Creator of GOP elephant / TUE 9-27-11 / Larklike bird / Noted 1964 convert to Islam / When repeated noted panda

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Constructor: Peter A. Collins

Relative difficulty: Challenging (for a Tuesday)

THEME: COUNTRIES (34D: Sovereign lands ... or what are hidden in the answers to the six starred clues) — loose assortment of country names are buried inside familiar (or at least vaguely familiar) phrases

Word of the Day: PIPIT (44A: Larklike bird) —
The pipits are a cosmopolitan genus, Anthus, of small passerine birds with medium to long tails. Along with the wagtails and longclaws, the pipits make up the family Motacillidae. The genus is widespread, occurring across most of the world, except the driest deserts, rainforests and the mainland of Antarctica.
• • •

This is a Wednesday puzzle. It's not even close to a Tuesday. How do I know. It took me 4:42, a full minute longer than my typical Tuesday. Also, when I finished, I was in *2nd* place on the NYT applet—that has literally never happened. As we speak, I'm in 4th, and falling, but even A Division solvers are taking over 4. This is not a complaint—it's just to say that the puzzle was clearly misplaced. Mis-slotted. The theme is kind of blah—random COUNTRIES, so what?—and the theme answers are often painfully unsnappy. I don't think I've ever seen the phrase CHICKEN YARD, though I can at least imagine what it is. Never seen a DIGITAL YEARBOOK, but I assume it's a thing. ROPERUG? Again, I can imagine it, but I've never heard the term. But you can't deny those answer have COUNTRIES in them, which is really all that's required. Central middle was the toughest for me. My farm was TWO ACRE rather than TEN ACRE (it's not as if either is some kind of standard—again, a non-snappy phrase) (42D: Like a small farm, perhaps), and so HEINZ (47A: Ore-Ida parent company) and ZION (48D: The Jewish people) and even ANIMAL INSTINCTS were all hard to see. Never heard of a PIPIT (or I have, and then forgot). Most of the rest of the fill was mediocre, except for THE WALRUS (5D: Character in a Beatles song), which is great. Too bad it doesn't have a country name inside it—it really should, for symmetry's sake. So let's all pretend there's a country called HEWAL. OK? Done.

Theme answers:
  • 17A: *Area in front of a coop (CHICKENYARD)
  • 23A: *Modern school memento (DIGITALYEARBOOK)
  • 35A: *Braided floor covering (ROPERUG)
  • 37A: *More than enough (TOO MANY)
  • 50A: *Elemental parts of human nature (ANIMALINSTINCTS)
  • 57A: *Discover to be fibbing (CATCHINALIE) 
Short stuff is pretty junky all around, but that's what you'd expect in most people's theme-dense puzzles. I was proud to remember the 39D: Creator of the G.O.P. elephant, and then sad to find out that I'd misremembered his name as NASH (it's NAST). Tried CAUGHT IN A LIE first even though it's obviously the wrong verb tense. Thought the wine bar request was the TAB (really didn't read the clue well enough I guess—57D: Request inside (or outside?) a wine bar (CAB). I always botch relative adjectives when the adjective ends in "Y"—SLYER looks just fine, but I guess not (29A: More clever=>SLIER). Good thing I couldn't buy LYNG LYNG as a panda name (26D: When repeated, a noted panda=>LING). Lots of Beatles in this puzzle today, but I'm gonna go out with some PIXIES instead (46D: Fairies)—it's my 8-year wedding anniversary, so (like every other day of the year) I'll do what I want. I love you, honey. xoxo

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


CoffeeLvr 12:07 AM  

Happy Anniversary, Michael and Sandy.

On to the puzzle, I really liked seeing China spread over all three words in the entry. On the other hand, ANIMAL INSTINCTS was a long way to go for MALI.

Gill I. P. 12:20 AM  

This was a Tuesday? Twensday?
I start my puzzle with VAC and ICH? Wait, not to be outdone by ALI GOOP PIXIES.
I did like PIPIT though (thanks REX for WOTD) Wasn't crazy about ROPERUG and TODDLE???
Did you know that Truman Capote's original name is Truman Streckfus Persons?
Happy 8th Rex and Sandy; I hope you are celebrating somewhere filled with LUXE.

MountainManZach 12:21 AM  

I feel like I've seen/heard DIGITALYEARBOOK before for Italy. XwordInfo says no. Maybe a Sunday Puzzler? Anyone else get that sense?

Tobias Duncan 12:27 AM  

This is one of those days when Rex hits just about every thought I could possibly have about the puzzle.Freaky.
So nice to end with Frank Black who is a very stand up guy.Since we are celebrating an anniversary, I shall regale you with an anecdote.
One of my best friends is a guitarist and was on tour with a somewhat pretentious band in the 90s.The frontman decided the guy driving the tour bus was not hip enough and sort of fat and white trash so he calls the bus company and says to send a new driver, does not even say a word to the old driver so the replacement has to tell him he's fired.
My buddy of course is horrified as he really like the fat bus driver.
They sit in his room and commiserate while waiting for the bus drivers buddy to come pick him up. Turns out its Black Francis of the Pixies.My buddy the guitarist (like all good people of a certain age) is a HUGE Pixies fan and is once again mortified by his bosses idiotic behavior.

Erik 12:42 AM  

Would have had it in 3 minutes and change, but (I/E)NURED got in the way. Guess that crossing was - David Caruso sunglasses moment - for the birds.

The New Girl 1:05 AM  

I was glad to see the "difficult" rating. I thought it was just me. Feeling a little slow as I have yet to finish Merl Reagle's Brain Game Challenge. I'm quite certain someone sent in the correct answers within the first hour, but I refuse to give up just yet. I'm totally stuck on puzzle 4. Anyone else "compete"?

Anyhoo, back to this puzzle... I have to agree with Rex's assessment. Was it Mr. Collins who gave us the INNER CITIES last week? I just checked back and it sure was. I thought the grid was pretty neat. My favorite entry was DRYEYES. It reminds me of going to see E.T.  I was crying so much at the end of the movie that the old (to me at the time) man sitting next to me offered me a tissue. It was very nice of him. 

Happy Anniversary to the happy couple.

dbleader61 1:10 AM  

Got caught using CGA instead of CPA - and missed the 900pm PDT deadline. I don't think we have CPAs in Canada? REPO does make a far better answer for "take back".

Anonymous 1:16 AM  

good for freakin u

syndy 1:38 AM  

NO I want the theme items to be real things too !I wrote in TWO ACRE farm but I was thinking-Wouldn't that really be a GARDEN? I also thought that ODOM was a basketball player???Puzzle has some good fill and I like a little hardness in my tursdays but overall no-didn't like it.Happy ANNIVERSARY MICHEAL and SANDY!

lit.doc 2:06 AM  

Yeah, two hard for Wednesday. Three hard, even. Whatever. Ten hard…well, I’m just not going there. And at least two mehs for the theme.

Finished with an error—PEPIT / ENURED instead of PIPIT / INURED. Duly filed under P.

Me too for TWO / TEN ACRES (an acre here, and acre there, hey). Also AREA / ROPE RUG (I’ve gotten both rope burn and rug burn before, but not at the same time).

Loved the clue for 57D CAB.

@syndy, yeah, Lamar Odom, who’s married to one of the Kardashian units.

Happy 8th, RP + Sandy!

lit.doc 2:07 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
chefwen 2:52 AM  

Ripped through this one at an alarming rate until I got to the same area that tripped up Rex. I am sure that it took me a hellavalot of time to get myself out of the weeds than it took Rex, seemed like forever, but I managed.

@Tobias D. - Your stories are beginning to rival Acme's, I love 'em. Yesterdays with @Jesser's costume was a classic. I was reading it today while waiting for my husband to get out of same day surgery and was laughing so hard the other people in the waiting room probably thought the little men in white coats were going to haul me away.

Happy Anniversary Michael and Sandy.

Joel 4:03 AM  

I was surprised to see yet another Peter Collins byline. He's the most published constructor this year (with 11 puzzles, beating out Patrick Berry by one), but I can't remember any that have been reviewed well. Will continues to publish his puzzles, and the blogosphere continues to pan them. Over at Crossword Fiend, five of his last seven puzzles have received an average of 2.5/5. I find it interesting that such an unpopular constructor is also the most prolific.

To me, Peter's grids often focus too much on theme, and don't pay enough attention to smooth, lively fill. Especially when the theme is only so-so, as was the case in today's puzzle and also in his recent "Inner City" puzzle, the fill needs to sparkle. But Peter's grids, in my opinion, seem lazily filled. To include ERN, KATS, HST, EEO, AMINOS, OEN, CPA, RNS, ESE, LING, EENSY etc. in a puzzle that doesn't have a crazy amount of theme makes me think that he's settling for mediocre/bad fill just to finish the construction.

Anonymous 4:42 AM  

Just a note:

The letter that functions as an eta in "Homer" is not the initial H, which looks like an eta but is not. It's a consonant. The Greek eta is a vowel.

The English H sound at the beginning of a Greek word is indicated by a "rough breathing" diacritical mark over an initial vowel, diphthong or the letter rho. It looks a bit like a backwards apostrophe over the initial letter.

The eta in 'Omeros (or "Homer" in English) is the letter before the r (rho).

(I'm not sayin' that the clue/answer pair is wrong.)

shrub5 5:47 AM  

Agree this was harder than the usual Tuesday. Put in prIMAL INSTINCTS at first. Count me as another Two to TEN ACRE writeover. @syndy: yes, two would qualify as a big garden rather than a small farm, LOL. I haven't seen a DIGITAL YEARBOOK but it sounds like a good, economical idea. Liked ME TIME.

@RP and Mrs. RP: Eight is great. Cheers!

Z 6:35 AM  

Happy anniversary, although I suggest that you do what SHE wants today.

Struggles all over today. TOtter before TODDLE, shag before ROPE, Serb before SLAV, LiMp before LAME and finally, EEtSY before EENSY (I want it to be TEENSY). -AROOt wasn't coming, so this was more in Thursday range.

I've given up on slier/slyer, and just leave the middle letter blank until I get the cross.

I did like the Beatles mini-theme and note the baseball mini-theme as well with Blue Moon ODOM, TRIS Speaker, HITTER, and the Montreal EXPOs all making an appearance. Also, the birds make an appearance, ERN, CHICKEN, CAW, and PIPIT. The mini-themes may actually be better than the theme.

dk 7:34 AM  

Random firings:

The only Homer letter I know is DOH.

My dinner "date" last night wore a BERET. (Hint, she is the most popular woman in puzzledom.)

I did not order a CAB but Montepulciano did not fit in the little boxes.

I will drag out the bird book to find out what a PIPIT looks like so I can shoot and grill one. Flippin bird name derailed this puzzle for me...

Only valid complaint is we called braided rugs area rugs not ROPERUGS, but that is hardly Mr. Collins problem.

*** (3 Stars) PIPIT = dead bird. Not that I carry a grudge.

Crosscan 7:47 AM  

@dbleader61 - Canada doesn't have CPAs yet. Canada has CAs (like me), CGAs and CMAs. However, merger talks are underway between the various groups and the result would be adopting the CPA designation as a common one.

That explanation took me less time than this non-Tuesday puzzle.

SethG 7:55 AM  

We did see DIG(ITALY)EARBOOK(S) in Francis Heaney's country flag puzzle last year.

I'm abnormally in the top 10...percent, and I really prefer my theme answers to be (or be based on) actual phrases. I don't care that Mali is in ANIMAL INSTINCTS, but I like that because it's a good answer. Kenya being inside CHICKEN YARD is more interesting, but the CHICKEN YARD itself is so so much less interesting that it kills the impact. And the rest were like that one.

I did remember how to end NAST, though, so there's that.

David 8:08 AM  

Did this in about 9 minutes, waaaay over a normal Tuesday time. Was fine up top even though I've also never heard of a CHICKEN YARD, but then got stopped in the left-middle and the SW. Was too slow to put in either INURED or enured due to PIPIT (which I've also never heard of), and ROPERUG was another obstacle (was thinking GOOS/MYTIME vs GOOP/METIME).

Also was thrown by the clue for 47D (HITTER). For someone hitting "lots of doubles and homeruns" I was expecting something more like a BOPPER, MASHER, ALLSTAR, not simply a hitter....

mac 8:10 AM  

Same trip-ups as Rex: two acre, Nash, cought and I also thought Mali was awfully short to be in the (very good) animal instincts.

Got the theme quickly because Kenya popped out somehow. Favorite answer: dry eyes. Made me think of "War Horse", which I saw last Friday. Two tissue show.

@Anonymouse 4.42: thanks for the reminder. I remember the diacritical mark as a comma above the initial vowel.

PETER 8:14 AM  

@ Joel (4:03 am)

First of all, what are you doing up at 4:03?

Second, believe me, no one is more aware than I am of the, shall we say -- *tepid* response my last several puzzle have received both here and at the Crossword Fiend’s blog. While I certainly think some of the criticism is justified, I think some is a tad nit-picky, and some I think is flat-out ridiculous. But I guess it comes with the territory.

You talk about puzzle quality as if there are only two components -- theme and fill. I think there is a third component that is often overlooked. Structure. For instance, in today’s grid, my theme-revealer (COUNTRIES) cuts across three themed entries. I don’t believe anyone has commented on that. Maybe no one even noticed. I don’t recall ever seeing a theme-revealer cut across more than one themed answer, and then only rarely. Perhaps that’s the kind of thing that some will argue does nothing to enhance the enjoyment of solving a puzzle, but I disagree. When I see something like that -- for instance, really intricate theme-answer interlock -- I stop and say “wow”. I’ve had several other puzzles in the past where I feel that kind of structural engineering went largely over looked. Just another example off the top of my head is the TWIST/AND/SHOUT puzzle ( from June 8, 2010. I liked the way THE ISLEY and BROTHERS were not only symmetric, but could hook onto TWIST and SHOUT. I liked the fact that AND did double duty between TWIST and SHOUT, and between THE MAMAS and THE PAPAS.

I know I can’t talk anyone into liking my puzzles, but I guess I felt a need to explain myself. And as for the “lazy fill” comment, I assure you it’s not true. I’m not happy having an ESE or an ONO in the grid, and I’ve often spent hours looking for a work-around to avoid such ugly fill. I don’t just hit the auto-fill button.

I’ve got to believe that my puzzles must be better received by the general public than by the folks who comment here.

Anyway, the Lions are 3-0 for the first time since Reagan was president, the Wolverines are 4-0 and might actually give OSU a battle this year, and the Tigers are going to the playoffs. No one is going to rain on my parade this fall!

- Pete Collins

joho 8:39 AM  

@Peter, loved your comment. I actually did notice COUNTRIES connecting with TOOMANY, MALI and CHINA but you beat me to it.

It's amazing to me that people who have never even tried constructing a puzzle can be so critical! And unappreciative.

I only read this blog so don't know about other criticisms you've been receiving ... but I so think here, especially your puzzle preceding this one, was overly panned to the point that @Rex should send you a present to the birthday party he's not been invited to!

jp 8:44 AM  

I read Rex and Peter Collins comments and liked both comments. I also find myself agreeing with both. First the puzzle was really a difficult one for a Tuesday. It felt like a difficult Wednesday since I can get most Wednesdays without any help.
There are a lot of ugly words there mentioned by Rex. Got the theme but was too bored to google for the remaining empty spots.
I can however appreciate the construction. And I did not realize that ROPE RUG and TOO MANY also had countries hidden in them until I read Rex blog.

joho 8:44 AM  

Sorry, should be ... "but I do think here,"

Also, I didn't mention, I enjoyed this puzzle and look forward to more from Pete Collins.

(Especially liked all the Beatles references.)

(@Rex, you can anagram WALES in THE WALRUS.)

jackj 8:47 AM  

Peter Collin’s recent “city-in-city” puzzle was rather fun but this failed imitation is a complete hodgepodge, seemingly slapped together without cogent rhyme or reason and only serves to fill a void in the Tuesday NY Times Arts Section.

Even the countries harbored within the borders of the answers have nothing in common unless, perhaps, they lend their initials and unite to become that new world alliance, the PICKMO powers.

Peter, you’re trying much too hard.

Anonymous 8:53 AM  

Hey jackj, the countries do have something in common, being countries and all that.

(BTW, nice puzzle Pete!)

jberg 8:54 AM  

Happy Anniversary!

And @Peter, thanks for coming here and facing the lions in the arena! Much of the criticism was just that this ran on the wrong day (not all, I realize.)

The other thing that struck me was that the left and right sides of the puzzle were connected only by the two long acrosses; that made it a little more challenging for me.

As for PIPIT - hey, we've got them right here in the US - just like CPAs. I guess there are more baseball fans than birders, but only by a factor of 4 or 5.

By the way, that US is in THE WALRUS - but it doesn't span the 2 words, so it doesn't make it a theme answer, I guess.

I think I agree about CHICKEN YARD, but I'm not sure I haven't heard it - certainly HEN YARD is more common.

I wanted LyNG too; and I really wanted WADDLE for 5A. I never wrote it in, but I held off on some of the crosses for a long time until I got convinced it was wrong.

jesser 9:07 AM  

@ Tobias: You made me spit coffee out my nose yesterday. LOVES IT! I will try the suit (but there will be no video)!

@ Rex: Happy anniversary to you and Sandy!

@ Peter Collins: Point taken on construction.

I was undone (like others) at eNURE/PePIT, but I'm not addicted to Mr. Happy Pencil, and I've got other things to worry about.

My writeovers were the common Two ACRE before TEN ACRE and Serb before SLAV and NASh before NAST and tAB before CAB. It seems to me that when this many fairly skilled solvers have the same hiccups, there is a problem lurking in there somewhere.

Rumor is that some heir to the HEINZ fortune lives east of Las Cruces, but I seem to remember a politician being married to the HEINZ heiress, so maybe it's the heir of another ketchup brand. I am a mustard man. And I'm babbling.

Happy Tuesday, friends!

John V 9:20 AM  

Yep, this was challenging for a Tuesday. I am not competent to comment on the technical aspects of construction.

Favorite clue/answer: 57A CAB.

East -- ROPERUG, etc, was REALLY hard for me.

Hands up for wanting TWOACRE small farm. Wanted LADY for 23D, thinking LADY LUCK. (Always helpful to read the actual clue, I suppose.)

Anyway, got it all, albeit probably my slowest Tuesday maybe ever.

captcha denso: Yep, c'est moi.

Ch. Little 9:21 AM  

I'm so happy that Will, or Peter we don't really know who wrote the clue, has finally taken some steps to remove the human-centricity out of puzzles. I cite 17A as an example. See, chicken coops are not symmetric, the front for the humans is the back for the chickens, and the CHICKEN's YARD is only the front for the chickens, but is the back for the humans.

It's the chickens' damned home, and I'm thankful that their point of view was given precidence!

John V 9:26 AM  

Um, that would be problems with the WEST side, not the EAST.

Tobias Duncan 9:45 AM  

@Peter, here are a few things to consider.
1. I think everyone here can agree that the biggest problem with this puzzle is that it is NOT a Tuesday. That made us cranky right out of the gate.Not your fault.
2 I dont know how much you come here but I can tell you that we seem to pan Tuesday puzzles relentlessly.
3 We trash way more puzzles than we praise.We are notoriously hard on constructors,sometimes even our own ACME and she is our "It girl".
4 One of the reasons we pick stuff apart is in the hope that feedback loop with improve the puzzles.But you probably submited all these puzzles a year ago and now, even if you did find some of our critisism constructive,there is nothing you can do.I am used to getting instant feedback in my artistic endeavors.That has got to suck.

I am glad you came here to defend your puzzle.Believe me, we are all grateful that you take time to write puzzles for us.We know you dont just do it for the lose women, limos and buckets of money the NYT throws at you.

Jonathan 9:47 AM  


There are untold thousands of people who enjoyed your puzzle. They are, however, statistically less likely to comment on a blog.

Best regards - Jonathan

Cheerio 9:48 AM  

I agree with @John V that CAB was adorably clued. I liked that there were so many theme answers. I don't solve puzzles fast, but I thought this was too easy and should have been a Monday. Maybe if you don't care about time, the subjective difficulty scale is different?

quilter1 9:53 AM  

I thought this was easy. I don't get SLIER. I want the "y" in there. CHICKEN YARD is familiar to me. I appreciate reading Peter's comment and think I have some realization of how hard constructing must be. I just want to solve. Still I found this one to be kind of ho-hum.

There's an auto fill button?

And best wishes for a happy anniversary.

hazel 10:24 AM  

@peter - i loved your comment and v. much liked your puzzle.  Its been my observation over the last 3+ yrs, that if Rex doesn't like a puzzle, a lot of people here won't like it either - and its not because everyone automatically agrees with him, but he has a very clear rationale for why he considers a puzzle good or bad which is conveyed on a daily basis. when you are new to solving and/or trying to figure out why you like some puzzles more than others,  he makes compelling arguments and its easy/makes sense to adopt his arguments/pet peeves.  

Not to say that there aren't plenty of people  who are pretty clear on what they like and why they like it, regardless of Rex's viewpoint - but I think this is often the minority view. I'm a fairly consistent "disagreer" (take that, GWB!) but  I do acknowledge that I learned a framework for appreciating a puzzle's "bones" from him.  Even so, the comments section  never seems to be a level playing field for a puzzle that Rex doesn't like.  Plus, its human nature to gripe! 

So, with that, I leave you this awesome passage from the Tao te Ching (Steven Mitchell translation)

Fill your bowl to the brim
and it will spill.
Keep sharpening your knife
and it will blunt.
Chase after money and security
and your heart will never unclench.
Care about people's approval
and you will be their prisoner.

Do your work, then step back.
The only path to serenity.

P.S. please don't ever under any circumstances put ASTA in a puzzle. I have an irrational dislike for that little crossword dog and it will absolutely 86 a puzzle for me!

archaeoprof 10:38 AM  

Of course this is a Tuesday puzzle.

It is a "challenging" Tuesday, but today is most assuredly Tuesday.

@Pete: I really enjoyed this one. thanks!

600 10:41 AM  

I'm glad Rex rated this puzzle challenging--it took me half again as long as usual for a Tuesday--but that doesn't mean I didn't enjoy the experience. I did, and that's why I bother to solve at all.

@Jesser--I've been meaning to say this for a while now: I've seen Steve Martin a couple of times since your family story about him (gosh, I hope it was you!) He was on SNL Saturday night and something else a week or so ago . . . anyway, the point is I'll never feel the same way about him again. Never.

@Peter--I love that constructors read this blog and comment here as well. You'll never find me complaining about a constructor, though I agree with everything Tobias Duncan said. Personally, I'd never even try to construct. Sounds really difficult.

Finally, I'm a non sports fan, but I'm also a Michigan native living in Georgia. I'm incredibly delighted about the Lions, Tigers, and Wolverines. Thanks for including the news about all of them. Like I said, I'm a non sports fan so I didn't know any of it--but now I believe I'll start paying attention, especially to the UofM/OSU game, always a lot of fun even for one who doesn't follow any other games.

Two Ponies 10:41 AM  

First I want to thank Peter for his thoughtful commentary.
Tuesdays are the toughest day to please as @ Tobias said.
Chicken yard did sound strange although I have heard of chickens being called yard birds.
Agree that the lovely animal instincts seemed a long way to go to get Mali in the grid.
Rope rug? Nope.
Happy 8th to the Sharps. Hope you do something fun.
@ jesser, I think John Kerry is married to the heiress.

Brian 10:42 AM  

I learned my lesson yesterday when I was a bit harsh on the the constructor. I don't intend to be so rude again.

Besides, Mr. Collins is from my neck of the woods (actually, just down the road) and homies have to stick together. (Go Tigers! With Verlander and Fister, we might go a long way, Mr. Collins!)

To the puzzle, I found it moderately entertaining. I do wish the countries could have been more interesting or that knowing the theme could have contributed more to solving the clues.

There were also a ton of 3-letter answers, it seemed.

But I loved the Beatle sub-theme and I thought CATCHINALIE was pretty clever. DRYEYES, with the two Ys, is awesome.

I did not notice that COUNTRIES crossed three theme answers and I suspect that your casual solver (which I am) as a rule would not notice ... nor, frankly, care. There's a layer to any art that only other artists or aficionados can appreciate, isn't there? I have a feeling that structure is like that in crossword construction. And if the structure compromises the solver's experience, maybe any sacrifices made for the sake of the structure were ill-advised.

Just a thought from someone who hasn't ever thought that much about it.

Mel Ott 10:44 AM  

@Anon 4:42 You are right about ETAs and aitches and breathing marks, but I think you are overthinking the clue - something I do all too often. I don't think 'Letter from Homer?' refers to the initial letter in his name. It just refers to the fact that Homer wrote in Greek and ETA is a Greek letter.

Anonymous 10:45 AM  

Not to nit-pick, but if the category is RELATIVE Difficulty, do you need to say "Challenging (FOR A TUESDAY)" ?

chefbea 10:47 AM  

Happy anniversary!!

Found the puzzle harder than the usual Tuesday. Noticed all the Beatle references and of course knew 22A - that's my car.
I Never watch Jimmy Kimmel but last night I woke up around 12:30 and his program was on. He was talking to Dana Delaney about the xword puzzle she did with Matt Ginsberg. Talked at great length about it - it was Sun sept 4th and she also talked about you Rex. So now we will probably have more people joining in.

Anon #3 10:49 AM  

@Anon 10:45 Probably so that other Anons don't ask "How can you say this is challenging, last Friday's took me 4 hours and this one only took me 1 hour". Not all know precisely what the 'relative' is referring to.

Tobias Duncan 11:11 AM  

Holy crap! Kimmel kicked our fearless leaders ass!
(actually pretty funny)
Thanks @chefbea

Shamik 11:40 AM  

Happy 8th Anniversary!

And yes, it was very challenging to me at 9:40. And I finished with...count them...three errors. Because it really is possible that Brian ENO liked the Beatles. And there really could be a baseball player named ODOM. And there really could be someone somewhere that calls a braided rug a LOPERUG for some silly reason. (Only ever heard it called a braided rug. Ever.) And certainly an opportunity, metaphorically truly is a DEAL. It could happen. Just not today. Pfft.

That said, thanks to Peter for coming here and making a stand for his puzzles and thought processes. Much appreciated! And it's mostly true, that the tide tends to side with Rex.

@Tobias Duncan: Thanks to you for pasting in the Jimmy Kimmel link. As Dana Delaney said, she doesn't read bad reviews of her acting so why should she read bad reviews of her crosswood puzzles! There will always be nay sayers...and many of them will be here...including me.

Anonymous 12:06 PM  

48D "The Jewish people" is simply WRONG! It is the Jewish land.

I'm surprised that this outright error got past the editing team and is now embedded in so many solvers' minds. Sigh...

Lurking Larry

Anonymous 12:19 PM  

wrong Zion

"Zion metaphorically refers to any group of people that are unified and "pure in heart"; the City of Enoch is one example of "a Zion people", and the people described in Fourth Nephi is another; for Zion to be fully realized, the society must be willing to live the Law of Consecration based on mutual feelings of charity, which is the pure love of Christ."

Sparky 12:22 PM  

Happy Anniversary Sandy and Rex.

DNF. Blank spot in SW. Could only think of towee which didn't work with RITA. Have decided to call a halt instead of chewing on puzzle all day. I have got to get out more.

Liked Beatle mini theme. RagRUG too short then got it. Was not AVERSE to this Tuesday though some of the countries seemed LAME. CHICKENrun funny movie.

@Hazel: Good observations. I think we have a tendency to me too Rex. Learn a lot, though, over the months. Thanks Peter for your comments.

So busy. I'm looking for a sale on Brita Filters.

foodie 12:28 PM  

Quick & Dirty Index (details under my avatar) puts this puzzle squarely in the Challenging range.

@Pete, the way you and Rex talk about puzzles reminds me of how my husband and I shop for a new sofa. I say: Look at the lines, it's beautiful, the color is great and it would go so well with everything we already have. He says: Who cares-- it's not comfortable, I can't sit in it to watch TV for an hour without getting achy... And then he points to one he loves because of comfort and I think it looks clunky and I'm not putting it in my house. Needless to say, no new sofa has been purchased for a good while...

So, you and Rex value different things in a puzzle. I for one really appreciate design (as you can tell) and I enjoyed and appreciated the thought that you put into this and your other puzzles. I also appreciate your range. But I get reminded that there is value in thinking about how things "feel" to others, design aspects aside. I hope you see the feedback from Rex and others as a reminder of that other dimension. Not that you have to love it any more than I love my sofa situation.

And thanks from me too for the update on the sports situation in MI. All I know is that I had to time my driving last Saturday to avoid the game traffic...

Anonymous 12:46 PM  

@Anonymous @ 12:19PM:

Your posting is totally disingenuous. Even on the wiki that you cite [Zion (Latter Day Saints)], the definition that you quote is number 4, following three definitions that refer to cities.

Zion refers to the Jewish city Jerusalem (definition 1), and by extension to the Jewish land. Mormonism has no place in this discussion.



Arthur 12:50 PM  

Ok, Larry the Lurker, try this for Zion.
Just 'cause you don't like a definition doesn't mean it isn't a definition.

Jerry 12:51 PM  

Interesting comments from Mr. Collins today. I noticed that COUNTRIES crossed three theme entries, and that's an impressive feat, but it doesn't add much to this solver's enjoyment. To me, the fill words are the most important part of the mix. Perhaps solvers of a certain type are drawn to the blogs more than others, who knows!

I appreciate the fact that Mr. Collins is a gentleman and doesn't rant & rave about the reviews. I'd come looking for Rex and his minions with torches and pitchforks. :)

Lewis 1:00 PM  

@tobias -- wow, your story is as good as acme's! Two great stories in two days. Waiting for another from Jesser.

Hand up for two acre instead of ten acre.

@rex and wife: happy octoversary!

@archeoprof -- I agree. A difficult Tuesday, perhaps, but not a Wednesday.

Ended with an error: RIMSKI/EENSI. Learned from it!

Jim 1:08 PM  


This was my fastest Tuesday since using the NYT applet, at 7:23, and I am surprised to see I'm still in the top 100 (first time if it holds). Seemed like a tough Monday puzzle to me; nothing more.

cut for MAR, waDDLE for TODDLE, Serb for SLAV and little bit of a slowdown on COUNTRIES (I never like to stop to try to understand the reveal when I'm solving for time), but that's...about it.

Honestly, I don't see what the fuss is about, but people are entitled.

However, I will say I find the criticism of Mr Collins' puzzles, well, puzzling. I haven't gone back into the records to verify this, but I seem to remember Mr Collins producing many lively Friday and Saturday puzzles in recent months, and I can't say I found fault with any of them. That being said, I'm perhaps not as concerned with crosswordese as others (now that I know a lot of it) and I'm no constructor myself. But I've always found his structure satisfying, his fill fabulous and his cluing clever.

diane 1:21 PM  

Hulu doesn't work for Canadians. We can watch the interview in bits - the crossword topic spans parts 1 & 2

Part 1:
Part 2:
Part 3:

Anonymous 1:24 PM  

OK, I guess secondary, tertiary or quaternary(?) definitions are valid for crosswords also, even if they vitiate the primary definition, which is geographical (and therefore politically critical nowadays).

So wishing a Shanah Tovah (good year) to Zion:4 :-) ...


Jim 1:30 PM  

Btw, can anyone say with confidence what the absolute fastest solvers are capable of, time-wise, for each day of the week? In other words, are the top four solvers, all sub-three minutes, really plausible? Or is this horse hockey, perpetrated by tomfools?

Sfingi 1:56 PM  

Bumpy Tues. here.

Was also thinking GOOs and MyTIME. Googled for ODOM. His life hasn't gone in a good direction.

Had one, two, finally TEN acres.
That farmer's going to be REPOed. His wife better work for the state.
Had -ton, sai, finally bon AMI.

Never heard of ROPE RUG, so Post-Googled - So, they sell them at Pottery Barn.

If ZION is wrong, why did I get it?

The theme was OK, and the fill not as bad as the LA puzzle. I'll have to move to Binghamton to take Rex's AARP course on how to build a puzzle.

@Jim - there are videos showing this. It takes me that long to see the tiny numbers. I've been getting captchas wrong, and they're in big green letters.

oldbizmark 2:55 PM  

i am quite embarrassed that i got a DNF. i probably gave up too early and would have eventually realized that "virtual yearbook" was wrong. because of that mistake, i didn't get the center left box. and it's a tuesday!

Phil/Marc 3:07 PM  

First let me say, how impressed I am when I see people say that it took them 3,4, or 9 minutes to solve this puzzle. Are you all superhuman solvers? :)

As for me, I was on track to solve this one at a relatively good pace for me (20-30 minutes), but I hung myself on the lower left corner. My problem was that I was doomed when I mistakenly wrote "Tribal Instincts" in pen for 30 across: ..... foolishly thinking that "bali" was a country, and not realizing that "mali" was an alternative. At that point, I was fried.

I think I need to invest in a good pencil for the cross-words.

Question: can anyone recommend a web-site where many people (not just super-solvers) submit the amount of time it took them to solve each days crossword?

Anonymous 3:44 PM  

@Phil/Marc - You can look at the times each day on the solving applet on the NYT site. A few super-solvers play there, but most are regular mortal solvers. 583 solvers with times posted for today's puzzle so far.

sanfranman59 4:17 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 11:04, 8:55, 1.24, 94%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Tue 5:42, 4:35, 1.24, 98%, Challenging

Anonymous 4:54 PM  

Can't believe.
This a.m. while making breakfast (most important two meals of the day) I was tuned to the local NPR station (KALW). They have a little break and they read famous birthdays, he also does the local school lunch menu (for real!!).

Along with Meat Loaf (64?!) one of today's b-days was Thomas Nast. The announcer, Uncle Joe, said Nast came up with the elephant as the symbol for the Rep./GOP party.

I called up Uncle Joe, right after and told him Nast was also the origin of the term "nasty".
-- Big Steve

Phil/Marc 4:57 PM  

@sanfranman59- You mention that one should see your 7/30/2009 post for an explanation of your method.

When I searched the comments of 7/30/2009 for your username, I see a comment that says:
"So far, the median solve time for the top 100 (13:18) and all solvers (27:40) are way above their previous Thursday averages (8:17 and 17:20, respectively). Those numbers put today's puzzle more in line with a Friday. In fact, relative to the average for the day of the week, this puzzle is by far the most difficult in the 8 weeks I've been tracking times (I haven't been tracking Sundays). And, by the way, Monday's puzzle is 3rd in terms of relative difficulty. On the other hand, yesterday's puzzle was one of the easiest (42 out of 46 in relative difficulty)."

Is this the explanation, or am I looking in the wrong place?

long suffering mets fan 5:06 PM  

First order of business -- Happy Anniversary, Rex and Sandy ! You are about half way to the length of my already ended bliss? (no bad feelings of course) -- may you surpass my union duration by at least threefold

@Phil/Marc -- I liked the puzzle and yeah, it was difficult for a Tuesday -- so what? Sometimes I skip Mon/Tues because they're too easy. I think many who read this blog are reluctant to post because they aren't speed solvers and don't get their panties in a bunch because they couldn't crack the 3 minute mark on a Tuesday

I like being challenged, no matter what day of the week it is

Notice how the harshness of the comments softened once Peter posted his thoughts? Peter, thanks for a fine puzzle and for having the b*lls to post

Anonymous 5:30 PM  

Peter--I appreciate your comments, but explaining why a crossword puzzle is good is like explaining why a joke is funny.

Dan 6:13 PM  

Jim @1:30 - you can click through to my "Not a Blog" to see how fast this "absolute fastest" solver does the puzzles - today's was just under two minutes in Across Lite. Usually there is a cheater or two on the NYT applet, but most of them are legit.

Michigan Pete - I was very impressed by the revealer crossing three other theme entries! Haven't loved all your recent puzzles, but I appreciated reading your comment today - well put.

sanfranman59 6:17 PM  

@Phil/Marc ... DOH! ... I've been copying and pasting that date for about two years now and it's the wrong one. I think meant to direct people to my 8/1/2009 post ...

"Now that I've collected two months of data on solve times, I've come up with an objective method for evaluating the relative difficulty of each day's puzzle (relative to other puzzles for a given day of the week). I take the ratio of that day's median solve times to the average for that day of the week and then calculate a percentile for that ratio. The quintiles can then be used to categorize puzzles on a 5-point scale: Easy (0 - 20th percentile), easy-medium (20 - 40), medium (40 - 60), medium-challenging (60 - 80) and challenging (80 - 100)."

Sorry about that!

Stan 6:24 PM  

I just liked so much of this puzzle. Examples: VIAL, VAC, TODDLE, CAW, LUCCI, LING-ling, PIXIES with IMP... And I'm leaving out the real winners: THE WALRUS and DRY EYES. Interesting words with interesting letters, in a coherently themed puzzle, require a few ERNs to paste the thing together.

So put me in the thumbs-up column. A fun Tuesday.

Texas Momma 6:48 PM  

Lots of write overs but got them all except I was convinced LUSH for LUXE at 53A and never heard of PIPET so never got PIXIES and ME TIME.

Z 8:30 PM  

@Peter - thanks for coming by and giving your perspective. Reading constructor's thought processes does increase my enjoyment of the puzzles.

I would suggest, though, that you might consider taking Ms. Delaney's advice and not read your reviews. Here are some quotes from before your post: "I really liked seeing China spread over all three words in the entry," "I did like PIPIT though," "I thought the grid was pretty neat. My favorite entry was DRYEYES," "Puzzle has some good fill and I like a little hardness in my tursdays," "I did like the Beatles mini-theme and note the baseball mini-theme ...," "Only valid complaint is we called braided rugs area rugs not ROPERUGS, but that is hardly Mr. Collins problem," and from RP himself, "This is not a complaint—it's just to say that the puzzle was clearly misplaced. Mis-slotted," and "Short stuff is pretty junky all around, but that's what you'd expect in most people's theme-dense puzzles."

With enemies like these, who needs friends?

GO Tigers!

captcha - megos - presidential candidates self-image

mac 10:26 PM  

One of the best blog days I have experienced since I found Rex. Lots of back and forth of our group, the constructor's input and then the emperor of puzzles! Fantastic.

@Rex @ Sandy: hope you had a good celebration! Every year is worth commemorating.

andrea cee michaels 2:07 AM  

so she didn't know a mere 3 yrs into the marriage you would start a blog that would take up oodles of hours and perhaps cut into breakfast-in-bed time...Sandy, you're a saint!

I noticed the construction AND loved that CHINA crossed 3 entries...and loved the Beatles subtheme to deal with the inevitable baseball one, even in PC's defense he had a mini baseball theme, that's hard core!

I loved the two Ys in DRYEYES.
Liked the Xs thrown around and the Z, but the ZION clue made me nervous as do all the Jewish clues that always seem just slightly off.

I also love that you can hide the word/country KENYA in CHICKENYARD...that is freaky and fun!

The anonymous 5:30 who said trying to explain the puzzle is like trying to explain a joke is clever, but wrong!!!!!!!!! I know tons of folks who the more they understand about the underpinnings of construction, theme and the myriad things that go into a puzzle the more they grow to enjoy and appreciate them. That's the whole point of these blog posts, no? Half the point? Quarter of the point?

And as always, @foodie's stunningly lucid comment and perfect couch metaphor made my day.

For the record, didn't know PIPIT
(had egreT), put in NASh (is NASTY really from that, Big Steve????!
and will never get why SLiER is spelled without a Y.

Not really a story, but moment of synchronicity...didn't get a chance to solve till midnight, but solved in the bedroom of the gal who loved RIMSKY-Korsakov, and is how I learned his name. She said he was her favorite composer (about 35 yrs ago) and I felt so intimidated that someone's favorite could be someone I had never even heard of...
for the record, mine is John ONO Lennon...

sanfranman59 2:28 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 6:10, 6:51, 0.90, 14%, Easy
Tue 11:09, 8:55, 1.25, 95%, Challenging (7th highest median solve time of 119 Tuesday puzzles)

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:14, 3:40, 0.88, 5%, Easy (6th lowest median solve time of 118 Monday puzzles)
Tue 5:35, 4:35, 1.22, 97%, Challenging (5th highest median solve time of 119 Tuesday puzzles)

Anonymous 12:53 PM  

It looks like I was the only one who thought the Rio might be associated with the Grand Canyon... RiOsky seemed OK at the time. You guys are geniuses!

Anonymous 1:11 PM  

From syndication land: THE WALRUS was a character in two Beatles songs, if you count the mention in "Glass Onion".
And here's another clue for you all:
- "___ People" (1971 McCartney song)

Shout out to Pablo Sandoval at 26d & 47d, on the one year anniversary of the greatest day in this Giants fan's life.

Dirigonzo 4:36 PM  

Posting from the home of the RPDTNYTCP silent majority, syndicationland. A couple of major gaffes complicated things; my Beatles character was sgtpepper until THEWALRUS evicted him, and my metaphorical opportunity was a ship, not a DOOR. My wrong answers usually have at least a few correct letters in them, but not today. And of course I finished with PePIT.

Let's see how Rex did on this date 5 years ago:
- "Solving time: 8:39

THEME: T.S.Eliot - the letters "TSE" appear in order in every theme answer

[I am currently infuriated because I accidentally deleted an entire paragraph just now, and I can't UNDO it - just so you know]"
- "Now it's November, wherein we count down to Thanksgiving (my favorite meal - Nov. 23) and my birthday (my favorite day - Nov. 26). Come on, start counting."
- "Guns are more efficient killers, but for good ol' fashioned horror, the killer needs the up-close and personal touch that only blades can provide."
- " O god, there are few things I love more, puzzle-wise, than defunct advertising campaigns."
- There were 12 comments, including this: "Rex Parker 6:19 AM
Yes, of course it's RENEE Fleming. RENDE is what happens when you don't check the crosses. I was sure I'd posted a note about that mistake, but I guess not.

RP" This comment is historic because it marks the very first appearance of the RP avatar which is still in use today (and may I say he doesn't look a day older).

Normand Houle 7:37 PM  

Digital yearbook ( and the embeded ITALY ) was also part of the fantastic FLAG DAY puzzle from francis Heany June 13, 2010


Anonymous 9:14 PM  

Spacecraft here. I found today's offering to be not all that bad, even for a Tuesday--except for the SW. Working my way over there, I had __IMALINSTINCTS, so naturally, I put PR in there. I never, ever time myself; I don't need that kind of pressure in my life. But if I did, that corner would have at least trebled my total time. With ACM, I did not know PIPIT, and after CHAMPS wouldn't go at 44d I was lost there. I've heard of deluxe, but just LUXE??? Weird in the extreme. Finally, when I couldn't think of anything for 45d that goes _R_RED, I aha'd ANIMAL instead of PRIMAL, and guessed at the rest correctly.
Nits? A couple. I don't think AMINO can be pluralized, since it is an adjective, and English is one of the few languages on the planet that does NOT assign case to those parts of speech. And crossing it is EENSY, shall we say, a stretch to the tearing point.
Pleasures? Sure. RITA hugging the tailfin of THEWALRUS? Groovy. And CAW is a short-fill word with a little welcome zing to it.
Personally, If I were making up one of these, any fill at all that I could even make fit would delight me no END, so except for unfairness of cluage (which may have more to do with Mr. Shortz than anything), or obscurity of fill, I hesitate to criticize the beleaguered constructor. Overall today, thumbs up.

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