Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Relative difficulty: Challenging

THEME: uh ... let's see ... what sound like common phrases starting with "a"-words are actually phrases in which "a" is being used as an indefinite article

Ouch. Yesterday's Monday took me as long as a Tuesday and today's Tuesday took me as long as a Thursday (mid-6s). This is due almost entirely to the NW corner, which held the key to unlocking the theme (such as it is), but also held two words that left me agape and agog, even after (eventually) I solved them:

2D: Objets d'art (virtu) - I ... I ... and here I thought I knew something about art. I have this weird sense of déjà vu, like maybe I've complained about this word before, or at least seen it before, but ... nothing about it says "art," nothing about it says "plural," no one but no one uses it ever. Ever. No, you don't use it, shut up. PS this is the second definition of VIRTU, the first of which is "love or appreciation for ... objets d'art." Ugh.

4D: Cobblers' forms (lasts) - the very word "cobbler" makes me laugh. I know they still exist, and it's an important (and dying) craft, but still, "cobbler" ... it's Dickensian. LASTS is a verb to me. The definition of "LAST" is "A block or form shaped like a human foot and used in making or repairing shoes." It is, as you might guess, very very far down the possible meanings of "LAST" in the dictionary. There is a British unit of volume or weight, which is ever farther down the list.

Throw in TANAKA, which I have never seen or heard of (6D: 1970s Japanese P.M. Kakuei _____), and I was completely stymied in the N and NW for a while, so the "theme" remained mysterious for much of my solving experience.

Theme answers:

  • 17A: Retired general? (a resting officer)
  • 37A: Late nobleman? (a count past due)
  • 59A: Carillon call? (a peal to the crowd)

OK, about Tuesday puzzles, which I have complained about more than any other day of the week: I heard from a constructor that the times has an 8-9 month Tuesday backlog!? How is that possible? And if it's so, why not raise (high) the bar for Tuesday quality (i.e. reject more Tuesday-ish puzzles)? Today's puzzle is solid in many ways, but the theme is kind of lackluster and some of the fill is a bit forced (esp. for a Tuesday). RIPON? (29D: Wisconsin town where the Republican Party was born) EX-GI????! (7D: W.W. II vet, e.g.). I can't even look at EX-GI without wincing.

  • 1A: Kansas City university formerly known as College of Saint Teresa (Avila) - needed crosses to guess this one, then felt stupid as I know this saint's name very well (from grad school) and her most common appellation is "Teresa of AVILA"
  • 14A: Gore who wrote "Lincoln" and "1876" (Vidal) - very nice cluing. I was thinking AL or LESLEY, i.e. "Gore" as last name. Gore VIDAL also wrote mysteries under the name "Edgar Box," back in the 1950s. Now you know.
  • 15A: Eddie's character in "Beverly Hills Cop" (Axel) - AXEL Foley. Here is his theme:

  • 23A: Part of the mailing address to Oral Roberts University (Tulsa, OK) - I like this. Hard to get that "AO" combo in English; be inventive!
  • 25A: Field for Dem Bums (Ebbets) - The Brooklyn Dodgers ... I always wanna spell EBBETTS ... thusly!
  • 31A: Poetic work by Tennyson (idyl) - wanted "MAUD"; there's such a thing as knowing too much (or so says this book I'm reading, which is fascinating, but which sadly shares its name with a Carnie Wilson memoir about her gastric bypass surgery)
  • 44A: Glass-encased item in "Beauty in the Beast" (rose) - that image is weirdly iconic; even *I* remember it (not a big fairy tale fan).
  • 48A: Residue locale (ash pit) - is this a thing? Is it like a fire pit? Oh, it's just the area underneath a fireplace hearth. "Pit" is a pretty grandiose word for such a little place.
  • 55A: Unit a little longer than an arm's length (ell) - mmm, arcane measurements based on assumed standard lengths of body parts. My favorite. Here's a def:
An old body measure based on the human arm. Although suggestive of the forearm alone, British practice corresponded to the whole arm plus some fraction of the chest, hence a yard or more. It was the reference unit for the old measure in Scotland. Modern usage is primarily with textiles.
  • 68A: Seven-year stretch (teens) - wow, that's good. Glad I never saw it. It would have tripped me.
  • 10D: Horse-racing devotees, slangily (rail birds) - first, "slangily!" Yay. Second, despite having seen this slang term before, I completely forgot it and had to hack at it with crosses for a long time. Like VIRTU, LASTS, TANAKA, RIPON, and ELL, it seems to come from another era.
  • 30D: "Little" Stowe character (Eva) - I know this only from xwords. Ditto ETUI (57D: Decorative sewing kit).
  • 33D: Giant glaciers (ice sheets) - OK ... "glaciers" sound much more massive and impressive than "sheets," which I have on my bed. I wanted SHELVES, then actually wrote in SHELFS (!?), then had SHEARS (!!?) ... SHEERS (?) ... etc.
  • 39D: General on Chines menus (Tso) - to complete your order, please see 60D: Kung _____ chicken (Pao)
  • 47D: Word in many Perry Mason titles ("Case") - I just went through a run of Perry Mason books at my vintage paperback blog. Here's a sample:

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

PS here is a somewhat funny, somewhat self-effacing slam on all of you who found me by googling. Crosswording seen from a non-crossworder's perspective. Please just lurk and/or play nice. I'm definitely not mad (HA ha, I just - accidentally? - typed "I'm definitely mad")


Unknown 8:29 AM  

Well, as a near neighbor of RIPON and its college (with a statue of Lincoln, commemorating the GOP's birth), I liked this puzzle.

I started it laaate last night and gave up after a bit, completely stymied by the top third. Of course, my big problem was proudly entering FRANCISCO FRANCO for “Retired general.” Yup, that’s the time to pack it in.

Come the dawn, my enjoyment grew. Many clues seemed just-off-enough – in a good way – to give me pause: “Unimprovable” for IDEAL; “Impatient sort” for TYPE A; “Set one’s sights for TAKE AIM.

(And a couple of posers that I shared with Rex: I’ve only encountered VIRTU as an archaic word for “essence” or “inner excellence.” Maybe through 17th-century poetry?)

Best of the bunch: “Seven year stretch” for TEENS. Again, just-off-enough. Made me think “Seven-year itch” and “seventh-inning stretch.” Made me wonder whether there was some exact term, like “score.”

But then…A-HA: TEENS. So perfect, I Googled it afterwards to see how the clue’s phrase is generally used. And what do you know! The first result is for a book about surviving adolescence. Bravo!

Lastly, it was great to see ILL return in the wake of ILLER. Next puzzle: ILLMATIC!

Doris 8:45 AM  

Knew VIRTU from the expression "objets de virtù," still used a lot by upscale antique dealers for objects of worth, value, extraordinary beauty, etc. Interesting that the phrase is a combination of French (objets) and Italian (virtù). Did I really need to bother you with this at such an early hour?

Orange 8:46 AM  

VIRTU last showed up in a terrific Onion puzzle a few weeks ago—the same grid had MEH, which seems a tad more Onionesque than VIRTU.

I'll bet women are more familiar with LASTS than men—I've seen articles about how running shoes based on a man's foot aren't the best fit for women, who need shoes made on a last that's modeled after a woman's foot.

Unknown 8:54 AM  

Just remembered where I encountered VIRTU (the term, not the quality): Macchiavelli.

In The Prince, he speaks repeatedly of "virtù" as the quality of a strong, effective head of state. Manly excellence, strength of will and character, prowess -- a Nietzschean virtue, that VIRTÙ.

Maybe it's in poetry too. Just not sure where.

dk 8:56 AM  

@orange, LASTS came to me out of the blue but it along with AVAST was no help to me in the NW.

VIRTU only came after I looked up AVILA, my first google in a long time and its only Tuesday: The horror.

A bushel and a peck of As in this one. Well done Ken.

I remember HIHOs from my TEENS. My gimmie was PSIS as I see them on the APA journals that litter my NEST.

I am afraid of Wednesday given our Monday and today.

Bill from NJ 9:06 AM  

My father liked good shoes. As a matter of fact, he had them custom made in England from a form that he set up when he was stationed there shortly after WWII - he was an EXGI, by the way - and he used lasts. I remember seeing his shoes lined up in the bottom of his closet with LASTS in them. The lasts came with the shoes, as I recall.

I failed to finish this puzzle. I came a cropper in Neveda/Utah where I had ASHPOT over EL*, crossing O*L and never was able to figure out what was needed.

I figured out 17A which gave me the R in VIRTU (that I had never heard of) and got all the long answers in the theme.

I agree with Rex that there was something old-fashioned about this puzzle HIHO ASTA EBBETS RAILBIRDS but with a smattering of the new MATT AXEL.

Enjoyed this even as I failed. In honor ot Linda G, I called this puzzle finished at the one-hour mark. The jury was hopelessly deadlocked.

Anonymous 9:11 AM  

I loved this puzzle. I wish they were all this challenging.

Unknown 9:12 AM  

I love this small world where a few difficult clues and unusual fill on a Tuesday brings joy to the community and why not? I loved the puzzle as well as Mr. Bessette's last two.
NE was hard and forced me to a Friday scheme of finding something I knew somewhere else to start. Came back to the NE at the end and two things deep in my memory unlocked it. First, there is a restaurant in Philly decorated with antiques and replica art called VIRTU, and I finally figured out the connection. The other memory was of the many days spent antique shopping (nothing virtu) in the London markets where old wooden LASTS are for sale.

Anonymous 9:19 AM  

If you confidently write in "ent" for "elf," everything goes haywire for a while.

Unknown 9:22 AM  


AVILA was tough, never heard of the college. But guessed it when I realized the old and new names were connected: St. Theresa of Ávila. Thank you, Bernini!

Anonymous 9:23 AM  




Unknown 9:29 AM  

A good, fairly easy one for me (any puzzle with ASTA in it is a good puzzle). I had to wait to the end for VIRTU to appear, and it was huh? And why in the world do I know that the Republican Party was founded in Ripon?? My head is indeed cluttered with useless info -- except when doing crosswords!

Anonymous 9:49 AM  


I am an arborist and a treehugger, so I love the ents and always want them for 'Tolkien creatures.' I have learned, though, to be on the lookout for orcs. Until I have that initial "E", that is. Fortunately for me, I knew AXEL and quickly sorted out my error.

I liked this one, and would have called it "medium" instead of "challenging." My moment of "Huh?" came when I had A_SP_T and for a moment thought the first blank square needed an 's'. Made perfect sense, notwithstanding the breakfast test.

Jeffrey 10:05 AM  

Happy Canada Day!

I’d like to add to Foodie’s comments from late yesterday “We need to thank all [constructors] more for providing such pleasure and wonderful brain exercise, and taking your lumps along the way. So thank you!”

We live in the golden age of crosswords. I’ve been working backwards through the NYT archives and the further back I go (1997 now), the more inconsistent the quality. Rex would have a field day ripping apart some of those. The reason we spend so much time on the odd LOWIQS or FERULE is that they appear so rarely. We take for granted the overall quality of the constructions. We also have the New York Sun and many others that on any given day can attain NYT levels.

We also need to remember to thank Rex, Orange and the other bloggers. Voluntarily doing this every day is an incredible feat. Rex appears to be nearing 700 posts. Remarkable.

The ACPT gives solitary solvers a chance to annually interact. These blogs allow us to do so on a daily basis. I’m sure many of us spend more time reading and commenting on the puzzle than it takes to solve them!

To all who provide this daily enjoyment, thank you!


Jeff 10:08 AM  

I agree with our moderator that this was a challenging puzzle for a Tuesday. I'm familiar with the term "last" as it relates to shoes (when you read reviews of expensive running shoes, they use funny-sounding terms like "last" and "toebox" and "midsole" and "sockliner"), and that still never came to me. Cross that with some tiny obscure college, and cross THAT with some obscure art term, and I had 2 blank squares in the NW at the end. (I could've Googled 'em, but what's the point?) I also thought ABOU, TANAKA, IDYL, ELOI, EVA, ADUE and RIPON were all very... non-Tuesday. I thought the cluing for TEENS, ELL and even MINIS was pretty non-Tuesday. Add in some groaners (can RDA be plural? EXGI?), and this was a tough solve for me-- for a Tuesday. I didn't not enjoy this puzzle, it just caught me by surprise. On a Tuesday.

Mo 10:11 AM  

Rex, I think the other thing about the theme is that the original phrase both starts with "a" and has a double letter in the first word, then one of the double letters is removed and the "a" is detached to form the new phrase.

I liked the puzzle...notice that TULSAOK follows MOSULIRAQ...maybe we'll be getting more compound geography clues.

Anonymous 10:21 AM  

Sandy, word. Same deal if you put in DIAS instead of DAIS.

ArtLvr 10:33 AM  
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Tony from Charm City 10:34 AM  

My undoing was my fast typing ending in the north, ending up with ALEX Foley at 15 A and trying to figure out what LOTR creature had an X in it.

When I saw ROSE at 44-A, I thought how fitting, since I am re-reading the entire Dark Tower and protecting the ROSE plays a critical part in Roland and his ka-tet's quest. I guess tomorrow there will be BEAM, TOWER, CRIMSON, or something else related to Stephen King's magnum opus.

Anonymous 10:37 AM  

Same plight here as many of y'all. Started early with DIAS instead of DAIS, ended up taking about 3x my normal Tuesday time.

RIPON? VIRTU? HIHO? Tuesday? Dude, really.

Happy Canada Day, eh?

ArtLvr 10:41 AM  

p.s. Happy Canada Day to crosscan and our other friends north of the US!

archaeoprof 10:52 AM  

@Sandy: me too. "Tolkien creature" is always ENT, isn't it?

BTW, isn't there a college in Ripon that is the alma mater of Harrison Ford?

JannieB 11:01 AM  

I really enjoyed the level of difficulty in this puzzle. I agree with JOHO - it wouldn't bother me at all if this was a Monday. I thought the theme was clever and made the same observation as Mo regarding the dropping of the duplicated letters/parsing. Well done!

I took a real guess in the NW with that "V" in Virtu - but I had the rest of the quadrant done and it seemed the only consonant that looked right.

Like Sandy and others I promptly wrote in ENT (already had the E so no temptation with the ORC), but once I saw Axel I fixed it quickly. Liked the mix of old and new - for me it was a very satisfying puzzle.

k-sa d-ya 11:21 AM  

Although RIPON and the theme didn't stump, ASHPIT, VIRTU, AVILA, and TEENS did. And aren't horse-racing devotees better known as rail jockeys? Almost as obscure as LASTS. Just last week I complained that Monday and Tuesday crosswords were almost too easy to bother with - I've been proved wrong twice this week.

k-sa d-ya 11:21 AM  

Although RIPON and the theme didn't stump, ASHPIT, VIRTU, AVILA, and TEENS did. And aren't horse-racing devotees better known as rail jockeys? Almost as obscure as LASTS. Just last week I complained that Monday and Tuesday crosswords were almost too easy to bother with - I've been proved wrong twice this week.

jae 11:22 AM  

Surprising Tues. Took me longer than last Thurs. Last time I saw RAILBIRD was in a Sat. puzzle a year ago last March and Rex was not happy about it then.

@Sandy et. al. Me too on ENT and I'm still trying to put the correct spelling of DAIS in long term memory.

RIPON came to me from vaguely recalling the RIPON society which has something to do with republicans.

Enjoyable but jarring for a Tues!

Andy 11:30 AM  

Loved it! Gore Vidal was very obvious to me, but "virtu?" On a Tuesday, for god's sakes!! IMHO "virtu" is much more of a "later-in-the-week word" than a "Tuesday word," wouldn't you agree?

Parshutr 11:44 AM  

Just for future reference, TANAKA is a very common Japanese surname, like Smith or Jones in English, Patel in Hindi. N and K were quite enough for me.
Liked this one.

Parshutr 11:44 AM  
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ArtLvr 11:50 AM  

So happy to get a "pure" puzzle today, with no pointers to the theme! I had no trouble with VIDAL because of his "Burr" -- In fact, I kept Emily Jo's drawing of the famous duel from Jan. 14 of this year, my favorite! The cobblers' LASTS were a gimme too, because of the old admonition "Stick to your last" (MYOB, etc.).

Having just reread Dorothy Sayres' "Nine Tailors", I was looking for A PEAL as soon as I saw "carillon" -- this classic mystery turns on complicated peals, from nine-hours' worth at New Year's to warning of disastrous floods in the fens months later. Nine strokes of a single bell make the measure of a man, marking his death.

Something about ELL as a measure rang a bell too, but it hasn't surfaced yet. Anyway, there was much to love about the rest too...


Scott 11:54 AM  

I am not with the solvers who would like more difficult puzzles earlier in the week. I enjoy the ramping up of difficulty, and this puzzle is not a Tuesday. This puzzle has everything I don't like in a puzzle. Obscure places and names (RIPON, TANAKA, AVILA), lots of crosswordese (ELOI, PSIS, SINAI, RDAS, ASTA, ELEM, PAO, TSO, ESO, TELE, ETUI, ADUE) and words that are as close to out of the lexicon as can possibly be allowed (LASTS, VIRTU, ASHPIT, MIDIS). On top of that is, in my opinion, a boring theme. If either the phrases created were more interesting or the initial phrases had more zing, then i would find less fault w/ the fill but that is not the case.

I do appreciate how difficult it is to make any crossword puzzle. I, however, did not enjoy this one.

Anonymous 12:01 PM  

I was kind of annoyed at this puzzle. A lot of the clues/answers just seemed too esoteric to me. I confess I had to do a bit of googling this time to solve it. But perhaps that's simply because many of the clues dealt with trivia I just don't know and subject matter that I am unfamiliar with.

Ronathan :-)

CinEdina 12:23 PM  

I am a new solver (started 4/08) and was pretty pleased with myself when I remembered ETUI, ASTA, and DAIS. I was beginning to pat myself on the back for figuring out APPEALTOTHECROWN, EBBETS and TULSAOK (because why would I know where Oral Rbts U is??) but could not crack the NW and NE. I googled to get AVILA and then had VI_TU. Googled VITTU but found that VITTU is an extremely obscene Finnish swear word. I won't link to it, but Wikipedia has an entire page on Finnish profanity. Although I did not finish the puzzle (RAILBIRDS stumped me), it was an enjoyable puzzle because of the many aha! moments.

Great blog- somewhat intimidating to post here because of the high quality write-up and comments. Hi SethG- am working my way out of syndication per your advice! Hello to you too Orange (Christy from Carleton).

CinEdina 12:25 PM  

Oops - typo already. I meant APPEALTOTHECROWD.

Unknown 12:30 PM  

Scott makes me think about the puzzle in a different light. Still, for me, the crosswordese items and "gimmes" balanced and provided footholds for the trickier entries.

AVILA didn't come right away, but VIDAL did, which led to AVAST, which led to STAT, which showed me IDEAL. Then AVILA was there.

(The SE corner was almost an exception, but built up through a very easily clued SINAI and ELOI.)

That's a well-planned puzzle -- and fun, real cross-wording, to me.

jubjub 12:32 PM  

Too hard for me! I had cASTS instead of LASTS, thinking that maybe cobblers make casts of feet. Never got ASHPIT either, went ASHtray -> ASHcan -> ASHPoT. Also never got RAILBIRDS ... I considered RAILroaDS...

No trouble with Ent for me, as I saw the AXEL Foley clue first, and thought, huh, that's nice, ELF instead of Ent.

So far, not a great start for me this week! Haven't completed either puzzle!

Anonymous 12:37 PM  

I'm with Scott on this one. I like to slowly work my way up the week to difficult puzzles. Today's caught me by surprise and really without my thinking cap. After a while, I actually just lost interest in this puzzle and simply didn't finish it. I have never done that on a Tuesday. Bleh. More of an aggrivating puzzle than fun on for me. A snoozer.

Anonymous 12:40 PM  

There is a reason that McDonald's makes a zillion dollars a year. Unlike Forrest Gump's box of chawclates, you always know what you're going to get. Whether you are in Kansas City or Tulsa, the mechanically processed chicken nuggets show up looking and tasting the same.

The only way I can describe my feeling about this puzzle is "unsettling." While I appreciate a tough puzzle as much as the next guy (or gal), part of the fun for me is getting into the mindset of the puzzle and the expectation of what "level" we are on. This was simply too difficult for a tuesday. When I first started doing the NYT, I would only do monday and tuesday and an occassional wednesday. I would not want to be an entry-level solver trying to tackle this thing.

I always like to see Brooklyn in da house (dem bums).


Anonymous 1:10 PM  

Our ASHPIT is not "such a little place". I had no idea how big it is! Our house is 80 years old, we've lived here 32 years, and I had never emptied the ash pit. One day I couldn't get any more ashes beyond the little flap door in the floor at the back of the fireplace, so I went to the basement where I found a small door behind the clothes dryer that I had never noticed before. I put a box from the liquor store under it and opened the door. The box was totally insufficient. A truly giant volume of ashes came out, the dust of which floated all over the house to my wife's horror.

Rex Parker 1:11 PM  


SethG told me about running into a Carleton person who read my blog. I'm guessing that's you. Cool. Come back and comment any time.


PS you actually meant A PEAL TO THE CROWD ... I love that your correction was still wrong. That's very ... me.

Anonymous 1:38 PM  

The opening of the Canterbury Tales:

Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote
The droghte of Marche hath perced to the roote
And bathed every veyne in swich licour
Of which vertu engendred is the flour...

SethG 1:56 PM  

Bill from NJ, I'll give you the old-fashioned with the first couple, but can't agree with MATT and AXEL as "new". Both gimmes, but from over 20 years ago!

RP, CinEdina's the one. Welcome Cin! You're doing better than I am--California was a mess for me. I had glass SHOE, and somehow I had TAR PIT, and I didn't know ELL. So ICE SHEET remained hidden, I'd guessed I DO (say), and then there was my biggest problem: didn't know what a carillon was. I was thinking maybe of a cross between a caribou and carrion, and PEAL was certainly not the sound I was expecting. It took me about 5 minutes to get A PEAL TO THE CLOUD as I only had 13 crosses in place.

Unknown 2:04 PM  

I think the observations about this puzzle here and in other blogs are interestingly representative of how hard it is for puzzle-makers and editors to get things just right when it comes to difficulty. “This porridge is too hot……”

It also points to how, in a very real way, it is harder to build early week puzzles. I think that judging a clue’s resistance level by degrees is far harder than cluing a Friday or Saturday where you’re generally just trying for stumpers and misdirection at every turn. With an early-week, you want the solver to get it but not immediately. Quick on Mon/ quick +1 Tuesday/ quick +2 Wed, etc. Honestly I think the editors (all) do a good job with that. Getting 76 Tuesday (not Monday, not Wednesday and certainly not Thursday, god forbid Friday/Saturday) clues into a puzzle is challenging.

When I wrote this puzzle I did think it would go later in the week given some of the fill and I clued it accordingly. I presume Will thought that the theme warranted an earlier position and he did, in fact, lessen the difficulty of some of the clues. For example, for the fill LEOS, I had “Some summer arrivals” and he changed it to “A majority of August births”…clearly trying to Tuesday it up. There were several such changes.

My point here is not to be defensive at all. Most of the comments about the puzzle were positive. Simply, I just wanted to weigh in from a construction point of view that getting Goldilocks’ bed just the right softness is, in my view, at least as hard as getting the thing into a grid in the first place.

Joon 2:18 PM  

i liked this puzzle, but i also found it to be a bit of a twilight-zone experience for a tuesday, what with VIRTU and very late-week cluing for AVILA, LASTS, RIPON, ROSE, and ELL. seriously, every single one of those could have been made quite straightforward with a change in cluing, especially LASTS. (RIP ON would have been a fun alternative to RIPON. although i'm happy to learn interesting trivia like the bit about the republican party, i'm not expecting it on a tuesday.) overall, this was my slowest tuesday in three months, and that includes the infamous will nediger SYZYGY/FERULE/PFC puzzle (which i actually thought wasn't too tough).

JannieB 2:20 PM  


Well said. It might help us to know if, when constructors submit a puzzle they are pitching it to a specific day, or if Will takes a look and says, "Yeah, with a bit of tweaking, that's a great Tuesday." Hopefully it's the latter.

I am in awe of the talent and creativity involved in constructing a puzzle that's clever, fresh, symmetrical, and entertaining. For all our carping on this blog, I think we recognize how much effort is involved in constructing and editing puzzles to such high standards Thanks!

Joon 2:23 PM  

ken, i know exactly how you feel. i recently learned that i'll have a puzzle published in the NYT (yay!), but it's a puzzle i thought would be a thursday and will says it'll run on a tuesday (uh-oh). i've got my fingers crossed, but it's not an obvious theme and the cluing will have to be overhauled pretty seriously for it to be appropriate for a tuesday. i'm already steeling myself against rex ripping me a new one 9-10 months from now.

Anonymous 2:38 PM  

I wonder if we'll have an Independence-themed Friday, and Will moved the other puzzles up a day. Now I can't wait for tonight's puzzle to see how hard it was. I'm with Rex, this was a high-6 minute puzzle, longer than usual for a Tuesday.

I liked the theme, by the way. It was helpful but still not easy when I figured it out.

Anonymous 2:38 PM  

I wonder if we'll have an Independence-themed Friday, and Will moved the other puzzles up a day. Now I can't wait for tonight's puzzle to see how hard it was. I'm with Rex, this was a high-6 minute puzzle, longer than usual for a Tuesday.

I liked the theme, by the way. It was helpful but still not easy when I figured it out.

Anonymous 2:44 PM  

Liked the theme entries, but (like many here) found the puzzle surprisingly hard and obscurity-laden for a Tuesday. I happened to know 4D:LASTS only because years ago I read an expository math article that pretended Fermat was a cobbler to force a pun on "Fermat's Last Theorem" that made even me grimace. But I still think a cobbler should be somebody who makes cobblestones (when it's not a delicious fruit pie).

48A:ASHPIT -- better that than my first thought on seeing A__PIT, let alone treedweller's suggestion @9:49...


Anonymous 2:44 PM  

Liked the theme entries, but (like many here) found the puzzle surprisingly hard and obscurity-laden for a Tuesday. I happened to know 4D:LASTS only because years ago I read an expository math article that pretended Fermat was a cobbler to force a pun on "Fermat's Last Theorem" that made even me grimace. But I still think a cobbler should be somebody who makes cobblestones (when it's not a delicious fruit pie).

48A:ASHPIT -- better that than my first thought on seeing A__PIT, let alone treedweller's suggestion @9:49...


JannieB 2:54 PM  

@joon - Congratulations!!!!!

Anonymous 2:56 PM  

From today's NYT "Drug Arrests Were Real; the Badge was Fake":
a woman — whose identity is unknown — answered with the words “multijurisdictional task force," and said that the city’s request for federal services was under review, ...Mr. Jakob adapted the nonexistent task force name from the “Beverly Hills Cop” movies starring Eddie Murphy.

“Not only were these officers taken in, but so was everybody else,”

68 A) Seven-year stretch (TEENS) was great.

foodie 2:59 PM  

Still driving, and Rex you provided the entertainment through Nevada. Your comments re VIRTU were LOL hilarious!

IMO, the only thing that was wrong with the puzzle is the expectation for what a Tuesday should look like, and I appreciate Mr. Bessette's comments about how hard that was to gauge. So, once I got over my annoyance with myself (it's only Tuesday, why do I stink?), and figured out the theme, it had many ingredients I liked, especially that both the initial phrase and the derivative made good sense, and discovering the theme actually helped solving... gave me "A RESTING OFFICER" which opened up that tricky NW section.

I too had a scary moment there, where I had A--PIT and first thought well may be ARMPIT? Then got the S and had to stop thinking about body parts...

Still, no googling, and learned EBBETS! So feel good about it...

Our little game driving across country-- Where can we find the Times to do the puzzle on paper...I'm expecting a dry spell.

@ChefBea: Hope you're doing OK, and even doing the puzzle...

@Joon: Woohoo for you!!!

Anonymous 3:10 PM  

ken's comment above made me wonder:

is it possible for just anyone to create and submit a puzzle to the NYTimes, or do you have to be an "established" puzzle creator for them to even look at your submission seriously? If the latter, how does one become an "established" author to begin with?

just curious.

-ronathan :-)

Unknown 3:29 PM  

ronathan...join cruciverb as a Gold Member and all the details are there along with a community of helpful souls. Bottom line, yes, even you and I can submit a puzzle. You first.

Here is the link;

janie 3:32 PM  

i think joon is new to the pool of nyt constructors, so take heart, ronathan!

and joon: congrats!!

thx, too, to ken for positing the constructor's pov (ditto andrea yesterday).



Anonymous 3:32 PM  

jOON -- Way to go, congratulations. Nine to ten months seems like a very long wait. And someone told me delayed gratification was coming early this year....

Orange 3:51 PM  

It is important to note that "cinedina" parses as C. in Edina. Anyone from Edina, MN (or Enid, OK) is crossword royalty! They have instant cred in the crossword blogosphere. (Also anyone who owns an AMATI or STRAD.)

Congrats, Joon. Here's hoping your puzzle leapfrogs over some of the backlog and finds itself in the Times by year's end...

CinEdina 3:54 PM  

Thanks for kindly correcting my correction. It is very me to do such a thing as well. Also, in a former life I was an attorney so including an extra P might have been my subconscious taking over. Notice I typed it incorrectly in both of the posts.

The syzygy/ferule puzzle was one of my favorites just because I knew syzygy right away. My Carleton roommate was a member of the first Syzygy ultimate team. I remember thinking way back when, what in the *&^# is a syzygy?? Also, I get very happy anytime I know an answer that stumps some of the pros on this site (is that sick?). Most of the time I am struggling to remember all of the crosswordese that begins with an E.

CinEdina 4:11 PM  


I knew you would pick up on the Edina part! I briefly considered using "Edinite" as my identity, but after Googling it I found the following entry at urbandictionary.com:

Edinite- a person of or living in Edina, MN. Generally of the rich variety.

Used in a sentence-
Watch that Edinite teenager get into their Hummer H2.

That definition completely repulsed me as many of us reluctant Edinites would NEVER want to be characterized that way. Besides, I'm not rich. So I decided to go for CinEdina. BTW, I have never seen a teenager here get into a Hummer H2 (BMWs, though).

Sorry for surpassing the three post limit, but since Orange said I was crossword royalty can you cut me some slack just this once?

Anonymous 4:18 PM  

Today's the first time I've ever ventured onto this blog. I don't miss RP a day, but just never thought I'd being making any comments. Turns out I'm from Edina, orange and that's what I thought cinedina meant. Small world. Crossword royalty? I'll have to look into that!

Anonymous 4:29 PM  

RAILBIRDS. T'was a gimme because I myself am one... Churchill Downs spring meet is coming to an end and so I'll have to wait until October for the fall meet to win back the money those quadrupeds stole from me!

I love a good challenge.

Anonymous 5:16 PM  


Thanks for the info, but despite the fact that I've been doing crosswords off and on since I was in high school, I don't think I'm good enough yet to construct a NYTimes-worthy puzzle.

On the other hand, my poor-as-dirt graduate student eyes could not help but notice this tidbit of information; one can get paid $200 for a puzzle that ends up as a daily, and $1000 for a Sunday!

Hmmm. . .

-ronathan :-)

ps- let me add my congrats to joon for getting your puzzle submitted. hope to see it soon.

mac 5:25 PM  

First of all, I completely with Jeffrey/crosscan, so thank you all, you know who you are. And Cross, happy Canada Day (actually accidentally typed Canaday).

I had many of the same problems Rex had, with the NW the hardest, but also filling in Ent, and didn't know some of the clues at all. I liked the theme a lot, got it from A peal to the crowd, and some of the clueing is great (Gore, Seven-year stretch). Ell was a gimme, archaic but used in several languages, and so was last, because I have to admit to a shoe-fetish..... Met Stuart Weitzman last year at a dinner party!

Anonymous 5:58 PM  

What struck me about this puzzle was that there were three (!) answers that were E_ _ I, which made me wonder, first, how often do etui and eloi (which I consider interchangeable, often saying in casual conversation "I need a new application of lipstick but have misplaced my eloi") appear together in a puzzle; second, how often have there been three (!) E _ _ I answers; and third, just how many more E _ _ I's are out there looming?

Anonymous 6:30 PM  

I haven't posted in a long time (though I'm always lurking). Had to comment because I felt I was the only one who had trouble with ABOU!!! Can that be true? Everyone else thinks of this as common knowledge? Back to the drawing board.

Anonymous 6:44 PM  

Susie, little Susie, have you heard
the news?
The goslings must go barefoot because
they've no shoes.
The cobbler has leather but no last
to use
Who will make the goslings s new pair
if shoes?

An English version of children's song in Handsel and Gretel.

Remember this. It can come in handy.


Anonymous 6:56 PM  

Reading through the comments, I was surprised at how long it took for ARMPIT to show up, either implicitly or explicitly. Since ASHCAN wasn't going to work I went to the Oxter (Scottish for ARMPIT), probably because I watch too much commercial television, and therefore worry a lot about deodorant residue, restless leg syndrome, the heartbreak of psoriasis, etc.

While curiously struggling with this puzzle, I was starting to wonder whether I was suffering from summertime brainpower paucity, or worse. So, greeted with some relief Rex's Challenging and the consensus of unusual difficulty. It's not often on a Tuesday that you have to start putting together the verbal tinkertoy of several crossings before scribbling in an answer. I had a nice alternative construction going based on IMPELS for the Urges Clue before realizing that foundation was unsound.

Doc John 7:39 PM  

I did think this puzzle was harder than the average Tuesday but still finished it fast enough to give my husband wonder. We were working out back and I said, "Can I have 5 minutes to do the puzzle? OK, it's Tuesday, maybe 10." When I finished he said, "Already?"
Lots of weird fill to trip me up, especially in the NC/VA region. The Y in IDYL was the last to fill in and only afterward did I parse TYPE A.
The Pacific NW was also very difficult but it wasn't for not knowing VIDAL or LASTS (even though STAT is not really an order but more of a command but I guess a command is an order so never mind). It was VIRTU that tripped me up but AVILA had to be the answer so I stuck with the V.

Lots of clues that I luckily got through the crosses: ABOU, RIPON, ETUI, RAILBIRDS come to mind.

I only knew LEOS because I was at a party the other day where someone mentioned that most of his family were all born in August and were thus all LEOS. Synchronicity!

So yes, it was a challenging Tuesday.

RDA can be plural. "I checked the RDAs on this jar of vitamins and it looks pretty complete."

Interesting that ITCHES showed up in the same puzzle that a "seven year" clue was found.

I'm suprised that Rex didn't mention MATT Groening's appearance in the puzzle.

Finally, congrats Joon!

Pythia 7:40 PM  

While having my nails done after work today, I espied a woman multitasking -- having a pedicure and solving the puzzle. She seemed exasperated and said out loud, to no one in particular, that she wanted to relax and instead this (the puzzle) was frustrating and it must be a mistake that such a hard puzzle was in the paper on Tuesday.

Not possible, is it?

miriam b 7:57 PM  

And from me, another huzzah for Joon.

I'm a LEO, and in fact had a wonderful orange cat named LEO who died a couple of years ago at about age 16. He was moderately affected by cerebellar hypoplasia but was a happy guy who just happened to have a really awkward gait.

All the Sotheby's and Christie's auction catalogs list tons of objets de virtu. I find these catalogs fascinating, though my status as Gentlewoman in Reduced Circumstances precludes my placing a bid on any of these items.

A good solid puzzle today.

green mantis 8:27 PM  

Holy etui, this was not an easy puzzle for me. Did not hate it, but it seemed to hail from some solar system with which I am unfamiliar. Rough going, although I just learned the term "last" yesterday while browsing the blog thesartorialist, which is all about, um, tweed, I think.

Anyway, there was a picture of a wall chock full of lasts from the past billion years of customers at a famous cobbler's shop, including Frank Sinatra's lasts. Perhaps his last lasts.

Lastly, I liked the google blog guy's rant. For me, today's puzzle fell into the department he's complaining about more than most. Lots of little pieces that won't be commonsense to a new solver; lots of words and people/places that are just, well, out there. I wouldn't like the puzzle if I weren't already steeped in crosswordese.

alanrichard 8:53 PM  

I liked this puzzle but I thought it was very easy. By the time I was at the them of dropping the second letter I was almost done. I got Axel (Foley) right away and that whole section. We do this at lunch at work and there wasn't a rival solver who was even came close! Some of the guys at work consider that a test of their solving abilities. I just consider this a tribute to the fun of doing the puzzles. All kidding aside this was a fun puzzle but it was easy - but today is Tuesday. Even though i got Avila contexturally - I did learn something new.

Anonymous 9:13 PM  

I knew LAST from the book/movie The Return Of Martin Guerre. Army guy's buddy dies in the war, he trades ID tags and goes back to buddy's hometown and lives his life. Wife never really liked husband and she likes the new guy, so she goes along with it and convinces everyone that it's really him. The only person to be able to prove for certain that it's not him is ...(duh duh DUH) the cobbler who has a LAST for the dead guy's shoes.

Anonymous 9:17 PM  

IMO this puzzle is better suited for a Friday. I found this to be a very difficult puzzle, and did not finish even with help from the Google.
Struggled with...


Have a great day folks.

Bill from NJ 10:53 PM  


From a pop culture perspective, Eddie Murphy and The Simpsons are new and yet, as you noted, they are twenty years old.


Joon 11:00 PM  

thanks, everybody. i wasn't expecting such a response--i wasn't counting, but it feels like this is more people than congratulated doc john on getting married! what does that say about this group? i don't want to read too much into it, but let's just (charitably) say it means we're keenly interested in the NYT crossword.

the google blog guy was pretty funny, actually. i don't agree with him, but it didn't sound like he was all that serious. as will shortz is fond of saying... "it's your puzzle! solve it any way you like."

pamjo, ELOI isn't even in the top three E__I answers. ETUI is #1 with 68 hits, followed by ESAI (morales) with 62 and then EREI (saw elba) with 51. ELOI is right behind with 50 (including today), and then ELHI at 40 (yuck). rounding out the list is EQUI- (21), EX-GI (3, counting today), EGLI (italian for "he"; 2 hits) and ESSI (conjugation of latin ESSE) with a single appearance. ELOI and ETUI have never appeared in the same puzzle before (in the shortz era), but i don't have enough energy to look through all the other E__I words for a threepeat. i'm guessing it hasn't happened before.

by the way, if you don't know about jimH's XWord Info site, you definitely have to check it out.

mac 11:07 PM  

Joon: one explanation for all the responses may be that a lot of us are aspiring constructors?

How about that Napoleon quote starting "ere I"... Seem to have seen that a few times.

Congratulations on the acceptance of your puzzle!

mac 11:13 PM  

Reading that last bit you added to your blog made me laugh; it reminds me of many non-crossword-solving people in my life, including my husband, who calls them cruel and unusual punishment.... I think a lot of them can't concentrate long enough.

mac 11:19 PM  

Sorry, can't edit my Joon comment, please delete the second line, he already mentioned it......

foodie 12:01 AM  

Well, to confirm the Google guy's worst accusations, I searched Abou Ben Adham, in part because of Johnson's query earlier today. But that name had been bugging me because it makes no sense! Abou means father, Ben means son, so Abou Ben Adhem would be the father of the son of Adhem, which would make him non other than the big Adhem himself! Sure enough, this is a distortion. This is a famous Sufi Moslem whose name is Ibrahim Ben Adbem. He was probably the Abou of someone (either in reality or as a nickname), and this is what was used in the poem. Mystery solved, thanks to Google!

Anonymous 10:23 AM  

Hello everyone...I'm the trouble maker that has been labeled as "Google Guy" in your many comments. It's a solid nickname and better than what I usually get, so I'll take it.

Thanks to Rex for the plug even if it was somewhat reluctant: "PS here is a somewhat funny, somewhat self-effacing slam on all of you who found me by googling." A lot of qualifications in that complement, but I'll take it.

And for those, who commented on my blog, thanks for the participation and while I don't expect to see you back, I hope you do find it in your hearts to forgive me for the cheater comments. I won't change them, of course...what kind of blogger would I be then?

Best of luck on the next puzzle.


Anonymous 12:18 PM  

For some reason the puzzle in syndication (at least in St. Louis) is five weeks behind again. I would only comment that despite many comments regarding whether it was "Tuesday" level or later -- I finished without external helps, which I rarely accomplish on a Friday/Saturday puzzle. It was Tuesday enough for me.

Anonymous 12:43 PM  

Ouch, "Seattle team, for short". Umm Oklahoma Raiders?

The syndicated puzzle arrived in the Seattle Times bare weeks after the Sonics left town....

Anonymous 2:01 PM  

This sucks.

Creek 2:23 PM  

I didn't get 62D, which reads: "23-across winter setting:Abbr." The answer is CST along with 23 A which is Tulsa, OK. How is "CST Tulsa, OK," a winter setting? Thermostat? Snowy woodland scene? Huh?

Anonymous 2:30 PM  

Guess puzzle solving ease comes from practice. When I first started doing puzzles, long before PC's, this would have been a real stumper, but having lived though a million or so ashpits, ells and abous, this one fell easily. Never saw virtu and a couple of the others that other got hung up on. Only pause came at the ungainly exgi-never heard of axel in this context, but what else would fit? As I've noted before, when some of you young'uns get more practice the world had better stand back-just as the four minute mile fell, so will the three minute puzzle!

Jeffrey 2:46 PM  

@creek: CST = Central Standard Time.

Summer setting would be CDT, Central Daylight Time.

Anonymous 4:42 PM  

@crosscan: You're not in syndication are you? Are you responding from the future? I wonder if any of the other regular commenters ever looks back at the comments from six weeks behind. I often feel compelled to respond to some of the comments but assume that it will only be read by Rex and those of us living in the past. However, if that's not the case then congratulations to Doc John and Joon.

Anonymous 4:51 PM  

I guess technically I'm the one responding from the future. It's my puzzles that live in the past. Much like this one. If Axel Foley counts as recent pop culture then I'm going to need to break out my leg warmers and start loading up on Aquanet. Long live the eighties!

Jeffrey 4:51 PM  

@syndakate: I am in the future. As a signed in responder, I usually check the email responses field to follow the conversation.

Therefore, I get emails from syndication-land although I don't actively go back to the prior postings. Not sure if others do this or not.

Ironically, joon's puzzle appeared today [Aug 5].

Julie 10:28 PM  

Sandy said...

If you confidently write in "ent" for "elf," everything goes haywire for a while.

Heck - try confidently filling "orc" and then eventually "correcting" it to "ent"!!! Took such a long time to correct.

In the slim chance that Joon will see it, congrats - I can't even imagine aspiring to do anything beyond solving at a decent time!

Very challenging puzzle for me, but glad to finish without googling, especially after finding out how we who sometimes must google are seen, hahaha. Loved that commentary - made me laugh out loud.

Okay - back to the future for me...


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