Valentino rival / TUE 6-14-11 / Swahili for lion / Unusually chromatic performance ensemble / Belmonts frontman 1950s music / Persian king 2006s 300

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Constructor: Doug Peterson and Angela Olson Halsted

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: Sad — theme answers all begin with word that can mean "sad"

Word of the Day: BYPLAY (1D: Incidental activity) —


Action carried on aside, and commonly in dumb show, while the main action proceeds. (Webster's Unabridged 1913, via

• • •

BYPLAY? I don't think I've ever seen that word before. I know BYPRODUCT, and BYWAY, and "MY WAY," but BYPLAY eludes me, and so something like half my time was spent just figuring out the first theme answers. BEDS was hard for me too, for some reason (1A: Places to retire). I wanted DENS, then ... pffft, I don't know. Time has somehow separated the concepts of "Indie" and "LOW-BUDGET" in my head, so that answer didn't come easily at all. Throw in the fact that I had ARAL for URAL, and I just made a mess for myself up there (21D: Caspian Sea feeder). The rest went down reasonably easily, though cluing throughout felt more Wednesday than Tuesday. Didn't get theme until after I was done.

Theme answers:
  • 20A: Indie studio's offering, maybe (LOW-BUDGET FILM)
  • 33A: Unusually chromatic performance ensemble (BLUE MAN GROUP)

  • 41A: Mostly idled (BUMMED AROUND)
  • 57A: Thick alternative to a blanket (DOWN COMFORTER)
Thought Valentino was the actor, so ARMANI took a few stabs (46A: Valentino rival). "Chromatic" as "colorful" was not clear to me, so BLUE MAN GROUP also took work. ANTI-FOG (9D: Like some lens coatings) and ENTWINE (42D: Tangle up) also didn't come easily, the first because I've never been offered such lens coatings, and the second because other words seemed to fit, most notably ENSNARE. Clue on NANO was great but tough (45D: Modern running companion?). Ditto the clue on TEETH (8D: Enforcement provisions). Had MOPE for POUT (26D: Sulk); I still like MOPE better (I'm moping). Theme concept isn't much, but execution was nice, and the grid was fairly entertaining. Note that all the first words of theme answers are used in non-SAD contexts. This is what you do in themes—hide the connection so that it emerges only when theme answers as a group emerge and create a pattern.

  • 16A: He once placed a "long-distance call" to Aldrin and Armstrong (NIXON) — Had the "X," which made it easy. I only just now got why there are quotation marks around "long-distance call."
  • 17A: Stroller to Soho (PRAM) — "to" is odd. Still, this was easy.
  • 29A: Company in a 2011 merger with the Huffington Post (AOL) — first answer: AIG. Moral of the story: actually read the whole clue; don't just stop at first word, look at letters you already have ("A") and guess.
  • 43D: The Belmonts' frontman, in 1950s music (DION) — nice clue echo at 54D: Contender in the Belmont (HORSE)

  • 50D: Persian king in 2006's "300" (XERXES) — I like the number pile-up in this clue.
For those of you who don't know, today's co-constructor Angela Olson Halsted writes here (and at her own fine blog) as "PuzzleGirl" and is my good friend. This is her NYT debut. This Doug Peterson guy, on the other hand ... no idea who he is. Seems a little shady. Oh, I suggest you check out their pictures HERE. Angela looks like a glamorous, mysterious movie star ... or like a self-important crossword queen who's just had her eyes done, I can't decide. Either way, awesome.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter]

[The following announcement will be up all week]

I'm coming to NYC for the Lollapuzzoola Tournament on Saturday, Aug. 6 (you should go—info here). But you know that. What you don't know (yet) is that I'm coming several days early to do some interviews for a crossword project I'm working on, and I'm hoping to interview some of You (New Yorkers) about your xword habit. I'm especially interested in talking to people who think they are unlikely solvers, or who solve in weird / interesting / iconic places, or who have good solving anecdotes, or who are famous / prominent in their fields, or any combo of the above. I'm also interested in ordinary everyday solvers. I'm not looking for fast or accomplished solvers. Just interesting solvers. If you live in NYC, this (probably) means you! If you are going to be in town on Aug. 4-5 and are willing to talk to me for a few minutes, drop me a line at rexparker at mac dot com. I'll be exceedingly grateful. I'll see what kind of response I get and set up a schedule from there. If I don't hear from you, I'll just have to wander the streets harassing anyone I see solving a crossword, even though this may result in my getting punched, or worse. So help me out. Thank you!


Anonymous 12:43 AM  

Couldn't sleep, got up, and did this puzzle in Tues. record time. Apparently I'm better at night than in the morning. Lots of fun, and thanks PuzzleGirl. And Doug Peterson. BTW, love the photo op.

armani carla michaels 12:58 AM  

ooh, so glad I stayed up, checked one more time before going to sleep bec I wanted to congratulate Puzzle Girl on her debut AND her high school graduation!
Loved this, esp the Xs all over the place, OXYMORON, XERXES...

Had to read the grid five times before I figured out the theme!
Am I blue? Nope!
AND I liked before I saw the constructors...
BUMMED is such a PuzzleGirl word was delighted to hear her voice on this...

THEBLUEMANGROUP is in SF right now.
Which reminds me, gotta get up to catch my plane home! So just X's and O's for Dougangelina.

Tobias Duncan 1:06 AM  

This was a solid wed .Just about everything Rex said was spot on for me.
WAAAAAAY too many sports clues for my taste(MER? really?) but super clean fill for the most part.
I have to say I LOVED the theme.This has been a damn tough year for me and many of my friends, this felt like an acknowledgment somehow.Might be reading to much into it, but it felt good for some reason, maybe just good timing.
Not a smooth solve especially for a Tuesday but very enjoyable in an odd way I cant quite put my finger on.Odd flavor for sure.
Thumbs up.

Puzzle Mom 1:40 AM  

PuzzleDad and I are so proud of PuzzleGirl’s having made the BIGTIME. We loved doing the puzzle and are especially pleased that she included our favorite country singer.

We HATE to have to be the ones to tell her (but then, who else would do so?) that contenders in the Belmont aren't technically "horses." They are colts. Horses are 5 year old and older males of the species and the Belmont Stakes, as PuzzleGirl definitely knows, (she's been to the race several times) is open only to 3-year-olds. But then, if it's good enough for Will Shortz (and obviously, it is) it's good enough for us. We think that cluing it "Contenders at Belmont" (the race track, not the race itself) would have made this a perfect puzzle rather than a merely fabulous one.

Rube 1:42 AM  

A smooth solve here. Only hangup was having BUMMIN'AROUND at the end. Looked at the other theme answers and decided it should be BUMMED_. Could only think of Valentino as the actor, so had no idea about ARMAN_, but it had to be DION, giving TOSH. Who? Guess I should check out Comedy Central sometime soon. Googling Valentino I see that it's clothes. Never been much of a fan of fashion.

Only other writeover was oNTIME before INTIME. My guess is that this will go down in history as "Easy Medium".

BTW, still think "Bummin' Around" fits the clue better.

Congrats @PG, (& what's his face)... job well done.

syndy 1:49 AM  

truly fine piece of work!(of course)but was more in my wheelhouse than Rex-no writeovers no stalls-But ,and not a complaint exactly' when did we start calling the USSR a country.I've seen it before and let it go but...Anyway favorite answer BUMMED AROUND just a little more than XERXES AND THE BLUEMAN GROUP and yet another OREO clue

syndy 2:12 AM  

Puzzle parents , the wikipedia says the Belmont has been won by a filly three times -last in 2007 by RAGS TO RICHES so horses seems correct!

Puzzle Mom 2:27 AM  

Thanks, Syndy, of course you (and Wikepedia) are right that fillies also can run in the Stakes -- but NOT "horses" which are the adult male of the species. Adult females are "mares" as I'm sure you know. Both fillies and colts are the young 'uns, and the Triple Crown Races are for young 'uns.

Anonymous 3:44 AM  

"Horse" refers to any animal of the species. I shouldn't have to link to a dictionary for this, but here's a link anyway.

Relevant definitions:

1. a large, solid-hoofed, herbivorous quadruped, Equus caballus, domesticated since prehistoric times, bred in a number of varieties, and used for carrying or pulling loads, for riding, and for racing.

2. a fully mature male animal of this type; stallion.

You're referring to the second sense and ignoring the first.

lit.doc 3:54 AM  

Post-solve, pre-Rex: terrific puzzle. By the clock, challenging for Tuesday, due to the time chewed up fixing the initial 64A GRIEG and 24A COOK problems. Nice. Except 65A, maybe, which made me stare at the screen briefly thinking “OMG, how long has this one been sitting on Will’s desk?!”

BEDS came instantly, but me too re “BYPLAY? Really??” And shouldn’t the BLUE MAN GROUP clue have said “monochromatic”?

Thanks, @ACM, for calling my attention to both P>G>’s involvement and the fact that it was a debut. Geez, I’m bad at remembering real names. Doug Peterson [cue applause] we’ve seen several times if memory serves, yes?

And no way would I get in the middle of a family feud over the question of whether HORSE is justified as an umbrella term for any and all equine sub-catagories.

Puzzle Mom 6:08 AM  

Not to beat a dead horse, as they say, but PuzzleGirl didn't come by her word-nerdiness by accident -- nor by her racetrack knowledge. I promise you all that at Belmont the "second sense" abides -- and we ARE talking Belmont here. Check out any Racing Form or track program: there are five abbreviations used to describe the runners: f. for filly, c. for colt, m. for mare, h. for horse, and g. for gelding (the adult male that is NOT a stallion 'cause, well, you know why.) And, you'll never see h. among the Belmont Stakes contenders. It's picking nits, we know; but that's how one gets to be so good with words that one gets published in the New York Times -- by being brought up right.

Anonymous 7:42 AM  

@Puzzle Mom - You are right about horses and the Belmont Stakes, of course, if my working at a race track for five years taught me anything. But that kind of distinction is usually reserved for Fridays and Saturdays, so I suspect this is a Tuesday clue for the uneducated who like to quote dictionaries instead of playing the ponies. Oh yes, that clue slowed me down also. OTOH byplay fell quickly with Yuri and yen. Rex, of course, is only familiar with foreplay.

joho 7:58 AM  

I love that the theme answers seemingly have nothing in common. Sad is subtle here and that's cool.

Congratulations, Puzzle Girl, on your NYT debut! And kudos to you, too, Swedish Sounding Doug, for a great Tuesday puzzle!

Anonymous 8:13 AM  

I enjoyed it. Even after having completed it, I could not figure out the theme until I came here. As most of the blogging is about the horses clue, which I take at a legitimate license (ref. poetic license) for the sake of the nice clue, I guess everyone find this puzzle quite good.
From Bangna/Bangkok

SethG 8:16 AM  

Colts and fillies are HORSEs. Horses are BEASTs. Beasts are ALIVE. I have no personal knowledge about where the appropriate line to draw is in this case; I'll just note that being technically correct does not imply that the clue is good. I wouldn't say anything, but I'm pretty sure this sort of nitpicking will make PuzzleGirl happy. (I have no idea whether that P>G> dude will like it.)

Also, I hate Dion. Following up Runaround Sue with The Wanderer? Sexism.

Congrats, PG!

OldCarFudd 8:23 AM  

Good puzzle, fine debut. I left the dion/tosh crossing blank since I'd never heard of either and couldn't suss the O.

It seems to me the generic horse is OK for the Belmont on a Tuesday. Now, if you REALLY wanted to stir up monkeys, how 'bout a Saturday clue: "Animal not permitted to contend in the Belmont"? Answer: Horse (of course!)

evil doug 8:31 AM  


E-mail me if you want to trade lies about Drake.

Evil Doug
DU '73

Stan 8:36 AM  

@Lit.Doc You do know that PuzzleGirl, e.g. PG and P>G> are two distinct people, don't you? PuzzleGirl is a charming, polite woman while P>G> is, well, P>G>.

efrex 8:37 AM  

Congrats to Angela on her debut!

Liked the APIARY clue, and the theme entries were quite nice. I saw the BLUEMANGROUP ages ago down in the village (volunteered as an usher); strange to think that they're still culturally relevant nearly two decades later.

I was a bit non-plussed by the scattered short fill/crosswordese, though (ROI, USSR, DNA, AOL, YEN, AGORA, DER), and I second Syndy on the "USSR ain't a country" nitpick.

Only writeover: had ONTIME before INTIME.

TSG 8:43 AM  

More like Monday time for me. Must be on puzzle girl's wavelength.

jesser 8:49 AM  

Judging from Rex's writeup and Tobias' comments, I'm guessing Rex was channeling New Mexico. My solving experience was his exactly, except my mis-step at 1A was initally spa. BY PLAY? Ok.

Congrats to PuzzleGirl and DP for this one. I liked it mucho!

I don't know why YURI OOZE NIXON makes me laugh out loud, but there ya go!

dk 8:58 AM  

Way to go puzzlegirl. That Doug guy looks like the BLUEMAN only white.

Fell into the dens BEDS trap otherwise a smooth sail.

Safe travels Andrea.

*** (3 Stars) A vanilla puzzle, my favorite flavor.

P>G> 9:07 AM  

@LitDoc and others.

Please do not confuse me with PuzzleGirl.

She has too much class to be [mis]associated with comments such as mine ;)

@Stan - You're correct, and BTW, this *dude* loved the puzzle, a clean, easy solve.

It put me in such a non-bad mood I'll ignore Rex's comment on SOHO vis-à-vis his on SEXIST.


Brian 9:09 AM  

I liked it! Smooth solve all the way around for me. Particularly liked the cluing for TEETH, APIARY, and UNIFORM. I enjoyed the theme's unobtrusiveness and I was disgusted with myself that I knew TOSH.

I thought it was terrific.

Anonymous 9:26 AM  

@Anonymous 7:42 and anyone else who looks down on "the uneducated who like to quote dictionaries instead of playing the ponies", I believe you're missing the point of how crosswords are clued--on any day, not just Tuesday. If a word is justifiable in any of its senses, it is fair game for a clue. (In fact, on Friday and Saturday, far more so than on Tuesday, you're likely to see many clues whose wording misleads you as to the sense being employed.)

That said, I think that SethG put it best: "being technically correct does not imply that the clue is good". I can go along with PuzzleMom that "Contenders at Belmont" would have been a clear improvement over "in Belmont". Also, I love OldCarFudd's suggested clue: "Animal not permitted to contend in the Belmont": wonderfully devilish!

I should add that, while I maintain that the clue as it stands passes muster, the nuances of the term "horse" as it's used at racetracks were unknown to me at the start of this conversation. Thanks for the education.

--Anon. 3:44

quilter1 9:33 AM  

Really liked this one and it was easy for me. I guess I was just on Doug and PG's wavelength. Liked BUMMED AROUND, DOWN COMFORTER (just put mine away)and IMMODEST. BYPLAY was familiar and as it is a gloomy day again, I wish I could retire to BED instead of run errands in the drizzle.

@Evil, OK, but I don't know that I'm evil enough to be interesting.

jackj 9:37 AM  

My goodness, reading Rex's write-up one would think "solver beware, this should have run on Saturday not Tuesday" when, in reality it is a perfectly enjoyable Tuesday level puzzle. Different strokes, I guess.

The OXYMORON answer was fun and made more entertaining by using the George Carlin reference. The answer next door, at 10 down, is GIRL which leads me to wonder if Puzzle Girl is adopting Acme's signature habit?

One nit, cluing HOAG as "Romance novelist Tami" is misleading at best. While Hoag began her writing career with romance novels, starting in 1988, since the early 1990's she has written only murder and mayhem novels (and really hard-hitting ones) and she is regarded by the literati as a master of the mystery genre.

Cheerio 9:38 AM  

I also left the "O" blank at the Dion/Tosh crossing, having never head of either person. It's sort of elegant to have a single hole left in the middle of your puzzle that ultimately gets filled with an "O".

thursdaysd 9:48 AM  

Congratulations on the debut.

Pretty smooth solve for me, although I enjoyed the top half more than the bottom, and there seemed to be rather too many names. Count me among the double-takes on USSR, and I did have an initial urge to enter colt instead of HORSE except it didn't fit.

Liked the clues for OOZE, LATE, CHEF (shout out to posters here?) but although pleased to see OXYMORON thought the clue a bit basic, also the one for UNIFORM. Guessed the O for TOSH/DION and pleased to see the happy pencil show up.

retired_chemist 9:48 AM  

The constructors should be proud - in PuzzleGirl's debut she has created a minicontroversy and received some of our notorious nitpicks. Earning one's spurs, I would say. Check this one out (from Guys and Dolls): I've got the _____ right here would be an interesting clue IMO....

Got NIXON instantly because the memorable incident occurred in my adult lifetime.

Did not see the theme until I came here. Never heard of BLUE MAN GROUP.

Good, solid puzzle. Congrats to the constructors.

Matthew G. 9:51 AM  

Very nice debut, Angela. I completely agree with Rex that themes are better when, like today's, they gently disclose themselves when the grid is through.

Along those lines, my favorite thing about this puzzle, other than the Tuesday-excellent grid and very snappy clues, is the lack of a "reveal." I feel like an early-week puzzle with this kind of theme would more often than not have a reveal, and I noticed the absence of it in a good way. Perhaps I'm in the minority, but I prefer to spend a moment studying the grid and figuring out the theme than to have a (usually awkward and forced) clue-and-entry combo that hits me over the head with it. I also have to think that omitting a reveal makes the rest of the grid better in most cases by giving the constructor more freedom with the fill.

I've heard BYPLAY before, though rarely. Needed BYP to get it. As a whole, this puzzle didn't feel too hard while I was doing it, and yet my time agrees with Rex that this was Medium-Challenging. I think I got tripped up for a bit on TEETH, since I thought I was looking for a standard plural ending in S (and because I had COOK before CHEF).

Looking forward very much to Angela's future work.

retired_chemist 9:51 AM  

@ JackJ - if one doesn't know who the &%$# Tami HOAG is in the first place, one clue is as good as another.

LookUpGuy 9:54 AM  

@syndy @efrex et al

Probably should have *former* added to the clue:

The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR, , abbreviated СССР, SSSR):

1. a former communist country in eastern Europe and northern Asia; established in 1922; included Russia and 14 other soviet socialist republics (Ukraine and Byelorussia and others); officially dissolved 31 December 1991

Sparky 10:05 AM  

Congrats Puzzle Girl. Fun to be sad. Liked OXYMORON. Used to drink dry ROB ROYs. They made my nose numb. Missed the O in TOSH/DION, guessed an a. Other than that all clear. Happy Tuesday.

Anonymous 10:08 AM  

Anon @ 9:26 - "If a word is justifiable in any of its senses, it is fair game for a clue. (In fact, on Friday and Saturday, far more so than on Tuesday, you're likely to see many clues whose wording misleads you as to the sense being employed.)"

I suspect most people don't know the difference betweeen a colt and a horse and think of a colt as a horse. So horse is a more obvious answer for most, though for us few educated pony players we know the difference. BTW, an educated pony player is also an oxymoron.

jackj 10:19 AM  


LOL. Point taken; I know the feeling.

EG in TO 10:30 AM  

Really enjoyed solving this one. I loved the way the theme only emerged after staring at the finished puzzle for a few seconds. Hand up for oNTIME instead of INTIME, which slowed me down a little bit. Also took me way too long to get DOWN COMFORTER because I think of a comforter as a type of blanket rather than an alternative to a blanket.

Had no idea Valentino was fashion related, didn't know TREVI and was looking for an answer that ended in iST for IMMODEST so that was the last section to fall.

And can someone explain BAMA for "The Crimson Tide?" I'm feeling a little ignorant....

cwstewart 10:33 AM  

Good puzzle and fun solve. Thanks Angela and Doug and congrats to your debut PG. You are so naughty, Rex! Doug is far from a shady person and Angela is a delightful lady..just in case some of the bloggers don't know them personally...your comment made me tee-hee, though.

Two Ponies 10:44 AM  

With Tuesdays being the hardest day to please us solvers I say double congrats to Doug and Angela on a job well done.
I also find it hilarious that the nitpicking got started by PuzzleMom!
For some reason I like the word apiary even though it sounds like a place for primates.
Here in Vegas we are oversaturated with Blue Man Group billboards.

retired_chemist 10:47 AM  

@ EG -

'BAMA is short for the University of Alabama, whose sports teams play under the nickname "The Crimson Tide."

Some guy pretending to be Puzzle Girl 11:05 AM  

Mooooommmmmmmmm! You always ruin everything!!!!!!!!!!!!!

foodie 11:16 AM  

Wonderful puzzle! Right up my alley-- LOW, BLUE, DOWN, BUMMED moods are not for the faint of heart. Fantastic debut for Angela and great collaboration with Doug. May it bring you nothing but joy!

Laughed as I read the comments from @PuzzleMom and PuzzleDad. Perfect! As PuzzleMom said, holding people to the highest standards is what makes them excel, and is a great compliment indeed. Rex of course exemplifies that on a daily basis.

Anonymous 11:18 AM  

Puzzle Girl can always blame Doug or Will.

CoffeeLvr 11:26 AM  

I guess one could say the UNIFORM for the BLUE MAN GROUP is body paint.

I liked the puzzle a lot, my time was almost as fast as Monday, so I was on the right wavelength. Hand up for same misdirections as others, Cook and oNTIME; plus I mis-spelled EBoN. Finally saw the designer instead of some unknown old-time actor while looking for the error in the grid.


This theme is right in my wheelhouse. Thanks, Doug and Angela, and a big congratulations on your NYT debut @PG!

syndy 11:58 AM  

Puzzleparents;misunderstood your caveat and will bow to your superior knowledge!@lookupguy;nope ain't buying it! @retired chem thanks for the clip-stayed on for rocking the boat.

RMS 11:59 AM  

I'm still pretty new at this NYTimes Crossword puzzle stuff, and today I'm thanking this blog for two things: first, a great education about horses. I thought I knew a little about race horses. I didn't. Second, it never occurred to me until today that when I finish the puzzle I should puzzle out the theme. Wow. I've just been letting Rex tell me--except for the ones with reveals, I never know what the theme is till I come here. From now on, figuring out the theme will be part of the process for me. (I'm getting fairly decent at finishing the puzzles themselves with only an occasional Google search or check function. Hurray!)

This blog is so much fun. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Rex Parker 12:00 PM  

@RMS—I'll take one of those three "thank you"s and say "you're welcome."


Wade 12:15 PM  

Congrats to Doug and my buddy Puzzlegirl! The puzzle is delightfully depressing in the manner of the best country music.

Stan 12:23 PM  

Solid, smooth puzzle -- better than Zoloft!

Grattis to the Swedish-sounding constructors.

PuzzleGirl 12:48 PM  

Thanks, everybody, for the comments. This has been quite the exciting day. And anything you guys don't like about the puzzle? Yep, totally Doug and/or Will's fault. I know people are sometimes interested in how puzzle collaborations work, so I'll give you a quick summary. This theme was Doug's idea, but he only had three good theme entries. We chatted about it quite a bit and didn't come up with anything until one day BUMMED AROUND popped into my head. Doug was hesitant because that's a verb phrase and the others aren't, but we really couldn't come up with anything else and decided to give it a shot. What's the worst that could happen? Will says no. And it's not like THAT would be anything new. So Doug built the grid and took the first shot at filling it. I tweaked it a little; for example, vetoing the entry AMMO DUMP and insisting on a rework of that section. (You're welcome.) Then I wrote the clues and Doug made them better. And voila! This is the result. I'm pretty happy with how it turned out and, again, am grateful to you all for spending time on it!

santafefran 12:57 PM  

Brava and Bravo, PG and DP! Thanks for a great Tuesday puzzle.

I flew through this in record time starting with BEDS and no rest TIL the end. Didn't know Tosh but not a problem since DION was a gimme.

To echo others--learned a lot about racing horses today and loved the BYPLAY

tablyboy--sounds like the name for a racehorse

Arundel 1:10 PM  

Thanks, PuzzleGirl and Swedish-Sounding! It's always great to hear from the constructor of such a satisfying puzzle. Tuesday is rapidly becoming one of my favorite days of the puzzle, and this one was good and crunchy both in the fill and the cluing.

I particularly liked the delicate direction inherent in petrol and the SOHO stroller. And I loved the plethora of Xs - they're always intriguing.

Also, no complaints from me on the equine controversy. The distinctions may be vital to the Belmont, but any horse can be a horse, as far as I can tell.

mac 1:37 PM  

Congratulations Angela and Doug! Great Tuesday puzzle.

Thanks for the construction info, and also for the horse race lesson!

For 65A I had Russ. for a moment, and the O in Dion and Tosh was the last guess/letter I filled in.
Took me a while to figure out the theme, but I agree, it's more fun when there is no reveal.

This is a very international puzzle, different countries and people mentioned in many clues and answers. I enjoyed it!

EG in TO 1:45 PM  

Thanks @retired_chemist, I don't feel quite so stupid now that I know it's a university sports clue.

I was going all Rachel Carson while I was solving and I couldn't figure out what BAMA had to do with ocean ecology.

chefbea 1:47 PM  

Busy morning so couldn't get to the puzzle til now. Congrats on the debut!!!

Didn't get the theme til I came here.

And thanks for the shout out to all of us whisk wielders!!!

jberg 2:07 PM  

God, I'm dumb! Finished the puzzle fairly quickly, but simply could not figure out the theme. Good job of concealment! Which, I agree, is a good thing.

I had all the initial wrong answers Rex did, but they weren't hard to fix.

I think the 'USSR is not a country' objection is not that it no longer exists, but that it was a multinational state; but personally, it's OK with me. It had a vote in the UN (well, 3 votes), and the other attributes of a country.

I was about to ask someone to explain 45D to me, when it suddenly came to me. I had been reading "companion" as "company," so I'd wanted Nike at first.

Lojman 2:14 PM  

Here's my imagined Socratic dialogue with Puzzle Mom:
Me: what is a horse?
PM: the adult male of the species
Me: what species?

Doug P 2:22 PM  

Yes, you can thank PuzzleGirl for the lack of an AMMO DUMP in today's grid. And for most of the clues you loved. She's has a great feel for what'll make a puzzle fun to solve.

(And C.W. was right. Rex is naughty.)

ArtO 2:23 PM  

Thanks, Rex for "The Wanderer." Took me back more than a few decades!!

Anonymous 2:29 PM  

Lojman - The clue is not what is a horse. The clue is: Contender in the Belmont. PM's point is merely from a racetrack viewpoint horses do not contend in the Belmont - only colts and fillies who, like a boy grows up to be a man and a girl grows up to be a woman, grow up to be horses. Now, would you also like to know what a gelding is?

Puzzle Mom 2:40 PM  

Lojman, That would be Equus ferus caballus.

And, just so you all know, the phrase "the Belmont" refers to a single, annual race fully named The Belmont Stakes. When we speak of the place that race and many others are run, we say only "Belmont" without the article; or Belmont Park, its full name. That's why I suggested initially that the clue "Contender at Belmont" would achieve a level of exactitude that "Contender at the Belmont" doesn't.

I, too, love this blog and especially love the nitpicking. It's fun, instructive and not at all personal in the way of criticism. And I do noooootttttt ruin everything! For example, I got PuzzleGirl into her first Brad Paisley concert, in fabulous seats, for free. So there.

lit.doc 2:45 PM  

@P>G> and PuzzleGirl, a thousand pardons! Error duly noted.

quilter1 2:46 PM  

A horse is a horse, of course, of course.

Happy Flag Day 2:46 PM  

@jberg wrote

I think the 'USSR is not a country' objection is not that it no longer exists, but that it was a multinational state; but personally, it's OK with me. It had a vote in the UN (well, 3 votes), and the other attributes of a country.

Also, it was structured like that equally suspect pseudo-country, The USA.

chefwen 3:16 PM  

Due to house guests I didn't get to the puzzle until today, that puts a CRIMP in my system, but when I finally got to it I loved it, a fun, not too easy, not too tough puzzle.
Congrats on the debut Angela and thanks Swedish sounding Doug.

fikink 3:34 PM  

LOWDOWN, BLUE and BUMMED - Gee, Guys, what a buzz-kill!

Particularly liked the SCOUT, HORSE, MESA line-up in Texas.

@RMS, glad you discovered the joy of mining the theme. As
@Mac says, it is particularly gratifying when there is no reveal. Also fun is when you figure the theme part-way through and can use it to solve the rest of the puzzle. I bet eventually you will like Cryptics.

@PuzzleMom, you have horse sense! You and my mom would have got on wonderfully.

Seriously, Angela, a hearty congrats on this debut. And, Doug, your mentoring of so many has made us all the richer. Thanks,

sanfranman59 3:37 PM  

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

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

Tue 8:21, 8:55, 0.94, 39%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Tue 4:32, 4:35, 0.99, 51%, Medium

I was surprised to see Rex's Medium-Challenging rating on this puzzle since I managed my second fastest solve time of 103 Tuesdays in my spreadsheet. The online solve times will probably wind up in the Medium category for both groups of solvers. I guess it was just one of those rare nights that my brain was hitting on all cylinders and that I was on the constructors wavelength.

Dr. Debbie Weissman 3:58 PM  

I'm always impressed by your puzzle-solving ability but not by the gaps in your knowledge, especially of literature, the field I believe you teach. But just for future reference, the phrase isn't "conservative Jew;" it's "Conservative Jew." One of the three main branches of Judaism is the Conservative movement, the other two being Orthodox and Reform.

A Guy With a Bachelor's Degree 5:00 PM  

I'm always unimpressed when someone with a Dr. in front of their name doesn't know where the semicolon goes. (Not to mention where the comment should be posted.)

Rex Parker 5:28 PM  

It's good to have hired goons.

stix2metunesmiffin 5:56 PM  

Could NOT figure out how the BMG was "chromatic" until Rex blogged it. That's probably the most misleading, awesomest clue to confound a classical musician I've seen in ages! Loved it, and nailed it! Thanks PG and DP!!

chefbea 6:10 PM  

@Rex LOL re: goons

skua76 6:57 PM  

Wow! PG and Doug, it was great! Of course I'm old enough to know Dion, byplay was easy as well, and I instantly wrote in "horse" before learning the rest of the story. Been awhile since I've been to the track. Thanks all!

Lojman 7:47 PM  

First, very nice puzzle. Congrats PG.

Second, at this very instant, aliens on another planet are debating their very own Tuesday Kobol City Times crossword. The clue was "McDonald's All American". The correct answer was MAN (as in the species), however several solvers are correctly pointing out that an equally correct, and even more specific answer would have been BOY.

PM - loved your reply. I almost included the latin name in our imaginary dialogue!

Happy nitpicking!

Z 8:33 PM  

I didn't get to the puzzle this morning because I was engrossed by the discussion on the alarm clock station about the inevitability of internet commentary degenerating into crass name calling/shouting. Consensus of the on-air personalities and callers is that three hours is the max time before the degeneration happens.
Very happy to have this blog where the nit-picking is educative, the debates lively, and I get a daily smile and usually an actual audible laugh.

The grid was a little tough for me for a Tuesday. Had most of the same issues RP mentioned, plus I waited to decide between liter/litre. Was able to put it altogether in the end. Overall really liked the puzzle, well-clued.

Learned about TOSH from catching the end of his shows a few times while waiting for Jon Stewart to start. Those occasional 30 seconds are more than enough.

Anonymous 8:59 PM  

Lojman - As my mother always said, you can take a horse to water but you can't make him drink it.

Anonymous 9:00 PM  

Lojman - As my mother always said, you can take a horse to water but you can't make him drink it.

Vega 9:03 PM  

Unlike @Arundel, I'm not a fan of Tuesdays. Tuesday the day, Tuesday the puzzle, anything about Tuesdays. Today's puzzle was great, though. How much I dug the clue for TEETH, especially. Nice to get an inside peek at the construction from the esteemed constructors as well! I have had a hard, hard day so I am feeling this theme today. Thank you, PG and Doug!

Postvert 9:24 PM  

9:00 anon, wow, that was your mom?

Anonymous 11:10 PM  

Postvert - Yes, but she said it in Latin.

sanfranman59 1:39 AM  

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

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

Mon 7:23, 6:52, 1.07, 78%, Medium-Challenging
Tue 8:32, 8:55, 0.96, 45%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 4:08, 3:40, 1.13, 90%, Challenging
Tue 4:26, 4:35, 0.97, 46%, Medium

Nighthawk 4:42 AM  

Late to the dance, but, as the confetti is being swept up, had to add my congratulations to Angela and Doug.

Had fun finally getting the pin on this one, it wiggled around on the mat for a while. And has been said, nice to see no reveal on a simple and subtle theme.

Fun to read all the comments. PuzzleMom's kick-off of the precision nitting made me chuckle. I wanted to say, "Oh, MOM!" But I liked the defense and learned a bit. I think she's right. SAD, but true.

captcha: parizi - the expensive part of Paris.

John V 9:16 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Doug 12:54 PM  

Medium? Easy. Filled it in in record time with only 3 hesitations: ensnare for the eventual entwine, liter for the eventual litre, and on time for the eventual in time. the long acrosses just about filled themselves in for me. Very nice, nice to be in sync with crossword creators. For a newbie like me who can never solve a Saturday puzzle alone, maybe I'm making more progress.

Waxy in Montreal 2:34 PM  

From syndiland: whew, scorched by the current heatwave and also that hot & heavy debate 5 weeks ago about whether or not colts & fillies are technically horses. A visit to the official website of the Belmont Stakes reveals that "The Belmont Stakes is the third and final leg of the triple crown of horse racing". So wouldn't all animals competing in such a race actually have to be, ahh, horses? Just wondering...

Otherwise, was quite surprised by all those puzzlesolvers who didn't seem familiar with "Dion & The Belmonts". So queried my own '40ish offsping and neither knew about Dion either. Sic transit gloria mundi or I guess you've passed your "best before" date, Dion.

Deb 2:50 PM  

I do love it when Rex rates a puzzle harder than I found it! Enjoyed the whole thing, and only paused for a second at ANTIFOG and ENTWINE. TOSH was a gimme for me as my then-teenaged daughter recorded every episode to the DVR when she still lived at home - and even for awhile after she moved out.

Puzzle Mom's nitpicking is easily the most enjoyable part of the commentary today (er, five weeks ago). While it was fun to learn something new re equine competitions (I almost said "horse racing," which might have made her come running back!), I couldn't help but think that if I were Puzzle Girl and that was MY mom, I'd have been righteously ticked off.

Deb 2:56 PM  

@Waxy - I'm 54 and know of Dion, and am familiar with The Wanderer, but that's as far as it goes. I think his popularity began to wane while I was still in grade school.

Waxy in Montreal 3:22 PM  

@Deb, you're absolutely right. His last hit - and this was post-Belmonts - was the "Abraham, Martin & John" tribute of 1968.

Nullifidian 5:28 PM  

Syndicated solver here:

Count me as another one of those who couldn't name DION and the Belmonts to save my life, and TOSH.0 or whatever it is was a complete mystery. Surely, Celine DION would have been a better clue for a Tuesday. Or how about DIAN Fossey and TASH for "Natasha, briefly" or "Narnia deity"?

I am pleased at having gotten everything else with no write overs, save for IN TIME for "on time", because without a doubt this is one of the hardest Tuesday grids I've seen in months.

And I have to congratulate PuzzleGirl and her co-creator on a puzzle with excellent fill. Nothing aside from the DION/TOSH natick struck me as objectionable, just unfamiliar (like BYPLAY, a word I've never heard or seen used, but was able to get from the crosses).

Anonymous 6:07 PM  

"A colt is a young male HORSE under the age of four." - the internet

Could have avoided the controversy by cluing 54d as "(see 53d)" and 53d as "Tonto's 54d"

@ A Guy With a Bachelor's Degree
I'm always unimpressed with punctuation nit-pickers who don't know where the parentheses go in relation to the period.

Dirigonzo 6:53 PM  

Rats! AS soon as the "horse" clue conntroversy developed I resolved to bring Mr. Ed into the conversation, but then along comes @Quilter1 late in the prime-time day and makes the reference. (I hate it when that happens.) But I loved the puzzle - thought it was a perfect Toosday.

(@anony 6:07pm - I'm pretty sure that when the entire sentence is parenthetical, the period goes inside the parentheses, like this.) But on the other hand I was in Military Intelligence (a very long time ago).

Anonymous 7:38 PM  

Better late than never.
- Loved the puzzle - it was fun and I would have to put it in the "Easy" category. Always pleased when a reference to my "era" pops up (Dion and the Belmonts).

Especially liked APIARY and BLUEMANGROUP, both of which came easily for some reason. I did not even realize there was a theme until I got here. Like so many others I had COOK and ONTIME first.

I enjoyed the blog today with all the "horsing" around. Altogether a great Tuesday!

Dirigonzo 8:34 PM  

Forgot to say: @Nullifidian, welcome back - I hope your trip was a pleasant and rewarding one? I'm not surprised that Dion was unfamiliar to you but I would have thought Tosh.0 was right up your alley (generation-wise). (Is that where the period belongs?)

Deb 9:14 PM  

@Dirigonzo - Ha! I was humming the Mr. Ed theme with the full intent of posting just that simple phrase myself! (And your period was perfectly placed. As is mine.)

However, @Anonymous 6:07, GwaBD's was also perfectly placed since his parenthetical was a stand-alone sentence. Very nice alternate cluing though.

Dirigonzo 10:04 PM  

@Deb - thanks for the affirmation on the period/parenthesis question - I was pretty sure I had it right, but English 101 was a LOOOOONG time ago!

Unrelated to the puzzle, did you get the email I sent to your website a few days ago? (Sorry, RP - three and out.)

Nullifidian 7:26 AM  


Thanks for the "welcome back", but I think you may have confused me with someone else. The last trip I had planned was about four weeks ago, and it was just day trip to the Long Beach Opera to see David Lang's The Difficulty of Crossing a Field and then dropping in at a friend's place in Riverside. If I'm ever not here for an extended stretch, it's usually just because I do the puzzle when I'm on the go, and then never remember to check here later to comment on it.

The TOSH clue might be more in line with my generation's culture, but Comedy Central is almost a complete blank to me. Aside from The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, and South Park, I couldn't name another show on their channel, and I don't even watch the three I named. To be honest, I don't watch much television anymore, having lost the habit when I lived in Kansas and couldn't afford cable and never quite getting back into it. These days, I prefer books, newspapers, radio, and LibriVox audiobooks and old radio shows downloaded from

Anonymous 9:27 AM  

@ Deb @ 9:14 PM
GwaBD's was also perfectly placed since his parenthetical was a stand-alone sentence. Very nice alternate cluing though.

I would argue that "Not to mention where the comment should be posted" is not a complete (stand alone) sentence and therefore should be included before the period. But what do I know. The only degree I ever got was the third.

captcha = ineablut

Eubanks: "Ladies, where will your husbands say was the most unusual place you've ever made whoopie?"

Contestant: "ineablut, Bob"

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