Apollo Daphne sculptor / WED 2-15-12 / Musician/record producer Bobby / Mythological figure being kissed in a statue at the Louvre / Salinger title girl / Producer of the 2600 game console

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Constructor: Peter A. Collins

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: TAKING THE STAIRS — this phrase is found in circles that zigzag down the grid in imitation of a staircase. Two theme answers tie in:
  • BROKEN ELEVATOR (3D: Possible reason for [see circled letters])
  • NEEDING EXERCISE (11D: Possible reason for [see circled letters])
Word of the Day: Bobby ELI (29D: Musician/record producer Bobby) —
Bobby Eli is a Grammy Award winning musician, arranger, composer and record producer from Philadelphia, USA. He is a founding member and lead guitarist of Philadelphia studio group MFSB. (wikipedia)
• • •

This is an interesting use of circles, but NEEDING EXERCISE is not a great answer. It's just ... off. Not that thrilled about BROKEN ELEVATORS being in the plural, either. If the elevator is truly "broken," and the issue is not just power, than the plural seems far less likely than the singular. But still, the main problem is NEEDING EXERCISE which is impossible to imagine. "Hey, why are you TAKING THE STAIRS?" "NEEDING EXERCISE." "Uh ... OK." Maybe if you're an ESL student. Maybe. Otherwise, not a credible response. Not a phrase anyone has said, in a stand-alone way, ever. GET MORE EXERCISE is very, very in-the-language, and fits. Surely the clues could've been reimagined slightly to accommodate an actual phrase instead of whatever NEEDING EXERCISE is. "Needing" and "reason" (clue word) aren't even plausibly parallel. Always disappointing when a decent idea is marred by weak execution like this.

I seem to have been unusually fast today (3:30-ish), and I'm not sure why, as I don't really see the difficulty in this puzzle. I mean, the ELI clue is from outer space, true, but the rest seemed right over the plate. In fact, the only part of the grid that gave me any resistance was stupid NEEDING (and BERNINI, which I really should've known; 25A: "Apollo and Daphne" sculptor). I think I might have written in NEEDS TO EXERCISE as an initial stab (which is bad, but doesn't seem that much worse than NEEDING EXERCISE, frankly). Maybe the [Massenet opera] (THAÏS) was troublesome to people? But once I had "THA-," I knew it. I just had a conversation recently with someone who wondered why THAIS wasn't clued more often as the plural of THAI. That plural is certainly valid. Something to think about.

  • 59A: Mythological figure being kissed in a statue at the Louvre (PSYCHE) — kisser is Cupid. BERNINI also has work at the Louvre. 

  • 68A: Salinger title girl (ESME) — gimme. Crosswordese from the olden days.
  • 27D: Producer of the 2600 game console (ATARI) — five letters, game console, come on.
  • 31D: Stereotypical K.P. item (TATER) — awkward clue. First, the stereotype is a potato, not a TATER. Second, "item?" Boo.
  • 64D: Reactor-overseeing org. (NRC) — I get these initialisms more out of guesses and good luck than any real knowledge of what I'm talking about. AEC is a related initialism. Or else I'm making that up.
  • 39D: Liqueur served with coffee beans (ANISETTE) — I did not know that. I just saw "liqueur" and thought "which one has a lot of common letters?" Piece of cake.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


r.alphbunker 12:06 AM  

This appears to be a three story puzzle so here are three stories inspired by clues

1. 5D Infrequently seen bills.
My father played the horses and liked two dollar bills because they were convenient for placing bets. One of my earliest memories of my father was of him sitting with a pile of racing forms analyzing the races for the next day. It annoyed him no end when a friend's wife would place bets based on the jockey's shirt color and do better than him.

2. 31D Stereotypical K.P. item[TATER]
I have no recollection of every peeling a potatoe on KP. It was mainly mopping floors and cleaning trash cans. I loathed KP. I enlisted in the Army for photography. When I got to Ft. Monmouth I was told that the photography class was full and that I would be on KP for 6 months until the next class opened. Then I was told that I had the aptitude to repair crypto. Was I interested? It took about 15 seconds to change my career path from artist to scientist!

3. 48A Study of government [CIVICS]
I took a civics course in high school. The textbook was used and someone had written instructions on each page to go to another page. Following the instructions led you on a wild goose chase through the book ending with a page that had the message "You idiot" on it. This was my first exposure to a linked list.

foodie 12:18 AM  

Fun design!! Very cool idea and since I've been trying to use the stairs more often, it felt like a little pat on the back from Michigan Pete and the gods of crosswords.

I never gave the appropriateness of NEEDING EXERCISE a second thought until I read what Rex had to say, and now I'm unsure. I do understand Rex's complaint... May be if one flips it? NEEDING EXERCISE is a good reason to use the stairs? May be not? So confusing...

Speaking of which-- I've realized that where exercise is concerned, I NEED constant reinforcement. So, I have this thing called the Sriiv, and not only does it track your steps and give you data (!) going back a month, but you use your efforts to donate to a charity. I'm walking to get clean water to a village in South America. Now, NEEDING CLEAN WATER is my reason for TAKING THE STAIRS!

Pete 12:21 AM  

Where's the love in my life?

I'm watching the dog show and am amazed that 6 out of 7 of the dogs up for Best in Show are real dogs. German Shepherd, Dalmation, Doberman, real dogs. What wins? A stinking frou-frou dog. It took that frou-frou dog a half an hour to waddle one lap around the ring. The other dogs were a) perfect, b) real dogs and c)could kick that frou-frou dog's ass in about 1/2 second, even the dachshund.

I then come to this proper name-fest. ELI clued as Bobby ELI? At least it gave me the chance to decipher MFSB.

foodie 12:25 AM  

Oh, that thing is called Striiv...

Now, Pete, someday I'll buy you a cup of coffee and try to explain why GRANTS (30A) can almost be as much of a hindrance to research as they are aids. Enough said about them.

Loved the clues to PSYCHE,ASHTRAY and TODAY...

Tobias Duncan 12:38 AM  

Seems like ACTA fool was a lost opportunity for some current events fill.

I know not many of you follow the NPR Sunday Puzzle with Will but this weeks challenge was pretty cool I thought.
There is still time to submit an answer.

jae 12:41 AM  

Sailed through 95% of this one with no write overs then came to a screeching halt.   Took me as long to change PARER to TATER as it did to do the rest of the puzzle.  So, easy seems right.  Fairly smooth grid but nothing really jumps out at you.  How about "Morgue inhabitants " for 49d to add some zip?  

OK Wed. except for NEEDING....had the same take on it as Rex.

Anonymous 1:10 AM  

I notice XWord Info has shaded squares along the zigzag path. Rex has circles there instead of shades, but there's a shaded column with a highlighted letter I. Curious.

chefwen 1:24 AM  

Only six comments up so far and I am laughing my A$$ off.

@r.alphbunker - Can totally relate to your fathers angst with the wives betting rituals. I would often ask my colleagues if they wanted me to place a bet for them tomorrow as we were going to the track. "Yeah, bet on the jockey wearing a yellow shirt with black polka dots" and the s.o.b would win. After I spent hours studying formation.

@pete - Loved your doggy descriptions. My feelings exactly.

Non puzzle husband helped me, yet again, with 59A and 65A, guess I'll have to stop calling him that.

davko 1:58 AM  

Fancy seeing Bernini's masterpiece in a NYT crossword. With all deference to Michelangelo, this is absolutely the most breathtaking sculpture I ever laid eyes on -- bar none. And the Borghese Museum, where it resides, is one of Rome's best kept secrets -- a trove of great works by all the heavy hitters of the Renaissance.

You know you've been watching too much football when your first instinct is to write DAN in front of Marino (26A). Blame it on the Giants, and their riveting championship season.

Anoa Bob 2:01 AM  

DNF for me at 25A and 25D. Need to brush up on my sculptors and fashionistas.

What's up with the recent spate of gratuitous plurals in theme entries? Two yesterday converting 13 and 14 letter theme entries into 15's and today at 3D bumping a 14 to a 15. They are gratuitous because the singular versions answer the clues perfectly well and the pluralizations add nothing but the expediency of matching letter counts for other themes in the singular.

How is this not a major detraction from the puzzle's quality and integrity? Cheater squares are counted against a puzzle's standing and these strike me as theme cheater squares that sully the whole purpose of having themed puzzles to begin with.

Or is this a common, accepted practice and I'm just now noticing it after decades of solving?

Arena Civics Makers 4:08 AM  

You're just now noticing! ;)

Loved the construction but so so easy!
Altho did my one letter mistake: ToE/oLI.
Dumb but i thought maybe a toe had three joints!
And the record producer could have been anyone to me, altho OLI seems a bit unlikely in retrospect.

I'm a little sad that not one word jumps out at me...
Well, maaaaybe 57D...
I like r.alphbunker's stories tho.
Forget jockeys' shirts, Always choose horses by their names!!!

Anonymous 4:21 AM  

I had problems with this one.
Tougher Wed for me than normal.
Exhausting. Kinda like how I feel when I take the stairs.

Anonymous 5:01 AM  

Another day, another old-timey puzzle.

Maybe I'll stop with puzzles and return in 30 years and be as good as you guys.

Z 6:18 AM  

(I) NEED the EXERCISE seems a perfectly in the language response, so the gerund caused me a couple of writeovers.

I'll go with medium easy for me only because it took me until Northern California to grok the theme. Once I wrote in the E in UTE I saw BROKEN ELEVATORS, wrote in TAKING THE STAIRS and NEED the EXERCISE and flew through the rest. I have to agree with @RP that the "S" and "NEEDING" weaken an otherwise fine puzzle.

@Davko - I had -AN because I wondered if it was going to be dAN or SAN. Waited for SUMAC to appear to finish that region.

I thought that 49D would have fit in just swell in yesterday's romantic puzzle.

JenCT 6:54 AM  

Great comments: r.alph, Pete - LOL

Hand up for writing in DAN Marino - with NFL Network, I've been ODing on football...

ACT A fool reminds me of the Ludacris song from 2Fast 2Furious.

Agree with Rex about NEEDING EXERCISE.

Didn't know that DIET was another name for Parliament.

jberg 7:25 AM  

@JenCT - Some countries, I think Japan, call their parliament the DIET. Don't know why - maybe because they all need to TAKE THE STAIRS.

I saw Manon last month, so 5A was a gimme, except for its being wrong. Composers ought to be more thoughtful and vary the length of their opera titles. So was AmarETTO for 57A. Other than that, and thinking LEdO for a moment at 42A, it was a snap.

I don't mind the gerund - it's a list of reasons, not a conversation.

As for the plural ELEVATORS - I guess you wouldn't have to take the stairs if only one was broken, assuming that we're in a high-rise office building with lots of the things. I would have liked a more clealry plural clue, though.

Loren Muse Smith 7:50 AM  

I found this one easy owing to lots of crosswordese. Thanks, Peter, for the non-summer cluing of ETES. I'm still enjoying winter and dread the heat. Liked WANNA, ASHTRAY, and SARONG.

@jberg - I didn't object to NEEDINGEXERCISE either. But I'm wondering, if 54D parses as AN ION (I'm not scientifically inclined), why no one has objected to the article's being part of the answer.

John V 7:56 AM  

Sunrise over Charlotte. Played medium/challenging for me, I suppose because of the theme variation. Liked 36D answer, TODAY. Liked the theme answers going down, as in (wait for it) doing **DOWN** the stairs, a neat bit of construction with the two 15s.

THAIS a gimme. S'bout it.

David 8:04 AM  

Flew this one with a big exception at LETO/TATER. Like others, really wanted PARER, and couldn't get HERA out of my head for Apollo's mother. Otherwise, Easy-Medium Wednesday. Not a big fan of the them plural here either - as a result I spent a few seconds seeing if BROKEN ESCALATOR would fit, though in that case it becomes another set of stairs anyway.

Anonymous 8:29 AM  

I thought the obvious answer to 11 down was "NEEDTHEEXERCISE" which would be a reasonable answer to why take the stairs. Of course, had to lose that answer as I worked the acrosses.

efrex 8:37 AM  

Not feeling the hate on the two long downs - both feel fine to me, and the theme construction is certainly cute enough.

The fill, on the other hand, just has waay too much junk for my tastes. Proper nouns crossing crosswordese crossing foreign words everywhere you look, and ERSE, ESME, and ETES just don't belong in the same puzzle. Also grumbling a bit (with Rex) on the TATER clue.

Glad to see someone else threw down AMARETTO before ANISETTE. Not a big fan of either, although they can be useful in recipes...

AnnieD 8:47 AM  

@JenCT, an ion is a positively charged particle, an anion is a negatively charged particle. Don't ask me more as that's the extent of my knowledge of such things.

Re diet = parliament, the only reason I remember this one is from history class way back when when we used to laugh about the Diet of Worms...Germany that is, which came up with the Edict of Worms which condemned Martin Luther in 1521.

No real problems with this puzz...seemed easy for a Wed to me too. A few redos but nothing not easily corrected, like amaretto for anisette and hera for leto. For some reason, I always go to Zoey before Esme, despite the fact that that's not even how it's spelled. Go figure.

evil doug 9:01 AM  

An old poster here, Kurt Krauss, has the L.A. Times puzzle today. Pretty cute theme:



Tita 9:07 AM  

Old Geezer- COOT today, Biddie and OLDBAT Monday...equal time!

I liked the puzzle, though perhaps easy for a Wed. Maybe the left-hand theme should have read from bottom to top, to really drive home the TAKING of THE STAIRS.

@r.alph - I hope a Sunday puzzle comes along with multiple stories, so we can get more of those gems from you.

@Pete - agree with your dog assessment!

@Rex...think of the theme entries as the answers shouted by the over-eager Family Feud contestants...then the gerund is spot-on!

@Anon @ 1:10 - The highlighted column is just wherever Rex was in teh grid when he did the screenshot - totally random, no significance.
(I think he even has that on his faq page...!)

Evan 9:11 AM  

A hand up for probably the worst and/or funniest mistake anyone could make: I had TASER at 31-Down. Yes, TASER. You know, for military chefs who need extreme riot control equipment for all those riots breaking out in the mess hall.

I was nearly naticked by the BERNINI/BEENE crossing, but I was saved by a lucky guess on the B. I'm just not as up on my Baroque artists and fashion designers as I should be.

@ r.alph:

Your father's experience at the track mimics a lot of other sports fans' laments: When their non-sports-fan friends pick teams in their NCAA tournament brackets by the color of their uniforms, and do better than the ones who watch college basketball all the time. Or when your fiancee who doesn't watch football that often has a much better fantasy football season than you do. Which happened to me. This year.

chefbea 9:13 AM  

Fun easy puzzle. Loved the staircase.

I always have coffee beans in Sambucca.

@Davko You are right.the Borghese is fantastic. After going there we bought a small replica of Apollo and Daphne which is sitting on our mantle
along with Paolina. Love Bernini

jackj 9:20 AM  

Peter Collins once again gives us one of his signature puzzles; clever and original, but not quite special enough to satisfy the discerning, demanding crossword maven.

Peter’s puzzles are reminders of an ambitious inventor friend of mine who has a zillion ideas and gets patents for many but they just seem to fall short of glory and not a dime has ever been earned by him from his imagining. A “Rube Goldberg comes face to face with Horatio Alger and both blink” sort of effort.

Peter may serve up a three-course meal of frustrations but never let it be said he doesn’t entertain along the way. Certainly the stairs are clever but, ultimately, there’s no pay-off from the “weakish” theme entries.

And then, ELI? C’mon now, you can clue this better than referring to some obscure record producer known only to his immediate family and then ANISETTE? The liqueur laced with coffee beans, (always an odd number and usually three of them), is Sambuca. But, I guess, since Sambuca is the Italian version of ANISETTE, it slides by on a technicality. Ah well, just Peter being Peter.

Granted, WANNA was a fun entry for “Care to?” as was TODAY for “Hurry up!” whose “Y” begat a clever ASHTRAY clue which then joined itself to another fun answer, STIFFS.

So, I’ll concede a bit of fun was had by me with today’s puzzle but, Peter, how do you explain setting a new world record for most proper nouns ever in a 15x15 crossword puzzle?

quilter1 9:24 AM  

Had the t for old geezer and really wanted fart. Dang, and I thought the NYT was getting looser.

Did not mind the long downs and thought the stairs were cleverly done. I thought most of the fill was a cut above average. Liked it.

Anonymous 9:33 AM  

@AnnieD: Actually, an ion is a charged particle, either positive or negative. If it's positive, it's an cation, and if negative, it's an anion.

John V 9:39 AM  

@Evan re: TASER, thanks for chanelling my Ft. Knox KP experience.

Carisa 9:49 AM  

Can't help but comment on your choice of the Duran Duran video..."Last Chance on the Stairway"...less well known to most, but an all-time favorite of mine. Thanks!

Pete 9:50 AM  

If you are in a state of NEEDINGEXERCISE, wouldn't it be more beneficial to walk up the stairs rather than down?

GILL I. 9:51 AM  

@Pete: You made me look up MFSB and I don't even know why. BTW, the judge owns 2 Pekes!!!!
An o.k. puzzle with a "fill-in-the-blanks at your leisure feel to it. Like @Arena CM, no words jump out at me either. Maybe COOTS. Why is an old geezer named after a beautiful bird and we get "the old bat" treatment?
@R.Alph - thanks for starting the comments on a fun note..

joho 9:54 AM  

Very cute and relevant use of circles today.

I didn't have a big problem with NEEDINGEXERCISE and like the idea that all of elevators are broken so you have no choice but to take the stairs.

Thanks, Michigan Pete!

Joe 10:08 AM  

You HAVE TO put three coffee beans in your Sambuca, or it's bad luck.

archaeoprof 10:19 AM  

Another fan of Bernini and the Villa Borghese here.

NEEDING EXERCISE sounds okay to me.

@Foodie: agree with your comment about GRANTS. Where can we find out more about Striiv?

wyonative 10:20 AM  

I breezed through this one. Had goat before coot. I agree with those who find the gerund "needing" to be an acceptable construction, and I like the parallel noun phrases in the two themes.

Kathy 10:55 AM  

@Gill I.P. Did you find out what MFSB means? If so, please tell me because I didn't find the answer and have no clue as to what @Pete was referring to. Thanks!

Anonymous 11:00 AM  

Mother Father Sister Brother

hazel 11:02 AM  

@foodie - just checked out Striiv - seems like a very cool product. Thanks for mentioning.
@davko - me too on the DAN/SAN.
@rex - at first the NEEDING rant seemed a bit arbitrary to me - but when you talked about it holding you up, i began to feel that you hated it so much because it had cost you a few seconds - which seems just....off! Bordering on my own irrational dislike for ASTA!

I liked the theme well enough, but found the fill in the blanks a little annoying. I prefer clever clues.

GILL I. 11:16 AM  

@Kathy: Rex posted a Wiki re Bobby ELI. The group is called MFSB which stands for Mother Father Sister Brother. I personally was voting for the Irish Setter.

AnnieD 11:26 AM  

@anon, really?

I thought a cation was what I got from my cat when I was eating a tuna sandwich.

Anoa Bob 11:34 AM  

Acme, I would not be surprised to see gratuitous plurals in some publications, e.g., USA Today, but in the NYT? I thought air-tight theme entry consistency was de rigueur here.

How about verb tenses in theme entries? If making one into the past tense makes its letter count match others in the present tense, is that okay too? Or maybe an adverbial "-ly" tacked on to one of a group of adjectives in one's theme emtries. Where does it stop?

PETER 11:35 AM  

@ jackj I see how it is. I'm like the baseball player with "warning track power", eh?

As for NEEDING EXERCISE, my original submission had NEED THE EXERCISE. It got nixed by the boss -- sent back for a revision.

I'm glad my clue for SAN (___ Marino) was kept. It's a shout-out to my wife's family. Through my father-in-law's bloodline, my wife and our kids are citizens of San Marino -- a small (population 30,000) land-locked republic inside Italy. Of course, my wife says that when the terrorists board the airplane we're on looking for Americans, she's going to whip out her San Marino passport as she wishes me "Arrivederchi!".

- Pete Collins

Kathy 11:37 AM  

@Anonymous 11:00AM & @Gill I.P.
Thanks for the explanation.

hazel 11:50 AM  

@PETER - love that phrase WARNINGTRACKPOWER! That would be an awesome entry for a Sunday theme around the idea of "not quite good enough". I don't think you/your puzzle fits in that category, by the way!!

Theoda3rd 12:10 PM  

Couldn't agree more. A pekingese ? Gimme a break!

Pete 12:17 PM  

Damn, my guess for MFSB was only 1/4th correct. I'm betting Mother, Father, Sister Brother was a retronym, that originally it was Mother F&^*ers Sound Bad!, a much more South Philly ca '70s name for an R&B group.

Lewis 12:49 PM  

@evan 9:11 (I like the rhyme) -- I almost put in TAsER also, then kept telling myself, "no, no, I've never seen that!"

When I had KP in the army, the sergeant actually spilled grease all over the floor and had us clean it up with toothbrushes! This was supposed to build obedience but of course it just built resentment, and thoughts of rebellion. I might have preferred that taser.

Two Ponies 12:55 PM  

Thanks for stopping by Peter.
I enjoyed this one and the visual.
Liked all the classical stuff countered by fun stuff like Eddie Munster. Loved artesian.
Like @ Tita I smiled at the old coot after old bat Mon.

Craig ... 12:58 PM  

I’m mystified by what it might be that Rex thinks bars “needing exercise” from being a great answer. Rex’s explanation seems to suggest that Clues and Solutions should be required to function naturally as realistic bits of imagined conversation. But that can’t be that guiding principle, can it? For example, 1A would sound odd in the form that Rex suggests: “Hey, what’s being kept on you?” “Tabs.” “Uh ... OK.”
“Get more exercise” doesn’t seem to fit either: “Hey, why are you taking the stairs?” “Get more exercise.” “Uh ... OK.”
I must be missing something, I’m sure I am. I’m positive about that. But what?

Rube 1:11 PM  

Starting with Hera, then Lena, then finally LETA with it's cross TATER took me as long as the rest of the puzzle. Also wanted iNanE before SNORE. Had livE before RARE, but that fixed itself immediately. Otherwise, no write-overs, except...

I'd like to take a count of those who entered dAN Marino first... my hand is up.

I'm not sure about flicks in ASHTRAYs. Is this some slang that I don't think I've ever heard? Sure you would "flick" the ashes, but that's a verb usage. Well, maybe this is just another case of a crosswordese stretch.

(Wrote this last night, but the WV didn't take.)

dk 1:18 PM  

I would like to see ACMEs... speaking of gratuitous plurals.

Thought this puzzle would be somehow related to DNA as in 1/2 a helix. But I was wrong. Again.

Had LETO as eETO in the end. Solver error.

The rest of the puzzle was -- as we say when asked about our third cousin who was our blind date set up by our respective mothers: She was... err nice.

** (2 Stars) This old COOT thinks this puzzle needs a kick in the aRSE.

DL 1:31 PM  

Two or more broken elevators does seem unlikely, but both elevators in my previous apartment broke down simultaneously and for different reasons. It *would* happen to me, but it was much more likely to happen to my roommate at the time who was on crutches. Such is life.

Bird 1:57 PM  

Nice Wed puzzle. Breezed, or so I thought, until I started the downs (I do across then down). Had EYES for 1A, PIANO for 37A and GOAT for 62A. A little messy, but no big deal.

Agree with @Rex about 11D. I had EXERCISE, but only a couple letters above so I put in NEEDTHE. I say it all the time after people look at me funny when I decide to walk up or down a couple flights of stairs. And I always get there first.

@r.alphbunker – re betting: I was at Saratoga, NY reading the forum and noting my bets in the margin, when the horses walked past on the way to the track. This one horse looked at me and, I swear, winked. I crossed out all my notes and wrote #4 to win. Well, he won the race and the weekend was paid for. Good times.

Why couldn’t 29D be clued as “Super Bowl MVP ___ Manning”? Go Giants!

Like @jackj, I wanted Sambuca for 39D. Very good with espresso. Cin cin!

Tita 2:51 PM  

Since @Deb hasn't started the Downton Abbey blog, let me risk posting this here, since everybody was talking about Dan MARINO today:

Super-proper Bowl

(No spoilers...)

Wood 3:14 PM  

Had the same experience ad @jae: flew through but hung up for an embarrassingly long time in Virginia. Had NEED___EXERCISE and could NOT for the life of me see NEEDING, even though I was pretty sure the G of ORGAN was correct. Wanted NEEDS TO or NEED FOR. Doesn't help that KP does not evoke any stereotype in my mind, so TATER seems even more out of left field than Rex pointed out. I doubled my finishing time because of those eight last squares.

Still, loved the staircase (and kudos to the c

Wood 3:16 PM  

Sorry: Kudos to the constructor for operating under such a large number of constraints--in addition to the two long downs, there is a theme letter in every row of the puzzle.

DigitalDan 3:56 PM  

The gerunds are descriptive phrases, not familiar descriptive phrases. That's OK. English is good at letting you string words together to convey meaning, whether it's been done before or not. The plural for elevators to me makes it generic: whenever the elevator is broken, one resorts to using the stairs. No problems here.

jackj 4:06 PM  

Now, now, Peter, you may remember it wasn't so long ago that I gave a Peter Collins puzzle an unqualified rave against then popular opinion to the contrary.

I'm always fascinated by your output because no one is more productive and creative than you but somehow, the end result of your great ideas often indicates you're playing with "warning track power", as you so eloquently put it.

There's nothing wrong with hitting singles and doubles, but there are round-trippers in your bat and they deserve to be aired out.

Keep 'em coming, I've never not enjoyed solving them.

Maxwell 4:07 PM  

I printed a PDF from the NYT website. It had neither shaded areas nor circles. So I didn't have a "clue" until I read this blog.

Anonymous 4:16 PM  

I may be in the minority. I solve the puzzle because it's fun. I do not time myself. I do not hurry. Sometimes I put it aside to do something else, then come back. Then I read the blog and realize that other solvers are nutty as hoot owls.

Z 4:35 PM  

Thanks for stopping in @PETER. Knowing now that you started with NEED THE EXERCISE and changed it to NEEDING on directions from the editor, I went back and looked again. That change gave us the popular BERNINI, GRANTS, ORGAN, and I assume led to IN A SNARL. I'd say that's a strong set of answers so the change was probably a good idea.

So now I'm thinking a little clue tweaking (as suggested by Rex-do I get demerits for agreeing with him?) for 11D would have turned this into a home run instead of a double off of the wall.

Susan 4:43 PM  

@ ChefBea - I always have coffee beans in Sambucca too and was actually thinking that when I came up with Anisette - both licoricy? (Not a word)
@Pete - I actually watched the dog show with my Doberman and Mini-Pin Chihuahua. I was jumping for joy when the Dobe won her class and pissed that that waddling Pekinese got top honors. I blame it on the judge.
I actually liked today's puzzle as a quick lunch break from work. Easy was good.

Z 4:45 PM  

@Anon at 4:16 - You might want to read #6 of Rex's FAQs before you go around insulting hoot owls.

sanfranman59 4:48 PM  

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

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

Wed 10:57, 11:49, 0.93, 37%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Wed 5:47, 5:52, 0.99, 51%, Medium

Two Ponies 4:52 PM  

I decided to take the plunge so any Downton Abbey fans can visit Dishing on Downton on blogger.
Then we can chat without clogging up Rexville.

long suffering mets fan 4:57 PM  

@anon 4:16 -- "nutty as hoot owls" is a bit extreme, "somewhat obsessed" probably

hand up for sambucca before anisette, with 2 c's of course

Non-puzzle hint I know this group isn't the most sports savy bunch (Tobias), but if you haven't heard or read about Jeremy Lin of the NY Knicks, go read about him and what hes accomplished over the last 2 weeks -- Harvard educated, cut by 2 different teams, pressed into service only because of other's injuries on his 3rd team

what an incredible story !

Mighty Nisden 4:58 PM  

Ahh. Quite a trip from Syndiland. I could hold off no longer and wanted to join the group/family of NYT bloggers and @rex prime timers. I've been solving for about 9 months and found this blog so fun and educational (as to understanding crosswords) that I became a regular. So to the joy of the NYT marketing crew, and what I figure should be a kickback to Rex I bought the subscription to the puzzle.
5 weeks ago, to all of you, the discussion surrounded @evil and his input. I was shocked and a little disappointed to not see his input today, and being a good IT geek, checked the last few days. Happy that I see you are still here @evil.
Now about todays puzzle, hand up for the dAN Marino and also for amerETTo. Held me back, but overall a good solve.

Two Ponies 5:01 PM  

I'm a technical idiot.
You might need to use
to find the above-mentioned blog.

long suffering mets fan 5:10 PM  

Mea culpa -- make that savvy. Apparently I have trouble with double c's and double v's

Yes, I too am always hopeful that Evil Doug will enlighten/educate/entertain us each day

jackj 5:11 PM  

Instead of a random string of letters to be repeated before posting, lately, I have been getting a message "Please prove you're not a robot" with two very blurry strangely spelled words which need to be replicated in order to post.

I'm getting them wrong more than half the time and wonder if anyone else is sharing this weird problem?

Z 5:23 PM  

@Two Ponies - I've never watched, but a link, Dishing on Downtown, might help people find you. Good Luck.

Mighty Nisden 5:23 PM  

@jackj - Funny, my first post was of the normal kind, but this one is as you say, two very blurry words. Hmm. Maybe someone is trying to robot in.

As another aside, picking now to move to real time also allows me to miss the SB musings that a SF Niner fan would have to read through!

John V 5:26 PM  

NUTTYASHOOTOWLS -- great 15 fill/thems, is what I'm sayin'

John V 5:27 PM  

Theme, that is.

Bird 5:28 PM  

@longsuffering - As a Knicks fan I have been following the Lin story. I am also waiting for the fire to burn out. How many times have we seen this team light a fire only to have it blown out by another star or team. I hope to be proven wrong and Lin steers this team the way a good point guard is supposed to and I hope Stat and Melo do not mess up the chemistry. Lintastic story indeed!

@jackj - I only get "Word Verification" and one captcha

JenCT 5:37 PM  

@Mighty Nisden: funny you should say that - NFL Network is replaying the SF/GB game right now.

long suffering mets fan 5:45 PM  

@Bird -- yes I know 1973 was a long time ago, even longer than 1986 for my team, but theres something different here -- yes, he can't go to his left and he turns the ball over too much, but there hasn't been this much buzz from the Garden since Ewing

Did you see the look on Stat's face when Lin fed him the ball last night. Melo will drink the kool-aid as well....Have faith my friend

chefbea 5:50 PM  

@JackyJ got the robot note while trying to leave a coment on Jodi's kitchen and home and also Elizabeth minchilli in Rome.
and also here now

Two Ponies 5:51 PM  

@ Z, you ae most kind. If you have a moment, could you e-mail me on how to do that magic?

I'm getting the double word verification too. It says "Please prove you're not a robot". Where are my glasses?

Mighty Nisden 5:55 PM  

As I am catching up from syndiland there has been two obvious robot type of posts on the blog from 5 weeks ago. They must be upgrading the verification to keep this from happening.

mac 6:18 PM  

Easy and fun puzzle, again, with "needing" filled in before I had to think about it.

Also hesitated between Dan and San and I only know about coffee beans in Sambuca.

foodie 7:35 PM  

@peter, interesting re the revision of NEEDING!
I really liked hearing about the connection to your wife's family. And I read some of your daughter's blog. That place sounds FABULOUS! Makes me want to go there!

@archaeoprof, if you google Striiv you'll get the lowdown. I promise I don't work for them, but I love the idea of an additional purpose to my walking...

Anonymous 9:30 PM  

I thought I was on Jacob's Ladder going to heaven and then I came here....


Captcha: nogert - a lo cal yogurt?

Sallie 9:31 PM  

We are planning a trip to New York this summer and we we want to participate in Lalapuzzoola. Does anyone know of a date yet or when a date might be set?

retired_chemist 10:06 PM  

Easy. Hand up for Manon. Nothing to add to what else has already been said about the puzzle.

I am late to the party because we were flying back from the Westminster dog show. Our golden retriever Jerry Lee received an Award of Merit,but only the Best of breed winners goes on to the Group and is seen on broadcast TV. So you have to look up the breed video at westminsterkennelclub.org to see him.

Let me explain something. The judging is done against the (published and well known) breed standard and the awards are supposed to go to the dog that best meets his/her breed's standard. Obviously Malachy was judged to meet his standard the best. Doesn't matter whether you like that breed. Myself, I don't like pekes particularly any more than @Pete or @Tita, but it is hard to argue with Malachy's credentials. Defeated some 63,000 dogs and had 50 all bred Best in Shows, just last year. Was #2 show dog - Michael Pitts's black cocker was #1, but he didn't make it out of breed this year.

sanfranman59 10:16 PM  

This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 8/1/2009 post for an explanation. In a nutshell, the higher the ratio, the higher this week's median solve time is relative to the average for the corresponding day of the week.

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

Mon 5:49, 6:49, 0.85, 4%, Easy (5th lowest median solve time of 138 Mondays)
Tue 8:50, 8:52, 1.00, 55%, Medium
Wed 10:52, 11:49, 0.92, 36%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:18, 3:40, 0.90, 9%, Easy
Tue 4:53, 4:35, 1.07, 72%, Medium-Challenging
Wed 5:30, 5:52, 0.94, 37%, Easy-Medium

PETER 10:21 PM  

@ foodie

Wow! How did you find my daughter's San Marino blog? Shoot me an email. I work for the aaps -- I think you're a fellow Ann Arborite, right?

- Pete

Pete 1:37 AM  

@Retired Chemist - The handler had to carry the dog halfway around the ring when they were supposed to be showing the judge their movement, impulsion, straightness at a working gait. What's the breed standard for a Peke's movement? Not squirming when being carried? Looking straight ahead?
When the dogs were set up in their poses, are they supposed to exemplify athleticism, purity of form, good bone, muscle, attention? The Peke was sitting being brushed!

Buy a Peke! They are easy to carry and like being brushed!

Anonymous 4:27 AM  

OK, you were fast, but you aren't sure why. And you found no difficulties. Wouldn't that, oh, I don't know, EXPLAIN WHY YOU WERE FAST YOU STUPID PIECE OF SHIT ASSHOLE? God, Rex. Stop being a piece of shit asshole. I beg of you. It's like a fucking retard saying: "You know, I was early for work today even though there was no traffic." God, you are a fucking retard.

Tita 11:17 AM  

@retired_chemist - congrats to you and Jerry Lee!!!!

Anonymous 12:37 PM  

If I may elucidate the very true and exact meaning of MFSB, it is simply this: Mother Fu***** Son of a B****. And that's it folks. No more and no less.

Spacecraft 2:13 PM  

Re timing, I agree with @anon 4:16. The stairway visual was amusing; I'm with OFL about the elevators. If they're ALL out, it's most likely the power; nothing's actually BROKEN. And the other one? @Z has it right: NEED the EXERCISE is so very much better that I'd force it into the crosses.

My third agreement is with @ [57d] ACME, who got naticked in the same spot as I did--and guessed the same wrong letter! GMTA, mydear.

And finally, can't we filter out total jerks like @anon 4:27? This kind of garbage nobody needs.

DMGrandma 3:12 PM  

One advantage of not following sports, San Marino was a gimme-but ironically because I used to live near San Marino, Calif. (Huntington Museum) and never gave a thought to Italy.

Solving in Seattle 3:39 PM  

OK, first the dogs:

@pete, how could you tell the Peke was sitting while being brushed?

We had to Goldens over 25 years - great dogs! When we moved downtown I started running at the park I began to notice a dramatic increase in people walking their little drop-kicks. Real dogs are in the decline.

My mother used to drag me to dog shows when I was a kid and I was exposed to vicious dog show judging. It's more corrupt than Illinois gubernatorial politics.

Now about the puzzle: I think it would have been cool for "TAKING THE STAIRS" to ascend. Also would have liked to see OTIS, DELAWARE, BUTTON, etc. in the puzzle.

Oh well, thems that can, do, and thems that can't are critics.

Solving in Seattle 3:48 PM  

BTW, agree with @Spacecraft about @anon 4:27. If you're going to flame someone at least have the balls to use your name. Not very imaginative to just throw profanity at someone. Come on, get creative!

Zed 3:56 PM  

It's interesting that Rex will remove flames against others (he did it this past week, four weeks in the future for you syndi solvers) but doesn't remove flames against himself. Tells us all we need to know about Rex and @anon 4:27.

I'm over my limit so pretend I'm a different Z.

Dirigonzo 7:17 PM  

INRE the dog show discussion, I have 2 Labs and a Cocker Spaniel - none of them will ever win an prize unless there's an award for rudeness. And my cat, Thor, could kick that Peke's butt.

@Z(ed) - thanks for visiting us back here in the land of the chronologically challenged. Without the email update feature it takes a lot of effort on your part to know what is going on in the syndicate.

Thought 40a might be uNder water because of the mortgage crisis, but I guess we're INHOT water, too.

Sharon AK 12:28 AM  

@ Craig I don't think you were missing anything. Rex was off base. Needing exercise was perfectly OK. More OK than many answers I've seen
I was so disapponted at the write up because I thought it a delightful puzzle. My paper had grey squares instead of circles. It made a very attractive blank grid. When I saw the use, I found it clever and well done.
And there seemed to be more unusual and cool words than dull abbreviation type fill
(I like the last more for the sculptue than the name, but like the name too)
HUm, can't read the captchas - maybe I am a robot.

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