Don Marquis's six-legged poet / SUN 10-10-10 / Wearers of jeweled turbans / Queen of double entendres / Winged celestial being / Hold em bullet

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Constructor: Patrick Merrell

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: "Drivers' Translations" — theme answers = what a (cynical asshole) driver thinks when he/she sees various road signs

Word of the Day: ARCHY (35D: Don Marquis's six-legged poet) —

Archy and Mehitabel (styled as archy and mehitabel) is the title of a series of newspaper columns written by Don Marquis beginning in 1916. Written as fictional social commentary and intended as a space-filler to allow Marquis to meet the challenge of writing a daily newspaper column six days a week, archy and mehitabel is Marquis' most famous work. Collections of these stories are still sold in print today. The published editions of these stories were originally illustrated by George Herriman, the creator and illustrator of Krazy Kat. // In 1916, Marquis introduced a fictional cockroach named "Archy" into his daily newspaper column at The New York Evening Sun. Archy (whose name was always written in lower case in the book titles, but was upper case when Marquis would write about him in narrative form) was a cockroach who had been a free-verse poet in a previous life, and took to writing stories and poems on an old typewriter at the newspaper office when everyone in the building had left. Archy would climb up onto the typewriter and hurl himself at the keys, laboriously typing out stories of the daily challenges and travails of a cockroach. Archy's best friend was an alley cat named "Mehitabel," and the two of them shared a series of day-to-day adventures that made satiric commentary on daily life in the city during the 1910s and 1920s. (wikipedia)

• • •

Really disliked the theme. Who are these "drivers"? Are these the same assholes who tailgate, run reds, talk / text and drive ... ? Who looks at construction work and thinks "PORK BARREL PROJECT?!" I *wish* workers would come and fix my damned pot-holed street. I have friends (pedestrians) who were hit by drivers that thought it was cool to COAST ON THROUGH. IGNORE THIS SIGN? Hell, just ignore them all, you seem not give a f&$% about anyone but yourself. . . as you can see, I don't have much sympathy with whatever this allegedly generic "driver" is thinking. I'm no driving angel, but it's hard for me to laugh about behavior that not only could but does result in tens of thousands of deaths and serious injuries every year. Why not [SCHOOL ZONE ...] => CHILDRENAREOVERRATED? Where's the funny drunk-driving puzzle?

Theme answers:
Found puzzle generally easy, except the theme answers, which I often had to piece together because of arbitrary phrasing (IGNORE THIS SIGN? There's nothing in that answer specifically related to the clue). Started out slow in the NW with NERTS (!?) instead of PSHAW (1A: "Applesauce!"). "ALONE" was a gimme (19A: 1987 #1 Heart song that starts "I hear the ticking of the clock"), but thought 1D: Unchallenging reading material (PAP) was RAG. Needed most of the crosses to get PORK BARREL PROJECT and at that point had No idea what theme was getting at. Took me a few more answers to understand what was up. There's nothing particularly obscure in the fill, except perhaps ARCHY (a 90-year-old cartoon cockroach) and (if you don't read Hillerman) CHEE (37D: Tony Hillerman detective Jim). Had to tiptoe through MAHARAJAS (65A: Wearers of jeweled turbans), as I am never sure how that word's going to end (MARHARISHIS? -IJIS?), but nothing else put up much resistance.

  • 31A: Hold 'em bullet (ACE) — Rangers had the Rays down last night but couldn't hold 'em. They may have to rely on their ACE Cliff Lee, though they seem to be holding him for a potential game 5 (or the ALCS, whichever comes first).
  • 55A: Suffix with hatch (-ERY) — yucky.
  • 71A: Neurotransmitter associated with sleep (SEROTONIN) — Big question for me here: SERO- or SERA-?
  • 84A: Winged celestial being (SERAPH) — Acc. to wikipedia: "[Seraphim] occupy the fifth of ten ranks of the hierarchy of angels in medieval and modern Judaism, and the highest rank in the Christian angelic hierarchy."
  • 93A: Setting for the biggest movie of 1939 movie (TARA) — first thought: "OZ"
  • 68D: Betty, Bobbie and Billie followers on "Petticoat Junction" (JOS) — Well, if you have to put JOS in your puzzle, that's a pretty good clue. Didn't see the plural when I first glanced at the clue and wrote in MAE.
  • 73A: "The Situation Room" airer (CNN) — Blitzer!

  • 97D: Jean-Paul who wrote "Words are loaded pistols" (SARTRE) — pretty sure he didn't write that. He wrote in French. Trying to find original quote ... failing.
  • 101D: It may wind up at the side of the house (HOSE) — this clue is great.
  • 105D: Sideshow worker (CARNY) — From pop star to sideshow worker ... so sad.

And now your Tweets of the Week, puzzle chatter from the Twitterverse:
  • @ Saturday NYTimes #crossword success foiled by intersection of Crores (ten million rupees) and (Banda) Aceh. C'mon, Shortz, don't be an ass.
  • @ Lady on the subway having an emotional rollercoaster ride reading a CROSSWORD puzzle in the paper! Genius/crazy person? Ps. she has no pen!?
  • @ Listening to a retelling outside my cube of an epic conquering of a crossword puzzle. It truly is the stuff of legend.
  • @ Dear LA Times Crossword, Your clue of "&" should have the answer of "ampersand" not "andsign" ..Make people smarter, not dumber
  • @ OK...I've officially given up on civilization. The Boston Globe Crossword puzzle actually used "baby-daddy" as a clue...
  • @ At airport with my crossword-puzzled mother. "How do you spell Ludacris the rapper?" Realized I had forgotten how to spell the actual word.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


Anonymous 12:13 AM  

I AM THE CYNICAL ASSHOLE REX REFERS TO AND PROUD OF IT BECAUSE I LOVED THIS PUZZLE!!! I STOOD UP AND CHEERED!!!!! When you get PORK BARREL PROJECT and OPRAH in the same puzzle, it's Miller Time! This time it's only icing on the cake. LOVED IT. LOVED IT. LOVED IT. My only nit is instead of CUTOFF, it shoud have been KILLED....

D_Blackwell 12:18 AM  

I think that this is one of the better (fun) Sunday themes in a while.

I can relate to most of the entries. Not the ROAD RAGE one though, because I'm not a sore loser when the short straw comes 'round. Defensive driving? Is that what we want to teach our kids? Good luck with that:)) Pork barrel? Yeah, for the most part. What percentage goes into the road, against what gets siphoned off?

CoffeeLvr 12:36 AM  

I DREAD road construction, and drivers who IGNORE a SIGN SCARE me. Add DWI, and what a mess: KAPOW. I'm with Rex, driving is a privilege, not a right.

All in all, about right for a Sunday. One tough spot for me, where Rommel crossed New Deal, but I guessed correctly.

I am preparing to leave soon on a road trip to a family reunion in Albuquerque. So I don't expect to post for a week and a half or so. Probably won't solve either. Happy puzzling, Rexites.

Anonymous 12:50 AM  

At least this was something different than the usual pack of pedestrian puns and letter substitutions. I'm sure I'll go to hell for saying this - but it is time for some new blood at the NYT Crossword desk. Will is way too entrenched in "his way" so we rarely see much of anything new. You can all flog me now.

Noam D. Elkies 12:59 AM  

The 97D:SARTRE quote seems to be "les mots sont des pistolets chargés". I'll let somebody else sort out the context.

This feels like a familiar puzzle type but I don't recall a recent example. I'm fortunate to spend little enough time in cars that I don't have much of a gut reaction to the theme entries one way or another, but the puzzle seemed enjoyable enough, especially with the nine-letter 65A:MAHARAJAS and 71A:SEROTONIN in the center row.

Glad to see more tweets. Yes, r*pper names can get ludicrous. Crore and Aceh I know, though the former only thanks to having visited India some years back (and double quads are impressive even if an earlier puzzle already squeezed them into a 15x15 grid).

NDE [captcha = remicab; not sure what that might mean but it seems apposite for the theme]

nanpilla 1:20 AM  

I had exactly the same reaction as @Rex - I hated the theme answers. If they were common phrases, maybe it could be cute - but these are just made up and arbitrary. Adding DWI to the mix is just in bad taste.

Love Tony Hillerman, so CHEE brought a smile to my face. It would be fun to see Leaphorn in a puzzle.

tomwp 2:00 AM  

This was a really fun theme, much better than stupid letter-swaps. And in no way does joking about people driving badly, which commuters encounter every single day, equate to the crossword saying "SLAUGHTER ALL CHILDREN, JOKE ABOUT PEOPLE DYING!" I find this a really weird place to take a moral stand. It's very Helen Lovejoy of you. And you know exactly what that means.

chefwen 2:31 AM  

I am in total agreement with Rex and Nanpilla, found nothing amusing in any of the theme answers and they were kind of difficult to suss out, other than that it was pretty easy to get the rest of the fill.

Had a very good friend killed by some a@#hole with road rage about 7 years ago. The guy had just flipped off someone before he ran a red light and killed my friend who's wife was due to have their son in two months. I'm still pissed off about that. No, nothing cute about this puzzle.

@Clark - Tell semi puzzle partner that I miss him (you too) and if he is missing my cooking, he should have been here tonight, WOW, won't go into detail. You both are welcomed back any time, all you have to do is make the trek.

fmcgmccllc 2:58 AM  

If I can do a Sunday in under 45 minutes something is wrong-I am not that good.

In Michigan it is DUI-driving under the the influence. This puzzle needs a road side test.

Did not like it. Too many raw memories.

Steve J 4:04 AM  

I had a completely different interpretation of the theme. It wasn't celebrating such things, but to whatever extent it was offering commentary, it was rolling its eyes and casting aspersions at how many drivers treat stop signs, etc.

Well, that was my theory until I thought about PORKBARRELPROJECT. We've had bridges literally falling down, roads are horrible and getting worse, and we have a lot of people unemployed. If pork barrel projects improve our infrastructure and put some people to work, bring on the bacon.

Or maybe even that's part of the eye-rolling bit, since the climate these days is to dismiss any kind of spending, no matter how necessary or valuable, as a bad thing. And we should roll our eyes at that.

Anyway, I'm not on the op-ed page. I'm on the crossword page (metaphorically, as I did the puzzle with the iPhone app). This was ridiculously easy from my chair. Finished in 26 minutes (for frame of reference, I'm happy whenever I'm sub-50 on a Sunday). Only writeover I had came courtesy of a typo. I know I'm getting better at my solving skills, but even with that in mind, this offered about as much resistance as my beloved Minnesota Twins did to the hated Yankees. Which is to say, absolutely none.

And regardless of whatever commentary the puzzle was or was not trying to make, it didn't provide me much enjoyment. Found the theme answers often awkwardly phrased, and there wasn't really a pattern that helped one solve them. It was just piecing together words from crosses. Don't need a theme for that.

glimmerglass 7:13 AM  

Try "No Exit" for the Sartre quote. I thought the theme was sort of obvious, but not as bad as RP. Very easy Sunday for me (but I had seratonin -- and I should have known Gotti).

DataGeek 7:15 AM  

Very easy (almost too easy) outing for me this morning. Easily half my usual time. Unlike Rex, I enjoyed the theme answers. I didn't sense the constructor approved of the behavior; more like he was chastising those who behave in that way. My sentiments exactly. Maybe a little lighthearted chastising but not approving. Liked IM MAD over SCARE - both are adrenaline producers for me. Much internal debate at 98D/124A - POLITY or POLITY - NUTSY or NUTSO. Could've gone either way, but a lucky guess for me to end up error free. THANKS Rex and Mr. Merrell for your efforts this fine Sunday morning.

Anonymous 7:52 AM  

hold 'em bullet..... bullet is slang for ace in (hold 'em) poker

Base Two 8:09 AM  

10/10/10; Sunday, October 10, 2010: Mathematics
101010 (base two (binary)) equals 42 (base ten). Oddly enough, this is evenly divisible by the number of days in a week (7 (lucky)); and equally oddly, is also evenly divisible by the number 6 (which is generally designated as being unlucky). Both a Ying and Yang situation seem to be incorporated into this date.

10 (base ten) = 1010 (base two)

(base ten): 10 x 10 = 100

(base two): 10 x 10 = 100

mmorgan 8:35 AM  

Agree with @Steve J... it could be interpreted as a critique of what goes through altogether too many people's heads when they encounter various road signs.

But it clearly touched a raw nerve with some.

Like most, I found this very easy, with the only slowdown coming when I hit the unknown 11D: _ _ OPOD and ended up taking awhile to fill in 13D: M_EWES_ . And I was trying to come up with some gland for 21A: Adrenaline producer (as if I know many glands!). But once I got the MC in MCJOB it all fell together.

STEER was an interesting misdirect for 44A: Range Rover, by keeping it auto-related. And I wasn't sure if 115D would be DUI or DWI -- but I agree with those who say that clue doesn't belong in this puzzle!

@Noam: In Argentina, a remise is a car you call for, as opposed to a taxi that you get on the street. So a "remicab" might be some new variation! Meanwhile, my captcha is "dorplen," which sounds like an adrenaline producer.

Rex Parker 8:49 AM  


If you *really* knew anything about Helen Lovejoy, you'd know she'd never fret about something as materially important as how people drive. We're not talking about hypothetical damage done to kids' souls bec. they saw the penis on the statue of David here. We're talking about, well, real damage to kids' bodies. Dead kids.

Winking / laughing at dangerous driving = not funny to me, esp. when puzzle seems to cop a "we all do it HA ha" attitude. Do what you want drug-wise, sex-wise, etc. I don't care. But get in a two-ton weapon and get on the road with other people? Yeah, then I care. Definition of an asshole is someone who does what he/she wants regardless of consequences/risk to others. And risks are real, not imaginary.

I think texting and driving or phone-talking and driving should be treated like drunk driving (tests show distracted driving, esp. texting/driving, Worse than drunk driving in terms of effects on response times). But no: drinking is a "vice" so we can all agree drunk drivers are bad, but using your phone, we all do that, so ...

At least tipsy people are (probably) *paying attention* to what they're doing.

And as to the alternate interp. of what theme means: why are "DRIVERS" "interpreting" the signs for Other People. . . that is a pretty forced interpretation. Plus, some of these responses suggest action (IGNORE THAT SIGN) and others are just ranty ignorant opinion (PORK BARREL...). It's an across-the-board Fail for me, mainly bec. the puzzle seemed to be normalizing / winking at behavior that (again, literally) physically harms/kills people every day.

To be clear, I'm not saying that if you enjoyed it you are morally bankrupt. Obviously much of my visceral response to this theme is personal.

[takes sledgehammer to soapbox]


ArtLvr 8:52 AM  

YIPES! I thought this was a terrific puzzle! You certainly have to drive defensively at all times, totally aware of what lousy drivers may think or do... and this gives you succinct satiric reminders in a nutshell. Thumbs up, here.

It's not that I don't sympathize with those who've been personally devastated by DREADful drivers -- I've been there myself and even was discounted and left behind by first responders as a goner last time, but I survived it amazingly well in the end.

So here's wishing @CoffeeLvr and everyone safe road trips from here on, and also many happier puzzle subjects ahead!


Leslie 8:52 AM  

Yes, I'm very much with Steve and DataGeek here in thinking that Patrick Merrell was definitely wanting us to see those types of drivers for the cynical assholes Rex tagged them as. No approval of their behavior implied.

Not much bothered by the DWI/DUI thing; I moved from a state that used for former to one that uses the latter, so was prepared to hold off and find out which one Merrell was going to use.

At 65A, I wondered if there's perhaps a term for those cartoon society grande dames, swanning around in their jeweled turbans, but no--just your common-or-garden MAHARAJAS.

Wrote in "Gallo" for GOTTI at first, as I can't keep track of my notorious gangsters. Also, wrote in "pork belly" instead of PORK BARREL and could not figure out what to do with that extra space, since I wanted 6D to be "Arles." (Despite not remembering that city being named in a "Can Can" song, for goodness' sake.)

Oh--and wanted "snarfs" instead of SCARFS. So I definitely had my share of write-overs, despite this puzzle's easy level.

Smitty 9:12 AM  

No judgement either way - just thought some of the cluing and answers (including theme answers) felt clunky.
KAPOW (not kerpow?)
Not technically incorrect, just clunky

Anonymous 9:16 AM  

Wow, Rex dude, lighten up. It's only a puzzle. I mean really. Have you EVER laughed at something slightly off-color, or is this just your ivory tower thinking.

I think the safest thing to do for all of us is to outlaw puzzles. Don't let people participate or create such garbage.

Ulrich 9:38 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ulrich 9:40 AM  

I had the reaction that Rex has thrown at ME at times when I didn't like a piece of literature: "It's satire!". So, I'm with Steve J et al.--I really liked the theme.

Was helped, possibly influenced, by the remarkable coincidence that non-puzzle wife had brought back from the estate of a friend, who had recently died, a gift for me, an Archy and Mehitabel collection from the 1930s, with the illustrations mentioned in the Wiki clip--just an hr before I had started on the puzzle! So, ARCHY was a gimmie when in the normal course of things I would have had to rely on crosses all the way.

Bob Kerfuffle 9:47 AM  

My initial reaction to this puzzle was more of a Ho-Hum than Rage. While solving, the greatest ire I could come up with was, "Is this what elitist New York City people are supposed to think is going on in the heads of us hard-working New Jersey drivers?" (Well, OK, I haven't actually worked in twelve years, but you know what I mean.)

But I find I am in agreement with Rex, having read his remarks. To quote other media titans, the Car Talk guys, when they talk about texting and driving, "There's nothing funny about this."

Diana Holquist 10:29 AM  

Guess I shouldn't admit I had my own loose translations on how to read the signs. Had, "seventy then eighty" for 112 across and couldn't get out of that mess for a while.

Also, "argue if you see a cop" sounded right for what I planned as I waited in the no-stopping zone for my daughter to emerge from her class downtown while I sat in the front seat doing the puzzle, ignoring the road rage stares of the parents who got there just a little too late to get my spot.

Still, I loved the puzzle. Super easy except for the tie-ups due to my stubborn refusal to budge on what was obviously wrong.

Gah! I solve puzzles like I drive? Say it ain't so.

archaeoprof 10:49 AM  

If Betty, Bobbie and Billie on "Petticoat Junction" wore jeweled turbans, would they be MAHARAJOS?

Just tryin' to change the subject...

hazel 10:56 AM  

Wow. I would never in a million years have imagined this rxn to this puzzle. I thought the theme answers were the best I can remember in a recent Sunday puzzle. Lots of really really bad driving around Atlanta that made virtually every one of these answers ring true. Can't speak to whether or not they're all cynics, but a lot of them sure drive like assholes.

I only know Patrick Merrell from reading Wordplay from time to time, and he seems like the nicest guy. His comments are always thoughtful, and he draws cute little cartoons. I can't get from these theme answers - (which I find funny) - to laughing at drunk driving and/or running over children.

QED - I was a fan of the puzzle tho I thought it was a little easy.

And I loved that clue for the JOS too. Although I thought it was Uncle JOE who was after the JOS - not in a creepy way, just a nagging way - so I had E for the S for a while.

Lindsay 10:58 AM  

Totally, totally agree with Rex on this one. I got completely ticked off recollecting idiots who have merged into me because they think yield = speed up.

Page one headline in this morning's local paper reports the death of a southbound 18 year old who crossed over the median in a rainstorm and hit a northbound driver. Police found an unfinished text on her phone.

What a thigh-slapper.

Anonymous 11:00 AM  


nice catch on today's date. the
base two clue would have been even sweeter if it had been at #42.

The Hag 11:00 AM  

Interesting reactions.

As a Boston resident (who lives on a street that is one of those "good shortcuts"), I found the theme easy, though not at all funny. But not rage inducing, either. Maybe I've just become inured to it.

However, from a crossword point of view, I thought the idea was fresh. Maybe there have been other what-they-say/what-they-really mean puzzles, but I don't recall seeing them. I'd like to see more.

In addition, I thought that the fill was exceptionally good for a Sunday. Most Sunday's I find to be not too hard but still a slog. This week, for me, was an easy but fun solve.

r.alphbunker 11:05 AM  

I would argue that a defensive driver should keep in mind that they may be sharing the road with careless drivers. If doing this puzzle makes this sad reality more lively in my awareness, it will make me a safer driver.

And isn't it ironic that RP recently published a link to the car chase scene in Bullit?

BTW, is there such a thing as grid rage? :-)

Scott A. 11:07 AM  

Interesting commentary about Sunday themes herein. Before coming to Rex's blog, I (amateur connstructor) was cluing a 21 x puzzle I plan to submit. The theme involves some puns and letters switching around. It does seem to be the preferred NYT Sunday format. And I definitely want to increase my chances of acceptance because these are a real slog to put together. I've made a stab at sending in more complicated themes in the past, with no success.

To me the gold standard Sunday theme is Matt Ginsberg's Double Crossers of 5/15/10. The funniest Sunday themes IMO are when Merl Reagle gives us "If I wrote the dictionary".

Sparky 11:18 AM  

Finished this at 4 in the a.m. so have miswrites I never saw till now. Felt theme a bit creepy as a couple wryly amusing but the others downright dangerous @per Rex and chefwen. Managed okay. Agree @Smitty, clunky. No car in NYC, dodging left turns and bicyclists going the wrong way in new bike lanes.

Anonymous 11:20 AM  

Between WS’ title and Rex’s (unfortunate) reaction the true theme of this puzzle might be lost. PORK BARREL PROJECT has nothing to do with driving (tho the others do). The puzzle is really poking fun at government. Government can say whatever. People will believe it when they see it. I suspect – but have no way of proving it – that the comments break down between those who believe Government is the solution and those who believe otherwise. I’M FROM THE GOVERNMENT AND I’M HERE TO HELP. (CA) translation: WATCH YOUR WALLET….

JenCT 11:26 AM  

Okay, changing the subject:

That clip about The Situation Room is one that we've laughed over many times - those creators are pretty clever.

PSHAW/PAP took me way too long to get.

@Smitty: remembered the spelling of KAPOW from watching Batman all those years ago, seeing it spelled out on the TV screen.

chefbea 11:32 AM  

No time today to finish the puzzle or read the comments. Found it pretty easy. Lots of food stuff.

And speaking of food.. the NYT Magazine is all about food. Will read it later.

Company coming for dinner so lots to do. Having beer butt chicken on the grill and other goodies.

Did everyone see the new crossword china, glasses etc advertised in the paper??? Gotta have those mugs!!!

Unknown 12:00 PM  

I agree with Steve J's assessment. It's commentary on how some people react/think about signs; it's not excusing it. Found this to be one of the easiest Sunday puzzles ever -- first time I've gone under 30 minutes since I picked up the habit again in July. Rommel's first name was the only thing that gave me trouble, mainly because I had "DUI" instead of "DWI".

Anonymous 12:13 PM  

Innocent me, I thought the theme referred to how it seems *other* drivers interpret road signs...not encouraging or assuming, but commenting on the state of today's driving habits. Also thought the puzzle was much too easy for a Sunday.


PIX 12:20 PM  

I find myself in the unusual position of totally agreeing with Rex on this one. For the past 10-12 years the US has (very roughly) averaged about 40,000 deaths per year from car accidents...this means (roughly) in the last dozen years about the same number of Americans have died in car accidents as died in all World War II. I miss the humor of the situation.

On the plus side this my personal best for a Sunday with only one letter wrong (yipes vs. yipee) week I will again try to roll the rock up the mountain, seeking perfection.

JayWalker 12:21 PM  

I'm with Steve J. too. When did the Sunday puzzle go from being merely "simple" to "simple minded"??? HATED this puzzle because it offered NO challenge. I never reached the point of even thinking about the "meaning" of the theme clues - I was way too busy loathing them. AND the fill. AND the condescension of the entire puzzle. It was an insult.

Ruth 12:26 PM  

Finished with an error due to same thing DataGeek pointed out--the cross of POLITY and NUTSY which could easily have been NUTSO and POLITO as far as I was concerned. Anybody but me never hear of polity before??? (not enough government classes I guess)

Rex Parker 12:29 PM  

Leaving morality issues far to the side:

These answers can't be how OTHER drivers (i.e. not you, dear solver) read the signs.

Again, I ask, why would anyone imagine *OTHER people* looking at the "YOUR TAX DOLLARS..." sign and thinking "PORK BARREL PROJECT?" That makes absolutely no sense. Who has ever thought that, ever, in the history of driving anywhere, ever? "You know, that sign makes me think that there are some people who would call this a PORK BARREL PROJECT, but I sure wouldn't." Plausibility=nil.

I guess I'm supposed to believe that the "driver" is cynical about govt. sometimes, cynical about other drivers other times...?

But ... PREPARE TO BE CUT OFF is clearly a warning to the driver him/herself (one a driver would want to heed), but if that's true, then why should we interpret COAST ON THROUGH as an implied msg to *other* drivers. Again, Makes No Sense. PREPARE TO BE CUT OFF = look out for bad drivers, COAST ON THROUGH = be a dangerous driver.

Lastly, the "PORK BARREL" sign has nothing to do with "today's driving habits," where all others do.

On every level, this thing's a mess.

Unknown 12:31 PM  

Absolutely loved this puzzle !!!
Great work Patrick and Will !!!

BARRELED through the NW, killing a pig in the process. KAPOW ! Pork chops tonight! Merged onto the Interstate at 33A, and immediately accelerated to 85 MPH. ROLLED through the stop sign at the intersection of 45A, straight into a ROADRAGEZONE. Started looking for a GOODSHORTCUT. Went around the SIGN at 88A street. I knew there was a 7-11 in the area. Parked in the FIREZONE on 103A, and got a pre-wrapped PHILLY cheese steak and a six-pack. I had to hurry, because my EDSEL was blocking an old lady parked in a HANDICAPPED SPACE. I just DETOURED all over the map after that. My SEROTONIN levels were way up by this time. I had to STEER around some idiot in front of me, who slammed on his brakes at a yellow light ! Finished my run in near record time.

Bottom line: We all have to be able to laugh at ourselves. I don't condone breaking traffic laws. DWI has two meanings. DRIVING WHILE INTOXICATED and DRIVING WHILE INTIMIDATED. The later is as dangerous as the former.

Just so you know, I'm a retired TEAMSTER. I spent a good portion of my adult life behind the wheel of a tractor-trailer, hauling liquid propane. I haven't had an accident or moving violation in thirty years. I think I'm qualified to opine on what really constitutes bad driving, but I'm not going to go into that on a crossword blog !

Peace, and drive safe !

Jim 12:36 PM  

Didn't read the rest of the write-up after the opening rant. Ran right here.

Loved the theme. Several answers were laugh out loud funny. PREPARETOBECUTOFF and LEAVEIFYOUSEEACOP tie for 2nd, behind GOODSHORTCUT.

First perfect Sunday solve, so I have a smile that can't be wiped, but Rex certainly tried.

To all those 'offended': spare me the priggish sanctimony. Among other objectionable tactics in your argument, pointing to straw dead babies is tiresome in the extreme. Are you running for office or something?

Notice there was no sanction of distracted or drunk driving in the answers. Instead, it simply implies that road rules are inherently fungible, and there is humor to be mined exploiting that fact.

Since the dawn of time, no driver has made it from here to there without running afoul of one driving law or another, so it's silly to imply otherwise. It's simply a question of picking one's poison. My personal philosophy is to be as unobtrusive, and clear in my intentions as possible; I never cost another driver any unnecessary time because I wasn't paying attention, which is more than I bet I can say for the average driver. Do I think the 65 MPH speed limit is holy writ? I really need to answer that?

BTW, loved PSHAW and hated WEBAPP. Far too generic. Who calls Google Maps a WEBAPP? Precisely no one.


Masked and Anonymous 12:38 PM  

Didn't know POLITY -- guessed POLITO/NUTSO [insert buzzer noise here]. Also didn't know INREM/AENEAS, but guessed the N correctly [insert dingy-sound here].

Speaking of NUTSO -- Am a pretty defensive driver. Lot of weird drivers out there. Chilling thought: their AVERAGE IQ is 100. Around 50% are some number shy of average?!? And some of those are constantly textin'.

I'd give puz constructor the benefit of doubt; probably a complaint theme about bad driving habits. With a kinda bizarre pork barrel answer thrown in; can live with that -- I'm kinda bizarre, myself.

Anonymous 12:43 PM  


Steve J 12:54 PM  

Comment that has nothing to do with driving:

Can someone explain 1A? I've never encountered "applesauce" as an expression. Regional thing? Something I'm too young to be aware of (or too old, since I'm now in the squishy middle?)

I seem to recall this coming up a few months ago, but some quick googling of this site didn't give me the right conversation.

reniekk 12:58 PM  

Boring fill off-COLOR theme..a real EDSEL. Sigh.'s just a crossword. You sure came out flaming! Whazzup wichoo? Mercy.

fikink 1:15 PM  

Loved PAP - great word that @Noam has remarked on before.

Did not like TOURS and DETOURED in the same puzzle.

Other than that, I'm happy to stay on the farm. :)

joho 1:19 PM  

I hate how the most critical comments are always signed by Anonymous.

I took the theme as to be pointing out bad behavior and describing things all drivers ... unfortunately ... see every day. I didn't have the negative reaction that @Rex did but if this sent him to the dark side, that's his honest reaction so who am to criticize it?

@hazel ... like your new avatar! Although, I miss Hazel's cute face.

@CoffeeLvr ... I wish you a safe trip!

Rex Parker 1:22 PM  


The Dark Side, ha ha. Bwahahahaha. Thanks for nonjudgmentalness. Yes, reactions are reactions—haven't censored them before and am not about to start. If people don't like this one, I'll have a new one tomorrow. And if nothing else, PIX agrees with me, for once, so my day is made.

Off to do actual work, INCREDIBLY depressing on this most beautiful of fall days.

mmorgan 1:29 PM  

In the vein of the other answers, I thought PREPARE TO BE CUT OFF was a warning not to the driver him or herself, but rather to whoever might be getting in the "cynical asshole's" way -- as in "Here I come, watch out, prepare to be cut off."

And to me it's not simply an example of the "Third Person Effect" (as in "other people" are affected by media violence, but I'm not) -- it's not about Other People/Drivers, but about what may go through the heads, even briefly, of TOO MANY drivers (perhaps including ourselves).

Either way, this seems to be unusually (and intriguingly) polysemic for a puzzle.

But still, I see nothing here that remotely condones or makes light of drunk driving, texting while driving, etc.

DataGeek 1:32 PM  

@Steve J - check out the definition for "tommyrot." There you will see all the synonyms, including "applesauce." Who knew? I've never heard that term either.

Kingdaddy 1:37 PM  

Yes, time for fresh blood indeed. It's not just that the answers are tired (OSO, ALOE, OREO, UMA, etc.), but this week was just damn sloppy. You do not pluralize with an apostrophe (V.I.P.'s). A polity is a political unit, not a form of government (regime). Aeneas was famously pious, which is not exactly the same as virtuous.

I'm just waiting for the puzzle to lapse into the recent habit of forgetting what form of pronoun follows a preposition. ("He's with she and I." Aaaaaargggghhhh!) From the allegedly world-class NYT crossword, we should expect better attention to details.

Anonymous 1:38 PM  

@Jim, That was not a rant, that was my screed! Even tho you still have not had the civility to apologize for your screed, I agree with you on this one, pinko-commie that you are (proving wrong the political breakdown in the comments)....

PS. This Anon always closes with .... (4Dought?), unlike the rest....

foodie 1:47 PM  

Perfect! @Joho's attitude and Rex's response to it. We all have our buttons (mine is someone telling me how to think).

Puzzle husband was sitting next to me on the plane as I was solving. SEROTONIN! he exclaimed! He was among the first to map the cells that manufacture it in the brain. It made his day.

Off to work in DC-- Your tax dollars at work, actually ;)

Steve J 2:00 PM  

@DataGeek: Thanks for the tip (although, for those who want to look it up, use; gets you a law firm or something). Was hoping they'd have some examples of origin and/or usage.

@Kingdaddy: The V.I.P's thing isn't the puzzle's fault. This is standard NYT style for dealing with plurals of abbreviations, and you'd find the same in a news article. Drives me absolutely crazy that they do this. I have no idea why they do, as it's nonsensical, and it probably helps perpetuate the scourge of people's using apostrophe's (sic) to pluralize word's (again, sic).

That's my three for the day. Off to do Merl's puzzle.

Jenny 2:12 PM  

@Kingdaddy: A POLITY is a form of government if you're Aristotle - the well-governed counterpart to democracy. (And the sense of the word you give is now the one in general use, yes.)

That said, I found NUTSY jarring - "ballsy" gone haywire. If NUTTY wasn't possible, I would actually have preferred POLITO clued as an (arrrgh) prefix, crossing NUTSO.

archaeoprof 2:27 PM  

@Kingdaddy: two of Vergil's favorite expressions are "pius Aeneas" and "fides Achates." Maybe because of iambic pentameter?

@Chefbea: gotta get me some of those mugs!

Anonymous 2:42 PM  

Had no problem with this one. Can someone tell me what the highlited word and double highlited letter in the answer is for?

ArtLvr 2:42 PM  

@foodie -- Fascinating to hear of your husband's contribution to the understanding of SEROTONIN!

I thought Andrea might weigh in too, with more on the comedic side with 78A STANDUP and 124A NUTSY. I just was reading about Tony Curtis' burial a few days ago -- RIP. Such an interesting life, not only including his wide-ranging acting career but also as a serious painter and philanthropist -- rebuilding the huge synagogue in Budapest, for example, and saving horses from slaughterhouses.


George NYC 2:46 PM  

Whoa I haven't seen such a divergence of opinion since reading one-star reviews of Jonathan Franzen's "Freedom" on Amazon. (The rants there make this look like kindergarten.) I blame the Tea Party.

@kingdaddy and @steve j
The NYT certainly has some annoying style "rules." Until recently, they insisted on abbreviating decades thusly: the "80's and 90's." How crazy is that? At least they fixed that, however.

Agree the puzzles this week have been a bit sloppy.

I'm off to PERUSE the Sunday paper. That could take minutes or hours...

JaxInL.A. 3:01 PM  

I agree 200% with Rex on this theme. This was not fun or funny for me, but part of why I hate driving now. The jerks who insist on squeezing ahead when merging instead of alternating in an orderly fashion; the dopes who crash through traffic to get three cars ahead so they can arrive at their destination 30 seconds faster; and all those who want loads of government services like good roads, but don't want to pay for it and think that all government workers are crooks.  It did not read as ironic. The cynicism really drained this puzzle of all joy for me.

The theme comes up in my program as Drivers' Translations.  For a short time I had ________B_C__OFF for 33A and ROADR_G_Z___  for 61A, and I wondered if the theme was going to play off of names in other languages.  ______BaCkiTOFF? ROADRiGueZ___? It was a momentary impulse.  
@Anonymous 7:52am thanks very much for the explanation. Hold 'em bullet was completely opaque to me.    

Bob Kerfuffle 3:07 PM  

@Kingdaddy - FWIW, my Cassell's Latin-English Dictionary says, "pius -a -um (superl. piissimus, condemned by Cicero). I. acting dutifully, dutiful, pious; a, upright, God-fearing, virtuous; . . . "

(Thanks, archaeoprof, for making me look that up!)

Joe 3:07 PM  

Either I've gone from decent to incredibly good at solving the Sunday puzzle, or this thing was eeeeeezy. I solved it in 16:09 and normally I'm thrilled to clock in under thirty minutes (which I've been able to do only a handful of times). Debate about driving aside, did anyone else find it as easy as I did?

Michael Leddy 3:30 PM  


Yes, it seemed really easy (and thus unfun). And the theme to me was pretty awful. The first theme answer I got was PORKBARRELPROJECT. I thought "What the — ?" From there it was all downhill. Or uphill? Whichever pun fits.

fikink 3:33 PM  

@Joe, FIL, who has receded in crossword proficiency from Saturdays to Wednesdays, had this puzzle complete before I got his breakfast on the table this morning. (He will be 90 in December.)
He pronounced it "a walk in the park."
Ever practical, he also has stopped driving for fear of doing harm to another (and being sued).
I think he has a mah-h-hvelous take on the whole thing.

mac 3:37 PM  

It was big and easy and cynical, and I don't get where the pork barrel project fits in. Not a lot of fun all around.

Proof that I really read the posts before commenting: I frantically looked for "handicapped space" in the finished puzzle after reading it in @chaos1's post....

@Foodie: Pork barrel and you don't belong in the same sentence!

@George NYC: thusly?
(how's that for changing the subject).

Unknown 3:46 PM  

Count me among the people who interpreted zero winking/approval from the constructor. Rex, I'd suggest stepping away from your first interpretation and trying to interpret the puzzle as satire. It can definitely be read in that light (it was certainly my first instinct), and to me it's much more likely than the alternative.

Now, I'm not saying you shouldn't dislike the puzzle, but most of your statements above seem predicated on the assumption that Patrick is endorsing the behavior described. And I think that's an unfair thing to assume.

George NYC 4:09 PM  


Usage Note: Thusly was introduced in the 19th century as an alternative to thus in sentences such as Hold it thus or He put it thus. It appears to have first been used by humorists, who may have been echoing the speech of poorly educated people straining to sound stylish.

I'm campaigning to get the NYT to take up this usage :)

Rube 4:31 PM  

Read Archy and Mehitabel when in HS. Really enjoyed it and for some reason, it has stuck with me all these years. Remember a quote of Mehitabel, "Life is one litter of kittens after another". Why do I remember this? Dunno.

Never heard of Troll Dolls or Silly Bandz. Thought they were current rock groups. Googling says otherwise.

Had tvA before NRA. Was unfamiliar with the National Recovery Act, and apparently rightly so. According to Wiki, it is widely seen as a failure.

Agree with the solving level of difficulty as easy... I'd say Wednesday.

Ruth 4:53 PM  

@Rube, Archy and Mehitabel was also made into a kinda cute musical--which I've only encountered as something put on by high school drama groups, but that's not a negative to me. Loved Mehitabel facing all her ups and downs with a lilting "Toujours gai, Archy, TOU-JOURS-GAI. . ."

Clark 5:24 PM  

I would like to associate myself with @joho's remarks. I thought this was hilarious, without for a moment thinking that encouragement was being offered to the bad actions alluded to. As for PORK BARREL PROJECT, I do not think such a thing when I see road construction. Rather, I think it when I see a big fancy sign that says 'Your tax dollars at work' and goes on to name the pols. Let's see. If there are 1000 signs, and each sign costs, say, $250 plus $200 to put up, that 's $450,000 for what, incumbent advertising? I agree that bad behavior by drivers is abhorrent. I would be happy to see mandatory prison sentences for drinking and driving and for texting and driving.

Nice to see IN REM in the grid. Cases in which jurisdiction is in the thing (in rem) rather than in the person (in personam) can lead to hilarious case names, such as:

United States v. 11 1/4 Dozen Packages of Articles Labeled in Part Mrs. Moffat's Shoo-Fly Powders for Drunkenness, 40 F. Supp. 208 (W D.N.Y. 1941).

United States v. Approximately 64,695 Pounds of Shark Fins, No. 05-56274 (9th Cir. Mar. 17, 2008).

[Hat tip to for putting together this particular collection of names.]

Jewfro 6:38 PM  

[Many of] Today's comments remind me of the Rexville critique of the 7/1/09 Michael Jackson tribute puzzle.

... and are as relevant.


michael 10:27 PM  

very easy. Don't agree with Rex at all. The title of the puzzle is "drivers' translations" and these all seem plausible to me. Not all drivers, but many...

Of course, this does not mean that Patrick Merrell is a heartless person who finds dangerous driving amusing.

fergus 10:33 PM  

MELATONIN was my first choice with respect to sleep, but I guess that's not a nuerotransmitter?

hazel 11:19 PM  

@Joho - I missed seeing her sweet face too. Had to bring her back!

Falconer 12:12 AM  

Loved the theme, loved the puzzle. Very clever and fresh. Anyone who thinks it is offensive needs to have their sense of humor examined.

Honestly, people are too quick to take umbrage. This is just a tape recording of thoughts that might go through a driver's head. It is not an endorsement of behavior.

One thing that I found odd though were clues that said straightforward something like, "Spanish bear " instead of the usual alliterative obscurant, "Bear in Bolivia."

Van55 10:34 AM  

In my view xwords are not social commentary nor intended to be. Railing at them as if the are or because an entry calls to mind something repugnant (e.g. nIGHTRIDERS) is ridiculous. I hardly think my Merrill encourages or condones reckless driving.

For me this was an excellent puzzle.

dfitz 10:54 AM  

archy the bug-poet couldn't manage the shift key and that is why he writes in lower case.

deerfencer 11:53 AM  

Liked it and would rate it one of the easiest Sundays I've done.

Anonymous 11:55 AM  

It makes me laugh because you describe the most obscure clues as child's play and then think a clue clearly referring to Texas Hold'em is about baseball. Whatever works, I guess...

Rex Parker 1:59 PM  

And it makes me laugh that you think I don't know that.

Anders Weinstein 8:24 AM  

"He knows that words, as Brice Parain says, are 'loaded pistols'" -- Satrtre, "What is Literature", referring to the committed writer. Originally quoting someone else!

NotalwaysrightBill 11:34 AM  

Syndicated puzzler, weeks behind most contributers here. Still, personal fastest NYT SunPuz ever. Like @ chaos1, I spent many years as a professional driver; and, like him, I loved the theme. Found it to be a wonderfully wry commentary on how we became such a nation of scofflaws, beginning, as it does most fittingly, with PORKBARRELPROJECT. All else follows. Not funny, not funny at all, like a W.C Fields movie. Loved @ Jim Said's "straw dead babies" quip!

Dirigonzo 11:46 AM  

I had a vague uneasiness with the theme as I was doing the puzzle and I finished with a couple of errors that I didn't discover until coming here. Still I enjoyed this immensely due to one simple thing: on October 17 (my late father's birthday) I was able to sit outside in the sunshine unencumbered by layers of fleece and down, and do the Sunday puzzle. Life is good.

@Base Two, on 10-10-10 I commented on my blog as to my view of the significance of the date (I had commented on 10-01-10, also); my view was much less knowledgeable and anlalytical than yours, but more of a personal philosophical point of view.

Anonymous 1:09 AM  

Thanks to Rex for his calling a spade a spade, regarding this puzzle's theme.
I had fun solving this (albeit easy) one, and perhaps one could be accused of reading too much into a puzzle...but the fun dissolved when I really thought about the implications of the rather flippant theme answers.

But I do appreciate the fact that this idle pastime we all enjoy every day often conjures up serious subjects, as does reading this blog. After completing the puzzle (or visiting this site) who hasn't done a google search on a particularly interesting inference, and learned something?

Rex, you're so right about this puzzle's theme. Thanks for blowing the whistle on this seemed funny at first glance, but really is a sad commentary on the callousness of far too many drivers' attitudes.

-GE Portland, Oregon

steve 12:07 PM  

I think getting upset is bad for your health. If you get upset at other people's bad driving or if you drive like an asshole and are upset at the people in your way, it doesn't matter, you're still upset. When you're upset you aren't aware and that's not only bad for your own health, but for everyone else's too. So, don't get upset, damn it!

Steve, Durango

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