Old Seattle sports headline / WED 10-9-19 / 1980 sci-fi thriller / Internationally popular French comic book series since 1959 / Milton Berle's longtime sponsor

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Constructor: Alan Arbesfeld

Relative difficulty: Challenging (high 5s, then another minute or so half-heartedly tracking down wrong squares / typos)



THEME: ALTERED STATES (34A: 1980 sci-fi thriller ... or a hint to the answers to the six starred clues) — answers to the six starred clues are all anagrams of states (of America):

Theme answers:
  • SHOT AWNING (17A: *Storefront cover that's totally busted?)
  • RANK BASE (26A: *Army camp that stinks to high heaven?)
  • SONICS WIN (27A: *Old Seattle sports page headline?)
  • TEEN SENSE (42A: Appetizer bowlful?)
  • REAL AWED (50A: *Super-impressed?)
  • RACIAL INFO (57A: *What the census provides, in part?)
Word of the Day: LATEEN (46D: Triangular 48-Down) —
lateen (from French latine, meaning "Latin") or latin-rig is a triangular sail set on a long yard mounted at an angle on the mast, and running in a fore-and-aft direction.
Dating back to Roman navigation, the lateen became the favorite sail of the Age of Discovery, mainly because it allows a boat to tack "against the wind." It is common in the Mediterranean, the upper Nile River, and the northwestern parts of the Indian Ocean, where it is the standard rig for feluccas and dhows. The lateen is used today in a slightly different form on small recreational boats like the Sailfish and Sunfish, but is still used as a working rig by coastal fishermen in the Mediterranean. (wikipedia)
• • •

The good news is that I had the privilege of solving a *great* puzzle tonight. Sadly for all of us, it wasn't this one. Please, if you don't subscribe to the American Values Club Crossword Puzzle already,  first of all, you are actively engaged in self-harm—subscribe immediately—and second of all, spend the one dollar American and buy the latest puzzle, "Bursting with Pride" (by Sid Sivakumar), a la carte (do it here). I did it earlier this evening and in addition to just being a solid puzzle, the theme (once I finally put it all together) made me smile. Genuinely smile. It's clever and lovely and everything the NYTXW should be on a regular basis but mostly is Not. I'm making this comparison to night because I did these two puzzles almost back-to-back, and the distance between them felt chasmic. Is that a word!? It is now! This one felt so old, old in all the bad ways, the old fill, the old frame of reference (old basketball teams, old TV references, rivers and rivers and sailing terminology and SSA and IDI my god make it stop!!). And the theme ... sigh, like yesterday, the revealer is a great answer on its own. Really happy to see that movie in the center of my grid. But the theme concept, the theme execution? Who cares? Who Cares? It's just anagrams of state names?? The phrases aren't funny and the anagramming was tedious—and I'm generally pretty good at anagrams. I honestly had no idea what was happening until, let's see ... I don't know, it might've been toward the end when I was almost done but Still Didn't Have *THREE* themers figured out. Basically every themer crossed by the Milton Berle (...) answer, I was like "?" No joke, I had KEEN SENSE, REAL AVID, and SOCIAL INFO as theme answers at various points in my solve. Eventually saw the "Tennessee" anagram, and then got the "Delaware" one, but still was not getting RACIAL, ugh. Just ugh. I was struggling, and with a theme I cared less than nothing about.

11D: J.Crew competitor (L.L. BEAN)

The thing is you can probably turn *most* state names into wacky phrases, can't you? NINE ATOMS. COOL ROAD. Uh ... NAVY SIN PANEL. The list (probably) goes on. Why these states? Why? Just ... states. Because. Anagrams. Because. Blargh. And then the relentless beat of the hooves of crosswordese demons bearing down on you, AKELA! ELBE! EMBAR! IDI! SSA! ONEL! There's no joy, no lightness, no cleverness. Just a dreary trudge to the finish line. Worse, there's a promising revealer, squandered. AGAIN.


Five things:
  • 4D: Lakeside rental (JETSKI) — took me way too long to get this. Was imagining the *side* of a lake, not the lake itself. Wanted something like "cabin."
  • 21A: Facial hair for Uncle Sam and others (GOATEES) — the pluralizing here is so awkward. You pluralize the people ("Uncle Sam and others") ... and expect the facial hair to come along for the ride? Every other GOATEES clue I'm looking at pluralizes the hair formation itself. I feel like the answer here should be in the singular still. Not convinced that saying it's "for" "others" makes it plural. Boo. 
  • 47D: Milton Berle's longtime sponsor (TEXACO) — first time I had this answer all filled in, it read KIXACO. And why not? What do I know about Milton Berle-era TV sponsors? (A: little)
  • 51D: Tense with excitement (WIRED) — first time I had this answer all filled in, it read VISED, and reader, I believed it was correct.
  • 5D: Vitamin also known as riboflavin (BTWO) — never ever Ever written this way, of course, but whatever. I wrote in BTEN, which is very much My Bad. 
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. this puzzle was so distractingly bad that it made me overlook the cool comics answer, ASTERIX, of which I very much approve (53A: Internationally popular French comic book series since 1959)

P.P.S. who thinks of the damn hotel room PEN as an "amenity"!? ("well lah-di-dah, a complimentary writing implement, my stars!") (43D: Hotel room amenity)

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

113 comments:

jae 12:13 AM  

Mostly easy except the SW was on the tough side. LANTEEN was a WOE, spelling ARAMIS is always a struggle, never heard of the French comic, and DE SICA was only vaguely familiar...so tough SW. Liked it slightly more than Rex did.

Anonymous 12:16 AM  

I love your lead today, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld: "The good news is that I had the privilege of solving a *great* puzzle tonight. Sadly for all of us, it wasn't this one."

This isn't even a dog's breakfast; no dog would eat it if it were edible.

"REAL AWED"

I rest my case.

Crazy bad.

GHarris 12:20 AM  

Found it less challenging than Rex (though it took me a lot longer). Still working out the anagrammed states.

Jyqm 12:21 AM  

Well, unlike Rex, I enjoyed being reminded of a time when TV shows only had one or two major sponsors, one of which might be a gas station company. Like Rex, I was also tickled by the inclusion of ASTERIX, though I imagine that might be a WOE for many American Wednesday solvers.

Otherwise, I also agree with Rex that this was largely a joyless slog. I, too, enjoy a good anagram, but these all remained utterly opaque to me. The theme was a total mystery to me until I came here. SHOTAWNING (as opposed to “shop awning”) had me thinking there was a letter change involved, or perhaps something to do with state ABBRs. This might have worked better as a Subday puzzle, with the states themselves spelled out elsewhere in the grid. Ah well. On to Thursday, hopefully for some actual fun!

Anonymous 12:28 AM  

Man that puzzle was tedious. I can't believe I finished it. The best part was reading Rex's review. I lol'd at the pen comment. I'm going to check out the Four Season's website and see if they list PEN as an amenity. :P

George NYC 12:34 AM  

This is a prime example of a puzzle where the difficulty of the construction is directly proportionate to the unpleasantness of the solve. As Rex said, why?

KevCo 1:00 AM  

What is the deal with 43-Down? "Hotel amenity" is PEN? Like, a writing pen? Is that an amenity? "I'd like a room with a pen"? "I insist we stay in a classy hotel. One with quality pens."

This tripped me up for like two minutes. I was sure this was one of those puzzles where the first half of some answers was "hidden" in the black squares or chopped off for the theme or something. But...no. Apparently this guy wants an ensuite room and a Cross pen. I'd hate to see what he thinks makes for a good Christmas present.

Anyway, Joker wasn't bad.

Hank 1:08 AM  

Too hard for me and I had no idea what the theme or gimmick was even after getting most (but not all) the associated answers.

Not having the full book/movie title didn't help I was thinking it was "just" (only) a book. Had I broadened out to movies it would have probably come to me, though I haven't seen the film.

My novice solving skills couldn't get past a certain critical point. Live and learn.


STOKE for "stir up" 23A did not work for me.

MIEN for "appearance" 56A was a little too foreign / arcane. I guess it's pretty common in crosswords.

AKELA was outside my knowledge base ... I wanted MOWGLI (too long, of course)

Some of the simple fill fun - ADLIB, SEAL, VIEW, SANS - nothing special but the answers seemed well matched to the difficultly of the clues.

On the other hand ABBR and EMBAR made me groan a bit.

11D *was* a bit of mismatch (LL BEAN and J Crew) The former has 508 retail locations and the later has 55. Their "fashion offerings" are dis-similar as well.

43D (PEN) was funny. Sort of a highlight for me.

JOHN X 2:29 AM  

This was a solid NYT puzzle, the kind I pay for, although I wish they were harder.

Good to see our old friend IDI Amin back in the puzzle! IDI had syphilis, which made him do all those crazy things, so give the man a break. PolPot and Hitler were both vegetarians and teetotalers so definitely avoid those people.

I had no idea who the President of Egypt is, even when presented with three-quarters of his name as a clue. Does he have syphilis? Yes? No? I don’t care.

I had a brief subscription to those American Values crossword puzzles, and they are cute and good training ground for constructors, but are definitely minor league. Speed solvers will love them.

chefwen 2:34 AM  

I moaned, groaned and bitched while solving this thing. SHOT AWNING? For a while I had SONIC booN thinking that play on words might be a hint to the theme, not! Was almost finished before I remembered ALTERED STATES (don’t like sci-fi) so I kept skipping over that clue.
After that, I actually had fun figuring out the states. Wisconsin was the first, Go Pack.

Ooh, may I take that pen home with me, they won’t mind, will they?

Anonymous 3:04 AM  

Ugh. The gaping hole in my SW looked like the Cowboys' defense against the Packers. Never heard of mien, lateen or the director. I agree with others about pens as amenities. Gee, why can't I find those on my hotel booking site?

fkdiver 4:07 AM  

I hate anagrams. They don't belong in crossword puzzles. Period.

Mike 4:18 AM  

If the PEN WC was has ink you are lucky. The other occasional thing clues as an amenity is ice.

When I got the revealer I was thinking of how solid, liquid or gas might fit the theme answers. I didn’t see the US state anagrams at all. Had to come here.

Petri 4:32 AM  

Absolutely terrible. Dreadful. A totally charmless puzzle that was arbitrarily difficult and just all kinds of bad. And I'm not that hard to please. There was not a single answer that made me smile or gave me an aha moment. Maybe sonics win, but really? To call this a slog is an insult to every other "just" mediocre puzzle I've impassively played. EMBAR this nonsense

Hank 4:45 AM  

1:08 AM ..it's Bean with 55 outlets and Crew with 508.

I switched my later with my former.

ncmathsadist 6:17 AM  

There are way too many letters in state names for anagramming them to be a useful clue. I would solve the theme clues with crosses and be flummoxed and say WTF is this !#$$#$ theme? Yeah, a lot of crapping cluing made this one a joyless slog. Bleah. Hump day horror.

Smitty 6:17 AM  

LATEEN is really a rig - a style of sail configuration to describe a type of boat, not a sail. All sails are triangular.

OldCarFudd 6:42 AM  

Smitty

Gaff mainsails and most square-rigged mainsails are not triangular.

Lewis 6:47 AM  

The theme definitely helped me in a couple of whitish areas, whitish because of things I didn't know and vague cluing. My brain has to work hard to crack anagrams -- Jumble puzzles give me a headache -- so this puzzle shifted me out of my crossword comfort zone, and thus I left it feeling, "This was an onus, but it was good for me."

From time to time, I'll take a puzzle that leaves me feeling like that, and I will profit from it, as I did today. Bottom line: While low in the "Whee!" factor, this hard-work offering was something I gained from, and thank you for that Alan. Now, I'm off for some comfort food.

QuasiMojo 6:53 AM  

I love anagrams and I liked these. But the clues were awkward and groan-worthy. Surely one could come up with clues that make more sense and are less tongue-twistery?

Calling "Altered States" a thriller is like calling J Crew a competitor of LL Bean. I suppose they are competing but the choice of words is inapt. Wikipedia calls Altered States a horror film. Also the more I think about Altered States, a great flick that I saw again not too long ago, I question the term Science Fiction to describe it. There's nothing in it that can't actually happen. It's an exploration of the mind. And the soul. So maybe that's where the fiction is implied? I realize it never happened, but all cinema is basically fiction. So call it a fantasy. Or a work of literature by Paddy Chayefsky.

In ALL (sponsor of some other overrated comic?) I liked this puzzle much more than yesterday's. But they share a similar fault. One that @Nancy has explained much better than I. These are puzzles where the "concept" plays almost no part in the solve. You don't have to know these are anagrams to fill in the spaces and that fact does not help you figure out the rest of the fill. Curling Stones is a cute idea (and according to CrosswordFiend one done much better a few years back using people named Stone) but the fact that they curled did not aid in the doing. It is just a conceit. EGOISM on the part of the constructor. Tap dancing on a mattress. Same again today.

Solverinserbia 7:03 AM  

Average Wed: 13:04
Today: 28:40

I have no idea how I went golden between the gunk Rex pointed out, the crossing European rivers I didn't know in the NE, the theme movie I have never heard of, and the theme I didn't get until I read it here.

I think the theme is terrible. As Rex pointed out, you could anagram any state into words that aren't a phrase. And you could never figure the theme during the puzzle.

Hope tomorrow's puzzle is better.

Sarah 7:09 AM  

Finished (slowly) and still didn't get the theme. I thought it was going to be phrases where a state abbreviation had been replaced by a different state abbreviation, but couldn't immediately figure it out and didn't bother to keep trying.

When I had AKE_A, I realized, "Oh, it's that word Chummy uses as her moniker when she leads the Cub Scouts on 'Call the Midwife.'"

Was despondent to finish and be told I had an error. Thankfully, my eye went straight to MOfE in the bottom corner, and that took care of it.

Lobster11 7:18 AM  

I hated this puzzle with the energy of a thousand suns.

Nampa Bob 7:26 AM  

Gotta agree about some weird clueing.
But got “lateen” right away. I had a Sunfish that I used to sail on SF Bay. Fun little boat.

kitshef 7:26 AM  

Grid had some pretty serious compromises with its SISI and ONEL and DESICA. Not fatal, but you need a high-level theme to make it worth it. This wasn’t. This was barely a theme at all. By Toutatis, it was bad.

“Cows in sin” would have been better than SONICS WIN.

Hungry Mother 7:27 AM  

Naticked by two names crossing in this trivia contest. I look for word play and get quizzed.

kitshef 7:30 AM  

Man, there is a lot of ridicule of PEN on the board today. I definitely consider it an amenity. I'd much rather find a pen in my room that a shower cap, ironing board or those damn extra pillows that clutter up the bed and that you have to figure out where to put before you can lie down.

Also, hands up all those who would have pegged @Quasimojo for and ALTERED STATES fan.

Eimear 7:35 AM  

This was AGONY. I'm 34, so I've never even heard of Altered States (and I expect a lot of people my age and younger haven't). I'm also not American - and while I accept that the NYT crossword is aimed at Americans, and I did eventually manage to figure out what the words at the centre of the theme were and what they probably meant, it didn't help me to put together the nonsensical clues with anagrams of states I can just about remember 40 of on a good day.

Dan 7:40 AM  

Sure the deanagramming is tedious, but I’m sure the good people of WOST HANING and ARKANSEB were excited to see themselves represented in the grid.

(Seriously WTF are those two?)

Anonymoose 7:45 AM  

So, so Ugly.

Wanderlust 7:59 AM  

NAVY SIN PANEL is actually a very cool answer - fun to come up with a clue. “Jury for sailors accused of gluttony”? I usually think Rex is waaaaay too critical, bit agree on this one.

pabloinnh 8:03 AM  

This anagram fest was fine with me, probably because I like anagrams. The fact that different states could have been used to make different anagrams bothered me not at all. Wacky clues were not making sense until ALTEREDSTATES showed up next to SONICSWIN and turned the lights on and the rest was seeing which states would show up, which met my admittedly low standards for amusement, so an OK Wednesday here.

To all of you pooh-poohing pen value I would point out that banks, who have oodles of money, chain them to their desks. I rest my case.

I say fine Wednesday, AA, and thanks for including so much trivia that I knew, and teaching me how to spell DESICA.

Jstarrracewalker 8:11 AM  

Washington and Nebraska.

Suzie Q 8:13 AM  

Big struggle with little pay off.
I did like riddled and tail end. That's about it.
I agree with @ kitshef, there have been many times I have been very happy to find a pen and note paper in my hotel desk.
A puzzle that puts up a fight is usually welcome but sadly not today.

oopsydeb 8:13 AM  

My first answer was 10A Verse-vs-verse event. Dropped in SLAM immediately and immediately felt positive about the puzzle. A fleeting positivity. This thing was so incredibly dreadful.

PEN? An amenity? FFS.

I am the opposite of REAL AWED.

mathgent 8:13 AM  

I thought that it was excellent. I'm guessing that a lot of us who didn't like it are speed solvers. Having six long entries being virtually unclued must slow them down.

A lot here for me to like. A movie title which neatly hints that the themers are anagrams of states. The theme helps get the six two-word phrases. The six phrases are skillfully clued. It was crunchy. There was even a little sparkle like HIS Accidency for John Tyler.

Maybe I was just in a good mood last night. It's rare when I like a puzzle more than Lewis did.



Sir Hillary 8:18 AM  

I had no idea what was going on, and deliberately avoided the revealer until the six themers were in place. Even then, I didn't recognize what was happening until I got ALTEREDSTATES. I don't mind anagrams, so the fact that these were so well disguised (to me, at least) made the theme OK. However, I grant that it is anything but fresh.

The issue I have today is with the SW corner. Sorry, but having DESICA next to LATEEN, with both crossed by ASTERIX, seems like the definition of a Natick. Any one of those would be fine. Maybe two of them, or even all three, so long as they are separated in the grid. But this way? BS.

Brian 8:19 AM  

What a painful way to start the day -- like driving through mud. I finished but experienced no sense of satisfaction. This was an abuse of anagrams. I love anagrams but was so disgusted with this puzzle I didn't even bother to solve them ... why waste more time on such an dreadful task?

Rhino 8:24 AM  

I agree with the lobster. The main reason I slog through Rex's orneriness is to feel the savage pleasure when we hate the same things. He did not hate this puzzle enough. That southwest corner was awful. The anagrams were ugly. The revealer was dull. The fill was embarrassing. This is tear it out, delete the app, give up crosswords puzzles bad.

I was not a fan.

GILL I. 8:36 AM  

YIKES...No disrespect to Alan (sorry) but this was plain awful....I know art is subjective but this felt like I was strolling through MOMA and staring at a painting with nothing but ink splatters.
I STILL DON'T KNOW WHAT THE ANAGRAMMED STATES ARE.... I'm pretty good at sniffing out themes - this one had me screaming.
So it took me forever to get SHOT AWNING; scratched my head and said to myself "This better be damn good because this is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard". RANK BASE was even worse. I actually figured out ALTERED STATES and I STILL didn't know these were anagrams. That's on me. Thank goodness I could come here and figure out what the hell my Wednesday was up to. Still don't like it. Why: Well...we already have the pen debacle. To me, a hotel amenity is fluffy towels or being able to open the mini bar without being charged $50 for the privilege. So take your PEN and put it where the .....(fill in your favorite).
Then I get to Berle...who he? I know TEXACO because it was Nana's favorite gas station. It was probably owned by a Republican. Why am I supposed to know who his sponsor was?
Coffee specification is ICED? NO...Tea is, though.
The cluing was ancient and absolutely no fun. The only one I liked was 25D and what the British don't
spell. Good for them.
At least he didn't clue MERSEY as the Ferry that crosses it by that god-awful Gerry and the Pacemakers.
Please...let Thursday bring on a smile. Thanks.

mmorgan 8:41 AM  

I was enjoying this quite a lot... until I figured out that the theme answers were state anagrams (after I already had three or four of them). Then, instead of a whoosh of AHA!, I felt... a dull thud. Massive letdown. Misery and pain and sorrow. I forced myself to finish it, just because.

Still, the high point for me was TEXACO. If you don’t know those old Milton Berle commercials (actually, commercials posing as intro/outro theme songs), look ‘em up on YouTube. Priceless!

Harry 8:54 AM  

I don't always read Rex Parker, but when I do, it's because I hated the puzzle so much I needed someone to commiserate with. Thanks Rex.

Crimson Devil 9:03 AM  

Oommpppfff!!!

RooMonster 9:05 AM  

Hey All !
Finally have ONEL seared into the ole brain as a First Year law student, then you go and give us a different clue for it today!

That SW was a nightmare. Had everything but M__N, with the Downs not helping one iota. Vittorio who? Triangular SAIL wha? Figured the letter after M had to be a vowel, so started with MA_N, ran the alphabet, ME_N, ran alphabet, etc. And still couldn't come up with anything. Wrote in MorN just to have a complete grid, then came here to see MIEN. Well, never heard that. Is it German? Where's the clue for the clue to clue us in that's it's a foreign word? YIPE(S).

Although I had those nits/problems, I actually thought it wasn't too bad of a puz. I don't think it needs the harsh thrasing y'all seem to be heaping on it. Opinions, and all that.

SHOT AWNING was first get, then RACIAL INFO. Then got Revealer ALTERED STATES, and saw they were anagrammed US States. I thought that was neat. Will list the states below. Don't read it if you don't want to know, or want to figure them out on your own.

Started to write in Porthos for ARAMIS, but was too long. Two other writeovers, HAdJ-HAJJ, SSn-SSA. Wrongness to add to MorN, ELBa for ELBE. MERSEY River seems like it should be known and talked about more if it flies through both Liverpool and Manchester. Do the Futbol fans float up/down it to get to their rivalry games?

Washington, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Delaware, California

Agree with the PEN foofaraw. Dang, your expectations aren't too high if that's what your happy about. :-)

COW DOWEL
RooMonster
DarrinV

Hadj v. Hajj 9:09 AM  

My god, Lewis didn't even like this puzzle.

But seriously...are the anagrammed answers supposed to be punny? Or are they just random anagrams of states that you can parse into something "whacky?" I think I know the answer to question, but ultimately I would have liked for the anagrams to have some kind of consistency or reason to live. Only two of six (maybe three) made any "normal" sense: SONICSWIN, TEENSENSE, and maybe RACIALINFO. SONICSWIN was really the only one that actually might ever be used in the real world. I'll ignore RACIALINFO for reasons.

I only know MERSEY because of the 60s song where the guy "ferries 'cross the Mersey" or something like that. I thought HAJJ was spelled HAdJ. I think Johnny Quest has a kid sidekick named Hadji...which is probably racist, now that I think of it, since he wore a turban and was clearly an outlier to the rest of the white folk in the group...so, you know, give him some kind of stereotypical and diminutive Arabic sounding name.

SLOT clued that way was "ugh." Is a slot a "feature?" I would think the flag is a "feature" and the slot is just part of the damned mail box. I had SenT to start with and I like that better. My email app has all kinds of features...the sent part , for instance, is one of them.

Nancy 9:18 AM  

Start your puzzle out with "big name in water filters" and you're going to cause me mucho trouble. I should know from walter filter brand names? In fact, you're going to cause me a DNF, as I had BRITo/oRGON and didn't realize it until just now. Doesn't oRGON sound like something you'd find on the periodic table? Also, it just occurs to me: add one more letter and you get another STATE.

I think I've now figured out all the ALTERED STATES anagrams -- but trust me, they were no damned help in solving the puzzle. Still, I won't complain: any Wednesday that makes me work this hard is welcome. I never mind a challenge, even when I don't quite measure up. But I do mind BRITA. I will always mind BRITA. And I'm quite sure I will never remember BRITA in the future -- even though I'm typing it three times.

I had the same reaction to PEN as a "hotel amenity" that others here did and I laughed at all of your comments. As for me, I'd prefer either a big fluffy terry robe or a really well-stocked [free] bar.

Anonymous 9:46 AM  

If you’re old enough to remember tv shows with one or two major sponsors, do you remember the NYTimes crosswords before the Will Shortz editorials, when they were interesting, entertaining and educational? I do.

Nancy 9:46 AM  

I swear I didn't read you, @GILL, before I wrote my comment. And lookee here -- @GILL and I have requested the exact same hotel amenities!: either a fluffy, terry robe or a free bar in the room! Sometimes, @GILL, I feel we're the same person. Or, at the very least, we should dine at the same restaurants and stay at the same hotels.

"Tap dancing on a mattress." Never heard that one before, @Quasi. It's good!!

Z 10:03 AM  

Ooh Ooh. Words are made up of letters and when you rearrange them you get different words. I am REAL AWED.

@kitshef - I throw the pillows on the floor.

@QuasiMojo - There are some raging arguments about the various terms. I’d put Frankenstein more firmly in “science fiction” than ALTERED STATES because the novel extrapolated from then current technology and looked at the implications. The movie is more horror with some pseudo-science elements. I think lots of people who prefer fiction that extrapolates from current science and looks at the implications get irked at lots of other stuff that gets classified as “science fiction.” Star Wars is a lot closer to Harry Potter than science based fiction. I like Star Trek but would never dispute the “western in space” observation. So anyway, the eyebrow arched at the “sci fi” part of the clue more than the “thriller” part but would have been fine with just “horror.”

I go around thinking that most people who drink Bud or Coors suffer from never having ventured into the wealth of good beer and haven’t been shown how there is so much variety and quality to be enjoyed. But then you run into someone who just prefers Bud. De gustibus non est disputandum.

Anonymous 10:09 AM  

this was hard and i never cared about the theme. anagrams of states? who cares. I got stuck and lost interest at "shop window."

so the "what was my time" always amuses me. "i finished in 5 minutes, then spent 3 minutes looking for a typo." i'm no genius, but "finished" means "finished" doesn't it? 5+3=8, not 5+3=5.

or, "i finished in 5 minutes, then spent 3 minutes filling in the bottom half." equally dumb.

sorry.

not zippy.

ps. guess we've lost LMS. sad to see her go, and sad to see the many others who have stopped contributing to this blog.

Tremendous Potato 10:11 AM  

Crossing Asterix with De Sica, lateen and embar is some kind of next level move. Raise your hand if you had social info and thought you were good.

Some of the nastiest clues I've ever seen.

Smitty 10:27 AM  

TO Old Car Fudd
You're right, gaff rigs are not triangular. I stand corrected.
But still say Lateen refers more to a rig than a sail, just as Gaff does.

SouthsideJohnny 10:37 AM  

Wow, I can’t tell if the NYT is playing a cruel joke (i.e. “Let’s see how foolish and awful we can make a puzzle.”) or if this thing actually deteriorated to this level of self-parody by accident. OMG, what a stinker. It’s hard to believe that they actually have a year’s worth of puzzles in the queue and they chose to go with this. They really should throttle back on the theme requirement- maybe only two theme answers and a quick reveal so the rest of the puzzle stops crumbling under its own weight (and the theme answers don’t have to be so forced, contrived and generally awful). OFL must have been in a good mood - he really could have gone off on this one. Instead, he just pointed out what a disaster it is, and why.

Foldyfish 10:53 AM  

Blech, so much blech. DNF...

Ethan Taliesin 11:01 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Z 11:08 AM  

Working on the AVCX puzzle Rex mentioned and 43A as clued makes it a stellar puzzle IMHO.

Hack mechanic 11:12 AM  

Nor spankers or junk rigs

Anonymous 11:18 AM  

Seriously, LATEEN and TEEN sense??! That can’t be right.

Anonymous 11:18 AM  

Rex's posting and the comments here fail to list all six jumbled states:
line 17 Washington, line 26 Nebraska, line 27 Wisconsin, line 47 Tennessee, line 50 Delaware, and line 57 California.

GILL I. 11:28 AM  

@Anony 10:09. No, @Loren is still alive and well. Just busy as hell. It's homecoming now and she and her husband are moving into a home. She promised to be back soon. Yay. I miss her, too.
@Nancy... I'll add one of those hair towel thingies that you wrap your wet hair around then fasten it at the back. I called the front desk and asked if I could keep it and they said NO. I asked If I could pay for it and they said NO. I would've stolen it but they had my credit card on file. I was COWed by staff.

Anonymous 11:31 AM  

How, exactly, does the theme aid, or even point to, the themers? anagram of a state, with no hint in the clue to the state in question means nothing. only the clue helps, to the extent it does.

although, with the (alleged) right tilt of Mr. Shortz, RACIALINFO for California is kind of naughty. we don't need no stinkin vegetable pickers!!!!! or Yellow Peril. and so on.

CDilly52 11:34 AM  

Wow! This was so difficult to get started but not necessarily due to the theme. SHOT AWNING filled itself in from the crosses because the top to NW groups were the only “easy” area for me. And then I came to a screeching halt-I was doing the screeching - for at least 10 minutes trying to find an area I into which I could place more than one three letter answer. could fill HooBOY, I was certain it would be a DNF, but some good guesses were helpful. What was not helpful was my general lack of interest in sci-fi. I barely heard of ALTERED STATES so it was the very last piece to fall. Consequently it did give me reason to finally see an actual the because the “themers” made no sense as a group. And it took me forever to unscramble RACIAL INFO. Now of course it just screams CALIFORNIA, stupid!!!

This was a good workout and I finished. Mission accomplished.

QuasiMojo 11:36 AM  

@Kitshef, I may have been in an altered state when I saw Altered States. :)

@Nancy, thank you. I bet Fred Astaire could have done something cool with that idea.

@Z, good points. I never heard that "western in space" idea about Star Trek but it makes sense, although most of the Westerns I watched as a kid, Rio Bravo, Shane, Stagecoach, etc and the TV show Laramie, were about real life. Star Trek always seemed to me to be about philosophy and existentialism. Talky, preachy and preoccupied with sex. Did you ever see the 70s Sci-fi film about some distant outpost with the solar system's last garden on it? I can't remember the name. The folks on earth want to stop supplying it and shut it down to save money. Seems almost quaint now.

Re: Pen. My first thought was enclosure, like a pig's pen. I was wondering what kind of hotel would offer that! :)

Joe Dipinto 11:40 AM  

I saw "Altered States" when it came out and thought it was great, but now I barely remember anything about it. Apparently it was William Hurt's first film.

On the bright side, the puzzle reminded me of one of my fave songs from 1965. Yes, GILL, it really is.

The Clerk 11:51 AM  

Worst puzzle of the year

The Clerk 11:53 AM  

lede

Perry 11:53 AM  

Rex - If you hate the NYT XWord so much, why don't you just stop? It seems that you never enjoy working the puzzle and all you do is complain about it and tout the greatness of other puzzles. I think your blog is a great resource and I enjoy reading it, but it seem like a senseless chore for you. Time to pass the mantle.

Anonymous 11:55 AM  

I think this was a very solid puzzle. Started at 1-across and worked smoothly through the grid; only filling in checked crosses, which is my favorite way to do a mid-week puzzle. Lots of little word games to figure out, leading to big chunks of easy crosses. Revealer at mid-grid allowed me to guess at theme answers -- more little word puzzles.

I could picture the character at 53-across, but coukdn't pull up the name. Plus, I had thought the comic was Belgian, not French.

What strikes me is that so many whiners are outraged that they do not know the answers at first blush. They seem to resent having to solve a puzzle rather that just filling in a puzzle. Fill-ins are Mon, Tue. More fun is Wed. Th is the tricky day. Fri, Sat are the challenge puzzles.

RooMonster 11:57 AM  

@Anonymous 10:09
We didn't lose @LMS. She just has a boat load of shitty work to do at her shitty school, so she doesn't have time to post here during School year time.

I admire her for what she has to put up with. I'd've quit a long time ago.

RooMonster Defending @LMS Even Though She Doesn't Need Me To Guy

burtonkd 11:59 AM  

Anonymous 10:09am

I think LMS is just having computer issues along with beginning of year crunch time. At least I hope I understood that from her one lone recent post. I remember there used to be an Evil Doug, probably many others who come and go.

I was wondering what movie in that category I could have heard of, but turns out I knew it (love when that happens) - the composer of the score, John Corigliano, came to our conservatory and we played a suite from the film. Very modern usage of instruments created a lot of the mood for the film. He went on to write the music for the Red Violin, which is one of the best film scores: his father was concertmaster of the NYPhilharmonic, so he was able to write idiomatic violin styles throughout history to represent the violin's journey.

Surprised there isn't more ire directed at the NE: MERSEY and ELBE (WOE), tortured clue on ABBR. AKELA and RANKBASE, plus EENSY could be TEENY to get into the area. Liked ABBESS in retrospect, but was looking for a women's college or something from Bronte or Alcott.
So many clues fine, but just didn't trust them based on feeling of them not being possible based on day of week supposed difficulty.

TEENSENSE gave away the theme - not very altered. Count me unique in using the theme to get an answer: having AWED and using anagram to figure out the other letters in DELAWARE to re-arrange them to get REALAWED.

Was WOE in the center square an Easter egg punny review of this puzzle. A rare non Spring appearance of the Easter Punny (sorry) out....

What? 12:18 PM  

“Room with a pen.” Haha. Made the puzzle worthwhile. Otherwise ugh.

Joseph M 12:24 PM  

MERSEY me. Saying that “marvelous” and “canceled” are *not* spelled with ONE L is like Mueller saying that he didn’t find Trump not guilty. Give me a break.

In defense of the PEN clue, however, I look forward to the free pens at the hotel where I stay in San Francisco. They are the sleek ballpoints I use to solve the NYT after I print it out. My daily crossword ritual would not be the same without them.

Otherwise I have to agree that this puzzle provided only an EENSY bit of fun. Another grid where nearly a third of the answers are proper nouns and a theme with buoyancy of a lead balloon.

Anonymous 12:27 PM  

Hilariously misplaced on a Wednesday because of how hard it was. I didn't hate it, but it did have a lot of junk and the cluing was not on my wavelength. Got golden in the end, but it wasn't really a fun solve. Too much crosswordese and trivia.

Anonymous 12:45 PM  

Re: Anonymous @10:09:

LMS posted about a week ago that she's having computer problems and has a very busy schedule at the moment, so I suspect (and hope) that her hiatus is temporary.

jb129 12:49 PM  

AWFUL! Sorry I bothered (& didn't finish). I didn't like yesterday's puzzle either. I hope the rest of the week isn't so bad (for me, anyway).

Fred Romagnolo 12:52 PM  

John Tyler was the first veep to become prez on the death of one. He was a Democrat (supporter of slavery) who ran on the Whig ticket, but never changed his views. De Sica was the best of the post-war Italian directors; he was also a superb actor. If you don't know the movie, "The Earrings of Madame D," catch it and do yourself a big favor, the trio of Boyer, Darrieux, and De Sica represent the finest ensemble of magnificent acting that I know of. The clue to 12D was the best one in the puzzle.

Cassieopia 1:01 PM  

@KevCo 1 am - your first paragraph tickled me to no end. “I’d like a room with a pen, please” 🤣

Agree that SW corner was brutal (read: impossible for me). I belong to the Anti-Anagram League so regardless of fill I still would have been morose. Favorite part was learning that apparently Pres John Tyler was a klutz. Shades of Pres Ford as portrayed by Chevy Chase. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_bvxZgCryUE

Onward to Thursday...

RooMonster 1:10 PM  

@Anony 11:18
I did. I also knew nobody reads my posts. This confirms that. :-)

Roo

Nancy 1:12 PM  

@GILL (11:28) -- Here, I fear, we're not on the same page. I have no wish whatsoever to own -- or even borrow for a few days -- the hair-wrapping contraption (whatever it is) that you were tempted to pilfer from the hotel. I have short hair and when I wash it, I simply want to blow-dry it as quickly as possible. Not wrap it up like a Christmas present. Since it only takes me about 90 seconds to dry my hair, the thought of wrapping it up has never once occurred to me. (I have seen glamorous screen goddesses do something of that sort in movies from the '40s and '50s and maybe it should have given me ideas, but somehow it didn't).

Blackbird 1:15 PM  

I found the puzzle easy, except for the northeast, where I got stuck. Essentially enjoyable, well-made puzzle. Not the same old same old. And the theme was clever.

JC66 1:27 PM  

!Roo
Don't take it personally, many posters ignore previous comments.

AdamW 1:28 PM  

I spent 40 minutes staring at the SW before I finally got everything. That was tough. But when these things happen, I tend not to blame NYT or constructors. It's all on me and my knowledge gaps all happening to be in one area at once, by coincidence.

The only issue I had was the question mark in the clue for SONICS WIN. Why? It was a straightforward question and answer. The question mark suggested there was some trick or pun, and so I kept looking for similar things in the other state clues. Alas.

Getting the state clues were easy, once I knew they were states.

Teedmn 1:29 PM  

Oh no, I'm coming down with the dreaded "puzzle played hard so I didn't like it" syndrome. But truthfully, I mentally said, "Really?" more times than I can count while solving this. ELBE crossing MERSEY got me muttering. I had the exact same feeling about GOATEES and PEN as Rex did (and thanks, Rex, for the LOL on the pen clue.) I even took DIP out because I thought 43D had to be "spa".

BRITA, a WOE, crossing BTWO. RIDDLED doesn't necessarily indicate holey-ness, it's just a common phrase, RIDDLED with holes, so I hesitated to put that one down.

I needed to get 34A before I recognized the anagrams. By then, the theme answers were the highlight of the puzzle. I ended doing a "run the US map" a la a "run the alphabet" in order to crack what state RANK BASE was. On the other hand, seeing CALIFORNIA at 57A helped me change soCIAL to RACIAL. So it went both ways.

I had a hard time in most sections but the one that got me was the SW. I had the LATErN sail crossing I_rD and couldn't come up with any "Coffee specification". I don't like that clue. "Coffee order" would have meant something to me. Specification had me wondering if there were some sort of coffee roast or coffee caffeine level unit system I wasn't aware of. I did finally remember LATEEN and get ICED.

And then there's the DEpICA DNF. ApTERIX seemed just fine (yes, I know it's ApTERyX but hey, world of comics, who can tell?)

So Alan, this certainly held my attention but I'm not going to ask for another one of these!

jberg 1:35 PM  

I've always liked anagrams, and in this case I'd never have got RANK BASE or RACIAL INFO if I didn't know it had to anagram to a state. In general, the theme answers were so unnatural that it was hard to get them without knowing they were anagrams.

But I can see it must have been annoying for the youngsters, who have no memory of the US and Soviet forces meeting at the ELBE after fighting their way across Germany from opposite sides, or of hearing that the Beatles were from MERSEYside and wondering what that meant.

But you can still go out and buy an ASTERIX book, and can probably find that DE SICA movie on Netflix (I haven't checked). The latter confused me a bit because when I saw it in the 1960s it was called "The Bicycle Thief" in English, but apparently the plural title (which is a better translation) is generally accepted now.

I did check the website of the Parker House, just to see. They list a lot of amenities, but no PENs. Guess I'll stay somewhere else.

Having said all that, though, I just noticed that I DNF -- I had Star for SEAL, didn't notice that I'd changed OLE to OrE, and had no idea about that hero in The Matrix. Sigh.

Clover 1:46 PM  

DNF and got Naticked 5 times, a personal high. Either this puzzle was not built for 20 somethings or I’m dumber than I thought. Or both!

Masked and Anonymous 1:55 PM  

A SLY HAM GROAN, Batman!

har. This WedPuz left m&e wantin more. More U's, sure … but mainly, more mercy. This puppy had more than enough bite to be a ThursPuz. FriPuz, for that SW puzgrid land of lost nanoseconds.

Not that I don't like the challenge so much, but yikes. Anagrams of stuff this long can get pretty feisty. Plus, you're kinda left wonderin if these mysterious lil jewels might be anagrams, too boot: DESICA. LATEEN. EMBAR. TONGAN. AKELA.
Liked ASTERIX/TEXACO, tho. de Busta Gut.

staff weeject pick: PEN. day-um. Never has M&A beheld so little respect for a RUNTy hotel freebie.

At least the puz did have the decency to fess up to the theme mcguffin, mid-solvequest. That helped, a smidge. As for the anagrammed entries, man -- more cowbell, please:

* SHOT AWNING --> AWNING HOTS, maybe? Clue: {Canopy fetish?}. [Really really wanted somethin with SNOT in it, there...]
* RANK BASE --> BANK ARSE = {What ye olde teller sits on?}.
* SONICS WIN --> COWS IN SIN = {They're always in the mooed?}. [Epitome of COW-em-bell-ishment.]
* TEEN SENSE --> NEE ENTESS = {Formerly a Fangorn Forest damsel with some tough bark on her??} … but LOTR stuff ain't much better. Need a different state.
* REAL AWED --> not bad, actually. But, if U prefer: ARAL WEED = {Pot supply that's drying up fast?}.
* RACIAL INFO --> NOIR FACIAL = {Spa treatment for Sam Spade, say?}.
QED.

Thanx for the feisty-weird WedPuz, Mr. Arbesfeld. And congratz on yer #125th NYTPuz. That's alotta ELBE over the dam.

Masked & Anonymo1U


biter RUNT:
**gruntz**

foxaroni 2:05 PM  

The movie you're thinking of, @QuasiMojo, is "Silent Running." Bruce Dern was the lead. In a way, it's like Joanie Mitchell's song, "Big Yellow Taxi." Sad movie, sad song. At least Joanie's song had a good beat and you could dance to it. I'd rate it a 95, Mr. Clark.

I thought this was a tough puzzle. When I finally saw the themer, "Altered States," I figured the answers were anagrams. I had no interest in deciphering the stsaes. I really didn't care. (Can you tell I'm not an anagrams fan?)

Joe Dipinto 2:09 PM  

For my next party I plan on setting out appetizing bowlfuls of Teen Sense. And complimentary pens, of course.

Anonymous 2:10 PM  

While I got "Altered States" right away, I never got the concept of the clues being anagrams of states. I should have gotten that, but I've fallen off the puzzle-solving wagon for a few weeks.

As to Milton Berle's sponsor being Texaco, that should be well-known. In the early days of television, almost all TV shows were just as famous for who sponsored them and, often, the sponsor's name was in the name of the show. For instance, "Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom" or "Westinghouse Studio One". Milton Berle's, aka "Uncle Miltie", was an immensely popular show during "The Golden Age of Television" and anyone familiar that TV era (and all good crossword solvers should be) would know that and know that Texaco was its sponsor. I got that clue immediately and it helped me considerably with the rest of the puzzle.

Z 2:28 PM  

@Roo - I find using bold text when answering those sort of questions helps it be noticed, but people asking already answered questions or answering already answered questions has been happening since I started here.

@QuasiMojo - High Noon was a none to subtle swipe at HUAC, Rio Bravo was made in response. Stagecoach deals with lots of the same philosophical and ethical questions that Star Trek does. I’m sure that lots of westerns were just excuses for having showdowns at noon, but the good ones were thoughtful, or maybe philosophical, and occasionally preachy. Much like people who take Shakespeare and place the action in modern settings, I think Roddenberry stole a great deal from Westerns.
That 70’s movie you mentioned sounds familiar but I’m not placing it

I finished that AVCX puzzle. Apparently a debut. I have a niggle about the theme that I can’t share without spoiling the puzzle, but otherwise a clean and fun solve without the over reliance on obscurity.

Anonymous 2:44 PM  

Verse-vs.-verse event is slam. I don't get it.

Fred Romagnolo 2:46 PM  

@roo: I always read your comments; I even commented on one!

Fred Romagnolo 2:54 PM  

In Italian, ladro is thief, ladri is thieves, De Sica used the plural, but the first English captioned version used the singular: Ladri di biciccolette is plural.

zephyr 2:59 PM  

When is hadj spelt like hajj? Got lateen, asteroid, abbess, Tudor, de Sica, Aramis, and most others no prob. 51d =fired, no? Finished before I noticed the scrambled names. Seemed like a switch of the two words- a pun. Seat belt was clever. Llbean is not really competitive with jcrew. Also it’s 47a that is high schoolers intuition not 42a if anyone cares.

Fred Romagnolo 3:02 PM  

oops! I shoulda said Madame De.

Pete 4:43 PM  

@Anon 2:44 Poetry Slams are competitive poetry recitations, preformed for fun, to win, and no money.

According to Amy's 5 point rating scale, this has been the worst puzzle of the past decade.

ChE Dave 5:22 PM  

Potentially the worst puzzle I have ever solved. The theme clues were forced, Sonics Win is probably the only one actually said by a human. And far too much crosswordese for my liking. 🤮

tea73 5:44 PM  

Average Wednesday 18 minutes today 28. It doesn't help that I fell asleep it was so boring. The puzzle was mostly done before I knew that I was even dealing with anagrams - so there were just these unpleasant two word phrases. I've never seen HAJJ spelled that way. One J yes. DJ yes. Reluctantly put it in after it was clear it had to be JLO. But ugh. Am I supposed to know that river? Milton Berle's sponsor was obvious once I had in a bunch of crosses, but ugh to that too. And trip ugh to ABBR.

Unknown 5:55 PM  

Rex, if you're going to humble brag about your solving time, then tell us what your time actually was. None of this high 5 and then a minute or so more. . . . How do you figure out your average times if you're constantly fudging the numbers? FWIW, I thought this was a very challenging Wednesday but it didn't bother me. I never time myself.

Liz 8:12 PM  

The problem with this trick is that there’s no aha moment after you solve the central clue. Instead it’s like, oh god, now let me figure out what state’s letters spell shot awning.

I’ll take a room with a king bed and a pen, please.

PeterThomas 9:33 PM  

ok I solved the puzzle but is ABBR supposed to mean abbreviation? And and what in God's name is abbess?
I guessed at it and won but have no idea what it means. B

albatross shell 10:15 PM  

Well I was on the road for a couple three weeks and solving puzzles a day or two late and thus not commenting. Probably to late today for anyone to notice. Thought this was difficult with naticks, a few weak clues and not much fun overall but certainly some good stuff. HIS accidency was great. A good name for our current president too. SLAM very good. PEN great as clued. A 3 letter answer that every hotel motel has. I just stayed in several and had to think hard to get it. Very clever. So obvious you do not even notice it. I take the Red Roof pen and leave it at the Motel 6. Leave that pen at the Econolodge. If staying at a city for a few days I upscale a bit. But on the road til 8 pm and leaving at ten am, give me a bed a shower a tv a clean room cheapo towels and those other amenities are BS.
Also:

Which is better _ realawe or unrealawe?

I was awed by the unreal awe of altered states. Fine movie. Some deSica even better.

ABBESS well clued too.
AND figuring the theme helped me with other answers both today and yesterday.

albatross shell 10:33 PM  

@peterthomas 933pm
Big boss sister (nun) in charge at an abbey.

Swagomatic 11:52 PM  

I never got the theme. I got tired of trying to figure out how the answers related to each other. Not impressed.

a.corn 12:50 AM  

Wow, just wow.

a.corn 12:55 AM  

Dude, honestly. I’m reeling from this puz’s unpleasantness. The whole damn thing was brutal, but when I realized PEN had to be tight I became that .gif of the dude knocking every paper of his desk.

a.corn 12:56 AM  

I honestly can’t tell if you’re trolling or not.

a.corn 12:58 AM  

Me and you both (looking for states if matter).

a.corn 1:01 AM  

This puzzle was so bad, with so So many things to (rightfully) complain about...we’re not even talking about how many proper fucking naticky PNs were here! Also, HAJJ??? Double J? I feel like I’ve only seen it “hadj” or “haj” ......anyways that nit seems like a needle of misfortune in a haystack of misery. Cripes

Anonymous 1:15 AM  

Can any one tell me why one letter appears in red in the solutions

JC66 9:25 AM  

@Anon 1:15

When solving in AcrossLite, the last square selected is red, to show the solver where they are in the grid.

Jan 12:29 PM  

Rex, why don't you stop doing the nyt crossword puzzle? It seems so painful to you.

Crunchy fat sacks 3:25 AM  

Who TF even is John Tyler, and why am I supposed to know his freaking nickname?! There was so much trash in this puzzle, and so much proper noun trivia, like, words that crossed multiple theme clues, and or the theme answer... Not helping

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