German port on Weser / TUE 7-26-11 / Kid-lit elephant / Jan Brady player on Brady Bunch / Early Ron Howard role / Bridge maven Sharif

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Constructor: Michael Black

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging (*for a Tuesday*)

THEME: Road Sign Colors — answers are road signs, clued solely via their colors

Word of the Day: Catherine PARR (43D: Henry VIII's sixth, Catherine ___) —

Catherine Parr (Katherine, Kateryn, Katheryne or Kathrine); 1512 – 5 September 1548) was Queen consort of England and Ireland and the last of the six wives of King Henry VIII of England. She married Henry VIII on 12 July 1543. She was the fourth commoner Henry had taken as his consort, and outlived him. She was also the most-married English queen, as she had a total of four husbands. (wikipedia)
• • •

So it's just road signs, with the added little bonus that they are all different colors (hence the unusual and slightly tougher-than-usual theme answer cluing). Pretty good idea for an early-week puzzle, with interesting longish fill throughout. A bit unusual to have so many Across answers be as long as or longer than so many Across theme answers—MAKE A BET, DIET SODA, EVE PLUMB (my favorite answer; 44A: Jan Brady player on "The Brady Bunch"), and LONE STAR are all the same letter count as DEER XING and HOSPITAL, and much longer, of course, than EXIT and STOP. Usually, theme answers are the longest answers in the puzzle. Occasionally a Down answer (assuming the theme answers run Across) is as long as or longer than the shortest theme answer. This is just convention, but it's one that I like. Keeps the theme answers distinct; separates them from the rest of the herd; gives them pride of place. But no big deal.

Bigger concern is the pangram (use of every letter of the alphabet). All I can think of when I see a pangram is "I wonder how much better this grid *could've* been if the constructor hadn't tried to pull off such a bush-league stunt." Thankfully, today, the grid is at worst average, so there's no obvious casualty of the pangram—made me suffer through JOS and IZE, but I guess I can handle that. WHOA, I take that back. That damned "C"—I was wondering why there's that terrible REC / DECI- cross, and at first I thought it was the nearby "X"'s fault, but there's already an "X" in the theme answer DEER XING, so that "X" wasn't necessary for the pangram. But, it turns out, the "C" was. If you have to go REC / DECI- to pull off your little pangram, It Is Not Worth It. Just Say No.

Here's Liz Gorski on crossword pangrams — all you need to know.

Theme answers:
  • 17A: [White] (SPEED LIMIT)
  • 26A: [Yellow] (DEER XING)
  • 37A: [Green] (EXIT)
  • 40A: [Red] (STOP)
  • 53A: [Blue] (HOSPITAL)
  • 64A: [Orange] (MEN WORKING)
Got slowed down, fittingly, by DEERXING, esp. as it was crossed with the mystifying (at first) TRAD. (21D: Like much folk music: Abbr.). Also went with SOUP for STEW (16A: Bouillabaisse, e.g.) and SHORES for SHOALS (48D: Lighthouse locales). I don't think Better Than EZRA has had a hit this century, and they had only a handful in the last, so they hardly seem like a Tuesday-level clue (70A: Rock's Better Than ___). That said, I got that answer instantly.

  • 28A: Without a time limit, as a contract (OPEN END) — no "-ED" on the end?
  • 57A: Professional with an apron (BAKER) — Had "B-KER" and reluctantly wrote in "BIKER"...

  • 4D: German port on the Weser (BREMEN) — also feels Harder Than Tuesday (that's the name of my Better Than Ezra cover band)
  • 14A: Bridge maven Sharif (OMAR) — too bad you can't really hide "Sharif" behind a misdirection. I mean, if your clue were [Cheese lover Sharif] or [Philatelist Sharif], I would still plunk OMAR in the grid, instantly.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Anonymous 12:11 AM  


One of the many differences between you and me is you see a pangram and I see Nike. Go to Wordplay for an explanation.

Anonymous 12:20 AM  

And the constructor's name is Black, too! :-)

retired_chemist 12:21 AM  

Medium, maybe easy. Had SALE for 10A - easily fixed. SILL @ 1A, AUDIO @ 23A, AGUA @ 63A, CHAIN @ 72A ditto.

Enjoyed it. Thanks,Mr. Black.

CoffeeLvr 12:31 AM  

Hey, I got TERP right away. Who says solving crosswords is a waste of time? Not me!

The orange signs by the four lane divided highway I take 3 or 4 times a week say Work Zone; there are women on the crew too. They have been installing safety cables to prevent cross-over accidents. I thought they were done, but today they were beefing up protection at the side of the road where there are drop-offs. So I will continue to allow extra time for the drive. That said, such signs once said MEN WORKING.

Once I cracked the color code, the rest fell pretty quickly and pleasurably.

chefwen 12:48 AM  

Crunchy, little, Tuesday puzzle with some nice words that you don't usually see so early in the week. TORQUE, HARKED, UTOPIA, etc. I was very happy that EAT AT wasn't clued as "really bug". Fun puzzle!!

Andrea will be so happy to see a pangram.

Tobias Duncan 12:52 AM  

How many here solve in PEN? Solving on line is at best solving in pencil.Just one of the reasons I find it soooo much faster and easier.
Oh and for the record, the use of google, or check or reveal is not cheating but it does mean a big fat DNF.

@ chefwen. The only joy I get from a pangram is knowing it will make Andrea's day:-)

Other than that I am with Rex all the way.

syndy 1:01 AM  

A BIKER with an APRON? whoa! I liked this one didn't notice the pangram-no write overs! when i Puzzled in dead tree I used a pen because I don't like the feel of pencil on newsprint.No trouble with TRAD> thats exactly how my music books ascribe most folk music!Did not MR> BLACK give us COLORS before?

sanfranman59 1:29 AM  

lol ... I can't get the image out of my head of Rex on a Harley in an apron.

lit.doc 1:38 AM  

I've been putting off asking this question for several years, hoping I'd chance upon an explanation, but...

with no attitude here except puzzlement, so to speak, I've never figured out the nature of the pangram fascination. OK, I'm OCD enough to imagine marking off letters on an alphabet list as I solve, but the motivation/payoff eludes me. "Aha, every letter of the alphabet has been incorporated, therefore..."

Elucidation? Insight? Andrea?

JaxInL.A. 1:53 AM  

If I knew how to make a puzzle, it seems I might have made this one. Or I was channeling Mr. Black. Either way, every answer just jumped out and presented itself to be written down, with a couple of small hiccups like Rex's DIET SOup.

EVE PLUMB was my favorite answer. My college roommate went to high school with her, strangely enough.

I'm tickled by the two Semitic names, OMAR and EZRA, appearing opposite each other. No idea why.

Thanks for the chuckle, @sanfranman59.

@quilter1, if you call the cell and I don't pick up, text me. Can't leave a voice message, but don't let that deter you, please.

Plumber Dan 2:15 AM  

Good golly! EVE PLUMB? OH MY!

abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz carla michaels 2:41 AM  

I have to say I hadn't even noticed the pangram! (I did notice how *$*#-y @Rex was being about it, so I'm not going to engage in a discussion yet again about how I feel it's a touch of elegance, when he calls it a "bush-league stunt")

I would have taken the bait, but I'm too tired and life is too short.

'Sides, Harder than Tuesday, his Better Than Ezra cover band comment was exactly 18 times more fun than the puzzle.

Armin 6:46 AM  

i loved it.... (and for context, i'm fairly new to Xwords.... Thursday is where i start to fall apart)

maybe it's just cuz i'm new; but the minute i realized that {white} was SPEEDLIMIT, a little gasp of excitement may have EXITed my mouth at Starbucks....

David L 7:06 AM  

It seemed trickier than your average Tuesday but my time was only slightly longer.

Agree with Rex that OPENEND seems odd -- openended is the expression I know.

Despite the general affection for EVEPLUMB, I had to get her from crosses, since I'd never heard of the name. And I've never seen the Brady Bunch either. Freaky, I know.

The clue for SWAN is obscure for a Tuesday. I wasn't aware of bevy as a collective noun (as opposed to just a bunch of things), and online definitions suggest it's used for birds in general, larks and quails in particular, but not especially for swans.

David L 7:14 AM  

PS It's funny to think of Rex carefully checking off all the letters in a puzzle in case it turns out to be a pangram, so that he can decide whether he needs to get all worked up about it or not.

Z 7:30 AM  

I solve in the print copy in pen. My "write-overs" are actual write-overs. Like Rex, had Soup to STEW today. I do not like the color of #2 pencil on newsprint and I don't like erasing on newsprint.

A little crunchy for a Tuesday for all the reasons mentioned already.

I never notice the pangrams, but I'd lean more towards the elegant versus bush side of the argument. As with most things, there are better and worse pangrams. That "C" seems pretty innocuous to me.

One question - Jew's-harp sounds 13D. I've never heard the term, could someone enlighten me.

dk 7:38 AM  

I have often droned on about how I solve in pen. Even going so far (b, double o, double r, ing) as to tout the particular brand of pen I use. To prove, once again, that time wounds all heels...

I had a smug look as I confidently filled in 22a thinking of all you losers who do puzzles on line or... OHMY in pencil. Note I have ruined two computers after shooting a certain Mr. Happy Pencil after he darkened my door way... we will get to anger management another day.

Suffice to say today was death by hubris. More write overs than I can ever remember as I merrily (nay blindly) misspelled every other word on the grid. Sigh....

Enough about me lets talk about Acme... err the puzzle.

This puzzle is great. A fun theme and I always enjoy the A to Z pan thingy. A lot of thought goes into a puzzle that has a sound theme and manages to throw up some some puzzle pyrotechnics.

I only wish my favorite sign "Slippery When Wet" made it in. Right now you can imagine what it must have been like to be one of my sisters in the back seat of our Chevy Nomad with my brother and I offering to show you something that was "Slippery..." I am certain the 8 hour drive to Maine was an eternity for my sisters, but at least we did not sing along with the radio. To this day "Johnny Angel" induces a rage response.

**** (4 Stars) Thank you Mr. Black

Eric 7:47 AM  

I think that the pangram issue, for me anyway, is that I never care or even think about it while solving. Nor do I check afterwards.
IMO it is purely for the pleasure of the constructor and not the solver. I would never know they existed if I didn't read the write-up and the comments.

evil doug 8:07 AM  

Omar Shire Reeve.

If it takes a pangram to prevent the common and troubling act known as 'shouting out' to "Rex" (or the equally overused "acme"), then I'm all for it.

Well played, Mr. Black.

Oh, look! I'm in the puzzle, too, only scrambled!

efrex 8:29 AM  

Exactly the same writeovers as Rex (SOUP for STEW and SHORES for SHOALS), but otherwise, everything fell together pretty quickly. Nice basic theme, with some crunchier fill than usual (EVE PLUMB? Really? Never heard of the lady). Seeing both ODIE and OPIE in the puzzle gave me a chuckle, though.

Only problem with doing this puzzle is that I now have two lousy songs stuck in my head: "Signs" by Tesla/Five Man Electric Band and "The Sign" by Ace of Bass. *grumblegrumble*

Well done, Mr. Black!

joho 8:34 AM  

@evil doug, oh, look! I'm in the puzzle, too: JOS. I've got a bunch of wonderful stepsons so it's appropriate, too.

I think @Rex suffers from acute pangramitis which can only be cured by cutting out several Q's, X's and U's.

Both ODIE and OPIE showed up today.

My favorite answers were TORQUE and BYAHAIR.

Thank you, Michael Black!

jesser 8:34 AM  

I print it out each morning and solve in pen. Today's writeovers were mixER before FADER, SHOreS before SHOALS and AgUA before AQUA.

Like others, the pangram trick never announces itself to me. Rex announces it to me. And I go, "Hmm."

For the longest time, when I was a TOT, my Dad had me convinced that Falling Rock was an Mescalero Apache Indian who was lost. We were always being reminded to watch for him. Those signs were/are [Yellow].

Hitting the road soon. Happy Rest of The Week Rexville!

hazel 8:56 AM  

i wanted some shoutouts so i changed my name. liked the puzzle. didn't notice the pangram.

Brian 8:57 AM  

Really solid construction, I thought. Theme was accessible, fill was smooth, cluing was well crafted. EVEPLUMB was terrific, BYAHAIR was fun. I liked HARKED and UTOPIA.

I clipped through it, mostly. I solve in pen. Only write-over was "soup" for STEW, which I feel better about knowing others made the same misstep.

Marisa TOMEI in "My Cousin Vinny" was dynamite. "My biological clock is ticking like this (stomp, stomp, stomp)!" Love that movie.

Thanks for a fun puzzle, [black]!

Nighthawk 9:03 AM  

@jesser - I always wondered, on family driving vacations, what exactly one was to do if one saw such large boulder in the act of falling? Or how one watched the road and the heavens at once? And shouldn't it have been "fallen" instead?

@dk - great stuff! But curse you for the Johnny Angel earworm.

jberg 9:06 AM  

You don't really have to do a tedious pangram check--it kind of jumps out at you, like a DEER at a XING, when you find yourself putting in the Q, X, and Z. I like them - but what I would really like is a puzzle that just misses because there is no E. That would be worth some unsightly fill.

I too had SHOreS, and also the too-obvious EVer at 70A. I also had dUel for 10A, "Can't-miss event." I'm really sorry that one wasn't correct, as I was admiring the constructor's wit until I had to put in SEVENS.

John V 9:09 AM  

Erasures (not write-overs, 'cause I'm a pencil sovlver) at 20A, had MADEabet, not make, so crossing POLK 5D, took a bit longer. Also had ROAMER at 7D for a bit. Otherwise, fun puzzle, don't care about pangrams (mother's mothers making griddle cakes?), played about average for a Tuesday, save for the North.

tptsteve 9:22 AM  

Nice Tuesday. I solve in pen as well, so I cross out and write over as well.

@Z- a jew's harp aka jaw harp is played in the mouth by by plucking a metal rod- the mouth allows the sound to resonate.

jackj 9:24 AM  

No "Q", no TORQUE; no TORQUE, no pangram; no TORQUE, a lesser puzzle.

Panning pangrams seems an act of no moment.

dk 9:32 AM  

Ha! I m changing my name to STUB TWANKS so I can be in the puzzle twice.. and perhaps that elusive porn vid...

Rex Parker 9:46 AM  


Your comment makes absolutely no sense. "Without X, no Y" could be applied to any answer you like that contains the sole instance of a particular letter. Presence / absence of TORQUE has no necessary connection to a pangram (i.e. there are plenty of "Q"-containing grids out there that haven't been tortured to become pangrams). What happened here was a constructor really "needed" a "C," and so served up crud to get it.

This is the problem: desire to get all letters in there overrides constructor's good judgment. The best constructors know this, and several of them (names you know and admire) are on the record saying as much.

Getting all 26 letters in is theoretically just fine, assuming you don't compromise grid quality to do it.

This is a decent puzzle, but don't pretend that DECI- / REC is a. good, or b. there for any reason except to complete the 26-letter cycle.


chefbea 9:48 AM  

I'm in the puzzle several times...count the B's.

I do the puzzle with my paper-mate eraser-mate. It's a pen...but you can erase.

Liked the puzzle, got the theme right away. Loved the Brady Bunch.

foodie 9:56 AM  

I had a huuuuge crush on OMAR Sharif when I was a teen. Even his name sounded wonderful to me.OMAR means long lived, and Sharif means honorable. I imagine Sherif comes from that? I started reading OMAR Khayam because of his name and then came to like him as well. All of which might explain why it's also my son's middle name.

Believe it or not, I too had BiKER ever so briefly, and wondered whether the cover on top of some part of the engine was called an apron. But I could not imagine puzzle husband ever emitting that word in conjunction with his beloved Harley, so I rapidly changed it.

Very creative to take a small observation-- that street signs are color coded-- and turn it into a puzzle! Thank you Mr. Black, the embodiment of all colors!

quilter1 10:01 AM  

I thought this one was easy though I made the same shores/soup mistake as others. Quickly corrected. I also thought the puzzle was a good one. I don't notice pangrams at all. Also now have the Johnny Angel earworm.

@JaxinLA: My phone doesn't text. Me, either. I'll just keep trying. We should get to LA around Wednesday of next week. Do you know Auntie Em's in Eagle Rock? Nice for coffee, lunch, and their cupcakes beat Bobby Flay's in a showdown.

jackj 10:05 AM  

@Rex Parker-

My comment was specific to this puzzle, since the "Q" in TORQUE was the only "Q" in the puzzle.

jackj 10:22 AM  

Meant to note that REC has been used 87 times in Times puzzles by such constructors as BEQ, P. Berry, M. Nosowsky, F. Longo, et al and DECI has shown itself 17 times, used by the likes of M. Nosowsky, R. Norris and C. Millhauser.

REC and DECI aren't great but they are certainly as acceptable as ORT, OPIE, ODIE and OHMY, for example.

Two Ponies 10:36 AM  

The puzzle made for a fine Tuesday but the write-up and comments are cracking me up. Esp. @ dk.
Like @ foodie I had a crush on Omar. Maven always strikes me as a female adjective. I don't know why.

Anonymous 11:00 AM  

@jackj, according to cruciverb, REC has only been used 74 times and DECI 12 times. Did you forget to set the publisher field to NYT?

And no, I don't get the pangram bashing either. But then I don't get the stack bashing, the pun bashing, the draw-on-the-grid bashing, the shade the squares bashing, the write-outside-the-grid bashing or the puzzles-with-circles bashing. Rex likes his puzzles a certain way and would rather that didn't change. Based on comments here, most of his fans feel the same.

EG in TO 11:03 AM  

My lengthy comment was swallowed by the internet gods, so here is take two:

I loved the mini-theme of music clues in this puzzle: TRAD, AMP, Better Than EZRA, FADER, "Jew's harp sound," LENTO, LUTE (did I miss any?). Makes this musician's heart go pitter-patter. It could have been even more if REC and STUB had been clues differently, but I guess you have to spread things around to be fair.

I didn't notice the pangram until I got here, which makes it feel more elegant to me. Sometimes the pangram is glaringly obvious because of the clunky grid, but this grid felt pretty smooth overall. Unlike Rex, I didn't mind REC/DECI, although it's admittedly not what I would call brilliant fill.

I liked the theme, but MENWORKING felt a little dated. Hand up for Soup, AgUA, and MAdEABET. I always want OpIE for the cartoon dog, but having the real OPIE in the puzzle straightened that out. Also initially dropped down pointS for SHOALS.

Nice puzzle, nice write-up King Rex, and nice to read all your insightful comments, as usual. Nice, nice nice! Take care, everyone...

Captcha= azsigh: what Rex emits when he catches a whiff of a pangram.

retired_chemist 11:11 AM  

And why is REC/DECI any worse choice than REB/DEBI, REM/DEMI, REL/DELI, RES/DESI, or REV/DEVI? Agree with jackj's comment: REC/DECI is not the worst this puzzle has to offer.

JenCT 11:17 AM  

@lit.doc and @Rex - I'm with both of you; the pangram thing doesn't interest me the least, and it leads to some junky fill.

Had YIELDING before DEERXING, and the POLK/PONTE cross held me up.

Not liking solving on the iPad! I much prefer my regular computer. Am I missing something, other iPad solvers?

Tobias Duncan 11:18 AM  

I do not like the idea of sacrificing quality for sake of the pangram, so I always chime in when the subject comes up. I do however enjoy the fact that Andrea loves them.She has become the pangram poster child around here and we somehow expect her to defend the practice every time it comes up. I think she may be getting sick of it.I wonder if the reason that she did not catch todays 26 letter feat was because we have take the shine off of it for her. I fear that Andrea's pangram love(the love that dare not speak its name) is becoming collateral dammage in the pangram war.
Next time I will try to leave her out of it.

retired_chemist 11:21 AM  

@JenCT - I feel the same way, in no small part because the iPad app I use hides the numbers once you fill the square. Is there a better one?

Rex Parker 11:24 AM  


Another misconception: that the "fix" would/could be simple substitution. False choice (between "C" and some other letter). That's not how puzzles are constructed (i.e. "ooh, I'm down to one square, what do I put here?")

There are a jillion (roughly) different ways to reconstruct that part of the grid, with only a minor tear-down. A constructor concerned primarily with Best Possible Fill would never have given you anything close to the grid in its current state (highly adequate though it may be).

Read and learn—courtesy of Ms. Liz Gorski.

Z 11:34 AM  

@tptsteve - thanks.
@anon @11:00 - I follow this blog because of the lively disagreements and wide base of shared knowledge. Rex is critical and then the commentators are critical of his criticism. I understand crosswords and the language a lot better from following along - none of which would be true without the "bashing."

As to shout outs, reduce your name to one somewhat rare letter and the shout-outs come most days.


ksquare 11:35 AM  

Never ever heard anyone use HARK in conversation but knew it from Xmas carol 'HARK the herald angels .....'

syndy 12:02 PM  

HARK, HARK A LARK AT HEAVEN'S GATE SINGS!apparently being a PANGRAM raises the bar considerably!

Matthew G. 12:02 PM  

I thought this was a very, very good Tuesday change of pace. When the theme first clicked, I was mildly worried that my severe colorblindness would be a factor, but all the signs are painted in colors that are distinct even to me. How nice of the highway people.

I wouldn't want to see it on a regular basis, but today I liked how the theme entries were not uniformly the longest acrosses. I think it sort of went well with the murkiness of the theme: here you have just colors in brackets, for entries of varying sizes, and yet it all makes sense as it comes together. I guess what I'm saying is that with a more conventional theme, the varying lengths would have felt like a weakness, but here the only way to get the theme entries at all was to flat-out Get The Theme, and the shorter theme answers had clues as opaque as any others, so they didn't feel orphaned.

Anyway, this puzzle made me sit up a little straighter in my chair and tune in a bit more than I usually do on a Tuesday, and that's to the good.

But I agree with Rex 100% on pangrams. I rarely notice them, and when I do, I don't care. At all. Good clues and entries instead, please/thanks.

John V 12:05 PM  

@Rex 11:24:

Thanks for the link to Liz Gorski's piece! Fabulous!

acme 12:23 PM  

You might appreciate this article about MENWORKING signs (I actually thought it was MEN AT WORK),8599,1830974,00.html

You don't have to leave me out of it!
I love the sweet shoutouts from you or @dk from time to time to make up for days that Evil Doug or "others" are being so pissy!
(I knew he would get in a dig about acme, even when it was APEX that was in the puzzle!)

But, yes, shine has been taken off.
Mission accomplished, @Rex!

treedweller 12:40 PM  

@JenCT I tried one iPad app and hated the interface, but that's the way with all interfaces when they are new. I could probably get used to it. What made me go back to the desktop was the second subscription I would have to buy to use it.

I've heard people mention another app that is apparently better and needs no subscription, but my impression is that it can't do the daily NYT, at least not on the day it is released. Why bother, if that's the case?

I welcome any further insights from fellow iPad folk.

oh, I liked the puzzle, didn't notice the pangram, did notice DECI/REC was kinda crappy but thought it wasn't all that bad, generally couldn't care less if all the letters make it into a puzzle.

Though, after all this debating and arguing, I expect someone any day now to come up with a way to make a puzzle where the pangram is essential, amusing, and artful. I haven't the slightest idea how they will manage it.

Lewis 12:44 PM  

A pleasant enough puzzle, but certainly not the best since sliced cheese...

hazel 1:01 PM  

I actually really dislike seeing ODIE almost as much as ASTA so I ditched my eponymous shoutout moniker. (ihave no idea ifi used that word correctly).I like @DK's porn name better anyway.

I hope the next time there's a pangram, the constructor chooses to put RODNEYKING in the grid!

@JenCT and other dissatisfied iPadders - do you not like solving onthe iPad because of the keyboard? I prefer my laptop keyboard too for typing, but still prefersolving on the iPad. I'm not a racer, tho - so it doesnt matter that I cant type as quickly. I really like the Crossword app by Magmic which costs about $10 I think but no subscription is required if you already have electronic access to the puzzles - and they are released at the same time they're released on NYT website - 10 pm.

treedweller 1:07 PM  

@hazel, thanks. that explains why I haven't tried it. $10 is a lot when 99% of my apps were free. but maybe I'll splurge if I can try it on the daily puzzle.

mac 1:09 PM  

Cute theme, good Tuesday puzzle. Like Utopia, torque and shoals (although I first put in shore), and didn't notice the pangram. Hardly ever do. Needed all the crosses for Ezra....

Hand up for bouillabaisse = soup, and I'm sticking with it! Stews are slow-cooked, STEWED, fish soups typically cook very quickly.

Bremen/Bremerhaven have bad memories for me: I fell into the water between a ship and shore, in the pitch dark. Lucky to be able to talk about it.

600 1:18 PM  

@Z--"I follow this blog because of the lively disagreements and wide base of shared knowledge. Rex is critical and then the commentators are critical of his criticism. I understand crosswords and the language a lot better from following along - none of which would be true without the 'bashing.'" Exactly! So exactly, I wish I'd said that! (Is this a shout out because of your one-rare-letter name? No . . . it was the wisdom of your remark!)

As for the puzzle, I liked it fine. Took me a bit longer than usual for a Tuesday, so I agree it was challenging. I held on to "deco" and "deca" way too long, and could not see EXIT for the life of me. Talk about a stupid error!

But the best thing today, over even the great pangram and bashing discussions, is Anita Baker. It's "Sweet Love" I'll be humming all day, and that's just fine. So thank you, Rex.

JenCT 1:25 PM  

@hazel: I do have the MagMic app, but I don't like two things: as already mentioned, once you type in an answer, the numbers in the boxes disappear; also, if I'm solving an Across clue, that clue will be highlighted, but the corresponding Down clue won't. This really messes me up, since I like to check the Downs while doing the Acrosses.

But maybe I'm missing some setting???

Anonymous 1:44 PM  

When I do crosswords on paper it's always in PEN.

Also, is this going to be the week of boring themes? Drink garnishes and road signs? Seriously?

jackj 1:47 PM  


The numbers in my post for the usage of REC and DECI in Times puzzles are not from cruciverb. The numbers are what appear at Jim Horne's XWordInfo, which is a quasi-Times site.

wildforpsu 1:50 PM  

My favorite answer was Eve Plumb, too. I loved the Brady Bunch and of course, the Partridge Family. Who can forget "The Silver Platters"? Brought back some great memories of childhood.

Thank you, Mr. Black.

foodie 2:08 PM  

@JenCT, I agree with you re the iPad and have the very same dislikes.

Matthew G. 2:23 PM  

@treedweller: No idea where you've heard that, re: getting the puzzle on time. It is not true. If you have a digital crosswords subscription, you can download the NYT puzzle onto your iPad at 10 p.m. the day before the day of publication, just as one can on a desktop.

You can do this with either the Crosswords app from Stand Alone, Inc. or the app called Crux from Rumination Software. Neither of these requires any additional subscription. They also don't have the bugs people mention in the MagMic app.

Matthew G. 2:28 PM  

I should add that the latest version of the Stand Alone app has a very annoying bug that causes some white squares to remain highlighted even after you no longer have their clue selected. But this never happened with the earlier versions of the app, and I imagine it will be fixed with a small update very soon. Full disclosure, though.

hazel 2:30 PM  

@jenct - i may have misstated before. The producer of the Crosswords app that I have is StandAlone. the numbers dont disappear and down clues are highlighted as you do the crossword. I actually like it much better than AcrossLite. Email me if you want to get to the bottom of the problem....

CoffeeLvr 4:15 PM  

@ACME, thanks for the article. Federally abolished in 1988! I know I have seen the MEN WORKING version since then, but to repeat, what I see here is WORK ZONE, or WATCH FOR WORKERS.

@Rex, I found the Gorski blog thought provoking. "The quick brown fox . . ." used to be a useful pangram to check if any of the keys on an unfamiliar typewriter were sticking.

sanfranman59 4:21 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 8:31, 8:55, 0.95, 42%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Tue 4:14, 4:35, 0.92, 27%, Easy-Medium

Jeffrey 4:29 PM  

Elizabeth Gorski is a wonderful constructor with an opinion on pangrams shared by some. Andrea Carla Michaels is a wonderful constructor with an alternate opinion on pangrams shared by others. I am in the latter camp, as I believe all letters are equal and deserve their place.
This comment is not a pangram, but then, I’m not a wonderful constructor.

Masked and Anonymous 4:32 PM  

Constructor friend suggests better way to clue 25-D's DECI ...
"Frozen (up)"

So see, it coulda been worse.

foodie 5:13 PM  

I've been debating all day whether to mention this, because it's a little odd. But what the heck...It's how my brain works.

The first time I heard about pangrams, before I heard any opinions in one direction or another, my first thought was that I had never noticed and probably would never have, if it weren't for reading about it. My second thought was: this is like wearing sexy underwear under a business suit. Most people will have no idea that you've done it. A few might discover it and some might appreciate it, but mostly, it's like your own little fun secret.

Of course, if it ruins the fit of the business suit, it's not a good idea. If it doesn't, and puts a little kick in your day, then hey..

apex 5:37 PM  

Thank you @foodie, it's why we all love you...
now I can get my knickers/speedo out of its bunch!

joho 5:38 PM  

@Jeffrey ... I couldn't have said it better!

@foodie ... that's an interesting take! I think you may have just created quite an image of you in your business suit. :)

@Rex ... I love a good pangram, so shoot me.

Jeffrey 5:40 PM  

@foodie - I would compare it to being in Disneyland. There is an incredible level of detail -sights, sounds, smells,etc. that create an ambiance. Many are so subtle that most guests never consciously notice them, but the fact they are there enhances the overall experience.

There are puzzles that "feel" like a pangram. When you discover it is in fact, a pangram, an extra "a-ha" moment occurs. (I recognize there are those who are may get a different feeling). I would put this in the same category as the BARB (Sharp put-down) clue in our host's recent puzzle. 99% of solvers will see nothing special; the other 1% will get the joke.

chefbea 6:02 PM  

@foodie...well said

mac 6:15 PM  

@Foodie: wonderfully put!

treedweller 7:00 PM  

I DLed the Crossword app by Stand Alone. I can't see any way to solve the NYT puzzle. Is it because I have the free app and there's an upgrade? or am I just that blind?

william e emba 7:41 PM  

There have been lipogram crossword puzzles before. For example, Ashish Vengsarkar two years ago had a puzzle titled "Almost a Pangram", in honor of Obama's inauguration. Pete Muller had a puzzle whose theme answers delivered the message that a common letter was missing (it wasn't an E).

I recall a NYT puzzle a few years ago that had all As for the vowels.
And while you're all arguing whether to pangram or not to pangram, the only thing about the puzzle that really jumped out of me (after the megacute theme, one which will guarantee that I instantly remember the actual of bracketed clues) was one extraordinarily oddball clue.

Frank Morgan, the actor who played "Professor Marvel" mentioned in the 71A clue, and also played the Wizard himself, the gatekeeper, the driver of the Horse Of A Different Color, and one of the guards.

As far as his being a SEER, the following is an amazing story (quoted "True" from

What definitely did occur on The Wizard of Oz--perhaps the most astonishing thing that did occur--; was dismissed as a publicity stunt. Yet it is vouched for by [cinematographer] Hal Rosson and his niece Helene Bowman and by Mary Mayer, who served briefly as the unit publicist on the picture. "For Professor Marvel's coat," says Mary Mayer, "they wanted grandeur gone to seed. A nice-looking coat but very tattered. So the wardrobe department went down to an old second-hand store on Main Street and bought a whole rack of coats. And Frank Morgan and the wardrobe man and [director] Victor Fleming got together and chose one. It was kind of a Prince Albert coat. It was black broadcloth and it had a velvet collar, but the nap was all worn off the velvet." Helene Bowman recalls the coat as "ratty with age, a Prince Albert jacket with a green look."

The coat fitted Morgan and had the right look of shabby gentility, and one hot afternoon Frank Morgan turned out the pocket. Inside was the name "L. Frank Baum."

"We wired the tailor in Chicago," says Mary Mayer, "and sent pictures. And the tailor sent back a notarized letter saying that the coat had been made for Frank Baum. Baum's widow identified the coat, too, and after the picture was finished we presented it to her. But I could never get anyone to believe the story."

mac 8:08 PM  

@william e emba: priceless! Great blog day today!!

joho 8:41 PM  

@william e emba ... your story gave me the chills. Thank you!

hazel 8:42 PM  

@treedweller - in settings there's a place where you enter your NYT password, but it imay not apply in e free version? I'm not sure I ever saw the free version, its been over a year since i downloaded. There's also a way to subscribe to BEQ puzzles - you pay a small subscription fee but they're delivered to you twice a week! BONUS!

MikeM 9:35 PM  

@William e emba - I remember hearing that story before, thanks for posting it. Also thanks for all the interesting and insightful posts through the years. I always pay close attention when I see your name

Marlo 11:55 PM  

I hadn't realized when naming my daughters Edythe (EDIE) and Eleanor (ELLIE) how often they'd get shout-outs. They are impressed every time and may even believe I have something to do with it when it happens.

I am another who values this blog and the diverse opinions in the comments for what I learn about solving and construction. Like wine (which I don't know anything about except that I like to drink it), I am a xword lover not a connoisseur. So I appreciate hearing what bugs or impresses others (and why) and comparing those impressions with my own sense of a particular puzzle.

jburgs 12:02 AM  

Re Pencil/Pen discussion. I have to solve with a PLUM PURPLE CRAYOLA.

Yours truly, Jesus Christ.

sanfranman59 1:31 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 6:44, 6:51, 0.98, 48%, Medium
Tue 8:36, 8:55, 0.96, 44%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:40, 3:40, 1.00, 51%, Medium
Tue 4:12, 4:35, 0.92, 24%, Easy-Medium

Doug 12:15 PM  


Sharif, Sheriff? No, sheriff (if that's what you meant) is an officer whose name derives from a shire--a shire-reeve, a county official. I also assume you did not mean "serif" as in san-serif for a type face. Unclear where serif actually comes from, but not from the middle east. Most likely from the same origin as script, or scribble, since a serif is the extension of certain letters in typeface.

I thought this one was easier than most, only one write over (ink, bien sure) of STEW for the erroneous SOUP, a hasty ink-in. As a new cross word solver, the puzzles always take me longer than the regulars, but perhaps that's because I'm savoring the clues. Anyway, 13 minutes. "Dietsoda" should be a sign and be assigned a color, right?

Pippin 4:24 PM  

Really enjoyed the blog today - well actually I enjoy it EVERY day.

@Marlo - I second everything you said in your second paragraph about the blog - very entertaining and informative.

@TwoPonies and @foodie - Also had a crush on Omar - it was those wonderful dark eyes!

@CoffLvr - "The quick brown fox etc." is also used to demonstrate different font types on my computer as you can see what each individual letter would look like in any given font.

I liked this puzzle and thought the theme was fun. I am a syndy solver who confidently solves in PEN (M-W) and NOT so confidently still solves in PEN for the rest of the week.

Re pangrams - don't really notice until I come here and don't really care. I just want good fill and a fun puzzle.

Anonymous 4:35 PM  

Started with 6d through 9d, kept going down with TRAD, and when XMAS came up next I had the theme. DEERXING = yellow sign. The rest came easy except for EXIT which eluded me for some time. Too many green signs.

Quick solve, but too many writeovers with my 22a (the answer to which should have been GLUE STICK anyway).

Is there a no calorie diet soda? I thought ONE was the lowest.

EVE PLUMB herself once said said "HARK! Who goes there?" Had a huge crush on her as a teen. It bothers me a little to see KEITH on top of her (though it's common knowledge that plumbs have stones).

Anonymous 5:06 PM  

How do you get "xmas" for 27D present time, briefly?

Waxy in Montreal 6:02 PM  

@anon 5:06 - many of us give/receive presents at Christmas or, briefly, Xmas.

Mom's favo(u)rite way of getting the attention of her unruly brood back in the day in the Midlands was to raise her voice and bring forth a "harken unto me, you lot!". Odd cuz she didn't normally speak in anachronistic English but I guess the admonition had been passed down over the generations. It certainly worked.

Dirigonzo 6:03 PM  

For whatever reason my paper decided not to print the clue for 34d so EVEP_UMB took a little guesswork but L seemed reasonable and turned out to be right, so no problem. Otherwise very smooth and pleasurable except I somehow inexplicably ended up with Rock's Better Than EtRA - no idea how that happened.

@anony 5:06pm, think "time to give presents" and it make's sense.

Captch is remit - is it time to donate to Rex again already?

Anonymous 6:04 PM  

@Anonymous 5:06 PM

Christmas (briefly: Xmas) is a time to open a present.

Deb 1:03 AM  

Super late here, and I don't have anything of great interest to add (but will ramble on anyway). The theme had a bit of synchronicity for me as a friend of mine posted an update on FB griping about the fact that non-English speakers can become licensed drivers here. He tends to gripe a lot about immigration issues, but in this instance I really have to agree. I drove into Tijuana on a lark many years ago - blithely ignoring all of the "LAST STOP FOR INSURANCE!" signs as I went. Then, two blocks over the border, I'm confronted by a round red sign with ALTA (I think?) in white letters. I froze, assuming this was probably a stop sign, but good luck to me in deciphering anything more complex. I pulled over, had lunch, and hightailed it back over the border. (Knowing my father had spent some time in a Tijuana jail didn't help

Of possibly greater interest, someone at the NY DMV apparently tells folks that street sign shapes are the same world-wide. Not true. That sign that sent me scurrying north was definitely round. (This was 14 years ago - maybe they've changed.)

Black, Bic ballpoint for me. On newsprint. I also have actual write-overs, but I usually barely trace the letters unless I'm certain. Today.... NO write-overs! Yea, me!

@Waxy - I love your mother!

happig: a happening pig! Gitchu sum

Deb 1:16 AM  

Ack! A couple more things. (Sorry!)

@william e emba - Thanks for sharing that story. Wow.

@Dirigonzo - Beat you to the punch by a matter of hours. Though for me it's a first donation. I first found Rex when his blog was a few months old, and there wasn't a lot of chatter in syndi-land, so I stopped popping in. Now that we have our very own little syndi-community, I'm really enjoying it. (Hi, Pippin! Hi, Red Valerian! Hi... okay, I'm gonna reel it in and shut up now.)

@ anyone and everyone who might know: A commenter one day recently posted a great poem with one anagrammed word left blank throughout. (Why doesn't spell-check like "anagrammed?") Anyway, it was a great poem, and I never did figure it out. Anyone else?

termind: A term anorexics use to tell folks they've been fired

Anonymous 4:10 AM  

I was looking around for a way to get "C" in there other than where it is; saw that if you put it at #23 and changed the R in DARED to a T, you'd have CORE, CADET, DATED. Then I saw--alas!--that right there stands (you guessed it) the only F in the grid! Augh! The pressure of the pangrammer!
Speaking of pressure, I can't see why so many people time themselves on these things. Gawd, don't you have enough time pressure in your life?
I do these in pen, mostly because that's what's around the house. Yeah, sometimes I have to write over, and it looks messy, but I live with it. But medium-challenging, even for a Tuesday, is more credit than I'd give. The only bit of trouble I had was at
65d, where I had ITY (no clue in the world about 70a). That was quickly corrected, and that was it.
Aqua is not water; it is water (Latin) or, Cato's water, etc. Nice nod to a rarely seen Potus, James Knox POLK. And I, too, enjoyed the ODIE/OPIE double. How about a new sitcom with a boy and his dog?

captcha=inglx: the garbled English you get when you try to construct pangrams.

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