THURSDAY, Jun. 25 — Spirited cries / Red remover maybe / Hinged pair of pictures / Craggy crest / Tee follower

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Constructor: Bill Zais

Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: Number of the Down clue is first word in five theme answers, e.g. 3D: <--- Plastered (sheets to the wind) —> signifying familiar phrase "THREE SHEETS TO THE WIND" (i.e. "drunk"). Repeat same effect at 5-, 7-, 20- and 40-Down

Word of the Day: EPISTLE to Philemon — The Epistle to Philemon is a prison letter from Paul of Tarsus to Philemon, a leader in the Colossian church. It is one of the books of the New Testament of the Christian Bible. The epistle is the most important early Christian writing dealing with forgiveness. (wikipedia)

Late start this morning as normally I rely on the bustle of wife and kid getting ready for work/school and dogs generally spazzing out to wake me up completely, but this morning — last day of school year for wife, third day of summer for daughter, dogs ... uncharacteristically mellow. Not yet hot or bright enough in the morning to force me out of bed (for which I should probably be grateful). At any rate, I don't have tons to say about this puzzle anyway. It's an interesting, odd little construction. The conceit — where the clue number is part of the answer — is something I've seen before, and recently. I think Brendan Emmett Quigley did a puzzle remarkably similar to this over at his site recently. I could be misremembering badly, but I know I've seen this trick some time in the past few months. Anyway, it's clever, though in this case it involves creating a weirdly shaped grid with huge black chunks at top and bottom, likely a byproduct of getting the Downs involved in the theme answers (3, 5, 7, 20 and 40D) to line up in symmetrical fashion. I rated the puzzle Medium mostly because it went from Hard ("What the hell are these damned arrows supposed to mean?") to Easy ("Oh, 3 SHEETS TO THE WIND ... got it") as soon as I grasped the theme. I don't like the arrows in the theme clues, as they confuse more than they clarify. I still don't quite see how they work. I guess they are supposed to be saying "this number is the first word in the answer." Not sure how else you'd indicate the concept, though, without a theme-revealing answer. Maybe the arrow was the best option.

Theme answers:


  • 3. <--- Plastered (sheets to the wind)
  • 5. <--- Gambling game (card stud) — hate the clue here. Something more lively, please. Nearly all these clues today are dull and lifeless. Why didn't KINKS get a music clue (69A: Garden hose problems)? Why (dear god why?) didn't "MAD MEN" get a TV clue!? (29A: Psychos)
  • 7. <--- Sherlock Holmes novel, with "The" ("Percent Solution") — not one of his better known works.
  • 20. <--- One starting a career, perhaps (something)
  • 40. <--- Work period (hour week) — least favorite, as the phrase, in my head, is "40-hour WORK week"; Google seems marginally to back me up on this, though there's plenty of attestation for the "WORK"-less version as well. Alabama votes "WORK"-less!

[first Google hit!]

Lots of plural ugliness today. I can tolerate the plural OTS (35D: What buzzer beaters may lead to, briefly), but RAHRAHS, ETTES, and SYSTS ... less so. RAH is a spirited cry. RAHS would have worked. RAHRAHS (10A: Spirited cries) just sounds stupid. And abbreviating suffixes and (many) abbrevs. is never ideal. Avoid if you can help it. Toughest part of the grid for me was the SW, where EPISTLE would not come. I kept thinking Philemon was some character from mythology or Greek tragedy. Not having EPISTLE kept HOP IN (maybe the best answer in the grid) from showing his face. For reasons I don't quite get, I couldn't see SHEAR even with all letters but the "H" in place.


  • 1A: Formal club: Abbr. (assoc.) — "formal" threw me badly. "Formal?" OK.
  • 16A: Red remover, maybe (eye drop) — clever. Wanted HUAC or something like it.
  • 38A: Hinged pair of pictures (diptych) — very familiar to me from my days as a medievalist.
  • 45A: Either of two emcees (cohost) — oh man I wanted a real name here. Kept trying to think of famous hosts who were related to each other.
  • 47A: Where "wikiwiki" means "to hurry" (Hawaii) — that's just obvious, right? I mean, even if you don't *know* it, just saying the clue out loud pretty much tells you the answer. "Wikiwiki" even looks like "Waikiki."
  • 1D: Craggy crest (arete) — crosswordese 201. I usually look for the word "ridge" in my ARETE clue, so I didn't get this instantly. Just almost instantly.
  • 14D: 20-vol. work (OED) — or you can access it online, where there are no volumes. That is what you will be doing in the fyooture, if you aren't already.
  • 12D: Rarely read letters (spam) — looking for actual letters here, and while many of us ignore spam, LOTS of people read it. If there were no efficacy to SPAM, it wouldn't exist. Plus, sometimes you don't know something is SPAM *until* you read it.
  • 13D: Race before a race (primary) — wanted PRELIM...
  • 46D: Tee follower (hee) — wanted VEE. HEE goes nicely (i.e. ridiculously) with HOO (11D: Part of a sob).

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


Brendan Emmett Quigley 8:19 AM  

Yeah... I made this same gimmick for Time Out New York two years ago and reran it on the blog right after the ACPT. I just put a fill-in-the-blank as a clue, with a parenthetical explanation. Here tis.

Jeffrey 8:20 AM  

Instant theme recognition made this my fastest Thursday solve ever. Neat idea and execution. I like.

joho 8:25 AM  

I agree wholeheartedly with Rex's write up. At first I thought the arrows were going to mean the answers would be written in backwards up from the bottom. Well, that didn't work. Then I got the 3 SHEETSTOTHEWIND and the rest was easy. I think the #'s made it too easy, in fact. I'd like more a struggle on a Thursday.

At seeing the constructor's name at the top, Anais Zais immediately popped into my head. What a cool name.

Abby Friedman 8:32 AM  

Philemon is a character from Ovid's Metamorphoses; Baucis and Philemon are an old couple who are the only people to treat Zeus well when he wanders the earth in disguise. As a reward, he asks what they would like most and they respond that they want to die at the exact same time so neither must live without the other; years later they both turn into trees with embracing branches.

fikink 8:46 AM  

It seems to me when there were such people as "Greasers" in school, the goody-goody-two-shoe crowd were called the RAHRAHS - Can anyone confirm this?

Anonymous 8:52 AM  

Never did get the meaning of the arrows so the puzzle was harder than yesterday.

The Seven Percent Solution was not a True Sherlock Holmes Novel. Doyle didnt even write it. It was a Johnny come lately's
attempt to connect a bunch of dots in Doyles original works!

JannieB 9:08 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
JannieB 9:08 AM  

@fikink - we used to call saddle oxfords (those black and white lace ups) rahrahs because the cheerleaders (ca 1960's) wore them.

I couldn't figure out what the symbols meant but caught onto the theme with the Holmes entry - wasn't that a movie? Seeems like the only place I heard that title.

Okay Thursday for me - too many duplicate entries though - outrun/outgrow; diminutive suffixes, etc. Meh!

toothdoc 9:23 AM  

My comment duplicates yesterday's question to constructors on the use of plurals/abbreviations and variation. Lots of them in the puzzle. Picked up the # clue quickly but didn't tie it to the actual # of the clue till I read RP. That is why I am still a Padawan Puzzler.

Elaine 9:44 AM  

I agree with Crosscan -- thought it was fun! And I find the occasional "weirdly shaped grid" a nice change.

Good Thursday for me!

HudsonHawk 9:45 AM  

I had a similar experience with the arrowed clues. Once I figured out 3 SHEETS TO THE WIND, the others went fast. My only hang-up was in the SW, where I had AAU before AAA, and GET IN before HOP IN, making a mess of SHEAR. I also had the VEE/HEE malapop for 46D.

retired_chemist 10:05 AM  

Good job, Mr. Zais. Fun theme. Took me some time until I saw what the theme was, and then I only saw part of it. The tying of the omitted number to the number if the clue went right over my head. I was considering some sort of rebus, because the theme answers, whatever they were, weren’t fitting my crosses and it was just getting worse as the crosses turned into words that were obviously correct. Like RP, not sure that <--- is a good indicator of the theme, but it did suggest something funny about the start of the answer. Usually my Thursday time is longer than my Wednesday. This week, the reverse.

Said to myself that 34A was ETON because it is THE crossword English town, like ESSEN is THE crossword German city. Didn’t put ETON in because I lacked the courage of my conviction. AVON and possibly others are competitors. Should have gone with my gut

38A DIPTYCH was my WOTD prediction. Nice word. 50D STELE was my runner-up. I lost.

10A was YIPPEES until crosses nixed it, RAH-RAHS IMO being second-rate spirited cries. When was the last time YOU yelled RAH-RAH?

Anonymous 10:21 AM  

The paper edition of the International Herald Tribune had teeny clock faces instead of arrows for the theme clues. Made it harder to figure out, I think...Cheers, Sally

Anonymous 10:23 AM  

I thought the arrows were clever. I really enjoyed this puzzle. Thumbs up!

hazel 10:24 AM  

Very cool puzzle for me. I actually "got it" at 40 hour week, an expression I've heard a lot - more so than 40 hour work week, where work just seems redundant. I guess I don't know of anything to associate with a 40 hour week besides work? I must be sort of boring.

Then, like others, it was just a cakewalk to finish. The gimmick was the best part of the puzzle - agree grid kind of ugly and cluing avg. But the gimmick was cool. So cool, but kind of pitchy.

slypett 10:36 AM  

My fastest Thursday ever. A little elated (did it), a little disappointed (too easy). The only struggle was in the NW, where I instigated a mess with AERIE for ARETE. Luckilly, held on to SAYIT like a bulldog.

Susan 10:42 AM  

47A is obvious even if you don't "know" it but you have to be able to spell Hawaii, which last night I somehow could not. So I was stumped for a good little while... Sigh.

Glitch 10:43 AM  

I had no problem with the arrows (or the puzzle for that matter), however Anon 10:21 / Sally's comment on the "clock faces" in her edition has me "puzzled" ;-)


retired_chemist 10:43 AM  

BEQ's puzzle is just as much fun. Maybe even more. Even knowing the theme in advance didn't tarnish it. Thanks, BEQ!

janie 10:44 AM  

and yes, philemon is also the title of an oft-revised, 1975 off-broadway musical by tom jones and harvey schmidt (who are most famous for the fantasticks).

but that answer just wasn't gonna fit into those 7 squares...


Anonymous 10:50 AM  

I was so focused on the arrows I ignored the numbers ... for a while I thought the gimmick was that you just dropped the number from a common phrase (and I was expecting to come across a clue that somehow explained this). Finally it hit me to look at the number of the clues.

DJG 10:52 AM  

I really enjoyed this puzzle because of the unusual layout and good theme.

I actually was thinking about this for a theme idea a while ago, but was just going to focus on movies/TV shows (5 easy pieces, 30 rock, etc.) Apparently it's already been done twice, so I'll scrap it.

Kudos to Bill Zais.

archaeoprof 10:55 AM  

I liked it too. The theme struck me as fresh and clever.

@Abigail: Philemon and Baucis. Now THERE'S iambic pentameter.

@Rex: with apologies to Wikipedia, the epistle of Philemon has more to do with ancient slavery than with forgiveness.

Anonymous 11:05 AM  

@ Glitch

I'm "puzzled" too! The clock faces are the same for all the theme clues and I can barely make out the hour hand at 11 and minute hand at 12...You almost need a magnifying glass. My IHT is the French one--did anyone else have the same experience?


Ulrich 11:15 AM  

Count me among those who really enjoyed the puzzle, even if it took me a bit longer than others to figure out what the arrows meant. And then I had to ask non-puzzle wife if she a knew a 3--something--to-the--something expression for being drunk--she knew, which forced me to change SHARD to STELE and RAPSEED to LINSEED (I don't even know if rapseeds exist).

An additional plus: I really saw a DIPTYCH in the grid itself, with the cheater squares forming T's in the center at the top and bottom representing the hinges, but that may be the sophisticated euro in me:-)

Anne 11:23 AM  

Diptych was also my word of the day; I had no idea what it was. And I ignored the arrows and was half-way through before seeing there was a number theme as I knew there was a number connected to Percent Solution.

Clever plus fresh plus fun equals a great puzzle.

Denise 11:38 AM  

I didn't recognize the indicators as arrows. I finished the puzzle, thinking there was some pattern to the numbers that I could not perceive -- duh.

I had never heard of the Philomen epistle, and think that if he were the recipient of the letter, that should have been part of the clue. He does not equal epistle.

Thanks for the link to another puzzle. I have become puzzle-obsessed.

jae 11:38 AM  

Caught the theme early with 3 SHEETS and finished this very quickly. Seems like Wed. and Thurs. were reversed this week. Fun puzzle. Now I have to check out the BEQ to see if I already did it.

Anonymous 11:58 AM its not tee-PEE? :(

retired_chemist 11:58 AM  

@ Ulrich - 3 things:

I certainly hope your non-puzzle wife and my non-puzzle wife are different people with the same name....

RAPSEED - seems to be an alternate spell of what I know as RAPESEED.

I'm guessing it is the architect in you that sees the door....

jeff in chicago 12:02 PM  

This one batted me around for about 15 minutes, then I finally got the theme and boom, it was done. With just the C in COHOST, I couldn't stop thinking, "There are two Conans?" Sheesh!

Jet City Gambler 12:13 PM  

Fun puzzle for a Thursday. "The Seven Percent Solution" was also a pretty good film from the 70's, with Holmes as a coke fiend and Alan Arkin playing Sigmund Freud trying to cure his addiction. Great swordfight at the end between Holmes and Moriarty (Laurence Olivier) atop a moving train.

Greene 12:26 PM  

Hello all. Long time no post.

@Anonymous8:52 is correct about "The Seven Percent Solution." The book is not by Conan Doyle, but is rather one in a series of pastiche Holmesian adventures by Nicholas Meyer. The story is something of a psychodrama since it features Holmes dealing with inner demons and getting assistance with his cocaine addiction (from Freud no less).

@JannieB: You are correct. "The Seven Percent Solution" was made into a handsome film in 1976 with a glittery cast including Nicol Williamson as Holmes, Robert Duvall as Watson, and Laurence Olivier as Moriarty. It's quite good and was briefly available on DVD (now alas out of print).

The film features the flat out funniest song ever written by Stephen Sondheim offically called "The Madame's Song," but more generally known as "I Never Do Anything Twice" (which is, of course, the punchline of every refrain of the song). It's terrific fun, but what it's doing in a film about Sherlock Holmes is anybody's guess.

@Jet City Gambler: I see I'm going to need to learn to type faster. :)

Charles Bogle 12:28 PM  

@Rex write-up right on target; am w majority enjoying this puzzle and its clever theme BUT confess I had to peek at Rex's write-up to find out what these backward arrows mean...guess I still have a long way to go before I can spot the gimmick on my own

Am not a bona fide Holmes aficionado but Wiki does not list 7 pc Solution as a Doyle novel. Would be interested in hearing what Holmes purists think...

ASSOC poorly clued; still don't know what STELE is (or ORT); learned now about ARETE; never heard SPAM used re snail mail "letters"; too many directionals and plurals as Rex points out

On other hand, liked DIPTYCH and ARDOR for "Heat"... With the theme, once "sleuthed," on balance a nice feeling of accomplishment personally-

Saw SYSTS much better clued last week in LAT: "Part of CBS"!

Lisa in Kingston 12:40 PM  

@Ulrich, @retired_chemist: rapeseed oil is now known as canola (derived from Canadian oil low acid). (whoohoo, Crosscan!)
Agree with Rex that lots of the clues could have been snazzier. I admit, however, that I was completely flummoxed until the stalwart Gen. Tso marched up. Added to Tso: beta (42A) and Hawaii (47A), then I saw sheets to the wind flapping in the breeze!

Two Ponies 1:08 PM  

I agree with Rex's write up except I think I found it a little more fun.
@ Charles Bogle, Stele is a little obscure but has been seen recently. Ort is crosswordese 101, tuck it away for future use.
Recently I've been going back to the previous day's comments because I have found that the conversation sometimes takes some interesting turns. Take last night, for instance,where I also detected the aroma of sage stuffed trout.

Noam D. Elkies 1:11 PM  

Great idea, reasonably well executed.

I also recall a puzzle in the last few years that had each theme answer seemingly with no clue at all — except for the clue number, which was the clue because the answer was a 15-letter arithmetic operation like THREETIMESSEVEN that gave the same number :-)

I have no complaints about the clues being "lifeless", certainly not if the alternative is random p*p culture references. Not everybody knows or cares about decades-old British rock, or about whatever's showing on the boob tube nowadays. Gratuitously cluing an actual word that way doesn't "liven up" the puzzle: it just adds another you-know-it-or-you-don't name. Some such YKIOYD entries are forced by the constraints of the grid and theme, but let's not pretend that this necessity is a virtue.

Speaking of 29A:MADMEN, isn't anybody going to complain that the clue is sexist? There are female psychos too... "Some psychos" would work.

--NDE (in Montréal)

Anonymous 1:24 PM  

@NDE - Female psychos are called "wives" :)

Anybody try PRIMATE as "race before race"?

Just purchased The Complete Sherlock Holmes Volume I from Barnes and Noble yesterday for some good summer reading

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle 1:25 PM  

One's own creations can become bothersome over time. I surely grew weary of Sherlock Holmes, and in fact I killed him. But the reading public would not allow him to remain washed away by the falls, and I reluctantly brought him back to life. Even after my human powers came to their inevitable end, that Nicholas Meyer fellow continued to sustain Holmes. But at least Holmes is a brilliant, if somewhat flawed, detective, and not a silly purple cow!

PlantieBea 1:31 PM  

I liked this puzzle lots, even with the plurals. I didn't understand the arrow clues right away, but had time enough as I sat in my toothdoc's chair waiting for my mouth to get numb--explaining the puzzle to said toothdoc.

I know DIPTYCH from crosswords. I struggled in the SW where I had SHARD. I still don't get STELE but will investigate with google.

Thanks for the Thursday fun, Bill Zais.

Joe Jr 1:39 PM  

This theme was done in the Maleska years and a few times since then, but Mr. Zais version is by far my favorite.....loved 6-across, 'places to press the flesh'

Fantastic puzzle, Bill Z!!

edith b 1:45 PM  

I thought I had stumbled into Bizarro world with this one. And, Rex, cluing KINKS with a music clue and MADMEN with a TV clue was just going to provoke (needlessly) the pop culture haters that make up a significant subset of your commenters.

I left out an E in 3Down so I had a 3 in 1 Across that held me up. I also thought two answer beginning with OUT had something to do with a theme.

Once I sorted out 3SHEETSTOTHE WIND I ended up solving the puzzle without understanding what I had on my hands. Like others this one took me longer than usual to solve.

Ulrich 1:58 PM  

@r_c: When I called her the "resident puzzle-wife", I was asked about my non-resident puzzle wives (people tend to give me too much credit--@acme!). So, I left out the "resident" and I called her "non-puzzle wife" (a much apter description, even if she helps me out some times with idioms/slang), only to see that she leads a double life. I think I have to drop the "puzzle" part altogether and go back to "former Parker House hostess", which hasn't been challenged so far...

Clark 2:15 PM  

@Ulrich -- I thought of you when I saw the unusual grid and wondered for a moment what might be pictured there. Only when you mentioned it did I see the diptych. Brilliant!

3 SHEETS... got me the number idea. Then I wondered if there was a game 3 CARD STUD. 20 SOMETHING was where the penny dropped. In a flash the pointed-to numbers jumped from being part of the ever present but unnoticed background into the foreground. I liked this puzzle a lot.

Unknown 2:18 PM  

It took me a long time to get going today. The theme didn't help me much- three sheets to the wind came fairly easily, but I didn't make the connection with the clue number.
The SE was where I really got a toe hold, and built slowly from there- a true challenge for me (I have only been solving for about a year), and one I really enjoyed.

SethG 2:26 PM  

I was thinking I got The Seven PERCENT SOLUTION because I read it two years ago, but I really read Chabon's "The Final Solution". Which was another non-Doyle Holmes novel. I bet @andrea i-have-a-name-for-that michaels doesn't have a name for that.

I also forgot about the 7 part, and had to come here to understand the theme after staring at my completed puzzle for a while. Yeah, SOMETHING especially made _no_ sense...

PREMEET for me. Spirited cries are HUZZAHS, ORD is a fORT, GRECIAN is a Formula, and HOO lives in 4C.

imsdave 2:42 PM  

@SethG - I thought HOO's on first.

Daniel Myers 2:47 PM  

Easy, fun puzzle--except, of course, that I thought that a better answer to 68-Across would have been, you know, the "F" word.

Doyle did not write The Seven Percent Solution; Meyer did. But Meyer culled the idea from the Doyle story, "The Sign of Four," from which I quote:

"Sherlock Holmes took his bottle from the corner of the mantel-piece and his hypodermic syringe from its neat morocco case. With his long, white, nervous fingers he adjusted the delicate needle, and rolled back his left shirt-cuff. For some little time his eyes rested thoughtfully upon the sinewy forearm and wrist all dotted and scarred with innumerable puncture-marks. Finally he thrust the sharp point home, pressed down the tiny piston, and sank back into the velvet-lined arm-chair with a long sigh of satisfaction.

A little later in the story Holmes states,

"It is cocaine," he said, "a seven-per-cent solution. Would you care to try it?"

Dr. Watson demurs.

archaeoprof 2:53 PM  

@Charles Bogle & Two Ponies: in archaeology, stele/stela refers to an upright stone or pillar. It comes from Greek, like stylos (column). Most stelae were monuments. Some are inscribed and decorated, but many are plain, making it hard to know what they might have been for. They are extremely common, but their origins are lost in prehistory.

More than you wanted to know...

mac 2:58 PM  

I enjoyed this puzzle, but didn't get the theme until I reached 40D - I had just been plugging away here and there until then. That made me hurry over to the other theme answers and fill them in, making the puzzle a lot easier. Stele was a surprise, and for a moment I had "thistle" for epistle. I also think the clue for 62A is not right.

This morning at the hairdresser's I did the New York Magazine puzzle by Maura Jacobsen. All the way I kept imagining what Rex's critique would be. Probably "lots of crosswordese".

chefbea 3:01 PM  

I thought the little clocks (which I could barely see) were suppose to refer to the numbers on the clock. But then 20 and 40 didnt work. Didnt realize the theme til I got here. Thought it was easier than yesterday.

Blue Stater 3:05 PM  

Grrr! Times Reader, to which I had recourse when the per-copy price of the dead-tree edition hit two bucks in these parts, wouldn't produce the puzzle today! I called the Times help line six hours ago, and was assured they were working on it, apparently to no avail. Anyone else have this problem?

Two Ponies 3:16 PM  

Thanks archaeoprof, I hoped that we could count on you.
I thought the Seven Percent Solution was a very good read.
For the nitpickers, the clue does not credit Doyle, only the main character.

chefbea 3:21 PM  

@blue stater - I get the times digest and just print out the puzzle

Van55 3:34 PM  

A puzzle that has to resort to the geographic direction from one place to another loses points in my book. Who has that kind of eidetic memory of geography and who cares if it is NNE from Fairbanks to Nome or wherever?

The only gimmic that I find more annoying is resort to Roman numberal arithmatic problems, which, thankfully, this one did not have.

Finally really obscure or arcane cultural references annoy me, and this one had Decca, Philemon and Auel. Yuck!

Jim in Chicago 3:40 PM  

I enjoyed this puzzle, and found it easy once I figured out what was going on. My only downfall was that I stuck eith AERIE instead of ARETE for way to long, and that sort of messed up the NW.

I checked the OUP catalog, and you can buy your own set of the OED for $1000, although they also sell a CD-ROM version for $80. Quite a bargain. Even cheaper (free!) most people probably have online access through their public library since it is a very common item in all collections.

Guy Who Points Out When People Are From Texas, including Two Original Charlie's Angels 3:54 PM  

RIP Farrah. A generation of 40-somethings who had your poster are at half-mast today. (Granted, they probably would have been anyway.)

Glitch 3:56 PM  

@Two Ponies

"Recently I've been going back to the previous day's comments because I have found that the conversation sometimes takes some interesting turns."


As Rex said a while back, the forum gets a bit more free form later in the day, with his tacit approval --- or at least he dosen't delete.

Sometimes I post my "pithiest" comments late in the day (after 7pm ET) and wonder if anyone reads them.

My personal rules (before I post):

-Read all of yesterday
-Read all of today up to "now"

Personal peeve, those who post a question that has already answered earier, and a special place for those who start "I didn't have time to read all the posts, but what does ..."

But someone will respond, my asumption is that they didn't read what came before either.

All this leads to a blog with, sometimes, a 100 entries that I wade through --- and I do --- before I can post.

Some might say they "don't have time" to do what I do, and post "on the fly".

I consider them inconsiderate, at best.


PS: Posted this, on a day when, so far, "the guilty" IMO have not surfaced ;-)

chefbea 4:07 PM  

I always read the late night posts the next morning. Don't want to miss a thing

Two Ponies 4:21 PM  

@ Glitch, My routine is the same. I always read before I post. I share your peeves, but them I always was a pet lover :)

andrea 40something michaels 4:32 PM  

I loved this puzzle!!!!!!!!!

On the other hand, I was unaware of Maleska-era ones that had used this theme or BEQ's...which I'm guessing might have colored Rex's take on this one...

I agree with almost all of Rex's critique, but I have to say while solving (my aha moment was at 7% solution, having not read the book but having seen the film, tho I remember it somehow with Michael Caine! Maybe it's the whole coCAINE theme) it was super fast and super fun.

My only "ick" was the two OUT words and lots of double letters like NNE, AAA and HOO, etc. but in general I thought this was way cool.

A theme shouldn't be pooh-poohed for having been done if the new puzzle is wholly original otherwise.
Bec MOST themes have been done and are reconfigured. I'm not stating this eloquently, but, for example, most of my themes are variations of the type of themes that are accepted for Monday.
Tho extra points of course if the theme is wholly original, that's what makes folks in awe of BEQ or Patrick Blindauer, et al.
but since I had personally never done one like this one, I was thrilled and thought it lots of fun.

I fell for the SHARD /STELE (thanks for that explanation archaeoprof!) and had PRIMATE at one point and was trying to think of PRELIM or somthing that ended in I since I had misspelled DIPTYCH as DIPTICH.

(Speaking of which, @Ulrich, that IS brilliant to see one in the puzzle...and yes, I'd like to sign up to be one of your non-resident
but word has it, wives are psychos! I'm surprised Henny Yooungman who had the good sense to reamin "anonymous 1:24" didn't spell it psyche-hos!)

Listen to you with the whole non-resident wives thing...who are you? The Governor of South Carolina???!!!

if I could understand even 7% of what you wrote, I WOULD try and name it! But you're right, I got nothin'!
Are you saying you got it right but for the wrong reasons? You CONFLATED two books? You have a cocaine problem? Drug diction? What? What??? I miss you!

Anyway, loved the puzzle, learned a lot from the blog today and would have liked a Kinks clue (or video! But finding Alabama was tres clever!)

Is Wikipedia from wiki-wiki???
(Forgive me Two Ponies if that's been asked before!)

Guy Who Explains What SethG Was Talking About When People Don't Understand SethG 5:21 PM  

SethG got it right for the wrong reasons, which SethG thinks you have a name for. But his reasons had a weird symmetry with the right reason in that neither the Sherlock Holmes book he thought of (by Michael Chabon) nor the right one (by Nicholas Meyer) were actually written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Hoo's On First was originally called "Shin Hoo's Restaurant", and Grace Windsor Wexler's maiden name was Windkloppel.

treedweller 5:37 PM  

@Guy Who . . .

Isn't Ted Kloppel from Texas? Oh, wait, that's Dan Rlather

Glitch 5:46 PM  

@Guy who explains ...

I'm in trouble ...

I understood Sethg's posts, but not even 7% of yours.


Anonymous 5:56 PM  

Welcome back Wade (GWE) and RIP Farah.


Charles Bogle 6:03 PM  

Thank you @twoponies and @archaeoprof for the info on STELE and ORT...I should be better STELED next time I see them. And thanks @DanMyers for the info that 7 pc Solution was written by a Meyer. I learned a lot today

Btw LAT puzzle a great deal of fun today w another superb write-up by @puzzlegirl

Patch 6:09 PM  

Fun puzzle with a good "a-ha" when the gimmick was revealed!

David from CA 6:50 PM  

@Rex: re:
"Why didn't KINKS get a music clue (69A: Garden hose problems)? Why (dear god why?) didn't "MAD MEN" get a TV clue!? (29A: Psychos)"

Maybe because not everyone loves their puzzles filled with pop culture clues? Thought they were both fine clues. Don't have the faintest idea what a TV clue for "MADMEN" would be, thank goodness.

Took me forever to get the theme, so was a good challenging but doable Thursday for me!

andrea hoo michaels 6:56 PM  

Michael Jackson :(
Neighbor just knocked on my door with the news.
Was just dancing to "I wanna Rock With You" on Sunday night. My favorite song of his. Danced all night to it one New Year's Eve in the 80's I think.

OK, since this is where I share these stories:
In the late 80's I was at the Hollywood Magic and Toy shop buying a hand buzzer (no I do not remember why!)
and I went to the counter to pay and turned to my left and there was Michael Jackson!
I gasped, as he was the scariest looking person I had EVER seen.
He didn't look human. His face was white and waxy with pock marks and he had NO nose! Literally there was a space there (and he wasn't wearing a surgical mask.)

He was with a little boy (not MacCauley CUlkin, but this was definitely before all the allegations and trials) who was not scared at all. At the time I thought, maybe this child views him like a giant Disney figure, like Mickey Mouse or Goofy that you see wandering about DIsneyland...I mean, he really did not look human and for me it was very frightening.

I tried to pass off the gasp as not being from horror, but from "Ohmygod, it's Michael Jackson!"

Anyway, this news has made me cry.
It must have been from all those female hormones they gave him as a child to keep his voice artificially high. I think it really f*&^ked up his life, all around.
BOO HOO. (Lest you think I'm off-topic)

Anonymous 7:38 PM  

This theme was done in the Maleska era by Jim Page. A Sunday puzzle.

edith b 7:43 PM  


What is really sad is what you say should go without saying.

And it is galling to have to deal with those people who are basically saying their time is more important than your own. Glitch, you are too kind to call them simply inconsiderate.

I guess it is the dark side of Rex's attempt to expand the Commenters Base.

Anonymous 7:43 PM  

Boy, I bet Ryan O'Neal is pissed!

Orange 7:56 PM  

@David from CA: Five bucks says the next time MADMEN or KINKS is in the NYT puzzle, there's a pop culture clue.

Bill from NJ 8:05 PM  


I much prefer a p*p culture clue from music that references THE KINKS rather than one from cr*p culture that references Guido's High Note.

You-either-know-it-or-you-don't, as it were.

Orange 8:39 PM  

Amen, brother Bill from NJ. (By the way, happy belated birthday!)

@edith b, I'm not sure what you're getting at. Are you talking smack about newbies here? Because that's not very hospitable. You could try to cultivate a blog community that's the same 20 people talking amongst themselves all day, but next thing you know, everyone would be fighting like family members at Dysfunctional Thanksgiving. Isn't it better to welcome new folks, usher them gently into the overall group ethos, and avoid equating them with the Dark Side? (What is that, anyway? Is it Darth Vader himself luring the new commenters out of lurkerdom? And besides, in crossword lingo, "dark-siders" are fans of cryptic crosswords.) And hey, wait a minute, aren't you a newcomer here yourself? Compared to some, you are!

Ulrich 9:00 PM  

@orange: the alternative is not between 20 people talking among themselves and tolerating everyone who's too inconsiderate or lazy to read what has been said before (BTW I fail to see where edithb addresses newbies). I, too, consider people who walk into a dining room late and immediately start talking about what's in their head w/o the slightest idea of what has been said before inconsiderate--actually, I would use a much stronger term.

@Andrea: The Appalachian Trail is not far from where I live!

@Lisa in Kingston: (late) thx for the skinny on Canola--I always thought it was some cash crop from which you can press oil!

fikink 9:00 PM  

OMG, Orange, that is so funny! Thank you for "clueing" me in. Mr. Fikink will be excited to know I am a "dark-sider" - maybe we'll even sleep in the coffin tonight.
Is it because of the root, "crypt"
or is there more crossword lore to it?


Rex Parker 9:10 PM  


You miss the point. Of course the people Glitch went after deserve it. But the idea that those people (who are Very Very few in number) are a part of the "dark side of my attempt to expand the Commenters base" is, frankly, idiotic. Bigger problem is when same people talk at each other all day long, with decreasing relevance to the puzzle, and with next to no consideration of the fact that this is a public forum, not a private club. The snobby assertion that the great uninitiated unwashed are a problem ... that's just grating.


Lisa in Kingston 9:37 PM  

Speaking as a newbie who was an ancient lurker five weeks back---and strangely still lurks in the present, for the most part:
After my initial mini set-to with Rex (cuz I had no idea how I came across in the Comments), I became much more reticent to post. Not blaming anyone here but myself: my self-censure switch is in the permanent ON position (I think, let me check). OK, so what I'm getting at is there's tons of people who don't get the Rex Parker Culture. Like Orange said, cut them some slack.
Rex, is it still OK to plop in the random aside? I mean, some days, the puzzle is just boring... oops that censure switch slipped!

Greene 9:47 PM  

@Rex and Orange: I think you mistake Edithb's meaning. All I believe she is asserting is that with the influx of new commentators there are bound to be some breaches of blog etiquette among the uninitiated. Perhaps "dark side" was not the best choice of words, but I know what she is getting at.

I don't think she is talking "smack about newbies" or asserting that "the great uninitiated unwashed are a problem." I think she is asking that we all respect each other and the blog itself. Having read her remarks for the better part of a year, I find her to be the very model of respectful intelligence and courtesy toward her fellow commentators as well as her hosts. It is inconceivable that she would make the kind of sweeping generalizations you imply. Given her her track record of graciousness, I think you owe her the benefit of the doubt on this one.

Raul 10:09 PM  

Puh-leeze, meta-comments about what is supposed to be crossword comments ? Get back to the puzzle !
Blog etiquette ? Get back to the puzzle!

sanfranman59 10:21 PM  

This week's numbers ... the number in parentheses is the number of solvers.

Mon (all) 6:16 (905) prev 2 week avg: 6:58 (908)
Mon (Top 100) 3:25 prev 2 week avg: 3:43

Tue (all) 9:03 (694) prev 2 week avg: 8:13 (877)
Tue (Top 100) 4:35 prev 2 week avg: 4:12

Wed (all) 17:19 (574) prev 2 week avg: 13:18 (674)
Wed (Top 100) 7:54 prev 2 week avg: 6:30

Thu (all) 15:16 (657) prev 2 week avg: 14:40 (631)
Thu (Top 100) 7:02 prev 2 week avg: 6:53

By all measures other than my own solve time, this week's Thursday was tougher than Wednesday. For my part, it took me forever to pick up on the theme and I continue to struggle with the danged online user interface skipping boxes that are already filled.

My two cents on the newbie discussion ... I don't always read every post, but if I come here looking for a specific answer, I always hit Ctrl-F and search for a relevant string before posing a question. Quite frankly, I don't see the big deal in spending an extra 3 seconds reading a post with a question that's already been answered. After all, we're really just sort of killing time anyways, aren't we?

edith b 10:31 PM  

Geez, when I join a new community I need to understand the etiqutte of the group I am joining. In this case, I try to stay within the "three and out" rule, I was chastised for "going on and on" so I began to limit how long my posts were, I discovered that Rex did not care for Commenters commenting on other Commenters so I have tried not to be too critical of others no matter how I feel on a subject. In other words I tried to learn how the host felt on certain matters and abide by how he felt.

I didn't think two little words "dark side" would prompt this kind of attack from the two heavyweights of the blogging world. I would like to thank Ulrich for undertstanding what I was trying to say rather than launching an ad hominem attack on me, using words like "idiotic" to describe what I recognize as something very small, a dark side as it were, in an invitation to join into our discussion.

Quite frankly, I feel like I have been "slimed" and understand how Hazel felt a month or so ago when she was misunderstood and attacked and how Evil Doug must have felt when he was accused of being a racist.

Frankly, Rex, even though it is your blog, you should abide by your own standards and refrain from calling people "idiotic" when they disagree with you.

If this post does not appear, I will recognize that I am no longer welcome to comment on your blog even though I enjoy the community and I truly love crossword puzzles.

edith b 10:31 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous 10:35 PM  

@ edithb, Please do not let Rex and Orange intimidate you. Not only are you articulate and civil but you are right.

Two Ponies 10:43 PM  

@ edithb, I know how you feel because I was the target once of name-calling. Do not disappear. This community needs a variety of voices.
I also post with some anxiety of censure but please do not let the culture of political correctness keep you from expressing yourself.

Anonymous 10:46 PM  

All hail Rex and Orange, we are not worthy! We are not worthy!

mccoll 10:52 PM  

I get to post after driving 700 kilometres for my wifes dental appointment. Clever puzzle. It took a little while but I got it without help.

Michael Jackson is a sad, sad story. Take that any way you will.

I took the < as meaning "less" or "less than" as in Mathematics (< is "less" and > is "more" In any case, it worked.
Thanks BZ and RP.

mac 10:53 PM  

@Two Ponies:
I have been reading all the comments later this evening, but I don't understand what you mean in your last sentence. Culture of political correctness? Please explain.

Two Ponies 11:10 PM  

@ mac, You're right. I think what I meant to say was that I hate to dilute what I mean to say for fear of offending everything and everyone. If we try to please all of the people all of the time our words lose their meaning. I don't want to sound like I'm running for office.
I truly loving reading and joining in here but am surprised by the comments that are dissected on occasion. (See, there I am being wishy-washy when I usually would be more straightforward.)
Perhaps I should just revert to reading without commenting. It's just not my style.

mac 11:26 PM  

Not to change the subject, but I forgot to mention something that the diptych reminded me of: There's a great show on at the Metropolitan Museum of Francis Bacon's works. He did dip- and triptychs, beautiful pieces. We discussed him last year on this blog, I seem to remember. So when in NY......

Rex Parker 11:30 PM  

Yes, all hail me. I like that.

Yeesh, the slightest rebuke and it's martyrdom all around.

Of course your post is still there, edith b. I gave up deleting during the Nixon administration, when I realized it was only making matters worse, not better. (except spam or outright profane belligerence ... that would probably get deleted)

edith, you do go on, but I love you. The comment you made about ... what was it, something about how (re: pop culture clues) "we have become our parents" ... I think I have that right ... that made me want to cheer. I apologize for "idiotic" (directed at your comment, not your person, but still...). I want more voices here. Lots of smart, interesting solvers are put off by the apparently closed, cliquish quality of the comments section. Way, way more people read than participate, and that's a disappointment to me. I wish more of you understood and respected that. That's really where I'm coming from when I step in in any way in this forum.

So please try to balance friendly conversation and digression (often entertaining) with an understanding that it's a *public* forum. And I'd appreciate anything you could do to be welcoming, not discouraging, of new voices.

And Puzzle. Puzzle. Always Puzzle. Thanks, rp

Anonymous 11:36 PM  

Loved the puzzle and the people who share their thoughts here.

Idiotic is a pretty 'hot' word that sometimes expresses an emotional rather than a logical view. I decided to read the definition before I posted this and have convinced myself it was inappropriate as used above. In essence calling someone an idiot is different than saying there action/words are idiocy, I realize. I can't see how the expression sufficiently argues against or invalidates the postulated "dark side." I am almost always a lurker unless science and medicine or Chinese culture are mentioned, but I do know that the body of comments from edithb clearly reflect an intelligent and reflective person. Idiocy just rings wrong to me in almost any case, but its usage here almost approaches the definition of the word.

Three this month and out.


mac 11:42 PM  

Good for you to get back to Edith. I have to say, though, that I think it is the friendly banter between the regulars that pulls in the new commenters. Some of them have actually said that, here and at the LAT Confidential site. We even welcome them by name! Harsh criticism will scare them off.

Lisa in Kingston 11:44 PM  

Puzzle, puzzle, always puzzle. All of us are a puzzle, aren't we?
Can you imagine the scenario: everyone who reads this blog posted a comment every day?!

Anonymous 11:47 PM  

OK I guess we can all be friends now.
What a relief. I mean it.

hazel 11:54 PM  

@Edith B - I got to the fracas a bit late, and am glad the tempest is back in the teapot. I too thoroughly enjoy your posts, and am glad things have been cleared up.

The blog wouldn't be the same without your 2 cents!!

slypett 12:04 AM  

Many times I am lost in the cliquing and claquing that goes on here, but I know that all in all new voices (like mine) are heard and responded to. As to people who comment without reading previous comments (which I will do when I feel something is hot), they will soon feel silly when they see they are either not responded to or are directed to previous posts.

I can only hope this is being read by someone, since it is so late.

mac 12:09 AM  

I read you, XMAN!
Actually, I always read the late, late night comments first thing in the morning, and many of us do this.

Cory 2:55 AM  

Sorry if this is a stupid question, I am VERY new to crossword puzzling (just trying to finish my first, which is a NYT Sunday puzzle--maybe this is stupid to do this one first). What is considered "cheating"? Are crowwsord dictionaries okay, encyclopedias, Wikipedia?

Happy puzzling

slypett 7:39 AM  

Cory: Many of us (very much including myself) resort to one or all of the modes of (ahem) magnification you mention. Cheating? Well, yes.

Orange 9:24 PM  

There are political blogs where it's not unusual to see 500 or 1,000 comments on a single post. Sure, I like attention, but that ceases to be conversation. That sort of volume turns into hundreds of people saying their piece but not necessarily having any sort of dialogue.

It seems that about 99% of a day's readers of a blog post merely lurk rather than commenting. The way I figure, a lot of people approach blogs much like magazines—you read 'em, you extract a little information or entertainment, and you move on. Me, I like to interact at every blog I read—if I'm not engaged enough to comment, I'm not interested enough to read. Different strokes, etc.

slypett 11:54 PM  

@Orange: I'm with you on this. I guess. To a point. For example, I no longer commentnon on Jim Horne's blog, because there is no action, though I still read it because he is intelligent and insightful. Otherbthan that, I must admit, I have somehow steered clear, generally, of blogs.

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