Muslim mystic / WED 10-26-11 / Actress Naldi of silents / Nicest room on ship / Funnywoman Martha

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Constructor: Milo Beckman

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: INCORRECT CHANGE (38A: Cashier's error ... as suggested by 17-, 22-, 47- and 58-Across) — familiar phrases containing coin denominations have those denominations swapped out for other, "incorrect" denominations. Wacky answers, but no wacky cluing involved.

Word of the Day: SUFI (46D: Muslim mystic) —
Sufism or taṣawwuf (Arabic: تصوّف‎) is defined by its adherents as the inner, mystical dimension of Islam. A practitioner of this tradition is generally known as a ṣūfī (صُوفِيّ). Another name for a Sufi is Dervish. // Classical Sufi scholars have defined Sufism as "a science whose objective is the reparation of the heart and turning it away from all else but God." Alternatively, in the words of the Darqawi Sufi teacher Ahmad ibn Ajiba, "a science through which one can know how to travel into the presence of the Divine, purify one's inner self from filth, and beautify it with a variety of praiseworthy traits." (wikipedia)
• • •

But these aren't funny. And there's no logic to the denomination changes. PUMPERQUARTER is pure nonsense. I don't know what's happening this week, but it's not good. The fill isn't even interesting enough to talk about. It's all very common. Not bad (except for that IIN / NMI juxtaposition, o man ...), and not good. Just boring.

GANG SIGNS is a cool answer (11D: Handy IDs in the hood?), and the clues on ESP (5D: Medium capacity?) and VERA (35A: Aloe additive?) and EROS (42A: Baby taking a bow?) were clever. That's about all I got in the way of praise for this one. I can't think of a puzzle about which I've had less to say. Well, one interesting feature—the puzzle has thirteen (!?) "?" clues. For a Wednesday ... for any day, that is a Lot. And still the puzzle was quite easy. Usually "?" clues act like speedbumps; today, that effect appears to have been negligible.

Theme answers:
  • 17A: Exhibited perfect braking (STOPPED ON A PENNY)
  • 22A: Nicest room on a ship, probably (CAPTAIN'S DIMES)
  • 47A: Certain loaf (PUMPERQUARTER)
  • 58A: Being frugal (PINCHING NICKELS)
Did you know that TAHOE is a 1,000-foot-deep lake that straddles a state line? Well, now you do. Seriously, I got nothing today. OTO, ADZE, AGAS, RESET, ILE ... what, exactly, am I supposed to dig into here?

["Pitchin' pennies, honies had the high-top jellies..."]

Good day.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


ArleneWKW 12:11 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous 12:17 AM  

I agree that this week has been a bit tired. It may be as simple as a hangover from last week's excellence. 'PINCHINGNIPPLES' at 58A threw me off before I figured out my mistake.

Milo Beckman 12:19 AM  

I couldn't agree more with this assessment.

I was never particularly happy with this theme. It was the first puzzle theme I ever came up with, and I was happy enough to have found phrases that were 15/13/13/15 in length that I didn't bother myself with any of this "sense-making" business.

That said, it could have been a lot worse. And it was. As it was originally submitted (and accepted!), it looked like this:

Now that grid has nothing to be happy about. Those ugly cheater squares, the lack of non-theme fill longer than six letters, the horrid stacks of five (?!) three-letter answers on top of each other, and the mediocre theme. Nothing to be happy about. I was (pleasantly) surprised when it was accepted.

When my debut puzzle got bumped in front of this one and was generally well-liked, I was embarrassed that this would be my follow-up, so I asked Will if I could take a redo on the theme. I axed the cheater squares, gave the corners some room to breathe, and introduced some fun stuff like GANG SIGNS and AW GEE and GOTTA.

But it's still nothing special.

That's why it's tricked out with all those "?" clues – to try to make it at least a bit more interesting.

But it's still nothing special.

So enjoy. Or don't. Whatever.

davko 12:40 AM  

My first reaction upon completion was that this would make the perfect entry-level puzzle for someone just getting started with NYT crosswords, because it included a lot of old standbys and the very sort of fill, punning, and wordplay that will come in handy for years to come. I could see this actually being a highly rewarding solve for a green pea, but hardly for the rest of us seasoned solvers. Some clever cluing did keep it from descending into banality, to be sure.

TomAz 12:44 AM  

@Milo: . The puzzle was fine, I thought. The theme was respectable. Best part was very little was dated.. Only Nita Naidi made me go 'huh'?

I don't get NMI though. Which almost Naticked me.

Tobias Duncan 12:50 AM  

PUMPERQUARTER is gold guys, come on!!
I like the double HOOHA.
Damn it Milo you are suppose to stick up for your puzzle!
Its just not a good week to be an average puzzle.
This one felt up to PAR but we are still reeling from a week of P.Berry.
I will tell you this much, your puzzle is worth way more than the 200 bucks you got paid for it.
Dont let our bellyaching take the shine off having your second puzzle published.

Oh and bring us more.

NMI= no middle initial

Milo Beckman 1:36 AM  

Sorry! I just didn't think there was much to stick up for in this one. I have a couple more coming up which I'm more fond of and which I'll fight tooth and nail for, I promise!

jae 1:45 AM  

My main issue with this one was it was too easy for a Wed. Once I got the theme, which wasn't that tough, the rest was cake (except for NÉE for NMI at first).

So, kinda meh but it could have been worse. But Milo sorta said that already.

Global Citizen 1:47 AM  

Is there room in the inn for one more meta-puzzle related comment/request:

Will Will the puzzlemaster post only the names of the winners at WordPlay or will he publish the names of all those who submitted the right answers?

Since he had already gone through the trouble of copying and pasting all the names into a Word document (not that we don't believe that he did) shouldn't it be easier to post the names somehow (hint: as a .pdf file).

Just wondering!!!!!!
P.S: I hope folks at NYT-CW read this blog, and take the hint.

Anonymous 2:05 AM  

Until I came here and found out it was crap, I liked this puzzle.

This happens to me a lot. I get excited about a crossword and discover that everyone hates it. Man, do I feel like an idiot.

foodie 2:09 AM  

I think the idea of CHANGE and changing the change by switching around is amusing and quite different from anything I recall. The issue is that the theme answers fell into 2 categories: a) STOPPED ON A PENNY and PINCHING NICKELS which are easily understood as clued (With the clue being the one for the original expression) b) PUMPERQUARTER and CAPTAIN's DIMES that are still clued as if it's the original meaning but are not comprehensible as a response to that clue (and in the case of PUMPERQUARTER, it's a neologism)... I think it's this inconsistency that's distracting. Either direction would have been fine.

I also agree that it's too easy for a Wednesday. I appreciate Milo's self-critique. It shows integrity which is way better than being defensive.

The word Dervish (as in Whirling Dervish... Have you ever seen those dances? They are quite amazing to watch) has also taken on a slang meaning at least in some parts of the Arab world. It means someone who is good-hearted, unpretentious, sometimes with limited financial means and no power, who tends to be easy to deal with. Someone you almost want to protect... Weird that in thinking about it I have to actively make myself recall the religious meaning...

SethG 2:15 AM  

All the time our customers ask us, "How do you make money doing this?"

The answer is simple. Volume.

CoffeeLvr 2:16 AM  

I found PUMPERwhatever hard to swallow, but with the economy (gas prices, food prices, I won't go on) forcing all of us to be ever more frugal, there is something to be said for PINCHING NICKLES.

The best moment was when my recent work on memorizing the Greek alphabet in order paid off with XIS!

Thanks for coming by Milo, and thanks for the puzzle.

chefwen 2:17 AM  

@Milo - Easy boy, lighten up on yourself. I thought it was a fine puzzle, perhaps a little on the easy side for a Wednesday, but still a nice one, actually, kinda cute. I loved PUMPERQUARTER. Sounds like there are more to come, bring 'em on.

North Beach 2:46 AM  

Average Wednesday timewise and NG, so a win, win for me. Buck up, Milo!
@Global Citizen: it is highly unlikely the NYT will publish over 4,000 private email addresses. You're gonna just have to live with it.

Clark 3:56 AM  

I thought it was amusing that we have very recently seen ADZE, HOOHA, ATSEA, OAS, AMANA, and REAP—if I'm not mistaken. That is all.

Anonymous 5:02 AM  

This puzzle was no worse than a couple Rex has had published. The theme was amusing, and I'm betting quite a few folks slapped 'Captain's CABIN' into the grid before catching on.

It was good enough for Will Shortz, Rex; take that into consideration.

Anonymous 6:36 AM  

AWGEE, I thought this was a great puzzle. If Rex can't think of something to write about in a puzzle about money in this economy and in this political climate, well, EGAD.

Anonymous 6:37 AM  

AWGEE, I thought this was a great puzzle. If Rex can't think of something to write about in a puzzle about money in this economy and in this political climate, well, EGAD.

Joel 7:03 AM  

I agree with Rex, the puzzle wasn't great, but it didn't suck either. It's just really hard to make a puzzle with this much theme clean and lively. It's pretty much guaranteed that you're gonna have your ADZE, AGAS, AT SEA, RAYE, SKYE stale crosswordese stuff.

Which kinda gets to the question of whether one should make a puzzle with lots of theme if it means mediocre/repetitive fill. That's not to say that you can't pull off both, as Ian Livengood and others have shown us. But if you take a puzzle like this, with a 15 13 15 13 15, no matter how you lay it out, there's not too much you can do to avoid having most the words be 3, 4, and 5 letters long. And with that comes the repetitive stuff we all get tired of seeing.

I'm not really sure where I stand on this. I mean, as a constructor, if I have a great idea for a theme that requires three 15s and two 13s, I'm not gonna throw away the idea because there's too much theme to make the puzzle lively and fresh. On the other hand, the solver part of me doesn't derive much pleasure from grids like this. In the end, it probably comes down to whether the theme can carry the rest of the grid.

dk 7:38 AM  

MIlk ran out of my nose as I penned in PUMPERQUARTER. I thought here is a x-word author with a sense of humor. I am pleased to read that others share my opinion.

Milo on the whole the puzzle is a patchwork. All of us have tried to make something right and wind up --- ya know the whole silk purse sows ear thing.

Like Rex I found the theme clues to easy peasey. I figured out INCORRECTCHANGE from the get go and the rest fell like dominos.. except for the aforementioned bread.

** (2 Stars) More puzzles please Milo, rye humor is appreciated.

hazel 7:43 AM  

I liked GOTTA and the HOOHA var and the fact that TEX leads the series 3-2 and that I am able to take my dogs to the state park today and they don't know it yet. I love anticipating the joy.

@Milo - you sound like a cool guy. I look forward to your next puzzle.

Rob C 7:52 AM  

@Anon 2:05 - I've been following this blog for about 2 yrs now. Very rarely post, maybe 5 or 6 times. Many times in the past I would feel like you - did the puzzle and liked it, then came here and found all of the reasons I shouldn't have liked it. You'll come to realize that what matters is whether you enjoy the solving experience - and that is a personal thing. Rex and every poster for that matter have things they like and don't like in puzzles - some enjoy speed solving, some get into the theme, some enjoy the late-week themeless, etc... Bottom line is, if you had fun and enjoyed it, it was worth doing. If you liked the puzzle, say so in your post, regardless of what Rex and others say. It's interesting to get a balanced picture and not just have everyone pile on one side. Also, put your name on your post if you're a regular, makes it more interesting as well. Having said that, there is definitely a difference between a quality puzzle and one that's not - but that's typically not a problem with the NYT/Will Shortz. Before this turns into a ramble... (too late)

Z 8:15 AM  

I didn't get the theme until --------NICKELS turned on the light, so this played a little long for me.

There is a logic to the changed phrases, every coin belongs in the phrase above it, with the PENNY on top going to the bottom.

Have to agree with Milo and Rex, though, this could be better. I'm thinking wacky cluing might have helped. Given Milo's comments, I have to believe his future efforts will be not just defensible, but Berry-like.

@Tobias - Thanks, NMI was a big ? for me, too.

@DK - :)

Big Detroit news story this morning is a quarter mile pumpkin spill on Interstate 696. Lots of people STOPPEDONAPENNY during their morning commutes.

evil doug 8:19 AM  

'Milo' is a cool name.

New crossword rule: If you're not happy with a puzzle, don't submit it. If you submit it, don't apologize when it's accepted. If Will changes it a lot, rat him out.

Then-Bear Mike Ditka on the cheapness of George Halas: "He throws nickels around like they're manhole covers."


joho 8:25 AM  

Yes, we do live in the day when you've GOTTA pay a dollar for one's thoughts.

I liked this way better than @Rex and thought the ridiculous answer PUMPERQUARTER was amusing. In fact, I'm having that very thing with Swiss for lunch. Hope I don't break a tooth.

@Milo, thanks for stopping by. I checked out your original submission and agree that the new version is much better.

The clever cluing did help.

My only really serious criticism is that HOOHA is spelled wrong. (Just kidding!)

jberg 8:37 AM  

HOOHA or HOOHAW, that is the question!

I did like the theme, but maybe it needed different clues. As someone noted, some of these made sense for the actual answer, and some didn't.

Got X,Z,Q, so I looked for a pangram, checking for letter in alphabetical order - surprised when I only got as far as A!

Matthew G. 8:49 AM  

Milo, I liked this theme. More than average for a midweek theme, in fact. I'm not sure why you (or Rex) are down on it. Rex points out that the theme entries aren't funny, but I think that misses the point. The cleverness comes from the very fact that the theme entries are clued "straight," but don't seem to fit until you figure out that you've been given INCORRECT CHANGE, which is a fresh, crisp in-the-language phrase. I prefer that kind of unified trick to just a run of "funny" theme entries. This was a very good theme.

The fill, on the other hand, I agree is pretty weak. But that has to be the norm for everyone's first puzzle.

AnnieD 8:52 AM  

I thought it was a fine puzzle if slightly easy for a Wed. I am not clever enough to come up with themes for a puzzle and always enjoy the efforts of those who do. And while a lot of familiar words to puzzlers may make it boring for masters, they are what make it solvable for newbies.

Thanks Milo, even if it wasn't one of your faves.

foodie 8:53 AM  

@Seth G, LOL, love that SNL skit! and that's probably what I was remembering when I thought the idea was quite fun. Something about volume in the grid would have been terrific!

efrex 9:11 AM  

I'm of two minds on the theme: on the one hand, wacky cluing for the theme answers would've made the overall feel more fun; on the other hand, the "straight" cluing made for a bit of a challenge, and made more sense with the theme revealer.

I figured that the large number of misdirection clues was there to make up for the littering of junk fill throughout.

I certainly haven't done any better xword constructing in my life, so I'll refrain from casting too many stones. Keep 'em coming, Mr. Beckman!

Lindsay 9:12 AM  

Cute. Not stop-the-presses cute, but cute. Liked PUMPERQUARTER and CAPTAINS DIMES.

I'm a NMI. When I was a kid this really bothered me, and my mother would say, "But dear, when you get married (your last name) will be your middle name."


I've been a huge disappointment to my mother.

chefbea 9:30 AM  

I liked the puzzle. Found it very easy!

Knew Sufi would be WOD

Too bad Joon wouldn't fit as jeopardy whiz!!

Anonymous 9:49 AM  

I liked it too. Felt just right for a Wednesday, to me. Though I like anything with EROS in it. . . :P

santafefran 9:56 AM  

@Lindsay, I too was an NMI for the same reason. Since I always wanted a middle name, I gave myself one when I got divorced from first husband and changed my name back to the nee version. It was like getting a freebie since there was already a name change involved. I recommend picking your own--if you want one. BTW, no name changes at all in second marriage, just kept my original one plus that new middle one, of course.

@foodie, I have seen those whirling dervishes once in Istanbul. At one time I was quite taken with the Sufis--even when to Konya to visit Mevlana's burial site. At one time, you could do some Sufi dancing at the Lama Foundation outside of Taos but haven't been there in years. Tobias? Pretty amazing.

Before getting the theme, I also put in CAPTAINSCABIN. Tried STARTS before ONSET and had to get NITA from the crosses. Puzzle was just OK.

John V 10:03 AM  

A 12 mile rating today, Stamford to Mamaroneck, pretty typical Wednesday.

Everything @Rob C said and this:

For me, there is a risk with any art form that the closer you get to the technical aspects, the higher the chance that you may miss the over-all aesthetic effect. For me, this is most acute in music, particularly opera. I have performed many of the standard repertoire operas as a chorister. This requires very in-depth technical mastery of the libretto, the music, the staging, the conventions handed down over the years and so on. It is an absolutely thrill to do this. HOWEVER -- one side effect of this is that I see every nit when watching or listening to an opera I've performed and that can take away from the visceral reaction that I might have had, had I not performed and learned the work. I mean, I sit and find niggling little faults at the Met, for heavens sake. So, am I better off than my wife, who just likes or dislikes, without all sort of technical analysis? I'm sometimes not sure.

I see the same thing going on with the puzzle. My puzzle technical skills are zero. I would have thought a cheater square was a married nerd in a singles bar. But I do know I have fun solving the puzzle. I do know that my commute on the New Haven for these past 37 years has been made immeasurable better by having had the puzzle in my life. If you know how the magician makes the magic, it is no longer magic.

If I ever found myself constructing a puzzle, my fun would come from the construction, not what other solvers might think.

My two cents.

joho 10:24 AM  

@John V ..."I would have thought a cheater square was a married nerd in a singles bar." Love it!

Masked and Anonymous 10:28 AM  

Different. Bizarro. Funky. That'll get it, for me, ACNE and all. A big "HOOHA" from me. But...

Hesitate to give the double-barreled thUmbsUp to a puz that 31 AND the constructor aren't sold on. We'll leave 'em IIN tthe holster, for this time around. Sure did love PUMPERQUARTER, tho.

First puz this week with no THE's. My meta-theme conspiracy theory is fallin' apart. Sob. Snort.

quilter1 10:29 AM  

I agree with @MatthewG about the theme. Also had CAPTAINS cabin first before getting the trick. I liked GOTTA,also AGAPE and ARE WE there yet? Nice memories of this summer's car trips with grandkids.

@Foodie, I, too, have seen the whirling dervishes in Istanbul and we have some magical photos of them in full whirl. The performance was in a beautiful building that had been the eastern terminus of the Orient Express. Although I haven't tried it for myself, I think the posture of holding the head to one side may inhibit dizziness.

c.w. stewart 10:33 AM  

Very well said Rob C. Milo, this puzzle made me laugh after revealing the "incorrect change," and to clue the theme entries in a whacky manner would have spoiled the idea of the "incorectness." I look forward to the variety of puzzle themes that are offered at the NYT.

TimJim 10:36 AM  

I liked it, except for NMI. Clever theme. No apology necessary.

Dan Jeffrey 10:38 AM  

FWIW -- Lake Tahoe is 1600 feet deep. They got it wrong or did some heavy rounding. Seems strange this was not checked before publishing.

Two Ponies 10:42 AM  

I liked this one just fine.
@ Milo, Thanks for stopping by with your two cents.
Pumperquarter cracked me up.
If the fill was not a thrill at least there were no obscure sports figures or Roman numerals!
Strange to have hooha(h) two days in a row.

jackj 10:49 AM  

Milo- This is what I was preparing to submit before you shocked me by cowering in the face of a critical review from Rex Parker and “throwing your puzzle under the bus”.

For shame!

By acceptance from Will Shortz you were granted the imprimatur of the New York Times and should accept same, with gratitude.

By accepting payment and cashing the Times check you have further compromised your credibility in disavowing your work.

Hopefully you’ll discover your pride gene as you mature and will stand tall in defense of your work in the future.

“Veddy, interesting.

HOOHAH yesterday, HOOHA today?

“You say HOOHA and I say HOOHAH.
You say “Foofaraw” and I say “Commotion”.
Foofaraw, Commotion, Hooha, Hoohah,
Let’s call the whole thing off”.

This is young Mr. Beckman’s third puzzle for the Times and, no more tyro training wheels for him, as he comes through with a clever theme, coining fun, nonsense phrases using only the spare change in his pocket.

Milo and Will had a lot of fun with the cluing, (to the solver’s delight), with things like VERA for “Aloe additive?” or “Medium capacity?” cluing ESP and “Baby taking a bow?” giving us the Greek Cupid, EROS.

IIN sure looks awkward in the grid until one remembers it is for that feel-good bromide, “There is no___team”. (But, it can also serve as a reminder that “There is an IIN win”).

Good puzzle, Milo!”

David 10:56 AM  

@Milo, I also thank you for chiming in, but I echo those who thought the puzzle theme was very clever, and I encourage you to stick up for yourself. The clues for the theme answers were mundane, but the answers reflected the reveal very well. PUMPERQUARTER makes no sense relative to the other 3, but I still laughed when I filled it in.

This is the 2nd day in a row where I really liked the reveal, but I was underwhelmed by the rest of yesterday's puzzle, including the theme answers. Not today.

Wrote over the entire currency of PINCHINGNICKELS at the bottom, since PENNIES and NICKELs have 7 letters each, and I boldly threw it in there with no crosses before nabbing the theme. Liked all 9 letter answers, esp. GANGSIGNS and OCCUPANCY.

shrub5 10:59 AM  

Thought this was an entertaining puzzle with a cute theme. I was perplexed when dime wouldn't fit in the first theme answer but when I got the Y at the end, aha -- PENNY. The coin substitution was easy from there. I guess I'm easily amused -- PUMPERQUARTER made me laugh.

Milo, I agree with others that you are being too hard on yourself. Hey, I learned some new stuff, too: DARTS goes to 180, SUFI, DROSS. And loved the clue for EATER.

A friend of mine always says "ARE WE there yet?" as we are just backing out of the driveway for the two hour drive to San Francisco. I laugh at that, too...every time.

Cheerio 10:59 AM  

Someone recently commented that the low price paid to people who submitted cross word puzzles to the NYT night reflect some idea to keep the endeavor more gentelmanly rather than commercial. (Maybe I mistunderstood.) My first thought to that is, "oh please." Will Shortz is clearly a fantastic editor and deserves all rewards coming to him, but lack of commercialism would not have been my first thought. I mean what with the prize for the PB week being a copy of his new book....

Anonymous 11:30 AM  

Not too sure GANG SIGNS is that cool..... nothing cool about GANGS these days

JaxInL.A. 11:36 AM  

I enjoyed seeing the earlier version of this puzzle. Thanks,  @Milo. Hey, everyone has to have a first puzzle. 

Unfortunately, for Milo, he has had two other NYT puzzles appear before his freshman effort. The first, on Friday, 6/24/11, impressed a lot of people including Rex, who said "This puzzle isn't good. . . (wait for it) ... it's great."  The second, on Monday, 8/22/11, got generally positive reviews in Rexworld, with some reservations.  

As for me, I got it,thought it was fine and moved on. Looking forward to the next one, @Milo. 

Mel Ott 11:44 AM  

Jeez, Milo. It isn't that bad.

When the first two theme answers involved a depreciation in the value of the coins, I wanted the reveal to have something to do with SHORTCHANGING.

SUFI literature contains some excellent parables.

jesser 11:57 AM  

When STOPPED ON A dime Would Not Work, I slowed w-a-y down and had fun with this one. I was sure, however, that starting with PENNY would lead to NICKEL, DIME and QUARTER in succession as I made my way down the puzzle. That they didn't is my only major nit to pick.

I believe I've already told my Mike The Tiger(s) stories from my LSU days, so y'all get a pass.

PUMPER QUARTER resonates with me. On Saturday, I will fork over some cool green for a shiny black 1975 Ford Elite with 38,000 original miles and a whorehouse red interior. The thing is in near-mint condition and sports a 460 cubic-inch V8. PUMPING QUARTERS, indeed! Those of you who are friends on Facebook will see pictures popping up soon.

Two Ponies 12:26 PM  

@ jesser, That sounds like one sweet ride!

archaeoprof 12:44 PM  

Count me in with the "it's not that bad" crowd. PUMPERQUARTER made me smile.

The next Republican presidential debate will be held here on our campus on Nov 12.

ksquare 12:47 PM  

NMI is typical bureaucratese of using three letters to explain the absence of one.

DigitalDan 12:58 PM  

I like 'em all.

r.alphbunker 1:19 PM  

@John V
Well put. Your post reminded me of this Bertrand Russell quote:

"I've made an odd discovery. Every time I talk to a savant I feel quite sure that happiness is no longer a possibility. Yet when I talk with my gardener, I'm convinced of the opposite."

I liked the puzzle because I enjoy filling in long clues.

Matthew G. 1:22 PM  

I had no idea what NMI meant until I read Lindsay's post.

Sarah 1:23 PM  

I was thrilled to do this puzzle, mainly because I knew Milo's mother when she was pregnant with his sister and with him and it's terrific to see someone you've known as a baby turn into an accomplished adult. I sort of liked PUMPERQUARTER for its quirky gutsiness, and I very much liked the mix of old (Martha RAY) and new (GANGSIGNS). Not as satisfying as some, but pretty good for a newbie.

Mike 1:27 PM  

Count me in the "I enjoyed it" crowd. A little easy for a Wednesday, but otherwise fine. I think folks here are way too hard on early week puzzles. If you can do Friday and Saturday puzzles (which I think applies to most who post here), you're probably not going to find what you consider the perfect puzzle between Monday and Wednesday. On the other hand, the real target audience for early week puzzles probably wouldn't enjoy your perfect puzzle. I actually admire Will, who must certainly recognize the perfect puzzle, for printing the early week puzzles. Without them, the NYT puzzle aficionados would eventually cease to exist. Milo, I can't understand your backing away from a perfectly good puzzle.

CoffeeLvr 1:30 PM  

@Jesser, you will be cruising in style now!

Try to minimize sun exposure on the red interior components - they age badly. The worst thing is that the different materials will color shift in different directions (toward grey, orange or purple) and then they don't match. The plastics also "bruise" easily, that is, show a white impact mark. Sometimes you can reduce the marks with heat from a blow dryer or heat gun, but you have to be very careful with a heat gun.

Sarah 1:32 PM  

Oh, and DARTS was a gimme for me: I grew up in England, where professional (yes, professional!) darts was televised, and when a player made a perfect score, the announcer would trumpet "one hundred and eight-ey!" BTW, between throws, the players would sit in club chairs, drink beer and smoke cigs. That's a professional sport I can get behind.

syndy 1:43 PM  

Hey Milo didn't throw it under the bus-he just damned it with faint praise!.Some of the fill clunked but the theme was cute But I agree the cluing was odd(but we blame SHORTZ for that {Is he C anadian?})

John V 1:46 PM  

@r.alphbunker, great Bertrand Russell quote. Thanks for that.

archaeoprof 1:50 PM  

@jesser: you'll be living Johnny Cash's "One Piece at a Time":

"I'm gonna ride around in style,
gonna drive everybody wild,
'cause I'll have the only one there is in town."

Anonymous 1:55 PM  

@Rob C - Well said. If you enjoyed/not enjoyed the puzzle then so be it. You don't have to be discouraged just because you think differently than Rex or any posters.

I liked the theme and most of the fill. My only peeve is crosswordese - AWGEE, HOOHA, AMS. Never did like made-up words. Or made-up abbreviations.

I didn't know there was an actual game called DARTS. I thought it was a generic term for the sport that has 301, CRICKET, etc.

Nighthawk 2:06 PM  

@Z-"There is a logic to the changed phrases, every coin belongs in the phrase above it, with the PENNY on top going to the bottom."

You hit the nail RIGHT ON the head.

@JohnV-I generally have the same experience, but its not bad to know the technical stuff. Your appreciation is just derived from something different. And as for criticism (in the most positive sense), my folks had a well used phrase: "The truth never hurts unless it has to." Good criticism, well meant, makes us better at what we aim for.

I kinda liked this one, and liked it even more once I sorted out the coin shift, which wasn't until I had the thing pinned to the mat and began to see how the shift worked. Which made me like the mild misdirection of the cluing for a Wed being more of a late week undertone. E.g. - 37d "Opposite of faster" for EATER. So also, as RP mentioned, 5d. And 8d, and really liked 41a's clue for Henry LUCE.

Anonymous 2:39 PM  

Whaaddaya want, an orgasm? Every day? I like it, Milo.

Sparky 3:23 PM  

Found it enjoyable; thought PUMPERQUARTER funny. It makes sense in terms of being INCORRECTCHANGE. My own mind glitch with mus after nus and put in up at 6D. All sorted itself out when the CAPTAIN arrived. Mu EXITed. A jewelry boutique would not have a DRESSRACK.

As is often the case @JohnV has put things beautifully. No speedster I, nor the brightest penny in the stack. I like doing the puzzle, getting a grin or two, reading the blog. Merrily we roll along. Continued success @Milo.

Lewis 3:27 PM  

ksquare: astute, and made me smile

milo: thank you for putting in your two silver dollars worth

sanfranman59 3:41 PM  

Midday report of relative difficulty (see my 8/1/2009 post for an explanation of my method):

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

Wed 10:02, 11:49, 0.85, 20%, Easy

Top 100 solvers

Wed 5:35, 5:51, 0.96, 40%, Easy-Medium

600 3:47 PM  

HOOHA(H)? Really? Two days in a row?

I liked this puzzle. I tried to fit "stopped on a dime" and "captain's quarters" and just kept going when they wouldn't fit. When I got to the revealer, it was a nice surprise. I agree it was fairly easy, but is that really a fatal flaw in a Wednesday puzzle?

@John V--big laugh about the cheater square, but I really appreciated your comparison to opera. You make a great point. And you elicited a great Bertrand Russell quote!

@Sparky--Like the new picture!

@Seth G and foodie--Sure wish I could remember the SNL skit you reference. Oh, well. Google, here I come . . .

@hazel--I LOVED your anticipation of the joy you and your dogs would have at the state park. I hope it was every bit as delightful as you thought it would be.

And I love it when constructors stop by. Thanks, @Milo. But don't be so hard on yourself. Few of us are capable of constructing any puzzle at all. I agree with @Tobias again: Stick up for yourself!

And finally, @Anonymous, 2:39--Yes, probably. Every day. Something wrong with that?

Z 4:35 PM  

@600 re anon@2:39 - I agree with you.

@lots of people - I'm convinced, the straight forward cluing helps with the "incorrect Change" reveal.

@lots of people again - I stand by Milo not standing by his puzzle. He knows he can do better. Not everything one does is going to be one's best work.

@John V - "I would have thought a cheater square was a married nerd in a singles bar." You win for eliciting the biggest smile of the day.

@jesser - don't know what to make of "whorehouse red interior" but it perfectly describes the color.

Let's see - philosophy of art appreciation, Bertrand Russell, factoids, Sufi memories, and a little sex. The only thing missing is Evil inciting a riot.

captcha - sturem- Evil's m.o.?

mac 5:09 PM  

I second @Two Ponies.

@Lindsay: we've discussed this before on this blog, I think, but it's even worse to have TWO middle initials.

@r.alpbunker: love the BR quote.

Hi, @Sparky!

Gang signs? Thought they might be gang rings.

Sparky 5:44 PM  

@Anon 2:39--You betcha. There's a dance in the old girl yet. @600--thanks for noticing. Hi back @mac. You know, on thinking it over, I believe graffiti gang signs are caled tags not signs.

Sfingi 5:51 PM  

For some reason (old age) my eyes jerked and I thought the 1,000 foot deep lake was 11D, not 23D, the clues being near each other. So I wrote in "Champlain"! This held me up for a while. I've been to both, and remember being shocked that one had to wear special shoes to step into TAHOE, because of the rocks.

Lake Champlain has recently lost its bridge between Crown Pt., NY and Chimney Pt., VT. Supposedly a Loch Champlain monster lives there, name of Champy. Lake Champlain is only 400 feet deep. It's also the scene of the Battle of Lake Champlain, "starring" Benedict Arnold.

@Anon1217 - Ow!

Didn't mind the theme.

Anonymous 5:55 PM  

No, not funny, but clever -- which is just fine with me.

chefwen 6:04 PM  

@jesser - You didn't say goodbye to "Wild Hair", did you?

I kid you not my capcha is cents!

evil doug 6:51 PM  

KRAMER: Alright, so there I am at Lorenzo's - loading up my slice at the fixin's bar...garlic, (imitates the shaking of garlic onto a pizza) and what-not...mmm,
mmm...and I see this guy over at the pizza boxes giving me the stink-eye. (Imitates the 'stink-eye') So I give him the crook-eye back, (Imitates the 'crook-eye') you know...Then, I notice that he's not alone! I'm taking on the entire Van Buren Boys!

JERRY: The Van Buren Boys? There's a street gang named after President Martin Van Buren?

KRAMER: Oh yeah, and they're just as mean as he was! So, I make a move to the door, you know, (makes a noise) they block it! So, I lunged for the bathroom.
(demonstrates) I grab the knob - Ocupado! Then they back me up against the cartoon map of Italy, and all of a sudden, they just stop.

ELAINE: What? What happened?

KRAMER: Because I'm still holding the garlic this (grabs Jerry's pepper shaker, and demonstrates) I'm only showing eight fingers.

JERRY: Well, what does that mean?

KRAMER: That's their secret sign! See, Van Buren, he was the eighth President...(Holds up 8 fingers). They thought I was a former Van B. Boy!

Stan 7:27 PM  

Very interesting blog discussion today, from many perspectives.

Milo: Keep them coming!

andreha carlha michaels 9:19 PM  

loved it! thought it was a fresh and clever theme!
At first shocked Rex hated it, then realized I shouldn't have been, but was REALLY shocked that Milo apologized for it! WOw wow wow.
Loved HOOHA, Loved "SHE loves me"
Would steal IIN if I could (actually I don't think I would ever put IIN in a puzzle, but happy it's a possibility)
Loved the SHORTCHANGED idea even more than the INCORRECTCHANGE but can't find who said would have been cool if it had been about inflation too...
ie You used to be able to STOP ON A DIME< but now the phrase is STOP ON A QUARTER... I find that wildly clever. It's the kind of joke I'd love to make.
And HOOHA, HAHA, OMAHA is interesting! Throw in BROUHAHA and a theme is emerging...
HADTHELASTLAUGH? 15!!! I'm on it!

Plus a JB short of a pangram! I think that was bec the multiple JACK BLACKS of these past weeks ate up all the JBs!
And what to make of AGAPE, ALOOP, APAR, AFAR, AGAS? Again, I think I like but can also see it going the other way :)
I'll never get those oddly parsed Q AND A -type entries if I live to be 53. I see QANDA and I think Qantas Panda...
(Oh wait, it's a Koala) Well, whatever.
Milo Milo Milo, I think you went the extra Milo...

Tita 11:11 PM  

You're kidding, right?? Appreciate the self-deprecation, but I enjoyed the puzzle, appreciated that I figured out the theme before I got to the revealer clue, and generally had fun.

One is one's own worst critic. Being incapabable of constructing my own puzzle, I stand in awe of those that can.

Thx, and I'll look for the next submission!

sanfranman59 12:08 AM  

This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 8/1/2009 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 6:21, 6:51, 0.93, 23%, Easy-Medium
Tue 7:08, 8:52, 0.80, 3%, Easy (4th lowest median solve time of 123 Tuesdays)
Wed 10:10, 11:49, 0.86, 21%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:35, 3:40, 0.98, 44%, Medium
Tue 3:55, 4:34, 0.86, 7%, Easy (9th lowest median solve time of 123 Tuesdays)
Wed 5:29, 5:51, 0.94, 37%, Easy-Medium

Anonymous 1:03 PM  

I agree with Anonymous 2:05 AM, Anonymous 5:02 AM, Anonymous 6:36 AM, Anonymous 6:37 AM, Anonymous 9:49 AM, Anonymous 2:39 PM and Anonymous 5:55 PM.

Anonymous 1:20 PM  

Syndication version in my local paper lists constructor as C.W. Stewart.

Anonymous 1:31 PM  

@ hazel 7:43 AM You have no idea what's about to happen to your team. I suppose it's about five weeks too late to say "hide the knives before you watch game 6"...

Waxy in Montreal 1:45 PM  

@Anonymous 1:20pm, my paper also credits C.W. Stewart. Was this an INCORRECT CHANGE? Just wondering...

And whether through simple coincidence or EERIE syncronicity, C.W. also contributed to this very blog five weeks ago.

Count me among those who've never encountered the term NMI before. Particularly galling in my case as I designed records systems in the public sector for over 35 years.

Dirigonzo 3:47 PM  

Jeez, maybe Milo was so ashamed of the puz he used an alias for the syndicated version. I thought it was a good puzzle for all the reasons stated, but I knew Rex was going to hate it. Interesting to see so many commenters defending the puzzle against Rex AND the constructor - that is strange, indeed!

@dk - "rye humor is appreciated" is an apt comment - love it!
@Waxy - nice catch on the synchronicity of C.W.'s comment.

I wonder if 11/30/2006 was as much fun:
- "Solving time: about 24 minutes (I'll explain)"
- "I know that my grousing about themes must be tiresome, but I have to be true to my soul, which cries out to heaven to make the torturous themes-that-are-not-themes Stop."
- "I took this puzzle to bed with me right at 10pm, but I got distracted doing something else, then was on the verge of falling asleep, when I remembered I hadn't done the puzzle, so sat up, somewhat bleary-eyed, and started in. I do not recommend this pre-sleeping strategy if your goal is speed. Or happiness."
- "OK. Last thing before puzzle specifics: I'd like to randomly vent about the NYT Solvers' Forum site for a moment. Now it's a valuable place to visit, and most folks over there are kind and lovely. But. There can occasionally be a certain prevailing attitude of superciliousness that makes me want to punch something/one."
- "Question: what is the only award that Rex Parker, English major, ever won for academic achievement in college?
Answer: The Physics I prize! A cool $50, oh yeah."
- "NICKANDNORA are a known duo - you can play the theme off of famous names like that; having the theme-defining answer be a phrase or concept that is common knowledge helps anchor the puzzle and give it Zing. Also, NICK AND NORA would have appreciated the face time: you gotta have some pity on a pair of very talented actors (Powell and Loy) who, crossword-wise, are routinely upstaged by a dog."
- ""Shoeless"! Really, that's your clue for FRODO?"
- "51D: Word often preceding 35-Down (the), which is my least favorite way that a definite article has Ever been clued. Arbitrary, once again (it's my word of the day). THE precedes virtually all parts of speech: THE quick brown fox, THE badly behaved boy, etc. Why not clue THE: "Not just a" - that works. I'm just sayin'."
- @Orange had this to say to Rex: "I'll bet if you'd started the puzzle this morning after your coffee, you'd have enjoyed it a lot more."
- In reply to a commenter from syndiland, Rex said: "All comments get sent to me as email, so I see them (if nobody else does ... although there are many many like you doing the puzzle six weeks after the fact)."

Anonymous 6:00 PM  

Spacecraft here. Despite my frequent fuming at certain fill (IIN would be an example), I hesitate to make the overall criticism of an actual completed symmetrical construction--theme or no, a daunting task. To please all of the people all of the time? Impossible.
Hand up for counting out STOPPED
ONADIME_...hmm. WOD SUFI was a brand new one on me; one reason--
besides the fun!--I do these is vocab expansion, and who couldn't use more of that?
My main concern is with misplaced ?'s. Why does Henry who made a Fortune need one? Or man of many words for ROGET? Those clues would be just fine without them. On the other hand, if you're going to clue PUMPERQUARTER with "certain loaf" the least you can do is include a "?". Same, really, for all the theme answers.
I would say that if Mr. Beckman is just starting out, he should not let anything that Rex or anyone else said deter him from pursuing this (a)vocation--provided, of course, that he enjoys it. I'd just say, be careful about near-repetitions in your grid: HOOHAHAHA!

kingsa: part of Lawrence Welk's recitation of New Testament books

Nullifidian 6:55 PM  

I'm on the fence about this puzzle. I liked the "?" clues, which is something that I can usually take or leave, but which were cleverly clued this time. I especially liked "Eastern state?" and "Friendly introduction?".

But the theme was far too basic. When you can plunk down a 17-square answer without bothering to check the crosses, it's just too easy even for a Wednesday.

NITA Naldi has shown up several times in the NYT crosswords since I started doing them over three years ago, and I now think of her as just another piece of crosswordese, like AGAS, ADZE, Asta, ewer, and etui.

Overall, I'd have to say that it comes up on the plus side for me. The theme answers might be too easy to guess, but the creative cluing made up for it.

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