Capital of former Belgian Congo / WED 8-25-10 / Locale of Britain's first Christian martyr / * City Tampa neighborhood / Rowdies in British slang

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Constructor: Clive Probert

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: Bs — Note on the puzzle reads: "In this crossword, every answer and every clue contains at least one letter B."

Word of the Day: BOMA (3D: Capital of the former Belgian Congo) —

The port town of Boma in Kongo Central Province was the capital city of the Belgian Congo (the modern Democratic Republic of the Congo) from 1 May 1886 to 1926, when it was moved to Léopoldville (since renamed Kinshasa). It exports tropical timber, bananas, cacao, and palm products. As of 2009 it had an estimated population of 527,725. (wikipedia)
• • •

Not being up on my turn-of-the-last-century African capitals, I found that this one hurt a little. By which I mean, a lot. I knew that the trick had something to do with the fill in general, not any set of "theme" answers, but I kept thinking, as I filled in creaker after clunker, "this better be good." Then the punchline was: Bs. That is not a very good punchline. Seriously, if you're throwing BOMA (!) and YBOR (!?!) (23D: ___ City (Tampa neighborhood)) at me, there better be some sweet sweet payoff, somewhere. Everything I dislike about stunt puzzles is on display here—we can, if we choose, marvel at the constructor's ingenuity and prowess, When We're Done, but getting from A to B is a slog. Not that there was a complete absence of pleasure—I oddly liked BELLLABS, for instance (triple-L!) (56A: Research group associated with many Nobel Prizes in Physics). But with only two 8s and two 7s and the rest 6 or shorter, there is almost nothing that is genuinely interesting. Overly common fill, interrupted every once in a while by a genuine WTF!? Repeated letter strings all Over the place (ALBA, BELL, ABBA, REBE). Aside from the ragtag ye olde concert going on in the middle of the grid (the long-awaited reunion of TABOR & REBEC!) (40A: Its beat may accompany a fife & 45A: Old stringed instrument with a narrow body), there's not much joy in solveville today.

  • 20A: Locale of Britain's first Christian martyr (ST. ALBANS) — when I saw this (which I'd somehow heard of) crossing BOMA (not so lucky), I knew something was deeply wrong. Not surprisingly, ST. ALBANS has an ABBEY (29D: Setting for Umberto Eco's "The Name of the Rose"). Appears to have no relationship (besides sharing four consecutive letters) to ALBA Longa (64A: ___ Longa, where Romulus and Remus were born).
  • 8D: Citadel, in Arabic (CASBAH) — Interesting. I honestly considered writing in CASTLE here. Didn't quite seem "Arabic" enough.
  • 11D: P.L.O. bigwig Mahmoud (ABBAS) — "Bigwig" being a concession to the theme.
  • 28D: Sitcom with the character B.J. ("REBA") — really wanted this to have something to do with "B.J. and the Bear" (the romantic story of a man and his ... chimp?)

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


Anonymous 12:07 AM  


Tobias Duncan 12:15 AM  

The word pain does not have a "B" in it.

Anonymous 12:21 AM  

I didn't read the note. As I did this, I thought the theme was just "this puzzle has a ton of Bs." It never occurred to me that every answer (and clue) has a B in it.

Zeke 12:28 AM  

It's county fair time around here now, a time of year that makes me wish I had a wider circle of acquaintances. See, some young woman is going to try out for Hog Queen at the fair tomorrow. It probably seems like a good idea to her, just have some good, wholesome rural fun, see if she can win, see if she can do it. There shouldn't be anything wrong with that but, being older and wiser, I know there is. At best she looses and is humiliated for a short period of time, at worst she wins and for the rest of her life she's the Hog Queen of Podunk County. Things like this tend to stick around, and not everyone will see it as the wholesome, frivolous activity I do. Won't go over too well at the sorority houses at State A&M. Just one person finds out about that in college, and you're tagged for life. Just ask Ned Beatty.
If I knew more people, there would at least be a chance that I could run across some aspiring contestant for Hog Queen and adviser her not to do it, the world is just too cruel for such a simple harmless venture, and save her from ruining her life. Or to find someone trying to construct a crossword puzzle consisting only of words with a B in them and offer similar advice.

CoffeeLvr 12:37 AM  

What a swarm of bees. I would grade this a C, though.

Kind of hungry now, mostly for LAMB kabobs, but a couple of SPARERIBs sounds good too. Only thing in the house (and the puzzle) are cherry NIBS.

SethG 12:47 AM  

Theme helped a few times. It did not help with ALBA/BEALE crossing at the L. And that's quite the musical stack with TABOR and REBEC.


syndy 12:49 AM  

And them wrote a note about it like they were proud of it or something!They could have at least drawn us a picture with them or something. one thing though- Here's to Boston the Home of the Bean and the Cod;Where Lodges talk only to Cabots,and Cabots talk only to God!

chefwen 12:50 AM  

Reading the notepad made this one much too easy. You have yourself a four or five letter answer and three or four letters are in place, so far no B, you slap one in and BINGO, that one is done.

Only one write over, SUBURBAN over Suburbia.

@Zeke - You got yourself some pacalolo going on over there?

chefwen 12:52 AM  

Ooops, meant paKalolo.

Anonymous 1:22 AM  

I was perturbed by the alternate spelling for Bern on 54 Down. Preferred if the clue were "Capital ENE of Genève".

protege01 1:37 AM  

I actually liked this puzzle more than yesterdays. Knowing the B theme made it easier. Biggest trouble was the NE for sure. BAGS for whatever reason did not pop out at me.

Overall a B (hah) minus.

bandrea carla michaels 2:09 AM  

had to leave a blank at B_ROAD/_BOR!
Went thru the vowels, tried BS even.
I guess bec of the heat, I gave up before Y.

Lots of problems with TABOR...Tried Tabla, tambor, tambo (thought short for tambourine or something)

ANd I know xEBEC is a word, but not REBEC. Like Rex, I thought it was BJ and the BEAR, so it was weird that it was an anagram of BEAR.

BeSSY before BOSSY, ScRUB before SHRUB. SO my biggest enjoyment of this puzzle for some weird reason was being a little wrong all the way thru and realizing how close some words are that mean the same thing...but now that I type this, I realize that's what puzzles are all about! Right?

I didn't ABHOR this, not completely ABOMB and I applaud the attempt...and there was a Beatles song...

Plus I've been trying to make a triple L puzzle, so liked BELLLABS...
but what is heck is PABA?

Greene 2:19 AM  

Stunt puzzle indeed. I didn't look at the notepad until I had concluded the slog, but prior to that I kept looking for some kind of pattern (I mean other than a bunch of Bs). I thought maybe it had to do with the B and vowel combinations or palindromes or anagrams or hidden words in the grid. Nope, just a bunch of Bs. Me no like.

It was kind of fun seeing YBOR City in the grid as it was always a favorite lunch site when I worked in Tampa. It is also the home of that freak show Latin-style Halloween celebration known as Guavaween. Who could possibly resist the charms of Mama Guava's Stumble Parade? Talk about taking the bore out of YBOR!

@Andrea: PABA stands for para-aminobenzoic acid which is an active ingredient in most commercial sunscreens.

chefwen 3:28 AM  

His NIBS is what we call the ruler of the house, Mr. Paddington the Maine Coon master of this homestead.

@Greene - I was hoping for a great story about BEBE Neuwirth, one of my favorite actresses.

Anonymous 7:08 AM  

Construction aside, this puzzle is a BomB. Worst Wednesday puzzle in a long time.

Jo 7:28 AM  

I liked it, I like B's. Thought it was too easy for a Wednesday.
Glad to be back to the country and the puzzle. Even though Herald Tribune has the puzzle, being in Holland just isn't puzzle time for me.

dk 7:58 AM  

Zeke, I am remind of the joke about how men in a remote village are named. It seems one man was known as rock lifter, another as dam builder and then our narrator emits a heavy sigh, exclaiming: ya just f**k one goat.

I am working on a crossword on a stick for our State Fair. I will use one of Andrea's cause I like her the best. My stepson claims he is going to eat four deep fried milky ways... as a responsible parent I am giving him a barf bag.

Come on puzzle pals, this one is not that bad. Sure we have some odd fill like REBEC and every which way to spell and misspell ELBA & ALBA. Note, I hated Romance of the Rose. It was the longggggest novel I never finished. Maybe it got good in the last 10 pages.

I would have rather seen 20A clued as the site of the Northern most battle of the Civil War. And I can't understand why Barbie did not make it to the grid.

** (2 Stars) Once you got the bs in your bonnet the fill was easy for a Wednesday.

redhed 8:02 AM  

I liked it, probably because I was able to fly through it. I didn't know the theme (stunt) ahead of time, but easily figured it out after finishing. So I changed 47A from BUD to BUB to correct 37D.

fikink 8:17 AM  

@dk, @zeke, You said it all!

(@dk, the joke in Chicago involves a French chef who says "but s**k just one little c**k...)

Tina Fey 8:22 AM  

It's Catherine the Great, and it's a horse.

joho 8:26 AM  

I flew through this puzzle. I wish I hadn't read the notepad because knowing about the Bs made this way too easy.

Did not like seeing ABBAS and ABBA in the same grid.

This could not have been easy to create, though, so I have to commend Mr. ProBert, but I'm afraid his tour de force may have turned into a bit of a bore.

Van55 8:47 AM  

As a feat of construction, I think this one is fantastic. Enjoyed every minute of it. Figured out that every answer would have at least one B pretty early on, which helped me solve.

Didn't like that ABBAS and ABBA were in the same grid.

I give this B puzzle an A.

Parshutr 8:53 AM  

On the positive side of the dichotomy: I liked it a lot. Found it easy, without looking at the note.

hazel 8:54 AM  

Found the puzzle a bit of an oddity, kind of like being a Hog Queen or (eating?) a crossword on a stick.

Agree with @Chefwen and @Joho - I think the Notepad was TMI. Became a spoiler and I wish I hadn't read it. Without it, the Wednesday may have been a little tougher, and perhaps more satisfying.

Stunts don't bother me the way forced wackiness does - so I found it to be a pretty good puzzle all in all. Got a postcard from Ybor City once.

The Big E 8:55 AM  

Beyond blech. By being bothersome, Probert probably bored billions. Big-E believes Probert basically belongs behind bars! Bah!

Seriously, wasn't a huge fan. Didn't look at the notepad, and after finishing I went to bed, not having any real idea of what the theme was, though obviously I noticed there were a plethora of Bs. I made decent time, I guess, but finished with little to no sense of satisfaction. Wasn't challenging enough to be a no-fill Friday/Saturday, but wasn't clever enough to be anything earlier, either. Was simply well constructed. Oh well.

@dk - on a side note, if your son ever comes to Brooklyn, there is a restaurant in my neighborhood (mere blocks from the Marriott where the Crossword Puzzle Tournament is held, or has been) called "The Chip Shop." The original is in Park Slope, a quick taxi away.
Anyway, the point is that they serve sooooo many things fried, including fried candy bars for dessert, fried pizza for an appetizer, fish and chips, chicken fingers and chips, etc.
They also have a policy that if you bring in food that can be fried (i.e., no skittles or m&ms, or other things which won't batter), they will fry it for you.
Not sure about Fried Milky Ways, but they serve Fried Snickers and Reeses Peanut Butter Cups! :-)


Anonymous 8:55 AM  

@joho- Bore de force!

Tony from Charm City 9:00 AM  

You know a puzzle stinks when you're halfway through it and you think "Man, Rex will REALLY hate this one!" I cringed several times, especially with both ABBA and ABBAS appearing.

OldCarFudd 9:11 AM  

The note in the dead tree edition was cutesier: "This crossword is unusual in a certain way. Can you identify how?" Well c'mon, guys, we're NYT cruciverbalists; we're not solving in TV Guide! Yeah, I guess I can identify how.

Actually, given the theme, I thought it was done rather well. I had the same mistake as Andrea, not being able to suss out the Y in 23D.

FWIW 9:12 AM  

In the DTE the note was:

This crossword is unusual in a certain way. Can you identify how?


Anonymous 9:15 AM  

Okay, I'll bite: What does "P>G>" mean? P is greater than G, and G is greater than . . . ?

fikink 9:16 AM  

@Tina Fey, that's your generation's iteration. The joke has been around forever.
Which reminds me, the other day FIL said, in speaking of a not-too-physically-appealing woman, "Either she has a lot of money or the girl can really sing."

Silly me, I thought he was sincerely talking about her having a beautiful voice. FIL is 89 years old.

Tony from Charm City 9:17 AM  

@OldCar, the only reason I know anything about YBOR City is from "White Shadow," a great novel by Ace Atkins that is actually drawn from actual events, namely the murder of bootlegger Charlie Wall. Most of the story takes place in Ybor City and Havana, Cuba, just prior to Castro's revolution. Castro himself makes an appearance in the story.

PlantieBea 9:17 AM  

I wasn't a fan until I got the theme. But, I like B's. As SethG commented, the theme was no help for the L in the BEALE/ALBA crossing, but it was Beneficial in other oddball spots like the BEEB/SOBE and STOUB/BESE crosses.
Thanks Clive Probert, for the change of pace in this better-than-B rated Wednesday puzzle.

The Big E 9:18 AM  

The Pain is greater than the Gain which is greater than...
the amount of effort required to solve???

Frank Price 9:22 AM  

Oh Rex: no clip of "Rock the Casbah" or something from The Hold Steady for Ybor City? Missed a good chance there.

hazel 9:23 AM  

@ABBA/ABBAS haters - I know everyone has the right to like/hate anything about a puzzle, but... can you explain why you dislike ABBA/ABBAS in the puzzle?

The Swedish group (Anni-Frid, Bjorn, Benny, and Agnetha) has nothing to do with the PLO leader, whose name is from the Arabic- the word origins, such as they are, have no relationship to each other and are, of course, from different languages entirely. One doesn't tip off the other in any way - other than the fact that each is wearing big fat scarlet B(s) across its chest like every other clue/answer!

The Big E 9:33 AM  

@hazel - even though they are two separate things, agreed, I think it is more about the pattern.
A crossword should not have the same answer twice (i.e. bars (clue: prohibits) and bars (clue: places to drink). It is not elegant, and (I think) shows an inability of the constructor to use completely unique clues and answers. having "bans" and "bars" might be ok, but if you also had "bats," it just ruins the, well, elegance of the puzzle.
having this happen with 3-letter answers is frequent, particularly with puzzles early in the week, and is one of the elements that sets it apart from a more difficult puzzle.
ABBA and ABBAS, while not a plural/singular answer, is just unattractive, IMO anyway. I think this is part, if not all, of the reason why people do not like seeing it.
Would you want a corner to look like:


or something similar? even if the clues for the two star/tina/ants answers are different, the creation of such a corner is just not worthy.

Sorry for being verbose, just in a rambling mood this morning.

Anyone feel I am off on the answer here?


worswillout 9:36 AM  

can't quite believe this one, of all puzzles I've seen this summer, comes up as medium challenging to the master. Lots of easy clues, not too indirect and quickly gotten. Had a little trouble with "The BEEB" as a nickname for the BBC, but otherwise, the easiest one I've done this summer. Never even noticed a theme or the question up top "this crossword is unusual. . ." Hmm

chefbea 9:36 AM  

Realized all the B's in the answers - then realized there was a B in each answer, which made it easy to finish. Never realized that each clue had a B...So what was in the Note pad??? My print out said to look in the note pad but there was none.

Thought it was a great puzzle!!!

skinnydragon 9:50 AM  

The only thing humorous (for me) was that after working only the down clues (on Times Reader) 56A was revealed as "Hell Lads."

I couldn't imagine what the clue was for that fill!

Bell Labs seemed tame in comparison!

Norm 10:01 AM  

Cute puzzle. Deserves more love than it's getting here. Didn't read the note unless I was through, which may have made it more enjoyable, although the theme was pretty obvious by the time I filled in the right-hand third.

archaeoprof 10:14 AM  

Interesting, but not all that much. I'd give it a C+.

Does anyone else remember an NYT puzzle some years ago in which all the vowels were A's?

@Jo: welcome home! When traveling I sometimes pick up the IHT for the puzzle, too.

harryhassell 10:20 AM  

Not so bad at all - it's weird to be solving a puzzle and think not, "hmmmm, what fits here," but "hmmmm, what 'B' word fits here?"

I did not read the Notepad but knew in almost an instant that every answer would have a B or two. It made for a different solving experience and I think that's to be commended. It's not an experience I would like to have everyday nor one that I necessarily prefer, but it was worth my time.

Anonymous 10:26 AM  

I don't get it, this puzzle was write it in easy tome without knowing about the B theme -- just goes to show how different everyone's grab bag of knowledge can B

John V 10:30 AM  

Medium-Challenging? Not here. 10 mins. Monday grade, IMHO, but fun anyhow.

Two Ponies 10:34 AM  

Payoff was not worth the price of admission.
The puzzle was barely in English. I counted 17 foreign words. I saw the difficult constraint of the theme but it did not contribute a bit to my solving experience.
A bit, abut, and abets is just an example of the excesses required to pull off this stunt.
BJ to me means M.A.S.H.
@ Zeke, Brilliant with a capital B.
I finished and said "Yep, that's a lot of B's." BFD

jesser 10:52 AM  

Back from an out-of-town training trip, where I became certified in Crisis Communications.

Just in time.

Because I have a meeting in 9 minutes, I'll confine my comment to this:

It would not surprise me to learn that Clive Probert lives in a house alongside a lot of birds and educated fleas. That'll do it.

Matin! (The point of a talk with a youngster featuring bees) -- jesser

Jeff Chen 10:52 AM  

Well, I'll give the constructor props for a very impressive achievement. It must have been extremely time-consuming to do.

But agreed with Rex et al, slog all the way through. Sigh.

mac 11:00 AM  

Let's be generous and give it a B.

The IHT has no explanation at all, but I got it almost immediately.

I also dislike Berne with this clue, and had Bessy for Bossy. I've lived in England twice, and am there right now, and I have only seen Beeb for BBC in the NYT crossword puzzle.

My first and really only problem was 17A, GUMBO. I figured a Southern cousin of bouillabaisse had to be a Spanish seafood soup, and I couldn't think of one with a b and four letters. I'm on my way to bouillabaisse country, Marseille, tomorrow!

@Jo: I'll be in Holland in September, and stay across the street from a kiosk with the IHT!

mitchs 11:00 AM all time classic post.

Doug 11:09 AM  

The 50 or so comments, pro and con, tell me this was a pretty successful puzzle. The constructor got all you puzzle freaks in an uproar. Isn't that part of the point? Being a rank amateur, I'm happy when I finish one. Does that mean I should say, hmm, good puzzle if I finish, awful, if I'm stumped? BTW, the large number of Bs leading words in the clues was pretty cool.

V. 11:29 AM  

I thought the sitcom with BJ was M*A*S*H, so got stuck for a while. "Nubby' was a relief, a nice tactile moment amid all the bs. (Read that as you wish.)

Bob Kerfuffle 11:49 AM  

Ah! The "B'Way"! My perfect segue into an otherwise totally irrelevant comment.

Well, not exactly Broadway, but Off Broadway: Last night I was pleased to see a little musical called "With Glee." (No relation to TV's "Glee.")

The Music Director for the show was one Daniel Feyer, and he appears on-stage during one number. Yes, the play bill tells us, the Dan Feyer who won the 2010 American Crossword Puzzle Tournament.

Noam D. Elkies 11:50 AM  

50+ comments and no "B-list" joke yet?

I actually liked this one, and I didn't even notice the fact that the clues all had B's. (Dead-trees edition said only that the crossword is "unusual in a certain way" and challenged the solver to identify how.)

48A:BOSSY plus "boss" in the 38A clue?

Wanted "rebab" for 45A:REBEC; turns out it doesn't quite match the clue though the rebab is one predecessor of the rebec.

@Big E: Remember this April Fool's puzzle from eight years ago?


The Big E 11:57 AM  

@Noam - WOW. That is an impressive bit of construction, and a great puzzle for April Fools. I don't know that I ever saw that one at the time!
Perhaps my example was not the best, but hopefully you and others understand what I meant about the short, repetitive fill not always being elegant. Done in this manner? Unique, creative, and highly impressive! :-)

Tinbeni 12:02 PM  

YBOR City is Tampa's equivalent of New Orlean's Bourbon Street.
As a 'local' I leave it for the tourists and kids (those under 30) who haven't yet learned how to drink without puking.

BOMA crossing A BOMB was easy enough from the crosses.

All-in-all, I thought this was much better than a "B" puzzle.

Any future puzzle with this theme of 'word/letter' should be lambasted.

Rube 12:12 PM  

Like some, I liked this, and like @Protege01, liked this better than yesterday, which I did not like. Like @Chefwen had only one writeover at SUBURBia/AN and was surprised to find this rated Medium-Challenging. Will wait for SanFranMan's verdict.

Raised an eyebrow at ABBA & ABBAS and knew there would be controversy about these. Also figured that someone would enlighten us about PABA. Tx @Greene.

For those who complain about such things, note:
No opera
No Roman numerals
minimal sports (STAUB)
no "Eat at" (my dislike)
I did count 8 pop culture answers, but only 4 that were unknown to me, and those I could fill in when crosses revealed part of the answer.

Speaking of 8, I count 4 8s.

I think I've seen TABOR here before, and REBEC is my WOTD.

Just got back from Lake Powell. The bass fishing was great and so was the water skiing.

JenCT 12:41 PM  

@Zeke: you crack me up! (Actually, lots of people on this blog do, too.) Did you bring enough pakalolo for the whole class?...

Didn't even notice the Notepad hint, so it wasn't a help. I just thought, Wow this puzzle has lots of Bs...

On a separate issue, I've lately been trying to do the puzzle using Play Against the Clock, but the puzzle comes up on the screen in too small a size for me to do easily. How can I increase it, to fill up more of the screen? I tried the zoom level but it didn't work. Windows XP, IE8. Anyone?

Doc John 1:08 PM  

With all the Bs, I thought they'd at least run the diagonals but, alas, no.

Thanks for the explanation on His NIBS, too. That was a serious WTF, as were the two instruments.

Onward to Thursday!

shrub5 1:38 PM  

Seemed easy-medium-ish to me. Figuring out that the answers all had at least one B helped greatly with those I didn't know (BOMA, ALBA, BEEB, REBEC, TABOR, YOBS, STAUB, YBOR.) I think all the Bs added an extra element of fun to the solving.

Interesting to learn CASBAH is Arabic for citadel. As I was rolling along, I just knew ABBA was going to show up somewhere! And (like @Rube) I thought hey, at least this theme precludes Roman numerals as well as those tired aBBrevs SSN and SST.

Anonymous 1:42 PM  


Steve J 1:48 PM  

After Zeke's post, I really feel like there's nothing more to be said. Put me squarely in the not-a-fan category.

Despite not liking it, I found it quite easy. Perhaps because I read the Notepad (on the iPhone app, it's unavoidable, as it auto-loads when the puzzle is opened). Only hangup was the center, where I had PUBS instead of BARS for 33D. Which made NUBBY/TABOR/REBEC all hard to get. Once I switched to BARS, everything came together.

openlyblack 2:03 PM  

I grew up in St. Albans, Queens ... a largely Black middle class community ... didn't know about the Christian martyr connection.

retired_chemist 3:02 PM  

@ The Big E - 26D was BANS nor BARS. Not sure many bosses would take well to being called "HIS RIBS."

Also not sure what this says about me - Didn't notice all the B's. I was too busy (as a bee, beaver,....) filling in answers to notice. basically an easy puzzle for a Wednesday IMO. Done enough crosswords by now to write in TABOR and REBEC immediately.

Didn;t mind the theme - kinda fun.

chefbea 3:02 PM  

@steve J what did the note pad say??? No one has told me. Did it say "every word has at least one B"

The Big E 3:09 PM  

@retired_chemist - I had bars and bans on the brain - was merely using those words for my example! :-)

P>G> 3:13 PM  

Only because you asked, just 2 initials typed without letting up on the "shift" key to create a marginally distinctive signoff.


The Big E 3:17 PM  


Newbie 3:22 PM  

Chefbea gave me the courage to ask: how do you see the Notepad? The PDF version of the puzzle says "This crossword is unusual . . ." then says "Answer in Notepad." As I'm always behind the tech curve, I'm embarrassed but have to ask - what do I have to do to see it?

The Big E 3:25 PM  

@Newbie - I just found this out for myself today. When you are in "Across Lite" (I am in Windows, using Across Lite v1.2a, so I don't know if it will be different in other software version), go to the menu at the top and click "view," and select "notepad."
I never knew it existed until today! :-)

Anonymous 3:26 PM  

@Newbie - there's a little icon of a notepad just to the right of the line you just quoted. Just click on it.

bko 3:33 PM  

So all the clues and answers had Bs...but I still couldn't figure out what was "unusual" about this puzzle. Wednesday puzzles are usually pretty tough.
Hah! It was that there were all these Bs! Jeez. I colored them in hoping for the shape of a bee- or something that suggested the word "swarm"...
What a disappointment. I remember tests like this in grade school.

John Hoffman 3:48 PM  

The easy stuff was real easy; the hard stuff was real hard. I missed more medium stuff.

sanfranman59 4:07 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)

Wed 11:18, 11:44, 0.96, 45%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Wed 5:45, 5:46, 1.00, 57%, Medium

Somehow, my captcha seems apropos for me today since it's my birthday ... singume (sing ... you ... me?)

Sparky 4:25 PM  

Filled in a couple of words before reading the note. So, said to self "It must be a lot of Bs." I also looked for a pattern. Knowing helped, otherwise 48A could have been Elmer. Finished it in MD's waiting room. Comparative ease a plus today. I'll be back to stoopid tomorrow.

chefbea 4:27 PM  

@sanfranman59 Happy b-day!!!!

The Big E 4:28 PM  

@sanfranman59 - I echo chefbea's comments - Hippo birdie, two ewes!

Cathyat40 4:32 PM  

Lubbed it! Why?
Because, on the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament website it is suggested that, if you can do the NYT Wednesday puzzle in under 15 minutes, then you might not completely embarrass yourself as a tournament contestant. So, whenever I solve a Wednesday in under 15 minutes, I'm happy, as, someday, I'd like to participate in the tournament.

My time was 16 minutes plus, but I'm sure I spent AT LEAST 2 minutes cuddling with the hound dog next to me on the sofa. She kept plopping her large paw on the laptop. Also a flying kitten landed in my lap at one point. Our two kittens enjoy running across the keyboard, which results in random characters entered in the grid. They haven't gotten any answers right yet, but, hey, they are only four months old. What they lack in vocabulary, they make up for in enthusiasm.

Soloved the puzzele at midnight. Didn't notice the notepad. Didn't notice the "B" theme until I came to the RexBlog today and got a fresh look at the grid - then I couldn't miss seeing it. Just too tired to notice last night, I guess.

captcha: evoli = email short-hand for evil eye

fikink 4:32 PM  

@sanfranman, I join in wishing you a BIG dayI Though I don't comment on your stats, I always read your posts and have come to look forward to what the numbers say after everybody's opinion of the puzzle is in.

chefbea 4:33 PM  

@Big E thanks for the tip about the note pad!!! Who would have known??

The Big E 4:34 PM  

@chefbea - no problem! And as to who would have known?
- "Not I," said the fly!
- "Not me," said the flea!

Kurt 5:01 PM  

I find it interesting that my total enjoyment of the NYT puzzle stays pretty constant day after day. When the puzzle is a dud -- like today, the comments on this blog are hilarious. And when the puzzle is outstanding, the comments are more informative than funny. Either way, my overall enjoyment is very high.

@Zeke and @dk made the day for me! From one goat f****r to another, thanks!

Sfingi 5:15 PM  

Easy and fast. Very fast. Not a Wed., but neither was "the other one." Of course, the theme made it easy.

But where is baseball, bedbug, bugbear, bigbutt, blubber, Bible, Bilbao, Bilbo, billboard, buckboard, buckyball, burbot, Barbie, rhubarb, Benbow, bib, Bieber, Birnbaum, Beerbohm, beerbarrel, bumblebee, beebalm, Bombay, bomb-bay, bombe, bimbo, babalones, double-bubble, scooby-dooby and wabi-sabi (the Japanese aesthetic of loving things transient - even rotting)? That would be words with 2 or more said Bs. Get crackin' puzzlers!

Did not know some places: YBOR, BOMA, ALBA; and YOB.

@BKO - I did that, too; no battern, I mean pattern.

@Rube - No SSN/SSNS, makes my day.

OK, so it's been done, now.
I think it caught some new commenters!

Maybe it's ProBert's B-day, too.

Robin 5:17 PM  

Happy SanFranMan! I had to post something today so I could truthfully tell all my friends that someone called me a NYT cruciverbalist!

Tinbeni 5:28 PM  

Happy Birthday!
I'll make a toast to you as sunset.

@The BIG E
I apologize to you for my comment yesterday.
@Seth G gave a more complete answer to you regarding all of sanfranman's stats. Thanks, Seth.
All I know is since I came here the Mugs of Java, to solve, has been reduced.

The Big E 5:31 PM  

@Tinbeni - appreciated. :-)
And in case I didn't say it earlier, Happy Belated Birthday!

Rex Parker 5:32 PM  

Friendly reminder: there's a three-comment / day limit. Thanks, everyone.


Noam D. Elkies 6:03 PM  

@sfman59: Happy B-day to both of us! :-)


(captcha = cofeende, but I'm a tea drinker...)

Rex Parker 6:04 PM  

"NOAM!" (said in voice of the crowd at "Cheers!")

Happy birthday, buddy.


fikink 6:12 PM  

Okay, I have to jump in for my fourth,
Happy Birthday, Naom!

william e emba 6:17 PM  

Hah! I believe I learned of YBOR City from this very blog! Last year's day-after-Thanksgiving puzzle had a clue whose answer was DADE City. Numerous solvers felt the clue actually described Ybor City.

I don't see cause for the ABBA/ABBAS complaint. They are so different etymologically that I didn't even notice an apparent overlap until someone mentioned it. Heck, we've got BELL LABS crossing BELLES, we've got ABIT/ABUT/ABETS, we've got BABIES atop BEBE, we've got BOSE/SOBE. Some of those are more questionable. But in an all-B puzzle, it's kind of inevitable.

I had originally written in BBC for the Brian Williams network, did not notice that BABC atop was a nonword, and did not catch my error until BEEB. I'm not sure where I first learned of the nickname BEEB: I have vague memories that it was in Alan Moore's V for Vendetta, but it's been a long time.

Glitch 6:19 PM  


Skirting around my personal adversion to making "me too" posts:

Ditto what @fikink wrote --- all of it!

And following my preview just before you post:


What @Rex wrote!


chefbea 6:36 PM  

I think I am over the three rule limit but
@Noam happy b-day

michael 6:41 PM  

Never noticed that all the clues had bs. Hard to miss all the bs in the answers. Unlike most of you, I thought the puzzle was just fine.

Zeke 7:01 PM  

@Rex - Now you have to explain to Noam what "Cheers" is.

Noam B. Elkies 7:12 PM  

Thanks to all for the B-day wishes!

Noted on the NYTimes Blog: the 48 B's in this grid include every corner and (as in the constructor's surname) the central square. Also (not surprisingly) a record number of B's in a 15x15 grid, burying the previous record of 20.


Shamik 7:38 PM  

@sanfranman: Happy B-day! How appropriate!

5:21 makes it an easy Wednesday for me. I didn't read the notepad and I just liked it because it buzzed along.

Shamik 7:39 PM  

Also Happy B-day to Noam!

And I, too, wanted MASH for BJ, but MASH doesn't have a b in it.

retired_chemist 8:12 PM  

Happy B-day to Noam! and SanFranMan59! Is he now SanFranMan60?

joho 8:17 PM  

@sanfranman59 & @Noam ... Happy Birthday to you both!!! (And many more ...)

Cea 8:26 PM  

Just noting that the Beeb is a perfectly acceptable abbr (sic) for the BBC in my part of the planet.

Happy birthday anyone whose birthday it is.

foodie 8:32 PM  

It's a mathematical day! Noam's birthday. Sanfranman's Birthday! A record number of B's!

I've never met anyone who truly loves numbers and is a bad person. Happy Birthday gentle people!

For some reason, I had wanted to be the 100th poster today. Oh well. It was fun to read all 101 comments!

And my captcha is blesse. I don't know if it means almost blessed, or wounded in French.

Anonymous 9:55 PM  

did no one pick up on the Swedish band crossing the Swedish auto? I enjoyed that. and the puzzle as a whole.

sanfranman59 10:17 PM  

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

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

Mon 6:50, 6:58, 0.98, 48%, Medium
Tue 10:16, 8:54, 1.15, 87%, Challenging
Wed 11:27, 11:44, 0.98, 48%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:37, 3:43, 0.98, 43%, Medium
Tue 5:01, 4:35, 1.10, 81%, Challenging
Wed 5:38, 5:46, 0.98, 52%, Medium

Thanks for all the birthday wishes everyone and a happy one to you as well, @Noam.

@r_c ... not yet! The 59 is my birth year (otherwise I'd need to change my online name every year)

Anonymous 10:39 PM  

Super easy - the only thing that slowed me down was having to write in the little boxes - not worth the ink I used! Pah!

retired_chemist 10:47 PM  

@ SanFranMan59- ah, you are just a youngster. I thought from the maturity of your posts that you were older.....


(dogguy1940 on Yahoo for pretty much the same reason)

fergus 11:16 PM  

Couldn't read all the comments but I was surprised not to see mention of the Tower of BABEL anywhere.

Anonymous 11:08 AM  


wcutler 4:24 PM  

I thought it was fun, but our paper version just had the "unusual in a certain way, can you identify how" clue. I stamped little ink flowers over all the b's to see if they made a pattern, which they sort-of do, but not really. So it was a bit of a let-down to find that just having b's was it. I hadn't noticed, though, that everything had b's.

Nullifidian 12:47 AM  

From Syndication-Land:

I wanted M*A*S*H for the sitcom with a character named B.J. Entering that hung me up a bit, but eventually I twigged to the B theme.

This was more on the challenging side for me, because I'd get just a few clues and then have a burst of inspiration, then another mostly dry spell, and so on. But I was also doing the crossword in class, and so I divided my attention between it and the class discussion.

I got REBEC just from the terminal C. That's what I get for having an interest in early music.

I liked BELL LABS for the same reason you did (it reminded me of the CROSS SWORDS answer in Wordplay) and I liked the medieval music consort in the middle of the page, but otherwise I mainly treated this as a themeless puzzle.

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