Legendary Gaelic bard / THU 7-7-11 / 1990s TV neighbor / Jiminy Cricket declaration / Mad Money airer / Skilled hoops player slang

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Constructor: Caleb Rasmussen

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: NO U-TURN (35A: Traffic sign literally violated 12 times in this puzzle) — every answer with a "U" in it makes a 90˚ TURN in the grid at that "U" (thus it is "U" TURN, even if it is not a literal 180˚ U-TURN)

Word of the Day: ASK.com (20A: ___.com (Google competitor)) —

Ask (known as Ask Jeeves in the UK) is a Q&A focused search engine founded in 1996 by Garrett Gruener and David Warthen in Berkeley, California. The original software was implemented by Gary Chevsky from his own design. Warthen, Chevsky, Justin Grant, and others built the early AskJeeves.com website around that core engine. Three venture capital firms, Highland Capital Partners, Institutional Venture Partners, and The RODA Group were early investors. Ask.com is currently owned by InterActiveCorp under the NASDAQ symbol IACI. In late 2010, facing insurmountable competition from Google, the company outsourced its web search technology to an unspecified third party and returned to its roots as a question and answer site. Doug Leeds was appointed from president to CEO on January 2011. (wikipedia)

• • •

Let me say first off that this puzzle is very clever and largely well put-together. A mild proliferation of ugly little fill means very little in a grid this ambitious. This is why God invented EPIS and INRE. I also have to give this puzzle credit for keeping its secret hidden from me til the bitter end. That is, I had no idea what the theme revealer was until I filled in the very last letter, which was the second "U" in "U-TURN." I got that answers were careening off each other in each of the four quadrants, but I didn't see what was linking them all. After I got GESUNDHEIT, I figured that 7D: Result of being left out in the cold must bend at that same "U". No idea that it would bend at an earlier "U." No idea that the revealer would bend twice (none of the others did).

Overall, I didn't find the puzzle exceedingly challenging ... until I got it right down to 7D and 35A. And I might have pieced it all together much, much more quickly had not two little answers been given insane / dated clues—and both from the same thematic universe. I cannot remember the last time I thought of / saw / heard of either Juno (the ISP) or ASK.com. The idea that ASK.com is, currently, a "Google competitor," is Laughable. Yahoo. Bing. Those can call themselves competitors. I know what the major (and even minor) search engines are because they direct traffic to this blog all day long. I see their names every day. ASK.com is usually so far down my referral list that I never see its name. And Juno. Who the hell uses Juno? Isn't that dial-up? Dial-up still exists? I had AOL for the [Google competitor] and nothing for 26D: Juno, e.g.: Abbr. Not until I ran the alphabet on IS- did hit "P" and remembered the '90s (something I generally hate doing). At that point, I *immediately* discerned GOOSEBUMPS, and then NO U-TURN. First thought: "What!? Those answers don't make U-TURNs! 90˚ turns are not U-TURNs." And then I figured it out. So my "aha" moment came at moment of severe irritation (at the ASK and ISP clues, mostly). But, as I say, conceptually, this is pretty great.

Theme answers:
  • 4D: Happen again (RECULDER) / 19A: Carry, as a burden (SHOUR); i.e. RECUR and SHOULDER
  • 18A: Disagreeably direct (BRURON) / 10D: Transmitter, of sorts (NEUTAL); i.e. BRUTAL and NEURON
  • 63A: Birthplace of man stars (NEBUSE) / 49D: Awaken (AROULA); i.e. NEBULA and AROUSE
  • 65A: Winter item sold in pairs (EARMURVE) / 42D: Statistical shape (BELLCUFF); i.e. EAR MUFF and BELL CURVE
Picked up the theme, or the essential idea, anyway, in the NW, and it didn't take long. Then moved in a fairly systematic counterclockwise fashion until I had that troublesome center part surrounded. Along the way, I enjoyed BALLER (67A: Skilled hoops player, in slang) and realized I know virtually nothing about Jiminy Cricket; "I'M NO FOOL" is not familiar as a Cricket phrase to me (68A: Jiminy Cricket declaration). There are a couple of recurring crosswordy words that helped me sail through the majority of the grid. First, OSSIAN, who shows up in grids more than he has a right to (36D: Legendary Gaelic bard); and then ITERS, which is unlovable in the singular, nevermind the plural (22A: Anatomical passageways). All other non-theme answers seem tolerable to good.

Skee-Lo - I Wish by christ88

  • 54A: "Art is the triumph over ___": John Cheever ("CHAOS") — I don't know. Sometimes art *is* CHAOS.
  • 21D: 1990s TV neighbor (KRAMER) — on back-to-back days ... and no one's mentioned "racist tirade" once. Such a forgiving lot.
  • 61D: "Thou soft-flowing" stream of literature (AVON) — use of quotation marks in clue feels awkward, but I guess this is a better clue than something about cosmetics or bell-ringers or whatever.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Matthew G. 12:18 AM  

I'M NO FOOL, no sirree, I'm gonna live to be 103! That Jiminy Cricket line comes from a series of Disney shorts designed to teach kids about safety. Although they were all made before my time, they were shown endlessly on the Disney Channel in the 80s during my childhood.

Anyhow, I thought this puzzle was fantastic. The first corner I had mostly filled was the SW, and I knew something weird was going on when I couldn't get AROUSE and NEBULA to work. Moved on, eventually got the theme from the partial reveal.

Wasn't fazed by the second turn in the reveal -- there's a turn at every U in the puzzle, and that's the only answer with two Us.

The next time I hear someone say something incomprehensible, I believe I shall respond, GOOSEBUTUNDHEIT!

SethG 12:24 AM  

Got the bounciness of the theme pretty quickly, my only difficulty was OSSIAN. That's not a very Gaelic name. Or maybe it is, and I just don't know Gaelic. Or, really, legends or bards.

Anyway, OSSIAN crossing REPAD and SWEARS {some preposition} and the GESUNDHEIT I couldn't parse with the turns, that took a few minutes to unwind.

Tobias Duncan 1:14 AM  

Two things really bit me in the ass today.1 I hate abandoning the northwest corner of a puzzle and moving on. I dont know why. It is an irrational inflexibility that is killing my times.Even if I move to the northeast I have a hard time going south before most of the top is filled in.
2 I have never heard the word SERIOCOMIC (while I am well read for the most part, my education contains gaping holes as many of you may have figured out) in my life so I was not about to figure out the gimmick in the northwest.

Even once I had cracked the theme it took forever to see that the revealer bent twice ugg.

Greg 1:29 AM  

I'm sure this is obvious, but I'm not getting it. 6, for C = atno?

PurpleGuy 1:38 AM  

@Greg 6 is the ATomic Number for C.
I know, it sucks.

There are a whole bunch of double entendres if you look at the exact fill, without the U Turns, but I won't go there.
My only write over was the I in OSSiAn and SWEARSiN. I had an O there. Seemed OK to me. I'm Irish and have never heard of OSSIAN. So shoot me.

Happy Thursday all.

Shanti -

jae 1:47 AM  

Very fine puzzle. I figured something odd was going on when SHOULDERED made a right turn. The reveal clue explained it but I took a while to find and redirect all the Us. So, while the puzzle seemed easy-medium, it required some extra effort.

Oh, and me too for not knowing OSSIAN.

Greg 2:09 AM  

Ah, gotcha. I should have seen that.

In re Ossian, I've learned to fear the worst when I see "legendary" or similar hyperbole. What that really means is, "something you've never heard of that I need to fit the grid."

amess concerto michaels 2:14 AM  

Didn't know OSSIAN either and took me a long time to make OCTet into OCTad...
but loved loved loved this!!!!!!!!

Got it at SHOU-LDER but it took me to the very very end with my messy SE corner (Didn't no IMNOFOOL, TROI and had that OCTet problem)

I realized it turned, but didn't realize it turned at the U till half way thru!

God, this was fun!!!

Re: KRAMER bleedover, I don't think people forgive the racism per se, but may not see the word KRAMER, the role, and Michael Richards the actor. If RICHARDS was in the grid with "Seinfeld's Kramer portrayer Michael" I'll bet folks would have commented. Plus he was buried in a palindrome, not free-floating.

Anyway, thank U
Caleb (#2)

I skip M-W 2:35 AM  

As to Ossian, he was a fake, hence legendary:
"Ossian is the narrator and supposed author of a cycle of poems which the [18th century]Scottish poet James Macpherson claimed to have translated from ancient sources in the Scots Gaelic." says Wikipedia. Contrary to the rest of the Wikipedia entry I believe it is almost universally agreed that Macpherson wrote the poems, and has been for ages.

I wanted Ossian nearly right away, but took me awhile due to various distractions to figure out about yhe turns, then it came together very fast. Loved all all the turns in the central column; why didn't you list them all @Rex?

splendid puzzle.

PS I know one of the founders of Ask.com, but still tried AOL first

captcha = unsig, would fit in puzzle somehow

Anonymous 3:27 AM  

Far above my level, however the main clue is pretty misleading. A U-turn is 180o, not 90o! In real traffic, taking a 90o left hand turn at a no u-turn sign is NOT a violation!

Campesite 3:28 AM  

This winter we'll all be wearing bellcuffs with our earmurves.
A pitch-perfect Thursday puzzle, difficulty-wise.

Octavian U. 4:22 AM  

Hard but satisfying, a classic Thursday.

Very interesting article in Bloomberg Markets magazine today about Peter Muller, a NYT crossword constructor who also happens to be an Morgan Stanley prop desk trader. (He created last Sunday's puzzle.)

See the profile: http://goo.gl/gtLhl

jae 4:40 AM  

@andrea - Caleb #1 is Madison?

mac 5:24 AM  

It's Thursday, so I expected a rebus or other trick, which allowed me to leave sticky corners and move on. Tough! 90 degree turns because the sign says "no uturns"??

Good workout!

David L 7:45 AM  

I spent a lot of time thinking there was a weird rebus in this one, but the AROUSE/NEBULA cross finally clued me in. But then the reveal was cryptic and I didn't understand it until I saw RP's explanation.

Clever puzzle. I liked it, I think. EARMURVE and AROULA seem a little lewd, but maybe that's just me.

Victor in Rochester 8:07 AM  

This grid neutaled my brain. As soon as I had I reculdered from the nebuse it caused, along came the bruron which goosebutuntheited my aroula. Shour, I was wearing bellcuffs instead of earmurves, but noumps made it an unfair game. Gesurn it!

OldCarFudd 8:07 AM  

Brilliant! The bar has just been raised again.

Z 8:15 AM  

This was definitely goosebutundheit for me. Got that something was going on at SHO_R, but couldn't make a u-turn work or see how "ulde" could fit into 4D. I forged ahead, but kept getting stymied. Big white spaces throughout and getting close to time to go to work, and the theme just wasn't clicking for me, so I cried uncle.

I read the top of Rex's post, went back and the puzzle then fell pretty quickly. Aol, OCTet, and SWEARSto were my writeovers. Good puzzle. Now I wish I had set it aside and came back to it tonight.

Vega 8:22 AM  

I live for Thursdays like this. The puzzle was excellently tricky, Rex's write-up was super-clever (by which I mean I agreed with it completely, especially the Juno and ask.com part, and the Jiminy Cricket part), and the comments are hilarious.

Anonymous 8:28 AM  

Well, yeah. Landlines still go everywhere; ISPs are not nearly so wide-spread if you think about sparsely-populated states with vast spaces...

jackj 8:40 AM  

Brilliant debut by Caleb Rasmussen!

Knew from early on that the trick involved U turns but held off filling in 35 across because it seemed likely that it would be UEYS, based on recent experience.

Alternate clue for 35 across, "Fervent wish of anarchist southpaw pitcher?" NOUMPS.

Wonderful, wonderful puzzle!!

joho 8:41 AM  

This created so much frustration for me, but in a good way. Brilliant puzzle, Caleb: congratulaions!

Glimmerglass 8:43 AM  

It took me *forever* to catch on to the gimmick. I could see there had to be a gimmick in several spots, but not what it was. I got stuck on trying to fit several letters into one square wherever the grid balked me. but I couldn't fit anything into 35 across (No Exit??). I guessed NOUTRN, leaving out one of the U's -- nope. The light finally dawned with BELLCURVE. Clever puzzle, despite the illogic of 90-degree U-turns.

dk 8:52 AM  

Well I was/am a fool. I have read what Rex and his ites have written and I still do not see the point of this puzzle.

Thus I shall retire to the drawing room for a spot of 70a and lick my wounds. Gosh! These cranky pants will not hold a 69a.

In sum, I do not 38a this one.

** (2 stars) It is me not Caleb #2

Anonymous 8:54 AM  

Nice puzzle.

I can't wait until some hack submits an auto-filled themeless to Will with GOOSEBUTUNDHEIT as an entry.

jesser 8:55 AM  

It's beautiful, but it destroyed me. I gave up and came here. Now that I see what was going on, it all seems so obvious. I'm going to spend the rest of the day sulking.

jp 9:00 AM  

Well above my pay grade. I needed reading Rex explanation 3 times before I understood the trick. And even then trick is too clever for me. No Aha moment here. Plus I thought a U-turn is a 180 degree and not 90 degree. anyone can explain this.

Anonymous 9:01 AM  

I HATE to be so dense, but I still don't get how "literally violating" a no u-turn sign can be a 90 degree turn. Rex said "First thought: "What!? Those answers don't make U-TURNs! 90˚ turns are not U-TURNs." And then I figured it out." What am I missing?!

jberg 9:01 AM  

Brilliant puzzle, with the aha moment phased in (or, better, with several such moments): first was seeing that some answers made turns; second was seeing that the revealer made a turn itself, after 5-10 minutes trying to figure out what traffic sign could end with MP_; then getting the revealer and saying, like Rex, 'but those aren't U-turns!' and then finally realizing that all the turns were on Us (and all the Us involved turns). Very nice!

I also liked the ISP/ESP in symmetrical positions. And is RNA really 'genetic material'? It's in cells, and helps in gene expression, but aren't the genes themselves DNA?

Leslie 9:16 AM  

Man--it took me a LONG time to finish this, and even then, like some other posters, I didn't even see that the answers made their turns on the letter U. Rex's comment?

>First thought: "What!? Those answers don't make U-TURNs! 90˚ turns are not U-TURNs."

I never got beyond that. I was thinking, "Yeah, they're turns but they're not Ueys, right?" I guess I can't claim I'M NOT FOOL.

Anyway, I love a puzzle that almost, but not quite, kicks my butt, so this gets an A++ from me!

Leslie 9:17 AM  

Sigh. Sorry for the typos; I should learn to preview first.

thursdaysd 9:33 AM  

Pleased to finish a Thursday, although it took a while. After I got the north, and after I got the reveal, I still had a lot of trouble figuring out the turns in the SE, where I didn't know 68A and 60D and wanted Isis for AVON. I didn't get the U-turn until I came here, muttering to myself about 180 turns.

Never heard of OSSIAN, and took the longest time seeing GESUNDHEIT, as I wanted EARMURVE to be wARM something.

Anonymous 9:37 AM  

This puzzle was pure 54a for me. I still don't get it.

archaeoprof 9:43 AM  

I agree with @amess concerto: wonderful, clever, fun puzzle.

Like @DavidL, I looked for a rebus for awhile.

@Rex: your comment about art and CHAOS makes me think of Cy Twombly, who passed away yesterday.

Nice to be back with our digital community. Missed this daily dose of wit and spunk!

Rex Parker 9:45 AM  


Whoa, coincidence. I was going to mention Twombly in that CHAOS comment, but changed my mind (I forget why). He was the first artist that sprang to mind (probably bec. I had just read the [great] Times obit).


Pete 9:50 AM  

I too was stuck looking for the way a rebus would work until I gave up on that idea, filled in the adjoining crosses and stumbled upon the conceit of the puzzle, and a nice conceit it was.

My post solve glow was somewhat lessened by the fact that I anticipated with dread MandA's gloating about the plethora of Us, and then noticed that Laura Linney was on Charlie Rose, and feared that Rex would be glued to the tube and forget about writing tonight.

exaudio 9:50 AM  

Regarding the question of how a 90-degree turn can be a literal violation of the no u-turn rule, I have pondered it, and I think it's just the idea of making a turn at a u.

Loved it. Filled in about 80% but didn't get the trick, had to do a couple ken-kens to give my brain a reboot and then was able to complete it.

Anonymous 10:00 AM  

I was about 45 seconds from giving up on figuring out exactly how this worked (and half a dozen letters away from solving it) when it finally dawned on me. For a while I was thinking it had something to do with NOBUMPS.

From the comments, it looks like a lot of folks don't understand the gimmick. Rex's explanation sums it up well: "Every answer with a "U" in it makes a 90˚ turn in the grid at that "U". Put another way: There are turns at the letter U, so they are U-turns. (It has nothing to do with 90 vs. 180 degrees.)

chefbea 10:04 AM  

Did not like the puzzle. Could not figure it out. DNF. What a hard puzzle to construct!!

Tried to do the puzzle while watching Casey Anthony going to jail for four years.....she will probably be out this month or August at the latest!!!

Cheerio 10:22 AM  

Wow - what an incredible puzzle.

The tricky interpretation of "u", the incredible theme answers ("gesundheit"!!!)...just amazing. I had never heard of Ossian, so that was interesting too.

evil doug 10:26 AM  

U-turns that aren't u-turns but rather u-turns---easy as pi, or maybe Fibonacci.

Most themed puzzles defeat themselves by leading the solver by the nose (exhibit A: yesterday's palindromes); this one kept me curious to the last drop. The extra tier of deceit was enchanting.

Hope Caleb Rasmussen is both prolific and deft at dodging the sophomore slump.


LookUpGuy 10:28 AM  

Juno is a nationwide Internet Service Provider, available in more than 8,000 cities across North America.

"Whether you need dial-up or DSL Internet service, we provide a fast, reliable Internet connection for less than other Internet service providers." [juno.com]

Including a free version [ed. note]

foodie 10:50 AM  

I will forever hold up this puzzle as one I think is splendid even though I found it quite hard. What Sherlock Holmes would have called devilish!

But I did get through it with OS-IAN being my last letter.

@thursdaysd, thanks for the link yesterday. Lovely to meet you in your hennaed glory!

Two Ponies 10:51 AM  

I'm with @ dk and @ jesser.
My grid was a bunch of gibberish.
Call me the anti-Jiminy today.

retired_chemist 11:01 AM  

@ PurpleGuy re

"@Greg 6 is the Atomic Number for C. I know, it sucks."

Be careful what you say - an element never forgets.

An impressive puzzle. Took me a long while to get off the rebus idea, and I had almost all the grid filled in EXCEPT for the theme answers before I did. Once the theme revealed itself, I appreciated it. A lot.

Was SURE of NEBULA (63A) and its cross AROUSE (49D) - Did not get BALSER and CREESE, but did not understand until SHOULDER and RECUR made the gimmick clear. ARRGH! Fun getting my a** whupped anyway.

Thank you, Mr. Rasmussen.

Bob Kerfuffle 11:06 AM  

I am one who thought this was a great puzzle and loved it. I considered each letter well enough that I had no write-overs.

For those who would like to see 180s, can anyone do something along the lines of:

_ B _ _
E R A _
_ _ M U
_ _ E _


thursdaysd 11:28 AM  

"@Greg 6 is the Atomic Number for C. I know, it sucks." I'm going to display my almost complete ignorance of chemistry. What is "C"?

@foodie - glad you liked it! After nine years of orange hair, I'm now an elderly grey. Should raise fewer queries when I ask for senior discounts. Might even get me seats on subways, lol.

BTW, I just bought an iPad2 for travel - couldn't resist the light weight. Is the Crossword app in the itunes store the only way to do the NYT crossword without paying extra (I have a subscription to the dead tree Sunday issue)?

santafefran 11:51 AM  

My brain refused to make U-turns today so I am in the same sulk as jesser, dk, chef bea and two ponies.


Getting a new computer today to replace my antiquated Dell Dimension. Perhaps I can get it hard-wired into my brain.

stalla--yep, that's exactly what I did

syndy 11:56 AM  

C=Carbon. I caught the trick at BRURON/NEUTAL after a brief fight and thought BRUTAL indeed! Had a little trouble spelling GESUNDHEIT but luckily I'm old enough to know (RUB ELBOWS WITH)JIMINY CRICKET!I did put in AOL and BALKED a little at BALLER-really? but I LOVED THIS PUZZLE! and I'm not grading on the BELLCUFF either!

Glitch 12:37 PM  


I was disappointed to find the *dead tree* subscriber's access to *all electronic media* doesn't include the puzzle on the iPad (and similar).

That fact is buried in the fine print.

Also, I believe the app from the iStore is only a trial.


Masked and Anonymous 12:47 PM  

Puz that turns on the U's. Now that's what I'm talkin' about! ThUmbs Up.

@31's bullets are back. He liked the puz. All's right with the wolrd.

Stuart 1:07 PM  

Didn't get it. Didn't like it.

I don't generally mind gimmicks, but this was TOO "gimmickey" for my tastes, and the reveal was 58d. The answer at 35a is not a U-turn by any means; it's a zig or a zag or a curve in the road, but not a Uey ... and the clue says "literally."

Bottom line: must have been hard to create, but just didn't do it for me.

KarenSampsonHudson 1:15 PM  

Too clever by half----half a "uey" turn, that is!

Beadola 1:16 PM  

So many comments about how the turns are wrong because they are 90degrees, even after Rex's lucid explanation! The puzzle violates no U turns, because it turns at U's. Nothing to do with real driving.
I loved it and all the hilarious comments.
goosebutundheit to all.

Matthew G. 1:23 PM  

Here's the latest breakdown on who gets what from the NYT:

If you are a dead-tree subscriber -- even if, like me, you only get the Saturday and Sunday editions delivered in dead-tree format -- you absolutely do get access to the puzzle via iPad. If you are an online-only subscriber, you have to subscribe separately to the puzzle (yes, even if you purchase the inaptly named "All Digital Access" package).

Furthermore, if it is at all practical for you to deal with physical copies of the papers on weekends, do so -- it actually costs slightly less to get Saturday&Sunday delivery than to buy the "All Digital Access" package -- and as stated above, any home delivery package of any kind gives you both the puzzle and full online access to the news content. But as I discovered the hard way, if you buy a dead-tree subscription after previously having an online puzzle subscription, you may have to call customer service to get them to properly link your home-delivery account to an online account -- there is a bit of a hiccup in the system for ex-puzzle subscribers.

As for which app to use to do the puzzle on iPad, there are two (not counting the NYT's proprietary app which you should buy only if you don't have a subscription already).

The two worthwhile iPad apps are Crosswords (by Stand Alone, Inc.) and Crux (by Rumination Software). For right now, I still like the Stand Alone Inc. app better, because it allows printing, importation of .PUZ files (useful for Fireball and MGWCC), a BEQ subscription, and landscape mode. But I will say that the customer-service people at Rumination are very attentive, and when I sent them a list of feature suggestions they sent me a stunningly detailed personal response. So I won't be surprised if Crux becomes the superior app in the near future.

Noam D. Elkies 1:48 PM  

Lovely début puzzle. Only problem is what will he do for the deuxième to rise again to the standard of this première? The only nit to pick is that the theme U's are not quite symmetrical even though the marquee entry and(!) theme revealer 35A:NO{U}T{U}RN happily allows for exact symmetry.

Only medium Thursday difficulty for me, perhaps luckily, because I guessed correctly what to do at RECUR/SHOULDER, and then got the theme revealer early enonugh to use it elsewhere.

Yes, 66D:RNA is genetic material — probably the original genetic material, and still used exclusively by viruses (and perhaps other organisms?), which do not have DNA at all.


Anonymous 2:00 PM  

What a bear. I knew I had most of the answers, but couldn't see the turn theme right away so that made me think I was wrong. Ugh!

Wasn't there one in the Sunday NYT a short while back?

I play and watch hoops and never heard anyone use BALLER. I have heard the word BAWLER, though not in nice terms.

Rube 2:08 PM  

The "aha" moment for me was when HEIT appeared at the bottom, several squares away from GES_. They had to be connected and, sure enough, there was ND with room for the missing U. The "turn" resolved the four disconcertingly unfinished corners.

Also had writeovers at OCTAD/OCTet and ASK/Aol. Replacing fRAsER with KRAMER, (hey, I never watch that stuff), and deciding that Juno had nothing to do with Godesses or Alaskan cities but was an old ISP, cleared up the north central.

An excellent puzzle, and any Thursday I can say, DNG, is a pleasure for me. BTW, I associate OSSIAN with the '70s SciFi adventure Ossian's Ride by Fred Hoyle, which takes place in Ireland but has (almost) nothing to do with the legendary Ossian.

thursdaysd 2:10 PM  

@Matthew G - thanks very much for that clear explanation. Off to get an app...

Deborah 2:23 PM  

@Stuart - I'm with you. Too gimmicky, too tortured and not true to the crossword essence. I want to solve crosswords, not do rebuses. Hated it.
If a puzzle can't be constructed with sufficient difficulty without relying on multiple letter fills, cutesy back and forths, etc., it's a failure and a cop-out.

acme 3:03 PM  

I am someone who often wildly misuses the word "literally", literally one of my favorite words!
But let me be another voice to chime in to say you turn at the U, can't get more literal than that!

Such dismissal! :(
Hate all you want of what you did not enjoy/understand, but, for the record, it was not a rebus, nor was there cutesy back and forth...

Before you shout failure/cop-out, please take a step back...
it definitely had a gimmick,
yes, but one needed to solve it by crossing the words!!! THAT, my dear, IS the very essence of a crossword!

efrex 3:19 PM  

Took a while to work through, but what a fun concept and awesome construction! Centrally placed zig-zag revealer was icing on the cake, and I'm willing to forgive the yuckier fill (EPIS, ATNO, ITERS, INRE). Fully agree with Rex on the miserably dated clues for ASK and ISP, though.

Writeovers: wanted OCTET for OCTAD and RISE before SOAR.

Perfect Thursday fare. U got a fan here, Mr. Rasmussen!

chefwen 3:34 PM  

This one kicked my butt across Lake Michigan and back again and ended up coming here to clear my head, so a big, fat, DNF.

Undlike @dk I am going to skip 70A and head right on over for a beer, a big one.

Matthew G. 3:50 PM  

Just can't agree with those who accuse this puzzle of being a gimmick or a mere show-off of construction skill. Those puzzles exist, but this isn't one of them. When you realize how the turns work in this puzzle, it's a truly satisfying a-ha moment.

And deducing how the turns work is entirely doable. Because it adds to the difficulty of the puzzle in a manner that is consistent and non-arbitrary, it's more than a gimmick. I'll take an innovative twist like this over Yet Another Thursday Rebus any day.

I truly loved this puzzle. Three and out.

Anonymous 3:51 PM  

The difference between a tough and exceedingly clever puzzle you love and a tough and exceedingly clever puzzle you love not so much, is not being able to solve the latter. Usually I get the gimmick puzzles, but this one, even with 85% of the grid filled in correctly, stumped me completely. I knew what the trick words were, but not how to get to them. Good puzzle. Much TOO good! --NLS

Anonymous 3:55 PM  

I had "gerund" as "a blessing". Left me with "Osrian", which seemed about as likely as "Ossian"!

Two Ponies 3:58 PM  

Wow, tough crowd today.
Sour grapes?
As I said earlier, this one got the better of me but I am still very impressed by this one. And a debut to boot!
I think that, overall, the quality of our puzzles has improved. Could it be due to the feedback that this and other blogs provide?
I would like to think so.

Anonymous 4:00 PM  

This is a minor point but I will make it nonetheless: The word gimmick does not necessarily have a negative connotation. The first definition I came across on dictionary.com -- which definitely applies to this puzzle -- is: "an ingenious or novel device, scheme, or stratagem, especially one designed to attract attention or increase appeal."

sanfranman59 4:11 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)

Thu 24:29, 19:07, 1.28, 89%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Thu 13:58, 9:16, 1.51, 96%, Challenging

600 4:11 PM  

I had the whole puzzle filled in except for the turns. I KNEW shoulder should fit in there somehow, KNEW bell curve HAD to be right, felt certain Gesundheit was the answer, and still sat looking at blanks around all the turns, desperately trying to figure out what traffic sign said, "NO_MPS."

Oh, and hand up for "OCTET" not wanting to give way to "OCTAD."

Man, it kicked me around and around, way further than across Lake Michigan and back, but somehow, by the grace of something or other, it came through. I was so confused I'm not sure what finally clued me in. Maybe when I finally saw "NDHEIT" heading down.

Brilliant. Just brilliant. As someone else said, exactly what a Thursday puzzle should be.

quilter1 4:23 PM  

Busy day today. I got everything except the theme squares and I still don't get it. Maybe being busy makes me dumb.

Chip Hilton 4:42 PM  

@jesser and friends: I've been in your boat too many times to count, but today, I perservered and the payoff was glorious!

It's so interesting how the brain works when one encounters a curveball. I was actually ready to go with BELLCLEF (?) for 42D at one point. My 'U' breaktrhough came at the intersection of NEBULA and AROUSE and, like Rex, everything cleared up, except the center which took quite some time. The zigzag move on NOUTURN is just brilliant.

So put me in the Big Thumbs Up camp and my advice to @Deborah: enjoy your Mon.-Weds. puzzles.

Anonymous 4:44 PM  

I was really annoyed that the U in the NW was NOT symmetric with the U in the SE. All of the other U's were. If only that could have balanced out as well, this would have been beautiful.

Lewis 4:47 PM  

One of those very memorable puzzles, capable of providing a thrilling aha.

Nothing cheap about this one. For me, a true puzzle. I loved it!

Brian 5:00 PM  

Outstanding. THIS is what I hope to find in a Thursday puzzle. I knew something was up in the NE because 19A was most assuredly BRUTAL but it looked like BRURON, which, revealing my total lack of chemical knowledge, sounded like maybe it was some kind of gas that you could bet kills within seconds when inhaled. BUT then came ERICA and BASILICA and I saw as in a revelation BRUTAL bent at the "u." And I was off to the races.

Brilliant puzzle. Constructing it must have been agony. Being a debut piece, we may never see a followup from Mr. Rasmussen because this challenge surely drove him insane. I imagine him sitting in a dark corner in his basement rocking back and forth and mumbling, "U turn. No, u turn!"


jj 5:12 PM  

Enjoyed the puzzle a lot. As far as X-word apps for iPad, I've tried the NYT proprietary one and the Crosswords one.

The NYT app is horrible. It lags, so that you're often stuck watching to see whether or not the letter you type in actually stays there. Plus there aren't a whole lot of features. But it *does* have the NYT Crosswords (plus some archived ones), which alone makes it essential. Just no way to do a speed solve.

The Crosswords app is great. Lots of ways to switch between horizontal/vertical, and a very helpful indicator of what clue you're on that pops up in the middle of the page as you move around the grid. It also comes with free subscriptions to a bunch of daily crosswords, including some of the near-impossible cryptics from England. Downside: it's nearly $10 (the NYT is subscription based).

I'd recommend both, but honestly I wouldn't use the NYT app if it didn't have the NYT puzzle.

That is all.

jj 5:18 PM  

Oh, right. My only complaint about the puzzle (which, again, I enjoyed enough to comment on) is a visual one. All of the non-UTURN U's are in relatively the same place in their respective corners except for the upper right. If it were where the second C in CONCERTO is, those four U's would make a nice rectangle.

So it's aesthetically imperfect. I'm guessing the author thought so too, but couldn't fit the proper aesthetics into the theme. Or at least I hope that's the case.

jj 5:19 PM  

And by "upper right" I mean "upper left".

OK, I'll stop drowning the board in my comments now.

Syd 5:29 PM  

I loved the puzzle....i finally saw the pattern when working on bellcurve...i knew isp and ask and ossian right off...it's usually sports and music groups that do me in...often i know the things that irritate rex and haven't a clue about things he considers gimmes...anyway, thanks caleb, and will, for such good entertainment...

long suffering mets fan 5:46 PM  

Absolute obliteration, what an awesome puzzle !!!!

Was looking for some variation of GO STAND BY THE HEAT at 7d forever

Knew it just had to be AROUSE and NEBULA but the light never came on

Anybody know what to do when smoke appears out of one's ears?

BRAVO and thanks, Caleb super Thurs

hazel 6:15 PM  

awesome puzzle. had a yinyanginess to it that seemed to require both sides of my brain to solve. which made it so unique and therefore, memorable, and an all-around pleasure to solve. wish Dr. Seuss could have worked his way in there somehow. He would have fit right in.

There used to be a guy in our neighborhood called Paul Rasmussen. He would go around saying "you're cruisin' for a bruisin' from Paul Rasmussen." I can kind of imagine Caleb saying something similar as he was putting this together!

Anonymous 6:23 PM  

Rex, have a junior mint, they're positively refreshing!

pizzatheorem 6:49 PM  

Great fresh puzzle. The marquis answer and theme reveal fell last, like it did for so many others here. One of the best two non-themeless puzzles of the year for me, the other being the palindromic u-turn puzzle (a wednesday IIRC) of a few months ago.

JenCT 7:02 PM  

@Brian: LOL

This puzzle stumped me - got much of it, but never did catch onto the theme. Impressive, though.

"Sigh" - it's official: Mrs. Peeps (chicken) is actually Mr. Peeps - oh well.

Thinking about attending Lollapuzzoola (not competing, just attending!) - anyone know if the place is accessible?

Glitch 7:23 PM  


Contacted NYT Customer [dis?]service again and *James* confirmed there was no way I could get the puzzles on my iPad without an additional tribute (fee).

Followed your suggestion and downloaded the Crossword app (by Stand Alone, went for the $9.99 paid version), entered my sub info, and there was today's NYT puzzle.

@thursdaysd --- that's the app you want to try. Sorry, I guess I drank the NYT CoolAde.


Anonymous 7:27 PM  

I am using an iPad app called NYTCrosswords, by magmic. I mostly like it except that the numbers disappear whe you fill -- e.g., whe you fill in 1-across, if it's a 5-letter word, the numbers 1-5 disappear from the grid. This makes jumpIng from across to down clues cumbersome, to say the least. I had a problem with the app early on, but cuatomer service was very responsive.

@victor in Rochester, your post made me lol!


Glitch 7:29 PM  


There was supposed to be a *Thanks* to you in my last post.

Here's another --- Thanks


Arundel 8:34 PM  

This was one truly fine puzzle for a Thursday. It was as tough as they get, but it was ultimately doable, and I loved it. Thanks, Caleb - and I too will be curious to see how you can top this one!

Victor in Rochester, your comment this morning had me snorting my iced coffee! Goosebutundeit to you, too!

foodie 8:39 PM  

My hypothesis for today is that the people who loved it enjoy discovering patterns, including new and varying ones, while those who did not, find shifts in expected patterns rather frustrating.

I'm not passing judgment in one direction or another. I like to understand normal variations in perceptions and reactions to the world, and there is value in both searching for change and wanting continuity. Most of us are in the middle along that dimension. But some people fall at the extremes of the much maligned BELLCUFF ;)

hazel 9:48 PM  

very interesting hypothesis, @foodie, and one i agree with completely. it does seem like alot of frustration ihas historically been expressed along the lines of "xxx for a tuesday" (clearly the most maligned/controversial/variable day, but i think thursdays are a close 2nd). i for one like mixing it up and much prefer change to continuity!! revolution vs. evolution any day.

P.s. for the iPad, the standalone Crossword app rocks and the "official" NYT one sucks IMO.

Anonymous 10:19 PM  

The theme is "No U-turns", and yet we are turning at every "U". In a puzzle with no U-turns, there would be no u-turning, right? ...and yet turn we do, at every U. Misleading and not elegant. Thumbs down.

Anonymous 10:39 PM  

Except...the clue said (35A: Traffic sign literally violated 12 times in this puzzle).

And your complaint is that...there were U-turns after all? Is that misleading or did you miss that part?

william e emba 11:16 PM  

We saw a puzzle with turns a few years ago, although not U-TURNS. A year or so before Rex, there was a Saturday with turns. If my memory holds, it was a rebus on the word "turn" itself.

I had most of the theme answers, but I could not fit them in the grid and kept looking for some weird rebus. But when I was looking at BELL CUFF ?? and got the V in AVON giving me ?URVE (long long delayed as I was wondering if it was a rebus on A[cher]ON) and then it all fell in place at once, theme revealer and all.

matt 11:40 PM  

Because of the U-turns, several letters are not "crossed", that is, they are only used in one word. That bothered me for some reason. Also, ITERS is not yet part of my crossword lexicon, so not being able to get that T from a cross left a bad taste in my mouth.

Rex Parker 11:47 PM  

What letter is not "crossed?"


acme 11:59 PM  

Are you still on? You should get in touch Brian Cimmet who is at
brian@bemoresmarter.com (other info about Lollapuzzoola is on Rex's blog at the top under "crossword events")
It's a church on the upper East Side, I would be surprised if it weren't accessible! But do check, it would be awfully nice to meet you!

foodie 12:23 AM  

@Matt, it seems that way at first, if you're focusing on one word turning and you think its continuation is not crossed. But in fact it is not the case. So, if you look at the ITERS area, you see NEU-RON, which starts as a down and turns across, and it feels as if the remaining TAL that's down after NEU is just dangling there. But in fact that TAL completes BRU-TAL, which starts as an across and ends as a down, as it hits the same U. So, the T in ITERS is gettable through BRU-TAL.

At every U there are in fact two words that are broken up in that way, as summarized under Rex's theme answers. This is really the genius of the puzzle. It takes a while to uncover it.

sanfranman59 2:06 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 5:52, 6:52, 0.86, 5%, Easy (5th lowest median solve time of 106 Mondays)
Tue 8:54, 8:55, 1.00, 56%, Medium
Wed 10:31, 11:52, 0.89, 27%, Easy-Medium
Thu 25:10, 19:07, 1.32, 93%, Challenging (9th highest median solve time of 108 Thursdays)

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:19, 3:40, 0.91, 12%, Easy
Tue 4:53, 4:35, 1.07, 72%, Medium-Challenging
Wed 5:21, 5:51, 0.91, 32%, Easy-Medium
Thu 13:46, 9:16, 1.49, 96%, Challenging (5th highest median solve time of 108 Thursdays)

JenCT 7:11 AM  

@acme: Thanks! Will do.

Anonymous 10:17 PM  

ha. now i feel like a complete idiot. last time i do a puzzle after 11!

Tita 10:21 AM  

Just got back to the puzzle this am...LOVED IT!

And while I too thought Caleb was "stretching" a 90 into a 180, I thank


for this...

"Regarding the question of how a 90-degree turn can be a literal violation of the no u-turn rule, I have pondered it, and I think it's just the idea of making a turn at a u."

Craig 11:35 PM  

This may actually be the worst NYT puzzle I've ever seen.

I think a good rule of puzzle construction is: if you can't explain the theme succinctly, in a way that makes a solver say "aha!", it's a poor theme.

Well, yeah, given the theme, which doesn't particularly make a ton of sense, it's a well-constructed grid. So what?

Other comments said that it's this constructor's first published NYT puzzle. I hope it's his last.

Red Valerian 1:06 PM  

I thought this was brilliant, though I confess that I didn't completely get it before I came here. That is, I had all the right answers, but didn't realize all the turns were at all and only the 'u's! Mind you (no pun intended), since I came close to not finishing, I was so relieved when I was done that I didn't give it any more thought. And I think I was oddly thrown off by getting bellcurve as the first trick answer. (Me: "oh, it curves..." Doh!)

@Craig: that was a rather mean-spirited ad hominem. I suppose it would be mean-spirited of me to remark that I bet you didn't finish...

Bring on more puzzles, Caleb!

Waxy in Montreal 4:00 PM  

OTOH, to be consistent, henceforth let's spell Caleb II's last name:





Bye now

olfuddud 4:24 PM  

Ingenious puzzle. It beat me up badly, but you've got to admire the construction.

Anonymous 4:30 PM  

Some years ago when my husband and I were touring Northern Ireland we came across a sign pointing to Ossian's Grave. We followed a very narrow, winding road up a hill, through a farmer's pasture, a gate, got the rental car all scratched from the gorse, finally reached the top and decided it was either a Gaelic joke or one way to get people to see a marvelous view. There was a pile of rocks up there, but that's all. Cheers!

Mighty Nisden 5:07 PM  

From Syndy land -
I have been doing NYT crosswords for about six months and this was by far my favorite one! Took me most of the day but found it very enjoyable!
Wanted Caution for the 35D as I didn't think NOUTURN would fit.

Great job Caleb!!!

Deb 5:26 PM  

I absolutely HATED this puzzle until I came here and learned the trick. Now I love it.

Red Valerian 5:51 PM  

I'm curious, Waxy in Montreal, about your name. I'm sure this is off-topic, and I wouldn't be upset if Rex just deleted it, but, um, what is the providence of that name?

captcha: rizess. Those silly crackers after a couple of Effin martinis...

Waxy in Montreal 6:05 PM  

@Red Valerian: since you ask, my real first name spelled backwards means "wax" en français.

captcha = hotoc, what vendors yell at ball parks?

Deb 6:36 PM  

@Red Valerian - Long time no see! Just had to share some further synchronicity stemming from the erstwhile runcible spoon: It may have been providence that I ended up reading Day of Honey, as my son recently informed me he's in love with a young Lebanese Muslim woman and considering becoming a Muslim so that they can be together.

Apologies to the board for this off-topic note - couldn't find a way to contact Red off-site.

captcha=anisadis: Well, obviously that typewriter's T is broken.

Red Valerian 7:17 PM  

Deb! That is synchronicity indeed. I will email you anon, and explain why I'm hard to email directly. We have company coming for dinner and I must jump in the shower.

I'm so glad you wrote. We had a great three weeks in Turkey, which is closer to Lebanon than I've ever been...

@Waxy--bonjour Eric!

Anonymous 8:10 PM  

Wasting away again in syndicationville... I haven't posted on this log in quite a while. Been engrossed in life, so no puzzling of late. WOW! What a great debut! Congrats, Caleb. and a great puzzle to get my feet wet on starting back. got the theme at NEBULA/AROUSE. cool that the theme reveal is encrypted by the theme itself! I wanted CHAOS for 32d "restraining order?" since chaos restrains order. was tickled that it showed up in 54a for which I wanted CLASS based on some quote I vaguely remember about art being universal. Fun solve. I never time myself because as a word geek, I like to savor the wordplay involved. This one was savory indeed. -Kevin in Texas 8-11-11

Waxy in Montreal 8:34 PM  

Salut, Red!

captcha, believe it or not, is laloi (the law) which in Rex's world is 3 posts and out. So I'm gone...

Dirigonzo 8:43 PM  

It's already been said, but I'll say it again: Wow! I loved this puzzle. I was feeling pretty smug when 80% of the grid filled in quickly and then - nothing. Stared and stared, but could not see how to make the rest work, until the "U" in the SE corner showed up and pointed the way home (zig-zaggy though it was). Finished with a blank square in the NE as my knowledge of anatomical passageways and large diamonds is lacking, but still -Wow!

Anonymous 9:01 PM  

@Red Valerian- I think @Craig was the last of the non syndication comments based on post time and won't revisit this thread, but I enjoyed your tactful correction of his mild Lapse in decorum. -Kevin in Texas

Anonymous 11:54 PM  

@Purple Guy, you must be talking about the AROULA/NEBUSE atop BALLER combo, not to mention ENDOW/ADORE. Alas, I DNF, defeated because I got lost--which is what usually happens when you "violate a traffic sign." Considered NOUTURN for a moment, but it wouldn't fit, even if I turned at the first U. My mind could not do the extra calisthenic of turning AGAIN at the second U.
Now that I see it, I must acknowledge that the fault is mine, not the constructor's. Although I think I'm fair-to-middlin' bright enough, it's obvious that there are limits to my mental gymnastic workout--and I bumped up against them today.
The clue for 3d, "6, for C," sort of illustrates that puzzle-wide failure in microcosm. No way could I make the leap from that clue to the ATNO for carbon. Just too many hoops to jump through. (Guess I'm not a BALLER.)
One finished-grid entry takes me back to a college class studying Chaucer: "Whan that Aprille in his SHOURES soote..."
And how would a ballgame be with NOUMPS? Oh well, maybe tomorrow it won't be so BRU

mot 12:14 AM  

I hated it

Anonymous 1:53 PM  

Clever for the sake of being clever! Challenging in the "gimmick" which in this case falls flat -- turns on itself -- there are no U-Turns in the puzzle. Cheekiness -- leaves me cold; but then, I am a purist.

Anonymous 4:00 PM  

Saw the turns at SHOULDER/RECUR early on. Figured the traffic sign was NO TURNS and reasoned that there would be six turning points in the grid. Unfortunately I thought the E in CONCERTO might be one of them, and that screwed me up looking for the symmetrical turning points in SE.

It wasn't until I got GOOSEBUMPS that I realized that all the turns were on U. Great aha moment. Two anonymous thumbs up for this puzzle.

Recipe for a chaotic ball game at 35a (obeying traffic sign).

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