Daughter of rocker Kurt Courtney Love —SUN 6-13-10— Greedy race in Star Trek universe / Longtime Yes drummer / Half of old Latin aphorism

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Constructor: Francis Heaney

Relative difficulty: Challenging

THEME: FLAG DAY — select answers have country names embedded in them; those country names are turned into the three colors of their flags, with the colors presented rebus-style, in three successive squares (i.e. one color in each square)

[Just click on the grid: you can read my handwriting *just* fine...]

Word of the Day: AGAMAS (24A: Brilliantly colored lizards) —

An agama is any one of the various small, long-tailed, insect-eating lizards of the genus Agama. The agamid genus is composed of at least 37 species across Africa, where they are the most common lizard. They can be found in many sizes, from 12.5 to 30 cm (5 in. to 1 ft.) in length and a wide variety of colours. One of the best known species is the Agama agama), widespread in sub-Saharan Africa. For Eurasian agamas, see the genus Laudakia. // Agamas originally lived in forest and bush across Africa, but have since adapted to live in villages and compounds where their habitat has been cleared. They live inside the thatch of huts and other small spaces, emerging only to feed. If caught out in the open, agamas are able to run quickly on their hind legs to reach shelter. The desert agama can still be found in the dry areas of North Africa. Despite their name, they avoid bare sand. (wikipedia)

• • •
Did this one on paper, sitting in Barnes & Noble cafe. Wife is still toiling away on it. I believe this to be the hardest NYT Sunday puzzle I've ever done. That could be an exaggeration, but I can't think of one that ever took me this long, and left me with So Many words / phrases I did not know or had barely heard of. At first ... well, at first I was just annoyed at the NW corner and the fact that I couldn't get any of the Downs. Then, a bit later, once I remembered FRANCES BEAN and got the theme trick, I thought I was going to have to remember all the flag colors *from memory* — now that definitely *would have* been the hardest Sunday puzzle I'd ever done. I had run into Romania without ever realizing it had anything to do with the theme, but then I hit IRELAND (whose flag I'd already discovered) and I realized that (mercifully) all the flag colors were in the clues themselves. It was just (just!) a matter of finding out where the embedded countries were. The hardest for me (by far) was MINI(MALI)STS, probably because I found MALI soooooo late in the game. Also, because I had written in MINIMALSTS, thinking it was a non-theme answer and neglecting to note the *missing &$^#ing "I"*. Also, ELECTRUM? Never heard of it (60A: Alloy of gold and silver). Other answers that were only vaguely familiar or utterly mysterious:

  • FERENGI (119A: Greedy race in the "Star Trek" universe) — to be honest, I *have* heard of them, but only barely, and couldn't pick them out of a line-up (that might be a lie ... I have a hazy picture). At any rate, that answer seems hard and I needed many crosses.
  • SCRIBER (93D: Wood-marking tool) — uh ... no. I was looking for SCORER then SCRAPER then ... Pff, I dunno. Just waited for every cross.
  • OHMAGE (108A: Amount of electrical resistance) — OK, that one's at least inferrable, in that I know OHM. And WATTAGE / CARNAGE / BONDAGE ... I know -AGE words.
  • AGAMAS (24A: Brilliantly colored lizards) — no idea.
  • ALAN [WHITE] (16D: Longtime Yes drummer) — Yes? No.
  • SCARNE (31D: Card game expert John) — probably seen it in a puzzle before, but had no recollection.
  • WEST [ORANGE] (17D: New Jersey community next to Montclair) — I'm sure this means something to locals, but it's just a random place name to me. I must have heard of it sometime, because I got it, and like FERENGI, it rings a faint bell.
  • Colin KAPP (104A: British science fiction author Colin ___) — again, no. No way. Honestly, it's a phenomenally good thing that I know what a .PDF is (105D: Sharable PC file), or I might have been screwed with KAPP *and* FERENGI.
  • SENNA (91D: Medicinal plant) — I D[RED]GEd this up from somewhere (107D: Bring (up) from the past), but I couldn't define it for you. Or pick it out of a line-up of ... plants.
Overall, this was memorable and entertaining, and gave me a workout like few other Sundays have (frankly, I often find Sundays more chore than joy — the theme has to be Stunning, or I just get bored). It also gave me a new word for "tough but ultimately doable" => HEWABLE (62A: Within a lumberjack's ability to cut down). Some good should come of that word.

Theme answers:
  • 22A: Daughter of rocker Kurt and Courtney Love (FRANCES BEAN COBAIN =>[BLUE][WHITE][RED]S BEAN COBAIN)
  • 36A: Buy real estate (ACQUIRE LAND => ACQU [GREEN][WHITE][ORANGE])
  • 51A: Composer Philip Glass and others (MINIMALISTS => MINI[GREEN][YELLOW][RED]STS)
  • 80A: Not troubled by (SANGUINE ABOUT => SAN[RED][YELLOW][GREEN]BOUT)
  • 98A: Lighting enthusiasts? (PYROMANIACS => PY[BLUE][YELLOW][RED]CS)
  • 110A: Modern school keepsakes (DIGITAL YEARBOOKS => DIG[GREEN][WHITE][RED]EARBOOKS)
All of the puzzle's flagged countries appear as answers, clued via the colors in their flags (thank goodness).

  • 13A: Show whose title was seen on a license plate ("L.A. LAW") — New York State just got new plates (navy/orange) and it made me recall all the different colors CA plates had been when I lived there. After Blue with Yellow lettering came a white one with a sun on it. Then a white one with cursive "California" ... I think "L.A. LAW" was sun-era. Let's see... yep, I think that's a sun on there.
  • 29A: Mixed-ancestry Latin Americans (MESTIZOS) — this strikes me as a tough word. I know it from some ethnic/feminist/lordknowswhat studies class I had at some point in college or grad school.
  • 59A: Horror director Roth (ELI) — this answer has a very large number of potential clues, many of them quite current (the quarterback, the director, the Denzel Washington movie, etc.)
  • 73A: Half of an old Latin aphorism (ARS LONGA) — ... VITA BREVIS. I love this clue/answer. It's daring.
  • 82A: Singer Lisa and newspaper publisher William (LOEBS) — also Harvard UP editions of classical Latin and Greek texts.
  • 1D: 1959 #1 hit for the Fleetwoods ("MR. [BLUE]") — I know this song. Feels like I know it from a David Lynch film. Nope, I'm confusing it with the song "Blue Velvet," clearly.

63D: Drugstore eponym (WAL[GREEN]) — was looking for DUANE or READE.

OK, I'm done.

Now your Tweets of the Week — puzzle chatter from the Twitterverse:
  • @corcoran Left my paper in the cafe but tore out the Times crossword page .. Just realised it has the 'men seeking men' dating page on the back. Hah.
  • @plannerben Is dragging the Saturday xword off to Jersey, where I will dismember it. That's what Jersey is for, after all.
  • @PhilofProverbs Y r these kids still n school? They're just vwatching movies & doing crossword puzzles
  • @ohhleary MBTA conductor: "Do crosswords, you can learn a new word. You can't learn new numbers in Sudoku, and if you do, you're not doing it right."
  • @simonpegg Dear The Guardian newspaper, please consider creating an app archiving all your quick crosswords. That would be primo fun times!
  • @mikejoosse If I see one more crossword using OLEO as an answer, I'm going to lose it.
  • @MaisieCouchant I was young, once. Now I'm sitting with the f***ing Prospect crossword drinking tea, watching the drizzle & thinking about buying an oven.
  • @donnf @nathanhurst they stuck with that stupid UFS crossword?!? even @michigandaily springs for LAT. 2 pages of puzzles, nothing good BAH @detnews
  • @stagemc feeling deflated after a stupid confrontation with a student. Of course it was my fault you didn't pay attention in class, crossword boy #fb
  • @RobinHood89 It's cheating I know, but on a scale of 1-10 how bad is it to use Google to help you complete a crossword? (1 being God & 10 being Hitler)
  • @smlear2 Dear Honolulu Advertiser, You will be missed even though I could never do your crosswords. Sincerly, Stephen
  • @xbicoastalkidx "Pei phone" is the worst pun I've yet to see in a crossword.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


Steve J 12:25 AM  

I can't make up my mind about this one. I went from thinking easy, since I got all but MALI's flag straight away. Then I went to varying between completely confused and borderline incensed, since there were several areas that just weren't making sense (I sat staring at the NE for what seemed like minutes thinking that I may have encountered the first entire corner that made one giant Natick).

It was also at FRANCESBEANCOBAIN that I finally figured out how to work the rebus in - although I passed by that answer half a dozen times, looking at it completely befuddled, before making the connect. I knew it was Frances Bean, but I couldn't figure out for the life of me how to fit it in. No possible rebus made sense. I had earlier thought of WESTORANGE (which of course also didn't fit normally), and finally got the idea of dropping in colors while reading the names of the countries.

After all that, I can't say that I liked it. Impressive, yes. The New York Yankees are impressive, too. Doesn't mean I like them.

In addition to a difficult theme to grasp, there indeed was a lot of tough fill. Impressively, not much crap. With one notable (and horrendous) example:

4D. Awful. How and where is a.m. ever used in the plural? Ante meridian is ante meridian. There aren't more than one, any more than English has multiple informations, luggages, researches, transportations, etc.

Even if I'm proven to be incorrect (I'm sure there's some example of the usage out there somewhere), it's still awful. Extremely forced.

(LABSITE is weird, too. But not offensively so. In fact, the NW is definitely the weakest corner of the puzzle.)

Noam D. Elkies 12:43 AM  

Yes, a challenging Sunday, but with a theme that's worth the extra work — and an end that easily justifies such unfortunate means as 48A:SAR, 62A:HEWABLE, 12:WIIG (some new Wii game?), and the stacking of 52D:ICET with 53D:[GREEN]T, plus all the other obscurities Rex listed (you know a pop-music name is obscure if it moves Rex to deride it with "Yes? No"). I did know 60A:ELECTRUM, a very distant etymological kin of "electron" (via electrum-colored amber and static electricity), and also 31D:SCARNE from the old "Scarne on Cards" book. But 22A:[FRANCE]SBEANCOBAIN? Thank goodness for crosses.

Apropos of flag crosses: there's way more theme answers than Rex lists; four times as many, in fact, since each of the flags generates three more — necessarily stacked! Cf. the frat puzzle of some months ago (Aug.2 '09, it turns out). No, wait, it's five times as many, because the country names appear too; plus the constructor even managed to have one theme country (19A:ROMANIA) fully stacked with a theme answer (22A), and another (75D:GUINEA) cross its own flag answer (80A:SAN[GUINEA]BOUT)!

The NYTimes crossword blog links to a graphic showing the completed puzzle with the relevant flags in full color. It also confirms that 29A is MESTIZOS, as in Rex's hand-written solved puzzle, not MESTIZAS as in the writeup (perhaps just a typo; it fits the clue too but "it's a last cause" wouldn't really work for 23D). You might also want to fill in square 38.

Some other nice clues: 6D:SNEEZES [first of 30 xwordinfo clues for SNEEZE(S) to go this way], 14D:ABACUSES [first appears of this plural]. Another first appearance, 5D:LABSITE, is not so nice: the LAB is already an "experiment place". But again a tough theme requires tough compromises.

Looking at the grid it's easy to read 95A as "goon strike", which isn't usually what's intended...


[captcha = queasom = a bit nauseated?]

lit.doc 1:07 AM  

OMG!! I didn’t see the improbable necessity of a rebus puzzle till I worked out SW. And even then, it took most of an hour for me to figure out how the crosses worked. WOW! BLUE+YELLOW+RED, the flag for 98A PY[ROMANIA]CS. Ok, I’m impressed.

Confirmation came with RED+YELLOW+GREEN, the flag for GUINEA (had only SAN[WTF?] before I figured out the rebus conceit).

@Rex, is the fact that 80A SAN[GUINEA]BOUT is crossed by 70D GUINEA while none of the other theme answers have a corresponding cross a (however venal) sin of inelegance? Whatever the case, thanks both for the consolation and the tweets. LOL.

Ok, an hour and a half in, with more than three-quarters of the grid done, I capitulated. 110A __G_[BLUE+RED+?]_AR BOOKS (blah blah YEAR BOOKS?) was as close as I’d gotten to another theme answer. Yikes.

To make a long puzzle short, DNF even googling with extreme prejudice. Just could not solve 106D __ED. Each white square represents one of my balls, handed to me by Francis Heaney. On a Sunday. But wow.

Ok, Rex has posted. Hmmm. Dang, screwed by a corrupted .pdf file. And DIGITAL YEARBOOKS?! WTF?

lit.doc 1:09 AM  

@NDE, maybe my brain is just worn out, but I can't figure out what you mean in your second paragraph. Explicate?

Anonymous 1:17 AM  

This puzzle is especially nice when the relevant squares are actually colored in, as in Orange's blog. There they are -- the flags! Lovely.


CoolPapaD 1:21 AM  

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful!

I found this fairly straight-forward in terms of difficulty, but easily one of the most memorable puzzles in ages. Dreaming up such a theme must be work enough, but to execute it so beautifully is nothing short of amazing, IMO.

Like Steve J, I knew 22A had to be FRANCES BEAN COBAIN, but had to wait until PYROMANIACS before understanding the theme, and from there, the theme was of great assistance in getting many of the unknowns. Having UNIS crossing FRANCE was also pretty cool!

After finishing, GREEN WHITE RED to tell anyone who would listen how wonderful this puzzle was!

syndy 1:22 AM  

Did the puzzle on line and being a tad dsylexic kept getting my whites and yellows mixed with some odd results til i found a piece of paper and started making lists.Miniitalyst is not a word! electrum was what the egyptians used to coat their needles(and other monuments)with.fun but more ars longa than presto!

jae 3:57 AM  

Yes amazing!! As Lafcadio suggested you should check out the grid on Amy's blog. I was annoyed with this until I figured it out. Brilliant and tough, HEWABLE describes it well. Nice write up Rex.

Bob Kerfuffle 7:34 AM  

Bravo, bravo, bravo, Francis Heaney!

What a marvelous puzzle! (I did this one at the beach yesterday, and was burning to say something about it in yesterday's comments, but I knew that would be bad form.)

Last Thursday I said I craved a rebus, and this filled that craving so well.

I started very slowly, of course, since a. I had no idea about FRANCES BEAN COBAIN, and her last name created the impossible answer WIIG, and b. 36 A seemed to come out as ACQUIRE even if I couldn't get the Downs to make sense.

But I took my time, made sure everything made sense, and finished with my only write-overs being the color names in 36 A.

JenCT 7:43 AM  

Like others, got the rebus at FRANCES BEAN COBAIN, but it didn't help me all that much.

Boo, hiss - don't like rebuses on a Sunday. Just sayin'.

Brendan Emmett Quigley 7:48 AM  

Saw this one in various stages while Francis was making it. Utterly loved it. One of those "wished-I'd-thought-of-that" themes. A+

Rex Parker 7:48 AM  

Yes, grid has MESTIZOS, and is correct. I fixed the write-up. Fact that I had MESTIZAS only confirms that I learned the word in some feminist studies class in college. ~RP

Leslie 8:18 AM  

HOLY COW, what a fabulous puzzle!! I'm so impressed, I'm just too gobsmacked to think of comments about particular words. Loved it. Wow!

My captcha word is "squeness." Seeing that "squee" has become the new online shorthand for squealing with delight, I'd say that this puzzle is total squeness!

DataGeek 8:24 AM  

SO much fun!! I loved this puzzle. Finished in about one hour. I ultimately had to Google OHMAGE to wrap up that corner, which coincidentally was the same corner where the light bulb went off at BIG YELLOW TAXI. Joni Mitchell was the anthem of my adolescence.

Thank you Ms. Heaney for a fantastic outing!

Oscar 9:08 AM  

Now *that's* a Sunday!

Loved it, and I hate nearly everything.

ArtLvr 9:19 AM  

Such intricacy in this concept is mind-boggling! Getting all those countries into the grid on top of the flag-color rebuses, egads. I'd DREDGEd AGAMAS, MESTIZOS and ELECTRUM from the depths, which helped, but the COBAIN and SHEB persons I have yet to look up.

The loftiness of the SISTINE Chapel, THE BARD, and ARS LONGA contrasted amusingly with OWIE, MUNCHY and that CALAMITOUS expression in the center, D'OH.

Did constructor Heaney's first name Francis inspire the whole thing? Congrats, wherever it came from!


HudsonHawk 9:29 AM  

Wow. I was surprised to finish without errors. My last entry was a very tentative PIED. PIED crossing KAPP, FERENGI, and DORSET--just brutal.

I knew something was up with ACQUIRE when the crosses wouldn't work. From there, things got easier.

Oh, and I love Kristen WIIG. Beautiful and hilarious. Well done, MR. Heaney.

Anonymous 9:45 AM  

I got 90% of the letters correct and obviously knew there was something going on with colors and countries and flags, but couldn't quite figure out how to work the rebus. What threw me was that I had pyROMANIAcs but had HIGHSCHOOLYEARBOOKS instead of DIGITALYEARBOOKS, which I've never heard of. I actually wrote down the letters HSCHOOLY in the margin and tried to make some sense of that.

JC66 10:03 AM  

As noted, Flag Day is celebrated on June 14th in the US, but on other dates in other countries around the world. Therefore, it seems to me that this fantastic puzzle may also be an homage to the World Cup, which began on Friday.

dk 10:05 AM  

I wish I could ENCODE or worked at NSA then I might have been able to finish this one. Envious of those who did.

Got the rebus with BIGYTAXI and MRB. It did not help.

Color me green with envy, yellow for peed off, along with black and blue: Call me Tanzania.

** (2 Stars) 2 obscure

For those who find that literature explains all -- see comparison of deep sea oil exploration and the hunting of a certain white whale in todays NYT.

retired_chemist 10:12 AM  

I noticed the rebus fairly early on, but it took me forever to understand how the colors were used. Once I did it still took a while because my cross-referencing is so slow.

That said, I think this is a masterpiece. The theme - outstanding. The fresh fill (AGAMAS, FERENGI, ARS LONGA, MESTIZOS....) was worth the modest number of crossowrdese/clunker answers required (RBI MEN, HEP, SAR, ELI, HEWABLE....).

It was be savored like a fine wine and not rushed through......

Anonymous 10:28 AM  

Too clever by half. Not the least bit enjoyable.

Meg 10:29 AM  

Once I got the idea, I thought this puzzle was a blast!! The colors gave me entries I didn't have and there were only 6 countries, so it wasn't that hard. Plus, figuring out just one color pretty much gave you the country.

A truly impressive construction!

I kept wondering how he was going to get ITALY in there since an adverb would have to be ITALLY. Marvelous!

Mel Ott 10:47 AM  

Loved it. Once I caught on that the rebus worked differently for the Downs and Acrosses, it was a bit of work, but interesting and fun.

One quibble: since I'm basically ignorant of pop culture, particularly show biz, 22A & 12D were a Natick for me. COBANN made just as much sense to me as COBAIN, and WING seemed a more plausible name for the actress than WIIG.

hazel 10:51 AM  

First off, let me echo the WOWs (WOW WOw Wow wow).

This is one of the most brilliant constructions I can ever remember seeing.

That didn't translate into it being one of the hardest, though - although I agree with @RC, it would have been hard to do quickly (non-issue for me). I just needed patience and a cheat sheet to keep track of everything - which I don't usually like to do. But this puzzle, such an an envelope pusher. No quibbling.

@DK (aka Tanzania) - FedEx is working overtime with those cranky pants - glad to see they've made their way back home to you. Also, I feel your puzzle envy.

Noam D. Elkies 10:54 AM  

@lit.doc: What I mean is that 22A:[FRANCE]SBEANCOBAIN also entails theme entries 1D:MR[BLUE], 2D:EB[WHITE], 3D:TI[RED], and — where is it? — ah oui, 90A:FRANCE. So a total of five theme entries per flag.


[captcha = equil = half a Yield sign, or still a long way from being in balance?]

Gareth Bain 11:01 AM  

Always amused as to how your difficulty descriptions rarely match my experience. Finished this in 20-odd seconds faster than average... but it seems I'm in the minority here...

Come from a country which has agamas (but no MESTIZOS, except for this month!), FERENGI was a gimme, pulled SCARNE out of some recess. No idea about WEST[ORANGE] or ALAN[WHITE] but they're both made of common words... KAPP was admittedly a complete mystery, but crossers solved it for me. What usually destroys me is American sports people (like yesterday's Mr. MONK) and there was none of that today (I think)... My hardest part was sorting out MALI vs. GUINEA's flags

But it was an A M A Z I N G multi-layered rebus, definitely one of the coolest Sunday's this year!

Oh and hi Rex and friends, usually read this side but only post on Amy's side...

r.alphbunker 11:05 AM  

This puzzle was like a camping trip with rain and bears and other misadventures. Not too much fun while it was happening but a source of bragging rights in the future.

Had "wall" instead of "wal[green]" for the drugstore eponym and was trying to get the third color into 73D instead. I almost hit the wall on that one!

Aratorb 11:05 AM  

Hard to resist the temptation to Google, but felt compelled to persevere and was rewarded in the end. The crosses were brutal; but, with one exception, I managed to puzzle them out. Crossing names are a pet peeve, but that's what Google is for, I suppose.

All in all, outstanding puzzle -- I agree with Rex that this is the hardest, yet most rewarding Sunday puzzle I've ever seen (and that goes back over 50 years)

David L 11:29 AM  

Started out thinking this would be pretty easy sailing, then became perplexed, then annoyed, then finally saw the light -- PYROMANIAC was the one I saw first -- then finished in a state of lingering resentment.

Ingenious construction, yes, but that doesn't mean it's a great puzzle. Having to search back through the clues to find the country corresponding to the list of colors in order to fill in the required answer -- tedious, not fun. Like the late novels of Henry James, this is one to be admired more than enjoyed.

Blue Stater 11:53 AM  

Utterly nuts. A tour de force for, say, Games magazine? Absolutely. Even remotely suitable for a general-circulation newspaper? Absolutely not.

Norm 11:59 AM  

Intricate, enjoyable, and frustrating. I guess the Naticks are excusable but they seriously detracted from the pleasure of an intriguing puzzle. Can't decide whether to give it one star or five.

Doris 12:01 PM  

A propos of nothing in particular, Duane Reade has recently been ACQUIRED by Walgreen's. They're keeping the DR name, however. For out-of-towners, Duane Reade gets its name from the original store, which was at the intersection of Duane and Reade Streets, in Lower Manhattan. I know you all needed to know this.

Anonymous 12:04 PM  

So much fun! Like some others I knew it had to rebus-y with Frances Bean, and I knew all the flags right away except the African ones, but I still didn't make the connection until the Joni Mitchell clue. Actually surpised myself... My time was a good 5 minutes faster than my normal Sundays, but I guess I got lucky knowing at least half of the double-name crosses today.

Fred 12:04 PM  

Impressively clever, I suppose, but not the least bit fun. Maybe I'm just less of puzzle person, but it's been awhile since I actively disliked a Sunday crossword this much.

CoolPapaD 12:09 PM  

@DataGeek- Francis Heaney is a Mr. My friend Kathy went to high school with him, and told me he is among the funniest people she's ever known. He's also a top finisher at the ACPT.

Unknown 12:14 PM  

I get surly when I waste time on a puzzle like this. In fairness, I was warned on Wordplay yesterday, so I should have just passed it by. The construction is brilliant, but the rebus/color thingy is better left for Friday. I'd rather do a Quigley, with all it's attendant pop culture music and tech cluing. You either know the answer, or hope that you can get it with the crosses, but HEY!, that's just me.

That being said, I'm with @SteveJ, the first poster. I haven't even bothered to read the rest of the posts yet, because I'm really pissed off right now. I don't mind gimmickry on late week puzzles. Most of the time,I grudgingly accept a rebus, and sometimes even enjoy them. However, I'm a purist, and I like to relax with a Sunday puzzle. The constructor can make it as difficult as he or she likes, but save the mind bending crap. I knew it was a rebus puzzle right away, because 1D had to be MRBLUE. I wasn't sure how that was going to work into the theme, but I thought it would all come together after I had most of the fill in. I did about two thirds of the puzzle, and seeing ROMANIA in PYROMANIAC just muddled things further. That's when I really started to get aggravated.

I'll feel better, after I do the LA Times daily and Sunday, and likewise the Washington post. Plus, I still have B.E.Q.'s Friday in my mail box.

After that, I'll turn on the Tiger/Pirate game, open a beer, and come back here to read the comments and unwind.

I already feel better. Ranting is so cathartic.

Kudos to Francis and Will, but I don't enjoy having this type of puzzle on Sunday. That's what Thursday, Friday and Saturday are for.

Unknown 12:25 PM  

By FAR the best puzzle in ages. I thought only Patrick Berry was capable of creating such clever, delightful, enjoyable crosswords. Thank you, Francis. This ranks up there with Patrick's New Year's day chess crossword (from several years ago). I had so much fun this morning... this is why I keep my subscription to the Sunday Times.

Jeffrey 12:36 PM  

This has to rank as one of the all-time best puzzles. Remarkable!

I started with "listing countries by flag colour" - stupidist theme ever - thoughts and then had one of my biggest a-ha! moments.


Jeffrey 12:36 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Masked and Anonymous 1:08 PM  

Arggh...rebus. My brain just don't function right, when one of those dudes is hangin' over me. Mind was mush by the time I got to 74-D, and desperately chucked in NOKIsS, which seemed logical. Then wondered what the heck 97-A's ENCOsES was. Decided it had to be ENCasES. Then was alarmed to be lookin' down the barrel of 94-D's famous "My momma done TaL me". (Somethin' to do with a former chess champ's old lady, I posited while pathetically gaspin' and wheezin'. Or maybe there's one of them rebus infections there. Or maybe I'm just dumb...) Bah.

Doug 1:12 PM  

I had the first step of the rebus at 1-3D, but didn't consider the possibility of an extra step until I was properly ticked off and had no quiet time to finish it properly.

But having said that, it's uber-clever and fits the World Cup theme nicely, albeit without matching countries. If he'd done that, well, words couldn't describe.

Doug 1:17 PM  

And I guess I should point out that green tea is absolutely NOT part of Cantonese dim sum. It could be, in the same way a scotch on the rocks COULD be part of a candlelit Italian meal.

Clue should have been "Drink with sushi," but in the big picture I guess we all get it. After years of people asking me if spoke Japanese when they found out I lived in Hong Kong, I'm used to it!

Rex Parker 1:26 PM  

Most mail I get is nice. Today I've gotten several messages like this:

"Wow! You have really terrible handwriting. It made today's puzzle even more annoying."

I just write back "You're welcome."


Shamik 1:39 PM  

LOL!!! I am so loving everyone's comments today. There isn't a single "meh" in the bunch. Haven't seen such a polarizing puzzle in awhile and am loving every second of it.

Challenging for me at 36:23 for a Sunday and I still got one square wrong. Had INVITES as in "invites trouble" for provokes because John SCARNE could have been John SVARNE as far as I knew.

But this is what I remember Sundays being about when I was first solving NYT puzzles only on Sundays: challenging, thought provoking, maddening, enjoyable.

Had most of the countries and then some of the colors for the rebus in, but couldn't get that it was the reference back to the letters of the country name until the DIGITALYEARBOOKS. Lots of different fill that are almost never seen: PRESTO, FERENGI, DORSET, ELECTRUM, AGAMAS. Didn't even mind seeing the usual crosswordese DOH, EMO, ORE, etc.

Brilliant! Brilliant! Brilliant!

Sparky 1:53 PM  

DNF-what else? It was hard Yesterday the Times was not delivered so I didn't receive the Sunday Magazine. Tday it wasn't in there either. So I finally down loaded Across Lite and I printed it out. Managed to figure out putting in the color names but nver did realize the country names were in the acrosses. Sigh, boo hoo. Went back to Across Lite and can't figure out how to put in the color names. I think I'll take a little nap. Now, wnere's my teddy bear? Congrats to all who finished.

Rod 2:15 PM  

I'm 58 and have been doing NYT puzzes for years and I believe this is THE most brilliant puzzle I've ever, ever, EVER seen. When I "got" the hook, I literally stood up and laughed. It is absolutely brilliant. Congratulations Francis. Truly remarkable!!

Steve J 2:17 PM  

@Rex: If you ever want to respond to comments about your handwriting with something truly atrocious, I'm more than happy to send you one of my completed puzzles.

Looking at this one a day later, I'm probably even more impressed by what BLUEWHITEREDs Heaney pulled off. It really looks great when you see a version that has the flags colored in (it would have been great to have a note suggesting that, but that probably would have tipped off the theme).

But I still can't make up my mind if I actually liked solving this. It's like a Mies van der Rohe building: I appreciate the architectural theory and technique behind it, but it doesn't necessarily grab me emotionally. Which is fine. I'm really glad that there are van der Rohe buildings out there, and I'm glad that people try to push crosswords in impressive directions like this.

Clark 2:27 PM  

Semi-puzzle partner and I both worked on this, and we shared notes. I'm not sure I would have gotten this on my own (within the time allotted to us finite creatures).

Trying to figure out the trick based on MINI[MALI]STS had me thinking it was some two-letter rebus. Gack. But having D[RED]GE tipped me off, since I knew that RED had to end in Y to make YEARBOOK. Then it all fell into place. Awesome puzzle.

edmcan 2:46 PM  

I agree with everyone! Caught the rebus at Frances Bean, but I realize that my flag knowledge is risible. Daunting but enjoyable.

Anonymous 2:48 PM  

Well your handwriting is not all that legible and TODAY would have been THE day to have it so.

This has got to be the worst puzzle I have encountered from Shortz & of course I hated it...
so I go to your blog to fill in
the numerous blanks & find out what the theme is....grr...not a Happy Sunday.

Unknown 3:07 PM  

Uncle....I totally went down in defeat. I hate myself for giving up but the frustration was really getting to me.

lit.doc 3:24 PM  

@Anon 2:48, Rex's handwriting is a helluva lot more legible than is your identity. Fly your flag if you're proud of your anthem.

Leslie 3:29 PM  

Rex, those comments about your printing are laughable. They should see my husband's handwriting; it started going downhill when he was a grad student and is now almost completely illegible. Yours isn't pretty?? Fine, but it IS perfectly legible.

It would be interesting to see all the different ways the paper and pencil solvers filled in the rebus squares. I filled in the clue number and letter, e.g. "90A" in the top of the square, and then squashed in the name of the color, like the whole word "green," underneath that. So in my puzzle, you can see all of MR. BLUE for 1D, but you can't see FRANCES BEAN COBAIN for 22A. Just couldn't figure out a way to make both directions show.

I'm really surprised at all the people who hated this puzzle. Wow.

Oh, and one more thing I was kind of surprised by, and was too blown away by the puzzle's entirety to mention earlier: the word MESTIZOS. My impression was that "mestizos" was nowadays seen as a pretty offensive term, with the same denotation and negative connotation as "half-breed." But nobody here has mentioned it, so maybe I'm wrong on that.

Rex Parker 3:32 PM  

I think there are those who don't realize that clicking on the grid image actually makes it much bigger (i.e. more legibile)— maybe I should have a note saying as much. Maybe *this* is that note.


Stan 3:42 PM  

Fantastic puzzle. Some obscure fill but the innovative theme more than makes up for it. Kudos!

15 overt music clues added to the fun.

hazel 4:03 PM  

Good grief, @whiners. The puzzle is completely legible. It is admittedly not as beautiful as the grid display over at Wordplay site, but we don't come here for the answers, we come here for Rex's opinion on the puzzle, and also to see what others in the community have to say. Grow up!

It is HOT HOT HOT in Georgia today. Nothing to do but watch the Braves and Troy Glaus is rocking it today!!!!!

Anonymous 4:06 PM  

Three hours, and I don't regret a minute of it,

Thank you, Francis Heaney!

chefwen 4:22 PM  

I can't remember the last time I had so much fun on a Sunday. Took me a long time to get through it but that made it even more enjoyable. Absolutely brilliant!!!

I also got the rebus with Frances Bean Cobain. Who would saddle their kid with BEAN as part of her name?

@lit.doc - Thanks for the extra 10 degrees, they arrived this morning along with the sun. You work wonders!

R. McGeddon 4:39 PM  

This puzzle is a masterpiece, the cleverest I can remember doing, ever.

retired_chemist 5:01 PM  

@ anon 4:06 -

what were you and Francis Heaney DOING for three hours?

PuzzleNut 5:07 PM  

Absolutely incredible!! I took the further step of looking up each of the country flags and checked that the colors were correct (naturally), but what really blew me away is that the colors were also in the correct order as they appear on each flag!!!!!
This didn't look like it would be that tough at first as I don't mind skipping over uncertain answers the first time through. Got most of the countries from crosses but took a while to get the rebuses.
Made an error that I hadn't seen posted yet that threw me off for a while. My first rebus was SNO(RED) and I figured that all the rebuses would be (RED). BIG(RED)TAXI didn't sound right, but (RED)SMEN seemed possible, so I kept looking for places to put (RED). The crosses didn't make much sense, but I let it pass for the time being. Thought better of this plan when I worked the NW and next concluded that the rebuses were all (R)(W)(B) in some order. Even that didn't solve all my problems. Finally caught on when I saw that ROMANIA fit perfectly in PY___CS and that (B)(Y)(R) matched the flag colors!! Doh - should have seen it earlier, but it was almost too hard to believe that the puzzle could be that creative.
A few very minor nits, but nothing to take away from this masterpiece. Needed a lot of crosses to finish, but eventually got it all right (with a few reasonable guesses).

joho 5:11 PM  

I'm late to the party today for several reasons. One really important one being how long it took to me find my AHA! moment. I thought the bike ride would have moved my brain into gear, but no. It took me forever to figure this out even when I got the colors at BIGYELLOWTAXI. It finally fell into place at ACQUIRELAND. AHA!!!!

Oh, how I loved this puzzle! @Shamik, to your point, I remember when this is exactly what a Sunday puzzle was all about. This is everything rolled into one .. this is the quintessential Sunday puzzle! Oh, and somebody mentioned Patrick Berry, I'd also like to add Elizabeth C. Gorski as a Sunday puzzle maven. This kind of creativity is so rare. Thank you, Francis Heaney!

@Hudson Hawk, I agree with you that Kristen WIIG is brilliant! @Noam D.Elkie take note, you will laugh your head off.

I hereby nominate this puzzle for an ORYX. Second, anyone?

Tinbeni 5:17 PM  

Six of the most boring National Flags on the planet.

I'll stick with our beautiful Stars and Stripes.

Falconer 5:26 PM  

Fantastic puzzle -- a twisted rebus. Loved everything about it. Clever, amusing, educational, hard but gettable, a voyage of discovery. Bravo to Mr Heaney!

PuzzleGirl 5:41 PM  

I can't rave about this puzzle enough. Absolutely brilliant. Loved every minute of it!

Leslie 6:13 PM  

What, Rex, you didn't realize that solvers' happiness (or not) with the puzzle is your responsibility?? Wake up, man! ;-)

Three and out.

The Big E 6:33 PM  

@Doris - actually, the store was located on Broadway between Duane and Reade - the two streets run parallel and hence never intersect! :-)
Best puzzle I've had the pleasure of doing in a long time!

mac 7:00 PM  

Once or twice a year we get an amazing Sunday puzzle, and here we go! The layers just kept piling up.

It was an odd solving experience for me, with lots of easy clues/answers, then inexplicable holes..... It took me a while on the 1, 7, 7 again and N train in NY, and I had to sit down and really figure it out when I got home.

@Gareth Bain: your country is doing a beautiful job hosting the World Cup! I also felt the flags reminded me of this event. Have to get up early tomorrow, my team is playing at 7.30.

michael 7:47 PM  

This puzzle is, of course, an astonishingly clever creation. Stilll, I didn't enjoy it as much as many of you. It took me a long time (too long) to figure out the theme. But then I realized I would have to cross-check the flag answers I already had and by that time (like another poster I'll attribute this to my morning long bike ride) I just lacked the energy to do this. And all of this wasn't helped by my handwriting, which is a lot worse than Rex's, especially when I try to squeezed words like "yellow" and"green" into tiny squares.

What can I say -- I do the puzzles in pen on paper, and this didn't help me today.

Anonymous 11:22 PM  

Although the puzzle was difficult, it was doable for me. Sometimes I'll put down (for good) a hard Sunday puzzle down if it has too much trivia. But this one was packed with challenge not trivia. Very nice! When I saw that the flag color order was repeated in the rebus, I just about fell over. How hard is that!?!


G.M. Hopkins 12:39 AM  

Pied Beauty

Glory be to God for dappled things—
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise him.

Jeff Chen 12:50 AM  

Second on the ORYX! Wow, not only am I extremely impressed with the incredible feat of construction, the "aha" moment after the "WTF is up with all these flags; what a dull theme" train of thought was a thrill.


The Big E 8:28 AM  

I woke up Monday morning thinking, "when will I enjoy another Times puzzle as much as this one? Have I been spoiled forever? Is this week going to be utterly heart-wrenching for me??? Francis Heany and Will Shortz, what (granted, potentially) have you wrought???

miriam b 1:53 PM  

This puzzle made my day. I use colored pens to plan quilt designs, and these were pressed into service in solving this amazing tour de force. Lie many others, I can't say enogh in praise of Mr. Heaney's feat.

retam: To replace one's Scots headgear

Anonymous 1:26 PM  

What a bunch of whiners! This was a great puzzle and it looks 10x better if you color in the squares. Should have done that Rex.

Jim H

Anonymous 7:52 PM  

Liked the puzzle Irritated with sounded like a fan but answer whirr was in present tense

nurturing 11:57 PM  

@Anonymous above:
...and then you found out that is wasn't, right?

I Like Classical Music 9:48 AM  

I know P. Glass is, together with S. Reich, responsible for the Minimalist movement in classical music, so when I got to his clue, I knew there were rebuses in the puzzle (since the answer HAD to be minimalist). Looking specifically for rebuses, I figured out quite easily from the down clues that they were colors. It was then obvious that each of the across clues that had three colors referred to some other across clue that would include the three colors as a rebus. Interestingly, even when I found the across rebus locations and filled in the colors, I remained puzzled about how to read the across clue.

As far as I can remember, this is my favorite theme of any crossword puzzle I have ever done. This after the previous two weeks' theme which I disliked a great deal.

About the relative difficulty of the puzzle: since I figured out the rebus theme easily, I found the puzzle easier than most Sunday puzzles.

Anonymous 12:32 PM  

Though it was an accomplished construction, this type of puzzle does not fall into what I consider the definition of a 'crossword' puzzle. Not enjoyable.

Anonymous 1:14 AM  

Grant Edwards in Portland, Ore. here, haven't left a comment in ages since I'm in syndication (though I read Rex's blog every day, and have done so since the beginning.)

This is the best Sunday puzzle ever. Haven't enjoyed a construction this much since the Saturday boustrophedon a couple years ago. I got the theme with MINIMALISTS/MALI (though the FRANCE thing clued me into shenanigans.) EVERY theme answer was brilliant, and the triple-checking was just...astounding. I'm framing this puzzle. I had pens available in rainbow colors and filled in the flag colors in either tops or bottoms of squares, with the countries written in above/below them nevermind square divisions...it's a beautiful thing.


Having been a chemistry major, ELECTRUM and METALS were gimmies. IMO not a clunker in this puzzle. And if there were one, who cares? This is why I do these things.

Any curmudgeons out there who didn't appreciate this work of art...find another hobby. This made my week. BRAVO.

RK 7:59 AM  

Sorry. I'm a crusty purist.It's a crossword puzzle.What's next? The Table of Elements? And..I live in West Orange.

jpChris 2:47 PM  

117D: Slo-*moa*? What am I missing?

Matt 11:25 PM  

Well, I'm a week late for even syndication. I would have been sooner, but I got bored and forgot to finish it until today. (June 22). Yeah, it's clever. So clever it's impossible to fill out so anyone else can pick up the paper and read the answers without saying wtf.

I didn't get the theme until 98A, but I had already decided it was something weird and put the first letters of each color from the downs in and circled them.

I didn't find it that hard, as most of the odd stuff was familiar to me. Electrum from old D&D and Ferengi from ST. A geek's puzzle I guess.

Anonymous 8:04 AM  

I've never posted before, but this puzzle, which I did using colored pens for the flags, prompts me to thank Mr. Heany for letting us appreciate what an art form a beautiful rebus puzzle can be.

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