Sofer of soaps / FRI 11-25-11 / Cerecloth feature / Amazing Grace melody basis / Gladly old-style / Mussel morsel / Girlfriend in Granada / 1940s-'50s White House name

Friday, November 25, 2011

Constructor: Joe Krozel

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: none

 Word of the Day: Cerecloth (15D: Cerecloth feature = WAXY COATING) —
Cloth coated with wax, formerly used for wrapping the dead.
• • •

Ambivalent about this one. Stacks just don't impress me anymore, and the short crosses running through that 4-stack are pretty terrible, *but* the long answers running through it are pretty good. I especially like CALLCENTERS, GOESSOUTH, BARSCENE (25D: Backdrop for many singles matches?), and DEADTREE. Difficulty-wise, this was really a tale of two puzzles—north and south were on the easy side (south was very easy, actually) while the center was pretty rough. I couldn't put down very many of the short crosses with much certainty. At first pass, I think I had SUPS, ASET, ASNO and ANES, as well as the incorrect LIEF (where FAIN was supposed to go—34D: Gladly, old-style). I skipped over the center and solved the south, then finally got the long Downs in the eastern section to fall, which allowed me to see USEDCARSALESMAN, and I was able to finish the puzzle from there—with two errors. The first was a typo (OVIEE instead of OVINE); the second a stupid mistake (WAVY COATING for WAXY COATING15D: Cerelcoth feature).

What makes me, ultimately, have a negative overall feeling for this puzzle is the little matter of short fill. I resent how carelessly the little corners are filled. Every regular constructor out there can fill both the SE and NW corners better than they are currently filled in about ten seconds, which means they could probably do it *much* better with a little attention. As one very small example: in what universe is FURL better than CURL at 14A. ACTS is a word, AFTS isn't. Words beat abbrevs. every time, and reasonably common words beat oddities most every time. See also UPI—make it USE, and you eliminate both an abbrev. *and* a partial (ISSO to ESSO—yes, ESSO is no good, but it damn sure beats ISSO). Again, I'm not even trying here. A little effort, and these corners could be well polished. There just shouldn't be junk or crosswordese in these smallish sections. When you're running words through a stack of 15s, OK. But there's no excuse for the laziness in evidence throughout this puzzle's smaller nooks.

At first I thought maybe [Mussel morsel] was CLAM ... but clue wants what mussels eat, apparently (ALGA). Hate 5-letter Roman numerals, especially ones of a completely arbitrary nature (19A: Super Bowl of 2029), though I think I used one once. In my defense, it was a very thematically dense puzzle, which this one isn't. I wanted BESS to be MAMIE, but letter count and reality were against me (25A: 1940s-'50s White House name). I wouldn't have associated "Amazing Grace" and the PENTATONIC SCALE (39A: "Amazing Grace" melody basis)—only got the answer because of crosses, and because I know that the PENTATONIC SCALE is a thing that exists in the world. For some reason, both AVON LADIES (62A: Workers associated with ding-dongs) and ROGET (52A: Subject of the 2007 biography subtitled "The Man Who Became a Book") were easy to get—AVON is often clued with some kind of cutesy bell clue, and ROGET ... well, his name is in the book's title, plus I had the "R"—it just clicked. Forgot completely who RENA Sofer was, as I'm sure I will again (31D: Sofer of soaps). No idea who "Chicago" husband ___ Hart was (AMOS), but didn't need to, as crosses made it obvious. [Girlfriend, in Granada] also eluded me (NOVIA), but again, that bottom half was a cinch, so crosses took care of the problem.

I'm off to have a late-night Thanksgiving plate (#3 on the day, I think). Hope you enjoyed your day.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Tobias Duncan 12:43 AM  

I ate way too much pie and was cranky all through the puzzle.This is the first time in years I have over eaten on turkadurk.It was the butterscotch pie that did me in.So good but so wrong.I struggled through most of this with a few feel good one letter gets: BARSCENE and CALLCENTERS.
Was wracking my brain trying to remember Silvia Plath stuff.

jae 12:53 AM  

Much the same take as Rex. Top easy, bottom easy-medium, middle tough equals med. NSA for NSC kept CALLCENTER in the dark for a while. I get Rex's critique of the corners but there was enough good stuff here to put it in the "liked it" column for me. I mean DEADTREE alone...

I keep my Super Bowls straight by remembering the Jets upset Colts in SB III in1969. The rest is just counting fingers and toes several times.

syndy 1:00 AM  

I went all the way to WAVYPATTERN.and the NSA and I wanted CLAM but didn't. I also first had SARASOTASPRINGS so I had a whole lotta fixing to do but still finished in good time.I'm sure TRON makes sense to somebody but my favorite answer was GEEK! bye the bye that is one well thumbed thesaurus!

Evan K. 1:13 AM  

I was hoping that the "Amazing Grace" melody basis would be the name of some folk song... Alas.

Northeast was the most straightforward corner for me. NNE --> OVINE + ELSES --> WATERLEVEL...

Cute clue for REPO.

Noam D. Elkies 1:37 AM  

Symmetry + central stack of 4 ⇒ even height. Indeed there are 16 rows (times the usual 15 columns).

"Cerecloth" recalls a folk etymology that derives "sincere" from "sine cera" = without wax, which would make it easy to guess the start of 15D:WAXY_COATING (though in fact "sincere" has no more to do with wax than "politics" with tics, etymologically speaking).

57A:GO_HEAD_OVER_HEELS recalls yesterday's theme, though doesn't follow the same GO-preposition-THE-noun formula.


lit.doc 1:57 AM  

Caught the WAVY COATING problem while checking the filled grid, but only because "cerement" finally popped into my head. I'd been visualizing marbled endpaper without being able to remember the correct term for it.

By the time north and south were all black and and the middle layer was still nearly all white, I realized that this puzzle is the most elaborate Oreo clue I've ever come across.

Joel 2:01 AM  

I totally agree on the small corners. It was baffling to me how bad they were, especially knowing how good a constructor Joe is.

r.alphbunker 2:30 AM  

I am doing research for a book on the history of roman numeral clues in crossword puzzles. For example, how often have pop stars been used in a roman numeral clue? A recent clue asked how old Hannah Montana would be at some future date. The date was given in roman numerals, signalling that her age should be also. Any help in this project would be greatly appreciated.

Alga callcenters michaels 3:03 AM  

Agree with the odd corners and too many agrees and no real words BUT I LOVED ISSO the way it was clued
"That ---- you!" so all is forgiven...

Had GRuNt work, Amiga for NOVIA and NOway for NOHOW...but not much else to say...except. I'm JUST now getting the Napkin edges = ENS.

Oh, I like GOESSOUTH going South...good idea for a puzzle, no?

Acme 3:05 AM  

That should have said too many "abbrevs"...
I have to give up commenting on my iPad bec of the auto-incorrecting

Del Taco 3:30 AM  

This puzzle was no fun.
Stopped a lot, ate more turkey dinner, went back to it
Never heard of it
I did like the clue
Workers associated with ding dongs

Don Byas 6:16 AM  

Play the 5 black keys on a piano and you've got a PENTATONIC SCALE. The catchy whistled lick in "Pumped Up Kicks" is just a PENTATONIC SCALE. (Has the 15-letter "Foster the People" made it into a puzzle?

Doris 6:57 AM  

Shakespeare always to the rescue, especially The Dane:

Hamlet to the Ghost in Act I—

Let me not burst in ignorance, but tell
Why thy canonized bones, hearsed in death,
Have burst their CEREments,...

retired_chemist 7:17 AM  

I liked it. Medium. Decent time for a 16X15 here.

LXIII was easy given 5D TATI - the ones to the right had to be II and I knew it was L something because we are somewhere in the XL's now.

Liked the 15s, the AVON LADIES clue, 50D SUE ME. Was looking for a less slangy answer to 29D Declines. 28D was ON THE PHONES first.

Thanks, Mr. Krozel.

jberg 7:36 AM  

I did have fURL before CURL, and took too long wondering how AcTS fit the clue before seeing the right answer. And I wrote in SARAtOgAsprings right away, before remembering that it's in NY, not a likely spring training spot. I don't think anyone in the sports world would put in the name of the state, though.

What really slowed me down was GLASS vASE. I couldn't get the V out of my mind, which kept me from seeing USED CAR SALESMAN until I had almost all the crosses.

The hard thing was starting, though. Without the gimme TATI and the lucky guess ABOVE ALL, I'd still be staring at a white grid. Once I got them, the rest came along.

I've never been to or had a tailgate party, as I haven't been to a football game since I moved away from Green Bay (in 1964); but maybe I will if the Packers are in Superbowl LXIII.

jberg 7:39 AM  

I have a major gripe, though. Why is there a hyphen in 22D, "Hard-copy." That clues a verb, but the answer is a noun.

Anonymous 8:13 AM  

Can someone please explain to me why a dead tree is a hard-copy and why a geek is a circus performer? Many thanks and have a happy weekend.

Glimmerglass 8:18 AM  

@anonymous: DEAD TREE is a poor answer for "hard-copy." But the idea is that we kill trees making paper. A GEEK is in fact a circus performer. I think he's the kind of sideshow attraction who bites the heads off live chickens. Go figure. Fairly easy for a Friday. For some reason I got five of the six long crosses off just a few letters. PENTATONIC SCALE was the one I didn't know, though like Rex, I knew there is such a thing.

Oscar 8:59 AM  

I've only ever heard "dead-tree" used as an adjective, so the clue seemed fine to me. "I used to solve the dead-tree edition but now I use inferior software," for instance.

jackj 9:26 AM  

“Say it ain’t so, Joe”; you give us a cloth with WAXYCOATING, which is, of course, nothing but a burial dress, a shroud, then your GEEK clue refers us to pre-computer days when a GEEK was a whacko who entertained circus-goers by biting off the head of a live chicken.

Not to be spared by the puzzle are book lovers, who are disparaged as environmental assassins through the facile answer of DEADTREE and, finally, your reference to the sixty third Super Bowl has many older solvers wondering whether they will be able to oil up the wheels of their walkers and attend that Patriots vs. Giants game, eighteen years hence, in 2029.

To what do we owe such mordant images being forced on we gentle puzzling folk this day after Thanksgiving?

On the plus side, we were treated to six horizontal 15’s, (two of which are especially noteworthy, STARSINONESEYES and GOHEADOVERHEELS, with not a hint of ALOTONONESPLATE, it must be noted), so I won’t make a big deal about such stinkers as CALLCENTERS or GLASSCASE lest this commentary GOESSOUTH.

Might a cynic opine that this puzzle ISSO you, Joe?

You seem to need a do-over.

joho 9:30 AM  

I thought WAvYCOATING was referring to the wavy lines on silk. I would have done better if the clue had been "Outside of Edam cheese."

I was also stuck on NEWSalert which really messed me up.

I agree with @Rex about the corners but am still impressed with the 4 stacked 15's plus 2 more top and bottom.

ARLENE 9:34 AM  

I'm glad someone explained the GEEK answer - that's totally new to me. But I'm surprised about people not knowing the pentatonic scale, which as someone explained can be heard by playing the black notes on a piano. The pentatonic scale is the basis for Asian music, and gives it its distinctive sound.
I agree that this was on the easier side for a Friday - but staring at all those empty boxes on so many 15-ers still freaks me out.

Anonymous 9:34 AM  

Good grief jackj, CALLCENTERS is a great entry. Why do you think it's a "stinker"?


Larry 9:57 AM  

PENTATONICSCALE was a gimme because I recently watched this. I liked FURL.

@MAS - You don't understand jackj, else you would have quit at "Good grief jackj"

Bob Kerfuffle 10:03 AM  

Total DNF for me: Easy on top, doable in the center, but I didn't have a single correct across from 54 A to the end! Even tho I had GEEK, I was totally blocked by having put PAPAL at 43 D and NOWAY at 45 D.

In fact, as I type this, I have gotten the strong feeling that NO HOW is not a good match to "Ain't gonna happen!" as NO WAY is. I object!

Otherwise, had an over-write at 32 D, TEST before TRON.

TD 10:06 AM  

If it's a song you can or could sing (you as in you or me)--i.e., a song in the pop/folk/not-jazz/not-classical world--chances are better than not that it's in the pentatonic scale. So the relationship between AG and the scale is far from unique. But there was a video going around a year or two ago of a preacher using AG to talk about slavery (the writer of the song was a slave trader), and to make his point he emphasized the black keys, i.e.. the pentatonic scale, very effectively.

North Beach 10:06 AM  

For me - the (partial) malapop that never happened: plunked down FLASHFLOOD for what might tax a levee until it was wrong. Then malapopped it into NEWSFLASH..until it was wrong.

@ACME: one of the first things I did when I got my iPad was turn off that annoying autocorrect. General.Settings.Keyboard.

momat: the shirt that I got at the museum

Kurt 10:10 AM  

There is a very interesting You Tube video wherein Wintley Phipps talks about the pentatonic scale and the history of gospel music. It concludes with a terrific rendition of Amazing Grace by Mr. Phipps. It's worth checking out.

Lindsay 10:11 AM  

Lief for FAIN caused all kinds of trouble, likewise NSa for NSC. As others have mentioned. Hand up for having gotten through IIL years (slightly older than the Super Bowl) unacquainted with the PENTATONIC SCALE; on the remaining hand, I'm surprised at how many people don't equate "cere" with "wax".

Maybe TUES AFTS could have been clued via the Moody Blues?

Jp 10:17 AM  

DNES for me (that's Did Not Even Start). Way out of my league. Even with Google could not get any foothold. But I have to admit that I like the long answers. After you know the answers the clues seem reasonable. A lot to like about some of the long answers.
Well I shall stick with my Mon-Thur puzzles.

treedweller 10:40 AM  

only got about half of this before googling, which seemed a very bad sign, but it turns out I was able to finish once I got ROGET and RENA. Still not jaded--I was impressed by the big stack--and really liked the clue for AVONLADIES and some of the longer fill already mentioned, especially DEADTREE.

@acme and North Beach
autocorrect can be quite maddening, but it can also be really nice once you get used to it. If the word that pops up is actually the right one, you can just hit space and save typing the last few letters. If you tend to type the same thing over and over, you can create a shortcut of as few as two or three letters to fill in a whole paragraph. I still have to grit my teeth every time it mistakenly corrects "its" to "it's," though.

Used Turkey Salesman 10:59 AM  

@31: Agree on AcTS/cURL...scratching my head why Joe didn't go with that fill -- maybe because AFTS/FURL is more unusual? He might have wanted to have USE at 54-Across, but maybe couldn't, because of the USEDCARSALESMAN entry.

Solved the top half, then the bottom half. Then I called in the heavy guns: PuzSpouse did the middle.

Fave fill: NOHOW. Had NOWAY there nearly til CrossWorld froze over. I don't ever hear folks say "No how!" standalone. No how.

Fave clue: "Start to stick?" Wanted JOY. Then DIP or LIP. Even contemplated BIG. Har. NON how.

Ate too much, then played board games with the whole damfam way too late. Got up early, to run some of 'em out of town. (Well, as far as the airport, anyhoo.) Then let the puz try to run Me out of town. No how.

Z 11:00 AM  

Solving in Across Lite yesterday and today instead of in the DEADTREE version that arrives on my doorstep.

Sad to learn that my Latin teacher lied to me about "sincere." I will have to drown my grief in leftovers, I guess.

Matthew G. 11:04 AM  

This crossword was made for me geographically—I went to college in SARASOTA, FLORIDA, and I lived for three years in Hoboken, N.J. (20a. {Hoboken-to-Fort Lee dir.}).

Over the years, different MLB clubs have had their spring training facilities in Sarasota. In the last 20 years, I think they've included the Chicago White Sox, Cincinnati Reds, and now the Baltimore Orioles. I knew the Orioles were the current team because they had billboards up when I went back to Sarasota for a reunion this past February.

I finished with one (stupid) error, which was not the same as either of Rex's errors. I didn't know KEPIS, and because the clue was ambiguous as to singular or plural, I guessed KEPIT/NTC. I was thinking National Trade Commission or something instead of National Security Council. Again, stupid.

@jberg: Think compound modifier in front of the noun. HARD-COPY edition = DEAD-TREE edition. That works under the substitution rule.

Norm 11:07 AM  

Awww. Poor little puzzle getting so little love. I liked it. Especially (like acme) ISSO.

hazel 11:20 AM  

@Kurt - that was a very interesting and moving video. i happened across the same site before reading your post. I think Amazing Grace is one of the most beautiful songs in the world. i kept trying to shoehorn some version of Negrospiritual into that slot, but it obviously wouldn't fit and for all I know is an inappropriate phrase now. The fact that all such spirituals (according to Mr. Phipps) originate from the PENTATONIC SCALE ( the 5 black keys) is an interesting aside.

As to the rest of the puzzle, I'm still just proud to get the spanners - so I'm partial to this one. The abbrevs were kind of over the top, but somehow that just made it seem breezy, not irritating. My only quibble is with the idiom GOHEADOVERHEELS - I think its really fall head over heels. Go Head over heels sounds like a bicycling accident.

dk 11:32 AM  

Fun part for me was trying to figure what other devices than a bell jar there are for creating a vacuum, couple that with feeling like I want to bite the head off a chicken every time I see a roman numeral clue -- gives you my yin/yang for this puzzle.

The crossing of a shroud with TAILGATEPARTIES is apropos of recent NEWSBREAKS.

What about Conelrad (Control of Electromagnetic Radiation for you post atomic agers) for 64A. Look for old radios with little triangles on the dial.

*** (3 STARSINONESEYES). Excellent hangover cure. Thank-you Joe. And, just between you and me -- is Rex becoming a little - well - prickly? Just asking.

60 degrees here in Western WI today so IBEGRILLIN.

william e emba 11:55 AM  

In Sandman "The Wake", issue #70, after the death of Dream, the five remaining Endless go to the necropolis Litharge and speak to its sithcundman. Desire says: "Our brother is dead. We have come for the cerements, and for the books of ritual, which are in your keeping." The sithcundman has the gates to the great catacombs opened. Once inside, the Endless create Eblis O'Shaughnessy, who goes on to find the special room below, wherein a voice says "You have come for the cere cloth, then, and for the ceremony."

So I knew what a cerecloth (although it was two words in Gaiman) was, but I had no idea it was waxy.

Two Ponies 11:57 AM  

This seemed sparkling after yesterday's boring grid.
My only write-over was dawn before d-day. Last letter was the N of novia (which I've never heard of). I was mad at myself for not realizing the type of campaign was meant for Gen.
Solved this over a breakfast plate of yummy leftovers.

quilter1 12:01 PM  

I gave up. I knew the melody of Amazing Grace was New Britain, but, of course, that didn't fit. I don't think of it as a spiritual since both words and music are British in origin. Try singing it to the tune of the Gilligan's Island theme. It works and is more cheerful.

Got the top and some of the bottom but after a bit felt it wasn't worth more of my time. Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love ya, tomorrow.

John V 12:29 PM  

Medium, yes. For different reasons, agree that NW and SE corners were the challenge. Amazing how long one can stare at 18A and want SPA, SOP, e.g. Finished with a couple of small errors: wanted NEWSALERT @ 62A. Loved "Amazing Grace", initially wanted something like three four time, liked 28D GOESSOUTH, 12D TEENS. Last to fall, ALGA; had all measure and sort of wrong stuff for 1D.

It more difficult solving puzzle sitting in the living room than on a train: more distractions.

What I have learned from @Rex in the last few weeks: Do not freak out upon encountering stacked 15s, which had always kind of spooked me. Just go for the crosses and all will be well.

hazel 12:32 PM  

@quilter - the clergyman who wrote it had captained a slave trade ship. Mr Phipps suggests that he may have heard the melody being hummed on one of the ships - because of the PENTATONIC scale, which I gather is unique to these old spirituals. Either way, it makes the words all the more powerful - and to hear him sing it, I think he makes his case.

Sorry but I can't imagine it being sung to the tune of Gilligans Island - as I don't think it would work as a "cheerful" song.

jackj 12:37 PM  

anonymous(MAS)@9:34AM- My reaction to CALLCENTERS was as a result of the cluing, which to my mind, made it a gimme.

Anyone who has been privy to a PBS fund drive or a charity telethon has heard the phrase "Operator's are standing by in our CALLCENTER" and gimme 11 letter answers in a Friday themeless are no-nos, (stinkers, if you will).

Larry@9:57AM-Good one!

Adam 1:06 PM  

I just would like to announce that after 10 years of doing the NY Times crossword, this is the first Friday that I have completed 100% correct...go me! (Feels even better that Rex didn't rate it as easy.)

Anonymous 1:12 PM  

jackj wrote:

"My reaction to CALLCENTERS was as a result of the cluing, which to my mind, made it a gimme"

Fair enough. However, you appeared to be discussing grid entries and not the clues in that paragraph.

I'm not trying to belabor the point, but constructors (such as myself) often read these blogs... and when someone says a word (or phrase) stinks, we do pay attention! (not that we'll stop using it, but we'll at least feel somewhat guilty!)


John V 1:13 PM  


Congratulations! Many more to come!

Lewis 1:37 PM  

@adam -- WTG!

I think we had ABO this week, no?

I never would have gotten this without Google, and I'm amazed at those who did. I did like the long answers, and had some good aha's...

Anonymous 1:50 PM  

Thank you for the explanation.

r.alphbunker 1:51 PM  

This otherwise fine puzzle was marred by the Super Bowl roman numeral (SBRN) clue at 19A.

I don't mind sport clues but I agree with the poster who said that the unnecessary introduction of sports clues is rude.

Here is an algorithm that will convert any SBRN clue into a famous person clue.

1. Convert the roman numeral answer to decimal at

2. Look up the birth year of the famous person in wikipedia and hope that it is right.

3. Add the numbers obtained in steps 1 and 2.

4. Go back to to convert number obtained at step 3 to a
roman numeral.

5. If number from step 3 is less than or equal to today's year then generate the clue "How old was [famous person] in [number obtained at step 4]".

6. Otherwise generate the clue "How old will [famous person] be in [number obtained at step 4]"

Here is how 19A could be converted to a clue featuring Julian Bream

1. Convert LXIII to decimal to get 63

2. Wikipedia claims that Julian Bream was born in 1933

3. 1933 + 63 = 1996

4. Convert 1996 to roman numeral to get MCMXCVI

5. Since 1996 is before 2011, the clue is "How old was Julian Bream in MCMXCVI"

A SBRN clue can also be easily converted into an abacus clue as follows

1. Convert roman number to decimal (LXIII = 63)

2. Factor it (e.g, 63 = 21 * 3)

3. Convert the factors to roman numerals (XXI * III)

4. The clue is "XXI * III on an abacus)

@John V Can T-SQL convert between roman numerals and decimal?

Tita 1:55 PM  

Ugh...methinks I may be waking up from a lovely dream during which I was able to solve Fridays and Saturdays...I think I woke up from that dream last Saturday...

Well, it was a fun solving streak while it lasted...

JenCT 2:11 PM  

@acme and others: I had to chime in on how annoying autocorrect can be; I also disabled it on my iPad.

In case anyone hasn't seen this site yet, it's pretty funny:

Damn You AutoCorrect

John V 3:27 PM  

Haven't seen T-Sql do roman to decimal conversion, but do recall writing a Java program to do this in class, long time ago. Presently, working on a C program to convert MS developers to Linux. Only beta grade at the moment.

mac 3:57 PM  

I had an oreo as well, and complicated the solve in the center by having LIEF for FAIN and glass dome instead of -case. Otherwise Isn't for is so was the only troublespot in the lower part of the puzzle.

Good puzzle, and those stacks of 15s don't scare me anymore, either.

I think I need another turkey nap after a leftover lunch.

jackj 4:16 PM  

MAS@1:12PM wrote, in part:

"when someone says a word (or phrase) stinks, we do pay attention!"

Point taken; I agree my wording was needlessly strong.

quilter1 5:04 PM  

@Hazel, yes, I know the captain's story. It is powerful. This hymn was sung at my blind cousin's funeral and the sobbing througout the church was audible. But, I have sung Amazing Grace to Gilligan's Island with many a youth group and everyone smiles. After all, isn't the appropriate response to amazing grace joy?

John V 5:09 PM  

@mac, @lit.doc: What is an oreo?


Nabisco 5:16 PM  

@JohnV the answers to that question are almost too numerous to mention.

Sparky 5:37 PM  

TATI was a gimme and it went down hill after that. Filled in the top. Knew FAIN from singing "Fain Would I Change That Note" in chorus. You never know what will surface in puzzleworld.

Onward and upward.

mac 5:43 PM  

@John V: The top and the bottom of my puzzle was filled in, dark, the middle (the cream) was not....

This one is too good:
Captcha: mismento; something remembered wrong(ly)?

mac 5:45 PM  

@John V: and Nabisco is right, answers to that question are probably being created as we speak!

John V 5:49 PM  

In a prior finance life, OREO meant Operating Real Estate Other. Not real appetizing.

michael 6:19 PM  

I liked this puzzle and the clues, even if I solve on the dead tree edition of the NYT. Of course Rex is right about how the fill could have been improved; I just don't notice this sort of thing. Another commenter didn't knew geek, but though pentatonic scale was easy; the reverse was the case for me.

I think afts and furls are fine, but concede that acts and curls would have been better.

miriam b 6:43 PM  

Remember Nightmare Alley? In this noirish '40s movie, Tyrone Power plays a scam artist who eventually sinks so low as to accept the GEEK job at a carnival.

r.alphbunker 7:04 PM  

@John V
I increasingly rely on Google to answer these kinds of questions. Try the query
define oreo

Gene 7:21 PM  

Get excited after rushing through the North, South wasn't too hard. Then reality set in. The middle took quite a while.

CURL is a logical answer for 14A, and it's a more common word, which, I'm sure, is why FURL was chosen.

One reason the middle took so long is that I was SURE that 25D was BASELINE, and I thought 15D was WAXYTEXTURE.

r.alphbunker 8:48 PM  

A search of 9,506 NYT and NYS puzzles found that 18% (1,720) had roman numeral clues

The best ones were:
Old-style two-by-four?: VIII
Sequel tag: III
Second sequel letters: III
Two DIs?: MII
Watch four?: IIII
A prime numeral: CLI
Sundial marking: VII
Nero's perfect bowling score?: CCC
Top number on a grandfather clock: XII
Name tag: III
Jr's junior: III

Common categories were

1. Mathematics
e.g., XIX x X x V: CML
e.g., A multiple of VII: CCCL

2. Roman
e.g., 1004, to a Roman: MIV
e.g., 13 x 7, to Caesar: XCI
e.g., Cato's 14: XIV

3. Date
e.g., Mid-second-century date: CLI
e.g., Turin Olympics year: MMVI
e.g., Year that John Dryden died: MDCC

4. Popes
e.g., First year of Innocent I's papacy: CDI

5. Super Bowl
e.g., Giants-Bills Super Bowl: XXV

sanfranman59 10:53 PM  

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 7:35, 6:51, 1.11, 90%, Challenging
Tue 9:51, 8:52, 1.11, 81%, Challenging
Wed 9:43, 11:48, 0.82, 14%, Easy
Thu 13:23, 19:01, 0.70, 6%, Easy (8th lowest median solve time of 128 Thursdays)
Fri 26:21, 25:31, 1.03, 60%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 4:15, 3:40, 1.16, 94%, Challenging (8th highest median solve time of 126 Mondays)
Tue 5:07, 4:34, 1.12, 83%, Challenging
Wed 5:13, 5:50, 0.89, 26%, Easy-Medium
Thu 6:55, 9:17, 0.74, 13%, Easy
Fri 13:32, 12:37, 1.07, 67%, Medium-Challenging

Tita 11:30 PM  


I second your "best" choices... clued as mere dates or just arithmetic is very ho-hum - especially those pesky SBRNs!

JaxInL.A. 3:38 AM  

@JenCT, that autocorrect site is hilarious! I can hardly see through my watering eyes after laughing so hard. I compulsively proof-read,even text msgs, so I usually catch those before sending. What a hoot!

Gotta agree with Rex about the corners of this puzzle, ESP. the NW and SE. I ended with errors in both because of just the entries Rex singles out.

@r.alphbunker, kudos on your wonderfully absurd take on Random Roman Numerals in crosswords.

Thought this posted this afternoon, but came back to see it sitting here. Hmm...

Muhammad Azeem 10:59 AM  

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cody.riggs 9:29 PM  

I recently taught a class on hymnody, but still found the "Amazing Grace" clue moderately difficult (only because I was trying to think of a Scottish folk song title) But I assure Rex that whenever I talk about pentatonic music, the tune Amazing Grace is ALWAYS the example I use. That was a GREAT clue.

cody.riggs 9:34 PM  

I am moderately saddened, also, to hear from Rex that the stacks just don't do it for him any more...I'm still impressed, and that 4-stack of 15s was nice. I do agree about some of the short fill was crap(maybe the editor changed it to make it "harder"? I don't know.) but that didn't detract from this really very good puzzle.

Rex is an extremely good constructor (i.e. his published puzzles have been unimpeachable) so perhaps he's like me and music compositions...I just don't tolerate ANY musical or compositional sloppiness any more.

So I can relate. There! I guess I sympathize!

cody.riggs 9:38 PM  

Last comment...thanks @ralph bunker for the roman numeral trivia. I actually never mind them in puzzles at all!

But because of this puzzle, and the math I had to do in my head, it is totally cemented in my mind that 2010 was super bowl 44 (XLIV)and therefore 2000 was XXXIV...someday I'm going to seem like a sports EXPERT when I calculate whatever super bowl is coming up despite all expectations to the contrary...

Anonymous 12:59 PM  

I'm surprised no complained about 54 across clue: old wiring org. I know the word "wiring" was meant to mislead, but I have never heard UPI called a "wiring" organization. It is called a "wire" organization, not WIRING.

rain forest 2:32 PM  

Puzzle was fine. The southeast corner "is so" better than Rex's suggested "improvement". I think it is good to have a mixture of words, abbreviations and partials, the latter focusing on in-the-language usage. I enjoyed this puzzle for what it is. As I have said before, I can't understand the criticism approaching wrath if a puzzle doesn't meet some arcane standard.

Anonymous 3:10 PM  

Q: What kind of bird GOES SOUTH for the spring?
A: Oriole.

Liked that cross, and the TAILGATE.../Super Bowl stack. I liked this puzzle in general. I like FURL better than CURL for a Friday, but I thought AFTS should have been clued "Rears at sea" or something. Then it's a word.

Only writeovers were GRIND over GRuNt (which kept the TAILGATE PARTIES hidden for some time) and NEWS BREAK over NEWS flash

For the Super Bowls, I key on 1982, Super Bowl XVI, won by Joe Montana (#16) and the 49ers. The first of V without a loss.

How did Nero mark his scorecard when he threw a gutter ball?

Waxy in Montreal 8:01 PM  

@Anon 3:10, If Nero was all-powerful like Kim Jong Il, then he probably marked his scorecard with an X (strike) even when he threw a gutter ball. Who would dare contradict him?

Dirigonzo 8:14 PM  

I'm feeling pretty smug in Syndiland tonight because I finished relatively quickly (for me, on a Friday) with no errors, a feat which even our esteemed leader did not pull off. Yay for me. Like others had to come here to learn why GEEK was right but no complaints from me on this one. Joe Krozel, if you are still taking for accolades please accept mine.

DJ Stone 9:17 PM  

Was just reminded why I don't do Fridays.

So many of them involve clues that are, well, combine the first two letters of this constructor's last name with a prominent wire service, and you know what I'm thinking. By the way Mr. Krozel, UPI never did electrical work, and I've never heard anyone tell me that they have regular meetings on Tuesday afts.

My other objection? Ridiculously obscure answers. Rena Sofer? Well, if you've got the time and the inclination to watch Krap melodrama during the afternoons, and presumably all of them to know every actress, then I guess you'd know this one. Almost none of us do have that inclination which is why soaps are dropping like flies after a vicious dose of Raid.

My last kvetch? No one says "Go head over heels." You say "fell/went head over heels." Maybe Mr. Krozel was talking about Jill in the nursery rhyme, but if so, lame many times over.

I've got time for this Krap on Saturdays, but not on Fridays.

Anonymous 9:18 PM  

Spacecraft here. Finished--but alas, with one wrong square, the natick (for me) at 48. I have no idea what a campaign manager (abbr.) is, nor a Grenadan GF. I guessed M; don't ask why. It's a letter. So I got it wrong. So SUEME.
A bit slow in the NE, thanks to my wanting TAILGATEPARKING, a much duller subject than the PARTIES you have after you've parked.
Never heard of cerecloth, but as soon as the gimme X came in as the third letter I put in WAX to start 15d. I just know about cerumen, ear wax, and assumed the rest.
Took me forever to see USEDCARSALESMAN, even after I had US_____SALESMAN. Duh!
Also slowed by wanting DAWN, the hour that typically begins the events of DDAY. And hand up for the confusion of GEEK. Despite the fact that my own father ran away to join the circus when a lad, I never knew this use of the word.

hyptap: yet another "Dancing with the Stars" promo.

Anonymous 2:09 AM  

@ dj (9:17)-- Addiction should kure that silly time thing.
@ dirigonzo-- I actually thought you might comment on the NW corner (mini) nautical theme, what with alga, furl, afts, grind (yacht racing term), even luau fits.
@ spacecraft-- I liked getting (war) campaign leader, 'gen' so much, I wrote it in (accidents occur) again at 41 across for 'een', leaving the dead tree out of circulation for a long long time.

Anonymous 4:57 AM  

You hand in your ticket and you go watch the GEEK
who immediately walks up to you when he hears you speak
and says "how does it feel to be such a freak?"
and you say "impossible" as he hands you a bone
and something is happening here but you don't know what it is, do you, Mister Jones?

Dirigonzo 7:21 AM  

@Anony 2:09 AM - I considered mentioning FURL which I'm sure came naturally to any sailor, but I failed to notice the overall nautical flavor of that corner. I'll have to keep a Sharp(er) (Hah!) look-out from now on.

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