Four-dimensional realm / WED 4-27-11 / Online newsgroup system / 97.5% of penny / Quattro preceder / Leipzig's state / Rabid dog Stephen King story /

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Constructor: William I. Johnston

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: Apparently... — four phrases all begin with synonyms for "apparent"

Word of the Day: HUTU (59D: Rwandan group) —

The Hutu /ˈhuːtuː/, or Abahutu, are a Central African ethnic group, living mainly in Rwanda and Burundi. // The Hutu are the largest of the three ethnic groups in Burundi and Rwanda; according to the United States Central Intelligence Agency, 84% of Rwandans and 85% of Burundians are Hutu, although other sources have found statistics that differ by several percent. The division between the Hutu and the Tutsi (the larger of the other two groups) is based more upon social class than ethnicity, as there are no significant linguistic, physical, or cultural differences between them. (The Twa pygmies, the smallest of Rwanda and Burundi's three groups, also share language and culture with the Hutu and Tutsi, but are much shorter and have agreed-upon genetic differences.) (wikipedia)
• • •

Really liked this one, for several reasons. Normally, the "first words (or last words) all mean the same thing"-type theme doesn't do much for me, especially when (as here) those first (or last) words don't appear in phrases that change/hide their shared meaning (today, EXPLICIT and PATENT don't exactly mean "apparent" in their respective phrases, but CLEAR and MANIFEST pretty much do). But the strange arrangement of the theme answers, with the center-Down slicing through all three of the others, and the generally wide-open feel of the grid and interesting fill all made up for the less-than-scintillating theme concept. Those intersecting 15s in the middle of the grid made the puzzle look / feel like a late-week / themeless puzzle, even though its 76 words puts it solidly mid-week (themelesses have a max of 72 words). Given its semi-daunting look, I was surprised at how easily I moved through it—a full 30 seconds faster than yesterday's. I don't mind "easy" too much when the fill is not tired and boring (like today) and there are original-sounding, snazzy long Downs like "TAG, YOU'RE IT!" and "HYPERSPACE." In short, this is my kind of Monday/Tuesday puzzle—I can't hate it just because it appeared on a Wednesday.

Theme answers:
  • 20A: Task that stands high on one's list (CLEAR PRIORITY) — my least favorite theme answer. Not a snappy, strong, self-standing phrase, though I'm sure I've heard it before. HIGH PRIORITY seems like a thing. CLEAR PRIORITY, less so.
  • 40A: Words on a parental advisory label (EXPLICIT CONTENT)
  • 56A: Shiny shoe material (PATENT LEATHER)
  • 7D: Expansionist doctrine (MANIFEST DESTINY)
Only bit of resistant I got in today's puzzle came from PLANAR (26D: Flat), which I needed Every Single Cross to see. Well, I needed five. Stared at PLA-AR for a second or so and finally decided "N" must be right. Not only is that an unusual word, it's got a brutally vague clue. I was thinking shoe or apartment. Wrong and wrong. Also didn't get the first part of EXPLICIT CONTENT too easily. Had the back end, but was thinking of "advisory label" as something on a medicine bottle as opposed to an Eminem album. Guessed SAY OK off the "K" and OLLA off the "O" (36D: Ceramic vessel) and was amazingly right on both counts (this is where I knew I was gonna bury this puzzle in near-record time). Nearly all my instincts were just Right today. Only real complaint about the puzzle is that the clues are unusually bland and dull. Very little in the way of cleverness or wit.

  • 24A: Bit of cyberchat shorthand (FWIW) — again, quite vague. Could've been several things. This one means "for what it's worth." I don't think I've ever seen it in the wild.
  • 50A: Quattro preceder (TRE) — here's some Quat(t)ro for you:

  • 52A: Turnarounds, slangily (UIES) — it's that or UEYS. I have only ever seen either of them in xwords.
  • 1A: 97.5% of a penny (ZINC) — first answer in the grid, after balking at 1A: Sum of opposites (ZERO), which, honestly, should've been obvious.
  • 29A: Leipzig's state (SAXONY) — wheeee. More fun fill. Like a symphony for a saxophone, or (with Anglo-) an adjective meaning "kind of white."
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]
[Rex Parker's Tumblr feed]


dk 8:42 AM  

PLANAR got me as well.

I also had trouble with ZINC and FWIW but we will save that discussion for another day.

Got the major items in short order. My laugh was PATENTLEATHER. My grandmother advised my sister not wear PATENTLEATHER as boys would be able to see their underwear in the reflection. My brother and I are sadly able to attest this is not true as searching out those shoes was a CLEARPRIORITY.

*** (3 Stars) My Aunt's wiener dog is named CUJO

jesser 8:51 AM  

34D "Morse Code for 'sissies.'" Really? That's your clue? I invite both Mr. Johnston and Mr. Shortz to go sit in the corner for a while and think about words that can hurt others. Kids kill themselves over words like this.

And because of that, I hate this puzzle.

John V 8:52 AM  

Same here on PLANAR and that whole Eastern bloc(k). Fun puzzle, albeit the easiest Wednesday in memory.

Where is everyone? Has blogger eaten the bloggers?

PurpleGuy 9:01 AM  

@jesser - agree with you completely. That clue and answer really chapped my hide.

Saw no theme until I came here, and still don't care.
This was not a fun puzzle, although I agree it was very easy.

Captcha - hatie - @jesser said it all !!

Shanti -

joho 9:04 AM  

I must be in a cranky mood with us being up most of the night due to storms, especially my avatar, Riley, who is terrified of thunder.

To me it felt like the first words of the theme were gathered from a thesaurus and then the phrases followed.

I did like that I hadn't seen these phrases before.

And, this puzzle is a pangram!

Judith 9:07 AM  

how is put a wall st. option?

S Morse 9:09 AM  


... .. ... ... .. . ...

ditditdt ditdit ditditdit ditditdit ditdit dit ditditdit

Dot's it, no offence should be taken.

jesser 9:15 AM  

@ S Morse: Bullshit. The constructor/editor could have found a different way to clue DATS OR they could have changed the answer at 33A to be NO rULE. There's no excuse for putting a bully's word in the NYTCWP.

John V 9:15 AM  

@Judith A put is an option to sell a security at a fixed price at some time in the future:

quilter1 9:17 AM  

Yes, easy and yes, planar was my last entry. I didn't hate it, just a pleasant solve.
Yeah, where is everybody. I've never been this close to the front of the queue.

Bob Kerfuffle 9:17 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
jesser 9:20 AM  

DITS, not DaTS. I always screw up that damned DIES IRAE thing if the crosses don't help. Every. Single. Time. Just another reason to hate this puzzle. Three and out.

Bob Kerfuffle 9:21 AM  

Only write-over was 31 A, ERIE before CREE, one bit of elementary crosswordese before another, but oddly intersecting 21 D, where I had a genuine bit of puzzlement over whether it would be RIKKI or RICKI, but I chose the latter.

@Judith - On Wall Street one can buy a PUT, which is the right to sell a stock at a set price at a future date, or a Call, which is the right to buy a stock at a set price at a future date

Judith 9:29 AM  

@Bob and @JohnV: Now that you have enlightened me, I seem to have a dim memory of the term. I kept thinking it had to be buy, which of course also is three letters with a u in the middle, but that didn't work at all! Thank you gentlemen.

Lindsay 9:31 AM  

Solved this one in Boston, and never saw the theme. Out in the hall between puzzles, it occurred to me that there must have been a theme, but couldn't remember any of the long answers, apart from the snazzy MANIFEST DESTINY. Had to ask another competitor.

So I'd rate this one ho-hum. Not memorable good, but certainly not memorable bad.

***diatess = woman losing weight

chefbea 9:33 AM  

Had no idea what the theme was. And still don't understand it.

I'll study it more when I get back from the farmer's market where I hope to buy... you know what

Zach 9:51 AM  

It's amazing how much your background influences how these are solved. I plunked PLANAR in immediately, but I was a math major. A friend recently quit a virtual Scrabble game with me when I played CLUING... given how much I read Xword blogs, it was a natural for me.

The UEYS/UIES thing is interesting, it exists in a class of words frequently spoken, but rarely written. My friends have an ongoing conversation about how to spell the abbreviation for "usual" (as in, "what's going on?" "oh, just the yooj.") I suggested yooj, because it makes the most phonetic sense, but I've never seen it written. Do people have more examples?

(I guess the complementary group is crap like "FWIW": frequently written but rarely spoken)

JenCT 9:52 AM  


How is it that I rarely get the theme before coming here???

Thought the puzzle was fine, if easy.

Tobias Duncan 9:52 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tobias Duncan 9:53 AM  

I Could not remember MANIFESTDESTINY so I ran through the lyrics of the TMBG song James K Polk in my head and bam.
@Jesser I must admit I do not get the Morse code pun, so I may be twice the jackass for trying to defend it.I am not gay but I am a bit of a sissy.Some of us do not see it as a character flaw.I think scrubbing the English language free of words we don't like is a bad idea.There are some of us, gay and straight, who have embraced the term.
It makes me sad to think that if we were chatting at the bar, I would not feel comfortable using the word sissy

syndy 9:56 AM  

really didn't want 28 across to be USH but was afraid it would and could not believe or understand 34 down surely it could not have said what it did? not so fond of the leis -uke or the spelling of prier-SO MRS Lincoln aside from that how did you like the play?

davko 10:12 AM  

Is there a state with more assumed abbreviations than Pennsylvania? We have PA for mailing labels and PENN for State, Central, and Station... but who uses PENNA? I so would have preferred "Italian writing instrument" or "unit of pasta" for a more colorful clue.

Lindsay 10:43 AM  

PENNA was a perfectly normal destination for mail back before two-letter postal abbreviations.

I'd rather see US history than TV trivia any day. As I may have mentioned before :~)

Proud Mamma 10:44 AM  

What the heck is 23 across: It may be part of a pack: lie.


Two Ponies 10:48 AM  

@ davko, That Penna thing bugged me too.
@ jesser, If that is a way bullies intimidate people (I had no idea) then I agree Bad Clue.
Speaking of clues I also agree with Rex that the clues today were boring.
I'm hoping for either some fun (a rebus perhaps?) or a challenge tomorrow. Maybe both! I'll be on a plane in need of a diversion.

Nancy in PA 10:59 AM  

@Proud Mama--"a pack of lies." I liked that clue. Had no idea how DITS related to sissies, but now that I've seen the explanation here I like that the whole word in Morse code is dots. Hate USH. First plunked in MANIFOLDDESTINY of all things, thinking "that's not quite right..." A good Wed. all in all.

archaeoprof 11:04 AM  

@Rex: we are on the same wave length today. Enjoyed this puzzle for all the reasons you stated.

FWIW, on many campuses DEES are not "pretty low grades." They are _very_ low grades.

Because I have no life 11:09 AM  

Having just seen the offical birth certificate of Pres. Obama, I noted that his name is Barack Hussein Obama, II. He's not a Jr, he's an II. That makes his father Barack Hussein Obama I, not Sr.

CoffeeLvr 11:16 AM  

@Chefbea, in case you didn't see my late post last night, I was in Kirksville because my son lives there. He was scheduled to work Easter Sunday, so I went to see him.

I agree with @Jesser on the need for a better clue for 34D, but let's not throw out the word when it is used as what my brother called me. Actually, he said Zizzy at first.

I solved last night, and could not find the theme. It was not PATENTly obvious to me. Agree with others that USH and PRIER are really UGLY. Like the words ENRAPT, SEETHE, and the central MANIFEST DESTINY. Although I do not "like" the historical results of that conflict for Native Americans.

PuzzleNut 11:20 AM  

Finally catching up on the puzzles. Liked this one a lot. Great grid, and much easier than I would have guessed.
The BEQ yesterday was a real winner. Didn't check who the constructor was until I got to the Spinal Tap clue. Thought "This must be a BEQ puzzle". Loved seeing the clip, one of the all-time graet movie scenes, IMO. Refer to it often (fortunately, I'm not trying to bed 20-somethings). Was watching Toy Story 2 the other day with the kids and noticed that Zorg's photon blaster went to 11. A wonderful call-out that must have been added for geezers like me.

Byndah Klipz 11:24 AM  

Anyone else Get the R and final T in 11D and put in READY OR NOT? I found that mistake very entertaining. Also, MANIFEST DESTINY is one of the greatest English phrases ever.

FWIW 11:35 AM  


I understand you umbrage at the word "sissy", now that I did a little research. I see it's considered a perjorative by some in the gay, and other communities.

I had assumed it's use as family nickname (e.g. Sissy Spacek), or perhaps a playground taunt, but not negative to the extreme you (rightfully) cite.

Perhaps recent discussions of gyp and some ethnic "nicknames" illustrate:

Don't automatically attribute to malice that which may be attributed to stupidity.


solasoletta 11:51 AM  

I was confused by "enrol." Is that how you spell it? I would have thought "enroll." And is "Penna" an abbreviation for "Pennsylvania" or something else I'm not aware of?

solasoletta 11:54 AM  

Also, not to poo-poo the seriousness of bullying, but I backed into "Morse code for 'sissies'" and I didn't get it. I've used the word "dits" (or rather, "ditz") to refer to someone who is "ditzy," spacy, flaky, scatterbrained. I had no idea it meant "sissies." Just FWIW.

Rube 12:02 PM  

In response to yesterday's Wednesday, this is a nice Tuesday puzzle. Had quite a few writeovers, mostly spelling errors and, like @BobK, erie for CREE. However, knew neither HUTU nor CUJO so had HUTi and CiJO. Wanted lead before ZINC, but thought that that was only during WWII.

Also did not like USH, but it did make the neat HYPERSPACE possible. Still don't understand the flap over DITS and "sissies", but don't really care enough to Google -- assume it's current slang.

Anonymous 12:25 PM  

perhaps it's obvious to everyone but calling someone a sissy is pejorative to female as well as's like saying someone runs or throws like a girl.

KarenSampsonHudson 12:50 PM  

Definitely a Tuesday-type puzzle.
I've never encountered the spelling "enrol"? "Enroll" seems to be preferred. That threw me.

Matthew G. 12:53 PM  

{Morse code for "sissies"} was a bizarre clue, that's all I'll say. I figured it was something like S Morse's explanation, but only got the word from the crosses. Would have thought DOTS rather than DITS if not for IRAE.

But I don't think the criticism is warranted. The quotation marks around "sissies" indicates that the word is being used _as_ a word, and not for its meaning. No need to look around for places to be offended.

Anyway, super-easy puzzle. My second-fastest Wednesday, and two full minutes faster than my time yesterday. Plugged in MANIFEST DESTINY as my first entry in the grid and roared home.

If this is indeed Boston Puzzle Contest week, I bet Thursday's going to be something truly wild.

GILL I. 12:58 PM  

I too didn't see the theme and like r-c still don't get it...
Mucho A's.
Did not like 34D clue either.

Anonymous 1:18 PM  

What about the spelling of Isaiah Thomas' name?? Does he use an alternate spelling?? I doubt it.

Enrol is an alternate spelling to enroll, although not often used.

GILL I. 1:26 PM  

Sorry, that should be like chefbea.
I would also like to add ABUT.

Sfingi 1:28 PM  

Thought it was themeless.

New to me: FWIW.

Do people really refer to Iwo Jima as IWO? Do they call ushering USH?
DITS, wha? PENNA has definitely been updated to its benefit; but, real crosswords don't use 2-letter words. Maybe sissy crosswords do.
I never like words that are "short for" that aren't any shorter - like UIE for U-turn - both are 2-syllables. Would like to ban it.

A lot of common crossswordese: NOEL ENCL, OLE, IRAE, TRE.

Now that I got that off my chest - I liked CUTIE PIE, LIE, SAXONY as new.

I'm old enough that when I was in school no one questioned MANIFEST DESTINY. Speaking of American Indians, which is the correct term according to Ray Halbritter's cousin, if we cared to ask their opinion...

@Kerfuffle - I, too, made the Indian tribe mistake.

@Anon1225 - I run and throw like a girl. If anyone throws something at me, I put up crossed arms. I've never caught anything, and I'm not gonna start now. Defintely an indoorsman or indoorswoman.

Evgeny 1:33 PM  

i may lack the feel for the English language once again, but how does the clue " Morse code for "sissies" " suggest that the constructor and/or editor embrace the term? It's just a word that contains only s,i,e, all of which are written without dots in morse. The word may have a mean or derogatory meaning, but it doesn't for the purpose of this clue.

retired_chemist 1:35 PM  

@ Anon 1:18 - ISIAH is how he (or his parents) spell it.

FWIW - Didn't see any offense in "sissies" as used- I am with S. Morse and Matthew G. Nobody got called anything offensive. It would be a sterile language indeed if we were to eliminate the use of words in all contexts if they offend somebody in one context.

Had TTYL and considered ROFL before FWIW.

Not much else to say. Liked it, didn't love it.

mac 1:36 PM  

Easy Wednesday, but I liked it. Nobody had cyberspace instead of hyperspace??

I ended up with a mistake: diss and Explicit consent. Seemed to make sense at the time.

@dk: I had several people LOL retelling your anecdote. Thank you!

chefbea 1:44 PM  

Back from the farmer's market :-(
It's not red tuber season yet.

@coffeeLVR I did see your post this morning. Thanks. Glad everyone is safe

Anonymous 1:50 PM  

The Morse code for "sissies" is all dits (short tones) as opposed to dahs (long tones). S is "...", I is ".." and E is ".". (I'm not that smart, I read this on Deb Amlen's blog comments.)

FWIW 2:06 PM  


Actually I AM in agreement with you. I have no problem with sissies either.

But I also now understand how others might, yet do not advocate banning it or any of the others I mentioned.

It's the intensity of the accusations in the earlier posts that I find troublesome.


Doc John 2:09 PM  

I must say that I was surprised to come here and find that you liked the puzzle, Rex. As you said, the cluing was bland but I also thought that there was way too much crossword-ese. When I see UEY or UIE it pretty much ruins it for me.

hazel 2:31 PM  

This puzzle was a bit of a mixed bag. Many of the acrosses were just plane tired to me (ATOP, OPS, USH, USDA, ENCL, et - and I mean etc.!.). Too too many. ALL the zip was in the downs, If I'd have solved downs first, I might have liked it. As I did not, ho-hum.

Rex Parker 2:35 PM  

Not offended by the "sissies" clue, but come on — even though it's true that the word is not being "embraced," it's still got the capacity to be jarring and offensive to some (esp. if you or anyone you know got called "faggot," "sissy," etc. growing up). Replace "sissies" with a racial epithet, and you'll see what I mean. It Would Never Fly, no matter how much you claimed that you were only interested in the Morse Codeness of the term.

Further, it is utterly useless to tell someone he shouldn't be offended. You can say *you* weren't offended, but don't tell others whether they had any right to feel a certain way. Pointless. Also, could be seen as kind of dickish.

andrea sissy michaels 3:08 PM  

Spirits soared when the puzzle started out with ZERO/ZINC and was a pangram...with those nice corners of QUAD/QED and CUJOEMAJ!

But theme bland, clues bland, and icky words like UIE (U was my last fill, odd, I had to run the alphabet TWICE for both _IE in the UIE answer and the LIE!!!!!!!
For me, P-T for a Wall St. thing could have been a consonant, like IPO or LBO, an abbreviation with any letter)

(Joon and I did a SIXPACKS puzzle a couple of weeks ago for the LA Times and we had six different packs, tho not LIE! That seems clever and fun and about the only misdirection in the puzzle)

Minnesota was MINN when I was growing up, certainly not MINNA. Why PENNA instead of PENN?
PENNA seems to practically undercut the whole reason to abbreviate! That would be like abbreviating abbreviate ABBREVE.

I'm super interested in what you brought up as to how to spell oral abbreviations, like "The Usual", (tho I would have to thumbs down the "yooj" that's almost as icky as the weird abbreviations in this puzzle: PENNA, USH, UIE....ic!)

I'm with you that I throw and run like a girl (actually, I refuse to run, so I run like a, um, person who will probably get run over one day)

And I'm on the fence about "sissies". I didn't even get the clue, not knowing Morse Code, so retroactively find it clever.

But I totally feel @Jesser's pain and until some of these things are brought to light, they won't fade out of the language.
Not so much as a PC police sort of thing, but as a it-wouldn't-kill-you-to-be-more-sensitive-about-it way. If kids are killing themselves over it, then it should be re-examined and not dismissed as a "get over it!".
For those who insist words don't harm that is like one of those I-can't-even-look-at-him Kobe's non-apology apology.
(Today I shall adopt SISSY as my middle name to take some of the sting out of it, like "queer" being reconfigured as a power word)

In terms of misspellings, I am both irritated and strangely excited to see the ugliness of ISIAH's name in a puzzle. It would be interesting to do a puzzle filled with sports guys crazy name spellings.
That PLAN_R thing was hard for me bec I didn't know the word and I knew ISIAH spelled his name "wrong" but wasn't 100% sure how.
(Same deal for RICKI, I tried two K's at first)

Mnemonic: You can remember nine/ten in Japanese ku/ju by thinking about CUJO)

And shout out to my sister (sissy?) ELYSE sitting there quietly at the bottom!

CrazyCat 3:19 PM  

I was hoping I was getting better at solving NYT puzzles, but alas it was just easier than the usual Wednesday. EXPLICIT CONTENT and MANIFEST DESTINY were my favorite theme answers

PENNA. was used as the state abbreviation way back before zip codes and the current postal state abbreviations. Maybe it should have clued as "quaint" or "old" Quaker State: Abbr.

@dk - I remember that PATENT LEATHER old wives' tale. Cute story.

jackj 3:28 PM  

There was nothing difficult about this puzzle, but it seemed a rather officious exercise, making it feel a bit of a slog.

For years, bread makers have included a notation on their wrappers that it was made in accordance with the “PENNA Dept. of Agriculture”.

I don’t know why this was deemed necessary and I don’t care. It seems benign and it made some Pa. bureaucrats happy. So be it.

D_Blackwell 3:31 PM  

I thought the 'sissies' clue was very nicely done for DITS.

Also, when considering the history of MANIFEST DESTINY and that it seems to be pretty well liked, I have a particularly hard time taking objections to 'sissies' seriously.

sanfranman59 3:38 PM  

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

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

Wed 8:57, 11:43, 0.76, 6%, Easy

Top 100 solvers

Wed 4:56, 5:46, 0.85, 15%, Easy

CrazyCat 3:53 PM  

@Chefbea Forgot to say that beets are in abundance here at the markets in CA. They are especially delicious this year. We've been having them in salads almost daily. Love them with burrata.

GLR 3:54 PM  

@jesser 9:15,

I grasp, but don't necessarily share your offense at "sissies" showing up as a clue in the puzzle - particularly given the way it was used.

But then we have a post (from S Morse) that simply explains the clue/answer and suggests no offense should be taken. The opening of your response to that post is "Bullshit." Am I the only one here who finds *that* somewhat offensive, and a bit bully-ish itself?

Victor in Rochester 4:08 PM  

A frequent lurker but a rare poster, today I'm not with Rex, I'm with @Doc John. Let me list the reasons:


If you have to squeeze so many "huh" words in the grid, perhaps the construction is the problem.

Victor in Rochester 4:09 PM  

I meant USH

Pete 4:14 PM  

@GLR - Yes. God, I hate people.

Jerry 4:20 PM  

Not that there's anything wrong with that

Evgeny 5:03 PM  

seeing what turns the discussion is taking and how heated it gets, i have to agree with @ Rex. Had no idea that 'sissy' was as bad a slur as those listed/referred to.

chefwen 5:09 PM  

@dk - Two very funny books are The Last Catholic in America and Do Black Patent Shoes Really Reflect Up, by John Powers. I was not brought up Catholic but my husband and his sibling attended Catholic grade schools, the stories are priceless.

I very much liked this puzzle except for the already mentioned PENNA, USH which I thought was ishy. Had ecco (shoe brand) before EKCO and PLANAR was new to me and my last fill.

For those that care 5:27 PM  

(i.e. not for @jackj)

PENNA Dept. of Agriculture standards are the strictest in the country. Dairy and dairy products certified as meeting them are accepted in all states without further testing.

Similar to cars "meeting" California emission standards, they generally can be sold in any state.

Anonymous 5:53 PM  

FWIW, the constructor is an openly gay man. At Diary of a Crossword Fiend, he states:
I’m glad my clue for DITS made it. I imagined “Morse Code for Sissies” as a book title like “Crosswords for Dummies” when I was thinking of the clue.

Anonymous 5:54 PM  

i must be stupid. i thought it was pretty hard for a wed. what does "dies irae" from/mean? ush? uies? ekco? penna as abbreviation for pennsylvania. dits? come on. i haven't even heard of half of these. sorry. had to rant.

Kendall 6:08 PM  

@Victor in Rochester, agree with you completely. Thought the theme answers were fine but the rest just didn't do it for me.

@jesser I am glad you brought this point up. I am glad RP defended you on this too, since this word can be very hurtful even if not intended to be. Someone I went to school with killed himself over "just a word" like this so it shouldn't be taken lightly.

chefbea 6:26 PM  

Guess everyone heard that Maura Jacobson is retiring from the New York Magazine crossword puzzle. Use to do that puzzle in Doctor's offices.

Unknown 6:29 PM  

Glad to read the comments about this puzzle. I've been making CrosSynergy puzzles since 2003 so haven't been in the NYT for a long time.

This puzzle was made for use in the Boston Crossword Tournament this past weekend. I knew it would be slotted into Tues or Wed so I deliberately tried for very straightforward clues (bland), figuring that Will Shortz would pump its difficulty up as needed. As it turns out, he edited it very lightly.

I made a version of this puzzle with just 3 entries (CLEAR CONSCIENCE) instead of 4, and showed both to Will Shortz. Even though 4 theme entries required some less-than-stellar fill words, Will preferred the denser thematic content.

My working method does often focus on setting the theme entries, then fixing fresh longer down entries (HYPERSPACE, CUTIEPIE, TEARINTO, TAGYOUREIT). In this puzzle, the result is that the Acrosses are somewhat compromised, as people point out. Although I don't have a problem with using fill like CREE, TRE, ENCL in puzzles, I am not a big fan myself of USH, PRIER, and RELO in this one.

I downplayed the number of lateral-thinking clues, since I was not sure this was going to be a Tues or Wed, but it looks like this puzzle did have quite a number of stumpers for people (PENNA, RICKI, ELYSE, EKCO).

I have to say I was surprised that PENNA was not well known. And also PLANAR, since I edit Geometry books.

Starting the puzzle off with a Z is a likely hint that the puzzle will be pangram. In this case, it's typical to look for the Scrabbly letters in the corners, such as QUAD/QED and EMAJ/CUJO.

I liked inventing a non-standard clue for DITS, and originally . Didn't imagine that using the word "sissies" would jar some solvers. Originally was thinking of something less snappy, such as "Morse code for SHE IS HIS".

I recall one frequent poster on the NYT Forum used to arrive and post whenever (and only when) MORON was used as fill or in a clue, because of similar feelings. All I can say is that I used the word deliberately and knowingly.

jberg 6:51 PM  

FWIW, I use FWIW all the time - means more or less the same as IMO or IMHO, but I don't seem to like them as much.

I'm with Rex, if sissies offends, then it offends - i don't think puzzles have to be PC, but maybe in this case. "Hissies" would do (Kind of fit?), if I remember my Morse correctly from Boy Scout days (now over 50 years past).

I have heard people say they were going to USH at a particular show for the free tickets, so that didn't bother me.

I had ETHOS at first for 55D, but was saved by the crosses; wanted SOME ADULT CONTENT, but was saved because it was one letter too many; and, not knowing Italian, couldn't decide between PLANAR and PLANAL for a long time.

I did like it, though. I liked it more after noticing the pangram, but am not sure whether that should really maatter.

@Nancy in PA (or maybe in PENNA?), MANIFOLD DESTINY is when your carburetor goes bad.

Tobias Duncan 6:55 PM  

"This American Life" did a great episode called "Sissies" back 1996. You can stream it here.
It is one if their best hours ever

Bert 7:06 PM  

Yeah, it's sad, believe me Missy
When you're born to be a sissy
Without the vim and verve
But I could show my prowess
Be a lion, not a mowess
If I only had the nerve

I'm afraid there's no denyin'
I'm just a dandylion
A fate I don't deserve

Anonymous 7:25 PM  

Victor, what's wrong with IKNOW? That's quality fill in my book.

Moonchild 7:35 PM  

@ wijwij, Thanks so much for the comments. I love knowing the back story.
Such a lot of reaction on sissies.
It seems kinda old-fashioned and fairly benign. But as a tomboy I have no idea what it feels like to be called one.
@ Bert, I love that song!

chefwen 7:41 PM  

Watching a rerun of Iron Chef whilst baking cookies and one of the judges is Mark EKCO of 66A fame. How 'bout that!

hazel 7:44 PM  

@wijwij - very interesting! next time I see your byline, I will definitely go downs first.

@moonchild - me too with the tomboy-calling. i always liked it.

CrazyCat 8:19 PM  

@wijwij Thanks for your comments. I also really liked TAG YOUR'E IT.

I'm a girl and was called a "sissy/sissie" from day one by my older brother, who became an NFLER (awful, but true), and the neighborhood boys. I threw like a girl, caught like a girl and was deathly afraid of spiders, snakes, frogs, EFTS and most rodents. On the other hand, I could shinny up a tree faster than any boy I've ever met. Don't think I could still do that ; (
@chefwan - I thought there was a nun connotation to the PATENT LEATHER myth, but didn't want to go there.

chefbea 8:41 PM  

@WIJWIJ glad to hear from you. Look forward to another puzzle.

retired_chemist 9:10 PM  

What @chefbea said.

michael 9:34 PM  

I didn't know that usenet was still around.

mmorgan 9:54 PM  

Was out of town today, just got to everything.

Zipped through the puzzle except for some serious but not fatal bumps in the NW.

Much, much, much to ponder in blog comments today.

Geometricus 10:03 PM  

@wijwij: what Geometry books do you edit? I teach HS Geom. and I am constantly "proof-reading" and I always teach students to write QED 'cause I'm cool like that.

I used to teach a 2-wk summer course called HYPERSPACE to teach kids how to visualize four-dimensional structures. I had them read Abbott's Flatland whose main character was totally PLANAR. Then we went through Jeff Weeks' awesome topology primer The Shape of Space. Many of the kids caught fire and went on to become math majors and a few got their PhDs.

Oh, and I liked the puzzle, in case that wasn't obvious.

Kurisu 10:51 PM  

Anonymous: Dies Irae is a medieval Latin poem that's best known as part of the Requiem mass (or at least it used to be). IRAE is a common bit of crosswordese so it's worth remembering.

sanfranman59 11:16 PM  

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

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

Mon 6:33, 6:53, 0.95, 30%, Easy-Medium
Tue 9:29, 8:56, 1.06, 69%, Medium-Challenging
Wed 9:05, 11:43, 0.77, 6%, Easy (6th lowest median solve time of 95 Wednesdays)

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:26, 3:40, 0.94, 27%, Easy-Medium
Tue 4:54, 4:35, 1.07, 74%, Medium-Challenging
Wed 4:40, 5:46, 0.81, 7%, Easy (7th lowest median solve time of 95 Wednesdays)

Stan 12:16 AM  

Rex: Great reply about the "Sissie' clue. And @Jesser and @Purple Guy: You rock! Thanks for bringing it up.

Want to blather about Suzi Quatro, but will do that in the future...

protege01 1:13 AM  

I can't believe people actually liked this puzzle.
Soooooo much crap fill IMO and I won't even mention 34D.

PENNA???? Since when is that an acceptable abbreviation?!?!
FWIW - never seen this and I've been on the Internet a long time.
ENROL - where did the other L go?

Then there are some below average fill that's not as bad. I don't get what's to like.

Anonymous 11:33 AM  

I'm from Penna., and yes, for decades, that was the abbrev. (rather than write the whole thing). We always wrote Phila., Penna. (pre zip code), for obvious reasons.

Fwiw, "FWIW" may be the MOST used internet and text abbrev., along IMHO and OTOH, and way ahead of LOL, BFF and YMMV.

34D (which had different and fantasy connotations when I was in high school in Penna) is a politically correct hot potato (or potatoe, as per M. Quayle) for some, pas moi. It could have been "Morse Code for Sis", instead, still all "dits". Otoh, if we agree that sissy is a dictionary word, it didn't bother me, personally. And if you look in a dictionary, "sissy" mostly means unassertive, lacking courage to do something expected of someone more manly, wimpish, or refined as opposed to rough. Effeminate is one definition, but we all know by now that "masculine" and "effeminate" do not, in any universe, equate to straight or gay.

rain forest 12:31 PM  

From syndiville: There are people who almost seem to strive to be offended, and as has been said, if one is offended, then it is so, which is too bad if it occurs in a pretty neutral setting such as a crossword puzzle. To such people I'd like to say, "get over it", but of course they won't/can't, which is also too bad. Call me a bully.

Anonymous 1:44 PM  

Further to the question of acceptable state abbrev.s for x-word clues, from a similar vintage to "Penna," with or without the punctuation, see:

N Mex
N (and S) Carol

I'm sure there are others I'm missing. I won't even start on countries, except to say So. Kor., ROK and Rep. of Kor all work for South Korea and Cze and Czech. for, well, you get the idea . . .

Dirigonzo 4:15 PM  

MANIFESTDESTINY has morphed into American Exceptionalism, but that's a political rant for another blog.

Wanted 23a Part of a pack to be dog, a la my 3 dogs known collectively as "the Brat Pack", but loved it when LIE appeared.

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