Jocular term for fear of palindromes / WED 5-4-11 / Argonaut who slew Castor / Pole tossed in Scottish competition / Phrase inspired by Napoleon

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Constructor: Jeff Chen

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: U-TURN (65A: Maneuver required five times to finish this puzzle) — five Downs appear to end in a single, unchecked letter, but make sense if you read Down and then (making a U-TURN) read back up again

Word of the Day: REDLINING (8D: Discriminatory insurance practice) —

Redlining is the practice of denying, or increasing the cost of services such as banking, insurance, access to jobs, access to health care, or even supermarkets to residents in certain, often racially determined, areas. The term "redlining" was coined in the late 1960s by John McKnight, a Northwestern University sociologist and community activist. It describes the practice of marking a red line on a map to delineate the area where banks would not invest; later the term was applied to discrimination against a particular group of people (usually by race or sex) no matter the geography. During the heyday of redlining, the areas most frequently discriminated against were black inner city neighborhoods. For example, in Atlanta, through at least the 1980s, this practice meant that banks would often lend to lower-income whites but not to middle- or upper-income blacks. (wikipedia)
• • •

Wow, this grid looks nuts. I like. I had a rough time with this one, even after I discovered the theme (which itself probably took me several minutes). Oooh, I just noticed that the black squares surrounding the ends of all the theme answers actually form the letter "U." That is Nice. Anyway, as I was saying, difficult for me, especially in the top middle—never heard of RED-LINING, and thought CABER (15A: Pole tossed in Scottish competition) was TABOR (which is a small drum, not a largish pole). I would never say PORT WINES (23A: Sweet beverages often served with dessert), as what else could PORT be? PORT nail polish? PORT answering machines? So, yeah, that whole wide-open section was a struggle. But a not unpleasant one. My favorite part of the whole puzzle is probably the clue on PHONE LINE (20A: It's often discovered dead in a horror film). Brilliant. AIBOHPHOBIA is from outer space, but given the theme, and the fair crosses, I kind of like it. All in all, one of the most creative and interesting-looking Wednesday puzzles I've seen in a while.

Theme answers:
  • 2D: Lionized (DEIF[IED])
  • 7D: Phrase inspired by Napoleon (ABLE WAS I ER[E I SAW ELBA)
  • 12D: Kind of cuff (ROTA[TOR])
  • 25D: Classic introduction (MADAM, I'[M ADAM]) — here's one thing I don't like: two of the theme answers are famous palindromes, phrases that exist only because some palindrome-lover invented them. This makes them unlike DEIFIED and ROTATOR, which are ordinary words that just happen to be palindromes, and AIBOHPHOBIA, a "jocular" term I've never seen before (30D: Jocular term for fear of palindromes)

Had trouble in the west with the Obscure IDAS (35A: Argonaut who slew Castor), and the odd SAN, which seems like it should have some Spanish-word-indicator somewhere in the clue (39A: Gabriel, for one). I went to school in the San Gabriel Valley. My graduating classes motto was ... palindrome. No fooling. I was class of 1991. Never heard of YATES (56A: Eastwood's "Rawhide" role), but most everything else seemed gettable. ORNE and ATTU and IRANI represent some unfortunate exotic crosswordese, but the BLESS YOU / YES, MASTER (49A: Genie's affirmative) / DR. WATSON (37D: Noted literary narrator) trifecta means that I hardly notice the garbage.

  • 21D: Pardner's mount (HOSS) — If you have enough Rs in you to say "Pardner," then you can damn sure say "horse."
  • 31D: Swing accompanier (SLIDE) — Me: "What's a 'swing & slide'? ... *oh*, like on a playground. OK."
  • 32A: Exchanges (MARTS) — as in "my wife and I marted vows 8 years ago..."
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

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


Anonymous 8:05 AM  

The "swing accompanier" might be a "slide" trombone.

joho 8:12 AM  

I absolutely LOVED this puzzle!

I almost encountered a Natick at TILDA/REDLINING not knowing either. I went through the alphabet and finally saw the "D" when I parsed it RED LINING.

Wanted Rowdy before YATES.


Fantastic theme and construction especially with the black squares froming U's.

Thank you Jeff Chen for a perfect Wednesday!

Evan 8:16 AM  

When I saw that the theme entries were all calling for a UTURN, I kept trying to find other letters nearby where the "crossword car" of my imagination would go. After I put down ABLEWASIER, I saw the BLE of BLESSYOU and the A of ALLEGRO, and thought, "Hey, there's the ELBA! So where is EISAW? Is it in a single square? Is it supposed to be in the black spaces?" (Yes, I actually thought that last part.)

It took me a long while to figure out that the UTURN meant to go straight back up again! I figured that for most U-turns, you have to turn and spin the wheel a little bit, and not go straight back in the opposite direction without turning. Isn't that more like putting the "crossword car" gear in REVERSE?

Greene 8:16 AM  

One of the most brilliant puzzles I've done in a while.

Me? Not so billiant. The theme eluded me for a long time because I was jumping around the grid and got U-TURN very early. Then I thought that 2D was DEIC instead of DEIF. Is DEIC even a word? I thought it might mean god-like. Not exactly the same as "lionized" but it was early in the puzzle. This led me to believe that the theme involved turning the letter U on its side to form a C or upsidedown to form an N. Totally wrong kind of U-TURN!

Finally got this straightened out when I got ABLE WAS I ER. It really could not be anything other than an R in that final box. WTF? Then the lights came on.

Terrific struggle and ultimately a very fun puzzle. Clever, clever, clever. Loved it!

Bobby the K 8:21 AM  

Mr. Chen has two other jewels in the puzzle; note homonyms ADDS and ADZ in NW and then AMIES and AMISS (where MISS is an AMIE).

Ulrich 8:31 AM  

I, too, admire the puzzle very much. I printed it late last night, and seeing the unusual grid, I had to find out what all the u's were about before going to sleep. Found AIBOHPHOBIA inspired, which I had never heard of, but was able to piece together. Thank God I had come across the Napoleon quote in connections with puzzles before--it was the answer that finally told me how to interpret the called-for u-turns.

@Bobby the K: Chapeau!

jesser 8:31 AM  

I got most of it, but in the end, the puzzle was smarter than the jesser.

Two trouble areas.

At the intersection of 5D and 15A, I ran the alphabet and finally plopped down an S, figuring A) maybe I should learn the first names of those AsTOR people, and B) Those Scots are nuts to be tossing sABERs around. Ugh.

Then at 39A, I wanted SoN, thinking it was a Biblical thing going on there. I could make zero sense of MADoMIMoDAM, but I Could Not Let Go of that bastard SoN.

All that said, I loved the puzzle. I've never seen anything like it. I suspect Mr. Chen is possessed of a DRY WIT!

Happy Hump Day Rexville!

Swayinac! (That summer time luxury when you come in from the oppressive heat and slowly move under the vent to feel the cool air produced by the machine on the roof) -- jesser

David 8:35 AM  

Okay I got to AIBOH and then... What letter with those backwards was it? Of course the P - and I learned a new term for something I've often felt!

This was a creative and fun puzzle. I disagree with Rex; it had to have the classic palindromes in it to add to the appeal and the DRYWIT.

retired_chemist 8:41 AM  

@ Rex - it's "podnuh" out here, hoss....

Wow. The first time I looked at 2D DEI it was a WTF, and I figured one of the five "cups" would tip me off as to what it all meant. 12D did it - what other kind of cuff is there starting with ROT_? And then using the familiar 7D to straighten out some errors in its crosses brought a smile to my face. Knowing 30(up) was PHOBIA then fixed 38A, which at the time was YURT, a standard bit of crosswordese. Glad it wasn't there. One of the puzzle's many virtues was a low crosswordese count.

One of my favorites this year. Thank you, mr. Chen.

John 8:41 AM  

In a word, yuck.

John V 8:44 AM  

Cool! Fun! Only glitch was not knowing Tilda Swinton, 28A. Got the theme straight away, but didn't notice the black square "U"s until I came here.

Now if we can make the CT weather do a U Turn and go back to sun.
This is getting seriously depressing.

Kurisu 8:49 AM  

Fun puzzle, although somewhat hard for a Wednesday. The theme answers were all good maybe with the exception of MADAMI (I had trouble finishing that section).

Ruth 8:51 AM  

GREAT puzzle! I had trouble at the ANT/ORNE crossing. Stupid French departments.
ROTA for "type of cuff" amuses me, as that is what many patients tell me they have torn or need surgery for: "My rota cuff" or "rotor cuff" are the most common mispronunciations. Almost as much fun as the various misspellings of tubal ligation.

JenCT 9:05 AM  

Like @jesser, got most of it, but not all.

Just couldn't see DRYWIT or YATES.

Wanted aperitifs before PORTWINES.


Challenging for me, but an enjoyable, unique puzzle.

efrex 9:10 AM  

Clever use of palindromes, and a pleasure to see UTURN written out in full in the grid, instead of the execrable UIE/UEY. Took a guess at AIBOHP(HOBIA), which opened up the east. Not quite understanding the clue for ROOST.

Jesser: I second the SABER/CABER error.

Nice, meaty Wednesday, clever construction, and some great fill: nice way to start this dreary morning.

John V 9:19 AM  

@efrex, ROOST is a "bar at night" for a rooster or hen.

I suspect roosters are staying inside on this dreary morning ... or perhaps going to a bar?

Anonymous 9:22 AM  

Saw the U's in the grid and got the theme right away. The problem is that I never heard of AIBOPHOBIA even though I had all the letters in. Could not make sense of 12D as I had guessed ROTOR instead of ROTATOR. Also could not get the last F in 2D. I also did not recognize the Napoleon inspired phrase so I could not put the last R even though I hjad all the other letters.
But I did get the last I in 25D.
Strange and clever puzzle at the same time.

ArtO 9:23 AM  

A really clever but highly "challenging" puzzle for Wednesday.

AIBOHPHOBIA just ain't fair!!

pauer 9:29 AM  

Finely wrought, and only 73 words. Pretty. Such a fun concept, executed brilliantly. Bravo!

Tobias Duncan 9:33 AM  

Ugg, New Mexico is 0 for 2 on this one.Our only hope now is santafefran.

JenCT 9:36 AM  

@John V: Nah, my rooster was out bright & early this morning, keeping a close watch on his "harem."

Pete 9:42 AM  

First glance at the grid had me looking for a Pac Man theme.

Gotta love a puzzle which breaks each and every rule of puzzledom, but does it for a reason, within reason, to brilliant results.

thursdaysd 9:44 AM  

That was fun. I finally got the theme after I abandoned son for Gabriel and got MADAMIMADAM. Fortunately I knew CABER as I'd never heard of the actors.

Had to guess at ORNE - could someone explain the Amazon ant?

Had just encountered PAINTBALL in a novel, so liked that, and laughed at PHONELINE.

Look Up Guy 9:50 AM  


Definitions of Amazon ant on the Web:

•small reddish slave-making ant species

•Polyergus, also called Amazon ants, is a small genus of 6 described species (and several possible undescribed species) of "slave-raiding" ants. ...

quilter1 9:50 AM  

When I saw those white squares hanging down like bats in a cave I thought we might have a rebus, but caught on to the palindromes and just thought this was so clever and well done. What a pleasure to do.

Knew YATES as I never missed Rawhide, though I had a crush on the MASTER of the cattle drive, Gil. Rowdy was too much of a bad boy to appeal. Liked the clue for 20A, BLESS YOU, GOBI, and I always like to see OXO. I've got lots of OXO in my kitchen.

While I may not offer a guest a glass of PORTWINE(S), there is a type of skin defect called PORTWINE stain and it is always called that. If I spilled the port I would call the result a PORTWINE stain.

And of course, 57A was a gimme. We used to go swimming at the giant pool at Fort Dodge, but budget cuts closed it years ago.

jackj 9:55 AM  

No "u" in the grid when printing out in AcrossLite but, it didn't affect the solve, which was relatively easy for the theme answers (sans AIBOHP(HOBIA).

I especially liked some of the fill, notably SNIPPETS, SMIDGE and that wonderful, rarely seen concoction, WRITHE.

BLESSYOU, DRWATSON and YESMASTER gave the puzzle a nice jolt of insouciance and Jeff Chen joins the first rank of uber-creative cruciverbalists after only 1 and 1/2 tries.

PuzzleNut 9:56 AM  

Put me in the "Loved it" camp. Started off covering the grid and doing it diagramless, but immediately started having major problems. Finally uncovered the grid and thought, WTF kind of grid is this. Thought there might be some strange rebus (had FIED in one cup and ATOR in the other). Didn't get the trick until the reveal at UTURN and burst out in a big smile. My last fill was the AIBOHP entry. Had the AIB?H? and had to write it out before it popped out at me. Veeeeery clever.
Add to that some other wonderful entries (PHONELINE being the best) and this may rank as one of the best puzzles of the year, IMHO.
One trouble spot was OisE which led to WigglE.

Lindsay 10:02 AM  

Whoa, a crenelated puzzle! Of course I was looking for an architecture theme. Or something medieval, perhaps. But got the real theme right away and cruised along without problems, though very doubtful about CABER stacked on TILDA.

I'm surprised that REDLINING isn't better known. Nationwide Insurance paid a whopping big fine a few years back (after much litigation) for engaging in the practice.

David L 10:02 AM  

As Oscar Wilde, he of the DRYWIT, said, "there are two kinds of people in the world, those who love crosswords with cutesy-poo palindromes for a theme, and those who don't."

archaeoprof 10:06 AM  

I loved it too.

Briefly thought Oscar Wilde might have been noted for his "wry wit."

How about a new reality show: "Crosswords with the Stars." Contestants could solve with celebrities. Hosted by Rex Parker.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:08 AM  

How much did I love this puzzle? So much that I would have loved it even on a Thursday!

Got the gimmick at 12 D; hadn't figured it out at 2 D because I think DEIFIED is an order of magnitude or two above "Lionized."

Hadn't seen AIBOHPHOBIA before -- hope I can remember it!

hazel 10:17 AM  

sadly, i was bested by this fantastic puzzle in exactly the same spots as @jesser. one of the most memorable puzzles of the year.

OldCarFudd 10:17 AM  

Fantastic! I had one error: ORlE/AlT (those are els, not ayes).

Boy, I'm showing my age! REDLINING was my second answer. Some equal-opportunity laws must be working quite effectively if the next generation has never heard of redlining.

Culturally, BLESS YOU and Gesundheit are sometimes equivalent, in that they're both used after a sneeze. But context is important. Gesundheit means health, and doesn't have the religious content of a blessing. Once, my non-Catholic mother happened to be going down an elevator in a Catholic hospital along with a child and a nun. The child sneezed, Mom said "Gesundheit!" and the nun glared at her. Then the nun said: "Bless you, my child."

Jesser, I can just picture those Scots tossing sabers!

Anonymous 10:28 AM  

Yes, very nice puzzle. FWIW, "port wines" didn't sound that unusual to my ear. However, I'm a bit of a wine aficionado so I might be more likely to hear that term

Two Ponies 10:29 AM  

I got the theme at rotator but still a DNF on a Wed.!
I will take my defeat gracefully because I am stunned by this brilliant puzzle. Awesome job.

dk 10:41 AM  

Another puzzle smarter than me.

At least I get to see Andrea See My Shinny Shoes Michaels tomorrow.

**** (4 Stars)

d(Rowdy Yates)k

nanpilla 10:47 AM  

@Pete - I was definitely thinking video game at first glance, also. Didn't BEQ do something like that once?

What a completely unique and enjoyable puzzle - and on a Wednesday! (Kinda makes me feel sorry for @I Skip M-W)

quilter1 10:47 AM  

BTW I also thought the inclusion of AIBOHPHOBIA was sly, fitting with the theme, even though most of us never heard of it.
@OldCarFudd: redlining still happens, but it is more subtle.

shrub5 10:52 AM  

This was such a weird looking grid with the "stranded" squares and the five "cups" or "U"s around them, that I had to look immediately for the reveal clue. Figured out the gimmick from "maneuver" in the clue and with "MADAM, I'M ADAM." Proceeded to have lots of fun with this puzzle and admired the many great clues/answers. I had a tough time in the ACTOR/CABER/TILDA area. Loved PAINTBALL and SNIPPETS. In some sort of mix-up with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, I plopped down MR. WATSON but soon fixed it to DR.

Add me to those giving a standing ovation to Jeff for this outside-the-box beauty.

Masked and Anonymous 10:58 AM  

Wow. Grid design of the century. Invasion of the giant flying alien U-FOs. And a smattering of civilian U's running around on the grid bottom, in the fill, to boot.

Great theme idea. Impressive construction. And only a soph offering for this dude. Keep 'em comin', man. Only thing, is topping a puz that's the U poster child of all time; gotta be a challenge.

Unchecked letters spell f-a-r-i-p. That's alien for "thumbs way up"!

Jeff's girlfriend 11:04 AM  

A shoo-in for puzzle of the year.

Stan 11:06 AM  

OMG, what an excellent puzzle! Agree that it was not easy and would have hated it in a tournament because several sections required extensive puzzling out. But the end result is so perfect I wouldn't want anything changed.

PHONELINE, REDLINING, PAINTBALL, SNIPPETS, DR WATSON, etc. show that even a very theme-y puzzle can coexist with great fill.

syndy 11:09 AM  

Exactly what @puzzlenut said!! A jesser I have seen those scots toss those sabers! during a dance where they lay the sords in a cross on the ground and leap on the toes around them they suddenly reached down and flipped the swords in circles through the air at each other! scayr and awesome!Did chen make aibohphobia up himself? are you out there?---captha QUEJOLI-why thank you!

Wikipedia 11:14 AM  

Jocular and fictional phobias

Aibohphobia – a joke term for the fear of palindromes, which is a palindrome itself. The term is a piece of computer humor entered into the 1981 The Devil's DP Dictionary.

Mel Ott 11:18 AM  

What a fun puzzle!

At first I thought those odd single squares must signify a rebus. When I saw that they were the middle letters of palindromes I said aloud, "Oh, wow!"

Then I come here and learn that those strange black squares form U's. Double wow!

Is it Thursday already?

Noam D. Elkies 11:20 AM  

Lovely puzzle. Besides the inventive theme, a number of nice wide-open spaces, and some "Scrabbly" spots even though it's two letters short of a pangram. The rare left-right symmetry allows for a normally impossible odd word-count.

Happily I'd seen 30D:AIBOHP[HOBIA] before.

Thanks for the 31D:SLIDE explanation - after getting all the crosses I thought only of a slide trombone in a swing band.

But shouldn't 58D have been entered as OX for this puzzle? ;-)


Anonymous 11:24 AM  

@Noam - What university gives the degree Doctor of Numbers? Phoenix Online?

Arundel 11:30 AM  

Brilliant, Jeff Chen! I loved this one right from the start, but I must admit that there were a few blank squares there for a few minutes. DEI? ROT? Where do you go from there? It was CABER, TILDA and PHONELINE that somehow gave it away for me. Even then there were a few tough spots, but still - wow!

My only minor cavils are with that Amazonian ANT, and the serving of PORTWINES with dessert. But given the rest of the great fill, one can hardly complain. So I'm not.

Jeff Chen 11:32 AM  

And by "Jeff's girlfriend" (see above), she means "the mastermind behind the pretty face", or the one people point to and say "You're with him? Him?"

I'm slightly embarrassed to admit that I didn't know what redlining was, either, until reading Rex. My clue was something like "the thingie that happens when you smash your footsie on the pedal, the aforementioned pedal being the go one, not the stoppie one."

Thank goodness for Will! And thanks as always to Rex, always providing a fun start to my mornings.

Off to continue my quest to find a literary agent for my children's book, MEET YOH MAKER, about an eager but bumbling boy who works as Death's gofer. Ahem.


JaxInL.A. 11:50 AM  

Rex, That is the strangest rendition of Miss Otis Regrets that I think I could possibly imagine. I guess its related to the Scottish CABER, but wow. Over at Orange's place yesterday she had a photo of a man in a kilt wielding what looked like a telephone pole about to go where it would do him no good.  Could that be a CABER?

Jeff Chen had Tuesday's L.A. Times this week, too.  He may become a new favorite with me. I love how he had us jumping through extra hoops, like @Greene described.

I could not figure out what was supposed to go in those strange hanging blocks until I got to the (made-up?) AIB___. I was sure of the crosses, and realized that PHOBIA must be part of the answer but only fit going backward, and then the lightbulb came on.  The puzzle fell pretty quickly after that.  Clever misdirection like that "bar at night" or implying that "Martin and Astin" have something in common in five letters was amusing but didn't really slow me down.  

SNIPPETS backward is steppins.  I imagined that this was part of a theme where the words in those four corner positions had to read both ways. But step-in isn't spelled that way, is it? If that is even a word. But the BLESS YOU-YES MASTER-DR WATSON section in Texas that Rex pointed out was so delightful that I didn't care. How often do you get blessed by a puzzle and then obeyed?

Thanks for a lovely interlude, Mr. Chen!

retired_chemist 11:59 AM  

Thanks for stopping by, Jeff. Come back often. And keep them coming.

william e emba 11:59 AM  

REDLINING was in the news in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, as several right-wing commentators made a big stink blaming the banking/mortgage near meltdown on liberals and their anti-REDLINING laws. You know, the laws that went back to Gerald Ford.

Matthew G. 11:59 AM  

Loved the puzzle, but thought that in terms of both difficulty and off-beat-ed-ness, it felt like a Thursday, not a Wednesday.

The theme was great, but so were other entries like PHONE LINE and YES MASTER.  PORT WINE is actually correct -- although many people just say PORT, the word WINE is properly included in this particular kind of wine.  I have no idea why, but I've heard the term used often enough to accept it as correct (and I see that Wikipedia's entry is called "Port wine," not, say, "Port (wine).").

I struggled badly in the west -- I had BRIDLE instead of SMIDGE for "Bit," and that tripped me up horribly.  Didn't know IDAS and couldn't see SAN (was trying to figure out who an archangel might be a SON of).

Somewhat uncharacteristically for me, I found TILDA Swinton to be a gimme -- celebrity names are usually my Achilles heel in solving, but she's just a fantastic and underused actor.

Never heard of REDLINING, but it was easy to get from the crosses.

What's funny about this puzzle is that the theme is so similar to a Fireball puzzle just a week or two ago, and even had one palindrome in common, and yet this puzzle went about using the palindromes in an entirely different and fun way. Normally it might be viewed as unfortunate to run into two puzzles with such similar themes back to back, but not this time.

Great, great puzzle.  Thanks, Jeff!

Sparky 12:06 PM  

Had blank spot in mid West. Could only think of Gabriel as an angel or an Irish actor. Couldn't parse out MADAMIMADAM. MeeTS for MARTS, who knew on IDAS? First thought rebus but started to get a glimmer on 2D so sought out the reveal at 65A and that helped.

30D wasn't making sense till I tested writing PHOBIA backwards. Big waddayaknow. The U shaped squares dawned at the end.

Hand up for yurt, waD before SOD. Shout out @Rex with 49A. Enjoyed the playfulness, writing in the margins, drawing a U with DIEFIED. Thanks Jeff Chen. Quite a nice hump to jump.

Anonymous 12:14 PM  

Go figure I hated this one. Must be an oddball seems as if most loved this one

Anonymous 12:25 PM  

I'm only mentioning it because it's such a good thing that it's true, but I'm surprised at how many people have never heard of REDLINING. 40+ years ago it was a fact, and a major outrage, that mortgages, insurance, virtually anything that enabled upwards mobility were defacto banned in certain areas. As Mr. Emba pointed out, it was outlawed in the late '70s.
Anyone who doubts the possibility of corrective social engineering via the legeslative process should be disabused of that notion based on the fact that so many people are unaware of this aspect of our history.

Chip Hilton 12:27 PM  

Wonderful stuff. I had a careless error in NW, settling for DEIT instead of DEIF (deitied looked good enough to me).

@Pete said... saw Pac Man when he first checked out the grid. I saw a pinball machine with 5 containers waiting for the metal balls.

A man, a plan, a great puzzle.

deerfencer 12:30 PM  

Tour de force by Mr. Chen--simply awesome stuff! Could easily have been a Thursday IMO.

DBGeezer 12:42 PM  

Perhaps because AILIHPHILIA is part of my personality, I caught on to the gimmick immediately with 7D.

30D AIBOHPHOBIA was a new one for me so I thought I might as well invent AILIHPHILIA

Good puzzle, and loved all your comments as usual

capcha SOSAD for any who didn't like it.

mmorgan 12:47 PM  

Fun, yummy, terrific, bravo!

I love Tilda Swinton. Had a bit of trouble in the east -- first wanted WAD for SOD at 42A, and just couldn't accept (and still don't get) ROOST for 29D.

Loved those black-square U's (thanks, Rex!) and AIBOHPHOBIA!

fistory: A boxer's tale.

mitchs 12:49 PM  

Looking forward to tomorrow to see what puzzle Will thought was more "Thursdayish" than this gem.

David 12:52 PM  

I will 3rd (or 4th, 5th or 6th?) jesser's comment on SABER/CABER, that one threw me. I LOVED this puzzle, and liked the palindrome delivery - two "word" palindromes, two well-known palindromes and then one goofy one (that I'd never heard of before today).

Got the theme immediately, as DEIFIED and ROTATOR were gimmes and then knew the other 2 standard palindromes from way back. Also thought the long fill was very fun and clever (YESMASTER, PHONELINE, DRY WIT). Tiniest of nits - didn't think the SNIPPETS clue (Brief excerpts, e.g.) needed the e.g. Slowed me up for a sec.

No problem with this on a Wednesday, especially given the easy Wednesday and Thursday puzzles from last week.

syndy 1:07 PM  

@jaxinla-Yup that a caber!

Anonymous 1:28 PM  

Would more folks know redlining if it was clued "Discriminatory loan practice"? Either way, I'm not nearly as optimistic as those of you who say it's a good sign people don't know the word. Things are just a little subtler these days.

retired_chemist 1:32 PM  

We all have figured out that the answer to 25D is "EVE," haven't we?

chefbea 2:28 PM  

Saw the U's immediately and got u turn. But could not finish. Couldn't figure out that they were all palindromes

Great puzzle any way!!!

Have been trying to post for several hours but Firefox wouldn't let me read the posts or comment. So switched to Safari. Anyone else have problems?

BigSteve46 2:28 PM  

Nice puzzle - but I still don't get "bar at night" = "roost." The explanation that a roost is a bar at night for a rooster doesn't make much sense to me. At the very least, it is an exceptionally lousy clue. Fortunately, as an answer, gettable through crosses.

chefwen 2:43 PM  

I enjoyed Mr. Chen's puzzle yesterday in the L.A. Times and got pretty happy that I was able to do another one last night. He did not disappoint, loved it! As many others before me stated PHONE LINE was the best.

Keep 'em coming Jeff.

miriam b 2:47 PM  

I regret having had to listen to "Miss Otis Regrets". The backup group is Irish, BTW.

@Ruth, I once heard a caller-in to a radio medical program tell the host that her LMD had diagosed her intestinal problem as either "tickle-itis" or "tickle-osis"; she couldn't remember which..

This was a truly wondrous puzzle, a delight to solve.
My first impression of the grid was that it looked carnivorous. I have never taken a Rorschach test, but now I'm afraid to do so.

panotstr: a puzzle containing all the otstrs

Georges Bizet 3:07 PM  

@miriam b - You may recall from Les pĂȘcheurs de perles that those who search the ocean bottom are often subject to both Diver-tickle-itis and Diver-tickle-osis.

sanfranman59 3:44 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 15:27, 11:46, 1.31, 95%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Wed 7:55, 5:48, 1.37, 99%, Challenging

The online solve times for this puzzle are more Thursday-ish, but imho, the cluing felt Wednesday- or even Tuesday-ish. The only thing that put my own solve time in the Wednesday stratosphere was my inability to parse "Madam, I'm Adam", not knowing what to enter for the Argonaut who slew Castor I_AS and not discerning what 39A: Gabriel, for one was getting at. AIBOHP tripped me up a tad, but was pretty easy to get with the crosses.

Anonymous 3:53 PM  

Redlining/discrimination/profiling - all tools that can be used for purposes good (useful) or nefarious.

There are customers that I don't want; following the quite good guideline that 20% of customers are 80%+ of problems. There are 'sorts of people', e.g., their character, that I don't want to do business with.

My life is made much easier by constantly 'filtering'. I adjust as needed, but pretty much anything that makes more money or an easier life is something I will be very interested in knowing about and adding to the arsenal.

I don't have to time to worry about potential missed opportunities.

Kendall 3:59 PM  

After 6 hours of hating it, I now can say that I loved it! I was hating it because it took 4 of the 5 theme answers to figure out what was going on, but once I did I had a newfound appreciation for it. Would have helped if I had ever heard of the long one in the center. I kept seeing "A BLEW..." and was thinking "Sacré Bleu..." and was just lost.

I would have bet money after finishing the bottom half that this would be a pangram. I'm not sad that it isn't, just really felt like that kind of puzzle.

Favorite thing in this puzzle was PHONE LINE. That clue was just awesome.

jberg 4:00 PM  

Another eaten comment, fortunately one I'd saved. Blogger must be putting on weight.

Loved it, I must say - very witty, especially when one of the palindromes - and the last one I came to - was about palindromes.

People on this blog have been wishing for a rebus, so of course I thought it was one when I got DEIFIED without noticing its palindromic nature. Then for some reason I thought ROTARY cuff instead of ROTATOR, and thought there must be some complex pattern involving all the five dangling white squares. Only when I got to ABLE WAS I did it all become clear - even there, for a moment I tried to squeeze RE IS SAW ELBA into the last square before it finally dawned: "Hey, maybe that's the midpoint of the palindrome. It is!"

I too had WAD for SOD, also KABER at 15A - knew of the sport, just not how to spell it. Two crossing unusual sports there, btw, kind of nice.

I had the O at 41D, which led me to the obvious OISE(?)and from there to the equally obious WIGGLE at 45A. It took me a long time to dig my way out of that mess.

I was very confused by 35A; thought "Castor > famous twin > founders of Rome" due to crossed neurons (or are they axons) somewhere in my brain, so I couldn't understand how an argonaut had run into him. (Of course they were a different set of twins!) It wouldn't have helped anyway, as I'd never heard of IDAS. Do all you tournament-goers memorize the names of the Argonauts? Probably a good idea!

The crosses took care of it, even if I've never heard an Iranian called an IRANI (26D).

CoffeeLvr 4:03 PM  

Well, after recently being admonished on a blog to remember the French department, OisE, I confidently filled in 41D. Which, along with the relatively easy DRWATSON, gave me WigglE at 45A. That whole mess (crossing the quintessentially obscure AIBOHP) took quite a while to unsnarl.

I thought "swing" and SLIDE was a dance move. Knew CABER from watching a friend compete in a toss, wearing a kilt no less (or no more, I didn't ask his wife.) Assumed Amazon ANT was a cartoon character, thanks for saving me a Google, @LookupGuy.

So this afternoon, I went to Wikipedia to see a list of French departments. Aaagh! There are over 100, plus FORMER French departments. I will be studying for the quiz all night.

@Rex, I too think there would be more WOW factor if all the palindromes were "real" in the language words, but I would not have fallen to the theme without ABLEWASIERE coming to mind from the crosses and clue, and then not fitting. I am very impressed with this puzzle! While purists may scoff, word play fans cheer! Reference the comment by @Pete above.

Hungry Mother 4:30 PM  

I've been taking a vacation from the online version of the NY Times Xword. I've been doing the LA Times and another easier one in the Naples Daily News. This was a great puzzle to bring me back into the fold. I'm old enough to remember "Yates", and mathematical enough to love palindromes.

John V 5:01 PM  

Jeff Chen A man a plan a canal
panama nehC ffeJ. Nope, won't work. Sorry.

Loved the puzzle. Hands up for grid of the year.

JenCT 5:03 PM  

To all those confused by the answer ROOST for Bar at night, I believe it simply refers to a "roosting bar" that spans the chicken coop, where the chickens settle in to sleep for the night.

conomist 5:19 PM  

Spectacular puzzle!

Also nice to have had things toughen up a little bit recently...I'd started to get worried

evil doug 6:02 PM  

A slut nixes sex in Tulsa.

Live Evil

retired_chemist 6:06 PM  

@ Jeff Chen via John V - was A MAN, A PLAN, A CANAL - PANAMA under consideration? Requires one space more than ABLE....ELBA.

mac 6:16 PM  

Fantastic puzzle, so much fun to solve, thank you Jeff! Also, as always, enjoy the constructor showing up on the blog.

I too had wad for sod for a while, and contemplated saga for lore. Deified and rotator gave me the theme, "five" in the u-turn clue made me look at the grid and notice the 5 Us, but I still had some trouble getting aibohphobia and madamimadam.... Love phone line, yes Master and paintball.
Now I'm going back to yesterday's LAT puzzle.

Sfingi 6:49 PM  

@JenCT - what a beautiful bird!

Many things I didn't know - TILDA, AMIES, BIBI, YATES, ANT, IDAS, but got all from crossings - that's the kind of puzzle I like. The last one reminded me that the day I heard Osama was dead, I listened to a reading on radio of the death of Hector from the Iliad. I assume many others did, too. Included was the rejoicing over the deed, but also the extreme lack of a decent burial.

I've collected palindromes for years, so no problem there. Love AIBOHPHOBIA, one I've never heard. Wanted FAIRP to mean fair palindrome or puzzle?

@Chefwen - told Hubster about PHONELINE, and he LOLd.

@Oldcarfudd - Gesundheit just means health(ness).
Redlining is now combated by sending ringers in, couples of various "races." But yes, still exists.

@JDBerg - I've decided this has something to do with size. What I've been doing, and so far it works, is to "preview" before it gets big, at least once, and somehow this holds it and has been working(?!) Saves on paranoia.

Great puzzle, Chen!

chefbea 6:51 PM  

@evil doug LOL that was great

Tobias Duncan 7:24 PM  

@miriam b
Your captcha was one letter away from being an anagram of pornstar.Two Rs instead of two Ts would have done it.

Two Ponies 8:22 PM  

Evil Doug!!!
I've got to remember that one.

GILL I. 8:38 PM  

I could not add anything more about the awesomeness (is that a word?)of this puzzle until I read evil doug.

retired_chemist 10:02 PM  

A SLUT NIXES SEX IN TULSA is now among my favorite palindromes. Thanks, E. D.!

Because it has an even number of letters, is would seem to be a different beast from the ones used in this puzzle. You would need to use the unchecked S twice.

sanfranman59 10:04 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
Tue 10:07, 8:56, 1.13, 83%, Challenging
Wed 15:20, 11:45, 1.30, 95%, Challenging (6th highest median solve time of 96 Wednesdays)

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:31, 3:40, 0.96, 35%, Easy-Medium
Tue 5:00, 4:35, 1.09, 78%, Medium-Challenging
Wed 7:47, 5:47, 1.33, 97%, Challenging (4th highest median solve time of 96 Wednesdays)

Stan 10:06 PM  

Hey, I loved the Kirsty MacColl "Miss Otis Regrets." BTW, why are videos from British TV (Jools Holland, case in point) so much better in quality than MTV videos?

SethG 10:14 PM  

Never heard of it, entered AIBOHPHOBIA with no crosses. Knew Rowdy Yates from Blues Brothers.

Jeff Chen 10:49 PM  

@retired_chemist: A MAN, A PLAN... definitely was under consideration. I originally wanted to use just common palindromic phrases, but couldn't make the symmetry work out. I started with A MAN... down the center, but could not for the life of me squeeze in four other palindromes. I finally admitted defeat after shoving two beans up my nose in frustration.

@Sfingi: You're the first person to uncover the amazing-and-100%-totally-planned-and-not-at-all-just-made-up-right-this-second secret puzzle feature! Indeed, I had brilliantly and ingeniously planned the unchecked letters to spell out FAIR P as in fair puzzle AND fair palindrome. Yes, yes, this tour de force was completely part of the puzzle, and not at all something that I made up upon reading your comment.

Will Shortz gets all the credit for the PHONE LINE clue, by the way. Mine: "It hangs as a caternary." The engineer dork inside me forced me to write it.

Thanks everyone for the nice comments, glad I could provide some entertainment!

aiboh caber michaels 3:19 AM  

Jeff Chen...Fabulous!
Too late to the party to add anything original, I'd just be running up and down agreeing with everyone.
Only bummer was I JUST submitted my first on-my-own Sunday that involved palindromes. Waaah.
But enough about me, you rock!!!!!!
and nehc ffej sounds like a festive ascot fwiw

Jenny 8:48 PM  

I *loved* this puzzle! So fabulous! Going to check out his LA Times from this Tuesday at another commentor's suggestion.

As did @jesser and others, I had a snag at the intersection of 5D and 15A, as well as at the Amazon ANT and ORNE (a river I *should* know well as crosswordese but which somehow never nestles itself into my brain - which might be a good thing).

Captcha: fravo... just one letter off from what Jeff Chen deserves to be shouted at him for this puzzle!

Anonymous 12:33 PM  

a ROOST is a perch on which birds sleep. Could be a branch. Could be a telephone wire. Could be a bar on a school playground.

Nobody else noticed the final palindrome in SE? The one which, when read with a 65a, becomes a fitting puzzle sign-off from Mr. Chen?

Nullifidian 3:28 PM  

Writing from syndication-land:

First of all, I'd like to link to one of my favorite Weird Al Yankovic videos, a parody of "Subterranean Homesick Blues" entirely in palindromes:


I think I benefited from not trying to solve in order, because I got the U-TURNs clue before I tried to figure out any of the U-sections.

It's funny how one person's Natick can be another person's gimme. I've liked TILDA Swinton's work ever since seeing her starring role in Orlando (a film I recommend very highly) and REDLINING is something familiar to me from critics of HMOs.

The layout of the grid made it slow going, but I don't think I found any of the normally spelled clues difficult.

Dirigonzo 4:08 PM  

I finished with some errors that others have reported and one of my own: cIBOPHOBIc could be a person who fears palindromes, no? I probably should have known HORcS are not lively dances, but by then my brain was too tired from reading stuff backwards to figure it out. On the other hand, I got the MADAM... answer off just the initial M so I was pretty proud of that.

Cool puzzle - loved it.

Anonymous 5:04 PM  

"Cibophobic"--tee hee. I, too, am in syndication-land, plus I'm on the west coast *and* I didn't get to the crossword until late. But I really, really loved it. And, I confess, I've never posted to a blog before, so thought I might as well try. Then, if I ever have something to say in a timely way, I'll know how to do that! (Have no idea about names and avatars, but that hi-falutin' stuff will have to wait...)

Anonymous 5:13 PM  

Well, that was easy. The thought of having to use html put me off. I know how to post webpages, but the software does all the tricky stuff (that is, the actual converting from Word to html). Turns out, commenting here is just typing! I guess the tags are for style not substance. (I know this is not on the topic of the puzzle itself, but I thought other lurkers might like to know...)

GILL I. 5:17 PM  

Anonymous 5:04
Welcome.... Pull up a chair and join us.
Lots of us still read syndication land even though some of us have joined your future.
Getting an avatar (so we know you) is easy. Just go to Google and type in "blogger account."
It will tell you step by step what to do.
See you soon I hope. Hi Dirigonzo!

Dirigonzo 5:34 PM  

@Nullifidian - That video you linked to is too funny and wildly appropriate; @Rex must wish he had posted it in his write-up!

@Anony 5:04PM "Hi-falutin'" - didn't we just see that in a puzzle? I'm pretty sure we did. Glad you decided to stop lurking and join us - syndicationland is grossly underrepresented in the comment section (possibly because there's not much "new" to say 5 weeks later, but don't let that stop you.)

Right back at ya', @Gill I.P. When did you shorten your name?

NotalwaysrightBill 6:05 PM  

Writing from syndiland where everything's at least five weeks late. Gotta be a movie script in there somewhere.

Have to love a theme where I don't have to bother writing in nearly half the letters. Saving up all that conserved energy for the next CABER toss with Rowdy YATES and the other ramrods.

I imagine that if I were an insurer presented with certain pertinent unassailable actuarial facts, I'd either REDLINE the shit out of certain areas or ignore stupid "facts" and make everybody else pay the difference for my studied obliviousness. Out of fairness of course. Such a deal!

COULD say horse instead of HOSS, just don't wanna. Double dog dare Rex, next Saints game, to run out onto the field and hold up a placard that reads something to the effect of "If you have enough aiches to say WHO, you can damn well say THAT!"

Looking forward to reading MEET YOH MAKER when it's published. A boy's misadventures with a scythe: I hope Jeff has a good illustrator lined up to capture the looks on the faces of hospital staff.

Eastsacgirl 8:22 PM  

I'm a syndicated west-coaster and have been reading this blog for years! Thought I'd jump in and agree with all that this puzzle was pretty cool. Was slightly suprised at myself for solving most pretty fast. Mainly had trouble with middle left of puzzle for some reason. Love reading all the comments. Seemed a little hard for a Wednesday especially after yesterday!

Red Valerian 9:15 PM  

Thanks so much, @Gill I.P.! I really appreciate the encouragement. You've enabled me, which might not be a wholly good thing. But you won't be to blame. Oh, and Go Canucks Go!!!

Red Valerian 12:19 AM  


GILL I. 10:54 AM  

Red Valerian: De nada..
Love the avatar and your pup.
See you later.

Cary in Boulder 5:49 PM  

It's discouraging for us Syndi-Landers when we know that Andrea will never read (or respond) to what we post.

I'm five weeks and a day late because out of town company came yesterday. This one had me baffled when I first tried it, but after letting it sit for a few hours it rolled right out. Funny how that happens. Had several of the stumbles that others have reported, but overall I loved it and FWG. (Finished Without Googling.)

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