Collins on Op-Ed page / MON 8-30-10 / Video game maker owns Seattle Mariners / Actress/director May / 1960s world chess champion Mikhail *

Monday, August 30, 2010

Constructor: Richard Chisholm

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: TWO HANDS (59A: Things a clock has ... or, literally, what 17-, 25-, 35- and 50-Across are) — theme answers are two-word phrases where both words can precede HAND in a familiar phrase or word

Word of the Day: GAIL Collins (39D: Collins on the Op-Ed page) —

Gail Gleason Collins (born November 25, 1945) is an American journalist, op-ed columnist and author, most recognized for her work with the New York Times. Joining the Times in 1995 as a member of the editorial board, from 2001 to 2007 she served as the paper's Editorial Page Editor – the first woman to attain that position. Collins presently authors a semi-weekly op-ed column for the Times, published Thursdays and Saturdays. (wikipedia)
• • •
This one was not terribly exciting. First, TWO HANDS ... is not really a zippy phrase. At all. The best revealers can stand alone — phrases that have been adapted in some surprising way. Today, TWO HANDS—and the clue isn't accurate: "literally?" OFF is not "literally" a HAND. STAGE is not "literally" a HAND. They aren't even *types* of hands. They are *only* words that can *precede* hand in a familiar word/phrase (actually, HAND can come before or after OFF). Bigger problem, though: the theme answers just ... lie there. They are adequate as phrases go, and certainly fulfill their duty, but there is zero wow factor. In cases like this, it is crucial for the overall fill to be smooth, if not brilliant. Today, neither. So much tired short stuff. I mean, we start with two abbrevs. (PJS, SFPD) and end up getting a bunch more, including the dire TREAS. (51D: Club finance officer: Abbr.). Then there's the dreaded E-CASH (32D: Online money) crossing odd partial A SORE, the now "facetious" (read: mildly racist) "AH SO" crossing foreign UNIS on top of foreign ESTO. That SW corner is a mess—is that really the best fill that could go in that chunk of space. In addition to TREAS, there's the lowly TSETSE and the loathsome INANER. AGLARE's clue made both me and wife go "???" (45D: Blazing). Plus the unlovely AGAS up top there. It all feels just a little ... lazy. Once we get to 6+ letters, things perk up a bit (love FISHEYE, for example; 26D: Kind of lens with a wide angle). But [deep breath] WOOER CPO ENIAC APER ETH OTOS AGAS ILIE SITU SROS TAL NIA SOL etc. just dominate the grid to too great an extent today, smothering the interesting but not terribly lively theme.

Theme answers:
  • 17A: Where Claudius is during Hamlet's "To be, or not to be" soliloquy (OFF STAGE)
  • 25A: Any time now (BEFORE LONG)
  • 35A: Extra plateful (SECOND HELPING)
  • 50A: Position for Babe Ruth (RIGHT FIELD)
Interesting set of people in the grid today. Never heard of GAIL Collins. This pretty much tells you that I subscribe to the NYT puzzle, but not the dead-tree paper itself. I'm vaguely aware of a host of names from the NYT Op-Ed page. Hers is not one of them. Not complaining at all, just noting that sometimes, even on Mondays, the puzzle can introduce you to something new. I always forget which spelling of ELAINE (12D: Actress/director May) goes with which ELAYNE (May vs. Boosler), so I had to double-check that cross. I know Mikhail TAL (53A: 1960s chess champion Mikhail ___) only from crosswords, and even then, only barely. Still, he's likely the most famous TAL in existence, though I know one-hit wonder TAL Bachmann better:

  • 38D: Video game maker that owns the Seattle Mariners (NINTENDO) — weird to think of an owner as non-human. Surely there is a human being who functions in that role. Or maybe not. Maybe that's why the Mariners are perennial superunderachievers (Free Ichiro!)
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


des 12:25 AM  

This one was Challenging for me. I didn't know TAL - which meant that AGLARE was not only clunky but also almost impossible to come up with. I also didn't know CPO, which meant that I had to get it though the three crosses, all of which fortunatley were crosswordese. And I totally agree with the ridiculousness of the theme "reveal" - even after getting all the answers there is nothing to indicate the before and/or after. Ugh!

Steve J 12:45 AM  

Yeah, lots of issues with this one. Especially the theme reveal. Definitely, none of the theme answers are TWOHANDS. This may be the worst clue I've ever seen.

Nearly put in ANDREW for 43D off the crossing A, but hesitated for a moment as I don't recall Warhol ever going by anything other than Andy. That clue/answer combo seems awfully high on deliberate misdirection for a Monday. And was indeed just one of many problems in the awkward SW.

Really wish ECASH and its sibling EZINE, would be retired. They weren't even popular in the 1990s, when it was EEVERYTHING. Now, their use is probably limited almost exclusively to crosswords.

I did like a few snippets: FISHEYE was nice, and while I didn't like him, QUAYLE was a nice answer. Liked FLAMBE as well. Otherwise, this was puzzle that was hard to love. Literally.

Tobias Duncan 1:06 AM  

I was flying through this puzzle for a while. Thought it would be one of my fastest but the southwest killed the speed. My lack of sports knowledge is legendary for a blue collar guy, so giants crossing right field next to aglare with agas and tal was just a quagmire (by monday standards). As a new solver these crosswordese rich puzzles really help. They are like flash cards.

Anonymous 1:32 AM  

I have a serious suggestion.

Nearly every day, Rex is able to identify serious flaws in crosswords that apparently escape Will Shortz. I’m not saying Rex should replace Will (although puzzle quality would certainly improve) but why doesn't the New York Times hire Rex to advise Will on these puzzles? That way, Rex could explain to Will how to fix the problems or even which puzzles should be rejected. Everyone would win.


Tinbeni 1:35 AM  

Seems I can't do a puzzle lately without
ST LO in the grid.
A subtle reminder of my visit to the Normandy American Cemetary overlooking Omaha Beach five years ago. But I digress.

Practically did this only using the Across clues.

Theme of TWO HANDS works for me.

Easy but FUN Monday!

Nate Conrad 1:49 AM  

Not a Monday puzzle! I'd say this was Monday and a half, or even a Tuesday

chefwen 1:58 AM  

What @Steve J said and more. Every time I see INANER I cringe. Puzzle was just sort of Ho Hum in my book. Unlike Steve, I did put in andrew at 43D, my only write over. Looking forward to Tuesday.

articar - Jesser's new vehicle when he moves north.

andrea notforme michaels 3:20 AM  

wow. different take on this for me. I didn't get the theme and had to read it a few times...but once I got it, I thought, wow! EIGHT words that went before HAND. Cool!!!

Agree that this is a Monday and a half or a Tuesday...ESPECIALLY with five theme lines. The bar has been raised so high, Will has confirmed that even for Mondays, FIVE is the new four :(

(And don't I know it, just spent three hours rewriting a provisionally accepted Monday puzzle I had thought was a Tuesday (five themes, etc.) just to rid my grid of ODIC and YEH!)

I thought QUAYLE over UNSEAT was super, esp bec his son just won something somewhere I think. (Isn't QUAYLE spelled without that final e?)

And the long downs were fab:

OK, I have to share this...
Peter Gordon is famous for his terse rejections of NY Sun submissions with a three word email: "NOT FOR ME".

I once complained bitterly that after knowing him for 25+ years that I deserved more that a three word rejection.
My next puzzle was dismissed with
I laughed for days.

And then the NEXT rejection (yes, I was rejected all the time by Peter) I got a lengthy letter!
"Although your brilliance and eloquence was exhibited..." blah blah blah for many many pages, ending with, "However, this puzzle is NOT FOR ME"

Falconer 4:24 AM  

People, this is a Monday. The bar for amusement is not high. I thought it was clever and enjoyed discovering the meaning of the two-fisted revealer. Also any puzzle with Babe Ruth, Hamlet and Steve McQueen ("Bullitt") just cannot be all bad.

I give two thumbs up to the two-handed puzzle.

Rube 4:54 AM  

Had way too many writeovers for a Monday: FLAMed for FLAMBE, BYEbye for BYENOW, and NOTtoday for NOTFORME. However, the big problem was looking at AG_ARE at 45D. Must have stared at this for ten seconds when Mikhail TAL emerged from my memory, giving AGLARE, a harder then usual Monday word.

But how could I forget Mikhail Tal and his matches with Bobby Fischer in the late 50s and early 60s? They were the talk of the US chess world as well as the US in general. As an aside, the admissions director of that era for Columbia College told me once that they had rejected Bobby Fischer for admission to Columbia as he was too one dimensional. Apparently he lasted at Harvard for about as long as Bill Gates! At the time, I remember thinking that Fischer was the exact same age as me and here he already had world wide notoriety. Makes me think of this little bit of doggerel I learned in grad school.

I'd rather be a could be if I cannot be an are
For a could be is a someone with with a chance of breaking par
But I'd rather be a has been then a might have been by far
For a might have been has never been while a has been was an are

I'll rate this as medium-challenging, for a Monday.

fikink 8:07 AM  

When the puzzle is so lackluster, it is always an adventure to mine the depths of your images, Rex. Today's commentary led me to The Comic Treadmill. Thanks for many worlds, so little time.

@SteveJ, had the same reaction to Warhol/Wyeth clue. I threw in ANDREW and got ready for a fight with Mr. Chisholm.

@Tobias, an apt comparison to flashcards! Nice.

@Andrea, QUAYLE without the "e" - Killer! ;)

joho 8:09 AM  

OMG, there's a SQUIRREL giving me the FISHEYE from a branch outside my window.

I liked @Rex' critique but was more impressed with the theme than he.

My biggest gripe was AGLARE. I had AfLAmE and AfLARE before the ugly AGLARE.

I did learn something which is always a good thing. I thought POSY should be plural if describing flowers in a bouquet but it turns out, no.

Pretty good Monday, thank you, Richard Chisholm!

(@Andrea ... your NOTFORME Peter Gordon story is priceless!)

dk 8:18 AM  

Its been said. Still have a few Matchbox TOYCARs.

** (2 Stars) Fine Monday, thank you Mr. C

PIX 8:43 AM  

With words like ENIAC APER ETH OTOS AGAS ILIE SITU SROS TAL NIA SOL, if I was teaching a course in NYTimes Vocabulary Words 101, I would use this puzzle as the mid-term exam.

@Andrea XX Michaels: I absolutely admire your ability to find the good in any puzzle... I wish I could carry over that kind of thinking to the other aspects of my life.

John V 8:58 AM  

My take, easy, even for a Monday.

@Rex -- Irrespective of the views she may take, Gail Collins, IMHO, is one of the very best writers at the Times, always a good read, usually pretty funny.

Van55 9:04 AM  

I rather liked the theme and the reveal. Still, they didn't overcome the plethora of crap listed by our host. Worst offenders for me are INANER, WOOER and ASORE.t

The Big E 9:05 AM  

I flew through this puzzle, and was not overly enthralled.
At the same time, I think that people shoudl keep in mind that the audience for NY Times puzzles is far more diverse than than X number of people that comment on this blog, though we are probably a relatively decent sampling thereof.
Either way, I think that by and large the Times continues to churn out the highest quality puzzle on the market today! (Though the TV Guide puzzle is making great strides!) :-p


chefbea 9:07 AM  

Thought this was easy but took me a while to understand the theme. Had hand off and stage hand and figured hand had to go at the beginning and end of each theme answer.

Several names I didn't know but got them from the crosses

WOODITY= me reciting a cute little poem

hazel 9:24 AM  

I'm in the fan category. Tore through this one lickety-split. Close to a record.

Like the theme, and the fact that the theme words are normal (good, even) words with non-wacky clues. The puzzle just had a pleasant old-timey vibe that I liked - PJs, CLOWNS, TOYCARs, BIC pens, a POSY - even a WOOER. Also, kind of funny to think of clocks as still having two hands since the overwhelming majority have no hands, just digits.

OldCarFudd 9:27 AM  

I thought it was a fair-to-middlin' puz (good theme, but too much junk fill) with a WAY better than average set of blog comments. Andrea, nfm is wonderful. Rube, I'd heard of "I'd rather be a has-been than a never-was", but your poem is fantastic!

redhed 9:30 AM  

Fun puzzle for me as I finished (guess that how I rate 'em) and flew through it. Write overs: BYE BYE, ANDREW. If I were a better solver, I might have the same criticisms, but as I am not a better solver, I get happy just off of success!

Binny 9:46 AM  

Long-time reader, but have never commented here. Love the blog. Just wanted to add that I thought it was interesting to see 2 tennis greats (Ilie Nastase, Rod Laver) referenced on the day the US Open begins here in New York.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:09 AM  

Nice enough Monday, not much to say.

I have a habit of printing out BEQ puzzles and setting them aside for vacations and semi-vacation situations. Yesterday at the beach, having done the Saturday and Sunday NYT puzzles on Saturday, I was working from my BEQ folder. I noticed a middle-aged couple nearby who were working co-operatively on a crossword. I couldn't see too clearly, but they had cut it out of a newspaper, it appeared to be a 15 x 15, and there were color comics on the reverse. I ran through 5 or 6 BEQs in the time it took them to complete that one. Now I know Rex could do my whole folder in the time it takes me to do one, but the point is that we need different level puzzles for various folks. (Also, Rex would probably focus on the puzzles and not look at the other people!)

Sfingi 10:16 AM  

@Binny - Love that New Yorker Cartoon. A classic.

@Tobias - exactly what I wanted to know today - crosswordese does indeed accumulate, even in sports. I found today(s) puzzles easy and wondered what I though last year.

OTOS here, OTOE in the "other" puzzle. Same gang.

@AnonKaren - Wait a minute. Is that Rex's feminine side?

Two Ponies 10:36 AM  

OK for a Monday.
Andrea and fikink beat me to the Quayle/potatoe joke. I'm right there with you both on that gaffe.
Maybe puzzles like this are good ones for newbies to cut their teeth on. I usually do the Mondays for social reasons just to see what everyone has to say about it.
Clowns crossing toy car made me think of the circus act where all the clowns come piling out.
Never saw or heard of the Sharkey show.

CoffeeLvr 10:40 AM  

Well, I thought Rex had said it all, but @SteveJ hit some additional SORE points.

Kinda liked the puzzle at first, what with SQUIRREL crossing QUAYLE. But the constructor lost me at my lone writeover: OTOS. That irritated me and the SW didn't help my snippy assessment. In the end, I agree with @BobKerfuffle, though. f Monday's weren't relatively easy, I would never have moved into the rest of the week.

Time for a digression into (admittedly parochial) history. The preferred spelling for that tribe is Otoe, which I confidently entered. How do I know this? I grew up in Platte county, Missouri, which is the southern tip of the Platte Purchase (PP hereinafter). The little known PP was bought by the US government in 1836 from the Sac & Fox, and Ioway tribes. Earlier in the 19th century it had been part of the traditional range of the Otoe. The PP was added to the state of Missouri in 1837, and made it the largest state in the Union at that time.

The second shout out to history is BOONE. I lived in Boone county for 6 years, during my time at the first land grant university west of the Mississippi. I had a T-shirt that read "Boone County Fool," which seemed appropriate under the influence of Boone county Brown.

CoffeeLvr 10:42 AM  

oops, If Mondays . . .

Ulrich 10:44 AM  

Speaking of the US Open: I'll be there tomorrow and Wednesday--is anyone else from this gang going?

...And I have two hands, too--what's a stinking clock got over me? My backhand is one-handed, though, but could not be compared to that of the great Rod Laver--boy, do I remember his Popeyeish forearm muscles!

archaeoprof 10:47 AM  

Another reason to like GAIL Collins: she is from Cincinnati, Ohio.

BTW, the Reds now lead the Cardinals by five games!

But alas, yet one more puzzle with no references to country music...

David 10:58 AM  

"weird to think of an owner as non-human"

Is this some sort of anti-corporate rant? :-)

Agreed this puzzle was dull, but thought it was easy, even for a Monday.

The Hag 11:01 AM  

Medium? Really?

Mel Ott 11:24 AM  

The Matchbox clue brought back fond memories of when my two sons, now in their forties, were little tykes. They really loved those wonderful little Matchbox cars. Played with them for hours at a time in the back yard, or on the living room rug in inclement weather.

I'm no lawyer, but 11:26 AM  

"weird to think of an owner as non-human"

Actually, The Supreme Court has long held that corporations are considered "persons" under the Constitution.

See: Citizens United v. Federal Election Comm'n


CaseAce 11:54 AM  

This Monday offering was HANDS down from "The Old Chisholm Trail" a most unusually challenging one to kick-off any week in many a moon...Bravo, old fellow!

Masked and Anonymous 12:50 PM  

IMHO, 44 woke up on the wrong side of the bed. This puz had a cool, hard-to-execute theme that actually made yah Think a little bit on a Monday. Some really top notch long fill. Some of the short fill maybe in the AUS/REMAP category -- but it had to all be Easy, to be in the MonPuz; so constructor had to walk on eggs a little bit. I thought he brought it off just fine. Maybe coulda used another U or two. Thumbs up. QED.

Doc John 12:50 PM  

I blazed through this one (not glared) with the same impression as Rex. Lots of tired fill and INANER will ruin it for me every time. When it started with PJS I knew that wasn't a good sign.
As for DROID, I wonder if they had to license the use of the word from Lucasfilm?

mitchs 12:55 PM  

@Andrea: great anecdote re Peter Gordon. It gives us lurkers a glance at the inside.

@Archaeoprof: looks like Votto may survive the Sports Illustrated curse.

Anonymous 1:00 PM  

Thanks for the update on the Platte Purchase. Fun to see another alum of the First Land Grant College West of the Mississippi here. Mizzou-RAH!

Anonymous 1:03 PM  

Or First Land Grant University....

Zeke 1:10 PM  

@MandA - I don't get the virtue you cite of thinking about this one. The reveal was 100% inaccurate. I never think of having someone say something which is completely wrong, while knowing that they probably meant something and trying to figure out what they possibly could have meant, as pleasurable.
Figuring out things that stumped me because it's too abstruse for me can be fun. Figuring out things that are just plain wrong, not so much.

Sparky 1:22 PM  

I started off fast but the phone rang and that finished that. Only time on Monday and Tuesday. Had Andrew also but it left at TSETSE, which is also crosswordese. Tried Frogy before WOOER. There's a folk song for you @archaeoprof. Enjoy your day.

Masked and Anonymous II 1:50 PM  

@Zeke...Sorry you didn't enjoy the puz so much. Can only speak for me...liked the theme, and its reveal, quite a lot. Did make me think awhile; but then I eventually understood it just fine. Yesterday's SunPuz was kinda like that, too.

I get it that different solvers' engine lights come on at different times, tho. INANER crossin' TREAS probably came the closest for mine, in this one.


Anonymous 2:10 PM  

@John V -- Amen! Gail Collins is just terrific.

-----> Joe in NYC

Evgeny 2:24 PM  

Yet again a flaw in the puzzle - in the reveal - that makes the poor non-native-tongue non-resident solver doubt his command of the English language... was glad to see that the luminaries here were irritated as well.

ArtLvr 2:40 PM  

OFFHAND, I think the 59A clue was cut short to fit and should have omitted "literally". Better sense: "What clocks and #___s may have." Easy-peasy.

It was a good Monday puzzle for me, and I liked the tennis players, trying to remember afterward which ones were noted for two-handed grips!

Re 17A: The BBC Hamlet in modern dress was on our local PBS station yesterday, coincidentally at the same time I was rereading "Hamlet, Revenge!" by Michael Innes. This brilliant old suspense tale was elected to Newsweek's Sleuth's Hall of Fame, a well-deserved honor...


sanfranman59 3:34 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)

Mon 7:08, 6:58, 1.02, 63%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 4:06, 3:43, 1.10, 89%, Challenging

The Big E 3:38 PM  

@ulrich - I am going tonight to see Venus and Federer's matches, but this is my only day!

Anonymous 3:48 PM  

Try Tal Wilkenfeld. She is fantastic.

sanfranman59 4:11 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)

Mon 7:08, 6:58, 1.02, 63%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 4:06, 3:43, 1.10, 89%, Challenging

(re-posting ... I think it's time to give up on embedding the hyperlink in my posts)

Steve J 4:39 PM  

Further comment on the theme:

I actually liked the theme itself, once I realized the connection with hands. It's only the reveal clue that I had an issue with. And it was literally due solely to the use of the word "literally."

Granted, the misuse of "literally" is one of my pet peeves (my favorite ridiculous example of its misuse was watching some sporting event a few years ago, where one player was almost single-handedly winning the game, and the announcer said "He's literally killing them out there"; however, no arrests were made). But it does change the meaning of the reveal considerably, to something that is just not true.

@ArtLvr had a suggested alternate clue that would have worked perfectly.

@Andrea: You're QUAYLE "E" comment nearly made me spit soup all over my keyboard.

Steve J 4:42 PM  

Also, I do know the difference between "you're" and "your"; not that my last post would demonstrate that. Further proof that criticizing usage online is a dangerous thing, since you usually end up doing the same sort of thing. I'll literally stop now. :)

Ulrich 4:50 PM  

@Artlvr: Both Laver and Nastase played at a time when EVERYONE, at least every guy, had a one-handed backhand. The two-handed version, if I remember correctly, started on the women's side, with Chris Evert and contemporaries, and then spread to the men's side, which I still regret b/c I consider a well-executed one-handed backhand the most elegant stroke in tennis--see Federer or Justine Henin.

@Big-E: Too bad...

The Big E 4:52 PM  

@Steve J - because irregardless, your literally (and figuratively) going to put your foot in your mouth at some point! :-p
(and another of my pet peeves is the misuse of fewer than and less than! Anyway... just felt like chiming in. That's my third post for the day, so happy puzzling all!)


Anonymous 5:06 PM  

Meh--this one in general felt flat and uninspired to me.

@ John V: Agree Gail Collins is a consistently good read and IMO she's a far better writer than Maureen Dowd. On the manly side of the Op-Ed page I like Tom Friedman and Frank Rich.

CrazyCat 5:24 PM  

I thought this was a fine Monday puzzle. Sped through it until I put in ANDREW instead of ARTIST. TSETSE fixed that. Loved SQUIRREL and SOFT SHOE. Hated INANER and TREAS.

@ACM loved QUAYLE without the E and your NOT FOR ME story!

Arby 6:11 PM  

Alternate TAL clue:

Jazz Guitarist Farlow

Sfingi 6:30 PM  

@Big E - So glad Hannaford moved in to Upstate NY from New England to teach that "This line is for fewer than 20 items." If you can count 'em, it's fewer. As the kid said, irregardless...
A spelling/pronunciation booboo I hear a lot these days is jewlery instead of jewelry.
INANER would be correct, as would more INANE, since 2-syllable words can go either way. There is an actual rule. 1 syllables must use -er, -est. 3+ syllable words must use more and most.

As for cheap crosswordese, anything -ER or -RE is a bit of a groan (RETAGS, WOOER), but then, I've never created a CW.

@P>G> - Yes;the question is will the corporations have to reveal how much they are spending and on whom and will they have to go by all the other rules an individual does.

ArtLvr 6:46 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
ArtLvr 6:51 PM  

Thanks, @Steve J -- I hate it when people misuse "literally", (also "very unique" since something is either one-of-a-kind or it's not).

And thanks to @Ulrich too -- I was picturing the women tennis players using a two-handed grip but still didn't come up with the first or most notable... Anyway, have a ball at the tournament! My late cousin, Mary Ann McFarlane, was dean of the lines-people at the Virginia Slims games in Chicago for years, and was thrilled when her friend Sara Paretsky used her as a character in one of her female private eye mysteries, a rare case when an author eschewed the disclaimer that all names in a story were fictional!


michael 8:06 PM  

@rube The story about Bobby Fischer is false. He didn't graduate high school and certainly didn't apply to Columbia. And he never went to Harvard.

Gail Collins has a great sense of humor and often makes good points slyly. My favorite NYT columnist.

plumpy 8:44 PM  

From Wikipedia:

"Owned by Nintendo of America, the Mariners are one of three Major League Baseball teams under corporate ownership; the other two are the Atlanta Braves and the Toronto Blue Jays."

andrea nfm michaels 8:55 PM  

Well, since some of you liked the NOT FOR ME story (which I literally couldn't remember if I had posted before or not), may I add to it?

I got a funny note from sometime collaborator and literally one of my favorite people, Tony Orbach (I'm a huge "literally" misuser, by the way, but not in this case!) and I can't get him to post it, so I will....
He sent a French-themed puzzle
to Peter who responded "It's a non".
Ha! Now sethg can dormer ce soir.

Janie Starr 9:03 PM  

You can read Gail Collins' articles on-line for free without killing a single tree. She tends toward the cynically humorous.

Anonymous 9:05 PM  

I simply don't know what to make of the fact that Rex doesn't know Gail Collins. So often, she makes life worth living. I know time is limited but Rex, you should read the rest of the paper sometime!

Respectfully yours.

and a lot of others here 9:49 PM  

@anon 9:05

As Rex wrote, he doesn't get the rest of the paper ... only subscribes to the on line puzzle.

Probably doesn't ready any daily paper, and can justify it.



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 7:08, 6:58, 1.02, 63%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:54, 3:43, 1.05, 82%, Challenging

Anonymous 10:54 PM  

I have it on good authority that Rex also spends little, if any, time suckling orphaned puppies, and the bastard justifies this!

FN7700 11:36 AM  

I'm a long time viewer...first time sender. Very much enjoy the comments and "sharing" the experience. I do the syndicated no comments on today's puzzle (I just finished the whole sheebang). I do have a question. As I am a 'pen/paper' type, I'm wondering what the time comparison is between paper and electronic.

Rex sometimes does it on paper and comments that doing so 'adds' to his time.

I'm not a speed merchant, but just wondering what some of you folks might think as to what the time differential is.

I usually do M-W in 9-15 min...Th-FR in 18-25 and swear a lot on Sat.


Jeff 12:20 PM  

Since I live in syndication-land I never thinks it's worth posting five weeks on, but today I cannot resist.

How appropriate that the 44D answer is GIANTS on the morning after their victory that earned them the NL West! Made this lifelong Giants' fan's day as I worked the puzzle during my hall duty.

Anonymous 2:41 PM  

Didn't know Jiffy had become jus Jif. Gotta get out to the grocery store more. Oh, well, a peanut butter flashcard by any other name will stick to your palate (or in your throat) just as tackily, I suppose. First post; been reading for a few weeks, though, and I like it fine. Favorite sonnet line: "Simple truth miscalled simplicity."

Dirigonzo 3:32 PM  

@CoffeeLvr - Finished this (syndicated) puzzle in my local afternoon paper and turned the page to do the "Cryptoquote" which, when solved, read "All you need for happiness is a good gun, a good horse and a good wife. - Daniel Boone". Gotta love those frontier philosophers!

Nullifidian 5:10 PM  

Writing in from syndication-land....

I fell into the ANDREW/ARTIST trap, but unlike most here, I got out of it by knowing who Mikhail TAL was. For those like myself who are chess players, we know Tal as the most brilliant attacking player since Paul Morphy. You can check out some of his games online. I like this one:

Mikhail Tal vs. Johann Hjartarson

Overall, this was challenging for me on a few points. One of them was the fact that I am completely indifferent to tennis. I grant that there might not be many other ILIEs around, but surely ROD could have been clued without reference to tennis.

The theme may be weak, but it kept me occupied while listening to the audiobook of Patrick O'Brian's Master and Commander, so I have no objection.

NotalwaysrightBill 9:35 PM  

@ Dirigonzo:

A Boone & Crockett theme'd be alright by me. I think a Thursday or Friday puzzle might be able to incorporate most of these bits from Davy Crockett's resume (found on the memorial stone at his birthplace, now a state park in TN):

State Legislator
Martyred at the Alamo"

Mucho macho even after the mythical. Best known for: "Be sure you're right, then go ahead." Hah! My puzzles almost never end up that pristine.

sificligh 11:06 PM  

I missed that all the theme answers were two words, EACH of which is a "hand." Other than that, my only comment about this puzzle is that the Daily Illini (where I pick up the NYT puzzle in syndication) made one of its far-too-common layout mistakes and only printed the Across clues and about a third of the Down clues, and I still managed to finish the puzzle with a bit of guesswork.

Chess Opening Moves 5:36 AM  

Carlsen and mikhail tal are best ever chess player born on earth. They cannot be compared with others.

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