Benjamins / WED 7-4-12/Really irked / Can feature / Unwanted cloud

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Constructor: Caleb Madison

Relative difficulty: Medium-Easy

THEME: PIXAR — In which the year of a Pixar movie is given and the movie's name is the answer.

Word of the Day: LEGMEN (48A: Reporters on the scene) —
Legman: A reporter who gathers information by visiting news sources or by being present at news events.
• • •

Constructor Caleb Madison is the boy genius who was the youngest person ever to have a published NYT crossword. He was 15 in 2008 when his first (of 24) puzzles was printed. A small amount of cyber stalking revealed him to be a student at Yale and someone who engages comedians on Twitter. His puzzle construction is impressive - he manages to cram a lot of movie titles in there and he uses very few predictable fill words (ESC, LEI, OAT, SRTA, E.R.A. being notable examples). He also managed to integrate IMAX (22A: Big Picture?) and TOON (37D: Any 40-Across character)  into a movie-themed puzzle, which was a nice touch.

All that said, I found this puzzle to be tedious. I hate to pick on the kid, but I doubt that any vaguely culture-aware human would guess anything other than PIXAR as the "Company whose movies, not counting sequels, are all included in this puzzle". After that, it's just a matter of figuring out which titles go where. The whole exercise felt a bit blah, even though it includes a few interesting pop-references and turns of phrase.

I had a rough time with LEGMEN, as I had only heard that phrase used to describe the opposite of "Breast Men". For some reason, I felt that 12A (Naturalist/TV host Steve) couldn't possibly be STEVE IRWIN since the phrasing implies that he is alive and was not pierced to death by a sting ray.

Theme answers:
  • RATATOUILLE (17A: 2007)
  • BUG'S LIFE (20A: 1998, with "A")
  • TOY STORY (57A: 1995)
  • INCREDIBLES (61A: 2004, with "The")
  • FINDING NEMO (11D: 2003)
  • BRAVE (13D: 2012)
  • MONSTERS, INC (23D: 2001)
  • CARS (27D: 2006)
  • WALL-E (50D: 2008)
  • UP (Circled Squares: 2009)
I've had a crush on Ice Cube for many years. He's one of the original members of seminal rap group N.W.A along with Dr. Dre, Easy-E, DJ Yella, Arabian Prince and MC Ren. Ice Cube's given name is O'Shea Jackson.

By the way, I'm of the many non-Rexes here to try and help you forget that Rex is on vacation. Pleased to meet you. 
  • 49D: Place where opposites don't attract (GAY BAR) and 15A: Popular Dude (MR. COOL) are surprisingly square/old fashioned answers for a teenager...especially when the same grid includes N.W.A. (19A: "Straight Outta Compton" rap group) and DAVID LEE ROTH (62D: Singer David ___ Roth).   

  • 3D: Four-footed family member (PET) — I kept wanting this to be "dog" or "cat" or even "Rex". It ultimately makes sense, but it threw me. 
  • 10D: Goes undercover (SLEEPS) — I get it, but I don't like it.
  • 47D: Harried parent's desire, maybe (ME TIME) — Clever and cheeky. Nice one.

Signed, Amy Seidenwurm, Under Secretary of CrossWorld


Pooloniousmonk 2:31 AM  

Had trouble in the southwest, but drove through and gained traction in crunchy Wisconsin. This puzzle felt like a Wednesday, until some Thursday cluing usually reserved for Fridays, before Tuesdays and Wednesdays switched places, threw me off in San Diego. So, I finished in 1 hour, but there was a mistake, so I did not finish. I found the mistake quickly and finished again in 1 hour and 3 minutes. However, because I rushed through, I did not get the theme until I came here. The only thing I learned from this puzzle is that Antz was not made by Pixar. But I did enjoy it, very much, so thanks.

syndy 2:33 AM  

my WOTD may be SEIDENWURM -cool name.yeah I think you're right it was VERY easy and just I don't know it didn;t have that je ne sais quoi that Caleb usually brings!maybe it was the scayyershot effect that the classes gave it! Fine but not a Caleb Madison!

Evan 2:35 AM  

This grid is really, really impressive. Not including TOON and IMAX, I counted 81 theme squares in this 15x15 grid. That has a record, or at least close to it, for a grid this size. It's been written ad nauseam on this blog and in the comment section that throwing in too many theme entries can compromise the fill in ugly ways, but I don't think this puzzle did that. While there is the occasional crappy answer (EXP, IRR, DIV, TYE, SRTA, A PIE, LYCRA), the fill is mostly solid and there's somehow still room to get some lively answers in there like ME TIME and GAY BAR and POP TOP. I'm also a fan of SIPPY cup, though I'm not entirely sure why -- maybe it's because I saw my soon-to-be niece drinking out of one recently?

Oh, and I checked the internets to make sure the clue at 40-Across was true. It is. Those are all of the PIXAR movies, not including their sequels. Just the fact that they all fit symmetrically (with TOON and UP in the corners, anyway) is amazing by itself. My first thought when I was done: "Where's BOLT"? But the internet, as usual, was right again -- that was not a PIXAR flick, but a film by Walt Disney Animation Studios.

Thumbs up, Caleb.

bob-n 2:38 AM  

I don't get 24A - "Rope on a ship." Tye? I used to be navy cadet and never came across that spelling. I also couldn't find it in a lexicon of nautical terms. Is there some guy named Tye Rope who's a sailor or something?

jae 2:41 AM  
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chefwen 2:43 AM  

Started out not caring or understanding this one at all until I unveiled 40A PIXAR, then it all started falling into place. I don't care for "TOON" movies and I've only seen one of them RATATOUILLE, cuz it's about food and all. I think it was a gift from one of my foodie friends. With a few crosses in place the others came somewhat easily, only because they advertise the (you know what) out of them.

Really liked 15A MR. COOL and the clue for 10D goes undercover.

Good one Mr. Madison.

r.alphbunker 2:43 AM  

UP made the puzzle for me even though it was aimed in the downwards direction. Perhaps it was because I am on the road and just repacked my suitcase for the next leg of the trip. The corners of the suitcase are often available for small items.

I was also impressed that he got all of the Pixar originals into the puzzle and only had to drop one "A" and one "The" to do so.

One request. Please avoid clues that reference the computer keyboard. People who solve with a computer have to be very careful not to peek.

jae 2:45 AM  

I'm with @Evan on this one.  The obvious theme is fine for a Wed.  The challenge is remembering all those titles.  For me it was pretty chewy.    I needed to do a mental scroll of PIXAR flics plus spell RATATOUILLE right to get STABAT.  So, med-tough over all with the mid-north section being the last to fall.    Zippy theme plus GAYBAR, NWA, SIPPY, METIME, MRCOOL...just what you'd expect from Natan er... Caleb.  Liked it a lot!

And yes,  what's with Steve Irwin clue?

And, speaking of gay, didn't the wing nuts criticize BRAVE for promoting a gay agenda? 

CalebMadison 2:51 AM  

Thanks for the write-up Amy, but in what universe are GAY BAR and MR COOL old fashioned, and David Lee Roth isn't? GAY BAR is an answer I like, and an NYT debut and I will defend GAY BAR to my death.

Evan 2:58 AM  

Small correction: I meant to say, "That has to be a record, or at least close to it, for a grid this size."

Amy Seidenwurm 3:00 AM  

Caleb - the idea that straight people are "opposites" and gay people are the opposite of that feels a bit old-fashioned to me. DLR is currently on the road with Van Halen, so that struck me as a more current touch point.

The GAY BAR clue is clever, I'll give you that.

CalebMadison 3:25 AM  

Amy - the "opposites" spin is in the clue which, incidentally, is not mine. That being said, I think it is pretty accepted that males and females are of opposite gender, and that being gay is being attracted to one's own gender. I think the term GAY BAR itself is pretty recent and in-the-language.

manitou 3:47 AM  

Great puzzle.

To include ALL the Pixar films. To recognize that their lengths are all paired. To make two pairs stacked. Nice. I like the simplicity of using just the years. And the rest of the cluing was pretty zingy.

manitou 3:58 AM  

p.s. GAY BAR -- a great entry and even better clue.

If I were Rex's fill-in, my review would have included this video:

silver cufflinks 4:11 AM  

A person will surely seize interest if he cufflinks is sports a couple of stylish and sophisticated engraved cufflinks. Guys cuff links are the within thing this coming year and are gaining a great deal of attraction to cufflinks for men the actual younger and also the happening audience of today. Adult men cuff links cuff links are around for an individual in several fashion as well as silver cufflinks materials providing you a range of options to be able to choose a couple that not simply amuses the eyes however is also perfect for the type of garments you don.

Jeremy Mercer 4:16 AM  

Sippy Cup!!! Am I the only one who was thrilled to see the clue/answer so shortly after the 'Milk In My Sippy Cup' video went viral? Am I the only one who watched the 'Milk in My Sippy Cup' video over and over again (with my kids, but still.) Did Caleb play off the Milk in My Sippy Cup video?

And, @bob-n:

I found this on the Wiki page of nautical terms.

Tye: A chain or rope used for hoisting or lowering a yard. A tye runs from the horizontal center of a given yard to a corresponding mast and from there down to a tackle. Sometimes specifically called a chain tye or a rope tye.

Ateat Cars Myriads 5:58 AM  

Wow, i don't know who this Amy is and if she has ever constructed or understands what went into this puzzle...
It is an amazing piece of work and I wonder how it can get this kind of writeup, and this is the first time I miss Rex and how he would have fawned all over Caleb...deservedly so!

So dismissive! Plus she has her facts wrong. Michael Miller was 14 when he was published. Another boy genius, brilliant writer, and now one of the editors of the WSJ. Caleb is the youngest in Will's era.

I'm too annoyed to list all the reasons this write UP UPset me, and not just because i love young Caleb and his puzzles, nor bec I've not been asked to blog!

Seriously, who are you, Amy? Another BFF he just met in an airport?

Plus BRAVE was released, like, last don't get more uptodate than that!

I guess my advice would be reread @Evan's 2:35 am comment, add some extra humor, maybe include a joke about the opposite sex, with an Anderson Cooper reference and write a review MRCOOL deserves!

Acme 6:22 AM  

Ok, calmed down, have googled Amy and she sounds pretty cool...and she is entitled to her opinion, but I do wish maybe someone with more of a background in crosswords could have sub-blogged this and been more properly awed by this magnificent feat Caleb pulled off.
Happy 4th, everyone!

JenCT 7:19 AM  

Well, I really liked this, though it took me longer than most Wednesdays - seemed Thursdayish in spots.

I visited the Hearst Castle at San SIMEON a long time ago; I remember it being quite impressive.


PET took a long time.

orangeblossomspecial 7:51 AM  

This was easy/medium only if you knew Pixar movies, which I don't. When you have to get results based mainly on crosses, the puzzle is more difficult.

Here is David LEE Roth's version of "Just a gigolo".

Here is the same arrangement in an earlier version by Louis Prima, Keely Smith, Sam Butera & the Witnesses.

Jeffrey 7:54 AM  
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Jeffrey 7:54 AM  

This Disney fan loved the puzzle! Very clever getting UP in there. Nice job, Caleb!


The Bard 8:10 AM  

Hamlet > Act V, scene II



HAMLET: Judgment.

OSRIC: A hit, a very palpable hit.

LAERTES: Well; again.

KING CLAUDIUS: Stay; give me drink. Hamlet, this pearl is thine;
Here's to thy health.

[Trumpets sound, and cannon shot off within]

Give him the cup.

HAMLET: I'll play this bout first; set it by awhile. Come.

[They play]

Another hit; what say you?

LAERTES: A touch, a touch, I do confess.

Anonymous 8:21 AM  

Now I know how Tobias feels about sports in puzzles. Frankly, I solve puzzles not construct them, so the fact that this is technically so great is less important than how much fun I derive from solving it. This one was joyless for all the reasons that Amy gives. I also thought it was more difficult for the average Wednesday because of the theme and the cluing. Like Chefwen I'm not into toons of the past decade except for the French rat. I understand that Caleb is the "Dash" of contemporary constructors but this was not an incredible puzzle to me, only tedium....


JohnV 8:29 AM  

Profoundly hated this puzzle. Knew only 17a and at that couldn't spell it. Really, really unfair, especially with such theme density. If the crosses had been gimmes that would have been one thing. But, not. I cannot recall a Wednesday DNF where I had almost half the grid empty.

Sorry for the rant, just being honest.

Frank Lynch 8:30 AM  

I think this took me less than a half hour, which is kind of brief for me; perhaps it helped to have taken a kid to most of these.

It also helps that I usually scan my clues early in my process; the NW was immediate, of course, but once I had "RATA" I scanned, saw the PIXAR clue, and after that it was smooth sailing.

Good job, Caleb.

Anonymous 8:32 AM  

PS. @Acme - I am a trifle disappointed with you today, not because you love Caleb and his puzzle but because you were so uncharacteristically unkind to Amy, and by inference, to Liz and Jenny on Monday, with what can only be labeled a cheap shot ("Seriously, who are you, Amy? Another BFF he just met in an airport?") Your subsequent comment is only a half-hearted apology. I know you are a better person than that....


F 8:33 AM  

Aetat Cars Myriad: you've misspelled WALLE as WAALE

Anonymous 8:33 AM  

Loved loved loved GAYBAR and METIME. Absolutely hated ATEAT. ATEAT? I mean, I spent almost no time on it because the crosses were so easily solveable but it ate at me.

That said, I join the chorus exalting the praises of this puzzle. Benjamins and NWA in the same puzzle? Quite nice.

ejodee 8:56 AM  

Phenominal construction netted a tiresomely easy puzzle. I had to read the blog to appreciate the artfulness of the puzzle's design, while filling it in, it felt like something from a dollar store book of movie crosswords. The players' experience is part of the alchemy, so while this has some sparkle, it is overall a fail.

ArtO 9:00 AM  

I'm with John V and others who found the puzzle difficult for both the Cluing and only mild familiarity with the movies. Of an age, I suppose. And can someone explain UP, please.

jncody 9:05 AM  

I'm with Amy, overall found this a bit meh. We've had several puzzles recently where the theme, once gotten, involved filling in as many (Beatles songs, cities with interstate highways) as you can. The fact that this represents all the Pixar movies except Cars 2 isn't really any more impressive, just a more contained list.

That said I did like sippy cup. Easily the freshest answer in the puzzle.

Frank Lynch 9:12 AM  

ArtO: Up is a Pixar movie.

Tita 9:12 AM  

I didn't find it difficult, I found it zzzzzzzZZZZZ...!! Oops! Sorry...

As @ejodee said - something from USA Today or TV Guide.

So sorry, Mr. Madison. Yes, a technical marvel, but tedious.
Not only the chock-a-block movies, but even more random pop personalities - LYN, IRWIN (famous for how he died?) et alia.

But I'll end on an UP note...
MYRIAD, GAYBAR, SIPPY, POPTOP, LEGMEN, and a very cool clue for my old neighbor from New Rochelle, PAINE.

joho 9:20 AM  

I was reading along and all was fine until I hit the paragraph beginning, "All that said, I found this puzzle to be tedious ...the whole exercise felt a bit blah, even though it includes a few interesting pop-references and turns of phrase."

I could not believe my eyes!

This is such a disdainful critique of an amazing theme-packed puzzle!

Yes, everybody is allowed their opinion and plenty of people here today didn't dig this puzzle, but I don't care who you are, if you can't see the effort and talent that went into constructing this little gem, I just don't get it.

@ArtO, UP is yet another PIXAR movie in the puzzle.

Kudos to you, Caleb!

Anonymous 9:23 AM  

@jncody: Also Toy Story 2 and 3.

chefbea 9:25 AM  

@JohnV I agree. Hated the puzzle. Never saw any of these films and couldn't spell ratatouilie even though I love it and make it.

As I wrote in 26D I had just put my pie in the oven which I am taking to 4th of July party. It's called "easy as pie" and I will decorate it with berries.

Is silver cufflinks a robot???

Lindsay 9:27 AM  

Sure Medium-Easy unless the only PIXAR movies you've heard of are Antz (learned from xwords) and the new one with bow-and-arrow girl whose name I forget but I've seen her picture in the Arts section near the puzzle.

Saturday+ for me. And not an enjoyable Saturday.

Carola 9:30 AM  

I admire the constructing feat for sure, but didn't find filling in the movie titles much fun. MR COOL, ME TIME, GAY BAR, NO LIE, and LEGMEN and finding out that Thomas Paine was a corsetmaker balanced things out.

I learned "STABAT Mater" when I turned on the radio in the car one day in the middle of a gorgeous piece of music I'd never heard before. Luckily it was a long drive so I got to listen to the end and find out what it was - Rossini's "Stabat Mater." Highly recommend, if you like classical music/choral music.

Anonymous 9:32 AM  

@Lindsay: ANTZ is not a Pixar movie.

Elaine 9:33 AM  

What Andrea Carla Michaels said. But people do seem polarized into Love it/Hate it groups today.

ArtO 9:48 AM  

Thanks, @joho.

Pete 9:59 AM  

I'm always amazed that people can't differentiate between objective and subjective comments. Amy made both, listing the objective criteria of impressive theme density, minimal crud fill due to this theme density, highlighting Caleb's constructors chops. She also made a subjective assessment, that the solving experience, for her, was tedious. How can anyone disagree with that? Did you secretly watch her chuckling as she solved, and wonder why she switched wrote that it was tedious? '

I found the solve tedious. Clues such as 2005, 2006 mean nothing until you get the theme, then it's just filling in the blanks to the extent that you are aware of movies made in the past two decades. If the theme were NL MVP winners from the past two decades, the same people who are complaining about the writeup would be screaming about the puzzle.

Oh, and Caleb was the youngest person to ever publish a puzzle in the NYTimes. He isn't the youngest person to ever publish a puzzle in the NYTimes. They're both accurate statements, just not the same.

Nancy in PA 10:05 AM  

Put me in the Loved It camp. Have seen all these movies with various offspring over the year and think Pixar is a studio of geniuses. Will have to go listen to someone's Stabat Mater. One thing I am sure of is I'm glad I didn't sign up to be a guest blogger. Geez, have a little sympathy, people!

jackj 10:18 AM  

Being familiar with all the Pixar films (even though I’ve only screened two of them, WALL-E and FINDINGNEMO) the puzzle was an interesting but not impossible challenge. I cottoned to the theme at the NEMO entry and confirmed it through the reveal of PIXAR. The dates of release were no help and probably aren’t known to even the most rabid of PIXAR fans but it was a clever means of cluing the films. (And, could UP be the Times first two word answer?)

FINDINGNEMO was the first PIXAR film I saw, since I was anxious to check on the work of writer/director Andrew Stanton, (a native son who grew up in my neck of the woods and graduated from a college I was involved with for many years) and I happily became a Stanton (and PIXAR) fan after just two minutes of the film.

[To this day I remain convinced that given some minimal leeway in the Academy Awards rules, Ellen DeGeneres could’ve, would’ve and should’ve won best Supporting Actress for her brilliant portrayal of Dory, a Regal Blue Tang fish, even though it was a “Voice only” role].

Kudos, too, to Caleb for filling his grid with cluing that delights almost as much as the memories evoked through the theme and one needn’t mention more than SIPPY cup and the “Place where opposites don’t attract?” for GAYBAR for the proof.

As tribute puzzles go, this is as good as it gets; a PIXARific tour de force.

GLR 10:21 AM  

I didn't "hate" this puzzle, but I thought Amy's (whoever you are) choice of "tedious" was right on target.

I'm a solver, not a constructor, so amazing feats of construction don't generally impress me unless they result in a puzzle that's fun/entertaining to solve. What _was_ fun/entertaining here (for me) had nothing to do with the theme - I enjoyed a bunch of the fill clues/answers that others have already mentioned.

I'm not a big movie-goer, and especially not animated films. Once I got to the revealer though, I knew what I was looking for, and all the films except UP and BRAVE I had heard of, so it wasn't particularly hard to solve - just "tedious."

I guess the symmetry of the theme entries (which I didn't notice until I came here) is kind of cool, but as I was working on the top part of the grid and encountering what I assumed to be years, I was hoping for a more interesting theme.

Eric NC 10:23 AM  

Well done Amy. Nicely differentiated between the polarizing constructors and the rest of us doing the puzzle for the solving experience.

Surprised at the negative comments to your write up. As a guest blogger I appreciate the time and the write up.

How did the cuff links bot get ion here? I can barely read the code words for access.

Anonymous 10:24 AM  

I thought this was great! Loved the theme and not because my cousin voiced characters in several of them!! Happy 4th to all!

Movie non-goer 10:27 AM  

Got the theme immediately, but not a movie fan at all, heard of maybe three of the films. Impossible to finish without Googling for me and I am normally a top 20-40 solver in the applet, never failed on a Wednesday in years. I guess that makes me a real rube for not being a movie buff. There are things I enjoy more in life than paying someone $10 or more to sit on my duff, my bad.

Wood 10:29 AM  

I'm in the "Wow!" camp. As I was solving, I was marveling at what I realized must be a super-dense theme. It was fun to try to recall the movies, once I figured out it wasn't a July 4th theme. Caleb even managed to get a two-letter title into the puzzle! Surprising how many of them would NOT come to mind, even though I have seen all but four of them. Those of you who poo-poo animated movies, do yourself a favor and see any one of these. They will change your mind.

janie 10:33 AM  

>I think the term GAY BAR itself is pretty recent and in-the-language.

a decided "yes" to the latter, but "omma don' think so" to the former. i've been aware of the term since the early '70s and suspect it was in use well before that. while 40+ years ago feels "pretty recent" in the big picture, am not sure this would be an accurate description in "crossword years"......


Tobias Duncan 10:33 AM  

I have never seen a PIXAR film and I probably never will. I may be the most pop culturally unaware person in the country but the damn marketing for this stuff in inescapable. I have not had television in many years, I only listen to NPR and I have some form of ad blocker on every browser I ever run but still I have heard of most of these films. As ACME points out this is amazing construction, but I have to agree with Amy that the motif is lacking.

I have gone back and done a few puzzles from the old Maleska days and they are too stuffy for my taste.This one is not quite stuffy enough.

Have a Happy Fourth ! 10:43 AM  

Interesting comments on Crossword Fiend's site from Huda (Nee Foodie) and Evil. Is this a boycott ?

Ms. Acme's comments today were far from her best, perhaps a little discretion before hitting "send" is needed.

The recent Biography of Steve Jobs outlines his stewardship of Pixar. His advice to his people: "Just make it great !"

How about that comments section: Just make it great, and stop unnecessary bitching.

jncody 10:49 AM  

@ Anonymous, oops you're right. Does it matter that Toy Story 2 and 3 are quite possibly the least-sequelly sequels ever? ;)

Tobias Duncan 10:52 AM  

Anon 10:43 said "How about that comments section: Just make it great, and stop unnecessary bitching" the first step would be to stop posting as anon.

Also bitching about bitching is still bitching.

quilter1 10:59 AM  

I think it is great. My solving pleasure was increased by the participation of my 5 y/o grandson with whom I have seen all of these films except Up.

Off to buy sparklers.

Anonymous 10:59 AM  

Finished the puzzle, loved it, but still cannot see the UP answer. Where is it?

JenCT 11:07 AM  

@Anon. 10:59: the first square and the last square are circled, UP.

Yes, how did the bots get in???

mac 11:09 AM  

Even though I have only seen one of the movies, Ratatouille, which I loved, all the names of the films were known to me because of the promotion of them.

Incredible theme density, with IMax and toon, plus UP, included. ALL Pixar films, and symmetrically placed! No complaints about the fill, either, love myriad, gay bar and legmen. Amy's funniest line in her write-up is about that last one!

A little eerie to have "stings" so close to Irwin, but it wouldn't surprise me if Mr. Caleb Cool put some thought into that, as well. I like it when a little more is expected of us, as with the simple years as clues for the movies. I had to step up this morning, and I happily did.

joho 11:15 AM  

Anon. 10:59 AM: very top left square and the bottom right square. I wonder, does your grid not have circles in those spots?
Mine does.

R. McGeddon 11:20 AM  

I agree strongly with the admirers of this grid. To have discovered the symmetry of most of the Pixar titles and to have made use of the two odd ones in this way is an astounding bit of architecture. Bravo.

Mike 11:29 AM  

"Up" is the top leftmost and bottom rightmost letters. I liked the theme, liked the puzzle. My only point of umbrage is the insinuation that "leg man" and "breast man" are opposites. I consider them to be complimentary! :D happy 4th to all!

Anonymous 11:40 AM  

I thought the opposite of breast man was ass man.

jberg 11:55 AM  

I liked it. I've never seen any of these movies, but so what? That's part of what crosswords are about - learning a lot of terms without really knowing much about them. Good training for cocktail parties. Maybe if I'd known all the movies and when they came out, I wouldn't have liked it to much.

As for the writeup, clearly @ACME lost it, and she did apologize right afterward. Also, the Sunday and Monday guest blogs set a really high standard for wittiness, which makes it tough for the epigones (if that's what that word means).

My main problem was that I wrote in bEdTIME right away at 47D - yes, I know it doesn't fit, but I didn't let that stop me - somehow one square was posing both ad D and T in my mind. Once that was fixed the whole bottom fell into place, and I even remembered that it was WALL-E and not WALLy. I didn't know UP, so I was puzzled by the circles - and I didn't know what a TYE was, but 'line' didn't fit, and non-puzzle wife thought she'd heard the former somewhere.

As for GAY BAR, I'm with Caleb - fresh, and a breakthrough for the NYT puzzle.

Off to buy some cufflinks (not)!

evil doug 12:12 PM  

Kramer: Oh...yeah. I got my new plates. But they mixed them up. Somebody got mine and I got their *vanity* plates.

George: What do they say?

Kramer: Assman.

Jerry: Assman?

Kramer: Yeah. Assman, Jerry. I'm Cosmo Kramer, the Assman!

Jerry: Who would order a license plate that says "Assman"?

George: Maybe they're Wilt Chamberlain's.

Jerry: It doesn't have to be someone who gets a lot of women. It could be just some guy with a big ass.

Kramer: Yeah, or it could be a proctologist.

Jerry: Yeah. Proctologist.

George: Come on! No doctor would put that on his car.

Kramer: Have you ever *met* a proctologist? Well, they usually have a very good sense of humor. You meet a proctologist at a party, don't walk away. *Plant* yourself there, because you will hear the funniest stories you've
ever heard. See, no one wants to admit to them that they *stuck* something up there. Never! It's always an accident. Every proctologist story ends in
the same way: "It was a million to one shot, Doc. Million to one."

chefbea 12:26 PM  

Was just listening to the news and weather and the weather person was talking about derecho!!! Puzzle husband was so surprised that I knew what it meant.
Thank you Rex's BBF

chefbea 12:27 PM  

meant BFF

thursdaysd 12:34 PM  

Thanks for the write up, Amy. I agree with you, tedious. I got PIXAR early, but I don't remember the last time I watched a movie, and I avoid ads, so I had to google. Haven't done that for a Wed in ages.

So, this was an amazing feat of construction. So what? Surely the point is not to show how clever you are, but to provide a good solving experience. It's a bit like Frank Lloyd Wright houses - very cool design, but reportedly hell to live in.

treedweller 12:38 PM  

PIXAR > Disney. I liked the puzzle. Correlation does not necessarily mean causation, but there it is.

STABAT was my WTF moment. I was seriously wondering if there was a Saint Abat after I finished. Didn't bother to go check.

I am mos def on Caleb's side about what is hip and what is not here. Van Halen might be on tour now, but, then, probably, so is .38 Special. Doesn't mean they aren't dinosaurs trying to drum up a little nostalgia for the oldsters who liked them back when they were good.

I would not expect to include GAYBAR in all that (seems old hat now to me), but if this is its first NYT appearance, I will grant it.

treedweller 12:40 PM  

BTW, was I the only one who hoped "unwanted cloud" would be "fart?"

BigSteve46 12:51 PM  

A disgrace for the NY Times: to have the Fourth of July puzzle completely dedicated to and dominated by the absolute bottom of garbage pop culture. I expected a historic or patriotic theme - but we get this! I am not a Tea Party type (life long Democrat, actually) but this is pop culture crap carried over the edge!

Jeffrey 1:02 PM  

@BigSteve - Well this Canadian thinks Pixar represents the best of American innovation and creativity and is a great ambassador for your nation on this day.

BigSteve46 1:14 PM  

Well, Jeffrey, as they say in my favorite part of Canada, "à chacun son goût."

Tita 1:23 PM  

Csn't resist...
@BigSteve46...I agree!!
Some of them may be clever, but they are actually nothing more than 90 minute ads for all the made-in-China tie-in crap that crams shelves everywhere.
Ads that you pay $10 to see!


Sparky 1:31 PM  

I goofed and left ET instead of UP in the corners. So, DNF. The print version has the word Circles in the lower right and the clue "1 2009." It's nice to receive the paper paper.

Have seen only 3 of the movies. Actually love animation, favorites being Aardman productions. As noted, one can hardly avoid the advertising for PIXAR films. Found this a bit chewy, trouble in lower middle. Had to use my Leonard Maltin to verify INCREDIBLES (which I really disliked and turned off).

Happy Glorious Fourth one and all.

Lewis 2:40 PM  

@acme and joho -- the feat is one thing, the solve is another, and a great feat without a great solve is not a successful puzzle, in my opinion. This one is, however!

It was not easy for me, as I'm not familiar with many of these films, but I was determined to solve this without looking any of them up, and with patience, I got it. Very satisfying. I can see how it would have been easier -- maybe too easy -- for someone familiar with the films.

Matthew G. 2:45 PM  

I thought this was smashing. I'm not a huge PIXAR buff but the theme works for the exact reason Amy thinks it doesn't -- PIXAR, unlike almost all other movie companies, is a brand name that the general public associates with its films, and so the solver is able to deduce even the films he or she has not seen. And since Caleb manage to cram them all ok there with almost no bad fill (I winced only at STABAT and LEGMEN), I give this five stars.

I will say, though, that I worked at a daily newspaper for four years and never heard anyone use the term LEGMEN, nor do I ever recall seeing it before this puzzle.

Bob Kerfuffle 2:50 PM  

Some fifteen or twenty years ago, it was part of my regular schedule to take my (now departed) mother to the supermarket on Saturday mornings. Week after week we would see some of the same faces, and through checkout line conversations got to know one woman of a certain age who drove from New York City to our New Jersey suburb to shop and also get gasoline, resulting in savings that more than paid for her trip. (This was before it took double-digit dollars to get through the Lincoln Tunnel.) One time this woman mentioned that during the week she might pick up a few items elsewhere. On the way home, my mother was quite puzzled. "Why would she be shopping at GAY BARS??" I had to assure Mom that our friend was shopping at Zabar's!

Happy Fourth!

Unknown 2:56 PM  

Pierre says
Because the theme was movies, this Wednesday was easier than usual.

@bigsteve46: We already had BORNONTHEFOURTHOFJULY theme last Sunday. Americana was well represented by PAINE, benjamins, the President's mother, Cheerios, and, yes, PIXAR!

My only critique is a small one: I didn't like the clueing of the theme answers, although something clever for all of them would have been quite difficult to achieve.

Nice write-up Amy!

Happy Fourth to all!


treedweller 2:57 PM  

I have seen almost all of these films and paid $10 for none of them, thanks to DVD and the like. Patience is a virtue, they say. Not sure about that, but it is certainly a cheap bastard's friend.

Tie-ins are a reality in the genre, but if you think the movies only serve the toy sales, I think you may not have seen the movies. Or maybe they just aren't your cup of tea.

Mike's New Car, a short that accompanied "Monsters, Inc.," is another hidden gem.

Incidentally, re: my earlier comment, I can make fun of oldsters who liked VHS when et were good because I alone. As you might have guessed, I am not planning to see the current tour.

joho 2:58 PM  

@Lewis, how refreshing to read a comment that is not negative. But even if you hadn't liked the puzzle I believe your comment would not have been a scathing condemnation.

I happen to love animated films and find it ridiculous for some to just dimiss them because why? They've never seen one! The fact that PIXAR was the theme today only added to my enjoyment, while it obviously ruined it for others.

The problem in my opinion, and it's just mine, is that the writeup today initiated the negative comments. It opened the door to "tedious" being the WOTD.

And @Lewis, you are right when you say the construction doesn't mean much if the solve is "tedious."

But to me, and I imagine many others, this solve was anything but.

treedweller 2:59 PM  

Damn you, iPad! *VH *they *am one

Anonymous 3:00 PM  

Terrific puzzle, Caleb. I had fun working on it.

Reading Amy's analysis wasn't fun at all. Her comments are ridiculous.

hazel 3:03 PM  

Liked the puzzle. Used to watch animated features when i was getting chemo - so had seen (and thoroughly enjoyed) FINDINGNEMO and WALLE - particularly that opening sequence in WALLE - brilliant!! Seemed like perfect Wednesday puzzle to me.

For METIME I had NOKIDS! But i guess that would be too harsh a thought for a harried parent.

I think there's a fine line between disagreeing with and criticizing the stand-in. One focuses on a difference of opinion about the puzzle (cool) and the other questions the bona fides of the guest blogger (not cool). Just one opinion.

Think again 3:47 PM  

At 54 down, could ATEAT be ATE AT?...follows tense

JohnV 4:24 PM  

@joho. Amy's writeup did not effect my writeup. My fundamental issue is the overwhelming imbalance, which greatly limited the breadth of appeal of this puzzle.

Anonymous 4:30 PM  

I also expected and was surprised that the puzzle did not have a 4th of July theme.

However, I thought Caleb Madison did a great job! Theme and fill were fresh and creative...I did not know some of the movies right away, but after all, this IS a're supposed to figure it out!! So I did! Loved that Caleb was able to include ALL the Pixar movies- quite a feat- esp. UP! Cute!!

Enjoyed Amy's write-up, but disagree with TEDIOUS. Definitely not tedious to me...

Loren Muse Smith 4:45 PM  

As clumsy as it is posting from my blackberry, I HAVE to add my two cents. Still without power (now they're saying it won't be until after Sunday!!!). All I could do this morning was see the filled grid, and I was absolutely gobsmacked at so many theme entries, the two long theme stacks, the ingenious way of sneaking UP in, and the other fun stuff. Since I couldn't actually solve it, I can't say whether I found it tedious.

IMHO - an unbelievably impressive feat of construction and one that most of us will always remember!

Caleb - unbelievable!

michael 4:59 PM  

Was like a Friday for me because of my only vague knowledge of Pixar films. But I eventually got it and felt more of a sense of accomplishment than I would have if the theme was about something I was more familiar with.

syndy 5:05 PM  

maybe the theme density itself was a problem;if one was unfamiliar with the films you were up a creek entirely;on the other hand if one was very familiar the puzzle was simply a laundry list and ther was nothing to suss out! if one fell into the middle range-vaguely aware of the titles once reminded I'm sure it was a spendid good time!Meanwhile shall we agree to disagree in a civil manner.happy 4th!

abnorma 5:36 PM  

I recently read Steve Jobs' biography, so seeing all those Pixar titles was fun! GREAT puzzle, Caleb. I really enjoyed it!

Sfingi 5:47 PM  

@Amy - Unfriendly way to respond - ICILY.

I deinitely need to know more about modern cartoons, since I was looking for Shrek, Antz, Ice Age, etc.

The appearance of Steve IRWIN gave me a chill.

Masked and Upnonymous 6:07 PM  

Happy 4th, folks. Big Sympathies to those without power or with threatening fires. Throw in yer stray earthquakes, too, for 31's abroad.

Not a big Pixar follower. Still, no prob solving -- or enjoying -- master Caleb's puz. thUmbsUp for the inventive use of circles here. Actually, the dude had me at the opening circled U. Longshot nominee for 2012 I Fink U Freaky awards, if it turns out to be a slow year...

Now, back to blowin' things up.


Andy 6:10 PM  

Wow, such sour grapes from those of you who don't know the movies or how to spell ratatooee... Get over it.

Nooner 6:13 PM  

Liked it a lot. I have PIXAR aged kids and so am up on these. I thought GAYBAR was pretty out there for the NYT, and is anyone else amazed that NWA the rap group is in the grid? I mean, it stands for NIGGAZ WIT ATTITUDES and if that is not pushing it for the Grey Lady, I don't know what is. I'm impressed by how bold Will is getting.

Martin 6:55 PM  

The Times has had hundreds of articles that mention "N.W.A." Here's one from 1989, reporting (disapprovingly) on the censorship of "F___ the Police."

They have also spelled out the name more than once.

Anonymous 7:07 PM  

Andrea: Rex posted on Facebook (? Twitter maybe?) asking if anyone wanted to fill in for him. Everyone that responded got the job. I think there are some days still open. Contact Puzzle Girl to get on the schedule. It's not all about you, sweetie.

Fact Boy 7:11 PM  

Mike Miller wasn't the youngest either

lawprof 7:12 PM  

A bit of cognitive dissonance for me: fabulous puzzle; hated it.

Got the theme almost immediately, but came to a dead stop about half way through. Put it down; came back two hours later; added a little more. Stopped again until late afternoon (can't DNF on a Wednesday, for God's sake!), and struggled to the finish line.

Satisfying, but not much fun. And I'm ok with that.

Jubal 7:18 PM  

I enjoyed the puzzle & enjoyed reading Amy's take on the puzzle. It was a thoughtful write-up, whether I agreed with it or not. Thanks, Amy.

retired_chemist 9:29 PM  

Lewis and michael said it for me. Lack of familiarity with PIXAR films made it Fridayesque here. However my the time I slogged into enough crosses I found that ALL the movie names were familiar. No way I could have written them from the clues, though, or without about half the letters in via crosses.

Once finished, I could appreciate the puzzle's freshness and most of the fill. NWA was a WTF, however.

Last fill was 18D - I had IMAC, thinking of something else, for 22A,and TUC_S SCREAMED for a K. Why TUCKS were "Fancy duds" mystified me, and indeed it needed fixing, as does the personal reason I am familiar with TUCKS. Caleb, at his age, will probably have to look that one up.

Nice job, Caleb. Not every good puzzle has to be in my wheelhouse.

JenCT 9:51 PM  

@Bob K: LOL at your Zabar's story.

I've seen (and enjoyed) every one of these movies; but whether you have or haven't, lighten up!

I like what @retired_chemist said above: "Not every good puzzle has to be in my wheelhouse."

sanfranman59 10:02 PM  

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

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

Mon 6:56, 6:50, 1.01, 62%, Medium-Challenging
Tue 7:18, 8:57, 0.82, 5%, Easy (8th lowest median solve time of 158 Tuesdays)
Wed 14:09, 11:47, 1.20, 91%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 4:27, 3:41, 1.21, 97%, Challenging (5th highest median solve time of 157 Mondays)
Tue 4:06, 4:38, 0.89, 15%, Easy
Wed 6:47, 5:53, 1.15, 88%, Challenging

Sparky 10:25 PM  

Yea, hooray for @BobKerfuffle and retired-chemist.

Clueless in Texas 1:01 AM  

Busy day so only now looking at the blog. Didn't care for Amy's write-up. Loved the puzzle! Love the Pixar movies, which are always full of heart! Have seen each one with either my nieces or my son, so being with my family on this holiday was sweeter as I was reminded of those moments with the kids when they were younger. Thank you!

Airport Transfer Sydney 2:02 AM  

This word puzzle is easy as pie. I'm a pixar fan through and through so I had a great time answering it. Thanks for sharing.

Ω 7:28 PM  

Except for the current release (BRAVE), all the PIXAR movies range from 92% to 100% over at Rotten Tomatoes. I'm not a cinephile, nor have I seen them all, but those are impressive numbers. Some of these movies, TOY STORY and WALL-E, are as good as or better than classic movies like "The Wizard of Oz" or "Snow White."

I am a bit surprised by @SanFranMan59's numbers. This seemed a typical Wednesday with a theme as culturally relevant as any we've seen.

All of you who haven't seen any of these films - rent the DVD, make some popcorn, turn off the lights, and suspend your disbelief for a couple of hours. You may just find you enjoy these films.

BlogSpotRemover (!) or (?) 7:48 PM  

This was hard. Too hard for the only day i buy the Times, in print no less, because Wednesday has the food and dining section! this section is the one no one ever talks about (other than for controversially low or high restaurant reviews). 5 ACROSS was by far the most FRUSTRATING clue here: First i wrote "COVERT". That's fine, right. All proud of myself. Obviously it messed the area up. Then (remember, erasing on newsprint w/o damaging it is impossible. Try it) STAGED. Liked it even better, and it was a different def'n of operation (a medical one). Nope. So I was really let down w/ the right answer, STINGS. This one clue caused much costernation, not to mention eraser crumbs!

Deb 4:09 PM  

I'm three days late to this party because I've been crazy busy helping my daughter get settled into her new digs in Los Angeles. Coincidentally, she moved here to study motion graphics in her quest to eventually become CEO of PIXAR. I am NOT a fan of animated films (prefer the shorts), but my daughter obviously is, so the puzzle was actually a lot of fun because she and I did it together.

@JFC - I guess they're serving iced drinks in hell now, as I agree one thousand percent with your second post, as well as with @Pete re objectve vs subjective, @hazel re opinions vs bona fides, and two or three others re impressive costruction vs enjoyable solve.

@jberg - An apology followed by a "but" isn't an apology at all.

I enjoyed your write-up, Amy, as I have all of them since Rex sauntered off to the land of the Kiwi. I think that, like him, you did a good job of assessing the puzzle from both viewpoints, and I think that's also why his blog is as popular as it is. @acme - If this blog existed purely to marvel at amazing feats of construction, the readership would likely be minuscule.

Anonymous 1:08 PM  

Thank you, Evil Doug. I also am a Doug, but that is not why I always look at the write up and then skip to your posts. I always read yours because you have something interesting to say and often include something memorable from Seinfeld. This is not to dis the other many fine comments (most of which I skip) but to inspire them to aim for your level. KUTGW!

Solving in Seattle 2:47 PM  

Caleb, you hit this one out of the ballpark!

Taxonomy-wise, I am a solver, not a constructor, but one has to totally appreciate the complexity on so many levels of this puzzle. It reminds me of an Escher graphic.

I have only seen one of the movies PIXAR has made (FINDINGNEMO), but I was able to catch on to the theme before the 40A revealer. Got it from RATA-------. Really struggled to solve the puzzle because so much was theme related. Finished with only one google (20A), and thought it was Saturday.

I had two "naw, it couldn't be" moments with IRWIN and GAYBAR. Nice going.

I can never remember the contraction of senorita.

If you've never been to San SIMEON you've never seen the most egotistical monument in the world.

@SiS lol award of the day goes to @Andy 6:10.

@Acme, go back to bed and get up on the other side.

I am now going to rent all of these movies.

Dirigonzo 3:40 PM  

Wow, lots of cranky pants on the Fourth of July! Five weeks later with nothing special to celebrate (except life, of course, which I do every day)the lack of a holiday theme is not an issue and this puzzle is certainly a tour de force of construction.

I was a single parent for a long time, so SIPPY cup and METIME had special significance, and I would probably not have heard of any of the theme titles were it not for my sons' interest in them.

Rope on a ship (24a),TYE and Chalcedony variety (I still don't know what that means) (58d), ONIX weretotal WTF moments, but that's my ignorance not a problem with the puzzle. Didn't understand the reason for the circles until I came here.

Back to the pool for more celebration of life!

connie in seattle 3:42 PM  

@jncody - this puzzle DID contain all the Pixar movies, including Cars at 27D. The caveat was that it did not include sequels.


DMGrandma 5:47 PM  

Had to come here to solve the SE. I had ANGRY for 54D, which really caused problems. It didn't help that I wanted TIME or a related something at 59D. The given ratios are unlike any odds I've ever encountered. Anyway add to all this the fact that I've somehow never heard of the INCREDIBLES, And you have a mess. My other pause came from.hte fact that my girls used tIPPY cups way back when. Ah well....

Ginger 6:09 PM  

This puzzle was so totally out of my frame of reference, that I struggled mightily with it. I went through, filling what I could, and guessing too. POPTab, Angry and Latex really messed up my grid. Finally resorted to Uncle Google, (which I never do on Wed!)to wrectify my errors.

In spite of my being flummoxed, I did enjoy the puzzle. The challenge was worth the aggravation. As to today's (well, 5 week old) comments. I find the different perspectives enlightening, especially those from the constructor's point of view. It increases my enjoyment of the puzzling experience.

I find it fascinating that Our Monday Constructor is 98 years young, and today's is 19 years old! Thanks to you both!

Dirigonzo 6:54 PM  

@Ginger, I believe you have just coined (whether by accident or on purpose, I'm not sure) a most useful word - "wrecktify"! I have to give some thought to its possible uses, but in this day and age when the internet can produce as much misinformation as information I think it has a lot of potential to "wrecktify" errors quickly. Another term I have seen used here and like a lot is "Rexify", as in correcting a mistake after reading Rex's writeup - I think I have used it myself, but I didn't coin it.

Ginger 7:44 PM  

@Diri, It was on purpose, rather tongue in cheek about the status of my puzzle ;-) It just seemed to fit.

The captchas keep getting stranger, and yet an occasional BOT still gets through. GRR This one seems to ne speaking to me directly: agedshi I want to yell "I'm not that old!", but I guess I am. LOL

eastsacgirl 1:17 AM  

Not a big PIXAR fan so struggled with this. Didn't make it any easier that Disney movies kept popping into my head. Got 90% of it then was too tired and googled one letter then all fell into place.

wcutler 3:25 AM  

Wow, I am so amazed that everyone found this easy. I had to go to my four o'clock club to get help with the movie titles (they didn't know them either - someone looked them up), and STILL I couldn't finish it. I don't usually have that much trouble with Thursday puzzles and this was only Wednesday.

I really liked sippy cup. And putting the 2-letter title into circles to get around not allowing 2-letter answers was pretty clever.

Lodging Monterey Ca 3:25 AM  

Caleb Madison is undoubtedly a genius. I am a huge fan of crossword puzzles and can spend days & hours solving them. I liked reading this blog too. Thanks for sharing with all of us!

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