THURSDAY, Dec. 6, 2007 - Joe Krozel

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: ON AGAIN OFF AGAIN (38A: Sporadic) - this is the second of three theme answers; first theme answer has ON repeated, third one has OFF repeated

Just got back from driving Sahra to school, and the semi-icy streets prompted a very involved conversation between me and Sahra about 4-wheel drive and traction. On my way home, I was thinking about how important traction is for solving puzzles, as well. Today's puzzle in particular provided a vivid example of how good traction can make you speed along, while loss of traction can cause you to skid right off the road. I absolutely tore up the top part of this puzzle, but then coming around some turns on the way to the middle and bottom, I lost all traction - I couldn't build (quickly) off the answers I had, and I had to [insert automotive metaphor here - put chains on ... put it in 4-wheel drive ... get out and push] in order to get started again. I still ended up with a very respectable time, just over 7, but I mourn the sub-6 minute time I could have had had I not lost traction.

Theme answers:

  • ON COMET, ON CUPID (20A: Cry from Santa) - I Love This Answer
  • OFF OFF BROADWAY (52A: Some theater) - Another great answer

I want to praise this theme for its elegant simplicity. Nothing fancy, no pyrotechnics, just fresh, pitch-perfect phrases linked by a basic - but actually very thoughtful - theme. Lovely.

Where the wheels came off:

The West - had IMPALA coming down (18D: Classic Chevy offering), got ALOHA going across (24A: You can hear it coming and going), and then ... stalled. The West is always tricky because you have to slide into that section sideways, from the back end of Across answers. Well, you don't have to, but if your habit is to build off the answers you've already got, then that's what ends up happening. The two Downs at the far West totally stumped me at first, and for good reason:

  • 24D: Pipe tobacco has it (aroma) - this is a phenomenally cheap clue, and feels like a desperate attempt to make a very easy puzzle slightly harder. It's like someone put a speed bump on a freeway. Not cool. Plus, shouldn't the clue read [Pipe tobacco has one] - or does "one" imply an indefinite article before AROMA, as in AN AROMA? Whatever. The clue is so profoundly arbitrary that I hate "it." You know what else has AROMA? French toast, as well as billions of other things. Come on.
  • 25D: "What Is to Be Done?" pamphleteer, 1901 (Lenin) - Oh how I wanted John LOCKE to have been alive in 1901. The fact that this title was not in Russian was my main problem.

Then there was 41A: Wire measures (mils), which I just didn't know. And then there was REVOLT (34A: Renounce allegiance) - to me, REVOLT involves physical action, where "renouncing" is simply a verbal (or maybe written) act. So though REVOLT is an easy word, I couldn't see it for a while. I thus had to hack at the West from many sides before it fell. The other problem area for me was the far far SE, specifically the last two Downs:

  • 57D: MCI and others (anni)
  • 58D: One off 57-Down, in English (year)

That "MCI" business is cheap trickery. I mean, it's fine, it's acceptable - but having the very next Down depend on getting that answer ... seemed a little rough. Actually, I think the pairing is rather clever, but because the rest of the puzzle was So Easy, this pairing, and the AROMA clue (above) stood out like horrible desperate measures as opposed to integral parts of a challenging puzzle. I actually find the AROMA clue far more objectionable than the ANNI / YEAR pairing. I had to guess at ANNA (63A: _____ Wintour, real-life editor on whom "The Devil Wears Prada" is based) and WONT did not come easily (56D: Custom), nor did STIR (66A: Hubbub). Everything else about this puzzle was pretty easy going.

Question marks:

  • 5A: Certain aerophone (oboe) - never heard of "aerophone" - again, desperate cluing to hide a cheap, common answer.
  • 45A: Bordeaux variety (Medoc) - now I've seen this before, but even though I had the "DO" combo in there, my brain could come up with nothing. It was after I stalled here, after stalling in the West, that I had to completely reboot and start solving in wide-open spaces in order to regain ... Traction!
  • 32D: "I Still See _____" ("Paint Your Wagon" song) ("Elisa") - ack. No way. All from crosses. My only knowledge of "Paint Your Wagon" comes from a "Simpsons" parody: "Gonna paint our wagon / Gonna paint it fine / Gonna use oil-based paint / 'Cause the wood is pine ... Ponderoooooosa Pine!"
  • 59D: Govt. org. with a flower in its logo (EPA) - Had FIRES for EMITS at first (59A: Discharges), so thought this might be FHA or FDA.

  • 9A: Circle (orbit) - I had AMBIT (?!)
  • 33D: Ecclesiastical council (synod) - I had S√ČNAT (??!!) (sometimes when I'm going really fast I fail to read the clues properly)
  • 4D: Nevada city (Elko) - I had ELAM (an ancient civilization and an NFL kicker, but not a Nevada city), which is surprising considering I've been to, and had amazing adventures in, ELKO.

Other, more lovely things:

  • 1A: Exorcism, e.g. (rite) - My favorite RITE! (Stop the presses - I have a new favorite RITE - the "Strange RITE of nudity" allegedly contained in this paperback)
  • 14A: Like some histories (oral) - more easy gimmeness, which allowed me to chew up the NW and its environs very quickly.
  • 2D: It's about 200 miles south of Georgia (Iran) - had the "IR," so easy, but a good example of another attempt at cluing chicanery. Georgia the US state or Georgia the former SSR? Bush League, but occasionally still effective.
  • 8D: Austrian painter Schiele (Egon) - known for sinewy (and often slightly creepy) erotic paintings and drawings.

  • 13D: Literary monogram (TSE) - the most famous of the "literary monograms" - had occasion to talk about him yesterday in class, so he was fresh on my mind (Eliot, that is, in case the identity behind the monogram wasn't clear to you).
  • 27D: University of Arkansas team, informally (Hogs) - Love the idea of having such a manifestly ugly team name
  • 29D: Disco-era suffix (a-go-go) - I would have thought this pre-disco, but whatever. It was easy, and enjoyable.
  • 39D: Nancy Drew's guy (Ned) - I love the will they-won't they tension between these two. Saucy.
  • 40D: Personification (avatar) - just a word that I love.
  • 52D: Title poet in a 1957 biopic (Omar) - poet in 4 letters = OMAR. Maybe OVID, but not in a 1957 biopic.
  • 54D: Modern writing (blog) - indeed

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Anonymous 9:06 AM  

A quibble or three...
SGTS do not lead companies, they lead platoons; a company is led by an officer, usually a looey or cap
Guessed PINOT instead of MEDOC -- not an oenophile -- and that screwed me up for a while.
The poet monogram is almost always TSE, otherwise eec...
Yes, very easy for a Thursday.

Rex Parker 9:08 AM  

RLS is more common (by far) than EEC (which I've never seen - though I know who it is).


wendy 9:17 AM  

Well, I worship the ground this puzzle walks on. Beside the fact of its being out-and-out fun with a capital F to solve, I admire it almost more than any I can remember in quite a while. Today is my birthday, and I was hoping for a reasonably pleasant experience, but what I got was something far, far better. I had looked back at Krozel’s other puzzles to remind myself who he was, and saw that he was a bit of a prankster, so I didn’t quite know what to expect. The only thing missing is a reference to Akron ;)

So many epiphany moments, but I think ON COMET ON CUPID will epitomize the solving experience because I was so damn happy to get it on my own. It seems funny now, but for a while I was in agony over 38A because I had plopped in OFF-and-On at the end of that, the front of the answer still not apparent, and I couldn’t let go of it even though it wasn’t working for me at all. Yet it seemed so right!

I put in TALKING TO fairly early, but still doubted myself because I wasn’t getting the crosses readily. The epiphany – the Georgia referenced was probably not the one in the US of A. I didn’t believe Reno was the Nevada city because that would have been too obvious, but didn’t remember ELKO at first. ROTO was new to me, except not really once I understood it.

Evil cluing but great fun when it dawned – the MCI and others paired with One of 57D, in English. The telecom angle just wasn’t panning out. I was worried about a rebus there for a while.

As a theater enthusiast, I was thrilled to see OFF OFF BROADWAY. And BLOG instead of the loathed e-mag; thank you Mr. Krozel.

Only real beef was with A GO GO, which I love, but, agreed, Rex, I do not associate with the disco era. As a child of the 60s I would argue that it was a term very ubiquitous during that decade. But I don’t want to dwell too much on how ungodly old I’ve become, so … hail to Joe Krozel!!!

Alex S. 9:28 AM  

ON COMET, ON CUPID was fun because it was very difficult to parse correctly from its parts. I have no idea what ROTO is so ROTI seems just as reasonable. Looking at -NCOM- to start it, I jumped to the conclusion that it must be INCOME or INCOMING and thought some kind of punny answer was involved and began to overthink it. Even when I had (I)NCOMETONCUP-D it took a while for me to finish because I wasn't seeing where the words broke. "INCOME TON CUP POD" thought I?

Otherwise the only other serious problem was putting in ANNO instead of ANNI. When the puzzle wouldn't submit it took several minutes to decide that might be the trouble spot.

The only answer I really didn't like was "ALL OR NONE" which is a phrase that feels completely unfamiliar to me. I'd say it "ALL OR NOTHING" but Google tells me that ALL OR NONE is almost as common.

Anonymous 9:33 AM  

Alex: "Roto" refers to the old "rotogravure" picture section of newspapers, which featured society people and celebs of the day. It is referred to in Irving Berlin's "Easter Parade": "...and you'll find that you're in the rotogravure." Ah, Fred and Judy!

Anonymous 9:36 AM  

This would have been virtually non-stop easy, except for one big problem. I had HEADOFFICE instead of OVAL, which caused a long, painful dead-ass stop. Maybe it was my Geo.Bush allergy.

Orange 10:02 AM  

From the Cruciverb database, literary monogram all-stars that have appeared in the more established crosswords with "monogram" in the clue:

TSE: 86 (poetry and plays)
RLS: 49 (novels)
EAP: 15 (short stories and poetry)
GBS: 15 (plays)

The runners-up smack of constructor desperation, because these literary initials are not familiar entities as monograms:

EBW: 3 (E.B. White)
ELD: 1 (E.L. Doctorow)
ERB: 3 (Edgar Rice Burroughs_
ESG: 3 (Erle Stanley Gardner)
RWE: 4 (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

EEC has 62 appearances, but not once does the clue refer to e.e. cummings. Usually it's something like [Common Market letters].

More important, in the first Schiele picture, where is the man's right leg?!?

Anonymous 10:04 AM  

doris... thank you for the explanation on roto. I am familiar with "Easter Parade" but didn't make the association (having figured a rotograveur was similar to a daguerreotype photograph, from the song lyric).

My personal sparkling moment of the day was wont. I never hear this spoken or see it written anymore but its a great word.

My duh moment was beeps. I got it from the crosses, but my brain was firmly entrenched in a nickname for toots (babes, honey.. where did beeps come from???) and wouldn't leave the trench until after full caffeination 12 hours after the fact.

Anonymous 10:09 AM  

I found "DNAS" for "genetic strands" clunky in the extreme.

Anonymous 10:10 AM  

Had the same experience as Rex except for AROMA, that came easily.

I loved ANNI and YEAR. These are my favorite kinds of clues. Huge AHA moment.

I am suprised that TSE beat out RLS. If the clue is "literary initials" I put in RLS automatically if I have no crosses. I'll have to change my habit (no, I'm not the cross-dresser from the earlier puzzle)

Anonymous 11:03 AM  

I think that's two oboes since October that were not melancholy. Excellent!

I don't know my way around the theater district -- or off it. Is OFFOFFBROADWAY like a double negative, meaning ON Broadway? Probably not, but I'd like to think so.

That second OFF, mixed with FANS and BLOG and SGTS caused some ink-overs in the Texas region. And head OFFICE created a bit of a mess.

New names for me: ANNA Wintour and EGON Schiele.

An enjoyable puzzle with a different sort of theme and a couple nicely challenging elements.

Anonymous 11:17 AM  

Doesn't the word "variety" in wines always mean the type of grapes used? Medoc is a region not a grape.

Anonymous 11:23 AM  

Varietals denote differy types of grapes

Anonymous 11:23 AM  

Varietals denote differy types of grapes

Anonymous 11:34 AM  

His Majesty and Wendy are, of course, correct about A GO GO. There are even "go go dancers" in booth third picture down. And there was apparently an older "Whiskey A Go Go" in Paris shortly after World War II!

Anonymous 11:42 AM  

Very easy for me today. I got OFFOFF... with just one letter and ONAGAIN... with just a couple. AROMA came easily but I also had HEADOFFICE initially. I wonder if Krozel is trying to tell us something with the two long down answers being OVALOFFICE and BEHINDBARS? I liked the new and clever clue for OBOE.

My only nit is the same one parshutr had -- SGTS. Not only don't SGTS lead companies they don't lead platoons. A squad or patrol will often be lead by a SGT. Captains (O-3s) or Majors (0-4s) lead companies, while Lieutenants (O-1,2s) lead platoons. I initally had CEOS (of course) and that was the only area than hung me up. Here is the wiki article on military organization.

OFF to Solvang to... shop? Guess I'll find a warm spot and work on my book of weekend NYT puzzles.

Anonymous 12:11 PM  

I agree the puzzzle was sort of easy for a Thursday. I base this on the fact that I was actually able to solve it!
I won't tell you the time...suffice it to say that mere minutes is not the best term to use!

But I did get AROMA right away. Also, I, too, loved ANNI and YEAR.

Had a problem for awhile with LENIN. Got the LE firsdt, and wanted to finish it with Lenin, but on 44A for awhile I had ALL. So was stalled until I got past that.

I guess, Rex, I don't get your objection to "cluing chicanery". Isn't that one of the joys of solving these puzzles?

Anonymous 12:20 PM  

Ditto on hydromann's "cluing chicanery" comment. I love being fooled.


If you don't have it, get the NYT puzzle subscription. It's about the cost of two NYT puzzle books and you can print them out to carry with you.

klochner 12:37 PM  

i found the bottom to be pretty tough - paces/omar/fans/sgts/rooks/wont/anna cumulatively destroyed me, not to mention that I had "dealer" for the carlot, and for some reason couldn't get "on and off again" out of my head, so the left side wasn't falling with aloha/revolt/mils/ano. Maybe i have fog on the brain, but I haven't had this much trouble with a thursday in a long time.

Anonymous 12:44 PM  

Hardest Thursday puzzle I've seen in a long time; more like Friday.

Anonymous 12:53 PM  

"A-Go-Go" was definitely around in the 1960s, well BEFORE the disco era. In fact, it was passe long before the disco era.

Anonymous 1:12 PM  

I agree - I felt it was a hard puzzle - of course I did not get LENIN to begin with and had RECANT instead of REVOLT and ALL instead of ANO.

I always put in TSE and if that fails, RLS and then GBS

Loved the fact that the OBOE clue was different for a change. And ANNI and YEAR - excellent - I do like to be fooled.

Anonymous 1:14 PM  

For "aerophone" I put in "shoe". I was thinking of Maxwell Smart's shoe phone, which, I guess, dates me. I figured an aerophone was some kind of old-fashioned science-fictiony term for cell phone. Corrected it to "oboe" fairly quickly, but I still like my interpretation better!

Anonymous 1:37 PM  

rex, i think your 'relative' difficulty ratings are slipping a bit as your solving skills improve.

IMHBTO, this puzzle feels easy-medium at the least.

Rex Parker 1:49 PM  

I fail to see what could be called Challenging, or even Medium (for a Thursday) about this puzzle. If you look back at prior Thursdays, I think you'll see that this is clearly easier than normal.


Anonymous 1:54 PM  

I think JK is using "leaders" in the generic sense. Sure, a Company has only one Leader (usually a Captain), but it has several leaders: Platoon Leaders (Lts.) and platoon leaders (Sgts.). Ask any soldier who his leader is and he will answer, "my sergeant".

Medoc is one of several regions in Bordeaux. I'm not sure whether one should consider it a VARIETY but I don't know what else you should call it. In the fancier restaurants in France, they are always more specific, such as "Pauillac", a commune in which some of the greatest Bordeaux are made (grown). But in the informal bistrots, one might very well order a MEDOC.

Doug 2:01 PM  

Saw a large Egon Schiele show in the gallery at the Van Gogh in Amsterdam a few years back. Had never heard of him before and really liked his work. No wonder he was ostracized...what a whacko, but isn't that part of being a great artist? A good model for Mike Myer's "Dieter" character!

profphil 2:07 PM  

I believe "disco era" is being used as the era in which one could dance at a disco or discoteque (sp?) as opposed to disco -music -era which is much later.

Hydromann 2:23 PM  

FWIW, according to Wikipedia (see:, one of the first, if not the first, "discotheque" in the US was San Francisco's Whiskey a Go Go, which opened in 1947.

"A gogo" is a French term meaning "in abundance, galore", according to Wiki.

So the terms "disco" and "a go go" both predate the 60s!

wendy 2:36 PM  

vixenprancer, essentially OFF OFF BROADWAY is the "indie" form of theater in New York. These are productions that are mounted in venues that are typically small and/or nontraditional, and the fare is highly experimental and edgy. Off Broadway is conventional by comparison.

Anonymous 2:42 PM  

Loved the puzzle – loved it. It hurts the complainer in me to fawn so unequivocally. Stumbled like others above on REVOLT and ANO. Didn’t really notice the difficulty with ANNI and YEAR – chuckled a bit because my internal puzzle sense had me suspecting it not a telephonic clue. I like the BEHIND BARS/OVALOFFICE and SGT takes mentioned above and my compulsions force me to address the Bordeaux variety clue as I make my living as an oenophile! Medoc is an AOC (Appelation d’Orignie Controlee) sub regions of Bordeaux and definitely not a variety in the oenphilic (??) sense (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec & Petit Verdot are the only red grape varieties allowed in Bordeaux wine). AOC is a system of regulation that allows for the control of the wine making processes (from grape production through labeling) by geographical designation. It works like a bulls-eye target in a sense: French, Bordeaux, Medoc, Margaux i.e. – with the commune or chateau (Margaux in this case) the most defined (bulls-eye) and most regulated designation. Given the answer a better clue (IMHO) would be Bordeaux appellation to which one could more appropriately answer MEDOC (or Haut Medoc, Graves, Pomerol etc). Sorry for the long winded post the OCD really runs this show.

Anonymous 2:54 PM  

Overall, an enjoyable puzzle for me today. I had trouble initially and really started to worry that I might not finish it. Then I figured out the theme and all fell into place. (whew)

I liked DEFECT instead of REVOLT for "Renounce allegiance" but already had IMPALA so I knew that wasn't right.

As for SGTS and whether or not they lead companies or whether MEDOC is really a variety: I just let the clue guide me- for "companies" I thought of military (after CEOS, anyway) and for "Bordeaux variety" I thought of wine. Remember, the constructor is trying to lead the solver to the answer and uses the clues to provide subtle prompts. So it might not technically be correct but you did figure it out! And that leads to...

Add me to the "I like cluing chicanery" list. New and unusual clues make the puzzle harder and the crosswordese easier to tolerate.

Also add me to the HEAD- instead of OVALOFFICE. I loved what Jae had to say about the placement of that fill in relation to BEHINDBARS!

Finally, a shout out to Rikki for guiding me to those awesome AJA videos on You Tube. Thanks EVERSO much! :)

Anonymous 3:52 PM  

Check out Smokey Robinson's "Going to A Go Go" from 1966. . .great song. Smokey should make it into more puzzles.

Rob G. 4:21 PM  

Not too much to say that hasn't been said, I really did like the theme on this one. I got the top two theme clues pretty quickly, and knew that the third would include "OFFBROADWAY", but for some reason I didn't quite get it until I had some crosses. Meh.

I didn't get shaken by AROMA, but I still think it's sort of sloppy cluing, as is AGOGO. That said, I'm willing to defend the ANNI/YEAR thing because the "in English" part of the 58D's clue was a pretty huge tipoff that we're not talking about MCI the company. Not to mention the fact that one can't even begin to abbreviate "Former Telecom purchased as a part of Verizon's quest for world domination" into a four-letter space.

Anonymous 4:26 PM  

The formal nickname of the Univ. of Arkansas = Razorbacks.
I love the fact that their web site is .

fergus 4:34 PM  

OMAR Khayyam? Or somebody else?

Solving experience was tentative, skeptical and suspicious today -- when am I going to fall into some trap, or discover I've missed the boat entirely? But then, all the spaces were filled. EVER SO surprised that Tuesday showed up in Thursday's stead. Reminds me of King Friday and his search for Tomorrow. Maybe Will needs to get in touch with Lady Elaine Fairchild?

Much agreement with the quibbles over MEDOC, A-GO-GO, REVOLT. The ASSAD clue was OK, though the torch has passed to the eye doctor son. I know it didn't state a current leader explicitly, but the clue does seem to lead to that assumption.

Hungry Bird 5:36 PM  

Agree with DNA's was clunky, although technically correct.

My overall feeling about today's puzzle was "eh."

I did like the anni/years though.

Anonymous 6:19 PM  

Wendy & Vixenprance re: OFFOFF... Someone once explained to me that the OFF and OFF OFF designations had to do with theater size (as you mentioned, Wendy), with Broadway venues seating 1000+, Off Broadway seating in the 100s and Off Off being fairly small. Not exactly sure what the cut off capacities are and my numbers are just rough guesses.

BTW I stand by my SGT nitpick, unless of course Orange weighs in with why I have blundered and then I'll humbly stand corrected.

fergus 9:22 PM  

Just discovered that Yma Sumac had a bit role in the 1957 picture about OMAR Khayyam! "The Rubaiyat" as I read it in the Fitzgerald translation (is there any other?) was one of those supposed workhorses of literature that turned out to be remarkably entertaining. While that may be true for much of the canon, I've yet to find Spenser's "Faerie Queen" worth the effort.

Orange 9:28 PM  

Jae, I have no dog in the fight about military ranks. If the abbreviation is familiar and the clue is vaguely plausible, I don't question it. Platoon leaders wouldn't be PFCS (they're the grunts) or ADMS (they lead navies, not platoons)—SGTS or CPLS or COLS would all have made enough sense for me.

Anonymous 9:57 PM  

Late for me today. Great write-up, Rex. I loved your traction metaphor and had the very same experience with this puzzle except that I did the top half last night and had to finish the bottom today, making for an kinda schizoid puzzle experience. But, a good one for me. An easy Thursday always feels good before the beating I take on Friday and Saturday.

Regarding tricksy clueing, I think there's a difference between a clever clue to a commonly used word and trying too hard (and failing). Rex described it when he talked about the arbitrary relationship between the clue and answer. e.g. "aroma" could be clued a million ways and "pipe tobacco has it" is just cheap in cool's clothing. I did like the aerophone clue for oboe and thought that was more clever than cheap.

I liked a lot of these answers...aloha took me forever to get as did anni and year, but once I got them I smiled. What did The Who say, "Won't get fooled again."

Never heard of "I Still See Elise," and had to do a couple rounds of Gary Indiana instead.

Thanks to Raf for the wine explanation. I have no idea why medoc typed itself right in the empty boxes for me. I liked rooks for chisels and saw it right away which I owe to reading this blog. You do get better and better.

Have to laugh at the Lady Elaine reference... reminded me of Stewie running off to London to find that his Lady Elaine is a cheap hussy who hates kids. But he feels better because Brian offers to do his doggy duty in her shoe. Sorry, I digress.

The disco clue would surely need to be spelled out as discotheque to point to agogo. Disco alone harkens the music, not the place. Anyone disagree? Anyone still up?

Anonymous 10:22 PM  

For a while in the 1960s, DC Comics had a checkerboard pattern about an inch deep running across the top of all the covers of their books. They were introduced as "Go-Go Checks."

ELKO is also the name of live double-disc by Railroad Earth, a very cool bluegrass-jam band from my neck of the woods (northwest NJ).

"I Still See Elise" is a pretty song, but I prefer "They Call the Wind Maria." Not really a big fan of PAINT YOUR WAGON in general, but it's kind of a hoot to see a musical with Lee Marvin and Clint Eastwood.

I agree that today's puzzle had a simple but elegant theme.

fergus 10:22 PM  

Rikki, the Lady Elaine reference was, of course, a citation from a Mr. Rogers recording. So, I'm curious about where from your Lady does hail? Don't know about Stewie or Brian, yet they seem like characters I ought to know.

Do you remember my Lady's beauty products, This and That? It's a child-focused comic routine I still find amusing to this day.

Anonymous 10:26 PM  

After all is said and done, the one comment a puzzle maker is likely to remember is the one by the woman who had a happy birthday experience which she attributed to the puzzle. Isn't that the best compliment one could give to a puzzle maker? It sure makes the effort worthwhile. It sure does.

Anonymous 10:42 PM  

You go Joe,

Anonymous 10:47 PM  

Agree with easy rating today after struggling with yesterdays puzzle, breezed thorough this one fairly quickly, only getting hung-up in the SE for a bit.

fergus 10:57 PM  

Joe K,

Your puzzle was a great array of letters and ideas, and made for a genuinely gratifying solving and reasoning experience, and yet too many of the clues fell flat. Maybe the only reason I register this minor complaint is that I remain under the Thursday spell of more dodges and encryption? (It doesn't require a rebus, or words going backwards or anagrams.) Such an array, however, warranted more colorful clues, so for my petty grievances I petition Mr. Shortz for an explanation in deciding to unnecessarily tone down the word play in a potentially great puzzle.

Anonymous 12:04 AM  

Re Thurs Dec 06: I had the impression that NYT puzzles were supposed to be "premium" and would fiercely test the intelligence and accuracy of facts of the player ...sometimes so, but this one was atrocious!! (1) ditto-plus on all the comments by "military-knowledgeable" folks: no sergeants EVER lead Companies unless there are no Captains or Majors left standing!! (...usually a movie plot ploy). (2)I read a lot and NEVER have I seen a THEATER, FRONT, CAMPAIGN, etc., of a war referred to as an "ARENA"!! GROSS!

Orange 12:48 AM  

Let's see, Chico: The clue for ARENA was [War locale, broadly]. One of the definitions of arena is "A place or scene where forces contend or events unfold." And Googling the phrase "arena of war" summons up over 50,000 hits. (A Google Book Search yields 629 hits for the phrase.) Wikipedia says, The term "arena" is also used loosely to refer to any event or type of event which either literally or metaphorically takes place in such a location — often with the specific intent of comparing an idea to a sporting event, such as "the arena of war" or "the arena of love" or "the political arena." Works for me.

Rex Parker 6:41 AM  

chicotrainguy has that typical internetshoutingguy thing where he yells with CAPS and !!!!! while being manifestly wrong (at least in part) and writing in subpar English. Could you all please not imitate him? Thanks.


Anonymous 8:05 AM  

Your comment isn't petty at all Fergus. My (pre-published) clues are often as unconventional as my puzzle concepts, so an editor may see quite a task ahead. At least my MCI clue survived and got some notice.

Anonymous 8:23 AM  


Thought ti was a great puzzle. After getting 20A though I thought the theme was going to be the entire line from "Twas the Night Before Christmas". That would have been a poser.

Orange 12:19 PM  

But Rex, I want to append a "GROSS!" to all my comments.

Anonymous 4:55 PM  


Thought your difficulty level was appropriate, by my guage. I nailed this one with only the 57D and 58D (anni, year) catching me. Will also remember that trick going forward.

- - Robert

Anonymous 4:58 PM  

Six weeks later...
Great puzzle Joe! Lots of fun for a Thursday. That west side kicked my ass for awhile (also had HEAD OFFICE).

EGON is also the character Harold Ramis plays in Ghostbusters.

Anonymous 5:48 PM  

I had Santa crying "Merry Christmas" - which had my crying for some time. :(

Anonymous 5:48 PM  

I had Santa crying "Merry Christmas" - which had me crying for some time. :(

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