Student of morality / SUN 4-29-12 / Gherman cosmonaut / Ancient Balkan region / 2009 Hilary Swank biopic / Child-care author LeShan / 1984 superpwower / Botanical beards /

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Constructor: Tracy Gray

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: "Infractions" — five theme answers with ordinal numbers and two theme answers with actual fractions in them have those numbers/fractions represented as fractions by having the numerator (which in very case is "ONE") take the place of the ordinal number in the answer, and then having the denominator be the answer directly below said numerator.

Word of the Day: Gherman TITOV (48D: Gherman ___, cosmonaut who was the second human to orbit the earth) —
Gherman Stepanovich Titov (RussianГерман Степанович Титов) (September 11, 1935–September 20, 2000) was a Soviet cosmonaut who, on August 6, 1961,[1] became the second human to orbit the Earth aboardVostok 2, preceded by Yuri Gagarin on Vostok 1. Titov was the fourth man in space after Gagarin and Americans Alan Shepard and Gus Grissom (the latter two made suborbital voyages). (wikipedia)
• • •

The theme simply doesn't work because of the HALF / QUARTER issue. With all the other answers, ordinal numbers are being represented as fractions, but with the HALF and QUARTER answers, fractions are being represented as fractions. Fifth in a sequence and one-fifth are totally different things. Half and 1/2 are not. That is a Major-League inconsistency.

Theme answers:
  • 23A: With 26-Across, like grandchildren ([Third] GENERATION)
  • 33A: With 44-Across, execute, in a way (DRAW AND [Quarter])
  • 45A: With 50-Across, euphoric ([Seventh] HEAVEN)
  • 71A: With 77-Across, high-end retail chain (SAKS [Fifth] AVENUE)
  • 94A: With 103-Across, 1999 Shyamalan thriller ("THE [Sixth] SENSE")
  • 105A: With 112-Across, compromise (MEET [Half] WAY)
  • 122A: With 127-Across, classical work that's the source of the European Union's anthem (BEETHOVEN'S [Ninth]) — without thinking, I put a FIVE under that ONE instead of the proper NINE. Minor stumbling ensued.
Fill on this one is subpar, with a few notable exceptions (DIXIECRATS makes a nice answer, and I really liked THANATOS, thought that may just because a. I *knew* it, and b. it's fun to say) (80A: Political party that won 39 electoral votes in 1948 + 89D: Death personified, in ancient Greece). Since this is a puzzle about fractions, let's talk fractions. Consider the longer (non-theme) answers in this grid. Now consider how many of them are made up predominantly of the Wheel of Fortune letters, RLSTNE (with S and E being the real spotlight hogs). You need these letters, obviously, but when you cram your grid full of them, you really limit how interesting your fill can be. But back to fractions—RLSTNE presence, expressed in fraction form:
  • ABSCESSES (2/3) 
  • ENLISTEES (8/9)
  • STEELIEST (8/9)
  • SOITSEEMS (2/3)
  • ATTHESTART (7/10)

Now, I can imagine a really interesting word that is RLSTNE-heavy, but that would be the exception, not the rule. When your long fill (the bang pow awesome stuff) is laden with RLSTNE, you diminish the overall interestingness of the grid considerably. Consider these grid neighbors and their RLSTNE content: TESTER, all of it; SUNUNU, just half. The latter is indisputably better. Now, I DO TOO is just 1/6 RLSTNE, and it's not exactly amazing, so the presence of these letters is by No Means the only consideration when filling a grid. But they are good letters to keep your eye on. I always tell my students to "kill linking verbs" (incl. all forms of the verb "to be"). Now, I don't mean this. I just mean, hunt them. If you find that they need to live, let them live. But be aware of them, because if they proliferate and overrun your prose, you are in a heap of trouble.

Also, no one is going to win any friends with answer like OSTEOID (95D: Bonelike), ARISTAE (75A: Botanical beards), or SEPTAL. I'm currently having a love/hate relationship with CASUIST (13A: Student of morality). It's obscure (bad), but unusual and interesting, esp. in this grid (good!).

Where's EIGHTH!?

PIXY seems like a [Var.] (70D: Sprite). Never seen it, except in the candy name PIXY Stix (which I would very much accept as a clue). OCHRE should've had some kind of [British] marker (markre?) in the clue (109D: Cousin of rust). The SW seemed to me the toughest part of the grid by a good margin. Knew ISADORA (125A: Dancer Duncan) but not how to spell her—there are Lots of variants that ceom from that basic name template—ATLASES clue was Saturday-hard (128A: They have scales), no way I was guessing TINWARE was a "service" (though I see it now) (92D: Colonial service), AREOLAS was thornily under-clued (93D: Colored parts), never heard of "AMELIA" (98D: 2009 Hilary Swank biopic) and EXP. makes sense now (111A: Abbr. on many food labels), but I can't remember seeing it clued thus and had a hard time getting it even with the "X" in place. Oh, and I misremembered EDA as IDA (121D: Child-care author LeShan). I had some trouble in the PIXY / TWP (68A: County subdivision: Abbr.) / WRIT area too (which probably spilled into the SW). Otherwise, the rest of the grid seemed of avg. Sunday difficulty (unless you've never heard of GEORDI (11D: "Star Trek: T.N.G." role)—I guess that could've been rough).

  • 53A: Faith that celebrates both Jesus and Muhammad (BAHAI) — really wanted ISLAM here.
  • 113A: Ancient Balkan region (THRACE) — also Kara ___ (aka "Starbuck") of TV's "Battlestar Galactica"; here she is solving a puzzle (of sorts):

  • 129A: Gave, as a hot potato (TOSSED TO) — Gave : Tossed :: Gave to : TOSSED TO. He gave John the potato : he tossed John the potato :: he gave the potato to John : he tossed the potato to John. Something's screwy here.
  • 7D: "1984" superpower (EURASIA) — the great "1984" superpower conundrum for xword solvers: EURASIA or OCEANIA?
  • 58D: R&B singer Hayes (ISAAC) — musical finale!

["You socked it to me, mama!"]

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Jo 12:24 AM  

LOIS Lowry was also a part of today's DASH (Different Areas, Same Hunt) puzzles. I'd never heard of her before (that I remember), but I was able to answer that bit of the NYT puzzle because of today's DASH puzzles.

Pete 12:34 AM  

I can't believe it's come to this, but a puzzle has actually made me angry.

I've tried explaining my anger, but the blood in my eyes makes it difficult to type.

Deb 12:57 AM  

I've been anxiously awaiting the blog tonight so as to have an explanation of the theme, hoping that would give me an aha moment of appreciation for this one. Twasn't to be.


jae 1:46 AM  

It took me a while to catch on so medium for me.  Unlike Rex, the tough part for me was the NE corner.  DRAWNAND1/4 didn't leap out at me and CASUIST?? Plus Tsk for TUT,  the past vs. OVER question,  aRI until I remembered Sun Devils and Wildcats not Rams...

So, clever theme with some tough stuff works for me.

WTF cross: TITOV/ARVO but it had to be an O. 

Charles in Austin 2:07 AM  

A half and a quarter are both fractions. And a half can not be written as a "twoth."

A "Major-League inconsistency"? It's not for me.

chefwen 2:58 AM  

Pretty much a slog for me. Highlight was hearing @M&A whooping it up at 18D, a plethora of U's.

Thought the WOD would be 13A CASUITST, new one for me.

chefwen 3:04 AM  

I think I misspelled that, but it still doesn't mean anything to me. Must brush up on my mortality issues.

Greg Charles 3:13 AM  

I don't even understand Rex's complaint here. Like CiA said, half and quarter are the only fractions that aren't read like ordinal numbers. So inconsistent? Yeah, but that's English for you.

My problems were more with TITOV crossing ARVO, LOIS next to ENNA, and ARISTAE, but AREOLAS. Still, I thought it was a fun puzzle, and the theme was clever.

Octavian 3:54 AM  

Absolutely fantastic puzzle -- the complaints are totally misplaced.

The theme is consistent, interesting, even brilliant in a way. It is so cool to see a fresh take. It's sort of a non-rebus rebus. Beautiful.

Soon as I saw the title, I parsed it as "In-fractions" so was prepared for fractions right away. Picked it immediately with one over three for "third" generation, so the rest of the puzzle was a breeze, but enjoyable.

Definitely some harder words, but all gettable through crosses. No idea what "aristae" is but I'm OK with learning something new and it was all attainable through the crosses. Second to last answer for me was TWP, which brought me WRIT, which answered the Bearded Botany mystery.

Liked "fly off the handle" as a clue for ERUPT and it is always nice to elevate the tone of the puzzle with trigonometry -- liked the ARCSINE.

Thought DRAW AND QUARTER overstepped the "breakfast test" as it was one of the most horrible execution/torture methods employed by British kings in the Middle Ages. The convict (typically guilty of high treason, which could mean anything, including just being a priest) was hung to the point just before death, then castrated while still alive, gutted and beheaded, then chopped into pieces and displayed in public places.

The practice continued until the mid-1800s, when reforms changed the punishment to mere hanging, followed by posthumous beheading.

Henry VIII, the glutton with six wives, carried out a lot of these. Little known fact is that the roly-poly king killed thousands of his friends and enemies, many of whom he then had buried in his very own chapel. Super-creepy dude. If he really liked or respected you, he just had you hung or beheaded (e.g. Anne Boleyn and Thomas More).

Probably more than you wanted to know but now you know why i DRAW AND QUARTER is an unsavory answer.

Still, bottom line -- I loved the theme concept, and except for that one answer it was an amusing and worthwhile exercise.

mac 4:14 AM  

Medium-challenging for me, too, although I got the theme quickly. The casuist/draw and quarter area did me in, although TWP gave me a run for my money. Crosswordese aristae helped a lot.

Yes, GeorGi was not helpful, but fixable. I know Arvo Paert. "Spiegel im Spiegel" is very beautiful, we used it at my father's funeral, and recently at my stepmother's. Someone want to put in a link, please??

@chefwen: you confused me even more with your "mortality"!!;-)

evil doug 4:44 AM  

"Thought DRAW AND QUARTER overstepped the 'breakfast test' as it was one of the most horrible execution/torture methods employed by British kings in the Middle Ages."

Okay, noted. Disagree, since it's become a common metaphor for much lesser behavior in modern times and, besides, I like a constructor to enjoy the language's full palette---but I'll allow it because that's the kind of guy I am.

But then the writer, in spite of his claimed concern with 'breakfast tests', decides his need to demonstrate his superior knowledge on the subject entitles him to hypocritically overlook our alleged queasiness and really delve into some graphic imagery even as we munch our cornflakes:

"The convict (typically guilty of high treason, which could mean anything, including just being a priest) was hung to the point just before death, then castrated while still alive, gutted and beheaded, then chopped into pieces and displayed in public places."

Bon appetit, Octavian! I'll have the head cheese omelet and rocky mountain oysters, please---could I get a little blood sausage on the side?


Octavian 5:04 AM  

Dear Evil --

I didn't say DRAW AND QUARTER personally offended me. I just said it didn't meet the usual breakfast test.

What offends me is the way people pander to the British monarchy, who throughout most of their history were absolutely beastly. And Henry VII was one of the worst of the bunch.

Now on a much more pleasant note, here is a link to a YouTube video of ''Spiegel im Spiegel'' (Mirror in Mirror) by the Estonian genius Arvo Part. Violinist is the lovely and superb Anne Akiko Meyers.

Worth noting that that Part wrote this just before he painfully fled his Soviet-dominated homeland in 1980 for Vienna. He returned home after the USSR fell.

Sic semper tyrannis

Octavian 5:16 AM  

Sorry that Arvo Part link didn't work -- here it is again on YouTube:

If you can't access video, here is a link to just the song:

DrGaellon 5:33 AM  

ARISTAE/AREOLAS tripped me up, as did TSK for TUT. And TARSAL infuriates me: the "ankle bone" is the TARSUS, while TARSAL is the adjectival form. I even had FIBULA in there on my first pass (though crosses quickly disabused me of that idea).

mac 5:34 AM  

@Octavian: thank you so much, so moving and beautiful. Another sweet detail: at my stepmother's memorial we also played Paert's "Fur Alina". We found the sheet music on the piano, it must have been the last piece she played.

r.alphbunker 5:38 AM  

Eighth is missing. EIGHTH AMENDMENT could be clued {prohibition of 33A}. ONETH is also not there (as in oneth burned twice shy). This could be clued as {alternative to 33A?} But these objections are rather fourthed and did not interfere with my enjoyment of the puzzle.

Anonymous 6:02 AM  

Once I caught on the fraction thing the puzzle was pretty easy going. I liked it. My well read 14 year old supplied Thanatos!

Deb 6:59 AM  

Thanks for the fascinating info about the origin of the phrase DRAWANDONE/fFOUR,, Octavian. That's the sort of thing I keep coming back here to learn.

foodie 7:28 AM  

I'm of two minds on this. I agree that the concept is novel and any new ideas for themes are welcome. And the spatial nature of it--ONE on top of a number is cool.

But I'm with Rex that the theme is not consistent. He did a wonderful job of explaining it, and he is right on. In all but 2 cases the resulting "fraction" is really not a fraction but an order in a sequence. I get that we're supposed to be literal and read it the visual "fraction" as a whole and slot it in the phrase. But here's my problem: If I see ONE/SEVEN and I'm speaking it out loud, I would never say SEVENTH as a stand alone. I'd say " one" seventh or "a" seventh. Specifically to distinguish it from the ordinal number-- e.g. Harry, you and I agree about "one" seventh of the time...

So can't really be literal, and the theme ONLY works for half and quarter and you have to really stretch it for the rest.

Sylvester T. Cat 7:29 AM  

@r.alphbunker -- Did you mean to sasy, "Oneth burned, twith shy"?

Anonymous 7:33 AM  

I took Rex's point about the inconsistency to be: that a "third generation" is not "one-third of a generation," nor is "5th Avenue" one-third of an avenue. These words re not fractions; they are counting numbers: first, second, third, fourth, etc. In effect these answers are puns on fractions (i.e. one over five is a (fraction) fifth = fifth (ordinal) avenue.

But both "half" and "quarter" denote fractions to begin with, not ordinals. (We say "Second Avenue" and "Fourth Avenue," not "Half Avenue"...)


Glimmerglass 8:02 AM  

"A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds." Emerson, I think. ALP (above) has it right: the theme is inconsistent because the fractions are puns. DRAW AND QUARTER was the last clue to fall! (I'm not a Trekkie.) I liked the theme and the puzzle. It was novel and harder than the usual Sunday puzzle, which I like. I guessed the O in ARVO because I never heard of TITOV either. So a bit of luck today.

Sue McC 8:11 AM  

Loved the theme...took a few moments to put it together from the ONE/THREE GENERATION, but after that it was pretty smooth going, with the exception of the NE corner, where I just say ditto to jae. This was a fun challenge!

I think Rex is being a little too persnickety about the theme. We're talking about a crossword puzzle here, not a term paper. We have a clever maybe it's not perfectly consistent, but I highly doubt that it will be remembered as the Fractions/Ordinals Fiasco of 2012! And perhaps the title "Infractions" was a wink to the inconsistency?

I say well done, Tracy Gray!

gedimar memprl 8:41 AM  

One of Rex's snarkier comment days!

The puzzle was challenging even after the theme was uncovered. I couldn't parse DRAWN AND QUARTERED for a long time.

Valid anatomy comments - criticisms of the use of the adjective vs noun form important (mucus vs mucous!)

An Indigo bunting just flashed by my window, instantly elevating my Sunday!

JR 8:42 AM  

Liked it because it was different. Picked up the them after doing the NW corner first, as apparently others did also. I also think that the criticism by Rex is a little nit-picky. After finding the theme out I looked for answers with words you would say with fractions. The fact that one would say the word "one" or not say it never entered my mind. Liked this one.

Loren Muse Smith 8:51 AM  

When I started this last night, I got really grumpy really fast. I don’t like cross-referencing clues; I’m just too impatient. BUT, when I finally saw the theme, the puzzle grew on me.

Kept staring at _ _ _ _ _HEAVEN and thinking, “This is a rebus.” @Octavian – yes, it’s kind of a “non-rebus rebus.”

So much Latin! Question – I never took Latin, but would the plural for AREOLA be AREOLAe, like the plural ARISTAE? And if so, is there not some kind of rule for puzzles that Latin words take either the Latin plural or the English plural? Also – two foreign money clues. Tough.

The whole TARSAL, TITOV CAVAE, ARVO section was not accessible to me at all, nor was the THANATOS/THRACE cross, so this was a DNF.

The misdirects at 29A – “tsk” for TUT and 111A – “rda” for EXP held me up for a while.

Loved the cluing for SHEETS and HISS!

Thanks, Tracy. A tougher than normal Sunday, but nicely done.

Anonymous 8:54 AM  

Hanged for Christ's sake, people are Hanged!

Sylvester T. Cat 10:09 AM  

Meant to say "say", not

@loren muse smith - Re: Latin plurals. Yes, there is a hard and fast rule: Latin words take either English or Latin plural forms depending upon the needs of the crossing words!

@Anonymous, 8:54 AM - We generally don't crucify people for minor grammatical errors.

ArtLvr 10:12 AM  

Bravo, Anonymous! Art is hung, not people...

evil doug 10:15 AM  

Maybe he meant the guy was both hanged and hung before he was castrated...after that he was only hanged.


Anonymous 10:20 AM  

While I can appreciate the theme after the fact, the fill made this excruciating and provoked my IRE.

hazel 10:21 AM  

Today i ride with @rex and @foodie. Mish mash.. A theme of convenience. truly just a bunch of "infractions" in my view. And not an infraction against a crossword convention, but against language itself - and how we really use these words. Ordinal numbers and fractions just aren't interchangeable in my mind.

Topped with the too many gimmeabreaks on the obscurities.

At least i won the stare-down today. Small consolation.

jackj 10:23 AM  

Once the theme is discovered, then we’re left to deal with the fill and, unfortunately, today it reflects a neo-Maleskan magical mystery tour, sans The Beatles.

Tracy Gray developed a clever theme and did what all constructors seem to do, protect it at any cost. Certainly SAKS(ONE)FIFTHAVENUE and BEETHOVENS(ONE)NINTH are fine, fun theme entries but in turn we were subjected to a barrage of pre-1993-ish non-theme stuff that is less than scintillating.

(It is especially interesting that Will Shortz published this puzzle on the heels of a very spirited discussion on April 20, led by champion solver Tyler Hinman, wherein Tyler, (and others), downplayed the importance of a puzzle’s theme and held “that the fill is the most important part of a quality crossword”. As I recall, Will, (and others), commented but didn’t buy in to Tyler’s view.)

CAUSIST, ARISTAE, CAVAE, THRACE, OSTEOID, TITOV, THANATOS, ARVO and ESKER are just a few of the more obvious examples of this puzzle’s fill problem.

This is Tracy’s first Sunday puzzle, (and only her third overall after two Wednesday puzzles in 2010), and, hopefully, now that she has jumped back into the frigid constructing waters, she’ll stay with it and build a winner off this, her first Sunday effort.

billocohoes 10:39 AM  

I seem to recall 'hot potato' as a children's game - a circle of kids throwing a ball to one another with the idea of having it in your hand as little as possible (if you used a REAL hot potato you'd burn your fingers). Responsibiliy and blame for a disaster is still passed around like a hot potato.

Had trouble in the south when I started with 'arsenal' for 'armories'.

Tita 10:47 AM  

I liked that 2 of the themes were slightly "off"...made it a TAD more challenging.

@Loren - also hate xrefs, but oneth I realized they were all just underneath each other, I got over it... ;)

@jackj - I think puzzle publishing schedules are cast in stone well in advance, and not subject to change, especially not over blog discussion with so many differences of opinion.

102D: Rescued damsel's cry [MYHERO]

My personal breakfast test fail is at ISADORA - she was strangled by her own scarf while driving in Nice. (I'm always careful when in my own ragtop!)

Thanks for a fun idea, well-executed. Forgivable junk.

Lindsay 10:49 AM  

Being a squeamish type I am not going to google "draw and quarter", but I thought it meant tying someone's four limbs to four horses facing in different directions then cracking a whip. In any case, a breakfast test fail.

As for theme consistency, I'm with Sue McC .... it's a puzzle, not a dissertation. It wouldn't be very puzzling if the theme were all matchy-poo, now would it?

Anonymous 10:51 AM  

I am not sure of the propriety of complaining about not passing the breakfast test (a silly thing in my opinion) with an explanation that clearly does not pass the very (silly) test which you complain has not been met. Or, was the point that the breakfast test is silly? (Did I mention that I think it is?)

John O'Malley 10:54 AM  

Rex, you're getting cranky in your old age. This puzzle is not inconsistent in the least. The familiar terms for 1/2, 1/3, 1/4, 1/5, etc. are "one half", "one third", "one quarter", "one fifth" , etc. The "one" is consistently dropped to make the puzzle work. The fact that not all the answers use the terms in their fractional sense is irrelevant - in fact, I would argue that it makes for a better puzzle.

chefbea 10:54 AM  

Got the theme right away with In 7th heaven. Found the puzzle pretty easy though I had a Natick at Arvo/Titov.

Really wanted to put in past due for 13Across :-)

I know one of the rexites will LOVE George Bush's chief of staff

Z 10:55 AM  

@Evil - way to whack the low hangers.

Of the two flaws of this puzzle, the fraction infraction and the obscure fill, the fill bothers me more.

ARCSINE (wanted coSINE)

Those are the ones I didn't know. Toss in the ones I did know (e.g. GEORDI, THRACE, THANATOS, EURASIA, SUNUNU) and this is a hard puzzle to love.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed the solve. It was chewy enough to hold my interest.

Norm 11:00 AM  

Enjoyed the theme a lot, and it made it possible to work out some of the more obscure answers -- not ARVO/TITOV unfortunately, That was a total Natick for me, so I deduct a full point.

orangeblossomspecial 11:06 AM  

I enjoyed the puzzle and was impressed that all the fractions made it except for 1/8. But I couldn't think of a clue that would yield 1/8 as a result, other than "Top of the" or "Bottom of the" in baseball. I don't know enough about NY to know what's on 8th Avenue.

Cliff Edwards, 21A "UKULELE Ike", introduced "Singing in the rain" in one of the early MGM musicals. He also was the voice of numerous Disney films.

29A reminds me of Steve Martin's SNL performance of "King TUT".

Back in the 80A DIXIECRATS' day, southern universities played Dixie as a rally song. Now you don't hear it.

From Here to Eternity featured a Merle Travis song appropriate for 46D: "REENLISTMENT Blues".

JenCT 11:07 AM  

Didn't get the theme until ONE SIX SENSE; then, I appreciated the puzzle a lot more.

Alas, DNF because I quit - too nice out & too many chores to do!

We had to set up a separate coop for our new chicks (to keep them away from the older, peck-happy hens.)

Really liked: SPUD (had SOUP first), SHEETS, MY HERO, ATLASES.


SISSY's in the puzzle again...

Just could NOT remember ARISTAE.

fruitypants 11:08 AM  

TITOV crossing ARVO!!? No thanks. In general this puzzle was high on stress and low on fun.

jackj 11:23 AM  

Tita@10:47A.M. wrote (in part)-

"@jackj - I think puzzle publishing schedules are cast in stone well in advance, and not subject to change, especially not over blog discussion with so many differences of opinion."

Tita- My comment was not meant to imply that Will changed his schedule for this puzzle, merely that it was ironic that today's puzzle is such a perfect example of what triggered the discussion in the first place.

Smitty 11:25 AM  

That's funny - I was about to come here and write how clever I thought it was to thow "half" and "quarter" in to make it more challenging.

I tried thinking of something "forth" for a long time.

I liked the puzzle - nice twist to the Sunday Slog.

Anonymous 11:32 AM  

I'm the dolt who first did not get it, next got it and last liked it. I kept saying to myself how does one three generation equal grandchildren. Finally I got compromise with meet halfway and, duh, one over three became third generation. So I had a duh moment. Not quite as good as an aha moment but I'll take it for a Sunday. Rex's citicism, therefore, is over my pea-brain head but I get it, even though I don't care....


Bassetwrangler 11:39 AM  

Oxide was a better (though wrong) answer than ochre. Theme didn't work for me.

Gent Gaga 11:41 AM  

Wow. Despite getting Happy Pencil, I am quite embarrassed for not being able to understand "Draw and Fourth" until I read Rex's explanation...

Norm 11:49 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Norm 11:52 AM  

"Firth of Forth" in Scotland could have worked for one/four and "Eighth Amendment" for one/eight (I have no idea how you deal with the grid). Then, "half" and "quarter" could have been avoided entirely -- just to make Rex happy. Although then he'd probably complain about the absence of a "tooth."

GILL I. 11:54 AM  

My WOTD goes to @Lindsay's "Matchy-poo." Thanks also to @Octavian for spuring Evil to respond with an hilarious breakfast menu.
I really had to work hard on this puzzle to understand the theme. The fraction/infraction did hold me up. I got the Third at 23A then Quartered at 33A was confusing. A lot of the fill also held me up with words like GEORDI, THANATOS and SEPTAL to name a few. I had CASAIST for 13A and that sounds perfectly fine to me for a student of "mortality."
I enjoyed this puzzle for no other reason than it made me a bit mad and then made me smile when I finished.

Anonymous 11:56 AM  

@DrGaellon et al: Tarsus is actually a collection of seven ankle bones. it is not an ankle bone. I agree with the criticism, however, in that TARSAL is an adjective, and cannot therefore apply to ankle bone. A better clue woud have been < Related to the ankle bones >

Ulrich 12:05 PM  

@John O'Malley: That's exactly how I understood the theme, with a little punnishness thrown in, as has been mentioned. Too bad I couldn't beat you to the rescue--now Tracy will be whispering "My Hero!" to you, not to me...

Anonymous 12:05 PM  

Thought the theme was clever and was able to finish the puzzle despite not knowing CASUIST and I learned something new.
Ms. Gray DID call it "INFRACTIONS", so have to allow that I looked at DRAW AND ONE_FOURTH for an awfully long time til I got DRAW AND QUARTER.

Anonymous 12:06 PM  

Thought the theme was clever and was able to finish the puzzle despite not knowing CASUIST and I learned something new.
Ms. Gray DID call it "INFRACTIONS", so have to allow that I looked at DRAW AND ONE_FOURTH for an awfully long time til I got DRAW AND QUARTER.

Loren Muse Smith 12:08 PM  

So here's the beauty of this place: when someone is brave enough to admit to a moment of confusion, it makes those of us who had the same experience feel just a little better about things.

@smitty - I, too, was wanting "forth" there!

@Gent Gaga - Once I realized it was FOURTH, I had to have Rex explain that it wasn't "drawn and FOURTH!"

baja 12:12 PM  

I'd like to retire the breakfast test. Its Sunday, how about brunch? A bit of a slog for not much aah.

evil doug 12:19 PM  

If one is drawn and quartered by quarter horses, is he drawn and sixteenthed?

Boy, are we getting our money's worth out of that clue.


Pseudolus 12:36 PM  

Philia: That's the brute who raped my country, Thrace!
Pseudolus: He raped Thrace?
Philia: And then he came and did it again! And then again!
Pseudolus: He raped Thrace thrice?

Masked and Anonymous 1:14 PM  

thUmbsUp. Clever theme. Cleverer than me, for a while. But once I caught on, it was very helpful in solving the rest -- an attribute I really like, in a SunPuz theme. The HALF and QUARTER usage was just fine (OKE?) by me; I must be easy to please.

Trouble Brewin' spots:
- THANiTOS/THRiCE. Chose wrongly.
- CAS?IST/?RI. Chose correctly.

Interestin' RLSTNE discussion from @#31*!. Har. Can just tell the dude is yearning for some extra U's. Puz fill was actually pretty fresh, thank U. Thoroughly enjoyed @chefwen's comment, but I actually wasn't doing much whooping, at 2:48 am. At that fine (OKE?) hour, my written-out U's would be pretty much unrecognizable as such.

Masked and Anonymous also 1:33 PM  

P.S. ARVO! ARLO hears footsteps.
Agree with 31, that PIXY is a Var.(mint).

Shamik 1:35 PM  

Maybe I need to go read (and find) Tyler's discussion on the fill being the most important. I usually agree with that. Unless a theme is very enjoyable, i'd just as soon solve a themeless puzzle with fill that fills me with happy surprises. Am working through a puzzle book my mother gave me that includes Sunday puzzles from the way back machine on up into Will Shortz' era. I am reminded, from the Maleska years, why I thought I was incompetent to compete at the ACPT. Kudos to those winners and solvers in the early years. ARVO/TITOV, indeed.

Medium-challenging, not so enjoyable.

JenCT 1:44 PM  

@Shamik: Tyler Hinman

It's an interesting read (and a long one!)

chefbea 1:53 PM  

@ M&A great chefs think alike!!!

Tita 2:02 PM  

@jackj - ah, so... I thought you meant he shoulda pulled it based on that discussion...
In teh words of the late great Emily Litella, "Never mind...".

Anonymous 2:05 PM  

Breakfast would not pass the breakfast test.

Tita 2:18 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tita 2:20 PM  

Oops - meant to say...unearthed a box of souvenirs from 3 weeks in Europe in 1987...including a Maleska puzzle...
I DNF! A Thursday (was there no difficulty progression then?
Theme was "Incredible" cllueing 4 different entries.
Was happy to see my old friend "ADIT" there! ESTEE has apparently never left the house. Neither has ELSA the lioness.

All in all, a mix of still-used xwordese, misdirects (Layers-HENS), and really, really, really obscure fill. Made Saturday's and today's obscurities pale in comparison...

A new field - archaeopuzzling?

"Don't you think it needs a little salt in it?" 2:23 PM  

"Mother, please, I'd rather do it myself!"

WesIsland 2:57 PM  

To Rex's "killing linked verbs," I would add Steven King's admonition that "adverbs are not your friends."

Lewis 3:08 PM  

@r.alph -- made me laugh out loud

Agree that the theme is clever and that once you get it it can help with the rest of the puzzle. Also agree that this puzzle overall didn't have spark; it wasn't fun and engaging, and had an old time feel.

Azbert 3:15 PM  

Rex, the only thing confusing or off base about this puzzle was your commentary. How befuddled were you when you wrote that? Fun puzzle. Enjoyed solving it.

retired_chemist 3:57 PM  

Did not get the theme, and now that I have read the blog I see what it is and I like it no better than Rex did. One over three (23/26A) is one-third, not third. and so forth.

The Dashboard Dictionary allows TARSAL as a noun, but bah. Feels like an adjective only.

Since the theme made no sense to me, I had a real Natick at GEORgI/gRAWANDONE. Debated D and G, picked wrong.

Got hung up on OSsEOID (95D) and turned NOs_OW (108A, "Later") into the more or less (mostly more) inapt NO-shOW.

Had OCEANIA first for 7D - easily fixed.

Some tough shortish fill: TITOV, ARVO, URI - and some somewhat obscure longer stuff: ARISTAE, THRACE, ISADORA, SUNUNU. You had to know your proper nouns to havr an easy time with this.

Not going to make my list of favorite puzzles of 2012.

chefwen 4:43 PM  

@mac - Confused myself after reading this morning what I had typed last night. Lesson learned... Don't comment after returning home from a party and on ones way to bed.

Rube 5:08 PM  

I understand the inconsistency of the theme answers but, as I was doing this puzzle, I looked at them simply as ordinal numbers expressed as fractions, (giving quarter the "crosswordese" benefit of the doubt). No objections here. In fact, I enjoyed this puzzle immensely as once I got the theme, the rest of the puzzle filled in quite quickly. Speedy solves are rare for me for Sundays, and really make them more enjoyable.

I too had a Natick at the TITOV/ARVO cross, but the O was the only logical answer. Also had to guess at the U of CASUIST although I think I've seen this word before, so it just "looked" right, and URI made sense even though I had no idea they were the Rams.

CASUIST is my WOTD and ARISTAE goes on my crosswordese list. We had a baby sitter once who was BAHAI. Never really knew much about the religion except that it originated in Iran. Interesting.

Another reason I liked this is the minimum amount of pop culture, (disregarding "The Sixth Sense"). Saw "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and popped in ASNER, my 5 letter go-to pop culture answer. Yes! Never saw the show.

Had TARSus at first and then thought, "...wait, isn't that where Saul was from?". Changed it to TARSAL. Yes! again.

Sorry I'm late. Other things.

Anonymous 7:11 PM  

Rex the title did imply that rules would be broken!

Anonymous 7:19 PM  

Loved everything about this puzzle. Clever and well executed theme. Unique construction. Well done!


DigitalDan 7:29 PM  

I'm with the crowd that is perfectly happy with the consistency issue: first you put your math hat on to get the proper fraction, or the word that goes in the denominator of the fraction, if you insist. Now that you have the word, you can take advantage of the ambiguity/multiplicity of our wonderful English language to interpret that word, however obtained, in the context of the answer's phrase. Think of it as a two-step process. I was charmed by the whole thing.

My objection was to "set in" as the answer to 15D; seems to me this would have to be "set up." Or something else entirely. This made the arfy-breakfast answer difficult to come by.

retired_chemist 8:05 PM  

@ Digital Dan - SET IN seems part of the language to me. It was my first thought. No problem here.

Cathelou 8:16 PM  

Charmed by the theme, yes--no problems with the "inconsistency" but then again my math skills are so limited I can't even explain why it is not a problem. Found the rest of the puzzle a slog. Felt much of it was almost mechanical--that is; except that like many others I thought "drawn and forth???" for far, far too long.

Knowing the constructor is early in her career puts a different spin on it, though--seems to be a lot of promise there.

@r.alph & @ Sylvester T.: you're killing' me!!!!

Fave answer: VET (Cat scanner).

michael 8:23 PM  

I agree with those who found the theme consistent (and enjoyed my "aha" moment after writing in "draw and quarter.") Liked the puzzle, but concede that the fill could have been better. Am surprised that Rex did not comment about "arcsine."

Joe in Montreal 9:06 PM  

I too didn't get "draw and quarter" until Rex explained it. And in my own defense, I think the phrase is "hang, draw, and quarter" (or more usually the past tense, and maybe the passive for hang). Apart from that one, I liked the theme when I figured it out at the end and saw the quasi-rebus nature of it.
ps there was an article in our paper just yesterday about perhaps the last man sentenced to be hanged, drawn, and quartered in British North America - an America, for treason in Lower Canada in 1797.

ARLENE 9:46 PM  

I liked this puzzle, and felt kind of smug getting the theme right away at the third generation. As for "draw and quarter" - I've used that expression to describe the labor experience with my first child.
My bigger question is about the PUNS and ANAGRAMS puzzle that also appears in this Sunday's NY Times Magazine. Does anyone do that? It's always been my favorite, to the extent that I always do that before the regular puzzle. It used to appear every few weeks, but is now a rare event.

Anonymous 10:06 PM  

By the time we got the theme, husband and I had filled in most of the theme answers and fill, so it was no help. Only when I realized the alignment of one over the number did I see the humor.

Septal for "Like a nasal membrane" is wrong. Septum is a cartilaginous structure and not a membrane, says he, a teacher of Anatomy.

omnivorpalsword 10:35 PM  

"Drawn and quartered" historically involved 4 horses, at least that'w what I was taught in Fourth grade (not sure why the teacher felt it was important for us to know, but I never forgot that lesson.)

I enjoyed the theme, figured it out from SAKS ONE FIVE AVENUE. After that it was much easier knowing the number of letters in the lower line.

However, I kept waiting for a more complex answer, such as TWO SIX to be reduced to "third"

Anonymous 7:04 AM  

68-across = TWP. What is a TWP?
TWN (town) nakes more sense. Then 70-down would be NIXE (water sprite) and 86-across would be STELE).
Just saying

JenCT 7:47 AM  

@Anon. 7:04 - TWP= Township

Arby 12:38 PM  

Am I the only one that doesn't get what "EXP" is an abbreviation for?

TimJim 1:18 PM  

I thought the theme was clever, and I enjoyed figuring out the theme answers. Didn't think they were inconsistent, at least not in a significant way. Wonder how hard it would have been to pick up the theme without the title clue.
@Arlene - I like the cryptics, too. I think they're still part of the regular rotation, along with the diagramless, which have come to be my fave.

Anonymous 2:23 PM  

EXP is expiration (or maybe expiry) date.

I'm not the greatest solver, so I work Sunday until I get all the themed answers, then quit while I'm "ahead."

So, for my purposes, the puzzle was not very challenging and thus a letdown, with the themed answers really not clever at all beyond the fraction thing.

Anonymous 3:55 PM  

not much fun!!

nurturing 2:23 AM  

Slam-dunks for me were Arvo (because I'm Estonian and we revere him), Eda (because I'm a mother and have read everything this wise and wonderful woman wrote), and Isadora (because I am a dancer and, in addition, in 1969 had to write a report on her for a college assignment in my Dance History class).

Didn't crack the theme, even with a couple of completed theme answers, until mid-way through, and then began to really like the puzzle.

efrex 11:02 AM  

Put me down in the "nice theme, tough fill" category, although I did finish the grid correctly, guessing the ARVO/TITOV cross. Lots of short gunk throughout, but was able to suss out the interesting THANATOS and CASUIST.

THRACE will always make me think of Forum (as @Pseudolus noted above)

Angel 11:10 PM  

The Hilary Swank biopic Amelia was about the female pilot Amelia Earhart. She was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. She and her plane disappeared in the Pacific Ocean in 1937.

rain forest 2:53 PM  

Disagree with Rex re theme "inconsistency". The fractions work perfectly. It's just that we have other ways of expressing 1/4 and 1/2, which were used in the puzzle. I was baffled initially at draw..., but when I got Saks Fifth Avenue, I actally went "aha", and filled in draw and quarter, then went looking for "-half". Whoever said we don't say "twoth", for whatever reason, nailed that one. It's not that Rex is grouchy (well, sometimes he is); he does have a penchant for picking nits, at times. I say this with the knowledge that without Rex and his first-rate sense of humour, we wouldn't have this excellent blog. Bless you, Rex.

Also, the whole breakfast test thing is lame. When you write in draw and quarter, do you literally gag because you envision the process? Similarly, who experiences stress while solving a puzzle, or indeed, gets angry? These are your problems, not the constructors.

I loved the theme and its execution, and much of the fill, but I do agree there were some very hard-to-get areas, which doesn't bother me particularly. "Casuist" was my last entry, and I had zero idea what that is. Also as a Canadian, Sununu was Greek to me.

DMGrandma 3:34 PM  

The fact that I hate cross referenced clues made this a slog for me. It also didn't help that I didn't get the fact that the numbers represented, to some extent, fractions, So after struggling awhile, I threw in the towel with about 2/3 done, and went on to other things.
Want to thank @Diri for a heads up on last night's moon. We live in an rural with no artificial lights allowe canyon, and it was spectacular! Great picture in this morning's paper pointing out it was the biggest full moon of the year.

Solving in Seattle 4:27 PM  

This puzzle was like the one marathon I ran - caught on to the theme from the NW and the title, Infractions, and took off at a sub-seven minute pace through the rest of the solve... except when I hit the NE at milepost 25. Could not for the life of me get "DRAW AND QUARTER." I kept looking for DRA...DONE to give me a fourth. DRAggedfourth???? Also had RIU instead of URI.

I did finish the marathon, at a crawl, but I DNF this puzzle. What's funny is that I had no trouble with MEETONE/TWOWAY.

Actually got all the rest of the theme answers first, then filled in the tough crosses. Nice Sunday solve Tracy!

The RT "breakfast test" discussion between ED and Octavian was worth the price of admission alone, or SOITSEEMS to me.

@Rain Forrest, good post today.

@Red, loved your posted osprey nest photo. Absolutely beautiful raptor. They have some work to do on the nest. Amazing they're so comfortable close to civilization.

Capcha: tonsafth untro: Olde English for "whats the difference between an ordinal and a fraction?"

Dirigonzo 5:41 PM  

I decided to try a different approach today, to see if I could eliminate all of the write-overs that usually mar my completed grid. So instead of writing in the first answers that came to mind, I waited for a cross or two to confirm things. My only mis-steps were misspelling UKeLELES ATTHESTART and Tsk for TUT. The resulting grid was pristine by my standards, and error-free due to a couple of lucky guesses. I thought the theme was ingenious and well executed - great fun!

@DMG - Happy to hear that you enjoyed the full moon. It was a cloudless night here and I watched it rise behind the trees in my back yard - spectacular!

@RV - Thank you (and others who commented) for the kind words late yesterday. I assure you I do not try to be a presence here (and certainly not an ecumenical one!); I just try to keep the lights on here so others will feel welcome to drop by and offer their own comments. It's great to see a growing group of "regulars" who help keep the party going. Great osprey photos, too!

@Waxy - VAL-d'Or, Quebec! (43a)

Spacecraft 9:27 PM  

Nits beware: the pickers are out in force today! Okay, so the language of every theme example is not perfectly consistent. So what? The basic idea is maintained--and it's a clever one, IMO. Tell you one thing: I agree with the Rexrating on this one. Took me (off and on) most of the day to get through this. Misspelling of OSsEOID threw me off for a while there, and I had to get a lot of it by crosses.

Gee, I had to work a little. Am I supposed to get mad at that?

Anonymous 11:44 AM  

Even though I teach math, I wasn't really bothered by the theme inconsistency at first. I attributed it to the fact, mentioned several times above, that English has those alternate words for twoths and fourths, My opinion is that these words originated long before the rest of the terminology for fractions because the concepts occur so naturally. Very young children understand breaking something in half.
Upon reflection, I agree that Rex is technically correct. I challenge anyone who thinks that he is just picking nits to try for themselves to explain the theme in words.

Lola505 5:30 PM  

I did NOT like this puzzle! Wonder if the crafter is a male or female "Tracy" [Gray]? I can usually get on the same wavelength as a woman's cluing, but not so with this puzzle. It was a struggle from start to finish for me.

Saw the fraction theme early on, but still don't think it was valid.

So, here I am, a week late (compared to the rest of the syndi-landers) and although I finished, a dollar short, so to speak.

Anytime I'm anxious to move on to the SUDOKU (which I don't enjoy, but do because I think "it must be good for my brain"), it's a bad sign.

Dirigonzo 5:44 PM  

@Lola505 "Wonder if the crafter is a male or female "Tracy" [Gray]?" @jackj's comment at 10:23 indicates Tracy is indeed female.

Reading your comments a week later helps me understand what it must be like for all the prime-timers who see our syndi comments a week (or 5) later.

Lola505 6:59 PM  

@Dirigonzo, thanks. I hadn't read all the posts, although I did Google Tracy Gray and got no hits on NYT Crossword constructor.

You are kind to read and reply -- I still think, especially compared to other, more creative and eloquent posters, mine are hardly worth reading, particularly a week after the after-fact. This one made me just made enough to post though.

Lola505 7:01 PM  

Meant ... just made me mad enough to post though.

Tita 10:58 PM  

@lola...we prime_timers DO read syndilanders...and enjoy the comments...
In my particular case, I get the notifications on my is agonizing to try to respond from such a device...and impossible to be eloquent.
Between trying to remember what has between said in the comments threads, remembering a puzzle from weeks ago, and grappling with auto_correct, I usually read, but rarely can muster the wherewithal to comment.

But we are out here, and are listening!

Oh...and then there is trying to pitas the robot test from my phone..mercy!

Tita 11:00 PM  

*pass...not pitas...see what I mean?

Lola505 11:27 PM  

@Tita, IKWYM! I can't post from my phone, either -- the auto-spell thing NEVER guesses right what I'm trying to type -- heck, it still hasn't learned to recognize MY name!

Thanks for being there too.

JenCT 7:18 AM  

Just wanted to agree with @Tita's comments - I do read followup posts also; it's just hard to remember puzzles & comments from so far back!

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