Independence Day fleet / SUN 10-3-10 / WXY buttons / Charlie Brown's curly-haired pal / Independence Day fleet / Tree-lined walk / 1990s war site

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Constructor: Daniel A. Finan

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: "Can I Change Places?" — "I" is relocated inside of words in familiar phrases, resulting in wacky phrases, clued "?"-style

Word of the Day: SCLERA (84D: Cornea neighbor) —

The sclera, also known as the white or white of the eye, is the opaque (usually white, though certain animals, such as horses and lizards, can have black sclera), fibrous, protective, outer layer of the eye containing collagen and elastic fiber. In the development of the embryo, the sclera is derived from the neural crest. In children, it is thinner and shows some of the underlying pigment, appearing slightly blue. In the elderly, fatty deposits on the sclera can make it appear slightly yellow. (wikipedia)
• • •

Third day in a row of far-easier-than-average puzzles. I crushed my best Sunday time today, coming in over a minute faster than the previous record. Normally, I don't go into Speed Mode on Fri, Sat, or Sun, but today, I gave it a shot. Apparently not speeding has paid off, speed-wise. WHO KNEW? (64D: Words said with a shrug). The theme was less than inspiring, and slightly wonky at SPIRAL SITAR CASE (16D: Decorative piece of George Harrison tour equipment?), an answer I like, butone that requires a breaking of the original word into two in order to make sense (something none of the other answers require). I don't think I understood the theme concept until I was finished. Figured I was just working anagrams for some reason I'd figure out later, which was true enough.

  • Favorite theme answer: DON'T TOUCH THAT DALI (112A: Admonishment at a Surrealist museum?)
  • Least favorite: MARITAL LAW (it's a real thing—nothing wacky at all going on there; clue doesn't even need a "?," really) (93A: What a family court judge enforces?).
  • Weirdest: TEHRAN RAIN (Tehran, Iran is not a phrase—it's a formal way of writing a city name; plus I have to imagine the comma away) (35A: Spoiler of a parade for Ahmadinejad?).

The rest of the theme answers:
  • 23A: Lewis and Clark expedition, for the 1800s? (TRAIL OF THE CENTURY)
  • 57A: Top butcher's title? (THE LOIN KING)
  • 76A: Destroyers of les forêts (FRENCH FIRES)
  • 43D: Paintings of Marilyn Monroe, Che Guevara and the like? (ICON COLLECTIONS)
Had a little bit of trouble in both the east and the west portions of the puzzle. The IHRE / -ICS/ SECY / NSEC area is really ugly, and not knowing IHRE (69A: Her: Ger.), I fumbled around there a bit. I got into the western section from the bottom up, and with neither UFOS (70A: "Independence Day" fleet) nor SML (75A: T-shirt sizes, in short) coming easily, I had to jump to the top of that section and work my way back down. Think I wanted USMC for UFOS and SMS for SML (which looks more like a singular abbrev. for "Small" than an abbr. for the full range of sizes, Small, Medium, and Large). Had the MAP part of 42D: Chart showing highs and lows, but could not grasp the RELIEF part until I had many crosses in place. As for the rest of the grid: I liked the apparent freshness of SAVE AS, despite the fact that it's not exactly a scintillating phrase. I use "SAVE AS" every day. I remember having FRIEDA (41A: Charlie Brown's curly-haired pal) in a puzzle I made and wanting a Kahlo clue, only to realize that that FRIDA spelled her name differently. Thankfully, there was this FRIEDA to fall back on. I did not know that "ALLÉE" was a word that had made its way into the English language (101D: Tree-lined walk). Now I do.

  • 55A: "___ From Hawaii," 1973 Elvis album (ALOHA) — As ALOHA clues go, I like this one.

  • 61A: WXY buttons (NINES) — on your phone keypad. Inferred the right number from the number of letters in the answer.
  • 109A: Convert, as metal into a melt? (SCRAMBLE) — would like this a whole helluva lot better if the word was SCRAMBLED into another, single word.
  • 117A: More awesome, to a rapper (ILLER) — "Awesome" is OK, but it's not the greatest fit ... for instance, I don't think the Beastie Boys are suggesting that "It's Time To Get Awesome," exactly...

[Doug E. Fresh on the beat box = nice]

  • 52D: Sharpener residue (SHAVINGS) — I'm staring at some right now—they're inside this somewhat circular, translucent, pink pencil sharpener that sits on my desk. I'm a pencil fan, though when solving, I use mechanical pencils and not the kind that produce SHAVINGS.
  • 92D: 1990s war site (BOSNIA) — I learned the word BOSNIA as part of the name BOSNIA and HERZEGOVINA. Lynne Russell of early '90s CNN provided the voice that taught me how to say it.

And now your Tweets of the Week, puzzle chatter from the Twitterverse:

  • @ Eating breakfast and doing crosswords at Burger King like an old man.
  • @ Would really like it if the paper came. Will Shortz must be punished.
  • @ the only thing worse than that steak sandwich was the jackass bartender who insisted on talking to me while i was working on my xword.
  • @ Woman at bookstore asks if they have any "all-People-magazine-crossword books." I fight urge to say, "Have you tried hell?"
  • @ shout out to my bitch/bestfriend for finishing his crossword first lol he was too serious bout that candy
  • @ Dear cute sbux boy. Come over and help me with this crossword. You don't reaaalllly have to go back to work, do you? #sbuxcutie
  • @ If a reader wants a nine letter word for "sandwich shop" beginning with 7, you've mixed up the Sudoku and Crossword images again.
  • @ Assisting Ma do the Irish News crossword and watching snooker (which neither of understand) with sound turned down - hello extreme old age.
  • @ The Sunday NY Times used to be the highlight of my day. Now it's just Frank Rich, the crossword and a bunch of junk.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


Noam D. Elkies 12:19 AM  

Fun puzzle (and not all that easy for a Sunday). Nice to sandwich each of two theme answers between a 7-letter entry and a 9-letter phrase, and two others with an 8 on one side and an 11 on the other — all with nothing more strained than 26A:ENROLLEE among the parallel entries (and even that's much better than the EDUCATEE I dreaded).

61A:NINES has the same number of letters as FOURS, FIVES, and SIXES, though those are too small to be plausible answers for WXY.

LOL at FakeAPStylebook's tweet. I suppose it might have been some kind of rebus puzzle, though.

Wasn't 76A supposed to be "Freedom fires?"...


[quiter = one who ciprocates love?]

Anonymous 12:48 AM  

Finished fast while sippin’ Woodford and chompin’ on a rare rib eye and got down to the SE corner and didn’t know ALLEE from ALLEY, so I googled BORIS whatshisname and finished. I was reminded of a Carly Simon song about when she was in a hurry to find something? – I HAVEN’T GOT TIME FOR THE PANI (P-Access-Network-Info)....

lit.doc 1:14 AM  

@NDE, LOL re FREEDOM FIRES. Ditto ciprocation, which you should perhaps (re)post...

As to the puzzle, hand up for unusually easy for a Sunday. As to my solving, hand up for Mr. Potatoe Head. Start in NW with 1D VOTED and 3D STARED, solve the rest of the puzzle, and then (full disclosure: watching the UT v. Oklahoma game required non-trivial quantities of Guinness and Irish car bombs) sit dumbly staring at obviously effed up corner of grid till Rex posts. VHSOD? OOTLO? WTF?

chefwen 2:18 AM  

Really liked this one in parts and was a little ambivalent in other parts, don't quite know why. Loved Don't touch that Dali and The Loin King, but others fell a little flat. Made it through without any outside help and that is always a plus for me. I guess we are keeping up with "easy week", and that is O.K. in my book. Husband was a little upset that I didn't seek his input. He's young, he'll get over it.

Bob Kerfuffle 6:18 AM  

I found the 6 D clue/answer set, Afraid/INFEAR, rather strange. Couldn't the clue have been "Timorous" or "apprehensive" or something?

Also, re: 39 D, even if I don't speak a language, I think I might know how to say so in that language, but maybe that's just me.

Two write-overs, had 59 D as INFACT before INESSE, and 114 D as HEX before HAG.

mmorgan 8:40 AM  

I enjoyed this one -- fast and easy -- and I found all the theme answers reasonably cute, but didn't realize until I read Rex's write-up that they all involved moving an "I". Duh. In terms of Rex's complaint, I'd argue that "martial law" is something that is "enforced" more often than MARITAL LAW.

Did not know (or care for) IHRE (got it through ICS) or ALLEE or ILLER, but loved TAW (100A).

My only problem was that I could not get the first letter of ETHANE (51D) because I wasn't sure of the middle letter of TES (50A) because learning Spanish knocked most of the French I used to know right out of my head.

JenCT 8:45 AM  

Easy for me, too.

Only hangup was IHRE - clue said Her:Ger., so shouldn't the answer have been an abbreviation?

Really wanted a restaurant-themed answer for Menu Option - tried ENTREE at first.

SethG 9:16 AM  

This was a Sunday puzzle. I completed it. There were some clues I didn't like so much, some I thought were great, and one I'm not sure about the accuracy of.

There was some French and German and Spanish and Latin, a few awkward abbrs., and a random direction and Roman numeral.

Unknown 10:02 AM  

@mmorgan: You beat me to the punch, but I've know plenty of marriages where MARTIAL LAW should have been declared. I once saw a man throw a huge T.V. set through a third story window.

This puzzle was pretty easy. Had no clue about IHRE, but knew the crosses had to be right. Agonized over ETHENE, because I wanted the "A" in there. I figured that you could bastardize EVERY to EVRY, but not AVRY, so I left it alone. Good choice. Nailed ALLEE off the AL. Knew somewhere in my hippocampus that it was proper as clued, and not a place for dumpsters, winos, or feral cats.

Off to the L.A. Times.

chefbea 10:21 AM  

Very easy for me today. Loved Loin King. Got that first and assumed the rest of the theme answers would be movie titles.

Also loved Ball's partner. Thought maybe sports related.

Hobbyist 10:35 AM  

Well, I just do not see "dry" as meaning lacking humor. Dry humor can be subtle. Maybe a dry speech or subject lacks humor but...I still take issue.

Anonymous 10:45 AM  

Anybody else having trouble with the website? I can't pull up today's puzzle--the date says Oct. 3, but the puzzle is from June 27. Is it my wacky computer, or is it the website . . .

Thanks. I usually lurk, but here I am commenting without having done the puzzle! So frustrating.

Diana Holquist 10:50 AM  

Loved the puzzle; medium-easy for me.

The loin king! I think I noticed that playing in Times Square last time I was there (ten yrs ago, of course, when that sort of thing still went down and the place wasn't Disneyfied). I love that Disney only had to change one "i" on the marquee to switch it to their own brand of questionable entertainment....

Thanks for the Elvis video. I love mystifying the children.

Frances 10:51 AM  

I can't get to today's puzzle either. I, too, am getting June 27.

Rex Parker 10:53 AM  

NYT site now has a glitch, it's true. Don't know why. Sorry. Take it up with the NYT.

Anonymous 11:11 AM  

Hi Rex - we attorneys may practice "family law" or "matrimonial law," but I've never heard of "marital law" before, so it's not quite a "real thing."

Rex Parker 11:13 AM  

If someone told me he practiced "MARITAL LAW," I wouldn't blink. Point is, it's not wacky in the slightest.

jesser 11:21 AM  

Easiest Sunday Ever. -- jesser, going back to Weekend Mode.

Norm 11:40 AM  

MARITAL LAW may not be wacky, but it's certainly kind of weird. People practice family law, not marital law. Really liked SPIRAL SITAR CASE. Fun puzzle. Had the same thought as Bob Kerfuffle about 39D, but I'd probably just shake my and say "no" rather than confusing the issue.

CoffeeLvr 11:51 AM  

I did the puzzle last night, sipping a few Boulevard brews (local brand, now regional), and watching weak new TV shows off the DVR. So, yes, easy. I did Google Boris G this a.m. to confirm ILLER.

Thought ALLEE would be WOTD, as SCLERA is very familiar to me.

Interesting, Blogger spell checker flags all three of the Xword entries above.

@Bob Kerfluffle, agree about NEIN. Dad always made us learn five words and three phrases before we went to a foreign country: yes, no, hello, goodbye, please, thank you, excuse me, and where is the ladies room.

I was stuck at 42D for a long, long time. Wanted the stock chart showing high/low/close for the day, but could not remember the name: Candlestick chart. Actually we used it occasionally in manufacturing quality control presentations- more appropriate in some settings than a full set of of X-bar (average) and R(ange) charts. It really highlights outliers in the range, and their direction.

Well I have bored you all enough!

Ulrich 11:57 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sparky 12:01 PM  

The name of the puzzle was Can I Change Places? so I figured it would have something to do with a letter shift. 66A has been in before, I believe, and annoying then, too. Doorbell rang, gotta go.

Ulrich 12:12 PM  

This is true: I once had an applicant for grad. school who claimed in his bio that he was a practitioner of the marital arts.

EVRY held me up in the end, quite a bit in esse--solved it with help from non-puzzle wife.

@KooKooKaChoo: Children have their uses at times, don't they?

For those not bored enough, I had a lengthy explanation of "ihre" here, but deleted the comment--there can be too much of a good thing!

Cathyat40 12:13 PM  

Had stARE for GLARE, resulting in OHsOD.

Matthew G. 12:26 PM  

Enjoyed the theme, and found it fun despite the ease. I did have to guess at one square -- the S at the crossing of OASTS and ISR -- but my guess was correct, resulting in my fastest-ever error-free Sunday. That's right, I didn't think of Israel -- I was reading "Medit." as meaning "meditation" rather than "Mediterranean," so I was trying to think of an acronym for a mental state that meditation induces. This is the sort of lateral-thinking fail that occurs when I do the puzzle at 2 a.m. Oh well -- no harm, no foul.

I pretty much agree with Rex about MARITAL LAW. It's not a standard term -- generally, one refers to this area of practice as either "family law" or "matrimonial law" -- but "marital law" is plausible enough that I basically agree that it doesn't sound wacky enough to be a theme answer, even to this lawyer.

Mel Ott 12:28 PM  

My favorite theme answer by far is THE LOIN KING.

We spend a good portion of each winter on the beach in the St. Pete area. A visit to the DALI museum in St. Pete is an excellent use of a rainy or cold afternoon.

Anonymous 12:41 PM  

My various redundant telephones all have buttons for numeral nine and the letters WXYZ, not WXY. How is that not a typo? Nobody noticed? Nobody cares? What?

Neil 12:52 PM  

I have been under the assumption that this puzzle is available only from the NYT website or in print. Obviously many of you did the puzzle today prior to the NYT fixing its web problem. Which leads me to believe that since the online version wasn't available, neither was the solution. How is it that so many of you seem to know the correct answers if you're doing the puzzle from the paper?

What am I missing?

ArtLvr 12:59 PM  

Starting at the bottom, SW, I first found ICON COLLECTIONS, with ICON an anagram for "coin"... Thus I was led to search for more spins on other kinds of "change", but DON'T TOUCH THAT "rial" was a no go, and FRENCH "franc" impossible!

A second cup of coffee helped to get me on track, and from there all was quick and easy except for my slowing again at IRHE, since the English "her" is a pronoun as well as possessive adjective. Grrr.

As an Anon just noted, one wonders why the 61A clue for NINES has WXY and not the Z??? Never mind, I'm dozing off...


lit.doc 1:09 PM  

@Neil, the NYT, unlike most other puzzles in the known universe, doesn't unlock the solution till the day after. So those of us solving online don't have access to the solution or even the check feature.

DB Geezer 1:12 PM  

Did anyone else put CHAIN first for Ball's partner 17d?

Ulrich 1:59 PM  

@Artlvr: What makes "her" so tricky as a clue is that it can mean in German ihr, ihre, ihrer, ihren, ihres, and sie (@Evgeny: did I forget something?). But since the answer today had 4 letters, there is really only one possibility. Note that "sie" is a personal, not a possessive pronoun, as in "Ich liebe sie" (I love her).

Margaret 2:46 PM  

I know I'm missing the obvious but I still don't get what Tehrani Rain is an anagram of. Can someone please explain??

Anonymous 2:48 PM  

MARITAL LAW might not be whacky to a lay person but it is definitely whacky to any lawyer. There is marital bliss, marital accord and marital discord and there are marital rights to enforce. The other Anon has a point. There is no marital law to enforce, unlike, say, martial law….

Margaret 2:55 PM  

Never mind. I just got it. I guess I was looking for a something catchier than simply Tehran, Iran.

Glitch 2:59 PM  

To clarify RP's 10:53 comment, the NYT may have "a" glitch, but not "the" Glitch ;).

Easy Sunday, my quibble horse is sufficiently beaten, perhaps dead.


CoffeeLvr 3:08 PM  

@Ulrich, thanks for the laugh from the application.

Steve J 4:34 PM  

Quickest Sunday for me ever. I almost felt like I was on autopilot at times, but there was still enough I had to work through to make this just chewy enough.

As is typical of a Sunday, it was a mixed bag. For me, the bag was slightly more full of good than bad. Loved THELOINKING and the cluing for TAW; said "ick" to ICS, and some of the theme answers were underwhelming (TEHRANRAIN, especially).

@Bob Kerfuffle: I had the same reaction to 6D. It's not literally having the same word in clue and answer, but they're so close phonetically that it seems awfully close to that.

@SethG: I would really love to see a constructor acknowledge what's going on and clue something as "Random Roman numeral" sometime instead of picking some figure or event that corresponds to the number the fill creates.

@Anon 12:41: For decades the 9 only had WXY. It was only in the '80s, with the advent of touchtone data services, that the Z started being added.

@Ulrich: You've covered all the German "her" iterations I can think of. And good point about there being only one choice for four letters. I instinctively filled in IHRE without thinking of the other possibilities.

becky 5:46 PM  

Am mortified that I spent so much time saying "what the heck does WHOK NEW mean?"

becky 5:47 PM  

p.s. "allee" is a word we use a lot in landscape architecture.

Jim 5:58 PM  

Weird weekend for me. Started the Sunday Friday night -- finished before I started the Sat puzzle. 2nd straight Sat finish (with no errors this time!). Although NE corner included several guesses, centered around _TART--seemed like a random LEMON_ answer to me, and the crosses made no more sense to me with that in there (TROTH?) but I stuck with it and got lucky!

Sunday was slow, steady and boring, as all Sundays are becoming. Still finished with two wrong squares, so I'm gonna keep at it until one comes back clean (tORIA / RAtLEY and NEo / oCLERA. oCLERA sounded like ocular, so it seemed plausible.).

But Saturdays, no matter how daunting they look, just usually need to be cracked, and they can really fly from there. It's like finding the cipher to an otherwise unsolvable puzzle. Sundays are just a very different experience. I have no worries about cracking in or cracking the theme, but I hae this sinking feeling sometimes a random 12-square area will just be undoable because of the short, crosswordy dross that often populates it. And if the theme is a yawn (like this one, which I've seen a million times in six months) it is just joyless. Weird, because I used to love the Sunday puzzle.

PuzzleNut 6:19 PM  

No speed record for me, but no real problems either. Got the theme quickly in the east with SITAR.
Only issue was Arbor for ALLEE. SCRAMBLE (which I liked) fixed that problem. Had the same issue parsing W??K NEW as @betsy.

edith b 6:54 PM  


For reasons best known only to Rogers & Hammerstein, EVRY is not a bastardization of the word Every but the true name of the song "Climb Ev'ry Mountain" which I discovered from reading the titles off the original soundtrack album.

I had the same reaction to that as I did to "Comin thro the Rye" - I was mystified!

mmorgan 7:21 PM  

@becky, re: WHOK NEW --

I hesitate to mention this, but my 90-year-old mother told me she couldn't understand HAD A TIT for 90D.

foodie 7:31 PM  

Rex, thank you for posting that Lynne Russel clip. I've always admired her, and thought she exuded a wonderful combination of intelligence, strength and beauty. She shattered glass ceilings without seeming to try, just by being herself. I always thought she must be from New Orleans, including because of the silk lampshades she makes. But I guess not. It's the Southern Italian in her...

Tons of malapops while solving this puzzle. I agree that it's easy.

Beyond being surprised by the Afraid/IN FEAR coupling, a la @Bob Kerfuffle, I was also thrown off by the fact that in more than half the cases, the "I" moved only one spot (Trial- TRAIL; Lion-LOIN; Martial-MARITAL:Fries-FIRES) but the rest of the time, it hopped further afield. Since I happened to hit the one spot answers first, the inconsistency held me back a bit... Still, a pretty enjoyable Sunday solve.

foodie 7:35 PM  

@mmorgan, do you solve with your grandmother? Or share solving experiences with her? My grandchildren are really young, but you're giving me ideas for my (real) old age! Maybe puzzle solving has merely skipped a generation in our family...

Anonymous 9:24 PM  


Besides, my team is losing....

JaxInL.A. 9:35 PM  

Yesterday broke over a month of successfully predicting @Rex's Word Of The Day (WOTD). I never dreamed he would pick DERSPIEGEL over CAPYBARA. Today, though, I'm back on track. Easy for me, though because my hubby has a scleral shell which makes his blind eye look normal. The random things that come in handy for crosswords, eh?

Made all the mistakes Rex made, but for me it felt like I flew through this one and got all cocky and over confident, hanging myself in the mid-Atlantic when I had TIESTO for TIESON and TUG for TOW. Combined with the fact that i know only the German one sings in a choir (IHRE?) and it took me all the time I had gained to get myself untangled again. Thanks, @Ulrich, for explaining. And thanks to @Margaret for pointing out how TEHRANRAIN fits the theme. Couldn't work that out. Discounting for stupidity, I'd call this a medium for me.

I keep hoping Mr. Shortz will run a tribute puzzle for the Flintstones, since it is now 50 years since it first aired. I could picture some fun with their penchant for naming things __asaurus and giving rock names to things.

mmorgan 11:20 PM  

@foodie, that's my mother, not my grandmother (my grandmother would be about 130 years old right now)!!

I guess I would say that I share solving experiences with her. She does her daily paper (something syndicated) on her own but we talk in the morning and she usually has one or two questions for me.

The only NYT she does these days is the Sunday. I usually talk to her around 7:00 AM and she says, "You have to help me, I can't get anything." I tell her to persevere and be patient and keep at it and then I call her back around 8:00, when she tells me she's finished (though sometimes she wants a word or two. And if by chance I don't have them by then, then of course I just check Rex.).

Let's hope Rex keeps this going when he's 90!

foodie 11:34 PM  

@mmorgan, I don't know how I misread that! Sorry. I'm so besotted with my grandchildren, it's ridiculous. That's great, what you do with your mom. And I love the question she asked about the TIT : )

@Artlvr, I loved your hypothesis about anagrams of different types of money, and how long it seemed sustainable. I think there's a new theme in there.

Anonymous 11:52 PM  

Welcome to my world. That was the song at the end of Mad Men tonight. I'm still waiting for Mr. Shortz to run a puzzle on country music or Mad Men. I will take either over Ali/Frazier or moving an I around....

Matthew G. 10:48 AM  

The older phone sitting here on my desk has only WXY on the 9 button. As I recall, Q and Z were both omitted from telephone pads until comparatively recently.

Anonymous 2:16 PM  

Surprised no one had Purple rain like i did for a while.

Anonymous 1:59 AM  

Too much esoterica!

Dirigonzo 5:08 PM  

A week late to the party but still had fun GALORE with this one. Even without the theme answers we had the likes of ODOREATERS and SWITCHBLADE at the NERVECENTER. OHGOD I had a good time with this -there hasn't been an ILLER Sunday puz for me in a long while. I solve for fun and IDARE say this one came in ATTHETOP for me. Thank you DAF for constructing a fun puzzle that brightened my day!

(It's October 10, 2010 here in syndication land - well, everywhere, I guess - so Happy 101010, everyone. I'm pretty sure that means something pretty profound in digital language.)

Dirigonzo 5:19 PM  

And to those who say there are faults in the construction or cluing that detract from the overall fun of this puzzle, I say only this: "ARENOT"!

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