Taft's partner in a 1947 act / SUN 1-15-12 / Light reflection ratio / Shade of swan's bill Keats poem / California beach town with racetrack / True Colors singer 1986

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Constructor: Finn Vigeland

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: "Weather Report"66A: Weather comment represented visually by this puzzle's circled letters (IT'S RAINING CATS AND DOGS) — Six Down answers contain breeds of cats or dogs spelled out in non-consecutive circles

Word of the Day: ALBEDO (15D: Light reflection ratio) —
Albedo [...] , or reflection coefficient, is the diffuse reflectivity or reflecting power of a surface. It is defined as the ratio of reflected radiation from the surface to incident radiation upon it. Being a dimensionless fraction, it may also be expressed as a percentage, and is measured on a scale from zero for no reflecting power of a perfectly black surface, to 1 for perfect reflection of a white surface. (wikipedia)
• • •

A special message for my audience in syndication (i.e. those of you reading this on January 22, 2012): I've decided to make mid-January the time for my annual pitch for financial contributions to this blog. While one might call the blog a hobby (in that I enjoy it and do it in my "spare" time), I treat it more like a job. A job that has not gone undone for a single day in five years. While I have had many offers and suggestions regarding ways to "monetize" (an ugly word) the blog, I've never found any of them appealing, since they would generally involve advertising (no thanks) or in some other way giving up the real or perceived independence of my voice (again, not for me). I much prefer to deal with my readers directly and ask that they consider what the blog is worth and donate accordingly. There is a Paypal button in the sidebar, and a mailing address here:

Rex Parker
4700 Vestal Parkway East, #279
Vestal, NY 13850-3770

I am well aware that many people do not believe in paying for what they can get for free, and still others are not in the position to give away any money they don't have to. Understood. It's important to me that this site be free and available to everyone. Give what you think fair, or give nothing at all. Some twenty-five thousand people read this blog every day, and somewhere between one-half and two-thirds of that audience reads me in syndication (i.e. 1 or 5 weeks after I've done my initial write-up). To all of you, especially those who have taken time out to send me a kind note, or complain, or otherwise commiserate about our shared obsession, I remain incredibly grateful.
. . .

Now the puzzle: The core of this theme isn't that interesting to me. I've seen a Cats and Dog rebus before, I think, and I'm certain that you could create theme answers ad infinitum that fit this them. How many breeds of dogs are there (a ton)? Cats (I don't know ... but several, probably)? And for any given breed, an untold number of potential answers that contain those letters in non-consecutive order. So we're dealing with a massive potential fund of answers. That's how the constructor was able to manage to get all the Downs to intersect the central Across so symmetrically and perfectly. He surely had an arsenal of theme answers to begin with, and then found three pairs with matching lengths (not that many for a Sunday) and letters in the right place to make the intersection work out. Still, he did get it to work out, and those answers are pretty great. CABLE SITCOMS is a little weak, but the others are all good-to-great (my favorites are MASON-DIXON LINE and PHONOGRAPH NEEDLE). The rest of the grid is very solid and not-at-all cringe-inducing. DEUS EX MACHINA! Sweet. Never heard of a CASTLE IN SPAIN (was looking for "IN THE SKY," which at first made me suspect a rebus was involved), but everything else was at least vaguely familiar and generally zippy. Only trouble I had came in the NE, where I had PHI instead of PSI and couldn't remember ALBEDO (which has probably been a Word of the Day before), so SORBETS (24A: After-dinner choice) looked like it was gonna be HORNETS, which are not an after-dinner choice I'd make. Oh, I also had a little trouble over there in the west, with ATC, which I now understand is an abbrev. of Air Traffic Control. I've never seen that abbrev. in puzzles before. I wanted FAA.

Theme answers:
  • 39D: Shows that can be racier than their network counterparts (CABLE SITCOMS)
  • 41D: Cheating (BREAKING THE RULES)
  • 31D: It's north of the South (MASON-DIXON LINE)
  • 29D: You probably raise you arm for this (ANTI-PERSPIRANT)—not me, I just like to wedge it up in there
  • 13D: It's lowered to hear music (PHONOGRAPH NEEDLE) — nice raise / lowered balance on those last two clues
  • 34D: Big Apple team (BRONX BOMBERS) — my OLD BAG was an OLD HAG at first, so I didn't see this right away 
  • 54A: PBS flagship station (WNET) — I know this only from crosswords. Think I noticed these letters for the first time only recently, after a "Great Performances" or a "NOVA" or something.
  • 73A: Plant tissue (XYLEM) — had the "X" and bam, XYLEM. How I know that word is unclear to me. Almost certainly from crosswords. Usually my brain is busy spewing out a bunch of useless answers, all at once, so to have one come out clean and clear and accurate was refreshing. The other flora answer took a bit more time to develop (23D: Leaf pores => STOMATA)
  • 82A: Shade of a swan's bill in a Keats poem (EBON) — Is "Sleep and Poetry" a major poem. I took a whole course on Romantic Poetry in college and never saw this one.
  • 99A: Austrian physician who lent his name to an English word ending in "-ize" (MESMER) — he was German by birth. He lived in Vienna for a time.
  • 102A: "True Colors" singer 1986 (LAUPER) — I think she's fantastic. And so unusual.

  • 4D: 2000 title role for Richard Gere (DR. T) — Feels like I haven't seen this once-common answer in a while. 
  • 14D: Taft's partner in a 1947 act (HARTLEY) — perhaps unsurprisingly, I get Taft-HARTLEY confused with SMOOT-HAWLEY.
  • 45D: Angry Birds, e.g. (FAD) — I wanted APP.
  • 97D: California beach town with a racetrack (DEL MAR) — I think I had dinner here last year after the Crosswords LA tournament (info on the 2012 tournament, including a free "warm-up" puzzle by Doug Peterson, HERE).
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Pete 12:33 AM  

Glancing at your writeup, I sure hoped that your inclusion of the picture of Newt right next to XYLEM was tied to some riff on how you confused XYLEM with phlegm.

AL Bedo is the head pizza guy at my nearest Faux Stone Pizza Shop.

Anonymous 1:06 AM  

What Pete said....


jae 1:09 AM  

Pretty easy Sun.  with lots of snappy long answers.  My only real hang up (like Rex) was FAA for ATC for much too long.   Cute theme. The opposite of MEH for me!

chefwen 1:33 AM  

@Rex - Check out Alan Parsons Project "Day After Day" for CASTLES IN SPAIN, I would have tried to embed if I knew how to do that, unfortunately, I am technically impaired, anyway it's a wonderful song, I think you will like it.

Loved the puzzle, love cats and dogs.
Learned about XYLEM and phloem in plant science class. Knew what a DWEEB was, didn't know they were associated with wonks, guess I learned a new word today. Last letter in was the L in ALBEDO and PHALANX, good guess on my part.

Off to a new week.

Go Packers! @JFC - I'll get those pineapples ready to roll, just in case.

clarkke8 1:38 AM  

I originally had FAA and APP also. My biggest issue was that I had OLD BAT instead of OLD BAG, which led to TESTS instead of GESTS. Both seemed to work, so it took awhile to figure out why it kept telling me I had something wrong.

retired_chemist 1:45 AM  

Sundays just feel too big anymore. My attention wanders and my performance (in squares correctly filled per minute) suffers. This one was no exception, although I did like most of the clues/answers. Definitely not MEH.

Hand up for FAA. Had EKG for 82D for much too long. Wanted PEDANTIC @ 89D but it didn't fit. Never heard of ADAMITES. Sounds like a family of ores. Liked the shout-out to ANNAN COLDCASE MESMER (or so I am guessing) at 107D.

Lively enough and I might have been ecstatic about it had I done it in the AM, when I was fresh.

Thanks, Mr. Vigeland.

Anonymous 2:10 AM  

@Chefwen - So far all the home teams have won in the Playoffs.

@Rex - Do you really have 25,000 visitors? I have to re-think my contribution. In fact, I might start my own Blog.

@Acme - How much do you pay these constructors for advertising?

@Evil Doug - It took Jesus three days to rise. Time for you to do the same....


syndy 2:32 AM  

fairly nice but I think only DWEEBS call it an H-BEAM.

Larry I in L.A. 2:39 AM  

I call shenanigans! Like @Clarkke8, I was perfectly content with OLDBAt crossing tESTS. Thought I had completed the puzzle in less than 30 minutes, but then it took more than 20 additional minutes to realize that 36D started with G.

Wasn't entirely sure what ATC stood for, so was it possible that 38D was bOREAT instead? Could 40D perhaps be tEN, as in the denomination of a bill used in one's nest egg? (Granted, that would have been a stretch, but I was thoroughly flummoxed.)

Finally, I (gasp) out-and-out cheated by going to Crossword Fiend and checking my grid against that solution. I thought that all of my across answers were exactly the same--OLDBAG didn't even register. It wasn't until I compared my down answers that I saw GESTS. GESTS?!?

I hope Finn Vigeland is a Broncos fan.

Rube 2:42 AM  

Hand up for FAA & App. Also wanted WGBH before WNET. However, my real problem was in the SE where I had LAG instead of LGA. Really got suckered in on several old timey clues there... kept thinking omens or some such for signs and duffer or something for Player of golf, and had HAh for the laugh syllable. Finally EARMARKS peeked out and the rest quickly followed. I blame it on the late hour, (and all the wine).

DEUS EX MACHINA is my favorite, but PHONOGRAPH NEEDLE is a close second. I wonder how many young'uns know how to use a phonograph.

Have never heard of this use of GOOBER as a yokel. A peanut, yes. From the Urban dictionary:

"basically a goober is just a kindhearted, rather oblivious goofball. it's [a] term of endearment really. it comes from the ancient scottish verb "to goub", which has to do with doing a dance and smiling sheepishly while doing so, exposing the goubs in one's teeth."

Needless to say, I wanted Rube here, but it wouldn't fit.
Pretty easy Sunday puzzle as I DNG.

How about that Niners game. What a final four minutes, and the good guys won.

Albedo Cali Machina 4:49 AM  

Donate! Maybe I'll get dinner this year!

evil doug 5:15 AM  

Don't do Sundays---don't even know the clues---but the answers look interesting.

Phaser over phalanx.

LGA and ATC. (Hardest single airport for me to tackle---but after Sully's miracle, I won't complain.)

Admire, wed and grope.

Coca and Cali (great book: "At the Devil's Table", about the trusted insider who courageously brought down the Cali cartel).

Acme and ego. (All right, all right---it's the Lord's day; make it Acme and pet.)

ps: Deb---donate my pizza to some hungry soul wherever you may be. I admire your honorable desire to fulfill your responsibility....

Deb 7:17 AM  

I'm always astonished at people who say they don't/won't solve a Sunday puzzle. I mean, seriously, what's not to like about MORE of something you enjoy that's not either fattening, expensive, or potentially deadly? On the other hand, I have noticed, since I started solving on my iPad, that it can be pretty frustrating due to the simple fact that you can never see the entire grid at the same time.

As to this particular Sunday, I am still flabbergasted that MASON DIXON LINE immediately popped into my head when I read the clue for it, even though I had nothing entered near it yet. The term itself is certainly very familiar, but I couldn't point it out on a map or tell you its historical significance if you put a gun to my head. (Take THAT, poster from a couple of days ago who had such disdain for the geographical ignorance of a citizen of a warring empire. I don't know my OWN friggin' country either.)

I'm with Archaeoprof (?) today on the sports thing. My one and only hold-up for a successful solve was having entered BROWN BOMBERS. I'm pretty sure I've heard of that, but even though I had to change AXES to ANES, I just couldn't see any other way to fix things.

@Evil - You're either a very gracious man or a very private one. Whichever may be the case, I'll make a donation to the local mission in your honor. I would so much rather make it personal and give an obviously hungry guy on the street a smile, but I've honestly never seen a panhandler in this godforsaken town.

laferine: An outhouse and funhouse in one!

exaudio 7:32 AM  

Hand up for OLDBAT/TESTS.

foodie 7:53 AM  

The snappily named Finn has done it again! This was plain fun! I too sometimes find Sundays a little tedious, mostly because the short fill in the nooks and crannies seems to be never-ending. But the fun factor in this one was high enough to counteract this feeling.

Loved DEUS EX MACHINA! With ACME nearby! The cluing was outstanding, just the right level of playfulness.

Rex, is this a rebus puzzle? I thought rebus involved compression of part of the answer, whereas this one embedded the CATS and DOGS in the longer down answers. But genre aside, it's a great example of use of circles to good end.

foodie 8:25 AM  

Every year, around the anniversary of my discovery of this blog, I sit back and think about what it has come to mean to me-- How, daily, I look forward to Rex's analysis, his illustrations and associations, and his unique take on the puzzle. His distinctive voice, his willingness to state what he feels and take the resulting fallout, both within and outside Rexville, are truly remarkable. I believe he is a pioneer of a genre-- a dynamic and interactive form of cultural critique. It has an unusually broad impact, compared to literature, theater, art or food criticism, because of the number of people who share exactly the same experience daily-- solving the NY Times puzzle.

And this is precisely why Rexville exists-- because Rex is not bland or predictable, because he provides enough grist for the mill, gets the conversation off to a spirited start, and has, over the years, defined broad rules of engagement that are sustainable and civil while allowing us to have fun.

As a result, the Rexville community is like none other I know. I realize how much you are all part of my life because of how often I bring you up to my family-- funny stories or snarky comments, facts and factoids, comedy and tragedy. Through Rexville, I have found real friendship, amazing support, intellectual stimulation and daily chuckles. Food for the soul.

I think about all of this, and wish I could contribute more.

S James 8:28 AM  

Dont like when two valid responses fit int the same place. Both across and down. See old bat/tests vs. old bag/gests. Funny my iPad doesn't "think" gests is a word.

janie 8:36 AM  

for the un-CASTLE IN SPAIN drop the PHONOGRAPH NEEDLE on this one from the american songbook (thank you, lorenz hart): "my romance".

it's been covered by the likes of ella fitzgerald, tony bennett, carly simon, james taylor..... check this out for a more complete listing. daniel benzali?!?!


Glimmerglass 8:39 AM  

@Clarkke8, Larry, and Audio: You were not wrong!!! One of my goals in solving xwords is to hit upon an alternate correct answer. Some day I'll find a complete alternate corner. I wish I'd chosen OLD BAT/TESTS. That's a correct solution to the clues. It's not "wrong" because Rex or Across Lite or the NYT says it's wrong. I had GESTS (mostly because I'd started with OLDhAG), but I was unhappy with it because I think the word should be spelled gestEs. Congratulations on your alternate correct solution.

FloridaPerry 8:54 AM  

Struggled with ATC - wanted it to be FAA. Ditto with HBEAM - wanted it to be TBEAM so that 40d could be TIT (nest builder). Once I changed FAA to ATC, I was OK. Beat clue was13d.

dk 8:58 AM  

Like Retired_chemist and Evil Doug, but not like Deb: Sundays are just not my cuppa. Even a Sunday with ACME in the grid. I did some of the puzzle and my turgor pressure was not enough to get the XYLEM flowin.

** (2 Stars) Puzzle it is not about you. Its me.

I do want to weigh in on the REX-A-THON. Assuming there are just 10,000 of us DWEEBS and we each send $5 (less than you will spend on crying in your beer over yesterdays football upsets). That will net Rex some serious cash and ensure I have a forum to taunt Andrea, annoy others and share some of the best jokes in the universe... oh yeah the puzzle stuff as well.

So pony up lads and lassies or its elephant jokes every day until Andrea gets her meal.

Last gasp for ILLEN: I was up at 3AM (print making the curse of the sleeping class), turned on the BBC and what do I hear... more on the ILLEN controversy. Thank heavens the fill was not dubstep! Just sayin.

Anonymous 9:25 AM  

@Deb: You can indeed see all of the Sunday grid on the iPad app by pinching in on the grid. Works fine!

Loren Muse Smith 9:31 AM  

This was a tougher-than-usual Sunday for me.

@Deb -"I am still flabbergasted that MASON DIXON LINE immediately popped into my head when I read the clue for it, even though I had nothing entered near it yet." Ditto me for DEUSEXMACHINA! My flabbergastion?, uh flabbergastness? stemmed from the fact that in my English and language courses, I was always way more interested in grammar and structure. I just never got literature; my brain is missing the chip that recognizes that the butterfly is a symbol of her longing for freedom. . . But DEUSEXMACHINA is a term I've always remembered because it seems to be BREAKINGTHERULES of story writing.

FINESSE for FINAGLE kept me from the reveal for a bit. Kept wanting KONRAD or LORENZ for 99A, but I guess he wasn't a physician.

@Foodie - I agree - I was surprised when Rex called this a rebus.

@Rex - I'll contribute. I've only recently discovered this site, and it's already something I look forward to everyday. I have a friend here in Charleston, Dr. Liu, who does the NYT crossword every day, too. We email each other comments about them. I was explaining to my husband about this site - "It's a whole bunch of Dr. Lius all at once!" Thanks!

Donkos 9:50 AM  

@s James - a couple of weeks back a clue had two seemingly valid answers: "acted like Jeeves". The answer was "valeted" but some people got "buttled" (something a butler did?). So now I like to refer to this form of misdirection as being buttled. Old bat and old bag are the perfect buttle because tests and gests both seem to work. The only reason I got gests is that I knew this word from previous puzzles. Is there any connection between Beau Geste and Gest?

My only overwrite today was admites - I had adamists. Other than that, finished this one in record time. favorite answer was dues ex machina just because it's a cool term - got it right off the clue

@rex the check is in the mail.

JenCT 10:03 AM  

XYLEM and STOMATA were right up my alley, of course.

Had help from hubby on this puzzle: gave me PHONOGRAPH NEEDLE, and when APP wouldn't work for Angry Birds, e.g., he offered "How about a complete waste of time?"

I actually thought Rex would hate this puzzle - go figure.

Totally agree: "perhaps unsurprisingly, I get Taft-HARTLEY confused with SMOOT-HAWLEY."

Took a while to see BRONX BOMBERS.

What an exciting first game yesterday, followed by a snoozer.

Tobias Duncan 10:04 AM  

WIll is going to give the final word on ILLIN/WACK this morning on NPR(Weekend Edition Sunday)

redhed 10:04 AM  

Loved the puzzle, probably because I was able to finish it on my own. Two things that occured to me while solving: "Finn" is the mascot name for Goldfish crackers; and I always laugh over "Mason-Dixon Line" because Robin Williams once called it the "Manson-Nixon Line" in a comedy routine.

captcha: "doutch" -- I am not about to go there!

Tita 10:05 AM  

I predict lots of folks set their phasers to stun (like me).
My Sec sends my RSVPs… and my hero performs fEaTS.

DNF due to dumb mistake in thinking I had heard that MAcON lost its cedilla. Serves me right for being a Yankee. At least I knew Da Bronx Bombers…

Oddest thing I learned today was that I.M. Pei designed the NASCAR HofF.
Favorite clue: 13D It’s lowered to hear music...
2nd fav – Person who’s a zero – sister was a OPERATOR back in the day…
Good thing EMOTICON was there to keep this from being a total geezer puzzle...
Mini-botanical theme with STOMATA and XYLEM...phloem, anyone??

I liked the simple theme, and thought it was an easy, clever puzzle.

M07S 10:06 AM  

@Foodie and @loren muse smith, Rex said he "at first" thought it was a rebus.

This blog is the highlight of my morning. As much as I hate to part with money, I'm gonna PayPal Rex a sawbuck. It's certainly worth it.

PHONOGRAPHNEEDLE slid instantly into place, which gave me Poodle, which gave me the reveal. A very fun puzzle.

Tita 10:16 AM  

Thanks Rex for the blog. M07S and foodie sum up my feelings about it.

I will snail mail you my offering, which will avoid the misasmic tyranny (and percentage) of Paypal, and keep stepson mailman in his job...

Fred 10:26 AM  

I like Sundays most of all, mostly for the challenge of clever wordplay in the theme. (And I did today's on the iPad, where I absolutely could see the whole grid at once.) But, well, consider me pretty MEH on this one. No real satisfaction in the answers, nothing to connect them beyond the not terribly interesting rebus. A fine enough puzzle, but less fun than I hope for on a Sunday.

Lindsay 10:26 AM  

Seemed very slow going, but I think that's because it's about 50 in my house, which was built a century or two before insulation was invented. My brain and my fingers are frozen.

Nonetheless, only one writeover ---the Ecru swan's bill. Didn't major in orinthology. Or Keats for that matter.


Fred 10:27 AM  

Or "rebus." What would one call this?

quilter1 10:31 AM  

@Deb, if memory serves (and often it doesn't) boxer Joe Louis was called the Brown Bomber.

I liked the puzzle. I generally ignore circles unless they are vital to solving so didn't see the cats and dogs until coming here. But I really liked those long downs and for me, too, MASONDIXONLINE just jumped into my head with no crosses except the M. I also liked PHONOGRAPHNEEDLE,being a geezer who remembers them. DEUSEXMACHINA took longer to see as my beach town was DELrey and I had ewer before VASE. But soon fixed and done before church, which I rate easy.

After church today we will celebrate my Mom's 85th birthday and my youngest bro's 55th. Happy birthday Mom and Clinton.

Loren Muse Smith 10:35 AM  

@MO7S "The core of this theme isn't that interesting to me. I've seen a Cats and Dog rebus before, I think, and I'm certain that you could create theme answers ad infinitum that fit this them."

I take it from this that he's calling today's puzzle a rebus?

quilter1 10:45 AM  

And I forgot to say that CASTLEINSPAIN is very familiar as a metaphor for day dreaming.

Nitpick 10:46 AM  

"Calico" is a color variation, not a breed, like all the other cats and dogs. It seems with all the hundreds of choices, this shouldn't be included.

Z 10:53 AM  

@quilter1 - you memory serves, The Brown Bomber has a hockey arena named in his honor and a monument to his fist on Jefferson Avenue here in Detroit.

"Too precious by half" was my first thought on the theme. I have a friend who was born and raised in Lebanon before coming here because of the civil war. He often comments on how much more concern America shows for our cats and dogs than our poor and unemployed.

I like the puzzle and would have been just as happy if it had been presented as a themeless.

The Sunday Puzzle is what drew me into solving, and it was Natick that drew me to Rexville. I still enjoy a summer Sunday Morning on the porch with my NYT and my coffee.

jackj 11:11 AM  

Charming puzzle, absolutely charming; (even PETA should approve, although confining the pets to those little circles might bring some howls of protest).

From PHALANX to EPITHET and OPERATOR to EARMARKS, the youthful Finn Vigeland gives us a winner on his second go at it, the first being a Wednesday puzzle a year or so back.

The theme was clever and fun and the theme answers were a cut above, especially ANTIPERSPIRANT, (where Rex’s comment has provided a perfect example of TMI).

The fill was delightfully imaginative, as DEUSEXMACHINA appears not as a contrivance but as the real McCoy, and FATIGUES, FINAGLE, PREACHY and ZIPIT also keep things flowing at a lively pace.

SORBETS gave me a reminder of a recent outing to our local Stop & Shop supermarket in search of lemon sherbet only to be told by the young man restocking the freezers that they didn’t carry lemon sherbet but they did have lemon sorbet. Aaargh, now serving ignominy in aisle 10!

Thanks, Finn, ‘twas fun!

Another advisory that the check is in the mail. I can't imagine not being able to participate with this special group!

KRMunson 11:17 AM  

@Rex Loved the pic of "WNET" Gingrich :-)

I have used the term "goober" for many years as a (more) derogatory term for a dweeb...

Deus ex machina? Never heard of that one before.

joho 11:25 AM  

I was expecting to see more cats and dogs show up in the grid, but was very happy with the ones that did. I got the theme at BREAKINGTHERULES which I loved because we've been talking about just that lately.

One mistake with yARD instead of WARD, I didn't catch yNET.

@loren muse smith, Rex just thought this might be a rebus at one point, he didn't say it was.

chefbea 11:33 AM  

What a fun easy puzzle today. Got Raining cats and dogs right away and when I got castle in Spain, thought everything was going to rhyme with rain!!

Have never heard of cicely - an herb. I'll have to google it.

Of course I will donate to the cause...Will attach my $ to a bunch of beets!!

M07S 11:35 AM  

@loren muse smith, Ya got me there. Very curious categorization. I have a friend who mangles the English language. In particular he says ever what for whatever. So...ever what.

archaeoprof 11:39 AM  

Never heard of DR T. Thought maybe MR T had earned a PhD.

@Foodie: amen, sister! Pass the collection plate.

Norm 11:50 AM  

Yay Niners! (No crying in the beer in this house.) Just had to get that out of my system. Count me as a meh on this one. Don't know if Merl Reagle reads your blog, but I'd swear he had the identical theme (including circled names) some years ago. (Of course, I've been doing his Sundays since the early 80's so that covers a lot of ground.) Just couldn't get excited about this iteration. Thanks for the blog, Rex.

Joe in Montreal at -4 11:58 AM  

Nice puzzle. I thought 66 across but then said "not in January". It might have been nice if this puzzle was saved for March or April.
Early on at 48 across I put in STOP and at 53 across SWAT. That gave me A_ _SWER etc and for the life of me I couldn't fit 2 extra Ns into it. Then TORT resolved it for me.
CALICO might not be a breed but the author didn't mention breeds.

r.alphbunker 12:28 PM  

Let Ti be the total number of answers that were initially entered incorrectly.
Let Ta be the total number of answers
Let D be the duration of the solve.
Then 1000 * (Ti/Ta)/D is the misdirection ratio or tita ratio for short. Today my tita ratio was 1000*(14/140)/27 = 1.4 which is unusually high for a Sunday puzzle. Normally it takes me longer and I have fewer writeovers.

John Hoffman 12:30 PM  

I just gave $5 through paypal. Took me 30 seconds. $5 is a negligible amount but would add up if everyone gave this. I think that it's good to give something to support the costs if you're enjoying this blog.

Mel Ott 12:44 PM  

I usually enjoy learning a new word, but I will try to forget today's ALBEDO. Good puzzle tho.

Yes, Joe Louis was known as the BROWN BOMBER. Feels just a tad racist - I suppose it was a nickname bestowed on him by white boxing writers. Altho he got lots of coverage in the black press of the time - not sure whether black writers used it or not.

David 12:51 PM  

For whatever reason, this puzzle reminded me of the types of Sundays I cut my teeth on back in college - just lots of fun, interesting long answers with fun revelations occurring throughout, with a cool aha moment when PERSIAN and POODLE gave me the grid-spanning revealer with just a few crosses.

Rex, as many others have said, you will be getting a letter from me as well. It's been a really tough year in several ways, and the crossword world, anchored by this blog, has been just huge in providing a really fun daily respite. Rexville will always be my #1 go-to, but I now daily visit other blogs, try the meta-puzzles, can crank thru the BEQs, and have even come to really enjoy the Rows Garden puzzles. I'm very appreciative of this site and the folks who contribute.

On to the Acrostic...

tptsteve 1:04 PM  

I was hot and cold on this one. NE corner gave me fits, but the rest of the puzzle flowed relatively easily.

I actually bought a turntable a few weeks ago, and last night, put the needle onto Three Dog Night's Never Been to Spain- 1st song on the B side of their greatest hits.

Someday, I'd like to see the Gingrich picture next to EFT- too bad it didn't appear today, but everytime I see that crosswordese, that's the image that pops into my mind.

Rudy Shankar 1:18 PM  

Nice Sunday puzzle, great clues. Really liked 13 d for PHONOGRAPHNEEDLE. Since this invention we have had automatic changers, LPs, cassette tapes, 8 tracks, CDs and now the ubiquitous iPods. Along the way fidelity has made quantum leaps and size has diminished. Speaking of technology 13a clue PHASER and accurate measurement thereof and handling is one of the keys for the Smart Grid.

Isn't an HBEAM the more familiar IBEAM?


Love the Tita misdirection ratio! Assume you have benchmarks for different skill levels?

r.alphbunker 1:56 PM  

The tita misdirection ratio was inspired by this puzzle. How ironic that @Tita who is so good at communicating should be the eponym for a misdirection ratio.

Will track it for a while and see how relevant it is.

Tita 2:09 PM  

I certainly give you plenty of fodder - er - data points, since naive me gets caught regularly by misdirection...
(Though even if I'm smart enough to not fall into the trap, I will still tag it as such...so maybe you need to add into your algorithm "unsuccessful misdirects"...shall we call those "duds"?)

Wow - is this like being Michael Faraday, James Watt, or Franz MESMER?

Norm 2:09 PM  

A nickel a day = $18.25 for the year (okay, $18.30 for 2012, since it's a leap year). Say that you don't come every day. A nickel times 200 visits = $10. Ain't Rex worth a nickel?

Loren Muse Smith 2:30 PM  

@ archaeoprof -the ridiculous thought of Mr.T with a PhD made me smile.

@MO7S - I always love a good Language Mangler! When confronted with one, the Birkenstock-wearing Bohemian linguist in me delights and the sensible pump-wearing Capricorn pedant in me quietly takes note.

What is in my opinion the most spectacular language mangle came in the form of a malapropism, courtesy of Charles Shackleford, a basketball player at NC State back in the 80s. He went pro before graduating, which back then was newsworthy. A local news show was interviewing him about it, and when the reporter asked why he thought he could make it in the pros, he said, “Left hand, right hand, it doesn't matter. . .” then he looked straight into the camera and said, “ I’m amphibious.” If this wasn’t funny enough, the next week coach Valvano was being interviewed, and Shack’s name came up. Valvano said, “At least he’ll earn enough money so he can buy himself a big aquarium to live in.”

CFXK 2:43 PM  

54A is factually inaccurate. There is NO truth to the assertion that WNET is the flagship station of PBS. PBS does not HAVE a flagship station. This term in commercial television refers to the owned and operated stations of ABC, CBS and NBC in New York where each has its corporate headquarters. PBS is not headquartered in New York; it is headquartered in Arlington, VA. It does not own or operate any stations; it is simply a consortium of and distribution system for independently owned public stations, and WNET is just one of hundreds of members of this consortium, with no special status or authority. Though WNET produces some programs for the consortium, it doesn't even come close to being the largest producer of programming for PBS. In no way does it fulfill any legitimate criteria for being a "flagship" station -- unless you consider the conceit of New Yorkers who believe that "if it's in New York, it's gotta be flagship" as a legitimate criterion. I am disappointed to learn that Rex has seen this factual error repeated in other crossword puzzles. And disappointed that Will let this obvious error slip by. The assertion that WNET is the flagship station is not a matter of argument; it's just factually wrong.

JaxInL.A. 2:55 PM  

Anyone else have SPCA for org. that may assess violence levels?

I enjoyed the visual aspect of the non-consecutive theme letters looking like they are raining down the grid.

Thanks, Rex, for the link to the L.A. Crossword Tournament. I just registered, and I look forward to having at least as much fun there as I had last year (more than a barrel of monkeys). Hope to meet many of you there, too.

I hope that in the new year I find a new job that pays more and has health care, and that lets me make an automatic recurring contribution here. PayPal makes it easy to set up, and you can set it and forget it. I'd happily pay $10/month for the pleasure and camaraderie I get here. Just a suggestion. Have to do a one-time again for now.

Big Cyndi Fan 3:05 PM  

Fave blog moment: "True Colors" video. Cryptic. Fascinating. Beautiful. thUmbsUp.

See you and raise you one: www.youtube.com/watch?v=D7E0uA0WrDk

Go, Houston.


Lewis 3:10 PM  

Hand up of OLDBAT/TEST.

I've never heard of CASTLEINSPAIN as meaning daydreaming.

A fun and for me relatively easy Sunday -- I enjoyed it Finn!

Anonymous 3:48 PM  

CFXK - Flagship, among other things, means the best or most important of a group or system.

WNET produces more content for the PBS system than any other PBS provider, has the largest viewing audience, budget, and pays the most to support PBS.

What parts of this doesn't mean best or most important?

GILL I. 4:13 PM  

I had fun with this Sunday puzzle. Started it last night but was just too giddy to finish it after watching the 49er game squeeker. Finished this morning with plenty of smiles. Liked GOOBER crossing DWEEBS both sounding like 6 year old retorts.
@Deb I had BROWN BOMBER too and looked it up trying to figure where this part of the brain it came from. Turns out the first Google shows an Urban Dic. account of something some dude does in his pants.
The first puzzle I ever did was the NYT Sunday. It would take me days but I wouldn't give up till I finished. I still won't miss a Sunday.
@foodie: I ditto your thoughts.
A hand written note takes more time, but I feel sorry for the postmen.

foodie 4:20 PM  

Finn, do you speak French? That expression "construire des chateaux en Espagne" is definitely more common in French. It felt very easy and familiar in the puzzle, but when I read that it was not that familiar to Rex and others, I realized that its origin lay elsewhere.

@ Loren muse, I really laughed at that amphibian story, part I and part II !

I think one formula that can be used for calculating donations is to match the annual cost of coffee or other drinks you imbibe as you read Rex and the comments. That way it's pegged to how much you can afford to spend on guilty pleasures. @evil Doug, do you regurlalry hang out at Starbucks?

Ronsch 4:21 PM  

You've rejected advertising on your blog, but you posted an ad for Gingrich, a free one I suspect, but still an ad. You aren't being consistent, not to mention alienating people like my wife and I who were thinking about contributing.

We do love your blog. Every Sunday afternoon we go there to see how we did and read the great comments by and the other people.

P.S. I think you should include advertising.

Sparky 4:28 PM  

@Rube, goub sounds like gaum, meaning a big clumser in my Irish/American family. Later was told the whole expression was "like a gaum in a gaumlet." Someone standing befuddled in a crossroad. No doubt they are connected.

Hands up on CASTLEINSPAIN as day dreaming and Brown Bomber for Joe Louis. Helps to have lived the the 40s. Thanks @quilter1 and janie.

BEAGLE revealed first, which helped suss out POODLE and PERSIAN. I do use the theme as an aid when I can. ALso liked the raindrops giving the circles some reason for existence.

@Deb. I, too, have been to Ft. Collins. Have relatives there. We plan to visit again some day and I'd love to come by. Feel free if you are ever in the Village. Greaat pizza there.

@Rex. 25,000! You have my nickle. Love Cyndi Lauper. Stayed to listen to more. On to Monday

ksquare 4:37 PM  

For what it's worth:
1-Although the Mason-Dixon line was North of the South it was drawn to separate Pennsylvania from Maryland. Considering the state of the art at the time, it was quite accurate.
2-When an I-beam is turned on its side it becomes an H-beam, though it's rarely used that way.
3-OTIS B. Driftwood was Groucho Marx.
4-For those puzzled by AEDES yesterday,it is only half the name for the Aedes Aegypti mosquito which was found to transmit Yellow Fever in the early 1900s.
That's all I have for today, thank goodness!

JenCT 5:11 PM  

@loren 2:30: Love the basketball player story!

Eejit 5:24 PM  

I had WETA rather than WNET, but I guess it's not the flagship station just because it's here in the DC area. Big building though.

I don't do paypal so I'll have to look for my checkbook. I hope I can remember how to write one and find a mail box.

Irish Miss 5:53 PM  

Irish Lass

This one was slow-going for the longest while but I did finish without any G- ing. My local newspaper provides the Sunday Times Crossword, but Monday-Saturday is the LA Times so I only come here on Sunday. But that is enough to respond to Rex's request. Check on the way, Rex.

Stan 6:13 PM  

A 'kind of theme' I don't like (long words containing circled letters) became a theme I really did like -- and more so because the spelled out words helped get the longer ones. Nice job, Finn.

Contributing to Rex (however we may feel about his opinions on any given day) is most definitely ILLIN', not WACK.

Jenny 7:27 PM  

Though I don't comment here often, I very much appreciate the work you do, Rex, as well as the contributions of other solvers/enthusiasts. It's also reassuring to come here and see that others far more skilled in solving than I am have had the same issues (PHI for PSI, and FAA for ATC today). I will also admit to being a sucker for a good captcha - they so often seem eerily prophetic.

I know that the PayPal button is always there, but I fully support your annual reminder about the tip jar... Thank you, RP!

muctme - not sure what to make of this one!

Geometricus 7:48 PM  

Just gave my annual seven bucks: this is the only blog I read every day, going back and reading posts I missed. I was only an occasional solver until I found this blog that is fun and builds your solving skills and has sparkling personalities (like Andrea -- sigh!-- :)) that comment regularly. Thanks Rex, for providing us with such a fin playground of the mind.

Oh, when doing today's puzzle, I thought of the dumb 4th grade joke about raining cats and dogs and stepping in a poodle.

DannyB 7:50 PM  

Hand up for OLDBAT TESTS cross. Also, there was a rebus puzzle a while back where the rebus was 'CAT' and 'DOG'. This is most likley what big R was referencing, revealer was 'RAINING CATS AND DOGS'.

New Years resolution numero nueve . . . sign up with blogger and send Rex some dough!


Geometricus 7:56 PM  

Ha! It was a typo that I called Rex's blog a "fin" playground for the mind, but then I noticed that Finn is the name of today's constructor.

@Ronsch, do you really think Rex is a Newt-kind-of-guy? I highly doubt it. NEWT is an anagram for WNET. You should send Rex a few bucks now!

Noam D. Elkies 8:37 PM  

Nice Sunday puzzle. Yes, the constructor chose a theme that allowed for many options in the theme entries, and that's precisely what allows the grid to work so well without relying on a 111A:MIRACLE.

15D:ALBEDO and 73A:XYLEM aren't that hard, since the roots are familiar (ALB- = white, as in albumen [egg white], albino, the crosswordese alb, etc.; XYL- = wood, as in xylophone). 114A is indeed neat, and — if pieced together from the middle outwards — might mislead the solver into expecting some kind of sex machine...

22A:CASTLE_IN_SPAIN = enrocar? Only for Matt Gaffney :-)


xyz 8:40 PM  

COLDCASE? Twice in a week?

I hate circles

cangro - "can't grow original puzzle retort" ...

Clark 9:11 PM  

We did some intercontinental Skype puzzling tonight. That is always fun. And the three of us (Barcelona guy, semi-puzzle partner, and moi) together add up to a pretty formidable solver.

What we need now is an "It's Raining Men" puzzle.

fvigeland 9:30 PM  

Hi all, thanks for your kind words! I'm glad it seems like most of you enjoyed the puzzle. Yes, I was going for the idea that the cats and dogs are "raining" down the grid—hence, why they are vertical answers. I know circles aren't everyone's thing, so I was hoping that that added bonus would allow this one to be a worthy exception to BEQ's bullshit themes.

@foodie—don't know French, but cool to hear that that expression is common there! Thanks so much.

And indeed, reading Rex (and Amy and Deb) is always an incentive to finish a puzzle. The check's in the mail!

Anonymous 10:09 PM  

In French they say "Faire du chateaux en Espagne," which means "to make a castle in Spain," or to dream. I learned this in Dijon in 1976 and am thrilled to dredge this up for the first time since then.

Very tough, but I managed to get this done, with my husband right behind me.

David G. 10:27 PM  

As a resident of the "First State", Delaware, I would contest 31-down. Delaware is entirely EAST of the Mason-Dixon Line. So, the Mason-Dixon Line is not just "north of the South".

Octavian Ex Machina 11:51 PM  

Easy and fairly dull puzzle-- the theme is so thin as to practically not exist. I am surprised people liked this one. As the grid itself said, "Meh."

Mike 2:43 PM  

I thought it was a great puzzle, a lot of fun. Yes, there are probably thousands of breeds of cats and dogs, but not that many that normal people know.

As far as donating to the blog, that brings up the persistent Internet compensation dilemma. Yes, the blog author is important, but how many readers would the blog have if there were no comments? In other words, the blog has little value without the readers, but the readers who give the blog value are being asked to financially support the blog (hence, themselves).

Anonymous 4:46 PM  


It might be worth pointing out that Finn is a 20-year old college kid! Looking forward to more great stuff from this young man...

Anonymous 6:41 PM  

I read this blog every Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday and am happy for the opportunity to contribute. It makes my puzzle solving, or lack thereof, much more enjoyable. And I've learnt a thing or two.

Anonymous 9:42 PM  

I like this blog. I'd be lost without. How do I send a Paypal donation?

poflynn 2:16 PM  

(A bit late here) A better song for the Castle in Spain would be Jimi Hendrix's Spanish Castle Magic.

Anonymous 6:04 PM  

This may sound bizarre, but the cats and dogs clue said "represented visually," and I think it's not the just the cats and dogs names in the downs; if you connect one circled letter to the next and look sideways at the puzzle, you've drawn something that looks a whole lot like a dog and a cat or a couple of dogs. Try it. Am I nuts? There seem to be tails and everything.

Anonymous 1:13 PM  

Spacecraft here. Finished in pretty quick (for me) time, but with a single wrong letter. I did not know any PBS stations by their call letters (though I soon know the channel number wherever I am), and prison WARD never occurred to me; I went with YARD. In retrospect, I should have known that a string of call letters starts with either K or W. I blame constructors only when it's their fault; today's gaffe was mine.
The west gave me a bit of a problem when for the longest time I couldn't come up with ALUMNI Hall, though in my defense I've never actually been on a campus (and I've been on several) with a place called "Alumni Hall."
The clue for 13d should read "It's lowered by your grandfather to hear music." Don't worry: I got it--because I'm the grandfather--but it seems unfair to the "diaper dandies" among us. I'll wager no one born after 1980 ever lowered one of those to hear music.
I liked GEORGE crossing his team, and the marvelous word FINAGLE. But for the glitch at 54, I thought this puzzle was very easy--but still enjoyable.

Dirigonzo 2:10 PM  

Like @Gill I.P. I started doint NYT puzzles with the syndicated Sunday puzzle in my local paper - can't imagine ever not doing them because they're too big or time consuming (but then, I have lots of free time).

Thanks to 107d I will henceforth and forevermore equate Climax with ACME - I'm not sure that's a good thing.

I consider my annual contribution to RP as penance for coming here almost every day and writing ridiculous stuff like that, and as my expression of thanks to Rex for letting me.

Anonymous 4:56 PM  

As an engineer, we always called them I-Beams. Guess if you turn them on their side they are H beams, but they are stronger in the "I" position.

Castle in Spain messed with me, because I didn't get Dr.T and had thought of private message (PMS) instead instant message. Had guessed on "Back to Camp".

I, too, wanted FAA but I finally figured out alumni and that was that.

This was one of the easiest puzzles I've had in a while.

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