New Jersey town bordering Rahway / SUN 2-5-12 / Critter whose name comes from Nahuatl / Site of Greek tragedy / Starch-yielding palm

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Constructor: Charles M. Deber

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: "State Annexation" — Theme clues are all cross-referenced to other answers in the grid, and all phrased "[Cross-referenced clue] near [some US city]?"; you have to take the answer to the cross-referenced clue, add the state code of whatever state that [some US city] is in, and that will give you a word that functions as the clue for the theme answer. So, e.g., 25A: 124-Across near Dover? = 124-Across (SPA) + state code for Delaware (DE), which makes SPADE, which clues the answer to 25A: GARDEN TOOL

Word of the Day: ADL (17D: B'nai B'rith grp.) —
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) is an international non-governmental organization based in the United States. Describing itself as "the nation's premier civil rights/human relations agency", the ADL states that it "fights anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry, defends democratic ideals and protects civil rights for all" while it "[advocates] for Israel [...] with policymakers, the media and the public" and "defends the security of Israel and Jews worldwide". // Founded in October 1913 by The Independent Order of B'nai B'rith, a Jewish service organization in the United States, its original mission statement was "to stop, by appeals to reason and conscience and, if necessary, by appeals to law, the defamation of the Jewish people. Its ultimate purpose is to secure justice and fair treatment to all citizens alike and to put an end forever to unjust and unfair discrimination against and ridicule of any sect or body of citizens." The ADL has 29 offices in the United States and three offices in other countries, with its headquarters located in New York City. Since 1987, Abraham Foxman has been the national director in the United States. The national chairman in the United States is Robert Sugarman. (wikipedia)
• • •

An easy enough theme to figure out, but a bear to describe clearly; sorry about that.

Lots of cross-references do not make for an especially enjoyable solve. The *idea* here is an imaginative one, but the execution is problematic. The phrase "near [whatever city]?" doesn't really work as a clue to add a state code to the end of the answer. I figured it out, so it wasn't utterly unclear, but it's highly inexact. A city is not a state. The cross-referenced answer has to be imagined as, literally, "near" (as in "right next to") a state code. A city is a poor substitute for a state code. Also, "annexation" doesn't feel quite right. If you "annex" a territory, you take it over, but here, you aren't taking over so much as supplying from your imagination. The whole set-up ended up feeling fiddly and imprecise. Also, as I've said many times before, I'm not big on the whole "answers are really clues"-type theme, and that's essentially what this was. My description has the cross-ref'd answer + state code as the "clue" for the theme answer, but really it's the answer for which the theme "answer" is really the clue. Ugh, the more I describe this puzzle, the more I dislike it, so I'll stop.

Fill was average, maybe slightly below. Lots and lots and lots of very short stuff, but oddly that wasn't where I had problems. It was stuff like AS TO COST (!?!?!) (5D: Regarding the price). This is as much a valid answer as REGARDING SALARY or CONCERNING BONUSES (i.e. not valid); or AS A MAN (54A: How Shakespeare's Rosalind dresses), an answer I've seen and disliked before; or ISELIN (30A: New Jersey own bordering Rahway), the kind of icky NE provincialism that makes most of America shrug (at best) or say "WTF?!" or something else (see also TRURO).

Theme answers:
  • 22A: 45-Down near Baton Rouge? = "hoopla" = (EXCITEMENT)
  • 25A: 124-Across near Dover? = "spade" = (GARDEN TOOL)
  • 38A: 117-Down near Salem? = "tenor" = (OPERA SINGER)
  • 58A: 1-Across near Hartford? = "extract" = (CONCENTRATE)
  • 78A: 114-Down near Boise? = "rapid" = (SPLIT-SECOND)
  • 95A: 76-Down near Springfield? = "lentil" = (PODDED PLANT) — easily my least favorite theme "answer"; you can see POTTED looking on (69D: In one's cups), going, "man, that's my phrase."
  • 111A: 61-Across near Phoenix?  = "topaz" = (BIRTHSTONE)
  • 113A: 9-Across near Boston? = "dogma" = (MORAL TENET)
  • 33D: 6-Across near Indianapolis? = "satin" = (SMOOTH FABRIC) 
  • 43D: 119-Across near Albany? = "bunny" = (EASTER ANIMAL) 

Looking over these theme answers, I realize that I didn't even check the cross-references on ... let's see ... three of these (tenor, rapid, topaz). In fact, almost all the difficulty in this puzzle lay in getting started, and then in having to wait (in some cases) for the cross-referenced answers to appear in the grid. The rest of the puzzle was easy. Had issues with ISELIN, and then got stuck on SOLARII / IDS vs. SOLARIA (70A: Sun spots) / ADS. Both IDS and ADS seemed valid for [Spots], and I wasn't thinking hard enough about my Latin neuter plurals. The "A" won out, eventually. I've never seen ODEUM except in crosswords (91D: Site of a Greek tragedy). I expect the singular of the Greek theater to be ODEON, perhaps because I've seen modern theaters called that. I wrote in STAGGER for STARTLE (88D: Shock). That's it for significant resistance.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


jae 12:09 AM  

Easy-Medium for me too.  Top easy, bottom med.  Clever theme idea.  The question is whether the payoff was worth jumping around the grid to solve the puzzle?  For me, yes.  I'm in no rush on a Sun. (or Wed. to Sat. for that matter) so I enjoyed the additional complexity.  That said, there wasn't much zippiness here unless you count the PODDED/POTTED intersection.

Anonymous 12:16 AM  

"some US city" is always the capital, which makes it slightly easier to infer the state (and its postal abbreviation)...but only slightly.

Chris Christie 12:25 AM  

Iselin is a strange city, in that it's on the map, but no one ever admits to being from there.

New Jersy's a strange state. About 1/4 of it is really nice, 1/2 of it is profoundly mediocre, and the remaining 1/4 is some form of dump/toxic waste sight/urban blight amalgam. Unless you're living in the nice 1/4, in which case you lie about being in or from New Jersey, you lie about where in New Jersey you're from. This even extends to people from neighboring states lying about being from New Jersey.

Case in point: The Jersey Shore people? Not from New Jersey. They're from Staten Island, trying to pass. They say they're from Perth Amboy. It's a lie but the best of all lies, a plausible one. It kind of explains a lot of things, but at least they can say they're not from Staten Island. People actually from Perth Amboy say they're from Rahway. People from Rahway leapfrog over Iselin and say they're from Edison. People from Iselin say they're from Edison. No one says they're from Iselin.

foodie 12:29 AM  

I liked the theme. It was original!

And I feel that ANNEX was a good choice-- meaning appending something small to something larger, usually new territory, which is apt given that we were appending state names.

Easy Sunday!

Evan 1:42 AM  

A clever idea that took me way, way longer to catch on to than I would have expected. I kept looking for the state abbreviation somewhere in the answer itself, but gave up when I realized that LA was not going to appear magically in EXCITEMENT. That's when I finally started paying attention to the cross-references and saw "hoopla" staring me in the face.

Lots of write-overs: A hand up for getting stuck with SOLARII/IDS, NIECE at 28-Across, DEBASED and DEFACED at 68-Across, BLASTS at 122-Across, THIN at 8-Down, and HTTP at 40-Down before settling on the right answers. These mistakes didn't really frustrate me as I can appreciate how multiple answers seemed to fit the clues pretty accurately.

I should note that this puzzle is a bit unusual for its grid design alone: 80 black squares (which is a bit high for an average Sunday); 10 cheater squares (which don't add to the word count but make the grid easier to fill); 36 3-letter answers (quite a lot of them, though they are balanced by 10 fairly long theme answers); and 142 answers (140 is the maximum limit for a 21x21 grid in the Sunday NYT puzzle, according to Cruciverb). None of these things necessarily make the puzzle a bad one, though it did exceed the NYT's generally accepted limit for answers and it clearly did jam a lot of short, less-than-ideal fill even in small corners of the puzzle that were mostly closed over from the rest of the grid -- like that SRO/AGRO crossing in the east, OBS/SGT in the south, and that ugly OPS/ROM/ORG combo in the west.

I give it 3 stars for a good payoff on figuring out the theme.

Greg Charles 1:47 AM  
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Greg Charles 1:49 AM  

I liked the theme too. Yes, hard to articulate, but not that hard to suss out, and then the solving was considerably easier, assuming you know your state capitals.

I was glad to see Rex grouse about the NJ border town ... Iocaine, was it? I thought that might be easy for the Atlantic seaboarders, but as a Californian, I needed every cross, and then it still didn't look right.

chefwen 1:54 AM  

As usual, I didn't read the header and it took me a ridiculous amount of time to suss out the theme. Once I did I really had a great time with this. Like @foodie I thought this one was unique. Not too fond of the UNSEAL/UNHEALED crossing, but that is a nit too small to pick.

A super Sunday Puzzle.

Thank you Mr. Deber and Rex.

ahsieh 2:08 AM  

You don't have to interpret "near" in the theme clues to mean the word is literally "right next to" the state code. They could be imaginary cities near the state capitals: e.g. if there were a city near Baton Rouge named Hoop, then it would be written "Hoop, LA" on envelopes, forms, non-AP datelines, etc.

Evan 2:08 AM  

By the way, I don't know if anyone has mentioned this previously, but for any of you budding puzzle constructors out there, the website has been experiencing service interruptions more frequently than before. Here's what the main page says:

"Many of you have noticed that XWord Info is increasingly showing 'Service Unavailable.' I am taking various steps to reduce this problem in the short term but the root cause is that some people are using this site in ways not intended by me and not supportable on my small web server -- hitting hundreds or thousands of pages in a short period of time, etc.

To keep this site available and to allow me to restrict access to intended usage patterns, access will soon require registration. Some pages (today's puzzle, for example) will always be available to anyone, links from blogs will still work, but you'll need to register for full access.

More details soon."

I don't know if xwordinfo will require some sort of fee to use all of its features. It has been such a valuable resource for me as an up-and-coming constructor and I'd hate to see it become unusable because of finances or server limitations. Does anyone have any more information about this?

YontifSadie 5:29 AM  

I feel like a total idiot because I managed to finish the entire puzzle without being able to figure out the theme!
Also, I've live in a beautiful part of NJ (South at the Shore) for 23 years and have never heard of Iselin.

Bob Kerfuffle 6:30 AM  

I enjoyed the puzzle. Seemed like a fresh idea.

One write-over at 28 A: Working off the SY, had PANSY before DAISY.

Ruth 8:00 AM  

I enjoyed "Governor Christie's" comments above! I remember hearing a few years ago that New Jersey came very close to adopting the following as the motto on their license plates: "New Jersey--you got a problem with that?"
Alas, they went with something else.

The Bard 8:23 AM  

As You Like It > Act I, scene III

ROSALIND: Why, whither shall we go?

CELIA: To seek my uncle in the forest of Arden.

ROSALIND: Alas, what danger will it be to us,
Maids as we are, to travel forth so far!
Beauty provoketh thieves sooner than gold.

CELIA: I'll put myself in poor and mean attire
And with a kind of umber smirch my face;
The like do you: so shall we pass along
And never stir assailants.

ROSALIND: Were it not better,
Because that I am more than common tall,
That I did suit me all points like a man?
A gallant curtle-axe upon my thigh,
A boar-spear in my hand; and--in my heart
Lie there what hidden woman's fear there will--
We'll have a swashing and a martial outside,
As many other mannish cowards have
That do outface it with their semblances.

CELIA: What shall I call thee when thou art a man?

ROSALIND: I'll have no worse a name than Jove's own page; And therefore look you call me Ganymede.But what will you be call'd?

CELIA: Something that hath a reference to my state No longer Celia, but Aliena.

ROSALIND: But, cousin, what if we assay'd to steal The clownish fool out of your father's court?
Would he not be a comfort to our travel?

CELIA: He'll go along o'er the wide world with me;
Leave me alone to woo him. Let's away,
And get our jewels and our wealth together,
Devise the fittest time and safest way
To hide us from pursuit that will be made
After my flight. Now go we in content
To liberty and not to banishment.


mmorgan 8:28 AM  

99% finished before I *finally* figured out the theme...

mom 8:39 AM  

Hated this. I never got the theme, but the fill was so easy that it didn't matter. Ergo, no aha! moment. Bleh.

Anonymous 8:52 AM  

I'm with Mom. This puzzle stunk. Even if I somehow figure out that I'm supposed to combine "top" with AZ...that leads me to birthstone?!!! I couldn't figure it out and I'd already solved for birthstone. C'mon, man!! Courto

Anonymous 8:59 AM  

Poeti? Vice is number two? Eloper? This was a puzzle that did not play to having fun. Frankly, I hated this one and I rearely feel this way. If it was the constructor's goal to frustrate the solver, congrats, you did that well. And the theme took forever for me to educe. Hoping for fun once more next week. Yuck to this one


JenCT 9:02 AM  

Theme took me FOREVER to get; finished almost the entire puzzle before realizing what was going on.

Agree with Rex on everything, although the puzzle skewed more medium-challenging for me.

Go Giants!!!

P.S. How did the Westport Tournament go???

Loren Muse Smith 9:11 AM  

I struggled for a while with the theme, feeling so close but just not quite there. (Water water everywhere, nor any drop to drink?) Had my "aha" moment with EASTERANIMAL that STARTLEd my two dogs. I thought the theme was clever, even though I'm impatient and grumpy when I have to refer to another clue/answer for a fill. Had "devil" instead of DEMON forever, thinking Leviticus instead of NUMbers. Hand up for SOLARIi. Got a kick out of PODDED and POTTED, too.

@Chris Christie - I lived in Ridgewood, NJ for five years and would count that in the 1/4 nice part. It is, hands down, my favorite place I've ever lived. I'm a southerner by birth and rearing, and I have to say some of the most "southern" people I've ever encountered are in northern NJ. AND, get this, it was my experience that northern NJ has the most courteous drivers of any state I have driven in and I'm not making that up.

jackj 9:44 AM  

I easily solved this puzzle without a clue as to what was the constructor’s gimmick and, frankly, when crosswords segue into the ambit of games, I don’t particularly care what “clever” device is waiting to be oohed and aahed about by those who ooh and aah about such things.

XWordInfo revealed the gimmick and, just to see what it entailed, I checked the Massachusetts clue, DOG(MA) which triggers MORALTENET and then, ta da, all was right in the crossword world.

So, are all those irritating cross-references necessary? They could have been blank spaces because the crosses alone were sufficient to finish the puzzle.

What we have today is a “belt and suspenders” crossword, (perhaps a first), as the gimmick isn't needed to discern the answers, it only provides a confirmation of the answers which the solver had already entered in the completed grid.

Color me underwhelmed.

chefbea 9:56 AM  

Took me forever to figure out the theme but finally got it!!! Will finish the puzzle later after I get everything set for the big game.

chefbea 10:01 AM  

Tried to change my avatar. Lets see if it worked.

If it did you will see my centerpiece/dessert for the big bash later on.

FloridaPerry 10:11 AM  

At first I just couldn't figure this out and then the theme hit me when I added LA to hoop (45d) to get HOOPLA which fit perfectly with 22a EXCITEMENT. From then on I really enjoyed it. Loved the need to cross-reference clues. Thought this should be rated Medium-Difficult. Good job, Mr. Deber.

Shamik 10:18 AM  

Have to rate this one a medium in time, but it took me forever to get the theme. Once I did, the rest fell quickly. Glad others took awhile to find the theme!

@chefbea: Lovely cake! Go Giants! No game for me. I'm on call for work. :-(

I like New Jersey (except for the smelly oil tank area).

Montreal Joe 10:28 AM  

Fine enough. I agree that to go from SPA-DE to GARDENTOOL is a bit of a reach. It is vague enough that I needed the crosses. The 'gimmick' moment was figuring out SPADE.
On the other hand, MORAL TENET for DOG-MA is a bit too fine. I'm not sure that's what a dogma is. But once Mr Deber had 10 spaces to fill, I guess he needed something for the first 5.
Go team!

redhed 10:41 AM  

A slugfest for me and not much fun. Had to come here to find the theme, and then it took a second before I finally got it. I, too, have to work tonight--in at 10:30p so I will probably miss the last of the game. If it is a cliffhanger I will be so disappointed to have to leave!

Great captcha: "fatting"

r.alphbunker 10:44 AM  

Loved the build-a-clue theme. Got the theme fairly early from HOOP[LA]. The puzzle title definitely helped.

PODDEDPLANT was the hardest to get. Was struggling with what a LENT[MA] was until I remembered that there is also a Springfield in Illinois.

My NJ memories are the year I spent at Ft. Dix and Ft. Monmouth. I didn't get to see much else of NJ during that time.

joho 10:44 AM  

It took me forever to get the theme, too, and finally did at BUN(NY)=EASTERANIMAL like @loren muse smith. Then I went back and "played
by adding the state to all the other seed answers. I thought this was lot of fun and I normally hate referential cluing. And for those who say they did the whole puzzle but never got the theme so therefore thought it a dumb puzzle, well ...

Nice job, Charles! This was something different that took some thought, not just a boring filling in of the blanks!

MikeM 10:47 AM  

Lived in Bergen County NJ all my life in a wonderful town with close proximity to the best city in the world, NYC.
Spent way too much time pondering how TOPAR was a BIRTHSTONE.

Anonymous 11:10 AM  

Hated the cross-references--hurts my eyeballs! But loved Leonard Cohen--thanks Rex!

archaeoprof 11:11 AM  

Didn't get the theme either.

@ChefBea: beautiful!

Win or lose, I can't wait for Bill Belichick's gracious and joy-filled post-game remarks.

John V 11:13 AM  

OT from today's puzzle: Westport was a lot of fun. @tita has some pics which I believe she may link. @Tita, @mac, @IMSDAVE, @ulrich and I were proud to represent Rex world. There were 125 solvers, which I believe is a record. (This was my first ever tournament.) Puzzles were this week's Monday through Wednesday the final a bit of a wild card that Will characterized as a Saturday toned down to Thursday level. Winner was Glen Ryan (hope I got that right), with a time of 6:44. Truly amazing.

@mac and Charlie were most gracious hosts at their home post-tournament, with all gathering at "V" restaurant in Westport for dinner. A great time for all. More from the group, I imagine, as the day goes on.

Anonymous 11:14 AM  

I finished the puzzle without figuring out what the gimmick was. Then went back and figured it out.

Tita 11:27 AM  

Loved, loved, loved this...!!
Thank you Mr. Deber!
Got it early, with HOOP[LA] - seems to have been the trigger for lots of us...

Loved the malicious PODDEDPLANT being hidden by wanting it to be POTTED< but it couldn't be, becausee of the crossing POTTED, and because a lentil would be a very unlikely potted plant anyway...

Fun writeover...
Had POurED instead of POTTED at 69D In one's in Tea cups...

Fun fun fun...didn't mind having to jump all over the board.

Norm 11:32 AM  

kind of an interesting theme (which took me far longer to get than it should have), but seemed like a lot of work for no pizzazz. excitement? yawn. concentrate? ditto. and so forth.

FearlessK 11:37 AM  

Hand UP! I was clearly not on Mr Deber's wavelength this morning ( altho I finished in a shorter-than-average time; go figure! I enjoyed some of the medium-length fill: RASPUTIN, SOLARIA, OCELOT, GROUSE.

Tita 11:52 AM  

Westport Library Tournament...
My first - was more fun than any non cruciverbalist can understand.

From initially trying to find fellow REXites I had never met, to finding a seat (a perfect illustration of CHEEKBYJOWL in that room), to Will's dramatically late arrival...

When the first "GO" was shouted, the sound of fast&furious pencil on paper was deafening!

Monday was easy, Tuesday surprisingly hard, and Wednesday medium-hard. Thursday's was a charmer!

I THOUGHT I had finished all correctly, and in time, but alas, I made at least one mistake somewhere.

Will was fun and entertaining. While we waited for the scoring, he quizzed us with first, NPR Wordplay anagrams, then in a very self-deprecating and enlightening session, had us guess what the error was in about 6 errors in his published puzzles.
Then took questions from us.

Oh yes - there were winners of various things, but that was almost incidental. Congratulations to those few who got perfect scores, and to the top 3. Bravo!

Event was capped by a fabulous SALON chez mac, then dinner at a local place. A few non-puzzle spouses ensured that we would occasionally talk about other things, from goat raising to travel to food to art...

What a great group of people I met - fascinating to me the friends you can make given one particular crossroads of interest.

Special thanks once again to mac for her warm welcome at her house.

Here are more pics from the Library.

Z 12:01 PM  

I agree with @joho - "I didn't get it" doesn't mean the puzzle/theme is bad. I've been guilty of the same type of assessment in the not too distant past, and will try to refrain from such churlishness in the future.

I'm glad I don't time myself, because I spent a fair amount of time early trying to suss out the theme. Upon reading the title I thought ,"didn't we just have an 'add the postal code to make a crazy answer' puzzle?" But when I couldn't stick LA onto EXCITEMENT no matter which way I turned I puzzled and puzzled. So I was half solving the clues and half thinking about the theme. I finally wrote down HOOP and the aha moment hit.

I like the twist on the gimmick, and I like that Will supports constructors adding more puzzle to the crossword puzzle. Unfortunately, I do think the need to have lots of three letter answers for the theme (I count 7) results in a lot of dreck in the fill, taking away from an otherwise fun puzzle.

@loren muse smith - "most courteous drivers" may be damning with faint praise. I've driven quite a bit on college tours the past few years and have never considered using "courteous" as an adjective with "driver" in those travels.

Tita 12:05 PM  
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Tita 12:07 PM  

One nit...
It's AGRibusiness...

Google agrObusiness, and the suggestions are all agri-something, and below it says "did you mean agribusiness?"

@Rex - you were part of the discussion in Westport!

@ChefBea - fabulous theme cake - you inspired me to change my avatar...

David 12:13 PM  

@Tita, thanks for the pics! I moved from Westport about 3 years ago, sadly before I got back into the fun daily solving of today. Would have loved to have driven 2 minutes for a crossword tournament.

Also Easy-Medium for me, clever theme, but even I noticed the tons of blah short fill (and I almost never notice stuff like that). At the beginning I left the 2nd E out of EXCITEMENT because I briefly considered some bizarre rebus where 23D "Romeo or Juliet" was (STARCROSSED)LOVER. And I didn't notice TENOR for OPERASINGER until coming here. Ugh again.

Greg Charles 12:16 PM  

@Tita -- you're right. I had AGRI to start, but changed it because of the cross. I just figured it could go either way, but it really can't. A rare flub for NYT Sunday.

John V 12:18 PM  

@Rex, re: Westport, the first question from the audience for Will was, "Do you know Rex Parker?" Will was very complementary of you and the blog, particularly your dedication over these past five years to solve and write up every single puzzle.

He was asked if that really was him commenting on the blog recently and he said it was.

Will also mentioned some upcoming news that I leave to you to touch on, as that is your prerogative.

mitchs 12:24 PM  

Startled is not shocked.

r.alphbunker 12:46 PM  

I believe that the Will Shortz post occurred on Dec 21. I propose that henceforth Dec 21 be a holiday in Rexville marking that event. Call it Post day. Rexites can skip work on that day.

Anonymous 12:48 PM  

Rex - That was a good description of the theme but I would just add it's like obscenity. You know it when you see it....


JenCT 12:58 PM  

@archaeoprof: LOL about The Hoodie (Belichik)

timbo44b 1:05 PM  

This puzzle was pro avian (for the birds). Simply too much jumping around and a lot of the answers were a reach, extra for concentrate? Ugh. Thought Rex would cook the goat (lambaste) on this one.

Anonymous 1:12 PM  

@Chefwen - Ecept for your first 8 and last 2 (just kidding, Rex) words I agree with everything you said. You should root for the Giants today, because that will make the Pack look better by losing to the team that wins the SB.

Rhea58 1:15 PM  

Thought this was a really easy Sunday. Been timing myself to get better in tournaments & this came in at 15 minutes which I thought was good (for me)!

Anonymous 1:39 PM  

Number two is vice? Not seeing that. Help

Tita 1:44 PM  

@Anon - VICE President

Westport local coverage and more pics

zzzz 1:57 PM  

Agree with @Norm, a lot of work for no pizzazz. I like many kinds of crosswords, especially rebuses, but not a whole theme based on cross-referencing.

@timbo44b, you have to add the state abbreviation (CT) deduced from the clue (Hartford) to the cross-referenced answer (extra) which then gives you the clue to the new answer, ie, EXTRAct = CONCENTRATE. Too convoluted.

lsilogic 2:08 PM  

Double bah for this stinker. DNF out of boredom more than anything else.

quilter1 2:15 PM  

I got it at BUN. Agree on AGRO. There is agriculture and agronomy and while related they are different.
Agronomy is a branch of agriculture.

Nice cake, @ChefBea. Have fun.

This is SuperSewingSunday for me, starting a navy blue and white Irish Chain quilt.

Anonymous 3:46 PM  

Anyone able to confirm that there is such a place as LENT,INdiana?

Lewis 4:05 PM  

I got the theme pretty early, but it still took me longer than average for a Sunday. I enjoyed figuring out the theme and its answers, but some sections were still hard for me.

I'm not familiar with Boston's Massachusetts AVEnue, and thought there should have been some indication that it was an abbreviation, but maybe that's what it's just known as...

Deb 4:23 PM  

Didn't like this one at all; didn't get the theme until I came here (though that's not terribly unusual).

@r.alphbunker - There are dozens of Springfields (54 of them, scattered across 34 states), which I know only because I recall reading once that Matt Groening chose Springfield as the setting for South Park because it's one of the most common city names in the U.S.

@John V - There's a special spot in hell for people who go about teasing others with titillating inside info like you just did.

@Tita - That damned misspelling of AGRi held me up for a solid ten minutes before I could successfully solve the puzzle. Ugh. NOT FAIR, Mr. Shortz. Truly pisses me off when that sort of thing is allowed.

Did I mention I didn't like this one?

meta4 4:28 PM  

I have recently made the transition from pencil and paper to solving on my laptop. I find cross-referenced clues rather frustrating in this interface. It would be so nice to have the paired clues linked to each other. I use the XWord software, but notice that Across Lite has the same shortcoming. Clues have links to the grid but not to cross- references.
Programmers.... here’s your chance!

theoda3rd 4:31 PM  

Took too long to get the theme. Once discovered puzzle was easy/ med. With that said impressed with Chuck Deber's construction. Patriots 35 Giants 20.

Deb 4:33 PM  

@meta4 - I couldn't even tell you what interface I use since I started solving on my iPad, but whenever there's a cross-referenced clue, it highlights it on the grid for you. I used to despise cross-referenced clues, but with this handy little feature they don't bother me much at all anymore.

Deb 4:42 PM  

Found it: The app I use to solve on my iPad is by Magmic Inc.

(Sorry for the multiple postings, but it dawned on me I could find that info in the email confirmation of the purchase. And, btw, it was only $16.99 for a year's subscription instead of the $39.99 quoted on the NYT site.)

jae 4:45 PM  

@Deb -- That would be The Simpsons. The setting for South Park is....well South Park.

And NCIS is not a police drama. NCIS agents are not policemen just like FBI, DEA, and ATF agents are not policemen.

r.alphbunker 4:55 PM  

I use on my iPhone and it has the ability to jump to referenced clues. There appears to be a version for the Mac now but I see nothing for Windows.

I am working on a crossword app and it will include that feature.

archaeoprof 4:56 PM  

@jae: agree with you about NCIS. In fact the difference between NCIS and police is a recurrent theme on the show.

I only get two channels on my cable: ESPN and NCIS.

fruitypants 5:10 PM  

While I can appreciate the difficulty of construction, the bottom line is that this was just not fun for me.

Anonymous 5:15 PM  

I agree with Puzzle Girl that Sunday puzzles are often more of a chore than anything else. This puz certainly proves her point.

Wood 7:09 PM  

Agree with @jackj. The cross-referenced clues should have pointed back to the theme answers without any clue of their own. Would have made so many more pleasurable AHA moments.

Scott 8:58 PM  

Re the Iselin comments, people from good neighborhoods in NYC always say where they're from: "I'm from Greenwich Village", etc. People in way upper Manhattan say they're from "Manhattan". People in the boroughs say they're from "New York City" and people in NJ say they're from the "New York area"

chefbea 10:39 PM  

What a game!!! What a dessert!!! A good time was had by all

foodie 10:42 PM  

@Scott, I say I'm from the Middle East, and when it gets really ugly there, I say I'm from Asia

mac 11:17 PM  

Coming up for air!! The last guests have left and the kitchen is cleaned up. The food was great thanks to a joint effort, and the Giants won! And what a game! And then there was the tournament and getting together with puzzle friends yesterday. A fantastic weekend!

I did the puzzle in fits and starts and I did not love it. I might have liked the theme in a smaller version.

I had Iselip. Or is that in London?

Rube 11:18 PM  

Good puzzle, good game. Finished the puzzle and was heading here when I realized that I didn't understand the theme. Looked for about 5 minutes before it finally dawned on me. Admittedly, I was totally confused about the relationship between the "near" reference and the clue, but all were gettable from crosses.

Those of my generation only know of "Tony" as an actor named Quinn.

If the Niners couldn't win, I'll accept the Giants.

Anonymous 1:27 PM  

Theme sucked, no other word for it when you fill in the entire puzzle and still don't get the theme!

Mike 4:19 PM  

I wouldn't have commented except that there are so many negative comments for what I thought was an OK puzzle. I actually liked that you had to move around the puzzle to solve it (or at least that's what I did). Sort of a change from top to bottom, or inside out, or bottom to top, or whatever I usually do. I'm surprised it took high caliber solvers (all the commenters on this blog) so long to figure out the theme, which I thought was overly simplistic.

jberg 7:40 PM  

We spent the weekend in Woodstock, VT, for x-c skiing. There was no snow, so we had to drive 3-4 hours a day to it - still fun, but it meant that I didn't finish Sunday's puzzle until the drive home Monday.

I got the fill with HOOPLA, and it did help some - but so many of the theme answers were just not in the language, not real phrases: satin - SMOOTH FABRIC, lentils - PODDED PLANT (must confess, I had an error there - fODDEr PLANT. OrEUM seemed just as good as ODEUM, since neither was ODEON).

As for AGROBUSINESS, that's the companies that put you on hold with obnoxious music when you call.

Chris 9:16 PM  

I finished this puzzle with one minor error, read your explanation of the gimmick, and still have no clue what it was all about. The sad thing is, I don't care. Dull and clunky.

Sharon NYC 2:00 AM  

Like several others here, easily solved all but a word or two without figuring out the theme...which led to spending a long time wondering whether I had the right answers. It's actually a pretty cool idea, but I'm with Rex in thinking the title could have been more...something. As opposed to our host, though, I really liked a lot of the clues he disliked so much; they weren't too difficult, but they were cute.

Anonymous 11:36 AM  

If I was from Colonia NJ I would have a problem stating that Iselin is bordering Rahway. Linden was a better fit but of course did not work out

Anonymous 1:23 PM  

While waiting to use the ladies room as Lincoln Center, I asked my friend whether she solved this puzzle. "Sure," she said, "but I can't figure out the theme." Exactly what happened to me. Six women jumped right in to say the same thing. The had filled in all the blanks and were at a loss as to the theme.

No fun if it's that obscure.

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spacecraft 11:07 AM  

Weird how everybody's aha! moment came at a different spot. Mine came at DOG/MORALTENET. I stared and stared at this for some minutes: there just has to be some way this makes sense. State annex, you say. And then at last the light came on! I just sat there and said, "Wow." And then I entered the slogfest.
This was one of the choppiest grids I've seen in a long time, and that makes for stuff like ADL, NUM, some horrid partials like ANAS, ORUP, and BEON--plus several really tired xwordese: can we give those poor landscapers a week off? I swear they've been RESODding triple overtime lately. And we just had TASSE the other day.
I didn't even mind XIX, since it conjured up a pleasant memory of my home room/civics teacher in what was then known as "junior high"--now middle school. Mrs. Madeira would stroll the aisles between desks, calling out U.S. Constitution Amendment numbers and stopping in front of a student,who then had to identify that article. When she got to me, she said "19th," and positioned one of her spike heels over my shoe (of course, she wasn't physically abusive; it was just her humor).
I didn't miss it--then or now.

Dirigonzo 11:48 AM  

I had enough crosses to see the EXCITEMENT/HOOP(LA) connection early in the puzzle so the theme came easily. I finished with an error - had OUYpAYS at 14d, and of course the NJ town was no help sorting that out - but otherwise I found this to be a pleasant diversion which is just what I want a Sunday puzzle to be. Bummer.

Anf then I came here to be reminded of the Super Bowl, which I was just beginning to get over.

Dirigonzo 11:51 AM  

Obviously the "Bummer" comment was intended to go after the last remark.

ibbaldie 12:12 PM  

even after you explained the theme it was too obtuse to enjoy.

Steve in PDX 3:02 PM  

Romeo and Juliet did not marry, thus neither is an ELOPER.

Romeo or Juliet were either, however, ALOVER.

Just another instance of sloppy cluing.

State annexation + near =/= postal code + next to.

I think I'm going to quit wasting my Sunday mornings.

Simply, Ron 3:06 PM  

All I can say is that I agree with the blogposters who were negative in their comments. Did the puzzle, finished it with one mistake, and thought to myself, "What a waste!" No real fun.

Anonymous 4:04 PM  

I was stumped for a while, but birthstone and topAZ rang the bell. Enjoyable with no complaints. I follow horse racing, and one of the big NJ races is the Philip H Iselin Handicap... so Iselin was an easy fill after getting a few letters...

Dave 6:31 PM  

Did 90% of the puzzle without figuring the theme - just eluded me for whatever reason.

Backed into several answers and they didn't help either. Chalk one up to "my brain was just on a different wavelength today".

Z 8:18 PM  

@Steve in PDX - Act II Scene VI - they are wed, without the knowledge of their parents, by the friar.

Solving in Seattle 5:30 PM  

Bitchin' puzzle, Dude. Let's see, female dog near Indianapolis...

Dirigonzo 7:43 PM  

@Solving in Seattle - A theme answer hiding in the clues until you sniffed it out and exposed it. I love it - bitchin, dude!

Anonymous 7:52 PM  

What a boneheaded puzzle. This could almost turn me off of crossword puzzles altogether!

LorettaP 2:51 AM  

It took me forever to figure out the theme and I too had most of the answers before I figured it out.
This puzzle took me days to do but that's normal for me. Besides getting these puzzles a week later than you folks in New York, I acquired this particular one on or about March 13 (don't know where from).
My favorite clues/answers were "How Shakespeare's Rosalind Dresses" (asaman) and "Regarding the price" (astocost - it's literally word-for-word)
Asforthetheme - it eluded me till the very end with "Bun" near Albany and "Sat" near Indianapolis getting me only halfway there (the "IN" in Indianapolis and the "LY" ending on Albany led me astray) but when I tried to apply that convoluted algorthm to the other answers it didn't work. So then I looked again at the title and it all became clear.
The puzzle was nearly done by then so when I got off the bus all the mystery was gone and I didn't finish it till the next day.
As usual, it was fun and challenging.

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