Israeli statesman Abba / TUE 2-9-10 / Irish patriot Robert / Pipe material for Frosty snowman / Movable article personal property

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Constructor: Robert Cirillo

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: 3x3 — theme answers end with a three-letter string appearing three times in succession.

Word of the Day: Abba EBAN (30D: Israeli statesman Abba)

From 1966 to 1974, Eban served as Israel's foreign minister, defending the country's reputation after the Six-Day War. Nonetheless, he was a strong supporter of giving away the territories occupied in the war in exchange for peace. He played an important part in the shaping of UN Security Council Resolution 242 in 1967 (as well as UN Security Council Resolution 338 in 1973). Among others high level contacts, Pope Paul VI received Foreign Minister Abba Eban in 1969. (wikipedia)
• • •

I've seen BONBON, CAN CAN, etc., played with in similar ways before. Theme answers are bouncy and entertaining enough, I suppose, but I really wish they cohered more. I was happy at first, as I thought they would all relate to foreign lands or their inhabitants. The puzzle very nearly pulls something close to that off, with Iberia and Africa and South America represented, but then there's BOTTOM TOM TOM, where the clue refers to no place in particular. Shrug. Wasn't as if the theme were tight to begin with, but it would have been nice to have something other than the repeated letter string.

Bigger issue today is an incredibly sloppy, even lazy grid.

Tired old xword denizens, drinking at the bar and wallowing in nostalgia for the glory days: ALETA, THAD, EBAN, CAHN, STAHL, EMMET (53D: Irish patriot Robert)

Things that are parts of words or barely words: BATE, ERST, ROTO, CAVA, HEMI, PHILE

But worst of all — not two, not three, not Four, but FIVE partials: TO A, GET A, ON OR, NO MAN, and (worst of all) A SON. Most good constructors try to have as few partials as possible in their grids, with three being, for most, an absolute outer limit. I don't know if I've seen four in a puzzle. Maybe. But five!? Five says "I don't &$^%ing care." Further, "A SON of the Sun" is an exceedingly minor work in the London corpus. It doesn't even have its own Wikipedia entry. By comparison, "The Son of the Sun," the first Scrooge McDuck comic by Don Rosa, does.

Theme answers:
  • 20A: Chocolate candy from Portugal? (LisBON BONBON)
  • 32A: African nomad who hasn't had a thing to drink? (soBER BERBER)
  • 41A: Lively Indian dance? (InCAN CAN-CAN)
  • 54A: Drum that's under all the others? (botTOM TOM TOM)

Tom Tom Club - Genius of Love

  • 24A: Missing link, possibly (apeman) — slowed down here. Wasn't sure if the clue was being used metaphorically or not.
  • 46A: "High Hopes" lyricist Sammy (Cahn) — this guy will always remind me of getting yelled at in ALL CAPS by a reader who insisted Sammy CAHN wrote "It Had to Be You" (that was actually Gus KAHN).
  • 62A: How a bride and groom leave the altar, metaphorically (as one) — just in case you thought the clue was suggesting that they left the altar actually fused together.
  • 64A: "Treasure Island," for one (tale) — ugh. [Any story ever published or told, for one].
  • 4D: Filled with trees (timbered) — I kind of like this odd word.
  • 5D: Pipe material for Frosty the Snowman (lead) — from his rarely-discussed time as muscle for the mob.
  • 6D: Acrobat software maker (Adobe) — the kind of word I'm surprised I don't see more often.
  • 43D: Movable article of personal property (chattel) — had -LE spelling at first.
  • 51D: Fragrant oil (attar) — I always hesitate at a clue like this, trying to decide between ESTER and ATTAR.
  • 60A: See 61-Across (unit) — yeah, this gambit? Doesn't pay off. UNIT just isn't interesting enough to cross-reference *twice*, both times for cruddy little words (ATOM, BYTE).

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


edith b 7:29 AM  

I had a list of complaints about this puzzle but Rex highlighted them all. I thought I had read - or at least heard of - everything Jack London every wrote but I never heard of this TALE. As a little girl, I fell in love with reading in general through Jack London.

Once I stumbled onto the theme, I pushed through to a solve. Not quite as easy as yesterday but a victory for Will Shortz's rating system.

The Detergents 7:39 AM  

My folks were always putting her down (down, down)
Because her laundry came back brown (brown, brown)
I don't care if they think she's bad
I fell in love cuz she looked so sad
I got a date tonight with the Leader of the Laundromat

Elaine 7:39 AM  

Amy Reynaldo's blog (open for business for the 1:30 Club) mentioned this might be a first-time constructor. WordPlay had the dates tangled up, but Tuesday commentary is there. TIMBERED and SATIATE came in for comment...

I actually thought the fill had some interesting words--the above as well as SATYR, ONYX, LYCEES, PLAYA, ATTAR--but I see Rex's list of offenses, and in the balance this puzzle doesn't win, place, or show.

Yesterday, snow; today, frozen snow. This state is CLOSED.

k1p2 7:48 AM  

The partials don't bother me as much as they do Rex - I generally get much more annoyed with multi-word answers especially when I can't see that there's more than one word - long e - being a recent example. In the British puzzles they do indicate word lengths and multi words which provide a bit of help since I'm even more helpless with those than I am with the NYT (and I'm not even talking the cryptic ones)

Anonymous 8:19 AM  

I'm not offended by the things that offended our fearless leader today, such as the partials. Maybe from a constructor's viewpoint it's bothersome, but IMHO, partials are annoying only if they are so obscure as to be the only way to clue an answer.

That said, I thought the theme was a nice change of pace. Misread a few clues that made me pause,e.g. Mine hopper for Milne hopper. Even with misreads, this puzzle went quicker than yesterday's.

What I don't like, however, (and it's been said before) is cluing of the kind used with 60A, 61A and 63A.
It's just ugly.

dk 8:33 AM  

I cannot imagine an ICAN doing the CAN CAN, while all the other theme answers make some sense. As an aspiring constructor I understand the sacrifices one must make so ICANCANCAN gets a pass from me.

The small story in the bottom right is cute and creates a true mini theme. I also like TIMBERED, SATIATE and SATYR as fresh fill.

Finally, one day I know I will spell AXEL correctly the first time... some of us lumber through these things.

2 inches of new snow this am. A day off from skiing but back tomorrow.

** (2 Stars) Robert is this is your premiere, bravo and keep up the good work.

Bill from NJ 8:34 AM  

Back in the old days, the Times puzzle used to indicate the number of words in multi-word answers. When the practice ended, I was at a little bit of a loss but soon adapted.

Now, realizing it is the nature of the beast, I have made peace with the way things are. If and when things change, I will make the decision on whether to adapt further or stop doing the puzzle altogether.

The important thing is that the decision will be mine alone which obviates the need to complain about the status-quo.

dk 8:34 AM  

maybe an INCAN

Rick Stein 8:36 AM  

Agree with you, Rex. What once might have been conventions now seem to be cliches--how many times do we have to see "PSAT"?
Liked "CHATTEL."
But "LECHER" = "SATYR", that's a stretch.

jesser 8:56 AM  

LEAD for Frosty's pipe? Rex, you slay me!

Reactiza! -- jesser

jesser 9:04 AM  

Oh yeah, the puzzle: I had to grin at 46A after the twittish e-mail that Rex shared from yesterday.

I did not grin about 9D, because I've never in my put-together heard this phrase used positively. I've heard people say they're NOT feeling UP TO PAR, but I've never asked someone how they were and had them say, "I'm UP TO PAR! Thanks!" Just never happens.

46A also flummoxed me. I confidently wrote in ecoles, only to have the downs insist on LUCEES, which was new to moi. (Insert Ricky Ricardo voice): Mr. Cirillo, you have some essplaining to do. (Voice off.)

Like Rex, I was put off by all the unit references down in Texas.

I think it would, however, be fun to watch a BERBER beat a TOM TOM while eating a BON BON and dancing the CAN CAN. OH BOY!

Happy Tuesday, friends and neighbors!

Calusl! -- jesser

Stan 9:07 AM  

@The Detergents: Great post! (For some of us anyway.)

Theme was amiably goofy. The less-than-stellar fill pointed out by Rex was at least evenly distributed, i.e., gettable through crosses.

Walked through strangely deserted Jack London Square in Oakland last month--sunny plazas, retail tenants gone, restaurants closed, urban revitalization meeting recession.

Dough 9:18 AM  

I thought it was a decent puzzle. The advantage of partials is that they tend to be gimmes, which is a good thing for early-week puzzles. I guess it's lazy. Last night my beloved and I sat down for some piano and song and we decided to do Sinatra songs written by Sammy CAHN. Never was a big fan, but he sure did write lots of dandy lyrics for some sensational tunes. We did "My Kind of Town (Chicago Is)," "High Hopes (Rubber Tree plant)" "Come Fly With Me," and "Saturday Night (Is the Loneliest Night of the Week)." Tonight we will certainly do his "Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!"

foodie 9:31 AM  

I chuckled when doing the puzzle and laughed when I read Rex's commentary, so a great combination!

Rex, I had the same thought about the foreign dimension on the theme answers, and agree that TOM TOM detracts from it. I think it could have been clued a bit differently since these drums have their origins in foreign lands.

This puzzle supports my hypothesis that for new constructors, the theme answers are often original and a lot of fun but the fill can be uneven, with some fresh entries and some compromises. It must take experience to combine edginess with smoothness...

Van55 9:31 AM  


Jeffrey 9:55 AM  

I can't complain about any puzzle with INCAN CANCAN


retired_chemist 10:01 AM  

Meh. Definitely not ugh, but I take Rex's points. Nothing to say MAN-O-MAN (cf. the mid-Atlantic) about.

ESTER and ATTAR would both work for today's clue. An ester is a compound, attar is presumably a mixture of esters etc., typically from roses.

ATOM defined as a molecular UNIT seems, well, weird to me. An atom is a part of a molecule, as your pancreas (e.g.) is a part of you. Should we call a pancreas a mammalian UNIT? I think not....

Nice clue for 29A would be "Japanese footwear," though maybe late week. Gets rid of one of Rex's partials. Now if NOMAN is to NOME as ROMAN is to ROME, we can ditch another. Alaskans?

Finally got a captcha I could not read. Boo.

PlantieBea 10:01 AM  

Enjoyed the spot on write-up, Rex, and chuckled as I wrote in CAHN. Favorite words included LYCEES (fell for ECOLES), SATIATE, SATYR, CHATTEL, and ATTAR (first tried MYRRH). All in all, the exercise seemed mostly UP TO PAR for a Tuesday.

OldCarFudd 10:03 AM  

So-so. I also noticed the large number of partials. I don't normally notice, so I guess there really were a lot of 'em!

Hand up for ecole before LYCEE.

Why do I not object to satiate when sate is a perfectly good word, but I do object to orientate when orient is a perfectly good word?

slypett 10:10 AM  

I had fun doing this one, like a long glide on rollerskates, but I didn't actually enjoy the puzzle, sorry to say.

On the other hand, "Genius of Love" was captivating. I had a similar experience to the one I had last night watching "Elling". I wanted to dislike it but was ultimately charmed.

archaeoprof 10:11 AM  

Had an error today: wrote "Plata" for 16A and never looked at the cross. Oops.

Tuesday, Tuesday. Can't trust that day. Tuesday, Tuesday. Sometimes it just turns out that way.

matt 10:14 AM  

Since I don't have much to say about this puzzle... did anyone see How I Met Your Mother last night? A fun throw-away line: "Why is Ulee's Gold always in the crossword puzzle?!"

HudsonHawk 10:16 AM  

I enjoyed the theme answers, but concur with most of the criticism laid out here.

Like PlantieBea, I chuckled at 46A. Unfortunately, I was writing in KAHN. Easily fixed. I agree with Rex regarding UNIT, ATOM, BYTE cluing. Weak.

lit.doc 10:24 AM  

In need of a Crosswordese 101 learning curve check here re “partials”. Had thought the term referred generally to “fill in the blank” clues. Rex’s write up suggests to me that it refers only to “fill in the blank with more than one word”, as distinct from “What’s the other half of this word?”, “What’s the other half of this person/place name?”, or “What word is missing from this common phrase?” If so, I’m kinda fuzzy about the import of the distinction(s). Anyone?

Only saved from ESTER/ATTAR by having the theme answer already in place. Did get caught by ECOLES/LYCEES, though. French 101 was long ago; do I recall correctly that the former ref’s what we call K-12, and the latter college?

In other late breaking news, snowpersons all across this great nation are happy to hear that Frosty’s swingin’ pipe. (Thanks for the laugh, Rex.)

Elaine 10:24 AM  


On WordPlay there was mention of sate/satiate; some shadings of meaning were reflected even in the dictionary one commenter quoted. SATIATE seems to indicate more excess. (See the NYT site if you subscribe.)

BTW, would that be the _Treasure Island_ edition with the N.C. Wyeth illustrations?

CoolPapaD 10:25 AM  

I really enjoyed this, and if it was a debut, the constructor made me smile while learning a few new words (CHATTEL, ATTAR). Isn't that what life is all about - smiling and learning??

@retired_chemist - Aren't all molecules made up soley of atoms? I thought that the clues were factually accurate, though, like @tptsteve, irksome.

Everyone knows that Chaka Khan wrote "It Had to be You" and "High Hopes."

ArtLvr 10:29 AM  

Ha! It was a lead-piipe cinch that King Rex would moan and GROAN this a.m., SATIATEd with feeble partials... The HOI polloi seems to have enjoyed Robert's debut a bit more, amusing for a Tuesday.

I got naticked at the pop crossing of ALETA and ELO, opting for an ENO and ANETA. Others might have hesitated at THAD crossed with STAHL?

I did like the freshness of CHATTEL and TIMBERED, had no quarrel with BATE. The SW corner has a TALE of its own for New Yorkers, with our former LT GOV, now GOV, skewered by rumor as a bit of a SATYR. Meanwhile, the dysfunctional NY Senate did SMITE the much-touted bipartisan ethics bill... DOA, d'oh.

PLAYA could have been a partial too, e.g. __ game of musical chairs.


the captcha is "squiver"

Two Ponies 10:33 AM  

The puzzle was so-so but if it is a debut I say congrats.
What really has been fun is Rex's write-up, r_c, Crosscan, and the Detergents! Way to save my morning.
@chefbea (when you get here) I did the same thing today that you did yesterday. The Y of onyx was in place but I skipped it and had onyy. The skating clue fixed that but I thought of you.
Bate? That's pretty lame.
@ r_c, Geta is a Japanese shoe? I would never have gotten that but thanks. I'll stow that away with the rest of my chattel.

chefbea 10:55 AM  

Liked the puzzle. Raise hand for ecoles.

What is a unit of ammo for a cook???

ArtLvr 11:04 AM  

@ chefbea -- a splatter of oil, or ATTAR.


retired_chemist 11:13 AM  

@CoolPapaD - re ATOM - Yes, all molecules are comprised of atoms, but as I tried to say I do not see UNITS as a term to describe this, nor have I ever heard it used that way. Atomic units, however, are units of measurement (mass, charge, distance, etc.) used in atomic physics for convenience.

Anonymous 11:22 AM  

Who in their right mind marches with a tuba?

PlantieBea 11:25 AM  

@chefbea: about the ammo for a about a cast iron skillet? I once participated in a skillet throw at a local folk fest. My husband coached me beforehand.

lit.doc 11:47 AM  

@chefbea, they've all got it wrong. It's when the hubster says "I love you" after you cook a very special dinner.

He *does* speak Spanish, ¿No?

xyz 11:55 AM  

The bang from this puzzle was way less than the cocking of the gun.

Rex, you described my annopyance with the fill way beeter than I could.

CoolPapaD 11:55 AM  

@retired_chemist - I gotcha now, and agree that the term units is a bit ambiguous in this setting.

My knowledge of all things chemical is horrendous. I remember having to memorize a sequence 1S2, 2S2, 2P2 etc many years ago, and still remember them, but to this day I have no idea what they mean, and NEVER understood them at the time. That, and SN1 and SN2 - no idea, but they are occupying valuable real estate in my already cramped brain!

JayWalker 11:56 AM  

Let's have a vote!! All those in favor of lynching any puzzler who continues to use the words: ELO, EMO, ENO and any other E_O combo, please raise your hand!!!!!

Rex Parker 12:03 PM  

I don't have time to go into the ignorance involved in the above comment, but I can tell you there will be no vote on "lynching" on my website.

Rube 12:14 PM  

Your rant got me thinking so I Wikipediaed:
elo = life
eno = uncle
emo = abbrev. of emotional

So, when facing the gallows, your hypothetical constructor may, with much emo, cry eno to save his elo.

retired_chemist 12:26 PM  

@ CoolPapaD - feel free to evict those bits of chemical jargon for nonpayment of rent. They are just technical terms and are not useful in most peoples' lives. I don't even think one could use them in a crossword.

Karen from the Cape 12:33 PM  

I thought this was a sweet little puzzle. I got through it like a knife through oleo.

Shamik 12:34 PM  

It's a Tuesday. Just a Tuesday. And until I get a debut puzzle accepted, I have no right to grouse against anyone else's debut. And I have no plans to construct. Bravo on the debut!

I liked the stuttering today and didn't care if it had to do with foreign places. And the visuals they provided were amusing. Fill is fill. You have to be REALLY very clever to come up with a puzzle that doesn't have some or a lot of tried and tired fill. That's why it's called fill...rhymes with krill. Lots of little stuff that helps make a big thing.

@OldCarFudd: I bristle at orientate, though looking it up in the dictionary says that either orient or orientate are correct. It still sounds jarring.

Anonymous 12:44 PM  

@Anonymous at 11:22 AM said...

Who in their right mind marches with a tuba?


No one in their right mind. As demonstrated by...

UC Berkeley Marching Band - Tuba player running and jumping around

Tuba! Tuba! Tuba! Cal band @ Kirkwood

Brrr! GRRRAH! Go Bears!

mac 12:50 PM  

Since this puzzle was the second one at the Westport tournament, I never had a chance to really look it over after finishing it. The one thing I noticed was apeman crossing no man, didn't think that was acceptable. The repetition of the word parts seemed cute, and the whole thing felt easier than yesterday's puzzle.

I think I've seen adobe in puzzles, just clued differently. For some reason chattel has a slavery connotation to me, not pleasant but the word is interesting. Had Stahl right away, so lycee was no problem.

George NYC 12:57 PM  

I, too, want to thank The Detergents for the nostalgic synaptic leap.
No snowmen here in NYC (this may change tomorrow).

George NYC 1:14 PM  


I'm surprised you didn't mention the famous Stanford - Cal game of '82 when the Stanford band prematurely ran onto field, which helped Cal run back a last-second kickoff for a winning touchdown. A Stanford tuba player made an important "block".

foodie 1:19 PM  

@George NYC, I LOVE "synaptic leap"... I will definitely put it to good use. Thank you!

@RC & CoolPapaD, I had the same thought re the cluing of ATOM. Unit has so many meanings, but in the sense used, all units that make up a whole should be either identical or "equivalent in function or form". So, a BYTE is a UNIT of memory. But a molecule comprises very different types of ATOMS that have their distinct nature, and are not equivalent in function or form...

Doc John 1:35 PM  

I thought the puzzle theme was pretty fun.

CAVA is a perfectly good word! It's the vena cava, not the venacava.

When I saw Rex's mention of ADOBE, I thought of the SNL car commercial for the Adobe, a car made of clay. (Unfortunately, I can't find any video of it.)

Finally, as a TUBA player I'm always happy to see the word show up in the puzzle. I'd say that the clue was not the greatest because that big (fun to play) instrument that one wears is a sousaphone, not a tuba: that said, there are some drum and bugle corps who march with modified tubas. Also, in the stage show, Blast, they use tubas and not sousaphones. Whew.

Martin 1:39 PM  

I think anon is playing the subtle pedant -- those marchers are playing sousaphones.

But in fact, you'd be hard pressed to find a definition of sousaphone that doesn't start with "a kind of tuba..." It's basically an orchestral tuba (which is too unwieldy to carry) that has been rewound to be worn while walking. It has the same range and plays the same music. It's also called the "marching tuba."

Remembering the Woody Allen clip of him marching with a double bass, my captcha is an even better coinage for Woody's ailment: ingst.

jesser 1:48 PM  

Way back when I was a student at Court Junior High School, I was in the marching band. I was such a bad trombone player that the band director switched me to sousaphone. Holy crap, that is one heavy puppy to lug around on a hot day up and down a football field! The first day I came home with it to practice, my father -- who taught in the same junior high school -- called his colleague Mr. Garrett and said, "You son of a bitch. The trombone wasn't bad enough? I *will* get you!" I entered high school with the option to play clarinet or quit the band. I enjoyed all my extra free time, and I thank Mr. Garrett and my father for their collaboration.

Three and out!

Morms! (which sounds remarkably like some of the notes that emanated from my short-lived sousaphone career) -- jesser

Clark 2:28 PM  

@wee -- Thanks for yesterdays link to the 1996 election day puzzle. Great fun. I won’t comment further cause I don’t want to spoil the fun.

The triple syllables made me laugh. And, I've always liked the word BATE. I remember it from the Oberufer Shepherd's Play: "Great God! Will taxes never bate? Must trouble still on trouble wait?"

The word CHATTEL used to show up in the term Chattel Mortgage, but since the Uniform Commercial Code (adopted by all states in some form in second half of the 20th Century), the chattel mortgage has for the most part been replaced by the 'security agreement'. I know you were all dying to here that.

Masked and Anonymous 2:37 PM  

It's only Tuesday, and it's the constructor's first NYT effort, so I'd give him lots of slack and encouragement. I for one had fun solving his puzzle.

With my constructor hat on, I was also struck by the number of partials; I probably wouldn't have tried to get away with that many in a submission. Could certainly get rid of GETA by going with GENA, and lose TOA by going with TOO. (With TOO, need to change EBONY to EBOLI and straighten up the SW corner a bit.) Can also change ONOR to the dreaded ONER, but not sure that's worth it.

william e emba 2:42 PM  

If you are unaware of the Play you really really ought to see the video. There's a tuba or two in sight, but the announcer freaking out is close to unique in the annals of sportscasting. And if you are unaware of the situation, John Elway had led Stanford to a last minute come-from-behind victory, with 4 seconds left on the clock, and this kickoff was supposed to end the game. Well, it did.

Yes, I was in Berkeley at the time, and no, I did not attend the game.

Anonymous 3:14 PM  

@william e emba said...

the announcer freaking out is close to unique in the annals of sportscasting.


Joe Starkey

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Joe Starkey (born c. 1941[1]) is an American sportscaster who has served as the radio play-by-play announcer of California Golden Bears football since 1975[1]. He previously worked as the sports director of KGO radio in San Francisco, California and play-by-play announcer for the San Francisco 49ers for many years.

Starkey is most famous for his frenetic call of The Play in the 1982 Big Game between Cal and Stanford: "Oh, the band is out on the field!". Starkey nearly lost his voice during and after this event, which he hailed as "the most amazing, sensational, dramatic, heartrending, exciting, thrilling finish in the history of college football!"[2]


Starkey still calls Cal games, but retired last year from calling the 'Niners. He was replaced there by the guy who had broadcast Stanfurd games for years. "[W]hat a falling-off was there!"

I'll leave it to the Bard to supply the complete context (hint: Act 1, Scene V).


[Captcha: witione -- why, thanks! :-]

George NYC 3:29 PM  

Havlicek stole the ball!

andrea carlalala michaels 3:40 PM  

Found the theme super bouncy and fun!!!! LISBONBONBON can't beat that!

The BOTTOMTOMTOM clue could have been tighter, as noted, but still had rhythm...who could ask for anything moooooore???? Who could ask for anything more.

My one HUGE regret about the puzzle is I hadn't heard of the Irish Patriot EMMETT and had put ERSe in the grid (bec I was rushing thru it, it was also the second puzzle at the Silicon Valley Puzzle Day) so one square in the corner EMMEe
(which is pretty dumb in retrospect) cost me BIG time!
No certificate for me, unlike the fabulous Mac, Ulrich and IMSDave!

The INCANCANCAN reminded me of that super clever song by that sexy funny gal whose name I can't suddenly remember Amanda Yesnomaybewitz?
who sang at the ACPT (to be renamed??!!!) last year. I hear she may reprise it at the talent show this year...
(and maybe I'll get to be in a verse one day!)

Speaking of snowmen/the ACPT, my flight tomorrow into NY has just been canceled and now I have to fly alll day on Sunday Feb 14th...
just as well as I have no Valentine. If I'm lucky/bored, I plan to Valentine (is that a verb?) my seatmate as it's an 8 hour flight!
(Imagine how surprised s/he will be!)

CoolPapaD 3:45 PM  

@retired_chemist - I would love to purge if I could, but some things just linger. My biggest regret about organic chemistry and calculus is that, when I took them, they were only prerequisites , and I took them as means to an end. I never had an opportunity to truly understand or appreciate their beauty and real meaning. Every time I see one of those DVD-based courses advertised in the NYT or elsewhere, I have more than half a mind to find out what I missed the first time.

Steve J 3:59 PM  

@jesser & lit.doc: LYCEE (well, lycée, with the accent) is roughly the equivalent of high school. I say roughly because, at that point in the French (and most European countries') education system, students have been split out onto different tracks. Lycée is for students on a university track. (Same sort school is called "Gymnasium" in German, which has the potential for a decent misdirectional clue someday, as it has nothing to do with physical education.)

I thought the theme, while clever, was actually too easy. I got all but one of them with just one letter present, and once I figured out the pattern, it was almost an exercise in filling in the blank rather than crossword. At least for me.

Other stuff didn't bother me as much as it did others, or would bother me later in the week. I keep missing a lot of the worst ones because I never see a lot of the clues or answers in early week puzzles because I get all the crosses before I get to the clues. I should probably stop being lazy with the early week puzzles and at least read through the clue list after I'm done.

chefwen 3:59 PM  

Cute puzzle and theme but kind of a yawner for me. Only write over was Pizza HUT over pizza pie. Maybe it's just me but it was too easy to fill in the second half of the long answers.

sanfranman59 4:06 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)

Tue 8:10, 8:43, 0.94, 33%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Tue 4:31, 4:28, 1.01, 58%, Medium

Jeffrey 4:14 PM  

@andrea - Here is Amanda's KenKen song, which somehow does not include the line "Crosscan can KenKen".

Anonymous 4:26 PM  

@CoolPapaDave- I can't believe you don't remember substitution and elimination equations.But since you don't,I would take @Retired_Chemist's advice and purge.

captcha is tuitn- like what you pay for college

Anonymous 4:35 PM  

Thanks for the Tom Tom Club video - that made my day.

Deb Amlen 4:55 PM  

Shamik opined, "And until I get a debut puzzle accepted, I have no right to grouse against anyone else's debut."

Thank you.

Rex, how about we vote on 'Commenter With The Best Perspective'? I nominate Shamik.

Van55 5:00 PM  

I truly wonder why there's sentiment that a first-time constructor should be given more slack than a veteran. It seems to me that Mr. Shortz should apply whatever criteria he has for accepting puzzles across the board.

This is not to say that I think there's anything easy about building a good crossword puzzle. My hat is truly off to ANYONE who gets one published in the NYT.

That said, is it really OK to cross HEMI with SEMIS?

Anonymous 6:22 PM  

Hi everyone, this is Robert Cirillo, the constructor of today's puzzle. It is indeed my first NY Times crossword. Very exciting for me! It was meant to be a light and fun theme. Thank you to those who posted compliments. To those who gave constructive criticism, thank you also. Will certainly limit use of partials next time. Hope you enjoyed anyway.

Charles Bogle 7:07 PM  

@anonymous (Robert Cirillo): to paraphrase @twoponies, congrats, welcome to the Show, and thanks for tuning in..bouncy, catchy theme. Voice same problems w fill observed by some others. Liked my-play of ESSENCE and ATTAR, TAD and THAD, SAX and TUBA. See you again I hope!

retired_chemist 7:19 PM  

@ Robert Cirillo: congratulations on your debut. Please do understand that the criticisms are actually compliments in a way - most of us apply the same standards in our comments whether it is a debut puzzle or one by a legendary constructor. On that scale I thought you fared well.

That you got some suggestions to mull over, and especially that you are willing to mull, are good signs. I look forward to seeing more of your puzzles.

Stan 7:19 PM  

Robert: Thanks so much for commenting. Please do realize that Rex can be kind of a tough Zen-Master -- but in a good way... This or that, he hates, something else (very specifically) he likes. The rest of us tend to break one way or the other, and most (not all) agreed that this was an enjoyable puzzle.

Hoping to hear more from you!

SethG 7:34 PM  

I'm sure I noticed most of the details people have mentioned while I was solving, but mostly I was thinking of Bon Bons. Specifically, Super, Shake Your, and Peppermint.

Tweet of the Day:
@catalm: @criminallvulgr @happy_1225 Where are bonbon and the protector of the glambulge?

Two Ponies 7:50 PM  

@ Robert C. Thanks so much for dropping in. Obviously we pay attention to by-lines and appreciate debuts. I cannot imagine how excited and nervous I would be. This can be a difficult crowd to please but we are serious about how much we love our puzzles!
I hope it is OK to speak for the crowd.

fikink 8:16 PM  

@Robert, We are all learning here and it is particularly helpful to hear from the constructor. I look forward to seeing your name again. Congrats!

The Bard 8:20 PM  

Hamlet » Act 1. Scene V
Ay, that incestuous, that adulterate beast,
With witchcraft of his wit, with traitorous gifts,--
O wicked wit and gifts, that have the power
So to seduce!--won to his shameful lust
The will of my most seeming-virtuous queen:
O Hamlet, what a falling-off was there!
From me, whose love was of that dignity
That it went hand in hand even with the vow
I made to her in marriage, and to decline
Upon a wretch whose natural gifts were poor
To those of mine!

Elaine 9:23 PM  

Hi, Constructor Cirillo,

I saved my third potential post in case you chimed in, and now I feel rewarded. Please note that you got some folks started with arguments/opinions/anecdotes about (a) what the shadings of meaning might be w/ sate vs. satiate; (b) the relative order of lycee and ecole; (c) The Play from 1982 (possibly before you were born); (d)how much pejorative weight should be assigned to CHATTEL--(and I would say: not lots; wives were once wholly the chattels of their husbands;).....and all the while, this puzzle was used in a contest!!

Hey, I think you are launched!
We await your next puzzle with [cutters] [honed.]

Sfingi 10:00 PM  

My Baltimore sister and her hubby are running out of food and about to hire someone to plow their side street to the main street. Now, if she had stocked up the way her family always did up here...
My IA sister got 5 inches and we got - nothing - here in Upstate NY. Towns are saving on salt and labor. It's cold as a witches t-t, though.

I really loved the puzzle. Started thinking of other reduplication possibilities:
Twittering jewel = Warbling bling-bling.
Halitosis Medicine from NYU medical lab = Dasen sensen.
Special additive in a genre joke = Noknock knockknock.
Pretty bad. It's hard to write crosswords.

I liked SEMIS crossing HEMI, BATE and BYTE, APEMAN and SATYR, THAD and TAD. Liked how ATOM lined up under TOMTOM.

I guess Cirillo is nutz in the same way I am.

As far as UNIT and ATOM, at first I thought "mole," but that's the molecule level. I think unit is fine as an elemental unit. Of course, we continue to break it down to ever smaller particles, but in Atomist terms, i.e. Greek natural philosophers, the ATOM is the UNIT.

Prepare a commemorative plate - My IA sister does one every year for U IA. Last year was the late Howard Zinn.

@Bill from NJ - but, aren't you getting used to multi-word phrases? I seem to be getting used to several things herein, including sports, to some extent.

@Litdoc - surnames and given names can stand alone.

@Van55 - are we drifting apart?

@OldCarFudd - I hate orientate. It's down there with "feel badly," something only a leper might do. Maybe sate means just fill up and satiate means "my cup runneth over." They'd need 2 meanings.

Here's a cw idea - East Coaster vs. the rest of us. TUBA tuber; Mona moaner; mesa messer; kinda kinder, etc. Too much coffee.

Squeek 10:44 PM  

You have officially gone round the twist.
No more coffee for you.
Have a scotch.

fergus 12:22 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bill from NJ 12:26 AM  


It was years ago that the puzzles quit noting the number of words in a multi-word answer. It may have been at the beginning of the Shortz era but I don't recall.

I was a little put off but only at first. I made peace fairly quickly with the status-quo and finally came to accept the additional challenge of it all. In retrospect, I think it was a good decision.

fergus 12:27 AM  

Repetitive theme consistency set up by LISBON and African, yet geography proved not the case. Those of us so swift at solving drew our conclusions too early -- so the theme was really OK.

Hey Bard -- recently reread Hambone, and am convinced, among other things that the play is more about conscience than anything else, and that Ophelia was most definitely knocked up.

ArtLvr 2:31 AM  

@ sfingi -- hold the chortles in upstate NY! We are finally getting our share of snow any minute now...

@ robert cirillo -- so glad you popped by, and hearty (valentine) congrats from me too!


Van55 1:05 PM  

@sfingi -- definitely not! :-)

Flowerblogger 9:13 PM  

It was with great delight I spied the N.C. Wyeth cover of Treasure Island. My treasured copy was handed down from my much older brothers. I still have it and others in their original condition.

Re: the puzzle and the new constructor, I have to say if I had written this crossword, I would have really hated your comments. Try a little kindness next time. I thought the theme was very funny and did not care whether it completely tied together. I object in a knee jerk fashion to the use of tuba when a Sousaphone is intended, but it is my favorite instrument in a marching band second only to the bass drum! Sayonara.

BassManPDX 10:06 PM  

Old Sammy CAHN shows up in the grid pretty often, all right. In the 1970s I toured in the backup band for Peggy DeCastro, the last of the famous DeCastro sisters still working the road. Their big hit which Sammy Cahn wrote -- and we played twice a night -- was "Teach Me Tonight."

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