Farmer-turned-con man in 1960s sitcom / MON 12-20-10 / Self-description someone surprised / Nancy Drew's beau / 1960s-'70s R&B singer Marilyn

Monday, December 20, 2010

Constructor: Donna Hoke

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: Animal's Something — two-word idiomatic expressions where the first word is the possessive form of some animal

Word of the Day: CADGE (7D: Bum, as a cigarette) —

intr. & tr.v., cadged, cadg·ing, cadg·es.
To beg or get by begging.

[Perhaps back-formation from obsolete cadger, peddler, from Middle English cadgear.]

• • •

This was much more of a struggle than your average Monday, which I know is a weird thing to say about a puzzle that took me 3:17, but that's better than 40 seconds slower than my time last week, and on Monday, 40 seconds is an Eternity. At 76 words, with many 6- and 7-letter Downs, and with a good amount of white space up top and down below, this grid ended up having more interesting fill than most early-week grids—and only once did "more interesting" mean something very bad. I'm speaking, of course, of "MR. HANEY" (25A: Farmer-turned-con man in a 1960s sitcom). I needed every cross to get him, and I still couldn't place him once I was done. Lucy's boss was MR. MOONEY ... who the hell is MR. HANEY??? Well, wikipedia tells me he is some secondary (if not tertiary) character on "Green Acres!" Who the what the?! I'm going to go out on a limb and say that that is Not a Monday answer (Friday or Saturday, maybe). 30 years ago, maybe. But today ... wow. Wow. Talk about your outliers. But as I say, that's the only answer that stunk, and it stunk mainly by (massive) contrast with how good the rest of the grid is. CADGE and OZMA (37D: Princess in L. Frank Baum books) and ROTUNDA (10D: Capitol feature) and EZ PASS (39D: Modern toll-paying convenience) and AIR SHOW (45D: Event for stunt pilots) and OSPREYS (even in the plural) (42D: Fish-eating birds) gave this puzzle a good amount of sparkle.

The theme ... is fine. Absolutely standard Monday stuff. No strong feelings there. Wife claimed not to know what MONKEY'S UNCLE was, but a. she's from NZ and b. when I prefaced it with the phrase "Well I'll be a..." she said "Oh ... yeah, maybe ..." I had more trouble with ELEPHANT'S EAR, despite having seen [Elephant's ear] as a clue for TARO very recently. I wrote in ELEPHANT ROOT. This made MEASLY (49D: Pathetically small) even harder to see than it might have been otherwise (wife had MEAGER, a reasonable wrong answer).

Theme answers:
  • 17A: Game played with strings looped over the fingers (CAT'S CRADLE)
  • 22A: Self-description of someone who's surprised (MONKEY'S UNCLE)
  • 36A: Long time (DOG'S AGE)
  • 50A: Taro (ELEPHANT'S EAR)
  • 60A: What a greedy person may grab (LION'S SHARE)
  • 5A: 1960s-'70s R&B singer Marilyn (MCCOO) — I feel like I have a special connection with Ms. MCCOO. I watched her often in my youth when she was co-host of "Solid Gold" with Andy Gibb ...

... and she was also the singer of the #1 song in the country on the day I was born ...

... plus I just really like this song ...

  • 30A: Oklahoma city named for the daughter of its first 4-Down (ADA) — wow ... that is one of the oddest cross-referenced pair of answers I've ever seen ... so ADA had a POSTMAN before it was named? Or the guy who named the city after his daughter later became POSTMAN? That must be it. Oh, and by the way, hated the clue on POSTMAN only because "in an old movie" overlooks the (at least as famous) book by James M. Cain. Plus, only one "old book" has the title "The POSTMAN Always Rings Twice," while there are at least two "old movies." It's a book, is what I'm saying.
  • 58D: Nancy Drew's beau and others (NEDS) — important crossword trivia; know your NEDS! (Rorem, Flanders, Beatty, etc.)
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


Steve J 12:15 AM  

Loved this. The theme was exactly what I think a Monday theme should be: something that doesn't in any way detract from other stuff going on, since a Monday theme is unlikely to be anything way out there and previously unseen. Mondays work on the non-theme fill, and this one had plenty of great stuff (the aforementioned MRHANEY aside).

All kinds of great words: QUILL, CADGE, CRANKY, OSPREY, EPSOM. Cluing was fresh and didn't lapse into the boring, predictable cluing far too many Mondays are plagued with. And no random Roman numeral!

This also took me a bit longer than a typical Monday, but that's due mostly to some meatier fill and cluing. Although I was slowed by having ETHOS in for a while instead of ETHIC, and it took me several seconds for SE-I/OZ-A to click for me.

Very enjoyable Monday.

Anonymous 12:19 AM  

The Postman Always Rings Twice was a great movie with John Garfield and Lana Turner. But this was a trifle difficult for a Monday and trifle reminds me of one of my favorite scenes from Casablanca --

Captain Renault: By the way, last night you evinced an interest in Señor Ugarte.

Victor Laszlo: Yes.

Captain Renault: I believe you have a message for him?

Victor Laszlo: Nothing important, but may I speak to him now?

Major Heinrich Strasser: You would find the conversation a trifle one-sided. Señor Ugarte is dead.

Ilsa: Oh.

Captain Renault: I am making out the report now. We haven't quite decided yet whether he committed suicide or died trying to escape.

Qotation from IMDB,com

Anonymous 1:17 AM  

Rex – Here is a question for you. Today’s puzzle is an example of using a common theme (animals) to create a theme. Though this is a trifle difficult (IMO) for a Monday, it is still very easy, even for us amateurs. So why is this a higher form of puzzle than a pangram? Even though I don’t think much of doing a puzzle for a pangram, neither do I think more of a puzzle with ordinary animals as a theme. Or to put it another way: Is a pangram more acceptable on a Monday than on a Friday?

chefwen 1:23 AM  

This was a nice, medium, Monday puzzle for me. My only trip up was at 50A putting ELEPHANT EARS instead of ELEPHANTS EAR. Also, 58D tEDS before NEDS, can never remember that guys name, Nancy Drew was so long ago. Did this one whilst watching my Packers lose a close one, very exciting game. Maybe next year!

Tobias Duncan 1:33 AM  

Felt like a tuesday for sure.
Never heard of MCCOO or CADGE, so could not really put in anything for that C, seemed just as likely a D or B or just about anything.What you guys do in this situation ?I just left it blank and called it a DNF.
Fun puzzle but felt dated.

andrea mccarla michaels 1:56 AM  

I loved this!!!!!!!!
Hard Monday/Easy hard to get it exactly right, but I wish I had thought of this...

Plus there were FIVE.

MRHANEY was a bit crazy if you weren't at least 50.
I'll put my constructor's hat on then and try and give "constructive" criticism:
Make it MCRANEY (even tho that will conflict a tad with MCCOO)

I think perhaps Gerald MCRANEY would have been less obscure:
a) real person, not a minor role
b)Star of "SImon and SImon", plus "Major Dad" plus married to Delta Burke
(tho when I wrote for her show, I felt he was a scary Svengali-type, abusive guy)
So REMO could become CENT,
HEAL becomes REAL
AMA becomes ANA
SOLO becomes STLO.

And if anyone is still interested, I'll add that I would take out LEONE (since Sierra LEONE is Portuguese for "Mountain of Lions") and LIONSSHARE is in the puzzle.

You could always make it LEOII
since he's both a pope and an emperor...
(ONLY becomes OILY, MESS = MISS)
But then the random Roman numeral/pope folks will have a fit!
You can't win!!!

Anyway, fabulous puzzle, wonderful simple bouncy theme that worked worked worked!

JaxInL.A. 2:46 AM  

Fun puzz. I started with the two fill-in clues, first 15A ____ as a rail, then 1D ____Ness monster and just kept going with the Downs, only occasionally looking at Acrosses to check or fill in. Thus I missed both Marlyn MC COO, who I may like as much as Rex, and MR HANEY, who I barely remember from my childhood sitcom-watching phase. Being over 50,though, I did have a shot at it if I had seen it. Sorry to the younger set, though with Nick at Night and other re-run channels I find that many much younger than I know of shows that ended before their parents had drivers licenses.

Thanks to @Andrea McCarla for that glimpse into a constructor's choices. It really looks fun to do.  Happy Monday, everyone, and thanks, Ms. Hoke!  

Captcha=sting, which this puzzle didn't, unlike yesterday.

Anonymous 7:57 AM  

I want to be Rex. I want to do something fast and well, have fun at it, make all sorts of connections, share that richness with the world, and then move on to my full time job.

I want to be Andrea. I want to be positive and upbeat, but also brilliant and insightful. "Sierra Leone...Portuguese...lionsshare..." I am in awe.

Well, ok, so I can't be them. So I'm glad I get to read them every morning.

(P.S.--also loved the puzzle. fun and fast.)

glimmerglass 8:02 AM  

Easy, but a fun trip down memory lane. 40 seconds longer than average for Rex is, to me, a ridiculous gage of difficulty. I can take more than 40 seconds trying to remember my neighbor's daughter-in-law's name. I thought this was an excellent Monday puzzle with some clever cluing, but it was a long way from challenging. Rex is all about speed. I'm not.

efrex 8:06 AM  

Add another one to the tally of ETHOS/ETHIC writeovers, and to the "Huh?" list for MRHANEY: crossing with REMO veers dangerously close to Natick territory, particularly early in the week. Easy enough to forgive, though: a nice crisp theme, lots of fun non-theme answers (do OSPREYS perform at AIRSHOWS?), and an enjoyable contrast to Sunday's slogfest.

joho 8:15 AM  

This was fun!

I read 7D as "Burn, as a cigarette" which made no sense with the answer CADGE. This morning I saw that it's "Bum!"

I thought ADA would be "Dentist's org." but, of course, it couldn't be as AMA is in grid. The clue for ADA is different, for sure.

I had no clue who MRHANEY is but got the answer easily with crosses so I can't complain.

Thank you, Donna!

mitchs 8:22 AM  

What everyone has said + I loved the clue and answer for MEASLY.

UNCLE about 8 billion times and never stopped to think what it might mean.

mmorgan 8:26 AM  

I understand the reason for Rex's rating, but since I don't time myself just found it easy and pleasant.

Thanks for the lesson, Andrea -- but I don't think I ever would have gotten MCCRANEY (except maybe from crosses).

Joe Bob 8:37 AM  

I can still hear Mr. Haney's voice--snivelling, servile, flattering, it was the perfect country con man's voice. Yes, I am squarely in the demographic of who kept those cornpone shows of the mid-to-late sixties on the air: Andy Griffith, Green Acres, Beverly Hillbillies, Petticoat Junction, Hee Haw. Of those, Andy Griffith is far the superior, and it's my favorite sit-com of all time.

Anonymous 8:42 AM  

+1 for Glimmer..

I love this blog, but I agree that minute differences in the time it takes 1 person to finish might not be the best criteria for levels of difficulty.

For me, today's puzzle was possibly too easy. It felt like I was doing a People Magazine puzzle. I knew MR HANEY, because I'm a TV savant (closer to the idot ilk).
Yet RP rated it harder. Same with yesterday. For some reason, it flew by for me, but not RP.

Saturday's puzzle was a bear, yet RP rated it easy-medium.

I get the concept. It's all relative to RP, and we are all external to his process. And I know we go through this at great tedium. But if speed is the only factor in deciding how hard this is, what about those who don't type to save their lives (ahem..), or those who like to solve and eat (ahem), or chase the new pup away from eating the chair (ahem)... or just those who aren't trying to race? What about those who might be a bit foggy from a night of rum (ahem), whose synapses haven't made their entrances onto the neural superhighway?

ok, I'm done.

Rex Parker 8:45 AM  



If this puzzle doesn't come back with above avg. times at the end of the day, I"ll eat my hat. And it's a wool/poly blend with a thick "Lions" logo on it, so ... you know I'm not fooling.


mmorgan 8:48 AM  

@Anon at 8:42 -- Rex (of course) can and (of course) will defend himself (unless he's busy quashing rumors), but what he is giving is HIS rating. Period. What's the big deal?

Rex Parker 8:49 AM  


Arnold Ziffle 8:52 AM  

You go back 50 years to the crappiest TV Sitcom ever for a clue in the puzzle? Ok, that's fair. But to do so and omit, as you've omitted for these past 50 years, the only memorable character from that show? Inexcusable!

Anonymous 9:09 AM  


Of course you're right. There is no big deal. And to all the other sycophants that would come to Rex's needless rescue, there is no big deal. You all win.

What I meant to say was this: In an otherwise fantastic blog, of which I am a loyal fan, Rex's difficulty rating is meaningless to *me*.

(And God help me, I should no better than to write anything other than praise her in this box)

Anonymous 9:10 AM  


Anonymous 9:11 AM  

(and "here"... told you I can't type, or think)

Orange 9:21 AM  

2:43 for me, so I don't think it was much harder than the usual Monday. And the Saturday puzzle was tough for a lot of people. I will never understand why people persist in thinking that Rex is applying some sort of objective criteria for difficulty. He and I both get a sense of how hard a puzzle is based on our own experiences (n = 1). Not every single solver will match Rex every day and will not match me every day, and Rex and I match each other's perceived difficulty only sometimes. Anything based on one person's experience is fairly subjective, and we all have different strengths and blind spots in crosswords.

Anonymous 9:27 AM  

MRHANEY and BEENE crossing MBAS and REMO were just deadly for me ...

Anne 9:31 AM  

Andrea - thanks for your comment about McRaney - I always felt that just from watching him.

I agree with Rex about the puzzle, a little harder than usual.

And Joe Bob gave a perfect description of Haney.

You can't kick a stupid punt out of bounds? How can you not kick a punt out of bounds! 9:33 AM  

@Anon 8:42 My reaction to your complaint was to disagree with it, not as a obsequious homage to Rex, but because it makes no sense what so ever. He's rating the puzzle, not your typing, your hangover, or your puppy. What other factor can there be but time? Total time to complete a puzzle consists of typing time plus thinking time. Typing time is pretty much constant for a 15x15, any variation has to be in thinking time. So, if he just types in the first thing that came to mind when he read the clue, he's got a faster than normal time. If he has to think, skip around, re-evaluate answers, i.e. the puzzle is difficult, he takes a longer than normal time.

This puzzle was hugely difficult for me. I attribute that largely to blood loss, six hours in the ER yesterday afternoon/evening getting my wrists sewn up and convincing the Psych crew that I wasn't a danger to myself after watching the Giants give up 28 friggin points to the Eagles in 8 minutes. I don't expect that to be included in Rex's rating.

quilter1 9:35 AM  

Rate it easy for me today. I often chuckle at others' including RP's rating as it often reflects different knowledge sets and little else. Good fresh puzzle with lots to like.

Leaving cold and snowy Iowa tomorrow for San Tan Valley, AZ to spend Christmas with kids and grands so won't be posting until 2011. Have wonderful holidays, everyone, blessings to all.

captcha: hopanim. I'm hopanim 2011 is more hopeful than 2010.

Matthew G. 9:54 AM  

Like my comrade in misery at 9:33 AM, my concentration was shot for the day, if not the week, by the Giants' choke job. Except if you ask the people at the bar, they probably thought my rage sounded homicidal, not suicidal.

But anyway. That aside, Rex is absolutely right that this was a hard Monday. Probably the most difficult Monday I can recall since I became an every-day solver about six months ago. It took me almost 10 minutes, mainly because: (1) I'd never heard of Marylin MCCOO (although now that I look her up, I see that she was the lead singer of The 5th Dimension, which I've heard of, of course); (2) I eventually remembered CADGE, but it took me forever, since it's not a word I'd encountered in quite some time; (3) had PRAY instead of REST in the NE corner for a while; (4) although I guessed that 25A involved "Green Acres" in some way, I've seen maybe one episode of that show and couldn't come up with MR HANEY; and (5) wasn't sure about San REMO, either. Since MCCOO crossed CADGE and MR HANEY crossed REMO, I got noticeably stalled.

I loved the puzzle, though. I usually am disappointed when I'm done with the Sunday puzzle, because it means the next day's puzzle will be barely noticeable. It's nice when a Monday has some oomph to it.

retired_chemist 10:00 AM  

I found this easy but slow going, perhaps a contradiction in terms. Took me an extra minute to figure out why Mr. Happy Pencil was still hidden - I figured he was frightened of the upcoming eclipse and unwilling to come out and risk OOXTOPLERNON's wrath for there not being enough bad 3 letter fill.

But, no. He was hidden because I filled the NE rapidly and completely with the acrosses, making one mistake: PRAY @ 10A instead of REST, and I didn't even look at the downs. Took an extra minute to find the error. Bah.

But, other than that, it was a good Monday solve (even the 3s). What everybody who liked it said. Thank you. Ms. Hoke.

mitchs 10:06 AM  

Mr. Haney was one of the funniest tv characters this side of the Andy Griffith Show.

r.alphbunker 10:06 AM  

@anon 7:57AM

Good analysis. ACME and RP are a great good cop/bad cop team. It is good to have both.

Anonymous 10:06 AM  

@Orange, @MM
Yeah, I never said that Rex was "applying some sort of objective criteria". I'm quite clear on the concept.
I believe I said, "It's all relative to RP, and we are all external to his process".

I have no fight with Rex. I have no fight with you fine people. I merely said that this rating of Rex's has no meaning to me, and gave my reasons. No big deal.

It's Monday morning. Let's take a deep breath and start this week out on a good note?

fikink 10:11 AM  

@quilter, swing by and pick me up, would you?

@you can't kick... That is one of the funniest posts I've read in a long while. To reward your mirth, I send you to this:

Loved this MEASLY Monday puzzle. Solid, Donna!

KV, Jr. 10:17 AM  

"No wonder kids grow up crazy. A cat's cradle is nothing but a bunch of X's between somebody's hands, and little kids look and look and look at all those X's . . ."
"No damn cat, and no damn cradle."
— Kurt Vonnegut (Cat's Cradle)

SethG 10:19 AM  

I continue to be confused by people's confusion about the word "relative". If you can't type efficiently, do other things while solving, or routinely have Monday-morning hangovers, do you lose your ability to find some Monday puzzles harder or easier than other Monday puzzles? And if you don't care about such nuances and just view a Monday puzzle as "Monday", why do you care where Rex thinks this falls on his scale?

nanpilla 10:19 AM  

I liked this slightly chewier than usual Monday puzzle, and that comes straight from the horse's mouth! Being an Eagles fan, I was glad I had my rabbit's foot yesterday. A finish like that is rarer than hen's teeth!

Anonymous 10:26 AM  

The point is I don't care, and why do you care that I don't? And "relative" is not confusing to me. It means having the same key signature. Lighten up Sethy.

Two Ponies 10:47 AM  

Loved the theme. Good fill as well.
I also loved to hate Mr. Haney on Green Acres. No problem there.
@ Andrea, I have NO idea who this Mcraney person is so that would be a Saturday answer for me.
There is no Zaire anymore? I can't keep up with Africa.
Speaking of animals and dogs I am 1/4 way through Inside of a Dog by Alexandra Horowitz. Very insightful for a dog lover. It takes some concentration as it has technical data to back her observations. Recommended.

Van55 10:50 AM  

Fine puzzle.

I agree with the consensus on MRHANEY but I hardly noticed as he dropped in quietly from the down answers.

David L 11:06 AM  

Pretty average Monday for me -- would have been a tad quicker except I finished with a typo that took me ten seconds to hunt down. That's why I'll never be a speedy solver.

I had thin as AREED before finding that REED showed up elsewhere, and also had MEAGER ahead of MEASLY. Isn't the original phrase a COON'S AGE, not a DOG'S AGE? Has that one been done in by PC-ness?

Mel Ott 11:41 AM  

@Andrea: MCRANEY is just as obscure to me as MRHANEY. MCCOO too, altho I do know The 5th Dimension. But as long as they are gettable from the crosses, no complaint here.

One of the better Monday puzzles.

Glitch 12:14 PM  

Anyone remember "the good old days", when Anonomous Internet trolls were ignored and and the 3 post limit wasn't?

I think it was about 2 weeks ago ;)


Sfingi 12:22 PM  

I liked this, cuz I like animals.

Rewrites: "shut" before GROW, Minute before MEASLy.

Think SEMI should be clued as abbrev. on a Mon.

Booboo - Had aRHANEY, since I never heard of MR HANEY. My new hires had associate business degrees. Bosses had the Masters.

When I saw CADGE, I thought of what they call single cigarettes here - "loosies." Some stores have gotten into Federal trouble selling cigarettes this way.

Loved the 5th Dimension back in the day. Smooth.

@Tobias - You had a Natick, but OSWOB.

IAGO's back.

SanREMO (one word) is also cluable
as the location of Italy's annual music festival. And, who is Saint Remo? Just means hermit saint.

@Andrea - I've actually made compounded mistakes with 3 incorrect, but plausible, answers.

Stan 12:37 PM  

Subsidiary animals: Asp, Stag, Nessie, Dolly, Otto. Bird references: Ospreys, Quill, a Rail, McCoo?

Thanks, Donna and Will -- the slight extra difficulty made it more engaging than the usual Monday.

Big D Rich 12:39 PM  

Mr. Haney is easily one of my top 5 all-time favorite sitcom characters. But I still did a double-take when I saw the clue. "Surely it's not MRHANEY on a Monday?" When it fit, I donned the biggest grin. People at Starbucks must have thought I'd gone mad.

Mr. Haney: "This house was designed by Frank Lloyd."
Mr. Douglas: "Frank Lloyd?"
Mr. Haney: "Right."

Gratituous and Inappropriate Commas 1:01 PM  

My favorite comment, of the day, goes, unfortunately, to the robo-commenter, Real Money Online Slots

jyp0625 1:46 PM  

When amateurs like me cannot complete the Monday puzzle without Googling a few answers then I say the puzzle is more challenging than a typical Monday. So I am with Rex on this.

Doc John 2:07 PM  

Glad to see that Rex didn't just blaze through the puzzle.
Finally, to the football fan: it's just a game. The Giants don't get all upset when you have a bad day, do they?

Anonymous 2:18 PM  

Following up on my 12:19 A.M. post, I note that the Giant’s punter is named Dodge, which he was apparently trying to do when caught by Tom Coughlin seconds after the game ended last night. It appeared on TV that the conversation between the two was a trifle one-sided. There is a report today that the punter is missing but the Giants haven’t determined if he committed suicide or was shot trying to escape Coughlin....

Rex’s ratings are relative to Rex. My ratings are relative to me. Sometimes they coincide but often Rex finds these things much easier than I do and I sometimes find his ratings a trifle absurd....

Now where did I put that egg timer....

Sparky 2:53 PM  

Well, I liked it. Did my acrosses and downs, went back and filled in holes. MRHANEY came with crosses. Perhaps a bit for those of a certain age. Agree w/ReX re POSTMAN clue. It's a book first.

My Erasermates are giving me trouble. They dry up and I throw some out. I need to be able to erase my entries. Any suggestions? Appreciate your help.

Have a good lunar eclipse, wherever you are.

Sfingi 3:06 PM  

@Stan - glad you added that. I didn't cuz I was afraid I'd miss some. Well populated puzzle.
My squirrels just wore a path in the snow from the base of the evergreen to my porch. They share with the bluejays.

RushS 3:36 PM  

Good for a Mon. Thanks KV,jr and fiknik for the needed laffs

ANON B 3:45 PM  

To Anonymous:
Today must set a world's record
for nitpicking, re:relative
Now, where have you heard that before?

sanfranman59 3:51 PM  

Midday report of relative difficulty (see my 7/30/2009 post for an explanation of my method):

All solvers (median solve time, average for day of week, ratio, percentile, rating)

Mon 7:29, 6:55, 1.08, 79%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 4:11, 3:42, 1.13, 91%, Challenging

ksquare 5:23 PM  

I'm not in a race with Rex to solve the puzzle. My pleasure is in completing it without consulting

Rex or Google. When I'm stuck it's "If at first you don't succeed, f___ it!".
Does anyone else suspect a Darwinian connection to a Monkey's Uncle?
Also I enjoy reading these comments which are as interesting and informative as the puzzle.

rex or

Shamik 5:24 PM  

3:34 makes this an easy-medium...almost easy puzzle for a Monday for me. And MRHANEY? Truly a gimme since he was the first character that truly was smarmy that I recognized as smarmy as a child.

ksquare 5:38 PM  

Please excuse the spaces in my comments above. I don't know what caused them.

Clark 6:15 PM  

@orange -- You say, "I will never understand why people persist in thinking that Rex is applying some sort of objective criteria for difficulty."

@rex said -- "If this puzzle doesn't come back with above avg. times at the end of the day, I'll eat my hat."

Hmm. Ok. So there is a certain kind of objectivity that rex does not claim and that some commentators (usually the non-regulars) take him to be claiming. But there is another kind of objectivity that Rex does claim (see above), that Rex has every right to claim, and yada, yada, yada.

chefwen 6:16 PM  

@fikink - Thanks for the biggest laugh I have had in quite a while.

quilter1 6:16 PM  

Checking to see if my new avatar shows up. It is y 7 y/o granddaughter's Christmas gift. :)

pregazoo: I won't touch it.

quilter1 6:19 PM  

Rats. I'll try again.

SethG 7:20 PM  

How is Rex's guess about how hard this will be for people, based on his experience solving and his estimation of how likely his experience is to be typical of that of other solvers, objective?

Seriously, if you don't care, or you don't like the way he judges that, feel free to ignore it.

If he thinks a puzzle is relatively easy and you disagree, than there will by definition be other puzzles that he thinks are relatively harder than you do. If he thinks a puzzle is relatively hard and you disagree, there must be other puzzles that he finds relatively easier than you do.

If only we could get back to discussing animals and quilts and 1960's TV...

Noam D. Elkies 7:47 PM  

5A:MCCOO, really? And on a Monday? McWho is that? I'd rather have a five-letter Roman numeral. Hey, MCCLI works!


quilter1 7:49 PM  

Try, try again.

joho 8:07 PM  

@quilter1 ... such a beautiful gift! I hope you have a lovely time away with family in the sun. It is freezing here in Ohio!

mmorgan 8:17 PM  

@SanFranMan59's data confirms Rex's prediction. His hat is safe. (Oops, does this comment make me a sycophant?)

It seems to me that it is perfectly appropriate and reasonable to discuss the fact that some of us may find a particular puzzle easy/hard and some the reverse, and analyzing the differences between our experiences and Rex's is also reasonable (hey, it's his blog). One of the Anon's
seemed to put an unpleasant edge on this sort of discussion today... but I very much appreciate his/her 10:06 let's take a deep breath/why can't we all get along comment.

As I said a week or so ago -- can you imagine all of us in the same room?? The mind boggles.

@ksquare: I enjoyed your spaces.

Anonymous 8:37 PM  

For you, Rex - Wordplay posted this from me:

Everyone should go to Rex Parker's blog today for a couple of reasons. 1. Yesterday over there I suggested they come here to see the great illustration of the lunar eclipse and it would be nice to reciprocate and 2. the whole debate over there is about how to rate these puzzles, which from the postings here is related to the discussion here. Besides, Rex's blog offers an interesting contrast to this blog....

John the Banished

ANON B 8:59 PM  

Re:My comment at3:45
And the beat goes on.

Under my previous pen name I was told by someone that this is not a chat room. Look over most days and
especially today and tell me what you would caheardell it.

ANON B 9:02 PM  

I don't know what happened to that
last line. I proof read it.
It should be "would call it"

ANON B 9:04 PM  

I don't know what happened to that
last line. I proof read it.
It should be "would call it"

mac 9:14 PM  

Could not post my last comment midday, and I've forgotten all about it....
Liked the puzzle a lot, most of us love a harder Monday, I suspect. Had ethos for ethic for a moment, needed crosses for almost all names, and read burn for bum. Still had a great time, in every way.
So, Seth, what did you think of the puzzle?

Anonymous 9:23 PM  

Anon B - Welcome back, Nate. A trifle late for you, no?

Ya vol mon Nate vit da nitpicking....

John the Banished

sanfranman59 10:24 PM  

This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 7/30/2009 post for an explanation. In a nutshell, the higher the ratio, the higher this week's median solve time is relative to the average for the corresponding day of the week.

All solvers (this week's median solve time, average for day of week, ratio, percentile, rating)

Mon 7:30, 6:55, 1.08, 79%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 4:04, 3:42, 1.10, 88%, Challenging

acme 10:54 PM  


There you go! you have the makings of a Monday puzzle! ;)

Here is one of the reason rating the difficulty level is important:
(of course, ultimately it's all subjective and up to Will's feel) it's a very important discussion to have, esp for constructors, bec then you can better gauge your audience and get some consistency and improve your puzzles...

The trickiest part about making a Monday as opposed to Tuesday or Wed is making sure the easiness of the theme matches with the difficulty level of the fill, and on top of that the level of the clues.
Most people I mentor, send me a puzzle with Tuesday level difficulty (theme-wise) but Fri level cluing...or Monday level themes with three or four words in the grid that you wouldn't (usually) have before a Thursday.

Plus you have to balance for age range, judgment calls on levels of education, what someone reasonably might have been exposed to, what's common knowledge, how you gauge that, how to make the downs then work if the across clues are on the obscure side, plus how much fun it is to learn things, and on and on and on and on...

Before this blog, the sole judge of whom you tried to please (besides yourself) was the editor.
This blog has wildly enlightened (me) as to who the audience is, what they think, what skews hard or a gimme...
even after you factor in whether or not someone would even bother to write in about something.

Or worse, as a writer, you would only hear negatives if someone was peeved enough to write to the publication...or to tell you why something was wrong.
(The crossword I used to create for a Jewish Weekly a few times a year killed bec they never heard a peep pro or con...
and when I wrote for Disney, I ONLY got feedback when it was negative, like they'd warn me I couldn't put LIBRA in a grid because horoscopes were tied to the occult and other such nonsense.)

So this kind of discussion as to what one man thinks (+ 100 folks who regularly write in) is INVALUABLE (at least to me and I imagine other constructors who aren't afraid of real feedback yea or nay), even tho it can be wildly subjective and incomplete on so many other levels.

Tee hee on "good cop/bad cop" analogy!!! ;)
I mean, I think I actually tend to agree with Rex more often than not!
Like everyone out there, I'm just trying to give a different perspective: female, older, pen- and-paper solving, Jewish, Minnesotan, Scrabble-loving, sports-wtf?er, occasional constructor's point of view.

I just weigh in so often, not bec I get paypal kickback's from Rex, but bec I take the puzzle very very very seriously and think this blog is the best thing to have ever happened to the NY Times (and in some ways to me) ;)

I'll say to you what folks say to me: Don't take it personally! Easily-irritated people need to rethink slinging around the word "sycophant" if they can't differentiate what is agreeing and feeling excited that someone shares your outlook and what is obsequiously (sp?) kowtowing!

ANON B 10:56 PM  

To ANONYMOUS at 9:23

You're too darn smart.
As I think I said before, I still like to read the comments.
As far as quitting commenting:
who was it that said "Rome wasn't
built in a day"?

mac 8:20 AM  

At the risk of being called a sycophant, GREAT comment, Andrea!

@NATE B: welcome back. Admit it, you are addicted, like a lot of us.

inshead: better than behind the shead;-)

donkos 11:14 AM  

I would have loved this puzzle for a Wednesday - though I did enjoy working it. Dating myself (by oh about 30 years) but I got Mr Haney right off with no crosses. Sometimes being old has its advantages :)

ANON B 1:34 PM  

I finally figured out where
EREIMANIASET comes from but I can't
understand why you combined three
separate, non-touching entries into
one "Partial Experience".
I'm not even sure I phrased the
the question properly.

ANON B 1:38 PM  


Scooter Libby got 30 months (later commuted) for "outing" Valerie Plame. I wonder how much
you should get for "outing" me.

Anonymous 1:41 PM  

Nate, everyone knows. You're not amusing. Go back to bed.

GILL I. 1:31 PM  

Coming to you live on Jan 24.
My gauge of difficulty comes from my daughter's mouth. In today's puzzle (12/20) she rated it medium/challenging - (what a coincidence).
After prodding both our daughter (age 23) and son (32) to do the NYT puzzles, we have a puzzle fest in the kitchen when we all get together.
They both started doing them about 2 years ago after watching me spend countless hours on crosswords.
I'll never forget son calling out "mom, what's a 4 letter word for 'King of Norway.'" I, expounding on a Rexism and said "It's Olaf, commit it to memory; it's crosswordese."
@fikink - you'll probably never see this but the animal voice over was hilarious; I'm still laughing
P.S. poor Nate.

fikink 1:41 PM  

@Gil.I.Pollas - I did, indeed, see your post - it just came across my Blackberry.
And how fortuitous! I was trying to remember what day I posted the animals; I needed a Monday morning laugh!
Did Al ever turn up?

GILL I. 1:51 PM  

Yay. I'm alive.
Gracias @fikink.

Anonymous 3:54 PM  

25A: Farmer-turned-con man in a 1960s sitcom

Mr. Haney.

He would drive his wagon full of junk over to Mr. Douglas' house and he would say HELLO THERE MR DOUGLAS! Mr Douglas would reply What do you want Haney! Haney could have all the parts from all the washing machines in Green Acres and he would be lucky if he had one that worked. He was always selling junk.
Mr Haney

NotalwaysrightBill 6:41 PM  

Syndi-late. Again. Will be tomorrow too.

Perhaps San REMO should be considered crosswordese by now; that's my only familiarity with the name, but I HAVE seen it often enough to have known it for this puzzle and thus get MRHANEY from the crosses. Which made today's Monpuz pretty easy.

Only nit: DOGSAGE. Never heard of it. Which doesn't mean that it's not used either seldomly or commonly somewhere; but if it's a term made up strictly for PC purposes, it just gives me one more reason to hate PC. The rewriting of HUCK FINN and the lexicon and everything else is absolutely sickening to me. Big IF and I'm quite willing to be enlightened regarding the use of "Dog's Age" in real, UNREGIMENTED and not-so-narrow-a-set-of-contexts-as-to-make-it-unfitting-for-a-Monpuz life.

Love the diversity of solving experiences reported on here by all the contributors. Thanks to @acme for telling how she puts much of that to work, but also especially to Rex for making this blog a possibility in the first place and then for his daily hanging his shit in the wind as a target for every bit of nonsense any of us can dream up. Remarkable. And ordinarily well fielded.

So sorry that Vonnegut never saw the cat nor the cradle. Neither have I, ever; but I imagine that someone did, once; and it seems to me to be a bit presumptuous to say that it's not there just because YOU'VE never seen it. But, if that's your bent, try NOT seeing the CROW'S FEET that is a mandatory manufacture in any good round of CATSCRADLE. Of course I'm waxing a bit nostalgic for something I haven't played in a coon's age. But now, thanks to today's puzzle, I'm gonna keep my eye open for a good book on the maniform possibilities of the unidimensional stretched between the hands. Those whose sympathies on the the matter are akin to Dr. Samuel Johnson ("Knotting ought to reckoned, on the scale of insignificance, next to mere idleness."): who asked ya?

Lurking, Just Behind You 3:09 PM  


Syndicated Solver....

Steelers INDEED!

My 2 favorite teams are in the Superb Bowl.

GILL I. 3:36 PM  

@Lurking, Just Behind You
I'm really a 49ers fan at heart. I'm crossing my fingers that Harbaugh will bring them back to fame.
However since the Steelers were't really picked to win its division and being the underdog, I want them to win a 7th Super Bowl Title.
Rex, sorry this is off topic but I don't think too many might mind?

lodsf 1:00 AM  

Syndication late
Loved today’s (12/20/10 on 1/25/11) puzzle. For me, lots of ‘fresh’ words such as Cranky / Cadge / Ethic / Rotunda. Liked Arail & Ariel in the same puzzle placed ‘on top of each other’ at the top (15A Thin as a ---) and bottom (63A Disney’s Mermaid). I’m ‘of the demographic’, but had never heard of Mr. Haney but checked all the downs and, there he was -- mrharney. I didn’t remember Ms. McCoo either, so thanks Donna Hoke for the good crosses and thanks Rex for the audio refreshers.
And by the way, thanks Andrea for your comment on comments; I thought it was interesting & enlightening.
And by the non-puzzle way, the phonetically correct spelling for that football team would be Stillers (v. Steelers)… dredged up from my long-ago Pittsburgh roots.

Unknown 2:02 AM  

First time I commented in a blog! I really enjoy it. You have an awesome post. Please do more articles like this. I'm gonna come back surely. God bless.

Unknown 8:37 PM  

Do one thing everyday that scares you.

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