Classic Fiat model / WED 8-18-10 / Empire founded by Manco Capac / Endor natives / Mafioso's code of silence / Great instructor per Edmund Burke

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Constructor: Alex Boisvert

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: Just add "X" — "X" is added to familiar phrases, creating wacky phrases, clued wackily

Word of the Day: Manco Capac (33A: Member of an empire founded by Manco Capac => INCA) —

Manco Capac (mäng'kō käpäk'), legendary founder of the Inca dynasty of Peru. According to the most frequently told story, four brothers, Manco Capac, Ayar Anca, Ayar Cachi, and Ayar Uchu, and their four sisters, Mama Ocllo, Mama Huaco, Mama Cura (or Ipacura), and Mama Raua, lived at Paccari-Tampu [tavern of the dawn], several miles distant from Cuzco. They gathered together the tribes of their locality, marched on the Cuzco Valley, and conquered the tribes living there. Manco Capac had by his sister-wife, Mama Ocllo, a son called Sinchi Roca (or Cinchi Roca). Authorities concede that the first Inca chief to be a historical figure was called Sinchi Roca (c.1105-c.1140). Thus the foundation for an empire was laid. Another legend relates that the Sun created a man and a woman on an island in Lake Titicaca. They were given a golden staff by the Sun, their father, who bade them settle permanently at whatever place the staff should sink into the earth. At a hill overlooking the present city of Cuzco the staff of gold disappeared into the earth. They gathered around them a great many people and founded the city of Cuzco and the Inca state.(Columbia Encyclopedia) // The well-known Scrooge McDuck comic book Son of the Sun, written by Don Rosa, featured Manco Cápac as the original owner of various lost treasures that serve as the comic's main plot devices, which Scrooge and his nephews are searching for. (wikipedia)
• • •
A zippy little 78-worder from Mr. Boisvert today. Had an argument in my hotel room this past weekend with PuzzleGirl and Doug Peterson about how to pronounce his name. They kept saying it with a proper French accent, and I kept telling them to shut up. "It's either 'BOYCE-vert' or it's 'Greenwood.'" Actually, they were probably right. I would generally trust both PG and Doug on matters of detail like this before I'd trust myself. I met Alex at the Crosswords L.A. Tournament this past May, and have corresponded with him a bit since. He has created a VERY useful program called "Crossword Butler" that basically retrieves all the .puz files for every puzzle you like to solve every day and just puts them in a little folder on your computer desktop, nice as you please. If you like your puzzles, and especially if you want to branch out and try some of the country's other puzzles (but hate the idea of having to track them down yourself), you really should go get it. It's free, technically, but once you see how useful the program is, you *will* want to donate. I donated the max, and even that feels a bit criminal, considering how useful that damn program is.

Back to the puzzle. Simple concept, but if nothing else, we get tons of Xs out of the deal, which is never (or rarely) a bad thing. Theme answers were more cute than funny, and it might have been a bit more elegant if the added Xs were the *only* Xs in the grid, but these are minor quibbles. At 78 words, and with the help of a couple cheater squares :) this grid is supremely smooth. Unimpeachable (though maybe on a bad day I would, in fact, impeach IMA (19D: "___ Gigolo")). Winner of the day: ANKLE BITER (29D: Rug rat) (wish RAT (17A: One who breaks the OMERTA) hadn't also been in the grid, but I doubt anyone noticed) (16A: Mafioso's code of silence)

Theme answers:
  • 18A: Mourning comic book mutants? (XMEN IN BLACK)
  • 24A: Event that includes Snowboarding Charades and Motocross 20 Questions? (PARLOR X-GAMES)
  • 39A: Result of a phobia of medical pictures? (X-RAY BAN)
  • 51A: Curious person's video game console? (PANDORA'S XBOX)
  • 62A: Diabolical graph line? (X AXIS OF EVIL)
Bonus theme answers:
  • 4A: X (CHI)
  • 65A: X (TEN)
  • 4D: XLI x X (CDX)
  • 57D: Former flames (EXES)
  • 20A: Ed with the 1967 hit "My Cup Runneth Over" (AMES) — possibly my least favorite AMES clue. Yes, I have AMES clues ranked in my head. The top is Jonathan AMES. The bottom is this one. The Iowa city is somewhere in the middle. I only wish Willie AAMES spelled his name AMES, as he'd be near the top as well.

  • 37A: "You Are My Destiny" singer, 1958 (ANKA) — More daaaaaated music. We get some Mos DEF a little later, but as an actor, not a musician/rapper (52D: "Be Kind Rewind" co-star Mos ___).

  • 38A: Classic Fiat model (UNO) — new (to me) UNO clue. This western section was the thorniest part of an easy puzzle. Took me a while to put together DUES (32D: Club bill) and DIRTY (32A: One way to play)
  • 57A: Endor natives in "Return of the Jedi" (EWOKS) — nice little bonus mini-scifi-theme going here with this answer and XMEN IN BLACK (a twofer) and DUNE (67A: Sci-fi novel made into a 1984 cult film)
  • 61A: "The great instructor," per Edmund Burke (TIME) — nice, unexpected, highbrow clue. Me, I'd have gone with [Word sung three times at the beginning of "Hazy Shade of Winter"].

  • 21D: Nickelodeon opening (SLOT) — Like! First thought was "opening" in the sense of "beginning (of a short olde tymey film)"
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

And now, a brief write-up of Ryan & Brian's Lollapuzzoola 3 Crossword Tournament (Sat. 8/14/10, Jackson Heights, Queens, NY):

WARNING: SPOILER ALERT — if you want to do the tournament puzzles yourself, go here and get them already!

It was my privilege and pleasure to attend this tournament—my favorite crossword tournament experience to date (I've been to half a dozen or so). Held in a smallish church in Queens (where Scrabble was born, I'm told), the tournament — put on by Ryan Hecht and Brian Cimmet — manages to be both high-caliber and lowbrow; intense and relaxed; serious and not-so-much.

Got in the night before and went drinking with Brendan Emmett Quigley—sitting in a Starbucks on 5th Ave., I tweeted a request to my followers for suggestions of places to drink in midtown, and dang if I didn't get half a dozen replies inside of ten minutes. So we drank and then we drank and then we ate at Bar Breton (also on 5th Ave.), where Angela Halsted (aka PuzzleGirl) joined us once her flight got in. I brought a recorder in order to tape a Q&A with Brendan (for a future writing project), so there now exists a 75-minute recording of us getting increasingly drunk and profane, and yet mostly staying on topic. I listened to it on the bus ride home. Shocking how informative the conversation was, despite (because of?) the complete lack of structure or direction. Anyway, that was fun. Took the subway with Angela to Queens, where we were staying with constructor extraordinaire and all-around nice guy Doug Peterson.

On day of the tournament, the three of us ran into former ACPT champion Jon Delfin on the train, and then ran into Patrick Blindauer in the train station, and *then* ran into occasional blog commenter "Sparky" —a lovely woman. While Patrick and I were getting pre-tourney coffee, I ran into yet another blog reader, another (sorry if this gets repetitive) lovely woman named Vega. One of the reasons this tournament experience was better than any that had come before was that I went out of my way to go against my personality type (quiet corner-sitting loner) and actually speak to people. Press the flesh. Be ... what's the word ... "friendly?" Wow. Quite an experience. I might do it again someday.

Walking into a tournament is always mildly overwhelming, in that I immediately recognize a ton of people, and then try to figure out how I'm going to navigate the waters. Who was there? Here's the folks I remember: constructors Deb Amlen, Mike Nothnagel, Ashish Vengsarkar, Patrick Merrell, Tony Orbach ... aargh, I'm sure there were more. Pro solvers Howard Barkin (not competing), Amy Reynaldo, Ellen Ripstein, Al Sanders, Dan Feyer, Francis Heaney (also a constructor), and ... the rest, I guess. Sorry if I left your name out. I sat near the back next to the pairs who were team-solving (including a charming pair named David and Alli who were chatty as heck) and also next to the defective fire alarm that would beep every, let's say, 50 seconds. I thought R&B were just f&*@king with us, using the annoying sound effect as some kind of level-of-difficulty enhancer, but no. Just a defect. One that never got fixed.

First puzzle, a nice appetizer. Straightforward and fun little number from Deb Amlen. Added dimension: theme answers were acted out for us beforehand by ... hmmm, I think it was Brian's sister, Ryan, and ... someone else. This pre-puzzle acting ended up being VERY helpful, actually, and I got through this one in something like 4 minutes. Puzzle 2 was by far my worst performance of the day. Nothnagel! OK, so first, I had to pee. In and of itself, not eventful. Happens several times a day. But here, as I was listening to the instructions for the puzzle, I was right on the cusp of "go to bathroom / hold it." So I decided to hold it—mistake. Why? Because the explanation of the puzzle went on and on and on and on and on, and so the water and coffee and water finally caught up to me. I went to the bathroom, and when I got back, the puzzle had already started. Wah WAH. Resigned to a subpar time, I started in. In this puzzle, there were two Across clues for every Across answer (same thing with the Downs) and you had to figure out which clues were cluing the same word, and add their numbers together in order to figure out where the answer went in the grid. Sounded horribly difficult, but ended up being weirdly easy—so easy, in fact, that I got very very sloppy about checking off which clues I'd used; if you don't do this, well, trying to figure out the clues for the answers you don't have gets very very messy, as I soon found out. Since there were two clues for every answer, apparently that meant that there could be unchecked letters (normally a crossword no-no). So I got to the point where I had just two Across answers left, and *no* Downs to help me. But ... I couldn't figure out which clues went with which answer (my Across clues were a scrawly, semi-checked off mess). Oh, forgot: there were also two Across clues that ended up cluing not an Across answer, but an answer spelled out by letters in circles. I swear this was easier than it sounds. Anyway, I ended up boxed in the NE corner with --C-TE and no clear idea which clues were supposed to clue it. In my freefall panic, I sort of forgot that the numbers of the two appropriate clues would add up to be the number of the Across slot in the grid. So I finally just started thinking of any words that could fit in that slot and then looking at the clues I didn't believe had been used yet to see if any of them were appropriate. EXCITE? No. RECITE? No. Eventually (after a full ten minutes of freefall) I tried VACATE. Found two clues that fit. Done. Ugh. I could have used Google tickets (they give you these beforehand, and at about the halfway mark of every puzzle they allow you to use them to "Google" a word, resulting in a small penalty), but I don't do Google. Stupid principles!

Puzzle 3 was a Joe Krozel palindrome puzzle—again with the unchecked letters, but this time, the palindromitude actually meant that the apparently unchecked letters were not, in fact, unchecked, i.e. you could get them by knowing that the long, grid-spanning answers were palindromes (again with the circles—this time spelling out PALINDROME or -DROMES, I forget which). Lunch at a local diner with friends and then back for the hardest puzzle of the tournament, by Tyler Hinman (Puzzle 4). All the answers were 7 letters long and answers wrapped around the grid, so Downs that started at the bottom continued around to the top and Acrosses that started in the east continued around to the west. Throw in the fact that the puzzle was Saturday-hard *without* any of the grid trickery, and you had yourself one bear of a puzzle. And yet, as is typical for me in tournament situations, I destroyed it (comparatively). Now, my score indicates that I must have made a mistake somewhere, because honestly, I think I was about the 8th or 9th person done (out of 100+). Faster than the (lovely!) Katie Hamill, who is a way, way better solver than I am. So apparently lunch makes me smarter. Yay. Final puzzle was by Neville Fogarty, a recent college grad, whose puzzle relied on a BACK and UP trick, i.e. some answers ended in BACK and UP, but instead of those parts of the answers being in the grid, they were signified by the reverse direction the answer took. So, for instance, when an answer was HORSEBACK, it went into the grid looking like this: ESROH. My favorite of these answers was probably, SDNEIRFYOBYM. As you can see, all of the puzzles had some extra, unusual dimension to them—except Doug Peterson's puzzle for the Finals. That was all business. Hard business. Three Finalists in the Local (Easy) Division, and then three in the Express (Advanced) Division. I sat and did the puzzle using the Express clues, and it ended up taking me longer than the time allotted to the contestants. Rough rough stuff. But I finished. And so did Jeffrey Harris, the eventual tourney winner, and the only Express finalist to finish in the time allotted.

I left out Patrick Blindauer's clever and entertaining group T-square puzzle, mainly because I and my whole group sucked. We came in last. I blame handwriting vagaries. That, and my bad attitude toward group work.

Then there were awards ceremonies and socializing and then the pizza arrived, but a bunch of us already had dinner plans: continuing our tradition (two years is a tradition, right?) of eating a post-tourney meal at the Jackson Diner, which is in fact a nice Indian restaurant. Along with Angela and Doug and I, there was Tony Orbach, Amy Reynaldo, Patrick Blindauer, Marion Strauss ("mac" on my blog), and Deb Amlen. A really wonderful group. Tournament weekend, over.

Oh, I left out one of the best parts. This woman comes up to me and thanks me for being so kind to her puzzle. I had no idea who she was. Turns out her name was Joanne Sullivan, and she created the (lovely!!!) Landforms puzzle of earlier this year. So we're chatting and she says "I got you something" and I'm all "you shouldn't have" and she pulls a plastic bag out of her satchel and says "I got these at the dollar store" and I'm like "I see..." Turns out to be about half a dozen black wallets, each of which says "ORYX" (25D: Large African antelope) and has a little picture of an oryx on it (FYI in the past, and probably the future if we can get our act together, blogger Amy Reynaldo and I have given out crossword awards—Andrea Michaels convinced us to name the award The ORYX). If we do give ORYXes this year, these wallets will have to factor into the awards ceremony in some way. A seriously awesome, thoughtful gift. You should know that Joanne also creates crossword-inspired works of art, using ceramic tiles, mainly. I think. She really should have a website I can point you to. What the hell, Joanne? Get with the times.

That is all. Ryan & Bryan put on a good show. Next year the tournament will probably be too big for its current venue. Whenever I get details, I'll let you know, and hype it like mad again. A memorable, entertaining experience all around.

You can listen to Ryan & Brian's podcast recap of the tournament here.


retired_chemist 12:35 AM  

Still working on the Lollapuzzoola puzzles so I will only comment on the Wed. puzzle. Hope that is the norm - echoing Rex, no spoiling please.

Liked this one a lot. Easy. Fun theme. Had SOW and EWE switched on the first pass but fixed that easily. Got the theme at 39A from the X in ORYX (25D) by figuring the first four letters had to be XRAY, then seeing the implications of how BAN fit. Don't ever wear sunglasses myself, but Ray-Bans were the joke in today's Doonesbury.

Writeovers: DKNY => IKEA, TRON => DUNE.

Thanks, Mr. Boisvert. We seem to be building toward a great late week set or puzzles.

George NYC 12:37 AM  

Chuckles galore from all the Xs. Liked that knowing the theme actually helped solve the relevant clues. Was proud to get IAMBIC and PANDORASXBOX with no crosses. Thanks god that liberal arts education was not a waste of money!

des 12:42 AM  

And now, back to the puzzle ...

I also thought the west was the toughest: U in DUES was my last entry after I stalled a bit on WATERPROOF. I would have rather seen the clue read "Safe in the rain" - the way it reads, "Safe for the rain," had me trying to come up with some kind of safe collecting device. Ugh.

My favorite theme answer by far was X AXIS OF EVIL. great one!

PurpleGuy 12:49 AM  

Had a really obnoxious day, so was glad to have this gem tonight. It made me smile, then laugh out loud.

62a.-"Diabolical graph line?" has to be the best clue to date. The answer "XAXISOFEVIL" made me almost pee my pants. The picture I got in my head of some poor student grappling with the X axis trying to get the project finished ! Priceless.

All the theme answers were amusing and raised my spirits.
Only bad taste in my mouth was 2d, but that was easily quenched by the rest of the puzzle.

"Table cloths" was a great clue for NAPKINS. I only use cloth ones. Mom thinks I'm nuts, but who better ? I also use the china. Why should it collect dust in a cabinet ?
Another good writeup, Rex. Thanks for the Lollapuzzoola stories,too. Would have liked to attend, but can't leave 10 yr. old mom.

Great puzzle, Alex Boisvert. Needed the laughs and smiles today. Thanks.

Can't have alcohol for 24hrs. due to the medical procedure performed today, otherwise would be toasting Tinbeni withe the JWGreen scotch.

Shanti all !! Happy Wednesday !!

PurpleGuy 12:53 AM  

OMG. Stupid blogger gremlin.
That should be 102yr. old mom.
Wouldn't we all like to be 10 !!!!!!!!


Anonymous 12:54 AM  

As Rex already noted, this puzzle has a lot of words and "cheater squares". I understand that this makes the puzzle easier to construct, but who cares!

This puzzle was fantastic and smooth all over the place, and I would gladly take a few cheater squares (which I and many others probably never look for anyway) if it meant getting elegant puzzles like this one. This was a perfect wednesday, albeit a tiny bit on the easier side.

Sure, there are a few constructors who can satisfy the constructors and solvers of the world with a lack of cheater squares and a smooth puzzle, respectively. But given that most constructors can't do this without some crapfill, my vote is for more cheater squares and less crap in the future!

retired_chemist 1:01 AM  

@ PurpleGuy - I am having a routine medical diagnostic procedure Thursday and CANNOT have anything red until it is over. My nightly Shiraz is thus right out for tomorrow - boo-hoo. Enjoy the Scotch when you can have it again.

PurpleGuy 1:06 AM  

@retired_chemist - before my procedure, I wasn't allowed anything red or PURPLE. Imagine my disdain and horror. LOL. Hope yours goes OK.

Steve J 2:16 AM  

@des: I thought "Safe for the rain" was weird, too. Makes it sound like it's something that isn't damaging to rain. Not that WATERPROOF damages rain, but it still seems like the wrong preposition. Safe *from* the rain makes much more sense, at least to me.

I didn't really like this one, but I had a lousy day, so I don't know if I would have liked much of anything, to be honest. The primary thing that stuck out for me was that most of the theme answers inserted their X at the beginning (and those were the first ones I filled in), but then there are these two oddball ones that begin with P. Seemed inconsistent. Maybe if the other two hadn't coincidentally started with P, I wouldn't have noticed.

ANKELBITERS is indeed a great answer. Other than that, fairly run-of-the-mill stuff. At least there wasn't any egregious bad fill, which I was afraid of when I first looked at the grid and saw the long lines of 3-world answers in the NW and SE.

chefwen 2:17 AM  

Fun and easy puzzle, only difficulty was putting NAPpery at 44D, yeah, I know it only has one P. Kept it in way too long though. Didn't notice table cloths was two words not one.
@PurpleGuy - I only use cloth too, much to the amusement of all my casual friends here, it's the result of being brought up by a strict Austrian father (and DO NOT forget to warm the plates)

Will read the summary of the tournament after I try a couple of the puzzles tomorrow.

andrea x michaels 3:16 AM  

Really should take the day off after Mon and Tues, but had to chime in that I loved this puzzle! Yay AleXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX!

First time ever left an empty space
D-ES/_NO. :(

Best thing ever: to have ORYX in the puzzle!!!!!!
(Rex, do I have to one day win one to get one? Breath being held...starting...NOW)

Loved the OBAMA clue, actually had to make brain work!

And to have that whole X = Chi, Ten thing is brilliant brilliant.

Only thing missing was XXX for a movie rating, or a drunk cartoon character's eyes.

Ruth 6:52 AM  

I'll confess that I always liked that Ed Ames song. Tho a slick pop ballad of the '60's, I always thought he sounded really sincere, and his voice is pretty, and he sings it rather simply. So Ed Ames is OK by me.
Fun puzzle, as has been said.

Sparkydog77 7:06 AM  

All right, already. X, indeed, marks the spot. It also sends me into GALES OF LAUGHTER when I sit down and the first thing I see is (1 Across) Barnyard Females with other ones making the puzzle as well (60-Across). Particularly funny as I had just finished commenting on "barnyard" concepts in an earlier post. And I continue to enjoy these comical takes on ALL MATTERS HINTERLAND with the RIOTOUS and somewhat SNARKY 49-Down ("Have a backwoods brawl") being RASSLE.

Yes, ah-hem, here in Kentucky, we are known to roll up our sleeves and RASSLE when the need calls for it. Particularly when the EWES and the SOWS are not responding to the HOG CALLS. 'Bout that time, things get downright nasty ALL OVER THE BARNYARD..........

But, I digress..........

Now, THIS was the Tuesday puzzle, for God's sake, except I ran into ALL KINDS OF TROUBLE with 5-Down which I mistakenly thought was COWBOY at first. Had a tough time getting to HOMBRE which means I need to spend more time on the RANGE and less time in the barnyard.

Always glad to see one of MOVIEDOM's LAMER CREATIONS make the puzzle, namely the (57-Across) EWOKS OF ENDOR. If ever there was a CROSSOVER TOY AND PLUSH BEAR CAMPAIGN planned ahead of time, it was definitely that one.

33-Down proved to be particularly DEBILITATING for me and I actually LIKE the INCAS. I originally thought that Manco Capac was the BANDLEADER that took over after Lawrence Welk retired but, after scratching my head in puzzlement, I decided that most certainly NOT CORRECT. Though you have to admit that CAPAC has a certain Slavic or East European scumptious-ness to it aurally.............

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, always good to L. Frank Baum (22-Across "Toto's Creator") on board, and you can never go wrong with throwing Frank Herbert some love for "Dune" (67-Across "Sci-Fi novel made into a cult 1984 movie"). Though I still have never recovered from seeing Sting in that gold lame pair of underwear they trussed him up in...........

Now, can we please LAY OFF THE EWES and THE SOWS for a day? I've got cattle to graze and chickens to feed. The damned OVINES are just going to have to take care of themselves.............(and if ANY of you think I actually live on a farm, well, I got a bridge in Schnectady I can see you as well).

Happy Wednesday!

Sparkydog77 7:10 AM  

Andrea: LOVE the drunk cartoon character's eyes!!! That is friggin' BRILLIANT!!!!!

Sparkydog77 7:13 AM  

What I meant earlier in my post (read: need more coffee) is that, IMHO, today's puzzle should have been YESTERDAY's and that BEAST of yesterday's should be here. But, it goes that way, doesn't it? This is why we suit up and show up for more brain-scrambling fun every morning...

Unknown 7:45 AM  

Loved the puzzle and am secretly in love with Rex...shh, don't tell him. Loved the write up of the Queens event and am jealous because I have always wanted to lurk at a tourney and meet all the people I always read about and envy and then dream about coming in 3rd place out of to rassle with an Oryx...

Stan 8:05 AM  

Very smooth sailing, and (as pointed out) the theme answers just kept getting funnier.

Good one, Alex!

Anonymous 8:08 AM  

...... must be "Rassler" week...
(Great puzzle)

Orange 8:08 AM  

Loved AleX's theme. On Ryan and Brian's podcast, they've addressed the pronunciation of Alex's last name. They've settled on "Bwah-vair," French-style.

Also loved Lollapuzzoola. My group was the first to finish Patrick Blindauer's T-square puzzle. I was busy folding my and my partner's grid into a half cube while the rest of the group was combining T-squares and pondering the circled letters. Mm-hmm, no folding required.

Interesting that you left me out of the Jackson Diner roll call even though I was sitting kitty-corner from you. I guess I wasn't mouthy enough Saturday night.

Yes, ReX, we need to assemble a brave new Oryx committee of people who do all the various crosswords (uh, excepting USA Today and Universal) and do it up big this winter. One wallet a year as the top prize for the year's best constructor?

joho 8:24 AM  

EXciting puzzle, loved it!

Only problems were ibeX before ORYX and feES before DUES. So DIRTY/DUES/ORYX was the thorniest spot for me.

XAXISOFEVIL was my favorite.

Thank you, Alex Boisvert, for an eXcellent Wednesday romp!

OldCarFudd 8:44 AM  

Very, very nice!

Doug 8:44 AM  

This was a very cool puzzle, and it took more longer than probably anyone who commented, but who cares? I got the XRAYBAN right away because the only answers I could get were in the middle. (I do M-W in pen, btw.) ANKLEBITER was my favorite non-theme answer. And for future reference, puzzle solvers, note that a third reference to tots is "house apes," a term which I first heard used by skydivers way, way back.

Brendan Emmett Quigley 8:45 AM  

Come on! We weren't that drunk.


Suuuure...I bet you're drunk right now!

John V 8:57 AM  

Easier than typical Wed, IMHO. Agree with Rex that west was hardest. 38A UNO was the sticker, crossing with 3D,waterproof, which I agree was a bit oddly clued. Overall, a fun puzzle, abt 20 mins on the New Haven, for this non-speed, always in pencil, solver.

Rex Parker 8:58 AM  

@BEQ, OK *you* weren't that drunk. But I have audio of you referring to the extent of *my* drunkenness. Though, as you know, it's easy to get me drunk these days. It's been years and years since my drink consumption exceeded 1 per night. I mean, what did I have, two pints? Lightweight.

Parshutr 9:03 AM  

Loved this one. Of course, NIPS can be refreshing too, but that would mean the ITLAS mountains.
And, technically, an axis is an axis is an axis...not a line in a graph. But HK?

Anonymous 9:15 AM  

had party for dirty so got stuck but otherwise found the puzzle easy and fun, far simpler than yesterday.

jesser 9:18 AM  

Loved the puzzle. Loved even more the tournament recap!

This puzzle had many giggle-worthy highs and one low the constructor could not have anticipated.

All the Xs were just cool as heck, and I tittered at all the theme answers except XRAYBANS, which felt only mildly clunky in comparison to the rest of them.

My favorite by far was PANDORA'S X-BOX. I attribute this to our late, great Gov. Bruce King, who was a true HOMBRE and who had not one whit of political correctness in his system. He had a Yogi Berra way with words, and one of his most famous quotes was along the lines of as follows: "We have released a whole box of Pandoras." I don't remember what the line referenced, but it still makes me smile.

As to ORYX, we have them here in Doña Ana County. A lot of them. And they are absolutely stunningly beatiful creatures. People come here from all over, some to photograph them and others, sadly, to kill them.

Loved the shoutout to lesbian icon MELISSA Etheridge, especially with the Prop 8 bullshit maybe about to go in the dustbin of history. I hope OBAMA and SCOTUS do the right things.

Only writeover was at 45A, where I really should know by now to wait for the cross to reveal to me whether a K or a C ends Mr. Baldwin's name. I seem to always screw it up.

Finally, 57D was a bit of a heart breaker. On this day 27 years ago, David Alan Ladd -- my first lover -- became one of my EXES quite unexpectedly when he placed a .16 gauge shotgun against his chest and pulled the trigger. Our love for one another was not enough for him to reconcile his sexuality to a family whose reaction to his truth he so feared. A lot has changed since 1983. I still talk to him daily, although his death has come between us. OMEGA. Godspeed, David...

Dejenti! (It has to be a toast to change, progress and love) -- jesser

CaseAce 9:26 AM  

Let's call Senor Boisvert, El AleXigente "The Demanding One" (Very loosely translated btw) As this bad HOMBRE not only talks the talk, EWOKS the wok as well...SAFARI as I can see?

Leslie 9:28 AM  

"We have released a whole box of Pandoras."

HA! Thanks for sharing that, Jesser.

X AXIS OF EVIL was my favorite theme answer; ANKLE BITER was my favorite non-theme answer. Maybe someday a constructor will work "carpet crawler" into a puzzle.

des 9:28 AM  

As long as we are being technical, the clue doesn't say the line is in the graph, it is the "graph line" which refers, correctly, to one of the two lines on the border of the graph, the other being the "y axis" (and I guess having been answered, the Y is apparently not evil).

Leslie 9:31 AM  

Oh, Jesser, that's what I get for not reading all the way through. My sympathies on your loss of David Alan Ladd. As long as you, his family, and his friends remember him and hold him in their hearts, he's not all the way gone. I'm so sorry.

chefbea 10:07 AM  

Easy Wednesday puzzle.

Loved table cloths/napkins

and yet another rassle

@Rex nice that your mom chimed in at the end yesterday!!

Two Ponies 10:34 AM  

Gotta love all of those X's.
Easy and fun.
Considering the theme I suppose the Roman numeral was unavoidable but I did not expect it in the form of a multiplication problem.

Agree that the waterproof clue needed a rewrite.
Does anyone really call documentaries docs?

Favorite entertainment at the trailer park - rasslin and monster trucks!

I've never heard of children called ankle biters. That's what I call small yippy dogs.

@ Rex, Thanks for the Manco Capac info. All news to me esp. the Uncle Scrooge stuff.

@ jesser, Very touching story.

joecab 10:41 AM  

Foo. Saw you there and never got the chance to say hi. I'll have to catch you at Stamford. (YES I am one of those who won't ever call it anything else. Shut up.)

Anonymous 10:46 AM  

XAXISOFEVIL. Clap, clap, clap.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:47 AM  

Very nice puzzle today. I've always heard the expression ANKLEBITERS on the ski slope.

Between Rex's write-up and Ryan and Brian's podcast, not much to add about Lollapuzzoola 3, except that I had a Hecht of a good time! I had no idea how long the subway ride was from Manhattan, and consequently I arrived at the venue at 9 AM (for a 10 AM opening) to find Mike Nothnagel (whom I did not recognize!) and one other man waiting outside on the steps, not yet having checked to see if the doors were open. Shortly after that I was helping to move in loads of snacks (very big on that crossword staple, OREOS) and other gear. I hadn't planned to stay for dinner, and didn't, but I was privileged to have lunch with mac, imsdave, Deb Amlen and others. Rex has covered the puzzles well. Number 4 was my downfall, and I finished an embarrassing 65th out of 107, way down from my ACPT performance.

Joanne Sullivan 11:10 AM  

I work for weeks constructing the Lollapuzzoola Warm-up puzzle and the accompanying prizes, and you're most impressed with the plastic cardholders that I happened to spot in a 99-cent store. Who knew? Well, I'm glad that you like them.

One of these days I must get around to getting a website. It's surprising that I'm such a Luddite considering that I'm a former computer programmer.

Congratulations on the publication of your puzzle! Like me, you now know the thrill of having your debut puzzle appear on the Tuesday after a major crossword tournament. I made a copy of it before I solved it so I still have a clean copy of yesterday's NY Times. (Yes, I still solve on paper. See, I am a Luddite.) Would you like me to send you any or all of the paper?

Tinbeni 11:10 AM  

Would have expected a puzzle with an 'X'
theme would have looked like an 'X' ...

Damn, there's only 7 'X's' in the whole grid.
Sure seemed like more while solving.

Loved the BRAT / ANKLEBITER stack.

FUN Wednesday, Good job Alex.

harryhassell 11:19 AM  

Loved this breezy Wednesday puzzle - lots of X's and a few repetitive clues to make you think twice. Bravo, Monsieur Boisvert!

Sorry we didn't get to chat at LP3, but glad you had a great time in my 'hood. Jackson Diner rocks! I hope R & B are able to find a large enough location in Jackson Heights so everyone is able to come back out to Queens next year. The tourney wouldn't have the same feel in some stale hotel dining room by the airport.

Nice write-up!

undor 11:38 AM  

@Orange - You were listed among the Jackson Diner crowd. Maybe you just forget your real name from time to time.

Rex Parker 11:41 AM  

Orange wasn't listed originally. I silently added her.

@harryhassell, you are right about the importance of venue for the LP tourney. Somewhere corporate and impersonal would be Terrible. R&B will figure it out.


Van55 12:36 PM  

No way in the world is 4D: XLI x X (CDX) a bonus clue/answer.

Fair enough puzzle, otherwise, but it was easier for me than yesterday's. Almost Monday easy.

Masked and Anonymous 12:47 PM  

@44: Very sweet (and well-deserved) review of an X-tra fun WedPuz.

Our work here is done.

P.S. Cheater squares can make a grid more interesting-lookin'.

Zeke 1:12 PM  

I usually don't listen to/watch the videos. I know you spend a great deal of thought and time picking them, so not watching them is kind of rude, like not tasting your hostess' homemade rubarb pie, even thought you know you're going to hate it. Man, Ed Ames is the worst f*(&*(in rubarb pie I ever had, and I hate even what is purported to be really, really good rubarb pie.

MF 1:20 PM  

I am fairly certain, although not 100%, that this puzzle has a hidden theme within the obvious one. I might be reaching a bit here, but the letter X appears exactly seven times in the puzzle itself. There are also two clues based around the letter X, and one clue which has the answer EXES. All of the things, plus an obsession with the film, makes me believe this puzzle was meant to have a Scott Pilgrim theme hidden within. But I could be completely wrong.

MikeM 1:40 PM  

OK, can someone explain what "cheater squares"
are? I have been doing these puzzles since the 70s and don't get it. Thanks in advance :)

Always here 1:49 PM  

@MikeM - Cheater squares are black squares which don't change the word count of the puzzle. Many hate the term "Cheater", but that's what they seem to be called. In this puzzle, the square immediately to the right of 4A is a cheater square. 4A could have been CHIA, the resulting down would then have been ASNUG. CHIA would have been OK, people would have screamd about little kiddies ASNUG in bed with visions of sugarplums.. So, that one square made the puzzle cleaner

Shamik 2:04 PM  

Sweet little entertaining puzzle of the easy-medium variety for me. Maybe it would have been easy if I weren't at work and people were coming up to the desk to chat....not work related chat...just chat. Cold and windy in Skagway today.

Anonymous 2:09 PM  

Based on the ease with which I tackled this, it should have been a Tuesday, and as Rex said his should have been a Wed.

Jeff Chen 2:40 PM  

Wonderful puzzle Alex! A pure delight.


MikeM 2:41 PM  

@ALways here - thanks! You learn something new every day

J 3:11 PM  

Good puzzle. Lots of fun.
Especially enjoyed RASSLE.

mac 3:11 PM  

Easy but smooth an elegant puzzle. The only "need some crosses" area for me was around hombre. My favorite theme answer was "X-RayBan". Anklebiter is a new expression for me, and like Two Ponies, it makes me think of yappy little dogs.

I don't mind Roman numerals, but my all-time favorite was about a week ago: 54-year old woman!

@chefwen: funny about those hot plates, my English friends really think it's gauche if they aren't.

Lollapuzzoola is a wonderful event, and this year the social part far outweighed the puzzle experience for me! So much fun with the puzzle people. Hope it doesn't change too much.

Shamik 3:25 PM  

Oh! And since I actually worked yesterday...followed by good-bye events, I didn't get to the Tuesday puzzle. Couldn't wait any longer when i saw someone above post how challenging it was. And, indeed, it was a splendidly, delightful challenging Tuesday for me. And then to find it was Rex's debut....

Bravo Rex!

CrazyCat 3:29 PM  

Thoroughly enjoyable puzzle that seemed easier than yesterday's to me as well. Xcellent theme. Fell in the IBEX/ORYX trap yet again. I agree that the clue for WATERPROOF was oddly worded. 29D ANKLEBITER for Rug rat also confused me. I thought a rug rat was a crawling baby which would be the stage from approximately 6 months to a year. They don't really have enough teeth at that age to bite, do they? Just wondering.
Great write-up of the puzzle tournament.

sanfranman59 3:30 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 11:34, 11:44, 0.99, 54%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Wed 5:48, 5:46, 1.00, 59%, Medium

Wade 3:59 PM  

I liked this puzzle--hell, I like them all, except ones with Leo Sayer in them--but I really hope somebody gives this guy a Nobel Prize or maybe a MacArthur for coming up with that Crossword Butler thing. I haven't been so impressed since digital watches came out. Always nice to see people using their powers for good instead of evil; I should resolve to do the same, but hey, I gotta be me. Thanks for passing that along, Rex.

mitchs 4:26 PM  

LOL at Rex's description of the argument about the Boisvert pronunciation. Sounds like the maturity and sophistication level evident in most of my disputes.

Terry Tate 5:01 PM  


Sfingi 6:07 PM  

Really complex puzzle. Besides the 7 Xs (12 words containing X), mini-theme: barnyard females. That's where using "female" is proper - sexing animals. Oh-oh - The CW should have the word "sex" in here! Besides the 4 theme words - x added to phrases - there were theme tie-ins: EXES, CHI, TEN.

Hubster says "female" should be used only as an adjective. Hmmm

Mini-theme: 2 balladeers with 4 letter names starting with A: AMES,ANKA.
Mini-theme: 2 3-syllable foreign words starting with O: OMERTA', OMEGA. Remember, accent for OMERTA' is on the last syllable.
OMERTA has no equivalent in English. Other concepts do: liberta' = liberty, umilta' = humility, etc.

Rewrite: WATERtight before WATERproof.

Loved the OBAMA clue. So, now we can have Latin presidents?

The LA also had ION.

Never heard of UNO, or Manco Capac.

I did have to Google for 2 crossing fills - ATLAS and LAYS.

@RetiredChemist - Hubsters forever buying sunglasses - I don't get it.
Why not just get Photo-grays?

@Jesser - sorry for your loss.

@Rex - Uncle Scrooge has sure taken some strange turns. He's very big in Italy.

@SparkyDig - great comments! Keep 'em coming.

Brian Cimmet 6:50 PM  

Rex -- thank you SO MUCH! for the wonderful writeup of Lollapuzzoola. I'm delighted that you not only have joined us for two years, but that you've already established TRADITIONS! (Yes, the Jackson Diner is awesome.)

And commenters today (and earlier in the week), thank you also for your lovely reports! I have to say, reading about the event on blogs other than my own is really quite a thrill!

It's been such great fun putting the tournament together these past three years, and the best part by far has been bringing together such a terrific community of solvers, constructors and fans.

We will attempt to learn from both the good (casual! silly!) and the bad (puzzle instructions that take an hour to explain!), and no doubt forget everything as we put together Lollapuzzoola Four.

Thanks for coming, everyone. I can't wait to see you at the next one!

- Brian

mac 6:50 PM  

Forgot to mention: sorry, Jesser.

mac 6:52 PM  

Oh, hi Brian!

Sparky 7:31 PM  

Enjoyed catching on to the theme exes and then finding even more popping up in the fill. Alas, had forte for 32A DIRTY which meant I misspelled OReX,a few squares out of whack. @Purple Guy, good luck and @RetiredChemist. Boy I hate that word "proceedure." Jesser, so sorry for your pain. As for me WOW! Oh, another tot word: Crumb Cruncher.

fergus 8:00 PM  

I forget the specifics of the ORYX awards, but they were centered on general Xword brilliance, were they not?

This puzzle (completed with yet another day of no over-write, I smugly state) was sizzling. Reminded of of that Aussie beer 4X, or 8X or whatever number.

Sfingi 8:25 PM  

Just discovered - from YouTube - that "I'm a Gigolo" is an entirely different piece from "Just a Gigolo."

joho 8:42 PM  

@Jesser, I was so moved by you comment this morning I didn't comment. Now all I can say is you are doing the very best thing you can by remembering your friend and love in the way you've just done.

Ray Ban 9:02 PM  


Why not Photo-Gray?

1) They react to UV thus do not change for driving (glass filters UV)

2) The change is temperature dependent, the colder the slower and less dark (Think winter / snow)

3) Photo Grays go from clear to gray, not as dark a true sunglasses. (I actually wear them as my *regular* glasses).

4) There are Photo Sun lenses, they get as dark as regular sunglasses, but only lighten to medium gray, too dark for indoors

5) You can get sunglasses with proper side coverage for extra protection, you probably wouldn't like the look for every day wear.

Thus the answer to your question, photo grays are not a replacement for a good pair of sunglasses.


jesser 9:15 PM  

Thanks to all of you who sent good wishes and sympathy. Although I surely miss him -- first loves and all that -- I'm not in pain, and haven't been for some time. I've come to accept that the only way to view a suicide is through a lens of hope. To survive it, you have to hope it was the best decision for David (or pick a name that's meaningful to you), because it was surely not a good decision for those of us (and there were many) who loved him. It was selfish, but it was his self, and his choice.

Five years after he did it, I was working as managing editor for the little newspaper in Raton, NM. I had a dream one night in which David came to me, dressed in white, drenched in blood. I held him and he kept saying, "Someone shot me." I kept saying, "It wasn't me." I awoke from the dream slowly, shaking off the sadness of the 'experience', but also realizing for the First Time: I didn't shoot him. Nothing about what happened was my choice. I Didn't Shoot Him.

The dream changed my way of thinking, and it let me move forward.

This anniversary was, for a time, about what happened to me. For 22 years, it's been about his choice, and the fact that I love(d) him.

He committed suicide.

Every word in that sentence is about him: the subject, the verb, the object. I had nothing to do with it. My only involvement is the ongoing love story with a ghost, and the weird memory of blood and bone. Of cleaning up a mess. Of surviving. Of recognizing the memory of the day by lifting up the miracle of his life/our life/my life.

I find him in crosswords, on street corners, in flea markets, at jazz concerts, by bus stops, etc. He's part of me. And that is the part that I can grin about, because if he thinks he succeeded in leaving, he's wrong.

Thanks, everyone. Life is good. Love is miraculous. Survival is hard. It's a Saturday puzzle out there, but I am committed to taking out my pen every time. I play in ink, smiling even when I DNF.

-- jesser

Vega 9:34 PM  

Wow, thanks for the shout-out, Rex. And just so you know, that "friendly" thing suits you.

Lollapuzzoola 3 brought out some of the finest, funniest, warmest people in the universe. Only two equally fine, funny, and warm organizers could have pulled that off. I'm a bit schoolgirl-star-struck-crushed out right now on everyone that was there, and especially Mike Nothnagel. There, I said it. Thank you everyone and PuzzleGirl especially for making me NOT feel like a complete dork.

Can I just say how much I love clues like the one for OBAMA where you learn something random but fantastically interesting about an otherwise utterly ordinary word?


sanfranman59 10:07 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 6:38, 6:58, 0.95, 28%, Easy-Medium
Tue 11:09, 8:52, 1.26, 97%, Challenging
Wed 11:34, 11:44, 0.99, 54%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:33, 3:43, 0.96, 33%, Easy-Medium
Tue 5:38, 4:34, 1.23, 97%, Challenging
Wed 5:35, 5:46, 0.97, 44%, Medium

Robin 1:01 AM  

@Jesser - thanks for sharing. Something really special about the peeps who comment here. Feel like I know you and just want to give you a big hug.

jesser 8:36 AM  

@Robin: All hugs gratefully accepted! And returned! :-)


Dirigonzo 7:47 PM  

For those of us solving in syndication-land, this puzzle appeared on the last day of Summer - the Autumnal EquinoX is just a few hours away - which has no significance whatsoever eXcept that I am sad to see what has been a spectacularly beautiful (in my little corner of the Universe, at least) season come to a close. As to the puzzle itself, I will say only that as a man with more than my fair share of EXES, the theme made me a little uncomfortable. My failed marriages aside, I found it easy for a Wednesday, but enjoyable. Here's hoping that Fall will be as beautiful in its own way as Summer was.

Dirigonzo 8:41 PM  

In what I can only imagine to be a strange coincidence - or a freaky cosmic joke - today's (9/22 in real time, I think) Doonesbury cartoon strip also has EXES as its central theme. I'm not ego-centric enough to think any of this has anything to do with me personally, but I still think it's pretty spooky.

Anonymous 7:32 PM  

Really enjoyed the puzzle with all the "X"s. I agree that it seemed like more than 7. The first two them answers that I got were Xrayban and xaxisofevil (I'm a math teacher) so I thought that the theme was "before and after using x." Xray and Rayban or X-axis and Axis of evil. It took me a while to give up on that, but it was still fun.

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