Benedictine monk who founded scholasticism / SUN 6-10-12 / Hockey feint / Jabberwocky starter / Ben Hur novelist Wallace / First name in 1960s diplomacy / Styx song with some Japanese lyrics / Frank with album Sheik Yerbouti

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Constructor: Xan Vongsathorn

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: "Getting Around" — some words inside theme answers literally GO IN CIRCLES. This is because each answer is a kind of comment on itself, e.g. GIFT WRAPPED indicates that GIFT is "wrapped" in circles; INSIDE FASTBALL indicates that FASTBALL goes "inside" the circles; etc.

NOTE FROM THE CONSTRUCTOR (which stupid Blogger marked as "spam" in my comments section for some reason):

"IMO something crucial was lost in the editing process. The clue I submitted for 116A was something like [Be redundant, like the parts of the starred entries that don't 116-Across?]. I like this because it forces one to realize that the circled part of each theme entry is "acting out" the whole entry. ARMADILLO with nine circles around it can stand alone as a nine-banded armadillo. Similarly, PLANETS are ringed by circles. 

This clue also highlights something remarkable about the "theme revealer": GO IN CIRCLES can mean to be repetitive, and part of each theme answer is in fact repetitive, namely the part that does not literally go in circles. And it applies to itself, not just the other theme entries. 116A is contained in *and* described by its own clue. Circular! And this theme would not be possible if convention was to use something other than circles to highlight letters in crossword puzzles. If AcrossLite only supported ovals...well GO IN OVALS is not a phrase.

Compare this to a more typical theme revealer, like STOP clued as [Halt, or a literal hint to the starred entries?], in a puzzle where puns are created by changing S into P, i.e. S TO P. There halting typically has nothing to do with the other theme entries. Now there's nothing wrong with that theme. But that type of puzzle is relatively easy to make, and as a result there are a lot of them. Personally, these days I rarely make a puzzle unless there is something "extra" to it! For whatever reason, here the extra thing got lost in the editing process.

There was probably a good reason. But I also think that once you understand this theme, it seems like it will be more transparent to others than it actually is. Without question, this puzzle needs *something* to help the solvers out a little more."

Word of the Day: NINE-BANDED ARMADILLO (66A: *Animal that gives birth to identical quadruplets) —
The nine-banded armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus), or the nine-banded, long-nosed armadillo, is a species of armadillo found in NorthCentral, and South America, making it the most widespread of the armadillos.[2] Its ancestors originated in South America, and remained there until 3 million years ago, when the formation of the Isthmus of Panama allowed them to enter North America as part of the Great American Interchange. The nine-banded armadillo is a solitary, mainly nocturnal animal, found in many kinds of habitats, from mature and secondary rainforests to grassland and dry scrub. It is an insectivorous animal, feeding chiefly on antstermites, and other small invertebrates. The armadillo can jump 3–4 feet (91–120 cm) straight in the air if sufficiently frightened, making it a particular danger on roads. (wikipedia)
• • •

I've been constructing all day (or most of the day), so I'm pretty sick of staring at crosswords right now. Still, I enjoyed this one, even though I did not understand, until several minutes after I'd finished, what the theme was. Pretty tenuous, to the point of loopiness. But I'd rather have that than "Stupid puns of some kind!" or "Add a letter!" so ... awesome. Particularly fond of LIKE LIKE (89D: Have a crush on, in middle school lingo) and "MR. ROBOTO" (6D: Styx song with some Japanese lyrics) and (of course) WOO HOO! (84A: Cry of delight popularized by Homer Simpson). For the most part, the grid is both zingy and clean—a nice combination. Clue of the day, and candidate for Clue of the Year was 86D: Parks with no intention of moving (ROSA). Amusingest musical reference of the year might go to 7D: Frank with the album "Sheik Yerbouti" (ZAPPA).

Theme answers:
  • 23A: *Ready for the present? (GIFT-WRAPPED)
  • 25A: *Makeshift swing? (INNER TUBE)
  • 47A: *Brushback pitch (INSIDE FASTBALL)
  • 51A: *All-in-one (SELF-CONTAINED)
  • 66A: *Animal that gives birth to identical quadruplets (NINE-BANDED ARMADILLO)
  • 86A: *Saturn and others (RINGED PLANETS)
  • 90A: *Contents of a chest? (INTERNAL ORGANS)
  • 113A: *Surfaced, in a way (BUBBLED UP)
  • 116A: *Be repetitive ... or what parts of the answers to the starred clues do? (GO IN CIRCLES)
I had one weird section of struggle: the area right above ARMADILLO. I never know what to do with the "Bub" or "Bud" or "MAC" or "Pal" or "Ace" or whatever clues. [___ Grand] didn't ring a bell. Wanted RIO, though that was clearly wrong. Thought Uranus might have been married to RHEA (64A: Wife of Uranus = GAEA). Knew what a TripTik was, but couldn't get from there to AAA MAP. So lots of erasures in there—virtually the only section that has them.

Noteworthy solving moments:
  • Embarrassed my former, medievalist self by needing several crosses to get ANSELM (1A: Benedictine monk who founded scholasticism).
  • Black Africa???? 2D: Afrique ___ (NOIRE) ... I have to look this up now. Wow. Yes. In French, it seems, Sub-Saharan Africa is sometimes called "Afrique NOIRE." Live and learn. This reminds me of the documentary on "Graceland" that I watched today (fantastic—music, politics, controversy)
  • I'm writing something about music and crosswords at the moment, so I was recently doing database searches of common musical answers. Thus OCHS was relatively fresh in my mind (75A: Protest singer Phil). 
  • I prefer my BELA Bartoked, but Flecked works too (109D: Banjo master Fleck).


Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

*98A: "Jabberwocky" starter + 17D: Duke of ___ (noble Spanish title since 1472) + 42D: Nonsense word repeated before "oxen free" + 44D: Half of a dovetail joint + 103D: First name in 1960s diplomacy + 78D: Ones you can count on?

REMINDER to constructors and aspiring constructors under 30 years of age: the "Twenty Under Thirty" contest deadline is coming up in just 10 days (Jun. 20, 2012). I'm reprinting the press release again here for the final time.


About "Twenty Under Thirty" 
"Twenty Under Thirty" will be a standalone app featuring crosswords by twenty of the top young puzzle constructors in the world. Submission is open to anyone under thirty years of age, regardless of where she or he has published work in the past. Payment for selected entries will be $250--more than any newspaper daily in the United States--and participants will be featured prominently in announcements and marketing campaigns for the app. We want selection to feel like the honor that it is, and hope also to help young constructors make a name for themselves. Although the judging process will be blind, "Twenty Under Thirty" encourages submissions from groups underrepresented in puzzlemaking, including women and people of color.
Selections will be judged by a panel of experts, including New York Times regulars Elizabeth Gorski and Brendan Emmett Quigley, and blogger Michael Sharp (aka Rex Parker at The winning puzzles will be edited by Onion A.V. Club and Ink Well xwords editor Ben Tausig, and the app will be produced by crossword app maker CRUX for iPhone and iPad.

Submission Instructions
-Entry is limited to one puzzle per constructor. Completed, clued puzzles should be emailed to by midnight, June 20, 2012. 

-IMPORTANT: In order for the judging to be blind, please make the file name of your submission (whether it is a .ccw, .puz, .doc, .pdf, etc) a random string of ten numbers and remove all indication of your own name from the puzzle and file information. You may submit from your personal email account, but I don't want any way of knowing that your puzzle is linked to you. If you have questions that might reveal your theme, simply email me from an anonymous (or a friend's) address.

-All submissions must be wholly original, and neither I nor the panelists can know that they are yours. (i.e., if you've workshopped an idea with Brendan, then come up with a different idea).

-We are looking for work in the range of Tuesday-Friday New York Times difficulty. Both themed and themeless puzzles will be considered, and judged within the same pool. It's up to you to decide which type best reflects your talents. Since we expect to receive upward of 40 puzzles for 20 spots, plan to submit your very best stuff. Genre-bending themes are strongly encouraged; feel free to extend grids and to do things that aren't seen every day. (The app can accommodate special grids and gimmicks). Add-a-letter and three-of-a-kind themes are very unlikely to be chosen unless they feature a truly excellent twist. Amaze us.

-In general, puzzles should be 15x15, but we will also accept 16x15, 15x16, and 16x16 sizes.

-Puzzles should conform to the usual high standards of construction--avoid excessive black squares, have no more than 78 words, stay away from lousy entries such as long partials and pluralized names, and try to weed out repetition in the grid. You know the drill. 

-Aim to submit work that feels fresh. No specific bad words or references are off-limits, but you'll get a lot more credit for cluing PUBES as "Strands below?" than dropping in QUEEF because you feel like it. Likewise, include literature, film, music, food, and sex content that skews young, but be sure to keep it clever, not just edgy.

-Crossword Compiler or Across Lite files are preferred, but any other reasonable format is acceptable. As long as we can see the completed grid with numbers and the corresponding clues, you're in good shape.

Good luck!


Anonymous 12:23 AM  

No one who ever made a dovetail joint would ever call it a TENON. Ever. It's a pin. Dovetails consist of pins and tails.

jae 12:30 AM  

Yes, a very pleasant Sun. Easy-medium for me too. No real problems, but it took a while to realize Afrique was French and required Noire. I'm still a tad iffy about the theme. I guess BANDED refers to the circles around ARMADILLO?

Shouldn't errand in 16a be in quotes?

Nice one 15!

pk 12:47 AM  

What Rex said, except that my area of struggle was that far NW quadrant.

I'm with jae on 19A. I just put an exclamation point in the margin and thought "Oh my!"

I can never remember "deke" or "naiad," even though they are in crosswords all the time.

Loved the clue for Rosa Parks.

I guess 114D refers to the command to have the dog sit up on its hind legs, but I give my dog commands for him to NOT beg, including "Don't," "Don't Hoover," "This is People Food," "Seriously?," and "Fuggedaboutit." They all work.

pk 12:54 AM  

I also don't really "get" the theme. I understand the examples Rex gave, but the rest don't make much sense to me. I think we might be missin' somethin' here?

jae 12:56 AM  

Oops -- As pk gently pointed out, that should be 19a. Tiny numbers, dim light, aging eyes... lots of excuses.

Anonymous 1:05 AM  

Rex's blog and the comments thus far are surreal. Rex did not even explain the theme, just glided through a plausible theme. Without a doubt the most disappointing comments by Rex ever. There simply is no theme. There are, at best, multiple themes, combined into a hopeless mish mash for a Sunday puzzle. It much as Rex's captchas....


Anonymous 1:22 AM  

To the extent there was a theme, it was useless in solving the puzzle. I certainly cannot understand how bubbleup and insidefastball fit into the purported theme. Not that it matters, it was still a fun solve.

pk 1:52 AM  

Of course there is a theme. The constructor told us what it is - "Getting Around." I just don't get it, but that doesn't mean it isn't there.

Maybe XV will weigh in here and enlighten us.

And yeah, at Anon 1:22 (oh god, what are we doing up at 1:22?) it was a fun solve.

chefwen 2:17 AM  

Hi @mac - nice running into you at almost center stage.

I'm still fuzzy regarding the theme also, I thought maybe it was just me, but I guess not.

Anyway, it was a fun puzzle and I had a good time solving it, so little to complain about.

Xan Vongsathorn 2:39 AM  

IMO something crucial was lost in the editing process. The clue I submitted for 116A was something like [Be redundant, like the parts of the starred entries that don't 116-Across?]. I like this because it forces one to realize that the circled part of each theme entry is "acting out" the whole entry. ARMADILLO with nine circles around it can stand alone as a nine-banded armadillo. Similarly, PLANETS are ringed by circles.

This clue also highlights something remarkable about the "theme revealer": GO IN CIRCLES can mean to be repetitive, and part of each theme answer is in fact repetitive, namely the part that does not literally go in circles. And it applies to itself, not just the other theme entries. 116A is contained in *and* described by its own clue. Circular! And this theme would not be possible if convention was to use something other than circles to highlight letters in crossword puzzles. If AcrossLite only supported ovals...well GO IN OVALS is not a phrase.

Compare this to a more typical theme revealer, like STOP clued as [Halt, or a literal hint to the starred entries?], in a puzzle where puns are created by changing S into P, i.e. S TO P. There halting typically has nothing to do with the other theme entries. Now there's nothing wrong with that theme. But that type of puzzle is relatively easy to make, and as a result there are a lot of them. Personally, these days I rarely make a puzzle unless there is something "extra" to it! For whatever reason, here the extra thing got lost in the editing process.

There was probably a good reason. But I also think that once you understand this theme, it seems like it will be more transparent to others than it actually is. Without question, this puzzle needs *something* to help the solvers out a little more.

Rube 3:14 AM  

Hand up for not really understanding the theme. As @pk noted, the constructor says that there is a theme. Unfortunately, most of us apparently can't figure out what it is.

ANSELM was a gimme as there is the town of San Anselmo nearby in which there is St. Anselm's Church. When I first ran into the name in the literature, I took note. Now, some years later, it paid off.

Gotta complain about BEAST for "chimera". A beast implies substance, whereas chimera implies more ghostlike, e.g. gEiST, which means ghost in German and is what I had for 33A. Of course this means that I never heard of Styx's MRROBOTO and didn't know who Frank ZAPPA is. MRROgOTO and ZAPPi looked fine to me. Thus, a disappointing Sunday DNF.

Nevertheless, an enjoyable puzzle.

r.alphbunker 3:20 AM  

Here is my take on the theme.

All theme clues can be rewritten as
[circled part] is [non-circled part]

"GIFT" is wrapped
"TUBE" is inner
"FASTBALL" is inside
"SELF" is contained
"ARMADILLO" is nine-banded
"PLANETS" is ringed
"ORGANS" is internal
"UP" is bubbled

All of these can be somewhat cryptically construed as a self-referential statement that the subject is inside circles.

I think that the ARMADILLO clue is particularly inspired because ARMADILLO has nine letters.

paulsfo 3:24 AM  

I think understand the theme, now that I've read Rex's explanation (but certainly not before). See if rephrasing the answers, as follows, helps:
GIFT is WRAPPEN in circles.
TUBE is INNER, ie, it's within circles.
SELF is CONTAINED in circles.
ARMADILLO is BANDED with NINE circles. [it's amazing how this one works; ie, that ther is a none-banded armadillo and that armadillo contains 9 letters!]
PLANETS is RINGED with circles.
ORGANS is INTERNAL to (ie, within) circles.
UP is BUBBLED (ie, within bubbles=circles).

Jakarta Dan 3:24 AM  

Solving was very smooth and straightforward, but I didn't understand the theme until I read the Rexplanation.

Still think the theme is awfully iffy, but appreciate that ARMADILLO has nine letters, making the NINEBANDED part work.

paulsfo 3:27 AM  

Oops. Obviously, ralphbunker and I were writing simultaneously. In fact, after comparing our answers, I think we may be the same person!

Xan Vongsathorn 3:38 AM  
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Xan V 3:39 AM  
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Martin 3:41 AM  

@Anon 12:23,

Be assured that the issue of pins and tails vs. tenons and mortises has been raised before and will be again. This is a prime example of technical accuracy being the enemy of mass groking of a clue. People know dovetails and they know tenons. They don't know pins.

Happily, a pin is a kind of a tenon so it's all good. You know how they say "open the dictionary to dovetail and you see a picture of a tenon"?

r.alphbunker 3:51 AM  

Oops. Obviously, paulsfo and I were writing simultaneously. In fact, after comparing our answers, I think we may be the same person!

Martin 4:02 AM  


The Chimera (as opposed to a chimera) is a beast.

Steve J 4:21 AM  

Thanks @r.alphbunker and @paulsfo for the theme explanation. I didn't get it when I was doing the puzzle, and I wasn't grokking it from Rex's explanation. Now it finally makes sense.

Fortunately, this was easy enough that I didn't need the theme. I got hung up for a bit too above ARMADILLO (including wanting RIO to go with Grand, not MGM), and I also was slowed down in the SE. For whatever reason, ADES just would not come to me, and I had ENLAI instead of ADLAI (which made no sense either in terms of occupation nor decade).

I appreciate this one a bit more now that I get the theme. While I was solving, I was kind of just operating on auopilot. Wasn't much in this one that grabbed me, nor irritated me.

OldCarFudd 5:25 AM  

I agree with the commenters that the theme was impossible to grok until I read the explanation and subsequent discussions. Now I think it was quite clever and well-executed; the fact that it went over my head is my fault, not VK's.

But I do have one major gripe about inner tube. You couldn't make a swing from one, not even an inflated one. When you wrapped a rope around it to hang it from, say, a tree branch, the rope would abrade right through the thin rubber in about a minute and a half, dumping you on your butt. Also, when you put your weight on the seat part, the thing would elongate and squeeze your legs so you couldn't move. Lots of swings were (still are?) made from tire casings - the stiff part with the tread (which, in a modern tubeless tire, is the ONLY part). You need a tire with a pretty big opening so you can sit in the hole, so you're looking at a truck tire or one for a prewar car with larger wheels than what we drive today.

What was fun to do with an inner tube was to inflate it, float it on a lake, and dive through the hole from a diving board or a raft. Simple times, simple pleasures.

lymank 5:37 AM  

Thanks Rex (and others) for explaining the theme. Even after solving, I stared at the theme answers and wondered what they had to do with each other or the theme.

SethG 7:27 AM  

Before I realized the answers were self-referential, I thought the theme meant just that random words from each theme answer were inside circles because they'd been circled. That would have been my favorite use of circles ever.

Anonymous 7:31 AM  

Sometimes puzzle constuctors think too much. I like to solve puzzles, not go into another dimension about the theme.

Glimmerglass 7:58 AM  

@r.alphbunker and paulsfo: I agree with your analysis, but I think FASTBALL is a clunker. The word is inside circles in the grid, but an INSIDE fastball isn't contained in anything in the same way that wrapped, bubbled, ringed, banded, etc., enclose things. An "inside joke" or "inside information" would work. I agree that the theme is no help in solving the puzzle. I had trouble with the NW, too, but I loved NOONER when it finally fell!

mitchs 8:20 AM  

See Amy's analysis at "Crossword Fiend" for best theme explanation.

Square 8:47 AM  

Yes, it was an enjoyable puzzle to solve, fairly easy and without a ton of esoteric proper nouns. Since the themed clues had answers that were straightforward, the answers were all easy enough to get even if you didn't know they were themed answers.

I do have a problem with the themed answers. They don't seem to implement the theme in a consistent manner. Some of the answers involve what you do to enclose something (wrap it, contain it, put a ring around it). Some of the answers are simply descriptive (inner, inside, internal). Some of the answers include a noun that the theme words modify (gift, tube, planets, organs), some do not (self-contained, which is a single hyphenated word, and bubbled up). The answers can be a modified nouns (inner tube), an adjective (self-contained) or a verb (bubbled-up). So I can see why one would not realize the theme while solving the puzzle. Enjoyable but inelegant.

joho 9:07 AM  

The theme was totally lost on me. In fact, I most identify with @SethG's initial assessment. I knew that couldn't be it, but cwas unable to see what was intended until the explanations here today. I was literally GOINGINCIRCLES trying to figure it out!

Since when has a NOONER become an errand???!!!

Xan's theme was a little too esoteric for me but I applaud his pulling it off. I just like to feel a little smarter when I finish a puzzle, not dumber as I did today!

NittyGriddy 9:36 AM  

Yeah, I think Square has it right - an idea perhaps inspired by NINE-BANDED ARMADILLO but then muddied up by a lack of good similar expressions. In addition to Square's analysis, I was also thrown off by the fact that three of the circled answers unnecessarily involve round things - TUBE, *BALL and PLANETS - which confused me even more. A very inconsistent theme that made me feel that the great find of NINE-BANDED ARMADILLO had more or less been wasted.

jberg 9:36 AM  

I was kind of disappointed; after having GREG Norman and Norman BATES in the last two puzzles I was hopint to see William the Conqueror, or maybe BATTLE OF HASTINGS today. Other than that, though, I liked it.

Like many others, I finished the puzzle before I figured out the theme; and like @SethG I thought for a moment that it was just that the theme answers were in circles because they were in circles. Then I finally took another look at GOFT WRAPPED and realized that the GIFT was WRAPPED in the circles. As for the consistenc - you have to remember that every word, whatever it's real part of speech, is also the name of a word, and as such is a noun. For example, if you say "Up means ..." you are using the adverb up as a noun. It is in this sense that the theme works - it is the word, not the real-world thing entity or phenomenon it refers to, that is wrapped, inside, bubbled, or whatever. (I'm not sure I even understand that explanation myself, so feel free to skip lightly over it.)

@Steve J, I'm not sure I get your comment. Chou En-lai was foreign minister of China in the 60s all right, so if you can accept En-lai as a first name, it would work. Of course the 'first-name' concept is meaningless in Chinese. Me, I had ADLAI right off, but had forgotten that he was a diplomat, so I thought it was sloppiness until the memory came back. Since his role at the UN during the Cuban missile crisis was pretty famous, I have to worry about my memory. Maybe that could be a puzzle theme, things people don't remember - I had a couple examples in mind, but I've forgotten them.

foodie 9:49 AM  

"Ce qui se conçoit bien s'énonce clairement, et les mots pour le dire arrivent aisément." (Boileau)

Still, a fun puzzle, loopy though it may be.

Z 9:57 AM  

I think the theme is pretty awesome, but overall I just wasn't feeling it for this puzzle.

I agree wit @joho regarding NOONER. I guess for a lady of the evening or a gigolo extra duty at lunch time might be an errand. For us amateurs it's just a great use of time.

GenJoneser 10:29 AM  

Thanks for making me think of this great Van Morrison song
Snow In San Anselmo
especially after the puzzle left me feeling "yeah, ok I guess."
Happy Sunday All!

Rookie 10:34 AM  

I thought the great Scholastic was Thomas Aquinas, so the fact that Anselm came first was news to me. (I am familiar with Anselm.)

@foodie. Thanks for the Boileau quote. Haven't thought about him in a gazillion years. I am going back into the dark recesses of memory ... Was he the priest whose sermons were famous? Will have to google him after church this morning.

quilter1 10:34 AM  

Finished before church so rated easy. I resisted NOONER until I couldn't, but maybe it has a different meaning for young people. I think they'd like the old meaning ;) better that picking up the dry cleaning. The theme didn't helpme and still doesn't mean much, but I dislike circles in the puzzle and tend to ignore them. Hmmm, I believe I've said that before. I won't bring it up again.

Rookie 10:37 AM  

@ foodie. Oops. Just remembered that the sermons were Bossuet and poetry was Boileau. At least I think I remember that. Too hurried to google. Late for church.

jackj 10:50 AM  

This puzzle seems like a shot across the bow of the constructing swells who sometimes publish esoteric efforts designed to establish themselves as the smartest pen in the pocket protector.

The shot was fired by Xan and Will who can now temporarily lay claim to that “smartest” title as other fawning elites drool all over themselves in faux admiration while no doubt cranking up their own puzzle-making software to join in the competition.

And, the 99% “Occupiers” could gain a raft of new believers from folks who now know how it feels to be walked on by the 1%, in this instance, crossword’s A-listers, who are sashaying around in the intellectual’s equivalent of Jimmy Choo hob-nailed stilettos enlightening the great unwashed.

I suspect many will feel insulted by Will Shortz and the Times for treating the regular folks, the civilians if you will, those who treat the Times puzzle respectfully and solve it religiously, as silly dolts who deserve no respect from the crossword masters who control the game and claim the right to force this sort of nonsense down our gaping maws.

Ironically, taken as a themeless puzzle, this crossword is praiseworthy.

Rex Parker 10:52 AM  

Please see Xan's comment above (now reinstated after Blogger marked it as "spam"), which I've now also printed at the front of today's write-up.


chefbea 11:03 AM  

I agree with @Seth Just thought part of the answers were in circles.

Never heard of nooner or llano

Norm 11:07 AM  

VK's theme made sense and I like the puzzle much more in retrospect than I did while solving it. The "revealer" as printed just me go ... huh? You could have circled any word in the grid and it would have applied. VK's clue might have gone over my head (maybe like that INSIDE FASTBALL), but it made me smile when I saw it.

Anonymous #1: I think VK and/or Will got a dovetail joint mixed up with a mortise & tenon.

poc 11:12 AM  

Solved this with no idea what the theme was (my version didn't even show the circles on the grid), but it seems to have made no difference to solvability, in fact rather the contrary since I kept wondering what the trick was when there wasn't one. The explanations of what the theme meant are really weak IMHO. For one thing, planets do not move in circles and Saturn's rings are not circular. This has been known since the days of Kepler and Newton so I hardly think it too arcane for a crossword, even if it is Easy-Medium.

Anonymous 11:20 AM  

Thanks to everyone who attempted to explain this theme...altho I did finish the puzzle, I still don't get it!!


Loren Muse Smith 11:29 AM  

Thanks @Rex and @Xan for the explanation! I totally get the theme and am truly impressed that ARMADILLO has nine letters. For those of you who haven’t read Xan’s explanation (Rex just added it to the beginning of his comments), it’s worth looking at. Brilliant theme and execution.

This puzzle had me at LIKE LIKE. Lots of languages use reduplication for grammatical purposes, and I think it’s cool that we use it for semantic purposes.
A: “Did you talk to John yesterday?”
B: “Yes. I said ‘hello.’”
A: “No, I mean did you talk to him talk to him.”
B: “Oh. No, not yet.”

Are the asterisks used because there are other 9 letter entries coming down?

My first entry was “TWAS brillig and the slithy toves, Did gyre. . .”

St. ANSELM’s Ontological Argument blew my socks off in Mr. Parcel’s philosophy class.

NAIAD, GAEA – EYEFUL of vowels!

“Rifled” before SIFTED

@Rube – I had “ghost” before BEAST.

NOONER – what everyone has said. Errand???

@jberg – at least we have PT BOAT two days in a row.

@foodie – “Some people have a way with words, and other people, oh, uh, not have way.” Steve Martin

Orange 11:33 AM  

I loved the theme and thought it was elegant from the get-go. Must've been on your wavelength, Xan, because I saw that the ORGANS were rendered INTERNAL by being enclosed in circles, the FASTBALL was INSIDE those circles, etc., before reaching the revealer clue. Perhaps a puzzle title pointing at redundancy would have helped folks grok the theme faster?

This is one of my favorite Sunday-size puzzles this year.

retired_chemist 11:36 AM  

@ Chefbea - a nooner is a lunch hour tryst. A llano (Spanish word) is a treeless grassy plain.

NINE BANDED ARMADILLO went in without a cross. We live with a fair number of them on our 45 acres, and it behooved me to find out all I could about this animal since my dogs would obviously (indeed, have) come in contact with them. Did you know armadillos are the major non-human host for the leprosy bacterium and can transmit it to humans? Not breakfasty, but true.

Re the theme: I usually just ignore them if they do not help in solving, and this one by that criterion was eminently ignorable.

Agree with @jackj that this was a nice puzzle if treated as a themeless.

GILL I. 11:38 AM  

Well sometimes "stupid puns" can be fun. I just didn't have fun with this puzzle. The extra "thing" needed did indeed get me lost. Thank you for the explanation Xan but I still had to read it a couple of times to really get to the part where I might enjoy the theme. Sorry, but it felt too over-thought and just ended up not being my cuppa.
Apart from the theme, I did like the fill. Like @Rube I first had geist at 33a and then changed it to ghost. You say ZAPPA, I say Zappo. Thanks for the clarif @Martin.

Steve J 11:48 AM  

Ok, I think I can actually figure out how NOONER becomes an errand. For at least my generation (Gen X) and younger, "do" is a common synonym for sleeping with someone (e.g. "Sally finally did Harry"). An errand is something you need to do. So, since you're doing someone over lunch, your NOONER is a form of an errand.

Ok, maybe not.

@jberg: Zhou Enlai wasn't a diplomat: he was premier. To me, that would be like calling Barack Obama a diplomat. I did get the decade info wrong, though; I'd forgotten that he was leader of Taiwan until the 1970s; I always associate him with the '40s and '50s.

@Xan: Thanks for the info on the theme and what happened during the editing process. I don't know if that clue would have helped me solve, but I definitely would have sussed out what's going on with the theme much earlier, instead of finishing the puzzle with the same impression @SethG had, where I just thought there were words in circles simply because there are words in circles.

Lindsay 11:55 AM  

Very happy that I'm not the only one who can't find a theme here. Though if I squint VERY hard as I read Orange's post above it almost makes sense for a moment then poof! fades away again.

Nearly undone by the SE, where I had raLph (Bunche) before en-LAI before ADLAI. But a perfect sunny day to sit outside staring at a blank corner.

Rene 12:07 PM  

jackj, I haven't a clue what your point is, but that's the best batch of mixed metaphors I've tasted in a while.

Martin 12:25 PM  

OK children, "nooner" has two meanings. I realize that most of us would probably call a lunchtime errand a "nooner" about as often as referring to making a mistake "pulling a boner." But somebody might say it (like Sheldon on Big Bang Theory) and you can pretend it's normal for the sake of the children.

Tita 12:50 PM  

@r.alph/paulsfo - ROTF...!

ATEST the day after some other _TEST?
PTBOAT the day after PTBOAT?

Surely technology exists to let the sous-editors know...I mean, no biggie when it's one of the minor 3-letter ubiquitous fills, but PTBOAT?

Need to go to Wordplay to see if there is any explanation of why the revealer was obfuscated.

With Xan V's welcome explanation, it would have been a much more fun solve!! As it was, I could not figure it out at all.

(Count me as one of those who love another layer or two of puzzling challenge...)

Mel Ott 12:56 PM  

Well, I'm relieved that so many of my fellow bloggers are fuzzy about the theme. I thought I was being unbelievably dense. Reading the theme explanations is making my head hurt.

So I just treated it like a themeless disguised as a themed puzzle by the use of asterisks and circles. And I enjoyed solving it.

Shamik 1:02 PM  

@XV: Thanks for weighing in on the explanation of the editing. Your thought process makes the theme very clear and able to be appreciated.

Still, third easiest Sunday. Ever. Ever.

mac 1:03 PM  

A very rare DNF Sunday for me, and it was all because of the NW. Afrique DU SUD and Paris, Ira for Lew and forgetting Mr. Roboto made for one big mess.

I sort of got the theme, but especially 113A bubbled up needed a bit of reasoning to understand.

I loved "like like". I have a friend who, for years now, refers to "work work".

@foodie: LOL at loopy!

Norm 1:16 PM  

Apologies for referring to Xan as VK in my prior post. My brain must have still have been going around in circles. Still think his revealer/theme was far superior to what was published.

chefbea 1:41 PM  

@Martin Love Sheldon

lawprof 2:17 PM  

Didn't understand the theme; but after the constructor's explanation...I didn't understand it more.

edmcan 2:37 PM  

I found this an easy puzzle and I did sort of 'get' the theme. Am I the only one who hated the cluing? Oblique and needlessly odd.

foodie 2:39 PM  

For a while, I was even more confused by the constructor's explanation. Until I reread it and saw the critical sentence--that the revealer clue was supposed to "force one to realize that the circled part of each theme entry is "acting out" the whole entry".

r.alphbunker and paulsfo got it and explained it well, but it still took a while for me to translate, so here is my own attempt at saying the same thing:

The CIRCLES that are drawn around part of the answer do the following:

a) WRAP the GIFT
b) Enclose the TUBE so it becomes an INNER tube
c) Ensure that the FASTBALL is on the INSIDE
e) Go Around the 9 lettered ARMADILLO ensuring that it is a NINE BANDED one
f) Make rings around the PLANETS
f) Enclose the ORGANS so they're INTERNAL (not external, like an ear)
g) Create a BUBBLE around the word UP
h) And are the literal CIRCLES around GO.

Very Cool!!

But neither the revealer clue in the published puzzle, nor the one proposed by XV do this concept justice.

[Be redundant, like the parts of the starred entries that don't 116-Across?]

Saying it's redundant would have been even more confusing, because the first impulse is to think: Does it mean that all ORGANS are INNER? or all gifts are WRAPPED? or Anything WRAPPED is a GIFT? So, that would have been more misleading.

We should have a competition for the best revealer!

syndy 2:46 PM  

Can we just say the theme was very Meta? lovely chrunchy and super elegant puzzle!Extremely eclectic loved it ! (look EvilD I'm using too many "!"'s)I had two hang up points the one Rex mentioned and PREK/DEKE.all I can say vk is WOOHOO

quilter1 2:59 PM  

@chefbea: One could also refer to afternoon delight instead of NOONER.

Masked and Anonymous 3:05 PM  

This puz made for one real LOOPYSOLVE. [with SOLVE in circles]. thUmbsUp for the Xany theme, tho. I like a crossword that makes my brain explode with its circular arguments.

lawprof 3:19 PM  

Aw c'mon, folks. Even the amended revealer doesn't define this puzzle's theme. And the constructor's post? Like trying to explain a joke. As Gertrude reminded us, "There's no there there." prove that I'm not just a grinch, I did enjoy the puzzle ("theme" notwithstanding), and I was particularly gratified by the appearance of Adlai, my favorite polititian...ever: smart, articulate, funny, right on all the issues. No wonder he lost. (BTW, one of the captcha words is "adiali").

Sparky 3:22 PM  

Pretty much same as others. Has taken me a long while to see all the insideness of the theme answers. Not an Ah Ha moment more of a slog. Had TirE before TUBE, AlES before ADES, LeaSh before LASSO. Many clues misleading. Agree with @OldCarFudd. Have question mark at 25a. A tube is a float.

Lazy Sunday. So, what the hay.

Anonymous 3:32 PM  

Had Paris for three down and wouldn't let it go. Dnf because of that.... Everything else aok.

Sue McC 3:55 PM  

Would have chimed in sooner but had a mid-day "errand" to attend to. Enjoyed filling this one in yesterday and felt like I got where the theme was going but either it, or I, did not quite get there. Was looking forward to seeing how Rex would explain it. However, even without the theme there was a lot of fun to this one. I particularly enjoyed ROSA, HOTDOGBUN, and the reference to Jabberwocky. Now I think I'll sit on my REAR with some REMY.

Anonymous 3:55 PM  

I don't want to live in a world where a nooner is non-salacious. Errands at lunch time are called errands.

The Rosa Parks clue, however, was worth all the nooner induced angst.

chefbea 4:05 PM  

learned a new way to describe this puzzle. Saw my neighbor a few minutes ago and asked him if he finnished the crossword puzzle today. His reply - "you mean the cussword puzzle"???

Lewis 5:12 PM  

Maybe the puzzle should have been titled INNER CIRCLES?

JenCT 6:12 PM  

@joho & quilter1 et al: really, an errand implies something of a chore; not my definition of a NOONER either!

Speaking of chores, I just finished them at my house, so got to the puzzle very late. Have to make hay while the sun shines!

Thanks to the constructor and @Rex for clarifying the theme.

Ultimately a DNF for me; like @mac, the NW just wouldn't fall. But I enjoyed the puzzlr.

Anonymous 6:42 PM  

When most commenters (including me) finish a puzzle with no idea what the theme is, and when the explanations from Rex and the constructor are almost incomprehensible (I for one barely get the concept, which seems inconsistent and stretched way beyond reason), we have a puzzle that is too clever by half, and a giant fail as an entertainment for readers of the Sunday Magazine. And just to add insult to injury, the editing apparently made things even more obscure than the constructor intended. Will messed up big time on this one.

Tita 6:54 PM  

@Anon@3:32...Paris was my first thought, butI prayed that she would not be "honored". Also, didn't think her name was really a "girl's name" that was enough in the language, since I know of only 2 extant people with those names - the other is the son of a colleague.

btw - I must admit to DNF via 2 - count 'em - 2 naticks...

I am surprised that, with Rex being a prof and all, very often, his explanations of themes are unduly complex.
Today, 3 different folks (paulsfo, r.alph, fiend) provided much more straightforward and clear descriptions.

Well, back from a sometimes arduous, sometimes melancholoy, sometimes happy weekend.
On to Monday/

B'stow 8:31 PM  

Hah! Tho't this one would take me 'til noon to finish (Nooner?), but was done this morning (a "morninger"=same as a nooner only sooner!). When I disregarded the theme I did better.

JC66 9:30 PM  

read rex's post and the comment about 11 am. Checked in a few time since. my conclusion: WHAT THEME?

hazel 9:44 PM  

The theme was far too cerebral for me as i was doing the puzzle in one of my fastest times ever. Read all the explanations here and still found it incomprehensible - (my issue, not yours!) !followed mitchs' advice and went to crossword fiend site - and finally got it.

If your head feels like it is going to explode, i suggest you head over there.....

Anonymous 9:53 PM  

To me, a theme that does not have the potential to assist in the solve is superfluous. At best, this theme is esoteric, and, at worst, incomprehensible. But, either way, it is far too attenuated to be of use in the solve and is thus superfluous.

Catherine 10:26 PM  

My husband and I were doing this puzzle while he worked in the garden and I kept him company. When we came to 19A, I said, "What if it's NOONER? It has six letters." And we just laughed, and moved on. Later when the downs started filling in I was like, "I think it IS NOONER." No way! Way! NYT is getting more edgy all the time-- remember JUNKIE and QUICKIE a little while back?

The theme did confuse me, because some of the things were round or circular and others weren't. I had a theory that when I got all the circled letters and wrote them out, they would form some sort of huge wreath or palindrome, and when that fizzled I was perplexed. But I do get it now, and I love ARMADILLO in nine circular "bands." That was especially sweet.

pk 2:08 AM  

Glad to have gotten us all stirred up. The Puzz Twas Brill, and now we understand the theme. Thx XV!

Mrs. Trump 4:32 PM  

To me a nooner is a chore!

Anonymous 7:57 PM  

@xam Rex and many of the others are being generous, this is the most inept Sunday I've ever seen

Spacecraft 1:57 PM  

I was as confused as everybody else until I read @foodie's take on the theme; now I agree: cool!

Also agree with @oldcarfudd about swings. It's the tire, dude, not the tube. The latter we use to dip our "fanny in the Susquehanny."

Absolutely loved how NOONER crossed ENTER crossing REAR. Now, I simply mean that when I run my errand to the store they let me in through the back door. Why, what were YOU thinking??

Superior fill, even if it does include the NON-word ADES.

Solving in Seattle 3:31 PM  

everything that @Spacecraft said, plus...

had AnwAr before ADLAI. Had paris before SOFIA, but the light went on quickly because it's become the most popular girl's name.

The theme had my forehead very wrinkled until @Paulsfo's post, further clarified by @Foodie. I give it a clever rating.

@SiS lol award of the day to @Spacecraft.

Capcha: stregio. NOONER, in Italy.

Idahoconnie 3:32 PM  

More power to those who got the theme after all the explanations. I'm still not quite getting it. I want to comment on oldcarfudd's post on jumping into inner tubes into water. I did just that into a tube in a swimming pool. My little toe caught on the air nozzle as I dove into it It was on Memorial Day over 50 years ago.. I looked down at my toe and it was hanging listlessly. My dad drove me to the nearby naval base and because it was a holiday the low man on the totem pole was on duty. He said it was broken and he put a cast on my leg up to below my knee. He did such a lousy job that the cast cut off my circulation and had to be redone the next day. The original cast was so thick that the saw burned my leg because it got so hot. Oh, I forgot to add that the original cast was put on while I sat on the morgue slab. Guess the rest of the hospital was closed. This was all after my father warned me not to jump off the diving board into the tube. Happy Father's Day dad. He is 93 years old and still going relatively strong and still giving good advice.

Dirigonzo 3:49 PM  

I often have to come here to have the theme explained to me and today (5 weeks ago) I see I am in very good company.

I at first wanted 62d, Uplifting piece, to be bra but it wasn't to be. MRROBOTO took every single cross and made that section difficult.

@Idahoconnie - that's a great Father's Day story - happy day to your father and all the dads out there!

Now back to doing battle with yestersay's (in real time) puzzle, which so far has pretty much kept me pinned to the mat.

Anonymous 5:05 PM  

loved the Rosa Parks clue

DMGrandma 5:38 PM  

Not my favorite puzzle! Had to come here to get the theme and 19A explained! Interesting to see so many attempts at explaining the theme, some of which I sort of understand. Still a bit puzzled by ADE, but I guess it refers to a lemonade stand?? Happy Father's Day, Syndilanders.

Anonymous 6:16 PM  

Anonymous 9:53 PM
"To me, a theme that does not have the potential to assist in the solve is superfluous. At best, this theme is esoteric, and, at worst, incomprehensible. But, either way, it is far too attenuated to be of use in the solve and is thus superfluous."
I couldn't have said it any better. So I copied and pasted.

Anonymous 6:35 PM  

"Round things are boring"
- Frank Zappa

Ironic how well that sums this one up.

rain forest 6:53 PM  

I got the theme immediately, and truly enjoyed the solve--dandy. My only hangup was the NW where Anselm and nooner took awhile, but the latter was worth the wait...

Kadh2000 11:33 PM  

World's latest post... I was on vacation for two weeks so I missed this.

Loved the theme. Got it early, and it did help me solve some of the clues.

Mr. Roboto had a comeback as a car commercial for VW I think.

We always said "allee allee outs in free" as in all the ones who were still out could come in free.

Liked likelike a lot. Overall, found it a easy-medium puzzle.

Anonymous 3:37 PM  

Despite being a newby here I have to say I did manage to get all the clues but gave myself a headache worrying about "innertube', "tenon" and of course "nooner". And then... was I getting the theme? Sorta...
Anyway feel a lot better and had a few good laughs after reading all the great stuff here. Am a week late with comment because this puzzle gets to my part of Canada a week late!

Anonymous 7:31 PM  

I don't think swings are made if inner tubes. They're made of tires - at least in my part of the world they are.

Anonymous 2:59 PM  

I was reading explanation after explanation, along with thanks to Rex and the constructor for explaining it so well, and I was still scratching my head and not getting it AT ALL. Then, for some reason, while reading jberg's post, the gears in my head finally clicked into place and it all finally made sense. Foodie has a good explanation, too. While the puzzle was enjoyable to solve, and once I realized how the theme worked, it finally made sense, if there is a Worst Clue of the Year category, I'm sorry, but 116A (the actual and alternative both) would be a prime candidate. I don't see what redundancy and repetition have to do with it. The parts of the clue that are not in circles may literally describe what is happening to the circled words (nine-banded armadillo! NOW I'm loving it!), but you would have to be very very very very very literal-minded to see those parts as redundant.

Rick Shur 5:33 AM  

I think it's more fun when figuring out the theme enhances my ability to solve the puzzle. If I can finish the puzzle without using the theme, I feel cheated and let down like I do when I climax without having an orgasm.

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