, so if two of these appear, it's not my fault! Here goes:

This comes under the heading of what book editors call a "tomato surprise." The reader (solver) sails along unsuspecting and then gets hit at the end with the "surprise." This is supposed to explain odd happenings during the plot, but it doesn't work--either in writing or puzzle constructing.

This was so easy I was able to start out in the NW--and when it was done it had two non-PPP's: CUP and the great word UNEXAMINED. The grid is loaded with propers, part of the price for the cvcvc thing. With so many, we're bound to have a crowded DOD stage. IVOTED for PIPER Perabo, though Ms. Laurie of "The Hustler" fame would also work.

More price: shorthand. MAG ELEV DEREG ELEC and my [NOT!] favorite ONED. VILE!

On the plus side, the longer fill is great, and kudos for finding entries that preserve the alternating pattern. It's the reason you MADEPAR, Wren Schultz (pseudonym, Will?)

thefogman 11:42 AM  

Why no Y? Wren Schultz avoided using Y since it is a semivowel - sometimes used as a consonant and other times a vowel. It's the gender-nonbinary member of the letter world. It was an okay puzzle but needing a much better punch line than 65A (VOWEL).

Diana,LIW 2:14 PM  

Easyish, until I hit my personal Natick - 53D and 60A. Once again, bit by pop culture, esp. space/martial arts refs. Fair enuf.

I, too, noticed the VCVC theme. Worked for me for a Tuesday. But heck, I like wordplay. You know - where you play with words?

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

leftcoastTAM 2:58 PM  

Monday-Tuesday puzzle switch? Seems so. Is the every-other-letter-a-vowel gimmick difficult to do? Appears not, but it's neat and clean.

I like the long downs and acrosses, especially DECELERATE and POPEMOBILE. Gotta slow down with the stand-up rider Pope.

Not a close follower of "Star Wars" or rock bands, so crosses helped in getting the "Giant four-legged combat walker", ATIT, and DEVO, not unheard-of.

Who knew that AVOCADOS were called "Alligator pears"?

Liked it.

rainforest 4:21 PM  

I had a similar experience to @Rondo's, noticing the alternating vowel/consonant thing on several entries prior to getting to the "revealer". So, not invisible to the sharp-eyed solver, har!

If you have meat on your pizza, the order in preference (least to most) would be: SALAMI, Italian sausage, pepperoni, capocollo (capocoli?, capicolla?). This has been determined by serious research.

If you don't have meat on your pizza, you must examine why you came to a pizza place. More research.

So, kind of a themeless, but not patternless. Easy, but cute.

leftcoastTAm 6:39 PM  

It's late, but LMS, way above, is in especially good form (usually very good but different forms). If you're still around, take a look.

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