Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: UNITED ARTISTS (39A: Classic film company ... or a description of 17-, 32-, 46- and 65-Across) - Musician's last name + musician's last name = familiar word or phrase

The following was posted by Will Shortz on the NYT Crossword Puzzle Forum yesterday:

Two new teenage constructors are scheduled to appear in the Times during the next two weeks.

Tomorrow's (Tuesday's) puzzle is by Caleb Madison, a 15-year-old high school student in New York City. He contributes puzzles to his school paper and stopped by this year's ACPT. He'll be interning for me this summer. He's the youngest person I've ever published in the Times.

And a week from Friday, May 23, another young contributor, Patrick John Duggan, will make his crossword debut. Patrick is finishing his first year at Boston University. His puzzle -- the first one he ever sent me -- is a gorgeous themeless that feels like it's by an old pro.

For the record, below is an updated list of the youngest known constructors in NYT history.

Name, birthdate, date of first publication in the NYT, and age at that time:

1. Mike Miller, 11/20/62, 12/6/76#, 14 yrs 0 mos
2. Caleb Madison, 1/29/93, 5/13/08, 15 yrs 3 mos
3. Tyler Hinman, 11/5/84, 7/4/00, 15 yrs 7 mos
4. Ethan Cooper, 3/23/83, 5/17/99, 16 yrs 1 mo
5. Will Nediger, 12/4/89, 5/27/06, 16 yrs 5 mos
6. Natan Last, 11/13/90, 7/17/07, 16 yrs 8 mos
7. Michael Shteyman, 5/9/84, 2/13/01, 16 yrs 9 mos
8. Kyle Mahowald, 3/7/87, 3/22/04, 17 yrs 0 mos
9. Merl Reagle, 1/5/50, 2/11/67##, 17 yrs 1 mo
10. Oliver Hill, 7/30/90, 10/2/07, 17 yrs 2 mos
11. Patrick John Duggan, 9/18/89, 5/23/08, 18 yrs 8 mos
12. Michael Doran, 9/28/84, 9/16/03, 18 yrs 11 mos
13. Jeffrey Harris, 8/22/85, 8/30/04, 19 yrs 0 mos
14. Zach Jesse, 9/1/84, 1/19/04, 19 yrs 3 mos
15. Henry Hook, 9/18/55, 5/23/75#, 19 yrs 8 mos

# published by Will Weng
## published by Margaret Farrar

--Will Shortz
The youth of this constructor does make for interesting trivia - and today's puzzle is a solid and impressive debut in many ways. I'm a little disturbed or put off or something I can't quite put my finger on by the way that CrossWorld gets all AGOG (9A: Highly excited) for teens (especially teen boys - where are the girls? [... that question is meant to reflect a concern for gender equality, not a scurrilous desire to hear about girls, I swear]). I'm thrilled - sincerely - that good young constructors are emerging on what seems like a regular basis now. Good news for my future as a crossword-solving crotchety old man. But the puzzles are good or they aren't, and that's always going to be my main focus. Please don't expect me to "take it easy" on kids. I respect them enough to treat them like grown-ups. They're in a grown-up paper, they get grown-up criticism (I say this only because I have gotten Hammered in the past for criticizing new constructors). That list above, ranking adolescent boys based on when they first "did it" (as it were) ... I'm sure it looks like simple trivia to most, but the youth obsession is something I just don't get. Why is a teen's debut worthy of fanfare and a red carpet roll-out, when a (perhaps even better) debut by a man (or woman, for god's sake) in her 30s or older passes without much notice. In the end, I care about puzzles, not about the constructors' relative distance from puberty.

With that kind of preamble, you might think I hated this puzzle, and I did not. The theme is tight and clever - spot on (despite the movie / music disjuncture separating UNITED ARTISTS from the other theme answers). There's a high degree of difficulty here, with five theme answers and seven-letter words laid right alongside two of those theme answers. Nice. I have to ask, however, in what universe RECARVE is an acceptable answer (25D: Cut again, as a turkey). As my wife asked this morning, "What, did the turkey reconstitute itself overnight?" I mean ... it's a stunningly made-up word - and it's a Long Down In The Center Of The Grid. I'm flat-out astonished that that "word" passed any kind of test, and even more astonished that it's been given such a place of prominence in the grid. This grid is overloaded with tired crossword fill as it is - maybe RECARVE is there as dazzle camouflage, distracting you with its brazen implausibility so that you don't notice things like STOA (62D: Ancient Greek walkway) and EDEL (29A: Pulitzer-winning biographer Leon) and BAA (6A: Farm sound) and STE (23A: Fr. holy woman) and EAN (53A: Suffix with Caesar) and ELI (55A: Yale student) and ARI (7D: Uris hero - when's the last time anyone read Uris???) and THO (28D: Howe'er) and AZO (64D: _____ dye) and ORA (66D: "... _____ mouse?") and STA (42D: Where to board a train: Abbr.). I would add TOR (33D: Rocky hill) and ICBMS (1D: Cold war weaponry) to that list, but I happen to love TOR (that's where you might find ERNS in their AERIES), and ICBM makes me think fondly of the movie "Wordplay," where I believe Clinton figures out that one of the answers in his puzzle is ICBM.

Theme answers:

  • 17A: Singers Clint + Patti (Black/Smith)
  • 32A: Singers Tom + Johnny (Petty / Cash)
  • 46A: Singers Neil + Courtney (Young / Love)
  • 65A: Singers James + Sly (Brown / Stone)

Not only do all these answers work perfectly, with no sense of overreaching or stretching or forcing at all, but none of the "artists" completely suck. I own music by nine out of ten of those people! The longish Down in this puzzle are nice too. Given my own penchant for teaching Klassical literature, I should have gotten ELYSIAN (22D: Heavenly) much more quickly than I did (actually considered ELYSIAL at one point ...?). And John LITHGOW (31D: John of "3rd Rock From the Sun") ... so many things I want to say ... heard a great story about him at the ACPT that involved the game of Scattegories ... but I can't tell that story (for So many reasons), so I'll just say I liked him in "The World According to Garp."


  • 13A: Wispy clouds (cirri) - ooh, no "S" at the end ... tricky Tuesday stuff. CIRRI is a fancy if ugly word. Sounds more like a disease (cirrhosis?) than clouds.
  • 44A: Show subtitled "The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical" ("Hair") - wow, I did Not know that. One of my students wrote a proposal for "Paradise Lost: The Musical" as his final project. He even made a music video of the scene where Satan tempts Eve. He stars as Satan ... his body is painted red ... I wish it were on youtube...
  • 45A: "_____ my shorts!": Bart Simpson ("Eat") - several things. First, I love a "Simpsons" reference as much (no, much more) than the next person, but Bart catchphrases are about my least favorite part of the show. Soooo 1991. Second, breakfast test? Anyone? I already had to endure EAR WAX (48D: Q-Tip target) and Courtney LOVE with my tea and cereal - I don't need to think about eating a young boy's underpants, thanks (P.S. EARWAX is in fact a great answer) (P.P.S. when I saw EAN in the puzzle, I thought "yeesh, just change it to EAT for god's sake..." but then noticed EAT was already in the puzzle. Still, I'd have changed it to the more interesting suffix, -EAL [Arbor ending?], just to get LON Chaney in the puzzle).
  • 52A: "_____ Deep" (1999 Omar Epps film) - a partial, and an Obskure one at that. I know "In Too Deep" as a Genesis song (from my own teendom).
  • 67A: Blue, in Bogotá (azul) - two blues in one puzzle? You can do that? Duly noted (36D: Bluish hue)
  • 70A: Prominent part of a Groucho disguise (nose) - I'm confused. Is Groucho wearing a disguise? Or are people disguised as Groucho?
  • 6D: Accused's bad break (bum rap) - my favorite answer in the whole damned puzzle. Stupendous.
  • 10D: 1960s sitcom with the catchphrase "Sorry about that, Chief" ("Get Smart") - timely - the big screen version, starring Steve Carell, is coming to a theater near you this summer.
  • 40D: Vessel in "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea" (Nautilus) - nice clue for what most people know as fitness equipment.
  • 56D: "An invasion of armies can be resisted; an invasion of _____ cannot be resisted": Hugo (ideas) - first, Hugo needed an editor; that second "be resisted" is patently unnecessary. Second, I got this instantly, without looking at the grid or having any prior familiarity with the quotation. I only wish the answer had been something unexpected, like, say, LEMURS.

So, in short, a legitimately impressive debut by Mr. Madison (anyone ever called you that, kid?). Congratulations - I hope to see a lot of your work in the future. Just put RECARVE in cold storage - better yet, send it out the airlock...

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Peter Sattler 8:47 AM  

Wow! I hadn't heard about the puzzler's age before this. I'm not sure if that's why I finished it quickly (for me): 7:30. Still, I found it solid.

My favorite moments:

Unlike you, Rex, I liked the clue "Howe'er" for THO. It is simple, direct — showing instead of telling. So much better than the "to a poet" or "to Shakespeare" clue options.

And I couldn't help but like describing ARCS as the "paths of pop-ups." My reaction, however (howe'er?), comes partly from that "A-Ha" moment of surprise — since I initially thought about pop-up books and cards, not pop flies.

My least favorite clues:

"Cameo, e.g." for GEM. Is your standard cameo even (or ever) made of a gemstone?

"Perched" for ROOSTED. Those are two different bird behaviors, although (tho?) some birds must perch to roost. I cannot think of a sentence when you could substitute the latter for the form (or vice versa) and have the thing retain its sense. This raises the question, how synonymous should simple clues and answers be?

And, yes, what's with those extra-long clues — even for simple answers like HAIR and IDEAS? Immediately, I started thinking about shorter versions, like "Nemo's vessel" for NAUTILUS and "Sitcom with shoe-phone" for GET SMART.

Unknown 8:57 AM  

I liked the debut and thought it fit Tuesday very well. I had one slight error stemming from my inability to spell...massues giving me a bumsap. While pretty funny, I corrected that one. Peter's post above reminded me (probably caused by a neural disorder) of the term shoe porn to describe fashion magazine shots of footwear and then that reminded me of food porn, those photos in my Epicurean Magazine.

My trivia contribution today comes from a tie breaking question I answered a few years ago. In which country did Tempura originate? The answer is Portugal!

janie 9:10 AM  

cameo... first definition in my dictionary: a gem or shell carved in relief... [tho not recarved ;-) ]

this came as new news to me, too!



Wendy Laubach 9:11 AM  

Kudos to Mr. Madison.

I've never read "Exodus" but of course have seen the Paul Newman movie. I've learned that the answer to any Leon Uris clue is inevitably "Ari."

Despite never having seen an episode of "Third Rock from the Sun," I knew perfectly well what actor I was being aimed at, but I could not say his name for the life of me, especially after drawing a blank of the "EDEL" and "IOWAS" crosses. Anyway, the brain finally turned back on. My favorite Lithgow performance is in "Buckaroo Bonzai": "In the miserrrrrable annals of the Earrrrrrth, I'm surrre you will be duly enshrrrined!"

Ulrich 9:13 AM  

I really liked the puzzle b/c the theme works consistently and effortlessly, and that is the most important criterion for me in a themed puzzle. I accept, as a trade-off, less than stellar fill (but must admit that the idea of recarving a turkey is blatantly absurd--do you recarve it in your mind b/c you did a lousy job the first time around?)

The age of the constructor surprises me b/c this is one of the rare puzzles where I knew all of the pop references (singers in this case), which is normally the same as saying that younger solvers will later complain that the puzzle is sooo "old-fashioned." For me, it made for an easy romp.

In any case, congrats, CM!

Anonymous 9:15 AM  

the verb to coo on Monday and Tuesday.

JannieB 9:17 AM  

Congratulations, Mr. Madison, for giving us a most enjoyable Tuesday. Other than recarve, there was nothing to really quibble about. Well done.

Rex, if I may, I applaud the NYT youth movement. I play bridge, which like crosswords, has been around a very long time. The average age of a bridge player is about 68 years old. I wonder what the average age of a xword solver might be. I see a lot of perceptive similarities between bridge players and xword solvers/constructors. They definitely skew older! The bridge community is constantly working on bringing young people into the fold - teaching the game at schools, sponsoring youth-oriented tournaments. If they don't, the game will die out. So bravo to the NYT for doing its part for xwords - keeping one of my favorite pastimes vital, young and fresh.

Anonymous 9:22 AM  

Taking slight exception to your "recarve" comments, due to logistics, we have 2 *seatings* for Thanksgiving, at the first we carve 1/2 the turkey, then at the second, (on Friday)carve the other 1/2. This is the another carving of the same turkey --- and since I'm the chef both times, to me it's a *recarving* ;)

Also, I had no confusion over A Groucho disguise, the one I used to own was a pair of glasses with nose & moustash attached.


Anonymous 9:25 AM  

Agree re. "recarve." The only other entry I was able to think of (in less than a minute) to cross with the three committed crossing theme answers is "DeSalvo," as in the Boston Strangler... Of course, a 15-year-old might not think of that.

Anonymous 9:26 AM  

Philly -- your trivia items continue to astound! The cross of 39D UDON AND 52A IN TOO was too obscure for me: I went with "udos" and "is too". Otherwise it was a very smooth puzzle.

I agree that "cameo, e.g." is not a good clue for 12D GEM, as it is extremely rare that a real gemstone is carved in that way -- agate, cornelian and onyx yes, but they aren't really thought of as gems. Besides, the vast majority of cameos are of shell varieties, and sometimes lava! "Stone" would be less of a stretch, but "precious stone" even more accurate.

As to the EARWAX at 48D, it could as easily have been "earwig" without requiring other changes (giving "sari" and "sag" as crosses), but I can see why Caleb would want one X instead. I did like the action words in the SE, RETORT next to CLENCH...

All in all, a very nice debut. ∑;)

Anonymous 9:29 AM  

my agree re. "recarve" means to agree with Rex, not the anon post above me...

Anonymous 9:31 AM  

I'm just dying to see what quality 3- and 4-letter words you put into your debut puzzle!

Anonymous 9:33 AM  

p.s. RECARVE would have worked better without the "turkey" in the clue, as sculpted items in wood and clay and even stone can be repaired by recarving small sections.


Anonymous 9:34 AM  

You recarve a turkey after the amount you've already carved and served is eaten up. Back to the kitchen, to recarve some more. Having to recarve is high praise for your cooking!

Anonymous 9:35 AM  

"udon" was new to me, only got it because of the crosses, with an educated guess on "in too deep", a movie I've never heard of.

Anonymous 9:40 AM  

One more, "azo" dye - that was a new one as well. Pretty obscure for a Tuesday puzzle.

Anonymous 9:41 AM  

25D: Cut again, as a congressional district

Doug 9:42 AM  

If you were my age, you might remember that John Lithgow starred in a B'way play, "Bedroom Farce," back in the 1970s. Agree that age has nothing to do with construction. Just like in high-stakes poker, you see 20-year-olds and 60-year-olds going head-to-head. Want to run with the big dogs, you gotta get off the porch. Rex was generous in his approval. As a very hacker puzzle solver, I thought this one should have been rated easy.

Parshutr 9:50 AM  

Nice that the adolescents make such geezer-friendly puzzles, but this one just seemed too easy, even for a Tuesday. No really tricky cluing.
Too straightforward.

SethG 9:51 AM  

Can't believe you didn't use this picture.

I think I own music by only one of the answers, though I got them all pretty easily. It would not surprise me at all if together Rex and I have a complete collection.

Last time RECARVE was in there you were simply "not thrilled", but it was a Saturday so there was more to draw attention away. My take is closer to your current reaction, but at least I was ready for it this time.

Overall I was surprised at how obvious the theme was, but unraveling ACIDIC instead of ACETIC kept me from a good time performance.

Any idea how old the oldest constructor to debut was? In other words, how long to I have to perfect my craft?

Ulrich 9:54 AM  

@sethg: Good question! I'm dying to hear the answer, given how little is left for me.

PuzzleGirl 9:57 AM  

I appreciate seeing the list of young constructors because it makes me optimistic for the future. I mean, Merl Reagle and Henry Hook -- that's pretty good company! Just think what we can be expecting from Madison, Last, and Hill in 20 or 30 years. (Yeah, I guess Hinman's getting there too. :)

I liked the theme because I always like popular music themes. And I'm with Rex -- none of these artists suck, although I've only got 8 out of the 10 in my collection.

ICBM also made me think of Bill Clinton in "Wordplay."

I believe I've seen NOODLE clued in the past as the Sesame Street character Mr. Noodle (not to be confused with his brother, Mr. Noodle). Those guys are funny.

@artlvr: Earwig. Eewwww! That's even worse than earwax.

Bill from NJ 10:02 AM  

Ideal solving style for me - started in the NW, cut through the Midlands into the SE, went up the East Coast into the NE, swirled back through the Midlands and cleaned it up and then darted into the SW where the Z at the 64D/67A gave me pause. Finally cruised into LA where the Y in FYI at 43D was my last answer.

Rather than time myself, I try to impose some kind of structure on these early week puzzles, I guess, as a lark.

Hell of a lot more fun - for me - than trying to be a speed demon. I had a writing instructor in college who used to preach - structure, structure, structure!

So here it is.

Hungry Mother 10:11 AM  

Funny how I saw today's puzzle differently. I'm a geezer who struggles with Wednesday onward, unlike you, but I had no problem today.

Anonymous 10:16 AM  

anonymous 9:25

In reference to your statement "a 15-year-old might not think of that" -- if Yul Brynner, Garcia Lorca, Leon Edel, Ari, etc. are game, why would someone of that age not be capable of assimilating the Boston Stranger? Odd that you place a limitation on interests or knowledge with age -- the only bothersomeness in the puzzle is EARWAX clued as Q-Tip target, a very good way to puncture the eardrum, a fate befallen multitudes. The Q-Tip packs the wax into the ear and against the drum -- further attempts to dislodge the mass, etc. The best remedy for earwax is warm water and a tilted head. There should be a class action suit against Q-Tip!

Anonymous 10:22 AM  

My bet is that it is Clint Black who is missing on Rex's iPod...

Anonymous 10:24 AM  

no, wait, maybe it's Courtney Love... no, wait... ok, I give up.

Orange 10:30 AM  

I didn't know any Courtney Love or Clint Black songs, but at my blog, I posted links to six YouTube videos featuring the other legends.

Anonymous 9:31, rest assured that the people previewing Rex's puzzle are being very hard on him. Why, he had UDON in one version, and I hollered at him. (Rex loves the entry; I don't.)

mac 10:44 AM  

Very impressive first attempt, and I thought appropriate for a Monday, maybe Tuesday. I went through it very quickly, with just a few little hesitations.

Had to laugh about the shoe porn: I actually heard the term toe decolletee used for open-toed or very low cut shoes...

@artlover: I beg to differ. Carnelian and Onyx are semi-precious gems, so the clue was right.

PuzzleGirl 10:51 AM  

I couldn't find a video of my favorite Clint Black song (Love the lyric: "We tell ourselves / That what we found is what we meant to find"). This video is the best one of his I could find. It's a song from the movie "Maverick."

Anonymous 10:52 AM  

I was going to complain about the "groucho disguise" (I held off on nose for a long time), since Groucho was known for his mustache and eyebrows (lesser the glasses) (you can do a groucho disguise easily with just coloring in a mustache and eyebrows, no change to the nose), but I suppose if you are buying a disguise you might need a nose to hang the mustache & glasses on. And techinically defined, a nose is more prominent (sticks out more) than a mustache or brows. Just seems... Cyrano, Durante... = nose... Groucho? not really.

Enjoyed the theme!!

Unknown 10:57 AM  

Switch the answers to 1D and 56D and they both still make a ridiculous kind of sense.

-> Cold War weaponry: IDEAS

-> "An invasion of armies can be resisted; an invasion of ICBMS cannot be resisted"

Just amusing myself :)

Anonymous 10:58 AM  

Rex, I'm still smiling at your suggestion of an invasion of lemers. Wonderful mental image!
Two Ponies

Pythia 11:03 AM  

Very nice, tight, copious theme material. Lots to like there!

Gotta agree with Rex on the grid. RECARVE is painful. Overloaded with tired crossword fill (there's always a little that somehow can't be avoided). 26 or so 3-letter words kinda insures lower quality fill.

Anonymous 11:03 AM  

John Lithgow's CD - Singing in the Bathtub - great fun for the toddlers in your life and enjoyable by grown ups, too.

My baby is 18 years, not months, old now and I still enjoy it. I googled it this morning and it's still available.

He's a funny, funny man.

Had MASSAGE for MASSEUR and didn't go back to check the downs. Lesson learned. (I hope)

Anonymous 11:07 AM  

Easiest Tuesday I've done in a long time!
It felt very smooth and the musical pairingsare very enjoyable. Maybe it's the fact that I haven't lived here for too long, but I do feel I do better with younger costructor's puzzles. I know what they're talking about!

Bill D 11:08 AM  

Pretty good puzzle today. I liked the theme and the fill wasn't horrible for a Tuesday. All my raves, rants and explanations have already been addressed by the blogosphere, so I don't have much to add. Never heard of Tempura UDON or Leon EDEL; I might have tried "Uris" if he wasn't already in the clues! Yesterday's COOs clue was sooo much better.

I remember when UA (United Artists) was a big record label (Traffic, ELO, Don McLean) so the theme answer/theme clue disconnect need not have happened.

Sethg's suggestion that he and Rex have a complete collection of the theme artists's music reminds me of Hot Rod Hundley's comment when asked what his favorite professional basketball memory was. He responded: "The night Elgin [Baylor] and I combined for 72 points against the Knicks." Baylor had set an NBA individual record of 71 points that night.

Anonymous 11:21 AM  

I do think there is a point to emphasize how young the constructor is. As most of us could not even solve a NY Times crossword puzzle at that age. It is like a child prodigy or virtuoso, as the art and skill in and of itself makes us marvel but the fact of the youth of the artist/constructor makes it even more marvelous and awesome. It is the source of the genius that fills us with awe.

Awesome Caleb, keep it coming.


SethG 11:26 AM  

Bill D,

Awesome quote, don't think I'd seen it before. And it reminds me in turn of my favorite sports quote:

"Nobody beats Vitas Gerulaitis seventeen times in a row."
-Vitas Gerulaitis, on beating Jimmy Connors after he'd lost their previous sixteen matches

Anonymous 11:26 AM  

An army of lemurs...haha!

Rex, totally agree with the age comments. When I was 15 or 16 or something I put on a magic show in front of around 100 people for school, and it went over pretty favorably. However, as I walked off, the MC (my english teacher at the time) asked for my applause thusly: "Pretty amazing for 16, huh?! Let's hear it!" I was pissed. He walked off and I asked him why he had to qualify my performance with my age, as though the show would have sucked were I 55 or that they should have lower expectations for me. He didn't quite get it - but I appreciate that you do!

Alec 11:30 AM  

I thought that this was an excellent puzzle, with a strong theme and mostly terrific longer nontheme answers (NAUTILUS, GET SMART, LITHGOW, etc.) making up for some run-of-the-mill shorter fill.

Random anecdote: in college, I once attended an event in which John LITHGOW (who is 6'4") interviewed the controversial theater director Peter SELLARS (who is 5'4"). It was a very interesting conversation, but it really did seem like the world's tallest man interviewing the world's shortest man...

PuzzleGirl 11:35 AM  

I didn't jump on the bumper sticker bandwagon yesterday, but if we're doing sports quotes I can hang with you. Here's one of my favorites -- not from a big name, but funny nonetheless.

Jacksonville (Ala.) State basketball coach Bill Jones, when asked if his Gamecocks' 37-point win over Kentucky Wesleyan in the NCAA Division II tournament was beyond his wildest dreams: "My wildest dreams don't have basketball in them."

DJG 11:37 AM  

"Recarve" doesn't even make the Scrabble dictionary which makes it less of a word than "reenjoy" and "reremind".

I really liked today's puzzle, but I'm a sucker for pop culture wordplay.

Definitely agree with Rex's mini-jag about youth obsession in our society. What's with that? George Carlin does a hilarious bit on this in which he says, "Not all children are smart and clever, got that? Kids are like any other group of people: a few winners...a whole lot of losers."

Anonymous 11:47 AM  

I'm all for mentoring young people. I think it is wonderful that Will supports, encourages, and recognizes young constructors. But yes - where are the girls! And I agree that we don't go easier on the young people. I'm a teacher who believes that we should hold teenagers to high standards, but at the same time teach them how to reach those standards. Will's mentoring and Rex's critiques both serve those purposes, in different ways.
I have no idea how I feel about listing the ages of first time constructors.

Anonymous 11:50 AM  

Oh, and anon 9:22's recarving. If you have a second seating at Thanksgiving, aren't you just carving more turkey? I don't see how you can carve the parts that have already been carved.

Parshutr 12:02 PM  

The Hundley and Gerulaitis quotes remind this geezer of the quarterback who told a referee that he was his second favorite ref. The ref asked who was first, and the answer came back...wait for it

Everyone else is tied for first.

Ulrich 12:08 PM  

Re. sports quotes: Keep them coming--I need periodic reminders that it may be worth my time to listen occasionally to the post-game interview b/c it may be more than a sequence of stock answers to stock questions (one of my favorites: "how do you feel after such a thrilling/great/.. victory?" to which IMHO the only sensible answer would be "How the @#$% do you think I'm feeling, you moron!")

Anonymous 12:10 PM  

I liked recarve, although I didn't like the clue at all. How about this sentence? - "That crazy republican legislature carved and recarved the congressional districts until they had disenfranchised every democrat in the state."

As for it not being in the dictionary, that's not relevant. It's a collection of sounds that clearly communicates meaning, so it's a word. You don't have to have a pedigree to be a dog.

Parshutr 12:15 PM  

OK, Ulrich...my absolute favorite quote comes from Ben Hogan. A sportswriter was talking about it being easier to come from behind than sit on a lead, and asked Hogan if he'd rather start the last round of a tournament leading by one or trailing by one. Hogan's answer was "Would you rather be rich or poor?"

Unknown 12:19 PM  

Three quotations.
I asked a ref if he could give me a technical foul for thinking bad things about him. He said, of course not. I said, well, I think you stink. And he gave me a technical anyway. You can't trust them. -Jim Valvano
Golf's a hard game to figure. One day you'll go out and slice it and shank it, hit into all the traps and miss every green. The next day you go out and, for no reason at all, you really stink.
-Bob Hope
"If you come to a fork in the road, take it." -Yogi Berra

No one is going to admit to being the oldest constructor of a puzzle, but have you seen Trip Payne lately? ;)

Rex Parker 12:19 PM  

And... the sports quote part of our program is officially over (the bumper sticker / sports quote thing may amuse some of you, but judging by reader feedback, not all of you).


Barbara Bolsen 12:27 PM  

Nice theme - enjoyed the puzzle.

The musical Hair was for my generation what Rent seems to be for more recent generations. I remember listening to it over and over and over on the stereo in my college dorm room. Had all the lyrics by memory. Yet I initially answered RENT instead of HAIR for American tribal love-rock musical.

Re Groucho disguise: There's a fabulous shop in Chicago called Uncle Fun, where you can buy pretty much every crazy novelty item ever manufactured. The Groucho disguises on sale there (and elsewhere) almost always consist of a pair of black-rimmed plastic glasses attached to a big nose and topped with bushy black eyebrows. Maybe these were more common in my 1950s childhood -- when Groucho was still appearing on the TV show What's My Line.

Bill D 12:32 PM  

I'm laughing aloud at the sports quotes. Ulrich, it's still not worth your time to listen to those post-game interviews - these great quotes are few and far between. I'm sure there must be a couple of futbol ones we've overlooked, like the announcer's laconic comment, after what looks like a sure goal goes wide of an open net, "That one was harder to miss than to make." Of course, there's the (possibly apocryphal) one by the hometown ice hockey radio announcer, caught up in heat of a close game, when a player from his team bears down alone on the opposing goalie: "He's in! He shoots! Oh! He hit the f#%@*n' post!" Followed by about 5 minutes of dead air...

Today's NY Sun puzzle has a great sports comment courtesy George Steinbrenner.

Bill D 12:35 PM  

Sorry Rex - our comments crossed in the mail...but it is impossible to please all of the people...

dk 1:18 PM  

Perhaps we should combine the Simpson and Sports themes with a few of of Bart's chalk board quotations

The principal's toupee is not a Frisbee.

Goldfish don't bounce.

I will not belch the National Anthem.

I will not re-transmit without the express permission of Major League Baseball.

and one for Rex,

The Good Humor man can only be pushed so far.

dk 1:24 PM  

Whoops forgot, Caleb nice work and always remember:

Teacher is not a leper.

Or, Lemur.

Doc John 1:43 PM  

A very good debut, Mr. Madison! I have no more critique to add to what's already been said; let's just say I found the puzzle fun.

Man, yesterday there was TOUPEE, today there's BALD and HAIR. Is someone trying to say something here? ;)

What I found most interesting about today's blog is that I have the same birthday as two on the list of youngest constructors (I'll leave that to you all to figure out). Maybe that's a good sign for me to get off my butt and finish the wild one I'm trying to construct!

And here's a little (sort of) six-degrees-of-separation:
John LITHGOW was on "Saturday Night Live" with "Iron Man" star Robert Downey, Jr.
Mr. Downey starred as Charlie Chaplin who co-founded...
OK, it was a little short. So I'm new at this!

Fave answer: FYI. Because it reminded me of Murphy Brown.

imsdave1 1:47 PM  

Damn I had a great sports quote too, but we must respect the guru/owner/moderator. I thought earwax should have been clued Bertie Botts jellybean flavor. Expertly constructed from the theme perspective, and for those questioning the little fills - try it some time. Thanks godness I recycle, as I've been killing trees like crazy trying to build a decent puzzle.

miriam b 2:46 PM  

One tiny quibble: IDEAL and IDEAS in the same puzzle. This is overeshadowed by a truly marvelous debut.

@PuzzleGirl: I'm with you. Better a big glob of EARWAX than one earwig (sorry, folks).

Ladel 2:55 PM  


few people take the time to consider the distinction between talent and ability, in short you can not teach talent. The kid is good right out of the box and will get better as he refines his talent. We groundlings will continue to limp along with our considerable ability but limp we will in his shadow.

JC66 3:38 PM  

Congratulations on a fine debut puzzle Caleb Madison.

Joon 3:48 PM  

cool puzzle. i'm not overfond of the fill here (though RECARVE didn't strike me as egregious), but any puzzle with that good a theme gets a moderate pass on boring fill.

jae 4:32 PM  

Really liked this one. Clever theme. At 16 I was working on my pool game so this first effort impresses me. Only misstep was CLUTCH. I also knew UDON, AZUL, and AZO so no guesses.

How about "Edit Mt. Rushmore" for RECARVE?

ehicks77 4:34 PM  

A very good start for first time out of the gate....can't say anything but good about it... but the NYSun's puzzle today had a truely great George Steinbrunner quote today on Dave winfield...the last two days NY Sun puzzles, in fact, have been outstanding. Will better watch out because they are gaining on him....(as Satchel Paige would say)

dk 4:37 PM  


Anonymous 5:04 PM  

Yes, Rex, we will agree that the fillers were quite elementary but all in all when you consider that it is coming from a 15 year old we thought that the theme of United Artists was quite charming and unexpected. Once we discovered the theme, it was a very pleasant surprise. Thanks for everything Rex!

Anonymous 5:58 PM  

Hey Rex, thanks for the feedback. I'm a huge fan of your blog, and I was REALLY excited for you to write what you thought. Glad you (kinda) liked it.

Caleb Madison.

Anonymous 6:01 PM  

@ ehicks77 -- I must second your motion on the super achievement in the NY Sun puzzle today. It even had a left-over nod to Mother's Day!

I don't know why I couldn't download yesterday's? I tried several times....


Rex Parker 6:10 PM  


Thanks for stopping by. And for showing the world (especially Orange) that UDON is indeed a fine, fine answer (I let Orange beat it out of my first draft of this puzzle I'm working on, but it will live to fight another day..). UDON is also ... a NOODLE (sorry I missed that connection)!


Anonymous 6:15 PM  


Yes, for the first seating, I carve more, but the second group (next day)is seeing the (somewhat dismembered) Turkey for the first time.

For them, I carve anew, but since it a separate attack on my part, on the OTHER side,to me it's a *recarve* for the new group.

Never said I was carving the side already carved ;)

.../Gltch aka anon 9:22am

Anonymous 6:33 PM  

I loved the puzzle theme, wish I had thought of it at 15 or 51!
Nice balance of BLACKSMITH and BROWNSTONE even!!!!
It's so funny about fill...I've never ever (till Rex's blog) thought about anything but theme theme theme.
Maybe that's also why there aren't as many young female constructors (or old ones for that matter) bec it's more likely boys that it occurs to boys to construct rather than just solve... and then strive for pangrams, and endless sports quotes, and solving speeds, and theme-letter counts and and and...

(Yep, thems fighting words)

but holding my tongue about LITHGOW!

Anonymous 6:36 PM  

comparing the clues to the fill, it seems junior had some help from grandpa - no ?


PuzzleGirl 6:41 PM  

Sorry, Gltch, but I don't buy it. If one day I watch part of a show I've recorded and then watch the rest of it the next day, I'm not REwatching it. I'm just watching MORE of it.

I asked my seven-year-old daughter if she thought she might like to try making crossword puzzles when she gets older and she said, "It sounds hard." I'm going to keep working on her though. I've got a few years.

Anonymous 6:48 PM  

Impressive puzzle for any constructor - regardless of age. I was 58 when I first attempted constructing crosswords (and a female, btw). It is so challenging, but thrilling when a puzzle is completed, and especially when one is accepted.

Leon 7:17 PM  

Real nice puzzle Calmad.

Today's Zits comic strip (featuring a 15 year old's take on life/family/school) has a crossword theme.

Anonymous 7:23 PM  

Andrea Carla MIchaels! I love your puzzles! Thanks for the kudos- hopefully there'll be more on the way. Glad you liked it.


JC66 7:30 PM  

@Gltch aka anon 9:22am

If you you made a tuna sandwich, cut it in two, ate half, and then came back a half hour later and ate the other half, would you have reeaten the sandwich? I think not. You just ate the other half.

I like the idea of recarving Mt. Rushmore tho.

Michael Chibnik 7:57 PM  

I did this puzzle while watching students taking a final exam, which seemed kinda mean. I was hoping that I could while away some time, but this was Tuesday, not Friday, and I had to return to the rest of the paper.

Unrelated anecodte -- I saw a fiction writer at a party a few years ago and mentioned that he had been an answer in that day's puzzle (a Saturday). He wasn't a puzzle-solver, but said that I was the third person who had told him this. I then said that he'd be really be famous when he was the answer in a Monday puzzle and the writer looked at me with completely bewilderment.

Anonymous 8:06 PM  

Clue: Enter an autove again?
Answer: recarve

I know... that's why I don't construct crossword puzzles and I'm also a young guy, like a mushroom...

Are you getting the atrocious puns?

A fine puzzle for a Tuesday.

Anonymous 8:16 PM  

Nice debut puzzle. My first theme answers were 17A:BLACKSMITH and 65A:BROWNSTONE, so I expected the others to have colors as well, but that's probably asking too much. More important that most of the eight names are familiar enough that I can at least confirm having heard their names even if I couldn't tell you anything about those "united artists" (39A). Well, eight by my count; RP somehow manages to "own music by nine out of ten of those people"!

4A:ARCS -- arghs, yet another b*seball clue. Still, better that than what "pop-ups" first suggested to me, which is those execrable online advertising windows.

25D:RECARVE -- would you rather have RECALVE (give birth again on the ranch) crossing HAIL? Probably not; RECALVE gets under 500 Google hits (the first few being for a surname), where RECARVE has 3500+ (though more of them involve Turkey than turkeys). Alas the three theme entries require ?E?A?V?, and the only other matches are BECARVE, DESALVO, GEMAUVE, LEFAUVE. The best of these would be DESALVO (change 37A:COOS to SEES, with 33D:TOR becoming the TER as in "laugh suffix", and the rest is easy) -- but alas DESALVO would have to be clued as the confessed Boston Strangler, and even then is probably too hard for Tuesday. The only acceptable alternative is probably LEFAUVE, even harder to justify on a Tuesday, and also much harder to fit in the grid (44A would have to end with U).

56D:IDEAS -- don't blame Victor Hugo or his editor, because the original is naturally in French: according to Wikiquote, On résiste à l'invasion des armées; on ne résiste pas à l'invasion des idées. Blame the translator, but not too severely, because it's not easy to balance fidelity to the original phrasing against idiomatic English syntax.


jubjub 8:21 PM  

I had trouble committing to BALD for "Yul Brynner, famously", as I thought it was too cruel to choose one person to exemplify and identify with baldness. I'm cool with it now, tho, as Wikipedia tells me Brynner is one of the bald-by-choice crowd.

I mainly had trouble with the O in STOA and LORCA. Didn't know either of those, and kept trying vowels until the Java applet was happy.

Anonymous 9:07 PM  


although I wouldn't have *reeaten* the second half of the sandwich, I just may *recut* it to save some of it for tomorrow! ;)


Anonymous 9:24 PM  

I think Andrea brings up a really interesting point. I'm a constructor too, but as a solver, I do really get tired of crosswordese, abbreviations, suffixes and the like, but interesting or cute themes (with this one being a prime examples) do also typically.

To Rex, other solvers, other bloggers; to the crossword community: does a sparkling theme make up for lackluster fill? Does the converse hold true? I know I personally (and here the constructor side wins over) love fresh new fill, and would take it any day over a cute theme. What do you guys think?

fergus 9:44 PM  

As a typically late commenter, I find my analysis sometimes swayed by what Rex and the many previous critics have to say. My initial take was that this was a quintessential Tuesday puzzle, which could have benefited from the suggested congressional districts instead of the turkey. No problems otherwise.

Rex makes a very good point, which I think Mr. Madison will have to agree with, in that he's in the big leagues now, and he should not have the ease or insult of "affirmative action" when a critique of the puzzle is made. You're on the mound at Yankee Stadium, kid, and the hitters are not going to swing any less fiercely because of your comparative youth. I found Rex's ever so slightly crotchety tone quite amusing while I read through the write-up, if only because I knew it was defusing a sentiment of genteel youth bias we've seen before. I doubt there's anything but appreciation for crossing words with such fluidity, but the point that age is virtually immaterial when it comes to judging the construction is a sound one. And I say this knowing that regardless of our current age, those of us toying with coming up with a really cool, or just a nice puzzle, are enjoying the fact that ever more people are proving that it can be done.

And I wish more people would learn to play bridge, by the way.

mac 9:44 PM  

That's an interesting question. I think that I enjoy fresh new fill better than a cute theme. In fact, I like themeless puzzles better than the ones with. Every word counts.

Doc John 10:06 PM  

Recarve- to run the Downhill again?

I actually have no problem with the clue or answer, as the clue certainly and Tuesday-easily pointed to the answer (even if the word is a tad strange).

As for theme or fill or whatever, I don't really care what the fill is, as long as the cluing is fun and interesting. Even tired old pantheonic words are cool if they're clued in a way that made them harder to figure out. It's no fun to just "fill in the blank" or "answer the question".

Joon 10:41 PM  

my two cents:

a great theme can make up for lackluster fill. fantastic fill (and clues) can carry a puzzle with a weak theme. but a puzzle with a bad theme is much, much worse than a puzzle with no theme, so let's not drag themeless puzzles into this discussion where they don't belong. "every word counts" in themed puzzles, too.

when i was slightly younger i played a lot of bridge and the game was very good to me--lots of free or partially subsidized trips to interesting places, and i met a bunch of great people. now that i'm no longer eligible for youth events, and not quite good enough to make waves in national events at the open level, i'm just a guy who plays bridge... except that i'm still something like 40 years younger than the average ACBL member. in 30 years i might be one of the best players around just by default. :)

Interpolater 11:17 PM  

I liked the puzzle. I thought the clues were fresher than they usually are. I wondered why it seemed so different than the usual tuesday puzzles until I read the blog. thanks for the all the info (and answers!) rex parker.

fergus 11:49 PM  


Your bridge tour sounds like a trip, but my wish was merely that cultivated Americans might consider the game as a basis for social activity, such as I've found in England and France.

Anonymous 1:58 AM  

Sorry so late. Best Tuesday in a while. When I was 15 I was ignoring the cliche death of Kurt Cobain while listening to Neil Young's "The Needle and the Damage Done." Sure AGOG and CEDE were weak but I'll CEDE that. I'm sick of Al Jolson, Mel Torme and whatever the 110 year olds have to throw at us. Back off Nancy S, we'll have SOULJA BOY in the puzzle before you can say CRANK THAT.

Anonymous 10:48 AM  

Maybe I should take it easy on the guy, seeing as he is only 15, but I must say that, to me, this was an unacceptable puzzle on all counts, with the exception of the theme. I can't find a single non-theme fill answer I really love except "BUMRAP" and... well that's about it. Everything else is boring, one-woders without sparkle or freshness. I am shocked that people seem so impressed by this puzzle. I find the theme well done, but coming up with a nice theme is only one part- you have to be able to fill in the grid with equally dazzling material. That did not happen here.

Anonymous 1:26 PM  

I come down STRONG on the side of finding it impressive that this quite nice Tuesday puzzle was constructed by someone who is less that a quarter of my age. Quibble all you want, but I rely on life experience for a lot of my answers. I assure you that tempura, udon and soba (my original but incorrect answer for 39D, soon corrected by one of the crosses) would not have been in MY experience when I was 15. ICBMs (1D) haven't been newsworthy since before Caleb was born. So, I find his knowledge of stuff, at the level needed to construct well, remarkable for the circumstance though it would not be so remarkable at my age.

That said, I agree if he is on the mound in Yankee Stadium at 15 batters should not lay off. Anyone remember David Clyde's stint with the Texas Rangers in the seventies, starting in 1973 when he was 18? And Bob Feller (a more felicitous case) was only 17 in his Major League debut with the Indians. Feller is one of only two pitchers with as many strikeouts as his age in a Major League game.

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