Grammy winner Elliott / THU 1-5-12 / Org featured in 1983's WarGames / Book after Zechariah / Miniscule lengths / Early gangsta rap group featuring Dr Dre

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Constructor: Dan Schmiedeler

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: ALL FOR ONE / ONE FOR ALL (34A: With 21-Down, catchphrase that provides a hint to eight answers in this puzzle) — words with letter string "ALL" in them are clued as if they were words that had that same letter string replaced with "ONE"—and symmetrical vice versa

Word of the Day: ALTON B. Parker (19A: ___ B. Parker, Theodore Roosevelt's 1904 opponent for president) —
Alton Brooks Parker (May 14, 1852 – May 10, 1926) was an American lawyer, judge and the Democratic nominee for U.S. president in the 1904 elections. (wikipedia)
• • •

I imagine people will like this one, but all I see are lots of ONEs and ALLs—neither word very exciting, as fill goes. I do think the idea is clever, and despite the fact that the concept was easy to uncover, and gave away huge swatches of real estate in the grid, I still got turned around a few times, forgetting that the switch was on and instead writing the Same word in two different (symmetrical) places in the grid. So a puzzle that really should've been Easy came in a pretty solid Medium. Nothing very interesting in the grid, though I do sort of like both MALACHI (1D: Book after Zechariah) and TWEEZES (42D: Plucks, in a way). But DOUAI? (44A: French city near the Belgian border) OATSEED? (43D: Cereal grain) Those are pretty rough. What really stands out (badly), though, is the single longest partial I've ever seen: LESSER OF. The rule on partials is—not longer than five letters, except on rare occasions. I had assumed that on rare occasions that meant that a six might slide in. But eight. Eight is horrible. LESSER OF is not a valid answer.

Theme answers:
  • 3D: Set up, as software (IN STONE) / 41D: Fixed (INSTALL)
  • 4D: Schoolyard game (T-BONE) / 49D: Certain steak (T-BALL)
  • 14A: "That was funny!" (GOODALL) / 59A: Jane who wrote "In the Shadow of Man" (GOOD ONE)
  • 24A: Captivates (ENTHRONES) / 47A: Crowns (ENTHRALLS)
  • 33A: Grammy winner Elliott (MISSY) — really feels like she's dropped off the map. Very big a decade+ ago.
  • 37A: Org. featured in 1983's "WarGames" (NORAD) — "Shall we play a game?" Right in my teenage nerd wheelhouse.

  • 46A: Early gangsta rap group featuring Dr. Dre (NWA) — I expect complaints here. They are not legitimate. This is one of the most influential rap groups of all time. Lots and lots and lots of profanity, so beware:

  • 52A: Miniscule lengths (MILS) — I've only ever encountered this word in crosswords. It's now a gimme.
  • 50D: Part of a Caesarean trio (VIDI) — Weird to see "Caeserian" used in non-birthing context—not that the clue was deceptive at all.
  • 11D: Shells of shells (CASINGS) — Nice, tough (for me) clue. I kept looking for something pasta-related.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


jae 12:11 AM  

Impressive clever tricky Thurs.  It was fairly easy once I caught on so of medium seems right.

Because I was ENTRANCED at first ANTS spoiled my picnic for a while. And, of course, I needed to move a bunch of stuff around when the theme dawned.

I did like this one.    Kudos to Mr. Schmiedeler.

syndy 12:11 AM  

I had gotten both GOODALL and ENTHRONED and was not happy with either,then threw down ONE FOR ALL/ALL FOR ONE off the F's but I still hadn't totally figured out what was going on 'til TBALL turned into TBONE which I had down for 49D!AH HA indeed.I liked the symetry although it did cut down the answer count.I would have to call this easy/medium at most.they want me to go to rehab I say NO!NO!NO!

Harry 12:13 AM  

Fun, but not too challenging. Though it's amazing how easy it is to get tripped up on the theme entries even after you have the gimmick figured out. Just so hard to make your brain write the wrong thing . . .

Also hated OATSEED and LESSEROF. And NWA?!? . . . wow. I wonder how many people will look up what that stands for after seeing it here for the first time. I expect some complaints, too.

GILL I. 12:27 AM  

I loved this.. It made me think differently and once I got the theme, it was fun looking for all the all's and one's which I circled.
ONE FOR ALL and ALL FOR ONE right smack dab in the middle. Give me this kind of puzzle over a rebus any day.
Never heard of ALTON nor DOUAI but everything was gettable.
NWA doesn't bother nor our friend LSD that likes to pop up often.
Thank you Mr. Schmeideler for a great puzzle.

CoolPapaD 12:29 AM  

Good ONE, and quite clever - definitely gets two thumbs up! Agree with @Harry about the difficulty in purposefully committing an "error."

The only MALACHI I've ever heard of was the Malachi Crunch (from an old Happy Days episode). I suspect the pronunciation is different.

LSD references two days in a row? And Eurasia in the last couple of days? It's ALL good!

Deb 12:32 AM  

I liked this puzzle a lot. I had the revealer filled in very early on, but it still took me some time to make the switch.

And no wonder EURASIA doesn't seem quite fictional enough for 1984!

Pretty Bad Doug 12:36 AM  

At long last I've been called out of lurk-dom, goaded into making my first foray into commenting!

The only valid way to solve crossword puzzles is in ink, on paper, on filched copies of the NYTimes! Unless you prefer to do it otherwise, which is ok with me.

The PC police are an abomination to anything that is Holy! Unless you just want to be a nice guy, or don't particularly believe in the Holy, which is certainly your perogative, who am I to say?

Andrea, I love your comments!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

DK - Make what ever jokes you want.

Pretty Bad Doug, the LESSEROF two evils.

FearlessK 12:48 AM  

Hand up for difficulty writing the "wrong" answer in the grid, @harry! Also wanted "Billy" for Elliott rather than the eventually obvious MISSY, and ten for the eventual EEN (TTL somehow sounds so right at 12:40 am!). Also Fry instead of RAE. And the less said about OATSEED the better! Otherwise, a smooth easy solve with some fun to be had along the way!

Anonymous 12:50 AM  

I feed OATSEED daily. To my horse.

Tobias Duncan 12:53 AM  

@ CoolPapaD hand up for Malachi Crunch!
Hated this one and then loved it.
I guess Rex has never been sent to the hardware store for a roll of six mil plastic.

retired_chemist 1:25 AM  

Hand up for ANTS and BILLY (Elliott). Should have caught the latter early - he has only one t.

DNG because I messed up ATTIC. Was sure it was ADA B. Wells (10D) and ended trying to make ATTA? fit 7A. Checked all squares and.... D'OH!

Mike aCross 1:30 AM  

Really enjoyed this one--if only because I had most of the answers right before I figured out what the theme MEANT!

I got the clue early on, but couldn't figure out what to do with it... I kept thinking that ONE of the 8 clues would have the phrase 'ALL' in it and then ALL 8 of the clues would have the phrase 'ONE'. This even after I noticed some of the answers were "in wrong places," which should have been the giveaway.

DOUAI was a complete shot in the dark but most of the other more obscure ones I was able to deduce-- I love ALTON Brown so anytime that fits I'm happy to try it and it checked out. AUNT BEE's a mystery (was thinking DEE most of the time); Though it's not Josip Broz here, I always associate TITO with the Cold War.

Props to NWA--must make Dre feel old!

chefwen 1:46 AM  

Caught onto the theme rather quickly and was grinning like a Cheshire cat through the entire solve. I loved this one. First fill was Jane Goodall and realized something was up when I couldn't get anything off of the ALL. Got the reveal after filling in a bunch of letters. A good and satisfying Thursday puzzle.

6D brings to mind what I usually associate with presidential candidates although I always refer to it as the EVIL OF TWO LESSERS.

Had a very enjoyable lunch with @Rube and Mrs. Rube today at Duke's Barefoot Bar and Restaurant. They came bearing gifts and we came bearing (what else, muffins) Weather, perfect! Next time we may branch out and try a new place, The Feral Pig. We have a few of those on "the rock".

Great puzzle Dan, thanks for the smiles.

davko 2:10 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
davko 2:17 AM  

Liked it a lot. And so what if no one ever heard of DOUAI -- what an interesting vowel cluster and refreshing change from the tired STLO, ARLES, and NICE.

I actually bought into some of the swapped clues before catching on. I mean, software is SET IN STONE (silicon), right? And TBONE (4D) just had to be one of those playground games that was before my time. Nicely done, Mr. Schmiedeler.

I suppose the clue to 45A should have read "Former Swedish manufacturer..." since Saab has just delivered its last 100 cars, and will now go dark for good.

Attic Casings Malachi 3:03 AM  

DOUAI ??? NONONO I don't !

But really clever!
I spent too long saying "How is TBALL a steak??!!
How is "fixed" INSTALL?!?"
It never occured to me there was a theme at that point?!
Then again, i found myself wrapped in a towel today with wet hair with NO memory of having taken a shower!

LOVE Evil of two lessers!! Might steal apparently i have to keep @Pretty Bad Doug amused...pressure!

imsdave 5:22 AM  

5 star theme, but the noted flaws take it down a several notches. LESSEROF and OATSEED? Maybe one, but not both. DOUAI (Hear a Waltz) doen't bother me, as I expect a WTF answer in a Thursday.

Timothy Leary week continues!

Spoiler alert!!! LAT solvers should jump to the next comment if they haven't done that puzzle yet.

I often wonder if Mr. Shortz and Mr. Norris talk to each other on occasion.

Anonymous 5:57 AM  

It's Aunt Bea (short for Beatrice, one assumes), not Aunt Bee. Can't believe that one got by.

Anonymous 6:36 AM  

Anon @ 5:57 am - It really is Aunt Bee (short for Bee). This is the second reference to her in recent months. Goto:

There is only one Evil Doug and Pretty Bad Doug is...well...pretty bad.

Can't tell if Rex liked it, didn't like it or didn't like it and is being nice about saying so.

Fun puzzle....


jackj 7:44 AM  

Dan Schmiedeler probably doesn’t have an ounce of knowledge concerning our new favorite term, “malapop”, yet he has given us a puzzle with enough of them to make Acme swoon!

The fill to accommodate the theme leans toward the hairy side with such as MALACHI, DOUAI, NWA, MOAB, but all are either sitting in the back of one’s mind or gettable through crossings and seem to be acceptable for a Thursday puzzle.

Congratulations, Dan, you went yard your first time at bat!

SethG 7:48 AM  

Got the revealer early, understood what it meant, wasn't confused about what to put where, still didn't realize for way too long that there were symmetric pairings that had been switched instead of just random word replacements, and quote 1983's WarGames incessantly.

Doris 8:05 AM  

2D must have been a further clue to the theme: the slogan of the Three Musketeers! Can't believe that this wasn't intentional. And nice that no mention was made of it. This is the sort of hint used in the biweeky NYT acrostics; some of the clues allude obliquely to the theme. All hail Athos, Porthos, et Aramis (not the cologne (ugh)!

Anonymous 8:08 AM  

I have to agree with Pretty Bad Doug, the best way to do the puzzle is in ink, on the paper you didn't pay for!

evil doug 8:13 AM  

"What really stands out (badly), though, is the single longest partial I've ever seen: LESSER OF. The rule on partials is—not longer than five letters, except on rare occasions. I had assumed that on rare occasions that meant that a six might slide in. But eight. Eight is horrible. LESSER OF is not a valid answer."

Whose "rule"? What "rare occasions"? Who makes the call on "valid"?

If anybody can say the n word in N.W.A., then everybody can say the n word in N.W.A. I'd recommend keeping that door closed forever, but if rappers or others want to validate it then don't gripe when it gets employed by all comers.

...and don't call me 'anglo'. Or 'white'. I prefer 'American'---or 'red-headed' if a color must be assigned.


MountainManZach 8:19 AM  

@Rex f*** yeah Wegmans! I miss that most about Upstate New York. And the excitement of bringing people there for the first time. "But it's only a grocery store!" "Just wait, my young grasshopper..."

I don't construct, but here's a cute clue/answer: Saruman and Sauron's landlord? Answer: LESSOROFTWOEVILS. Make it so, Rex or ACM.

donkos 8:32 AM  

I loved this puzzle. I knew that 59A had to be GOODALL but kept getting GOODONE. Once I figured out the connection to 14A, the puzzle came together guickly (I got the hint form the 59A/14A pairing). Loved that I could get the hint without crosses and that every answer still required a 'double take'.

Agree with @evildoug. I'm white and even though I'm an Anglophile, I'm not anglo.

David 8:36 AM  

I'm another one who got the theme early but still tripped myself up. I think for the first time ever I had 3 writeovers on the same answer - ENTRANCES>>ENTHRONES (huh?)>>ENTHRALLS>>ENTHRONES (oh, it's a THEME answer!!)

Once I navigated that mess I zoomed through nicely, but still did double-takes on every set of theme answers - for that, I applaud this puzzle.

I had a dream last night that I was solving the Thursday puzzle and trying to cram 8 letter rebus answers into tiny squares. So maybe I was semi-prepared for a fun misdirect type of puzzle this AM.

David L 8:50 AM  

@evil d: you've been visiting here long enough to know the answer to your question. Rex has a whole bunch of rules for crosswords. Whether anyone else abides by them, or even knows about them, is beside the point.

joho 9:03 AM  

Loved this puzzle, thank you, Dan Schmiedeler! I'll be looking for your name at the top from now on.

I'm wondering if a semi-evil or kinda mean doug is going to show up? @The one and only evil doug, you have red hair?

@davkio, the Saab story is truly sad.

joho 9:05 AM  

Sorry, that should be @davko.

Anonymous 9:16 AM  

also never heard of the 'rule of partials', so no problem with "lesser of", which was reasonably clued and eminently gettable.

- deion

ArtO 9:19 AM  

Agree with many of the quibbles such as OATSEED, NWA but join others in giving constructor Dan high marks for a clever puzzle with nice symmetry of the ONE/ALL switches.

Don't have a problem with the partial LESSEROF here as it was pretty straightforward. Why such a hard and fast rule ( more than four or five) given all the other liberties often taken in NYTimes puzzles?

Rules, what rules. I don't follow no stinkin' rules 9:23 AM  

From a document of Will's regarding the rules of crossword construction:

5. Some clues are of the fill-in-the-blank type, e.g., "Cat on a Hot Tin ___." The length of the dash is meaningless, and it can represent more than one word:

NYT puzzle editor Will Shortz's old friend Merl Reagle tells me in an e-mail that Will restricts FITBs to no more than five letters unless the puzzle is "particularly dazzling."

So, apparently Rex isn't just making things up.

Susan 9:37 AM  

MIL is in general use when describing the thickness of garbage bags. So I've always thought about it as a measure of thickness, but that's really length, now, isn't it.

evil doug 9:55 AM  

So I guess Will---the editor---doesn't believe in obeying Will---the rule-maker's---protocols. Sounds like frickin' Iran around here, with a hypocritical ayatollah at the controls. And like with Iran, if the all-powerful poobah refuses to play ball, then you puzzle-builders should boycott the Times.

I think it's time to eliminate the arbitrary and applied-if-convenient rules, and go to puzzle-creator anarchy. No breakfast tests. No five-letter rules. No fill-in-the-blank mandates. No time-elapsed requirement for similar themes.

ACME: Dove-tail your group of people who are unhappy with the lack of pay/recognition/residuals into this valiant cause, and we can change the world!

Just one rule: If a puzzle is good---as this one clearly is---it gets published. Simple. Straightforward. Consistent. Fair.


Anonymous 9:56 AM  

Evil Doug - Yea, there are rules apparently. I found that out one day when I called out Martin on Wordplay much the same way you called out Rex and was informed that Martin is one of Will's testers and Will has certain rules. In Will's year end tribute he named Martin as his final tester who trests the puzzzles after others have tested them. But rules have exceptions. The only rule that never changes is Will, since he has the final say.

I also prefer being called that fat white guy to Anglo. Like Pancho in Smilin Jack I keep popping my shirt buttons.

Love my captcha: grous....


Wood 10:00 AM  

Tougher than average Thursday for me, very slow start. I had almost the whole bottom of the puzzle filled in before I figured out the theme. Got GOODONE through crosses, thought that looked weird, and shortly after got the revealer. This tipped me off that I had to change TBONE to TBALL. What I didn't expect was that the theme answers would be symmetrical, which basically amounted simply to swapping the clues for the ONE/ALL pairs. I was a little disappointed that this made it too easy to fill in the symmetrical answer, once I had one of the pair. Although I don't know why I should be complaining about too easy, since it actually took me longer than most Thursdays!

None of the fill bothered me -- Thought it was pretty great actually. Fun puzzle!!

Anonymous 10:07 AM  

NYT submission rules are here.

Z 10:08 AM  

Loved the puzzle, despite the RRN at 1A. Really? 1A is a RRN? At least it is an easily deducible RRN.

Here in All-American Muslim land (I haven't mentioned yet that in my assistant principal days several of the "stars" were my students - about as typical American suburbanite teenagers as you'll find anywhere) I am an "anglo." Always awkward to me that we still need the term.

Tita 10:08 AM  

I loved this puzzle, in spite of my brain being completely black-and-blue after finally solving it.
I just couldn't get the trick!

@Jax - re: your article from yesterday...this one messed with my mind in a most peculiar way...

Pencil on paper all the way for me...
It's not hubris or arrogance, it's a tactile thing...
Plus, I margin-doodle much better in pencil.

quilter1 10:19 AM  

Once I caught on it went down smoothly, but I hated all of my write overs in the corners as I corrected the placements of ALLs and ONEs.

Has anyone ever said OATSEED? We give horses oats, we sow, sometimes wild, oats, we eat oatmeal. I can't think of using OATSEED in any context.

I do think Shortz and Norris talk as there are often identical clues and answers in the NYT and LAT. IS that a version of a malapop?

Matthew G. 10:25 AM  

I loved this puzzle. What a feat to find four distinct pairs where ALL and ONE swap out perfectly, and to get them into the grid with a minimum of dreck. DOUAI is the kind of thing I'd normally hate, but this puzzle was too good for me to care. And unlike many puzzles that are hard to construct, this one is just as fun to solve.

Five stars.

publicus 10:30 AM  

The symmetry of the substitutions made it all work for me. Otherwise, it'd have been a blah puzzle, but this is a good one.

retired_chemist 10:34 AM  

A mil is one one-thousandth of an inch. Useful whether one is discussing a (very short) distance or a thickness.

Two Ponies 10:43 AM  

This gris had some making up to do when 1A is RRN and 1D is a book in the bible. Yuck.
It turned out to be clever but at a price.
I believe Anon 5:57 is correct re: Aunt Bea. @ Doris, Agree about the 3 Musketeer motto. Missed opportunity.
@ Evil Doug, That's what the N stands for. What kind of double standard is that??

archaeoprof 10:46 AM  

@Rex, you're way too cranky again today.

Delightful puzzle, strong theme, wide-ranging content (from MOAB and GALILEE to GOODALL and IDA), all laid out in symmetry.

Very well-suited to the first day of class for my crossword students.

Thank you, Dan Schmiedeler.

imsdave 10:51 AM  

I didn't want to have to do this, but @Two Ponies and Anon 5:57 (pasted in from wikipedia):

Beatrice Taylor (commonly known as Aunt Bee) is a fictional character from the 1960s American television sitcom The Andy Griffith Show. The show was televised on CBS from October 3, 1960, until April 1, 1968. The character migrated to the spinoff Mayberry R.F.D. (1968–1971) when The Andy Griffith Show ended its run, and remained for two years. Though she was the aunt of Sheriff Andy Taylor, virtually every character in Mayberry called her "Aunt Bee".

Anonymous 10:53 AM  

I finished the darn puzzle thinking all along that the clues were jumbled and ready to fire off a missive to the NYT, then reasoned that oh, that is theme, but never cottoned to the ONE for ALL substitutions until after I read the Blog.

Clever, clever construction and I realize many of you noticed that waaay early.

But to take a play out of Romney's Iowa playbook, a win is a win, right?

JaxInL.A. 11:04 AM  

I did the NYT and LAT puzzles back-to-back today and had a bit of deja vu. Check it out. L.A. Times puzzle available at

Enjoyed this puzzle enormously. @Gill, this actually felt sorta like a rebus to me. Had much the same experience as @jae and others here. LESSER OF worked fine for me, by the way. If I ever begin constructing I may feel differently.

MALACHI reminded me that I have homework from my adult ed Prophets class at temple on Sunday. I would have blanked until it was too late to do the reading. Thanks, Dan!

John V 11:09 AM  

So, I am happy to report that notwithsanding the best efforts of some of what pass for friends to destroy my puzzle synapses with Coors Light last night (I am not making this up) AND the Lex being messed this morning -- had to take the local to Brooklyn Bridge then get the express -- I got this one over the finish line in perfect order and had fun doing it. I enjoyed the ALL/ONE substitution and really thought the symmetry angle was pretty inspired.

Just scanned the comments, as the morning is pretty crazy, but re: partials, seems to me Will's well known rules are guidelines, taken in the context of the entire puzzle. I have no problem with LESSEROF. What the hey.

Wanted ARIEN for ANGLO, 'cause I pass through D'Arien (sic) each day. And there is the spelling thing, too, I suppose.

Wanted PBA for Blues organization.

@Rex, not buying NWA. Sorry.

I had fun, last night and this morning. Thanks, Dan S.

JaxInL.A. 11:15 AM  

@r.alph.bunker, I would love to see if we can meet for coffee or even lunch. I live, work, shop, and send my daughter to school just south of downtown L.A., near USC and Exposition Park. Where are you? Email me at jaxhamilton (at) gmail (dot) com.

GILL I. 11:29 AM  

Yes, I suppose you could say it falls within a rebus category in that this puzzle does convey a hidden meaning. I think of a rebus as adding a sound usually made by a letter.
When I was learning English, I had a terrible time understanding what I was actually reading. My grandmother introduced me to the rebus concept and for some reason my brain could understand that the number 8 sounded like ate! It did screw up my spelling though ;-)

Anonymous 11:31 AM  

Interesting setup. I got most of the answers and then smelled a rat with tball and tbone as well as enthroned and enthralls...

stix2metunesmiffin 11:40 AM  

Completely missed the theme and had to read rex's write up twice to get it. All I could think was that there were a bazillion mistakes in the cluing. But I still finished to puzzle so hey. General meh on this.

Yesterday's puzzle, however, was damn close to sublime for me. Very happy to see some edgy stuff (borderline profane) and just enjoyed it thoroughly.

So maybe the sun'll come out tomorrow!

efrex 11:46 AM  

Was absolutely enthroned by this all... er, sorry, "enthralled by this one."

Nice theme revealer, symmetrically placed answers and the little ugly fill (DOUAI) easily gettable through crosses. Nice construction, and a fun solve.

LESSEROF didn't even register a blip on my annoyance radar: it's a clean phrase, and I don't really mind partials. Chefwen's comment, however, reminds me of a similar statement allegedly made about Broadway composer Frank Loesser's second wife, Jo, who was apparently an abrasive person and was known by wags as "The evil of two Loessers."

Spectacular job, Mr. Schmiedeler

Ulrich 11:48 AM  

I can normally see the rationale behind Will's rules, but the logic behind the 5-letter-limit-with-exceptions rule for partials totally escapes me. Why is there a limit, especially since I plonked down LESSER OF w/o a second's thought, and if there's a limit, why is it 5?

BTW This is not a rhetorical question--I would be interested in an answer that makes sense...

Lindsay 12:01 PM  

Very elegant. I have the ONE FOR ALL/ALL FOR ONE cross highlighted in regular yellow, and the other 8 ONEs and ALLs highlighted in flourescent yellow. Makes a symmetrical pinwheel.

FWIW, my previous dog Beatrix spelled her name Bea.

Masked and Anonymous 12:16 PM  

General remark: I, for all, am one mixed up. So what else is new.

Fave 31 remark: The whole delicious LESSEROF rant. Probably a legit beef, but I'll take an 8-letter gimme in a puz like this every time, and run like a thief.

High point: Mt. Everest.
Low point: Mariana Trench.

Fave thingy: Picture of kids fighting over a T-bone steak, on the playground.

hazel 12:17 PM  

Bowl full of both delight, elegance, AND awesomeness with nary a nit to pick.

@tobias d. - i challenge you to read The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach and still tell me you hate baseball!! (email me w/an address and I will loan you my copy!)

Bob Kerfuffle 12:19 PM  

Great puzzle.

Unfortunately for m e, finished with a stupid error: Had 11D as CASIN_S, didn't parse the clue correctly, so I made it CASINOS, hoping for explanations for that (Shells of shells?) and the resulting ANOLO for White at 29A!

And to think, two days ago I signed up for the ACPT! Not looking good for me!

Tita 12:35 PM  

Gill...I am always astounded by people who can solve puzzles in other than their native tongue - not only the language itself, but also the culture.
My mother can, but in spite of varying levels of proficiency in a few, I couldn't aspire to more than the local equivalent of a Highlights puzzle...

My self-serving explanation is that one would have to have lived in their adopted country, and maybe been married to a native, to have a chance.

Kudos to you (and a few others here), who have done so!

Mel Ott 12:46 PM  

I love a puzzle that keeps giving 'aha' moments. This one does not disappoint.

Tentatively got the theme from the hint at 2D. Aha! Confirmed by the reveal. Aha! The ALL and ONE answers are paired. Aha! Wow, they're symmetrical. Aha!

Some are familiar with the place name DOUAI because for many years, centuries in fact, the official Roman Catholic English version of the Bible was the DOUAI version. I have seen the name in crossword clues a number of times.

John V 1:03 PM  

@Tita: I had a friend some many years ago for whom German was her native language. She routinely demolished the Times puzzle to my amazement and annoyance, particularly as this was in the Maleska crossword-ese era. Go figure. I sometimes think, on a day such as this, that English is MY second language.


Ruth 1:09 PM  

I agree with Ulrich: I would be very interested to hear some authoritative commentary on why "partials" (or fill-in-the-blank clues) are to be despised. It just seems so arbitrary to me. And boy, a good partial can save the day sometimes--as Masked and Anonymous sez, "run like a thief" with those babies!

Rudy 1:10 PM  

"..My self-serving explanation is that one would have to have lived in their adopted country, and maybe been married to a native, to have a chance.."

Tita, you are discounting the entire South Asian subcontinent especially India which is very proficient in English, newspapers which have crosswords with the Daily Telegraph and London Times-like idiosyncratic themes.

Believe me some of these puzzles are cakewalks to many of them, I would not be surprised if Rex's Blog has a world wide following. Easy to find out if Rex were to use Google Analytics to see where his readers tune in from.

Pete 1:23 PM  

@Ulrich - One possiblity is in the cluing. There's no option for word play/trickiness/intererst in a parital. _____ of two evils? If there were anyway to clue LESSEROF other than as a partial I'm sure Will would have done so. As such it's just a linguistically dead gimme just sitting there.

Linguistically dead gimmes should be kept as short as possible.

John V 1:24 PM  

@Rex, I for one would be fascinated to learn where your readers tune in from, per @Rudy.

chefbea 1:49 PM  

Got the theme right away but then had to go to a meeting and just got home and finished the puzzle.

Of course I had Bea at first!!! And another shout out to me and @Wood

Bird 1:51 PM  

Interesting puzzle. Love the theme - I wonder if it could have been used on a Sunday.

What made this a medium for me was forgetting the theme. I either filled it in wrong or didn't fill in anything because it looked wrong. I knew 30A was IDES, but them 3D came along and gave me IDLS. I knew 4D was TBALL, but had TBO_E. WTF.

@Rex - where is this rule book you keep referring to? Why does a partial have to be 5 or fewer letters? Not that I disagree (I prefer a puzzle with no abbreviations, no crosswordese and limited proper nouns), just wondering who wrote the book.

Loren Muse Smith 1:53 PM  

After such smooth sailing the past few days, today's SE humbled me. Saw the theme really early but totally missed the two down theme fills - @Masked and anonymous - I pictured a game a la Red Rover, where a kid runs at a line of kids, "TBONing" into it, but I like your imagery better.

@Matthew G, I agree - love the complete and utter symmetry not just in the location but in the theme fills' partners, if you will.

Didn't blink at all at LESSEROF or ANGLO. Did blink, several times, at OATSEED.

Perfect for a Thursday. @David - I always hope for a Thursday rebus that (which?) has several letters in one square. On such occasions, I always seek out my husband and say, "Look at what's going on here! Isn't this cool?!" He invariably gets annoyed and angry, as he(though he's never solved a crossword in his life) himself seems to have strict rules for puzzles and finds such shenanigans "unfair" and "ridiculous."

@John W - I guess maybe you were still a bit, um, STALLED while solving this morning?

@Pete - If Dave Barry were here, he would most likely suggest that Linguistically Dead Gimmes would be a great name for a rock band.

Ulrich 1:56 PM  

@Pete: Maybe. But that seems to apply to partials as such (although I do remember seeing partials that could have more than one answer w/o crosses). Where, then, does the length restriction come from? To lessen the pain? :)

Tobias Duncan 2:23 PM  

@Hazel Hmmm The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach, that sounds so...

BORING!! ;-)

Very sweet gesture though, thank you for thinking of me but I think it will work out about as well as the Hustler magazine I sent jesser for Christmas...

Anonymous 2:32 PM  

@CoolPapaD & TobiasD

MALACHI always brings me to mind of Malachi Throne, who was on a couple of episodes of the original Star Trek series, including the pilot.

@too many to name

LESSEROF discussion also brings me to a cotton-picking joke I have heard with the punchline being 'the lesser of two weevils', but i can't remember the source, or the whold joke for that matter.

Really enjoyed the puzzle.


TimJim 2:32 PM  

Great puzzle. One aha moment when I figured out the substitution, then another when I saw the symmetry. Thanks, Dan!

John V 2:35 PM  

@loren muse smith: Too much OATSEED, is what I'm sayin'

ranman 2:52 PM  

FWIW: it may not be as acceptable (for whatever reasons) as other ways to do the puzzle, it may not prepare you for pencil tournaments, but typing into the Across Lite (AL) version on my computer is the best way for me to solve the puzzle--both for speed and accuracy.
I don't always use AL because I like to do the Play Against the Clock (which is not nearly as easy as AL) and I like to solve Sunday on paper as well.

AL on a computer (and it does take a little time to get used to the tabbing or entering or whatever you use to move the cursor) really helps on a day like today when you get thrown a curveball or eight.

Mr HP doesn't hurt either when push comes to shove and you are stuck on ABC/ABYS!

archaeoprof 2:58 PM  

@Ulrich: herzlich Willkommen! so nice to hear from you again. You have been missed around here.

Rube 3:01 PM  

@Anon 2:32 -- I first heard the "lesser of two weevils" joke in one of the Aubrey and Maturin books by Patrick O'Brien, and then again in the movie "Master and Commander". That's all I could think of when I saw the partial in the puzz. More than 5 letters? No problem for me for what I consider to be part of the culture.

Got the theme concept with the GOODALL/GOODONE confusion and confirmed it with ENTHRONED/ENTHRALLS. Then saw the reveal. How do constructors come up with these ideas? Amazing.

Had the same hard stare as @Kerfuffle at ANoLO/CASINoS. That G was my last letter.

@MelOtt -- thanks for jogging my memory about DOUAI. Recognized the name of the city, but couldn't remember from where -- the Douai Bible, of course.

As noted, we had lunch with @Chefwen & Jon yesterday, but more importantly, we had her TDF muffins this morning for breakfast -- absolutely marvelous.

captcha -- bakeden -- obviously referring to the macadamia nuts in the muffins -- that's some serendipity.

Tita 3:09 PM  
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Lewis 3:18 PM  

@masked and anonymous -- loved your high and low points

I thought the cluing was fairly straightforward overall, not very clever (and I hope for some cluing cleverness by Thursday), but that was balanced by the cleverness of the theme and its execution. I was impressed and entertained by this puzzle. Bravo, Mr. Schmeideler.

The partial didn't bother me, seems like a _____________ teapot.

Tita 3:19 PM  

@Rudy - thanks for correcting my western bias...
I suppose the rest of the world, and that region in particular, has an advantage in that English is so much more prevalent and accessible in daily life.

Perhaps the harder trick is for an American or Brit to master a puzzle published in Malayalam or Dutch.

Regardless, I have tremendous respect and am insanely jealous of those who have such mastery. I speak or understand 4-5 languages at varying levels or proficiencey, but none well enough to puzzle!

imsdave 3:20 PM  

@evil doug - send me an email (available via my blogger ID) to discuss non-standard puzzles.

@Bob K - you are going to kick butt and take names at the ACPT this year!

@Ulrich - looking forward to seeing you at the Killingworth Library tourney.

r.alphbunker 3:22 PM  

When I got the theme I felt sure I had seen it before. This did not detract at all from the puzzle but I wanted to find out if my memory was playing tricks on me. I found the puzzle. It was Sunday Jan 16, 2005 by Damon J. Gulczynski. The revealer was ALLFORONEANDONEFORALL which conveniently is 21 letters long.

The theme of this puzzle was "Pledge of Allegiance" which is what the revealer is.

Today's puzzle was a variation on this theme in that modified answers did not match the clue and swapping symmetric theme answers made the clues make sense. This definitely added to its charm because it caused me to enter wrong answers confidently before I realized what the theme was, i.e.,
47A Crowns [ENTHRoneS-->ENTHRALLS]
49D Certain steak [TBone-->TBALL]
41D Fixed [INSTone-->INSTALL]

hazel 3:30 PM  

@tobias d -

From NYT Book Review -

"Chad Harbach makes the case for baseball, thrillingly, in his slow, precious and altogether excellent first novel, “The Art of Fielding.” 'You loved it,' he writes of the game, 'because you considered it an art: an apparently pointless affair, undertaken by people with a special aptitude, which sidestepped attempts to paraphrase its value yet somehow seemed to communicate something true or even crucial about the Human Condition. The Human Condition being, basically, that we’re alive and have access to beauty, can even erratically create it, but will someday be dead and will not.' ”

Beatin' a dead horse, but just sayin'!! (not rudely, mind you)

sanfranman59 3:56 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)

Thu 17:20, 19:00, 0.91, 37%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Thu 9:19, 9:17, 1.00, 59%, Medium

It can't be a coincidence that both the NYT and the LAT crosswords have the same theme today, can it? I checked to see if it's the anniversary of Dumas' birth or death or perhaps of the publication of "The Three Musketeers", but it's not. Will ... if you're lurking out there, is there a reason why you published this particular puzzle today? Is it really a coincidence?

Numbers Guy 4:05 PM  

LESSEROF was probably necessary to get the F there, and crossing a theme answer; breaking the word in the middle would block the corners. im not an expert like many here, but i think the theme (nice touch crossing in the center - 2 word reveals rarely do) made the puzzle special enough to include this exception. and i need all the gimmes i can get on thursday. this is the first thursday ive ever completed (w/o google), so after barely finishing ydays (this morning) im done for the week.

on the subject of will's rules - what about the "no foreign words"? this 'rule' is violated every day - including today with (symmetrical) TIOS and VIDI. its true that they are usually fairly well known spanish or latin, like today on the trio with VI filled in (to C or to D, that is the question), but shouldnt this rule be rewritten to reflect actual practice?

Loren Muse Smith 4:10 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
DigitalDan 4:10 PM  

As one whose favorite button reads "Who are YOU to tell ME to Question Authority?," I'm ever more happy that I don't know hardly any of the rules.

Loren Muse Smith 4:11 PM  

@Tita - I'm with you on harboring (in my case) a childish jealousy of people whose native language is not English being able to solve puzzles with tricky clues like:

"evening thing?" - PLANE
"alley oops?" - GUTTERBALL
and, of course,
"pressing need?" - IRON

Actually, I'm very jealous of anyone who is fluent in another language.

And ya had to go and mention Malayalam... Now I can't stop thinking about (and wondering why it hadn't occurred to me before) languages with written systems other than alphabets - can one construct a crossword using a syllabary or logograph system?

Bob Kerfuffle 4:30 PM  

@Numbers Guy: In Will's defense, the sentence you refer to says. "Do not use partial phrases longer than five letters (ONE TO A, A STITCH IN, etc.), uninteresting obscurity, (a Bulgarian village, a water bug genus, etc.) or uncommon abbreviations or foreign words." I'll admit that I blinked a few times at that, but I finally decided that we were meant to understand it as, "Do not use . . . uncommon . . . foreign words." As you point out, there are plenty of common foreign words which appear in crosswords every day.

Rudy 4:37 PM  

@Tita & @ Loren Muse Smith


A widely spoken Indian language; also a wonderful palindrome

Sparky 4:58 PM  

Got the revealer early and then 2D so expected Three Musketeers theme. GOODall immediately, then ENTHrones, then, Hey, wait a minute! Finally, ah hah moment. I did then seek out the symmetrical spots to guide me. Had a good time. Thanks Dan Schmiedeler.

@evilDoug (9:55) right. If LESSEROF so terrible, why does IDES get a pass? There used to be a guide by one of the Patricks under Other Sites, but it's gone. He gave "rules" which were suggestions and it was very helpful. Whatever happened to that?

Malachi McCourt, actor and brother of Frank McCourt had a bar in NYC named, ta dah, Malachai's.

I, too, am planning on the ACPT. This year I will compete. What can happen? Somebody has to be last.

Sparky 5:03 PM  

P.S.: A tip of the Halto Hat to MAC, good solver, good heart, good woman from Holland. How does she do it?

mac 5:11 PM  

I'd like to think Will Shortz found this puzzle particularly dazzling!

It was VERY slow going, maybe because I had a lot more done in the W before moving East. I got the reveal lines about midway, but it still took me a minute or so to figure it out. Then I could fill in or replace a couple of ones and alls.

I had some trouble with 17D; the crosses couldn't be denied (Malachie is Frank McCourt's brother to me), but when becomes a cut a lesion? Other real aha moment was Anglo, but not a very accurate answer.

@Joho: good one (Saab)!

@Pretty Bad Doug: you must have been lurking for a while, you have the lingo down pat.

All in all a real Thursday puzzle, I liked it.

mac 5:14 PM  

@Sparky: Thanks! See you in Brooklyn.

Loren Muse Smith 5:16 PM  

@Rudy - I never noticed its palindromeness! I would love to look at one of the Dravidian languages, but I guess Rosetta Stone hasn't gotten there yet?


chefbea 5:47 PM  

Want to do the LA times puzzle. Haven't done it in a while. Why cant I get it and print it out????

hahahahahaha 5:48 PM  

"A Puzzler's Puzzle"

Not enough personal experience to say that since I got tripped up so much. "Great Feat?" I guess, but ... I figured out quick that this was not a rebus, new style puzzle twist for me, that's for sure.

Casual puzzlers won't have much fun, lotsa WTF's rather than NWA (Ni@@ers With Attitude) being offensive.

Tita 5:58 PM  

@Rudy & loren...
I first learned MAYALAYAM in a (palindromic) puzzle here, then discovered that stepson's longtime girlfriend is a native speaker!

I love your examples, loren. I had to think a good 3 minutes to get EVENING PLANE! ;)
Well, English is not my mother tongue - it has been since age of 5, but that's my excuse, and I'm sticking to it.

GILL I. 5:59 PM  

@Tita: Thanks. My parents were both very ANGLO and only spoke English at home. I spent the first 13 years of my life only speaking Spanish; English sounded awful to me. In Cuba, when you spoke Spanish, you sang - much like your Portuguese ancestors. Alas, my grandmother took over at some point and *made* me learn the Queens English...I'm still more comfortable singing.
Well, having said that (sorry @Rex, but at least I used ANGLO)I'm ALL FOR they 5 or ate letters.

JenCT 6:11 PM  

One variation of the joke:

Two weevils grew up together in the cotton fields of Alabama. One went to New York, studied law and became a high-flying lawyer. The other one stayed behind and developed a taste for whiskey; he was the lesser of two weevils.

@ACME: I'm familiar with that wet-hair memory lapse thing...

Liked the puzzle, and like @ACME, was thinking "I never heard of a TBALL steak!". Took me a while to get the theme.

ARLENE 6:31 PM  

I just waded through 101 comments to chime in that I loved this puzzle. Got the them with TBALL/TBONE after refusing to believe that GALILEE could possibly be wrong. Was delighted to see someone else mention the hint with the Three Musketeers clue. Solving this was really fun - and the symmetry was beautiful!

Ulrich 6:44 PM  

@archaeoprof: Thanks!

@imsdave: Since I'm no great shakes when it comes to solving (this not-a-native-speaker thing), I volunteered as a scorer. BEWARE! There will be a German looking over your shoulder!

dk 6:48 PM  


Sleep in and @Mathew G starts handing out stars, various dougs are pitching woo to Acme and Tobias has a paper route that delivers Hustlers! OMG!

Well well well as R.L. Burnside would say.

This puzzle had a great trick to it surrounded by some my-t-fine fill.

Does Zenith still make TVSETs? Sad for SAAB as well, I have owned two.

I, as the one and only hander outer of stars, give this

*** (3 Stars) Dan great puzzle.

Off to the gym where I will tape @matthew G to the speed bag... I'll show you stars little mister.

nebraska doug 7:12 PM  

I don't comment often, but I loved this puzzle. Found the theme to be very clever. Made me smile. Over 100 posts, always a sign a puzzle has sparked a nerve, good or bad.

Loren Muse Smith 7:28 PM  
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Loren Muse Smith 7:30 PM  

Ok - so jokes and non-native speakers are on the table. @Ulrich - this joke is meant to be spoken only - it really doesn't work written but I'll trust you to get it. . .

Person A: You're so lame, you can't even count to 5 in German.

Person B: I can, too! "Ein, Zwei, Drei, Funf," he said fearlessly.

Tita 7:44 PM  

Ganz toll, @loren...!
Ulrich - wilkommen, end Guten Rutsch!

JohnV - after nearly 4 yearas in Germany, my other language skills deteriorated...including English!!!

Acme 8:19 PM  

Obviously no rule is hard and fast but my understanding (since i also balked at the five-letter minimum finding it somewhat arbitrary) is that the longer the partial, the more likely it won't make sense grammatically as a stand alone...
So fill in the blanks should be reserved when there is almost no other way to define something, otherwise, you are playing "match game", and not giving clever clues, just hard and fast answers.
In this case LESSEROF is long but can almost stand alone in that it makes sense. TWOEVILS would need to be defined as "Lesser of ___" as well! But Will might debate if TWOEVILS could be fill...might depend on the day of the week etc.
Whereas "______ teapot" would lead to fill TEMPESTINA. (which is not in the language nor stand alone...unless that is Spanish for a small storm!)

Foreign words are fine as long as it is assumed the audience knows them...that's why there is so much French.
But you wouldn't be able to do the German word for "pencil " even tho that may seem like a common word...
(i have no idea what the word is in German for pencil but that is my shout out toour beloved Ulrich who has chosen to pop in today!)
In the end it's all up to Will and his testers.
This probably clarifies're welcome!

Masked and Anonymous 8:52 PM  

@ACME with a German pencil: Bleistift, or something like that.

retired_chemist 9:45 PM  

Ulrich's return is the highlight of the day. Welcome back, my friend!

Numbers Guy 10:06 PM  

thanks for the interpretation late in the day. i spend much of the day negotiating legal contracts (not as a lawyer), and in the I-bank world would consider the sentence ambiguous, but i agree that your interpretation makes sense.

i didnt even notice the NIE yday, being such a gimme, so after spending the days frustrated over the unintended consequences of dodd-frank, its good to know that the rules here are still on a common sense basis.

ahora yo sabe la respuesta cuando veo "tormenta mui pequena".
(entschuldigun sie, mon espanol est tres mal).
i'll be looking out for a monday theme puzzle in the near future with uncommon (ie nonexistent) foreign words that can be used as illegal FITB.

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 6:49, 6:50, 1.00, 52%, Medium
Tue 8:51, 8:52, 1.00, 56%, Medium
Wed 15:04, 11:50, 1.27, 94%, Challenging (9th highest Wednesday median solve time)
Thu 17:30, 19:00, 0.92, 40%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:49, 3:40, 1.04, 70%, Medium-Challenging
Tue 4:38, 4:34, 1.01, 62%, Medium-Challenging
Wed 7:35, 5:52, 1.29, 95%, Challenging (8th highest Wednesday median solve time)
Thu 9:06, 9:17, 0.98, 55%, Medium

Anonymous 3:33 AM  

Bitching about an 8-letter partial vs 6 seems pretty arbitrary. Why does length invalidate this? It certainly wasn't because of difficulty...


Anonymous 3:17 PM  

My issue with this is that the theme answers don't match the their clues unless you use 34a/21/d as an "instruction for solving this puzzle". Which is not the same as a "hint."

That said, the grid filled in fairly rapidly once I uncovered the hint, and I appreciate the fact that each theme answer had a symmetrical counterpart.

@ r.alphbunker 3:22pm - I remember the "Pledge..." puzzle as well, thanks for digging that up

Mighty Nisden 3:35 PM  

Got this one! Very rare finish of a Thursday for me. Was caught up thinking that all clues with 4s in them were changed.
Took a while to figure out it was the words that changed. Once done everything came together.

BTW the best thing about rules is there is always room for an exception.

Well done Mr Schmiedeler! Great piece of work.

Dirigonzo 3:39 PM  

From the syndicate where there's never much that hasn't already been said, but with 116 comments preceeding me I'll just remark that my dad's name was ALTON so it was nice to see a shout out.

Oh, @ Susan - No, thickness and length are not the same (and that's all I have to say on the subject).

rain forest 3:56 PM  

Let me join all the others who love this puzzle, which, in comparison to many another puzzle is not the lesser of. When blueprinting a car engine, one will engineer clearances between surfaces in units of "mils", which is a distance which is a length.

Spacecraft 4:55 PM  

This was a fun get. Bit of a problem, pre-get, but after--a breeze. Bogged down in the NW, I went to the SW, where I knew damn well who Jane GOODALL was. But the downs at the end wouldn't fit. If only it was...oh no, wait a sec...


And now the whole thing became amazingly clever to me: not only eight answers, but four identical pairs with the ONEs and ALLs switched! Kudos to Dan!
What I don't get is the blogger's horror at the long partial LESSEROF. Okay, so it's a partial. I'd rather look at that than MDI and poor, way-overworked Stephen REA. Can't we get him a sabbatical or something? I get tired just seeing him. And for my money, NONONO is, well, you know.
But most of the fill is pretty LIVELY, so thumbs up here.

Anonymous 5:28 PM  

There usually isn't much to add a month later from Syndyland but given all of the "Rules" talk, I would like to cry foul regarding LSD being clued as "acid". How was that appropriate given said "acid" is within "LSD" (Lysergic acid diethylamide). WTF?

- Trippin' in Ohio

Dirigonzo 5:50 PM  

@anony 5:28PM - The terms acid and LSD are used interchangeably in my trippin' circles, so the clue seems fair enough to me. (Just for the record, I've never been on acid and I've never been on LSD, but I know plenty of folks who have. By way of example...)

Unknown 2:28 AM  

Loved the nods to Missy Elliot, NWA and NORAD. Had ENTRANCED and ANTS but figured it out with MISSY. LESSEROF was one of my first fills. OATSEED was as Eazy-as-E (RIP) thanks in part to the LSD and BITES.

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