MONDAY, Sep. 10, 2007 - Edward M. Sessa

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: NOTES OF THE SCALE (40A: Features found in 17- and 64-Across and 11- and 28-Down)

Notes of the scale can be found in the circled squares throughout the grid:

  • 17A: Many a Westminster show exhibitor (DOg bREeder)
  • 64A: Longtime Wal-Mart symbol (sMIley FAce)
  • 11D: Rear of the roof of the mouth (SOft paLAte)
  • 28D: G.I. Joe, for one (acTIon DOll)
SOFT PALATE is a nice, unusual phrase.

The theme here is pretty unimaginative, and some of the fill I had to endure ... ugh.

We'll start with weak, and work our way toward borderline unforgivable.

Who the hell is 29A: Mathematician John von _____ (Neumann). I'm not complaining (much) about this guy, but that name is totally unknown to me, and unknown names are very rare on Mondays. I learned EULER from doing the puzzle. I guess I can add NEUMANN to the list (if I can remember it, which I almost certainly can't). There was one other tricky name in the puzzle - ENOCH (27D: Cain's eldest son) - but I had at least heard of him and remembered him vaguely from recent excursions into the bible, so no harm there.

Do people really call dinosaurs "DINOs?" (58D: T. Rex, e.g.) - Why not just go with ["Flintstones" dog] and be done with it?

Neither I nor my wife, it seems, knew how to spell DUFFEL (24D: Camper's bag) before we did this puzzle.

SARI (9D: Wrap for Indira Gandhi) and OBI (41D: Geisha's sash)!? - It's an exotic outerwear crosswordese fire sale! I like that SARI intersects INDIA, though (15A: Kind of ink).

I would refer to someone as "DODDERING," but would never use "DODDERED" (54A: Walked unsteadily) as a verb.

My wife complains Every Time the puzzle associates saunas with steam (42D: Like a sauna room (steamy)) - "It's dry heat!" - though she concedes that one does indeed find steam in saunas sometimes - when water is thrown over hot stones, for instance.

I would like to take credit for the near eradication of "Odd Jobs" from recent puzzles. "Odd Jobs" are totally made-up words ending in "-ER" that no one would ever use, but that pass the dictionary test, e.g., let's say, ADMONISHER. Today, however, there's a horrible Odd Job in ECHOER (20A: Parrot) - "Parrot" is so promising as a verb...

G.I. Joe is not an ACTION DOLL. That phrase Barely Exists in the language. There are almost exactly 100 times more Google hits for ["action figure"] than there are for ["action doll"], which gets a paltry 29K. I had ACTION HERO here at first - HERO being the only acceptable four-letter word in this instance. Well, maybe STUD would work.

Finally, there's CHEESY, clued 48D: Shabby. What ... the ... @#$#? I looked it up, and it appears to have a second meaning of "inferior" or "of poor quality," but I have never heard anyone use it as a synonym for "shabby." CHEESY has nothing to do with something's being dirty or run-down (which "shabby" implies). It implies something phony, trite, and/or cloying. Perhaps something embarrassingly common and middle-of-the-road, taste-wise, like a CHEESY pop song. A CHEESY grin is excessive, put-on. "Shabby" is manifestly bad, where CHEESY is bad, at least in part, by reason of its pretension to goodness or authenticity. Yes, I like that distinction.

I'm done for the day / night.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Anonymous 10:40 PM  

Hear, hear for "action doll." Actually, I'd prefer "doll." When the toy industry invented the term "action figure" to enable the marketing of dolls to boys, I cringed but accepted that the phrase will live on in ads far longer than I will. But that doesn't mean I have to adopt the term myself. This was one of my favorite entries.

Stephen 11:17 PM  

I would've preferred "Just Don't Give a F***" rapper, for EMINEM.

Orange 12:04 AM  

Duffel or duffle? Both look so right. And they are, as it turns out, with duffel listed first. Named after a Dutch town name in Belgium, and knowing that now should help cement the el spelling in my head. The definition:

1. A blanket fabric made of low-grade woolen cloth with a nap on both sides.
2. Clothing and other personal gear carried by a camper.

Huh? (The Oxford New American Dictionary feeds into the Mac OS X widget dictionary, which adds 3. short for DUFFEL BAG. Now that's what I'm talking about.)

Anonymous 12:27 AM  

DOGBREEDER and ACTIONDOLL led me directly to "Waiting for Guffman", a movie by Christopher Guest and his crew (they made "Best in Show"). At the end of Guffman, the Corky St. Clair character opens a cinema collectables store, selling posters and such, and one of the items for sale was "My Dinner with Andre" action figures! If you haven't seen Andre that won't mean much -- I found it hilarious.

I also duffed DUFFEL. Sometimes I'll blank on cubicle/cubical and mantel/mantle. as well. I attribute this to the CHEESY, STEAMY, DODDERING days of Summer.

Anonymous 1:08 AM  

The fill didn't bother me that much. I had my fastest time for a couple months.

I've never dealt with a bete noire. Wait, I'll look it up (Rex is teaching me good habits.) Mmm, chocolate.

Anonymous 1:40 AM  

I was surprised to see Rex rate this a medium since it zipped by, even without knowing how to spell DUFFEL - the BETE NOIR made that a given.

Not to pick too much of a "louse-to-be," but shouldn't the clue for 19 read "aliens' crafts, for short" or something like that? -- I always thought that one craft = one UFO.


Anonymous 1:46 AM  

One craft = one UFO. Two craft = two UFOs. "Aliens's crafts" would be incorrect, as would "two aircrafts."

Anonymous 6:04 AM  

The research, admittedly brief, I've done and remembered from music class in 4th grade, shows "so" as "sol".

Anonymous 6:10 AM  

John Von Neumann -- FYI, was a famous mathmatecian from -- hmm.. Hungary IIRC .. worked at Princeton around the WW II time. Most famous though -- and how I know about him -- is his senimal work on computers .. including the novel idea of "programs" running in memory that could be "self-modified" and have -- goto's, etc. Basically a pioneer of how we currently program and design computers (which hasn't changed much since 1951).

Medium on puzzle -- probably because of the two rare names .. Enoch and Nuemann ?? Just a guess.


Rex Parker 7:42 AM  

Once again: difficulty level is "relative." My time for this puzzle was average for a Monday (low 4's), hence the "Medium" rating. Yes, it was an easy puzzle, but all Mondays are easy.

Anonymous 7:59 AM  

Don't forget Von Neumann and game theory! Not a problem for a former math major.

Anonymous 8:09 AM  

Yeah -- I was just about to add the Game Theory part too -- who was the other guy in Game Theory. It was JVN and someone equally as famous.

Ah ha! John Nash -- finally came to me.

BTW -- for those who don't know -- it was the work in Game Theory (with what's his name) -- that lead to US's stance of MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) for our atomic weapon strategy during the cold war.

Anonymous 9:39 AM  

hahahaha dry heat!!! hahahaha the Flintstone's dog and be done with it! You're a card, Rex, you really are.

Anonymous 10:02 AM  

Karmasatre, so tickled to be reminded of "Andre" action figures. Genius. Thanks for adding to my "low impact Monday". (Wish I could remember the source for that descriptor)

Anonymous 10:06 AM  

Rex, ditto on the sauna clue. When I want to get steamed, I go to the steam room. When I want DRY HEAT I go into the sauna. Even putting water on the rocks does more to raise the temperature level than to add moisture to the air.

This clue always reminds me of the old clue for SST, which was often clued as "large aircraft. SST's of course are fast, but not especially large. Haven't seen that particular groaner in a couple years and I think never in the NYT, that was more of a Chicago Trib specialty.

I only had a couple problems today, I wanted BETE NOIR to be FILM NOIR, but OBI quickly took that out of my mind. And for some reason I filled in LOA instead of LEA, which gave me a bit of trouble on ENOCH, again easily fixed by the crosses.

Anonymous 10:34 AM  

My college thesis adviser was Thomas Schelling, whose book The Strategy of Conflict is probably the seminal work on mutually assured destruction. He won a Nobel Prize for his work in game theory as did John Nash.

I took two courses from Schelling and we used John von Neumann's text on economics and game theory for both.

Steve M

Anonymous 11:56 AM  

To me, cheesy implies cheap or ersatz like items from the Franklin mint. Paste jewels and the like.Shabby connotes genteel poverty. Items may once have been of good quality but now have been neglected to the point of becoming frayed, run-down and...shabby.
Cheesy things never were in good taste from the get go. Shabby ones once had their days in the sun.

Orange 12:47 PM  

The Mac OS X widget dictionary (fed by the Oxford New American Dictionary) has a second definition for cheesy: "Informal. Cheap, unpleasant, or blatantly inauthentic. A big cheesy grin, cheesy motel rooms. I'm thinking the motel room is shabby. However, using a lesser-known sense for a Monday clue is strange.

Anonymous 12:58 PM  

mmmmm cheese.

I agree with Rex/all the comments. There were a few strangely clued words but overall the puzzle was fairly easy relative to a Monday.

Anonymous 1:20 PM  

I'm surprised no one's jumped on KABOB, which has appeared in the puzzle a fair amount of late, with a variety of spellings.

fergus 1:33 PM  

Today's puzzle alerted me that I've rather lazily been failing to distinguish the Parthenon with the Pantheon. Think I've got it straight now.

Game theory, especially through the work of Von Neumann and Nash was very influential in poking holes in the capitalist free market orthodoxy that the universally optimal outcome would be achieved with perfect information through price signals. The sub-optimal outcomes, often referred to as Nash Equilibria, derive from mathemetical logic of non-cooperative games. It's fascinating stuff and you don't even have to master the math to observe why so many things in life aren't as good as they could be.

Karmasartre, In the same vein as an Andre action figure, how about a movie of Keat's 'Grecian Urn?'

Anonymous 2:14 PM  

two nitpicks. why is an "aliens's craft, for short," UFOs instead of UFO. i don't see why the answer is plural if we're trying to identify a craft. also, this is really, really anal so forgive me, but on the clue "predestination" for FATE, why is the clue not simply destination? i know. anal.
lastly, on dino, although you had issues, i think it's a clever, shortened answer -- although no one uses that word -- because the clue is abbreviated/shortened. cheers -- nunyo.

Wayne Bretski 2:15 PM  

I'm late to the party for John von Neumann, but I was thrilled to see him in the puzzle today! I had undergraduate economics, game theory, logic, mathematics, computer science, and ethics courses that discussed his work, however briefly. Not quite a polyglot, but certainly genius.

Anonymous 2:27 PM  

Today's crossword was by a first-time contributor to the Times, so I was especially sorry on this one to see it described as "fairly unimaginative," "weak," and "borderline unforgiveable." There must be a better way to make one's points than through harsh terms like these.

Personally, I thought it was a pretty fine Monday, with a fresh, interesting theme idea, four solid examples of it, a 15-letter "explainer" entry across the middle (crossing two of the other theme entries), and all pretty solid vocabulary. Not easy to do.

In reply to some of Rex's comments: John von Neumann was one of the most important mathematicians of the 20th century. I have no reservations about including him in a New York Times crossword on any day of the week. This is a name Times solvers should know. If you don't know it, you work it out from the crossings. Even a Monday crossword can have a few hard words/names, if the overall feel of the puzzle is easy, as this one's is.

Regarding "odd jobs": If a puzzle is full of entries like this, then it's probably a poor puzzle. But I don't think a single oddball -er entry is a problem, as long as it's in a standard dictionary. ECHOER appears in Random House Unabridged, American Heritage, and Webster's Third New International. By my rules it's fine.

Rex loves his pop culture, especially from the 1970s and '80s, and if I were editing puzzles specifically for him, I would include more of it. However, I'm editing puzzles for all Times readers, including ones who don't know (or don't like) pop culture. This is why DINO was clued today in the word's general sense, not as the name of the Flintstones dog. Many older solvers don't know the Flintstones. Anyway, DINO has been clued as the dog so many times, in the Times and elsewhere, that I think a little variety in the cluing isn't necessarily bad.

Finally, something I never want to hear (which Rex wrote a day or two ago) is "I don't care what the dictionary says." Well, I do follow the dictionary (or the dictionaries), because that's the surest path to accuracy.

In general I enjoy Rex's blog, and he makes some legitimate criticisms of the puzzles and points out real flaws in them. But it seems lately that more than 75% of his writeups are rants, which to me seems wildly inappropriate and unfair. I guess rants make for interesting reading, as shown by the fact he now has 5,000(!) daily visitors and more commenters than any other crossword blog. Still I think a little more evenhandedness would be appropriate.

--Will Shortz

Rex Parker 3:29 PM  

I'm going to leave that comment alone for now, because at the moment, all I want to do is, well, rant.

I do more, for free, to publicize and generally encourage the doing of your puzzle than any other person on the planet. Do you ever wonder how many of my 5000 daily readers do the puzzle more regularly now, or subscribed the the online version of the puzzle, specifically because of this blog? Based on the mail I get - A Lot.

I have to teach now, or I'd go on.


Anonymous 3:29 PM  

Anonymous 2:14:

First, just so we're all on the same page, the clue was "aliens' craft" not aliens's craft" as you wrote.

But, the deal is that aliens' is plural, meaning that the answer should also be plural unless they share the same craft.

An alien has a craft, becoming "alien's UFO". Multiple aliens have multiple crafts, becoming "aliens' UFOs"

If my brothers all share a single sausage for dinner that would be "my brothers' sausage", but if they each have their own it would be "my brothers' sausages". Of course if my only brother had multiple sausages the answer would be "my brother's sausages".

I think that in this case either UFO or UFOs would be correct, since we don't know how many UFOs there are, based on the clue.

Anonymous 3:37 PM  

why is an "aliens's craft, for short," UFOs instead of UFO. i don't see why the answer is plural if we're trying to identify a craft.

Again, "craft" in the clue is plural. The plural possessive used in the clue, "aliens'" is a further hint. Just as "Delta aircraft" can clue either PLANE or PLANES, this clue is tripping some solvers up because the plural of "craft" is "craft."

Orange 4:12 PM  

How to figure out if "craft" (or "deer," "fish," etc.) in a clue is plural or singular: See what the crossings give you for the last letter. If it's an S, you know it's a plural. I don't know if there are any irregular non-S plurals that could be used to clue a second irregular non-S plural (outside of the deer and the antelope playing in "Home on the Range"—although I don't know if those are both plural or singular, actually).

Anonymous 4:31 PM  

Ouch. In Rex's defense, I thought Will's comment that "I guess rants make for interesting reading, as shown by the fact he now has 5,000(!) daily visitors" was itself unfair, in that it implies that these visitors tune in only for the negativity, like a bunch of catty school girls who only want to hear mean gossip.

INTERESTING blogs make for interesting reading, as evidenced by the large number of visitors. And when Rex points out things that bother him about a puzzle, it by no means becomes gospel--commenters routinely offer counterpoints and defenses of fill and cluing. It's a conversation.

Lastly, I think some of Rex's colloquial style has been taken too literally and seriously. When he vents that he doesn't care what the dictionary says, I interpret that as meaning not that he doesn't respect the dictionary's accuracy, but that sometimes just because something can be proved technically correct, it still feels woefully awkward and wrong.

For instance, today's shabby-cheesy. There may be a dictionary-justified explanation for this, but it will still feel very "off" to most of us. And in this case and cases like it, learning a new nuance to a word's definition will not enrich our understanding or sharpen and expand our usage of the word.

Anonymous 4:46 PM  

I found the RP comment above rather interesting. The NY Times crossword puzzle has been around for decades, long before the Rex Parker blog ever existed, and it's done pretty well for itself. I'd bet it will continue to thrive long after Rex Parker files his last blog post. The idea that the Times owes RP a debt of gratitude is strange, to say the least. Perhaps you meant the other way around. In any case, it seems to me by the tone of your post you are someone who is very full of himself.

I don't quite understand why the need to rant. Not just today but many days each week, it seems to me. I'd guess somebody has anger issues unrelated to crosswords, but that's not my business. The comments about puzzles are often disrespectful and rude. That's not to say there aren't quite a few enlightening comments as well, but why so often the discussion is argumentative I don't understand.

There are things worth arguing about, and I sometimes argue about puzzles myself, but I try to keep things in perspective. These are crosswords, after all: diversions, entertainment, hardly life-or-death matters. If I don't like today's puzzle, there's another one tomorrow.

If puzzles caused me to want to rant a lot, I might want to find another hobby.

- John Farmer

Anonymous 4:56 PM  

Mr. Parker,

I'm one of your newer readers and find your blog entertaining, but I'm kind of with Mr. Shortz today.

I do the NYT crossword because it's usually interesting and challenging, not because you have lots of free time to talk about it on Blogspot. You seem to have convinced yourself based on some of your email that you deserve some measure of credit for it's popularity. Get over yourself.

You do in fact go on rants a lot lately. I understand, I have a few pet peeves also (foreign language answers especially). But you seem to have a blind spot about how ill-informed some of your opinions are. I find myself chuckling over the gaps in your vast knowledge. John Von Neumann, for example: if you know anything at all about mathematicians, you know who Von Neumann is. (Not to be pedantic, but we might not be using computers or reading blogs if not for Von Neumann.)

Anyway, your response to Will Shortz was fairly breathtaking. Neither he nor the NYT puzzles are perfect, but your role in the scheme of things is nowhere near what you apparently believe it is.

fergus 4:59 PM  

Tut Tut ... sort of glad Rex had to dash off to teach. To me there's a Rex / Will symbiosis that should be able to withstand either one telling the other how to run his end of the show. As the Mantis pointed out, it's just a conversation. I haven't seen any puerile flaming on these pages, and even when strong opinions are voiced it tends to come across as an assertion of conviction rather than a declaration of truth.

Will's comment on Rex's 'Damn the dictionary' statement was out of context, I believe. We're all at times tempted to abjure a reference work, but mostly in jest, since there ain't too many cards that are going to trump a respected dictionary.

barrywep 5:41 PM  

I think Will was also concerned about the fact that it was a new constructor who probably reads Rex and could be discouraged when he should be delighted that he got his first puzzle published.
BTW, I liked it Ed, if you are reading this. I enjoy Rex's blog immensely but have occassionally complained about his "pissiness" toward what I thought were perfectly good puzzles. It is a lot easier to laugh those comments off when you are not the constructor or editor.

QP 6:18 PM  

Wow, Will Shotrz..... wow again

Anonymous 6:29 PM  

Wow, I was just excited I solved the puzzle under six minutes today.

Who knew all this other stuff was going on.

And, heck, John von Neumann is right in my wheelhouse. Not often I get "gimmes" with that many letters.

I always thought it was duffel bag, but now that people think it is also duffle. I just know I'm going to get confused the next time I need to fill it in. Drat.


Anonymous 6:31 PM  

Ouch indeed. While I understand Will Shortz's desire to defend and protect emerging puzzle constructors, I do think Rex's curmugeonlyness (not a dictionary word, but it felt right) is part of the charm. Might feel differently if I were one of those constructors, of course. We can all rant and be pedantic here at times, but generally I find the tone to be open and interested.
I interpreted Rex's Neumann paragraph more as a comment on his own ignorance - while he does like to be right, Rex often points out his own woeful ignorance. The thing about the average NYT reader is that he or she is not an actual person, and no actual person knows everything expected of the average reader (do they?). Isn't that what make him or her average?
Ditto Fergus on the dictionary thing.
Perhaps Will Shortz felt the need to counter the Rex love-fest that broke out when Rex announced his upcoming anniversary. A love-fest can be an uninteresting as a rant.

Campesite 7:27 PM  

Wow, this made for an interesting Monday.

Rex himself has often that he does not get paid for this. It is also fair to say that constructors, like bloggers, clearly do not create puzzles for the money (the rate for a NYT M-Sat Puzzle is $135, and the Sunday rate is $700--a total yearly payout of less than $80,000), so one could understand Mr. Shortz' defense of a new constructor. That said, I think the criticism found on these pages is reasonable (several constructors tend to dip into this site for feedback), and the blog and the comments generally avoid ad hominem attacks.

Rex Parker 7:32 PM  

John Farmer - if my blog weren't a significant contribution to the world of crosswords, you wouldn't read it, and you certainly wouldn't bother to comment at length here. Just as you would find a new hobby if your current one caused you to rant a lot, I would find better things to do with my time than write long condescending comments at a site I claimed not to like. To each his own.

It's a bit cowardly to decide to unleash your disdain for me only after Will has paved the way for you by doing it first. At least he had the courage to just go for it, rather than wait for someone else to go first and then pile on. You and "anonymous" should be ashamed.

If I had used the word "unimaginative" in a review of a movie or tv show or book, no one but no one would have blinked. It's a valid word and it describes perfectly how I felt about the puzzle. [that said, the ONLY redeeming thing about Will's humorless and self-righteous self-defense was that it appeared to come from a desire to defend a novice constructor he felt had been unfairly treated; defending the little guy is something I tend to admire]

People read me because they like how I write. It's that simple. If my writing were so bothersome, I wouldn't have readers. Plenty of copycat sites give away the answers now, so there's no reason to read me unless you like - in general - what I have to say. This is not a corporate blog. It's my honest, actual feelings about each day's puzzle. That's it. It's never pretended to be anything different.

Was the "!" following the "5000" daily readers stat supposed to indicate shock? Surprise? Do you imagine that I'm lying? Is the large readership why you've all of a sudden decided to come descend from your perch and chide me for "ranting"? The truth is that Will and I have corresponded privately before, and if he'd wanted to express any concerns to me, he could easily have done it privately rather than put on this pathetic display of schoolmarmishness (look *that* up in your precious dictionary). He has had only kind words for me in the past, and they have meant a lot to me (note how I have Kept Them To Myself).

Do you really imagine that I need or (for the most part) care about your approval? Do you think people would enjoy reading me if I did?

Perhaps you fear that somehow your NYT solvers are lemmings who will adopt whatever opinions I tell them to. Or perhaps the growing consensus that The Sun puts out a superior product is beginning to wear at your nerves. I don't know. And honestly I don't care. This blog will continue as ever.

If your intent was to chasten or embarrass me, I'm afraid you have seriously miscalculated. I am only, as G.W. Bush would say, "emboldened."

Michael Sharp
aka Rex Parker

Anonymous 7:32 PM  

Mr. Shortz,

I called Rex's eighty-seven year old grandmother and asked her if she had ever heard of the "Flintstones." She said of course she had. Just how old are your "older solvers"?

Rex's Mother

Anonymous 8:15 PM  

This whole debate makes me nervous. After all, these are just puzzles, a diversion for some of us word nerds. No use to fight and foster ill will.

Orange 8:16 PM  

I treasure this blog for the wide-ranging conversation it spurs among the commenters, as well as for the humor within the posts. I think a lot of people like having a place to come and feel like they're not alone in having struggled with this corner or that clue. Especially for early-week puzzles, I'm not offering that haven. Rex provides a little coaching along the way, as with his attention on his "Pantheon" of crossword stalwarts. Hell, I provide more solving advice in the comments here than I usually do at my own blog.

This site is valuable for expanding the "crossword community" by welcoming solvers of a broad range of abilities. (Many of the top solvers are regular readers here.) And it's entertaining.

The ur-crankiness comes off as an authorial persona to me. I take what "Rex" says with a grain of salt—yes, a gentler approach wouldn't be terrible, but then, nearly everyone else offers a gentler approach (other crossword blogs and the NYT forum). The internet's a big place, and there's room for many perspectives.

Elsewhere, someone was critical of Rex saying that he didn't care if STUPE was in the dictionary. I looked the word up online in the American Heritage Dictionary, and I found it—only with an obscure technical definition completely unrelated to "stupid." Is it wonderful fill? Maybe not. But maybe it's no worse than any other slangy or colloquial fill. In this particular case, it rubbed Rex the wrong way. Me, I couldn't figure out if the puzzle wanted STUPE or STOOP(id), because I got mired in that section. Didn't love the word, didn't hate it. But I will say that an English professor with a PhD (i.e., Rex) probably does have tremendous love for the corpus of the English language.

I do try to ease off a bit in my own criticism of tepid puzzles if I suspect it's a debut, but debuts aren't publicly announced in advance so it's not always easy to put this into action. It would be terrific if Will could release a list of upcoming debuts, perhaps at the NYT forum, so (1) new constructors would know when their puzzles would appear, (2) suitable congratulations could be offered on the pub day, and (3) crossword bloggers would be aware. For today's puzzle, I didn't recognize the name but didn't take the time to Google to try to find out if it was a debut. But I wasn't holding back on criticism because I thought it was a fine Monday puzzle. Very few Monday puzzles excite me, while many seem dull to me. This one wasn't a clunker, newbie constructor or no.

It's also worth repeating that while "Rex" pulls no punches in griping about what makes him cranky, he doesn't present himself as an authority on crosswords. Finding things he doesn't know is bothersome (hey, I feel a little ego blow when a vacant spot in my ken makes itself known, too), but I don't get the impression that he honestly thinks a crossword that stumped him is illegitimate. We all want to get better at crosswords, and we all learn some new words along the way.

Anonymous 8:39 PM  

I stand by what I said and your reply only goes to reinforce what I said. For someone who likes to dish it out, you seem remarkably thin-skinned.

I'll just leave it there.

- John Farmer

Anonymous 8:56 PM  

As Ally McBeal said, "Can't we all just get along?"

Anonymous 8:57 PM  

I liked this puzzle. I completed it fairly quickly, and I did not groan or say "What the heck?" over any of the answers, I didn't have to Google anything, and it stimulated my brain enough that I was able to remember Von Nuemann from my Computer Science undergrad work in the early 15th century.

I've tried to construct puzzles many times and it is a bear! Many congratulations to Mr. Sessa for constructing a fine puzzle and for having it published in the NYT. Thanks to Rex for providing an entertaining blog, which I read regularly. Thanks to Will for chiming in and giving us all something to talk about.

Michael Chibnik 8:58 PM  

Rex is often amusing, often cranky, sometimes surprising (John von Neumann is really Monday-famous.) I thought this was a Monday-easy and fair puzzle, not worthy of meanness. But after all, it is just a puzzle.

Whatever happened to all those nice crozzword puzzlers I keep hearing about?

Mike Chibnik

Anonymous 9:07 PM  

Wow! And I almost skipped reading this Monday!

Rex Parker 9:26 PM  

Apparently I don't have 5000 visitors a day. I have a small handful, and then John Farmer visits several thousand times a day.

For the record, I've (mostly) only ever said nice things about John Farmer puzzles.


Rex Parker 9:29 PM  

PS my mom rules.

Anonymous 9:53 PM  

loved your mom's post. hate that the gloves were dropped as they were.

love the xword blog sites i visit regularly which provide such a good balance -- of community, of observations and interchange. i'm a junkie. no one site does it for me. it's the variety within each of the sites that i like -- and that is such a pleasurable part of the (otherwise) solitary experience of puzzle solving.

vivat rex -- et alia!

best --


Anonymous 9:57 PM  

The recent vitriolic dialogue prompts me to add a hopefully calm perspective.

I only recently discovered Rex's blog. For a while I was just reading and enjoying his discussions of the puzzles. I am now also enjoying the fun of others' perspectives in the comments, and now have contributed to that dialogue. I don't take any of this personally (in spite of my much slower times or my disagreements with various perspectives), and I would hope that no one else does either.

Let's hope that our community of puzzle solvers continues to grow and continues to enjoy each others' virtual company.

Looking forward to tomorrow's puzzle.


fergus 9:57 PM  

Basically, "Rex Parker" can come up with anything he wants -- after all what is the name of this blog? Once Rex took off the mask, however, the issues took on a gravity, along with past references, upon which I recognize I have insufficient information to form much of an opinion.

Got me thinking about a 'Literary Criticism' class I took where the fundamental lesson was not so much the favorable or unfavorable evaluation, but the quality of the supporting argument. I don't care what the rant to rave ratio in the Rex recent past; I just happen to think that he expresses his opinion in a persuasive and/or entertaining fashion. And that's about all ye need to know.

Anonymous 10:16 PM  

fergus --

The fact that you cannot go on at any length without an allliterative splotz is delightful.

More importantly, you, "DS" and Orange have made a lot of sense among the late contributors. Gandhi said that no matter how bleak, it will always get better. And we fortunate lovers of words (and resolving ambiguity) are about to receive our Tuesday comedownance! Thanks to WIll and the constructor for that. Thanks To Rex and you commenters (ors?) for making it even more enjoyable. Onward, upward, inward, outward.

Anonymous 11:36 PM  

In searching for a reaction to of all this, I also find myself in agreement with fergus, orange, and karmasartre. That said, I reread Rex's blog and didn't find it as negative as Will implies. Will said Rex called the effort "fairly unimaginative," "weak," and "borderline unforgiveable." Actually, Rex called the theme "fairly unimaginative" and only referred to some of the fill as "weak," and "borderline unforgiveable." I may be picking louses-to-be but this was pretty much vintage Rex and that's why I'm here.

BTW Rex Parker is the ONLY reason I signed up for the on-line version of the puzzle.

Anonymous 11:50 PM  

Dear Rex,

Never mind all that. You write best when you write what you believe.


Anonymous 12:01 AM  

So is completely incorrect. I am a classical musician and I sing sol for G natural every time, not so. Hence the italian solfege to describe the activity of applying syllables to pitches. Mr. Sessa needs to do some research outside the realm of cheesy musicals, and I don't mean shabby.

Anonymous 12:03 AM  

Before I am rightly corrected for my own mistake, allow me to correct myself. Solfege is French, Solfeggio would be the italian

Anonymous 1:02 AM  

My goodness! Rex, your mom rules, your blog rules, and Mr. Farmer has made an ass of himself.

Anonymous 1:42 AM  

Will's comment on Rex's 'Damn the dictionary' statement was out of context, I believe. We're all at times tempted to abjure a reference work, but mostly in jest, since there ain't too many cards that are going to trump a respected dictionary.

This, I believe, misses the essence of the dictionary debate. The fact is that the more one knows about any given topic, the more one is apt to take exception with dictionary entries in that area. This is because dictionaries are not technical authorities, and often oversimplify in ways that strike experts as wrong.

American dictionaries accept "so" as a variant of "sol." A musicologist might not. Does that make the entry "cheesy"? Reasonable people might disagree, but by convention a dictionary renders further debate moot.

Should a crossword editor hold his words to a higher standard than a lexicographer? I suppose it's a valid question. I also suppose you need to get an editor to agree.

Anonymous 4:55 AM  

In the immortal words of Homer Simpson, "You know what you two need? A little comic strip called 'Love Is...'. It's about two naked eight-year-olds who are married."

Orange 8:00 AM  

Anon 1:42 is spot on. The average solver who might muse, "Wait, isn't it supposed to be sol? That's what we learned from Miss Potts in fifth grade," is far more likely to Google or consult a dictionary than to call up a musicologist.

Sports fans nit sports clues, doctors nit medical/anatomical clues, classical music fans nit classical music clues. The nature of the beast, that's all.

Howard B 11:11 AM  

Just caught up on things here...

All I can say is this - Can Rex write whatever comes to mind? Yes, it's his blog; by nature, these are pure opinion pieces, in which he can write any opinion in any style he chooses.
That said, does he have any responsibility of some kind to his readers (now that there is a good-sized audience)? Possibly. It's solely Rex's discretion whether or not he reviews the puzzles as a critic, or as an observer merely stating likes and dislikes of words and clues.

If it were my blog, I might choose the latter, much in the style I comment in - noting particular things I did or did not like, but not harshly critiquing the puzzle as a whole. I'd hope constructors would have a thick skin for criticism and rejection, but they're only human. I do understand Will's point, though. it can't be easy for anybody to read heavy criticism the first time out.
You know what? It's not my blog, and so I won't impose my style on anyone else :). I just enjoy reading these articles for the writing and commentary, rants and all.

I do hope people think before they post something incendiary, or very harsh; this seems to be an open-minded, close community, and it would be an ironic shame for anyone here to be hurt by words.
Criticize wisely, and always remember this is all for fun. That includes writing and commentary, as well as the puzzles themselves.

Thanks. Now go out there and solve! :)

Anonymous 3:22 PM  

I started crosswords this past January and stumbled upon this blog sometime in March. I don't think anyone likes reading rants about the puzzles, even when personally frustrated by an answer or clue. To me, its all part of this silly game; if a clue is poor, so be it, try and work it out. Of course, I'm not solving these in five minutes and I don't care how long it takes to solve. Its all part of the fun and learning, etc.
For me the blog is a resource for answers and explanations when I'm stumped. I DO enjoy the writing and commentary, but not rants. If I ever get mad about a crossword puzzle clue, I think I'll have to stop playing them.

Paul Glassman 5:27 PM  

Why is one answer in blue? For example, today it is "souvenirs."

Anonymous 6:52 PM  

Hello All:

Pen Girl here. I've been on a crossword hiatus this summer.

Really don't have the time to go back and read three months' worth of posts -- did I miss anything good?

Pen Girl :)

Anonymous 1:03 AM  


Anonymous 9:51 AM  

It was von Neumann and Morgenstern who authored "Theory of Games and Behavior" which gave us the Minimax principle - minimize the probability of maximum regret (loss).
Also pioneered information theory, bits and all that stuff.

Anonymous 7:56 AM  

58 Down T-Rex, E.G.

Dino (y sound) is short for Dinosaur, but when I think of Dino (e sound), I think of Dean Martin.

Anonymous 11:13 PM  

Rant of the ancient crossworder (63): May not be quite as old as Rex's granny but, like her, am very familiar with the Flintstones (incl. Dino). So didn't much care for Will Shortz' ageist remark.

Time-warp factor -
As Rex and Will dropped their gloves and squared-off 6 weeks back (Sept. 10th), I trust that since then, appropriate time has been spent in the sinbin, to allow for peace to have broken out between the two. Peering into our future to the Oct. 22nd blog, I am very relieved to see Rex remains with us.


Anonymous 7:19 AM  

In all the any-publicity-is-good-publicity rants and raves, the sub-theme of food was overlooked: Omelet, Chicken Kiev, Krispy Kreme, Oreo, Knockwurst, and everyone's favorite, the Tongue Sandwedge.

Anonymous 2:32 PM  

Actually, steam isn't seen in saunas, ever. Steam isn't seen. Period. Condensed water vapor is, but not steam.

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