Actress Fox of Transformers / MON 5-2-11 / Love Song band 1989 / Greek goddess of strife / Country-pop star 2008 six-time platinum album Fearless

Monday, May 2, 2011

Constructor: Caleb Madison

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: -IFT endings — seven (!) phrases ending with -IFT

Word of the Day: THE CURE (29A: "Love Song" band, 1989) —
The Cure is an English rock band formed in Crawley, West Sussex in 1976. The band has experienced several line-up changes, with frontman, vocalist, guitarist and principal songwriterRobert Smith being the only constant member. The Cure first began releasing music in the late 1970s with its debut album Three Imaginary Boys (1979); this, along with several early singles, placed the band as part of the post-punk and New Wave movements that had sprung up in the wake of the punk rock revolution in the United Kingdom. During the early 1980s, the band's increasingly dark and tormented music helped form the gothic rock genre. (wikipedia)

• • •

Pretty distracted right now. It's been a pretty big day. Started with a beautiful Sunday morning in sunny Santa Monica, where I had to say goodbye to a friend I rarely see. Then off to the Crosswords L.A. tournament at Loyola-Marymount University, where I had a blast meeting new people, seeing old friends, and spending most of the day in a windowless room scoring puzzles with Tyler Hinman, Alex Boisvert, Doug Peterson, and Todd McClary. Then off to dinner at a Persian restaurant in Marina Del Rey with Andrea Carla Michaels, her friends Paul Clay and Eric Seale, and blog reader Jacqueline Valentine (er... that may not be the right last name), who comments here as "JaxinLA." It was while we were sitting in the restaurant, toward the end of the loooooong meal (we waited for 30 min. before finding out that our order was Never Put In at the kitchen...), that Eric got a text from his daughter that read: "Osama bin Laden esta muerto" (they text each other in Spanish—I don't know why). It was such a terse, direct pronouncement, with no qualifying statement, no context, that we weren't sure what to make of it. But when I got in the car, my satellite radio station *cut in* on my Love Songs ("Islands in the Stream," to be exact) to tell me that there was Breaking News to be had on other stations. Got into hotel, turned on TV, and oh my god. Newsgasm. So ... a lot to take in. I'll try to stick to the puzzle.

Caleb! This is a wonderful puzzle. The theme is slight—mere end rhymes holding the whole thing together—but seven (!) long theme answers? The two Downs of which intersect the grid-traversing center answer? That's pretty great. And the theme answers themselves are bright and snappy, especially GOD'S GIFT, my favorite. But the weird thing is that it didn't feel "Monday." The pop culture answers (esp. THE CURE) (29A: "Love Song" band, 1989) and the relative openness of the NW and SE (double-barrel long Downs) add a potential level of difficulty that Mondays often lack. I sat down with Andrea (a seasoned Monday constructor in her own right, as you probably know) to talk about this puzzle, and Monday puzzles in general. Part of me wants simply to cut-and-paste my notes on our conversation into this write-up; they're pretty funny in their own right. But instead I'll try to put them into some kind of coherent form...

"7 is the new 3" and "There are no Mondays any more." These are the two most interesting (if slightly enigmatic) statements Andrea made in the course of talking about this puzzle. She loved the puzzle, but was pointing out how the showiness of later-week puzzles (dense themes valued over grid smoothness, pop culture-y answers) was becoming a staple of early-weekers as well. You used to be able to build a puzzle around 3 solid, long theme answers. That hardly happens any more. Four is close to bare minimum, five is typical, and six+ reasonably common. Most folks I know would celebrate rather than lament this development, but her underlying concern is valid. For her, Mondays have a duty to be not just snappy and entertaining and clever, but smooth, with as little crosswordese and as few groaners as possible. Caleb's puzzle is admirably junk-free *for a puzzle of this theme density*. OWS, EXTS, INE, ITE, ERIS, AAAS, TOR, AONE: in a less thematically dense puzzle (esp. one at the max 78 words, as this one is), these short answers would grate much more than they do here, where they are propping up a good amount of gorgeousness. I mean, HI-FALUTIN'? Come on. That's gold. Just fantastic. So ... less boring, or less staid, but less smooth overall—this is the way of the world, Monday-wise.

Other highlights of our conversation:
  • Andrea: "Where's SIFT? Or RIFT? Also, this puzzle isn't a pangram. Epic fail."
  • Both Andrea and I went PRO instead of FOR at 19A: In favor of. Small trap, but significant if you are a speedy solver.
  • On the consecutive clues [20%] and [10%]—Andrea: "That even makes DII look good." Me: "Ouch. Backhanded."
  • Andrea was particularly MIFT at ON THE ("That's allowable?"), which is, indeed, an "icky way to end the puzzle." But love for the FIFTH/TITHE sequence (in that same corner) ameliorated any sour feelings.
  • Andrea wanted THE CULT instead of THE CURE. "Is there a band called 'THE CULT?'" Yes. Yes there is.

Andrea also noted that DOWNSHIFT is going Down, as is the SNOW in SNOWDRIFT. Nice touch.

There was a lot of other banter about MONTGOMERY CLIFT, whether he was a JEW (no), who he was or was not GAYER than, what he had to do with Elizabeth TAYLOR (SWIFT), etc. But I think I've covered the most relevant parts of our conversation.

Theme answers:
  • 17A: Country-pop star with the 2008 six-time platinum album "Fearless" (TAYLOR SWIFT)
  • 24A: Vehicle moving items in a warehouse (FORKLIFT)
  • 36A: "From Here to Eternity" Best Actor nominee (MONTGOMERY CLIFT)
  • 50A: What a Don Juan thinks he is to women (GOD'S GIFT)
  • 58A: Opposite of a tightwad (SPENDTHRIFT)
  • 11D: Road blocker after a winter storm (SNOW DRIFT)
  • 32D: Move to a lower gear (DOWNSHIFT)
  • 1A: Actress Fox of "Transformers" (MEGAN) — more pop culture. Not shocking that this clue comes from a young man.
  • 54A: Charlie of "Two and a Half Men" (SHEEN) — Not anymore.
  • 9D: Entree from Swanson or Banquet (POTPIE) — haven't had one of these (the frozen food variety, anyway) since I was a child. Used to looooove them.

  • 40D: Where inhaled air goes (LUNG) — Me: "Just one?"
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. some photos from Crosswords L.A. 2011

Cake of the grid for Tyler Hinman's brutal Puzzle #4

And later ... (this portion went to a very, very happy security crew, who hauled it away with smiles on their faces):

Andrea and Paul Clay in front of the tournament venue:

Eric Seale, JaxinLA, Doug Peterson:

Tyler Hinman and tourney organizer Elissa Grossman, just before Tyler's puzzle was unleashed on scores of innocent solvers:

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]


Gareth Bain 4:36 AM  

If there are people like Caleb who can make a puzzle this smooth (7 dodgy entries, I'm not giving you Eris, it's bigger than Pluto!) with 7 entries, you need a darn good reason to give to an editor as to why your puzzle only has 3... I know this, as I've had a few 3-entry puzzles expanded/rejected already in various places!

Gareth Bain 4:38 AM  

Also: The Cult - Fire Woman: a classic!

Kurisu 8:00 AM  

Great puzzle. GAYER was surprising, and I made the same PRO mistake. But it was easy and fun.

joho 8:04 AM  

@Rex, loved the writeup, the pics and especially your conversation with @Andrea Carla Michaels regarding the status of the Monday puzzle.

@Gareth Bain makes a point that why would an editor choose three 15s when he has seven "IFTS." But I would hate to see the smooth puzzles exemplied by Andrea go by the wayside altogether as new solvers need these puzzles to get their feet wet. And isn't clever, fun and easy what Monday is supposed to be?

Today's puzzle is super clever and fun but perhaps not as easy and as smooth as a Monday could be.

SethG 8:15 AM  

Clever and fun was enough. Enjoyable, and a bit intimidating.

quilter1 9:00 AM  

Great writeup and pix. The cake looked fantastic. Glad I wasn't the "icer" for that one. Thanks, Rex and Andrea.
I whizzed through this, so rate it easy. Loved the IFT theme, my fave being GOD'S GIFT. Good job, Caleb.

Samantha 9:02 AM  

Just wanted to continue your fun connections between MONTGOMERY CLIFT and Elizabeth TAYLOR ... know who her first husband was? Conrad Hilton. (See pic of your friends.) Calculated, or coincidence? :)

Anonymous 9:11 AM  

You had security at the tournament?! Actually understandable given Al Qaeda's hatred of that bastion of Western, Christian decadence- the crossword.

chefbea 9:16 AM  

Great puzzle, great write up and great fotos!!! Puzzle was a bit more difficult than most Mondays.

Haven't had a pot pie in years!!

Oscar 9:24 AM  

Crossing -IFT with -IFT? How does he do it?! Also, -1 for repeated ONs.

Tobias Duncan 9:29 AM  

blogger ate my long comment:(

This one went down fast for me,great puzzle and great write up.
I have only been solving for a couple years so I have not seen the puzzle change much, but I think I prefer the idea of better fill and less theme.
What I loved about this puzzle was all the wonderful fill.
I definitely share Andrea's take on Monday puzzles.

Father Daughter texting in Spanish = very cool.
Got a terse Osama text while watching the season opener of the new Doctor Who last night.

jackj 9:38 AM  

The theme entries showed that the parts can be more than the whole, in that answers like GODSGIFT, SPENDTHRIFT and FORKLIFT were lively and fun, even though the overall theme was a bit of a yawn.

HIFALUTIN was the star of the puzzle while FIFTH/TITHE, (the 20%/10% duo) played a respectable role as second banana.

INASTIR seemed the only notable weak link in Caleb's otherwise excellent Monday puzzle.

efrex 10:02 AM  

I liked this as a Monday, despite the short "yucky" fill. Not as elegant as some of the regular early constructor classics, but one that I could see a beginner enjoying. Hidden pleasures like that FIFTH/TITHE back-to-back and HIFALUTIN made for a nice snappy solve.

quilter1 10:08 AM  

@Tobias Duncan: the new season of Dr. Who is great.
I've got ingredients--I think I'll make chicken pot pie this week.
HIFALUTIN was also a favorite answer.

Anonymous 10:17 AM  

Why doesn't FIFTH qualify as a theme answer, making a total of eight?

Fine puzzle.

mac 10:20 AM  

That sounds like a great day in LA! Lucky all of you.
Any chance we get to do Tyler's puzzle?

Easy puzzle, with impressively dense theme. Have to agree with some, though, I prefer a puzzle with a real "theme", where the answers are connected by more than their last three letters.

Great words, though, favorites hifalutin and God's gift.

Doug 10:23 AM  

This was my fastest Monday ever, I think, and I'm nowhere near an expert solver -- especially those who comment regularly. I think the "move" toward 6- and 7-theme answers helps those like me with modest skills. Monty Clift was easy, and the once I noticed the "ift" theme, it got easier. Hey, no complaints. Liked this puzzle a lot, especially since Rex called it medium-challenging.

archaeoprof 10:29 AM  

Loved the write-up, Rex, and the pix too.

If ACME says there are no Mondays anymore, I believe her.

But this one sure felt like a really good Monday to me...

the redanman 10:31 AM  

Rex must be distracted or there wasn't enough standard knee-jerk crossword rote in this one. I found it rather easy, even for a Monday. Heck, I liked the variety.

But wait - there was ITE, INE, HST, FOR, AAA(S), OWS, MEW, DELI, Morse Code AND Roman Numerals.

I don't know what makes it hard of easy?!?!?!

retired_chemist 10:34 AM  

What @Doug said. Also my fastest Monday time ever, if I don't count the 30 seconds looking for the typo (in MONTGOMERY CLIFT).

Good job, Caleb.

Neville 10:39 AM  

If 7 is the new 3, then my constructing days are probably over (but not for lack of trying!) Really liked this puzzle and was quite impressed by it. I think we all know that rhyme themes are a bit passe, bit when you knock out nearly every possibility in the puzzle (with a fresh entry, to boot), it's well worth everyone's while. Great non-theme fill, too - I hadn't even noticed DII et al.

2 thumbs way up!

Kendall 10:55 AM  

This puzzle was absolutely awesome. The only bit of crosswordese I thought was noticeably ugly here was AAAS, but given everything else that hardly seems worth mentioning.

I dropped HI FALUTIN' just off of H-F and then SNOW DRIFT came perfectly after. Oh, and I also happen to write GOD'S GIFT immediately after filling in Charlie SHEEN. How could that not make someone laugh?

@Caleb - I'm a huge admirer of what you do, especially since we are close in age. I've been constructing some puzzles of my own that I hope to submit to the NYT before the year is finished and you have been a giant inspiration to me.

@ACME/Rex, nice little summary of Monday puzzles. I laughed out loud at the "Ouch. Backhanded." bit.

syndy 11:04 AM  

Maybe I'm not a purist but I'd take this one over the typical monday blandness anyday! Found it easy enough but it put a grin instead of a yawn on my face ( which is good because I didn't get to go to thye tournament this year)Anyway this puzzle doesn't have a THEME it has a MOTIF!And also anyhoo must say I do not like the look of REX's puzz-realize he's pressed for time but all them red triangles just shiver me timbers

Tobias Duncan 11:05 AM  

In Taos NM we text in spanglish.
Instead of LOL! we text HQF! for "Ha que funny!"

@ Quilter, fist episode sure was good...
@Kendall I love the idea of a new crop of clever young constructors on the rise.Good luck!

retired_chemist 11:10 AM  

@ Kendall - AAAS is also the acronym for the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Not sure that would fly for a Monday clue, though....

Bob Kerfuffle 11:11 AM  

Both puzz and write-up are quite NIFT-y!

Before I has finished putting in THE CURE, I wondered if it could be THE CURL!

I had somewhat the same thought as Rex regarding Charlie Sheen and 2 1/2 Men, but decided that with re-runs in syndication, Sheen will be forever "of" the show.

Two Ponies 11:25 AM  

Loved it loved it.
All these years I thought the actor spelled his name ClifF.
Didn't know the goddess so I learned two things today.
@Rex, That chicken pot pie from Just Shoot Me is a classic!

GILL I. 11:25 AM  

I loved this puzzle and found it easy but I've been doing them for years.
I've been working on daughter and many of her friends to take a stab at NYT puzzles and this one was just too hard for them. I'm in agreement with ACME and joho.
Loved the write-up and the pictures. Such fun...
Last night we popped open my favorite of all time - Moet & Chandon. I pity the fishes.

Anonymous 11:30 AM  

Medium-Challenging? Really?

Mel Ott 11:47 AM  

I thought this was one of the best Monday puzzles ever. Loved GODS GIFT, FORKLIFT, DOWNSHIFT & the non-theme HIFALUTIN and the back to back % clues.

jberg 12:11 PM  

I would call this one easy, what with clues like "curds and ___" ((27D) "Dashes' partners in Morse code" (66A) "Autos" (39D) and "Uncles' partners" (43A). I did like the 7 theme answers, esp. the IFT/IFT crossing already noted. I just wished the letters had more (or any) significance, though - maybe some reference to the International Firefighting Tribune, or the like.

@Anonymous 10:17, I think the theme was "ending with IFT" - and all the other theme answers were symmetrical in the grid, so I'd consider FIFTH an extra flourish, but not really part of the theme.

I enjoyed 34A ("Baseball's Dimaggio") and 61A (Politico ____ Paul") which each could have two answers. RAND Paul wouldn't fit, but you need the crosses to rule out DOM DiMaggio.

JaxInL.A. 12:21 PM  

I. Had. So. Much. Fun!!!!  Please forgive the very long post here--I had to split it into two sections to post it. Skip this if you are not interested in Crosswords L.A., but I know how much I enjoyed the people who wrote up their experiences at ACPT, so I thought I would offer a shadow of that here.  I'm sure that others who attended the whole day can give a fuller account, but this is mine.    

Last week I reported here my disappointment that, between bat mitzvah prep, daughter's piano recital, and work commitments all on May 1, I was giving up on trying to attend the Crosswords L.A. Tournament. Well, somehow the stars aligned and by 1:30 I found myself free to contemplate at least observing the final round and meeting some of the folks I knew would be there.  My husband, said, "Go! These are your people. You will love it."  Bless his cotton socks.

I dashed across town to the beach-side LMU campus and crashed the party just as that huge cake in the picture had been cut and served on square black plates and white plates laid in a pattern.  Very clever.  I missed solving all the tourney puzzles, but I did get to join a group to solve some word games while awaiting the scores and the final round. The first group to solve all six games (a rebus, a word search, and four others, harder to describe) won a prize (not my group).  What lovely people.  

I spotted Andrea just as the crowd moved back into the lecture room/theatre for the final round and, brazen hussy that I am, I walked right up and introduced myself.  I was delighted when her face brightened as I told her that I post on Rex's blog as JaxInL.A.  She really is, as you would expect, the Queen of Nice.  We chatted briefly, in between juggling microphones, as she and Tyler Hinman prepared to provide commentary when the three finalists duked it out.

Organizer Elissa Grossman announced the top scorers (Jordan and two Erics), who took their places at large grids on easels, much like in the Wordplay movie.  It was a re-match of sorts, as the same three people faced off at this contest two years ago,  Helpers outfitted them with white noise iPods and noise-canceling headphones. Elissa handed out the puzzles to the audience to follow along, annnnnd ... they were off and running.  

The final puzzle by Karen Tracey had MANY Scrabbly letters and some great long answers. One of the Eric's ran through the entire Marx Bros. family before finally hitting on Zeppo for one answer.  Jordan won, Elissa announced all of the prizes (nearly as many as people attending, it seemed), and it was over.  

JaxInL.A. 12:21 PM  

I saw Rex across the room and scooted over, not wanting to miss the chance to meet.  I stuck out my hand and announced my name.  It did feel a bit odd, meeting for the first time someone I already knew so much about.  DougP stood right next to Michael/Rex and I felt ridiculously pleased that they both recognized my handle/name. I try to get over to the L.A. Crossword Confidential blog when I can, where Doug regularly offers fun write-ups, in addition to making regular appearances here.  Doug took me over to meet Rich Norris, editor of the L.A. Times puzzle.  I felt quite star-struck, in a nerdy, crosswordy kind of way.  Rich shared a charming story about how he once got a letter from a kid asking if he ever published "easy puzzels" (sic).  Not that easy, kid.

Though the tourney had ended, I definitely didn't want to leave yet.  Andrea introduced me to her friends Eric and Paul, who had come down from Santa Barbara to see her, and we chatted away while Rex and Andrea snuck off to hash over today's gem from Caleb.  Not able to tear myself away, I just hung around having interesting conversations with Andrea's interesting friends until Rex and Andrea returned.  In fact my last name is usually Hamilton (not Valentine as Rex wrote uncertainly above), but I told everyone of the odd circumstance that my husband's parents were David and Jacqueline Valentine, and if I had changed my name we would also be David and Jacqueline Valentine.  Very Oedipal to marry a woman with your mother's name, right? In the end, I didn't change my name legally, though I go by "Mrs. Valentine" at my daughter's school and in our neighborhood. Does that mean I have become my mother-in-law? She was great, so there are worse fates.

We walked out in the gloriously clear, warm and breezy spring weather and stood around talking (see photo).  I was thrilled when they graciously invited me to join them for dinner at a Persian restaurant in Marina del Rey.  I got to hear about Andrea's life and the evolution of Rex's blog, and possible future plans. Sitting there, talking so comfortably with people who are stars in my little world already felt a bit dream-like and apart from regular life. Then Eric's daughter sent her text announcing Bin Laden's death. Unclear on how to confirm or react, though, we eventually went back to talking about life, words and the world of puzzles.  

Still floating this morning, despite a heavy work week ahead, I remain grateful to Michael for providing this space for sharing something that, until recently, was a solitary pleasure for me. And thanks to all of you for making up this entertaining and stimulating community.  Congratulations to Elissa and the other organizers on a delightful event.  My parting advice? Go to a crossword event if you can. You will have great fun. 

Kendall 12:21 PM  

@retired_chemist - Thanks for the insight there. Given my current standing as a student of Bioinformatics (fancy word for stats + bio + computer science aimed at the medical industry), you would think I should have known this already.

GILL I. 12:38 PM  

What a terrific write-up !!!
Thank you for sharing your experience. What fun..
I'm a happy camper today.

Bob Kerfuffle 12:54 PM  

@JaxinL.A. - Thanx for your L.A. tournament write-up. I was struck by the similarities to my first tournament, last year at the ACPT: Being greeted by Andrea like a long-lost friend; being in the company of, and in awe of, so many great people from the crossworld; having drinks and/or dinner with Rex and other bloggers and constructors; and meeting other folks from the blog.

Once again, this is why anyone who can should go to a tournament.

CoffeeLvr 1:20 PM  

@Rex, well, now I can join the chorus of "Blogger ate my post." At 4:00 am I commented on how much I appreciate your terrific writeup today; great input from Andrea, photos, lots of music clips. Especially grateful for The Cure and The Cult, as that era of music is unknown to me.

@Kendall, my brother is a family practitioner and currently head of staff at his hospital. They need all the help with Bioinformatics they can get. There are a few pages about an initial development in "Super Freakonomics," but I can't find the book right now - lost somewhere in the bed.

@JaxinLA, thank you so much for letting me look over your shoulder so to speak. Now I want to go to a tourney.

@quilter1, for his ninth BD, my son requested a chess board on the cake. I did it, but it was pretty ragged.

About the puzzle itself: I did not know ERIS, forgot how to spell HIFALUTIN' and new solvers would also have to DOWNSHIFT the FORKLIFT for the heavy lifting on ERATO and AMOI. I really wanted MOTIF to be part of the "theme," but no. WIELD, PRAWN and SMOOTH were crunchy fill; nice.

As a relatively new solver, I see how such theme density is impressive, but this wasn't much fun for the effort. Of course, I solved it during a bout of news induced insomnia, so maybe my judgement is distorted today.

DBGeezer 1:29 PM  

Could you please interpret for me the phrase "Seven is the new three"?

chefbea 1:41 PM  

@jaxInL.A. What a great write up. Thanks so much!!!

Anonymous 1:57 PM  

@DBGeezer - Three theme entries used to be sufficient, now seven are. It's a play on "brown is the new black", or your 50s are the new 40s.

Masked and Anonymous 2:13 PM  

Nice. Got about all the -ift words, except sift and rift.

Might be a little on the hard side of Monday, for a beginning solver. Good to break 'em in early on ARLO, tho.

Aren't seven theme answers what you usually shoot for in a Sun Puz? Impressive construction, kid. Now let's see you do 8.

Obama 1, Osama 0. Amazing what you can get done, when Congress ain't involved.

Stan 2:31 PM  

Fun puzzle -- goofy, inventive rhymes.

Taylor Swift is one of the youngest Grammy winners ever, appropriate for Caleb.

I saw the Cult once, while visiting my snowbird parents in Florida. They declined to come along.

We played this one by the Cure at our wedding reception.

Joe 2:46 PM  

Really enjoyed this one.
Not too clever (meaning annoying) at all.

I really feel that if Caleb Madison had clued 54A as "Charlie the Warlock," everyone would have gotten it.

andrea shifty michaels 3:00 PM  

my plane out of LAX has been cancelled :( I blame Osama

Sfingi 3:10 PM  

Anon1017 - That would have to be FIFT, as some people do say, especially NE coast.

Marie Callender are the best microwave POTPIEs. Now, PRAWN. There's something A ONE.

When I saw 10%, it flashed through my brain that it couldn't be "Tenth," since one says to oneself "Ten" and that would be the same word; however, so many of my students apparently don't do that automajically, and that's one reason why they have trouble with math.

Gotta learn how to spell TAYLOR. She sure is purty.

How often is rhyming a theme? This could indicate a new direction.

My son lost a friend in the Twin Towers, another student at SUNY Binghamton. Some, but not all of the photos he took when he worked on the 100th floor are at
Paul was 22 on 9/11/2001.

quilter1 4:18 PM  

@Coffeelvr: for my son's ninth BD he asked for a banana cake. I guess I should buy some bananas, I said. No, I want a cake that looks like a banana. Okaaaay. And like you, the cake looked better than I did.

captcha stshippr: holy one on a toot

CrazyCat 4:21 PM  

Not much left to say except that I also really loved this puzzle and found it, for the most part, on the easy side.

@jaxinLA. Sounds like you had a blast! Thanks!

Thanks also to Rex and Andrea for taking time out of their hectic day to provide such a nice write up. Love that cake!

chefwen 4:25 PM  

@JaxInL.A. - Thanks for the recap, I almost feel like I was there. Such fun!

Messed up in the Northwest by putting in topic right away at 1D, didn't know who the actress Fox was or the band 29A but I would rather have my teeth pulled before Googling on a Monday and managed to pull it off with filling in the downs and getting rid of topic. Oh and in a snit before IN A STIR, that was an easy one to fix.

Good Monday puzzle Caleb!!!

sanfranman59 4:30 PM  

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

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

Mon 6:26, 6:52, 0.94, 26%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:33, 3:40, 0.97, 40%, Medium

KarenSampsonHudson 4:41 PM  

Now that is one masterpiece of a cake! Thanks for pictures, Rex.

CoffeeLvr 5:01 PM  

@quilter1, best cake ever was the castle cake for his sixth BD. Made the draw bridge out of Popsicle sticks, and the crenellations out of sugar cubes. Bought little banners on toothpicks. Such fun.

JenCT 5:18 PM  

@Rex, @JaxinLA: great writeups!

At my job, we called one very good-looking customer GOD'S GIFT behind his back. (It was definitely not a compliment!)

Enjoyed the puzzle, liked TITHE, PEEP, TIX.

JFe 5:37 PM  

@JaxinL.A.: thanks for your breathless recap--so much fun!

mmorgan 7:14 PM  

Thanks, @Jax!

Did this last night -- busy all day -- found it fun and easy and fun.

But agree with @Andrea... No pangram?!? (I might be kidding.)

Monday is the new Monday. Thanks, Caleb!

Jenny 8:21 PM  

Really liked the puzzle, though it felt easy-ish to me. In only solve the early week puzzles online and for time. The later-in-the-week puzzles I like to savor and enjoy with tea (and Fri-Sat in particular I complete over multiple sittings).

Just went to my first tournament last weekend, the Boston Crossword Puzzle Tournament. I had to drive back to my family's right afterwards, so there was not much socializing for me (just a few friends I already knew, and their NPL friends). Still, it was exhilarating and fun, and I hope to get to another event soon.

Just found out about the Lollapuzzoola guys' show Fill Me In and hope to listen to a few of those soon. And their event sounds FAB, as does getting away from the Texas mid-summer heat (though NYC might be just as icky)!

JaxInL.A. 9:40 PM  

Thanks very much for the wonderful comments. I worried for a bit that it might be too many words, bit I figured no one is forced to read.

I ended up sneakily involving my daughter with this puzzle by telling her that Caleb was in high school and had too many references to young people stuff. She loves knowing things I don't, or thinking she does. I had her fill in Taylor Swift and Megan Fox. I knew the former but not the latter. I'll make a solver of her yet. She enjoyed the rhymes, too. Thanks, Caleb, for a puzzle I can do with my teenager.

When I came home last night she had made a blog and posted her first real commentary as "Moxie Valentine" about Bin Laden's death. For 13 she's not bad!

sanfranman59 10:12 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 6:28, 6:52, 0.94, 26%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:31, 3:40, 0.96, 35%, Easy-Medium

Sparky 10:16 PM  

Caught on to FT endings and filled in a couple in advance. TERN gave me FOR so didn't trip over pro. Also questioned one LUNG? That was my only quibble. Good job Caleb.

The discussion between Rex and Andrea really interesting. Such nuance. Thanks. Enjoyed write up and pictures.

@JaxinLA. Great description. Felt like being there. Lots of fun.

mac 10:41 PM  

Thank you, Jax! I've enjoyed every crossword puzzle tourney I've been too. It's the people.

@JenCT: love those chicks.

@Jenny: Lollapuzzoola is great. Just make sure to get there early and find a place close to the AC. Oh, wait, they may be moving to a new venue!

thursdaysd 11:00 PM  

Interesting discussion. I often forget about the theme, especially with a quick solve like this one. Enjoyed HIFALUTIN! Had to get ERIS and THECURE from crosses.

andrea the cure-la michaels 1:57 AM  

What a wonderful write up! I feel like I was there too!
(Oh wait! I was!) Of course I greeted you like an old friend...bec you are! Anyone on Rex's blog is family as far as I'm concerned!

And I hope to godsgift (ie young Caleb) this doesn't actually need saying, but on the one chance someone was being too literal today, my comment about the (absence of) pangram, as well as rift/sift = "EPIC FAIL!" was totally a joke as this was one hifalutin' puzzle! LOVED it!

And yes, "7 is the new 3" was also a joke, a fear, a wish, and a wow.

My friend Paul Clay (who was SUCH a good sport, he doesn't even do puzzles and came just to hang for the day) even took pics of Rex and I huddled, co-blogging, bonded over our mutual love of Caleb, DII-secting his puzzle.
As per usual, don't know how to embed, but I will send them along to someone somewhere (probably to Elissa for her tournament site?)

@Samantha 9:02am
You win our secret contest!!! Yes, the whole Conrad Hilton thing was a subtle Elizabeth Taylor/Montgomery Clift shout out!
(Tell her what she's won, Johnny!)

JenCT 11:48 AM  

@mac: Check out how fast they're growing...

Did you suggest the name Oreo? I meant to tell you that my cat already has that name!

Dirigonzo 4:48 PM  

From syndicationland - @Andrea less effusive in her praise of a puzzle than Rex - that's different! (Even if she was just kidding.)

I, too, thought this felt a little "un-Mondayish" but everything was certainly gettable wihtout any problems. A good start to a new week I think.

Anonymous 7:08 PM  

Had THE CALL at 29a briefly. 1989 was a big year for bands named THE C_ _ _.

Dirigonzo 8:57 PM  

@anony 7:08 I had THECars there for a while so there's another one for your list (well almost - turns out they broke up in 1988.)

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