SATURDAY, Sep. 19 2009 — She danced in Tirana / Job for a Rhine surgeon / Oath from renegade / Having chevrons with red tips

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Constructor: Mel Taub

Relative difficulty: Irrelevant

THEME: Puns and Anagrams Puzzle — it seems that puns and anagrams are involved in solving this puzzle, but I'm not the best one to ask, as I would never normally voluntarily solve a miniature puzzle that went around calling itself "Puns and Anagrams." Normally I would pass. "No thank you," I'd say.

Word of the Day: Canceled until real crosswords come back

Puzzle Note:


All the daily crosswords this week, Monday through Saturday, are by puzzlemakers who have been contributing to The Times for more than 50 years. Mel Taub had his first Times crossword published on October 24, 1954. His Puns and Anagrams puzzles (of which this is an example) have appeared in the Sunday Magazine since 1955.


Apparently these "Puns & Anagrams" puzzles appear in the NYT all the time, and some people quite like them. I've never seen one or solved one before. Literally, never. I wrote my fellow Blogger, Amy Reynaldo, asking her what the hell I was supposed to do with it. Before she could get back to me, I'd solved it. My wife stood here and solved it with me (that never, Ever happens with real crosswords — much as I love my wife, I don't have the patience to solve real crosswords at her speed ... but on this type of puzzle, we're pretty equally matched, so solving together was fun). My first thought: "So ... it's kind of like a cryptic crossword, only suckier." With a night's sleep behind me, in the cold light of day, I stand by that initial assessment. If you like this pun/anagram stuff, do yourself a massive favor and pick up a book of cryptic crosswords. Or just pick up a Harper's Magazine — their puzzles (wicked hard and multi-layered) always have cryptic clues as their base. Does The Nation still publish a cryptic? Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon are probably the biggest names in American cryptics, so ask for them by name. Anyhoo, cryptic clues are way way way more clever, and precise, in their wordplay, than are "puns and anagrams" — plus, puns and anagrams aren't the only wordplay going on in cryptics.

Take STEAL (6A).

Today's clue: At least it's a real bargain
Possible cryptic clue: "Crazy" singer gets souvenir shirt for a bargain

Now in today's clue, you just anagram LEAST to get a definition of "a real bargain" => STEAL. There is nothing cuing you to anagram LEAST. You just ... do. 'Cause the puzzle title tells you that's one of the options. "Do I pun, or do I anagram? I have to decide, as the clue itself won't be bothered to say or otherwise playfully indicate."

In the cryptic clue, you have to figure out what kind of wordplay is involved From Indications In The Clue Itself. So SEAL (who sang "Crazy" ... and is married to model Heidi Klum ... but you could substitute something less pop culturey like a cute aquatic seal or a rugged Navy Seal) ... anyway, SEAL "gets" (as in takes, grasps, swallows, encompasses) a souvenir shirt or "T" with the result being a bargain: STEAL. Shove T inside SEAL to get STEAL. My cryptic clue is Vastly superior and I just made it up and and I have never clued a cryptic puzzle in my life. The weak clues aren't the constructor's fault. They're the genre's fault. Puns & anagrams, boo. Here are all the clues and answers today's puzzle. I have nothing (more) to say about them.


  • 1 — Impudence of a Br. fool (BRASS) — Br + ass ("fool")
  • 6 — see above
  • 11 — Author in a stupor (PROUST) — anagram of "stupor"
  • 12 — Job for a Rhine surgeon (HERNIA) — anagram of "a Rhine"
  • 14 — Mien of a crapshooter will reduce friction (ROLLER BEARING) — "Crapshooter" = ROLLER, "Mien" = BEARING, ROLLER BEARINGs reduce friction. This is a solid cryptic clue, though I've never heard of a ROLLER BEARING. BALL BEARING, sure.
  • 16 — Oath from a renEGADe
  • 17 — What lies in the Seine (ILES) — anagram of "lies"
  • 18 — _____ party (golfers' bash) (TEE) — pun on "tea" with nice pick-up of golf swing "BASH"ing a tee
  • 19 — Kind of dry (SUN) — 'cause you can SUN dry something?
  • 20 — Turned pea in 19-Across (SPUN) — 'cause "SPUN" means "turned" and "pea" is a pun on "P", which is added to SUN (19A) to get SPUN.
  • 21 — Group of Irish islands in quARANtine
  • 22 — Dead set against being keyed up (SEDATED) — anagram of "dead set"
  • 24 — Divided A.P. pictures (APART) — A.P. + "pictures" or ART
  • 25 — Tenants of Lords, e.g. (LODGERS) — anagram of "Lords, e.g."
  • 27 — U.N. rap added rapidly (RAN UP) — anagram of "U.N. rap"
  • 30 — Except having Republican passage from a book (EXCERPT) — "R" (for "Republican") inside "Except"
  • 34 — Retro style (EDOM) — "Mode" backwards
  • 35 — One who attends school hops (SOPH.) — anagram of "hops" ... did anyone else want SOCK?
  • 36 — Swiss toURIst center (it's a real place in Switzerland)
  • 37 — Why isn't one done? (NOD) — that is, "No D"
  • 38 — Pedro's hand in Oman (MANO) — anagram of "Oman"
  • 39 — _____ pressure (cause a jetty to collapse) (PIER) — pun on "peer pressure"
  • 40 — Fall guy's protection when traveling (TRIP INSURANCE) — just ... a big pun
  • 43 — Where does N.C. rank among U.S. states in Christmas tree production? (SECOND) — anagram of "does N.D."; no idea what Christmas tree production is all about. I see an anagram of CONES in there ... do Christmas trees produce CONES? ... but then there's the left over "D" ... 500 CONES?
  • 44 — Reined in nymph (NEREID) — anagram of "Reined"
  • 45 — Shabby followers of a bee (SEEDY) — pun on "C, D" ... they follow "B"
  • 46 — Pairs accumulated in 500 days (DYADS) — anagram of "days" and "D" (Roman numeral for "500")

Tired ... will do Downs later.


OK, I can't do this. I'll just say that ANITRA was unknown to me, so 9D: She danced in Tirana was toughish to me. I also wanted MIND to be MIQD, despite the nonsensicality thereof (38D: Intellect in 1500). [See that the doctor gets in] — that is my cryptic suggestion for this one. Or are MIND THAT and SEE THAT not equivalent enough? [Watch the doctor get in]? [The doctor gets in your head, so to speak]?

In summation, I'd like to say:

Summary? Cripes!

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CROSSWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


dk 8:45 AM  

SEDATED! This puzzle is dead to me.

I went to @orange's site early this morning to get a hint (cheat) and upon reading the explanation for ROLLERBEARING I decided to leave this one for the pros.

Poked a while longer and feeling RUINED came here. Read the explanation for 43a and with all the BRASS I could muster exclaimed EGAD.

Just not my cuppa.

Meg 8:45 AM  

I think SUNDRY is similar to ERRANT in that you just put the 2 parts together to get another word which isn't actually clued at all. A bit odd.

I think the puzzle should be labeled "ANAGRAMS and ALMOST CRYPTICS". Or "I used to create cryptic crossword puzzles, but then I got into drugs".

Not a challenge, but not a bad solving experience.

Puns and Anagrams hater 8:49 AM  

I love cryptics, but hate Puns and Anagrams. With cryptics, there are rules and puns and anagrams don't have any.

As someone who does the second puzzle each Sunday, I am slightly happy because I now have a forum to voice my loathing of Puns and Anagrams. Give me another acrostic or diagramless anyday.

Glitch 8:49 AM  

Don't care for P&A's.

Didn't help the on line (not acrosslite) version had all the across clues off by one (ie 1A was a blank, the clue following 46D was labeled "null".

Impossible to solve, bad way to start the day.

By the time I found THEIR error I no longer care.

This is NOT a crossword puzzle, no matter how good, and dosen't belong here!


PGubanc 8:57 AM  

I concur! With all opinions. I was *so* disappointed not to have a Saturday "challenge" to play with that I was unfaithful and went off with a Peter Gordon Saturday mind-bender. *Bah* to puns and anagrams!

alanrichard 9:05 AM  

When I saw M-E-L-T-A-U-B, I was ready to do A-T-U-M-B-L-E because this was an easy M-U-T-A-B-L-E puzzle. OMG is this really MONDAY? I'm thankful for Brain Bashers, The Daily Sudoku, and the LA Times on days like this!!!

Jeffrey 9:08 AM  

I completed it. No point reviewing. It is different.

Denise 9:14 AM  

I couldn't finish-- at least not in the time I had alloted -- but I am curious about them, and will go back to it later now that I have seen the solution.

Kind of an unsettling experience.

joho 9:15 AM  

We was robbed!

I'm sure I'm not the only one here who looks forward with intense anticipation to what is hopefully the ultimate Saturday challenge. And what do we get? This cream puff of puns and anagrams. If this showed up as the second puzzle on Sunday ... that's NOT Saturday ... fine. A light diversion liked by some. But this is in no way a Saturday puzzle and should not have been published as one.


Meg 9:25 AM  

P and A haters: don't bother reading this. I went over to the NYT forum where there is an explanation of all the answers. "Kind of" clues in a P and A signal "word that can precede". Who knew? So it's SUN DRY, not SUNDRY and ERRANT is just ERRANT.

chefbea 9:27 AM  

Never have done a puns and anagrams puzzle and now I know why!! Have no idea how to figure it out.

I agree - unfair!! we are suppose to do regular crossword puzzles.

Now - what do I do today??

John 9:42 AM  

Anagrams is the reason they have the JUMBLE!!!!! We dont neewd it in the NYT Saturday Puzzle!!!!

HudsonHawk 9:44 AM  

I'm pleased to have finished this one, since I'd never done a P&A puzzle. I also would have preferred a normal Saturday puzzle, but didn't hate it as much as Rex and some of the early commenters.

Only puzzle comment is that 27A was clued in the dead tree version as:


That's "fled" from bottom to top, or RAN UP.

On to Sunday's puzzle, which looks pretty normal. The good news is that the second Sunday puzzle is a Split Decisions. Love them.

Guy who says Seriously to the point of annoyance 9:49 AM  

Seriously, you're going to come back to do (catalog and explain) the downs? Seriously? Can't spend your time poking your eyes out or something else? Seriously?

Anonymous 9:56 AM  

I am not a fan of this type of puzzle, but I would defend Shortz's decision to publish it as a Saturday puzzle. For regular crossword puzzles (who are the target audience) who does not do this type of puzzle, it would be a very hard puzzle. For those who use reference works to help solve a difficult puzzle, such works are useless in this type of puzzle. For those who like this type of puzzle, it was nice and appropriate that they were given a puzzle this week too.

I would have preferred a puzzle with the normal size grid. And I really think that the Times should have expanded Mr. Shortz's space this one day to have allowed him to publish both this puzzle and a normal puzzle. That would have been a nice gesture that would have probably made everyone happy.

Leslie 10:01 AM  

Like practically everyone else, I groaned when I saw it was a "puns and anagrams" puzzle.

But I can't agree with this:

This cream puff of puns and anagrams.

Whoa, really? A creampuff? That's why I hate P&A puzzles, because they're hard for me!

I could actually feel my mind working differently as I worked this one--I mean, in the sense that an fMRI could have actually tracked different parts of my brain lighting up than is usual when I work a crossword. It was a weird sensation.

But I do have to say, I was ridiculously proud of myself for finally figuring it all out, even if it was a creampuff example of a P&A puzzle, because I normally Do Not Get them.

Brad La Beck 10:07 AM  

Happy Talk Like a Pirate Day !

dk 10:08 AM  

@joho, remember it is much better if you don't hold back. Say what really feel :):):)

d (creampuff) k

Anonymous 10:09 AM  

I don't hate P&A's. In fact, this was my quickest time ever for a Saturday. Pity it doesn't count.

Smitty 10:11 AM  

To me it's just a way to wake up with coffee, and it did the job just fine.

Jim H 10:12 AM  

I LOVE cryptic puzzles. P&A, not so much. Rex's description was perfect: "Just like a cryptic, but suckier."

A good cryptic clue/answer produces a chuckle (sometimes a belly laugh). Not one single chuckle today. Also, no Saturday-level puzzle. Now what?

alanrichard 10:14 AM  

The P & A puzzles aare the easiest. The answers are in the clues, literally. Once I saw the name Mel Taub, I knew what this was. This took me just over 2 minutes - which NEVER happens on a Saturday.
But I agree - this should have been a Second Saturday puzzle and the real Saturday challenger should have been here for Saturday.
At the risk of being blasphemous - it's time to download the Newsday Saturday Stumper!

Anonymous 10:18 AM  

Baskin-Robbins offers 31 different flavors; surely Will can offer more than one. Puns and Anagrams aren't my favorite crossword flavor; I'd rank this one well below Pralines-and-Cream but above Pistachio.

Kurt 10:21 AM  

For those of you who are wondering what happened to your Saturday puzzle, I found it! It's hiding over at BEQ's website( Crossword #123 - "A Themeless Friday", which is really a Saturday puzzle pretending to be a Friday puzzle.

When I saw the puns and anagrams puzzle this morning, I canned it and went to the BEQ puzzle which I had been saving for this evening. It's a gem! Thanks, Brendan. You saved the day.

Susan 10:25 AM  

Count me among the disappointed. A P&A puzzle may be enjoyable for some, and it may have the same shape as a crossword puzzle but it is something distinct and shouldn't be put in place of the regular crossword.

joho 10:27 AM  

@Leslie ... you're right, one person's creampuff might be another's Waterloo. My bad. So my point about this not being hard enough for a Saturday can be disputed, but the fact that this isn't a crossword puzzle can. At least I don't call a Puns & Anagram puzzle a crossword. I still say this belongs on a Sunday as the second puzzle, not on a Saturday. Ok, I'm done.

@dk ... what you you think? Espressing myself like that must have some psychological benefits, no?

Anonymous 10:29 AM  

wow, I thought this puzzle would leave a lot of folks dead in the water. But when I checked the times of solvers, I found me one of the stragglers. Like other folks I'd never done one of these before and it took me a while to get comfortable with what I was supposed to do. After I got it scoped out, the puzzle was doable, no great pleasure, but doable. Like Rex, I'll await the return of real crosswords, still I'm sure there are folks who enjoy this stuff, so why complain. It's not like these things show up every day.

Anonymous 10:32 AM  

@Meg 9:25 am:
just a small correction. Kind of dry IS sundry, not sun dry. 'Kind of' clues in P & A always end up with a real word, not 2 words.

Anonymous 10:32 AM  

This was fun! It was just another kind of brain exercise for me. Gotta love it.

BTW, least is the antedecent for the it in it's.

retired_chemist 10:36 AM  

Sorry. I Just. Can’t. Hate. It.

I had never worked on a puzzle like this one. It took me about 5 minutes to see where the cluing was going. Once I did, it was not a hard solve. Even including the 5 minutes my time was more or less as expected for a Saturday. A little faster, actually. Having to look at clues differently from the usual was enjoyable but quite a workout; I swear I could feel the cerebral glucose metabolizing.

I didn’t find the clues formulaic. Some puns, some anagrams, some other tricks with the words and letters in the clue. You had to decide what trick each clue presented, and there was quite a variety IMO. Jolly good fun!

Greene 10:42 AM  

Well, Mr. Shortz has kept us guessing this week. First the Monday and Tuesday puzzles were switched. Then Thursday and Friday got reversed. Each day has been anything but what you'd expect, so this diversion from the usual Saturday puzzle should have come as no surprise.

Am I disappointed? Well, yes and no. I went ahead and solved this thing and enjoyed parts of it. It's enough to make me want to investigate the world of cryptic crosswords. I've never done one of those and they sound interesting. On the flip side I was really looking forward to an old fashioned Saturday stump-fest where I get the crap kicked out of me and I crawl to Rex's site licking my wounds and looking for answers. No masochistic pleasure to be found here today.

Off to the LAT times now, so I can complain about how easy the puzzle has become, then to BEQ where I'm sure I will get my quota of being kicked around and life will seem full and rich again. Ooh, I forgot about the Saturday Newsday puzzle. That's always good for a butt-kicking.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:45 AM  

I used to enjoy P & A puzzles; then I discovered real cryptics.

It would be better for solvers unfamiliar with this type of puzzle if the clues made some sense. Take 3 D, before Rex gets to it: Word with which to laud the new year, AULD. Sure, the word AULD is part of the song Auld Lang Syne, and an anagram of laud, but it refers to the year(s) past, not the new year. Where's the sense?

For my workout today, I did Matt Gaffney's 9/18 puzzle. Finished the grid -- now if anybody has a clue as to the meta, give me a call.

PlantieBea 10:45 AM  

Well that was interesting and I'm glad it's over. I did like the shabby bee followers. I guess it depends on how humorous the answers seem, and in this one, there were many answers that didn't tickle. Mostly I discovered that puns and anagrams puzzles are not my cup of tea. This week has certainly offered a variety of solving experiences!

Leslie 10:45 AM  

As long as we're on the topic of "different puzzles," does anyone else share my (and HudsonHawk's) love for the second puzzles in the Sunday magazine?

I absolutely adore the acrostics, the diagramless puzzles, the "split decisions," the spirals . . . everything, really, except the cryptic crosswords, at which I stink on ice.

Is there a blog about the second puzzles anywhere?

Anonymous 10:45 AM  

Very, very empty Saturday morning. I did give it a royal try, but it lacked any feeling of satisfaction. I only get the Times on the weekend, and look forward to the feel of pen on newsprint and a good go for a tough one. Ugh.

Susan 10:45 AM  

OK, I went back and actually did it and I'm still disappointed to be without a crossword but it was okay for what it was.

I think I'm partly just cranky because I didn't really figure out how the clues worked on my own and it made me feel stoopid. (Lo, these many years I did figure out how to do a cryptic on my own, on the last page of the Nation. Never learned to like them, though. I can see myself learning to like this.)

Susan 10:49 AM  

@Leslie, I usually do and enjoy the second Sunday puzzle, although I have never done the P&A and I have only tried the diagramless once or twice (with very little success). I look forward to acrostic and things like split decisions.

Clark 10:54 AM  

I read through the clues thinking WTF. Then I read the Note and used Mr. Google to find this Little (Non-Cheating) How To, by Mel Taub himself. After reading a bit about how to do such a puzzle I went to work. It was doable, and fun.

@Meg - SUNdry is clued just as Rex said. MT gives the example "Kind of ovation" - INN (inn-ovation).

I don't think I am any worse off for having once done a Puns and Anagrams puzzle.

@Leslie - I usually pass on the other Sunday puzzles, except the diagramless. I love diagramless puzzles

Orange 10:58 AM  

@Leslie: I sometimes blog about the second Sunday puzzles at Diary of a Crossword Fiend, but not the acrostics. There's not much to say about a Split Decisions (other than that I like that sort of puzzle), but the I like to tout the cryptics and diagramlesses because a lot of people are needlessly scared of those formats. (Sorry for flogging my own blog here, Rex. She asked!)

If you kinda liked the Puns & Anagrams puzzle (me, I find the format disappointingly inferior to cryptics) but are scared of cryptics, try 101 Cryptic Crosswords: From the New Yorker. The puzzles are small and on the easy side, and it's a great introduction to cryptic crosswords.

@Bob Kerfuffle: Just keep looking at the theme entries in the MGWCC puzzle. Eventually the theme may leap into your brain with a satisfying "aha" moment.

Rex, "Guy who says Seriously to the point of annoyance" is right.

Doug 10:58 AM  

Count me as fan of P&As. Once I got the hang of it, I really enjoyed the style. Cool stuff!

Anonymous 11:02 AM  

An enjoyable romp for a Saturday. Quit whining

ArtLvr 11:06 AM  

SPUN through this in a SECOND, it seemed. I didn't MIND the change of pace, found EXPOUND funny.

Kurt was spot on -- the BEQ puzzle has what this one didn't, in spades. Fab, but it took me ages!


Norm 11:10 AM  

So many cranky pants this morning. Fun puzzle. Completely disagree with Rex. It's a perfectly legitimate puzzle. The only twist is that every clue is a twisted one. You wouldn't gripe at one or two in a typical puzzle. What's wrong with a puzzle full of them?

duaneu 11:10 AM  

Like most others, I had never done one of these before, but once I figured out what the heck was going on, it wasn't too bad. At least I was able to complete it, which doesn't always happen on Saturday.

Unknown 11:11 AM  

and everyone else: loved that you used a pic from Countdown, because I just sent this video of a very random but entertaining episode to friends and family two days ago. This is one way to get by the censors!

Guy Who is Mad at The Atlantic Monthly 11:18 AM  

The cryptics are my favorite kind of puzzle, but this was a sloppy semi-cryptic. Maybe I'm judging it by the wrong standards. The Harper's puzzle is great, but Cox & Rathvon's, which until this month appeared in The Atlantic, is the sine qua non, if I know what that term means, and I don't. I can always finish the Harper's the day I start it. Not so with Cox & Rathvon puzzles. The Atlantic is dropping them FROM THE WEBSITE this month. That's ridiculous. It was ridiculous enough that they dropped them from the paper edition a few years ago and gave a page over the utterly unfunny Jeffrey Goldberg, but now they don't have room for the ON THE WEBSITE. I hate the Atlantic now.

Blanche 11:26 AM  

Well, this was a different week, and the easiest in memory. It was a welcome relief from the sameness of the Monday-to-Saturday increasing- difficulty formula. Lighten up, folks, and go with the flow!

edith b 11:29 AM  

About ten years ago, I made a stab at P&A type puzzles bur soon lost interest. I found that traditional style crosswords wer what I liked, not word games.

But I decided to give this a try, you know for old times sake. I found I was able to solve a handful of the anagrams but none of the puns and, about an hour in, gave it up as a lost cause.

I finally went to the Puzzle Pointers site and picked a Patrick Berry puzzle from 2008 at random from the Chronicle of Higher Education group and did that as my fix.

Blanche 11:30 AM  

@ Guy Who Is Mad at the Atlantic Monthly. . .

What you said.

Rex Parker 11:31 AM  

The puzzle should blow up and fail more often — this is my favorite comments thread in decades.

And now I'm off to poke my eyes out.


Guy Who Was Mad at The New Yorker 11:33 AM  

I canceled my New Yorker subscription when they got rid of their cryptic (way back when) and haven't missed it at all. I believe my exact words were "Screw you guys, I'm going home."

Glitch 11:33 AM  

To add to my earlier comment, I do other types of puzzles (diagramles, acrostics, etc.) on a "time available" basis.

Today's offering was like going to a fine Steakhouse, ordering the steak, but having the waiter serve the fish "because the chef felt" I'd enjoy something different.

This puzzle wasn't what I ordered and I'd like it to be my option to try something different.


Orange 11:40 AM  

Guy WIMATAM: If you hadn't been doing the Hex Atlantic cryptics through the '80s and '90s, BUY THIS BOOK. I didn't do those puzzles, and I am loving the book. I haven't touched the Frank Longo Vowelless Crosswords since The Atlantic Cryptic Crosswords arrived. I love it so much, I was moved to write an Amazon review. One of my favorite puzzle books ever—and I'm not done with it yet.

fikink 11:42 AM  

Because I do Cryptics - correction, because I attempt Cryptics, I made this artificially difficult for myself by trying to apply Cryptic solutions to straightforward puns. Two hours later, I realized that these were pretty naked anagrams. I agree with Bob Kerfuffle:

"It would be better for solvers unfamiliar with this type of puzzle if the clues made some sense. "

Hobbyist 11:47 AM  

I love Mel Taub and his P and A's. I always look forward to the few Sundays he appears in the NYT. He is my hero. Way easier than cryptics but always a welcome diversion. Diagramless are boresville to me so to each his own said the man who kissed the cow.

Jeffrey 11:50 AM  

These comments make me wonder how next year's KenKen week will be received.

male chicken 11:53 AM  

Finished in four minutes. Usually, if it has anything to do with baseball/football/basketball, I can't finish a Monday. So I don't care what measure anyone wants to give it, I Finished a Saturday!

And Rex gave me Countdown! I was brought up on this programme - don't know the presenter in this photo but oh! To be reminded of Richard Whitely (now dead) and Carole Vorderman (bonkers late afternoon sex symbol for men forced into early retirement/maths genius (hmm)). The video Rex posted last week of RW and CV: sheer class.

Noam D. Elkies 11:57 AM  

First and surely last time that I solve a Saturday puzzle in under 7 minutes. Felt a bit harder than usual for a Mel Taub P&A, but of course way easier than a typical Saturday. It was a net gain for me over the usual late-week fare, because I enjoy P&A's (the NYTimes magazine offers only a few of these cream puffs a year), and don't usually do Fri/Sat puzzles because there's only so much time in the day and there's almost never a theme to tie it together. Thanks to Mel and Will for this Rosh Ha-Shanah sweet!


P.S. 1) For a moment I thought that the 13x13 grid was mistakenly switched with the Magazine's variety puzzle, but no, this weekend's variety puzzle is a Split Decisions.

2) I don't think 14A would quite work as a cryptic clue by USA conventions, since "will reduce friction" isn't actually a definition for ROLLERBEARING. But it's fine for P&A. The one pity is that neither of the long entries is an anagram, nor is the 10-letter combo 11/13D, leaving 18D:BLUDGEONS at only 9 letters as the longest anagram in the puzzle.

mac 11:58 AM  

I had exactly the same experience as @HudsonHawk and Greene. Will do some tougher stuff later today.

So now I can go shopping!

Ulrich 12:06 PM  

Since I have been doing Taub's puzzles whenever they appeared as second puzzles on Sundays, I had no problems with this one and enjoyed it.

Let me stick my two cents in: It's unfair to compare this to a cryptic puzzle b/c it isn't one and doesn't pretend to be one. The fact that it reminds you of one is not the puzzles', nor Mel's fault.

Another two cents: Like others, I'm disappointed nevertheless b/c I was really looking forward to a tough Saturday puzzle with 50+yrs of construction experience behind it, and I didn't get one. Now again, I see nothing wrong with picking one week to do something different, but it would help if it would be explained at the outset that the tribute to experienced constructors is the overriding selection principle and overrides the normal distribution i.t.o. difficulty, if only to prevent the type of disappointment some of us feel b/c we weren't forewarned.

Two Ponies 12:08 PM  

I guess I'm glad that I was forced to try something new. I could feel my mind bending in new ways but it made me feel dizzy.
This has been a unique set of puzzles this week, to be sure. It has reminded me of the tournament weeks on Jeopardy. Sometimes I suffer through them but other times I can't stand it and skip them. I could have skipped today with no feeling of missing out.
Like Rex said, the comments this week have been great and for me have been the best part of the whole experience.
I finally figured out the tricks of this puzzle but some of the wording was simply awful. Off the top of his head Rex already improved on it. I'm really looking forward to Monday.

Martin 12:08 PM  


Jim Horne's blog (the NYT puzzle blog) always has a separate page for the second Sunday puzzle, including acrostics. The blog is Wordplay and Rex includes it in CROSSWORD LINKS over on the right.

Leslie 12:16 PM  

Thanks, Martin--I'll bookmark that site.

Now, like Mac, I'm off to go shopping. Three and out!

Jackie 12:40 PM  

Ugh, what a huge disappointment! I hate these cryptic, puns and anagrams puzzles. Please please please, NYT, do not replace our real daily puzzle with this sort of thing again. All this did was confirm my prejudice (which only began on Thursday) against Olde Timey puzzle constructors.

I really hope that, as some kind of atonement for this past week, we'll get a big honking BEQuigley puzzle tomorrow, filled with snappy pop culture references and hip-hop slang.

PuzzleGirl 12:44 PM  

I actually enjoyed this one quite a bit. I've tried cryptics a couple times (literally, two) and even though I tried really, really hard I just couldn't get it. I think I'm just not smart enough. But this, I could do. And I do enough other crosswords that I didn't mind the change-up. (Orange, thanks for the cryptic book recommendation. I think I'll try it.)

treedweller 12:52 PM  

On a different day, perhaps I would have warmed to the idea of trying a new type of puzzle. Today, I was just looking to solve a crossword. After reading all the clues and getting only TEE, I came here to read the NOTEPAD note (which, again, was cut off on my computer just when it started saying something). Then I checked out a couple of answers in Rex's solution to make sure I got the idea. Then I did about a third of the puzzle, got bored, and stopped.

I'm glad some people enjoyed it, but those who did generally seem to have found it easy. So why not make it Wednesday's puzzle and give us a hard one? Thursday's would have been perfect from my perspective.

I think I'll take Kurt's suggestion and solve the BEQ I haven't gotten around to yet.

Alice in SF 12:54 PM  

Gee, I thought it was a fun puzzle which obviously put me in the minority. I viewed the smallness of the puzzle with great suspicion initially. My first fill was 39A which got me going. Liked trip insurance and roller bearing as answers. My fallback from the usual Friday and Saturday is a bound edition of the Wall Street Journal Friday puzzles and/or the actual puzzle in Friday's edition of the WSJ especially when the Times' recent Sunday puzzles have been so disappointing.

joho 12:58 PM  

@Rex: LOL

3 and out.

obertb 1:01 PM  
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obertb 1:08 PM  

I hated this puzzle. Period. Took me FOREVER (well over an hour) to solve it, then felt like the whole effort was a waste of time. Also had one mistake--not so bad when you consider how many answers were pure guesswork. 100% in agreement with Rex on this one. Yuk.

Alicia DeNood 1:09 PM  

I loved it. Did it last night before I went to bed (I'm on the west coast), didn't need google (as I often do), and fell asleep enjoying having had my mind bent.

poc 1:10 PM  

Hated it and couldn't be bothered with more than a few clues. If I wanted a (real) cryptic puzzle I'd be subscribed to the London Times or Guardian sites.

And Hussein->SSE is neither a pun nor an anagram.

fikink 1:12 PM  

@puzzlegirl, you'll be able to do Cryptics. There's a learning curve. Don't despair.
I don't think it involves smarts as much as it involves jettisoning MacThink.

Anonymous 1:21 PM  

I agree with Ulrich in that there's no point comparing a P&A to a cryptic, since nobody said it is one. So Rex, don't bother making cryptic clues for replacements.

I suspect that just finding six constructors who have got 50 years of Times puzzles behind them was a challenge it inself. And then getting six printable puzzles out of it too!

I treated this week's as an exercise for the brain, particularly today's. Thinking outside the square box has to be fun.


Unknown 1:27 PM  

Until today, I never attempted a P&A puzzle. Until today I didn't have an opinion. Following my mothers advice I'd say the weather is sure nice in Philly today.

Ray Greenberg 1:36 PM  

There I said it and I'm sticking to it. I just wish they came around more often! What fun!

andrea leslie michaels 1:39 PM  

Still laughing 20 comments later!!!
KenKen week!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I was gonna say what Ulrich said, I think! ie it was more about expectations... we should have gotten a Saturday puzzle on a Saturday.
This might have been just right for a Thursday where a rebus or some sort of trick would feel welcome.

I even sort of skipped services last night to come home, settle into bed and do a tough puzzle, so to start at 1A and go straight thru mechanically was disappointing.

That said, I did feel my brain muscles have to do something they don't usually do (ie home in on a word to do a quick anagram) and that was good, like a different puzzle muscle being exercised.

SO really, it was just about expectations, as my therapist
(the rapist?! Yikes!!!!!!!!!) would say.

Leslie 1:59 PM  

Andrea, I saw what you did there! HA!

(And now I'm truly, truly gone.)

fergus 2:07 PM  

Thanks HH for the dead tree Clue explanation. While I kinda like this sort of puzzle, today's example didn't really hit the mark. EXCERPT was particularly lame.

Mike Lewis 2:14 PM  

I enjoyed this, more or less. It certainly took me by surprise. And I beat my record time for a NYT puzzle published on a Saturday; I'll stop short of calling it an actual "Saturday puzzle."

Big Steve 2:21 PM  

It seems like the reaction of Rex and many of the others is: if its too hard or I don't like it, I'll just take my toys and go home. What a bunch of wussies!

dk 2:25 PM  

Darn, picked up the puzzle again. My time so far 6 hours and 17 minutes and even after coming here and @oranges site.

Gotta go, Rex is coming over to try out my home Lasik Kit.

Eli Barrieau 2:32 PM  
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poc 2:43 PM  

@El Barrieau: I know why the answer is SSE. To anyone who does cryptics it's obvious. My point was twofold: a) cryptics in the NYT are generally too easy to bother with, relying far too much on anagrams, and b) calling the thing Puns and Anagrams implies that the answers are (duh) puns and/or anagrams, which this one isn't.

@Big Steve: not too hard, just boring.

foodie 2:51 PM  

I dutifully started reading the comments from the top and thought to myself: If I say what I really think, it's going to sound tacky. It's like saying: I like how these people covered their sofa with plastic...

As I was deciding between tackiness and silence, the voice of other tacky people was heard-- they too liked this puzzle! As I did! I actually really really liked it... So, here, I said it! Never seen one, never done one, never knew plastic existed. Fascinating stuff!

The Big E 2:52 PM  

MAN! A whole bunch of VERY cranky puzzle solvers in this comments section... Did some (nay, ALL) of you neglect to have your coffee too? Yowzers! I agree with the assessments provided that:

a. The NY Times Crossword Puzzle is made for the masses, NOT ONLY the handful of people who are 1-250 on the All-Time Greatest Crossword Solvers list! How many people do I see living in NY on a daily basis riding the train, sitting in Starbucks, and countless other locations struggling with puzzles for hours (often not completing them) that most of you solve while waiting for your toast to pop-up!

b. For a celebration week, whoever noted that there are unlikely to be THAT many cruciverbalists (sp?) over the age of 50 to donate their time and experience to this tribute week to begin with is SPOT ON!

c. One of the joys about challenging ourselves mentally (as we all do with crosswords) should be finding NEW ways to do so (and NOT just with "other" crosswords! BRANCH OUT, FOLKS!

And while you're at it, make that coffee a DOUBLE!
JEEZ! :-)

Doc John 2:52 PM  

I thought it was interesting and different. Once I realized what was going on, I found it easier than a typical Saturday puzzle, too.
Nice to work a slightly different section of my brain, too!

The Big E 2:53 PM  

On second thought, maybe some of y'all should switch to Decaf instead! :-p

Unknown 3:05 PM  

Took both my hubbie and me to complete this one. Towards the end we were able to fill in some answers we knew were "right" even though we had no idea why, which always bothers me. Like POE and SSE and DYADS and RUINED.

fikink 3:17 PM  

@Jane, this is how I think it goes:
RUINED is an anagram of "under, I" in the clue; POE was a poeT; DYADS is the Roman numeral for 500 + an anagram of "days"; and SSE is at the center, the "heart" of the word, "Hussein."

Everyone, please chime in if I am wrong about these!

Ulrich 3:30 PM  

@fikink: My take exactly. I think "puns" has to be taken with a lot of leeway in P&A puzzles (does anyone other than MT do them?)

I'm also of the firm conviction that my not getting a clue is not a sufficient reason for declaring it wanting...

Anonymous 4:04 PM  



外籍新娘 外籍新娘 外籍新娘
大陸新娘 大陸新娘 大陸新娘
越南新娘 越南新娘 越南新娘
東北新娘 東北新娘 東北新娘
廣西新娘 廣西新娘 廣西新娘
吉林新娘 吉林新娘 吉林新娘
福建新娘 福建新娘 福建新娘
中國新娘 中國新娘 中國新娘

Martin 4:25 PM  

Courtesy of Google translate:

You want to marry into a hard-working, beautiful, sweet, non-vanity of the United States Jiaoniang, as your life companion? Provide an intimate lover mainland brides, foreign brides, and Vietnamese brides, bride matching, matchmaking, marriage agency, singles activities, loving, matchmaker matching row is about male and female contacts, get-togethers services, making friends with the assistance of the Taiwan Strait, and wedding-related documents identified Li and so on, the mainland has Guangxi brides, matchmaking agency, Fujian brides, matchmaking, while the mainland, Guangxi brides, marriage brokers.

This site is Direct Web site, professional experience, integrity responsible for the legal guarantee, the province's services, we will follow you like with a suitable object, personality types, to arrange networking knowledge to avoid the commercialization of the sale of the business practices of marriage, as there 』is a lifelong marriage is marriage.

Foreign brides foreign brides foreign brides
China mainland brides brides brides from mainland China
Vietnamese brides, bride from Vietnam, Vietnamese brides
Northeast Northeast bride bride bride Northeast
Bride Guangxi Guangxi Guangxi bride bride
Bride, Jilin, Jilin, Jilin bride bride
Bride Fujian Fujian Fujian bride bride
China China Chinese bride bride bride

What was it about today's comments that attracted a Chinese eHarmony robot?

retired_chemist 4:45 PM  

@ martin - I liked Anon 4:04 better when I imagined it was a diatribe from China against P&A puzzles.

retired_chemist 5:50 PM  

Bummer. The Sunday Across Lite puzzle link is broken at the moment. I reported it.

Anonymous 5:52 PM  

Kinda liked this week. I sure couldn't be on autopilot. That's a good thing.


michael 6:00 PM  

I like puns and anagrams and have done the Mel Taub omes for many,many years (before I did crosswords with any skill). They are much easier for me than cryptics (which I find unenjoyable even when I figure them out). Of course, this was easy (at least for me) and different from Saturday puzzles.

And why not a tribute to Mel Taub?

I usually think this is a fine blog with interesting people, but today almost all of you (led by Rex) just seem snarky for no particular good reason.

The Big E 6:05 PM  

@retired_chemist - The Sunday Puzzle link is working now (or at least it worked for me)

Parsan 6:14 PM  

@Greg--Thank you! I am one of the masses. Having never done this kind of puzzle, it was still very difficult even after I got the gist of it. I got some answers correct that I had no idea what they meant, so thanks to Rex and others for the explantions.

@dk-Kudos for your perseverance!

Please, may I digress? Yesterday we wrote about re-enactors (@Orange you will find this strange) and in Albany (NY) Times Union today is a picture of a local man who was recently awarded the French Legion of Honor for service in WWII. He is escorted in a parade by French re-enactors, some driving authentically restored American military vehicles, wearing genuine American uniforms, and carrying appropriate arms. The hobbists are kept very busy at various functions. I have had many French friends but never thought any would emulate Americans. I could write something about French militaty efforts in WWII(excluding the French underground) but I won't.

retired_chemist 6:56 PM  

@ Greg - Sunday AL link works for me too now. All is well.

Anonymous 7:20 PM  

I'm with PuzzleGirl and the others who liked it. Thought it was a hoot--a real tour de farce.

Glitch 7:21 PM  


If you were expecting a bicycle for your birthday and your parents gave you a pair of very nice, expensive, designer socks you might get a tad snarky as a result.

Even if you liked the socks ;)


PS: I had my post ready to go before I read Rex's.

alanrichard 8:23 PM  

So, is Mel Taub a real name or is it a anagram of MUTABLE??????

Danny B 8:29 PM  

Well hmmmmm . . . quite a difference of opinion on Rex World today . . .

Yes, a curve ball! But in my humble opinion that is what makes the NYT puz the best on the planet. Not everyones cup of tee, but top notch none the less . . . Outside of the box, or grid if you will, I dig . . . My too sense . . .

Kudos to the folks that have been constructing to sate our addiction for L+ years!!!!!!! Love it!!!!!

BTW - My WWRS (What Would Rex Say) bracelet was WAY off today . . .

Norm 8:35 PM  
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jae 8:40 PM  

I too have never done one of these. It was sort of like learning to ride a bike. Wobbly at first with a couple of falls (wrong entries) but once I got going it went pretty smoothly. I was pleased that I was able to finish plus as I got into it I was enjoying figuring out the clues. So, add me to kinda liked it bunch, something different every now and then can be refreshing.

I SECOND (third?) the recommendations to try BEQ's Fri. for the Sat. experience. I'm still a couple of squares short of finishing that one.

DougE 9:04 PM  

SOOOOOO much better than yesterday. Give me a puzzle where I go AHA! when I finally figure out the clue vs. one where I go "MEH" when I work out some obscure vocab word any day. Yesterday was a slog through the mud that left me feeling like I was doing prep work for the SAT. Today had me writhing and groaning every time I unraveled another tortured clue and yet, satisfied I had cracked the code. Wouldn't want it every day, but not deserving of all the vitriol spilled here, I think...

peterf 9:06 PM  

check out the NPL ( for good wordplay/cryptic puzzles

ArtLvr 9:14 PM  
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ArtLvr 9:19 PM  

@ Parsan -- Yes, a fascinating coincidence of the French WW 2 re-enactors presenting a local hero in Albany with the Legion of Honor medal here yesterday, plus a parade with US military vehicles they had restored!

In recent years, Albany has atoned quite a bit for the lack of recognition for our black hero of WW 1, Henry Johnson, with his statue and a boulevard named for him -- and the federal government finally gave him a posthumous medal too. The French took on our NY 15th Regiment of the National Guard (black) which included Johnson, renaming them their 369th. It included sports figures, musicians and even artists! They were the first to reach the German border, despite gas attacks and inferior weapons, and lost about three quarters of their members.

France honored them at the time with 85 gold medals, vs. zero from the USA. New York City did give them a huge victory parade, often cited as the source of the "Harlem Renaissance", but many survivors (especially musicians) ended up back in France in the forefront of the Jazz Age there.

Details of their outstanding war service and their struggle against entrenched racism on returning home are movingly described in the new book by Peter Nelson, "A More Unbending Battle".


michael 9:23 PM  

@glitch -- Well, if my birthday came every Saturday and I knew that a week from now I'd get another bicycle (just like I had gotten a bicycle on all my birthdays on previous Saturdays), I might think that designer socks were an interesting change of pace. And even if I preferred bicycles to socks, I would not get bent out of shape because I knew that next Saturday would come along soon enough.

Glitch 9:45 PM  


Perhaps a better example would be:

[True event] My NYT was not delivered today, but instead another paper was.

It's no consolation that there will be another NYT tomorrow.

.../Glitch [Slightly over the limit for the day].

foodie 12:01 AM  

It's really interesting to me that this week confounded so many of us, but mostly, it seems, Will! He seemed unable to gauge the difficulty of the old fashioned puzzles. May be he decided he was going to leave the cluing alone and not edit the typical way? I'm usually very impressed with his ability to predict difficulty of puzzles, and one can see from the stats that Sanfranman has accumulated that Will has it down to a science. But not this week. I wonder why.

Puzzlegirl, I mean Orange, no, wait, TwoPonies. Yeah. TwoPonies 12:12 AM  

You're both wrong. It's like you're expecting Chef Bea and instead you get Cafe HEB.

Okay, that doesn't make any sense unless you know Texas grocery stores.

And Cafe HEB's actually pretty good, whereas I hear Chefbea can't cook.

So it's not like that at all.

Ellen 12:39 AM  

I was at the theater today and saw an older couple with the Times open to the crossword. The man was telling his wife that he knows she doesn't normally do the puzzle, but she would enjoy this since it was different. They proceeded to work on it together. I smiled and said nothing, thinking that THIS is the intended audience for this puzzle.

Bob Kerfuffle 7:53 AM  

@Orange -- Thank you for your encouragement. I kept working, i.e., staring blankly at what seemed total gibberish, until I did have my "aha!" moment. This is a good rule to follow for any type of puzzle, I suppose.

So now I know what the theme is, but I still haven't cracked the answer, due to my general lack of knowledge. Sometimes Google helps at this point!

Anonymous 5:29 PM  

Please don't do this again NYT!!!

Anonymous 2:03 PM  

I had "FIREST" for 43 across - where N.C. ranks in Xmas tree prod.

william e emba 2:08 PM  

Regarding the clue 43A — "Where does N.C. rank among U.S. states in Christmas tree production?", answer SECOND, the anagram is of "does N.C." (you have a typo, Rex). And as is common in P&A clues, the whole clue is legitimate as is, with an anagram of the answer that just happens to be there (as opposed to cryptics, where the anagram is both explicitly signaled and is normally not part of the straight part of the clue).

Check it out at the Bureau of Census: North Carolina was #2 in Christmas tree sales in the indicated year.

Anonymous 9:12 AM  

Shortz, don't ever do this again!!!

Waxy in Montreal 4:25 PM  

Geez, that was ten minutes of fun but what do I do for the rest of the weekend? Kind of disappointed that we got the Monday P&A puzzle, not one a little tougher. Anyway, TIRANA/ANITRA was close to my fav anagram SINATRA/TSARINA/ARTISAN.

Angela 12:11 AM  

Disappointing end to a disappointing week. Didn't finish it; tossed it in the bin. Too annoying with no satisfying, "Aha!" moments.

DayLateAndFiveWeeksShort 2:44 PM  

count me in the "hated this whole week" category (excepting Friday, which was fine, but easy.) This was just not right for a NYT puzzle, particularly for a Saturday.

Pinny 4:07 PM  

(Sorry for the late comment. I just did this puzzle in a 365-day calendar - 3.75 years late.)

A piece of trivia: In addition to his long history of creating puzzles (including his specialty, Puns and Anagrams) Mel Taub served as interim NYT crossword puzzle editor between the time Eugene Maleska died and Will Shortz was hired.

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