Soap opera creator Phillips / SUN 3-27-11 / Bally enthusiasts / make.believe sloganeer / Pixar robot female voice / Citrusy cocktail mixer

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Constructor: Kevin G. Der

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: "Get Ready to Roll" — A bowling rebus puzzle, with PIN and BALL squares and circles that spell out the word GUTTER along both sides of the grid... plus three theme-related answers:

  • UP ONE'S ALLEY (101D: Suited to a person's strengths)
  • SPLIT DECISION (49D: 5-4 ruling, e.g.)
  • SPARE MOMENTS (9D: Bit of free time)
BALL squares appear to represent a trajectory suggesting a bowler attempting to pick up a SPLIT / SPARE...

Word of the Day: IRNA Phillips (30D: Soap opera creator Phillips) —
Irna Phillips (July 1, 1901 – December 22, 1973) was an American actress and most notably writer who created and scripted many of the first American soap operas. (wikipedia)
• • •

Getting a late start on this one, as I was over at friends' for most of the night, so write-up will have to be shorter than I'd normally like. I was a big fan of Kevin Der's last Sunday architectural marvel: the Chinese Zodiac puzzle. This one ... I'm less thrilled by, first because the exact thing being represented in the grid isn't entirely clear (and there's no key phrase uniting at all), and second because of the loopy fill that I had to wade through in order to finish. I know you have to make allowances for cruddy / strange / forced fill in a grid with so many architectural demands, but ... well, I picked up the theme at T-[BALL] GLOVE and immediately thought, "that's a thing? They have special gloves designed for T-BALL? Isn't the act of catching the ball exactly the same as in baseball?" [FYI they appear to be simply smallish baseball gloves] I then went on to fight off CREAMWARE and LIMECORDIAL (83A: Citrusy cocktail mixer) and NEOGENE (!) (53A: Period of the Cenozoic Era) and a ton of odd abbrevs. and IRNA and CA[BALL]ED and ALEMAN. Lack of a tight theme / clear visual made the awkward stuff more distracting than it ought to have been. I expect I'll be in the minority today. So be it. I was dutifully impressed by the construction, and I did have a genuine little AHA moment when the first "BALL" made me notice that the "U" and "T" in the circles were part of "GUTTER," but in the end this strikes (!) me more as an interesting oddity or curiosity than a brilliantly executed puzzle.

  • 19A: Century in Amer. politics (U.S. SENATE) — "Century? Oh, *that* century ... ugh."
  • 24A: Bally enthusiasts (PINBALLERS) — the marquee answer, in some ways. Two rebus squares + enigmatic clue (which Bally? The bra people? The fitness people? ...)
  • 94A: Drink with tempura, maybe (ASAHI) — SAKE! Oh. No. OK.
  • 144A: Pixar robot with a female voice (EVE) — I think this is from "Wall-E." Never saw it.
  • 115A: "make.believe" sloganeer (SONY) — again, not on my radar, but easy to pick up.
  • 77A: Red-haired film princess (FIONA) — from "Shrek." You get the feeling Mr. Der likes his animated movies ... (see also ASNER, 8D: Ed heard in "Up")
  • 35D: Ambulance, slangily (MEAT WAGON) — nice answer, though surprisingly gruesome for a Sunday NYT...
  • 993D: Highlands daggers (DIRKS) — considered SNEES. Reconsidered.
  • 120D: Engage in a 1920s fad (POLESIT) — I liked this answer, and the entire bottom portion of the grid, actually.

  • 134D: W. or Bam (PREZ) — I confess I have no idea what "Bam" means here ... huh. Obama. I have literally Never seen / heard him called that, though I can find all kinds of examples when I google. It's a stupid nickname, if only because (I presume) it's pronounced differently than the "bam" part of Obama's name. Like the sound effect "Bam!" Not at all equivalent to "W.," which is a widely known nickname, the title of a movie about Bush, etc.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


lit.doc 1:36 AM  

Started off strong, picking up on the rebus early on, then seeing the GUTTERs with only a few circles filled. Stopped at 50 minutes with an empty square at the 29A A?T / ?RNA crossing. I was thinking “Isn’t it AIT or some such?”, but couldn’t get my head around IRNA. Was sure I really had things screwed up in that block. Anyway, in terms of experiencing progress, a good Sunday (well, Saturday night really) solve for me.

But in terms of fun, it wasn’t. Too many “Really?!” moments with the clueing and fill, most of which @Rex covered. I really enjoy rebuses, generally, but this one left me thinking that it was a lot of work and a lot of grid just to achieve the “bowling alley” thingy. And it was a pain in the ass on Across Lite.

I really, reeeally wanted 126A “Yellow pool items” to be DUCKIES.

chefwen 1:49 AM  

This one took me what seemed like a day and a half to finish, but I really enjoyed every minute. At first I thought we were into a pin ball machine until I saw the gutters.

I caught onto the theme with CAT Ballou and was off and running. Finding the gutters helped in the solve.

Love AMSTEL beer, I would choose it over many other offerings.

At 74D wanted to put in @Rube for bass lover, but it didn't fit. Where are you Rube?

Very enjoyable Sunday puzzle even if it took me much of Saturday to finish. Thank you Kevin!

foodie 5:56 AM  

Hello from the GASLIT French Quarter, which is truly hopping. Lovely to see this post Katrina recovery. NOLA residents are such resilient people, and the city is looking gorgeous! In a world that seems to be falling apart, this was a ray of sunshine. Went to Acme Oyster Bar and thought of you, Andrea. And thought of you Rex, because Rex is everywhere in this post Mardi Gras period.

Oh, the puzzle. Well, obviously doing it in the middle of the night, which may not have helped the experience. But it felt too chopped up, with few long or fun answers-- MEAT WAGON being the clear exception. So, I'm with Rex-- admired the construction but did not enjoy the solve.

Bob Kerfuffle 7:25 AM  

FWIW, this puzzle appeared in print in an issue of The New York Times Magazine designated "the youth issue." (sic) There was no mention that I saw of Kevin Der's age, and Kevin is no Ben Pall, but I suppose there may be some connection.

Bob Kerfuffle 7:29 AM  

One write-over, had 25 D, Minstrel songs, as LAYS before (BALL)ADS. If the answer is ballads, aren't there many other genres of music more appropriate than Minstrel?

T-No-Money 7:46 AM  

That may have been the longest Sunday puzzle of the year for me, and I still finished with a couple errors. Ouch.

mmorgan 8:16 AM  

Oh dear... I did this last night thinking, "How great! A puzzle all about pinball!" although I thought the GUTTERs were strangely placed for a pinball machine.

I started out VERY slowly... and when I got the first 'BALL' rebus, I thought it was going to be about baseball spring training -- nice! But then, a while later, I got my first 'PIN' and became very, very excited. I spent the first 30 or so years of my life assiduously playing pinball and have been mourning its death since the first evil video games arrived in the 80s. I was hoping to find all kinds of other stuff like FLIPPER, POP BUMPER, OUTHOLE, IT'S MORE FUN TO COMPETE, etc.

I struggled quite a bit at the top but then everything finally fell, and I went to sleep, with happy memories of pinball machines.

And I get here this morning and realize it's all about bowling! Duh! Ack!!!

Glimmerglass 8:33 AM  

The architecture seems obscure to me. Is this a bowler picking up a four-pin split? Otherwise, the arrangement of pins and balls seems pretty random. I liked the clue for Ichiro.
Just had a knee replaced. Oxycodone does nothing for my puzzle skills.

Leslie 9:12 AM  

Glimmerglass, ouch! and a speedy recovery to you.

This puzzle blew me away. Loved it. It took me longer than it took you guys to see the rebus-y aspect; my first BALL was the one in BASEBALL TEAM and BALLETS over on the east coast. Thought that was it until I got the PIN in PINEAPPLE and SNOOPING.

I was stumped at top and bottom; had to start in the middle with OUTSAT and AQUA and spread out, amoeba-like, in all directions.

It took me an unconscionably long time to see that the circles spelled out GUTTER. Sheesh.

Loved it, though.

Orange 9:28 AM  

@Kerfuffle: Kevin is 26. He doesn't think that's so young at all. (Meanwhile, Ben Zimmer has an essay about language in the NYT's Week in Review section today, since the Magazine finds teen stars to be more in line with its demographic than the "On Language" column.)

@Glimmer: Yes, a four-pin split. David Plotkin made a cool solution grid that shows the ball's curving path and the bowling pins:

I had the same "eh" reaction to the puzzle as Rex.

Aleman 9:29 AM  

I do love Bass and I use Lime Cordial for my Margaritas.

Amstel is the name of the Brewery which is named from the river. The name is derived from Aeme stelle, old Dutch for "area abounding with water." Amstel, having been bought by Heineken , moved the brewery from Amsterdam. It is now at the main Heineken plant in Zoeterwoude.

I also thought PINBALL was the theme with ATARI and BALLY mentioned. Real theme BOWLED me over.

joho 9:39 AM  

Like @chefwen I got the rebus at BALLOU and also getting the right side GUTTER let me fill in the left side quickly.

I don't know, this puzzle just feels unbalanced to me, sort of like bowling a ball that slowly veers off to the right only to drop unceremoniously into the gutter. It ended with more of a whimper than a bang.

This is a pangram, though!

Ruth 9:43 AM  

Don't "the bra people" spell it "Bali"? (well, you probably don't take the time to read the tags)

Ruth 9:43 AM  

Don't "the bra people" spell it "Bali"? (well, you probably don't take the time to read the tags)

cool dude 9:46 AM  

I started from the bottom, had a bunch of "ball"s with "-utter" coming down both sides, and thought it had something to do with golf. Really hated this theme, whatever it may have been. When the first "pin" dropped, I like it a little better, but I still found the theme BAD and the whole experience NO FUN AT ALL.

Unrelated to crossword puzzles but related to golf and print newspapers, Spring hearkens the arrival of one of my pet peeves: comics about golfing. No sooner has the first robin arrived than Walker, Parker, and Browne scrawl out a pallet of golf "gags" to be shipped off to the syndicate, finishing up their workload for the next X months so they don't have to miss tee time slapping together three panels every morning.

Oscar 10:04 AM  

I can't *wait* to see where he puts rebus squares next.

In case you couldn't tell, I was being sarcastic.

jackj 10:08 AM  

Can we end the controversy by declaring the puzzle depicts a bowling theme programmed for and played on an arcade's pinball machine?

SethG 10:24 AM  

I likened this to a mid-game billiards themed puzzle with a few scattered random balls, circled letters, rebuses, and more that makes people think it might be from Space Invaders. I see I was not far off.

And when I write that puzzle, I will do everything I possibly can to not include IRNA.

donkos 10:39 AM  

Bally was one of the giants in the pin ball industry (though the truly great machines were Gottliebs). I got stuck on the pin ball them - never got the bowling theme - found this puzzle to be a complete "TILT"

nanpilla 10:44 AM  

Would have been nice if FOUL from CRIEDFOUL had been across the bottom to indicate the foul line in bowling. Filling in Gutters helped some, but not enough to get me out of the IRNA section unscathed.

JaxInL.A. 11:08 AM  

@glimmer, I hear that the pain is totally worth it in increased mobility. Good luck!

@foodie, thanks for the travelogue. Safe journey.

@lit.doc, I had the same problem. AIT appears all too often in crosswords for that to be a Natick for me just because I never heard of that soap opera IRNA.

According to PuzzleGirl's Crosswordese 101 " An AIT is exactly what today's clue says it is — a 4D: River isle. Typical clues for AIT include "Small island," "River islet," "Spot in a river," and "Island in the Thames.""  

That last part, river in the Thames, seems to be because (according to Merriam-Webster) this comes from "Middle English eyt, from Old English *ēget, by-form of īggoth, igeoth, from īg island — more at island. First Known Use: before 12th century."  Maybe now I'll remember it?

In addition to the mini-animation theme (add TIGGER to that list), we seem to have a mini-alcohol theme with AMSTEL, ASAHI, LIME CORDIAL, ALEMAN, the less common TUN, and a "Cheers" clue at the end. 

I breezed through 99% of this puzzle, which is unusual, and the remainder is fixable with some work on my part. I liked the goofy bowling theme, got the rebuses right away and generally had a very fun time. Overall a big thumbs up for young Mr. Der.

Noam D. Elkies 11:11 AM  

Solved from the bottom up, so saw the "gutter" squares early enough to make use of them though the "ball" squares were still a welcome extra surprise. Still didn't get the entire theme, not noticing the long spare/split/alley entries in this context. Even now that I've been clued into it, I'm of two minds about the puzzle, since the rebus is so heavily concentrated at the top that vast swaths of the oversize grid are essentially themeless.

@joho: I'd expect pangrams to be the rule in a Sunday-sized grid, which has about twice as many squares as the weekday 15-square and thus many more opportunities to use each letter once without excessive compromises. All the more so in today's grid which is even larger than normal for Sunday.

@Bob Kerf: Presumably "minstrel" in the sense of a "medieval musical entertainer, especially a singer of verses to the accompaniment of a harp" (see, not an American blackface performer.


Bob Kerfuffle 11:28 AM  

@Noam D. Elkies - Exactly my point, that "LAY" (Originally the Anglicized term for the French lai, it later came to be used by English poets as a synonym for song or for narrative poetry of moderate length. -- is a word rarely used except in association with medieval music, and vice versa, while BALLAD could have been clued with reference to folk music, country-western, etc.

chefbea 11:32 AM  

Great puzzle which I gave up on and DNF. Kept looking for more PINs. Thought there should be as many as in bowling.

Noam D. Elkies 11:42 AM  

@Bob K. — "minstrel" would indeed be a more specific clue for "lay" than for "ballad", but I think "ballad" is a legitimate description for some medieval minstrel songs, so the clue, even if misleading, is fair.


ArtO 11:54 AM  

Got many "balls" before hitting a "pin". BTW Rex, I was also considering the Bally gambling casinos - so there are still two legitimate Ballys since the bra people are Bali. A struggle but worth the effort.

Anonymous 12:09 PM  

OK, but I didn't have fun doing it.

Doug 12:09 PM  

@Orange, thanks for that link, wouldn't have seen that otherwise.

My only problem was that the shape reduced the grid size and I had to focus my failing eyes more than I usually do.

Anonymous 12:19 PM  

the first thing that struck me was the shape of the grid. then the gutters down the sides. then the pins and balls fell into place for a bowing theme. i had lays for the ballads so dnf. i liked (for me) the originality of the puzzle. as for the magazine section of the nytimes, i am pretty unhappy with the changes. makes me feel that this loyal reader no longer counts!

David L 12:36 PM  

Completely baffling, since I know nothing about bowling or pinball or whatever the heck the theme is supposed to be. So I just figured I had to contend with 'pin' and 'ball' in some randomly placed squares, and took it from there.

Don't understand BALLOT as 'ticket presenter.' ALEMAN? Husband of an alewife, I suppose.

An unrewarding slog, in short...

Ben 12:38 PM  

Hi everyone.

If you didn't have the pleasure of joining Rex Parker and PuzzleGirl last weekend at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, as I did, you can read my trip report here.

Enjoy the rest of the weekend.

Toggle 12:44 PM  

There's a Bally shoe company too.

I couldn't decide if this puzzle was more fun than work or more work than fun. But I admire the construction, a TUN!!

PanamaRed 1:14 PM  

@David L, think of an election ballot presenting the party ticket.

Week recap - got Monday through Thursday without help (a first for me) - Friday killed me. Got Sat and Sun, but only with the help of my friend Google.

That's a good week for me - I admire all of you who can do all of these puzzles solo.

CoffeeLvr 1:52 PM  

I did this puzzle last night, and stayed up until I finished. Except that with three/four errors, it was a DNF. I was struggling with the far SW corner, so went upstairs and got a beer (Bud Light, all I get after midnight) and came down and all was 139A "clear."

A big thank you to Rex, for posting so I had a grid to check myself against! I could have been the first commenter, but wanted to wait until my annoyance at my errors settled down.

@glimmerglass, good luck on your healing and rehab. I have seen great outcomes.

I saw the G U T T E R entries very, very early, then like others found BALL at CAT (BALL)OU, and the other rebus at (PIN)EAPPLE. Kept looking for a recognizable pattern, but don't know enough about bowling to see it, and didn't recognize the other 3 theme entries as part of it.

My errors were missing the PIN at square 24, thought STEP TO was a strange way to say enter, but left it there. Then saw (BALL)ADS, and left P()BALLERS in place - thinking of Bally Fitness, and assuming it was some sort of exercise/game I did't know. I saw AIT (after ILE), but stumbled at the next line with stOMP. ItNA looked odd, but names can be. Wondered what other usage of sUB Swift must had been thinking of, but not enough to take the eraser to the "st" in place. Finally, didn't know EVeE from EVIE, and again figured it was another non-standard name.

I must learn to not let the inner drive to complete the puzzle override my self-questioning of some entries. That was OK when I was learning to solve, but at a Sunday level, I now know that if it looks wrong, it usually is.

Lots of nice fill in some areas of the puzzle, but a few entries were forced: the century Rex mentioned, STARSPOT?!?, UMINN, UNREP. I was so sure the General Assembly seats delegates, not REPresentatives that I consulted Dr. Google afterwards. I did see a reference to representatives on the UN site, so I suppose the choice depends on context.

I did like the construction feat, and even more after I found out there was a pattern to the rebus entries. Very impressed with SPLIT DECISION right up the middle.

Observation: HUP, HUTS, HUE.

Time to see if Kansas can make it to the Final Four again! I have healed from Mizzou's "one and done" performance enough to root for their arch rivals. After all, I live in "Kansas" City, so regional and Big 12 pride prevail over petty enmity.

Anonymous 1:58 PM  

There's a substitute puzzle for today, which I just did, but I need to check it against someone's since I've made some mistakes. Are you planning, or is someone planning to complete the substitute puzzle?

mitchs 2:02 PM  

I really liked this one. I'm all for any variation that WS can reasonably pull off in the Sunday. Some REALLY questionable fill that Rex pointed out along with reasons for same. I'll take it, gladly.

@Glimmerglass: my ex-girlfriend had a knee replaced. The rehab is pretty tough, but you've gotta do it all. No cheating!

JenCT 2:35 PM  

Took me waaay too long to catch the rebus - not until Yellow pool items did I get it.

Many years of bartending, and not once did I hear Rose's Lime Juice referred to as Lime Cordial (wanted Lime Sourmix, but wouldn't fit.)

Hubby never heard of NEOGENE period; wanted EEOCENE.

Kind of a slog for me, DNF. No time today (inlaws visiting.)

quilter1 2:53 PM  

Finished late today due to other delays, but finished with no errors. Slightly ashamed to say that I, a minister, saw the gutters. Then found a ball and went looking for balls and pins. I could see the SPLIT and ball trajectory as I often bowl on WII. Rate this also medium to challenging. I like lime but LIME CORDIAL sounds nasty.

@Glimmerglass: I had my knee replacement two years ago and it is so worth the initial pain. See if you can get the home knee bender machine (I forget what it is called) for two extra weeks and as @mitchs said, do that PT religiously. If they say ten times, do it twelve or fifteen. It makes all the difference and if you don't you just go back to the way it was. I lost 40 lb. for my surgery and that also made a big difference. Best wishes for a complete recovery.

syndy 2:56 PM  

Didn't like! did not like the lenght -did not like the slog-thought theme was pinball-don't believe CABBALLED is a word-wanted pupil for 41 down HAted TUTEE!!What the @%#$*&)@# is TROMP!IS it when you stomp on a Trump? my grumpy pants are starting to Chafe so I'm done

DigitalDan 2:58 PM  

I may be the only some-time bowler among us. It was a kick to see the incomplete pin layout, concluding at some point that we were creating a 4-6-7-10 split, and then able to critique the trajectory chosen by the bowler to pick up the spare. Not the way I'd do it, but a strong enough bowler capable of imparting enough spin could make this work. Resulted in a bafflingly asymmetric but fully meaningful rebus. I'll admit to missing the BALLot/caBALLers crossing, settling for sot/casers, which of course made no sense at all.

Anonymous 2:58 PM  

I was raised in a bar and never heard of LIME CORDIAL or ALEMAN. I graduated from the UOFM in the Twin Cities and was shocked to learn there must be another college called UMINN!

I'm cool with rare and even obscur usage, but making up words and names from whole cloth is bogus and tiresome.

mac 3:14 PM  

Hard work, this puzzle, but an interesting theme and layout. I didn't get it until late, I seem to have finished the inside part of the thing first, but once I got one gutter, I got the other.

Didn't we have "hut" for drillmaster's call a while ago? Thank you also for having the one ball in a puzzle lately, that helped a lot! Somehow wanted a lot more balls and pins in the grid, and was worriedly looking over the finished area in the West.

Of course I think shoes when I see Bally.

@Glimmerglass: good luck and take the rehab seriously. Also, wean yourself of the Oxy gradually, my husband had some problems with it after he stopped cold turkey. He is now walking much better, plus he is keeping up the exercise regiment.

potify: make drinkable? Or powerful?

Anonymous 3:34 PM  

Isn't W. usually pronounced dubya?

stix2metunesmiffin 3:39 PM  

Hey guys, been a while, sorry it took a god awful puzzle like this one to get me to post again! I filled in everything I could before I finally broke the rebus, which resulted in the anti-aha: major eye-roll!

Such horrible, painful fill to slog through...WAY more than half of the puzzle... only to realize the tedious exercise that lay before me. It actually hurt to drop in the seemingly arbitrary PINs and BALLs only to realize the remaining crap fill I needed to reveal just finish this one.

Reading others' comments (esp. about the specifics of the split) helps alleviate the "why god why?" factor for me, but theme knowledge didn't compensate for this GUTTER BALL of a puzzle!!

If your theme's gotta prove you're Mr. Clever Pants, the fill has to be up to the task. Not the case with this one, not by a long shot!

Garymac 3:54 PM  

A terrible slog of a puzzle.

Lindsay 4:03 PM  

Waded through this, but why? My hopes were way up at the beginning, because I assumed the puzzle had to be extra-special-good to merit a departure from the usual Sunday size. But no: it was an ivitation to MUSE on asub/itna/stomp versus atub/irna/tromp. Fortunately I guessed right.

However I must defend CREAMWARE as ultra-legitimate, like TOBY that elicited squawks a couple of months ago. Better history of ceramics than tv trivia, I say.

hazel 4:05 PM  

@haters. good grief.  if you HATE a puzzle so much, don't do it. what is the point of slogging your way through?  its not as if it  is some sort of religious penance or someone is holding a gun to you head.  Life's too short!! (If there is a point, I'd love to hear it. I have trouble not finishing a novel I don't like, but that seems a bit different to me.)

I for one enjoyed this puzzle very much, and all along thought  it was a pinball theme.

@ glimmer - I'm going on 4 years out from my knee replacement, where I also got a shiny new femur (partial) which has made me very chummy w/ TSA each and every time I go through the airport.  I absolutely feel for you.  Do your PT, no matter how much it hurts!  

lezah 4:08 PM  

@hazel. good grief. if you HATE a novel so much, don't read it. what is the point of slogging your way through? its not as if it is some sort of religious penance or someone is holding a gun to you head. Life's too short!! (If there is a point, I'd love to hear it. I have trouble not finishing a puzzle I don't like, but that seems a bit different to me.)

conomist 4:17 PM  

I'm in agreement with @DigitalDan. Seriously impressive construction on this one. Yes, some of the fill left a bit to be desired (ALEMAN was horrible), and some of the cluing too (PINBALLER? There can't be a "Ball" in there. It's in the clue!...I realize that Ball != Bally, but there had to be a better way to clue that one).

But still, with the beauty of the rebuses being something other than one ball at the bottom, and a ten-pin layout, I was very impressed.

D_Blackwell 4:17 PM  

DigitalDan - I used to bowl pretty seriously (200+ average) (another lifetime). I've made the 4, 7, 10 and 6, 7, 10 - but never a 4, 6, 7, 10. It takes a big (relatively speaking) mistake to find yourself with that leave. A better bowler won't see it that often.

An amateur will leave that split fairly often because the key mistake is letting the ball run right down the center - and that is certain disaster.

I would never have tried to kick the 6 off the back wall. I'm a lefty, so for me the key pin is the 4, and I would have tried to slide it across to the 6, 10.

I believe that most professionals would opine that a hard kick out of the pit is a higher percentage play, which is exactly what he went for. Wow.

Walter Ray Williams was the first to make the shot on television (that I am aware of) and he went for kick out of the pit. It has only been made (with video) a very few times.

I embedded the video here:
4, 6, 7, 10 split conversion

Anonymous 4:22 PM  

Not a big fan of rebus puzzles. I'm usually angry with the constructor by the time I convince myself it's a rebus (that happened at BALLOU today). Sometimes, by the time I finish, I find the theme entertaining enough that I'm no longer upset with the constructor (that happened with the Chinese Zodiac puzzle). Not today - ugh!

Unusual grid shape, circles, and no apparent "reveal" clue seemed like enough cleverness to me, so I really wasn't looking for a rebus.

Aspect ratio of the grid had me thinking more of a pinball machine than a bowling lane.

Too many of the BALL entries were actually the word "ball" as part of a compound word - preferred the BALLET, BALLOU, and BALLOT-type answers.

Liked that the 4-6-7-10 pins were properly laid out, but I note that the 1 pin would be on a black square.

D_Blackwell 4:24 PM  

I don't what happened to the link?

If none of this works, search: Walter Ray Williams 4 6 7 10. Click for video

jeremy 4:28 PM  

CREAMWARE? Seriously? The unexciting fill words were forced into this puzzle. The Nyt puzzle editor crashed and burned on this one.

Matthew G. 5:13 PM  

This was the first Sunday puzzle I solved on my iPad, and I thought something was wrong with my display when this tower of a grid appeared. Weird timing.

Liked the structure of the puzzle just fine, but agree with Rex that there are too many bad entries to make this a masterpiece.

BAM is a common NYC tabloid nickname for Barack Obama, and I knew it from many walks past the newsstands. I agree with Rex that it's an incredibly stupid nickname.

Arundel 5:13 PM  

I've never bowled in my life, and was sure this was a pinball machine - kept looking for flippers on the lower corners. But the grid is so unwieldy in Across Lite when you make it big enough to read that I was very surprised when Mr. Happy Pencil turned up.

Creamware is very nice old pottery, and just about everyody's grandma had some. But I never knew Rose's was lime cordial - I always thought a cordial would be something like limoncello. SATprep and outsat side-by-side made me laugh, and who knew there was an Olaf the Fat!

And @LitDoc, I think I'll have to find some 16A yellow DUCKIES for our pool.

Overall, I thought the good far outweighed the bad on this one!

Matthew G. 5:14 PM  

By the way -- typing this from a Natick, Mass., rest area.

hazel 5:27 PM  

@lezah - i guess i'm supposed to be seeing myself in the mirror (ha) - but for me there's a big difference between finishing a novel and a puzzle. regardless of whether or not I particularly like the way a story is being told, there is pretty much always a payoff at the end, something I get out of it. and that's why i was curious about what the payoff was for a puzzle slogger....what is the reward?

FWIW, i coud count on 1 hand the books that I've bought the past few decades that I actually HATE. The only one I can think of is Trust by Cynthia Ozick.

Anonymous 6:09 PM  


For me, part of the payoff for completing a puzzle (whether I like it or not) is proving that I CAN. With a good puzzle, the additional payoff might be the enjoyment of a clever clue/answer (maybe like a well-turned phrase in a novel) or the enjoyment of a clever or interesting theme (maybe like an interesting plot in a novel).

The difference, for me, with a novel I don't like is there really isn't any question whether I CAN finish it.

lezah 6:15 PM  

hazel, you're the one who called them haters. literally no one said they hated this puzzle. how long does it take you to finish a novel you dislike? slogging through the ten minutes or hour or whatever pretty much pales in comparison.

why judge their motives at all?

aleph1=c? 6:30 PM  

Admit it, Hazel. You've been fairly exposed.

Paleocene, Eocene, Oligocene, Miocene, Pliocene, Pleistocene. Still remember all this from geology class many years ago. Never heard of NEOcENE, but went with that. NEOGENE must be a biology term, I guess. Had no idea what cOYA food is. My only error.

hazel 6:32 PM  

@lezah- and- all- others-i- may- have- offended-by- my-remarks-and-or-question. so sorry. i was actually curious, and intended neither offense nor judgment.

@aleph. Don't understand your comment?

to debate the difference between puzzles and literature is just beyond silly. i take a great deal of pleasure in both, but they are not equal and or interchangeable to me.

That being said, go Braves! another of my favorite pastimes.....

Ben Hassenger 6:34 PM  

This might have been a good crossword, but I was trying to do it while wasted at a ska/punk show and inevitably just crumbled it up and drank more.

Alan 7:12 PM  

@dblackwell Never having bowled in my life, except in cricket, I was still able to finish this Derned puzzle, while having no clue about why the BALLs were so asymmetrically arranged. Your erudite analysis explained it perfectly. Such unexpected expertise is why I love this blog so much.

PurpleGuy 7:13 PM  

I like @Ben Hassenger's comment. Agree with him.
I always looked forward to my Sunday NYTimes puzzle.
Not thus one. A real slog. Not enjoyable.
Circles AND a rebus. No fun here.
I think I shall have a martini. (Maybe a few. I think mom would approve.)


Sarah 7:41 PM  

Found this one REALLY hard. Got the BALL but not the PIN until I came to this site (and that was after I saw the GUTTERs in the circles). "Bally" should have been "Bally's" to indicate the casinos. A few fun fills, but on the whole this was hard work.

jae 8:07 PM  

I'm with Rex et. al on this one. I got the PIN/bowling rebus fairly early (BALL came much later) but it still was a slog. Plus, I blew an error free week. Couldn't remember the Swift title and did not know IRNA. So, CLOMP, TROMP, and STOMP all seemed to work for Galumph and I went with CLOMP. Rats!

Never heard of it? 8:42 PM  


The Neogene Period follows the Paleogene Period of the Cenozoic Era. ...


Rose's is a brand name for lime cordial aka lime smash.

@jeremy 4:23, (CREAMWARE), meet @lindsay 4:03.


Octavian 9:23 PM  

Not a fan ...

Normally I like a hard puzzle with a construction twist. Normally I love a rebus. Normally I love something different.

But this puzzle wasn't hard. It was actually strangely easy. But it was also boring.

I think the main problem is that there was no unifying theme clue that brought the package together.

If SPLIT DECISION had been called out as "a hint to the theme of the puzzle") it might have been more enjoyable.

I realize that "Get Ready to Roll" is supposed to be a theme title but in this case it is wrong. If the ball is already in motion down the lane, then it is ALREADY ROLLING at the initiation of solving.

In retrospect I can see SPLIT DECISION was intended as part of the theme. But for a long time I had SUP. CT. DECISION (Supreme Court), which I felt was very reasonable given that "e.g." often means they are looking for an abbreviation, and there are 9 justices.

Also the PINBALL reference to BALLY made it look more like a Pinball theme than a bowling theme.

All in all I would just say that normally I love a DER challenge but this was not one of his best.

Final note: Because of shape of the puzzle and the fact that I just got back from a trip to Las Vegas, I thought this was going to be a craps table and there would be numbers along the edge. I thought there would be dice to roll. Now that would be cool.

mlutwak 9:30 PM  

Fun to discover this blog and commentary. Was worried I was alone in finding this puzzle a little annoying.

Not sure anyone mentioned that "scat" is a style of jazz. It's a style of singing that occurs within jazz.

william e emba 9:37 PM  

I caught the PIN rebus off of AL(PIN)E almost right away, then BALL off of CAT(BALL)OU, then saw the two circled Gs, realized the circles spelled GUTTER twice, and thinking how dull, a bowling picture puzzle. Then I got that the Bally enthusiasts were (PIN)(BALL)ERS, and realized the puzzle theme was pinball, which I thoroughly approve of, having wasting untold hours at it in my younger years. At which point I loved the puzzle through to the end.

Then I come here and discover the theme was bowling after all, which meant that I didn't like the puzzle one bit.

Oh well.

michael 10:07 PM  

Thought this was pinball, but didn't bother to look at the circled letters. Not too hard, but a surprising number of answers that I was unfamiliar with: irna, lime cordial, aleman, neogene, caballer (is this really a word?), creamware, oleic, and bam (for Obama).

I skip M-W 10:48 PM  

Gave up with one missing letter , which turned out to be the T of Ito and of Tami, the second of which I don't recognize, though for the first I now kick myself, as I was thinking it was the first name, at least as reported in US, whereas she is know as Midori Ito.

But in general only fantastic rebus appeals to me, and though I've bowled, not enough to be taken with theme.

Why keep on with boring x-word, @Hazel, in my case sheer vanity is why. And obsession. Just bad at stopping when things don't work out right.... At least sometimes.

TimJim 3:01 AM  

Agree with @Octavian - the split should have been clued as the key to the rebus, if that's what it was (I'm not a bowler). Kept looking for STRIKE and more pins. Too much icky fill, but I loved the idea.

JaxInL.A. 9:32 AM  

Help! I can't get the Crossynergy puzzle at anymore. Anyone know why, or where I can go now (and how much it would cost?)? Crossword Butler seems to be out of commission. Any advice would be appreciated.

jberg 5:52 PM  

I'm late on this, and everyone has said everything I would - except that a) the grid really looked like a pinball game to me, with flippers along the sides (multiple ones) and lots of bumpers in the middle; and b) I'm pretty sure that Bally is all one company - pinball machines, bowling equipment, and casinos. I think they got into the casinos through making slot machines, not that different from pinball.

Anonymous 9:41 PM  

Hated it. So many stupid answers!!!1

Tita 9:27 PM  

Thought I was very clever in knowing that 134D "W. or Bam" had to be TILE - as in Mahjong...

When I found GUTTER, then beat myself up trying to find as word for a mahjong tile that would fit...

Mahjong has TILES representing the four winds - E, W, N, S, and others representing
bamboo, called BAMS. Alas, this knowledge only kept that corner unfinishable (esp since I thought oPINes were letters in The Times! How the Brits refer to Letters to the Ed???)

Yup - Cat BALLou was my tipoff to the theme...though I had trouble with this one...
Thought that SPLIT DECISION meant all hte BALLs were on the right hand side, all PINs on the left of that I never got PINBALLers or stePINto....

Liked the puzzle overall...

domaddy 10:10 PM  


A collection of obscure and dull knowledge with precarious clues. I like to learn something relevant from crosswords, not be dragged through outdated and arcane tidbits. Not big nor clever.

Stephen 9:31 PM  

I liked the sPIN on the BALL that curved it away from the gutter.

It took me forever to understand what a 1-ball was.
And I have yet to be able to psych out or google out why RTS are some NFL'ers. Anyone?

Deflection is, of course, the name of this game. But I did not enjoy "century of US politics"; that seemed entirely too constructed. Has the USSENATE ever been even vaguely associated with that name??

JenCT 8:53 AM  

@Stephen: RTS = right tackles

Anonymous 5:39 AM  

Stephen, it took me a while to fill that in. It is of course "century" as in 100 as in two senators per each of the fifty states.

Stephen 10:52 AM  

I can just imagine the football announcer narrating an exciting play... The LHB has been sacked by the RT and the QB is looking desperately for his RFB!

Come now. Given the number of sports positions, quark names, planetary configurations and truck parts, one could invent several two-word noun phrases from any field and append an S for a plural; the resulting clue would have no suggestive content at all. The better clue for RTS would be "3 letters that cannot be guessed from the clue, and cannot be verified after you get all the crosses, and therefore is of no help whatsoever". At least that way I would not rack my brain believing "some NFL'ers" was inferable.

The only thing that gives me pause in this excoriation is the fact that no one else complained about it. So let's do a little survey: Who among us inferred either the R or the T from this clue? The S is guessable from the plural, but I'll eat my hat if anyone says either of the other letters was obvious.

Dirigonzo 2:01 PM  

Here in syndication-land it is often, for me at least, better to be lucky than to be smart. And so it was today as I approached the finish line (or I guess in keeping with the theme, the last frame) and was faced with the same dilemma as @jae: clomp, stomp and tromp all seemed to be totally reasonable choices (I even considered chomp for a while) so my correct guess had nothing to do with being smart and everything to do with being lucky.

@Stephen - I've seen the "some NFL'ers" clue enough times to know I'm going to have to wait for some crosses to produce the answer, but it's usually going to be (L)eft or (R)ight (T)ackle or (G)uard, so at least it's not totally random.

Gil.I.Pollas 4:38 PM  

Syndication here.
My husband and I often go to brunch on Sunday. He reads the paper from start to finish and I do the crossword. Half way through this one I asked him to give me the comics and Parade.
Pass me the hot sauce for my eggs.

Pascotimes 7:18 PM  

Syndication here.
Did no one else balk at this puzzle's unusual rectangular construction? I've been solving the Sunday NYT for years, and I have never seen that style grid before; I thought my local paper had made some kind of printing error. I don't make a hobby of solving other xwords regularly; is the 17 X 29 format common enough elsewhere that no one else was surprised to see it?

Mark Kaye 9:03 PM  

Yes, the format messed up our paper so much that the clues from 139 down and on are missing! Makes solving it more challenging, I guess...

Gil.I.Pollas 9:41 PM  

P.S. Hi @Dirigonzo. How's Maine?

Dirigonzo 10:02 PM  

@G.I.P. Nice to hear from you - I was beginning to think you had abandoned us in syndicationland, so it's nice to have you back. Chuckled at your earlier comment - pass the hot sauce, indeed! Did you try the Numbrix puzzle in Parade? It exercises a whole different set of brain muscles than the x-word puzzle does.

Still cold in Maine but "climate change" is bound to kick in any day now. Thanks for asking.

Stephen 10:20 PM  

@Pascotimes: Prolly we were all surprised to see the 17 x 29 format. As for myself, I was pleasantly surprised; and I always love taking a new route to work, too.

Gil.I.Pollas 10:56 PM  

You mean complete 1 to 81 so the numbers follow a horizontal or vertical path-no diagonals?
Hell No..

Anonymous 12:11 PM  

This was the worst New York Times Puzzle I have done in 30 years. Format in Seattle Times made the squares too small to put the extra letters & squares were so small was difficult to read. Answers were not consistent at all. Shame on the editors of this puzzle for accepting & using it at all.

Anonymous 11:14 AM  

Syndication here too...and since I don't see my question posted, I'll volunteer to be the biggest dummie. 147A clue is "letter in 145 across", and 145A is The Times (London Daily). Isn't Zed the letter Z? Where is that in The Times? Or is it some kind of 'letter to the editor thing' that I am unaware of?

Zardoz 11:25 AM  

Anonymous, 11:14 AM - This is just one of those crosswordese conventions, where you are instructed by the reference to the Times of London to think British, hence ZED rather than ZEE in the alphabet.

Anonymous 12:40 PM  

With so many PINS and a few BALLS up top, I enjoyed filling from the bottom up! The 76 Cat clue got me into the theme, and the TTERs along the side had me thinking pinball and golf. I had the aha moment the next morning, looking at the whole. Still, my PINS were straight ones, rather than bowling. Nicely done, if not too esoteric.

Anonymous 5:53 PM  

According to the norsk authority Snorre, "digre" means "stocky, possibly thickset but most likely in this connection "proud, haughty or full of self-esteem." Fat was not a good translation.

joebrown42 9:00 AM  

I just hated it.
Really. A lot of the clues were poorly phrased, the framework didn't work.
I did not enjoy it at all.

Chick in Easton 3:03 AM  

The greatest problem I had with this puzzle was mentioned by Anonymous 11:14 just above. Zardoz tried but failed to answer.

The 147A answer is "zed," which we all know is "Z" in London. But this clue references "The Times" of London. "The Times" does not contain the letter "Z." So what gives?

Dirigonzo 5:28 AM  

@Chick in Easton (Maine?) - "The Times" does not contain the letter Z, but within the pages of The Times you will find all of the letters of the alphabet used, including "z". I think that's what the clue means. I hope that helps.

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