Corrida charger — MONDAY, Nov. 23 2009 — Longtime N.F.L. coach nicknamed Papa Bear / Funnyman Brooks

Monday, November 23, 2009

Constructor: Ben Pall

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: "The BEATLES" (38A: Group with the four circled members) — JOHN, PAUL, GEORGE, and RINGO's names appear in circled squares in four different answers

Word of the Day: DUNNO (52D: "Beats me!") — honestly ... I can't think of anything including here. Oh wait: HALAS (Longtime N.F.L. coach nicknamed Papa Bear) — George Stanley Halas, Sr. (February 2, 1895 – October 31, 1983), nicknamed "Papa Bear" and "Mr. Everything", was a player, coach, inventor, jurist, producer, philanthropist, philatelist, owner and pioneer in professional American football and the iconic longtime leader of the NFL's Chicago Bears.


I did not like this puzzle at all. I also just found out (or heard a rumor, anyway) that this constructor is 14. So ... here's the deal. I'm keeping it short. I have said this before and I'll say it again: I hope Never to see this type of theme again, where the circled letters are non-consecutive and do not even truly appear in order (see, e.g., JOIN THE NAVY, where first "N" is ignored to wait on the second). Second, when they are your Central Answer, you should include their complete name: "THE BEATLES." The clue doesn't even indicate the "THE" is missing. I'm looking at multiple album covers, multiple articles and seeing "THE" before "BEATLES." Perhaps there are contexts (or even recordings) where the "THE" was not used, but it's not standard. I know it's weird to ask for a "THE," but for the sake of elegance and accuracy, I do. The first criticism is a deal-breaker for me, the second just a strong preference. But the grid is cleanly filled and at least interestingly shaped, both pluses for a Monday. So that's all in the way of criticism. Mr. Pall has my (virtual) handshake and my encouragement. If nothing else, this puzzle made me remember BEATLES (no "the"!) music, and that's not bad.

Theme answers:
  • 3D: Head out to sea, say (JOin tHe Navy)
  • 18A: Athlete trying to pass the bar? (Pole vAULter)
  • 26D: Library area (ReadING roOm) — entire name appears as consecutive letters (anagrammed as "INGRO"), stretched across the two words in this phrase. If he could have done that for every answer ... wow.
  • 59A: Toxic herbicide (aGEnt ORanGE)

Bonus theme answers:

  • 9A: With 46-Down, 1969 album by the 38-Across ("Abbey / Road") — see, there's the "THE"; OK, I'm done with "THE" talk now, honestly. I love "ABBEY ROAD." Dave Zahniser, who writes for the L.A. Times now, I think, introduced me to this album my freshman year of college (18 years after it came out ... my parents weren't BEATLES fans so I had only a vague sense of their catalogue). Dave spent his childhood (late 70s/early 80s) obsessively listening to Top 40 radio in Nebraska, so I remember thinking "ABBEY ROAD" seemed an odd record for him to be foisting on me. But he had good taste.
  • 16A: "We're more popular than Jesus now," famously (quote) — ... well, it sure is a QUOTE, I can't argue with that.
  • 13D: "_____ Blues" (song on the White Album) ("Yer")
  • 48A: "Gonna _____ with a little help from my friends" ("try")
  • 47A: Sitarist Shankar (Ravi) — gave George Harrison sitar lessons
  • 30A: "Nowhere _____" (1966 hit) ("Man")
  • 14A: Yoko _____ (Ono) — HA ha. Good one. See ... this is why the circled letters aren't consecutive — All the BEATLES' names are broken up ... OK, kid, *now* I think you're a genius.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


Jeffrey 8:25 AM  

"The" is missing from "Beatles"? So what???

Wow. Completely disagree with that nit and your whole review. This is a very cool Monday debut. Nice job, Ben!

Yeah, yeah, yeah!

David 8:28 AM  

Aw, you are too hard on the guy. This puzzle carried its theme through well. The order of the circled spaces was intuitively apparent and worked for me. The effort was clean and fun for a Monday, reasonably easy. Options for filling in words kept opening up, and the puazzle almost filled itself.

Doug 8:32 AM  

Oh Crosscan you beat me to it. I wanted to be the first to go yeah, yeah, yeah!!!

Cool puzzle. Finally the Fab Four.

Beatles and Matey crossing in the middle was a nice touch.

dk 8:33 AM  

Alas, I never photographed The Beatles.

I do not share Rex's IRATE opinion of this puzzle. But then, I never do the circles or connect the dots.

The whole sixties theme of the puzzle, even including AGENTORANGE for petey sakes was fine with me. I would have clued MEL as owner of American Graffiti eatery and figured out something else for LORES, but I quibble.

Now Ben when I was fourteen......

Good work *** (3 stars)

nanpilla 8:34 AM  

After seeing JOHN in JOINTHENAVY, I filled in the other 3 names, and that made this a very easy puzzle.
After finishing, I still took several minutes to figure out what LORES were(!).

Congrats, Ben, and I look forward to more!

treedweller 8:38 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Goo goo ga joob 8:42 AM  

If you take 18a, add two circles in 31d and go backwards with four circles in 52a, you get : Paul is dead.

A rumor started shortly after 9a and 46d was issued.

Leslie 8:44 AM  

This puzzle creator is fourteen years old? As my students say to each other when they're indicating awed incredulity: "Shut UP!!!"

I am, of course, waiting for the "Damn baby boomers . . . so tired of hearing about the frickin' Beatles . . . I don't think the Beatles were all that great" griping to start. But: As one of those damn baby boomers, who was swept away by Beatlemania when I was in sixth grade and worshipped them through their entire amazing career, I say "lovely puzzle!"

I tell you what: If those folks will ease up on their Beatles ennui, I'll ease up on my tone here and simply say that I neither noticed nor cared that "The" wasn't in there.

@Goo goo ga joob: HA!

mac 8:51 AM  

Definitely medium-challenging for a Monday, which is fine by me!
Nice to have THE Beatles honored this way.

Just one write-over: pleb for peer. What does that say about me....

Is there no better translation of Bon appetit, Guten Appetit or "eet smakelijk"? Dig in?

PIX 8:51 AM  

I agree with Rex: it's The Beatles, not Beatles...for whatever insane historical reason, it is always The Bronx, not Bronx.

Also, based on time, i agree it was a medium-challenging for a monday.

Did not know "lores"=low resolution.

@Treedweller...isnt there some sort of posting guideline about not mentioning actual answers to the yesterday's puzzle...especially on a monday...some people are still working on Sunday's puzzle

Anonymous 8:54 AM  

Loved it! Yeah, yeah, yeah!

treedweller 9:00 AM  

I apologize. I totally was not thinking about spoiling the other puzzle--it was just a fresh example. I will delete.

PlantieBea 9:03 AM  

I always like being reminded of THE BEATLES. Their music was such a big part of childhood: cutting out paper dolls while listening to the White Album; seeing one of my first movies, The Yellow Submarine, with my dad and then collecting the cereal box stickers; my brother spinning Eleanor Rigby over and over; studying my freshman college year to Abbey Road. Even without the "THE" which should be there, and the inclusion of the circles, this one brought a smile to my face.

Stan 9:17 AM  

Just for the record: "Nowhere MAN" and "Gonna TRY with a little help..." are also theme-related. And RAVI Shankar was Harrison's sitar teacher.

However, I couldn't find Stu Sutcliffe or Pete Best anywhere.

Great first effort, Ben!

Charles Bogle 9:17 AM  

If the constructor IS 14, hat's off to him; The Beatles win over yet another generation!..have no idea where LORES is from..really fun Monday puzzle bringing lots of good vibes musically to starty the week...the only thing missing IMO was "John, to Ringo," but if he's really 14...


Unknown 9:19 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous 9:20 AM  

Mr. Parker---as a beginner at NYT puzzle solving, I have always used your page as my "checker"--and I've learned a lot from you......however after reading your sorry comments today, I'm afraid I will have to find another source to check my work----you came across as a jealous, highly critical individual, unable to give a brilliant 14 year old his full due--------I snort at you!!

william e emba 9:23 AM  

Since, obviously, it's Blue Meanie time in Parkerland, let me mention that the name of the film is just Yellow Submarine. You all know the refrain from the title song, right?

Lucky for me, I have incredibly low standards, so not only did I solve this in a medium time, I was quite happy with the fill in the circles theme. Heck, I didn't even bother to notice whether letters were out of order or pronouns went the way of everyone's favorite Boob with a PhD.

Elaine 9:25 AM  

I rated this Easy; it was only slow because I had to go to crosses to be sure of some answers.

PLEB at 24D. I know PLEBE--long E --but I have never heard PLEB. Phonetically the E would be short here. PEON was my first thought, but of course that had to go at once when HEED didn't fit 29A.

SOME of us were actually in the late teens when Beatlemania struck. I enjoyed them without hysteria, and def without cutting out paper dolls (really!) We played some of their music, and it was hell--key and time signature changes every few bars! since The Beatles didn't really know music/notation...which is how they managed to be so fresh. Still love much of the music. After you watch "Z," then check out "HELP!"

Okay for a Monday, some fun cluing, and a quick solve. Thanks!

Meg 9:27 AM  

He's in 9th grade. Wordplay is carrying an interview.

My only nit with the puzzle was the (in) after "live" for DWELL. Necessary?

What I love about the Beatles is that their songs were all so different from each other. Nobody comes close to the amazing variety of styles.

p.s. I couldn't find the WALRUS, but the EGGMAN is hiding in 49D and 52A

Ruth 9:28 AM  

@Leslie and PlantieBea, right on! You ladies seem to be my EXACT age and making my comments for me. My son has said to me "I don't see what the big deal is about the Beatles." I explained (patiently) that You Had To Be There. The music swept over us like a wave of freshness in 1964. And then they evolved, and We grew with them. I'm sure people of every generation have cultural events that affect them in the same way the Beatles affected us, but like every generation, we're positive that OURS was the BEST!!!

Sam 9:29 AM  

It's always Blue Meanie time on this blog. That's Mr. Parker's shtick. Tiresome, isn't it. I read it for the commenters.

retired_chemist 9:29 AM  

It's true. Check today's Wordplay blog. He is a ninth grader.

I say "way to go" to Ben! A fun puzzle and not deserving of nitpicks.

Overall, solid fill. About 45 sec over my usual Monday time so medium-challenging is OK with me. It felt easier than that - I was flying through. I was surprised I didn't even beat 5 minutes.

Ruth 9:31 AM  

P.S.@Elaine: Hard Days' Night was by far the better movie. "Help" was awkward--a trying-to-capitalize-on-success effort, don't you think?

Anonymous 9:31 AM  

Meg said
My only nit with the puzzle was the (in) after "live" for DWELL. Necessary?

Yes, because it's Monday, and "live" has a million different definitions.

Mee 9:31 AM  

You know a Mammas and Poppas theme on Monday, Monday would be a treat. It seemed an appropriate Monday puzzle to me and I reach out to the constructor and thank him for making me think of lyrics that may be appropriate for this puzzle. I like the line from Let It Be, "there will be an answer..."

A fun Monday entry and a faster than normal solve for me.

retired_chemist 9:34 AM  

@ puppy fanciers - last week's photos and videos. in case you missed the late posting yesterday.

OldCarFudd 9:41 AM  

I was already quite content with this Monday-level puzzle. To discover that the constructor is in junior high school is a delightful bonus. Thank you; good job!

joho 9:44 AM  

I love the Beatles and found this puzzle fun because of it.

Great clip up on the rooftop.

@Stan ... I'd add in RAJ, too which covers their trip to India.

I also think it's wonderful that a ninth grader is paying homage to the Beatles. We just purchased their newly digitized music and it's better than ever.

One thing that cracked me up was 1A. Cowboy with a lariat ...I was searching for something like gaucho so when I wrote in ROPER I laughed: duh, ROPER.

Fun Monday for me, thanks Ben Pall!

jo jo

Van55 9:45 AM  

Outstanding job by the 14 year old constructor.

Rex, it's holiday time. Lighten up!

joho 9:49 AM  

@Goo goo ga joob ... forgot to mention that I loved your post!

PIX 9:49 AM  


nanpilla 9:50 AM  

@retired_chemist : Thanks! I did see them last night, but didn't bother to post because it was so late. I'm sure you'll be sorry to see them go.

Nebraska Doug 9:54 AM  

I had "LORES" filled in, but no idea what it meant, had to come here to have it explained to me. Other than that, a pretty typical Monday for me.

Unknown 9:55 AM  

Wow, a generation gap emerges from computer technology. The constructor learned the Beatles story from Rock Band (xbox, wii). I learned it from 45 rpm vinyl and Ed SUllivan on black and white tv. Get Back!

I join the chorus of praise for a guy who hasn't determined a career, made a college choice or completed Sophomore English, but knows how to rock n' roll.

miguel 10:01 AM  

I liked the puzzle just fine for a Monday, but keep my high regard for Rex whose standards are his and he upholds them. Thanks Rex for the post and articulating the specifics of your critique.

Sfingi 10:03 AM  

@Meg is right about the reason for Beatles' fame. Like Picasso, they may not have created a masterpiece, but kept producing and producing in a variety of styles. Also, they are known for keeping melody and words at equal art, just as say, the Elizabethans.

Did not know HALAS (sports - will forget); LO-RES (will use); LAIC.

Haven't heard TWERP for awhile. Having stopped growing at 11, use to hear it frequently.

Had "lap" before 4D DIP; "slob" before 24D PLEB (@Elaine for plebian).

@Ruth - agree. Also, A Hard Day's Night was in artsy B&W.
Saw HDN on my first date with hubster. And, Ben Pall - but he's a "clean young man." I love the thickness of theme.

Ulrich 10:06 AM  

@nanpilla: exactly the same experience, which made the puzzle easy for me.

As to the constructor's age: I agree that judgments like "well done for his/her age" are patronizing and should be avoided for the good of everybody. But when I see 9th grade, my hat goes up--principles, shminciples...

@mac: I'm keenly aware of the fact that English has no real equivalent for "bon appetit"/"Guten Appetit"/ the Dutch phrase you mentioned. This has sometimes unexpected consequences: When we travelled in Denmark, the waitresses usually told us, when they brought our plates, "Have a good appetite!", which isn't exactly the same...

chefbea 10:08 AM  

A fun Monday puzzle. Love the beatles.

Have to finnish yesterday's puzzle which I started before we left NC. Can't do it in the car.

Now to go to Word Play and learn about our new youthful constructor

Bob Kerfuffle 10:10 AM  

I thought it was a bit harsh to embed George in AGENTORANGE, not that I have a better suggestion.

Anonymous 10:18 AM  

I liked it and I am not even a BEATLES fan.

Two Ponies 10:41 AM  

Great Monday both in difficulty and nostalgia.
Very nice theme density with the obvious and the implied.
Finding out that the constructor is in 9th grade makes it even better. Congrats to Ben.
I remember being blown away by the first Beatle song I heard. Their ability to reinvent themselves as they and their audience matured is a feat few bands have been able to achieve.

allan 10:52 AM  

Oh, Mean Mr. Mustard got up on the wrong side of the bed today. Must be from sleeping in the park and shaving in the dark!! I suspect that the criticism of the no "the" should be aimed at Mr. Shortz, not the fourteen year old who created a very nice (and easy) Monday puzzle. Saw 1969 album and immediately thought abbey road, one of my all time favorites. The only thing that slowed me down was my dyslexia or some related problem that caused me to enter abbey at 4a. Otherwise very smooth sailing.

@Goo goo ga joob: Spent much time in Canada lately?

And did anyone mention ono as more theme related fill?

Nice job Ben Pall.

xyz 11:02 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
PlantieBea 11:09 AM  

Oh, of course the title of the movie is "Yellow Submarine", minus "The". I was so busy typing out a response and happily reminiscing after doing this fine BEATLES themed debut puzzle, that the article slipped in my comment without any additional thought. Oh the shame of incorrect article tacking on "The" to Joyce's "Dubliners", which I also did recently.

But back to more cheerful thoughts. Thanks again to Ben Pall for the trip down memory lane.

foodie 11:11 AM  

Lovely puzzle- it brought back memories and I really liked the fact that even the non-theme answers were thematically related. It had that gestalt thing going for it. Terrific!

If Ben Pall is as smart and mature as I imagine he is, I bet he will appreciate the specific feedback that Rex provided. He can choose to agree or disagree, but it's truly valuable input from an expert solver and critic. The business with disliking the circles is a matter of taste. But the idea that the letters used to create the word-within-a-word should be consecutive is a very valid consideration. And the challenge of having a buried anagram is a cool one, kicking things up a notch. I bet young Ben can pull it off someday!!

As someone who trains budding scientists of all ages (including some highschoolers) I think that the best compliment is maintaining the highest standards but doing so in a supportive and constructive way. So, Ben should feel complimented and encouraged by Rex, both by how seriously he took him, and by his virtual handshake.

And, like Ulrich, my virtual hat is off to Ben!

hazel 11:12 AM  

@Ben Pall -

Very impressive puzzle debut!!

Now, go download some Van Morrison - I'd really like to see a puzzle about him/Them!!

Congratulations on a very well thought out puzzle!!

obertb 11:18 AM  

Nice effort by a young constructor, who should be applauded. Snotty, kvetchy review by RP, who should be ashamed. Last line of said review is insulting and demeaning. Constructive criticism this is not.

foodie 11:20 AM  

@ mac and ulrich: agree re the absence of a Bon Appetit equivalent. I think the closest English comes may be: Enjoy!
What do you think?

xyz 11:22 AM  

Rather fun.

If you don't know the Beatles, somewhat more difficult. Filled in all the names right away after the first JO which made the occasional (only mildly) awkward fill very easy.

Very easy if you can *ROTE*, errr remember all THE Beatles stuff (and there's a lot, good job kid!). That word sooooo bothers Rex. (Which his being an academic PUZZLES me.)

Again, know or not determines ease of completion, but if this Beatles Fan is only 14, kudos, kidd-o!

Steve 11:22 AM  

Wow, I am surprised to find out this was constructed by a kid. After completing it, I thought it had to have been some old boomer. Yet another Beatles tribute. Bleh.

But a kid?? It would be fun to see some freshness reflecting his age. Maybe he did this as an ancient history project! ;-)

Anonymous 11:26 AM  

I'm not so surprised by the brilliance of some young people as I am gratified that some of them are taking an interest in crossword puzzles.

I listen to extraordinary young virtuosos playing classical music on many Saturdays on "From the Top" (Public Radio International).

Whatever else is happening in the world, genius is still being provided for the future.


Jeffrey 11:28 AM  

So how old does a constructor have to be for Shakespeare to be an age-appropriate theme?

Steve 11:36 AM  

Shakespeare = Beatles. Haha! Good one.

David 11:45 AM  

I disagreed with Rex's opinion about the merits of this effort earlier. That being said, I see no need to fawn over a 14 yo's effort if it's sophomoric or even freshmanic (?). Even for Monday, there should be standards!

Oh, and I applaud Rex's insights and personal take on these puzzles. It certainly adds much to the process, to turn to Rex's blog after wrestling with each day's beast.

CoolPapaD 11:47 AM  

Now I know why I, and most of regulars here, missed Foodie so much. If I could put things half as eloquently and succinctly, I would do so, but I can't!

Mr. Pall - hats off to you! I did puzzle late last night, and was BLOWN AWAY after reading interview. When I think of what I was doing at 14...

(In honor of your debut, the word "the" was omitted from my comments above!)

ArtLvr 11:47 AM  

We had a RES recently, yet darned if I wasn't fooled again... If there's a third one this year, I'll probably remember! SNORT... I love that.

Cheers for Ben, probably the youngest ever to be a contributer to the NYT!

As to snorty comments yesterday from the TX people and others --spoiler -- if you google "rose of San Antone", you'll find it was part of an old cowboy song! Lots of references, videos, Patsy Cline et al. I had it running through my head, but looked in too late for timely mention.


slypett 11:47 AM  

Lissen up, Will Shortz! POI is an everyday staple in the Hawai'ian diet. I suppose one might have it at luaus, too, but, really! In fact, it is the exact counterpart of fry bread in an Indian reservation.

Other than that, I shine my bald head in the direction of Ben Pall in congratulating him both for his fourteenness and his adult-level acumen as a constructor.

Geezer 11:49 AM  

Thank you Ben, and I apologize for some of this blog's apPALLing comments.

Ulrich 11:56 AM  

@foodie: When I thought about it, "enjoy" also came to my mind--with the proviso that I cringe when I hear it (same as with "have a nice day"), as opposed to "bon appetit"--but that be an unerasable remnant of my growing up in a different language environment, where both phrases would be considered phony.

jeff in chicago 12:06 PM  

Liked this puzzle quite a bit, for a Monday. 'Tis impressive that the constructor is so young, but I'll back Rex in all his comments. I agree that the same standards should be held for all Monday puzzles (or any day) regardless of who created it.

I am old enough to remember seeing the Beatles on Ed Sullivan, and I've liked them ever since, but I prefer THE Who.

And...only connected because our constructor today fits in the category...I'm finally reading "Outliers" by Malcolm Gladwell. Fascinating stuff...

Anonymous 12:08 PM  

I am speechless.
Well, maybe not.
We get a fun puzzle with lots of theme answers. Fresh clues like "this and this."
No Roman numerals or popes.
The closest things to an abbrev. is lo-res and 'bot.
Even without knowing it was a debut AND written by a very young man it was way above the average Monday.
What does he get for his effort?
A scathingly petty review for the lack of a simple article.
I hope Ben reads and appreciates the positive consensus here.
I'm calling a foul for unnecessary snarkiness.
## Squeek ##

chefbea 12:28 PM  

@foodie I agree bon appetit = enjoy

mac 12:30 PM  

This was an above average Monday puzzle to me, and at no time did I think it was a young person who made it.

I think Rex's critique was as objective as any other day, which Ben should consider a compliment. And when you read his last comment, about 14A, he completely reverses his opinion!

The silencer/earplug are theme-related too: isn't it what the parents thought they needed at the time?

@Ulrich: I have to agree with you completely, I feel that way too.

Anonymous 12:34 PM  

The Jesus quote was from John Lennon..

Sfingi 12:37 PM  

Ben - Let's have a pic.

@Steve - Steve, Steve, Steve - be nice.

Mulligan STEW reminded me of Mrs. Murphy's Chowder. The Murphys find some overalls (nice word) in the chowder and don't figure its' because she used the same olla to wash the clothes in.
"Who threw the overalls in Mrs. Murphy's chowder?
Nobody spoke, so he shouted all the louder.
It's an Irish trick, that's true,
I could lick the Mick that threw,
The overalls in Mrs. Murphy's chowder!"
It's PC because it's Irish talking about Irish told by someone with a drop of Irish.

@Mac - plenty of English speakers used to ask - "Schmeck's gut?" - don't know how to spell it - in the days when there were left over grandfathers who still spoke a little Deutsch. They surpressed these little comments during WWII. Pretended to be Dutch or Danish. There's a myth propagated by the Bund in the '30s that German came close to being the national tongue in 1776. Before the war, my Dad actually joined the Bund for the freebies - food, clothes, entertainment.

Anonymous 12:57 PM  

Leave RP alone! Perfectly valid criticism and I concur with @Miguel's comments.

I was working in London when the Beatles burst on the scene and while I do appreciate their prolific output and musicality - nevertheless THE Rolling Stones are my boys!

joho 1:01 PM  

@Ulrich ... I cringe everytime Charles Gibson ends his newscast with, "I hope you had a nice day."

I just want to smack him!

Anonymous 1:14 PM  

Today's is an above average Monday puzzle. This blog has jumped the shark.

Clark 1:14 PM  

I dislike the very idea of these circle puzzles. BUT! The no-circles rule has a big fat BEATLES exception!

In ninth grade I did an oral report, speech, public speaking thing -- whatever it was -- on Paul is Dead. I wasn’t actually convinced that Paul was dead, but the collection of oddities in the pictures and weird stuff hidden in the music was too interesting to let go unnoticed. First circles filled were JOHN and PAUL. I thought maybe we had an apostle or disciple thing going on. How fitting is that, Boomerati?

Great Monday puzzle.

When I hear "DIG IN" I think of an old (fifty years my senior) beloved German friend who used to say, before digging in, "Lass es gut schmecken!" (Let it, or may it, taste good.) And it usually did.

bluebell 1:28 PM  

I got "raj" and "join the navy" and quickly figured out the Beatles references. But for some reason I hopped and skipped around in solving this one. My biggest glitch was "yer blues" which still doesn't ring a bell.

I'm in awe of constructors anyway, and knowing that a fourteen year old put this one together is even more awe inspiring. I read the interview and hope he understands the gift he has in family support.

A good puzzle experience.

Parshutr 1:46 PM can't always get what you want, but if you try real hard, you just might find you get what you need.
Even for a Stones Over Beatles believer, this was an Easy Day's Night.

balto 1:55 PM  

Loved this one -- after ONO and first 3 letters of ABBEY, saw Beatles would be central theme -- just flew.

Greene 2:51 PM  

I enjoyed this puzzle. Thought it was a fun Monday and the age of the constructor hasn't really influenced my opinion of the grid one jot.

I believe removing the word THE from the name of the singing group in question was merely a compromise necessitated by issues of grid symmetry. Since a theme answer must be symmetrically balanced, young Ben had little choice here but to excise the THE. One could not place a 10 letter theme answer smack center in the grid and maintain symmetry (but a 7 letter theme answer works quite nicely). The only other solution would have been to come up with a matching 10 letter theme answer to balance THE BEATLES. Given that there are 4 other 11 letter theme answers swirling symmetrically around the grid, matching 10 letter theme answers would have been nigh impossible.

So the question for solvers is: do the ends justify the means? For this solver, the answer is an unqualified yes. This was a decidedly enjoyable puzzle despite the circles, which are probably only present for the denser solvers among us (yes, my hand is up) who would not have seen the theme otherwise.

The personal criticisms of our host are completely uncalled for. Anybody who has read this blog for any length of time should know that Rex has the absolute highest standards for excellence in crossword puzzles and does not flinch from pointing out faulty construction or less than elegant fill. He is also tremendously generous with praise when constructors turn in top notch work. In either case, his remarks are unfailingly witty, insightful, and entertaining -- all at the same time. You try rolling out of bed at the crack of dawn 365 days a year to do the same (and for no pay). The day Mr. Parker compromises his standards for the sake of somebody's feelings, is the day I stop reading this blog.

SethG 2:52 PM  

Rex didn't like the puzzle, and his specific points of criticism seem to be that...

-he doesn't like themes where the circled letters are non-consecutive.
-the central answer gives the incomplete name of the band, and the cluing doesn't account for that.

He also says the grid is cleanly filled and interestingly shaped.

For this he's called a "jealous, highly critical individual", a "Boob", and "Mean Mr. Mustard", and told his shtick is tiresome, to lighten up, that he should be ashamed.

I did not like this puzzle much either, for the reasons Rex mentioned and a few others. But I appreciate a comment like joho's, at 9:44 AM, where she is somehow able to disagree with Rex's take without having to tell him why he's wrong or call him or assume he's an ass in the process. I have worlds more respect for comments like that, whether I disagree with them or not, than I do for those from the bunch of people who come here every day just to talk about why others are wrong.


SethG 2:59 PM  

[annoyed grunt]

Greene got in a minute earlier, and said what I said, better. Greene, I think the compromise is fine, it just can't be ignored. [Group with the four circled members, with "The"] would have taken care of that.

George NYC 2:59 PM  

Coincidentally, I recently purchased the new, remastered complete box set of the entire Beatles oeuvre so have been listening to the Fab Four a lot lately (can't play Little Piggies backwards, however).
FWIW, the remastered albums sound amazing and are very nicely packaged in facsimiles of the original covers. $179 at Amazon...

mexgirl 3:07 PM  

Hey, babyboomers out there! I wasn't there either, but I love the Beatles. My brother is probably one of the top 10 fans in the whole wide world, and no family gathering is complete unless we sing (my brother on guitar) to at least 45 minutes of Beatles music.
Now, my oldest son is 14 and, even though he doesn't construct puzzles, his ipod has tons of Beatles and he can play most of them on his bass guitar (I credit myself for that influence :^).

I would rate this puzzle on the easy side since I got the theme right off the bat, but still a great, strong one for such a young
man. Kudos!

(btw and speaking of theme answers, when I filled up DWELL I couldn't help thinking of the OCTOPUSE"S GARDEN...)

treedweller 3:12 PM  

But all we really needed was for the clue to add, "with 'The'." It happens in puzzles all the time, and should have happened here. The band's name was not BEATLES.

George NYC 3:28 PM  

One of the best things about Rex's style is its transparency. As we all know, people behave differently on the Internet than they would, say, in a bar. They tend to be nicer and meaner. You wouldn't tell some stranger sitting next to you that you thought he sucked, nor would you likely be super supportive to a stranger who started telling you about a very personal tragedy. Both routinely happen on this blog. So be it. Rex calls things as he sees them, and there is something clean and refreshing about that. It's one of many reasons he continues to be interesting, day after day.

Ulrich 3:32 PM  

My blogger profile tells me that I have had it since Nov. 2007, and since I created the profile initially b/c I started to write comments on this blog and wanted people to be able to send me e-mail, I must conclude that I have been writing these comments now for about 2 years. (BTW the only people I recognize from those days who are still here on a regular basis are mac and phillysolver--apologies if I'm overlooking someone...)

Criticism of Rex was voiced then, as it is now. But I did observe a shift in emphasis: 2 years ago (provided I remember correctly), the most frequent barbs concerned Rex's supposed lack of knowledge of topics dear to the particular commenter, generously salted by expressions of regret for the poor students who were saddled with such a teacher. Those types of comments have all but disappeared and have been replaced by, sometimes vociferous, complaints when Rex doesn't like a particular puzzle. I'm generally in favor of this shift of emphasis, but I wish that it would manifest itself less in speculations about the ways Rex gets out of bed and more in counterarguments that can be debated.

Examples of both types of responses can be found in today's comments, and I leave it as an exercise to the reader to figure out which are more interesting. BTW I'm not writing this as a sycophant or brownnoser or whatever people who agreed with Rex were called a while back by a commenter no longer with us--I disagree with Rex's judgments in over 50% of cases--if I didn't, I would have no reason to read his stuff in the first place...

@George: Just read your comment in preview--take the above as a continuation of this sort of thought.

kumar 3:33 PM  


I thought every New Yorker knew that the first European family to settle in The Bronx were the Broncks, who established a large farm. Visitors would say they were going to the Broncks. That led to the name Bronck's River, which eventually came to be called The Bronx. After a time, the borough/county came to be called The Bronx.

Calmad 3:34 PM  

It was only a matter of time, I suppose. Congrats to Ben for beating my record.

--Caleb Madison

Elaine 3:56 PM  

I have to laugh-- When I saw JO, I immediatly tried to put AMY in the three circles to the right (19 across)... Jo, Amy, Meg, Beth! _Little Women_!!

Of course, I caught on and put in The Beatles' names, which I knew equally well.

Every day I am impressed that Rex is willing to do all of that highlighting, capitalizing, linking, and commenting. The blog has been a boon to me: I know that I have improved as a solver, and I enjoy this little community a great deal. I am pleased that Rex has not responded to the more mean-spirited comments. We CAN disagree with civility, and what is more, we SHOULD.

Thanks, Ben Pall, and Thanks, Rex!

Greene 4:09 PM  

@SethG and Treedweller: Point taken. The inclusion of the word THE in the clue would have indeed solved the problem handily (as was mentioned by Rex in his write-up, at least indirectly). I wonder why Mr. Shortz did not alter this? I find him to be a very thorough and precise editor.

Greene 4:10 PM  
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Anonymous 4:14 PM  

Love The (!) Beatles, didn't like the puzzle. It wasn't really thaaat bad, but disappointed that the Beatles theme won't be executed better in the puzzle any time soon...

archaeoprof 4:26 PM  

Another hat off to Ben Pall.

Ben, now that you have mastered the art of a music theme, how about a puzzle with a _country_ music theme?

BTW, I'm attending a conference today, and I have a NAMETAG around my neck.

@Ulrich: I wholeheartedly agree with your description of the past couple of years.

sanfranman59 4:58 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)

Mon 7:07, 6:55, 1.03, 62%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:51, 3:41, 1.05, 69%, Medium-Challenging

In spite of being a huge BEATLES fan, this one felt more Tuesday-ish to me, but it may just be my flu-addled brain (I'm at 5 feverish days and counting ... this flu sucks! ... to be avoided at all costs). I couldn't parse LORES and was convinced it was the reason my solution was not accepted, not realizing that I'd screwed up 44A & 48A by spelling MATEY with an IE on the end (I tend to focus on down clues in early week puzzles). Come days end, this puzzle will probably end up toward the low end of the Medium-Challenging category for both groups of solvers.

PIX 5:30 PM  

@Kumar...yes, i know the history but it's still weird to me that the "The" in "the Bronx", has not been relegated to the dustbin of history.

edith b 5:33 PM  

I was 17 in the fall of 1964 when Beatlemania swept across the USA and it is hard for me to believe that nearly 50 years have passed.

It is equally hard to communicate what the British Invasion was like to those among us who did not live through it as it was the beginning of what can only be called a sea change in our culture. John Lennon was right on some level when the said the Beatles were more popular than Jesus as nothng short of a revolution took place during those years.

It really doesn't matter whether ones personal preference was The Rolling Stones or The Beatles - it was part and parcel of the same thing.

There was a mini-furor in the early 70s when the band Klaatu was mistakenly believed to be The Beatles but it was only a rumor that faded away after a few years. But believe this from a survivor of the times: Those were the days!

chefbea 6:10 PM  

@Ulrich I have been a member of this blog since Mar 08 and have loved every minute of it. I feel like all the bloggers are my friends.... the ones I have met personally and all the others.....including our leader!!!

Glitch 6:32 PM  

Checking in late, wow, what a day.

Liked the puzzle, don't like circles so when I got the first one I just assumed the rest were all there.

The age of constructor is irrelevent, remember "old Timer's Week"?

Perhaps Rex could have left out the age reference until [maybe a PS at] the end. In my initial reading I felt an age bias which I don't think was really there.

Given what we have learned from constructors re "the process", Will and/or his minions should have inserted the missing "The".

Anything else I would have commented on seems to have been covered --- and I agree with those I usually agree with, and don't agree with the usual others :)


PS @Ulrich, obviously your blog doesn't record "lurkers".

slypett 6:57 PM  

PIX, Kumar, et al: Speaking as a Bronx native (or a native of The Bronx), the accepted nomenclature in an envelope address is Bronx, NY. This was true in my boyhood and who knows how far back.

ArtLvr 7:05 PM  
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ArtLvr 7:12 PM  

@ ulrich --Still trying to get my "acct" back again.. I think I've been here as long as you have -- two years this month -- except that they keep dropping me and making me sign up again!


Martin 7:24 PM  

For the life of me I don't understand what is about Rex's "deal-breaker" that so offends him and some others:

where the circled letters are non-consecutive and do not even truly appear in order

The notion seems to be that some universal elegance principal has been violated, but nanpilla (8:34) has it exactly right. The difference between a Monday theme and a Thursday theme is that a Monday theme is supposed to provide overt assistance in solving the puzzle while a Thursday theme has to be worked on after you've completed the fill.

The circles are there to give you a bunch of free letters early in the solve. They're not a two-dimensional projection of the name of God.

I thought it was a great Monday puzzle.

Two Ponies 7:31 PM  

Wow,what an unusual day here today.
@ Ulrich, Nice entry today. You piqued my curiosity so I discovered I have been here since Feb. '08. How time flies.
I also remember Klaatu and the rumors. I still have one of their tapes. The name of the band.... came from the name of a robot in a sci-fi novel and/or movie?
@ Glitch, I was thinking of "Old Timers Week" today as well.
@ sanfranman59, Thanks as always and hope you feel better soon.
Where is Andrea to give us her take on this Monday adventure? She must have loved the theme.

Gort 7:43 PM  

@Two Ponies - Klaatu is the pilot of my ship in The Day the Earth Stood Still.

George NYC 7:43 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Glitch 8:15 PM  

Per wiki, especially note the distinction between the Burough and County:

The Bronx is referred to, both legally,[16] and colloquially,[17] with a definite article, as The Bronx.

The County of Bronx, unlike the coextensive Borough of the Bronx, does not place "the" immediately before Bronx in formal references, nor does the United States Postal Service in its database of Bronx addresses.
[emphasis added]

Also, in all my years in NYC, living "in Manhattan", I can't recall anyone saying they lived "in Bronx".


Martin 8:30 PM  

One Bronx, two Yonkers. Never made any sense to me.

jeff in chicago 8:50 PM  

I just looked and I signed up in September 2007! (But it was easily more than a year before I ever dared to post.)

Sfingi 8:50 PM  

Smokey THE Bear. Smokey Bear. THE Bouwerie.


Hope the kid's in bed - it's ok to use circles sometimes, as long as it don't become a circle jerk.

miriam b 9:22 PM  

No one in Ukraine would in fact say THE Ukraine, because there are neither definite nor indefinite articles in the Russian language - or in Ukrainian either, I'm 99.999%certain.

The truly brutal grammar makes up for the lack of articles. "Ukraine", BTW, just means "frontier".

andrea the michaels 9:41 PM  

@Two Ponies
I love the Beatles! But it's my nap time. And it's THE TOOTH FAIRY...

Stephen 10:00 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stephen 10:06 PM  

I enjoyed this. And the disconnected circles were fun, not objectionable. They gave me a boost that I was glad to be able to harness. Thank you kiddo.

Boo Rex. Have you read about Sudan recently? I have to endure its missing "The" often now, but "Beatles" slips through my filter without the merest syntactic whimper. Think "Beatles' music"; anything wrong with that?

Also, I am a "Beatles fan". Do you mind? I am not a "The Beatles fan". bah!

LORES beat me. Even after I was done, I had to ponder it.

fergus 10:16 PM  

I didn't get to this puzzle until around 6:30 PST, and thought I would try to whiz through this. Seemed like a standard Monday puzzle that hung me up in so many little spaces of time that the ten-minute ceiling was starting to be a threat. This is a good thing. The rumored, and apparently ascertained youthful status of the constructor is interesting, but it played no part in my appreciation of the content of the grid.

I don't much care for piecemeal circle jobs either, but this sort of thematic gimmick was neither a distraction nor a detraction.

SethG 10:38 PM  

BEQ said of this type of theme "To me this theme just seems completely arbitrary and inelegant". (Not in reference to this puzzle, just the randomly circled letters themes in general.)

Why I agree: I can take the four 15s in Saturday's Joe Krozel (themeless) puzzle and circle letters to get a "things that might smell" puzzle, with, NOSE, ODOR, AROMA, and MARINA. Or MAME, MONA, VERA and MADGE for a great-aunts theme. Or today's puzzle could have been railroad related, with LEVER or PLATE, JOINT or HEAVY, TONG and REAR.

The Gambia is The Gambia. Stephen, I'm a Wilco fan, and a fan of Wilco. You're a Beatles fan, (like Rex remembers Beatles music,) but you're a fan of The Beatles.

brucy 10:40 PM  

artlover, are you sure you don't just have to log in?

fergus 10:48 PM  

... and I like how "The Ukraine" has become merely Ukraine in common parlance, owing perhaps to the Slavic disdain for articles.

Whatever happened to the Buckeye insistence on their definite article? We'll see at the Rose Bowl.

Foodie, I loved seeing your strawberry today

xyz 11:53 PM  

As an improving puzzler who intermittantly sequentially shows up here, I constantly am amazed how fussy serious puzzlers are about rules of construction.

There are things I enjoy about certain puzzles that the seriosities condemn and vice versa.

I just like having fun doing a puzzle and reading the varirty of "serious" comments. I don't understand the deadly serious rigidity, but I don't think I want to. I must be a girl, 'cause I just wanna have fun.

sanfranman59 12:01 AM  

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 7:13, 6:55, 1.04, 63%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:49, 3:41, 1.04, 67%, Medium-Challenging

deerfencer 12:40 AM  

Kudos to redanman and especially to Ben Pall for a fine Monday effort. We all love Rex or we wouldn't be here, but you have to take a guy who's proud of never having read Yeats with a mighty grain of salt. Nuff said.

Blackhawk 12:48 AM  

Glad to see some others have let the the assistant visiting community college English professor know he was out of line with his cheap shots at the kid. ... Circle puzzles are apparently an acceptable form of crossword art to Will Shortz, who is the taste king. Complaining about them every time they appear is getting tiresome.

Not my favorite Monday puzzle ever, but definitely want to say bravo to the young constructor for his ambition, style and courage. And always cool to see people with names that are seven letters or less. They are human "bingos" in Scrabblese: BENPALL. 61 points!

schmidtenor 1:23 AM  

At least there was nary a single ANTESUP or GIRDSUP , or other random nonsense prepositional adding ON TO. So big UP's to the constructor for the lack thereof!

fergus 1:28 AM  


Your peurile denigration of anyone's status (regardless whether or not it pertains to the blog chief) impresses not a single person and demonstrates your tenuous hold on the evaluation that you'll find adheres only to your own sad self. That said, I hope we shall both rise above the potshots across the bow ... .

Cheap shot,

submariner_ss 1:33 AM  

Hats off to Rex and those that agreed with him. To be published, a puzzle should be worthy of the venue in which it appears. The age of the puzzler is not relevant. Judge the work on its merits.

Whether easy or challenging, puzzles must conform to standards. Age, education (or lack thereof), ethnicity, gender...should never be factors. Rex, may have been less than kind, but he was right in his assessment. This puzzle is good for a 14 year old, but it doesn't belong in the NYT..

George NYC 1:39 AM  

I totally disagree. This puzzle is as good as, and in fact way better than, countless puzzles in the Times. I'd be delighted to have a puzzle this good every Monday. Or Tuesday, even.

Blackhawk 2:48 AM  

Fergus, the semi-literate quality of your run-on sentence is only matched by the hilarious misspelling of the PSAT vocab word you were trying to use as a put-down. My remarks were not puerile, anyway; they were pointed.

fergus 3:22 AM  

Pointed, yes and puerile too. Mine, as well. Let's let sleeping dogs lie.

Golden Oldie 4:04 AM  

Typos happen; they are not the same as misspellings.

@Fergus AND Blackhawk
What are you doing up at this hour? Go to bed at once! There will be another puzzle in the morning.

J & K 6:14 AM  

Sunday - 11/22 - Homeruns always produce RBI's, not just often. How did such a flat-out error get over the wall?

An American Taxpayer 6:46 AM  

@SethG - Thanks for the link to the CIA info -- The CIA can't find a single picture of The Gambia!!! Even Wikipedia comes up with at least six with no sweat!!!

Bob Kerfuffle 7:48 AM  

@Sfingi - Here's a picture of Ben Pall. (It's a s;ide show of misc local news, so you might have to click back and forth a bit.)

mac 7:50 AM  

The British used to talk about The Argentine.

william e emba 9:29 AM  

SethG: I did not call Rex a "Boob with a PhD". I was pointedly referring to Jeremy Hilary Boob, PhD, aka the "Nowhere Man" from Yellow Submarine.

On the other hand, I did compare Rex with a Blue Meanie.

ArtLvr 1:47 AM  

How about The Crimea? We could start another war over that... but it would be a crime.


jpChris 12:55 PM  

Hi Rex,

I'm really surprised you didn't post this for 48A:

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