Georges with best seller Life User's Manual / THU 1-7-10 / CBS newsman Bob / Citi Field mascot / 10 superiors / Distinctive Dilbert feature

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Constructor: Xan Vongsathorn

Relative difficulty: Challenging

THEME: PEST CONTROL (57D: With 65-Across, extermination ... or what can be done to 10 answers in this puzzle without affecting their clues?) — a rebus puzzle where "ANT" appears five times. All "ANT"-containing answers work with or without the "ANT" in place.

Word of the Day: Georges PEREC (50D: Georges with best seller Life User's Manual)

Georges Perec (7 March 1936, Paris – 3 March 1982) was a French novelist, filmmaker and essayist. He was a member of the Oulipo group. // Life A User's Manual (the original title is La Vie mode d'emploi) is Georges Perec's most famous novel, published in 1978, first translated into English by David Bellos in 1987. Its title page describes it as "novels", in the plural, the reasons for which become apparent on reading. Some critics have cited the work as an example of postmodern fiction, though Perec himself preferred to avoid labels and his only long term affiliation with any movement was with the Oulipo or OUvroir de LIttérature POtentielle. (wikipedia)


An amazing feat of construction. A very frustrating solve. For the second day in a row, the puzzle is wildly out of step with the day's normal difficulty range. If early returns at the NYT site are any indication, this is shaping up to be one of the hardest Thursdays in recent memory. The times look more like Fri/Sat times. Mine sure was. Average Saturday time for me. Couldn't see the rebus to save my life, even though I *knew* (after just a few minutes) it was there, somewhere. Had to seek and solve the theme revealer before I had any clue what was going on (which almost never happens), and even then it was rough going (finally put it all together starting with I W[ANT] IN!" / [ANT]ARCTIC). What's weird is that clues were made deliberately hard when the whole structure of the puzzle already ensured that the solving experience would be challenging. Traps at 30D: Letters between two names (AKA — I had NÉE); 57A: An Ivy (PENN — could've been YALE); relatively obscure clues on familiar names like ABE (28D: Former Japanese P.M. Shinzo) and ORR (34D: CBS Newsman Bob). Yikes all around. Wanted GET IT instead of GET ME (10D: "See what I mean?"). Never heard of (or barely heard of) IKEBANA (37A: Japanese art of flower-arranging). Ditto Georges SEREC. Whew.

Again, I'm blown away by the concept and execution. Really first rate. Also, despite a head-scratcher here and there, there isn't any out-and-out crap fill. Most people who try to be crossword heroes and make stunt puzzles end up with dud fill all over the place. Not this kid.

This puzzle should've run tomorrow. Much harder than the typical Thursday. But that's not Xan's fault. I love this kid. Shout out to Claremont, CA. Xan = Pomona College class of '09! Chirp chirp!

Theme answers:

  • 7D: Set upon a slope, say (slANTed / sled)
  • 16A: Enemy encounter (combatANT / combat)
  • 20D: Trig function (secANT / sec) worst of the bunch, as these mean the same thing ... right? Also, this was a brutal clue — I *know* I'm not the only one who had the "S" and instinctively, confidently, without blinking, wrote in SINE.
  • 32A: Absolutely terrific (fANTabulous / fabulous)
  • 29D: Yankee fighter (giANT / G.I.) — wanted REB.
  • 40A: Gets upset (ANTagonizes / agonizes)
  • 12D: Something that might work on a full stomach? (ANTacid / acid)
  • 8A: They may have titles (pageANTs / pages)
  • 45D: Cry at a poker game, maybe ("I wANT in!" / "I win!")
  • 58A: Pole position (ANTarctic / arctic)

  • 1A: Heebie-jeebies (jimjams) — man, the NW. I just tanked it. Only ever heard of JIMJAMS from xwords, and it just wasn't coming, even with the "J" from JACKS (1D: 10 superiors) and the (tentative) "J" from JIBE (4D: See eye to eye) in place. Also had NY MET for MR. MET (3D: Citi Field mascot).

  • 23A: Teacups, e.g. (ride) — HARD! Fake plural and everything ... man.
  • 42A: Plundering opportunity (foray) — I thought the plundering *was* the FORAY.
  • 45A: Appearance of O or W (issue) — great clue.
  • 27D: Soupy Sales and others (hams) — had to get in a time machine to solve this one.

59D: Distinctive Dilbert feature (tie) — even I, an inveterate "Dilbert" ignorer, knew this.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


treedweller 12:28 AM  

Definitely hard. Many of the same missteps as Rex, plus raves for GALAS leading to VCR for LEG, mon for MES and riles for FAZES. Even after I got the first ANT, I kept looking for a rat, a bug, anything, since I was Not Getting It.

PEREC? mystery. MEDEVAC? why not medivac? DABO? if you say so. ABE? a rare time when I actually would prefer a Simpsons clue. JIMJAMS? I don't even have a semi-clever followup to that one. And then there's the SE with no rebus at all . . .
Finally went to google for MRMET, IKEBANA (even though I just read about it as I prepared to pot up my xmas bonsai), and PERE.
In the end, I agree, a very ingenious, very impressive construction. Though I am less happy with SECANT/SEC than Rex. Not only are they the same; one also happens to be an unclued abbreviation.

Just brutal for Thurs. Much googling and still over twice my normal TH time. I remember last year the lead-ins to the ACPT seemed especially hard, and I hope that is all we're seeing here (though it seems awfully early). But man, I can barely convince myself I still know how to do this stuff. GETME?

Clark 12:29 AM  

This puzzle was a blast. I got the ANTs at PAGE[ANT]S/[ANT]ACID and then picked them off one by one, if somewhat laboriously. Not knowing where they were made it tough going. I have never seen JIMJAMS before, and I couldn't see MRMET -- one wrong square there. Didn't know IKEBANA or DABO and couldn't see NLER (now I get it), so 'zip' looked as good as NIL. But even with these goof ups I still had fun with this. Xan, you rock!

George NYC 12:33 AM  

I found the use and non-use of "?" in the clues inconsistent and confusing. What's the rule here? Otherwise, an enjoyably challenging puzzle, though I agree with above comments that it was pretty hard for a Thursday.

lit.doc 12:39 AM  

Rex, you can hardly know how glad I am that you posted so early. Sitting here with glass of 12-year-old Irish whisky for seems like hours (hell, might be) obsessing over this astonishing puzz. Now I can vent, go watch Jon Stewart and some subversive news, and get some sleep. Actually have to get up and teach tomorrow. And Texas v. Alamaba is tomorrow = late night + hangover. Aint the crossword jones a bitch.

Best I could do with native wit and google was ID the theme, find the five rebus squares (maybe sober I wouldn't have spent so much time wondering where the eff the other five were), and still ended up with four empty squares. Wow, this guy is gooood!

I'm still on square WTF (var. sp. of "one") on 23A RIDE, despite Rex's bullet. Probably would have said no way anyhow if I'd thought of 23D ROSANNE, which I ought to have (hell, I've got the 45 of her "Seven Year Itch"). Me too re 30D NEE and 10D GET IT?? And on what planet is JIMJAMS used? I'm jus' sayin'. Goodnight, all.

Tinbeni 1:12 AM  

Rex: Can we CHAT?
Just curious do you have a relative difficulty level: Ass Kicking?

Did not catch on to the rebus nature of this puzzle until I remembered a comment from yesterday.
By then my FORAY was about 75% done.
I was out of CONTROL. ERASURE(s)were involved. It was COMBAT. I was the MAIN COMBATANT (rebus 1st moment).
Then my Scotch addled brain saw the FANTABULOUS, WILD, UNCUT EROTICA, in IRONS, ARRIVAL.
I said ME FIRST, get me an INTRO, I WANT IN, there will be no REJECTS, a RIDE to STUFF IT will RECUR.
It hit the SPOT.
In a FAZE I finally completed this ADO.
One of the best GALAS ever.
My LEG and my KNEE hurt, I need a MEDEVAC. Energy level is NIL.
JAN, or is it ROSANNE? GET ME some EVIAN and a cigarette.

Now let me tell you about the ISSUE I had in Zagreb, WHEN I ran into some SERBS ...

And that is what happens when you find out you're 1.5 Billion years older, as of Tuesday.

chefwen 1:41 AM  

@lit.doc - You ride the giant teacups at Disneyland (not that I ever did)

Boy, I do love me a good rebus and this one did deliver. Had COMBAT in, left the ant blank, ARCTIC in, left the ant blank. Finally figured out I WANT IN after I had put in i winn, thinking cool, it's going to be about casinos, NOT! Anyway got it all figured out and had a great time looking for the other ANTS. Didn't know JIMJAMS but I think I'll start using it, sounds cute.

Steve J 1:50 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steve J 1:51 AM  

The only point of pride I can take after being destroyed by this puzzle is that I'm clearly getting better at sniffing out rebus puzzles. Got a hunch pretty early on that this was one, and the GIANT/ANTAGONIZES cross came about halfway through things for me (in terms of fill, certainly not in terms of time), but I'll be damned if I could find any of others for what seemed like the next day and a half.

I've only gotten big into crosswords again in the last six-nine months or so, so my frame of reference is limited, but I've never been as impressed with a puzzle as this one. Wickedly clever construction, and I can't really find any fill to complain about. It was good enough that even NLER doesn't bug me this time around.

And the clue/answer combo for EROTICA is my new favorite pairing ever. FANTABULOUS.

Tinbeni 2:25 AM  

C'mon guys the 29d Yankee Fighter couldn't just be "GI" and it definitively wasn't gin (trust me, I know my spirits) or gia or git (for the second day in a row).

40a 'Gets upset' had to be ANTagonizes.
Look at the squares, the 1st letter in AGONIZES came from AKA 30d 'Letters between two names'
Aagonizes & Nagonizes are not words.
Tagonizes (respiratory depression caused by narcotics) makes no sense unless the Yankee fighter of 29d is a GIT - naahh.

Ergo, 29d had to be GIANT!
And that was my second rebus moment.

andrea uncut michaels 3:19 AM  

Because I had GETIT (actually GITIT bec of MEDiVAC) I malapopped!

I put in IRON for "Lead" and then it appeared later at 2D for Fetters!!!!
I love malapopping!!!!!!!

Had to google ABE and double check ORR (bec I thought I may be mixing him up with the hockey player Bobby Orr whom I only knew from commercials or something as a child...He would say, "I'm Bobby Orr, and I play hockey" but I don't know what it was for...butter? pancakes? syrup?

(Has Rex already embed that in the past? He's probably too young to have seen it...but it played over and over when I was little. Which was my sum total of what I knew about hockey until I learned about ICER from this blog)

My only other mistake was DAZE/FAZE and briefly considering JIVE/JIBE, they feel like they mean the same to me.

Zero idea what JIMJAMS are... ok, some idea, considering it has been clued as "Heebie-jeebies". But the word JIMJAMS gives me the heebie-jeebies. IS there a word for that?

Many questions tonight:
Are the DO in ADO and DOS the same DO?
Is STUFFIT originally for another part of your body? Or is it Archie Bunker-esque "Stuff a sock in it, Edith"?
Is PERE and PEREC the start of another add-a-C puzzle?

Bottomline, I thought this puzzle was super clever...
but still bummed that exactly a year ago Patrick Blindauer and I submitted a puzzle "crawling" with ANTS with a grid in the shape of an ant farm, but it was rejected for too many black squares and too many three-letter words (both true in retrospect).
It remains the best puzzle I've ever been a part of (it ran in the WSJ 1/2/09, on a Friday after New Year's Day so no one saw it).
Anyway, all this to say, I have to admit, this one did it better in some ways!

Bravo Xan(t)!!!!

Elaine 4:17 AM  

Wish I had not done my 1:30 Club puzzle! Despite getting huge chunks of this puzzle, "seeing" the rebus early on, and feeling that it was not so tough, I came to a total halt in the ?Mid-Atlantic? SECANT and the RIDE--A cruel Natick that I never solved.

I gave up and Googled for ORR--which did not help. Haven't heard FANTABULOUS in decades. The ride-- isn't it The Mad Hatter's Teaparty? I've never heard it called Teacups.

Suffice it to say, this one seemed MUCH more difficult than the usual Thursday to me, too. Ouch!

Greene 6:03 AM  

Well, it looks like Thursday is the new Friday. Loved this puzzle, although I couldn't make heads or tails of it last night. Took another look this morning and everything went much smoother. It didn't hurt that I filled in the SE first and got the whole PEST CONTROL idea early on. Suspected ANT would be the rebus, but had difficulty finding any. Got the Aha moment at the FANTABULOUS SECANT crossing.

This is now officially the hardest Thursday puzzle I have ever worked and I absolutely loved it. Brilliant puzzle!

@ACME: I remember your ANTS puzzle very well. I must have been in a foul mood when I worked it because I absolutely hated the gimmick at the time. Maybe all those ants gave me the JIM JAMS. Anyway, I saved it in my "interesting puzzles file" because it was so unique. Now I think it's quite clever and terrific. Good thing I don't blog puzzles or I'd be eating some humble pie (kind of like I'm doing now).

Orange 6:18 AM  

Loved, loved, loved this puzzle. Tough, but it just made the payoff that much sweeter when I finally understood what the puzzle wanted. (Any clues that work for both WANTED and WED? Maybe a depressing little [Not destined to be alone]?)

@treedweller, [Trig function] cues the abbrev SEC because "trig" is short for trigonometry. It's iffier that SEC{ANT} is an answer because it forces us to take trig as a fully formed word. Which, for me in junior year of high school, it was.

I could swear J. Peterman on Seinfeld spoke of getting the jimjams when jonesing for heroin in Thailand. No, wait, that was "yam-yam" as slang for opium. I dunno. Picked up jim-jams somewhere.

Clark 6:39 AM  

The teacups took me for a RIDE once back in my undergrad days. I visited Disneyworld with a friend from Paris who was then studying engineering. We rode the teacups, and he undertook not just to spin our cup as fast as possible, but to get the darn thing going as fast as possible in one direction and then to, as fast as possible, get the thing going as fast as possible in the other direction. He repeated this ad nauseum -- literally. I managed to get clear of the RIDE, and the kiddies, before I woofed my cookies. No mere ARF that. (Apologies to you breakfast eaters.)

VaBeach puzzler 6:57 AM  

I agree this is a great, tough puzzle -- tough, I think, because the rebus was so sneaky and spare. If there had been more ants crawling around, it would have been easier! I got the gimmick early on but completely thru myself off by filling in SINE for SEC(ANT) and HIT ME FOR I W(ANT) IN. After a purge, I finally got back on track.

Ruth 7:25 AM  

@treedweller: it's med-E-vac as in evacuation. Thanks, Clark, for the evacuation story.
Slapped me AROUND, this puzzle! Fun!

k1p2 8:19 AM  

In our house (and in my parents before) you get into your jimjams before going to bed!

@George - agree with you about the use of ?. Finally saw the rebus in the polar clue and went back to find the others by looking for the ?s. Since they weren't there it made it much harder. Held onto SINE as my trig function for the longest time.

Thought of RIDE for teacups early on (I'll only get on that ride if no one spins the cup and even then its a horrible ride for me) but dismissed it and had to wait for the crosses.

Snow day here (it's not snowing yet but we're paranoid about it here) so we'll be sitting around in our JIMJAMS this morning sipping hot tea and cocoa!

Anonymous 8:37 AM  

Whipped yesterday, totally crushed today. I really appreciate the construction, but didn't have a clue a rebus was involved. What is the giveaway? While I was able to pick off a lot of clues without the theme, there were too many things going on this morning to concentrate, so I threw in the towel. Had never heard of jimjams, either.

I can hardly wait for tomorrow.

Brendan Emmett Quigley 8:39 AM  

A tour de force. A+ with honors.

The Corgi of Mystery 8:49 AM  

Tough but excellent. I started in the SE to get the revealer clue, which apparently did me not a whit of good. I think it fleetingly occurred to me that the gimmick might have been what it was, but discarded it as impossible, wasn't. [Set upon a slope, say] and [Yankee fighter] were especially nice.

Jeb 8:54 AM  

Rarely do I see, read, hear, something dramatically different from what I've become accustomed to. Today was one of those days. Well done.

Jon 8:54 AM  

Agree: completely dazzling construction. An early Oryx contender.

Also, PEREC was not only a really interesting thinker, writer, and artist, but also a big-time cruciverbalist:

MsCarrera 8:59 AM  

When a post has been removed by the author, does "author" refer to the author of the post, or the author of the blog? Thanks

Leon 9:04 AM  

Thank you Mr.Vongsathorn.

♫ ♫ ♫

♫ ♪ To the tune of “The Pink Panther Theme”-- Dead Ant, Dead Ant, Dead Ant, Dead Ant, Dead Ant, Dead AAAAAnt ! ♫ ♪

Van55 9:15 AM  

No out and out crap fill????

SST and NLER. Nuff said.

Otherwise a fine, very difficult puzzle.

joho 9:26 AM  

I agree with @Jon, this has Oryx written all over it.

Phew! I had to fight to the finish and was guilty of one Google to get ABE which allowed me to break into that part of the puzzle to complete it. It didn't help that fantastic fits where FANTABULOUS belongs. I also had sit on it before I got STUFFIT. It all got sorted out and I just loved, loved, loved this puzzle!

Definitely harder than a Thursday should be but that's not Xan's call, is it?

Thank you, Xan, you are one talented dude!

retired_chemist 9:27 AM  

Wow! Tough, fair, fun. Nothing to argue with, not even a quibble. Time was much longer than what I expect for Thursdays, but worth it.

Got the theme @ SEC(ant)/F(ant)ABULOUS, immediately went to the partly filled-in theme "giveaway" clues in the SE, and it remained only to see if ant was the only theme string or if other pests were used. Finding the second (ant) convinced me the other three would be also.

IKEBANA was a gimme, as was ABE (been to Japan several times). 1A was WILLIES to start.

A Saturday level (IMO) challenge with a rebus. More, please, Xan Vongsathorn. (Mr. or Ms.? I can't tell from the name...)

chefbea 9:39 AM  

Tough tough puzzle. got the theme at Antarctic but still had lots of googles. Know Olivia Bensen - never heard of Dabo.

Bought an Ikebana bowl when out west a few years ago and it sits on my kitchen island. When it doesnt have a flower arrangement in it it is filled with fruit.

@MsCarera - The author of the post deletes his message by clicking on the trash can at the bottom. You have to have a blog account to do that

Judith 9:48 AM  

I SO hate rebus puzzles.....

Rex Parker 9:54 AM  

Van, I enjoy your presence here, but your regularly pointing out common three-letter fill (which is never going anywhere), even when it's minimal and utterly unobtrusive, is becoming tedious and predictable. We get it. You can't stand any of it. Not a single compass point, not a single Roman numeral. OK. You've made your point. Relentlessly. You should try out some new material.

HudsonHawk 9:58 AM  

Awesome! I clued into the rebus relatively quickly with COMBAT(ANT). I was thinking of U.S. Grant as the Yankee fighter, but couldn't make sense of GR on its own. D'oh!

I knew Olivia d'Abo from some of her movies--didn't know she was on one of the Law & Orders. She was seated at a table next to me at an outdoor cafe in St. Germain de Pres a few years back. Very pretty.

Elaine 10:15 AM  

The Mad Hatter's Tea Party-- I had no clue that the riders could make the cups spin faster. SO glad we did not know that when we were at DisneyLand in the Fifties, as I was prone to motion sickness as a child.

I am impressed that so many people completed this puzzle! My hat is off to you all. When I Google I consider it a Fail, but even Googling didn't save me today.

PlantieBea 10:24 AM  

Truly excellent puzzle! Had many of the same troubles as Rex and others, but was able to finally solve, ending in the SW corner with the help of the SERBS. I filled in PEST CONTROL long before I found the rebus squares; F(ANT)ABULOUS/SEC(ANT) was the first to appear and I W(ANT) IN the last, where it took me way too long to let go of I'M OUT.

Hard but fair, interesting yet kind of cute. I'd love to see more like this. Thanks Xan Vongsathorn.

JayWalker 10:28 AM  

Yeah . . . I finished it . . . Big Whoop!! I've decided to become a nun! It has to be easier than this!!

Retired copy editor 10:32 AM  

Unusually, I made all the same initial errors as Rex, with a couple of others that really got me. I couldn't remember if it was Roseann or Rosanne; it took a long time to see faze instead of fume; I had ala instead of AKA; never heard of D'abo or ikebana and I still don't get 45 across. Someone explain it please? Ended up two squares down. Wonderful puzzle.

Anonymous 10:37 AM  

@retired copy editor-
O and W are magazines. Their appearance is an issue.

Ulrich 10:48 AM  

Yes, if I look at the filled grid, it's a fantabulous feat of construction. The question then is: How do you clue such a thing? And there comes my only misgiving: I cannot see how the clue for 7D--set upon a slope, say--fits "sled". "Sled" is a noun or a verb, and yes, "set" can be a noun or a verb, but for the life of me, I cannot see how it could be "sled". The problem is that the ANT-infested words/phrases (45D is truly amazing) belong to the same linguistic category with or w/o the pest (verb, noun, phrase etc), which makes it possible to find common clues, if a with a stretch, whereas SLED and SLANTED do not--and finding a common clue seems to be impossible therefore. I only mention this b/c it's the flea (another pest) in the ointment of an otherwise perfect puzzle.

mexgirl 10:53 AM  

This has to be one of the puzzles with the best/hardest and most creative clues I've ever seen. I was stumped out of my wits and yet, I didn't care. That's how fun this was!

SethG 10:56 AM  

Orange, the puzzle regularly uses [Trig function] to clue other full-word trigonometric functions like SINE or COSINE, and has even used [Trig ratio: Abbr] for COS. SEC is indeed short for SECANT.

I started out with SPILKES, which is spelled wrong but I knew that. I ended up (a _long_ time later) with GIT ME, which seems just as good a made up phrase as GET ME (and MEDIVAC is an accepted spelling). I've never heard of JIMJAMS or INBUILT or D'ABO or Ali, the LION of God, didn't know Dumas was a PERE, have never seen SHANE, and IKEBANA sounds like a (specific) sumo wrestler.

And I loved it.

Glitch 10:56 AM  

"Teacup" RIDES are are a common component of the itinerant midways that show up at the local "festivals" around here. Didn't help me a bit.

Figured a rebus when too many answers "failed" as I moved top down.

[ ]arctic was aha, 57D confirmed ANT. As this was the only rebus in the bottom half, had trouble moving back up (were they all ants?).

Wife has 2 books on iCHIbana, didn't work even when I dropped the H ;)

Finally finished in record time, highest Thursday finished to date.

Fair trouncing, but did not like 62A Congenital = INBUILT.


@Ulrich: Around here its a FLY that gets in our ointment ;)


Spencer 10:56 AM  

(ANT)ARCTIC was my first rebus entry. It clearly had to be ARCTIC, except there was that extra square at the front. I was wondering about THE, maybe? Then I found the "PEST CONTROL" pair and it fell into place. The other rebus squares took a while to find, but eventually got them all. Had to google ORR.

I confidently wrote in YALE, but then couldn't think of a word for 57D that started with Y, so changed it to PENN (which gave me PEST CONTROL).

It was a fun solve, about 22 minutes (reasonable for Thursday for me.)

Unknown 10:57 AM  

Xan is a guy although on one of Ryan and Brian's podcasts, he mentioned that marketers do start their pitch with Ms. The podcast also tells you how to pronounce the name. His first puzzle ran on a Friday and had excellent fill including DISAPPEARING INK and TEMPORARY TATTOO.

I fell into a dozen traps including the ones Rex mentioned and SINE was the hardest one to fix. With one blank in the NW to start, I got the rebus at ANTAGONIZES and stomped on three more ANTS before I gave up on a Web Nhat. Super fun puzzle.

Anonymous 11:03 AM  

Great puzzle. (Apparently I don't do compliments often -- a client group once broke into applause when I said something nice about them in front of a customer.) And I am pleased with a reason to recall Olivia D'abo.

But my one quibble/lack of understanding -- Yankee fighter = Giant? Are we talking baseball here? If so, couldn't we do better than 'fighter', too much gratuitous violence as it is. Rival maybe. Better yet "clashed with Jack". Or am I missing a reference?

But a great puzzle regardless.

Jeffrey 11:09 AM  

One of the best puzzles I have ever done. Period.

Bravo, Xan.

Two Ponies 11:14 AM  

Wow, blown away two days in a row by amazing construction. I'm so impressed. Not so impressed by my own performance today as I could not make the No Cal area work. The gi(ant) eluded me. No sour grapes because the rest was so much fun.
Getting the theme early helped but not until I was done did I realize that the ant could be removed. Awe inspiring. What a week so far!
@ Orange, I think it might have been Kramer who used jimjams. At least it sounds like something he would say.
Anyone else think fondly of Andrea at 63A?

Bob Kerfuffle 11:14 AM  

Great puzzle! Loved it! Couldn't finish it!

When I saw the constructor's name, I knew we were in for a first-rate challenge.

I started at 1 A and actually got JIMJAMS fairly easily, confirming with 1 D, Jacks. Filled out the NW, leaving the first rebus square open, but by the time I filled the NE, thought I understood. But the entire mid section resisted me fiercely, so I moved down and finished the SE, maybe because there was no rebus there. But the PEST CONTROL made me think there might be other bugs than ants involved. Particularly at 34 D, CBS newsman Bob, I thought there might be a CHAFER bug and he was some kind of Schafer or something (Google tells me there is a Republican Congressman from Colorado named Schaffer.) which slowed me down more. By the time I got to the Sacramento area, I was worn out. Starting with REB and RAVES at 29 D & A, and ORIGAMI instead of IKEBANA (I know, I know) and no idea about d'ABO, I was at a dead stop and decided life is too short . . .

nanpilla 11:14 AM  

Getting ready to send in my money for the ACPT last night, and then THIS comes along. Way to make a person feel inadequate to the task! I don't even get to enter as a Rookie this year. I finished it, but it took longer than usual, just like yesterday's. I hope Will is just trying to pump us up.
Didn't know Olivia D'Abo was on Law and Order, I remember her from
The Wonder Years.
@anonymous 11:03 : the clue also has to work with GI.

Jim in Chicago 11:17 AM  

Great puzzle, but I had to check to me sure I hadn't fallen into a coma and slept through Thursday and Friday!

The only thing I would question is that the relation between sex and religion is an actual field of study, and that there are many books written on sexuality in the bible and so forth. It isn't inconceivable that a religious bookshop wouldn't have an erotica section. Then, there's that fundie guy who's always preaching about the importance of sex in marriage - I'm sure you can buy cepted "marital aids." And, wouldn't a book store aimed at Eastern Religions have a section on the Kama Sutra and such like?

Bob Schieffer of CBS News 11:19 AM  

Ain't no flies on me!
Ain't no flies on me!
May be flies on some of you guys
But there ain't no flies on me!

Dave in California 11:24 AM  

I wasn't sure whether to be amazed or horrified. Agree with all that the concept and construction were brilliant, but many of the clue/answer combos were stretches, like the constructor was reaching to make things hard ("Ham" for Soupy Sales?) or needed non-words to make his clever puzzle work ("Inbuilt" for congenital?) A puzzle can have one of those, but this was too many. I took offense (pun intended) to "Giant" for Yankee fighter. I'd have been ok if the double entendre clue were Yankee FOE; but baseball players aren't fighters. Besides, the Giants haven't really been Yankee fighters since the 1950s. I had GRANT for a while--US Grant was a Yankee fighter--but knew the arcane flower-arranging clue couldn't start with rk. Yikes.

treedweller 11:30 AM  

@Orange and SethG
Now I don't know if it should be an abbreviation or not, but it's hard for me to accept that it could be both. Just to be clear, I'm viewing this as a minor quibble, but it bugs me.

@Ruth thanks for med-E-vac. It makes sense when I hear it in my head with that stress on the E. I always just thought of the MEDI of medicine. And thanks @SethG for twice in one post making me feel better about my lapses. But, acceptable or not, I think now I like medEvac better.

Jeb 11:48 AM  

Athletes frequent invoke fight or battle terminology to describe their games. I wish they wouldn't, it diminishes the significance of a real battle, besmirches the games aspect of playing baseball, but they do so frequently enough to justify the Yankee Fighter cluing. IMO

Sandy 11:51 AM  

Real question: does anyone actually say "get me?" It feels very off, but that might just be me. I didn't help myself by miswriting "medivan."

JC66 11:58 AM  

I agree that this was a great puzzle. I made a lot of the same mistakes as others and found it "Saturday hard." However, I do have a couple of nits:

@Ulrich I have the same problem with 16A as you have with 7D. How is an enemy encounter a COMBATANT?

@ David I agree that characterizing the GIANTS as foes (of any kind) of the Yankees is a stretch. The two teams did play a three game series in 2009, but hadn't met for years before that.

edith b 12:12 PM  

PEREC was a neon for me as I remember he wrote a novel without using the letter E. I read an article about him.

Got the rebus at GI{ANT} and got most of the North from that bump. It took me a long while to complete the SW because I failed to read the second half of the reveal clue and couldn't figure out 45D for the life of me.

I went back over the puzzle and re-read 57A and I finally got that AHA! moment at IWIN! A fine piece of construction, this. He added another dimension to the traditional crossword puzzle and I liken him to Elizabeth Gorski and Joe Krozel for his contributions, albeit in a different way, to the traditional puzzle.

Congratulations, Xon!

edith b 12:12 PM  
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edith b 12:12 PM  
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slypett 12:15 PM  

A stunner!

Had the same solving experience as Rex reported and agree with BEQ's A+ assessment.

Remembering my days at Coney Island gave me a RIDE.

No handholding with Auntie Google today, no errors. Love JIMJAMS, deserves to be taken out of the 'Obs.' category.

lit.doc 12:17 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Squeek 12:18 PM  

You guys are making me crazy nitpicking about baseball players being fighters. The clue has to work for the answer with and without the "ant". Same with the combat answer. The cleverness cannot be denied.

Deborah 12:20 PM  

Yearning for the good ol' days when slang responses were indicated by "sl." in the clue. Those were fantabulous times.

Greg Clinton 12:28 PM  

I don't know why but I love the word "recur". Even more so now. After going to bed last night defeated, RECUR set off my avalanche this morning.

OldCarFudd 12:33 PM  

@JC66 I have the same problem with COMBATANT. I think of it as a singular noun, i.e. one soldier. To make it fit, the clue should read "enemy encounterED". Bt then COMBAT wouldn't quite work, so I'm willing to buy this small inconsistency for a fantabulous puzzle.

@Ulrich - I didn't object to the sled clue. "Set upon" can mean "attack". To set upon/attack a slope with skis means to ski the slope; I presume to set upon/attack a slope with a sled means to sled it.

I ended up with two wrong letters from bad guesses. This brilliant puzzle whomped me good. It's hard to be humble, but today I have no choice!

Greg Clinton 12:37 PM  

@Two Ponies, Kramer's phrase was "Jimmy-legs", which kept distracting me on 1A.

Karen from the Cape 12:44 PM  

It's been a while since I couldn't finish a Thursday puzzle, but I just couldn't break into FAntABULOUS/MEFIRST. I had ABE in for a while, which I've learned from crosswords, but took it out to put in webCAST.

IKEBANA was a gimme to me from, er, reading about it. Plus I saw a ikebana display/contest in a department store in Yokohama. There were over a hundred entries, from little nosegays to swamp recreations.

EROTICA was my favorite clue.

MichaelBlake 12:45 PM  

Unbelievably clever, and one of the best aha moments I've had in solving in a long time. I found this very challenging, but continuing to stare at the grid eventually worked. Even people who hate rebuses (I'm not one) should appreciate that this one is like rebus squared. Way to go, Xan!

dk 12:54 PM  

Crap, Rex urging new material, I am toast.

Xan, I warned you the last time. I know your former profs and administrators. Whatever your GPA once was it is now 1. Next time it goes negative.

Teacup as RIDE is FANTABULOUS. IKEBANA -- who knew. ANTARCTIC and PEST CONTROL gave me the rebus, sadly it did not help. I sit here wondering if I take stepdog back to the pound will he be a RECUR.

I woke up today thinking it was Wednesday, the puzzle seemed like Friday... I want to go to a biblical land of ivory, apes and peacocks.

**** (4 Stars

ps. @twoponies, yes.

Ulrich 1:00 PM  

@OldCarFudd: I stand corrected--I missed the implication of "upon"--many thanks!

I can now pick the flea out of my ointment, where it didn't belong in the first place (@Glitch: LOL) and upgrade my judgment to match (almost) everybody else's.

miguel 1:07 PM  

This was a great puzzle and were questioning combat vs combatant! A good friend is defending a designated 'Enemy Combatant' who was encountered in Iraq. Let's say it is a what? If crosswords required literal clues (first choice definition in Webster's say) we would be bored to tears.
Now, JIM JAMS is controversial depending on what you know of slang. I laughed when I saw a show by that name on Israeli television. I once heard it as a synonym for PJs, too.

JMorgie 1:10 PM  

Jimjams -- classic 30s slang. even ikebana is among the known. but teacup for ride? only in Disneyland.

Tinbeni 1:16 PM  

When I did this cleaver/very hard puzzle last night (after approx. 40 hours without sleep) the answers looked like a scene in a B-Movie.

Seems that a lot of you think this was almost a Fri.- Sat, level effort.

In some ways I liked it but will admit that the 'rebus' style of CW is my least favorite.

All I remember is the opposite of EVIAN is naive ...

Xan excellent mental exercise, thank you.

Jeffrey 1:20 PM  

Ther's also a teacup ride in the Magic Kingdom (Florida), Tokyo Disneyland, Disneyland Paris, and Hong Kong Disneyland.

The original in Disneyland has been around since 1955. That would be hundreds of millions of rides.

Works for me.

lit.doc 1:25 PM  

@dk, LOL re new material and GPAs.

@chefbea, thanks for the info re that previously invisible trash can. I had been wondering how people were deleting their posts. Now I'm wondering how I didn't see the trash can before (my deleted 12:17 post was a test). Now I can practice safe posting.

Xan 1:27 PM  

Hey Rex and co,
If you're interested, I posted some comments here:

Also included there is a link to a similar bonus puzzle.

Stan 1:30 PM  

Super-challenging, brilliant puzzle. Kudos!

Anonymous 1:37 PM  

Great puzzle. Another idea for
29D clue could be "Brave opponent". But was the term GI used before WWI?

Elaine 1:47 PM  

Oh, SWELL!! Another Xan puzzle! I just got home from the dentist (prep for a crown on a molar) and now this!

I had 15A as MED SCHL (it IS an expensive way to get to a hospital) before I put in EVAC (which I think is unquestionably the right short spelling: medical evacuation.)

I don't know why JIMJAMS was a gimme; I knew IKEBANA (No, ICHIBAN and IKEBANA are not the same; like BONSAI and BANZAI, no relation.)

None of that helped me. I am not in the class with youse guys, that's for sure. (Exit, head held low.)
Three and OUT!

Campesite 1:50 PM  

Absolutely LOVED this puzzle! My favorite in a long time! Bravo!

Bill from NJ 1:52 PM  


Law and Order has more than one franchise and Olivia D'Abo played Nicole Wallace on several episodes of L&O Criminal Intent, the Great White Whale to Bobby Goren's Captain Ahab.

Anonymous 1:53 PM  

If you recall it was in May that the fill "MDCLXVI" Xan used that Will Shortz found so outrageous, he almost liked it.

Martin 1:59 PM  

Orange et alii,

The SEC question boils down to whether "sec" is ever articulated as a word. If so, the clue is fine because it is acceptable for either SEC or SECANT. If not, it's a flawed clue for SEC. (Keep in mind that abbreviation signals are optional for abbreviations that are pronounced as written and tend to be omitted late-week.)

I believe the answer is yes, "sec" is a word. I know it is in the domain of scientific computer programming. In the '60s I did much of same and would often work with a buddy proofreading code out loud. "Cos" was "cahs," "sec" was "seek," hyperbolic sin was "cinch," etc., etc.

I'm not a mathematician, but I suspect that these pronunciations were inherited from their domain so a confirmation from one here that "seek" is an acceptable reading of "sec" will confirm the clue's solidity.

chefbea 2:49 PM  

Can someone send me Xan's other puzzle in pdf form?
I can't open it from his site

Mike Lewis 3:15 PM  

Loved this puzzle. EROTICA gets best clue of the puzzle, but the whole thing just sang. GIANT/ANTAGONIZES was the point where I picked up the rebus, but I still thought it was possible that the other ones would all be other PESTs (rat, bug, etc). SECANT wasn't bad for me; I teach trig. But FANTABULOUS too way longer than it should have.

Elaine 3:22 PM  

I think you can get it from Amy Reynaldo's Diary of a Crossword Fiend.

I am going rogue just to help you!

Jono 3:25 PM  

Awesome puzzle, although I had a few wrong squares. Good thing Rex is around to check from. The only one I don't get is DOS (25A: Bashes). I had KOs but that seemed wrong. Can anyone help?

fergus 3:25 PM  

ANTs discovered right away, and still over half an hour of increasingly fascinated struggle.

All in favor of non symmetical Rebus squares -- and it seems like Will and constructors concur.

Did anyone mention the ANTICHRIST, which I considered before comprehending Pest Control.

edmcan 3:31 PM  

@David-totally agree. I lose patience when a constructor is flexing his magnificence. Fantabulous, indeed!

Bob Kerfuffle 3:37 PM  

@Jono -

According to one of my paper dictionaries, "do" can mean "an elaborate event, party, or operation".

mac 3:52 PM  

Very, very tough, but fantastic! I was blaming my chatty hairdresser for the time it was taking me, but found out on returning home that it was the puzzle.

Followed Rex's footsteps with nee, get it, Reb, and sine... Had "shivers" for the unknown jim jams (ugly like jammies, tummy, veggies), med.schl., ugly as it is, and for the combined 57D/65A is actually thought: "pull a pistol" for a moment.

I sort of stopped to think about the set/sled clue, but figured he meant the runners. I think I have seen the teacup ride only in a cartoon, in this blog maybe? Bugs Bunny?

@JC66: could "combatant" be used as an adjective/adverb? There is no "a" in the clue.

@chefbea: the Law and Order cluewas particularly tricky because of Olivia Benson/Mariska Hargitay(sp.?).

I may have to print out that extra Xan puzzle, not sure if I can deal with it today.... Thank you anyway.

@dk: Recur! LOL.

@nanpilla: my thoughts exactly....

sanfranman59 3:56 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)

Thu 29:57, 19:18, 1.55, 99%, (Über)Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Thu 16:12, 9:22, 1.73, 100%, (Über)Challenging

Predictably, the solve times for this puzzle are at the extreme end of the Challenging range for a Thursday. These numbers would place this puzzle in the Challenging range even on a Friday. Among the puzzles I've tracked since last June, the only Thursday puzzle that's even in the same ballpark as this one is Matt Ginsburg and Pete Muller's puzzle of 12/3/2009.

Elaine 4:06 PM  

Xan's bonus puzzle is not nearly as fiendish and inhuman, so no fear. I solved it, but don't quite "get it," I must confess. No, I take that back. I just got it.

Xan, you seem to be a versatile and talented young man...who has turned completely to the dark side.

Anyone who can't download the puzzle can e-mail me and I'll send a pdf.

FIVE and out.
Old, old Elaine

slypett 4:11 PM  

Xan: Your bonus puzzle was very pleasant. Good clues. Good fill.
About a medium Wednesday, I should think.

Jono 4:13 PM  

Thanks Bob, I hadn't heard that usage before.

fikink 4:27 PM  

In another blizzard and humbled by a FANTABULOUS puzzle.
As @Clark said, Xan, you rock!!!!

ArtLvr 4:44 PM  

@ glitch -- you said what I was going to say! Neat.

I started well with JIMJAMS off just the first letters of downs JIBE and AVA, but didn't catch the hidden ANT until later in the ARCTIC... IKEBANA is an art I dabbled in, years ago, but D'ABO was so unknown I had to google afterward to be sure that was okay.

I too didn't much care for INBUILT as Congenital, but wow, the rest seemed really SPOT on! WILD and wonderful... Zhanks a lot, Xan, but your bonus puzzle ending in .puz did not download as a .puz!


Unknown 4:45 PM  

I somehow managed to solve this fantabulous puzzle in about average time (which for me is about 15 minutes), possibly because the SE fell relatively easy thanks to TORERO and JAN, and then I caught on to the rebus in the SW and everything went pretty smoothly until the end, where the NW had a few twists. If only I had the time/money to do the ACPT this year (yes, I am accepting endorsements).

imsdave 6:07 PM  

Long day at work, late to the party, and so glad to read all these comments - I was stunned by the brilliance of this effort. Solid 30 minute workout for me at 4:30 this morning.

@the Oryx commitee - I know it's early in the year, but this is a WOW

@ACME - I loved your ant puzzle

@Xan - just... WOW

deerfencer 6:12 PM  

Shortz appears to be playing with our heads this week--maybe he's on the Julian calendar or something--but this one kicked my butt even leaning on Google after some initial grinding, but I can't help but admire the craftmanship here. Got the PEST CONTROL hint on my own but it didn't help much in finding the rebus.

I agree with some of the minor quibbles re the cluing for INBUILT and COMBATANT but the dual-natured cluing for ANTAGONIZES/AGONIZES is brilliant.

Give the kid an A!

fergus 6:45 PM  

Still trying to recruit more solvers (and bridge players) in my little community, and today's puzzle may have done the trick with my friend in demonstrating the clever art of construction and Cluing. I also saved Acme's ANT puzzle and should be able to seal the deal when I show her that one. Formic Acid!

JaneW 6:50 PM  

@Jono -- you're not the only one who had KOS instead of DOS for 25A. Both "bashes" in this puzzle were "fancy events" rather than "assaults," which threw me. I also had GALES instead of GALAS for 29A.

I didn't know D'ABO and that was a real problem. Was trying to complete the puzzle without googling, which would easily have brought me D'ABO. Oh well.

Meg 7:07 PM  

This was a great puzzle to take to my daughter's hour-long piano lesson, but posting late in the day is a female dog.

With J and I, I confidently wrote in JITTERS, which really fits the clue. Can't believe no one else mentioned that. Also fell for SINE.

Once I got the theme and the relative locations, things fell in line. IKEBANA and SHANE (Come back)were wonderful gimmes. But the theme answers....what an amazing feat!!

I thought maybe Teacups referred to a breed of dogs. Aren't there teacup chihuahuas? But it clearly wasn't plural, so I had to give that up.

I don't think a COMBATANT is an encounter, but who cares? This was a feisty and fun puzzle!

foodie 7:09 PM  

Not much to add, except that once in a while, weird hobbies pay off... IKEBANA is something I do, so it gave me a toe hold in the Northern Cal area, led to AKA, and GI-. But then I wondered for a while whether "JOE" was the rebus :) Is there a pest called Joe?

Very impressive puzzle. What a week!

SueRohr 7:27 PM  

I thought this was a brilliantly done and very difficult puzzle. I did finish but it's hard to say how long it took as I pick it up, put it down etc. I actually laid down to take a nap, thought of an answer, and jumped up to put it in.
Antacid was my first awareness of the theme. I then agonized over pest control because for some bizarre reason I put Feb instead of Jan for MLK day. After that it went pretty smoothly. Loved antagonizes and O or W. Agree with what everyone said about Get Me and Jim Jams. Really fun and challenging puzzle.

Ben 7:47 PM  

@Various: Agreed, COMBATANT doesn't work. Otherwise, cool and original puzzle.

Van55 7:59 PM  


You wrote, "Also, despite a head-scratcher here and there, there isn't any out-and-out crap fill. " I disagreed, and pointed out two examples of what you have condemned as "crap fill" in many previous blogs.

Perhaps you should use SNARKY in one of your next puzzles.

By the way, my daughter has applied to Pomona College. If Xan is a typical graduate, I fear she may be in way over her head if admitted there. I think the puzzle was brilliANT, despite a modicum of "crap fill."

Greg Clinton 8:05 PM  

@fergus, recruit me, if I can join online

Two Ponies 8:22 PM  

@ Van55,
I don't find your schtick irritating. It might be predictable but you have made yourself a niche as the Crap Fill Police. Sometimes when there a random pope or Roman numeral I think to myself "Van55 isn't going to like this and neither do I". Rex is the king of Rexville but not the despot so if you can let it slide just be yourself and don't let it get under your skin.

fergus 8:30 PM  

Greg -- If one could play bridge online, that is where we should go. I am ssuming you meant the card game or the friendly discussion on the ride about town considering the deal, not the Xword discussion, which I believe is sufficiently well-covered already?

I've noticed that the Times (dead tree) has not tended to have the puzzle and the bridge column on the same page anymore. Do you spot any significance there?

Yet I digress a bit, and not wanting to breach the levee of Rex's hospitality, maybe we shold take the bridge-crossword connexion to another place?

jae 8:35 PM  

Yes, an amazing puzzle! I did it during a sorta slow day on the golf course. By hole six I had the rebus and by hole 14 it was done except for the FANTABULOUS area which I stared at for the rest of the round. Finally finished after I got home and figured out FANT... First time I've been unable to finish a Thurs. in 18 holes. Tough!

Anonymous 9:01 PM  

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Cea 9:33 PM  

I swear I only know JIMJAMS as a kiddie word for PAJAMAS, so this one baffled me completely. I also swear by MEDIVAC rather than MEDEVAC. Google likes both of them, although I admit MEDEVAC gets more hits.

So anyways, I googled frantically, and expressed severe frustration at taking so long.

Then I read the comments, and am extremely proud of myself for solving it at all.

Anonymous 9:34 PM  

A beautiful puzzle...I started over lunch but it completely stymied me.

Tonight I saw it...and it was like the ending of the Sixth Sense.


sanfranman59 10:06 PM  

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

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

Mon 6:37, 6:55, 0.96, 42%, Medium
Tue 9:31, 8:46, 1.09, 72%, Medium-Challenging
Wed 17:27, 12:08, 1.44, 99%, Challenging
Thu 30:44, 19:20, 1.59, 99%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:22, 3:40, 0.92, 28%, Easy-Medium
Tue 4:32, 4:29, 1.01, 60%, Medium
Wed 8:21, 5:57, 1.40, 96%, Challenging
Thu 15:58, 9:21, 1.71, 100%, Challenging

Steve J 11:23 PM  

COMBATANT works, at least from my perspective. If you encounter an enemy, who is that? He (or she) is a combatant.

Greg Clinton 11:32 PM  

moved by the schtick post

fergus 12:56 AM  

Urging students to read Stendahl
while costesting with Nabakov

fergus 1:05 AM  

dealing with Nabakov
is only a spelling mistake

Here's another Russian
a French guy and literature

Anonymous 1:21 AM  

eek. afraid to try Friday this week...

fergus 1:34 AM  

reading Nabakov stories will twist you in the wind

fergus 1:42 AM  

.. almost as much as funneled Joyce, yet now I get to read "Dubliners" again, anew.

Faygelah 2:34 AM  

THanks for pointing out the Sagehen connexion! Chirps all around!

Daryl 4:30 AM  

I'm not quite sure I would score my own performance. I finished the whole thing really quickly, with hardly a challenge - filled in KNEE, JACKS, IRONS, MR MET, IKEBANA and thought it was easy, but didn't get the rebus! Just a lot of goofy blank spaces.

(ant)rea carl(ant)a 4:32 AM  

Xankyou for the bonus puzzle

Steve O. 9:17 AM  

Frustratingly fun puzzle. Great clues. Really wanted GRant for the Yankee fighter. But the baseball/civil war flip-flop was fun.

I was almost very proud of myself for finishing this; but of course I couldn't, because CROSSING A JAPANESE WORD WITH AN ACTOR IS MEAN!!!

Van55 2:38 PM  

@Two Ponies -- thank you for the kind words. Deeply appreciated.

Rob 8:50 PM  

Treedweller, it's medevac for med (from medical) and evac (from evacuation)--absolutely correct, although many people do wrongly think the word is medivac. My complaint was "inbuilt" for congenital. What crap! There is no such word. Other than that, I gotta say it was a great puzzle

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