Subject of 1980s surrogacy case / FRI 11-5-10 / Bundles of bound quarks / Early film star who wore lipstick in shape of heart

Friday, November 5, 2010

Constructor: Mike Nothnagel

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: none, but ... CROSSWORD CONTEST! From the "Notepad" of this puzzle: When this puzzle has been completed, put nine holes over the grid and arrange the letters shown to form an appropriate two-word phrase (4,5). Where these holes are is for you to discover. When you have the answer, send it by e-mail to Twenty-five correct solvers chosen at random, whose entries are received by midnight E.S.T. Sunday, Nov. 7, will receive copies of "The New York Times Little Black and White Book of Holiday Crosswords." Only one entry per person, please. The answer and winners' names will appear on Friday, Nov. 12, at

[I have been asked to ask you not to post the contest answer in the comments ... so I'm asking]

Word of the Day: BABY M (25D: Subject of a 1980s surrogacy case) —

Baby M (born March 27, 1986) was the pseudonym used for Melissa Stern, the child in an American custody case between the egg donor/surrogate mother and the child's biological father. (wikipedia)
• • •

Solid Friday outing. Slightly on the toughish side for me, due largely to the SE corner. Could not get MAIN MENU forever (38A: Top-level commands, collectively), and everything south of there was affected. With A TO B already in grid, had no idea how the OED gamut was going to be phrased (43A: ABC), and though SEA HORSE was easy (34D: Fish whose male carries the eggs), I had lots of trouble seeing both ON BUTTON (35D: Starting point?) and NUCLEONS (36D: Bundles of bound quarks). Luckily, I knew both LAWSON (55A: Food writer Nigella) and OLSENS (57A: Noted TV twins), but even they couldn't bust me out of that corner in good time. Finally figured out that SH-- must be SHUL (46A: House of prayer), and that tipped the corner in my favor. Otherwise, I made steady progress, and didn't have any moments of serious struggle. And yet I was just over 10 minutes, which is on the long side for me, for Friday.

Felt like ONE appeared a lot in this grid, but it's only in there twice. There are just a lot of ONs (BITE ON, PLAYS ON, ROCK ON, ON ME, ON BUTTON ... is this some kind of record?), which clearly gave me that (erroneous) impression. I really liked CN TOWER, which felt fresh — I was just in Toronto, so got TOWER immediately, but couldn't remember the first two initials. C-something... good enough. Loved GETS / LOADED. ROCK ON and GOOD GAME added a nice colloquial touch. And CLARA BOW is both a nice answer and an opportunity for some interesting trivia revelation (7A: Early film star who wore lipstick in the shape of a heart).

["Rock on ... ROCK ON!"]

Oh, I nearly forgot—I finished with an error :(

I had seen ANAKIN Skywalker (40D: "Star Wars" name) in the puzzle so often in his nickname form (ANI) that I automatically spelled it ANIKIN and didn't blink at R.I.P. for 47A: Spirited response? (RAP). I thought, "Well, if someone's dead, I guess R.I.P. is a response to the person's spirit ... whatever." O well. Don't feel too bad about that one.

As for the contest: Piece Of Cake (though you may not think so, and for good reason). I'm not sure why there are so many "hole"s in the clues today (five, by my count), but not nine holes. Why go to five and then stop? There must have been a way to work four more "hole"s into today's clues. Would've been a nice touch. At any rate, any constant solver of the NYT puzzle should be able to figure out the Contest answer in a heartbeat. I sent my answer in to the Times at about 10:12 p.m. Thursday night.

  • 20A: Some compact light sources (DIODES) — couldn't tell if "compact" was an adjective or noun here for a while.
  • 28A: ___ Farm, setting for a George Orwell story (MANOR) — Yeesh, completely forgot this. Needed every cross.
  • 52A: Iberian city that lends its name to a variety of wine (OPORTO) — that's crossword memory right there. Never would've gotten this without many xword miles under my belt.
  • 2D: Maryland's historic ___ Creek (ANTIETAM) — figured out very quickly what the answer must be, but Could Not decide if word ended -AM or -EM ...
  • 25D: Subject of a 1980s surrogacy case (BABY M) — haven't thought about this case since the '80s. Completely forgot the letter, but had good enough powers of inference to get the BABY part.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

P.S. Happy birthday, Tyler Hinman


nanpilla 12:39 AM  

Nice, solid Friday. Thought MINUEND would be the WOTD. Is that new math? Don't remember ever learning that word as a kid.

Husband has a bit of a crush on Nigella, so that was an easy one. He's the chef of the house, so he can watch all the cooking shows he wants.

Meta took me much too long. I don't ever win anything over at Gaffney's site when only a couple of hundred people enter, so I don't hold out much hope here!

chefwen 12:58 AM  

Hey @Clark - was 19A your first fill, I bet it was.

I got a running start at the puzzle with CLARA BOW and NOSE DIVE, but when I got to the southwest I screeched to a halt. Never did get into Star Wars so I had no idea with ANAKIN. OKEY DOKE meh! I get it now but END TO END had be baffled, I was looking for some teary eyed chic flick. Sooo, ended up with a bunch o'holes, but that is pretty "par for the course" for me on a Friday. Maybe some day, sigh!

andrea carlabow michaels 1:21 AM  

No mention that two days in a row it was Mike Nothnagel???????!!!!!!!!!
AND that 1A started with "____ hole" total call back to yesterday!!!!!!!
That is one damn fine constructor!

(Oops, I hope this has nothing to do with the contest...there was no notepad on my printout, and even having read Rex's explanation, I don't get at ALL what they are asking for...)

@Rex may have been stumped on RiP, but I had RAh for spirited response for quite a while...

Also had sTpAul for OTTAWA and have never heard of, I guess I got to get me to Canada one day, eh?

I didn't know MINUEND either. I thought MINe??? something was something you took something from...but in the end, Mike is a mathematician, so MINUEND must be something he says once a day!

I don't know what this says about me hipwise, but I had RaveON.

I would like to diss DISS...ick!
(But Mike is a genius, so small "diss").

And not to go ON and ON, but what WAS with ONbuttON, ONme, playsON, rockON, biteON? Maybe it seemed like more bec of nucleONs, nineirON, LawsON, forONe, krONe, sONes? Is that part of the cONtest?

I didn't know a SEAHORSE was a fish. I knew the male carried the eggs, but I guess I thought they were some sort of sea creature, like a crab or something. Is that totally dumb?
Does anyone else know what I'm talking about?

Clark 1:35 AM  

Yes, @chefwen, DISS was one of the first things in. And Nigella LAWSON is one of semi puzzle partner's favorite cook book writers, so that helped. I had to work hard at this, but I got it in the end -- and that's not a sure thing on a Friday.

Anonymous 1:59 AM  

No need to worry about my spoiling the metapuzz, cuz I don't know what the fuck the clue is even hinting at.

Aaron Riccio 2:11 AM  

Fairly sure I solved the contest puzzle, but I'm now getting that moment of hesitation where it's like, is that REALLY the answer? I second-guess myself with Gaffney's stuff all the time, though, so this would be nothing new... then again, if I *am* wrong, that would be impressive all on its own!

thewertle 2:27 AM  

I initially had INTIMATE for 56A: Extremely touching? off of the N from ANAKIN. I think that was just as good an answer.

Dorothy Parker 3:18 AM  


"If all the girls who attended the Yale prom were laid END TO END, I wouldn't be a bit surprised."
–Dorthy Parker

I skip M-W 4:33 AM  

When I went to public school, some fifty-five years ago, subtraction was defined as taking the subtrahend from the minuend. Not too new-fangled.
Bundles of quarks could be baryons, more generally than nucleons, but that doesn't fit.

jae 4:59 AM  

Another fine puzzle from Mike Nothnagel. This was fairly easy except for SE, where, like Rex, I ran into problems. I put it aside and went back to watching late night TV which for me is pretty much all on DVR. My bride is into Martha Stewart so at 12:15 I put on Marhta's Thurs. show which happened to feature Ms. LAWSON, and, SE was solved. Was this cheating??? I didn't look anything up, just did what I would normally do on a Thurs. night. I think I just got lucky. Anyway, a nice two day puzzle combination.

pauer 7:00 AM  


retired_chemist 7:09 AM  

CN TOWER and NUCLEONS broke it open for me. Found it easy-medium after a weird start in which I saw NOTHING for about 3 minutes. Fun, lively cluing with one exception noted below.

Hand up for RAH until the bitter end @ 47A.

Ditto @I skip... re minuend - 5th or 6th grade stuff about 1950, but never actually used the term after than AFAIK.

Oporto - been there, interesting to see all the English names on buildings (Sandeman etc. - names of port wine mfrs.). First English trading post estd. 1717. Lots of red-heads on the streets, surprising for an Iberian town until you realize there was a flourishing sea trade involving Portugal, Brittany, and Ireland for many years.

Antietam - been there too. Rebs called the battle Sharpsburg.

The exception: cluing PET STORE as "litter pickup place." I get it, but it is disgusting. You DO NOT buy litters of puppies at a pet store unless you plan to resell them. No, litters come from breeders who raise them at home and sell them one at a time to people who will love their puppy for a lifetime. Buying a litter of puppies to keep requires a hoarder mentality. Arrgh!

Ruth 7:19 AM  

@R_C, I thought it meant a place to get kitty litter. Never thought of the puppy mill angle. Still not a real breakfast-test kind of notion.

retired_chemist 7:29 AM  

@ Ruth - didn't think of that. But it seems to me that "Kitty Litter" is the term. I have never heard it abbreviated as "litter." ("Dear, we're out of litter. I'm off to the pet store to pick up a bag of litter.")

The Hag 7:46 AM  

For me - measy puzzle, trivial contest. There were a lot of things that I liked in the grid though, most have already been mentioned, so it was a fun solve.

Mostly I'm posting to say that ANI or ANAKIN - I'm always sorry to see him showing up in a crossword. Man, I hated Episode 1. I wish there was a way I could un-see it.

@andrea myriad michaels. I prefer your answer for "Spirited response?" I think I'll go change RAP to RAH. I solve on paper so no nagging from Mr. Happy Pencil. He's not the boss of me!

The Hag 7:54 AM  

Re: The Weird Al video. My preferred parody:

babslesley 8:23 AM  

OK, I'm dense. What does it mean to "put nine holes over the grid and arrange the letters"?

David L 8:35 AM  

Solid medium for me -- would've been faster except I bogged down in the SW corner for a while. RAH for RAP, and took too long to see ENDTOEND.

Count me among the constant solvers with not the faintest idea what the contest is asking for -- pick any nine letters out of the grid and arrange them into a 4,5 phrase with relevance to... something or other? Me no understand.

VaBeach puzzler 8:37 AM  

@jae ... Similar "cheat" for me. Nigella was on NPR this morning as I was solving -- guess she gets around during the food season!

Otis 8:44 AM  

Port used to be the dessert wine from Portugal, but then other places started making it and calling it port also. So now you can buy California port, Australian port, etc. To make sure the world knew it was getting the "real" port, now ports from Portugal are called Oporto. Kind of the same battle France has fought regarding anybody who makes sparkling wine calling it Champagne and any medium-bodied red wine a Burgundy and any white wine a Chablis.

Rex Parker 8:46 AM  

A. PLEASE do not explain the contest instructions in this comments section.

B. I COMPLETELY agree that the instructions are confusing, bordering on nonsensical (as written).


Diana Holquist 8:52 AM  

@Rex tweeted that he guessed someone would reveal the contest w/in 10 comments. Did it happen? I'm too dense to even know.

Did the top half in a flash, but died in the SW. Not bad for me on a Friday, so I'll take it.

Wasn't crazy about "marketer" for "member of a campaign staff." Flashbacks to Tuesday. Fire the marketer and get ye an economist!

(Sorry...rant over. Have a great weekend, all.)

@nanpilla I'd watch what's cooking in your kitchen...have you seen Ms. Lawson? Mmmm...

Rex Parker 8:53 AM  

That is not, in fact, what I "tweeted." I gave "10" as the over/under. There's a difference. (If you bet over, congrats)


The Hag 9:02 AM  

Er. I should add - contest was trivial for me due to quirks of habit rather than any blazing insight. Heeding Mr. Parker's request, I won't say more. Personally - I found the instructions very helpful. Again - I won't say more (and hope that's not saying too much?)

David L 9:35 AM  

Well, OK, can I ask this? Should it be perfectly obvious when you find the correct answer to the contest? Because I finally came up with something but I still have no idea whether it's what they're looking for (I'm thinking that means I haven't got it... or else I'm overthinking, a fault I am susceptible to.)

I remain, sirs, densely yours, etc.

joho 9:36 AM  

First thing I noticed was hole in the clue at 1A. Then the coin with a hole in it. Then "came out of a hole." Then I saw Nothnagel at the top and thought, Holy crap, this man is obsessed with holes, GAPING, golf or otherwise!

I liked the puzzle except for WEARER. I never knew that "one in an outfit" is a WEARER. I was thinking along the lines of soldier. Silly me.

Anyway, Mr. Nothnagel, you are prolific and talented, even if you are fixated on holes! Thank you!

Glitch 9:40 AM  


I agree with @Ruth

In our household, it's just plain LITTER, and the box is labeled "Cat Litter".

When trying to be cute, however, it's "Kiddie Litter".


Amy 9:58 AM  

I did the puzzle without a problem, but NO clue what the contest is all about. When will the Times post the answer???

Bob Kerfuffle 9:58 AM  

Solved the meta and emailed in my answer before coming to the blog, so if anybody gave anything away, I didn't hear it from them.

Also wouldn't give anything away to say that Matt Gaffney had a meta along these same lines within the last year.

Without any crosses (or even counting letters) I initially thought 7A might be Betty Boop, and that 52 A might be Sherez. Only write-over was the popular RAH/RAP.

Once on vacation in Australia, I was talking with people who had just seen a TV show on the BABY M case, and I got to tell them that it happened in my home area, Bergen County, New Jersey.

Anonymous 10:09 AM  

can someone please explain DISS for 19A?

Amy 10:10 AM  

Dissertation for a PhD--the third degree: bachelors, masters, then PhD!

Van55 10:19 AM  

14 proper nouns today, by my count.

I hate cross-referential clues. One of todays has made me totally ashamed of myself. For 23A and 8D ("takes a lot of shots, say, I originally wrote in "GOESPOSTAL." Regrettably it fits, but I was thinking what a sh*tstorm of controversy the answer would cause here. I'm glad I was dead wrong (no pun intended.) GETSLOADED is a great answer.

I'm not even going to try the contest.

Struggled mightily with this one. Didn't know SHUL or NUCLEONS. Didn't know CNTOWER. BITEON is, I think, misclued or at least a bit off for the clue. Ditto WEARER. In bridge, I think of IPASS as declining to declare as opposed to actually making a bid. I may be wrong. I couldn't recall BABYM. Is DISS. really the abbreviation for "dissertation"? Why is ENDTOEND "extremely touching" as opposed to simply "touching?"

Good puzzle, I guess, but I found it irksome.

Tobias Duncan 10:21 AM  

Got the contest quickly. Wish I could say the same about the puzzle.BRUTAL for me.
Last night I knew the temptation to to spoil the contest with hints would be too great so I waited till this morning to comment (I have found my character to be stronger in the morning).
As much as I love Will, he is a bit of a cheapie pants. Come on now, hand out more than 250 bucks worth of shwag* on a national contest man, and don't get me started on what the constructors get paid for their brilliance. The puzzle is a MAJOR source of revenue for the Times is it not?

*Not that I wouldn't love love love the prize offered...

Masked and Anonymous 10:23 AM  

I've done learned my lesson about being a spoiler, so I've got nothing nohow to say about that contest.

OK by me if this Nothnagel dude just finishes out the year with all his puz's. Liked this one a lot, too. Thumbs up.

Had 18A=TAKESTEn forever. So had 14D=WEnRER for the longest time, just staring at me in disbelief. Finally wised up. Duh.

PlantieBea 10:38 AM  

I'm happy having two Mike Nothnagel puzzle days this week. Today's seemed easier for me although I stuck with RAH for way too long. I had a scary answer in the beginning: GOES POSTAL for "takes a lot of shots." Sheesh, glad it wasn't so.

Anonymous 11:00 AM  

Since Rex did not publish my last comment I must have guessed the answer and after working it I think I did, but it is hard to imagine that anyone who spends the time on this blog wouldn't get it in less time than Rex does a Monday puzzle. I hate censorship....

Evgeny 11:01 AM  

ON BUTTON doesn't mean anything to me (third language strikes again!), and so doesn't LAWSON, so the SE was, together with the other tough-to-get (a)crosses, the hardest corner for me as well.

The contest, however, is fun! I wonder whether I have any chances or they're too cheap to send the book overseas and won't let me participate?

Two Ponies 11:04 AM  

The top half was a breeze but the south remained a gaping hole.
Shul is unknown to me. Must try to keep that one in mind. No idea who the food writer is. It took two volumes to cover ABC?
If I have time later I will try to figure out the contest.
Sea horses are fascinating fish.
What advantage would there be in evolving to look like a horse?

Anonymous 11:10 AM  

Continuing my thoughts above, I realize that I'm just a whiny baby whose fun is spoiled when I can't spoil the fun of others.

Anonymous 11:12 AM  

@VAN55 Because ends are extremes, I think.

DNF. SE did me in. Have NO idea what the meta's all about.

Anonymous 11:15 AM  

All I can say is, I'm glad someone put me out of my misery ...

CaseAce 11:17 AM  

Surely, how could we soon forget the American Master Violinist, Yehudi Minuend?

foodie 11:21 AM  

Weird coincidence: I was in a hotel in New York last night, and as I was entering into my room, I noticed a photo of CLARA BOW on the hallway wall. I thought: Weird about her lipstick, is it supposed to be resonant with her name? Walked in, downloaded the puzzle, and Bam! I thought I was going to ace it and like many others, ripped through the top and stalled in the bottom.

I had "HIC" for the spirited response, thinking of drunks, than RAH, then RAP, so ended up where Rex did, by way of Andrea. It tells me it's a high class DNF. I take what I can get...

I'm still pondering phase two...

SethG 11:27 AM  

I blogged Pre-schoolers = ROE here two years ago. The day before that, we discussed BABY M. Expect PLINTH, DEWLAP/WATTLE, or Q SCORE tomorrow.

Took me a long time to get any sort of foothold in this puzzle. For probably a few minutes I had literally nothing. This was one of my fastest Fridays ever. ROCK ON, MN.

efrex 11:28 AM  

Meaty, meaty puzzle. Needed just a touch of help from Google for one or two clues, and had TAKES TEN instead of TAKES TEA, which really did a number on teh NE corner for me for a while. Thought of BOO instead of RAP, but glad that I at least got the right idea.

Cute meta-puzzle. Knew immediately what I had to do, although the anagramming took much too long... :/. Oh, well: on to the weekend!

CaseAce 11:55 AM  

Nigella Lawson, is quite simply, and amply, the most zaftig wondrous woman to come out of Italy since Sophia Loren!

archaeoprof 11:59 AM  

I think it's going to work out for Mike Nothnagel as a constructor!

RIP Sparky Anderson.

Unknown 12:00 PM  

First off, I totally agree with Anonymous @ 5. I have no idea what this hole contest is, and personally don't give a rat's ass. Or, perhaps I should say " RAT'S HOLE " out of respect for yesterday's answer at 31D ?

Having gotten that off my chest, I loved the continuation of Mr. Nothnagel's obvious preoccupation with holes. Interpret that as you may. As far as I'm aware, the carry-over concept was unique, but perhaps it's been done before. In any event, I think both puzzles were superb. Mr. Happy Pencil showed up at almost the same time on each day.

As usual for a Friday, the grid looked pretty daunting at first blush. It took me about five minutes to get some toe holds that looked at least possible or probable. After that, things went fairly well until I had to tackle the SW. Like everyone else, I wanted RAH for 47A, and being an ex-bartender, wanted some beverage related answer for 41D. Doom was indeed IMPENDing at that juncture. I'm not a " Trekkie " so had no clue at 40D. I was hung up on TOO or AND at 51D for quite a while, YET I finally got it. Like @ I skip M-W, I was trying to drag MINUEND out of third grade math from fifty-five years ago. The last fill was ENDTOEND. I too, was looking for an emotion, as opposed to a span of distance.

Well, I'm in good shape for the Thursday, Friday, Saturday Tri-fecta tomorrow. I like my chances if it's not a Tim Croce puzzle. Lol.

Diana Holquist 12:01 PM  

@rex. I stand corrected. (And thnxs to wiki, learned what over/under means. Surely that'll come in handy xwordwise someday.) In my defense, the tweets come in before coffee. Damn early birds.

Hilarious having a contest like this in the age of the Internets. Totally enjoying the barely-able-to-be-contained urges to tell all.

mmorgan 12:08 PM  

Nine holes, again!

Great puzzle, great workout... though DNF as the SE made me throw my hands up, despite having OLSENS and SHUL but, sadly, HEAPS for 46D (Junk vehicles).

I must have been channeling Rex -- I also had RIP for 47A.

Still struggling with the meta, though I think I'm getting close...

Anonymous 12:13 PM  

Can someone provide a hint to the contest answer? I have no intention of entering the contest but I'm curious and it will drive me nuts over the weekend. Does it have to do with the fact that there are 9 diagonal black boxes? Or the 7 consecutive diagonal Es? Or that several words have two Os in them? Sorry I'm such a moron. Feel free to e-mail me at Thank you.

James T. Kirk 12:13 PM  

@chaos 1 - Damn right you're no Trekkie. To a Trekkie, 40 D, ANAKIN might as well be ANATHEMA. Wrong universe, at least!

joho 12:16 PM  

Just figured it out: very cool indeed.

Not only did I finish the puzzle pretty quickly with no errors, but I can now enter the drawing!

Mike Nothnagel you have made my day (well, actually days, both Thursday and Friday to be exact!)

Anonymous 12:23 PM  

The real contest is not in the puzzle today. The real contest is between Rex and those who are trying to sneak in the answer to the meta. So here is the answer: 18 = 1+5+135+115+/-60+218+136+209+212 and 19 = gin rummy + gin and tonic....

chefbea 12:54 PM  

Just finished the puzzle and sent in my answer.
Had to google a bit but finally got through it
Had okey doky for a while.

Anonymous 1:01 PM  

BTW, Kudos and ROCK ON to Mr. Nothnagel to a brilliant 2-day exercise, with the south half of today's being a Jack Nicklaus for me. McD does not serve a better combo!

PS to @Chaos, and I thought you were mild mannered....

Two Ponies 1:20 PM  

I finally had time to do the secret phrase part of the puzzle.
Good fun.

Diana Holquist 1:50 PM  

OK, I swore I would not spend another minute on this puzzle or this blog. But had to know.

Got it.


(My work day is shot. Damn you, Will Shortz!)

foodie 1:56 PM  

@CaseAce, Nigella is a beautiful lady, but I don't believe she's Italian. Isn't she a Brit?

I too finally got the contest answer. I should really learn to trust my first hunch. Parfait!

CaseAce 2:05 PM  

foodie, An Italiano with a Brit accent, but whatever, Italian men would gladly welcome her as one of their own!

Unknown 2:26 PM  

@ Anonymous: a few posts up. Mild Mannered! LMAO ! I've been dubbed with many monikers in my lifetime, but that isn't one of them. Off the top of my head, firebrand, opinionated, loose cannon, and yes, asshole, would be more apropos.

That being said, I try to use extreme restraint in this forum and on Wordplay, especially when it comes to political correctness. I only come to the New York Times for the puzzles and related blogs. The venue is definitely enemy territory for me. I strive to remember that I am interacting with individuals who are extremely erudite, and that my paltry knowledge and input pales by comparison in certain regards.

I derive a vast amount of enjoyment from most posters on this blog, even if I don't always agree. The knowledge base is unbelievable. My favorite is undeniably Andrea " WOTD " Michaels, and I can guarantee that Rex and I would be in a fist fight in five minutes, should we ever meet. Real diners have jukeboxes at the tables Rex! Nevertheless, you have a great blog, and as Mickey Spillane might say, I The Jury approve !

Rock On !!!!!

Anonymous 2:28 PM  

David L blogged, "Well, OK, can I ask this? Should it be perfectly obvious when you find the correct answer to the contest? ..." I think that it is worth saying that if you get it you'll have no doubt about it at all.

Anonymous 2:42 PM  

@Chaos1, I thought we were puzzle soulmates over the jukes in diners but after reading your latest, I know it! The polls suggest only 1 percent at the Stewart Colbert DC rally voted Republican. I sense that percent might be double here. ROCK ON....

Anonymous 2:56 PM  

OK, I finally figured it out (by finding the answer on another blog). Not something I would have ever gotten on my own in 5,000 years.

Rex Parker 2:58 PM  

I'm gonna get in a fistfight about jukeboxes? Wow, I'm dumber than I thought.

And I love Mickey Spillane more than all of you combined. Guaranteed.

Back to the puzzle (please)

Anonymous 3:07 PM  

There are a lot of comments here coming awfully close to giving this away... discretion, people, discretion...

sanfranman59 3:38 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)

Fri 28:09, 26:19, 1.07, 68%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Fri 14:20, 12:50, 1.12, 75%, Medium-Challenging

Unknown 4:06 PM  

@ Rex: LMAO! I didn't mean to suggest that we would engage in fisticuffs over the issue of weather jukeboxes at individual booths constitutes a " real " diner." I was suggesting that I believe you and I would be diametrically opposed on most issues in the social and political spectrum. I'd like to think that I have acquired a modicum of insight into your mindset over the last six months, but I apologize for making suppositions that may be unwarranted. I respect your self deprecating observation, that you might be dumber than you thought? You may be a lot of things Rex, but dumb isn't one of them. Let's end on that note, before someone accuses me of pumping excessive sunshine up your ass!

In closing, I have a mint original paperback copy of the Amboy Dukes, somewhere in the attic. Also, all of Mickey Spillane's first editions and other pulp from that era. I haven't dug through those boxes in thirty years, so they may be a rat's nests now. Some of those paperback covers are pretty racy. I also have mint copies of every issue of Playboy, starting in mid 63 to present. The Playboys are all in Mylar sleeves and library cases, so if anyone is interested, let me know. I'm getting rid of all my excess baggage, before any unexpected demise. Hey, with my lifestyle, ya never know ! I never met a vice that I didn't embrace ! LOL.

Anonymous 4:19 PM  

@Chaos1, There u go again. I knew what u meant, but kinda like Rex's take. I'll leave it to u w/ the fists cause I'm a coward like my favorite tv character Maverick. Back to the puzzle....

Van55 4:54 PM  

Turns out that I lied. I did enter the contest after finding the answer to the contest.

retired_chemist 5:04 PM  

@ Rex -

"And I love Mickey Spillane more than all of you combined. Guaranteed."

You go guy. You da Jury!

Mike Nothnagel 6:20 PM  

Hey all,

Glad to see a lot of folks enjoyed the puzzles and the contest. I'd love to answer a few of the questions I've read today about certain technical aspects of the puzzles, but I'd risk spoiling the contest. Ask me next week and I'll tell you all the behind-the-scenes secrets...


Lindsay 6:33 PM  

OK. I am taking a deep breath. I am placing a brown paper bag over my head. And I am admitting that although I have been solving the NYT puzzle since BABY M was in diapers, I have no idea about the contest. None.

Martin 7:30 PM  


It seems late enough for a mild clue. If not, delete away.

The clue was left by Andrea at 1:21 AM. The first sentence. The one with all the exclamation points.

mmorgan 7:30 PM  

The meta puzzle was a great idea -- and beautifully executed -- but unfortunately it was spoiled by those on sites who decided not to play along. I (finally!) figured it out but was distressed to find the answer on-line. Okay, I didn't have to go look for it, but I was curious, in the name of trying to see if we have a level playing field. We don't.

@CaseAce: I only wish Yehudi Minuend had played the Minuend in G.

Tobias Duncan 8:01 PM  

to spoil from anonymity is cowardice

Nighthawk 8:49 PM  

Aside from the fact that those who think they have the answer to the contest and are bursting at the seams to keep from spoiling it until the contest ends, or who just can't QUITE contain themselves until, this coming Sunday, the past two days have been the best in terms of the puzzle and, more, the comments here in many moons.

Loved the serendipity of running into a photo of CLARA BOW, and of taking a break today only to either see Nigella LAWSON on the tube or hear her on NPR.

MINUEND comments were awesome, esp. @CaseAce @11:17. Truly LOL'd.

@Van55 at 10:19, it should have been clear that GETS/LOADED comes before GOES/POSTAL.

Loved the ENDTOEND/OLSENS observation/quote from Dorothy Parker at (gulp!) 3:18am.

Great ANAKIN clip @RP, and another good one @TheHag. Sent both to SW loving college daughter. She'll get a huge kick out of them.

As for contest hints/spoilers, only two more days to contain ourselves. We can do it!

(destring: the broader one before the skimpy G)

michael 10:07 PM  

I thought the puzzle was easy enough, but I don't have a clue about the secret phrase. Definitely not Monday easy, as someone suggested.

Rex Parker 10:07 PM  

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the commenting community of this blog—your general good will and insistence upon decency even in strong disagreement are a wonderful antidote to most of the troll-ridden swamps I've seen passing for comments sections out there.

All the best,

sanfranman59 10:49 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 6:11, 6:56, 0.89, 11%, Easy
Tue 9:43, 8:57, 1.09, 76%, Medium-Challenging
Wed 8:31, 11:42, 0.73, 3%, Easy
Thu 19:18, 18:57, 1.02, 62%, Medium-Challenging
Fri 28:44, 26:19, 1.09, 73%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:32, 3:42, 0.96, 32%, Easy-Medium
Tue 4:34, 4:36, 0.99, 53%, Medium
Wed 4:35, 5:45, 0.80, 7%, Easy
Thu 10:10, 9:07, 1.12, 77%, Medium-Challenging
Fri 14:10, 12:50, 1.10, 73%, Medium-Challenging

mac 10:52 PM  

Wow, I finally figured it out, actually went with my first thought at last... I also had rah before rap, and "toe to toe" at 56A. Rock on makes me think of old Mr. and Mrs. Hardcastle in "Time goes by".

Fantastic puzzle days! Thanks Mike, Rex and everybody here!

Stan 11:56 PM  

Rex: Awesome comment. Everyone else: You deserve it.

A good couple of puzzle days. I'm waiting (until Monday) to share some of my wrong answers.

Stella in NYC 1:39 AM  

@foodie -- you are correct -- Nigella is British, named after her father Nigel Lawson, a politician.

nebraska doug 7:47 AM  

"minuend" was my undoing in the SW, totally new to me. Wanted "rah" for "rap". Otherwise an enjoyable Friday puzzle. Struggled with the SE but eventually got it with some educated guesses.

retired_chemist 9:21 AM  

I finally got the meta, with a hint from one of the posts. Cool!

Aging is Weird 5:03 PM  

I finished the Friday puzzle, but I cant get the whole 9 hole thing either, tho I feel its probly related to a certain game.

Stephen 11:40 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stephen 11:42 PM  

Gotta hand it to the constructor. This is amazing fill. Nothing odious at all. The words I did not know (SHUL, NUCLEONS, COTE, SONES) were all worth the education. Thanks. And the cluing was inspired, albeit downright evil in places.

I came here recently to bitch about a previous puzzle that had NTS and KNEEHOLES and other silly words, but today I can only marvel at the lack of cruddy or tired or invented words. Good job. There was a moment where I was stunned at how bad DISS was. As an abbreviation of dissertation it is quite ghastly, but the word is quite acceptable in its (slang) meaning of "insult". The clue then does not mean getting a PhD, but getting a bad beating.

to Evgeny: you are wondering what ON BUTTON means, and it is mysterious if you take as being parallel to "On Comet, On Cupid, Dancer and Blitzen, ... ". Instead, think of the first thing you have to do to start your radio up... you have to find the ON button.

Finally, I have to admit not only that I fell into the RAH/RAP trap but that I still do not get why it is a spirited response. It has been 2 days and no one has yet felt the need to explain. Can someone please help a feeble-minded struggler?

Mark Twain 5:49 AM  

@Stephen - For the full story on "rap". please read what I have written here.

Anonymous 11:21 PM  

I would just like to take this opportunity to thank The New York Times for giving me until midnight tonight to solve the Thursday and Friday puzzles AND figure out the contest and get my answer in. I didn't cheat or Google and it took me almost all the time allowed--but I guess my entry is as valid as anyone else's!

One more thing--bravo Mike Nothnagel--I loved it!

Stephen 7:55 PM  

Unfortunately I was 23 hours and 55 minutes too late to get my entry in, but my consolation prize is to think that maybe I CAN aspire to membership in this august group.

I went for a run this morning and came home knowing what to do first. I did that, and got a bunch of stupid letters. Tonight I was working on the Sunday puzzle and BONK it came to me. Ow wow.

Mr. Nothnagel, I come humbly back to this forum to forgive you for some sins I bitched about. I won't retract my previous complaints, but I will thoroughly forgive you. If that is what it takes to construct this, I license you forthwith to proceed as you like forever more.

Your fan, chastised me.

Anonymous 9:40 AM  

OK, it's now Tuesday morning. What was the answer to the 4,5 contest?

Anonymous 2:06 PM  

Enjoy checking here to review. No idea of contest. Baltimore paper published this puzzle on Dec 10th well after.
Enjoy checking here even thought I have to search for "old" puzzles

Asaris 2:21 PM  

@Anonymous 2:06, I'm also solving in syndication (Washington Examiner edition). There's a link on the top of the page that will take you to the current syndicated puzzle. Took me a few months to figure out.

Waxy in Montreal 5:15 PM  

Promising start with CLARABOW, NOSEDIVE, OTTAWA, CNTOWER & ANAKIN being gimme's but ultimately DNF'ed due to entering ENTWINED instead of ENDTOEND and refusing to believe MINUEND & NUCLEONS were words at all. OKEYDOKE!

Dirigonzo 6:28 PM  

Fought my way down to the southeast corner where I just plain didn't know a lot of stuff (SHUL, FORONE)and having COop for the farm shelter ruined any hope of guessing right.

Didn't know anything about the contest until I came here so of course I had to figure that out, too. Amazing that it's 5 weeks later and still nobody has posted the answer, so I won't either. But I was very sorry that I had used yesterday's paper to start a fire in my stove this morning!

Anonymous 1:40 PM  

Here in Portland, this puzzle was just published yesterday. I didn't realize until I read the posts that Thurs & Fri puzzles were by the same author, although I did notice all the 'holes'.
I got started in the SE; but minuend and mainmenu gave me a lot of trouble. I'm a veteran & work for the gov. so I was thinking of officers giving orders.
Also, for place to pick up litter, I'm in the medical field, so I thought about patients/casualties being evacuated.

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