Dreaded mosquito / TUE 1-18-11 / Dream Lohengrin aria / Simpleton in Archie comics / Public diplomacy broadcast org until 1999 / Ophthalmic swelling

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Constructor: Gary J. Whitehead

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: "AMEN to THAT!" — Word ladder going from AMEN to THAT, a literal representation of the colloquial phase "AMEN to THAT," which is referred to in the central answers: "I HEAR YA!" (36A: "1-Across [AMEN] to 63-Across [THAT]")

Word of the Day: AEDES (33D: Dreaded mosquito) —

Aedes is a genus of mosquito originally found in tropical and subtropical zones, but has spread by human activity to all continents excluding Antarctica. Several of the species transmit important human diseases and one species, Aedes albopictus, is the most invasive mosquito in the world. The name comes from the Ancient Greek aēdēs, meaning "unpleasant" or "odious", so called because of the diseases this type of mosquito transmits, including dengue fever and yellow fever. In Polynesia, the species Aedes polynesiensis is responsible for the transmission of human lymphatic filariasis including species of Brugia as well as others. Some species of Aedes (e.g. the Asian tiger mosquito) have only recently been introduced to the US. (wikipedia)
• • •

This is a good example of a cute idea gone horribly awry. Constructors notice colloquial phrases all the time—pay attention to the language as people use it, and new and interesting crossword themes will reveal themselves to you. It's true. So today we start with the phrase "AMEN to THAT!" — sassy, fresh, *and* (if you look hard enough) kind of daring you to turn it into a word ladder. The question is: should you? The answer: maybe. Maybe not.

So a word ladder is a chain of words where each successive word has one letter changed until the original word arrives at a completely different, but somehow related, word. I've seen "From SOUP to NUTS" illustrated this way in a word ladder puzzle. Today, we go AMEN to THAT (with the nice tie-it-all-together answer in the middle). The problem ... well, the first, minor problem is my own—I think word ladders are dull, and kind of played out. Old hat. As theme answers, the individual steps on the ladder are hard to get excited about ("Oh look ... DEES! That's ... something!"). So, though there are many steps on this ladder, and the concept of the ladder is interesting, we start off in dullsville, at least for me.

The much bigger problem for me, today, is how patently subpar the fill is. As my wife can tell you, I was audibly groaning from the outset. From the variant APPAL at 1D (1D: Horrify: Var.) to nearby ELSA'S (crosswordese of a very high order) (3D: "___ Dream" ("Lohengrin" aria)) to the quintessential crosswordese ERSE (7D: Gaelic tongue) — all within two inches of each other — the grid is just rough. Rough. Awkward plurals right next to each other (ENES, NONS), a crosswordese convention in the western section, and then ... whatever is happening in the east (train wreck). SODDY? Come on. And crossing AEDES!?!? What the hell? No idea what USIA is (60A: Public diplomacy broadcast org. until 1999) (looking up ... United States Information Agency). Then there's just the general dullness of stuff like ASSESS and ENROLLEE and PAYER. No idea who says SOCKEROO, but at least that answer is kind of lively. POSTSEASON and ULTRASOUND (56A: Ob/gyn's image) are admirably solid (and POSTSEASON is timely, footballwise). But overall, the pervasive weakness of the fill made the experience much less than enjoyable.

The Ladder:
  • AMEN
  • OMEN
  • OVEN
  • EVEN
  • EVES
  • EYES
  • DYES (41A: Does some batiking)
  • DEES
  • TEES
  • TEAS
  • TEAT
  • THAT
  • 49D: Ephesus' region (IONIA) — very crossword common because of its voweliness.
  • 52D: "Our Gang" pooch (PETE) — I thought it was PETEY—and it was; just not formally, I guess.
  • 2D: Simpleton in "Archie" comics (MOOSE) — ashamed I didn't get this straight off. Daughter reads nearly every "Archie" comic there is. And yet with the "M" in place, I could think only of MIDGE (MOOSE's girlfriend).
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


Anonymous 12:07 AM  

@Rex - AMEN to THAT!

The only golf greens that are SODDY are the ones on brand new courses not yet open for play.

OAKS produce acorns for squirrels, but I bet they can live in any tree.

POST SEASON should really be BEAR SEASON...

Go Bears…I HEAR YA….

Anonymous 12:07 AM  

Completely agree with Rex.

Arthur 12:09 AM  

This puzzle was like those dumb-assed Family Circus cartoons, where Billy & Barfy come home from school, traipsing all over the place, getting nowhere fast. AMEN/TMEN/THEN/THAN/THAT. If you've got to do a word ladder of four letter words, there you go. Is this a hidden AA theme, where there are 12 steps when 5 would do?

Anonymous 12:18 AM  

and i thought "epee" was a fencing sword... not the name of the actual sport. cheap.

Tobias Duncan 12:22 AM  

I am so glad Rex ripped this puzzle a new one.This felt tired and clunky and out of date, kidna like an old whitehead wrote it. I said it last week and I will say it again, Monday Tuesday puzzles should be first and foremost for the new solvers! This is how you get new blood. I printed out a stack of these for the my coffee shop friends tomorrow and I have to warn them its another toughie.Geez Will you are making it hard to peddle the puzzle to newbies.
A while back someone said that Will did not have enough early week puzzles to choose from because constructors were not interested in making them. I have an idea , why dont you pay some real cackadoodie money to the dang constructors! They could double the payment and still be raping them blind.
Ok rant off.

Matthew G. 12:30 AM  

I am sad to say I concur with Rex 100%. This one felt like it just got away from the constructor.

I have never been a fan of word ladders — I'm not saying they can't be made fresh or interesting, but it's hard to see how. And here, there's such a weird disconnect in difficulty between the theme and the fill. I got the theme after two slots, and roared through the rest of the theme ladder. I then dragged my feet the rest of the way through the horrible fill.

SODDY may be a word, but I'm doubtful. But the really unforgivable entry here is GO-CART. Nobody spells it that way. Google it. It's GO-KART. If you type in GO-CART, not only does it ask if you meant GO-KART, it still returns mostly GO-KART results _anyway_. Weakest entry I've seen in a NYT grid in some time.

So it all felt very unbalanced, with a too-easy theme caused by a too-easy-to-see ladder, mixed with too-hard fill that was hard from being intolerably obscure, not from being interesting or well-clues.

This puzzle was a mess, and I guess the constructor just couldn't make himself walk away from a good idea that just wasnt't clicking. My least favorite puzzle in many weeks.

Evan 12:39 AM  

Don't forget EWE crossing EWER in the west. That's just LAZY grid design, if'n you ask me. Whenever I construct my puzzles, I obsessively check to see if there are any repeat words. Some repeats you can let go if the design is open and ambitious enough, but seriously, the entire word of EWE is contained in EWER, they cross each other, and it's in a 3x4 section that could be easily modified. Just change PAW to PAD and you get EWE crossing EDER, a river in Germany; or change EWE to SWE for the abbreviation for Sweden. Problem solved.

Was a fan of both EMERALDS and POSTSEASON, however.

Evan 12:42 AM  

Oh, and you'd have to change PAW to LAW if you went with my suggested EWE/SWE change to get ELSE at 30D. I stand by my aversion of repeated words crossing each other, especially when they're so small.

Evan 12:46 AM  

Or, better yet (and I swear this will be my last comment on the west), change 30D to ERIE, 31D to YARN, and you get a west section that looks like this:


Clean, easy, no repeats or abbreviations.

foodie 1:22 AM  

An AMEN to Rex all the way from Copenhagen. I thought I was time shifted and sleep deprived, the way I was feeling about the fill. That SODDY area in the middle definitely needed some reworking!

I also did not live the positioning of the ladder components...I guess not all clever ideas work out...

chefwen 1:25 AM  

SODDY, SOCKEROO, I'm with the majority (so far) in not particularly liking this one. It was a little more tough than your average Tuesday, which is fine, but not a lot to love. SODDY????

Still open to a wager ANON da Bears Guy. Send me an email. Go Pack!

ArtLvr 1:28 AM  

Ah, Mrs. Lincoln, apart from not caring for the play (of word-ladders, that is), how was the evening? That bad? No fun at all? Just a YAWN?

I thought it had some bright spots anyway, like the KNAVERY, but I HEAR YA. It wasn't quite obvious what the little stars meant, AMEN to THAT.

And I did have a mistyping error at 20A which thus read ASS WHOLE. Other than this, no side SPLITS, no big SOCKEROO, some of DESE but no dis and NO DAT. Sorta SODDY.

VIVE le Rex....


andrea coalbin michaels 1:45 AM  

love your comment! ASS WHOLE!!!

yes, wonderful idea that was a bit SODDY all around...but rather than pile on,
(altho what about NODAT!?!)
I will make the sad side note that
38A ZSA in addition to having one of her Zsa's cut off, has also just had a leg amputated :(

7thecow 1:47 AM  

@Artlvr, I had a side SPLIT when I read your post. Sometimes the mistakes are the most fun.
My only groan was GOO- melted chocolate is ganache and delicious, GOO seems more disgusting- melted rubber, e.g.

Anonymous 2:10 AM  


"Oh, geez"


more groans, mumbles

"This puzzle is barfy. LESIONS, STYE, GOO."

"I can't believe A TIT and TEAT in the same puzzle."

"Isn't the 'Our Gang" dog named Petey?"


"Who in the hell says 'SOCKEROO' ?

"EWE crossing EWER -- how crappy is that?"

"DEES and DESE, oh boy...."

'Hey, this line has ASAWHOLE and ASSESS. Think I'll rearrange it."

"SHOD, SODDY.......shoddy."


Rube 3:00 AM  

I should have suspected a subpar puzzle when SOCKEROO came into view. Unfortunately I didn't know AEDES so HTG, giving SODDY! Unforgivable.

On the plus side, for me, there were only 2 semi pop culture answers, LEIA and NEO. Both gimmes for most of us.

Stephen 4:21 AM  

I liked the theme. It worked; it had solving power. I'm sorta new to Xwords, so maybe I haven't burned out on word ladders yet. But Rex seems too hard on them. Would you rather have *no* theme? This one had a very cute double entendre to go with it!

A tacit agreement, to me, is one that is confirmed by inaction, not one that is unvoiced. I have seen my kids proceed to NOD AT some suggestion with such enthusiasm that it would be impossible to label their agreement as "tacit". Silent agreement, yes. But that's different, and what the clue should have been.

As for SOCKEROO... that was not a huge success.

r.alphbunker 4:27 AM  

Maybe the reason this puzzle stinks is because it is a two HOLEr.

acme 5:43 AM  

Northern Californians, check out svpuzzle.org Jan 29-30! Free workshops and crossword tournament with NY Times puzzles...and Tyler Hinman among others!!!!!!!!!

imsdave 7:12 AM  

I tried SANDY for SODDY. At least that makes some sense (sand is frequently thrown on the green from the traps surrounding them, and when greens are aerated, they are dressed with sand).

Nothing else to say.

Bermuda made me too lazy to sign in 7:31 AM  

Just garbage in the middle. Awful. Even doing it in Bermuda didn't help.

p.s. EPEE, SODDY very badly clued. Very.

Next, please.

hazel 7:39 AM  

like word ladders. probably because they remind me of a simpler time (like doing word puzzles when i was a tween, before there was even the word tween. life was all windshield then. no rearview. also really liked the reveal here.

can't muster any hate for the iffy words. they just didn't bug me. thought the WOTD bug was kind of tricky. had never heard of it.

Looks like its just one lone thumbs up so far.

Glimmerglass 7:46 AM  

Poor quality fill and cluing. I agree with Rex and Matthew G. D+ puzzle, even though the theme is well executed (that's the +, I guess).

pauer 7:47 AM  

Wow - tough room. I just got caught up and did Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday all in a row. I was behind thanks to the MIT Mystery Hunt, which was a blast (and my team won, so now we get to write next year's hunt). Quick write-up at my site (and a video of the show my band did on 1/12 right below):

Check it out. One and out.

joho 8:24 AM  

I didn't have a typo but when I saw ASAWHOLE_ASSESS ASSWHOLE popped into my mind giving this puzzle its shining moment for me.

Everything has been said from SODDY to the glaring "C" in GOCART.

Onward to Wednesday and AMEN to THAT!

Bil Peachy Keen 8:28 AM  

Well, they liked it over on Wordplay blog, and you know how tough that blogger and crowd can be.

The Family Circus mom is pretty hot.

The Big E 8:44 AM  

Agree with the masses here - not a particularly challenging or exciting puzzle. Snore-fest.
That said, there was one bright spot for me - the cluing of "Moose."
Was a bit nostalgic thinking of all those Archie comic books I read growing up! :-)
Happy Tuesday!

JaxInL.A. 8:47 AM  

I did not hate it the way that many here did. It was okay, though heavy in crosswordese. And I don't mind word ladders, though this one did seem labored. I had other problems, though. Stupid ones.

My trouble was the NE. I am not a sports fan and so had ____SEASON for the longest time and could not come up with POST. Haven't read Archie for 30 years and forgot all about MOOSE. My plow horse was SlOw, my simpletons were NInnIeS, and even though I like opera, I can't do Wagner. HTG three times to fill in the NW.

I admire @Tobias for bringing new silvers into the fold.

@Andrea Coalbin: ouch!

David L 8:51 AM  

Well, I liked the word ladder and the theme answer at 36A. But I agree with most everyone on the dodginess of some of the fill and clues. AEDES is fine, but not really a Tuesday word. SODDY is just lamentable -- could have been clued as the well-known (to me anyway!) colleague of Ernest Rutherford who helped establish the existence of isotopes.

fikink 8:54 AM  

First post from an iPad and I am finding it the more entertaining part of my morning.
ASSWHOLE my favorite wrong answer,
Sucks to SODDY,
And thumbs up for KNAVERY

Agree w/Hazel - Nice reveal

Overall, tho, I hear you knockin', but you can't come in.

John V 9:06 AM  

Had to Google Aedes mosquito and then saw the theme.

However, big deal for me about this one is that the dead tree edition is printed ***across the fold***!!!! WTF? Hello, Will? This is a crime against nature!!!

dk 9:08 AM  

Ditto Rex, the blogettes and errs.

* (1 Star) I did like ASAWHOLE .. Brooklynese for sphincter and TEAT dkese for snicker.

dk 9:08 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
retired_chemist 9:15 AM  

What everybody said. Didn't like it any better than the rest of you. An as yet unvoiced complaint: EWERs, I thought, were used for wash water on nightstands a hundred years ago. If for drinking water, surely someone will correct this.

Most fun in this puzzle: having explained to non-puzzle wife on Sunday the irksome "half a [something]" clue (TSE, CAN, ZSA), using ZSA as an example since her unfortunate situation was in the news, then having it come up so soon after. Kind of a malapop by proxy.

Anonymous 9:20 AM  

As a golfer, I am appalled by the cluing of 40 across. Golf greens are seeded, never sodded.

r.alphbunker 9:21 AM  

I liked your windshield/rear window distinction and would like to apply it to crossword puzzles. When I am solving the puzzle that is the windshield. Commenting on it is the rear window.

In windshield mode crosswordese is like the bugs that sometimes land there. Unless there is some biblical plague going on the bugs really don't spoil the view that much. I can still see the theme through them and enjoy it. In rear window mode you are outside the car looking back at the mess.

So the flaws mentioned so far did not really bother me. The puzzle took me longer than usual for a Tuesday and it was fun figuring out the revealer.

I remember reading a Richard Bach book a long time ago about a pilot so skilled that his windshield never had bugs on it. Constructors like Patrick Berry, Frank Longo, Mike Shenk, Peter Gordon, BEQ, etc. are like that pilot.

chefbea 9:23 AM  

Got the word ladder but didn't understand the theme til I got here.

All in all a pretty dull puzzle

CaseAce 9:38 AM  

Just looking at the pic of the Aedes mosquito, appended to the blog, kinda gives me the dreads...that is one truly nasty-looking sucker!

jackj 9:49 AM  

Seems like constructor and editor became so wrapped up in the theme, they didn't waste a lot of time on the fill.

A little example to help perk it up, instead of the super boring "Poor grades", give the early weekers a little more respect with something like "Sandra and Ruby", then, at least, ditch AEDES and SODDY.

Look Up Guy 9:51 AM  

[Continuing a tradition of FWIW comments without interpretation]

Definitions of GO-CART on the Web:

•walker: an enclosing framework on casters or wheels; helps babies learn to walk
•handcart: wheeled vehicle that can be pushed by a person; may have one or two or four wheels; "he used a handcart to carry the rocks away"; "their pushcart was piled high with groceries"
•baby buggy: a small vehicle with four wheels in which a baby or child is pushed around

Definitions of GO-KART on the Web:

•a small low motor vehicle with four wheels and an open framework; used for racing

•Kart racing or karting is a variant of open-wheel motor sport with small, open, four-wheeled vehicles called karts, go-karts, or gearbox/shifter karts depending on the design. They are usually raced on scaled-down circuits. ...

archaeoprof 9:58 AM  

A real dud, no doubt about it.

But all is not lost.

Check out the article in today's NYT Science section about a border collie's language skills.

(full disclosure: that work took place at the college where I teach)

quilter1 10:00 AM  

I did not like this one bit. For me the path of most resistance. Resisted SODDY (this can't be right), GOCART (should be a K), EWER crossing EWE (isn't there a rule against this?) and more. Never saw the word ladder and hated the TEES, DEES, TEAS AND TEAT. ENROLLEE and PAYER seem forced. I've seldom had this negative reaction to a puzzle. Wah! I want a different one.

On a happier note, in a follow up to last week's BANANA CAKE today I am making yellow cake with fudge frosting for tomorrow's music lunch, my weekly volunteer task. Take care all.

Samantha 10:04 AM  

*grumble* My least favorite crossword filler of all time? EPEE. As has been pointed out, it's poorly clued ... fencing is the sport, whereas epee is one of three weapons. They do have different rules, and one generally says "I fence epee (or foil, or sabre)", but still, that doesn't exactly make them interchangeable.

Why can't constructors pick on FOILists for a while? It still has four letters ... it's those damn double Es, I guess.

/disgruntled EPEEist

Lindsay 10:17 AM  

Completely agree on GO-?ART. I actually wasted time wondering if Will was going for SOKKEROO. Ugh.

@retired_chemist: I believe you'd prefer to keep your ewer on a washstand. Nightstands were used to store chamber pots.

retired_chemist 10:24 AM  

@ Lindsay - thanks. Apparently even I am insufficiently ancient to have known that.

WilsonTisdale 10:29 AM  

Moose is the one who didn't wear a beanie.

Van55 10:38 AM  

I didn't hate the word ladder and theme. The bad of the grid, however, is really really bad.

@Rex. Are you going to post any kind of accounting for your pledge/donation week? How much do you need to keep the blog up for a year? How much did you raise? Do you need any more financial support? If you raised a surplus, what will you do with it?

treedweller 10:42 AM  

I was struck most by how long I took to get any answers--on a Tuesday! Though surprising, I was prepared to call this a good thing, since the easy ones are hardly worth the effort lots of times.

I didn't love everything, but wasn't hating, either, till I got to the last square. I stared at the SODDY/AEDES cross until I decided I just did not care and came to see what Rex had. Didn't help that I convinced myself "key" could be InLET. With the S in place, I might have tried SODDY, but I still would have Hated It. Soddy, no love today.

Two Ponies 10:47 AM  

Really too bad to have to endure what seemed to be every overused bit of crosswordese for the payoff.
I hear ya tied to Amen to that worked just fine but the rest? Yawn.
Printing the puzzle across the fold is inexcusable.
I agree with almost everyone.
No matter which table you use a ewer is for washing.
Soddy and Go-Kart have been covered well enough.
@ Tobias Duncan, I like your phrase "old whitehead." I usually say "bluehair" but that's just for old ladies.
Now off to read about that border collie in the science section.

Two Ponies 10:53 AM  

Oh, almost forgot, I thought the simpleton in Archie was Jughead. Forgot about Moose. And that dog is Petey!

Anonymous 11:16 AM  

If you don’t mind a word ladder, then this puzzle ain’t all that bad, especially for a Tuesday. There are some fresh words as well as some quirky ones.

AS A WHOLE is an extra because you need to look at the whole puzzle for the theme.

POST SEASON is timely, if nothing else.

LESIONS conjures up some unpleasantness.

COAL BIN is a great misdirection for GAS TANK.

ULTRA SOUND conjures up some other kind of image.

I don’t know KNAVERY but it sounds like medieval CHILVARY in reverse.

What about ODISTS and ODESSA making for an OD couple?

And you gotta love NIT WITS! I suspect that one’s for the nitpickers.

If there is any real flaw it is in the theme itself. Is AMEN to THAT the same as I HEAR YA? I’m not sure. AMEN to THAT suggests you agree with something said but I HEAR YA suggests you hear something but do not necessarily agree with it, IMO. But the theme shows some original thought and deserves some credit for that, especially for a Tuesday....

Anonymous 11:16 AM  

If you don’t mind a word ladder, then this puzzle ain’t all that bad, especially for a Tuesday. There are some fresh words as well as some quirky ones.

AS A WHOLE is an extra because you need to look at the whole puzzle for the theme.

POST SEASON is timely, if nothing else.

LESIONS conjures up some unpleasantness.

COAL BIN is a great misdirection for GAS TANK.

ULTRA SOUND conjures up some other kind of image.

I don’t know KNAVERY but it sounds like medieval CHILVARY in reverse.

What about ODISTS and ODESSA making for an OD couple?

And you gotta love NIT WITS! I suspect that one’s for the nitpickers.

If there is any real flaw it is in the theme itself. Is AMEN to THAT the same as I HEAR YA? I’m not sure. AMEN to THAT suggests you agree with something said but I HEAR YA suggests you hear something but do not necessarily agree with it, IMO. But the theme shows some original thought and deserves some credit for that, especially for a Tuesday....

Unknown 11:23 AM  

Shouldn't it be a Go-Kart?

Anonymous 11:31 AM  

With "DEES," a big opportunity was missed to include "Disco Duck" in a clue. Very sad.

Shamik 11:41 AM  

Easy and meh with nothing to add to the discussion except an opinion.

Sparky 11:58 AM  

Same as above. Took me a while to realize there was a ladder. Didn't like SODDY or GOO. @quilter1, hold a slice for me, yum.

John V 12:01 PM  

Have confirmed with the Times that the printing of this morning's puzzle over top of the fold was a human error and not a design change. Puzzle will remain in the corner. Life is good again, at least for we MetroNorth solvers.

Masked and Anonymous 12:33 PM  

1. AMEN to THAT = IHEARYA. Cute idea.
2. Puz takes its own sweet soddy time gettin' from AMEN to THAT. Just go AMEN-TMEN-THEN-THAN-THAT. Done and done.
3. Puz does go from DEES to THAT in a prompt manner. But DEES in down on line 11, already.
4. WUrd of the day = UltrasoUnd. Primo!
5. Actually, pretty fresh vocab, for a TuesPuz. So enjoyed the challenge of amen, er,...that.

Maybe the time has come to add some new pazzazz to the old word ladder scheme. This crowd is definitely ready for it. How about, say, goin' from a short word to a real long one, addin' one letter at time? Sorta like words on Viagra. Gotta be some gold there to mine. You betcha.

william e emba 12:43 PM  

The most exciting moment in the puzzle for this solver was seeing the one clue and its answer that happened to be the theme from this past Sunday's Acrostic.

I guess there are no Sarah Comstock fans here? Hello? Hello?

mac 12:54 PM  

My favorite word ladder, a long time ago, actually looked like a staircase.
I got the theme immediately, how not, with amen, omen and oven. Actually filled most of the starred clue answers in right away.

"Emeralds" were the only gems in this puzzle.

MOR 1:01 PM  

Leaving aside the puzzle itself, I object to its placement across the fold in today's paper. I urge everyone to write the Times, requesting that the puzzle be placed either above or below the fold, not astraddle.

John V 1:11 PM  

@MOR See my second comment.


PlantieBea 1:24 PM  

The word ladder and its reveal were okay, but there's nothing I can add add to the rest, especially SHODdy SODDY.

Arthur 1:42 PM  

Re SHOD - Of all the classifications of horses, plow horses are the least likely to be SHOD outside of yearlings, retireees or lawn ornaments. Shoes are an unnecessary expense and provide no additional utility to plow horses. ANY other classification, e.g. carriage horses, show horses, race horses, etc would work.

CoffeeLvr 2:15 PM  

I did my puzzle in the bathtub, after printing it out of course, and it got SOggY. Seemed to take a very long time for a Tuesday. First thing I did was circle all the asterisks, then promptly forgot about them until the grid was complete. Only then did I see the word ladder.

Agree with some of the carps, but ASAWHOLE it was clever. Liked POSTSEASON, NITWITS, COALBIN, LESIONS, ULTRASOUND, and my birthstone, EMERALDS.

@RP, you picked the right WOD!

andrea non nons michaels 2:16 PM  

Now I'm sort of intrigued and gonna take a deep breath and look at what was odd about the puzzle from a different point of view, bec it is amazing how much folks didn't like it...
Poor Gary! I wonder if any of the feedback above will be constructive or if it's all been SO much it will just be ignored.
Bec really, the idea was very nice.

I had SLOW NINNIES too!!! (I didn't know ELSA'S Dream so tried ELiA going for POINT something instead of POSTSEASON).
It left me with "ews" for grid stats that could be anything as far as I was concerned! But as EWE/crossed with EWER, which I already found suspect, I thought EWS couldn't be right.

Kept trying to figure out how some variation of LADDER was going to fit into the IHEARYA space (esp bec I had KNAVish and didn't know AEDES, and was reluctant not only about SODDY but even ISLET!)

Didn't any of the sports folks like DEREK over POSTSEASON over TDS?
Altho the APPAL/LESIONS cross left a strange aftertaste. Or maybe it was the whole WHOLE/HOLE, EWE/EWER, NODAT/ATIT, EPEE/ENROLLEE with two Ls for ENROLLEE but one L for APPAL.

EVen tho GOCART was a bit off, at least it wasn't PAYEE. (I tried SPORT for PAYEE, how wrong was that?)
And dying for some Scrabbly-ness I put in COALBox.
So now I'm thinking maybe part of my dislike was all the myriad mistakes I made initially even tho the theme was apparent from the second word.
This is my lame attempt to look at the puzzle a la Foodie and muse about mistakes, expectations, things that were off vs actually off in trying to figure out what went so wrong with this one in everyone's eyes...
But no excuse for being printed "on the fold", tho at least that can't be pinned on the puzzle!!!

my captcha is "mallays", is that a less fancy spelling of "malaise"? Or would there only be one L? ;)

Steve J 2:33 PM  

My first Tuesday DNF in literally many years. Had no idea on the SODDY/AEDES crossing. At that point, I was so tired of bad fill, I just said "sod it" and gave up.

Beyond that, I won't bother piling on. Many others have already covered my key complaints.

One cluing note: I can see EPEE being clued as a sport, since it is its own event at the Olympics. However, it would have better been clued as an event, since it's a subset of a greater sport, much like the 100 m dash is an event, not a sport (track being the sport).

Cathyat40 2:44 PM  

I found myself asking "was this puzzle actually hard or just lame?"; followed by "let's see what Rex has to say!"

Answer: Lame

syndy 3:32 PM  

Put in Tim for 39 across(is he in the well?) so that was my favorite wrong answer.Theme answers were so randomly placed that the ladder was hard to climb also did not finish aedes islet soddy not getable for me actually thought for awhile that the theme was crappy fill

Two Ponies 4:07 PM  

Boy, the pile of irritants of this puzzle just gets bigger as the day goes on. @Arthur above is right about plow horses NOT being shod.
I think @nanpilla could second that.
I do feel sorry for the constructor today.

sanfranman59 4:08 PM  

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

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

Tue 11:14, 8:55, 1.26, 96%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Tue 5:32, 4:35, 1.21, 95%, Challenging

This puzzle was not only frustrating to solve for all the reasons Rex points out in his write-up, but it was also uncharacteristically difficult for a Tuesday. That's a bad combination.

Anonymous 4:37 PM  

I did not even realize there was a word ladder until I got to the blog. Got stuck on the SE section. It had SOCKEROO (what the hell is that?) crossing COREA, USIA and IONEA. I refuse to memorize these obscure trivia that appear only in puzzles. COAL BIN was a nice misdirection though.
This was definitely a difficult puzzle for a Tuesday. And not very enjoyable. Agree with REX comments.

Anonymous 5:19 PM  

I thought soddy then rejected it as being completely stupid! My dead tree version did not print across the fold, so no worries there.

All in all a very unsatisfying puzzle. I agree with everything written by RP, Andrea et al.

Sfingi 5:28 PM  

HTG and DNF.

Too difficult for Tues., my opinion.

Googled for MOOSE, ELSAS, NEO, LAT, USIA. I don't usually Google on Tues, nor Google that much until Thurs-Fri.

In SE I had DivvyUp for DOLE OUT and rinSe for BRUSH til the end.
To follow "take" with THAT would be my tenth choice. On a Tues., it would need more of a clue.

I had all the letter changes except the last, so since I didn't have the first letter of IHEARYA and wondered WTF? Thought it was a special word for word ladder.

My squirrels live in dreys in many trees. Tall trees are best. One group is in a pine tree and from it's base they make a bee-line in the snow to my porch. Others are in maple and oak.

Didn't get IONIA until here. Wanted Turkey, Asia, etc.

I thought SODDY and ENROLLER were awful. Who talks like that?

Wanted fondue for my melted chocolate.

Agree with Shannon1218. But what do I know about sports?

@Cathy - difficult and lame; thus, not worth the candle

@Tobias - what do they pay puzzlers?

OK, we've whipped him with wet noodles. Is he dead yet? I'll be back in a few hours.

As @archeoprof said - we still have the Science section on a Tues.

Martin 6:10 PM  

I hate to interrupt a good feeding frenzy, but the RHUD (the primary dictionary reference for the NYT crossword) lists the little racing vehicle under "kart." The kart entry lists two synonyms, "go-cart" and "go-kart," in that order.

Please direct umbrage to:

Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary
Random House Reference and Information Publishing
1745 Broadway, 15-3
New York, NY 10019

You might add that you don't like "soddy" either. "Sodden" is already taken but perhaps you can suggest "soddish."

deerfencer 6:27 PM  

I muttered to my wife very early on that this was not a Tuesday level puzzle at all but easily a Wednesday. She agreed and had similar problems with the cluing and bad fill.

@Cathyat40: IMO the puzzle was both difficult AND lame. Very surprised Will let this one in as published.

Moonchild 7:44 PM  

I think that you guys are being too hard. I know "12 steps" has been taken over by AA but that's a long damned ladder and the center
"I hear ya" ties it together.
I'm giving Gary a pass on this one.
Tuesdays are more awkward than not and we have been appreciating the added level of difficulty lately, right?
OK, the fill was Very iffy but let's put our crabby pants back in the closet before some troll accuses this gang of being a bunch of toadies.

Rex Parker 7:53 PM  

Come on, Moonchild. "Crabby pants" is insulting. Most people simply disagree with you. Why is that so hard to take? Just offer your opinion of why they're wrong and leave it at that. Come on.

And I've never done anything because of what some hypothetical troll might do. I hope none of you do either.

I'm happy some people have felt compelled to defend the puzzle. That's the beauty of the blog — competing opinions. USA! USA!


P.S. PuzzleGirl and I constructed tomorrow's LAT puzzle, so if you want to give me a taste of my own medicine, visit "L.A. Crossword Confidential" tomorrow and let us have it! I can't wait!

Moonchild 8:06 PM  

@ Rex,
I was just trying to be whimsical.

SethG 8:23 PM  

Sockeroos play socker in Australia.

fikink 9:01 PM  

Manny Nosowsky offered a really solid NYT Tuesday on April 1, 2008, for those of you who have access to the archives.

crabby pants 9:16 PM  

man, I'm itchy.

Anonymous 9:27 PM  

@Moonchild - you were too late....

The Troll

Captcha dingu - a kind of kungfu taught dogs....

Citizen Dain 11:06 PM  

I also object strongly to the spelling of GOCART. Having the correctly spelled K instead of the incorrect C was my only wrong answer in the grid. SOKKEROO and SOCKEROO were equally nonsensical to me. Annoying.

sanfranman59 11:30 AM  

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 7:28, 6:56, 1.08, 78%, Medium-Challenging
Tue 11:30, 8:56, 1.29, 99%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:57, 3:42, 1.07, 83%, Challenging
Tue 5:29, 4:35, 1.20, 94%, Challenging

This puzzle produced the 2nd and 6th highest median solve times of the 83 Tuesdays I've tracked. These times would rate as a middle of the road Wednesday.

ges 11:55 AM  

At 90 I qualify as a whitehead.
My opinion of this puzzle is not fit to print-- stupid clues to more stupid answers.
I'm weary of comics and pop music use.
Where is Eugene Maleska when WE need him with his classics clues to classic answers? Gone but NOT forgotten by my generation!

Old we are but not stupid!

Goose 1:14 PM  

I know that no one will probably even see this comment since I'm in the 5-week delayed alternate universe of syndication, but I just have to say, I read this blog almost every day when I'm done with the puzzle, and I've never actually commented, but soddy was such a terrible answer, I just couldn't let it pass without expressing it to someone, somewhere. I love golf. I play golf. And I would NEVER describe a green as soddy. And unfortunately, as everyone else has already mentioned, this is just the worst example of many bad, bad clues and answers.

Anonymous 1:20 PM  

Anon I can't say the puzzle made me smile,but all of your comments did.... :) Happy Tuesday

Dirigonzo 3:45 PM  

Themes usually elude me until the very end (or often, until I come here) but I detected the word ladder after AMEN and OMEN so I filled in the rest of the starred clues (I hesitated at TEAT, but only for a second) and that made the central answer IHEARYA appear with only a couple of crosses - so that was fun. And I liked ULTRASOUND as the Ob/gyn's image, too. The syndicated puz was not printed on the fold in my paper, so no complaint there. ASAWHOLE (I) ASSESS it as OK but with some S(h)ODDY fill.

Waxy in Montreal 5:38 PM  

So we've got a KNAVERY and an armoury. But how about an airforcery for our ENROLLEEs in blue?

Toni56 12:05 PM  

This is a perfect example that there is both an art and a science when you are creating a crossword puzzle. Constructor's grade: science--B+, art--D.

lodsf 1:09 AM  

(Feb’11) If Mr. Whitehead is still listening across the weeks I thought I would comment that I liked his puzzle and enjoyed the word game (ladder) within the puzzle plus the ‘call and response’ of AMEN to THAT and IHEARYA. Loved EMERALDS (my favorite gem) and also COALBIN for ‘fuel container’. Didn’t like – nor have I ever even heard of – SOCKEROO & had to look up AEDES.

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