Ray Charles hit of 1963 / TUE 6-12-12 / Rex Harrison's singer/actor son / Humorist Barry / Illegally take old-style / Tom Clancy's 2008 video game / 1960 Elia Kazan film

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Constructor: Peter A. Collins

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: BRAD PITT (1D: With 59-Down, star of the work revealed by the first letters of the Across clues, which hint at this puzzle's theme) — grid contains four movies with "RIVER" in their titles. There is also a movie with "RIO" in its title. [Because it was obvious, I forgot to include it in the initial posting—the first letters of the Across clues spell out "The Robert Redford Film 'A River Runs Through It'"]

Word of the Day: Carolina HERRERA (26D: Designer Carolina) —
Carolina Herrera (born María Carolina Josefina Pacanins y Niño (born January 8, 1939) is a Venezuelan and naturalized American fashion designer and entrepreneur who founded her eponymous company in 1980. (wikipedia)
• • •

This puzzle is a mess, and the whole "RIO" thing is the least of its problems. Why would you torture clues to fit into your whole first-letters-spell-a-hint scheme? You reveal the first-letter stunt right away, in the clue for BRAD PITT, so why not just put the whole "hint" in the clue itself? (A: because that's stupid ... my point is it's no stupider than this). You have essentially forced yourself to write Across clues that are artificially bound by this first-letter-spells-a-hint nonsense, which means those clues are often awkward or insane or inappropriate for the day of the week (e.g. Rex Harrison's singer/actor son?? Ray Charles hit of 1963??, etc.). Why tie your hands (utterly) unnecessarily? Then there's the bigger, much bigger issue, of having RIVER after RIVER after RIVER after RIVER in my grid (this almost makes me welcome the amazing inconsistency of RIO). I'm just writing the same 5-letter word into the grid, over and over??? This is terrible on so many levels. Dull, repetitive ... pointless. Just pointless. I've never seen the NYT stoop to this repeated word nonsense that I can recall. Not a word of RIVER's size, anyway. In a 15x15 grid?? Baffling.

"WILD RIVER" is in there ... why? (A: because it creates symmetry with "MOON RIVER", which is the ONLY RIVER THAT IS NOT IN A MOVIE TITLE ... but at this point who even cares?). Is "WILD RIVER" famous? Not nearly as famous as all the others. [Word Association Interlude: DON CORLEONE was played by Marlon Brando who starred in "The Wild One" and the Elia Kazan film "On the Waterfront" ... but not in the Elia Kazan film "WILD RIVER"] Then there's the fact that the multiple RIVERs are not "a river" and they don't "run through" anything, any more than any word runs through any other word in a crossword. Then there's the fact that the longest Acrosses have nothing to do with the theme (which would, ironically, be more distracting if the puzzle were less terrible). Then there's the oft-drecky fill like THERMO and REAVE and NOVO and EEC and All The Damned Names ...

In order to see what a good puzzle with "A River Runs Through It" as its theme looks like, see this Liz Gorski gem from five years back. And then weep for where we have ended up.

Theme answers:
  • 3D: 1948 John Wayne Western ("RED RIVER") 
  • 25A: First part of a 1952 best seller's title, followed by 37- and 51-Across ("THE BRIDGE / OVER THE / RIVER KWAI") — just now realizing that this is the *book* title, which is different from the movie title (movie has "on" instead of "over"); I'm still counting this as a movie title because that movie is so much more iconic than the book.
  • 9D: 1960 Elia Kazan movie ("WILD RIVER")
  • 33D: It's "wider than a mile," in an old song ("MOON RIVER")
  • 39D: 1959 John Wayne western ("RIO BRAVO")

  • 26D: Designer Carolina ___ (HERRERA) — Totally unknown to me. Needed many crosses.
  • 38D: Tom Clancy's ___ (2008 video game) (END WAR) — Almost totally unknown to me (i.e. it rings the faintest of bells). Needed many crosses.
  • 56A: Total dive, say (RAT TRAP) — I'm in the middle of Patti Smith's "Just Kids." Fascinating, touching memoir about her longtime relationship/friendship with Robert Mapplethorpe. Smith lived in many a RAT TRAP in her youth. 

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to write my "FULL MOON" puzzle ... 'cause the grid is going to be FULL of MOONs. Get it? "MOONRAKER!" "PAPER MOON!" "MOON OVER MIAMI!" "MOON OVER PARADOR!" It's gonna be awesome.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Brad Pitt 12:06 AM  

Aaaaah, thank you. As I solved this puzzle my only consolation was "I bet Rex Parker is going to hate this." Not that I'm comforted by your suffering, RP; I just knew that your scathing write-up would make good reading. And indeed it did. Thanks.

jae 12:11 AM  

Ok, I'm beginning to see a pattern develop.  Tough Tuesdays and easy Fridays.  Seriously, this was an easy-med. Thurs. for me.  Subtract the time it took to jump back and forth and read the across clues' first letters and it still was a Thurs. puzzle.  

Non Tues. stuff: STYNE, HERRERA, ENDWAR, THERMO (you know this if you're over 50), REAVE,  NOEL/VENETO (tough cross), three movies that you needed crosses to get...

That said, I liked it more than Rex did, but I agree there are some major flaws.  Another is that only two of the  RIVERS ran the theme. 

It'll be interesting to hear Orin's take on this one.

Brian L 12:13 AM  

I hesitated a while with "THE BRIDGE … OVER THE … RIVER KWAI" because I kept running Billy Joel's lyrics through my head, and I swore it was "Bridge on the River Kwai".

So so many names.

I.P. Standing 12:18 AM  

With all these rivers, no YELLOW RIVER?

Major Clipton 12:24 AM  

Madness!, Madness!

Anonymous 12:26 AM  

Ok, I've proved I can type RIVER, both across and down. Do I get the job? What, there's no job? WTF was this whole thing about if there's no job awaiting me?

pk 12:29 AM  

Grrr. Agree with Rex, this was pretty awful. And I still don't *get* what the first letters of the Across clues referred to in 1D actually refer to. But I don't care, so don't bother trying to explain it to me.

Of course, I thought it was perfectly plausible that Rex Harrison had a son named GAEL.

I'm trying hard to channel our ACME and find something to love here, but I just can't. TESTEE? Really?

On a more positive note, Sudoku Husband and I are officially on vacation - leaving for the U.S. Open in San Fran in the (very early) a.m. So TTFN, or maybe I will be able to check in with you along the way. Cheers!

Evan 12:44 AM  

This was a tough Wednesday puzzle on a Tuesday to say the very least. I get that the across clues were made more difficult owing to spelling out a hint in the first letters, but what was with some of the uber-challenging-for-a-Tuesday Down clues? Like 57-Down: "Schoenberg's Moses und ___." Huh? Just go with Elvis. ALAN Paton? I've read "Cry, the Beloved Country" but man, he's probably the 15th or 16th Alan I could possibly remember in my mental list of famous ALANs. And Denver OMELET? You kidding me? That's upping the difficulty big-time for an early week offering.

I found myself lucky to get away unscathed by the dreaded NOEL/NOVO/VENETO/HERRERA crossing (knew absolutely none of them), but then unlucky when I threw in etNa at 68-Across and never really checked the crosses down there until I was done. I think the puzzle's bizarre features (all pointed out by Rex above) really threw me for a loop, and being impatient after struggling for much longer than I had expected, I didn't even bother to check if AIR ACt was a better answer than AIR ACE (it seemed plausible, as did STYNa).

syndy 12:44 AM  

I hesitated filling in WILDRIVER because I already had REDRIVER and would a puzzle have more than one river?apparently yes.But I remembered how to spell KWAI this time and after some thought that the movie was "ON" and the book was "OVER".Miniskirts reveal quite a bit but KNEES would not be my first guess.thumbs down!

Tobias Duncan 1:11 AM  

Turns out that not only do I hate sports, I am not a big movie or TV fan. I guess I sort of hate the idea celebrity in general. Someone has to impress the shit out of me before I remember their name(or I have to be absolutely bombarded by the relentlessness of the American pop culture machine[BRAD PITT]), its amazing I can ever complete a puzzle at all.DNFed this one with two errors.
Not a Tuesday at all for the likes of me.

Pete 1:15 AM  

Rex eviscerated this puzzle more than any I can recall, yet I feel he missed something, perhaps the gestalt of how bad this puzzle was. Four rivers and one rio, not one river, one rio, one riv,.. More names that a phone book. More crud fill than the Staten Island Fresh Kills land fill (aptly named according to Jimmy Hoffa). All nicely wrapped up by the first letters of... making for tortured cluing.
Epically bad.

r.alphbunker 1:21 AM  

Does Rexville have a river? Maybe it does now as our host cried a river over this puzzle.

When I finished solving I thought the theme was something about the River Kwai. When I reviewed the puzzle and realized that many rivers ran through it I had a nice aha experience which I chose not to analyze too deeply.

Andrea's post at the end of yesterday's blog was sad. I hope she comes back. She saw the water in the glass instead of the air. Is someone who thinks the glass is half empty a glasshole?

Octavian 1:30 AM  

When I saw the constructor's name, before I solved, I thought to myself, "Collins always tries to do something interesting but he almost always fails." And this did not disappoint me, other than being the least interesting of his many fails.

Probably the worst Tuesday of the modern era. Utterly drab and humorless, and breaking cardinal rules without a good reason.

You would think that a puzzle like this would be rejected by Will, who would say -- "that's not how we do this type of puzzle." Maybe his head is just not in the game.

However it was amusing to see REAVE in the middle of all the rivers. And I kept staring at ANNIVERSARY, thinking it was important that it contains RIVER, anagrammed. Alas, no. Zzz.

Evan 1:35 AM  

Just to spark a little bit of discussion: How many proper nouns do people consider to be too much for a standard 15x15 puzzle? By my count, I noticed 25 answers in this puzzle that were clued as proper nouns, be it through movie titles, song titles, author names, places, etc. And those 25 answers do not include the central theme answers, THE BRIDGE/OVER THE/RIVER KWAI. So if you include those, that's 28 out of a possible 78 answers that were made up of proper nouns (approximately 36%).

I'm all for including interesting bits of trivia in a crossword puzzle, and it goes without saying that including a fair number of proper nouns isn't necessarily unfair. Some proper nouns are far easier to remember than others, and one should reasonably expect to encounter trivia in a crossword, perhaps even some obscure trivia, on almost any day of the week. But it seems to me that if too much of a grid is comprised of information that you either know or you don't -- or at least, information that's harder to retrieve if you're not familiar with it compared to common English words -- then it's just not as enjoyable of a solving experience. One reader over at the Wordplay blog suggested that the abundance of proper nouns in this puzzle "choked this grid to death."

I doubt there's any magic number for what people consider to be an acceptable amount of proper nouns in a puzzle, but I'd bet anything that today's was way higher than the average. Maybe it's more of a question of how common or obscure the proper nouns are, and not just how often they appear.

Rube 2:39 AM  

In terms of difficulty, I had zero writeovers, inferring an easy early week puzzle.

Similarly, in terms of proper names, (even pop culture names), everyone of these in this puzzle were gettable, (for me), by crosses. (And, I'm usually the first to complain about too many pop culture clues.)

Now maybe I'm not very discriminating, but I found nothing at all to complain about this puzzle. There are those historians who would say that the "DARK AGEs" were not as "dark" as they are made out to be... but that's just perception. You've gotta go way back to know about THERMOfaxes... good stuff.

What's more, there is even an interesting new wotd, REAVE. (At least it's new to me.) Uncommon in a Tuesday puzzle.

t-dawg 2:54 AM  

Can someone explain the "first letters of the Across clues" thing?? I don't get it...

Eejit 3:00 AM  

@dawg You take the first letter of each across clue and put them together, so it starts "THE ROBERT REDFORD" etc.

Thought it was a tough one for a Tuesday, but any finished puzzle is a good puzzle. The NYT Crossword is one of my barometers for the onset of dementia, so ones like this worry me.

jae 4:07 AM  

@Andrea -- I have looked forward to your late night comments for quite a while now. Your posts are an upbeat night cap and a delightful set up for tomorrow's discussion. You make me smile. ED often elicits a cringe. Trust me, I'd much rather smile. (Plus, how can you do this to dk?)

JenCT 4:27 AM  

At first, I thought there was a Godfather theme.

Then, a John Wayne theme.

Then, I couldn't see a theme. Oh yeah, RIVERs.

Wow, @Rex can really eviscerate a puzzle (great word, @Pete.)

Gareth Bain 5:06 AM  

Remember: If you don't enjoy the NYT your puzzle day doesn't have to end disappointed, there's always the LAT! Which was fun, provided you don't mind names and sport!

Anonymous 5:32 AM  


I have to be honest with you -- I read 1-down and didn't even waste my time trying to solve this ... thing.

Jeremy 5:49 AM  

This is going to sound smarmy, but thank you Rex.

I've been doing the NYT crossword for about 10 years now. When I took out a digital subscription last year, I found the Wordplay blog and have been participating in that forum ever since.

My enduring problem is that everybody on Wordplay is so friendly and supportive of the constructors that it is hard for a critical debate about the puzzle to gain traction. I've always felt that the NYTXP is the acme American puzzling and thus constructors should be held to an extremely high standard, but at times I've felt awkward taking this more cynical approach at Wordplay. Now I've found your blog and, well, I feel like I've found my proper home.

Thanks again and I'll send a few euros your way via the donation button.

Anonymous 6:08 AM  

I found this to be relatively simple, but I cannot figure out how to get Robert Redford even with the explanation given so I feel incredibly stupid

r.alphbunker 6:21 AM  

13 [R]ichard ...
14 [O]utfielder ...
15 [B]atter ...
17 [E]t ...
18 [R]uthless
20 [T]ime ...

evil doug 7:30 AM  

“…including his writing me a vaguely threatening email on my HOME email….”

I think you should all request---no, demand---that Andrea post my e-mail in full here. It won’t take much space. Its greeting says, “Andrea”; its signature says simply “Doug”; and the body is but one sentence posed as a question. If she fails to support her grossly hyperventilated and patently false accusation with my words themselves, then I’ll be happy to do so. And yes: I sent it to the e-mail address that she offered publicly here; I didn’t have to seek it out, or request it from anyone. She now has mine too---but has never had the graciousness to respond to it privately.

“I don't need to read the blog and find there is a debate as to whether or not I'M an a*hole!!!”

Ironic that she should take offense at the very discussion she initiated when she directed that very term at me. It sucks when one’s own misbehavior bounces back on them….

“…and appeals privately to @Rex to put a stop to it….”

Yes, when one can’t argue rationally, the next best solution is censorship. Andrea is clearly angered and confused by the criticism she now receives for both her puzzles and her posts---including from Michael himself---when she used to be universally beloved and bulletproof. In fact I suspect her frustration with Michael---“Glad @Rex deemed it "publishable"! I shall remember that next time I'm damning something with faint praise!”---is as much the root of the problem as am I.

Ironically, last week I had exchanged e-mail with a mutual friend in which I pledged to simply avoid referring to, sniping at or even acknowledging Andrea here. I’ve said publicly that I appreciate her often clever and entertaining comments, and particularly her assistance to new puzzle constructors. But I’ve also been fully open and honest when I think she’s off base---a favor she and many others here have no problem returning to me!---and that’s the stuff that seems to garner all the attention. So I figured it would be helpful for me to simply avoid her and see if I could still usefully go about my blog business. Unfortunately, her outright lie has made me forgo that promise for now. Once she comes clean with my e-mail, I’ll be happy to reclaim that stance.

“…and I'm sure the blog will happily survive without me!”

No, Andrea doesn’t do well with criticism. But even more, she thrives on the strokes and supportive words she garners here. So I have no doubt that if you applaud loudly enough, she’ll be back. I hope so.


Anonymous 7:36 AM  

Meh. It was OK. I was 20-odd seconds over my average Tuesday time, so I'd agree this was a tad thornier than average.

The Bard 7:54 AM  

King Henry VI, part II > Act V, scene I

SALISBURY: It is great sin to swear unto a sin,
But greater sin to keep a sinful oath.
Who can be bound by any solemn vow
To do a murderous deed, to rob a man,
To force a spotless virgin's chastity,
To reave the orphan of his patrimony,
To wring the widow from her custom'd right,
And have no other reason for this wrong
But that he was bound by a solemn oath?

Z 7:59 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
ArtO 8:02 AM  

Totally agree with Rex. From the crud fill to the tortuous "clue reveal."

BTW, you can find RIVER in ANNIVERSARY.

Z 8:04 AM  

Ahhhh - the return of the red-headed step-child Tuesday puzzle. It has been awhile since we've seen such a bad Tuesday. How soon we forget that Tuesday seems to be the day reserved for flawed puzzles. For all the eviscerating of today's effort, I think a check back through the archives will find worse Tuesdays.

Spent a few picoseconds wondering if CORLEONE was a river I would need to learn until ANNIVERSARY cleared up that false hope.

And - for no particularly logical reason - I really disliked using 'batter' to clue HITTER.

At least I got to hear an Iron and Wine song. Thanks for that, Rex. "Tree by the River" is one of Mr. Beam's most straightforward lyrical efforts, but is nevertheless a great song.

John V 8:06 AM  

I got tripped at the HERRERA/DRAB/AHAB/AIRACE(ugh) crossing; had DULL and didn't see DRAB. Can I blame the Charlotte fog again? Yes, let's do that.

I mean, I don't know; I grant all of what's been said about the puzzle, but my take was that on balance I enjoyed its eclectic nature. Certainly broke all the rules for a themed puzzle, but that was part of the challenge. Peter Collins gives us a different look for a Tuesday and I think that's cool. I like that sort of risk taking. I was not keen to have to write out the across clue letters, but this was a good mix up for a Tuesday. Played quite challenging for me.

Fav clue: 63A Ring Leader=ALI. Good one!

Now what to do about the fog.

Anonymous 8:11 AM  

This blog should not get personal. It is offensive to read comments that should be between two people, off-blog. I enjoy reading clever, witty critique. I enjoy constructive comments. I admire any constructor or any one who puts an endeavor "out there" for others to see. Some are great and some fall short, but it's the effort that counts.

I, too, will be taking a vacation from this blog. I don't need to start my day with ill-will.

loren muse smith 8:14 AM  

@Jeremy - welcome!

High points: SHRUB/MUD cross, RENEGE.

I was so confused upon DNFing (NAVO/NOEL cross), because I wasn’t paying attention and thought BRAD PITT was the star of The Bridge over the River Kwai. I kept looking up to make sure the constructor wasn’t Kafka.

Plurals are kind of frowned upon until you really want one at DARK AGEs.

At first glance, the picture Rex put up looks like Kevin Bacon, who starred in The River Wild.

I never know how to spell OMELET.

On BENE – a while back there was a traffic sign that said, “NB” and then under it, “traffic pattern change.” I saw it for a week wondering how anyone at the dept of hwys or whatever would actually put Latin on a sign. I finally called the smartest friend I have, Rabbi Jim, and asked what he thought. He was quiet for a while and then said, “Loren. North Bound.”

Kevin 8:21 AM  

After struggling through what is clearly a sub-par puzzle, it's always cathartic to read your send-up, Rex. Well, that and rating it on Crossword Fiend. Thanks for articulating the frustration I imagine a lot of people experienced today, and on other, similar days.

St. Martin's Press 8:23 AM  

Will Shortz presents ...
"Truly Terrible Tuesday Crosswords"

Sue McC 8:27 AM  

I thought this was pretty easy but for the life of me couldn't get the "first letter" thing. I was looking at the answers instead of clues. Duh. Then when I came here and saw it explained, I went back and looked at the clues, and it made me hate the puzzle. It just seems so forced and dumb. And I completely agree about the repetition of RIVER...seriously, word repetition has got to be big no-no. Ugh.

Anonymous 8:33 AM  

RIVER RIVER RIVER RIVER RIO. She started it [even though I've been picking on her for years]!

This could become the worst commenting day ever.

quilter1 8:35 AM  

I thought the puzzle was pretty easy and I just though the theme was rivers, ignoring the first letters nonsense. I did not see that movie although I did see the Bridge on the River Kwai and we have the theme music on the Ipod. I want to do Rex's moon puzzle.

Anonymous 8:41 AM  

I have been reading this blog for about 4 years and I feel as if I need to move on to something more positive. Doug has been attacking Andrea for nearly the whole time and I guess he has finally succeeded in making her go away. She said repeatedly what a difference this blog had made and it makes me really sad to see her hurt like this.

retired_chemist 8:49 AM  

The comments are more interesting than the puzzle.

Milford 8:56 AM  

@loren - I love the N.B. story. It sounds very much like something I would think!

I was amused by the OVER THE / NOONE in the middle.

A River Phoenix (Rex's photo) clue would have been a nice touch.

707N 9:03 AM  

When I think 'A River Runs Through It' the novella the movie is based on comes to mind. Written by Norman MacLean in his later years, it is in homage to his brother.

So with the movie soundtrack playing 'half light of the canyon', the puzzle makes me really look for some of the words...and

'under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs.
I am haunted by waters'

Anonymous 9:17 AM  

Handle for that guy is "Ego Doug", and he proves it in every post.

joho 9:25 AM  

I seem to remember @Rex trashing one of Peter Collin's puzzles not too long ago but that review pales in comparison to today's negative rant!

The "rule" to not repeat a word was broken but I welcome the breaking of rules and applaud both Peter and Will for trying something new and different.

The theme was dense and the cluing clearly explains why all the RIVERs are running through the puzzle. RIO is definitely a RIVER.

My favorite clue was "Utter jerk, rudely" for SOB.

Hmmm, now I wondering if Mr. Collins is the same constructor who @Rex recently mentioned as someone he can't stand...

Rex Parker 9:26 AM  

If you haven't the discipline to ignore the self-involved bickering of two incredible egomaniacs who have decided this comments section is their own personal grammar school playground, then by all means, Move On.

Sorry for not posting the "first letters" explanation. I thought it self-evident, but apparently not. Problem rectified.

I actually think this is one of the *best* commenting days ever.


jackj 9:31 AM  

Peter Collins once again puts forth a puzzle that bellows out “Nothing succeeds like excess” and whose echo responds, “There can never be too much of my good things”. Once Peter gets rolling, he just seems not to be able to control himself with his themes.

So many streams, so little space.

Using the first letters of the across clues to spell out an uber clue that hints at the puzzle’s theme (which involves RIVER(s), in case you missed it) is clever and, no doubt, logistically demanding for the constructor but in the end, it only accentuates the puzzle’s thematic obesity.

The fill didn’t fill the bill either and seemed like it might have been forced in order to satisfy a theme gimmick (oops, almost forgot about those thirty-nine Across clues).

My favorite thing in the puzzle was the clue and answer for 52 down, “Miniskirts reveal them” for KNEES which is precisely what today’s (6/10/12) LA Times puzzle by Gail Grabowski and Bruce Venzke used as their clue for KNEES at their 18 down, namely, “Miniskirts reveal them”.

Oddly, this is a clue that has never before even been hinted at in the thousands of crosswords published over the past 20 years as detailed in the crossword data compiled by XWordInfo (25 instances) and the Cruciverb data base (90 instances).

Hmmm, wonder who got REAVE(d)?

jberg 9:32 AM  

I liked this more than most, but for irrelevant reasons:

1) "A River Runs Through It" (the book, at least) is beloved of fly-fishers everywhere.

2) After all the Normans last week, it was nice to have this veiled reference to Mr. Maclean.

3) Partner Martha performed a work by Malcolm Arnold, who wrote the music for that River Kwai movie, last Saturday.

4) The theme from the movie was what I used to teach myself to whistle 50 years ago.

So all that put me in a good mood to admire the theme density and overlook the obscurity - even though this puzzle is simply loaded up with names from show business, a field about which I know very little.

After all that, I thought it was easy - except that for some reason, for 13A, I thougt ROE and wrote down ROo, leaving me with that famous cowboy, Rod River, at 3D. So finished with an error.

I came here early yesterday and missed the whole @ACME thing, I'll have to go read it now. But Andrea, your're wonderful, I always love your comments, please don't go away.

I always love @Evil, too. We need to relish different views.

Finally - this has been irking me for weeks - what's wrong with being a robot?

Catherine 9:32 AM  

I don't think Rex is right to say the theme is "Brad Pitt"-- he's just an actor in the movie that is the hook on all those RIVERs. If the theme were Brad Pitt, the answers would be MONEYBALL, OCEAN'S ELEVEN, MRANDMRSSMITH, etc. Or maybe JENNIFER, ANGELINA, SIXKIDS, and MILLIONDOLLARRING.

The theme is "A RIver Runs Through It" get it-- "rivers" run through the puzzle? Like there are a million "rivers"?? How cool is that?? Just kidding. The puzzle gave me a headache. Like someone above I kept attempting to put together the first letters of the answers to get the big reveal. I figured it out eventually and could see why... someway... somehow... Will thought this was a clever concept. But solving this puzzle was no fun. And for Tuesday...?

As for Andrea and Evil Doug, I'm a newcomer here so I have no idea what the history is. But I really liked yesterday's puzzle a lot.

Rex Parker 9:33 AM  


Come on. It's a little insulting to impugn my motives here. I have never, ever seen such widespread negative feedback on a NYT puzzle (here, and elsewhere). PAC makes a ton of puzzles, and I find most of them mediocre, it's true. I have never met the man and the few email interactions I've had have been cordial. I look at the puzzle and see what I see. Virtually every constructor I know will say (is saying) the same things I said about this one. If you want to disagree with my analysis, knock yourself out. But it's silly to write my opinions off as some personal animosity. Do you really think the bulk of solvers would follow me over some personal vendetta cliff? As I said: come on.


Rookie 9:39 AM  

@Loren. I loved the NB story, perhaps because I could see myself doing the same thing. Wouldn't it be a wonderful world to see that kind of erudition on street signs!

I'm way too new at this to have any basis for judging the merit of this puzzle, but it was remarkably easy for me. I did wonder about the repetition of all the rivers. That made the fill extremely easy. That would have been my objection if I felt qualified to offer one.

joho 9:45 AM  

Hey @Rex, I didn't accuse you of anything, take it easy! I was just wondering. Ever since you made that provocative statement about a constructor you can't stand, I've been wondering who it is. You piqued my curiousity. Of course we'll never know, and I won't bring it up again.

mac 9:54 AM  

I was agape when the trick was given away at 1D! And then the rivers kept repeating.

I liked "reave" and dark age, but when I jotted it down I wrote - ages, @Loren.

On to the LAT.

Also unhappy with today's puzzle 9:58 AM  

Seems to me that what made this puzzle horrible was not the theme but the fill. To get all the rivers into the grid, an overabundance (in my opinion) of proper nouns needed to infiltrate the grid. Way too many, as many above already indicated. Hopeful Mr. Shortz will read all these comments AND TAKE NOTE. I support publishing puzzles that may not be to everyone's taste, but if there is a nearly universal displeasure at a puzzle, it probably should not have been published.

I agree with those who think people using this blog to publish personal attacks do not add value to this blog. Some of the comments that these people post relating to the puzzle have been informative. But these personal attacks really are nothing more than uninteresting drivel. The blog would be improved without losing anything were these attacks be expunged. Too bad they aren't. They have nothing to do with the puzzle.

chefbea 10:04 AM  

Boy..a wild and crazy day today.

I agree...tough puzzle what with all the rivers and things I didn't know..DNF.

Have been on the Via Veneto many times when visiting my daughter

I HAVE heard of a Denver omelet but isn't it the same as a western omelet? I'll have to look it up

Pete 10:10 AM  

Man, I hate it when I don't take the time to fully think things through before I write or speak. I have to retract my previous post, as upon reflection THIS PUZZLE WAS GENIUS I SAY, PURE GENIUS!

This puzzle isn't about rivers, it is a re-enactment, in puzzle form, of the entire plot of THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI. The Alec Guinness character, here Michigan Pete, begins an undertaking for reasonable reasons, but the effort turns into a monomanical obsession. It doesn't matter that the undertaking is follyful, actually treasonous, the obsession to finish it according to his plan becomes all. He even needs to add adornments (the first letters... ) to the pig's ear. When the folly becomes apparent, when it's time to blow the bridge up, he can't help himself, he can't destroy his creation. The entire novel in a single puzzle! A cruciverbal first!

I don't know how I could have missed this last night, but after a mediocre night's sleep, I can finally appreciate the genius here.

Major Clipton, while a good doctor, was wrong here, it's Genius! Genius!

Anonymous 10:14 AM  

I’ll register a dissent. I enjoyed doing this puzzle, probably because I’m a movie fan and thought the theme fun to work through. As for the second part – reading the first letter of each clue – I didn’t do that until I was finished, so that part was as superfluous to me as those circles on Sunday were. I agree that this was hard for a Tuesday, even though I knew all the movies.

PS. It's never pleasant watching people self destruct but I've always said this blog is not for sissies.


Masked and Anonymous 10:14 AM  

@#31*!--Har. Looking forward to that MOON puz. Could you have the MOON as a rebus, with the rebus squares tracing out a U-know-what? Shouldn't have to compromise the fill much at all, I'd betcha; and if you do, the "end" will justify the means.

@loren -- Yep. SHRUB/MUD is a definite highlight. Got yer U and a dried-up river, so RIO don't have to be so lonely.

Peace on Earth, good will toward commenters.

Gill I. P. 10:21 AM  

The very first thing I did was circle every clue. Wow, there it was... THEROBERTREDFORDFILM ARIVERRUNSTHROUGHIT. I didn't see the movie but I had an idea about it and it sure as hell didn't involve OVER THE RIVER KWAI. Scratch head lots, thought my childhood Idol John Wayne was involved, like @Octavian I saw that dastard river in ANNIVERSARY, finished the puzzle and decided that DADAS was a crummy answer.
So much thinking. I even colored in the RIVER answers thinking there might be a bridge or something lurking in the bushes.
Couldn't wait to come here and get everyones take. Let's see :"eviscerating effort," "Out-right lie," "eclectic nature," "incredible egomaniacs," and wondering who got "REAVE(d)" too.
@Jeremy...I second the welcome!

GDAD 10:26 AM  

Maybe the problem most people have with this puzzle is their preconception about what a "Tuesday" puzzle should be in terms of difficulty. I don't look at puzzles that way. I approach each one as a challenge and attempt to solve it, just as I do with KenKen or a cryptogram, or Sudoku. I found this puzzle to be relatively easy and, for some reason, got the book title almost immediately. The only write-over I had was where I, initially, had DRAG instead of DRAB. Now, on to KenKen!

Anonymous 10:30 AM  


The last word spoken in the movie River Kwai was "Madness!"


From the Archive 10:49 AM  

Commenters snarking at other commenters is always the stupidest form of commentary.

Rex Parker 4/03/09

joho 10:50 AM  

Oh, this is bothering me. I don't want to get caught up in the personal and non-puzzled related craziness that's going on, but I have to say something in regard to @Rex's calling Andrea an "incredible egomaniac" making this forum "her own personal grammar school playground."

Sure, Andrea adds color to her comments with personal stories, but for the most part she is strictly puzzle business offering her unique point of view from the constructor's side. In fact, she doesn't even post a comment unless it's puzzle related. Therefore I think your description of her is just wrong. Yes, it is your opinion which you are entirely entitled to and this is your blog which we all love, but still, that made me sad. Sorry to get into, I'm done.

Cheeseguy 10:51 AM  

I read the blog nearly every day, but seldom comment. Today, however, I had two thoughts:
1. This is by far the best comment day since I have followed the blog. Reminds me of the stories that my nine year old brings home from the school playground.
2. This puzzle (and many in the NYT of late) is dreadful. Am I the only one noticing that for the last few months, the "Gold Standard" crossword puzzle is now found in the LAT?
Just a thought...

Anonymous 10:51 AM  

Re the entries yesterday and today about acme.
dear Amazingly Coherent, Marvelous, Eminence,
Please don't go away. I look forward to reading each of your entries and miss you when you're not there.

dogbreath 10:59 AM  

Such drama today. Personally I think Rex needs to take a long break from critiquing others' work. Could just be me but I'm detecting a distinct aftertaste of sour grapes in his harangues lately. Chill.

Anonymous 11:02 AM  

Some of the comments make it sound like having the first letters of the clues spell something has never been done before. Is that true? I would've sworn I've seen that before. Am I dreaming?

Robb 11:04 AM  

AWFUL puzzle makes @Rex's great blog post and this fascinating comment thread completely worth it.
Thx Mr. Parker (as always).

jackj 11:07 AM  


Welcome to Rexworld!

I had commented on the various NY Times blogs, including Wordplay, for 15 years until Jim Horne left as moderator and the tenor of the blog seemed to revert to nothing but “sweetness and light”.

Contrary views were tacitly frowned upon as unseemly by the participants, (who, frustratingly post their oh, so clever musings over and over and over, ad nauseum), and it became uncomfortable to write critically and seem the skunk at the picnic.

So, desperation drove me to try posting on this blog and I’ve never looked back. No regrets!

Welcome to a kindred solver.

Joe The Juggler 11:07 AM  

Well, I did at least like the clue for ESP.

Joe The Juggler 11:10 AM  

"Some of the comments make it sound like having the first letters of the clues spell something has never been done before. Is that true? I would've sworn I've seen that before. Am I dreaming?"

My all-time favorite example of this is the puzzle that ran on the Sunday of the Simpsons crossword puzzle episode. (Nov. 16h, 2008.)

Howard B 11:26 AM  

(weeps quietly)

Lindsay 11:31 AM  

I repent of having carped about Sunday's elusive theme. The pendulum has swung. Today's theme is .... river. Obvious.

Not crazy about the puzzle, but attribute my dislike more to the subject matter (movies, for the most part) than the execution.

LOL @ Loren.

Mel Ott 11:32 AM  

I'm not a big movie guy, and I'm a saltwater fisherman not a freshwater fly fisherman, but 'A River Runs Through It' is an absolutely splendid movie, one of the best I have ever seen.

My problem with the proper names is the cluster in the middle where they cross each other and oddball words like THERMO which could just as easily be THERMA. @Rex kept saying he needed many crosses - especially difficult when they cross each other.

oren muse 11:45 AM  

Well, after Andrea and Michael giving me such a great start on Monday, along comes Peter on Tuesday ushering in a downer for me. He sure knows how to knock the props out from under us neophytes! So cry me a RIVER.

Being a beginner, I shouldn’t complain, but to me something about this puzzle just didn’t feel right. I’m thankful I know how to spell RIVER! Like so many others, I didn’t get the NOVA/NOEL part.

I’ve never seen KNAR, nor could I find it in my old dictionary. I did find “gnar” meaning “snarl or growl.” I also found “gnarl” which is a” hard protuberance with twisted grain on a tree.” Could someone please explain?

I was surprised that Will picked this for a Tuesday because for me it felt like a Thursday or Friday. Oh well, I’ll regroup and anxiously await tomorrow’s offering.

I was going to say, “Sorry, Peter, but I just can’t thank you.” But in retrospect, I do thank you for constructing puzzles and constructing one that sent me off to my dictionary. That’s never a bad thing.

John V 11:59 AM  

Is part of the context here that a regular solver, having a very clear expectation of what a day of a week will bring, as well as a clear understanding of the rules of American crossword puzzles, may be more inclined to react adversely to a puzzle which does not fit the day-of-week/American puzzle pattern? Notwithstanding that many of us find Tuesdays to be hard to pigeonhole, we'd mostly know one when we see it. Pretty hard to slot this one. While it mostly looks like a Monday based on statistical averages, I'd be hard pressed to swear to a day of the week based on feel. Is that part of what's going one?

Rob C 12:10 PM  

This seemed like a puzzle with 3 distinct themes 1) the first letter of the clues thing, 2) all the river/rio movies, and 3) the 3-entry Bridge over the River Kwai unto itself. Each sort of ok in their own way, but to have all of it mashed into one puzzle made the theme "stuff about river movies" - with little consistency or cohesion.

I will say from purely a constructing viewpoint, it was quite a feat considering the constraints of theme density and cluing for the across answers. But, as has been pointed out many times before, a constructing feat does not= an enjoyable solve.

In the end, it was an ambitious effort that fell short. Things evolve and are made better by pushing the envelope and trying new ideas. Hey, if you're going to swing for the fences, as P Collins almost always does, you're gonna strike out a few times. He deserves credit for the attempt to innovate.

Many look forward to your interesting and unique commentary and the fact that you're a prolific constructor gives you a credibility very few on this blog have. Hope you'll reconsider.

Howard B 12:10 PM  

To elaborate, I think there is a potentially better puzzle and theme hiding in here that just didn't quite surface. There's a germ of something fun in here.
Maybe 'A River Runs Through It' used in some sort of sequence like,
RIOt control (iffy?)
pRIOr arrest..
cuRIOus george...
chaRIOt race
supeRIOrity (meh)
(or find some other words that somehow fit the pattern ;) );
something of that nature, if you don't mind some circled letters.

If a RIVER titles theme is preferred, perhaps rebusizing(my coinage) the consistent RIVER in the titles in conjunction with some Down answers. I'm sure a constructor could come up with much better, but you get the idea. Just saying there is something to work with here, and I wanted to be constructive with the comments.

andreaomn 12:19 PM  

Nothing has taught me more about English language and American culture, than crossword puzzles and the comments section of this blog. Especially when arguing, disagreeing and bashing are so eloquently done.
Be back, Andrea!

Sparky 12:20 PM  

Who made the rules? Why not repeat a word? Doesn't a rebus where you can draw in a tree or a cat, rather than 3 or 4 arbitrary letters repeat a word? So that didn't bother me that much.

If sports and rappers are okay, why not people big in the world of fashion? HERRARA a gimmee. Admittedly, there are a lot of names in this puzzle. DNF-had SIs not SIB at 62d and never caught it.

lol @Loren. I am always misreading signs. My world is surreal.

geezerette 12:21 PM  

 DNF for me, as I guessed jOEL for NOEL.  From Rex’s posts and the comments I’m learning the standards for puzzle-crafting and see the point about this one’s flaws. I enjoyed the opposite corners with BRAD PITT and RED RIVER mirroring RIO BRAVO - I did those two corners first, and thought the theme would have to do with movies and rivers. But then the waters grew tubid when DON CORLEONE entered the scene.  It would have been nice to have a theme-related word linking the three sections of THE BRIDGE OVER, etc., instead of the elegant fashion ICON Carolina HERRERA.

@The Bard, thank you for the REAVE citation - a word I didn’t know.
@loren muse smith - The NB story is priceless!

Here are a couple of nice vocals - Frank Sinatra singing Jule STYNE’s "Three Coins in the Fountain" (about the Trevi Fountain, not too far from the Via VENETO), a 1954 Oscar winner for best song, and Julie London’s "Cry Me a River" from 1955.

Anonymous 12:30 PM  

I agree. This was a great comment day. For my money, I think that a back and forth between commenters is just as edifying as learning what a commenter thinks of Brad Pitt or where they were when they watched Rio Bravo. But at least the fight ain't boring.

As for the puzzle... hell, it's a puzzle. It's ephemeral. Even if it wasn't my cup of tea, it was 6 minutes out of my day. If I hated it that much, I could have stopped.

dk 12:32 PM  

Wow! Tuesday's are the worst day. And, now we have all donned our cranky pants. Why can't we just be friends? I mean it worked in Watts.

First Evil D leaves for a while, now my Dove has flown, @joho goes postal... Tuesday's are just so bad.

Back to the puzzle.

* (one star). This was a rock strewn stream. Cute idea... but BRAD PITT as the whatever you call that type of fill. I mean how can Brad share a puzzle with the Duke.

Hope my Internet is back by the end of the week so I can flip out as well. Maybe Two ponies and Tobias will form a gang with me? We can gang up on Chefbea and make her eat... Beets!

Anonymous 12:42 PM  


It's Quigley. I'll bet you anything it's Quigley.

Rob C 1:04 PM  


The hated constructor is......Michael Sharp!

It's a psychological issue that only years of therapy in Vienna will resolve.

mitchs 1:04 PM  

Heck, I like snark. I was just shocked that our two blogging friends were actually pissed. Thought it was tongue-in-cheek. Sheesh. As the sergeant in Stripes said to Psycho, "lighten up, Francis"

Lewis 1:05 PM  

@ralph -- great post!
@loren -- loved the Kafka line!

Thought the puzzle was a tad more difficult than the typical Tuesday, was surprised I got it right with all the proper nouns.

Lots of passion in the comments today!

Maleska 1:10 PM  

I'm over the MOON about your MOON idea. Expand it into a Sunday and we'll call it "Mooning by the Moony Moon." I want you to work the word "moon" into every clue, as well.

Just Wonderin' 1:16 PM  

If you really like Andrea, why ask her to return to a place where the guy in charge calls you "an incredible egomaniac"?

Anonymous 1:27 PM  

I hated this puzzle. So many names, weird words and stuff you wouldn't know if you weren't around before 1970. Plus, the title of a 1952 best seller clue really threw me. Book or movie?! Incidentally "the Catcher in the Rye" or "the Old Man and the Sea", both of which were at least in the top 11 1952 bestseller *books* on Wikipedia, were what first came to mind. Oh, but neither of them has a river in the title! doh!

Frankly, I gave up, having no less than 10000 better things to do, one of which was picking lint out of my navel. Thank you Rex for making the whole experience much more amusing!

hazel 1:34 PM  

@rex- is this how you treat your friends?

"Now, I should back up a bit here: a friend of mine (you may have heard of her ... xword constructor ... initials ACM) is friends with Dr. Tyson"...

By, when you don't need something, referring to their comments as

" the self-involved bickering of two incredible egomaniacs"

The whole business of calling out a mystery asshole constructor was juvenile and toxic. Your daughter could probably have told you that.

Far from being the "best comments day ever" i think its one of the saddest.

Re: the puzzle, a little weird, maybe overly ambitious, kind of muddled - like a lot of people i know! And like!

jae 1:42 PM  

corrections: that should have said...only two of the four river/rio anwers actually "run through" the theme answers. (its hard to preview these things with the new captcha system).

and it's Oren, not Orin, sorry Oren. And thanks for confirming that this one was on the tough side, especially for a relatively new solver.

Tita 2:22 PM  

@Hazel...amen. Extremely well said.
@Rex - please reread. Then reread @joho.

Oh - who is it being asked to come back, over and over again? Who?

@ED - You're hilarious at times. So is Comedy Central.
@Andrea - I always learn from you. But I can't find that anywhere else.
@Both - you each have your imperfections. We can live with them. We have our own.

@dk - strong runner-up.

chefbea 2:34 PM  

@dk LOL

Anonymous 2:34 PM  

"The Bridge Over the River Kwai" was the name of the 1952 Pierre Boulle source novel for the movie. So that clue was correct. The 1957 David Lean-directed film was titled "The Bridge On River Kwai." Historical footnote, since Elia Kazan is involved in this puzzle, and he famously or infamously avoided the anti-Communist blacklist by naming names of associates, is that Boulle was credited with and received the Oscar for best adapted screenplay, even though he did not write it (blacklisted writers did) and spoke no English, so he acted as a "front," though, unlike many fronts, he actually wrote the source material. I solved this one (guessing REAVE and Ray Charles's "NO ONE") with no help, but couldn't figure out the theme aside from rivers. I knew Pitt had been in a river-themed movie back in the '90s, probably based on Norman Maclean's novel, but I couldn't remember, nor did I care (I've never been much of a Pitt fan, or Angelina Jolie, or Jennifer Aniston, for that matter). I agree, a jumbled mess of a puzzle.

Octavian 2:42 PM  

Howard B's comment is exactly what I was thinking. There is a fantastic puzzle to be done with the idea of "River runs through it," but this isn';t it.

I really like Howard's alternative idea. My other ideas along these lines were to do, say, MISSOURI RIVER or MISSISSIPPI (whatever fits) from the upper left corner to lower right corner ...

Or there was once a great puzzle by Merl Reagle called, I think, Gridlock, where he used the names of cars one after another on 3 or 4 lines of a Sunday-sized grid. So in this case you could run the names of rivers back to back to back across 3 or 4 lines of a puzzle.

But doing it the way it's done today just seems very haphazard or slapdash, sort of a thought fragment rather than a fully realized concept.

At the same time, I need to say that I love the fact that Peter Collins is so creative. This was an epic fail, but you have to give him credit for trying new things.

As for the Andrea situation, I would really, really miss her comments but after Sharp's needlessly caustic and hurtful comment, I would never expect her back. I hope she resurfaces somewhere else because she was the one regular poster that I always looked forward to seeing due to her buoyant approach and knowledge of the game.

Anonymous 2:53 PM  

I’ll join in welcoming @Jeremy to the dark side. They rarely get personal or critical of puzzles, with Sunday’s being an exception and the comments there similar to those here.

@Rex, nothing personal but you used the word “personal” three times in your two posts this morning. You mentioned other comments by constructors elsewhere. Would you care to tell us where those might be found?

Not sure why but today’s comments reminded me of how Secretary of State Cordell Hull greeted the Japanese delegation after learning of Pearl Harbor. As explained in Wiki:

On the day of the attack, not long after it had begun, Hull received the news that it was taking place. The Japanese ambassador Kichisaburō Nomura and Japan's special envoy Saburō Kurusu were waiting to see Hull at that moment. Admiral Edwin T. Layton, at the time chief intelligence officer to the commander of the Pacific Fleet, tells the rest of the story:

"Roosevelt advised him not to tell them about the raid but 'to receive them formally and coolly bow them out'.

"After he had glanced at their copy of the fourteen-part message [Japan's declaration that negotiations were at an end], Hull's anger burst forth. 'In all my fifty years of public service,' he told the astonished diplomats, 'I have never seen such a document that was more crowded with infamous falsehood and distortion.' Nomura and Kurusu, who had not been told of the attack, bowed themselves out in an embarrassed fluster. A department official overheard Hull muttering under his breath as the door closed, 'Scoundrels and piss-ants.'



Two Ponies 3:20 PM  

Well, Late to the party because no paper this morning, had to wait to go to Starbucks. I don't expect much from my early week puzzles so this didn't bother me that much. I understood the "first letter of the clue" thing, had seen the movie, and wrote Brad Pitt as first entries. Sort of spoiled the surprise. But I don't mind pushing the envelope so I give Peter C. a pass.
@ dk, No matter what you're cooking up I'll be in your posse.
@ JFC, You are right. "The internet is not for sissies."

As for the feud, I am a huge fan of ED. His comments are humorous and satirical and always very well spoken. If that causes leaving in a snit and slamming the door on the way out then I guess that's just the way it is. Rex is right about the egos (not sure about the maniac part). It appears that Andrea has not truly embraced her mantra - Q-TIP.

Best comment day in ages.

Orange 3:31 PM  

So my blog, Diary of a Crossword Fiend, is considered to be the "nicer," more moderate blog by those who shrink from Rex's more visceral approach. Guess what? Our reviews of today's NYT hit so many of the same points. BRAD PITT is the theme. Troubled by the repeated rivers. Irked by the Across clues forced into a constraint that made them tougher than most Tuesday clues, and that had their "hidden" trick given away. Too many proper names (generally, my limit is 14 names of places and people and brands in a 15x15 puzzle). Inconsistency with all the RIVERs joined by a RIO. Coincidence that two people who've reviewed thousands of puzzles find the same things bothersome?

Yes, right-minded people can disagree and enjoy this puzzle. There are puzzles I love that get criticized by others (e.g., last Sunday's Xan). Criticism is subjective, but it is informed by objective criteria that have been assembled by the community's general consensus.

So when a commenter asks why the "no repeated words" thing is a rule, well: Because it is. Because it's more elegant that way. And exceptions are made for rebuses because such puzzles are already more challenging--with a different word hiding in rebus squares, the challenge would be much sterner. I promise I am not trying to pick on the commenter who asked about that--just using it as an example of the "rules" that Rex and I have absorbed as what puzzle snobs are expecting. And what are New York Times crossword solvers but puzzle snobs? They do the "gold standard" crossword and they expect gold rather than tin. If an NYT puzzle falls short of the goal, yes, it will come in for criticism that outlines the ways in which it falls short.

Anonymous 3:47 PM  

I'm perfectly happy to read strongly negative reviews of a puzzle, even expressing that dislike in harsh and colorful ways. But there seems to be more going on than that.

Social media can contribute to a kerfuffle like this one the same way programmed trading can destabilize financial markets. And while some people thrive on both kinds of instability, it seems rather dysfunctional to me.

I have a hard time understanding the sense of _indignation_ coming through in some blog entries and comments. I don't understand why it has to become personal and/or sarcastic. They're only crossword puzzles, for heaven's sake, built for low pay by people attempting to entertain us and share with us a common love of language and puzzling.

Maybe it has something to do with the "social" aspect of the medium: an inherent tendency to form alignments, defining whom you're with and whom you're against. (See also Team Coco.) It may start out about the crosswords, but again, it looks like there's gotta be other stuff going on. There's much too much heat.

(BTW, Anonymous 2:34pm (no relation) apparently left out the second THE in his movie title, at least according to IMDB and the DVD image it provides.)

BigSteveSF 3:54 PM  

This puzzle reminds me of a common complaint my wife and I often have at a restaurant.

On the menu, a dish will be described with one too many components. You know the "sun dried" this, and the "organic" this, and the "baby yadas", then it's all just too much. Three ingredients could have been fine.

It's like the old saying with prunes, three isn't enough and five is too many.

I was thinking bridge, and hoping for something with Golden Gate, which just celebrated it's 75 ANNIVERSARY.

Anyone in town for U.S. Open drop us a line, we'd love to see you.

@Loren's NB story reminds me:
Scene: Chicago suburbs, circa 1986.

Remember Wang computers.
In Schaumberg, (home of an early version of Mall of America) there was a building Wang owned or at least officed a large staff. Right off the Tri-State, on the side in huge letters it said WANG.

I drove by it on the way to my navigationally-challenged girlfriend. She drove by it every day, either to my house, or to work. You couldn't miss it.

One day I was giving her directions to some place or other, probably a restaurant.

"So just take the exit after the Wang building.", I said.
"What?", she said.
"What do you mean what?"
"Where?", she asked again.

"You know the big building with the huge letters.", I said, getting a little louder.

"Stop teasing me, there's no building named Wang. Ha-ha." she cried, starting to leave room.

It was starting to become and Abbott & Costello routine.

We went thru it again.
Then finally a break-thru.
I almost saw the lightbulb going off above her head.

"Oh, I thought it was radio station W-A-N-G."

We both laughed. And made mad passionate love that night, after dinner.

Two Ponies 4:14 PM  

Oh, one thing that caught my eye was Brr today after yesterday's
I'm hot.

Anonymous 4:17 PM  

Actually, if you could get "MOON OVER MY HAMMIES" into a crossword puzzle.....

Tita 4:18 PM  

@BigSteveSF...I will really date myself here, but I worked at Wang for many years...people thought the name meant many things, but never in all my years there did I EVER hear someone think it was a radio station!
My hide got very thick working there...in the days before PC, Did we ever have fun!
Thanks for that blast from the Information Age past.

@Jeremy - welcome!
@Oren - welcome back!

Doris 4:25 PM  

Cannot understand the success of Brad Pitt. Does "Pitt" refer to his dreadful complexion?

And Quiet Flows the Don or Quietly Flows the Don (1934) is the first part of the great Don epic Tikhiy Don (Тихий Дон, literally "The Quiet Don"), written by Michail Aleksandrovich Sholokhov. It originally appeared in serialized form between 1928 and 1940. The English translation of the first half of this monumental work appeared under this title in 1934.

Acme 4:31 PM  

@two ponies.
Good reminder! Thank you!
my door was never slammed...always left ajar.
Ego bruised but intact....playground metaphor apt, but of course I see it as the brilliant snarky skinny boy hiding behind the big bully when the smart, happy girl dares to disagree or speaks up against his beloved sports or girls he has crushes on, or whatever...

Ironically never wanted to start my own blog out of respect to Rex and the idea he created...so did use the comment section as a playground, hurting no one (i thought) and fattening his paypal coffers with those who liked my occasional yin to his yang.

He has always had a complicated relationship with me and I'm sure is delighted to have had someone else do the calling out, prob viewing me, as he does others he doesn't have full control over, as a necessary (word deleted)!

I would have liked to keep today's commentary more puzzle- oriented, but no printer here and i had meant to simply take a vacation that wasn't family related!

Poor Peter! But dont cry him a river, bec he, like the majority of constructors don't give a fig about what @Rex has to say.

My downfall, is that I do! (did?)
I've enjoyed tremendously commenting here, but I'm sure my saying the blog could survive without me was the hubris he was referring to!

Yes, i think publicly feeling he had to thank me for the connection to Neil may have made his long time simmering resentment cause an implosion...you'll notice it was right afterwards he came at me with the brickbat for my "boys-only" comment that was used to pummel me to the ground.

Maybe he hopes equating me with (expletive deleted) would lead to my leaving, even if it meant this dread outpouring of love!
(expletive deleted) was right about only one thing, the love gets me coming back, but not because of his mangled angry notion about it....I've always viewed @dk , joho or others who take the time to sing praises to me and others as an unexpected sweet gift, nothing more, that gives us the confidence to continue. (And i don't think it's been onesided...I've always espoused love back...just not to everyone who needs it, apparently!)

Anyway, as I've said, apt metaphor, it's Rex's and his scary bully's playground, they set the rule and tone...knees bloodied, ego bruised, maybe even a
Chipped tooth in my smile, but they get to be them and I get to be me :)

I'm pretty sure i don't get the last word here (or the word at all, as I'm not in charge of the comments delete button) but I'll try:
Hey, it's Wednesday (here)
New day...(g'day?), recess over, Now back to the puzzle :)

loren muse smith 4:45 PM  

@Andrea - :-)

@Tita – Thank you for your post at 2:22pm . “Both - you each have your imperfections. We can live with them. We have our own.” My most shameful imperfection is that I’m a coward and hate confrontation. I’ve been utterly at sea all day about all this. I’ve felt physically sick. I agree – let’s focus on the positive that we all have and not the negative that we all have as well.

@Jeremy – you picked a helluva day to join us.

@Tita and Gill I.P. – when I first came here, you two were my rock stars and still are. So insightful.

@mac, r.alphbunker, chefwen, chefbea, octavious, dk, jberg, JenCt, jackj, Jae, SueMc, Evan, joho, Sparky, John V, Rube, quilter1, two ponies, archaeprof, hazel retired_chemist, Pete (even though you fussed at me about USAGE), wood, z, Ulrich, Jesser, and all the others – I look forward to reading your comments and feel like you’re my friends.

@Amy - I love your blog and like to go there to sniff around for esoteric linguistic discussions.

@Dad – I’m so proud of you! Attacking the Times by yourself AND using a computer!

@Will – I wouldn’t have your job for all the tea in China. I’m glad you’re at the helm. I think you do a fine job.

@Andrea and ED – you both befriended me and have been so nice to me. Doug – I know you as someone very different from the person everyone sees here; you’ve been kind, encouraging, and supportive. Andrea –you coaxed me into doing something that is one of the biggest deals ever to happen to me; you, too have been encouraging, supportive, (strict and selective when it comes to theme entries!!!), and generous.

@Michael – I’m so grateful that you do this day in and day out. I can’t even get my mind around what an onus it must be a lot of the time. I like your wrong pictures.

Group hug.

John V 4:55 PM  


Welcome back!

sanfranman59 5:04 PM  

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

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

Tue 11:56, 8:55, 1.34, 100%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Tue 6:48, 4:37, 1.47, 100%, Challenging

This is an almost off-the-charts Challenging Tuesday by these metrics.

This blog's comments will be much diminished by Andrea's departure, but I can't blame her for leaving when our host basically gives her the electronic equivalent of the back of his hand. I will never understand why online "communities" seem to almost inevitably degenerate into such nastiness. Sigh ...

Two Ponies 5:17 PM  

I don't know about the rest of you but I feel better now. Andrea and Loren have chimed in and my mood is different. I think of all of you as my friends and, as friends do at times, we disagree. That's life. It happens and we get over it.
I'm shocked at @sanfranman's numbers. Maybe I do too many puzzles but this was just a new wrinkle on an old trick.

michael 5:23 PM  

Every blog I have ever read gets weird and mean in just the way this one has today. I'm sure there is some sort of social science law of blogs here.

I kinda liked the puzzle, but I don't spend a whole lot of time thinking about the esthetics of crossword puzzle construction.

chefbea 5:30 PM  

@Loren and everyone else...a big bunch of BEETS to all. Our one big happy family!!!

PETER 5:59 PM  

Pete Collins here. I just got to the blog. So -- how did everyone like my puzzle today? Did I miss anything?

Gill I. P. 6:01 PM  

What a DAY....We had to rush one of our pups to the vet because the man I spoke to said Moe probably had PARVO!!!!
I already had tears in my eyes from last night's post then they kept getting worse all day and it turns out that our little stooge has an upset stomach - nothing a little IV of fluids wouldn't cure.
Then I read the blog and I get better, then I get sad, then I get better and then I get so confused and I want to say Yay to @joho and then @Hazel chimes in and I'm doing a cheer and then everyone else says things I've wanted to say and I read Andrea and get a bit sad again and then @Loren who thinks she's a coward!!!! brings a huge smile to my face. Do you know that the anagram of coward is dworac? So many moving posts today. All legit and my wish is that we again get back to business and wonder why okra tastes like hell and that eclares are really the invention of the Sherpas.

Gill I. P. 6:05 PM  

PETER COLLINS...Oh my gosh, Did I tell you how much I loved this puzzle.....:)

Campesite 6:24 PM  

Whoa, picked a strange day drop in late. There are some really lovely people in the crossword community, but I've only had the pleasure of meeting a few in person. Andrea is one of them, and she is absolutely delightful. This place will suffer without her involvement.

I've been a long time reader of this blog, occasional commenter. I value and terribly admire what Michael is able to do every day, it is truly remarkable. That said, he is very much against ad hominem attacks, yet engaged in one himself today. The false equivalency of the two parties is as laughable as, say, the pro- vs anti- global warming debates. ED can be hilarious, he can also taunt people. Andrea naturally grew tired of his potshots.

Bummer of a day in Rexworld.

foodie 6:35 PM  

Sadly, this is not the first time that we've had a major conflict in Rexville. As I was reading today's exchanges, I was reminded of the conflict from 3 years ago (It involved Rex and ED but not Andrea). At the time, I decided to stay away from the blog for a while and clarify my own thoughts, and I wrote about that process. Here it is for what it's worth.


I only bring this up not to open old wounds-- we have fresh ones to deal with. Nor to point fingers-- we have had enough of that as well. But in hopes of learning from history, including the very recent events, and finding ways to avoid such confrontations. Do we humans ever do that? And if we don't, are we doomed to continuously hurt each other? Maybe this group of good people who are remarkably thoughtful, civilized, intelligent and fun loving have a chance? I choose to keep on hoping.

Sfingi 7:03 PM  

And a rio runs through it. Several times.

@Rube - especially developments in art were fantastic. If anyone's visited the Cloisters in the Upper West Side of Manhattan, developments were fantastic.

Natick at NOEL/NOVO. On a Tues.

Anonymous 7:04 PM  

Difficult Tuesdays in exchange for manageable Fridays was the subject of comment weeks ago. It does indeed appear as though the weekly progression of hardness is no more. When I embraced the notion, the minimal response received was to the effect I should go solve Word Jumbles if I wanted something easier on a Friday. I am still here and still enjoying the new paradigm.

joho 7:06 PM  

Oh, @foodie, if that only that could be true.

3 and out.

Rex Parker 7:11 PM  

The constructor I hate is Natan. Or Caleb. I get them confused.


Anonymous 7:19 PM  

@Doris 4:25.

Now that's how you do it playground style! Yeah! High-five! Take that Brad Pitt! You're an awful person wholly deserving of failure. You have acne! ahahahaha.

Doris this is sarcasm. You're a loser. - Eli

Anonymous 7:21 PM  

Just call'em NatLeb

mitchs 7:41 PM  

@ACME: I once wrote a one sentence "theme" in high school that the teacher put up on the overhead display. His comment was: "this says a lot about the author, some of which he intended; most of which he did not."

mac 7:43 PM  

Again, @foodie, wonderful comment.

Charles in Austin 8:02 PM  

Dear Andrea,

Maybe you can have a laugh, with me, over the mere thought of "Rex Parker" calling anyone a narcissist or an egomaniac.



JDM68 8:38 PM  

I say we all move along to Wed and remember the greatest grid ever. And. I. mean. ever. When we were all happy and cordial. Patrick Berry's "no E" themeless 5/19/2012. Utter genius.

Anonymous 9:26 PM  

My vote is for the Titanic. A massive, multi-layered, masterpiece.

Glitch 9:47 PM  

Not sure which of us has been around longer, probably a draw.

"Us old timers" remember the kinder days of yore, when we discussed the puzzle and exchanged recipies and off blog holiday messages, Yes --- the "Good Old Days"

Times and commenters have changed (you know who's "missing", and can probably guess why), newbies proudly finding "things" we flogged at long ago, someday they will be the "Olde Guard".

Rex seems to have move his primary focus to Facebook (He once posted there that he doesn't always monitor the blog), Twitter, it seems, was only a temporary diversion.

After a couple of "blastettes" by Rex, I moved into "lurk" mode, recived a flattering number of "are you OK" messages, folk with which I continue to keep in touch. But not enough to retun here as a regular.

So, if you're crying "Please don't throw Me in the briar patch" OK.

But if you REALLY want to make a point, join us in the "Lurk Room" for a spell and see how big a hole you leave in a bucket of water when you withdraw your fist.


PS: The "suit" in the back corner during your SNL interview with Lorne M. was probably me. Small world.

Blue Stater 10:02 PM  

@Jeremy and others. I'm relieved, at very long last, that I'm not the only one, over the years, to have thought that the Wordplay blog and its predecessors have been basically a WS fan club. I was critical of the puzzles there (as I have been here), was bombarded with personal invective from WS's wrecking crew, and was occasionally favored with somewhat smoother but still personalized putdowns from The Great One himself. So, when @Rex appeared, I came here and feel that I learn a lot more about the puzzles from RP and the commentators on this site.

I do feel the puzzles have gone downhill under the present regime, particularly (as someone observed above) in the last few months. I greatly prefer puzzles that are intellectual challenges, as they were in the days of Maleska (God rest his soul) rather than the trickster challenges of today, which strike me as ego trips. Reasonable people can differ about this, of course. But I don't think they can differ about the proposition that if the NYT really is the "gold standard" of the puzzle world (a judgment I lack the experience to make), its puzzle editor ought to be able to take the criticism that accompanies that august standing. I'm glad that this blog, at least, provides it. @Rex, more power to ye!

Anonymous 10:39 PM  

I'm a rank amateur compared to the folks who frequent this blog. I can usually whip through the Monday-Wednesday puzzles, battle through the Thursdays and Sundays, and leave the Fridays and Saturdays to you folks. I usually grumble about names... but today? Maybe I was just on the right wavelength, but I finished the puzzle without any resorting to google, and in a reasonable amount of time (between chasing around a one-year-old toddler). I was surprised to see the numbers on times (maybe it was tricky for a Tuesday, but not out of line, I thought), and the strong criticism. Sure, lots of river... but I enjoyed the puzzle. That seems to put me a in a small minority. Oh well! Count me as a happy puzzler! Ciao!

Z 11:49 PM  

Fascinating. The thing I try to remember is, "Sh*t happens and then you die." Some find this attitude depressing. I see it as a reminder to enjoy the sh*t.

Of course, if I really wanted this much sturm und drang I'd watch American Idol.

treedweller 12:28 AM  

I saw Rex's comment on FB before I solved so I consider my opinion tainted.

I just want to say, I hope Rex teams up with gorski on the moon puzzle so the grid cn be shaped like a heinie.

And, @acme, I won't call you a bully, but you are just a much a big dog here as the other two. I'm not sure whether to think you are too modest to recognize that or too savvy to admit it.

sanfranman59 1:44 AM  

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

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

Mon 6:13, 6:49, 0.91, 15%, Easy
Tue 12:03, 8:55, 1.35, 100%, Challenging (highest median solve time of 156 Tuesdays)

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:38, 3:40, 0.99, 46%, Medium
Tue 6:25, 4:37, 1.39, 100%, Challenging (highest median solve time of 156 Tuesdays)

By these metrics, this is easily the most challenging Tuesday puzzle in the 3 years I've been recording online solve times. The previous high median solve times for the two groups were 11:47 and 5:58. There were 240 fewer solve times recorded on the website than on an average Tuesday (535 vs. 775). These solve times place this puzzle in the Medium-Challenging Wednesday range.

Anonymous 6:06 PM  

@sanfranman59 Are you able to address the harder Tuesday/easier Friday perception with any raw data? Thanks.

the redanman 11:45 AM  

I am glad to see that everyone including rex seemed to think that this was garbage as did I

late to the party but still reassuring

Anonymous 9:59 AM  


You have some serious issues. Take the time you would normally spend blogging here and get some help. I couldn't stand it - had to jump ahead a month to see if you actually left. . Alas, so predictable...

I would like to see the email... At least with ED you know what you're getting. That, I can stomach.

Puzzle played like a challenging Wednesday for me with two errors in the center of the grid.

On to the next

Methuselah 10:19 AM  

Just my opinion, but I think today's comments are maybe another "sign of the times." The world is not happy. Too much "hate" radio, horrible newscasts, wars all over the globe, recent weather calamities, people out of work, political name-calling, crude and vulgar language, and the big one: economic uncertainty. Buckle up, folks. Try to remember, this too will pass.

Solving in Seattle 3:01 PM  

@Jeremy, you probably think you landed in a William Golding novel. Interesting bit of human interaction occurring today.

@PK, so you and your husband are heading to S.F. for the US Open. I suggest you follow Webb Simpson. I think he has a chance of winning this year.

I think that Peter Collins had a super river/water theme going here that most missed.

Swimmer's EAR is hidden in 8A. ROE comes from fish. There is a Russian River Don and a Sicilian River Corleone. ARK is hidden in 20A. A river bed is made of MUD. LAVA is a river of rock. 31A is one letter shy of INLET. What does a waterfall do? It ROARS. ONTario has more rivers than you can count. AHAB sailed the ocean. I'll subtlety stop here.

Capcha: istainm. I'll let ED handle this one.

DMGrandma 4:01 PM  

Given that I skip over clues like 1D and push on to see what happens, I found this puzzle easy enough. Never did go back to it, and ended up wondering if there had been a remake of The Bridge on the River Kwai. Can I use age as an excuse?
Sorry to see the nit-picking continue. Time to call a truce and play nice!

Z 4:21 PM  

I just realized that we are again discussing a Peter Collins puzzle in "prime time." There is much less sturm und drang five weeks in the future.

Solving in Seattle 4:49 PM  

@Z, thanks for the peek into the future. And glad to hear the (river) waters are calming.

Exciting game in Boston last night. Also in KC. Mariners just can't seem to generate any offense at home.

Dirigonzo 5:46 PM  

The nice thing about reading the comments section five weeks later is I'm not tempted to join in the fray - I can just mutter quietly to myself (I do this a lot) and move on. If I feel the need to add my two cents (I sometimes do)I can do so on my own blog; anyone who seeks that out and reads it should probably get help, or at least a hobby.

I finished the puzzle, but like a couple of others I read the first letters of the answers instead of the clues, which produced a giant cryptoquote that defied solution (but it had the letters R I V E R in it). Came here to learn what a total bonehead I am. Only trouble I had in the grid was KNAR which was a new word for me.

Spacecraft 10:01 PM  

Wow, what fireworks! Tell us how you REALLY feel! I didn't think today's offering was anything above easy; that's because I spent close to a third of the time writing the word RIVER.

Best thing about this puzzle: @Pete's take on the Kwai plot: hilarious! Will, this constructor ought to be taken out and shot!

[Will] I have already given the order.

And please find SOMETHING for poor @Tobias to not hate!

[Will] I have already given the order.

Now then, where were we?

[Will raises his seppuku knife, weeping convulsively, and...]

(Sorry, folks, you'll have to go see the movie.)

Anonymous 6:55 PM  

I thought this was RIVER pretty challenging for RIVER a Tuesday. I kept wondering RIVER!! what all these rivers RIO!!! were going to run through, and when RIVER!!! I put the pen RIVER!!! down and looked at it, I was RIVER!!!!!! fairly disapointed to see that they didn't RIVER!!!!!!!! run through anything but random words.

I admit to being completely thrown at first by the clue to 1d. I don't remember a "work" called Wrj Bwrohe Ssfsdwd siip "I Qttjf Sbmi Cssmssa Sam", let alone who starred in it. But then I looked at the clue again and realized I was supposed to be reading the first letters of the across answers.

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