"And They're Off..." — a Rex Parker free puzzle

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Wrote this one on a lark, inspired by a single theme answer. Did it with more conservative theme answers (thinking I might submit it somewhere), then found out (perusing cruciverb.com's database) that the theme had been done already, as a Sunday-sized puzzle, many years ago. So I reverted to the theme answers I liked best, Rex-ified the clues like crazy, and here it is. A light amusement for you. Enjoy. [Click "Print" below, or get AcrossLite / .puz version at Amy Reynaldo's Crossword Forum, HERE]

If you get stumped, you can find the solution HERE.

And They Re Off



Mike Lewis 4:48 PM  

This puzzle would've gone much faster for me, if I'd remembered that it's CharlEY Pride, not CharlIE. IDDY? How's that a [Whirl]? What the heck is an IDDY?

andrea crazylegs michaels 5:41 PM  

Fabulous puzzle that easily could have been published...
SO Scrabbly!!!!!!!!
2 Z's, FOUR X's...what only 2K's from Rekkks?! Admire that diagonal of JXX in the NE corner!

Nice pangram
(Which helped me get 1D and 20A as I don't know from QUARTERFLASH)

I needed lots of undoing...
YOWZAH was originally HUZZAH for me...
MAMBA for COBRA (hmmm it should have been MAMBO or is that a dance? Now I'm all confused)

Started with CATFISHHUNTE till there was no room for the R, thinking Rex was riffing on the athlete nicknames from Monday's blog...

Didn't get the MEL/VERA allusion but am assuming it's something with the show Alice or Flor or whatever that was...

ANd I mistook OPRAH's departure date as SARAH's, thinking it meant when Sarah Palin was supposed to leave from ALASKA and then that answer popped up.

I loved the extra info about stuff (eg aforementioned departure date, the interesting POE clue or the Paul Winter SEXTET being the first jazz group at the WHite House...) no Olafs there!

Plus just one tiny tiny unassuming Simpsons clue, little ALF sitting there unassumingly at 52A

One of my MANY guilty pleasures is that I watch "Cheaters" almost every night so Joey Greco was a gimme tho I would have thought he had 2Cs!
Altho technically with the Tigertail, every newscast and tabloid show is "Cheater(s)".

Lots of cross referencing that really worked for me.
Oprah and Elie Wiesel were at Auschwitz together???!!! Really???!!! hmmm.

Anyway, bravo bravo...

nanpilla 6:00 PM  

Gee, Rex, you made a puzzle just for me. Although I must say it was very hard - took a Saturday amount of time to finish. Tough clues!

T Rex for STYX didn't help any in that SW corner. Thought for sure it was a self-reference.

Thanks for the extra fun on a Wednesday.

JannieB 6:31 PM  

Most enjoyable - and you should have submitted it somewhere - it's so much better than much of the dreck the NYT has been running lately.

Rex Parker 6:36 PM  

Not everyone's as in love as you are JannieB, though I expect with different, more generally solver-friendly cluing, I could fix some people's frustration. I'll have more to say on this tomorrow. When I thought I might submit it, I changed QUARTERFLASH to QUARTERSTAFF (that's how I discovered that the theme had been done — checking the history of that answer in cruciverb database) and HIGH TIMES to HIGH HEELS. Then when I realized theme had been done (w/ almost completely different answers, but still...), I reverted to my more pop culture-y wheelhouse.

LoJ 7:08 PM  

I don't think I'd ever forgive you if you changed HIGH TIMES. It's just so cute with TOKE sitting innocently above.

Love the Simpsons references, as always!

Two Ponies 7:16 PM  

All in all a great puzzle. Thanks for the freebie but I agree that you should have submitted it.
Thursday tough for me with the sports and rap stuff I did not have a chance at.
Cool factoid about Charley Pride.
Begged = sued?
The mid-Atlantic area was the trickiest for me. Spites?
I thought it was the Paul Winter Consort and thought you had a rebus going for a bit because I was hoping that was my gimme to get me started. Wrong.
Thanks for sharing and keep it up.

Anonymous 7:42 PM  

This is way better than any of the recent NYT puzzles. I don't understand why you're giving it away for free???????

Anonymous 8:06 PM  

I checked cruciverb (LOVE that site! It's got everything!) Just because this theme was in the L.A. Times two years ago wouldn't invalidate the theme, would it? Surely the N.Y. Times or someone else would still publish it.

Has it occured to anyone else that the reason this is the best blog is because it's the one written by a constructor?

Rex Parker 8:52 PM  

Whoa whoa whoa — let's be clear. I have never had a puzzle byline in a newspaper, and to date have sold exactly one puzzle (in a forthcoming collection). I know another blogger who has actually had a co-written puzzle pub'd in the NYT. Yes, right now, I'm on a tear, construction-wise, but this is a new development and I'm clearly still a novice. I appreciate the praise a lot, but want to keep my achievements in perspective (and don't want to diminish my fellow bloggers in any way).

As for why I might not submit puzzles to newspapers ... sometimes the subj. matter / theme just doesn't seem right. Other times ... well, let's just say I might have a reason to want to hold onto the rights to my own puzzles.

For now, I like being able to release puzzles on my own terms and get feedback from experienced solvers and constructors.

A friend and I just had a puzzle rejected by Will. It's a time-sensitive puzzle, and the rejection came too late for us to resubmit it. You will likely be seeing that one soon (gotta discuss the puzzle's future w/ my co-constructor first). I've got a few more that I'm trying to decide what to do with, and another few still in the planning stages.

Anyway, I like this venue, and I'm grateful for the audience.

Thank you,

Orange 9:15 PM  

Pat Merrell, who co-hosts Wordplay now, has published a gazillion NYT crosswords, too—considerably more than my one. Also, I must correct Anonymous's factual error, because of course my blog is the best one.

Rex, when somebody grumbled at L.A. Crossword Confidential that we're a bunch of hacks with no standing to critique puzzles, it made me wonder if there are others lurking out there thinking, "These hacks write about puzzles because they lack the skill to make them." But you do have some real chops, and your blogging has served to heighten your sensitivity to putting lame fill in your own puzzles. So bravo. Keep 'em coming!

joho 9:40 PM  

Well, I'm impressed. I thought I'd just jog through this little ditty that you published just for us to have fun and ... whack! This was really hard for me to get through, but I did and I loved it.

Fun theme and interesting, difficult cluing ... fresh answers.

Good on you, Rex!

mac 12:12 AM  

Thank you for this extra treat! I especially had to laugh at High Times and the toke - made me homesick for Amsterdam... And remembering Vera with the teeth!

A lot of it was hard for me, but I like to struggle a little. I could tell you had fun putting your own kind of clues back in.

When there is an especially nasty anonymouse on the Rex Parker or the LAT blog, I just figure they haven't been reading for very long. I always admire how you, Orange and PuzzleGirl stay calm and collected in those situations.

Christmas Games 3:20 AM  

I like being able to release puzzles on my own terms and get feedback from experienced solvers and constructors. A lot of it was hard for me, but I like to struggle a little. I could tell you had fun putting your own kind of clues back in.

Greene 6:00 AM  

@Rex: Thanks for this puzzle. It was a real treat to solve last evening while waiting for the NYT puzzle to appear. I like the idea that you publish your own work on your own terms with your own unexpurgated Rexian style. I always forget that constructors lose the rights to their work after newspaper publication. Can't wait to see what other little gems you've got in store for us.

@Orange: It must be irritating for you and your fellow bloggers to put up with those snide remarks from the anonymous commentators out there, but even if you and Rex had no skills whatsoever at puzzle construction, it would not diminish the worthiness of your insights into the solving process and your encyclopedic knowledge of crosswords in general. I used to think that good solvers would automatically make good constructors, but now realize these are probably completely different skill sets. That you and Rex can do both, do it well, and provide incisive and entertaining daily commentary is not only astonishing, but a little bit intimidating as well. Envy is clearly a motivating factor for some of those nasty remarks that pop up from time to time. As for me? I'm completely Greene.

Anonymous 6:03 AM  

A short antedote about similar themes. I submitted a puzzle to the NYT, whose theme was NOT in the database and 10 days latter the exact same theme was published in the LAT. Three of the answers were IDENTICAL. To my amazement, Will accepted the puzzle and it was published in April 2009.
In conclusion, your puzzle should have been submitted and let the editor decide.


Rex Parker 6:27 AM  

To be fair, I don't think Anonymous (above) was being "snide."

Vincent L. 7:29 AM  

Thanks! Difficult but I enjoyed it.

Leon 7:46 AM  

Thanks for the puzzle. Lots of fun. Hard but still quite doable

"EARLAP still looks like it's missing a letter (namely, "F")"

Your comment from David J. Kahn's 11/23/2008 Sunday Puzzle still applies.

John 9:17 AM  


Ive done several of your puzzles and find them hard but fair and very doable.

So far w/o help from Google.

Keep up the Excellent work!

Stan 10:08 AM  

Thoroughly fun solve -- but yes, tougher than other Rex bonus puzzles. I'm glad you stuck to the original, undiluted version!

JaneW 11:08 AM  

I enjoyed the puzzle a lot -- but have a nagging error at 23 across (clue: handy): I've got ASL. Just can't figure out where the error is. Is there a solution somewhere?

Rex Parker 12:32 PM  

American Sign Language.

I'll post a grid now.


JaneW 12:56 PM  


HudsonHawk 3:03 PM  

Very nice medium-challenging puzzle, Rex. Seemed about Thursday level to me. Most enjoyable, even as I held onto VET before NET for way too long at 64D.

@JaneW, you were not alone, as I didn't initially see the rest of the Handy clue, since it wrapped to the next column.

acme 3:30 PM  

@joho, mac, HH
Here's the tricky part with folks saying the clues seem hard...
I think it was sort of a Tues/Wed theme, but clued at a Thurs/Fri level. Does that make sense?

I'm STILL wondering if you could submit it with different clues and keep this version for your own rights...I've often thought about that...what part does the NYT own?
The grid? The theme?
Like, could I take one of my own grids/themes intact and change the cluing and thus re-own it? I've considered that.

Rex Parker 5:27 PM  

I use ScribD to host my .pdf files (which I guess you can see if you just look at the picture of the puzzle w/i the write-up). For some reason this puzzle made something called the "hotlist" over there and is featured in the sidebar of the main home page, I guess. Whatever's going on, the puzzle has over 1000 reads from today alone, and people have begun (for the first time) to "subscribe" to my ScribD feed, which I didn't even know you could do. Cool.

Thank you all for your comments. If you like bonus puzzles and discussing strengths/weakness thereof, I recommend stopping by the "Island of Lost Puzzles" at the Forum @ crosswordfiend.com (where I host the .puz files of my puzzles). Really good stuff ends up there sometimes (see esp. a recent puzzle by Joon Pahk, with an interesting non-publication history...)


Anonymous 5:57 PM  

Nice puzzle Rex. Thank you!

CoolPapaD 10:06 PM  

Rex -This was FANTASTIC-on par with anything I've seen lately, including ones linked to from Puzzle Pointers (Ephraim's). Tough but fun. I still cannot get the theme, despite having a filled grid. I'll keep staring until someone jumps in and tells me what will make me say "D'oh!"

Anonymous 12:48 AM  

look at the last clue across it reveals the theme

CoolPapaD 1:04 AM  

D'oh! Thanks! Must have missed that from the downs. Makes me like it even more!

Unknown 1:42 AM  

Very nice challenging puzzle, Rex.Thanks for sharing that.
Christmas Games

Amelie 4:03 PM  

Can someone please explain to me how "Tag rival" relates to AXE?

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