Octopussy setting / THU 6-10-10 / Title first used Simeon I of Bulgaria / Question asked in foggy state / Bill with picture of Ben

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Constructor: Mike Nothnagel

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: POINT BLANK CHECK POINT — Theme answers are phrased as equations,
one answer in grid + another answer in grid, such that clues end up being, in order: [POINT BLANK] (20A: EXTREMELY CLOSE), [BLANK CHECK] (36A: UNLIMITED BUDGET), and [CHECK POINT] (49A: INSPECTION SPOT)

Word of the Day: "I SPY" (8D: Best-selling children's book series by Walter Wick and Jean Marzollo) —

I Spy is a children's book series with texts written by Jean Marzollo based on photographs by Walter Wick published by Scholastic Press. The books are named after the I spy guessing game. // The typical I Spy book contains photographs of an array of items, either in massive clutter, or set up to portray a scene, such as a haunted house. Below each picture is a riddle that asks the reader to search for specific items or words spelled out within the photo. (wikipedia)

• • •

I have a dentist's appointment at 7:30 a.m. (!?!?!) this morning, so I'm writing this the night before, and it'll have to be quick. I'm an early-to-bed, early-to-riser as well as a don't-&$^%-with-my-sleep-scheduler," so ... to the puzzle! Feels like ages since I've seen a Nothnagel puzzle. His return is a happy, if easy, EVENT (30D: Eclipse, e.g.) — speaking of EVENT, my first on that clue was CHEVY. My next was something having to do with the "Twilight" sequel. But no, just ... an EVENT. A lot of the cluing was like that today: short and ambiguous. [Lot] for KISMET, for example, or [Skinny] for INFO, or [Hoops] for B-BALL (I got that last one instantly — not so INFO). The word circle cluing is pretty ingenious, even if the answers they clue aren't barn-burners. Grid is super-clean and inventive. "WHERE AM I? EAST BERLIN!? Crap. Do I at least get to meet Octopussy?" Something about SUGAR SPOON amuses me (29D: Tea service accessory). It's such an arbitrary, unassuming, practical object. Like a prop in a play. An Oscar Wilde play. It classes up the joint.

I blew through the grid at first. AFEW to FLAX to ABLE to BLAH to LASE to EAST BERLIN (3D: "Octopussy" setting) in no time flat. Trouble getting REACT, for some reason (25A: Not be deadpan). I was thinking of the person delivering the jokes, not watching them. Needed a nudge or two to get "I SPY" (just typoed "I SPAY" ... now there's an add-a-letter theme waiting to happen ...). Nothing else presented much of a problem. Hardest part was probably just getting to POINT, which has a weeeird clue (61A: "Don't ___!"). I mean, that could've been anything, and even with P--NT, I wasn't sure. DON'T PRINT!? DON'T PAINT!?

Theme answers:
  • 20A: 61-Across + 9-Across (EXTREMELY CLOSE)
  • 36A: 9-Across + 26-Down (UNLIMITED BUDGET)
  • 49A: 26-Down + 61-Across (INSPECTION SPOT)
  • 5A: Auckland native, informally (KIWI) — I married one. A Dunedin native, technically.

  • 24A: Rock grp. once promoted as "the English guys with the big fiddles" (ELO) — there's an ELO clue I've never seen before.
  • 35A: Sch. whose Board of Visitors once included presidents Madison and Monroe (UVA) — wanted EVENT, and used this to confirm the "V"
  • 55A: Bill with a picture of Ben (C-NOTE) — More "letter-word" slang (see B-BALL). Nice.
  • 51D: Title first used by Simeon I of Bulgaria (CZAR) — dang, it's trivia day down on the old crossword farm. ELO, UVA, and now CZAR get tricked out "Did you know...?"-type clues.
  • 32D: Amazing Stories, e.g. (PULP) — Yay! Got this instantly, as I have a thing for PULPS. I teach stories from PULPs in my crime fiction class. I'm giving a keynote address in October about PULP fiction (and the sensational mass-market paperbacks that followed). Right up / down my alley.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


PurpleGuy 12:22 AM  

Rex, your write up was spot on. Made me laugh tonight. Glad I didn't have to wait until morning to read it. I also needed help with I SPY. Loved your typo "I SPAY." Not sure I would like to see that heme happen.
"Octopussy" was a great Bond movie. Maude Adams was Octopussy, and the theme was sung by Rita Coolidge. If I knew how to embed, I'd link the video.
SUGARSPOON definitely classes up the place.

WHEREAMI ? In EASTBERLIN with OCTOPUSSY on an UNLIMITEDBUDGET. Quite an EVENT, especially at the INSPECTIONSTATION, where her SUGARSPOON was counterfeit. A CNOTE to the guard kept us from going down the TUBE. It was EXTREMELYCLOSE. We celebrated our victory with Prosciutto di PARMA and champagne !

It's been a long and trying day. Indulge me !
Yes, I had a really enjoyable time with this puzzle. Very clean, and the clues were just quirky enough.
Biblical shout out to my brother ABEL. Even though I'm the one who killed him. That's why I don't have an avatar of my face. The mark of Cain ;)

Happy Thursday to all !!!!!!!!!


Bob/ PurpleGuy

lit.doc 1:18 AM  

Like it or not, this is the most amazing interlocked answer / cross-ref’d clue puzzle I’ve ever seen. I can hardly believe I got through it. Done with no googles or errors in juuuust under an hour which, sad to say, confirms Rex’s Easy rating.

In N, the key was changing my 15A coin-toss VOWS to I DOS. In central W, 32D “Amazing Stories” = PULP came slowly because all I could think of was Spielberg’s TV series from back in the ‘80s. Never heard of the mag.

Because of the clueing for 20A and 49A, the solve seemed to hang on sussing 61A, where I had P__N_ for the longest time. PANIC was appealing, but 43D HASTEN seemed solid. Eventually wallowed my way to POINT, and all was done but the center.

Eventually started to question what had seemed to be the unimpeachable 26D “Got it” = ROGER, on which 36A and 49A hung. When I had all but dead center, I erased both ROGER and 33A MOVED, which also worked with 22D CELEB and 34D DUMP ON. Bingo—saw CHECK, and the rest of the squares fell.

Steve J 1:52 AM  

Struggled through this more than I probably should have. There were several cases where what came to mind were logical but incorrect answers, and my mind just didn't want to move on from those.

PANIC instead of POINT was the biggest example, but there were a few others (DEMEAN for DUMPON was a particularly persistent speed bump).

While I didn't find the actual theme answers all that exciting, I liked the concept a lot. One case where cross-referenced clues not only weren't annoying, but were quite enjoyable.

One question: Shouldn't "count" in the clue for 16A have been capitalized? After all, I'm pretty sure he wasn't an actual count.

syndy 1:54 AM  

My favorite answer was 48d "OGLED" what a body builder can be :shame it was wrong and I really wanted blank verse to show up. Not fond of "NOTE" clued as "BILL" Sugar spoon is classy but not as classy as sugar tongs!

fikink 2:16 AM  

@Syndy - Loved ogled for OILED - that would have made me smile "broad-ly"!

Mike Nothnagel always brings to mind one of Ulrich's WOTD:
A Notnagel (lit. "emergency nail" or "nail in need") is an iron nail carried by firefighters of old—to be used when an escape from an upper floor through the interior was blocked: It could be hammered into an outside window or door frame so that a rope could be put through the hole, allowing the endangered firefighter to rappel down to safety. Now used to indicate a last-minute substitute or remedy, a stopgap solution. (He even has a dynamite picture of same at his site.)

BTAIM [be that as it may], this was a cool puzzle with wonderful cluing - and the best Big Ten team going, the IOWA Hawkeyes. YES!

Really liked those which Rex POINTed out - BBALL, INFO, CHECK. KISMET.

I HASTEN to add that my ill-SPENT youth sometimes involved a KEG and the COPs.

Way to be, Mike!

lit.doc 2:29 AM  

@Steve J, I also wondered if that misdirection on 16A crossed the line. It's capital-C Count Basie. Maybe the resident constructors will weigh in on this one.

andrea i michaels 4:13 AM  

Love when Rex posts the night before so I'm not the last to ring in...
and I love Mike Nothnagel, or should I say "I" love him, as in "ILIKE", "IDOS", "ISPY", "NOTI" and "WHEREAMI?"

I I I...was IOWA originally IOWE?!

Hmmm, it's Mike Nothnagel, Mike Nothnagel = genius, so I guess it must be Intentional, right? But not I-deal.

Malapop: TALE
(which gave me ATAD for 1A...but after that false start the rest was e-z)

And ya gotta love KISMET, no?

Greene 4:40 AM  

Add me to the chorus of praise for this puzzle which I found clever, fun, and beautifully executed. I didn't even mind the pesky cross-cluing, probably because the theme was so ingenious and well thought out. Agree with Rex that the theme answers didn't have a lot of sparkle and snap, but it didn't matter in the slightest. Level of difficulty seemed just right for a Thursday too. I was greatly entertained.

I had the same thought as others about the need for a capital C in the clue for 16A. Of course, this would have given the answer away immediately. As it was, I had to wait for a cross or two before writing in BASIE.

Loved how the possible equivical use of capital letters played out in other clues such as 5D where I first thought of Lot as a biblical character and 55A where I first thought that Bill referred to an actual person. I found all this playful and fun and it only made me enjoy the puzzle even more.

Great start to my Thursday morning. Way to go Mike!

@Rex: Good luck at the dentist. Hope there's no problems for you there.

@Andrea: I too love KISMET, both the word and the musical show.

edith b 6:52 AM  

I posted this late last night but for those who missed it:

I told my friends back in NY that I was part of an online community that discussed crossword puzzles. I could tell by the way they "patted me on the head" that they were dubious to say the least.

To all the people on this blog who one, noticed I was missing and two, made it a point to welcome me "home", I am deeply appreciative.

My capcha? kingame. How fitting!

Oscar 7:09 AM  


Leslie 7:21 AM  

Rex, thanks for clarifying I SPY. I was mulling over "Ispy," wondering who he or she or it was. Something small and wispy.

Man, I'm loving everyone's alternative 61A suggestions. Mine was "blink," because I got 20A before getting 61A, and I thought maybe EXTREMELY CLOSE might refer to how close BLANK and "blink" were.

jesser 8:22 AM  

@Rex: 7:30 a.m. in the morning? Irregardless, you should check your hot-water heater before you go! Just kiddin', big guy! Hope the appt goes well, and you get a gold star for no cavities!

The puzzle: I freakin' LOVED 12D, and I'm guessing almost everyone here got it from the crosses. An avid pocket billiards player, I plopped it right in with a grin as wide as a Snooker table.

Only writeover was in the fourth square of 23A, because I thought her name was Elaine BENiS. KISMET came to the rescue (as it often does).

I almost certainly would have had a writeover at 51D, but I'd already entered ZULU at 56A, so I knew that we were once again playing Pick A Way To Spell Despots. I no LIKE.

Overall, I thought the theme was nigh on brilliant, and the puzzle was just great fun all the way through. Few ODORS? CHECK!

Happy Thursday, Rexites!

Humaf! (It was late at the Karaoke bar and the poor drunken guy passed out trying to remember a song. I suspect that he was gonna say 'hum a few bars,' but his noggin knocked the microphone over before he could finish.) -- jesser

JayWalker 8:23 AM  

What else can be said - ME TOO!! I really had a great time this morning. Clever cluing. Lovely and funny gimmick. Good fill for such a complicated grid. Really LOVED it. Wish I'd thought of "ogled!!!!" Bravo Syndy. The clear atmosphere of "good humor" in this mornings blogs tells the true tale of this puzzles impact. Thank you Mr. Nothnagel!!

Ramona Clef 8:31 AM  

I had never encountered Snick and snee so that messed me up in the southeast corner. I've got it now! Enjoyable puzzle.

joho 8:44 AM  

I did this last night and was, like others, at first put off by the cross cluing until I got into it. It went surprisingly smoothly and I enjoyed the ride.

I love the newness of the concept. The only thing that seemed slightly off is that the clued phrases are more memorable as phrases than the answers. But even that reversal made the puzzle that more unexpected.

Mike Nothnagel ... more!!!

Jo 8:46 AM  

Nice puzzle, dozed off over it on account of early rising; cat awoke me, no help with puzzle. One mistake left in SE, not to be revealed - too embarrassing.

Zeke 8:46 AM  

Point Blank Range doesn't, or didn't originaly, mean extremely close. There are in fact two Point Blank Ranges for any gun. The Point Blank Range is where the projectile and the sight line cross. All guns, cannons, artillery, have sights above the projectile path, varying from a fraction of an inch to several feet. The sight line is perfectly straight, the projectile moves along a parabola, starting below the sightline, rising above it, then falling below it. When these two paths intersect you have Point Blank Range. One should sight in their gun so that the far point blank range is the expected target range.
Crime TV writers don't seem to know this.

Leslie 8:53 AM  

Zeke, that is really interesting and something I'd never heard before. Huh.

Rex Parker 8:54 AM  

Kinda nice to have the scraping and bleeding and rinsing over by 8:30am, I have to say. People are googling for ["Octopussy" setting] like crazy. I would have thought just having the EAST would have allowed for effective educated guessing. . . Internets erode patience, make lazy.

Hope your weather is as glorious as mine. Breakfast then woods. With dogs. Later.


dk 9:00 AM  

@Jesser, Smothers Brother's joke - Tommy, sing a few bars! "Soap, Soap, Soap"

Just saw Invictus (great Eastwood film) so the All Blacks Haka and KIWI were top of mind. USA World cup on Saturday see it in the closest thing to an English/Irish Pub you've got. It may bring you new meaning to REACT.

Vows for IDOS and a confident UNLIMITEDAMOUNT trimmed more than a few NSECs off my time.

DUMPON - back so soon

ISPY is a TV show with Robert Culp and Bill (jello) Cosby in this boomers mind.

**** (4 Stars) Gotta use them before Hazel gets here :). Thanks Mike A Rescue tool by any other name...

Secret word: vased - the past tense of vase

David L 9:05 AM  

Am I being too fussy in thinking that INSPECTIONSPOT doesn't sound like a phrase that's really used? I would say INSPECTIONPOINT, but of course POINT is already in there. Inspection spot sounds too casual -- like the security people just wandered around for a while and said, hey, this looks like a decent place to set up our metal detectors and X ray machines, let's make this the inspection spot.

Other than that, nice puzzle!

mitchs 9:08 AM  

Didn't much like how general the clues were for EVENT and POINT, but they were gettable from the crosses, so that's pretty nit picky given a puzzle that was a fun solve with incredible construction.

Oscar Madison 9:10 AM  

I liked the puzzle "a lot" except for "a lot" to mean "kismet." Who says "a lot in life"? Why not "one's lot"?

foodie 9:42 AM  

Wonderful puzzle! I wanted DEMEAN at first but knew that Nothnagel would not cross DEMEAN with MEANS, so I replaced it with DUMP ON right off. See what one learns around here!

@Rex, you wrote: "Internets erode patience, make lazy." I was talking yesterday with a colleague who studies evolutionary medicine and we were saying that internet is to mental health what a supermarket is to physical health-- it make things too accessible and renders you psychologically flabby.

@Purple Guy, loved your Purple PULP.

@ Andrea, I shared your malapop. Speaking of which, I think Kismet comes from the Arabic word for "share" or "portion", as in your share in life. So, "lot" is literally the perfect clue. Genius, as you say!

Anonymous 9:52 AM  

had a good time with this one. thursday puzzles seem to be fun like a carnival...always some twist that makes it enjoyable.

i only take exception to "INSPECTION SPOT." seems very inelegant to me...the word "spot" seems so general and unofficial, like "thingy," or "doohickey," or "whatsis." i imagine a police chief telling his policemen to set up an "inspection spot," and one of the policemen wondering which spot exactly...after pulling them over with that "radar gizmo."

seemed like "check point" would be the answer to the clue "inspection spot."

that's just me and it was a small deal...the puzzle was interesting over all.

hazel 10:02 AM  

@Jay Walker - what a nice thought - to think that a puzzle can put a widely dispersed puzzling community all in a good humor. I like it!

It was another astonishingly easy solve for me - I did it in the middle of the night when I couldn't sleep so my theory on coffee has been dispelled.

Such an elegant construction. WHERE AM I xing EXTREMELYCLOSE. UNLIMITED BUDGET xing ILIKE. and INSPECTIONSPOT xing that OILED bodybuilder (OgLED - good one, @Syndy!)

Lots and lots to like about this puzzle.

Martin 10:04 AM  

The Times style guide insists that titles are capitalized only when used as titles. Thus, it's President Obama, the president.

Count Basie is thus the jazz count.

It's a good opportunity to remember that WS is constrained by the Times manual of style for all clues. As a Times editor, his clues are considered copy. (He can ignore the style guide for puzzle entries.) In this case, the style guide was an enabler.

foodie 10:05 AM  

@Edith B, I just read your comment from last night. Glad you're back and in good health! We missed you and your neons.

re Kismet: I wanted to add that the full expression is "Kismet and Nasseeb"-- i.e. "Lot and Luck". So, finding a mate is Lot & Luck. I guess I like the added element of randomness to the predeterministic spirit of Lot.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:14 AM  

I opened my newspaper to the crossword puzzle and saw Mike Nothnagel's name as the constructor. My heart went pitty-pat! (I've had a problem with irregular heartbeat recently.) We should have a good, challenging Thursday today!

I thought on completion that it was a very good puzzle, but, sorry, not very challenging. I crave a good rebus!

Rick Stein 10:26 AM  

Found it challenging & wasn't sure I completed it accurately (I did).

BUT...45A "Work with wavy lines, maybe" gave me trouble & I though I filled it by elimination, I couldn't for the life of me think of what the word "OPART" meant until I read Rex & had one of those "duh" moments that it is "OP-ART". Never thought of inserting that pesky hyphen!

Two Ponies 10:27 AM  

37D says it for me.

OldCarFudd 10:50 AM  

Fun, easy, imaginative. Hand up for ogled.

thical- a retronym for being ethical without using a computer.

CaseAceFos 10:59 AM  

ewwww,"NOTI" how frightfully formal!

ArtLvr 11:04 AM  

Super to have a generic CELEB here, and it seemed there were more general words to trick us too like EVENT, PULP and SPOT.

Like others, I thought of sugar tongs first, though I have a treasured silver baby spoon showing a kitten toying with a ball of yarn sculpted in the bowl. It was my father's and it doubles as a SUGAR SPOON!

Many thanks to Mike...


foravor = sentimental?

Jeff 11:20 AM  

Really enjoyed it! Thought it was on the Wednesday-ish side, but the fun clues provided enough entertainment to make up for the lack of difficulty. The fill was extremely well done. (insert note of envy here)

I wonder how constructors could use x-referencing better. Perhaps if the NYT allowed for more arrows draw across a puzzle, like the unfortunate golf one a few months ago? Would it have been better if the x-ref'ed answers were all in a row?


MikeM 11:31 AM  

Like this puzzle alot. I did have DEMEAN down at first, but I knew it probably was incorrect... it just didnt ring true to the clue. I got EXTREMELYCLOSE without bothering to see what combo of blank/check/point it was derived. Maybe easier than a normal Thursday but very enjoyable nonetheless.

Masked and Anonymous 11:39 AM  

Good luck at the dentist, 44.

Thumbs up on the puz. Not much not to like here. It put up a fight today. Woulda probably added BLANK, CHECK and POINT to the theme list, just to give it the extra bulk it deserves.

@44: Bit off the subject, but... Saw a puz yesterday where the 80-D (four blanks) clue was "Lure from the bottom up". Answer seems to be ERUL. It that playin' fair?!?

Van55 11:57 AM  

What a strange combination of very easy clues and far more general, and therefore "difficult" ones. At bottom, the very easy made the more difficult easy enough to get.

A search for crap fill yields none. Well, maybe IRK and LEI, but who cares given the elegance of the rest of it? NOTI!!!

Welcome back Mr. Nothnagel.

Tinbeni 12:20 PM  

"Don't POINT!" was something I heard as a kid.
"NOT I!" was probably my response.

For Check Point I was thinking more along the lines of a Border Crossing but that INSPECTION SPOT fell into place right there.
Or was it over there?
Or over there?
Where is that SPOT?
Out, damn'd SPOT! Out, I say!

A KEG filled with O'DOULS would IRK me.

jae 12:41 PM  

Easy fun puzzle. No real problems but I needed to figure out the theme to get 61a. Rex is right, Don't____ could be almost anything. Nice job Mike, nice to see you back!

Odile 1:03 PM  

I'm not good enough to do a Thursday without a little googling, so I was one of the guilty re: Octopussy, but "East Berlin" doesn't come up in any of the first hits---so I went back to the puzzle and was so delighted to work it out on my own.

Had "Sneck" and "Talk" in the SE, though now that I think about it, even though talk radio is often all spin, it's not actually the talk that's spun...

Shamik 1:09 PM  

Second fastest Thursday puzzle for me since I started tracking. Don't care much for cross referenced clues, so usually ignore them unless I need them and wait for some crosses to get them filled in. Ditto today. Had no emotion over this one, so meh.

stizend: the part of the body of a dyslexic person who has hemorrhoids

Rube 1:12 PM  

Had the same problem as others in getting the POINT... my last letter was the P. Had the entire top of the puzzle filled in with no BLANKS and thought that this was more Tuesdayish than Thursdayish. The bottom half then felt like Wednesday. Very enjoyable puzzle.

Mrs. Rube got a new kitten about two weeks ago. She was found wandering the streets of a nearby town and taken to the local Humane Society. It seemed like fate that she should be ours so I named her Kismet. She's quite the bold one. Let her outside for the first time yesterday while I worked in the yard. Within an hour she was in a neighbor's house.

Mouseover the ADA symbol next to the Captcha box and tell me how this can possibly be of any assistance.

DBGeezer 1:28 PM  

Could one of you wise ones please explain the relationship between 49D Skinny and INFO?

foodie 1:43 PM  

Here's the skinny=Here's the info

Doc John 1:46 PM  

I love the All-Blacks!

Masked and Anonymous 1:48 PM  

@DBGeezer: If you give someone the "skinny" on somethin', you basically supply the inside INFO to them. Slang-ese. At least that's the way I read it.

@Rube: Often thought it would be cool to have a puz with Monday clues and fill at the top, and Saturday stuff at the bottom, with a gradual morph from one to the other in between. Sounds like a job for the mighty BEQ.

andrea whereami michaels 2:21 PM  

I was working bottom up on the CELEB clue and had ---EB and wondered, besides CALEB what word would end in -EB and briefly considered REHeB!

captcha: SCROOTA!!??
(have at it, boys)

retired_chemist 2:21 PM  

Saw Nothnagel - said I LIKE. Saw the cross-referencing - said NOT I. However, ultimately my like for Mike outweighed my crossness at cross-referencing. Wasn't even EXTREMELY CLOSE.

Very nice puzzle IMO. Always like to see what Rex called "Did you know....?" type clues. Only A FEW writeovers; SOME for A FEW, RAJAH for RANEE (hey, it was a 50:50 shot), RDA for CAL.

Thanks, Mr. N.

Bob Kerfuffle 2:26 PM  

@DBGeezer - Seems even the experts don't know why skinny = INFO.

lit.doc 2:41 PM  

@Martin, thanks for explaining the lower-case count. I'm an English teacher, shoulda thought of that.

@OldCarFudd, LOL at your captcha explanation. I will reboot my e-thics.

@Masked and Anon, the clue/answer you describe sounds like something from a cryptic cw. Did any of the other clues also sound like mini-puzzles?

Masked and Anonymous 3:10 PM  

@lit.doc Don't think so. Haven't figured the whole (nasty nasty) puz out yet. Was emailed to me by a "friend" who makes these things. Especially puzzlin' other entry that might be tryin' to pull somethin':
Sound from a surly Saluki (4 letters...maybe ??A?)! I won't describe any more, since we should be workin' on the NYT puz here.
Anyhow, thanx for your interest.

retired_chemist 3:36 PM  

Any chance that "skinny" is transliterated and bastardized? I was working on "C'est quoi (n???) in French and ran out of possibilities due to my limited French vocabulary (and grammar).

outem - I wil NOT touch that captcha....

sanfranman59 3:50 PM  

Midday report of relative difficulty (see my 7/30/2009 post for an explanation of my method):

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

Thu 14:02, 19:08, 0.73, 12%, Easy

Top 100 solvers

Thu 7:31, 9:10, 0.82, 29%, Easy-Medium

Glitch 3:54 PM  

@Masked and Anon

The *directional* gimmick comes up from time to time.

For example:
1. Like ones starting over : ENOERAUQSOTKCAB

Here's the complete puzzle;
[Spoiler alert, it's completed]

Dec 18, 2003


Rex Parker 4:25 PM  


you asked:

"@44: Bit off the subject, but... Saw a puz yesterday where the 80-D (four blanks) clue was "Lure from the bottom up". Answer seems to be ERUL. It that playin' fair?!?"

The answer is No. No decent puzzle would Ever do that ... *Unless* said reversal is part of the THEME. You would never see a single word in a puzzle clued the way you say, with the resulting ERUL. Nuh uh. No. I mean, you might, but not in a high- (or even medium-) quality puzzle. Some crap puzzles, however, will do Anything.

edith b 5:10 PM  

I saw a film on ESPN about the change of power in South Africa and Nelson Mandela used the Rugby final between South Africa and the heavily favored All-Blacks as a way of unifying the blacks and whites. It was a powerful film that used the Haka of the All-Blacks to powerful effect. I was happy to see it again and highly recommend the film (whose name escapes me.)

PurpleGuy 6:57 PM  

Back again for a bit.
I've seen this lately, and must have missed the previous explanation.
Can someone explain what a "captcha" is ? I like the ones I've read so far , but how do arrive at them ?

Please, before it ROILs and IRKs me. LOL :)

mac 7:01 PM  

Loved this puzzle, crisp, smart and contemporary.

With East Berlin and check point in it, of course I thought of Charlie.

The "don't -" clue had me puzzled, with --int I thought "faint?".
My bodybuilders are toned, not necessarily oiled, ugh.

@Rube: a new kitten.....!

retired_chemist 7:42 PM  

@PurpleGuy CAPTCHA is the word (i.e. the verification characters) you need to type in to get your post onto the blog.

pfrang - past tense of "phring."

Masked and Anonymous 8:00 PM  

@44: Thanx kindly for the response. You are a T-Rex and a gentleman.

Glitch 8:15 PM  


R_C gave you the theory via wiki(above), but if you're asking where the *words* come from, they are generated from aplets that can be added to blogs and websites.

Without getting too technical, there are a number of sources of the applets, each generating different types of *captchas" --- words, pictograms, letter/number combos, and others.

In short, the key to the system is generating a *challenge* of distorted characters, against a busy background, usually inserted as a graphic, that would be [ideally] impossible for a computer program to read.

Note that the *content* is not critical, it can be *dictionary* words, but is distorted and camouflaged enough that hopefully only a human can respond correctly.

r_c's reference includes how to get around it.


PurpleGuy 8:27 PM  

@retired_chemist and @Glitch -
Thank you so much for the explanation. I always wondered what those seemingly nonsense words were in order to get my comments posted.
This blog is so much fun, and you all are the best.

so I guess my captch is:

entation - A paragraph written without an indent ?

fergus 9:33 PM  

Certainly a quality puzzle, but pretty drab by Nothnagel standards. Not much puzzling or puzzlement. Except when I was another cautious skeptic about OGLED and guessing that cannoli (misread and misspelled) could be sliced into CUBES for easier consumption. Bodybuilders competing in a cannoli-eating contest, such as I saw in a recently repeated "Sopranos" episode?

Concur about INSPECTION SPOT being a bit fabricated.

sanfranman59 10:09 PM  

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

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

Mon 7:08, 6:55, 1.03, 69%, Medium-Challenging
Tue 8:53, 8:49, 1.01, 59%, Medium
Wed 12:25, 11:48, 1.05, 72%, Medium-Challenging
Thu 14:17, 19:09, 0.75, 13%, Easy

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:49, 3:41, 1.03, 69%, Medium-Challenging
Tue 4:39, 4:31, 1.03, 67%, Medium-Challenging
Wed 5:35, 5:47, 0.96, 44%, Medium
Thu 7:11, 9:10, 0.78, 25%, Easy-Medium

By the numbers, this is one of the easier Thursdays in my database, although the Top 100 had a little more difficult time (relative to a typical Thursday) than the All Solvers group. There were 675 online solvers who posted times and that's the most of the 52 Thursday puzzles I've tracked. The 14:17 median solve time for the All Solvers group is the 7th fastest for a Thursday.

Karl 10:14 PM  

Am I the only one whose mind was in the gutter for 46A: "Go ___ your mother!" Thankfully it was one letter too many.

lit.doc 10:20 PM  

@Karl, good heavens no. Talk about a gimme!

fergus 11:56 PM  

Not even Oedipally the other answer was SEE your mother.

andrea sugarspoon michaels 1:18 AM  

INVICTUS...terrible title, even if it is from the Mandela poem.
Half political historical film, half sports/Rocky kind of movie, yes?

William Ernest Henley 6:31 AM  

Andrea, dear, Mr. Mandela may have taken inspiration from the poem "Invictus", but I wrote it!

Joe 3:57 PM  

I call shenanigans on NSEC.

The correct answer would be NANO.

And again, ask a Russian history professor what he thinks of CZAR. It's always TSAR.

POINT BLANK--good movie.
Any movie that has Angie Dickenson getting discreetly getting naked in the background is a good movie.

Al & Sali 12:44 PM  

I have to take issue with Martin.

The "Count" is Count Basie is a title, albeit a self proclaimed one. Wouldn't it look wrong to write, "I went to see count Basie last night"?

Al & Sali 12:47 PM  

Oops. How poor we are at proofing our own work.

In the above comment, for "is" read "in."

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