Oncle's spouse — WEDNESDAY, Sep. 16 2009 — Gold rush locale of 1898-99 / Croquet locale / Athenian marketplace / Land of Esau's descendants

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Constructor: Maura B. Jacobson

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: Playground math — if there are TWENTY-THREE KIDS (40A: Playground situation #2) but only TWENTY-ONE SWINGS (17A: Playground situation #1), then that leaves "TWO FOR THE SEE SAW" (64A: 1962 Robert Mitchum/Shirley MacLaine film ... or the outcome of 17- and 40-Across?)

Word of the Day: NOLI me tangere (35A: _____ me tangere (touch-me-not))

Noli me tangere, meaning "don't touch me", is the Latin version of words spoken, according to John 20:17, by Jesus to Mary Magdalene after his resurrection when she recognizes him.

The words were a popular trope in Gregorian chant. The supposed moment in which they were spoken was a popular subject for paintings in cycles of the Life of Christ and as single subjects, for which the phrase is the usual title. (wikipedia)


Maura Jacobson is a crosswording legend. I have a book of her New York Magazine puzzles right here on the book shelf next to me — always enjoyable. She's had a puzzle in the ACPT (American Crossword Puzzle Tournament) every year since its inception, if I remember correctly. A total pro. I normally enjoy her work quite a bit. But ... what the hell was this? I will say that the puzzle gets high marks for originality. It's so bizarre in its conception that I almost like it. Almost. As far as I can gather, the entire puzzle is built around the title of a 47-year-old movie. A movie with two very famous stars and yet a movie I've never heard of. I am sure it was well known in its day, but please don't anyone try to pull this "oh, it's very famous" bull!@#! today. Lots of movies with famous stars go on to ... nothing. They die in the historical memory. Anyway, the problem here isn't really the movie, it's the Long Theme Answers That Are Arbitrary Phrases Unreachable By Clue Alone. I see that the puzzle tried to make up for this fact by making Every Other Answer In The Puzzle Extremely Easy. Result: in effect, a Monday puzzle that got run over three times by the Random Tractor. Why that many kids? That many swings? Answer — those phrases are fifteen letters long. In the end, I was actually more disappointed in the non-theme fill (really pedestrian) than I was in the odd premise and execution of the theme (which, as I said, at least had a semi-appealing oddness factor).

I got slowed down in exactly one part of the grid, and that's because I typoed myself to death. I wrote in YSS instead of YSL at 50A: High-fashion inits., and I really needed that "L" because none of the other Downs in that area were making sense to me (those are the Downs that cross the impossible-to-get-without-crosses KIDS part of the central theme answers). I got MODES (33D: Styles) easily enough, but TOKE (31D: Hit, of a sort) was nicely, obliquely clued, so I couldn't see it, and ICILY (32D: How you might respond to an offensive remark) wanted to be IN something, and then EASEL ... well, once I corrected the YSS typo, EASEL went straight in and the section cleaned itself up from there. My favorite answer in the grid was probably "DAY BY DAY" (5D: How diaries are written) though (not surprisingly) I would have loved to see a clue referencing the short-lived 80s sitcom starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Courtney Thorne-Smith (don't worry; I'm only half serious).


  • 14A: Athenian marketplace (agora) — probably the most important fact (crossword-wise) I learned in my Athenian Democracy course in college.
  • 21A: Where Springsteen was born (in the U.S.A.) — this clue/answer is particularly lame. IN THE USA could have been the answer to [Where Cher was born], and possibly even [Where Obama was born] (now *that's* a clue I would have loved). I get that Springsteen had an album/song entitled "Born in the U.S.A." but your clue does not acknowledge the difference between what someone says in a song (songs are fiction — do you believe the rest of that song is about Bruce? Answer: no you don't. Not literally anyway.)
  • 28A: Land of Esau's descendants (Edom) — EDOM EDAM ELAM ELON ELOI ELEM ELOA ELIA ELEA ... this is what my brain looks like, roughly, when a clue like this comes up. I know the answer, but have trouble finding it in the clutter of my E-closet.
  • 29D: Bill who said of his TV monologues "It's all been satirized for your protection" (Maher) — went MAHRE. He can be funny, though I like him better in writing than in person. Haven't see "Religulous" — its in the queueueueueue.
  • 57D: Gold rush locale of 1898-99 (Nome) — seen the clue before. Gold rush + four letters = NOME. I think. There wasn't a gold rush in RENO? Or AMES? Was there?

Finally, Happy Birthday to a certain crossword constructor I know. I would tell you the person's name, but you can find it out for yourself when you solve the puzzle that Caleb Madison and I made for him as a gift. Here it is, enjoy.

[AcrossLite and .pdf version available here.

You can also print it out very easily, below (just click on "More" and then "Print")]

Across Lite - Happy Birthday, Kevin

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


JannieB 7:52 AM  

I finished this quickly, sat back and thought, "This is it???". No way would this have been published in a normal week. It was boring, clued way too easy for Wednesday, and the theme was pointless. Sorry.

PlantieBea 8:12 AM  

I found this to be the easiest of the three puzzles this week. I was disappointed that there were only three themed answers and I was hoping there would be more to the theme than I could see, but alas, no.

I made a last minute change to INGE; somehow ANGA just didn't work with the last name Swenson. Some interesting fill in this one with the IUD, TOKE, DWEEB. Favorite was DAY BY DAY, although now I'll have the tune from Godspell creeping through my brain all day.

dk 8:13 AM  

Speedy, not remembering the movie made it a math quiz. Although, Rex, for some this movie may be famous -- but two points for putting your stake in the ground

The clueing was, as @JannieB points out, easy.

I like DWEEB and INATUB. Not much else to say.

I had this idea that we could use this weeks puzzles as a view to the author/constructors context. Comparing old and young (Happy Birthday Kevin). The learning for today is: the old and young are equally likely to create less than satisfying Wednesday fare.

dk (aka big BOAR)

Anonymous 8:14 AM  

Too easy for a MONDAY. Disappointing.

toothdoc 8:24 AM  

I look forward to Wednesday, Thursday puzzles because, for me, they usually will fill up some time between patients. Today, I finished before the 1st patient got seated. WAAAAAAAAYYYYY too easy for a Wednesday. Don't care that it is a theme week - keep the standards up. Hope the LAT provides the challenge today.

btw, are "theme weeks" a new thing? I remember the young constuctors week a while back but this seems random. Why not ESL constructor's week or whiny- neophyte-crossword-solving-dentists constructor week.

fikink 8:30 AM  

Agree, would have been better on Monday this week and have George Shearing today.

Rex, the only gold rush there is in Ames is when the Hawks go over there and moitilize them.

Leslie 8:35 AM  

Haven't see "Religulous" — it's in the queueueueueue. Ha!

I laughed when TOKE appeared, and was surprised--not offended, just surprised--at a reference to an IUD. Following that train of thought: wouldn't DIAPHRAGM make an awesome piece of fill, with that final GM?

John 8:51 AM  

Got Bill Maher confused with Tom Lerher and had LAHER for 29D. O,Well...

joho 8:55 AM  

Where went our Wednesday?

nanpilla 8:58 AM  

Do you keep the things that you bought e-tail in your e-closet?

Have to agree that this was too easy. I didn't get to laugh at TOKE because I didn't even notice it until I came here. At lease we had ELEE instead of ULEE today. But now we have an AEON flux going. I liked ICILY and DWEEB.

PIX 9:07 AM  

Theme is a 1962 Shirley MacLaine movie I never heard of and don't care about...hmm...agree with Toothdoc that one should keep up standards even in a theme week...I guess Will Shortz has a very limited number of ways that he can acknowledge these long standing contributors but still...

Anonymous 9:10 AM  

I was thinking throughout most of this that the goal of today' puzzle was to put in as many crossword-ese words as possible.

Somewhere out in the ether is "ern" that has escaped...

Anonymous 9:11 AM  


Brendan Emmett Quigley 9:14 AM  

Not to be a dittohead, but man, you are NEVER going to see a theme like that ever again. And for that, it kind of achieved ... something. I went from hated it to tolerated it to maybe it's brilliant in the space of the 4:30 minutes it took me to finish it. When's the last time a puzzle made you think like that?

Anonymous 9:22 AM  

I found it quite clever. I enjoyed it!

Anonymous 9:23 AM  

I agree with Brendan!

toothdoc 9:33 AM  

RP - the Birthday puzzle saved me from the crossword DT's. Nicely done and very clever. I'll have to get over to BEQ's site and see if I'm up to challenging his puzzles yet.

slypett 9:40 AM  

When the normally acerbic BEQ speaks gently, I listen--though I don't agree: This should have been a Monday.

Kurt 9:40 AM  

I completely agree with BEQ's comments regarding the theme. I, too, went from "hated" to "tolerated" to "maybe it's brilliant" in a span of about 8 minutes.

Can't wait for Thursday!

Doug 9:46 AM  

I download Maher's HBO podcast every week because we don't subscribe to HBO. Funniest thing on the airwaves imho!

Lots of nice fill today, but thumbs down on the theme. Even if the movie was well known, so what?

Orange 9:49 AM  

Rex, was that a pop quiz? All the four-letter E words in your list were genuine crosswordese except for ELOA, which is nothing except the first four letters of ELOAN.

Ulrich 9:50 AM  

I take a one-of-a-kind theme any day, preferably with one-of-a-kind fill, tho.

I have been waiting for someone to pipe up about the focus on the constructors' age (not really, actually--it's on the length of time they have been constructing, but never mind) this week and claim it's "age-centric" or "old-ageist", and we finally got one. Let me tell you, dude, I'm of a certain age, and I see nothing wrong with it, and people can therefore talk about it as long as they want. Sheesh--since when is being old considered bad?

ArtLvr 9:54 AM  

Me too, I went from a Rex take to more of a BEQ opinion. TWO FOR THE SEESAW made me laugh, as I could see the two sides coming....


fikink 9:55 AM  

@Rex, just did your collaboration with Caleb for Kevin Der's birthday. A really fine puzzle. Hats off to both of you!
Wish I could talk about it, but don't want to give anything away...but the crosses that had me stumped I was able to figure out by employing some "pop logic."
Thanks for salvaging my Wednesday morning. On to BEQ's site this evening.

Rex Parker 10:07 AM  

@fkink: "Pop logic" — I like it. You are learning well, grasshopper.

There are a few issues with the birthday puzzle (one I just noticed this a.m., after a billion earlier proofreads), but I'm reasonably happy w/ the end result. There are some potentially nasty crosses, yes, but you had the right idea about how to work them out. I might briefly blog about making it soon.

As for today's puzzle: I had the same thought arc as BEQ, but my "maybe" broke "no." But agree with loony being better than flat-out dull.


Glitch 10:16 AM  

While ok, not a great example of a Wednesday NYT puzzle.

The fact that Will chose it as a “tribute” is even more disappointing.


dk 10:19 AM  

@ulrich, my comment referred to context and is a continuation of a reoccurring "conversation" on the age of the constructor and clues used in this blog. By context I mean the frame of reference used in constructing/authoring a puzzle. When I write/construct I use references from my childhood (Howdy Dowdy, Tom Mix, decoder rings), education (Thomas Mann, meiosis v. mitosis) and profession (say cheese, I see our hour is up). BEQ may use rock and role, Rex the Simpsons, etc. Thus, my point is less age or length of time constructing and more ones frame of reference. A reasonable example may be the puzzle from 1933 I found in my attic. Some of the clueing was IMHO obscure, however, my mom (85 and still wielding a sharp puzzle pencil) had no trouble. No offense intended on the age thing.

What I have observed so far this week is elder constructors tend to have obscure clues from their youth (e.g., Shearing from the other day) and the younger constructors may use Apu (clerk from ...).

Sorry droning on,

dk aka boar dude

retired_chemist 10:19 AM  

I thought the puzzle was OK. Was headed to one of my fastest Wednesday times (would also have been my fastest this week) and I messed up dead center with "Was it A CAT I saw?" The C made "Circulation line" @ 23D A?CTA and the ? had to be obtained from my own cluttered E closet. (I liked that line, Rex.) Got the O but was so sure of A CAT that I figured AOCTA was just a term I didn't know. And came here. And... d'oh!

Anonymous 10:23 AM  

As I was doing this, I thought it had so much easy crosswordese (ONER, STLO, ELEE, YSL, etc.) that that was a secondary theme, or some kind of satire.

foodie 10:24 AM  

I really, truly, liked it... I totally agree it's misplaced, but that's not the constructor's fault. I think the point is that the movie is such an unknown with a weird title: TWO FOR THE SEESAW? It's absurd! and the puzzle poses the tongue in cheek deep question: when would that ever happen? And goes on to create a formula to solve that deep question : ) And parts of the puzzle made me smile: like the homey COCOA that's clued like it's a cocktail, crossing TOKE. After finishing it I thought: I'd really like to meet her. I bet she has a little evil twinkle in her eye..

Glitch 10:33 AM  


Thanks for your comments.

I'm less disappointed now.


Two Ponies 10:42 AM  

Waaay too easy for a Wed. but as someone already said that is not Ms. Jacobson's fault. If this had been published on Mon. I'll bet it would have been received much better.
@ Rex, Loved the write-up today esp. your e-closet.
Religulous is in my queue too.
@ twangster, I had the same thought as I cruised through.
"Is this a puzzle satire?"
My only difference with Rex today was the Springsteen clue. Of course I first tried thinking of some town in New Jersey but then got the joke and liked it.
As for the theme .... all I can say is strange and unexpected.

Charles Bogle 10:42 AM  

I'm w the early birds..personally didn't care for this puzzle. Frankly never heard of 21SWINGS and 23Kids but had heard of the movie. Also, unlike the Mon and Tues puzzles this week by legends, today's non-theme fill struck me as conventional and over-used. All that being said, I'm a huge fan of anyone who has been at the top of their game for so long and given so many people pleasure; congratulations Maura Jacobson!

fikink 10:44 AM  

@dk, Howdy Dowdy was a sartorial nightmare! ;)

Denise 10:45 AM  

Who is the designer whose initials are YSS?

For some reason, I intuited numbers pretty soon, and which numbers came easily.

My time was atrocious last night thanks to a phone call and an urgent secretarial job for my husband.

fergus 10:45 AM  

Quite a few minutes spent debating the vowel before betting on Inga.

slypett 10:50 AM  

twangster: That's it! That's why BEQ, et al found the puzzle brilliant--so much crosswordese plus all the fill-ins, all midst a reasonable theme. It's a Wednesday not, this time, because of its difficulty but its cleverness. Ach! What a dope I am!

PARSAN 10:50 AM  

TWO FOR THE SEESAW was a very apt description of the relationship between two very unlikely people (up and down). @Ulrich, perhaps I'm risking being put out on an Eskimo ice floe, but I saw the very successful original play in 1958 on Broadway starring Anne Bancroft and Henry Fonda. It was rewritten as a not very well received musical in 1973. To theatre geeks it is well known. I thought the theme was clever. I have the same "what are they talking about?" reaction to clues about computers, cars, and obscure Rulers.

william e emba 10:54 AM  


Do you know what a spoiler is? Sheesh.

Anonymous 10:59 AM  

It is interesting that Rex thinks that an answer he's never heard of is always a bad answer. At least, he's consistent about this. I don't mind learning something new. By the way, I remember "Two for the Seesaw" very well.

Clark 11:01 AM  

I agree with @foodie. Liked the puzzle; too easy for a Wednesday. I enjoyed watching the three theme answers fill themselves in. I'm a Shirley MacLaine fan, but she made a lot of movies I haven't seen, including this one which I don't even remember hearing about.

Susan 11:01 AM  

It's hard to believe, based on that masterful title sequence, that the sit-com "Day by Day" wasn't a big hit! (I thought I knew EVERY obscure half-season sitcom of the 80s but this one was new to me.) Thanks for that, Rex.

I liked this puzzle and its loopy theme.

Jeffrey 11:04 AM  

I'm with BEQ. Sure, it was my fastest Wednesday, and I first went "huh" when I completed it. But how often do we say "Boy another add a letter puzzle, drop-a-letter, etc, etc puzzle. When will we get something different?"

It's different, fast and fun. Bravo!

Badir 11:24 AM  

Yep, a PR for me, too! Today's puzzle was faster for me than yesterday's, which was faster than Monday's. It's not often I get a reversal that long!

Ulrich 11:34 AM  

@dk: Sorry for the confusion--I wasn't referring to your comment, with which I agree. I was referring to something that was said late last night, but since I had read it just before today's comments, I conflated the two days--advanced age may be not so cool after all!

To support what you said: There are 52 weeks per year. Can't we tolerate ONE week in which the puzzles are related by a common characteristic, like the length of time the constructors have been doing this, as some sort of tribute? Can't we call the St. Louis Blues a blues even if it doesn't consistently adhere to the blues scheme? Can't we call rap music even if it has no melody? Can't we call Monet's haystacks art even if they are not a grand theme? In other words, can't we live with situations that go against our expectations? Does everything we experience have to fit into preconceived categories?

Learned Hand 11:39 AM  

Maybe easy for you, but extremely difficult for a younger person like me. I was extremely frustrated by this one. Not fun at all.

Anonymous 11:44 AM  

@Ulrich: It's apparent to many that age discrimination has permeated this blog.

SethG 11:44 AM  

I finished this in my standard Wednesday time. I think the bizarreness would have been heightened for me if a see-saw didn't normally carry two people. As it was, it just seemed random. I wonder if MJ's first published puzzle was built around a reference to a 1908 movie?

I definitely liked the IN A/IN THE, though, which more than made up for A TEAMS and SINATRAS. Mostly, I'm upset that the theme put the entirely unrelated _Ride My See-Saw_ in my head, and that is one annoying earworm.

william e emba, what are you talking about?

Karen from the Cape 11:59 AM  

I went back and forth on INGA vs OLGA Swenson and ended up with ONGA instead. If I knew my Latin biblical phrases as well as I know my Spanish watches I would have been fine.

From the IMDB database: the plot of TWO FOR THE SEESAW is "Jerry Ryan is wandering aimlessly around New York, having given up his law career in Nebraska when his wife asked for a divorce. He meets up with Gittel Mosca, an impoverished dancer from Greenwich Village, and the two try to straighten out their lives together." Sounds 60s-ish. Elizabeth Taylor and Paul Newman were originally to be cast in the movie. And an episode of Frasier was called Four for the Seesaw, which I'm guessing now went over most of their audience's heads.

HudsonHawk 12:16 PM  

Yeah, kinda random, but I liked the puzzle. Rex, surely the "first place" in your E-closet is reserved for EDEN.

I'm with Two Ponies on the clue for 21A. I wanted FREEHOLD, but it turns out he was born in Long Branch. Thought IN THE USA was cute.

Jim inChicago 12:25 PM  

Either everyone else is grumpy or I've been smoking something. I sort of liked this puzzle, even though I agree it should have been Monday.

mac 12:58 PM  

Doing the top two-thirds of the puzzle I thought: Maura is pulling our leg with the easiness and the crosswordese. Agora!

Then I got pauzed at the bottom, don't know why, but most likely because I've never heard of the title. I don't think I've seen a MondayWednesday puzzle before where I needed so many crosses for the theme answers.

Now on to Rex and Caleb's puzzle for dessert.

dk 1:01 PM  

@ulrich, no harm. I thought my 1st post may have been focused on age and not the context.. etc.

I like the common characteristic of the puzzle idea. It makes the puzzles fun and bounces our posts all over the floor.

@learned hand, LOL.

@seth, maybe william was upset when @fikink stated the obvious...

I am in the midst of a vacation week so I am going back to "The Simple Art of Murder." Buzz you mugs in the AM.

down for the count: AMEN

MikeM 1:02 PM  

@ANON 10.59; I agree with you. Why can't an old movie most of us never heard of be included in a puzzle? I love learning things I never knew before. Thought the puzzle was easy, but really liked the clever theme.
The Springsteen clue was the boss!

fikink 1:11 PM  

@dk, now it is my turn to apologize. I was not at all attempting to draw attention to your typo, I was trying to make a dk-type pun on the word "dowdy." Did not mean to wound you.
I apologize; there was no jeering intended, just humor.

andrea 1DOWN michaels 1:20 PM  

Here's the thing, even if you are building to a punchline based on a semi-obscure 50 yr old movie, you still, theoretically, aren't supposed to have two TWENTYs... and then suddenly a TWO.

Then it wouldn't repeat the initial word which is a HUGE no-no.

As Rex said, the only justification was bec they were 15 letters...but the bigger issue is that altho everyone loves Maura, THESE ARE NOT PHRASES IN THE LANGUAGE!!!!!!!!

In the tournament, we were allotted a HALF HOUR for this puzzle which everyone finished in the same time (or less) than the first two
Upside, more time to socialize,
downside, it was spent arguing over the puzzle!
(Hey! Like a seesaw! Maybe it's sly brilliance grows!!!!!!!!)

People were VERY divided.

It evoked more playground situations "You are silly for liking this puzzle... AMNOT, ARETOO...!

YES on punchlines!!!!!!!!! No on the other two phrases not being phrases!!!!!!!!!!!!

I (w)racked my brain to understand why this would be acceptable.
The only thing I can think of is TWENTYTHREEKIDS is close to 23 SKIDOO so I wondered if TWENTYONESWINGS had some parallel like 21 WINGDINGS are SOMEthing!

Maybe Will liked the TW TW TW?

And to try and make this "constructive" criticism, since the only thing that was interesting was the bizarre title for an old movie maybe you could have the puzzle be more like:


(Bec this one had two theme answers that don't mean a thing...

Noam D. Elkies 1:34 PM  

There's a front-page article in today's NYTimes about that fabled 1933 Double Eagle! (The $20 gold coin from yesterday's puzzle, not a 3-under-par golf score.)

In today's puzzle what caught my attention was several entries like 22A:ENYA and 51A:AOL, as if the constructor was trying to prove that old-school constructors can do new-skool krosswordese too...

I too was surprised at the IUD clue — all the more so with 52D:LATEX gloves in the puzzle as well.

Haven't seen this clue for 9A:AMEN before, and neither has xwordinfo.com: 149 clues, one previous example of "Last word in the New Testament" and that was 10 years ago. It's not the last word in my Bible :-) [and no, it's not "curse" or "destruction" either: the Jewish Bible ends with 2 Chronicles, not Malachi.] Nor did I know the origin of the "No lime, tangerine" phrase — interesting!


Noam D. Elkies 1:36 PM  

@Andrew 1D Michaels: Wait, what tournament? Were this week's puzzles also used for a crossword solving contest recently?


Doug 1:50 PM  

I'm a film buff with a pretty good memory and I've never heard of the theme film. Kind of a lousy puzzle and easy; agree with everyone on that. It did remind me of a NY mag puzzle.

andrea ringo michaels 2:09 PM  

Yes, in Alameda...read Fergus's comments posted Saturday night on this here blog.
and AMEN to your AMEN comment. That was odd cluing, coming from a Jacobson...

HAPPY DERDAY, KEVIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

@Rex, Caleb
Thanks for the bonus puzzle today! Can't wait to do it...
and my pal/sometime collaborator Michael Blake's puzzle is in the LA Times if you are not too tired.

kevin der 2:32 PM  

rex, caleb, just wanted to say how surprised and touched i was to see your puzzle. a fantastic 16:41 workout, 2-Down and 53-Across my favorite clues. thank you so much! you completely made my day.

chefbea 2:32 PM  

I agree, the puzzle was very easy but I liked it. I am old enough to remember that play.

Now to do the b-day puzzle.

Sam 2:40 PM  

If you lived anywhere near NYC back then, Two for the Seesaw was a total gimme. It was a big hit on Bway and then a movie.
Why do you think the solvers at the ACPT stomp and clap and go Yay whenever a Maura puzzle comes up? Because they're delighted they'll be able to solve it!!
What snobs some of you are.
Try turning out a 21 x 21 puzzle week in, week out for years. Then bitch.

Abide 2:47 PM  

I thought this puzzle was pretty cool, but the comments are cracking me up.

Roadside sign #1 NEXTBATHROOM(12)

Roadside sign #2 THIRTYFOURMILES(15)

1964 Shirley MacLaine movie WHATAWAYTOGO (12)

Anyone know the name of the font for those old movie titles like on the Seesaw album cover?

Greene 2:59 PM  

Being a theatre nerd, I totally knew Two For the Seesaw (which has never struck me as a bizarre title in the slightest). I've seen the play, but not on Broadway (I was three when this came out), and enjoyed the film. I even sat through the rather calamatous musical version starring Ken Howard and Michelle Lee that flopped on Broadway in 1973.

I was charmed to see the title featured in a puzzle and found this little bagatelle to be an utter delight. Easy to solve and an amusing payoff. The fact that two of the theme phrases are not in the language didn't bother me in the least. Rules are meant to be broken, especially in the hands of an expert constructor. I think the question is merely whether the solver believes that the ends justify the means. Apparently many here do not. That's ok I guess; everybody is entitled to their own opinion. I just wish we could be more civil and respectful with our criticisms.

For me: a fun and delightful puzzle. Definitely thumbs up!

archaeoprof 3:34 PM  

I hestitate to disagree with ACME, my hero, but...

@Foodie: I can see that twinkle in her eye too.

edmcan 3:48 PM  

@Sam - I agree with you. I like Ms. Jacobson's puzzles AND I remember Two for the Seesaw, even though I don't claim to be a film buff.

Anonymous 4:05 PM  

Hey Aaron Riccio - no fair spoiling the puzzle for those who haven't gone there yet! Boo hiss.

Van55 4:16 PM  

For me, the cleverness of the theme today overcame that the puzzle was more of Monday than Wednesday in difficulty. I liked it and remembered the title "Two for the Seesaw."

Thumbs up to Ms. Jacobson.

Thumbs down to Rex for the birthday puzzle's lame "Fresno to Bakersfield dir." clue. Otherwise the birthday tribute puzzle was pretty good overall and a better example of the typical Wednesday NYT puzzle.

doug in manchester 4:21 PM  

I realised a breath of fresh air these few days, and a welcome break from the standard NY Times puzzle week of homogeneous 'guy' puzzles. women compilers have all but disappeared from the puzzle NY Times queue in recent years.

.......i've been a fan of Ms. Jacobson in NY Mag. long live this lovely lady.

sanfranman59 4:35 PM  

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)

Wed 8:29, 12:00, 0.71, 4%, Easy

Top 100 solvers

Wed 4:25, 5:53, 0.75, 6%, Easy

jskarf 5:13 PM  

I wholeheartedly disagree about INTHEUSA. I sat there and tried to think of all the towns in New Jersey that I could, and when the answer finally presented itself I actually yelled with delight. I thought it was a clever clue.

Supafly Mom 5:18 PM  

Would have been neat to see the IUD clue in Monday's puzzle below the 'Margaret Sanger' clue. In short, this Wednesday puzzle made me feel like a frickin' genius.

retired_chemist 5:56 PM  

Happy birthday, Kevin Der. Your birthday present puzzle was a good one, although my solving didn't do it justice.

If NYT old timers week is wearing on any of you, go do this one and you will be rejuvenated.

Glitch 6:26 PM  

Thanks for the hints to today's Birthday puzzle.

It will be a big help to those of us that didn't have time to do it during the day ;-)


Parsan 6:36 PM  

Two FOR THE SEESAW is not as obscure as it might seem. I caught the end of it on TCM or some other station in the last two or three weeks. Filmed before color was a given, it had a gritty, realistic look unlike other movies of that era, such as the Doris Day pictures. I thought it held up quite well. I also agree with Sam about turning out puzzles week after week. As Jonathan Winters said after being complimented on his 50 year marriage, "You try it!"

chefbea 6:49 PM  

@parsan forgot about jonathan winters. Thanks for the reminder

Sfingi 7:03 PM  

I judge puzzle as food if it avoids French or sports. Don't care that it's easy. I prefer nostalgia to prepubescent showmen who call singers "artists." And, yes, I'm an old fartress.

Dwight the dwarf dwindled in his dwelling. The rest are made up - dweebs, dworks - or actual surnames.

I never much cared for what we used to call "bedroom comedies," especially since they never got to the bedroom. Where did they find these people? Even the European classics from which they sprang at least had some raunchy language.

@Anonymous 4:05 - Why would you read the comments before you're done solving?

37A Love palindromes.

I agree with @JSkarf - Thought the Springsteen clue was good.
Agree with @Doug in Manchester. It's probably like teaching or nursing or (previously) girls schools. Once the guys get hold of it, they take over. Testosterone overdose.

As I was working from top to bottom, I first had 21 stings (not swings), and thought we were going for The Hundred Blows, a true classic.

I thought Religulous was humorous, interesting, and worth watching, but to me it seemed that the Jesus re-enactor kind of whooped him; but, a good sport, he left it in.

I've been hoping that when I'm ready for a nursing home and haven't the brains to save enough pills or clean the gun or walk into the reservoir, that friends and family will revert to some of my Frisian ancestors and put me on the ol' floe. (P.S. In later years, the Christians pulled them back in.)

If you want a real age-ey puzzle, try the AARP!

AV 7:51 PM  


Nice thought, but:




Anonymous 8:00 PM  

Minority view -- I loved it. An easy puzzle yes, but I found TOKE, IN THE USA among others to be both original and clever. After all, for the Springsteen clue, how many of you were racking your minds to come up with cities in New Jersey that began with the letters INT? Maybe not a Wednesday, but enjoyable for me.

Parsan 8:09 PM  

@Sfingi - Do you mean Truffaut's "400 Blows"? A great movie!

sillygoose 8:41 PM  

I am enjoying the quirkiness of this week, so far. I also picture that little twinkle in her eye.... The unusual themes have been amusing. I am very entertained by the crosswordese +random theme pairing.

Sfingi 8:46 PM  

@Parsan - Yes I meant 400. I also meant good, not food. These are the senior moments.

Ulrich 8:47 PM  

@Kevin der (you know what): Best wishes!

@Rex: Your German seems to be better than you claim it is (or is this Caleb's doing?). Plus, thanks for the shout-out for the person born Christa Päffgen in my hometown (I don't think I'm spoiling anything here).

Unknown 8:48 PM  

But if there are 23 kids and only 21 swings then the 2 kids left are forced to use the seesaw...

edith b 9:03 PM  

Two for the Seesaw was one of those serious, adult films made in the early 60s that, as Greene pointed out, was based on a serious, adult play. Of course, to todays audience its tropes are very dated and, truth be told, were dated even then. I saw it when it first came out and realized it dealt with ideas that had currency in the 30s updated. Like a lot of movies made in those days. Not a bad movie, but except for its stars, forgettable.

I enjoyed doing the puzzle and liked its framework. Nice diversion on a Tuesday night.

fergus 9:07 PM  

Oddly enough, I did an AARP puzzle during my prep period today. It was by Merl Reagle and the only senior bias was a Clue that led to "On Golden Pond."

I've had some disagreement about thematic issues with Andrea in the past, but today I'm concurring with her constructive criticism. If I had an encyclopedic knowledge of old shows and movies, this little subtraction problem might shimmer, but I did share her view of why it lacked luster.

(I found an AARP magazine lying around, by the way; and even if one qualifies at 50, I ain't joining yet.)

dk 9:23 PM  

@fikink, you should never apologize for dk-like pun-ish-ment.

@andrea (fill in the blank) michaels, you sure do write alot.... I of course hang on every word.

hi @anon from last night, yes it is true I am shameless

now to take the Alice B. TOKE-less brownies out of the oven

sanfranman59 10:21 PM  

This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 7/30/2009 post for an explanation. In a nutshell, the higher the ratio, the higher this week's median solve time is relative to the average for the corresponding day of the week.

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

Mon 8:16, 7:00, 1.18, 92%, Challenging
Tue 8:11, 8:25, 0.97, 46%, Medium
Wed 8:39, 12:00, 0.72, 4%, Easy

Top 100 solvers

Mon 4:14, 3:43, 1.14, 83%, Challenging
Tue 4:20, 4:21, 0.99, 53%, Medium
Wed 4:21, 5:53, 0.74, 5%, Easy

Predictably, this was the 3rd easiest puzzle for all solvers and the 4th easiest for the top 100 relative to the day of the week in the 15 weeks I've been tracking the solve times. Definitely more of a Monday/Tuesday puzzle, than a Wednesday.

My two cents on the theme ... while it may not have been according to whatever the crossword constructor's equivalent of Hoyle, the Marquess of Queensberry and Robert's Rules, I found it clever and creative. Had she used numbers other than TWENTYTHREE and TWENTYONE, I don't think I'd have found it as interesting. I rather liked the series of TWs down the west coast.

fergus 11:58 PM  


your restraint is both admirable and annoying. Despite your recent exposure to Andrea and me, you remain terse and objective in filing your reports.

While I can understand the on-line reservations, there are no real (tasteful) restrictions to offering any point of view. If I buy you a few pints in the Irish bar in the Richmond when my sweet little Cajun friend and I come up to SF this weekend, after a visit to the Legion of Honor, maybe I'll get you to reveal yourself more ?

Anonymous 12:25 AM  

Something About Mary ...



sanfranman59 12:43 AM  

@ fergus ... sorry to annoy you, but pleased to be admired ... I'm afraid I'll have to take a rain check on the offer of a pint as I will be traversing the continent on Saturday to attend a family reunion on the shores of North Carolina. I'll look forward to your next visit to fog city.

JaneB 12:46 AM  

I'm not that old, I am a film buff, and although I haven't seen it, I easily remembered this movie title. I'll add myself to the group that liked the puzzle, and found the theme clever and different.

fergus 1:10 AM  

No annoyance here --

as you may have construed
in this jovial latitude,
no conveyance is imbued
without a jovial attitude.

anDERa 4:24 AM  

wonDERful! so unDERstated...like the birthDER boy himself!
not trying to panDER but it was a work of DERring-do...

InDEResting that the final theme entry (is (spoilDER alert!) (is it a common phrase? I know not from sports, but then again this puzzle wasn't meant for a reaDER like me or my ilk but still gettable and fun fun fun) is split between difDERent letDERs than the othDER four. Was that your one reDERvation?

bravo all around. Long live KevinDER the great!

Singer 2:28 PM  

1) Agree that this puzzle should have been a Monday and that it was too easy, but it still was enjoyable for 3 or 4 minutes.

2) Rex, thanks for the BDay puzzle - it gave me a bit more to do today than the NYT did. Learned a new slang phrase - I had "On the QT" for a long time. When I solved the puzzle, I had to Google the correct answer to find out if I was right.

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