Soapmaking stuff / TUE 2-2-10 / Weeper of mythology / * you noblest English Henry V / Skateboard trickster's track

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Constructor: Alex Fay

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: Cut in two — theme answers are familiar phrases whose first words indicate division, and whose second words can be found, divided into two parts, elsewhere in the grid

Word of the Day: Priory of SION (36D: Priory of ___ (group in "The Da Vinci Code")

The Prieuré de Sion, translated from French as Priory of Sion, is a name given to multiple groups, both real and fictitious. The most notorious is a fringe fraternal organization, founded and dissolved in France in 1956 by Pierre Plantard. In the 1960s, Plantard created a fictitious history for that organization, describing it as a secret society founded in the Kingdom of Jerusalem in 1099, which serves the interests of the Merovingian dynasty and its alleged bloodlines. This myth was expanded upon and popularized by the 1982 controversial book The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, and later claimed as factual in the preface of the 2003 conspiracy fiction novel The Da Vinci Code. (wikipedia)
• • •

Busy day ahead, and late start, so short write-up. Did not like this one at all, for a number of reasons. First, the splitting / dividing / breaking is totally haphazard. "Exploding" would have been a more apt metaphor, as pieces are strewn all over hell and gone, with no rhyme, reason, pattern, method, etc. Second, who in their right mind wants to split DECISION in two. Look at the ugliness you get. A prefix and some dreadful-looking "Priory" (I could not be less interested in reading "The Da Vinci Code" or any of its spawn, but that's neither here nor there)? SION crossing ON, ON (48A: "___, you noblest English ...!": "Henry V") is pretty much the nadir of this already low-lying puzzle. POTASH (49D: Soapmaking stuff) crossing NHRA (71A: Drag racing org.) is down there too. That's an ugly SE corner for sure. Though this puzzle fell in normal time for me, I'd be surprised if there weren't some people who got hung up in the SION or POTASH region. I'll leave you to find all the other incredibly generic or groan-worthy fill. I've got too much to do today. I will point out that this grid features an EELER in an AERIE (see NW corner). Hey buddy, you're looking in the wrong place.

Theme answers:
  • 20A: Outcome of many a boxing match ... or 38- and 36-Down (split decision) (DECI and SION)
  • 38A: Interstates ... or 60-Down and 65-Across (divided highways) (HIGH and WAYS) — that's some weak "division"; you get the word's most basic parts ... nothing new / unexpected. Just ... the words that the larger word is made out of
  • 57A: Crushed by sorrow ... or 5-Across and 63-Down (broken-hearted) (HEAR and TED)
  • 1A: Brainy Simpson (Lisa) — but she is a sucker for Malibu Stacy dolls and ponies.
  • 55A: Weeper of mythology (Niobe) — went with NAOMI for some reason.
  • 64A: Skateboard trickster's track (rail) — interesting clue.
  • 9D: Fifth-century emperor remembered as the epitome of cruelty (Attila) — clue was so long I assumed it was going to be someone less common.
  • 11D: "The West Wing" actor who played Arnold Vinick (Alan Alda) — I think we just established (a few puzzles ago) that he won an Emmy for this role.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


The Bard 7:48 AM  

Thanks for the clip.

King Henry V > Act III, scene I

KING HENRY V: Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our English dead.
In peace there's nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility:
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favour'd rage;
Then lend the eye a terrible aspect;
Let pry through the portage of the head
Like the brass cannon; let the brow o'erwhelm it
As fearfully as doth a galled rock
O'erhang and jutty his confounded base,
Swill'd with the wild and wasteful ocean.
Now set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide,
Hold hard the breath and bend up every spirit
To his full height. On, on, you noblest English.
Whose blood is fet from fathers of war-proof!
Fathers that, like so many Alexanders,
Have in these parts from morn till even fought
And sheathed their swords for lack of argument:
Dishonour not your mothers; now attest
That those whom you call'd fathers did beget you.
Be copy now to men of grosser blood,
And teach them how to war. And you, good yeoman,
Whose limbs were made in England, show us here
The mettle of your pasture; let us swear
That you are worth your breeding; which I doubt not;
For there is none of you so mean and base,
That hath not noble lustre in your eyes.
I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start. The game's afoot:
Follow your spirit, and upon this charge
Cry 'God for Harry, England, and Saint George!'

[Exeunt. Alarum, and chambers go off]

Hamlet > Act I, scene II

Let me not think on't--Frailty, thy name is woman!--
A little month, or ere those shoes were old
With which she follow'd my poor father's body,
Like Niobe, all tears:--why she, even she--
O, God! a beast, that wants discourse of reason,
Would have mourn'd longer--married with my uncle,
My father's brother, but no more like my father
Than I to Hercules: within a month:
Ere yet the salt of most unrighteous tears
Had left the flushing in her galled eyes,
She married. O, most wicked speed, to post
With such dexterity to incestuous sheets!
It is not nor it cannot come to good:
But break, my heart; for I must hold my tongue.

Anonymous 7:48 AM  

Pretty much agree with Rex, but did like the clue for 10D. Had p_ro and said WTF then reread the clue, bingo. Golfballman

CoolPapaD 7:53 AM  

Wow - With all due respect to our host, I really enjoyed the puzzle, and thought it was a very clever and well-executed theme! I don't understand how something as original as this spawned so much negativity!

POR took a while, but once it fell, POTASH (a great word, IMO) became apparent. I will never watch an NHRA (or NASCAR) event, but got it from the crosses. I put SOLD for 5D, after getting the last two letters, and it took way too long to realize the error.

ON ON was cute, and did not turn me OFF OFF at all. I trust I won't be alone in my feelings for this puzzle, so thanks, Alex!

matt 8:05 AM  

In defense of Sion, I'd bet that more people read The DaVinci Code than regularly watch The Simpsons, and there's like 3 Simpsons clues a week.

However, I cannot defend it as a theme answer.

chefbea 8:10 AM  

Fun puzzle. Had a Natick at sion/onon but because of the theme, got sion and finished the puzzle.

Two bleedovers??? gro and Ste

Elaine 8:14 AM  
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Elaine 8:16 AM  

I am SO, so tired of the Simpsons; I have learned more than I want to know about the show from crosswords. Just sayin'.

I had the same (ugh) reaction when I saw highways and then HIGH and WAYS.... I actually worked this puzzle from right to left, as it took a while to get some traction, what with Muldur and the Simpsons and "The West Wing"-- all shows/characters I haven't watched. Backwards, it was an easy solve, though I did try RAMP instead of RAIL for a second, and AS A [favor] followed by DO A [favor] before POTASH helped me out. SION was in a recent puzzle (may have been one other than NYT,) or it would have slowed me down.

Not terrible, but I'm still hungry!

jesser 8:17 AM  

The 'n' in Sion was the last letter to fall, and I was none to sure of it. Breathed a sigh of relief to see it confirmed here. I did the thing in Across Lite instead of on paper. I miss paper. The West Wing was good TV. You hardly ever get to say that. Those are my ramblings for today, and I wish everyone in Rexville a spectacular Tuesday!

jesser 8:19 AM  

to, two, too. It's early. Dammit.

imsdave 8:19 AM  

I'm with CoolPapaD on this one. While DECI is pretty ugly, the overall concept was great. And who can hate a puzzle with Ted Williams in it?

hazel 8:31 AM  

@CoolPapa D & IMS Dave- I'm with you guys. I thought this was a fine puzzle. Although @IMS D, I did just read a really creepy article in the New Yorker about Ted Williams and cryogenic storage. It's still fresh in my mind, so I had my own little breakfast test issue this morning.

Rex states his concern with the haphazard nature of the divided words. Agreed that they are a bit of a mishmash, but it is Tuesday [cue Wade's Tuesday rant - regarding how ill-mannered and immature Tuesdays are]. Poof. Perfectly fine Tuesday puzzle. Messy, immature, and ill-mannered.

Definitely not an autopilot solve for me, kept me engaged, and I thought the gimmick was clever.

Unknown 8:32 AM  

I liked the theme okay, but the rest of the fill was mostly blah, except for vagabond/cogent; those are some nice words.
I don't recall seeing Scully in the puzzle before, at least not to the extent of things like 'in a pet' (ugh) and much else.

fikink 8:52 AM  

Hand up with those who liked the puzzle.
Nice placement of "the breach," Rex, and thanks for the post, once again, Bard.

Parshutr 9:02 AM  

Definitely liked/loved this one. No Naticks for me, glad to see Hale Irwin mentioned, second time this week for GRO as an answer was my only meh moment.

archaeoprof 9:02 AM  

I'm with fikink et al today. Especially for a Tuesday, which so often disappoints, this was just fine.

Plenty of stale pop culture today (West Wing, Simpsons, XFiles, Dan Brown) set off nicely by Shakespeare and baseball.

lit.doc 9:07 AM  

@Elaine, me too re SION. Puzzle went smooth and fast for me, but I wonder what it would have been like if I hadn't just learned the SION thingy from that recent puzzle, where it was a total WTF.

Appropriately, my captcha is "disse".

Brendan Emmett Quigley 9:08 AM  

Just going to throw it out there: it's frigging tough to make easy puzzles. You have to come up with some theme not done to death, and then make sure the fill is decent. I gotta say, I think from a strictly technical standpoint this is a great easy puzzle. No mean feat, there. A-

jesser 9:19 AM  

I hereby hug BEQ.

Glitch 9:23 AM  

@Rex, @Elaine, @lit.doc

With the obvious theme, one did not need to know the meaning of SION to complete the puzzle.

A post puzzle Google as confirmation perhaps.


Dough 9:28 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
OldCarFudd 9:31 AM  

Rex, I guess you don't like the theme whether a particular answer is done well or clumsily. You don't like deci-sion because it's awkward; you don't like high-way because it's banal. I'm with CoolPapaD and imsdave on this: it's clever and fun. I liked it a lot.

PurpleGuy 9:36 AM  

Thank you BEQ ! I'm with @Jesser to give you a hug.
This was a fairly easy puzzle and went down smoothly.
The theme made me laugh, and isn't that a great way to start a Tuesday ?
Applause for Alex Fay.

Dough 9:45 AM  

Hey! A Tuesday with character and some moxie! That's pretty damned good, imho. (Note, imho usually comes at the end, not at the beginning, but that's another puzzle.) I thought it was a nice, entertaining puzzle.

michael 9:50 AM  

hi, first time i'm leaving comment, enjoy your blog Rex very much and all the comments. Most of you find the puzzles quite easy
(especially Mondays - Wednesdays)
whereas since moving to Middle East years ago and thus losing much of my English, even the "easy - medium" ones are quite a challenge.

In this vein, can anyone recommend a puzzle appearing online that might suit "us beginners" better than the NYT or LAT ?

thanks in advance,
michael on the mediterranean

retired_chemist 9:54 AM  

Liked it.

Count me with those who had "AS A" @ 49A and those who only saw the theme in retrospect.

Also count me among those who do so many puzzles that the following are automatic write-ins: ADZE, EELER, ELIE, IN A PET (is that phrase EVER used outside of CrossWorld?), OED, and STOAS.

@ 67A: put RAMS as the storage unit and was about to quibble until I realized that unit was meant in another sense. Now I think it is a nice bit of misdirection, adding spice to a Tuesday.

ArtLvr 9:55 AM  

I expected today's fill to have Punxsutawney Phil in there somewhere... HALLOWed tradition, with rarely a SPLIT DECISION.

Cogent is a good word -- had to laugh when I saw all the rule-breaking repeated words. HIGH HIGH!


Elaine 10:00 AM  


None of us thought SION was hard to get-- just we've already seen it this week. It's a bit of a stretch to say that SION has a 'meaning' unless junk novels interest you. Def not worth a Google--and, like the Simpsons' names, hardly worth knowing.

And some of us hate being sent hither and yon all over a grid for not much payoff.

That said, generally most of us enjoyed the puzzle well enough to share our impressions.

Thanks @BEQ for the constructors' viewpoint.

Anonymous 10:01 AM  

Change the name of this blog to "Rex Hates Another Crossword"

joho 10:03 AM  

I'm torn on this one. On one hand I know how difficult it had to be to split a word into two separate complete words and place them in the grid. It's a way better theme than when we end up circling random letters to form a word. Actually, having said that, I'm going to ignore the awkwardness of DECI SION and come in with a solid, wholehearted thumbs up for Alex's creation. Amusing Tuesday.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:04 AM  

Happy Groundhog Day to all!

SPLITDECISION, indeed! Usually with a puzzle that seems cleverly constructed, I lean more toward BEQ's view, as I think we should treasure our constructors. But today as I worked the puzzle my heart sank, as I knew I would be agreeing with Rex on the non-symmetrical placement of the theme fragments and the uninspired nature of those fragments.

Van55 10:05 AM  

Rex, you REALLY don't want to leave it to ME, of all people to point out all the hackneyed fill in this one do you? Having been pilloried for doing that as my schtick here, I'm trying to get away from it. Suffice it to say that at least half of the fill was crap crosswordese that annoyed me and diminished a fairly decent theme. While acknowledging BEQ's point of view, there have been plenty of recent "easy" puzzles that didn't resort to so many cliches. (See today's LAT puzzle for just one example.)

I did like POTASH, VAGABOND, COGENt and HALLOW, though.

Over all, I agree with Res wholeheartedly today.

Anonymous 10:14 AM  

A name change "Simon Cowell Does the NYT Crossword" is appropriate -- judging material with a superficial smirk and refusing to even consider reading The Da Vinci Code while condemning it -- c'mon!


Jeffrey 10:17 AM  

Near Mutiny on the blog today. I'm marginally with the mutineers, a mild thumbs up.

Regarding Da Vinci code readers vs Simpsons watchers:

80 million copies of Da Vinci Code. But the Simpsons have been on for 20 years and air in 200+ countries. I'd go with Homer.

slypett 10:25 AM  

Jesu! Thought SIOS and OSON wre okay, because I got tired of hip-hopping around the grid.

I didn't like this puzzle. Right from LISA it stuck in my craw and didn't crawl out.

Are all interstates DIVIDEDSHIGHWAYS? Is that part of their definition or some projection of AF's mind? I can almost see I80, as I hitchhiked it in the 60s, having no median strip.

Charles Bogle 10:25 AM  

I too liked the words @van55 lists above, and EELER (but I had to break personal Mon-Wed rule and google it; had to do same for X-Files, SION, TEK-else I'd still be doing it). NW corner a real bear for me today. What about OBEYER? Seems ugly to me. Theme struck me as good concept falling short in execution but if I hadn't gotten so mired in silly stuff I'm sure I would have enjoyed it more, as many did
So I

chefbea 10:25 AM  

@anonymous 10:01 If we all are allowed to say we like or don't like a certain puzzle...why can't Rex??? Let him voice his opinion.

my captcha FICUROU


chefbea 10:26 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
sundog 10:28 AM  

I really wanted Caligula to fit into 9D.
67A could have had a Family Guy clue. That show is even funnier than the Simpsons.
The DaVinci Code was crap. Pablum for the masses.

Jim in Chicago 10:30 AM  

Maybe I'm just really slow today, but am I the only person who has no clue why INAPET is the answer to "peevish"??

PlantieBea 10:31 AM  

I wasn't crazy about this puzzle when I did it because of the hunting around for and random placement of the split answers...but it grew on me this morning. I like what it accomplished in the end. Thanks for the input BEQ.

hazel 10:51 AM  

@Crosscan - you highbrow - where exactly are you and Homer going? If Lisa comes along, I might like to join you. :) P.S. Andre's not really showing the Expos any love. What's that all about?

For better or worse, both DaVinci Code and the Simpsons are cultural phenomena that will far outlive our comments regarding their crossworthiness.

retired_chemist 10:58 AM  

@ Jim - IN A PET means sulking or peevish, cf/ the clue.

Ulrich 11:01 AM  

One more mutineer here, joining old friends (hi, imsdave, hazel, fikink et al.!). If anything, I liked the splitting of deci-sion best, and once you got the theme, SION was a nobrainer--wish the other splits had been as quirky

Agree that a symmetrical placement of the fragments would have been awesome, but so would have a been a win by me at the last ACPT--what can't be done can't be done...

Anonymous 11:11 AM  

Wow. SPLIT opinions on this one. Put me in the I liked it camp. Made me think, but not too taxing. The P in INAPET was the last to fall. It must be a regionalism from a different region than I'm living.

JMorgie 11:24 AM  

Misinformation masquarading as knowledge. the web is bad enough but when the NY times endorses mininformation . . .

Modern storage unit is a BYTE. a 'Meg' is an amount. i dont think there are any chips anymore with only 1 Meg; mostly they come 256MB or 512. And whenb are we going to have a crossword with modern technology words like byte, genome, etc. ?? Res, challenge your buddies.

Also, Red Sea is *not* an Exodus locale. the locale in Exodus is 'yam suf' which is better translated as Sea of Reeds; Red Sea has been acknowledged for years as an error in translation.

lit.doc 11:25 AM  

@chefbea, give 'em hell! It's our perfect right as solvers--consumers of the product--to like or not like, and to voice same.

And when it comes to constructors (like Rex, Brendan, Joon, et al.), I'm especially interested in what they think, as their assessment of a puzzle is so much better informed than is my own--which in no way diminishes the legitimacy of my own pleasure or lack thereof in solving.

@Glitch, sounds like you had a harder time getting what we were actually saying about SION than we had getting the answer.

Anonymous 11:45 AM  


The Simpsons was crap. Pablum for the masses.

Anonymous 11:47 AM  

@JMorgie: I interpreted "megs" as an abbreviation for "megabytes", a unit of storage.

Ulrich 11:47 AM  

@JMorgie: Who would doubt that mm, cm, m, km etc are all units in that all can express quantities in terms of them. Same holds for meg--I have NEVER seen the quantity of data that a hard drive can hold expressed in terms of bytes.

And "Red Sea" is the name given in our culture to a certain body of water--it absolutely doesn't matter where the name comes from. I, for one, was told it derives from the fact that the water looks red sometimes on account of the coral reefs (which I have seen BTW). This may be false, too, but in no way makes the name false.

Elaine 11:47 AM  


Agree with you-- Attila is not the baddest of them all! My first thought was Caligula (mean AND crazy); second choice might have been Nero, an obvious non-fit; and I think even Vlad the Impaler puts Attila in the shade (but wasn't an Emperor.) Why not a clue like "Hunny one" or "Conqueror of__"?

Ah, well. BTW, we used to refer to our highly active, disruptive first child as "Attila the Baby." More in the "creating chaos" sense vs any real badness, you know.

retired_chemist 12:18 PM  

@ Ulrich - I agree with you but I think JMorgie is correct in a technical sense. His point is just not how CrossWorld views it.

Anonymous 12:24 PM  

I was afraid I was the only one tired of all the Simpsons clues. Time to give that show a well-deserved rest, Will Shortz. Like maybe for the next decade.

Blanche 12:32 PM  

I'm totally with the thumbs-up faction. Very easy puzzle to solve, and a clever theme to boot. I think all of you cranky people need to get another hobby.

David 12:36 PM  

Geez I wonder if there is some sort of crossword puzzle lurking here made up only of Simpson names? That would be frightening!

It is a testament to the longevity of the show. I'm not a fan of the Fox network, but it does seem to have a range from rabid news to Wanda Sykes, with the Simpsons and American Idol falling somewhere between... Maybe Mr. Burns is really Rupert Murdock? Maybe the NYT will join the WSJ in his stable of media properties?

retired_chemist 12:37 PM  

@ some (not all) of the Anonymous posters -

I am actually much more tired of dismissive, anonymous posts than I am of the Simpsons, the DaVinci Code, or putatively trite crosswordese, though none of those three are particularly to my taste.

If you have a complaint, stop hiding, get a blogger ID, and thereby identify yourself. Those of us in Academe, and particularly those occasionally in administrative positions, have all seen anonymous complaints. I presume others do as I did: toss them.

imsdave 12:40 PM  

Bravo R_C - well said!

Doc John 12:43 PM  

Not much to say about the puzzle that hasn't already been said.
I will comment on a previous comment, though. Rex, like any other gourmet, seeks finer and finer examples to satisfy his taste. Just like Colossus at Six Flags Magic Mountain was "it" for me years ago, now when I go there *maybe* I'll ride it. And, like any gourmet, one will criticize anything that doesn't live up to standards in the hopes that someone is listening and will come with something better.

Howard B 12:50 PM  

I certainly see the weak spots in this one; SION is pretty brutal, and I actually didn't notice the theme while solving except for the common 'break' thread in the long answers.
However, for an earlier-week puzzle, realizing the theme post-solve was a rare surprise; I definitely did not expect the angle the constructor took.

Perhaps it wasn't the most graceful, elegant construction compared to some of the entries we're used to, but you know, I really did like the end result. Anything that's a bit off the rails, while still being reasonably fair to the solver, works for me :). Nice job.

There's no absolute answer here as to whether it's a "good" puzzle or not. This seems to be one of those that just hits you right, or does not. And that's fine.

Ruth 12:53 PM  

We had a couple of German highschool boys staying with us a few years ago, and I went out and got doughnuts for breakfast their first morning. The two of them gaped at the doughnuts and then sort of poked each other and giggled. "Anything wrong?" "No, it is just that this is the first time ever we are seeing doughnuts, but we have seen them many times on The Simpsons!"
Like it or not, that's America on the world stage. You have to speak Simpson if you wanta get around!

Scarlet-O 12:54 PM  

11 minutes me... though after looking at your post I realized I had "APIT" for 2D and "EILER" for 23A... Thanks, I never would've known the difference.. Which is dumb because EELER is xword favorite, as are EDDY and AERIE. I'm gonna start noting the usual suspects as they come up, maybe it will help remember them...

mitchs 1:04 PM  

RC, how is a blog name and abstract avatar any different from anonymity?

mexgirl 1:07 PM  

I just want to say that I am very grateful for Monday and Tuesday puzzles. It makes me feel tremendously good to finish it all and it's always extra gratifying to get that "aha!" moment when I get the theme. I think this was clever and very fun to do (though very quickly!)

MikeM 1:11 PM  

OBEYER? That hurt a bit.

I did enjoy the puzzle but once I caught onto the theme it unfolded rather quickly. No overwrites though I was tempted to pencil in "eerie" instead of TENSE.

Martin 1:15 PM  


Misinformation? "Red Sea" is a locale mentioned in every edition of Exodus. It's not mentioned in the Hebrew book, "Shemot." Shemot means "Names." Why not rail against the retitling as perpetuated by the Septuagint translators?

BYTE has appeared 31 times in Shortz-edited NYT puzzles.

GENOME has appeared 4 times.

The only thing I don't like so much about a Rex negative review is that it seems to be like blood in the water, drawing especially loony comments. But they tend to be very entertaining, so it all works out in the end.

No Diggity 1:17 PM  

Lawyers "try" (5 across) cases; Judges and juries "hear" them. Two different things - bad clue.

chefbea 1:29 PM  

@David and all the Simpson lovers!!!! check this out

Naama 1:34 PM  

@Van55 "Crap Crosswordese"!! Love it. @JMorgie and Ulrich- Either way, it was a lousy fill and a lousy clue!
I didn't even pay attention to the "theme" (that was so labored it needed about 32948 instructions within the clues to work) until SPLITDECISION gave me SION, which, I'll be probably the 60th one to say, pisses me off to no end as the latest pop-culture puzzle pillow stuffer. They're always a little behind too, incorporating the stuff a couple years after it infiltrates the zeitgeist.
I will never read Dan Brown.
I will never watch the Simpsons.
I've seen Star Wars and liked it but I'm not gonna see it again thus remembering all the characters' names.
I will not read Tolkien or watch the dang Ring movies- if I'm going to watch a Ring Trilogy I'd truly rather watch the Wagner opera.
And I won't or watch read Harry Potter either, even though I hear it's good from everyone, and it probably is.

And OBEYER? Yuck.

My captcha is QUMUR (like that fake country in the oft-mentioned "West Wing". Good show.)

Rube 1:40 PM  

I, too am a mutineer. As I started with LISA, a gimme, I thought, "Oh, no, there'll be a jillion complaints from Simpsons haters". Saw OBEYER and thought, more gripes... and well deserved this time. Saw DECI & SION and thought, as did @Ulrich, this is delightful. Saw Sniggler and thought this might be someone snitching on a snogger, but no... a new word for the old KB, as is NIOBE.

Never heard IN A PET before. Doubt I'll ever hear it anywhere except in the Xwd universe... or is that a common expression in Lower Slobovia?

@Ruth, in your honor, I'm going to use the expression "LOL" -- Great anecdote. There's coffee all over my keyboard.

Good puzz.

Darryl 1:41 PM  

I haven't watched more than a dozen or so episodes of The Simpsons in my life, and never read The DaVinci Code, nor seen the move. I am, however, tired of the blasting of each.

The Simpsons is
1: The longest running prime time TV show in US History.
2: Among the top 10 in number of Emmys won,
3: Named by Time Magazine as the best TV Show of the 20th Century.

The DaVinci Code is among the top 10 selling novels of all time. I absolutely, positively guarantee that more people have read The DaVinci Code than have read Henry V, more people have seen the movie version of The DaVinci Code than have seen Henry V on the stage or in the movies.

If the NY Times has a clue referencing a secondary character in "Little Dorritt", no one blinks an eye, even though no one, and I mean no one, reads Dickens because he's, well, unreadable. Clue some character from some currently popular novel and all hell breaks loose.

You can't have been alive for the past 10 years and not have picked up some Simpsons / DaVinci references. Not without having determined in advance that you weren't going to learn about them.

Oh, the puzzle. Fine Tuesday fare.

retired_chemist 1:44 PM  

@ Mitchs,

Click on one of the blue blog names. You will find some info about the poster, and in many cases an e-mail link. Even if not, the continuous use of a unique blog name provides a context within which the rest of us can consider the comment.

"Anonymous" can be anybody and one cannot distinguish one anon from another.

Four and out - if you have a beef you can track me down in the way I describe and send me an e-mail.

Clear enough?

Moonchild 2:07 PM  

I peeked in here to see what this blog was about and now I'm not sure. Is every day like this in the comments?
I thought maybe someone would have something to say about schlub. Boy was I wrong.
What makes for an acceptable clue with you people?
This puzzle has Lisa, Scully, and Alan Alda for the TV fans but also has eddas, Henry V, and Niobe.
Throw in a little French, Latin, and Italian for good measure and what's not to like?
Tough crowd. Adios, ciao, au revoir.

fikink 2:09 PM  

My "veil-of-tears" mother was always IN A PET.
And she had the cheek to call me Sarah Bernhart!

Remember when an EELER was a conjurer?

mac 2:10 PM  

@Howard B: thank you, you perfectly expressed my thoughts.
I like a little bite, and this time I had to figure out the theme to get on, on and Sion.

Anonymous 2:16 PM  

Enough of The Simpsons.
This has turned into the TV Guide crossword.

jimmy d 2:17 PM  

I hardly ever disagree with Rex...but was totally expecting a good review for today's puzzle! Lotsa fun for a Tuesday, and thought the theme was clever and well-executed.

Plus, like Elaine and lit.doc...I learned SION yesterday in that awesome Quigley puzzle!!

mitchs 2:19 PM  

RC, well, that's a fine discernment. However, I took your point to mean that posters were hiding behind the "anonymous" moniker as though in fear of standing by their comments on this blog. I find that kind of funny. Clear enough?

Alex Fay 2:34 PM  

Just want to say a sincere "thank you" to Rex and all the commenters for caring enough about the puzzle to write about it. That thanks absolutely applies to the praisers and criticizers alike. This is my first NYT puzzle... I hope it's not my last, and as such, I need feedback. A constructor that doesn't want to hear the negative feedback is a constructor that doesn't want to improve, and that's not me. If I just wanted praise, I'd send it to my grandparents. (Well, I did send it to my grandparents, and now they think I walk on water. Thanks, Bobby and Poppa.) But in hindsight, this puzzle is quite crosswordese-y, and the fill could've been a lot more exciting, and the mini theme pieces could have been more balanced... and I appreciate hearing that. And while LISA will always be in my puzzles (my wife's name, whom I proposed to with a crossword puzzle), I will find a non-Simpsons way to clue it from now on. Good to know. =) I'm thrilled that so many of you liked it and commented, but thank you again not just to y'all, but to everybody who wrote.
-Alex Fay
p.s. I'm a little star-struck getting an A- from BEQ. Huge fan, Brendan.

Clark 2:41 PM  

I liked the puzzle. I like all of you people. I like tv shows, and popular novels, and the Bard. I like opera, and amusing cranky people. My, some of us are IN A PET today! Gotta go.

Stan 2:43 PM  

I like reading honest responses to a puzzle whether positive or negative. Basically, diverse perspectives are interesting.

Stan 2:46 PM  

@Alex: Clever puzzle, and thanks for commenting!

Steve J 2:52 PM  

At the risk of getting too meta, I'm amazed at how people react to people with differing opinions. You'd think that people who don't like this particular puzzle are misanthropes who find joy only from picking things apart.

Not everybody has to like every puzzle. More importantly, not everyone has to like everything you like. It's not a personal affront when they don't, and their opinion is just as valid as yours.

Ok, enough on that from me.

I found the puzzle a real mixed bag. I don't like the execution of the scattered pieces around the puzzle (and I never really got it as I was doing the puzzle, as most of those ended up getting filled from crosses without my ever noticing the cross-referencing). It's a good idea, but I don't think it quite worked. The long theme answers were pretty good, though.

I liked that this seemed to be just a touch more challenging than a typical Tuesday. Some of the fill was groan-worthy (OBEYER and INAPET, particularly). And I quibble with a couple of the clues. I suppose -SAUR is technically a suffix in that it's used with different words, but it's hardly on par with suffixes like -ed, -tion, -ment, etc. And one can argue that TYLER was elected, since he was elected vice president and assuming the presidency should the sitting president vacate the seat is the main point of the position. Technically, Gerald Ford is the only president who was never elected through a national election (he was appointed to the vice presidency).

Alex, glad to see you pop in an offer some thoughts. And congratulations on your first NYT puzzle. There was definitely some good stuff to build on, and hopefully the feedback on some of the things that didn't quite work for many is useful for future puzzles. Looking forward to seeing your byline again.

Elaine 3:01 PM  

I have a blog name; funny, it VERY closely resembles my real one. And the "avatar?" It's a self-portrait. Honest-- I really do look like that!
(although Stan is a Rutabaga, not a turnip!)

Darryl, Darryl...I am sure you know that big sales do not denote quality. I actually tried to read _DaVinci Code_, but bad research AND bad writing were too much for me; I don't have THAT many years left.

@Alex Fay
Congratulations on your puzzle AND on your attitude toward perfecting a craft. I had fun with the puzzle, AND I'm hungry for more, as I mentioned. Those of us with romantic spirits are willing, under the circumstances, to overlook LISA-as-Simpson-clue this once. (There's always that 60's movie, "David and _," and wasn't there a presager of computer languages who devised LISA?)

captcha= urgicous
"the sensation of having read too many Anony-ments?"

miguel 3:09 PM  

A house divided can't stand each other.


Darryl 3:13 PM  

@Elaine - It is exactly this supercilious mentality I was addressing. I wasn't claiming it was good, just that it was a hugely well known, well discussed, and widely read book, and that having been alive during its heyday no one could be ignorant of it unless they had, with prejudice, determined to remain ignorant of it.

George NYC 3:29 PM  

I agree with everyone.

Homer Simpson 3:39 PM  

Oh, so they have Internet on computers now?

Anonymous 3:43 PM  

@Michael - may I dare to be so non-U as to suggest USA Today? It's not free, but it's something like $20 a year, which equals about 8 cents a puzzle. It runs 5 days a week, and is very Wed. but always names its theme.

As for today's: When I saw 8 sports clues and and 5 Young Pop Culture clues I feared having to resort to Google. But EGAD! I did not!

@Darryl - disagree. Dickens is very readable, describing persons you may yet to have run into. Some of us like a higher quaality of writing than Mr. Brown's crap.

@Glitch - disagree. Agree with the others. This was my Natick, also. I refuse to read that god-awful book and those words from S. are rather unmemorable.

@NoDig - agree. Hubster has never HEARd a case since he couldn't afford the minimum 40 K to run for judge. Don't get me started.

Anon216 has a point.

@Miquel - cute.

@Elaine - Remember LISP? ISLISP and FRANZ LISP? I am sooo old.

@Moonchild - yes, every day. My thoughts on SCHMO revolve around a wonderful book I have, the Joys of Yiddish by the late Leo Rosten. His differentiations among the various insult words is very entertaining. Forms of High German, meanly highly inflected, are welcomed by me.

@Rube - a common expression among the oldest oldsters.

@Alex Fay -
Yes, there was a lot of cheap fills - the OAR in the REDSEA, the OED and the EDDAS in the same STY.
But - the theme was pretty darn COGENT, and NIOBE, ATTILA, IGOR, and Major Hoople are my peeps. So, note Mr. Fay, we know you must resort to CW101, but we (meaning I) especially dislike adding an "er" or "re" to every verb or creating phony abbreviations. We (again, meaning I)do like to learn new words. We (I) would like more science, math, grammar, art, German, Italian. Less French. If you matched old pop with new pop, then it would be AOK or a TKO, as they say.

I learned NHRA, TEK, PYRO, MEG. I learned that Mr. ASHE had a stadium named after him.
That was a great clue for IGOR. Did he wear a lab SMOCK? Keep up the good work!
Some more of his expressions were: Harrumpf, Hakkaf, Sputt, Bah, etc.

sanfranman59 3:43 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 8:20, 8:44, 0.95, 40%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Tue 4:21, 4:28, 0.97, 48%, Medium

Sfingi 3:45 PM  

That last 343 huge ANON was me. My avatar and name must be reclaimed again. EGAD!

Ever and Anon 4:04 PM  

you just need to "sign in" to Google every so often; then your name and all magically reappear.

guess how I know this...

chefwen 4:23 PM  

@Alex Fay - Congratulations on your first NYT, a very enjoyable and fun puzzle. Keep 'em coming

Elaine 4:36 PM  

I think many of us demonstrated *awareness* of the book, the TV shows, and (vaguely) the characters-- but we don't necessarily know names, actors, or details. If you think that means I'm being supercilious, oh well; feel free. Test me on Mary Tyler Moore; the PBS Masterpiece Theatre series Upstairs, Downstairs; or Dickens, however, and I'll make you proud. Chas Dickens' writing is in an older style, dense with description and detail, but his works demonstrate remarkable understanding of human nature, thorough knowledge of social conditions in his times, and masterful story-telling. _Great Expectations_ in particular is more accessible to modern readers; give it a try. (Thousands of copies have been sold!)

I went four and out just for you!

Sylvester C. 5:01 PM  

Sfingi, thanks for making Darryl's point in the way you disagreed with him. Thanks for disagreeing both with Glitch and with those who disagree with Glitch. Thanks for being ignorant of the legal term "trier". And thanks for making the word 'hubster' grate more than any Young Pop Culture ever will.

Anonymous 5:34 PM  


foodie 5:57 PM  

Based on a highly scientific survey (NOT), I have concluded that first time constructors are more likely to draw SPLIT DECISIONS from Rex and the commenters of the blog.

My guess is that they have to be highly original to get their foot into the door, but they have not yet totally polished their skills, a la Paula G or ACME or BEQ or many of the other great pros. But with an attitude like Alex's, along with his originality and willingness to take input, he will not remain controversial for long...

PIX 6:10 PM  

@Alex Fay: congratulations on your first puzzle...rembember, the day after the Superbowl there will be lots of fans critizing the losing team...most of whom (like me) who couldn't play pro-football if their life depended on it...many of us make negative comments with the understanding that we greatly admire you for having gotten one of your puzzles published in the of luck in the future.

Having said that:
Rex: I agree with you the puzzle left a lot to be desired...decision = deci + sion...oh sure....Also Rex, life is short; don't waste time with the DaVinci Code...stupid I told Ulrich, your head will explode by page four...

I have a new idea...since the Times seems to be obsessed with competing with the TV Guide crossword,and thinks that it must have a Simpson's clue to show it's not really stuck up, let's just make it a requirement that all puzzles have one Simpons's clue. The Bart fans can have their fill and people like me will have to find something else to complain about.

Glitch 7:32 PM  

Ok Guys, all I was saying was that SION was the "split" of desiSION, and given the theme, should have been an no brainer.

As to 36D SION, it was NOT a creation of the author of the "Da Vinci Code", but mearly incorporated into the NOVEL (read FICTION) Priory of Simon, cr*p or not, @Darryl said it best.

Those that maintain their opinion override facts/citations/conventions are the reason my postings have been less frequent.

@Larry () - may I join you?


Two Ponies 8:00 PM  

@ Alex Fay, Thank you for your comments and congrats on your debut!

Grandparents thinking you walk on water. Very funny.

I step away for a few days and find that this blog has gone off the deep end. What is wrong with everyone today? This was a fine Tuesday puzzle that "pushed the envelope" a bit.

Too bad Caligula didn't fit.

joho 8:16 PM  

Wow, I having read all comments I'm totally amused. Alex you should be very proud of yourself, especially for having your first NYT puzzle published. That is quite an accomoplishment! It was so nice of you to stop by.

@PIX ... my head didn't explode.

Sfingi 8:19 PM  

@Elaine - you said it better than I had. I particularly notice criminal types that I saw in prison - and even mentally and psychologically deficient types - in Dickens. He must have got around more than the usual person of his day.

I think I'm back. I need to follow my notes on how to do this stuff.

edith b 9:17 PM  

I've been doing the Times puzzles for the longest time and have adapted to the changes that have been made through the various regimes from Margaret Farrar to Will Weng through Eugene Maleska to Will Shortz.

Each editor had a style all their own and I think I like the present style the best because it acknowledes the world we live in more so than any others. Not necessarily the world I live in, perhaps, but our culture in general.

The fact that my culture doesn't include The Simpsons or Dan Brown is not the point. They do belong to others and I accept that fact.

fergus 9:19 PM  

Got a good laugh from Miguel, who seldom fails to amuse ... .

I'm sticking with the captain today, mostly for the inelegance of the theme. Oddly enough, if this received a slightly trumped-up Thursdayization, I probably wouldn't have had this objection.

Glitch 10:15 PM  

@edith b

I wish I had said that as well as you [did] --- kudos


and-rea car-la mic-haels 6:06 AM  

Alex Fay got in three themes in one! Like 9 theme entries...
Rather than have three split deci-sions or three broken hear-teds, he found three clever ways to say split, separated, broken all in one puzzle!

Never read "The Da Vinci Code" so I learned SION today and precisely bec the theme helped!
(Is it a thinly veiled reference to Zion? Or "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion"? Have we discussed this already? I'm slowly losing my mind...tho I hear crosswords might help this!)

But you gotta appreciate Rex's eagle-eye that "high-ways" was split too literally...and that the fill was a bit rocky.
Like Rex, having initially made the Naomi/NIOBE mistake, that SE was a bitch.

But, really, why so many folks today giving "TV Guide" a bad rap?
I get praise for my smooth fills (thanks @foodie!), but that's bec I cut my teeth on "TV Guide" puzzles for YEARS and those puzzles were read by 17 million subscribers!!!

I quit for myriad reasons, tho
They paid $75, refused us bylines and one of the editors actually wrote to me she thought "puzzles were a waste of time"!!!???!!!!????!!!!!
Plus they didn't care if the puzzles had a theme or not!!!!
THEN insult to injury, they wanted us to make them harder so they could charge for a 1-900# so folks would have to call for clues! Feh!

(That said, the puzzles were not terrible.
Anyway, I wish folks wouldn't refer to the "TV Guide" puzzle as the lowest common denominator, the puzzles were as good as the individual constructors...just as the NY Times puzzles are) ;)

Love that Alex Fay snuck in LISA, and at 1A no less!
Totally agree with @Elaine that it's romantic. Many constructors sneak in all sorts of things for their own enjoyment...

I try to sneak in ACME now and then...and, altho I can't prove it, I suspect once Will changed ACME to ACNE to punish me!

Alex Fay: LISA = Al Hirschfeld: NINAs!

AND, of course, bravo Alex for chiming in and wanting constructive criticism!!!!!!
You can not underestimate how much this blog has added not only to the general discourse of puzzles...but to the quality.

xyz 5:21 PM  

Again, catching up after being away, did this one back to back to Mondays except for reviewing a couple of MRI's for a colleague.

Really? Neither liked nor disliked this one. Took a lot of tacking to finish, got it all and reasonably fast, but just kinda blah (Gee, Am I agreeing with Rex???? WTF!) I was just not very satisfying, just better than no puzzle at all.

A whole lot of really blah fill and the hook and ladder of split and repeated answers did little to excite me.

On to Weds, but not immediately.

Kim 10:19 AM  

Six weeks later in syndication land. You said " 'I could not be less interested in reading "The Da Vinci Code' "

That's something I agree with you on! :)

Singer 3:00 PM  

Priory of Sion was not invented by Dan Brown, although I knew it from his book, which I read and enjoyed as fiction, although not particularly well written. I actually solved the puzzle quicker because of the theme - went to the referent clues and filled them in, which after Split Decision came into view made the theme clear and allowed the rest to fall quickly.

I don't watch the Simpsons regularly, primarily because my wife doesn't like it, but Simpson's references are rife in our world and hard to miss.

I like Dickens, don't like popular music, but figure if I'm going to do crosswords I have to have some knowledge of it.

I don't watch or follow any kind of auto racing, but again some scattered knowledge is necessary to get by. NHRA is one of the more obscure of those, but I dredged it out from somewhere.

A puzzle isn't good or bad because it has or doesn't have references to the classics or because it has or doesn't have references to popular culture. I agree that bad fill - particularly Roman numberals and obscure abbreviations, is a pain unless the puzzle has significant redeeming value.

This puzzle had an inventive theme that I haven't seen before. It could have been executed better, perhaps, but I found it entertaining, and thus worth doing. It certainly wasn't the best puzzle I have ever done, but nonetheless was fun.

The Red Sea comments are all right - the see was the Reed Sea, but most of us understood the Red Sea, which was in most translations since the Septuagint, including Cecil B. DeMille.

The fact that lawyers don't hear cases is also valid - the clue was not constructed well.

Still, I come down on the plus side of this puzzle.

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