Conspirator against Caesar — THURSDAY, Aug. 6 2009 — Coin with laurel branch on back / Rick with 1976 #1 hit Disco Duck / Scales seen at night

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Constructor: Dan Naddor

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: ERR (29A: Use the answer to any of this puzzle's starred clues in ordinary conversation?) — theme answers are non-words that people often use mistakenly

Word of the Day: Rick DEES (66A: Rick with the 1976 #1 hit "Disco Duck")Rick Dees is an American comedic performer, entertainer, and radio personality, best known for his #1 internationally syndicated radio show The Rick Dees Weekly Top 40 Countdown and for the novelty song "Disco Duck." He is a People's Choice Award recipient, a Grammy nominated performing artist, and Broadcast Hall of Fame inductee. He wrote two songs that appear in the film Saturday Night Fever, plus performed the title song for the film Meatballs[1]. Dees also is co-founder of the E.W. Scripps television network, FINE LIVING, and was the former host of the Rick Dees Morning Show at Movin' 93-9 FM in Los Angeles. (wikipedia)


Very short write-up today, as I have a plane to catch.

Didn't like it. Didn't like having to figure out non-words, which by definition don't have a correct spelling. Never heard CAME ACROSSED in my life. Had ASTERIKS as my final answer. No fun all around. Furthermore, allow me to add, SEACALF (22A: Common seal). Is it in a permanent state of childhood? Always a CALF? Unfortunate that "sea" is in both clue and answer. More unfortunate that I just didn't know it.

Theme answers:

  • 17: *Privilege (perogative) — if you said this "in conversation," as the ERR clue states, no one would notice much. "In conversation," it hardly sounds any different from the correct PREROGATIVE. Just ask Bobby Brown.

  • 19A: *No matter (irregardless)
  • 31A: *And so forth (ex cetera)
  • 36A: *Ways things are said (pronounciations)
  • 41A: *Sign to look elsewhere (asterick)
  • 54A: *Stumbled upon (supposably)

NE started out easy with EL AL (1A: Commercial name that literally means "to the skies") and LIBRA (2D: Scales seen at night) and the rest (even MILA) falling pretty easily, but once I got into the N and NE, it got ugly. Worked a diagonal down to SE and then just floundered around after that, trying to figure out how to spell incorrectly. Wrong first answers included TENT for GEAR (18D: Backpack fill), LOO for LAV (11D: John), SUN for LYE (12D: Cause of some skin burns), and (my favorite) HAGS for HAMS (44D: Unlikely Oscar nominees).


  • 25A: Virgil described its "roar of frightful ruin" (Etna) — ETNA and IDA in the house today. Nice. But apparently only one of them is a "MT" (50A: Peak for Zeus, in Homer).
  • 24D: Coin with a laurel branch on the back (franc) — ASTERIKS caused FRANK. It also caused RUSS, which looked just fine, even if it's clearly wrong (30D: Kennedy's secretary of state).
  • 32D: Imaging lab output (xrays) — spent some time with "T" in the first position here, for obvious reasons.
  • 33D: Actor Feldman (Corey) — they probably expected you to go for Marty here.
  • 34D: Here, to Javier (aca) — spent some time with "ACI" as it sounded like "AQUI," which I know better as the Sp. for "here."
  • 15D: Conspirator against Caesar (Casca) — Cassius and Brutus are in the 9th ring of hell, and they are the only ones I could remember.
  • 43D: Informal byes (ciaos) / 53D: Informal bye (adios) — I was unaware that either of these was particularly informal. Foreign, yes. Pretentious if you aren't actually speaking the language in question, yes.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


JimG 6:48 AM  

With you all the way, meh! Have never heard of asterick, came acrossed, or supposably. I must hang out with the elitists or maybe the Times had decided to completely dumb down the puzzle.

More seriously, the real problem was that we were supposed to know how to spell some of these mispronunciations. Really meh.

treedweller 7:50 AM  

Amen! I went to bed without getting the NE. SEACALF was sea wolf (I know, WTF?), CASCA was mostly blank, LYE was UV_ (waiting for A or B), LOTSA was fatso (I know, but I had that O form wolf), and that left "insurance figure" blank for the most part (and wrong where it wasn't blank).

This morning, I tried again, still had nothing, googled CASCA, and finally finished. Except for that mistake. Which turned out to be the T in EXCETERA (the first one, the one that shouldn't be there because it should be there). That was the mistake that was left after I "corrected" from asteriks to ASTERICK.

I almost liked this. I appreciated how these mistakes frequently GETTO the people who know they are mistakes. There was a little chuckle when I realized the mistakes were there intentionally (at SUPPOSABLY). I just couldn't quite get over the arbitrariness of it all. Plus I'm bitter about needing two passes and a google to fill the grid, and still end up with multiple mistakes. Sorry, no love today.

John 8:00 AM  

One strange puzzle! Thought a NY hockey player was a Ranger.SEAS LION for SEA CALF, And just how DO you spell ECETERA and ASTERISK, anyway????

JannieB 8:10 AM  

What Rex said - in spades. I knew from "irregardless" that this puzzle would be error prone. Needed lots of crosses to figure out the errors. I've finally developed an ear for the Mountain/Southern accent around here - I hear things like twiced, not many of the "words" in this puzzle. Must be a regional thing.

What slowed me down was thinking Javier was French - so kept trying to make "ici" work instead of "aca". I guess it all depends on how irregularly you want to spell et cetera.

ileen 8:11 AM  

I had EGCETERA & GRAYS, which I didn't quite get for imaging but made some kind of sense. Having improperly spelled answers is just wrong.

Jon 8:13 AM  

Agreed. I started doing the NYT puzzle daily about a year and a half ago, and this is EASILY my least favorite puzzle since then. I used to teach English and grammar to high school and junior high students, and had to deal with many handouts of "common mistakes", and never once have I heard of/seen "Ex Cetera", "Asterick", or "Came Acrossed". Plus the fact that IRREGARDLESS is not really a misspelling per se but kind of a properly spelled improper word--I felt no unifying thread in the theme. Blah. Very dissatisfying.

George W Bush 8:17 AM  

I't don't get it. What's the problemo?

PlantieBea 8:25 AM  

Completely agree with your write-up, Rex. For me, this was no fun. I do not enjoy a puzzle, especially one from the NYT, that makes sport of errors in pronunciation and word use. This felt like an insult to the solver who had to come up with these spellings, and to those who actually make the errors. Yes, it GOT TO me.

joho 8:31 AM  

Well, let's sea, what did I like?

I learned that ELAL means "to the skies."

EURO replacing FRANC was nice.

That's about it.

This puzzle proves that being able to execute a theme means nothing if the theme is a bad one.

On to Friday!

fikink 8:36 AM  

Boo Hiss! This is the first NYT puzzle in YEARS that I hated so much I stopped doing it.
When I CAME ACROSSED IRREGARDLESS, I swore. I wish I had a NYT dead tree subscription to cancel.
Just awful!

@George Bush, we obviously misunderestimate you.

Anonymous 8:52 AM  

Loved the beginning- good clue on El Al, Libra. Otherwise, with the rest of the group. Normally I like puzzles with language, but this was not interesting and there was nothing holding it together for me, especially since supposably is actually correct. Supposedly is not- check the dictionary. I did have advanatage, it seems, in that I have heard all of the mispronunciations; none rankle more than pronounciation.

Anonymous 8:56 AM  


kbkb 9:10 AM  

Ditto everyone! Note to all constructors: if you're now thinking of doing a puzzle with every word missspellled...DON'T. I'm beggin ya!

Gramatrick 9:17 AM  

Agreed all.

Did not like at all. Trying to figure out how to purposely misspell a word is just no fun.

Blue Stater 9:22 AM  

What Rex (and everybody else) said, even though I've heard most of the blunders. It would be nice to have a puzzle in which the challenge arose from the difficult words rather than from tricks, particularly lame tricks compounded by even lamer fill.

Brendan Emmett Quigley 9:23 AM  

I'll offer this up: it's damn hard to stack theme entries on top of each other, and Dan did it in three different spots of the grid. Say what you will about your love/hate of the theme, but ya gotta give props to that feat of construction.

Elaine 9:23 AM  

I guess this is funny: I taught terminally-confused special ed students, so I've heard/seen most of these. But Dan Nadder left out "anuf" (as in, "I've had anuf,") and "grils" (the opposite sex.) Tsk.

I got Seacalf, but it made me mad. Never heard of Dees, so I had Rees... I feel better knowing other people got hung up in various spots, too.

Daniel 9:31 AM  

Ick. It isn't a feat of construction if the puzzle theme is lame and illiterate. Cash for clunkers..the NYT paid cash for this clunker.

Anonymous 9:33 AM  

Sen. Sessions, R-AL, and his Southern colleagues managed to use most of the theme answers in their denunciation of Sotomayor in accusing her of intellectual deficiencies. ex-Governor Pallin agreed she has no bidness being on the Supremest Court . I wonder if there really aren't two Americas.


Person who loves BEQ puzzles 9:34 AM  

Just this one time, I must disagree with BEQ.

So what if I can stack "four" themed entries if they (all) suck?

It can be a record and a construction feat, but not worth imposing on the solvers.

So, BEQ, what would you rate this puzzle? A+ for construction, ?? for concept/execution/fun to solve.

Norm 9:41 AM  

Boy, everybody's sure cranky this morning. I liked this puzzle. We've seen similar themes in the past with intentional errors that didn't attract this much heat. No problems with this one.

PurpleGuy 9:45 AM  

Made many of the same errors as Rex mentioned in his writeup.
Like @Jon,I was also a teacher. Many times students would "AKS" me a question.Thisdrove me nuts trying to spell a wrong word correctly.

Clever construction, yes,but lost on a terrible theme.

@Rex- thanks for the writeup. Have a safe flight,and enjoy your vacation.Hope you can check-in from time to time.

PhillySolver 9:52 AM  

Safe travels Rex and family.
Don't take us for 'granite' while you are away. (another possible theme answer?)

Ruth 9:55 AM  

Glad our ex-prez chimed in on this. I was figuring this was the GWB tribute puzzle in answer to all the complaints about too many Obama puzzles! Fair and balanced.

Ulrich 9:55 AM  

A person who quotes someone who is illiterate is not him- or herself illiterate, especially not if said person states upfront that the quote is illiterate. So, I don't get the "illiteracy" charge--lighten up, people. Reminds me of the people who call someone a racist who quotes, disapprovingly(!), a racist (happens all the time these days)

If I have a complaint, it's the one that Jon mentions: "irregardless" is not really misspelled--it's a correctly spelled non-word. It was the first theme answer I got, and it raised my expectations to see more such non-words--that would have been fun, for me, but no cigar...

But I must also say that the puzzle did not raise in me the kind of hatred that, for example, broccoli on my plate would raise...

JC66 9:59 AM  

@ Norm

I agree. I thought this puzzle was fun, if a little easy for a Thursday. If one doesn't know how to spell the incorrectly spelled words, check the crosses. That's why they call it a crossword puzzle.

Again, it seems to raise the question of how much Rex's comments impact on other's reactions.

Anonymous 10:05 AM  

What a colossal waste of time!

PurpleGuy 10:05 AM  

@Ulrich- irregardlessismost definitely a word. Check the dictionary.
Mine lists it as nonstandard,but says "it does creepinto the language of good English speakers, mainly for emphasis."

I'llmake a note tomake sure there is to broccoli at the pot luck dinner ;-)

joho 10:12 AM  

JC66 ... while I definitely appreciate Rex's opinions in his write-ups, and most of the time agree with him, there are times I don't. I think the antis today are speaking for themselves and were not influenced by Rex. It seems to me the bloggers here are pretty self-assured and able to think for themselves.

bookmark 10:14 AM  

Didn't like his puzzle for most of the reasons stated above. The two answers that took me the longest were SUPPOSABLY and CAMEACROSSED.

Agree with Ulrich and others that IRREGARDLESS is not misspelled or mispronounced; it's simply the nonstandard word for REGARDLESS. Don't use it.

I much preferred Dan Naddor's LAT puzzle today.

Crosscan 10:16 AM  

Wow. Does everyone have Disco Duck on the brain? It's Thursday, people! Mess with your mind day. I liked this a lot. Great construction, cleverly thought out answers. It's good! I have spoken!

@JC66 - Yup. I forget what I called it - Rex Rant Factor? No. Anyone remember? But it is high today.

By the way, Dan Naddor also has today's LA Times puzzle with 7 more theme answers. That's 15 today. Must be some kind of record.

retired_chemist 10:18 AM  

Agree with JC66 that Rex’s comments set the tone for some of the others. That’s why I do the puzzle, draft my comments, and then edit after reading the blog-to-date.

Enjoyed it. OTOH, the business of misspelling/mispronouncing words intentionally has its pitfalls, which turn out to be quite similar to those of PB1’s Greek puzzle last Sunday. Basically, since there is NO correct mispronunciation (now there's an oxymoron), there is arbitrariness in the answer, leading to what I see as a problem in, e.g., the EXCETERA/XRAYS cross. I went to bed with EGCETERA/GRAYS (cf. Ileen’s comment). I swear I have heard EGCETERA, and GRAYS could be graphic artist shorthand for gray-scale images. Woke up and finished my alphabet soup to get the X and thus a better answer. However, I still think the G is a pretty good stab and would argue that it is plausibly correct also.

CAME ACROST is the more common misspelling of that mispronunciation IMO.

MT IDA reminded me of Cliff Arquette’s character (pretty much his persona) Charlie Weaver.

Enjoyed Anon 9:33's and Dubya's comments.

Crosscan 10:26 AM  

Ah yes. July 23:

The greater Rex's reaction varies from his normal reaction, the greater by some exponential factor is the reaction by his commenters.

So if the RRI (Rex Rant Index) is high, the ERC (Extreme Reaction by Commenters) will be even higher.

fikink 10:27 AM  

@joho, thanks for articulating my reaction to JC66's assumption of McThink posters.

Perhaps this puzzle really grates because many of us have spent a lifetime trying to eradicate the use of words like IRREGARDLESS.

Someone suggested having a crossword puzzle made up entirely of drawn Scrabble tiles a while ago. That, however, was said in jest ;)

Anonymous 10:28 AM  

It doesn't say the themers are misspelled, but that they're the way people mispronounce those words.
Spelling has nothing to do with it.
To echo someone before me, lighten up! It's only a puzzle.
And I do think some people follow Rex's lead like sheep.

mccoll 10:32 AM  

Wow! This generated some heat all right. Most of it coming from an elitist point of view. There are two Americas especially from an outsider's perspective. Dubya represents one pole - I'm not sure if President Obama represents the other but, at least, he can speak English.
The puzzle! I made the mistakes mentioned by Rex but managed to correct them all in better than average time. I have never heard anyone say SUPPOSABLY. Sabres saved the day. Thank goodness I know my hockey teams.
@Purple Guy - Indeed, my Oxford lists IRREGARDLESS as a word but implies that it is incorrect in writing.(US regional or jocular speech.) Probably a redundant blend of irrespective and regardless. I shouldn't creep into the language of good english speakers unless they wish to be thought of as a rube.
This one was OK. Thanks, DN and RP.

John 10:33 AM  

Not to be a complete pedant, but I got a little chuckle out of the fact that one of the few people who defended the puzzle today used the word "impact" as a verb, which, like "irregardless", is a "word" (as in, it's in the dictionary) but is frowned upon by wordy NYTimes elitist-types...

Glitch 10:43 AM  

@Anon 8:52

"...since supposably is actually correct. Supposedly is not- check the dictionary."

Not saying you're wrong, but I did (several) and found the opposite. FMI, what dict. did you check?

Since 29A sez " ordinary conversation.", implying phonetic spelling, I've saved myself a lot of agita by putting the answers in the same catagory as the oft used "wacky answers" minus the "?".

On a scale of 1 to 10, I give this puzzle a C.


Denise 10:46 AM  

But what about ACA?

I knew I had an error last night, but could not find it -- how would I know how to correctly misspell an ungrammatical word?

PIX 10:53 AM  

Bad of the joys of doing the puzzle and following all your comments is that I learn a lot of interesting (if not always useful) information. Today I learned that some people pronounce the word as "Excetera" instead of "Etcetera". No thanks...not interested. Dan Naddor tried something and in my opinion it just didn't work at all. This is hardly the end of civilization as we know it, but it did feel like a waste of time.

archaeoprof 10:54 AM  

@Crosscan: I'm with you on this one. Enjoyed the theme, impressed by the construction.

Caesar and Virgil. El Al and Syrians. Plus Motley Crue, Rick Dees, and Kelly Ripa.

Helluva puzzle.

Two Ponies 11:05 AM  

What a mess.
The only fun was the write-up and Dubya dropping by.
@ joho, I agree.
Have a good trip Rex.
I wonder who will be the guest host(s) while you are away.

SethG 11:14 AM  

No problem spelling the wrong stuff. Except for accrossed, which is im-properly spelled "accrost". Too bad UNDERLINING PREMISE is more than 15 letters.

Started with GORP for TENT, LOO for LAV, and also tried SEA wolf before CALF. My final letter was the CASCI/TVI crossed.

SUPPOSABLY is in M-W, among others. About the same number as COPAY. Supposedly is in that and more.

Chorister 11:24 AM  

Maybe somebody already said this - didn't have time to read all y'alls comments - aca with an accent that last a is Spanish for there, in the intermediate distance. Alli is far away, aqui is here. (I know there are more accents involved but I don't know how to put them in except in Word.) Anyway, aca does not mean here, to me.

Anonymous 11:29 AM  

I LIKED the puzzle. So there! :-)

With the exception of "came acrossed," I've heard 'em all. I teach (college level and up). These are at least "sophisticated" misspellings. You might be surprised (and/or depressed).

One of my all-time classroom favorites was the introductory sentence in a personal reflection paper. It read, "My uncle and I are two pees in a pod." Sigh.

The most common misspelling in my classes is "loose" instead of "lose." Darn spell-checkers!

Most people spell pourly.

XMAN 11:31 AM  

As was said earlier, when I came to IRREGARDLESS I expected commonly used non-words to be the theme. That might have been fun. (Being unable to get XRAYS, having instead CRAYS for EcCETERA was just humiliating.)

A note on the the fluffing at 57a: 'Supposedly' comes from 'supposed': Beloieved to be be or accepted as such, often on slight grounds or in error. SUPPOSABLY comes from 'supposable': That may or can be supposed; presumable; conceivable'. In my opinion (following the venerable Webster II) that makes 57a, as it stands, correct (by more than a ghost-hair).

Anonymous 11:31 AM  

I loved this puzzle! I am an English instructor, and I have heard people make all of these mistakes. I enjoyed this puzzle very much! Some of you need a new hobby!

retired_chemist 11:44 AM  

@ Anon 11:29: re "My uncle and I are two pees in a pod." Shouldn't it be "My uncle and me are two pees in a pod?" :-)

@XMAN - you of all of us missed the X?

ArtLvr 11:56 AM  

Heh heh heh. I gritted my teeth all the way through, waiting for "nucular" and "alright"... ugh. LE ROI's "acceptable variant" is a no-no to most.

I 'm with Crosscan: it was so grating, it was almost good. Like McColl, I've never heard SUPPOSABLY. And I have a penpal (EMAIL-pal) who always writes ecterera... no CLUE. I feign a blind EYE.

Did you know Teddy Roosevelt became totally blind in the left eye while in the White House? He was sparring with a pal, always trying to keep fit. Don't miss David McCullough's book on TR called "Mornings on Horseback". A great eye-opener!


XMAN 12:06 PM  

@good ol' r_c: Ya got me, pard!

des 12:11 PM  

Yes, SUPPOSABLY is a real word (as is supposedly) but it is incorrectly used with the definition given, a la IRREGARDLESS.

I had many of the same difficulties, catching the ASTERICK at the very end, and never figuring out that it was EXCETERA rather than ETCETERA.


*David* 12:15 PM  

By the diversity of opinions on the puzzle, I deem this one a home run. The truth is, it is the ultimate insider joke on the anal crossword puzzle solver.

There are two camps those that can laugh at themselves and those..

poc 12:17 PM  

I actually liked this one. Thought it was funny, perhaps because IRREGARDLESS made me think of The Sopranos, which has to be good (Carmine Jr and others made errors of this sort all the time in an attempt to sound educated).

Pity 15D didn't use "Ceasar" :-)

Fans of "Friends" will remember Joey using SUPPOSABLY, thinking about it for a bit, then deciding it was correct.

I do agree with Rex that ASTERIKS is a more common error, but you can't have everything. Plus almost no sporting references! What's not to like?

edith b 12:18 PM  

When I was teaching, I heard "irregardless" as often as I heard regardless and, after a while, let it go. Oh the other hand, SUPPOSABLY was a no-no, as far as I was concerned, a mis-usage. I realize this is just my opinion, but lines are drawn for arbitrary reasons.

One had to use wordplay skills in order to come up with the correct misspellings which is what I did so it was an ordinary puzzle day for me. Forgive me if I disliked it.

retired_chemist 12:23 PM  

I think most of us agree that the ambiguity is not the problem - the arbitrariness of the spelling of the mispronounced word or phrase is what galls.

ECKCETERA (which I'd feel free to spell EKCETERA), EGCETERA, then EXCETERA is my phonetic spelling of the order of decreasing frequency of mispronunciation I have heard.

Do they still teach phonics in elementary school?

Brendan Emmett Quigley 12:38 PM  


A for construction
B- for the idea (not my favorite puzzle; but hey, at least Dan was trying to do something different and that's gotta amount for something. And yes, I used italics three times in that last sentence.)

PIX 12:41 PM  

@Retired Chemist: Phonics is out...they teach "whole language" (with a couple of new updated variations)...the children should construct the meaning of the word within the context of the story/page/ is pure nonsense but the educational establishment thinks its wonderful...consequently, none of the the kids can read or write.

Z.J. Mugildny 12:44 PM  

I don't have a problem with wrong-entry puzzles in general, but if you make one, I think you have to make all the other fill super tight to account for the fact that the misspellings are somewhat arbitrary.

This is one had way too many iffy/obscure/foreign entries to make it any fun (TEAMO, ACA, CASCA, LATTE, NEU, CIAOS, MTIDA, ex cetera). The stacked theme words aren't that cool, if the cost is sacrifice in fill and fun.

chefbea 12:52 PM  

Not much more to add. I really did not like the puzzle

@purple guy and Ulrich - I made a great broccolli (that's a hard one to spell) stir fry with orange and ginger. Guess I can't bring it to the pot luck supper, and I guess Ulrich wont be discussing this green veggie on his blog.

Howard B 1:04 PM  

I liked the audacity of the theme, and the overall construction of the thing. Anything that's a bit offbeat and quirky scores a bonus here.

Didn't enjoy that almost half of my solving time was spent rooting out one misspelled misspelling, and uncorrecting (there's a coinage for ya) the correct ETCETERA (entered before I knew the theme). TRAY seemed like a valid crossing at the time. When you're dealing in arbitrary, intentional mistakes, it makes the puzzle much harder, but gets perilously close to unchecked square territory. Most of the crossings were friendly enough, luckily.
When you see Dan Naddor's name on a puzzle, it seems there's usually a lot of theme combined with a heck of a difficult solve ahead.

Ulrich 1:04 PM  

@chefbea: Why waste perfectly good oranges and ginger?:-)

@PIX: The German version is to have children spell words in first grade as they hear them. The argument: They can write granny a letter right away--that they won't be able to spell for the rest of their lives is considered a small price to pay. The results are sometimes grotesque: A friend told me that when they confronted a teacher in fourth grade with the fact that children couldn't spell, the teacher's answer was: That's where you (the parents) come in! In other words, parents are supposed to teach what teachers failed to teach...

Anonymous 1:12 PM  

@Chefbea & Ulrich - I saw something on the news the other day where they identified the gene that differentiates whether one likes or hates brocolli. And no, it's not on the Y chromosone.

@Ulrich - They teach the children to spell cat as kat for 3 years, then tell the parent it's their fault? Can I get one of those jobs?

nanpilla 1:14 PM  

I think of this one as a "pet peeve" puzzle. Everyone has them, and I guess these are Dan's. Mine happen to be orientate and preventative. They fall into the irregardless camp, rather than the mis-pronunciation camp. I also really hate the phrase: rate of speed.
The difficulty in figuring out how to mispell the words put this squarely into Thursday territory, so I don't have a problem with that. Didn't love it, didn't hate it.

Anonymous 1:23 PM  

Well. Tough Puzzle for me - had to Google ICET and then the NE fell into place. I expected to see the term "AKS" (as opposed to ASK) somewhere along the way. People in my office use that term, makes me cringe and feel if I correct them I'd really be insulting them. Really liked 6 D - One hit wonder = ACER.

Bob Kerfuffle 1:24 PM  

Easy puzzle, fun puzzle. If you didn't like the words, at least you admired the arch-e-tet-ture.

@nanpilla -- I know a young man, now a music teacher, who always referred to travelling at "55 miles per an hour."

foodie 1:32 PM  

The SYRIANS are coming! Well, this SYRIAN anyhow, speaking out of both sides of my mouth...

On the one hand, how could I not love a puzzle with such an international flair-- ACA the SYRIANS flying EL AL(some day :), and there's LE ROI admiring his shiny golden FRANCS, while the FRAU sips her LATTE and whispers TE AMO to her EURO-laden Don Juan.

On the other hand, I totally died in the Northeast, and on a Thursday, that did not make me happy. The combination of uncertain spelling with the cluing made it rather frustrating.

Still, I do appreciate the fact that the theme is interesting and fun, and the construction is impressive.

Peace ...Paix, Pax, Frieden, Shalom Salam...

jimmy d 1:41 PM  

I didn't like this puzzle...but I think it has to do with the fact that I thought at least 2 of the theme answers (IRREGARDLESS, PEROGATIVE) were valid words/spelled correctly. D'oh!

Was it just me...or am I the only one admitting it?

Timmy 1:42 PM  

Newbie here, still learning the ropes re: Thursdays. Don't know why such a big furor over the misspelling.

Last Thursday we had eight words wrongly spelled and nobody complained, all I heard was "this is the best puzzle ever".

Why the difference in opinion?

retired_chemist 1:58 PM  

@ anon 1:12 - Ulrich can confirm, but German is a "write it as you say it" language. I bet it works better in German than in English, anyway.

still_learnin 2:17 PM  

I come down firmly on the side of liking this puzzle -- even though it crushed me.

EXCETERA/XRAYS finally clued me in to the theme after I had struggled with the puzzle for quite some time. Even then, I ended up with a ton of mistakes -- mostly my own fault. ZEBRA for LIBRA, SEASALT for SEACALF, TRANS for FRANC, etc. I knew these were wrong, I just wasn't smart enough to fix them.

I wonder if part of the diversity of opinion on today's puzzle may come down to speed-solvers vs "relaxed" solvers? I experienced the puzzle both ways. I started out trying to speed-solve. I just became more and more frustrated as I watched the clock tick down while I thrashed. Finally, I gave up on achieving a good time. Once I accepted that, the puzzle became much more interesting and enjoyable.

So, for me, not going for a good time resulted in my having a good time solving the puzzle.

jae in ipswich 2:27 PM  

I kinda liked it even though it was a pain in the ass sorting through the possible misspelling varitions. I have spelling issues anyway so this one took longer than usual. Last things I did were change TRAYS to XRAYS and guess the A in CASCA.

@PIX They went back to teaching phonics in CA years ago and both my grandkids get weekly spelling lists to learn.

chefbea 2:32 PM  

@Jimmy D I must admit... me two

AKSME 2:41 PM  

also gotta run, but I liked this! Seemed original.*
Even had a semi-malapop! Tried to put CIAOS in at ADIOS and debated if CIAO could take an S...or if I had misread the clue. Then there it was a few questions later.

I used to see Dan Naddor's name so often in the LA Times, I used ot wonder if it were an alias for Rich Norris! So nice to see him in the NY Times...

*Never heard the asterick one
Asterick dees?

Ben 2:45 PM  

Totally agreed.

Where was "expresso"? How about "Axe A Question"?

A cute idea, but failed in execution.

I would have preferred things I actually hear mispronounced day to day.


Aviatrix 2:52 PM  

I hated it. As in it made me physically angry every time I got to one of those starred clues and knew I was looking for some mangled expression that the constructor thought was cute. And it's not as if I was going to get it with crosses either. Being that this is the New York Times I can't complain about the unguessable RIPA, ESAI, RUSK, ICET and DEES, EXCETERA. IRREGARDLESS, I'll make it my PEROGOTIVE to complain some more time about the SUPPOSABLY "common" "PRONOUNCIATIONS" errors, of which I've encountered one. This is the most irritating NYT puzzle I've ever CAMEACROSSED.

I composed the above before coming to this site, and Rex has now done me the valuable service of diffusing my ire by agreeing with me and uniting me with many other like-minded folk. Phew. And I have a cup of broccoli florets next to the computer for nibbles.

I did like Range rover and Scales seen at night.

Meanwhile my app says that someone named maureen123 solved it in three minutes and 26 seconds. I don't think I could copy all the letters in that fast.

Doc John 3:09 PM  

I just thought it was hard, especially the NE. And, I missed the X.
I have always heard CAME ACROSSED as "came acrost".
Apparently a SEA CALF can be a full grown animal, too. Who names these things, anyway?

sanfranman59 3:11 PM  

Thursday midday report of relative difficulty (see my 7/30/2009 post for an explanation of my method):

All solvers (median solve time, average for day of week, ratio, percentile, rating)

Thu 19:33, 18:43, 1.04, 65%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Thu 9:51, 9:00, 1.09, 79%, Medium-Challenging

PuzzleGirl 3:27 PM  

I really liked this puzzle a lot. I've heard every single one of the errors. I used to work with a woman who said "supposably" All The Time. Drove me nuts.

@jimmy d: I admit that it was only about 10 years ago that I realized PEROGATIVE was not the correct spelling. (Love love love the Bobby Brown song, by the way. Seriously. One of my all-time favorite songs. "I can DO what I WAnna DO...")

@Ben: The baristas at my favorite local coffee shop in Iowa City wear t-shirts that say "There is no X in espresso."

Re phonics: I'm pretty sure my kids learned to read with a combination of whole-language and phonics. Sounds to me like the best strategy, actually. Of course the very best strategy for turning your little sweeties into lifelong readers is to read to them. A lot. And model reading to them (i.e., you should read a lot too!).

XMAN 3:29 PM  

@nanpilla: Bad news, kiddo--'orientate' and 'preventative' are both squarely words, acc. to my trusty, dusty old Webster II. William Safire, if I remember correctly, used 'orientate' at his NYT Sunday gig.

Joe 3:38 PM  

@everyone: expresso, aks, acrost, and nucular would have been great additions.
I am new to crosswords and loved this one - maybe *david* is right about this puzzle's intended target.

I can't help but wish 41A's clue had just been the star.

Stan 3:45 PM  

I'm on the side that didn't care for this. Maybe because (in most cases here) there was an incorrect spelling that could have been any incorrect spelling. For me the middle section became an unsolvable muddle (probably my own fault for never guessing sexIST).

sanfranman59 4:09 PM  

@PuzzleGirl: As Anonymous (8:52am) and others have pointed out, the problem with SUPPOSABLY is that it's an actual word. It's the adverb form of the word supposable, meaning capable of being supposed or conceivable. While it doesn't seem to me to be in common usage, it does appear in dictionaries. While the meaning is a shade different than the clue ("As it's widely believed"), the fact that it's a real word makes it contrary to the theme, imho.

Anonymous 4:36 PM  

I loved this puzzle, and had no trouble with it. Usually I slow down a little bit on Thursdays. Like PuzzleGirl, I have heard all of these. Too bad there was no room for my personal favorites: axed (as in "asked"), modren, and my absolute favorite-- nucular.

Glitch 4:48 PM  

Thanx to those who pointed out where to find definitions of supposably. (Really).

Oh, and BTW, for the dictionary duelists, here a quote from the NYT puzzle "specs", per one construction site:

"Constructions should emphasize lively words and names and fresh phrases. We especially encourage the use of phrases from everyday writing and speech, whether or not they're in the dictionary".



chefwen 5:10 PM  

This puzzle was akin to "nails down a chalk board". I grimaced my way through it and did not finish. UGH! When I filled in IRREGARDLESS I said "no they're not", but, yes they did!

Felicia is heading our way, wish me luck.

foodie 5:34 PM  

@Aviatrix, I like the mini emotional journey expressed in your post :)
and I'm with you re copying the letters in 3 minute (much less below 2 which I've seen). Remarkable!

Is Orientate more common in British English? Where's Daniel Meyers and his OED?

chengsikhan 5:41 PM  

The theme is NOT about correct spellings or valid words! It is about colloquial errors in the application of STANDARD English. When you mean "supposedly", you should not say "supposably" even though supposably is technically a valid English word. Likewise, the STANDARD pronunciation of prerogative (pree-RAH-guh-tiv) is not the way Bobby Brown pronounces it!

poc 5:49 PM  

@foodie: I seem to remember ORIENTATE as being the standard term when I was growing up in Ireland, and having to get used to ORIENT (as a verb).

I think a similar situation applies to EGOIST vs EGOTIST (though I can't remember which came first :-).

Ulrich 5:59 PM  

@anon at 1:12: They do not exactly teach the wrong spelling, but let kids get away with it. I actually asked if kids who spell a word correctly even if it's not pronounced that way get a bad mark--but the method doesn't seem to go that far.

@ret_chem: Yes, German spelling is somewhat closer to the actual pron[o]unciation, but it's far from close enough to make the approach I pilloried pedagogically viable. German faces, in principle, the same problem that other languages have if their phonetic alphabet is derived from Latin, which provides 25 letters, when the language has roughly 40 phonemes. With very few exceptions, languages deal with this problem through a totally unsystematic mix of double, even triple (e.g. German "sch") letters and diacritical marks, i.e. things one does not hear.

Nick 6:12 PM  

Well in contrast to much of you I found this puzzle to be very entertaining. I guess you don't hang out with people who have poor grammar because I have heard (key word, heard, Mr. I'm-an-English-teacher and have never seen these not spell-checked on handed in assignments) these said all the time. It's time you enjoyed a puzzle not for how quickly you can solve it but for its creativity. This one certainly required a lot of it and I had no trouble at all figuring it out.

Mara Hall 7:36 PM  

Supposably this puzzle concerns common mis-prounounciations, ex cetera. It came acrossed as annoying, though that's the writer's perogative. Irregardless, it sucks. *

*asterisk (also the probability of being killed in a meteor shower).

Anonymous 9:04 PM  

Please do not poke the sleeping bear named Daniel Meyers!
@ chefwen, best of luck with that storm.
@ Ulrich, Thanks for the language analysis. Interesting, as always.
Whoever said "Nails on a blackboard" hit it squarely. I don't find the butchering of the language amusing. Just axe anyone who knows me!
Squeek the anonymouse

michael 9:09 PM  

I liked it, even if I did have some problems figuring out how to make intentional mistakes. But the most interesting thing about the puzzle is the passionate dislike I found here. I just don't understand it ...

Tigger 9:38 PM  

Good puzzle, Dan!

I thought your (mis)spelling for the oft-mispronounced words was bang on.

HudsonHawk 10:10 PM  

@Mara Hall nailed it with a sledge hammer.

But then again, I may still be bitter about the FRAGRUNT pun at this year's ACPT that cost me a perfect solve, courtesy of the esteemed Merle Reagle.

sanfranman59 10:46 PM  

This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 7/30/2009 post for an explanation.

All solvers (median solve time, average for day of week, ratio, percentile, rating)

Mon 7:26, 7:02, 1.06, 67%, Medium-Challenging
Tue 7:44, 8:29, 0.91, 29%, Easy-Medium
Wed 10:47, 12:32, 0.86, 17%, Easy
Thu 20:09, 18:47, 1.07, 71%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:53, 3:44, 1.04, 67%, Medium-Challenging
Tue 4:06, 4:22, 0.94, 38%, Easy-Medium
Wed 5:16, 6:07, 0.86, 15%, Easy
Thu 9:37, 8:58, 1.07, 75%, Medium-Challenging

Rex Parker 10:49 PM  

I think claiming that people just parrot what I say is complete and utter bullshit. Insulting bullshit. Stick to your own opinions and don't make assumptions about how others came about theirs.

In Colorado now. Need dinner. Clearly. Oooh, my sister just made me a lemon martini. Gotta go.


HudsonHawk 11:03 PM  

Rex, make it a double. My treat.

Anonymous 11:16 PM  

To all you literati who didn't "get it" or who never heard someone use the word "irregardless," might I suggest broadening your socioeconomic range (or listening more attentively?) It's fun down here in the pit; come watch the play with us groundlings.

As David pointed out, this puzzle certainly does make fun. But, it appears to make fun of those not in on the joke. There is something unappealing about the thought of over-educated NYT readers mocking the illiterate over oatmeal and coffee.

fergus 11:49 PM  

My Sopranos-watching friends and I sometimes use IRREGARDLESS in honor of Paulie Walnuts. Maybe David Chase liked this puzzle?

Stan 11:50 PM  

I agree with @HudsonHawk: Post-of-the-day goes to @Mara Hall.

Otherwise, let me just parrot everything Rex said.

XMAN 12:05 AM  

I am drunk and want to say something majestic but can only rise to the level of pettiness, so will just szy g'night and best wishes for Friday, which, I'll bet, will be a bear.

andrea doria michaels 3:45 AM  

Re: Fragrunt costing you a perfect score...You and Merl are now even, as you misspelled his name! ;)

I parrot you and Stan re: @Mara Hall!

Plus I think @anonymous 11:16pm finally hit it on the head the little discomfort I did are we having fun or making fun ?
...and if it's making fun, who are we making fun of, exactly?

@anonymous 4:36
I taught English at Berlitz for years and at one point actually had an American student!
This woman was working at a bank and she had worked her way up from a very poor background, but was hard-working, "excetera"...

The bank wanted to promote her to manager but felt they couldn't with the way she spoke...
She had to learn to speak "white".
(Her biggest thing was saying "axe" a question)

It was a delicate and touchy situation, but we both got through it. She had to unlearn years of how she spoke at home (or to at least shift gears at work).
But she wanted that promotion and it was the only thing holding her back.
(This kind of situation was especially true/tricky in Boston in the 70s. It was fascinating to teach English as a Second Language to someone born in America (about 2/3 of my students were Japanese businessmen).
I had totally forgotten about her until today.

re: Corey/Marty...I wanted Tovah!
Nevermind the clue was "actOR" (altho some actresses use that) and now that I think about it, she is Feldshuh!

Scrabble lesson du jour:
You can NOT hook an S on to CIAO
(nor any interjection)

Bleedover: Caesar
(His wife was above suspicion, from what I understand)

Didn't know CASCA, tried CASIO. Is that Shakespeare? The one who betrays Romeo or something like that?

Never heard of "The Wreck of the Mary Deare"...anyone?

I think CRUE should have an umlaut, so that's sort of one of those ANO things!

And I admit, I just realized I have been mispronouncing/misspelling "Perogative"...I'm so Bobby Brown, I couldn't figure out what was wrong with that when I put it in!

HudsonHawk 8:32 AM  

@Andrea, it wasn't intentional, but you're right, now we're even. ;)

Anonymous 10:27 AM  

very late in the comment game, but no one mentioned the one I hate most: heighth for height.

I liked this puzzle, but I like them all, which is why I can't blog about them. Too Polly-anna.

Elaine 12:13 PM  

@ Andrea Doria (are you named for the ship?)
"Wreck of the Mary Deare" explained:
Sea mystery-suspense flick (B&W) starring an older Gary Cooper, who finds a drifting, deserted ship (the wreck of the _Mary Deare_)....and I saw it as a first run movie in a theater, so's old, but it WAS a talkie!

fergus 10:09 PM  

Did this in tandem with Taiko drummers pounding, and only occasionally got into the consensual beat. I even had Beantnik for the One who loves Pick-ups.

Got it all eventually, but with a bit of annoyance at my own closing mind in the South Carolina region. The puzzlers are crafty enough to have keyed the most unyielding region in that unyielding fashion.

Best Sunday puzzle in a while, though I was one who liked the Greek letters.

Anonymous 9:01 PM  

It appeared in syndication today. Age has not improved it. My two thumbs down.

Anonymous 9:58 PM  

Totally crapaud (which is French for toad) puzzle.

Alexander Dilg 10:23 AM  

This was in the China Daily today. I thought I was the dumbest person alive, since I couldn't find out most of it. So I'm glad to see native speakers also had problems :) Needless to say, I didn't like the crossword, either...

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