Protein shell of virus / SUN 9-2-18 / Showdown in classic video games / Obie-winning playwright Will / Stefanik who is youngest woman ever elected to Congress / Brother of Dori Nori in Hobbit / Territory name until 1889

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Constructor: Tom McCoy

Relative difficulty: Medium (10:50)


THEME: "Going Head to Head" — famous antagonists are written out "head to head" (i.e. with first name backward, so its first letter touches first letter of the second name):

Theme answers:
  • SUESEHTMINOTAUR (22A: Showdown in Greek mythology)
  • OIRAMBOWSER (28A: Showdown in classic video games)
  • NOTLIMAHBURR (39A: Showdown in American history)
  • EKULDARTHVADER (61A: Showdown in cinema)
  • YPOONSREDBARON (69A: Showdown in the funnies)
  • DIVADGOLIATH (92A: Showdown in the Bible)
  • NAMTABJOKER (107A: Showdown in comic books)
  • ETOXIUQWINDMILL (115A: Showdown in literature)
Word of the Day: CAPSID (95A: Protein shell of a virus) —
noun
  1. capsid is the protein shell of a virus [you don't say!!!]. It consists of several oligomeric structural subunits made of protein called protomers. The observable 3-dimensional morphological subunits, which may or may not correspond to individual proteins, are called capsomeres. The capsid encloses the genetic material of the virus. (emph mine) (wikipedia)
• • •

All this is—Literally All This Is—is famous antagonists pairs presented in the grid with their heads (i.e. first letters) touching, i.e. first name backward, second name forward. There's no gimmick, no trick. Just ... half-backward pairs. This isn't a thing. The pairs aren't even iconic much of the time. David & Goliath, well obviously, but Mario and Bowser???? What? I honestly don't even know what Bowser is. I know that Bowser is neither Hamilton- nor Burr-famous. Darth Vader is Luke's father (spoiler alert!), so ... that's not exactly a great example. Batman has many, many villains that he battles, though I guess Joker is probably the greatest of them all, so maybe that example is OK. I don't know. I think the basic premise just seems very, very weak to me, in that, again, it's just some kind of foes with one name turned the wrong way. [Extreme shrug]!!! Seems kinda UNIDEAL (just like the word UNIDEAL, coincidentally).


This one felt very fussy to me, throughout. Like someone was trying to toughen it up by simply making it more annoying. I finished with a typo/error at 38D: Defeat (WORST), mostly because omg who uses the word that way and How In The World does WORST mean the same as BEST!??!? That is insane. I must've seen R-D in the cross (43A: Hot ___) and instead of filling in the obvious ROD, wrote in the answer that would've been obvious if the blank had *preceded* the "Hot" (RED). And then I just didn't check the down in the end. Ugh, WORST. "I WORSTed you!" ... said Don Quixote to the Windmill, maybe? Why is it just LUKE but the full DARTH VADER. His name is LUKE SKYWALKER, man, come on. Be consistent. The fill on this one is not great, largely because there is a KILOTON of very short fill (not a lot of longer answers) and so you just get bombarded by NSA and SCHS and AAA (those are all abutting and crossing one another) and ORI and the dreaded AHME etc. ATTA OCTA ALII OSTEO make it stop. CAPSID, yikes! I was really worried that that answer was gonna kill me, as I had no idea about it or (for a while) KILOTON. There are some nice longer Downs, particularly NO-CALL LIST, "NOW WHERE WAS I...?" and "AMEN TO THAT!" But overall it felt like I was dealing with a subpar / unambitious theme, and like I was spending most of my time swatting at gnat-like short fill. I did not enjoy it NOWISE.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

108 comments:

John 12:07 AM  

While I was working the puzzle, I knew I had to finish quickly to see if Rex fussed about Bowser. He did not disappoint.

puzzlehoarder 12:19 AM  

This started slow. I didn't figure out the theme until after I'd looked at the clues for the first four themers. It's funny how the second half of 61 A looks like it's trying to form the word THEATER. When I went back to 39 A I spotted the backward HAMILTON and from then on it was like filling in a big Monday.

The lower four themers went in without ever reading their clues. I would just put in some fill recognize one of the names and fill in the rest. Wether it was the forward or the backward name made no difference.

The only place I could have possibly made a dnf is if BOWSER turned out to be spelled with a Z. MARIO I've heard of but BOWSER is news to me.

I got some puzzling out of that upper half but once the solve got moving it was just fill in the blanks.

chefwen 12:22 AM  

I was pretty far into the puzzle before my lightbulb moment with good old YPOONS RED BARON. Aha, that’s where we’re going. Can’t believe it took me that long.

Favorite was NOW WHERE WAS I, thanks for interrupting me you TWIT.

O.K. Sunday. Off to the LA Times now.

TomAz 12:26 AM  

AMEN TO THAT, Rex! Well mostly. I do not share Rex's critique of the theme per se; it's fine. It's just that so much of the fill sucks.

The last letter I filled in was the W in NO WISE/WORST, refusing to believe it was true. Holy clusterf*** NAMTAB! and UNBEND crossing UNIDEAL. Blech.

At least it was fun to suss out the theme. I had SUES EHT MINOTAUR and was trying to figure out (1) why the 'the' was backwards and (2) what legal action against a man-bull was a famous showdown? I think it took YPOONS for me to get it. So that was fun at least.



Kell 12:40 AM  

I am honestly shocked that anyone doesn't know what Bowser is. Certainly the second most famous video game character of all time, behind Mario himself.

Also, just because Vader is Luke's father doesn't make them not enemies.

Steve Feldheim 12:43 AM  

If the 1st theme answer was notlimaH/Burr it would have set a better tone since duelists start back-to-back.

Anonymous 12:58 AM  

I liked my PELOTON for 'unit of explosive power', which gave me YAP, which works, and CAPSED, which I didn't know anyway. I think my answer imagined better cluing that we got.

Harryp 1:01 AM  

At HAMILTON/BURR, I got the Theme, and from then on it was much easier. One of my immediate solves was 6Across PAWNS, but 19Across UHHUH didn't go down easily, which is why I love Crossword puzzles. Good fun.

jae 1:27 AM  

Medium. Yeah, BOWSER was a WOE as was the Congress Woman. So, following the advice someone (sorry, I don’t remember who) posted on this blog many years ago, I went with a familiar answer. Thank you Fur Elise.

David Schinnerer 1:41 AM  

So a guy who teaches about comic books criticizes the use of a video game reference...

Matthew G. 2:09 AM  

Rex’s complaint about the thinness of the theme is fair. His dismissal of the fame of some of the pairs is not.

The Mario/Bowser pair is actually where the theme clicked for me. Not that I don’t know Theseus and the Minotaur, of course, but I had initially parsed that entry as SUES EHT MINOTAUR (with the word “the” backwards) and thought the theme was going to have puns with some internal words reversed. Then I saw Mario head-to-head with Bowser and I realized what was going on.

Anyway, Rex is right that this is an absurdly thin theme for a Sunday. Just reversing the first word of a famous pair, and no other wordplay? Weak beer. But contra Rex, Bowser absolutely is as famous within video-game history as, say, Aaron Burr is within American history. Every Nintendo console in the last 35 years has had multiple flagship games featuring Mario vs. Bowser. If they aren’t the most canonical foes of video gaming, I’m not sure who would top them. I also fail to see how Darth Vader being Luke’s father detracts from them being a legitimate adversarial pairing.

Oh, but Rex is right about WORST. What the heck is with that clue? WORST can be a verb? News to me. I agree that it feels like someone was trying to make up for the weakness of the theme by throwing spikes on the road elsewhere.

Graham 2:12 AM  

"There's no gimmick, no trick" seems an odd complaint for a theme that is, precisely, a gimmick and a trick.

Matthew G. 2:24 AM  

agreed, Steve Feldman. Also, though the theme was thin, I genuinely loved the Quixote/Windmill pairing at the end—made me laugh.

'mericans in Paris 3:56 AM  

Not surprised that @REX is UPSET with today's puzzle, perhaps even can't STAND it. No RAH-RAHs from his corner.

For us, this puzzle played easy for a (Sunday). We do it on paper, but probably one of our fastest times ever. Got THE trick at NOT LIMAH BURR. Didn't really know BOWSER, but it something in the recesses of my tiny brain suggested it was the most likely, so we went with that.

Interesting verbs for fill, that's for sure. STAND and STOOD, and WORST of all, WORST. I've heard or read WORSTed, but never, ever WORST as a simple present-tense verb. Dictionaries call its use to mean outdo or defeat as "rare". But the word exists, so I suppose it is fair, albeit bleh.

Interesting to see both SOLAR and WINDMILL (Trump's term for WIND turbine) in the grid, along with ECO and SUN.

The SUN is out and the air is clear here in Paris -- just a day before the la grande rentrée, when parents rush back from the LOIRE countryside (where they've parked their kids with the grandparents) or the seaside, and get the little 'uns ready for their first day back at school. Paris goes from being a charming village to a snarling, grumpy, noisy metropolis almost over-night and stays that way for several weeks. Bring on autumn.

ZenMonkey 5:32 AM  

I like these kinds of puzzles because working the fill around the theme answers gives me a chance to guess them before I put in too many crosses. This one was enjoyably complicated by the reversal aspect. I was entertained by the notion of Luke & Vader or Mario & Bowser (cmon, man, you can't complain about "oldster" puzzles and *also* about answers like that) standing back to back and counting off in a civilized manner.

Maybe if I were more focused on critique than just an entertaining pastime I wouldn't have enjoyed it as much. I know I kinda savaged a puzzle most people liked once when I subbed here. I'm just way too mellow at 2:30 am to care about flaws and I found it a fun and challenging time. About my average time for a Sunday.

ZenMonkey 5:37 AM  

P.S. I'm never going to mind DRE in a puzzle when I'm solving while listening to my own pair of Beats. That sounds like an ad, but really I'm just so fond of them as they were a gift from my husband to help me get through a challenging but ultimately fantastic move from CA to WA this year.

moviesludge 6:17 AM  

Got everything except "Not In Any Way" - NOWISE. Huh?? Crossed with "Defeat" - WORST. HUH!?? And then of course "Protein Shell of a Virus" - CAPSID, which I put down as CAPSIL because I thought "Territory name until 1889 might have been LAKOTA instead of DAKOTA. *walks away grumbling and twitching*

Lewis 6:22 AM  
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Lewis 6:24 AM  
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Lewis 6:26 AM  

Tom always clues every word with care, and has a talent for trickiness, IMO. My favorites today, the clues for BED, DRANO, SUN, LIMBOED, TOURS, and NOSTRILS.

Last night, as I was rushing to finish the puzzle quickly, so to get an extra-good night's sleep, it was as if I were butting heads with this thing, getting stuck all over, and I left the grid with swaths of white. This morning, with no deadline, I smoothly and quickly WORSTed those trouble areas. So my puzzle showdown was THGITLOOSE, and a great reminder of which mindset is best when approaching a solve.

pmdm 8:01 AM  

Sometimes, less is more and I guess you might say that about today's theme. Once I figured it out, it helped me a lot in completing the rest of the puzzle.

I wonder if Tome tried to sneak in YOCCMHADFIELD, which might have been in the wrong order but might have gotten by Shortz. Then he would have gotten both his sister's names (according to his comment posted elsewhere).

Melissa 8:03 AM  

Exactly. Rex reminds me of the old saw, “those who can do. Those who can’t criticize.”

mmorgan 8:29 AM  

Sorry to shock you, @Kell, but I had no idea who or what Bowser is; video game characters are not among my areas of expertise. I ended up with ELIzE/BOWzER.

I don't disagree with Rex's argument that the theme is weak, but I still found the puzzle itself to be an enjoyable solve. Who couldn't love YPOONS? And along with @Matthew G., I especially liked the Quixote/Windmill matchup.

I did spend some time trying to figure out who RADLUKE might possibly be. But I had no problem with WORST.

Anonymous 8:45 AM  

Shocked? Listen, the last video game I played was Space Invaders and I wasn't very good at it. I don't know that crap.

Sherlock Holmes 8:46 AM  

I would suspect that Tom McCoy and Michael Sharp aren’t besties.

emchen 8:47 AM  

i came here to say exactly this.

Loren Muse Smith 9:05 AM  

For some reason, I caught on pretty early with DIVAD. So I was kinda disappointed that there wouldn’t be some wordplay wackery going on. It was fun, though, to tease out all the enemies. I’m not very well read, so I didn’t know the Quixote one. But I looked it up and learned not only the story but the phrase tilting at windmills – fighting imaginary enemies. Boy howdy do I know some people who’re constantly on the lookout for windmills.

I almost had a dnf ‘cause I had for the things “under a bridge” _ _ _ TROLL. Don’t know how I missed the plural of the clue. I also had “satisfy” before SATIATE. Understandable. Satisfy is a more satisfying word.

Agree that UNBEND feels weird. Kinda like unsit for STAND.

TYPE B – Would an easygoing person in the capital of Taiwan be a Taipei TYPE B?

I moved to a neighborhood called Lost Springs in Lilburn, Georgia when I was in fifth grade. The split-level was a COOKIE-CUTTER home, resplendent with its rust-colored shag carpet and avocado appliances. But, hey, Jeff J’s split-level had brown shag and harvest gold appliances, and David K’s had flat carpet and brown appliances. So the cookies’ fillings were different. Whatever the case, I felt like I had moved into a mansion ‘cause the house had stairs and I had my own bedroom.

NOW WHERE WAS I – I rarely say this to my husband, a dedicated interrupter. I’ll be telling him something that happened at school, and when he interrupts with some comment that I take as an attempt to hijack the conversation, I punish him by veering off to his topic and not return to my story. It’s so unfair of me, but there it is. I hear any interruption on his part as what you’re saying is boring. Most of the time he doesn’t even notice, so if punishment is a crime of perception, he gets away unscathed, and the joke’s on me. Yeah, boy, I really showed him. Damn &^%$ windmill.

@ZenMonkey – “Maybe if I were more focused on critique than just an entertaining pastime I wouldn't have enjoyed it as much.” Bingo. We all have our different focuses. I’m with you on the entertaining pastime.

Tom - I really liked the long downs, the two themer stacks, and learning about QUIXOTE. And even sans wackery, the literal execution of the title was fun to see.

Chris Martens 9:14 AM  

To this millennial geek, Mario/Bowser, Luke/Vader
and Batman/Joker are absolutely more famous, commonly-references nemesis pairs than any of the other themers.

My only complaint with the theme: where are the women?

Lobster11 9:20 AM  

Exactly one gimmick/trick, which was good for a single ah-ha moment, and then it was just a slog from there. DNF because of IDRIS/DRANO/ENO -- ick.

Anonymous 9:30 AM  

rekrapxerpuzzle

Wm. C. 9:31 AM  


54A (Speaker of Welsh or Breton) could've been clued the same as 120A (TD Garden athlete). ;-)

Bruce R 9:33 AM  

Add me to the list that struggled with NOWISE-WORST and ELISE-BOWSER.

kitshef 9:37 AM  

Easy and fun. If Sundays aren’t going to be a challenge (O how I with they were harder), this is a worthy substitute.

copse before STAND and moss before ALGA were my only significant errors, so a tough time with the plant clues. Also had ARdOR for my “strong suit” for a while, which I though was a really clever clue.

Z 9:38 AM  

Meh.

From Saturday - @JC66 - Opinions don’t work that way. Rex is often beat up for it, but it doesn’t take long to explain why you like something. Justifying dislike is another matter. Also, there is the simple human trait of the rant. That which bugs will always result in more impassioned writing than that which pleases. As for yesterday’s term, I think it is easy to lose the gist of the complaint in the verbiage, but that doesn’t change that most meta-commenters missed the gist of Rex’s point - that term is a clear warning sign that the speaker may be trying to spin terrible, often criminal, behavior into “not so bad.”
POTENTIAL SATURDAY SPOILER: @Lewis - There is stock and there is soup. Soup “holds” stock and other ingredients. At least, that’s how I read the clue.

CFG 9:38 AM  

The theme wasn’t brilliant, but it did make for a fun “aha” moment when I discovered the trick. After that it was easy — finished in well under an hour without any consultation with my husband, which might be a personal best for a Sunday!

And I do agree with Rex’s observation that the pairs should be more parallel. My biggest complaint is with Don Quixote — he may have been actually fighting windmills, but that was not his actual enemy. I mean, it’s been too long for me to recall who he was really after but surely that is his nemesis, not the windmill.

Roo Monster 9:42 AM  

Hey All !
First off, how many freakin' ENOs are there? Ambient Brian, Obie Winner Will ... Anyone else? /rant

NOW WHERE WAS I? Har. Anyway, I liked this puz. I thought the theme was quite cool. Think about what Tom had to do to make this puz. Find enemies (he came up with 8 pairs!), then make them fit symmetrically (which isn't that easy), and then ended up stacking two pair. And make the fill be actual words/things, which again is not easy. Nice.

That said, some of the fill was not RAH worthy. UNIDEAL? Self descriptor, that. NOWISE? Please use that in a sentence. WORST as clued? WORST, indeed.

But, those little nits aside, the fill turned out rather clean. Nice long Downs zipping through puz. Figured out what the heck was going on at the QW pair. Having the Downs MEX, DUO, GLEE, led me to have pattern recognition to see WINDMILL. Then the ole brain said, "Could it be QUIXOTE backwards?" And lo and behold, it was! Sometimes the hamster works! :-) Went back to the other themers to see what I could figure them out from the letters I had. Toughest was THESEUS, as it's tough frontward, never mind backward, and BOWSER, even though I played a ton of Mario circa late 80's, early 90's, but didn't know the Big Guys name.

DNF, sadly, at eRAtO for DRANO. Which got me LIMBOEe (which I was gonna bitch about!), and EtO for that "other" ENO. Any three letter name starting with E is automatically going to be filled as ENO from now on! AMEN TO THAT! :-)

Fun clue on NOSTRILS. And BED. bed, see it? Liked the L bunch in SE. TYPEB, B SIDE. ALL good.

GLITZ SNUB
RooMonster
DarrinV

Adam Frank 9:45 AM  

It's a DO NOT CALL LIST, not a NO CALL LIST. I work in an industry that uses them extensively; no one has ever called it a NO CALL LIST. Funny that @Rex saw that as an example of a nice longer Down.

Couldn't remember how to spell Bowser's name, but I figured ELISE was more likely than ELIZE. Everything else that I didn't know was inferrable.

You BEST someone in competition; do you also WORST them? English is a funny language - but BEST is far and away the more common term for beating someone.

THESEUS and the MINOTAUR is arguably iconic as well.

I did learn that ECUADOR was named for its latitude, which was a cool fact, obvious in retrospect, that I didn't know before.

Overall I thought it was kind of meh. Easy-medium for me, but not all that enjoyable.

Teedmn 9:54 AM  

AH ME, this took far too long to solve, considering it wasn't all that difficult a trick. But for some reason, I couldn't get crosses to fill in the first half of any of the themers. And when I finally did, ETOXIUQW________ was looking mighty strange. I left that in, trusting all would become clear. And sure enough, I eventually saw YPOONS.

I like this idea a lot and the title makes sense but in no way makes it obvious. I was thinking the cluing was too straightforward until I started going down the [NOCALL]LIST and realized there were a lot of nice clues. I think solving online makes it harder to notice the clues because you only see them one at a time and then they disappear from view.

So "Knock over" = UPSET paired with "Wasn't struck down" = STOOD strikes me as nice. "Strong suit?" = ARMOR, "Under half of 45" = B SIDE (which did not lead me astray at all, ha!). "College student's assignment" was a DORM, not an essay, LO-CAL instead of cluing as LOCAL. I was led astray by ___UH at 19A. I took both NUN and SHOOT out because nothing ends in UH. UH HUH!

Lastly, o/o = OWNER had me scratching my head for a bit. AH, owner/operator, tricky.

Great Sunday, thanks, Tom McCoy. And now, after reading Rex, I'm shocked that he had much the opposite reaction to this puzzle. I agree that WORST, as clued, really means BEST but I like the contrast. Different PUTTS for different folks, I guess.

Jim Lemire 10:02 AM  

I struggled until I got the theme. It was actually QUIXOTE (or rather ETOXIUQ) that saved me with the U on the wrong side of the Q. Even knowing the them it was difficult spelling backwards...primarily because the iPhone app advanced forward to the next blank letter

Anonymous 10:12 AM  

Z,
Do explain why it takes more time go explain why one dislikes something as opposed to why one likes something.

You say a lot of inane things, but this sir may be your silliest.

Anonymous 10:13 AM  

WTF? Did it take you a whole day to think of a comment for Saturday's puzzle? Let try to stay on subject.

Anonymous 10:19 AM  

Amuses me that a guy who spends his time teaching college kids about comic books has the nerve to criticize crossword puzzle constructors. Have you ever tried to construct a crossword puzzle? It's not easy. Stop bullying the constructors, Rex. It's downright Trumpian.

Maruchka 10:21 AM  

Oy, gevalt. Was I disappointed with the mirroring fill. No chuckles, nary an AHA!

DNF up the wazoo. 'Nuff said.

Re: yesterday's rant. I guess that my approach to puzzles is as a leisurely thing, not competitive. No harm, no foul, mo fun.

This is a sweet story. Years ago, a friend was on a Manhattan bus when, to his shock and awe, he recognized a fellow passenger as the great John Gielgud. Gielgud was blithely working away at his newspaper's puzzle, occasionally tipping his tongue on pen/pencil, raising and lowering his eyebrows, and smiling seraphically. He left the paper on his seat when deboarding. My friend, curious to know how Sir did, picked it up. It was totally composed of random gobbledygook.

And a good time was had by all..

woodmanz 10:26 AM  

Rex and readers: I don't know video games! Much less iconic ones played by millions!

Also Rex and readers: clues about British prime ministers from the 80s are fair game

QuasiMojo 10:31 AM  

Tell us how you really feel, Rex! :)

I almost felt the way you do, and was prepared to toss the puzzle in the wastepaper basket but then I noticed that odd Q I had somehow managed to place in the bottom area and it didn't have a U after it, so I got interested. Then I noticed that WINDMILL would fit next to it, etc, ET ALLI.

So many false starts for me, ARBOR first, then GLADE before STAND. And ARDOR before ARMOR below it later on. (I was thinking of "suit" as in paying suit to a young lady... or beau.)

SNAKE before DRANO.

LAMAS before LAMBS (I know, Ogden Nash helped me out there.)

Not knowing who battled Darth Vader since I walked out of that first Star Wars back in 1977, I had SOLO first. Took forever to figure out LUKE/EKUL.

FOREMAN/ALI would have been nice.

The HAMILTON/BURR battle made me wonder if ERLE Stanley Gardner (of crossword fame) chose the name Hamilton Burger for his character of the district attorney who dueled and was always WORSTed (except once) by Perry Mason.

UNIDEAL is a DOOK.

Even with all my troubled moments, I still managed to finish the entire thing in a half-hour. So I guess it was pretty easy after all once you got the trick.

P.S. 'Mericans, isn't the phrase just "la rentrée?"

Sallie 10:38 AM  

I did not hate this puzzle, but I agree with everyone who mentioned the worst nowise cross. That one will haunt me with its unfairness.

Nancy 10:40 AM  

How did I love this? Let me count the ways. Yes, there was some really junky fill like SCHS and ALG and UNIDEAL (which is an unideal answer), but it was more than made up for by a terrific theme and some marvelous cluing. I got the theme -- or so I thought -- when I had BURR and he wasn't duelling with Hamilton. This made me very cross. Who's this guy, -OT--M--, I wondered? And then, bam, it hit me. Now, all would have been easy, had I known the video game and the comic book and remembered who fought the MINOTAUR, but it really wasn't all that easy. Not with the devious clues, such as for NOSTRILS; LOIRE; DOT; SENT; DORM (I was looking for an essay, a research paper, a take home exam); BAND. Mostly simple words, clued in a way that made crosses essential.

I think Tom McCoy is one of my favorite constructors. Please help me out and let me know why, since I don't remember puzzles. He had something fairly recent -- I think it was also a Sunday -- that I also really loved. I Googled, but couldn't find it. It was within the last 6 months, I'm quite sure. If anyone remembers what it was, please let me know. Meanwhile, kudos for this one, Tom. Or should I say KUDZUS?

Norm 10:42 AM  

Sometimes Rex nails it. "This one felt very fussy to me, throughout. Like someone was trying to toughen it up by simply making it more annoying." Yep, that's it. Theme didn't bother me; the cluing and word choices were horrible.

Unknown 10:43 AM  

I've been trying for years to pass along crossword solving skills to my daughters.
One rule (norm?) I thought inviolable was an abbreviated answer must contain an abbreviation in the clue. I don't come here often, so please forgive what may be a settled question. Is that no longer a valid guideline. Or is RBI now a real word? (re: 44A).

CDilly52 10:54 AM  

Hand up for SUES EHT MINOTAUR which slowed my grok as well. I was all over the grid trying to get a foothold when NAMTAB/JOKER woke me up. Shouldn’t have had all those cocktails at my dreadful family reunion last night.

Crimson Devil 11:15 AM  

Talk To The Hand, subtitled Bloody Rudeness and Six Reasons to Stay Home and Bolt the Door, is excellent sequel to Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss.

Sam 11:17 AM  

I love how Rex always complains about puzzles that are old-fashioned and out of date but then whines because he doesn't know a VERY common and iconic video game character. Bowser has been not just in mainline Mario games but in Super Smash Bros, Mario Kart, etc...all of them among the most played and most cherished video games of all time.

If you want puzzles to modernize and appeal to younger solvers it is counterproductive and immature to call out any fill that you might not be familiar with.

CAPSID is also a word that every single person who takes high school biology learns. It's not some obscure science term.

I find most of Rex's grumpiness to be fun, but his trend of "I didn't know this, therefore it's bad fill" is irritating.

That said, he is right, this puzzle was lame and not fun to solve.

Nancy 11:18 AM  

As @Teedmn says: "Different PUTTS..." Don QUIXOTE vs the WINDMILL was the theme answer that knocked it out of the park for me. Funny, witty, imaginative. To complain about it not being literally true -- well, it seems like you're just not getting into the spirit of the thing.

@'mericans in Paris (3:56) -- Exact same thing happens in NYC the nanosecond Labor Day ends. Hordes of parents and nannies with strollers, kids on scooters and skateboards, and traffic up the wazoo suddenly materialize, seemingly out of thin air. My reaction to it -- in addition to sheer sidewalk terror, of course -- can only be described as Culture Shock. I've gotten used to the city being calm and peaceful for months. I guess all great cities are unhappy in the same way? :) Think I'll refer to this event from now on as "la grande rentree" and watch people's eyes glaze over in bafflement. Maybe I'll stay indoors and work on my upcoming mystery novel, Death by Stroller.

TubaDon 11:29 AM  

    It was a NODABUTTOM face off today, with TOM getting in the first blows.  I gleefully plunked in AS I WAS SAYING at 14D only to be immediately contradicted by the crosses. Working from the bottom up for some reason, the Q and X clued the knight I once played in a musical, and that gave away the themes. Well, all but one. Never haveing played a video game since a beta version of Pong (played on a Cray supercomputer!), I had no idea who BOWSER was, but I finally remembered OIRAM from other selzzup. I don't share Rex's disdain, I liked several of the sly clues.

JOHN X 11:31 AM  

I got the gimmick down at 115A off the _XIUQ_ partially filled in and just recognized QUIXOTE as backwards, and then I went back and filled in all the others and after that it was just mopping up operations as we tallied the body counts and declared victory.

Never heard of BOWSER, except that one guy from SHA NA NA who parlayed that gig into a mini-career.

Bourbon Street 11:36 AM  

@Unknown. I believe the rule is as follows: when the clue contains an abbreviation, the answer is abbreviated. It doesn’t necessarily work in reverse, so you can have an abbreviated answer without an abbreviation in the clue.

Pete 11:44 AM  

Enemies are mutual. It's the essence of being enemies. If I hate you and you couldn't care less about me one way or another, we're not enemies, you're simply someone I hate. If we hate each other, we're enemies. Can we at least agree on that?

Now that we're all in accord on the nature of enemies, can someone please explain how Quixote / Windmills fits the theme? Did I misread the book, was there one specific windmill that hated Don Quixote? Or do all windmills hate Don Quixote? I'm pretty sure Cervantes never anthropomorphised the Windmills ( that being part of the joke) to the extent that they bore ill will towards Don Quixote.

BTW, I am perpetually surprised that Don Quixote is the best selling book of all time.

Bob in Nampa 11:44 AM  

Unideal?
Really?

Suzie Q 11:49 AM  

I thought this was great fun and a good start to my day.
Mr. McCoy casts a wide net to find all of these pairs. From Snoopy to Theseus is pretty far-ranging and I love it. Thanks Tom!
If you have not read Man of LaMancha you may be surprised at how many phrases are part of our everyday language. Like the words of Shakespeare, they are so familiar even if you don't know where it's from.

Speaking of Don Quixote, if someone tilts at windmills they are being Quixotic but why is it pronounced Quicksotic and not Keyhotic?

jberg 11:58 AM  

Simple theme, true, but there were a lot of them. But the clues were vague enough that you had to get them from crosses, which was fun in its way, I guess.

TYPE G and B SIDE -- is that OK?

@Loren, I was expecting you to react to Rex's complaint that WORST should not mean the same thing as BEST. I always think it's neat when that happens, and seem to remember your saying that a couple times in the past. (Or the opposite, one thing having opposite meanings -- also true of WORST here).

I've seen OIRAM referred to in various ads for games, but have only seen him in action in Donkey Kong, so no idea about BOWSER. Very gettable, though, and now I've learned something.

ORI's other brother was ORK, I guess.

@Quasi, me too, except i had GROVE and then COPSE before STAND. I wonder if there are other 5-letter synonyms.

OK, enough of this, off to enjoy the day.

jason 12:08 PM  

@Steve Feldheim - great point about duelists starting back-to-back! You can make a theme out of that. In fact, I wonder if that wasn't the original idea & it got changed in a later draft / editing. Not quite enough famous pistol duels to make this work. Unfortunately, head-to-head and showdown both imply facing your opponent. So may be the 2nd should've been reversed: SNOOPY NORAB DER EHT.

Paul Bowden 12:09 PM  

Also agree that Rex is overly harsh on this one.

When you compare it to the usual Sunday, how is this not a marked improvement? There was nothing egregious, and making a puzzle of this size flow smoothly with a decent theme is good. The theme may be marginally weaker, but I'll prefer that to some crappy fill / impossible proper names. Most names were easily derivable from crosses or overly renowned.

Mario + Bowser are probably more well known than almost any other pair on here (if you include non-crossworders). Vader + Luke are certainly enemies, too. Being HEAD-TO-HEAD is a gimmick that allows for some AHA's as well as some more interesting grid manipulation. Sure it could have been better, but this was the first Sunday I bothered finishing in a while. The previous abundance of Sundays have all had a trillion 3 length and 4 length clues.

I do agree that WORST was absolutely horrible, though.

I only struggled with nO-CAL vs LO-CAL & the WORST area (B_ARON did not come easy for me).

Good cluing around "They're found under a bridge", and easily allowing TROLL to fit as the finisher (SCHL instead of SCHS, and forgetting LOIRE because I put nO-CAL made "NOORE" seem like some random river with TROLL in place).

Paul Bowden 12:13 PM  

Most of the theme-rs might be the most famous foes of their genre, somebody should try to think of competitors:

MOVIES: Luke v. Vader (probably the most famous. Like, QUINT v. SHARK is fun but certainly less famous.)
BOOKS: Quixote v. Windmill (best selling book ever, except probably the Bible)
COMIC BOOKS: Batman v. Joker (definitely his most famous foe, I think the most famous foes in comics, over Superman / Lex Luthor)
VIDEO GAMES: Mario v. Bowser
COMICS: Snoopy v. Red Baron (maybe the only one I can think of? I wouldn't consider like Garfield / Odie)
HISTORY: Hamilton v. Burr (certainly the most famous duel in history)
RELIGION: David v. Goliath

The only one I'd say isn't the *most* famous ever is:
MYTHOLOGY: Theseus v. Minotaur.

But maybe it was the only one that worked with the rest of the themers, and overall it is still renowned.

Since Quixote/Windmill shows it doesn't have to be two direct individuals competing, this could have been:
ACHILLES v. ARROW (funnier)
SISYPHUS v. BOULDER (funnier)
ATHENA v. ARES (maybe most famous god-foes?)
ODYSSEUS vs. CYCLOPS (probably more famous than Theseus, but maybe that'd just be a book again)

True Grits 12:35 PM  

PMURTMCCAIN

JC66 12:40 PM  

STRIHSSKINS

SEXES

PMURTTRUTH

Teedmn 12:40 PM  

@nancy, Death By Stroller, the long-awaited sequel to your Death By Cyclist. Sounds like a sure-fire hit!

Anonymous 12:49 PM  

Bourbon and unknown

FYI, I think it's actually about usage. RBI isn't a word but it is an initialism. As such it doesn't typically use periods so there's no need to include one in the clue, IMHO.

Carola 1:03 PM  

Line 3: I stared at ????EHTMIN????? but couldn't find anything wrong with the crosses. Then a glance at the puzzle's title turned on the light switch and I saw how THESEUS and the MINOTAUR were head to head. I enjoyed seeing how quickly I could get the rest. I was hoping for CATWOMAN or some other female combatant.

For those who may not be familar with it - Picasso's ETOXIUQ NOD with Sancho Panza and windmills.

James McCann 1:06 PM  

Struggled with this one until I figured out DARTH VADER and based on puzzle’s theme got LUKE. From there it went pretty fast. Question: is the 10:50 number after your difficulty rating your time? Like ten minutes and 50 seconds? Really? You figured out this puzzle in that amount of time??

Masked and Anonymous 1:07 PM  

Cool, albeit basic theme. Mighty good way for the constructioneer to score some long puz debut words.

Woulda been an absolute snot-primo theme, if one of the themer's starter names was a palindrome. Did OTTO the dog ever fight with some comic book cat, maybe?

fave fillin: KUDZU. Almost gave up on it, as was misrememberin its spellin as "CUDZU". Drained off a few precious nanoseconds. Honrable mention to COOKIECUTTER & NOWWHEREWASI.
fave clue: the LIMBOED one.
WORST clue: [yep.]
Best desperation with solid words: STAND + STOOD.

Thanx, Mr. McCoy. Tough ADNAMMCCOY solvequest; some real raised-by-wolves-sneaky clues.

Masked & Anonymo12Us

GaryG12345 1:16 PM  

Geez Rex lighten up. This was fun.

The House Whisperer 1:21 PM  

I loved this puzzle! Got the theme right away and jumped ahead trying to this of famous duos that went head to head. Maybe some of the fill struggled but the long un-themed answers like "now where was I" and "amen to that" were fun to figure out. I give this puzzle an A+ !

anon 1:28 PM  

Plus one.

Masked and Anonymous 2:31 PM  

p.s.
Almost forgot:

staff weeject pick: ORI. Usually this gets a clue like: {Words to quit by??} or somesuch. Much more sadistic, to tie it to some sorta hobbit name. Especially up near the top, where folks are desperately tryin to get footholds. Don't make us come down there, Shortzmeister.

Speakin of desperation …
There be some real admirable epitomistic fill desperation-tier examples, here:
* Slightly desperate: UNBEND.
* Kinda desperate: UNIDEAL.
* Pretty day-um desperate: NOWISE.

Another primo clue, tho: {Under half of 45?} = BSIDE. Luved Tarzanesque accent in clue.

BTW: "Did M&A know what a BOWSER was" poll feedback: 100% nope. With MARIO, M&A figured it had to be one of the {Don Qui-]KONG family. MRKONG, say. Wrong again, M&A breath.

But, I stick by my rayguns … overall, I'm likin this SunPuz, just fine. Only slight thing was its lack of yer theme humor potential. Perhaps "Going But to Butt" woulda been a potent-ial contender? ...

M&A Reverse Engineerin Dept.

Leenyburgh 2:57 PM  

I was delighted to learn something new today. This puzzle almost WORSTed me, but I stuck with it. I’ve noticed that Tom McCoy puzzles have a wide range of cultural references – from pop to classical — and it’s always a fun challenge to guess how his mind works. This almost took me three hours to complete because I’m relatively new to crossword puzzles. I find this blog to be very helpful, but I always feel like there’s a lot of nitpicking and complaining. I know this is a byproduct of a space where people are very serious about an art form, but it smacks of pedantry too often.

Banana Diaquiri 3:00 PM  

@Kell:
Certainly the second most famous video game character of all time, behind Mario himself.

well... not if the only video games you've played, ever, are Pong and Ms. PacMan. :)

Atram007 3:03 PM  

OH, God! You were sorely missed. Never leave again.
Theses puzzles are intolerable without your WIT.

Banana Diaquiri 3:07 PM  

@mmorgan:
Who couldn't love YPOONS?

ya know, it just crossed my mind, soiled as it might be, that in certain parts of this fair land, that might be a dirty word.

Anonymous 3:12 PM  

@Bourbon Street and @Unknown 12:49 P.M.
Thank you for replying. Those are both useful things to keep in mind.
I always learn something from the puzzle (Ecuador named for its latitude? How did I not realize that?), from Rex, or from the comments!

Andrew Heinegg 3:15 PM  

As I was doing this crossword puzzle, I kept thinking: 'oh boy, Rex is going to carve this up like a Thanksgiving turkey and many of the blog pundits (most of them are not trolls, IMHOP) are going to opine that they are not certain whether Rex is more evil than Satan or vice versa'. My response to that criticism, as others have noted, is that most overreactions are the result of passion and Rex is passionate about his crosswords.

I come down on Rex's side on this one and, it isn't even close for me. I have certainly seen some good pieces of work by Mr. McCoy. I just didn't think this was one of them. The head to head or the back to back for Hamilton-Burr was not interesting nor engaging for me.

But, as is often the case, doing the puzzle and then reading LMS's comments make it all worthwhile. I am hard-pressed to choose between her where-was-I story about her and her husband or the lovely little bit about that Quixote guy. Quixote is so obscure that hardly anybody has ever heard of him, much less having the time or inclination to read a book 400+ years old. I mean, why bother?

sixtyni yogini 3:54 PM  

What Rex said.
nufonnofun

thefogman 3:57 PM  

Too bad REKRAPSHORTZ wasn't in the puzzle (Showdown in the crossword world). Today I agree with Rex. It was a decent enough puzzle but the annoyances took away from the enjoyment. Not bad. Could have been great...

Anonymous 4:18 PM  

@woodmanz - Shout out for spot on bit of humor there. Come back again soon.

Austenlover 4:20 PM  

I thought the constructor and I were really clever when I put in Pence for “under half of 45.”

Banana Diaquiri 4:24 PM  

@Susie Q:
Speaking of Don Quixote, if someone tilts at windmills they are being Quixotic but why is it pronounced Quicksotic and not Keyhotic?

just a guess, not being a linguist, but Quixote is the actual name of the person (fictional or not), so is pronounced as s/he requires. OTOH, quixotic is a made up English/American adjective, so is pronounced as if it were in English.

Anonymous 4:47 PM  

@banana
You don't think there's a Spanish analog to Quixotic? I'm certain there is one. Hell, it may even be the same.

Leatsed Napoleon 4:55 PM  

@PaulBowden - Thanks for Athena.

Anonymous 5:06 PM  

People keep referring to "enemies" The clue was "showdown in".......

WillGH 5:08 PM  

I asked my 16 year old son for the most famous video game antagonists and he immediately offered Mario and Bowser. I told him the letter count was right but it didn’t fit the couple of crosses I had at that point. Once I filled in O——BOWSER and N____BURR that gave me the theme. Everyone has something different that stumps or enlightens them.

smalltowndoc 5:10 PM  

Quixotic = quijotesco en Español.

I really liked this puzzle. The theme answers are all legitimate and the “trick” is nicely executed. Don’t understand what Rex is talking about.

Some fill I didn’t like: WORST had rhe worst clue. UNIDEAL is unideal as a word; it should be banished.

P.S: what’s the big deal about CAPSID. It’s common knowledge, at least in my circles.

JC66 5:26 PM  

@Anon 5:06

I had the same reaction to all the "enemies" comments until I realized that all the themers except ETOXIUQWINDMILL (115A) are enemies so it's the one themer that "ani't like the others."

Bourbon Street 5:46 PM  

@Anonymous 12:49. Thanks for pointing out that some answers are “initialisms” and that’s why the clue does not contain an abbreviation. This is good info to know.

kitshef 6:07 PM  

@Nancy - possibly June 4, 2017? A very fun grammar-related puzzle by Mr. McCoy.

Anonymous 6:13 PM  

Bourbon street,

I hope it helps. God I don't want to sound like Z but lost of folks use initialisms synonymously with acronym like NASA or SCUBA. The difference is acronyms can be pronounced as a word and initialism cant be.

Also, and you can slap me down, as much as I love the crescent city, I think I like uptown more than the Quarter. Sorry. Is the Maple Leaf still going? Is that uptown, or river bend? And I could go for a burger, dressed, at the Camellia Grill.

Banana Diaquiri 8:00 PM  

@anon/4:27:
You don't think there's a Spanish analog to Quixotic? I'm certain there is one. Hell, it may even be the same.

sure. smalltowndoc shows it. and it's not spelled them same. but quixotic is an English word, so it makes sense to pronounce it as English. hell, 'mericans and Brits can't agree on the same word for the same thing (lift/elevator) or how the same word sounds (skedule/shedyouul).

Nancy 9:06 PM  

@kitshef -- Yes!!! I loved that puzzle! Thank you. I just went back and looked at it.

I did think, however, that the Tom McCoy puzzle I liked was much more recent than over a year ago. One explanation could be that time passes quickly when you're having fun. The other explanation is that I remember Tom McCoy's name from the 6/4/17 grammar puzzle you cite, and that the more recent puzzle I thought he constructed -- and which I can't remember a thing about, btw, -- was actually by someone else. Maybe someone with a similar name? (If I had a memory like everyone else, I'd probably know.)

Gary Steichele 5:03 AM  

Just curious if anyone else had RUN for 44A: ‘One of four in a grand slam.’ I chose RUN over RBI because the clue didn’t have an abbreviation in it. So maybe i’m not familiar with the rules concerning abbreviations. I understand that if the clue has an abbreviation, then the answer must also have one. Does the logic not follow in reverse?

Georgia 7:22 AM  

Yes, I had "run" too long since an abbreviation wasn't in the clue ...

Alison 10:16 AM  

You know Rex is a constructor under his real name, right? He does, in other words.

Cyril Barnert 5:55 PM  

I must be missing something obvious, but how is "Yes" the answer to "What is it?"

Unknown 8:37 PM  

My problem with 44 across (One of 4 in a Grand Slam) is that there are only 3 RBIs in a grand slam. The fourth run is the batter's own run. He "batted in" 3 others.

rondo 11:06 AM  

@Unknown 8:37 - your real problem is that you don't know baseball stats. Even on a solo homer the batter gets an RBI (as well as a run). Please try to know what you're talking about.


NOWWHEREWASI? Oh yeah, the puz. What Rex said. AMENTOTHAT. UNIDEAL. Maybe the WORST SUN-puz in memory. NOWISE was this fun.

HOLLY Hunter. Yeah baby.

SHOOT, I hope this nonsense STOPS.

spacecraft 11:38 AM  

Yet another day when the reader should skip OFL. Thin theme? EIGHT of 'em?? Yikes, the fill is disturbed enough as it is.

I have always been confused about Donkey Kong. I mean, I get the Kong part, but where's the donkey? And the beast has an actual NAME? And that is a DOG's name??? Or am I supposed to see Sha Na Na in concert???? Oh wait; a clue from @M&A. Donkey as in Don ETOXIUQ? Now there's a thought: the princess is, presumably, a hottie, so: Donkey Hottie. Good, let's make her the DOD then.

I agree about WORST. "We worsted them!" What, we gave them all suits to wear instead of uniforms?? Tom, you worsted me with that one. Well, no, I got it on crosses.

Couple of w/o's: Run before RBI and UPend before UPSET. Very choppy grid with attendant iffy fill, but a fine, fun theme. Birdie.

Burma Shave 1:07 PM  

KILOTON NUN

YES, THE IRONLADY, ELISE,
STOOD in her ARMOR, UPSET and DRY,
unTRUE LOVERS from BED she'd RELEASE,
AMENTOTHAT, but NOWWHEREWASI?

--- LT.COL. ROD "GOLIATH" DRAKE

Diana,LIW 3:10 PM  

I got the theme at DIVADGOLIATH, but still had a dnf. You know why. Unknown PPP - not necessarily "pop," but still unknown names. Always my downfall.

Very clever theme, IMHO. @Spacey sez skip OFL? I'll go back and read with my salt shaker in hand.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

AnonymousPVX 3:25 PM  

This was a real slog for me, what with UNIDEAL, NOWISE, WORST, ORI and of course the “theme”. I realize putting together a crossword is tough, but really.

The only joy I got from this was when I finished.

John Dice 5:02 PM  

I always like your comments.

John Dice 5:04 PM  

You DO get an rbi for a solo homerun.

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