Some Strauss compositions / 8-17-10 / 1959 top 10 hit for Ricky Nelson / Confit d'___ (potted goose) / Small cave, poetically

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Constructor: Michael Sharp

Hello Rexites, my old friends
I've come to talk with you again
Because a puzzle softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the crossword that was planted in my brain
Still remains

It's the debut of Michael!!!

Wow, special day here. Andrea Carla Michaels blogging some guy named Michael Sharp's NY Times debut! Who wants to be me?! First, may I say “Congratulations”!!!!!! Nice, solid, four-entry, fun-filled theme … with a fifth “reveal” smack in the middle: S.O.S.!

I always know I like a puzzle when I have constructor-envy and find myself saying “I wish I had thought of that!” S.O.S. Seems so simple, yet lends itself to all sorts of fun expressions. When I saw(ed) SAWED-OFF SHOTGUN (17A: Weapon for Clyde Barrow) I thought, this is gonna be a fun theme … Is it kinds of guns? Weird past tenses like “Sawed”? A play on “Sod Off”?

What? What? I mean, coming up with colorful S.O.S. phrases is not as easy as it looks.… Let's see. OK, obviously, Save Our Souls, Son of Sam, … um, Sense of Smell, Sultan of Swat, … then there's Sink or Swim, … Six of Spades. OK. I'm done.

And yet, Michael Sharp has four terrific ones (well, at least three. I'm still on the fence about SLIP-ON SHOES (27A: Loafers, e.g.) … tho perfectly legitimate).

The other nice part of the theme phrases is that the O of S.O.S. could all easily have been “Of,” yet Mr. Sharp has four different Os. There are the coolly balanced OFF/ON plus OLD and only one OF. So attention was paid! What I love is how musical this puzzle is. First of all, SOUNDS OF SILENCE (53A: 1966 album that concludes with "I Am a Rock").

I had to actually get up off the couch to look at Simon and Garfunkel's album cover to verify it was indeed called “SOUNDS OF SILENCE” (n.b. to Caleb and Natan: before there were MP3s and before there were CDs, there were vinyl records with artsy covers) because I would have sworn it was called “The Sound (no s) of Silence.” Could I have been wrong for 35 years? Well, it wouldn't be the first time. But the deal is, it turns out that the song is called “The Sound of Silence” but the album is indeed named “Sounds of Silence.” Confusing.

Then there is, IT'S LATE (22A: 1959 top 10 hit for Ricky Nelson).

And what puzzle would be complete without the Beatles?

OK, technically, LET 'EM IN (33D: 1976 hit that begins "Someone's knockin' at the door") is Paul McCartney with Wings (n.b. to Caleb and Natan: before Paul was Sir Paul, and before Wings, there was this other band …).

Not to mention, SAME OLD SONG.

Actually SAME OLD SONG is not The Four Tops hit, which is actually called “It's the SAME OLD SONG,” thus the less pop culture-y clue 42A: Tired routine, colloquially. This is good bec it makes the theme tighter and more consistent, in that it's not that two out of four are songs, they are each significantly different. One's an object, one's descriptive of footwear, one's a colloquial phrase, and one's an album. Nice. The musicality of this puzzle is apparent in that it literally starts right off with 1A: Some Strauss compositions. But here's where it's weird. GALOPS with that one L is as weird to me as the double N in BANDANNA was last Wednesday. (Maybe the LLAMAS stole the other L?! But that one L right off the bat is a bit freaky … not as freaky as the word “Camelids” but freaky nonetheless) (60A: South American camelids).

So I had trouble getting out the gate, as the colorful 1D: Dogfaces did not immediately lead me to GI'S. (You'd have to be of a different era to immediately equate “Dogfaces = GI'S,” or perhaps more male than female). I mean, I got GI'S, but if I had one criticism of the puzzle, it would be that there was a touch of stodginess in some of the interesting fill: CUSS, STOUTLY, REALTY, GROT and APEAK.

Perhaps, CUSS (51D: Ornery sort) may in fact be a shout-out to Rex, and perhaps STOUTLY is as well.… I mean, isn't Rex Stout someone? A detective or something? …. Aha, just googled and he is the American Crime writer who created Nero Wolfe. How fitting is that?! So as a shout-out to Rex Stout, STOUTLY is way cool. If it's not, then it's just a bit … STOUTLY.

In other original fill, WRAITH (21A: Specter) would have been my Word of the Day, if I did that sort of thing. You gotta love 9D: SCHWINN (9D: Bicycle maker since 1895) … (tho if you change (25D: They might follow bad calls) BOOS to "boas," and (34A: Politico Paul) RON into "rag" … you'd get … SCHWING!!!!!).

And holla to HOGCALLS! Soooooooooooooooey! Damn, that's good! (38D: Noises from a county fair contest) Plus OO LA LA is also super fun, or shall I say 41A: How fa-a-ancy, but I admit I wanted an H in there.

For those less musically inclined and into darker subthemes, I also envisioned a little scenario where a melancholy street urchin IN RAGS is running thru Ho Chi MINH City or SADR City trying to avoid IEDs (22D: Like a street urchin, typically / 13D: Ho Chi ___ City / 37D: Iraq's ___ City / 45A: Weapon for Iraqi insurgents: Abbr.)

And of course I can't see the word FREI without thinking “ARBEIT MACH FREI”; so kudos for defining it as 18D: Independent, in Ingolstadt. Boy, that sure sidesteps a whole discussion. Sort of like a skipping rope rhyme. “I, my name is Inga, and I'm an Independent, and I'm from … Ingolstadt!” (Trip. Splat!)

Now, I'll let the constructor himself explain how the puzzle came about (and, perhaps, a pre-emptive defense of NMI, IED, RFD'S, and REMAP).

Look up (look up)
Is that the moon we see?
Can't be (can't be)
Looks like the sun to me
It's late (it's late)

It IS late, so I'll end with a little mash note:
Dear Michael/Rex,

Congratulations again! Fresh and fun, definitely not the SAME OLD SONG
(with a different meaning since you've been gone) … Thank you for trusting me to blog the blogger … but I'll let you take it from here.

With 50D: XOXO!,

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

[Note from RP: Thanks, Andrea. Figured this one would be a Wednesday, but Will thought otherwise. Definitely some rough stuff all around the HOGCALLS area, mainly bec. I refused to give it up. Am surprised to hear "SAME OLD SONG" is unfamiliar to anyone. I made double/triple sure it was in common usage, in headlines of NYT articles, etc. Peter Gordon just sent me a message with no content except a link to his 1994 "SOS"-themed puzzle, which I had no idea existed (that's what I get for relying exclusively on the cruciverb database for my info about recent puzzle history, I guess). And his was a Sunday! Thankfully, he didn't have SAWED-OFF SHOTGUN, so at least I can still cling to that as an original contribution to puzzleworld. Oh, also, I worked really hard to make sure that none of the "O" words in the "S.O.S." phrases were repeated. You can do "OF" phrases all day long...

OK, I don't want to say too much more. There's an interview with me over at "Wordplay," where Jim Horne does a wicked parody of my reviewing style. Check it out

Thanks for the good (and bad) feedback everyone.~RP

P.S. Thanks to those of you who have (already!) sent me pictures of yourselves solving or pictures of your completed grid. Really entertaining. Keep 'em coming!

P.P.S. Watch 2010 ACPT Champion Dan Feyer solve this puzzle in real time—keep an ear out for his uncensored audio commentary: made me Laugh Out Loud]


XC 12:11 AM  

I think there is a problem - this must be Jim Horne's Wordplay blog (all coo-ing and gushing over a Same Old S*&@ puzzle), while there on Wordplay, the puzzle is being taken to task!

Please tell me the url's are swapped!

JC66 12:15 AM  


Congratulations on your NY Times debut today. Will shows he has a terrific sense of humor, considering your repeated rantings about the poor quality of Tuesday puzzles. I can just imagine him saying to you "if you think you can do better, go ahead and try."

Also good choice in having ACME as guest blogger.

George NYC 12:24 AM  

I wanted something like TOMMYGUN (didn't fit) before I got SAWEDOFFSHOTGUN. And weirdly put in LEXUS before ACURA, even though I know no one who has a Lexus and lots of people who have Acuras. Also wanted some variation of SAME OLD SAME OLD as SAMEOLDSONG is not familiar to me. OBI clue is great. Nice.

Jeff Chen 12:25 AM  

Congrats on the debut, Rex! I liked the simple, consistent theme. Who wouldn't enjoy a SAWED OFF SHOTGUN in their puzzle?

I wasn't so happy about fill such as IN RAGS, FREI, RFDS, NMI, GROT, REMAP, etc. though. I would have gladly taken a 76 or 78 word puzzle if it meant eliminating some of these uggos. Kudos on attempting the 74 for a Tues / Wed though!


Aaron Riccio 12:31 AM  

Congrats! Especially since this puzzle didn't feel like homework! I will say, though, that it felt more like a Wednesday (I hear that's what you submitted it as)--though maybe that's just the 1-A GALOPS talking.

I dislike GROT, but I really like the clue for OBI; not a fan of the alternate spelling of OOLALA, but I'm perfectly fine with XOXO; on the whole, if there was something that irked me, there was something that pleased me more.

treedweller 12:32 AM  

Okay, two days of fanboy in a row. This was one of the best thursday puzzles I've seen in a long time. I have no idea why WS ran it on Tuesday, but that's not important. Fresh language, fresh cluing, and a theme that could help you if you wanted to pay attention but could be irrelevant if not--what's not to like?

I saw the earlier comment and checked out wordplay--maybe I just had too much St Arnold and I was being generous.

Though I can see that it was a little bit of a joke over there, I can also see that he had a little bit of a point. The thing is, I never noticed all the crap fill because a.)it was fresh crap and/or b.)the crosses were completely fair.

Congratulations, Mr. Sharp. Nobody can say you don't hold yourself to the same high standards you demand.

des 12:32 AM  

@Andrea (and Rex)
I suspect that the Sounds of Silence refers to the collection of songs on the album, thus plural.

You didn't mention it, but OOH LA LA (yes, I would spell it with an "h" as well) is also a Beatles' lyric ("You Won't See Me" from the first great Beatles album, "Rubber Soul").

For sure, I would have made GALOP the word of the day. When you come back to our side of the fence, what about a contest on predicting the word of the day? Maybe the winner could get an original copy of your puzzle.

Great job, the both of you. Congrats!

CaseAce 12:35 AM  

"To Baldly Go" Congrats Rex,Old Top, you raided the Realm of Wordplay and conquered all with your Tuesday that the drawbridge is down, it's no longer a Moat point!

Tobias Duncan 12:38 AM  

Great theme,loved sawed off shotgun .
Felt like this was a toughish tue would rather it was an easy wed.Five languages geez.Did like the way they were spread out on the grid but German, French, Japanese , Latin and Spanish felt at least Wednesdayish.
As a newbie solver , NYT crosswords have ALWAYS been followed by the Rex review. As I solve,I have come to look the puzzle with Rex colored glasses, Rexctacles if you will. I am forever trying to figure out what will set him off.Today those Rexctacles are focused firmly on RFDS.Good lord was there no other way??

All in all , top notch puzzle even if a little fancypants.
Thank you Mister Sharp(e).

And since I neglected to say it yesterday , the TV detective puzzle was really in my top five for the year.
Thank you Andrea.

Steve J 12:39 AM  

Congrats on the debut. And nice writeup, Andrea.

I, for one, am really looking forward to the upcoming comments from anonymous posters who always complain about what a bunch of sycophants commenters here are.

I will say I liked this, but had a small number of things I didn't like. What I liked best was that this is one of the more challenging Tuesdays I can recall. I finished at about an average Wednesday time. Some misdirection, and some of the fill, pushed it past normal Tuesday fare. I like early-week challenges. I would guess it's tough to balance that line between being gettable and not being automatic.

It's one of the few cases where an early-week theme revealer helped me with the theme answers. Simple letter-pattern stuff can be really good or really blah, and this definitely is more the former. I loved HOGCALLS and WRAITHS, and I loved the clues for OBI (that's one way to brighten up crosswordese) and DYES.

My WTF moment was (and is) GALOPS (never heard it in reference to anything but a horse, but it's apparently also a dance). Kind of nasty for 1A on a Tuesday. Did not like GROT and also wanted an H on OOLALA.

And I hope Ulrich can chime in regarding FREI, since he's a native speaker and I have, at best, I'm a barely functional speaker, but I don't recall encountering FREI used to connote independence. It's usually in reference to liberty and availability (e.g. "is this seat free?") uses of "free" in English.

Ok, I'm falling back into my long-winded mode. Really nice Tuesday challenge, which happens far too rarely. Hopefully we'll get to see more like this (both from our resident CUSS and from others).

Robin 1:03 AM  

Great write-up, ACME - and fun, sparkly puzzle from you and J-Nutt yesterday (Blogger or some other monoster swallowed my earlier comment about that).
Congrats, Rex! I loved the puzzle, and I think it conforms to your (high) puzzle standards. We have to hear the back-story, or more of it than you just posted.
22A - NN y'all kids.

Robin 1:05 AM  


sillygoose 1:14 AM  

I liked the clues for OBI and DYES and STEADS in particular, and enjoyed the puzzle overall.

Wraiths and podcasts and hog calls -- lots of nice stuff in this one.

Landed property had me confused for a while. Get off my landed property, that's just silly. Maybe I still don't get it.

I'd like to see more puzzles by you, and all of them on Tuesday :p

Unknown 1:36 AM  

Congrats Rex on a fantastic debut. The puzzle had good pace and those theme answers brought a real nice cadence to the affair. I look forward to more.

Ulrich 2:03 AM  

I'm curious if our fearless leader felt, at times, the same type of scruples I have when I design a piece of architecture: I have criticized, over 30 years of studio teaching, so much stuff, by great/not-so-great/student architects, that with every idea I myself have, I can immediately list, almost in my sleep, everything that's wrong with it and everything that's right with it; that is, I sometimes feel unable to make any decision. The only way out, for me, is "forget everything you've said and trust your instincts!"

@SteveJ: My German/English dictionary gives "independent" early on as one meaning for "frei"--so, I have no real problem with the clue, which redeems itself anyway b/c of the outlandishness of Ingolstadt. But I must also say that I would use unabhängig in German when I meant "independent"--it's the analogous word; i.e. it is composed of parts with the same meanings--"in-de-pendent".

One last remark, re. "Arbeit macht frei.", a slogan with truly horrendous associations so that nobody uses it in Germany anymore. But "frei", by itself, does not trigger the association b/c it is such a common word, as are "Arbeit" (work) and "macht" (makes)--one could not converse in German if these words were considered questionable, let alone banned.

chefwen 2:23 AM  

Congratulations on your NYT debut, Rex, and a fine one it is.

Saw the theme early on and went and filled in all the esses which gave me a head start.

Didn't care for the Hless OOLALA, didn't even see GROT, it filled itself in, the only other nit I have to pick was the singular YAM, never have I heard anyone say "please pass the YAM"
Everything else was great.

Agree, more like Wed/Thurs in difficulty, which is refreshing.

Super write up ACME.

difty - nifty with a cold.

Unknown 2:34 AM  

Congratulations! I've been following your blog for the past few months—though this is my first comment—and now seems like a good time to thank you for helping me better appreciate crosswords. Thanks!

Interestingly (perhaps), your puzzle's first letter (the G in GIS/GALOPS) was the last letter that I entered.

CoolPapaD 2:53 AM  

Congrats, Micael Sarp (see - without the H, it doesn't look right!!)! That aside, I really thought this was a terrific debut, and much harder than an average Tuesday. Didn't start of well when I absent-mindedly wrote WALTZS at 1A - ADA and LOW fit, so it took a while to fix it. Didn't know CUSS or WRAITH, so in addition to being entertained, I learnt (remember that one?) something!

For a debut, you really OUTDID yourself!

The Corgi of Mystery 3:16 AM  

'grats Rex. Definitely felt more Wednesday-ish for me...ended up bouncing all over the place during my solve instead of making a neat early-week circle round the grid, but in the end it was all good.

Anonymous 3:39 AM  

I pulled out my '60s vinyl album. The album title is "Sounds of Silence" and the song is "The Sounds of Silence" (with an s).

But wait! Wikipedia says: The song was originally called "The Sounds of Silence" and is titled that way on the early albums in which it appeared and on the single. In later compilations it was retitled "The Sound of Silence". Both the singular and the plural form of the word appear in the lyrics. In his book Lyrics 1964–2008 Simon has the title in the singular.

Jeffrey 4:57 AM  

Best tribute to a scouring pad ever.

imsdave 6:01 AM  

Nice debut, Rex. Simple, solid theme nicely executed.

Lots of the fill, however, left me cold. What did I like?

GALOPS, WRAITH, PODCAST, SCHWINN, and of course, HOGCALLS. Those gems have a lot of work to do balancing out:

NMI, OIE, IED, PXS, RFDS, NOS, REMAP, APEAK, IDONOT (couldn't we have gotten to IROBOT, somehow?). At least XOXO wasn't pluralized. Oh, and STOUTLY doesn't sing to me either.

GROT deserves its' own line.

Carping aside, it made for a pretty good workout on a Tuesday.

Wade 6:26 AM  

But what connection is there between the phrase SOS and a scouring pad? "Help, my life is in danger! But first I must clean this skillet!"

Boocoo congrats to MDS, and a graceful and gracious handling of the blog duties by Andrea. I don't do Tuesdays often and am out of touch on what the difficulty parameters usually feel like, but this one took me ten minutes, which I think makes it difficult.

Gotta catch a plane to San Antonio now--off to look for my bike in the basement of the Alamo. It's a Huffy.

Anonymous 6:27 AM  



Fortunately, all of the crappy fill was gettable via the crosses, so I'll give Michael credit for avoiding any Natick moments. The theme was nice, and there was some interesting clues/fill in there as well, but that's still a [i]lot[/i] of crappy fill (especially for a Tuesday, but even for a Wednesday).

Oh -- and maybe it's just me, but I was definitely thinking something else other than SONG when I first saw SAME OLD S___.

Congrats on the debut. I wish I could say I loved the puzzle, but there you go.

Anonymous 7:20 AM  

lol @ "SAME OLD S***" ... rex totally would've used that if he didn't construct this puzzle ... GALOPS is a brutal 1A, but SAWED OFF SHOTGUN is brilliant. looking forward to more, rex. overall i enjoyed it, especially the effort put into making the long downs interesting (HOG CALLS, LET EM IN, SCHWINN, PODCASTS)

Doug 7:24 AM  

Well, Rex, you had me stumped for awhile at the beginning. I kept thinking -- this is a hard puzzle, more like end of the week. I wanted WALTZS for 1 across and then gave up when I realized in needed an E. GALOPS was the last word I filled in, and I still didn't understand it. The music references gave away the constructor's vintage, btw. S&G, Motown, Ricky Nelson. For the life of me, I couldn't think of anything but Travelin' Man and Mary Lou. Really fun puzzle.

joho 7:57 AM  

Things I loved: GALOPS, WRAITH, SCHWINN, PODCASTS and HOGCALLS (my list is identical to @imsdave!).

The one thing I really didn't like was YAM just as @chefwen has already mentioned. You serve turkey and candied yamS.

It's a cinch, in Sapporo is one of the best clues ever.

Cute theme, well executed, Michael Sharp! Your debut did not disappoint.

My rating is XOXO.

(Andrea, great job! Especially loved your musical selections.)

Anonymous 8:00 AM  

Nice debut; great fill and definitely tougher than a typical Tuesday, but so what.
My only question is 11A- who calls the side dish yam, singular.
Now that I've picked my nit, nicely done, Michael.

Rex Parker 8:06 AM  

Two more things:

About the OBI clue—I write almost all my clues w/o reference to the databases. Did the same with OBI. Later thought Maybe I'd heard it somewhere before (it came to me pretty easily). Then I looked through the billion clues of OBI and found that the inimitable Bob Klahn had used [It's a cinch, in Japan] some years ago. So I unconsciously half-plagiarized, it seems. PS Bob Klahn is a genius.

Second, this grid would've been Completely different if I knew how to spell. I knew the fill down south wasn't great, but there were no partials in the grid, so I thought, "well, one will be OK." So I clued APEAK as [Sneak ___]. Let that one sink in ...

Did not discover my stupid error until after it was submitted and accepted. Told Will about it (in same message where I told him he could plug in AESOP'S at 1A, which I almost wish he had). But damage was done.

Desperate new attempt at a partial clue for APEAK: ["Whip until cream comes to ___": recipe instruction].

Thanks, all

mac 8:07 AM  

Congratulations, Rex, good Tuesday puzzle! Definitely on the hard side, had to solve it clockwise for a change. The GIS came in last today.

Liked to see grot again, and REMEMBERED it from a couple of months ago. Apeak! A new A-word. I like stoutly, podcasts, wraith, hogcalls and sawed off shotgun best, some of the little fill not so much. I noticed the single yam also, that could have been easily fixed with a different clue, such as "Thanksgiving veg."

Had "puss" for "cuss" for a moment. Like sourpuss?

Thanks Andrea!

Anonymous 8:18 AM  

nmi reminds me of a favorite family story: when my parent's went to get their marriage license, my dad wrote "nmi" under "middle name". my mother, not crazy about taking on his more ethnic last name, asked what it stood for. He said "nebical mincha isador". She turned and walked out (I guess he went after her to explain it was armyspeak for "no middle initial"since they've been married for 63 years)

The Big E 8:23 AM  

I'm torn - I don't know what was better...
Rex's Puzzle? Or Andrea's Write-Up?
Great job on both!
I think galop was the only word that threw me, and I only got that from the intersecting answers!
All in all, a great way to start my Tuesday!

jesser 8:35 AM  

As Rex can attest, these comments were written last night before the blog posted. I'm posting them now BEFORE I read the blog and the comments. I had promised myself to follow my routine and wait til morning to do the puzzle, but I was so excited that I had to sneak a peak. And here's what resulted:

Rex: I'll be going to bed soon, and whoever is guesting is making slow work of this. Here's what I plan to say. You rock, dude!


8:27 p.m.

This was a great puzzle, and the Rex haters who will undoubtedly flock in today can take a flying suck at my ass if they disagree.

SAWED OFF SHOTGUN: I really wanted a Thompson submachine gun here, but this works just as well and jives with the theme

SLIP ON SHOES: I’ve got my Hush Puppies on, I guess I never was meant for glitter rock ‘n roll. -- Jimmy Buffett, ‘Come Monday’

SAME OLD SONG: With a different meaning since you been gone

SOUNDS OF SILENCE. One of the greatest albums ever.

And SOS dead center. Bang.

This is a home run, with only minimal subpar fill (see AUS, ERAT, OBI, NOS and NMI (NMI? No match indicated?)

It doesn’t matter. This is a puzzle that sings through the long answers. My only writeover was at 22A, where I wanted IT”S LovE, but the elegant (and timely) PODCASTS and STOUTLY disabused me. STOUTLY! That’s SHARP!

HOG CALLS! PXS! YOGI! DECANTS (nod to my bourbon and Tinbeni’s scotch!)! LET ‘EM IN! Channeling Sir Paul!

Well, if I didn’t love the blog and the host, maybe I could be bitchier, but I have to believe that had this puzzle appeared under any byline, I’d have gushed. It’s that good. Mazel tov, Fearless 44!

Gurstsse! (The sound of champagne coming uncorked at Casa Sharp) -- jesser

foodie 8:49 AM  

I must admit that I was a little nervous about solving today's puzzle. I knew it would be extremely well executed (as indeed it was) but was worried that I would not be on the same wavelength at all-- that it would be filled with sports, Simpsons, comic strips. I was actually hoping for medieval terms, I thought I'd be better at that than the rest.

Instead, it started off with Strauss. "I can handle that!" I thought.. although it turned out to be my last entry. But the rest just flowed. SOUNDS OF SILENCE, one of my all time favorite albums! And then this down home angle with HOG CALLS, a SAWED OFF SHOTGUN along an RFD! From our Rex! It made me smile.

It felt friendly, balanced, fun, a lovely mix of americana (GIs, PXs) and international flair (TIERRA del Fuego, Ho Chi MINH, SADR City and the lovely OBI). And such an original theme. All set to music as pointed out by the incomparable Andrea.

Thank you Rex! You nailed it and you managed to entertain the whole range of solvers!

And thank you Andrea for a wonderful write up which showcased the puzzle. My favorite part is the Rex STOUTLY observation. I love Nero Wolfe-- a foodie who makes wonderful scrambled eggs and grows orchids.

PS. My QDI definitely puts this on the Challenging side.

Anonymous 8:56 AM  

dit dit dit dah dah dah dit dit dit...didn't we just do this?

i thought the puzzle was good overall...but spotty. some clues were wed/thur like, and some were mon/tue like...which is probably why it was a tuesday. on balance, it was just a shade above normal difficulty for a tuesday, IMHO.

early on i had "SAME OLD S---" which, to me, didn't scream the word "SONG" but another word entirely. i was beginning to wonder if this puzzle was going to cut new ground...once i got the "N" i was just slightly disappointed.

and yes, a side dish on T-giving is is a collective dish. "please pass THE yams" instead of "please pass THOSE yams." it is the difference in meaning between THE united states and THESE united states. each individual YAM becomes a part of a greater side dish called "YAMS." "side dish ingredient" would have been clearer.

otherwise, crosswords are more easily solved than created. good work. i look forward to the next one.

and yes, there are a lot of sycophants on this blog. but that isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Golfballman 9:06 AM  

Rex great debut puzzle, but there seems to be one thing missing , your favorite Roman numeral clue. Great job Acme.

jesser 9:07 AM  

Great writeup, Andrea! I LOLed a couple times! During our email exchange last night, Rex came clean early on about [Sneak] A PEAK, so my intro was supposed to be a private joke. Had I only posted it a bit earlier! Great comments so far. Loving this unique set of circumstances for the blog!

Sparky 9:18 AM  

Congrats Mr. Sharp. Harder than a Tuesday for me, too. Wanted waltzes, but found GIS thinking of Bill Maldin's cartoons. You done good. Liked clue for OBI, Sir Paul's song, WRAITH, PXS. Oh, and Beanie Babies. A rebel yell, nore, more, more.

Anonymous 9:19 AM  

Yams are not always boiled, mashed, loaded with brown sugar, then baked with marshmallows on top. Sometimes food isn't made for children, at which time Yams are simply baked, and eaten one at a time as a side dish.

PlantieBea 9:21 AM  

Congrats Rex and thanks Andrea for your write-up!

chefbea 9:25 AM  

Great puzzle Rex!!! I agree - more wednesdayish

Great write up Andrea!!!

Never heard of confit'oie or ied (what does that stand for?)

My wod would be wraith

Go Tar Heels!!!

JannieB 9:25 AM  

Coming out of lurkerdom just long enough to congratulate you on a great debut!

Threw in GI's immediately, then kept taking it out because I went brain-dead on Galop. That was the last quadrant to fall on a very well executed and crunchy Tuesday.


Lemonade714 9:26 AM  

So now that you are on the other side of the mirror, can you answer the question- did REX STOUT and ROBERT PARKER become...?

Unknown 9:27 AM  

I didn't fly through the NW like Dan did, but it was smooth elsewhere. I returned to that quadrant and did GALOP to a finish. Well done and congratulations.

Parshutr 9:39 AM  

Just one more who wanted a fecal bolus at the end of SAMEOLD. And an H after OO.
No problem with GIS, GALOPS. I too put in LEXUS but soon realized it was ACURA...
And yet, the lack of real consternation, the smoothness and certainty of this puzzle left me curiously unsatisfied. Just wasn't tough enough.

JenCT 9:56 AM  

@chefbea: IED = Improvised Explosive Device.

Congrats on the debut, Rex - took me longer than a usual Tuesday, but everything was gettable.

I actually had MOOCALLS for a second...

I solved this without using the SOS theme, just to tax my grey matter a little more.

Great write-up, Andrea, and great puzzle yesterday - I was on many amusement park rides yesterday, so I missed the blog.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:01 AM  

Fun puzzle; fun write-up. Seems to be too late to say much of anything new.

But keeping in mind my over-all enjoyment, I'll note that in addition to the Roman numeral mentioned by Golfballman, the other example of missing "crap fill" was any -ER word. Sorry, BIER just doesn't do it. (But we do have a plural of a word not generally used in the plural, at STEADS.)

Van55 10:03 AM  

Van55 said...
I'll take my lips off of jesser's donkey long enough to say this: Underlying every satire is a solid core of truth. That's the case with Jim Horne's send-up at today's WordPlay blog.

There's a lot to like about this debut puzzle, but Rex would have excoriated much of the fill had he not been the constructor. And I would have agreed with him:


Kurt 10:06 AM  

Way to go Rex! Congratulations! Drinks are on me.

I really liked the puzzle. It may be the best Wednesday puzzle that I've ever solved on a Tuesday. Snappy theme answers. And some spectacular long fill - SCHWINN, HOGCALLS, TARHEEL, LET EM IN & FLIES BY.

We had to pay the price with disappointments like NMI, PXS, YAM & REMAP. But I think that it was worth it.

Nice job, Rex. Take the day off! And thanks Andrea. Good work.

Tinbeni 10:15 AM  

Rex: Good job, nice debut.

Themes were tight with a great SOS reveal.

Got a grin from XOXO / CUSS being next to each other.
Also how you put the BOOS right out there, front and center for the naysayers. And the line *I DO NOT OUCH* under SASS ... was this your subtle way of saying:
"Have at it?"

GIS, PXS, NOS, ODES, DYES, RFDS, PRODS, DECANTS, LLAMAS, SHORES, STEADS, INRAGS. You like the plural then give us just one lousy YAM at Thanksgiving?

Hey, I'd have accepted one "ER" word to go with all the ones that ended in "S".

Learning moment, GALOPS (WOD?) always a plus.

The *sunset toast* is dedicated to you.
I think I'll make it the good stuff!

Two Ponies 10:19 AM  

Very solid and fun Tuesday. We all know how tough it can be to find a proper fit on Tuesdays but you did it! You should be proud.
Andrea, you did a wonderful and entertaining write-up. Also a perfect fit.
Loved all of the music amd interesting words like bier and tierra.
(@ dk, Did Tierra del Fuego remind you of FST?)
Yes, apeak needed some explaining.
I also remember Rex laughing about the dit-dat puzzle last week and now we know why.

My nit as possibly the only hobby shooter on this blog is that Clyde Barrow's weapon of choice was indeed sawed off but it was not a shotgun. It was the much more lethal BAR (Browning Automatic Rifle).

Kudos Rex/Michael! You have arrived.

David L 10:21 AM  

I quickly filled in SAWNOFFSHOTGUN, which is more idiomatic to my ear, and took an embarrassing amount of time to realize I'd done this by putting 3 F's in OFF. But once that was straightened out, all was well. Somewhere between Tues and Weds, I would say.

Is anyone else heartily sick of all the dubious words beginning with A? APEAK, AROAR, ALOP, ALEE, ASEA... Yes, I know it's hard to make crosswords without these atrocities, but still...

captcha: walaxia -- the name of my home planet!

hazel 10:22 AM  

Cool puzzle. High five, Rex. Really really hard to evaluate objectively, though. Anyway, definitely an interesting puzzle to solve. It happened to be right down the middle for me, totally in my Tuesday sweet spot, as I finished w/in 15 seconds of my average.

The plural Sounds was a new one on me, though I had listened to and looked at that album God knows how many times when I was in college.

I'm also partial to a Popeye reference for YAM.....

Watching the Dan Feyer video was a complete eye opener. It looks like he doesn't he even really look at many of the clues - he just figures out the words (really quickly) by looking at a few letters. That was really interesting.

Masked and Anonymous and Rex Poker 10:23 AM  

Well, this sure wasn't yer SAME OLD S*** for the TuesPuz. (S*** equalin' S.O.S., of course.)

Took me 2 minutes and 44 finish my cinnamon roll. (That's a little off of my usual TuesTime.)

SW gave me the most trouble...mangy dog chewed on that corner of the puz badly before I could save it.

REMAP (52A: Chart again). Shoulda known. Wanted RELOG. Then REHIT. Then TRAHC.

Enjoy your day, 44. First NYTPuz. Really somethin'. Keep 'em comin'. And keep yer U count up. As always, with XOXO's...

Hi-Yo, OIE-NMI-OBI-IED, away.

Anonymous 10:34 AM  

@ Rex, Wish I had noticed your name before I did the puzzle. Would have enjoyed it more, for some reason.
For a fairly new solver-less than a year-I agree with you, this was more a Wednesday than a Tuesday.
And with your intense dislike of
"Phui," I doubt if you had Nero Wolfe via Rex Stout in mind, right? (Although Archie Goodwin is one of the greatest characters in literature and certainly in possession of the healthiest psyche in all of letters.)
Congratulations, although you could have included OTT, for old time's sake.

Because I like to look things up 10:58 AM  

@SteveJ (and others)

•In dance, the galop, named after the fastest running gait of a horse (see gallop), a shortened version of the original term galoppade ... The horse has 2 L's, probably due to twice as many feet.


•Landed property or landed estates is a real estate term that usually refers to a property that generates income for the owner without the owner having to do the actual work of the estate. ...


foodie 11:02 AM  

@ChefBea, Confit D'Oie means a preserve of goose. It's like a pate that of goose meat preserved in its own fat. The term "confit" generally means to preserve. It can be in fat for meat or sugar for fruits. So, in french "confiture" means preserves.

chefbea 11:25 AM  

@foodie thanx. I know what confit is, I just never heard the word oie. Guess it means goose. I'll google it

Moonchild 11:33 AM  

@ Rex, Very nice debut. I think it must have taken some courage to do this considering the forum you have created. I'm really glad it didn't stink. I'm relieved.
Yes, there is some iffy fill but most puzzles require some compromise.
Camelids is a cool clue.
I had to sing the McCartney lyrics in my head to get the title. Not a bad thing, it was fun.
I thought the phrase was Same old song *and dance.
I call my loafers slip-ons but I suppose the phrase is valid enough.
I looked it up and @ Two Ponies is right about the gun but I still got the answer easily because I didn't know any better.
So with reservations about three of the four theme answers I think you (Rex) might have unloaded on the constructor.
I prefer my sweet potatoes baked like an Idaho Russet so one yam is plenty for me.
Easy enough for me to call it an average Tuesday in difficulty.
One thumb up but still very happy for you and all of us who awaited this day. (That is a good a- word unlike apeak. What is it about those sailors always putting an A in front of everything?)
Oh, and thanks for filling in Andrea. Great job.

Rex Parker 11:40 AM  

I'm finding this info in multiple places; perhaps it is wrong:

"Another famous weapon of the pair was the sawed-off Browning Semi Auto shotgun."

B&G seem to have had a lot of guns.

Rex Parker 11:42 AM  

PS there's even a picture here:

But perhaps the writer is mistaken, or misnaming things. I'll admit, I'm no expert.


Glitch 11:45 AM  

I'm not sure if I'm more impressed with today's author's ability to construct a decent puzzle, or @XC's (first post of today) ability to fabricate a comment on all the posts that will follow.


Zeke 11:46 AM  

Hell Rex, if you're going to use photographic documentation and all, this isn't going to be any fun.

The Big E 11:47 AM  

What type(s) of guns did B&G use in the Warren Beatty film?

My first Initial is "C", not "G" - it's B&C 11:52 AM  

Wiki -
Bank robber Clyde Barrow modified his Browning A-5 shotgun by cutting the barrel down to the same length as the magazine tube, and shortening the stock by 5 to 6 inches (130 to 150 mm) to make it more concealable. A small, 10–12-inch (250–300 mm) strap was attached to both ends of the butt of the gun, and was looped around his shoulder, concealing the gun between his arm and chest under his jacket in the manner of a shoulder holster. The gun was drawn up quickly and fired from the shoulder under which it was carried. Barrow dubbed it the "Whippit", as he was able to "whip it" out easily.

OldCarFudd 11:57 AM  

How is it that, in - what? - three years or so of enjoying this blog, I never knew Rex's real name?

I'd heard of galop. Schwinn was one of the few bicycle makers in the 19th century who didn't move on to building cars, and survived.

@anon-peri - Loved the nmi srory. Here's another, not as good. There was a young man named R. O. Jones - no names, just initials. When he was drafted, the roll call list said: "Jones, R (only) B (only)." Thereafter, to the Army, he was Ronly Bonly Jones.

Enjoyed the debut puzzle (Congratulations!) and Acme's writeup.

Two Ponies 12:08 PM  

I didn't mean to kick the hornet's nest but I do love my guns.
Type in "BAR rifle Clyde Barrow" to see that he sawed off an M1918 Browning Automatic Rifle. It was a machine gun that fired 30-08 cartridges. An awesome weapon to be sure. Sawing it off added to the concealment but decreased the long-range accuracy.
My avatar refers to my twin Colt
.45 single-action revolvers.
I guess this reminds me of when we discuss the fine points of chemistry or others topics that get folks motivated to clarify.

Anonymous 12:09 PM  

congrats on the wednesday puzzle -- er, tuesday. felt somewhere between a very challenging tuesday and an easy thursday.

retired_chemist 12:14 PM  

Hand up for liking this and hoping for more MDS puzzles.

Got SAWED OFF SHOTGUN without crosses and before seeing the theme. In fact, had AID at first for 37A, then realized that didn't hint at a theme. Got SOS from one of the crosses and was off to the races. Usually themes are irrelevant to my solving - this one helped.

Also hand up for 42A SAME OLD S--- being the hapless SAME OLD S&%#, mentioned by others, in my mind on the first pass. Told non-puzzle wife the theme and this potentially obscene answer, so she wondered if there was a theme answer involving a SHINGLE. No, the A would not work...

Other writeover: ESTATE => REALTY.

A solid Tuesday, a fastball right down the middle of the plate for me, but with just enough of a hop to make it a fun solve. Thanks, Mr. Sharp.

Anonymous 12:27 PM  

Congrats! Seemed pretty easy (though I was unsure of GALOPS and GROT), with many gimmes. Not sure I like OBI clue, but a good try. And didn't we just have SOS? Enjoyed its distinctive rhythm.

ReX-RATING 12:28 PM  

Great expectations for a debut puzzle that starts with a bang and ends with a whimper.
Today we have a fine-for-a-Tuesday offering, a low-concept, competently executed, easily understood theme that would be equally at home as a CrosSynergy or a USA Today puzzle, with special polish deftly applied by the editor. This is just the kind of theme our host would ordinarily find unworthy of praise, on which he might inexplicably focus the sound and fury of his indignation. But wait – could the word “debut” be the clue that unlocks the secret to much ado? Could it be that the green-eyed monster has possessed our host, comparing his heretofore frustrated attempts at constructing with those that have found favor with the editor?
The grid has a nice design, with no cheater black squares and a lowish word count/black square count. All signs point to elegance. But wait – what’s happened to the population of little words? How blind an eye must be turned in order to nod approval as almost every section of the grid is tainted?
GALOPS is an unfortunate 1-Across introduction to the work. Among the infelicitous entries are GROT, IED, and NMI. RFDS? A dubious plural. Crosswordese, how do I love thee, let me count the ways: ADA, OBI, ERAT, AUS, ESO, FREI, ODES, ARLES, REMAP, OUTDID, APEAK!
Oh, I see. A construction emergency.
It’s only a puzzle, after all. Much ado about nothing much.

Arby 12:32 PM  

Loved the OBI clue, once I got it. Before that, I was worried about having to come up with the Japanese word for "easy".

I'm slow - but Tuesday usually falls in under 8 minutes for me, and this one took me 15. So I'm thinking easy Thursday.

My favorite part - no opera clues, no popes with roman numeral suffixes, and nothing that requires Manhattan residency to solve.

Congrats Rex!

chefbea 12:33 PM  

@Old car Fudd LOL loved your NMI story!!!

Van55 12:44 PM  

Critics who hide behind anonymity inhale sharply!

CaseAce 12:48 PM  

Since it's generally known that things tend to go in cycles, then this was a Schwinn Schwinn situation.
From my unique prospectus and e-state of mind, it was REALTY was!

CrazyCat 1:01 PM  

Wow over 70 comments and it's only 9:30 on the W coast. Congrats Rex on your NYT puzzle debut. This was, for me, more difficult than an average Tuesday. I got hung up on GIS and GALOP. Very familiar with duck confit, but not Confit d'OIE. Probably pretty similar. YAM was fine with me. I prefer a plain baked YAM. Embarrassing YAM story - I once tried to microwave one. It exploded, burst into flames and the fire department had to be called. Stunk up the house for days and the microwave had to be replaced. And yes, I did poke it with a fork first.

CoffeeLvr 1:01 PM  

@Rex/Michael, congratulations on your NYT debut.

@Andrea, loved the S&G lyric revision. I was singing along.

I too have the vinyl. I about wore it out. Since I could afford only a few albums, they all got a lot of play. A long way around to say, I knew SoundS of Silence instantly. Based on that, the whole south fell quickly. Likewise the NE.

Loved seeing YOGI in the puzzle. My favorite cartoon for a couple of years. My YOGI imitation led to my brother's nickname of Boo-Boo, which my parents squelched when I started using it out of the house.

I think this one was more Tuesday than Wednesday. Did not know GALOPS, but was certain of all the crosses. Biggest mistake was confidently penciling in ESTATE for REALTY. Since the 2nd T was right, I was hung up there for a while. Otherwise, all the answers were easy to get from the clues or the crosses. I liked the theme bec it helped with 42A.

Thanks, Rex

Steve J 1:01 PM  

@Ulrich, thanks for the elucidation. The online DE-EN dictionary I usually consult didn't list "independent." And I should remember that having lived in Munich meant I got exposed to some odd German. Not quite as impenetrable as the Swiss, but certainly non-standard.

For those who haven't read the interview over on the Wordplay blog, it's worth a look. There's at least one other person who's not happy with some of the short fill, either.

42A does make me wish a little bit that this was in the Onion.

harryhassell 1:03 PM  

Really fine puzzle. Glad to hear that you thought it was on the hard side - I felt it was a little more Wednesday-ish while solving, but lots of great stuff in there to make it fun. A few clunkers (not a fan of GROT) but a great debut.


ArtLvr 1:07 PM  

Amen, great debut, Michael S. -- I agree that you hewed to your standards very well. My first look on finishing was for the re- and -er particles you so dislike & found only REMAP, as BIER didn't count!

I think you can have a YAM dish, so that's OK by me too, and I applaud your STOUTLY making reference to Jim H's "wicked" takeoff yourself, bravo. I also got a kick out of your spelling hangup on taking A PEAK, and note that you did fine with MINH even if the H in Delhi trips you up now and then. NMI is No Middle Initial for me, so the clue at 55D was a puzzle, as was that 45A IED: both a bit obscure for early in the week but easily gettable with crosses.

I saw GIS early on and thus GALOPS at 1A wasn't hard, but of course it would behoove everyone to look up Strauss I and eldest son Strauss II. Fascinating tale, both in Vater's forbidding the three legitimate sons to study music but they got there anyway due to divorce -- yet he ORDAINed the same with regard to the six kids who were illegitimate! Nice that Junior turned out more than tolerant and often played his dad's music...

So lots to love in your NYT Opus I, and the overall reception should EXCITE you! And many thanks to Andrea too for extra sugar and spice in her write-up.



Lovely puzzle.
Did it without knowing it was Rex's debut. Some exciting fresh words (OO LA LA, WRAITH, BIER, and PODCASTS) and some very thoughtful clues.
Hope you do more soon.
Why not LAT next time?

Masked and Anonymous 1:32 PM  

@ACM, Darlin'--Wanted to be sure and praise your possum-in-the-pot-good write-up. You do mighty fine work. Hope 44 comes up with some more NYTPuz's, and you can cover 'em ALL. Only thing is you left off the difficulty and word of the day. So, if I may be of assistance, with my usual tongue deeply in cheek...

"Relative" difficulty = Somwheres between "Uncle's special little girl" and Grampa Abe. [Actually, I'm in with the crowd that thought it put up a bit of a fight. Not that any fill gave me too much trouble; just takes a little longer to parse all the 6-7 letter stuff. SCHWINN and LETEMIN and HOGCALLS and PODCASTS, esp.]

Word of the Day: IDONOT (14A). [As in: "IDONOT believe they pre-used my theme last Thursday! OUCH (15A)!" Sounds kinda like the world's longest partial. But I guess at wedding ceremonies, you could reply "IDONOT" (Defensive statement). Long as no one's holdin' a 17A on yah.]

Thumbs ups to everyone!


No faults!
Rex, your sister Bonnie would be proud of you.

Sfingi 1:48 PM  

A bit slow for me for a Tues.
Totally agree with @Aaron Riccio.

I got stuck in the NW and decided to Google Ricky Nelson. I had asked Hubster what song Nelson had that began with ITS. "ITS up to you," didn't fit. But when I found ITSLATE, Hubster began to sing it! Never heard of it. Turns out it was #9 in 1959.
"It's the SAMEOLDSONG," 1965, is a much superior hit. Of course, I prefer soul to teeny-bopper hits.

I had wanted Lexus for ACURA. Wanted "unwashed" for INRAGS.
I didn't know CIE (French, nuf said) or NMI (no more info?).

ESKIMO is somewhat non-PC, since the natives prefer the tribal names, such as Inuit, ESKIMO meaning raw meat eaters. Whatever.

I was living in The City in 1966, working for the Public Library in the Bronx and taking library science courses at Columbia. The subway tiles were still fairly bare, but someone wrote the Sounds of Silence on one wall. The seats were straw, then. The air was bad, thanks to Monsanto, et. al. (No AIDS or HIV, then.) Nice memory for me.

I liked HOGCALLS, WRAITHS and FREI, the last just cuz it's Deutsch. There were 4 sports. Unless there were more that I didn't know were sports.
Liked having the theme clue short and in the center.

Mini-theme GIS PXS.

@Moonchild - I get a lot of answers cuz I don't know any better.

@Rex - Guess you like words with jammed consonants like SADR and MINH? I do.
Glad it's over?

mitchs 1:48 PM  

This has been mad fun. Thanks Rex, Andrea, Will, Jim Horne, and the usual gang of idiots (with affection) on this blog.

syndy 2:24 PM  

Typed in waltzs and wondered "could that be right?"Downs said no! got sawed++++ but don"t shotguns shoot round pellets'relatively less lethal and for scaring away varmints?could that be right?(I don"t know)Had estate and LADIDA;same odl did not end in songthat ain"t right)Aleut gave way to eskimo and my least favorite answer ONE MILE.Liked the theme okay mostly the fill got BOOs,NOsand a big FREISADROIE;anyway we knew it was Rex and can"t unknow it -still not bad puzzle with some ugly fill is fianal answer

Arundel 2:33 PM  

A good solid puzzle, IMO. Some truly fine clues - obi, wraith, llamas, realty. Some I wasn't so fond of - remap, erat, and the unloved oolala. But a great debut - congratulations, Rex!

Anonymous 3:10 PM  

I seem to have a vague memory of a long ago advertising line that went "Save On Soap -- Use SOS soap pads."

Don't know if that's the origin of the product name, but could beeeee.

Keith 3:11 PM  

Congratulations, Your Majesty.

Doc John 3:13 PM  

Nice debut, Rex!

Anonymous 3:26 PM  


S.O.S originally came from Save Our Saucepans according to their web site. During WWII they note it was commonly believed to be from Save On Soap due to so many things being rationed.

On another subject, just remember that a GALOP dance is done in duple time, whereas the GAVOT is in quadruple time.

flying feet I guess!!

archaeoprof 3:30 PM  

I'm glad Will put this one on Tuesday. Interesting (GALOPS, WRAITH), with a nice reveal.

congratulations, Rex!

Maybe some country music in your next one?

@ChefBea: go Blue Devils!

The Big E 3:38 PM  

SOS = Save Our Solvers

Snuffy Smith 3:41 PM  

@ syndy - shot depends on what you put in the shotgun shell. Lead shot (frowned upon for environmental reasons anymore) is pretty d**n lethal, and steel shot will shore kill you daid 'nuff anyway.

I could show you a video of what a birdseed load will do to a watermelon, part of a safety video I have seen. Definitely not pretty and it is a good rendition of what can happen to the careless, even if your hunting partner Dick Cheney is shooting poppers and not metal shot.


Clark 3:42 PM  

Went from 'operas' to 'waltzs' to GALOPS. I liked it. Please pass me a YAM.

Joe 4:02 PM  

Just wanted to add my congrats, @Rex. OOLALA!

fergus 4:04 PM  

Takes a lot of guts for a critic to perform in his subject matter. He acquitted himself well.

sanfranman59 4:06 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)

Tue 11:01, 8:52, 1.24, 95%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Tue 6:05, 4:35, 1.33, 100%, Challenging

As Rex suggests, this one's playing out more as a Medium Wednesday than a typical Tuesday puzzle. I thought this was the case as I solved it last evening, posting my 4 slowest Tuesday time of the 63 weeks I've been tracking my NYT solve times. Right now, it's got the highest median solve time for the Top 100 group, but that may not hold up come the end of the day.

Glitch 4:07 PM  

@anon 3:26p

Off the G, I remebered GAVOTS from:

...You had one eye in the mirror
As you watched yourself gavotte
... [“You're So Vain” C. Simon]


“Ascot Gavotte” from "My Fair Lady".

Then I remembered the correct spelling.

... and while I'm at it, would have preferred "fills a void ..." rather than "indicates ..." for NMI, as that's what it does (in a nitpicking way).


The Big E 4:10 PM  

@sanfranman - I am confused - you list the top 100 solvers, and the number one for Tuesday is 6:05, yet when I do the Times online interface, it shows the fastest as being 2:34 - What is the reason for this?

J 4:17 PM  

Nice work.
The constructor had clues that were neither too cute nor too clever. And there were no "vocabulary" words.
(There's usually one, maybe two, in every weekday puzzle.)

Some of these I got intuitively:

SCHWINN (banana seat, anyone?)

My only burr was that I initially had RPG for IED, but I never heard a king "ordarn" a decree.

Rex is probably right--felt like more of a Wednesday but still a good puzzle.

The constructor should be proud, dancing around his living room, doing HOGCALLS.

Hope this helps.. 4:19 PM  

@Big E - See his post of 7/30/2009. Simply, the first number he lists is the median for today, the second number is the average of the historical medians for Tuesdays. Today's median time was 6:05, the average median for Tuesday is 4:35

The Big E 4:21 PM  

@Hope this helps:
I looked ta that post, but that seems to be what he does for "all solvers."
Isn't top 100 just that?
I am still confused...

sanfranman59 4:23 PM  

@The Big E ... the 6:05 is the median solve time for the top 100 solvers (i.e. the 50th fastest solve time). Similarly, the 11:01 is the median solve time for all solvers (as of the time I checked the numbers a little while ago). In this case, it was the 331st fastest solve time among the 662 who had posted times.

DBGeezer 4:27 PM  

I gather from all the comments, that Rex constructed this puzzle. Can anyone explain why both the NYT and AcrossLite say that Michael Sharp is the author? Is one of those the other's nom de puzzle?

Seemed like a Tuesday to me. The absence of TV and contemporary music clues allowed me to finish without googling.

Fun puzzle, and good write up Andrea - if that is indeed your name.

The Big E 4:27 PM  

@San Fran Man - thanks. Not quite as on top of things as I would like to be today! :-)
Appreciate the explanation!
And I like the system! :-)

mexgirl 4:39 PM  

The puzzler's name is the last thing I read, so as I was solving (getting stumped more than usual for Tuesday...!) I couldn't help thinking: "well, Rex will have a tough time complaining about this one! what, with the fancy fill and the middle Os being all different...." :^)


retired_chemist 4:40 PM  

@ sanfranman59 - are the means much different from the medians in your analyses?

John Hoffman 4:44 PM  

GALOPS is a brutal 1A.

sanfranman59 4:51 PM  

@retired_chemist ... somewhat. Here are the means and medians of the median solve times for the All Solvers group by day (median first, then mean):

Mon 6:55, 6:58
Tue 8:40, 8:52
Wed 11:32, 11:45
Thu 18:46, 19:18
Fri 26:14, 26:32
Sat 30:56, 30:56

I'm a bit surprised that the Saturday median and mean are the same. I would have thought that the spread would be larger in late week puzzles where the sky's the limit on the high end (although I assume that people eventually give up or cheat on the more difficult puzzles).

Jim 5:07 PM  


Curious to know why you picked Strauss. Because he's so well known for the waltz, and this would throw people off? The only GALOP I know of is Liszt's Galop Chromatique, famously performed by Gyorgy Cziffra here:

Went bottom-up with this one, for no other reason than the top seemed unpersuaded by my charms, and ESKIMO was ready to party.

No biggie. Got me SOS sooner than I might have otherwise, as SOUNDSOFSILENCE dropped quickly.

Loved INRAGS, DECANTS, the aforementioned GALOPS and, of course, WRAITH was inspired.

Haven't read through all the posts yet, but I don't know from Michael Sharp. I'll look again but, if no one has explained, can someone?

Noam D. Elkies 5:08 PM  

Congratulations to Prof.♯ on the debut NYTimes puzzle (and yes, thanks to &rea for filling in when the usual judge here must Rexuse himself). We now see why Rex LOL'd at last week's 37A:SOS puzzle. In turn I now LOL at RP's 48D:APEAK story; curiously this entry is a bit more common at xwordinfo than "a peek" (8:6 after today).

Most of my specific comments (Wednesday etc.) have been made already, for both good (a passel of fresh 6-8 letter entries) and ill, though I actually liked 39A:GROT and 55D:NMI. Anybody else write in "hai" for 16A:OBI? It even checked with 13D:MINH... Three clues of the form "1959 top 10 hit" [22A], "1966 album" [53A], "1976 hit" [33D] is two too many — normally I'd say three too many, but one is a theme entry and this theme is more constraining than one might expect (see below); I'd gladly trade in these superannuated "hits" for two or three more partials (other than "Sneek ____" for 48D).

Here's the list of matches for "^s[a-z]* o[a-z]* s[a-z]*$" in the NPL wordlist, which is surprisingly thin, though there are a few good examples (yes, mostly with O=of):

S o s
S of Sol
Secretary of State
Song of Solomon
Song of Songs
salt of sorrel
same old story
scare one spitless [sic]
scare one stiff
scum of society
seal of secrecy
seat of state
secretary of state
sense of sight
sense of smell
service of song
sharing of sorrow
shift of structure
ship of state
simply ordered set
sink or swim
source of supply
speed of sound
spirits of salt
spot of sleep
state of suspense
streams of sweat
surge of sound

Yes, "spitless", as in West Side Story ("when the spit hits the fan"), though normally this wordlist doesn't bother with such euphemisms ("scared s.itless" matches with h but not p). Retired_chemist might recognize "spirits of salt" and "salt of sorrel" as names for hydrochloric acid (HCl) and calcium oxalate (Ca(COO)₂, a.k.a. kidney stones) that are even longer in the tooth than a 51-year-old top 10 hit.

Gotta go now; 22A:ITS_LATE.

Laura R 5:10 PM  

Hey Rex,
Nice debut. I won't argue much b/c eventually it's my goal to get published in the NY Times as well. I agree with you - this puzzle is definitely Wednesday worthy. I got off to SUCH a slow start!
And being a huge fan of Simon and Garfunkel, I wrote "Scarborough Fair" which fits, but got to the last letter and immediately realized that it had to be ESO for 57D. D'oh!
Also, wrote "SAME OLD SAME" at first.
There was a lot of tricky fill. I still don't know what PXS (58D) is - but I'll ask my Dad : )

william e emba 5:33 PM  

You want a partial for APEAK? How about Devil's-Arse-a-peak? That's the name of a cave in Derbyshire, England. Samuel Pepys once visited it. Pepys spelled it with an extra e at the end, but Google will reveal uses of the modern spelling. The "a-peak" is often left off. For example, Ben Jonson in The Devil is an Ass (soon to be a major motion picture, btw) referred to the Peak named Devil's Arse.

Well, maybe not. But if you're ever in the neighborhood, give the cave a visit anyway.

There is nothing wrong with YAM, singular, used for the name of the side dish. Do a Google on "yam side dish". Rex/Will are correct here.

SCHWINN is clued as though it still exists "since 1895". I don't think this is correct. They went bankrupt in 2001 and were sold off. I believe only the brand-name still exists--the bikes are all made in China, and that Rex/Will are incorrect here.

Other companies have gone bankrupt yet maintained their identity after a buyout, eg, Rubbermaid. In fact, their buyer changed its name to include Rubbermaid.

Squeek 5:51 PM  

Nice one Rex!

Alop yesterday and apeak today
had me all agroan.

Dan 6:06 PM  

@hazel, re the video: I do look at all the clues, just very quickly -- one key word is often enough. There are usually a few words (esp. early week) that fill in with crossings (in this one I never saw FLIES BY), though in a competitive situation I'll always check to make sure...

My death has been exaggerated 6:09 PM  


Schwinn and Schwinn Motorsports,
Divisions of Dorel Industries Inc. still exists every bit as much as Buick.

Check out their timeline and products.


andrea alop michaels 6:31 PM  

one more HUGE thank you due...I neglected to mention PuzzleGirl responding to MY techno-challenged SOS and unwavering help in doing all the editing, embedding work...not to mention the screamingly funny picture of the chuckling llama!!!!

Obviously this was a big honor to be asked to help out, given Rex was torn about wanting to blog his own...but I badgered him promising to be totally honest, then, of course, panicked. He took a huge risk...
so, I thank god/Will/oxterplenon it was such a nice puzzle so my job was easy.

John V 6:32 PM  

To the many, may a I add cudos to you, Rex on your debut, with wishes for many more.

For me, a bit more difficult than average Tuesday, particularly NW.


Citizen Dain 6:40 PM  

GALOPS didn't come right away, but I recognized the word because one of the song's on Nino Rota's "8 1/2" score is called "Carlotta's Galop" and is in brisk double-time. I had trouble with a few little parts but in every case it was justified by the fact that the crosses made the words, if not easy, at least possible. The only total guess I had was the final R of SAD_ and MUI_. I'm so glad I guessed correctly because I am ever so proud to say that I was able to solve Rex Parker's first puzzle WITHOUT referring to Rex Parker's blog post for any answers.

Congratulations on a tricky but fun puzzle. PODCASTS and SAWEDOFFSHOTGUN were genuinely great, and answers like EAGLET and SLALOM were unusual and made me smile.

Just curious: what were the most frequently Googled clues today??

CaseAce 6:53 PM  

Anyone from Wordplay who's sneaking APEAK on Rex's Blog (Due to his debut over there today) Let it be written, let it be said, I post under the name of "CaseAce" here,whereas over at WP I try to comment as "Warren Howie Hughes" It seems I've become persona non grata with the WP co-hosts for reasons I'm sure they're well in accord with and in all truth justifiable.Anyone interested in my plight and flight to friendlier environs can E-Mail me at

william e emba 6:56 PM  

I'm not sure if I agree about SCHWINN qualifying as a "bicycle maker", just because it's a distinct division. I also have a hard time considering Buick as an example of an automobile manufacturer. I recognize I'm possibly in the minority here.

I certainly agree subsidiaries can be distinct entities. For example, Merriam-Webster's is owned by Encylopædia Britannica.

Tinbeni 6:56 PM  

Thanks, I watched the Dan Fever solve link (in 2:17, WOW!) and said to myself: "I hope my doctors are as good at medicine as he is at crosswords!"

I didn't notice 'OIE' (solved by crosses) until I came here and read some of the comments.
Watching you in action was amazing!
By the time I finished, it wouldn't surprise me that you had knocked off 10 of these thingy's.

OIE & FREI were my 2nd & 3rd (with GALOPS) learning moments.
Three on a Tuesday ... I'd walk ONE MILE for that anyday!
A LAT puzzle would be nice, also.

Time for that "Shot of Scotch."
Cheers to Rex !!!

SethG 7:16 PM  

Same old can be shit, it can also be same old, song, story, or song and dance, my friends.

I DO NOT was nice, and tough to parse out for some reason. And I had way too much trouble with REALTY.

I'd never heard of GALOPS, and am glad GIS was triple-checked for the G. APEAK hurt but I understand, GROT and OIE hurt much worse, but HOG CALLS and PODCASTS took some pain away. Aloes, if you will.

Nice work, Michael. Congrats!

jae 7:27 PM  

I don't usually comment on Tues. due to a truce agreement with my bride, but I have to say congrats on a fine debut puzzle to Rex. And, yes it was more of a Wed. for me also.

Ooxteplernon 7:47 PM  

@andrea proteus michaels:

Dear Andrea, I love you so much it hurts, but, uh, could you do me a little favor and spell my name right?



chefbea 8:21 PM  

It is 8:20 EDT and we have 126 this a record, or have we broken the record???

Leon 8:24 PM  

Thank you Mr. Parker.

Terrific write-up Ms. Acme.

@Mac - You are right about GROT. Comments on TUESDAY, May 11, 2010, had made-up and classical poems featuring the "Small cave, poetically."

Anonymous 8:56 PM  

This is funny. After reading a comment on Wordplay, I looked this up. Here I quote from the King himself:

"NMI (27D: Application letters) - this is about the worst three-letter answer I Have Ever Seen."

You can look it up.


fergus 8:59 PM  

From Keats' "Belle Dame Sans Merci"

"She took me to her elfin GROT,
And there she wept and and sighed full sore ... "

Rex Parker 9:00 PM  

Not a heavily googled puzzle, actually, considering how (relatively) difficulty it's proving. [Some Strauss compositions] leads, with [Small cave, poetically] and [Weapon for Clyde Barrow] well behind.

As for NMI, Orange's comment (at "Diary of a Crossword Fiend") is pretty much right. Plus, after I trashed NMI, lots of military folks told me I was an idiot. Which may still be true.


Ben 9:19 PM  

Chiming in late in the day to say congratulations. I wouldn't have caught this until the weekend (when I've lately been blowing thru the Mon-Thu puzzles all at once) but I just saw your Facebook video exchange with D. and I was all, you go Rex!

Nice work on the puzzle. I share your and others' sense that it was tougher than a Tue. It took me almost 3 min longer than the Monday puzzle. Usually I can do Mon and Tue more or less equally fast.


Good writeup, ACM, and fun puzzle yesterday too.

Sfingi 9:22 PM  

@Rex - you do have guts. Keep 'em coming.

@Citizen Dain - I continue to ask the apparently stupid question - How do you know what was the most-Googled clue? Either someone is kidding or I'm not paranoid enough. It's bad enough I have to shake off new toolbars every week.

@Seth - I wanted SAMEOLDSameold.

@Chefbea - Yes - huge number of comments - usually 3x the LA, which has 33 at this point.

Ben 9:25 PM  

oops 2 min longer... whatever

Ben 9:29 PM  

Rex, as good as Andrea's writeup is, I second those who would like to read your take on the experience. Your Wordplay interview was a good start but I'd guess you might have more to say.

Anonymous 9:37 PM  

@Sfingi - I believe it's relatively easy for someone to find out what Google searches return their site.
captcha: fawking - I needn't say more

sanfranman59 10:02 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

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:33, 3:43, 0.96, 33%, Easy-Medium
Tue 5:38, 4:34, 1.23, 97%, Challenging

Anonymous 10:02 PM  

Rex has no idea what the most Googled clues are. All he can tell is which ones end up going to his site. If the most Googled clues have links to other sites higher up on the search page than links to rexworld, Rex doesn't get the traffic.

We should have known that the only reason Rex would put bad fill into a grid was for a joke. That is soooooo awesome!!!!! I doubt there's another NYT crossword constructor with the balls to do that. Once again, Rex stands out from the pack. Absolutely awesome. Oh yeah and loved the sawed off shotgun. I cant wait for the next King Rex puzzle!

foodie 10:08 PM  

Just came back and read through AAAALLL the comments! Wow. I'm really happy to read the great enthusiasm that so many feel about this debut. It's lovely.

Rex, I'm very impressed by your style in responding to critique. I know that as an academic, you've undoubtedly had your share, as we all do in our business. But this is playing out in a more public forum, and on your own turf. You have found the perfect pitch for explaining your rationale (e.g. the SAWED OFF SHOTGUN) but being lighthearted and humorous. My hat's off to you.

Re NMI, who knew! And I don't have a middle initial! I'm going to use it and always think of today! Or else I could use Smurfologist, something that Rex suggested a couple of days ago : )

@SanFranMan: that concordance of the mean and the median is remarkable. Re the issue of late in the week- I think a lot of people don't even try, or they give up, so they never show up in the stats to distort your mean.

@NDE, I enjoyed reading your post, especially the listing of the pool of common SOS phrases.

Rex Parker 10:16 PM  

Hi foodie, so nice to hear from you today. I have loved *All* of the feedback today. Most people are, frankly, being way too kind. Feedback is generally thoughtful, and even the haters are showing an admirable exuberance and attention to detail. Exhilarating. A great day.

Everyone spoke affectionately of you at dinner in Queens on Saturday. Really wish you could have been there.


Ben 10:16 PM  

Sorry to keep commenting, but two more stray thoughts.

1. Love that you got LETEMIN into the NYT puzzle. Beatles are of course invited whenever they like, but Wings, why not, let 'em in.

2. In his typically brilliant New York Times Magazine essay "Roger Federer as Religious Experience," the late David Foster Wallace refers to the Swiss tennis Mozart as "Mr. Roger N.M.I. Federer." I was somewhat taken aback not that the suavely international Federer had three middle initials, but rather that I as a devoted fan had not previously known this. It was only after a minute's reflection that I realized Wallace meant "No Middle Initial."

More on David Foster Wallace and Roger Federer here.

deerfencer 10:19 PM  


Excellent debut--really enjoyed it--big cyber high-five! Especially loved SCHWINN, YOGI, and SAWEDOFFSHOTGUN.

My one beef was the cluing to REALTY, which I kept misreading as "landed properly." Better clued perhaps as
"Trump's trade."

Hope to see more of your puzzles in the Times!

Sarah Sharp 11:02 PM  



I remain, as always, your number one fan.

Your Mom

fergus 11:47 PM  

That's awful sweet, and I'm the least sentimental.

Stan 11:50 PM  

Wanted 33D to be either Men at Work's "Who Can It Be Now" or Dave Edmunds' "I Hear You Knocking" instead of the bland Wings number, but hey you can't have everything.

Puzzle was definitely crunchy for a Tuesday, but the obscurities were all pretty easy to decipher from crosses (this is important!)

Seriously, I would have thought this was a fun, engaging puzzle if I had no idea who did it.

Andrea: Great write-up!!!

hazel 12:00 AM  

@DanFeyer - I may even be more gobsmacked by you than I was initially.....

Your solving video was so interesting, and such a cool way to memorialize the puzzle.

oaklandxwordnovice 1:37 AM  

from a novice:
tough puzzle but awesome. congratulations!!!!!

Sparkydog77 5:55 AM  

I am waaaaaaaaaaaay late coming to the party for this puzzle as it TOOK ME MOST OF YESTERDAY (at various junctures) to solve the fiendish devil (and, of course, I kept saying, "If this is a Tuesday, then I'm gonna be REALLY HURTING by Thursday..." LOL)

However, I have a HILARIOUS PIC of me (per Rex's instructions, though I'm not sure exactly why--because he knew IN ADVANCE that we would all be pulling what hair we have left out of our heads on this one!) that I'll try and post at some point of me trying to solve this puzzle while POOLSIDE in the late morning. From this diabolical picture, you will begin to see Sparkydog is, quite literally, coming apart at the seams and choosing momentarily to take the matter into the DEEP END OF THE POOL.

Meanwhile, a few comments about some of the entries:

I've had my fill of LLAMAS lately: they seem to be EVERYWHERE in my crossword activity. But, thankfully, CAMELID (60 Across) is a new addition to my lexicon.

This DOGFACES business (1 Down) and then coming back for a pickup on 58 Across. Had to seek outside aid on both of these.

The XOXO (50 Down) is ADORABLE, yes? And a special COUNTRY BOY SHOUTOUT to all those RURAL CLUES, from COUNTRY MAIL ROUTES (52 Down) to an ORNERY SORT (51 Down) read: CUSS and the always AMUSING and PAROCHIAL HOG-CALLING ("Noises from a Country Fair" 38-Down). Here in Kentucky, we spend an inordinate amount of time calling the hogs, and the chickens, and whatever else we can summon to the barnyard for closer inspection. LOL.

I had one of those ANNOYING CROSSOVERS with the 28-Down business of URGES ON. I had a "D" in place and thought that I had gained momentum by inputting GOADS but, alas, PRODS won the day. Always hate those kind of mendacious discoveries, especially when you do the puzzle in INK. Now you get to ANNOUNCE TO THE WORLD, "Well, I ain't as slick as I think here, am I, Freddy?"

Well done to our PERIPATETIC GUEST EDITOR and look forward to Rex's return on Wednesday...........

Arby 10:01 AM  

Doh! I forgot to say this yesterday: when I hear SOS - I think of creamed chip beef on toast. But of course, the answer would have to be sanitized ("Stuff on a shingle"?) to make it into the NYT.

joecab 10:33 AM  

Congrats! I enjoyed it, especially HOG CALLS. I thought that 1A might be GALOPS but boy I fought it forever ... that was my last area filled.

dolly 11:06 AM  

A newbie also. Tuesday can be tough but I'm old enough that the SOSs came right up. Great help with the crosses. xoxo is a family sig on emails. Lucky me. First thought for Rick Nelson was Mary Lou but no way. Wednesdays are my over the hump day. Usually have to google or go to Rex. We'll see tomorrow

Waxy in Montreal 1:16 PM  

From syndicity: Congratulations, Rex. A truly enjoyable Tuesday puzzle. Thanks. For some reason, the word ORDAIN with both its ecclesiastical and laic usages always reminds me of PRIMATE which does a similar double duty, in its case involving both monkeys and the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Lurking, Just Behind You 1:54 PM  

I loved the puzzle and hope that your elbow is still sore from patting yourself on the back for the past 6 weeks....having your debut in the Times has an aura that last that long...doesn't it?
I always read the constructor last as to not pre-judge the puzzle and was quite pleased when your name showed up. Good job!

and and additional Good Job! to ACME for her terrific blogging skills. Nervous or not, the write-up was simply smashing.

midj 2:56 PM  

Rex/Michael, just a shout out from syndication land. Congratulations! I thoroughly enjoyed this puzzle and, not knowing your real name, was pleasantly surprised with Andrea's reveal note! May this be the first of many NYT puzzles for you. Now off to read everyone else's congratulatory messages!

Dirigonzo 4:07 PM  

Difficult (impossible?) to come up with anything new/original to say 5 weeks later, so I'll just describe my solving experience which is all I usually do anyway. First run-through "by the numbers" produced a grid that was about 3/4 complete. I had GIS from the "GIt-go" but the rest of GALOPS eluded me until I had all the crosses in place - fortunately for me, Shaq is one of the few NBA players I actually know by name or I would have had my own personal Natick there. Only write-over resulted from wanting Crab for CUSS, which kept me from seeing SOUNDSOFSILENCE for a while. All in all this was a very enjoyable Tuesday for me. Interestingly (to me at least) I was thinking, "This is pretty easy for a Wednesday" when I remembered that today is TUESDAY so my view of the difficulty level differs from many above. And now I know what @Rex and @ACM were chuckling about a few days ago - SOS, redux! Congratulations Michael Sharp on your debut! And now I have to go look up "sycophant" to see if I are one.

Unknown 1:54 AM  

I am quite unsatisfied by the distinctions between the oral and literate. See the link below for more info.


Unknown 8:24 PM  

Good vibes. Everyday, all day. God Bless :)

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