SUNDAY, Mar. 22, 2009 - J Pahk/M Matera (Eponymous Dr Alzheimer / Having only forepart visible beast in heraldry / Typeface imitative of handwriting)

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: "Closing the Deal" - nine theme answers are all phrases that end with words that are also card games

Word of the Day: ISSUANT - adj.

  1. Heraldry. Designating an animal with only the upper part depicted.
  2. Archaic. Emerging.
An interesting theme that I never saw. Finished and then went back trying to understand what the theme could have been. It's obvious, really, but since none of the clues for the theme answers seemed to have any unifying principle, the theme never dawned on me. Admittedly, I wasn't looking too hard, but still, weird. I like the theme, even though I've never heard of the card game SET. I thought maybe the neighboring ZOOT SUITS was the theme answer, SUITS seeming a much more likely name for a card game, but no, symmetry would not allow for that. So I looked up SET, and there it is. A real thing.

Theme answers:

  • 25A: Painful prod (red-hot POKER)
  • 27A: Engagement gift (diamond SOLITAIRE)
  • 50A: Conflict of 1973 (Yom Kippur WAR)
  • 57A: Showcase Showdown prize, perhaps (dinette SET)
  • 67A: Fancy salad ingredients (artichoke HEARTS)
  • 83A: Speakeasy supply (bathtub GIN)
  • 92A: Subject of a nursery rhyme that has only eight different words (London BRIDGE)
  • 109A: Big name in real estate (Century TWENTY-ONE) - they do not write out the number, but OK
  • 119A: Classic name in chain restaurants (Pizzeria UNO) - if memory serves, many people across the country know Nothing of this Pizzeria. We have one in town, so no problem here.

What I didn't like so much about the puzzle was the deluge of answers that seemed not to be real things. Nutty names were the biggest problem. I have a lot of respect for a puzzle that is reasonably dense thematically and has a pretty high degree of Scrabbliness. And yet it felt a bit like the puzzle got ugly and iffy in places because the grid was straining to be so K- and Z-filled. Any one or two of the following names would be OK in a puzzle, but this many ... just hurt:

  • ROS (38D: Author Asquith of children's books)
  • ALOIS (34D: Eponymous Dr. Alzheimer)
  • LEE AAKER (65A: Star of 1950s TV's "The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin") - this was the real groaner. I literally stopped my timer and looked it up once I got it. Ugh. The guy's name looks like a minor planet in the Star Wars universe. Maybe fans of "Duffy's Tavern" knew this. Not me.
  • ITURBI (69D: Pianist Jose) - I know that I have seen his name before, but that didn't help much today. I got two other names stuck in my head: Hideki IRABU and Claudio ARRAU (though perhaps if the clue had been asking for ARRAU, my brain would have gone to ITURBI - who knows?).

  • PYE (95A: English poet laureate Henry) - that little section of threes was a killer for me, as I can't spell TOW-HEADED (TOE!) and so had No idea what 85D: Certain m.p.g. rating: Abbr. was supposed to be. HE... HE... once I got the "W" then HWY became obvious.
  • EGDON (77D: Thomas Hardy's _____ Heath) - I've read 4-5 Hardy novels in my time, but all I remember in terms of geography is WESSEX.
  • NICOLE (41D: Designer Miller) - at least NICOLE looks like a name someone might actually have.
The cluing was also a bit too clever for its own good in places. I still don't understand the clue on UNIT (113D: Second, e.g.). Is it a math thing? A military thing? Is KTS supposed to be "karats?" As in gold. So pure (100%) gold is 24 KTS (49D: 24 of them = 100%: Abbr.)? I would have preferred a chess piece clue here, which is really, really saying something. Why would a comic, in particular, say "TOP THIS?" (84D: With 62-Across, comic's challenge). Is he or she at some kind of Comedy Slam? Sounds more like a rhetorical question than a "challenge."

Then there's the non-name stuff that didn't go down too well. NAOH is ugly as sin (111D: Sodium hydroxide, chemically). CLONK is in fourth place, at best, in the "Noises You Can Make From CL-NK" contest (35D: Dull, hollow sound). DAMOZEL (93D: Young woman, old style) appears to have modern currency only as the title of a painting by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, "The Blessed DAMOZEL." Weird - those pre-Raphaelites were all self-conscious medievalists - that word was "old style" even to Rossetti. Speaking of old-style words, you'd have to be into heraldry to have any clue what ISSUANT was (98A: Having only the forepart visible, as a beast in heraldry). That whole MIRABEL section (88A: Montreal-_____ International Airport) was bad news for me. An airport I didn't know ... ITURBI and ISSUANT ... a singular @!@#ing KUDO (81A: Singular praise?). Aargh. RONDE was new to me (6D: Typeface imitative of handwriting), SPIREA stirred only dim memories (42D: Flowering shrub), and OZMA ended up, sadly, as OZMO - clearly a princess's name should end in "A," but ESOS was an instinctive entry (118D: Juan's "those") and I never thought to change it.

I ended up mixing up stuff I didn't know with ugly stuff in that last paragraph, so let's move on to the good stuff. BATHTUB GIN is fantastic, as are ZOOT SUITS (52A: Bygone party attire) and DINETTE SET. HATE MAIL (36D: Often-anonymous intimidation technique), while a downer, is fresh and original. CROW BAR (15D: One with prier engagements?) and TAKES A WALK (16D: Leaves) right next to each other makes me think of a very cool, very violent mob movie. You know, tell one guy to TAKE A WALK so you can beat the remaining guy with a CROW BAR. That's how it's done, right? Anyway, good, vivid stuff. Also like ARTICHOKE HEARTS being at the "heart" of the puzzle.


  • 21A: Manuscript marks noting possible errors (obeli) - I learned this from crosswords. Used in ancient manuscripts, just to be clear. Singular is "obelus" [from Late Latin obelus, Gr. obelos, spit]
  • 30A: In Sicily it's about 10,920 ft. high (Mt. Etna) - ever since my MT. ABO / MOABO disaster at the tournament, I'm kind of sour on mountain answers that include the "MT" as part of their names.
  • 76A: Man with cups and pieces (Reese) - cutish. I do love Reese's candy, in general.
  • 103A: "A table, a chair, a bowl of fruit and a _____; what else does a man need to be happy?": Albert Einstein (violin) - well, "woman" didn't fit, and then I got the "V" and remembered that Einstein played.
  • 9D: "Full House" actress Loughlin (Lori) - she might have been in the "WTF!?" category for many of you. Understandable. Sadly, I have a certain familiarity with bad TV, particularly bad bygone TV.
  • 33A: "Zoom-zoom" sloganeer (Mazda) - I wrote MIATA at first. That's partially right.
  • 88D: Home of Mondrian's "Broadway Boogie Woogie" (MoMA) - a museum in four letters, and the work is clearly modern art - there's really only one answer (though maybe the TATE has some modern stuff, I don't know). The painting has such a vibrant, evocative title. The painting itself looks like a road map to Toon Town or a badly frozen Pac-Man screen.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Anonymous 8:53 PM  

One double A name per puzzle, please. And even that's pushing it. I really struggled with this one, particularly in the aforementioned ITURBI/MIRABEL/KUDO Bermuda triangle in the center.

Cute theme though, and clever title.

Anonymous 9:10 PM  

KUDO? Nononononononoonono...
Why not TAPIN and PUDO?
Heck, why not TAPIN and CEZARS and PUZO?

Jeffrey 10:44 PM  

I haven't disliked a puzzle as much as this one in a long time. Too many ridiculous words.

You haven't heard of MIRABEL airport because it CLOSED!!! Maybe SST'S are landing there now.


Anonymous 10:50 PM  

I'm surprised you haven't heard of the card game SET as its featured on the NYT Crossword webpage. Its kinda fun, but can get old after awhile.
Glad you found this medium-challenging, that always makes me feel a little bit better.


Anonymous 11:02 PM  

I was going to say exactly what Crosscan said. First puzzle in a long time I just gave up on and looked at the answers here because there were so many I didn't know and didn't care about, even though I picked up the theme pretty quickly.

I also don't get the link between second and unit. Maybe it has something to do with an apartment?

jae 11:11 PM  

Had pretty much the same trouble spots as Rex. This was tough as there was much I didn't know. I watched Rin Tin Tin as kid but had no idea who the star was. I've never watched Full House but LORI was a gimme. Go figure! Didn't hate it but didn't love it either. Got the theme post solve which, for me, makes a Sun. not as much fun.

My take on Second is that it's a UNIT of time.

In the spirit of full disclosure I had a little family help with St. Catherine's home. Other than that a long but clean solve. Too bad you can't take your entourage to tournaments.

Anonymous 12:46 AM  

Yes, a second is a physical 113D:UNIT. Quite a few other science/math clues, all Downs as it happens: 8D:MESONS, 44D:VALUE (the clue '"x" in an equation' feels iffy to me), 74D:MAGNETIZED (liked that clue), and 111D:NAOH (mentioned already but feels no worse to me than the familiar NACL -- and if you know that sodium=Na then the clue spells out the rest). Oh, and maybe the card game Set (57A), which has more mathematical symmetries than meets the eye -- 1965150720 of them if I calculate correctly. Makes sense since co-constructor Joon Pahk is a physics instructor in the same building as mine (who may also frequent Harvard Square's 119A:PIZZERIAUNO -- that IAUNO ending took a while to parse until I remembered the theme).

Overall I guess I'll give the puzzle one 81A:KUDO (yes, it's legitimate, and as observes it's no worse than "cherry" and "pea" which were once back-formed from the plurals); maybe one kudo each for Joon and Matt. Figured out the theme from the first three entries, and got some use from it in filling in the rest. Didn't mind the 49D:KTS clue (though I'll gladly take a chess clue too). Enjoyed some but not all of the unusual clues (those for 4D:EXAM and 7D:IDEST were not mentioned yet); had to guess too many obscure names from crosses, some gratuitously obscure (e.g. was it really necessary to go that far for the central 63D:IKE?). Didn't know 21A:OBELI but I guess STETS and DELES deserve a break. New clue for 46A:ALLA?

88A:MIRABEL is actually one of three airports in the puzzle (the others are the paired 47A:JFK & 90D:LGA). The fragments DIAMONDS and SUITS (27A, 52A) seem thematic too but have no symmetric counterparts, and while we have HEARTS in 67A there seems to be no CLUB or SPADE in the grid. Well, that's asking a lot from a grid already crammed with thematic entries...


edith b 1:32 AM  

Like Rex, I have a certain familiarity with bad TV. As a person who is more than 30 years older than Rex (with grandchildren), I have a familiarity with multi-generational bad TV which is a long way around the barn way of saying I am familiar with both Lee Aaker and Lori Loughlin, may God help me.

I didn't care much for this puzzle and, as Bambi said to Thumper - or was it vice versa? - "If you can't say something nice, don't say nothin' at all."

Bill from NJ 1:38 AM  

@edith b-

I prefer the flip side of that comment attributed to Alice Roosevelt Longworth, "If you can't say something nice, come sit here by me."

Ellen 4:23 AM  

My father grew up in Montreal, so we visited there often and I was familiar with MIRABEL (though we flew into Dorval). Didn't know until reading Crosscan's comment that it's now closed.

The Mondrian painting was also familiar, as I have a jigsaw puzzle of it. Not easy fitting together all those similar-looking pieces.

Catching up on yesterday's speed-solving conversation ... I don't consciously solve quickly. Like Amy said, it just happens. Besides, I'm a little slower (and getting still slower with age) than the real speed demons, and read every clue (except when I accidentally don't - see this year's inaccurate ACPT).

Speed solving has been compared to speed eating as equally unsatisfying, and perhaps that's true. I don't understand why anyone would want to eat multiple hotdogs in a few minutes. Gross! But I don't feel like I've gulped down a meal after finishing a typical puzzle.

Right now I'm working through Frank Longo's "Vowelless Crosswords" book, which is impossible to speed-solve. Quite a workout, extremely challenging. Without vowels, the normal visual cues and letter patterns are lost. (Note: The book comes out in June and was given to me by a friend who works for the publisher.)

edith b 6:23 AM  

I'm wondering if Second, e.g. cluing UNIT doesn't refer to something more mundane as the film crew who films things not connected to the main shoot or, since joon is a sports fan, a group of substitute players?

Bill from NJ 6:49 AM  

This puzzle had the feeling of the constructor pulling words out of a dusty old hat as with OBELI, ISSUANT and DAMOZEL and to a lesser extent EGDON, PRATE and OZMA?

I remember in the Maleska days developing a slight interest in heraldry and making it my business to familiarize myself with some of the terms.

We saw this constructor just last Friday and I had the same feeling then, too.

Rex Parker 7:54 AM  

"Congratulation! Allow me to offer you this KUDO. A KUDO SOLITAIRE, if you will."

A pea and a cherry I can see and eat. A KUDO, less so.


JannieB 8:32 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
JannieB 8:47 AM  

While I saw the theme very quickly, I just couldn't find any love for this puzzle. It felt very Maleska to me, and not in a good way.

Megan P 9:08 AM  

Didn't much love this one either, but RP's lady in the bathtub is wonderful and so is Bill from NJ's AR Longworth quote.

While the puzzle may disappoint (it IS a Sunday); the blog & its commentators do not. BTW, thanks for Broadway Boogie-Woogie - a great favorite of children and still looking good to an adult.

mommadoc 9:38 AM  

I wanted HRS instead of KTS (49D: 24 of them = 100%: Abbr.) and thought it should be Montreal-Trudeau, but I already has the MI…EL, so I ended up Googling it. I also thought Flame, Jr., was the star of Rin Tin Tin, but there was no way I could get it to fit.

Like Noam, I saw diamond, hearts and suit, and went looking for spades and clubs. Took me a while to count up all the theme answers when I was done, since Uno and Set use completely different decks from the other games. I didn’t feel they belonged.

Rex – while Set is available on the NYT games page, you should absolutely buy a deck for your family. It’s a great game, even for young kids, and age is not necessarily an advantage when playing as a family. (It’s also small, so it travels well.)

Shamik 10:48 AM  

I was smugly liking this puzzle and finishing in a medium time for me at 25:35 until I got to Rex's site and found two letters wrong in the bulls-eye that would have been clear had I checked my answers. Was sure that a comic's challenge was TOP TENS. That left TEOM for the lead singer of Radiohead which is a Natick for me...and I've never cared for seeing Tom as THOM. Just looks pretentious. But the Alibi NKE should have stopped me in my tracks. Oh well.

Still, I liked the puzzle. As for stepdaughter Lauren can beat anyone at that game any day of the week. It's not a game I care for.

Didn't know the vowel heavy LEEAAKER, but then didn't know Duffy's Tavern, either! ; )

sillygoose 11:00 AM  

Hm. What can I say. I have a bit of the flu and I was hoping the puzzle would be a pick me up, but ... it had the opposite effect.

I particularly don't like it when obscure names are impossible to guess at and you could never know if you had them right.

The best example of this in today's puzzle was the mysterious (to me) PYE. I had HWY and had to go off of the central y. I just couldn't think of anything. I don't understand French beverage =THE nor did I really understand TOP, part of the TOP THIS challenge from a comic. There were far too many instances of this in today's puzzle for my liking.
Will I remember Paavo? Lee Aaker? When did the "i" in Igor turn into a Y?

I did enjoy the theme.

Kudo to Reese for his yummy candy.

JoefromMtVernon 11:17 AM  

Sorry, this is supposed to be fun. There was too much fill that led me to believe the creator had to google the answers to come up with clues to make it work.

The puzzle itself was a Nattick Moment.

hazel 11:22 AM  

Thought this puzzle totally rocked - it took me about one minute longer than yesterday's, but the process for me was ALOT more fun. I thought the integration of the theme into the overall puzzle was absolutely stellar.

The theme answers snuck up on me, which I really liked. They didn’t SHOUT at you like so many ? ones do. They really didn't help me solve (w/ the exception of LONDONBRIDGE and gin in BATHTUBGIN), BUT, there was still a v. real since of AHA satisfaction w/in the context of the whole puzzle - or in hindsight.

I'm a relative TYRO so there's alot of crosswordese that's unknown to me (e.g, TYRO), but people here know it because of its frequent use/overuse?. To me, alot of crosswordese are (is?) just obscure words - in the same way that some words here were just obscure. Who knows maybe in a couple of years, Rex will be urging people to commit PAAVO and LEEAAKER to memory. It could be we've seen the birth of some new CROSSWORDESE.

Plus, I liked the overall mix of science, arts, sports (BRAVES!), pop culture and arcania. And on top of all that, I found the cluing more clever than cute - e.g., JFK/LGA. And I thought KUDO was funny.

Great puzzle!

chipperj 11:23 AM  

"medium"-challenging? really?
I know I'm a newbie, but if this puzzle (that according to you should be "thursday-ish" in difficulty) was so difficult, maybe you could give those of us that are lesser mortals a break and just call it challenging. sheesh!

Greene 11:46 AM  

I thought this was a fairly straightforward affair, but a tad on the dull side. I think I completed it only because doing the NYT puzzle every day is now part of my routine. Since I'm a fairly slow solver, it's a bit discouraging to invest well over an hour with so little return. Excuse me now while I go sit by Bill from NJ. :)

I did have one amusing (to me) error, namely 36D where I had filled in HOT E-MAIL instead of HATE MAIL. Sadly, I get a smattering of the latter with absolutely none of the former.

Michael Leddy 11:48 AM  

Part of what made this puzzle disappointing for me was that I missed the pun in its title all the way through solving. So I thought that 27A ("Engagement gift") and 109A ("Big name in real estate") were just about closing deals of various sorts. And I didn't like the idea of an engagement gift as a deal-closer.

I like this puzzle a little more in retrospect, but not much more.

Has anyone ever seen an "Ask Me" sign in real life?

Anonymous 12:12 PM  

too many wtf moments & the theme wasn't interesting enough to make them worth it. this was a clunker for me.

Anonymous 12:25 PM  

Forgot to mention: for a while I had all but the third letter of the post-Xmas shoppers at 31A, and was wondering if MOMS are known for that. I also considered MOTS (as in Members Of the Tribe), which makes more sense, but I couldn't believe the NYTimes puzzle would go there -- though it would fit with the nearby Yom Kippur War... Eventually 15D:CROWBAR pried the answer loose.


Kurisu 12:52 PM  

I agree with the general sentiment that this puzzle wasn't that great. I like puzzles to be challenging in the sense that when you cudgel your brains over an answer, when you finally get it (or see the answer), your reaction is "Ah, I get it" or "Dang, I should have known that" rather than "Huh!?!?!" This puzzle was mostly the latter rather than the former.

miriam b 12:56 PM  

Owing to crosses, I knew REESE was right, but I couldn't divine the significance of the clue. I thought at first that there could be some connection with the Tarot, then tried in vain to relate it to PeeWee Reese. I guess the reason for my befuddlement is that the only chocolate I really like is the very dark unmessed-with kind, such as the Ghirardelli 86% cacao bar; thus, the Reese's products are in my mental inactive file. @Rex: Thanks for enlightening me.

One of my cats is couchant just now, one is rampant, one is passant, and the fourth, whom I just discovered in my bathroom closet, is now issuant.

There was once a radio show called Can you TOP THIS? Listeners sent in jokes which were rated by means of a laugh meter. Panel members then told jokes on the same topic as the listener's submission in hopes of garnering even more laughs. Paltry cash prizes were involved, if memory serves. End of ancient history lesson.

Anonymous 12:57 PM  

@sillygoose: "french beverage" is "THE" with an acute accent on the E, French for TEA.

I agree with most of what's been written about this -- I finished, but it seemed pretty forced. The theme FINALLY came to me after I was about 90% done! (The only answer it helped me get was "Red Hot Poker," yuck!)

(I watched Rin Tin Tin as a child and had NO IDEA about Lee Aaker!)

Parshutr 1:04 PM  

Kudos is a singular word.

Adrian 1:04 PM  

Agree with the critiques and sour sentiments. Two other clunkers I haven't seen anyone complain about yet:

1. K-12 = "ELHI". Really?
2. Why provide the pronunciation key for "At-ten-SHUN" and expect that to clue "order"?

Paavo should have been added to the list of tediously obscure names. A distance runner who hit his prime 90 years ago?

Kudo and unit (of time) were the straight-forward parts of this puzzle.

On the continuum from hard-clever to hard-tedious, this puzzle struck me as much closer to the latter extreme.

Anonymous 1:19 PM  

Top this? TOP THAT!

Orange 1:27 PM  

@Sherry, if a sergeant in the military barks "At-ten-SHUN!" she is giving an ORDER.

I don't know about ASK ME signs, but there's a t-shirt that says "Ask me about my vow of silence." Ha!

Anonymous 1:32 PM  

I DISAGREE with the sentiment here. I thought it was challenging and fun, with lots of new names and a rockin' theme.

I didn't see the theme until the end. I thought at first it might have something to do with "AR" due to the heARts and solitAIRe and wAR but couldn't find any other connections.

Part of the fun of crosswords is learning new words and themes, and figuring them out as you go along, so I have no problem with "issuant" and Jose the piano man (which I originally had as ossuant and Iturbo).

I also liked the fact that it was hard to figure out which were the theme clues. Sometimes they will help you a bit w/ the question mark or an asterisk, so this was more of a challenge.

So bravo to the constructor -- well done. Fun, stimulating way to start a Sunday morning.

hazel 1:33 PM  

@Evil - where are you when I need you?? You almost always have a contrary opinion - and my opinion is being completely overwhelmed by everyone else's. You like the hard ones. C'mon weigh in. I'll PayPal you the $1.50 - oh I think it might be $4.00 for the Sunday. Still, I'll PayPal you.

Anonymous 1:36 PM  

I liked this puzzle. It had a lot of good scrabbly letters, some aha's, and some wtf's. My last square was the ITURBI/MIRABEL intersection. Well, actually the last square was the K in artichoke that I had mistakenly entered as an R. (I figure the typos from typing and from handwriting probably cancel themselves out in the long run.) I always look forward to a quick game of SET; it's been a long time since I've played UNO. I'm in a group that meets weekly to play the German card game Dopplekopf, aka Doko. But I'm not expecting that to show up in a puzzle anytime soon.

Doug 1:37 PM  

Can't recall being this out of sync with a Sunday puzzle in long time. The sun cracked through here in Vancouver and I'm dusting off the bike and my quadriceps!

Anonymous 1:38 PM  

@Crosscan: I agree with your sentiments in general, but isn't it Dorval, of the two Montreal airports I know anything about, that's closed and Mirabel that's still open? Any Quebecois in the house? Help us out here.

@Rex: I'm with ya on "kudo." I groaned when I realized that was the answer. Yes, "pea" was backformed from "pease," but it takes a few decades (or centuries, in cases like this one) for a new back-formation or folk etymology (like "apron" from "napron," based on a folk etymology of "a napron" = "an apron") to standardize. "Kudo" isn't anywhere near there yet.

I found this puzzle to be chronically low-level irritating. Nothing in it was really hard or grossly unfair (somewhat unfair, in a couple of cases), but it was just a rather boring slog. No help from the theme in solving; only got it after the fact.

mac 1:39 PM  

I agree with most of the comments; some fun clues and answers, like 31A Mobs, some just too esoteric. As so often on a Sunday, I just got a little impatient with it, there is just too much of it.

I also started looking for a spade and a club after finding the diamond and the heart... I've got to look up Ozma and Shute.

When Moma had the Mondrian retrospective years ago, they built a full size replica of his studio, and the radio was playing boogie-woogie. American Jazz (is there any other?) is or was very popular in the Netherlands.

PlantieBea 1:41 PM  

I struggled through this and didn't get the theme until the very end. Since my first themed answers were CENTURY TWENTY ONE,PIZZARIA UNO, and DIAMOND SOLITAIRE, I thought that the theme involved adding number-ish descriptions to the ends of the nouns, thus the deal closers. It wasn't unil I finally got RED HOT POKER that the aha moment arrived. I had major problems catching on to the the constructors' cluing; I see and I'm glad that I wasn't alone.

Rex Parker 1:43 PM  


Some days you're in the minority. It happens. To me. A lot. It's not the end of the world.

Problem was Not hardness, as most of the reasonably astute criticisms above have made clear.


Jeffrey 1:44 PM  

@blue Stater - Dorval is now called Montreal-Trudeau but is still the main airport. I flew there in November.

jeff in chicago 1:48 PM  

Ugh. This was more burden than fun. If most Sunday's are like Thursdays, this one felt like Friday. I felt like giving up with less than half the boxes filled. Googled a lot. SADLY, if you ASKME, this was one big CLONK.

THE as fill???

Anonymous 1:53 PM  

Oopsie! Crosscan, I stand corrected. Shoulda googled it first. I was teaching at McGill when the plans and hoopla for Mirabel got started, lost touch that scene in later years, and didn't realize that the whole thing had been deep-sixed. The Wiki article is worth a read -- an epic boondoggle and government failure, or, as my cynical Anglophone friends in Montreal used to say after every fiasco, "Une autre réalisation du gouvernement du Québec" (forgive the shaky French), a sign that used to appear on all provincial government construction sites. Right up there with (closer to home) the Big Dig.

Anonymous 1:55 PM  

What Shin Kokin Wakashu said.

Sherry@1:04 K-12 = ElHi (elementary through high school) is pretty common so this is one of the few things I would not fault this puzzle for.

Anonymous 1:56 PM  

Miatas was 1A last Sunday.
What is IDEST 7D?

PlantieBea 2:00 PM  

Yes, like Anon 1:56 asked, what does I DEST mean? I can't parse this any other way. I had I JEST, but was left with ROJE for harried...

Anonymous 2:02 PM  

Never thought I'd say this but I didn't think the puzzle was that hard. Yeah, some lucky guesses, but I got the theme right away. (although it didn't help me get any other theme answers--it was more like, I filled in the answer and thought oh. another theme answer).

Also, London Bridge has a second verse (Take the key and lock her up..) so eight words isn't right (unless the second verse is a modern...or Bronx, where I grew up...addition. (That's about the level of my culural expertise.)

Anonymous 2:03 PM  

Id est (abbreviated i.e.) is Latin for that is.

hazel 2:18 PM  

@Rex - you've gone and pushed me to the limit (of 3). Don't understand how you distinguish between hardness and the fact that there are words/names that noone seems to know - or want to know. How is that not hard?

It seems to me like the biggest issue is that people think the puzzler was trying too hard to be clever - and this has definitely been a sore point on this site in the past (where I have also usually been in the minority).

Anyway, my appeal to evil was ironic. I'm used to being in the minority - and don't mind it at all.

Thanks for listening!

PlantieBea 2:23 PM  

Thanks Anon for the id est explanation. Of course I use i.e.and know that it means "that is", but didn't know that the abbriviation stood for the Latin words id est. My duh for the day.

Anonymous 2:36 PM  

Actually, Pac-Man meets Mondrian has been done.

I'm not sure if I'm in sync with the griping. I found the puzzle on the challenging side, but not brutally so. I did not have to give up and leave anything for later. Yes, there was a bunch of boring so-what clues, but not more or less than is typical. I don't mind a maze of wackiness or strangeness, so long as I feel it's fair in the end. And since I got AAKER and ITURBI and OZMA and YGOR and the like, I consider it perfectly fine.

What defeated me, and left me kind of sour on the puzzle, was simply not getting the theme. I even looked at UNO and thought, oh, yeah, that ending word is commonly clued as that card game with a special deck.

As for the game SET, I recall actually seeing an ad for it just last week, I think as part of the NYT store ad filler, right next to the crossword puzzle coasters.

The famous ALOIS's I remember are Alzheimer and Senefelder, the latter because of the William McGonagall poem in his honor, and the notorious Schicklgruber. Two famous middle-named ALOIS's are Ratzinger and Schwarzenegger. But you knew that, right?

Anonymous 2:43 PM  

Rotten puzzle. Not so much hard, as it was feeling contrived.

Hated ELHI and DUELS (at noon? I say dawn!) I "got" but don't "get" IDEST and EDU. PAAVO, AAKER, ELY and YGOR together are too much in the obscure naming department.

And since when would you win a DINETTESET in the Showcase Showdown, which tend to be full of big prizes like trips and cars and boats? (There's MY admission of being too familiar with junk tv.)

Usually if I'm stuck I'll come back to the puzzle later. But today, like others, I gave up from disinterest after I finished about 80% of the puzzle.

Stan 2:50 PM  

@Michael Leddy -- I have a large ASK ME sign on my desk at work (I'm a reference librarian).

@edith b -- I think you're right about Second UNIT, a common term in film production.

Enjoyed this puzzle but agree with Rex on obscure spellings in the crosses making it harder than it needed to be. My "Oops!"-brand correction tape got a real workout.

mac 2:57 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
mac 3:03 PM  

@all who spent a weekend in Brooklyn: the Split Decisions looks very familiar.

Anonymous 3:05 PM  

I don't think I can put this much better than @Norm did. There were way too many wtf moments and when all was said and done, it was not worth it. At some point, I simply started to google, freely, happily, and without guilt. At least, I learned a few things.

Anonymous 3:05 PM  

I am really depressed and a little angered right now. Not because of the puzzle, which I tried to enjoy the best I could. I'm sure other constructors will empathize in my plaint here.

I had a 15X15 puzzle with this theme rejected by Shortz a month or two ago. I had four theme entries: DRAWBRIDGE, COLDHEARTS, VIETNAMWAR, and BATHTUBGIN. The rationale that I was given in the email, and confirmed in person at the ACPT last month, was that VIETNAMWAR was too literal, in that WAR in this sense was not clued in a non-WAR context. I thought it was a little strange, seeing as you're not throwing actual grenades in the card game of War.

I am starting to think that the actual rationale for declining the puzzle was that this Sunday puzzle had the same theme and he didn't want to repeat it. That's a perfectly reasonable rationale and I would have accepted it and lamented the fact that I had failed to think of the theme previously.

What really chaps my hide is that YOM KIPPUR WAR (which I had never heard of, by the way) is a WAR in the combat sense.

I don't mind getting puzzles rejected, especially from the Times. But this sort of inconsistency is a bit unsettling.


Ben 3:45 PM  

Rex, there's a museum on the north bank of the Thames called the Tate Modern, which would imply that TATE is not a great answer for a modern art museum clue.

Neither, of course, would TATEMODERN be - unless the clue used a word like "contemporary."


Leon 4:15 PM  

Thanks for the Puzzle Mr. Pahk.

It was hard for a Sunday, but I enjoyed learning some new things.

Back to March Madness.

chefbea 4:18 PM  

I agree with most everyone..Not much fun for a sunday.

Basic cooking instruction is stir IMO.

The best part of the puzzle is artichoke hearts!! Love the hearts and the leaves dipped in hollandaise sauce. Or the small marinated ones added to a salad. Yummm

foodie 4:25 PM  

Early on, I had sections of the top and the bottom completed and nothing in the middle. So, I had SOLITAIRE, UNO and ONE as the last words of the theme and was trying to come up with other words that indicated a single. Seeing LONE and UNIT also in the bottom reinforced my hypothesis. This actually got in the way of solving that middle part which was full of many of the impossibly esoteric answers mentioned by Rex et al.

I also agree that cluing was unduly convoluted or a bit off at time. More importantly, it was the density of tangential cluing with remote answers that wound up making this impossible.

Oh, and in my book, ARTICHOKE HEARTS are not particularly fancy. BTW, artichoke bottoms are much better food...

To me the measure of hard and enjoyable vs. hard and not is this: After the answer is revealed, does it make me smile/have an aha moment or does it make me think: "Never in a million years!"

foodie 4:29 PM  

PS. Rex, I was at Community Food & Juice in Manhattan this am and remembered that you liked the restaurant. At some point, I looked up and saw a family with a tall man wearing a red baseball cap, a pretty brunette woman and a beautiful little girl and I was sure it was you and your family... A second look and I realized it was wishful thinking : )

Anonymous 4:46 PM  

Don't you lefties know there's no such thing as an ex-marine?

archaeoprof 5:07 PM  

I too found this puzzle CLONK-y.

FWIW, I like a puzzle with clever cluing that makes me think awhile before the "aha" moment comes.

This puzzle had a few good moments, like REESE and SPECIES.

But entries like DAMOZEL, NAOH, ITURBI, and EGDON took most of the shine off it.

For me it's gotta be more than fancy combinations of letters.

joho 5:08 PM  

Just about everything's been said at this point. I'm in the unhappy campers group this Sunday, I'm sad to say.

I did finish but with an error at ITURBI/ISSUANT .. where I picked "A" for ASSUANT. Well, at least an ASS is animal. And my other mistake was REEVE for REESE because I thought "cups and pieces" were armor ... which made SIENA VIENA.

So no prize for me today either in accuracy or fun. Wah!

Oh, Foodie ... I always thought we ate through the leaves to get to the "heart" which is the bottom. No?

Glitch 5:25 PM  

Cluing it as "Second e.g." pretty much states it's an example, as in second = unit [of time].

If clued as "Second _____", a phrase would be implied, thus "Second unit", as in film production and possibly sports.

The puzzle and most of the blog are not worth further comments.


foodie 5:44 PM  

@joho, to me, artichoke hearts still have all the fuzz. When you scrape that, you have the bottom. Many salads use artichoke hearts from cans or jars and somehow the bottom is abbreviated... It all actually depends on the type of artichoke and what it's grown for...Good artichoke bottoms are nice and meaty and you can do wonderful things with them, including use them as the base for putting other goodies. I better stop though, or we will be directed to an artichoke blog : )

Fergus, do I recall correctly that you live near the artichoke capital of the world?

chefwen 6:19 PM  

I can usually get through a Sunday puzzle Google free, but NOOOO way I could do this puzzle that way, too many obscure names for moi. Got the theme pretty early on after searching in vain for the spades and the clubs but after getting POKER I said aouw, now I get it.

Noticed that I could have posted last night but after spending much of the evening/night solving this puppy I was too tired to think. Massive amounts of white wine consumed whilst solving might have played in to that decision also.

joho 7:24 PM  

@foodie ... thanks! I think you and I are dealing with semantics here. The heart is the meaty delicious part with or without the fuzz. The fuzz is what I call the "choke!" I'll stop now or else we will be directed to the artichoke blog ....

Unknown 7:39 PM  

What is wrong with me? This was the easiest Sunday Puzzle in weeks for me. There have been quite a few this winter that I haven"t even finished. This one I blew right through. I am feeling more and more out of sync in this world..and things like this confirm that I really am out of sync. I almost want to cry.

fergus 8:00 PM  

Foodie, yeah. Castroville, self-proclaimed is just down the road twenty miles or so, but Brussels sprouts and strawberries are pretty major too. I recall when artichokes would only be around in their prime season (March and April) but now they're available year-round. Don't know how that came about, but I'm glad they are. I'll refrain from cooking and eating preferences.

CLONK, I thought this was a crummy puzzle as I was nearing the end. Even though I liked a bunch of the words and some of the Clues, I agree that too many were duds. Yes, "David" is NUDE but he isn't one really. OK, "x" is a VALU, but it's really "x" because it doesn't have one.

And not enough internal resonance either. A very subjective criticism, I know.

chefbea 8:09 PM  

Semper fi !!!
@aric you are right. My husband is a marine and loves artichokes also the hearts, the bottoms the leaves etc

you are never an ex-marine. I should have caught that

mac 9:01 PM  

This is artichoke central:
@foodie: totally agree, the bottom is where it's at. The best part.
I like artichoke hearts, but only fresh or frozen, and typically they are tiny. The big chokes produce great bottoms, no hearts.
Hate any of it marinated, in jars or cans, just occasionally at a good Italian deli do I find a jar with artichokes on water and vinegar that is edible.

mac 9:05 PM  

@Ben: I think you would find the Mondrians on the South bank, in the Tate Britain, rather than across the water.

mac 9:48 PM  

@Ben: correction, my apologies. The Tate Britain now only shows British art. Mondrian is in the collections of the Tate Modern and the Tate Liverpool.

Anonymous 10:46 PM  

Nasty ugly mean puzzle. I'm thinking of getting a dog just so I can kick it.

Anonymous 11:06 PM  

I don't mind justifying KUDO as a joke (hence the question mark), but I agree that it can't be justified as a real word. Who knows from 200 years? but now it is an illiteracy.

Paul Horan 11:17 PM  

"Can You Top This" was a TV show...

First run in the 50s, then reprised in the 70s with Morey Amsterdam as the host.

I agree though - poorly clued.
-Paul in DC-

SethC 11:23 PM  

@Buster: The clue for DINETTESET is incorrect. It might be a prize during the Showcase, however the Showcase Showdown is when the big wheel is spun, and there are no prizes (other than cash).

Anonymous 9:48 AM  

Unlike most of you, I LOVED this puzzle. It's got a broad range of cultural knowledge, and interesting rare entries. It really tests you!

Anonymous 12:26 PM  

So funny how different people find different things hard. I got stuck on so many of them but KUDO and UNIT were gimmes! A second is a unit of time.

Anonymous 2:26 PM  

The question on question marks from Sunday.
Shouldn't 60 D: Brave activity (BASEBALL) have a quesiton mark to indicate it's punny, ironic solution???

Robin 8:45 AM  

I also missed the theme, even after completing it and staring at the answers, which is why I came to your blog for enlightenment! I may have been misled by the fact that in the International Herald Tribune the puzzle was printed without a line on the right side, so I was trying very hard to see that as part of the theme (closing the deal vs. open-ended grid?). Must have just been a printing error, though.

Anonymous 11:15 PM  

I'm two days late on this because I was away over the weekend. Still, I wanted to say that I liked this puzzle than most of you. Challenging for a Sunday, but possible with lots of interesting fill and a good theme. It took me a while, but I got it all right, even the mysterious Lee A. Aker (or is it Lee Aaker -- I'll have to google this...)

Wayne Rhodes 8:50 AM  

Just discovered this WONDERFUL blog! My wife and I do the puzzle over the course of a few evenings. During the week the puzzles are quick snacks, but we like to savor the one on Sunday.
We pretty much agree with everything people have written about this puzzle (the good AND the bad), but would like to add our 2 cents:
The clue for 59A: stripe was really bad. Even when we started to work in the answer (sort), it was quite a stretch.

Rex Parker 8:58 AM  


Thanks for the kind comment. Love love love new commenters.


boardbtr 3:26 PM  

One week later -- Maybe I missed it on the read through, but I just don't get "harried" being rode. A couple of dictionaries that I checked describe "harried" as an adjective. "Rode" seems to be a verb. Since I wasn't aware of the Ronde font, couldn't come up with for harried and couldn't pull id est out, I blew that section. The other problem area was "EINS" and "SHUTE". My German is weak to nonexistent so I went with EINE and EHUTE. Looked good at the time since I didn't know SHUTE. Other than spending too much time on the puzzle, I was pleased to get most of it without Mr. Google.

Jan C 3:33 PM  

I wanted drab/beson or even besom in the top left. Even though I had already entered Mt Etna. It wasn't until I erased that entire square and started filling again that I finally got over it. That was last part to fall.

This was a tough slog from start to finish. Which isn't always a bad thing. We are completely covered in ash from Mt Redoubt's repeated eruptions, so indoor activities are preferred if not required.

Love the blog, Rex, and the rest of the usual suspects posts. You always manage to make sense of the senseless.

gourmande 4:45 AM  

I forget how I discovered this wonderful blog, it was some time last summer, all that matters is that I enjoy the NYT Sunday Crossword so much more knowing that solving it is just half the fun, the other half comes from reading your review and all the comments that follow. Incidentally, I get the puzzle the following Saturday in my local paper.

So, after lurking for nearly a year I've decided to finally jump in, even though this particular puzzle ranks pretty low on my list.

This one just felt awkward, as if put together by committee. Specifically, there seemed to be a lack of consistency in how the clues were formulated. For example, clues 19A, 86D and 118D gave some indication the answers were not English words, yet 7D did not and the answer was in Latin. Similarly, clues 56A, 17D and 49D hinted that the answers were abbreviations, but 39A and 101A gave no such indication even though the answers clearly contained abbreviations.

As for the theme, I just couldn't figure it out, in fact, I thought it was another Windsor Star misprint (which has happened more than once resulting in considerable frustration) until I checked in here today... for me it was not so much an AHA moment, more of an AYE AYE AYE!

Rex, thanks for providing such an entertaining read!

Octoberprairie 3:44 PM  

Erm, am I the only person who doesn't get #14 Down, Killer APP?? What does it mean? Something mysterious to do with cell phones? Hey, I grew up with five-digit phone numbers you gave to an operator; my mother's first phone was one her uncles and dad and granddads strung along the barbed wire pasture fence in Eastern Colorado. I'm not a true Luddite, but I have a feeling that by the time I'm in the Old Crossword Puzzle Solvers' Home, I'll be one by default.

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