Tenor Beniamino / THU 8-30-12 / Big-nosed character of 1980s TV / South Korean model / Excavation locale of ancient Egyptian capital / Diggory young wizard in Harry Potter books / Longtime Vegas entertainer / Christmas in Italia

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Constructor: Stu Ockman

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: ONE DOZEN eggs — middle of grid looks like an egg carton: 2 rows of 6 eggs (represented by Os) (31A: WITH 37-Across, dairy aisle purchase); four theme answers relate to eggs:
  • 16A: Popular kind of 31- and 37-Across (FREE RANGE)
  • 10D: One way to prepare 31- and 37-Across (OVER EASY)
  • 55A: Holder of 31- and 37-Across (EGG CARTON)
  • 36D: Number of 31- and 37-Across in a 55-Across (ONE DOZEN)
Word of the Day: Beniamino GIGLI (49D: Tenor Beniamino ___) —
Beniamino Gigli (pronounced: [benjaˈmiːno ˈdʒiʎʎi]) (March 20, 1890 – November 30, 1957)[1] was an Italian opera singer. The most famous tenor of his generation, he was renowned internationally for the great beauty of his voice and the soundness of his vocal technique. Music critics sometimes took him to task, however, for what was perceived to be the over-emotionalism of his interpretations. Nevertheless, such was Gigli's talent, he is considered to be one of the very finest tenors in the recorded history of music. (wikipedia)
• • •

Wow, I have very mixed feelings about this one. The core concept is lovely. In fact, theme-wise, I think it works just fine. Its fill-wise, and especially grid-wise, that the puzzle is hurting. This grid is 14x16, and that is just fine—needed to be that shape in order to put the two 6s dead center. What's less fine, and less comprehensible, is that this grid is a 70-worder. To put this in perspective: the max is 78. Most themed puzzles run 74-78. Themelesses (which are typically harder and more wide-open) have a max of just 72. So 70 is a very low word count for a themed puzzle. Why, you might ask, is this a problem? Well, it isn't, per se. The only thing that matters is the overall quality of the puzzle—and this is precisely what suffers by virtue of the low word count here. One or two more black squares in *any* of the quadrants probably could've improved fill immensely (because it is much easier to fill a grid well the higher the word count is). What you have here is somewhat ugly, mostly passable fill, to go with a nice theme, when what you could've had is good-to-great fill to go with a nice theme.

Those massive white corners are unnecessary. So difficult to fill well, in fact, that I have to applaud the SW for being as good as it is. The others, however, are full of ouch. The PORC / AVER / NEUE / AMARNA stack is rough (20A: Excavation locale of an ancient Egyptian capital). NATALE (19A: Christmas in Italia) / RAL is unfortunate (RONEE, not great either—6D: Actress Blakley of "Nashville"). And EUTERPE / PRIE / EADS / NES / GIGLI / ENCLS is only marginally better than a kick in the crotch (Actor George of "CSI"? Tenor Beniamino?). Even going up to just 74 words would've allowed for more possibilities for interesting, clean, sparkly fill. I love wide-open grids as much as the next guy, but not at the expense of smoothness.

Thumbs up to the theme, thumbs down to the grid construction and fill.

I was lucky to get some freebies, including ALF (1D: Big-nosed character of 1980s TV), CAMILLE (22A: French composer Saint-Saëns), and CEDRIC (47A: ___ Diggory, young wizard in the Harry Potter books). I was also able to pull KRONER out with just "R" in place (52A: Currency pegged to euros). Couldn't remember which MR. went to town (TIBBS? SMITH?) and consequently had a hell of a time seeing MANHOOD (21D: What a young buck might want to prove). At first I worried that 42D: South Korean model was referring to a person, in which case I'd've been well and truly in trouble. But no, it's just a Kia ELANTRA.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


jae 12:08 AM  

This was medium-tough for me.  I caught the theme at 36d which explained the accumulation of  OOOs in the center.   That helped, but I still was guessing (correctly fortunately) at two crosses:  NATALE/RONNEE (an I is possible)   EUTERPE/PRIE (considered a B).   I also had to erase  TEEshot for TIME and Bias for BENT.  

The other odd cross is TOSH/RONNEE.

I remembering thinking on my first vist to a Vietnamese restaurant that they had misspelled PORK.

Really liked this one!  I mean SMACKDAB, DOORDIE, LIBERACE,  BONEDRY...plenty of zip.  Plus a dense/clever/tricky theme.  Fine Thurs. Mr. Ockman!

Tobias Duncan 12:20 AM  

At first I though "ohs are in no way eggs" but then I saw them so clearly sitting in an open egg carton.Very cool.
You know what else is cool? Getting a package of wild rice in your mailbox.

Thanks dk!

Cheech 12:30 AM  

It's getting harder and harder these days to keep up with the drug lingo you kids throw around. "Wild Rice"?

syndy 12:39 AM  

I really liked this one until I came to a sceeching halt then I started not liking it ATALL! The NE to SW flowed smooth and sweet the cross not so much!Apparently DROUGHTY does not mean what I thought it meant,EUTERPE would have been right had I spelt it correctly.IDEAMAN-no just no.TEESHOT made sense NOELLE=I guess that's more french,anyway the bear got me

Tobias Duncan 12:42 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tobias Duncan 12:43 AM  

@ Cheech, such an urge to run with that but I would hate to repay dk's generosity with a visit from the police...now that you mention it, knowing him I should probe around a bit to see if they're are any hidden containers in there...

Evan 12:44 AM  

The fill isn't all bad -- @Rex applauded the southeast corner with SMACK DAB and LIBERACE, plus BONE DRY, IDEA MAN, FACE IT, DO OR DIE, and PHASER are all really good filler answers -- but as pointed out, there is quite a bit of ick factor in the puzzle too. Don't forget A BEAD in the pantheon of ugly partials.

The frustrating thing about the TOSH/RONEE crossing is that it's unnecessary. It's actually where my self-titular Natick Resolution Heuristic failed me. I had TeSH/ReNEE, because those are both words that I've seen many, many times before in crosswords. The correct answers, not so much. I've never heard of "bilgewater" before, so it never occurred to me that it could be a synonym for "poppycock." And RONEE? Pretty much the only clue you can give that answer is the actress (of course I didn't know her either), but RENEE is much more recognizable and provides a lot more flexibility in cluing. Maybe TESH could be a tough one for people who don't know him, but according to Xwordinfo, both TESH/RENEE have appeared in the NYT puzzle much more frequently (36 and 84 times) than TOSH/RONEE (19 and 10).

I don't necessarily mind tough crossings like that per se, but I do mind it when they could easily be replaced by something smoother.

Anonymous 1:23 AM  

Fun puzzle, though I was stymied in the SW. I couldn't figure out what ace ever worked in Vegas.

Rex, the Elantra is actually a Hyundai, even though Hyundai and Kia are basically the same company nowadays.


chefwen 1:30 AM  

Geez @dk - First it's your little dove Andrea, now it @Tobias, the rest of us are pretty much thinking we're orphans. Share the love!

That's a lot of eggs in one basket. Got it at OVER EASY, the rest went down quickly, except for the RONEE/NATALE/CAMILLE area. Nice that we got a little bacon at 9A go go with our ooo's.
I use three ooo's in my CREPE recipe. I love CREPEs, savory or sweet, doesn't matter, bring 'em on.

retired_chemist 1:30 AM  

Liked it. Medium.

TOSH (2.0?) is on Comedy Central, which is where I learned the word. It was, however, several other things first.

DREAMER @ 3D slowed the NW down a lot.

Thought of ALTE @ 18A - didn't try it.

Had MR. PEEPS @ 40A - apparently thinking of MR. PEEPERS of 50s TV fame. MANHOOP? PELTOID? Then D'oh!

Took 6 crosses for DOORDIE (27D) and only then did I parse it properly.

Good job, Mr. Ockman. Thanks.

captcha titpart 14. Not touchin' it....

Eejit 1:36 AM  

I liked the egg thing, pretty clever. I saw all these O's racking up and thought something had to be wrong, but there wasn't. Quite easy for a Thursday though, took a minute longer than yesterday. So Antonio Di Natale means Antonio of Christmas or something like that?

Rube 1:38 AM  

That SE was a bear. GIGLI, (which I should probably have known), EUTERPE, (which is on my crosswordese list, but a minor muse IMO), GESTALT, (which I've heard of, but don't know what it is), MRDEEDS, (who I've never heard of and kept thinking of some guy who "went to Washington") and ELANTRA, (Kias are not that popular in my neighborhood). In other words, DNF.

Guessed correctly on TOSH/RONEE and AMARNA. Got the theme with OOM and MANHOOD.\

Now, the next step is to figure out why Blogger is suddenly in microscopic type. Also, why my netbook can get "Today's Puzzle", but my desktop only gets the subscription page... the URL is identical.

Xan 1:47 AM  

Rex, it's 70 words, which is low, but it's also 38 black squares, which is the "official" max. The latter rule is often relaxed -- much more often than word count rules -- but I suspect Stu was trying to respect it, and that's the reason he didn't just add more black squares in the wide-open corners. IMO, here it would have been better (and acceptable) to go to 40 black squares tho.

Better still would be to fix the underlying cause of the mismatch between the word count and black square count. The reason for the mismatch is that there are no free floating black squares or diagonal runs of black squares in the center of this puzzle. Diagonal lines of black squares are common in part because they increase word count more efficiently than horizontal and vertical lines of black squares. Here, all those horizontal and vertical swaths of black squares in the middle burn through the black square quota before word count has been increased enough.

I can see how the theme is pushing the constructor toward this grid layout, but I spent a couple minutes playing around with alternative grid designs and it seems easy enough to avoid. It should be possible to keep the center region similarly constrained with fewer blocks than are used, freeing up more for the corner regions. The key is to replace those black square T's above and below the eggs with a more diagonal arrangement of black squares.

Amarna Camille Miners 2:10 AM  

"and had a hell of a time seeing manhood" reminded me of the Prince Harry pictures!!!

A dozen eggs, cooooooooooool!

My biggest prob was smyRNA/AMARNA...and seeing RONEE Blakeley's face from Nashville but not be able to retrieve her name...she's like the only one in that whole film who didn't become famous.

And MINERS/nINERS (mistake as a San Franciscan), and speaking of @dk...also with hAZE/DAZE.

I'd count CREPE as a bonus answer.
And LOVE SMACKDAB, if only it had been in the middle!

Whoa, complique! We should all just have FREERANGE with our grids...and surely the max is 42 black squares not 38.

jae 2:59 AM  

@Evan -- I had RENEE at first for the same reasons you did. Blakely's actual first name eventuallly bubbled to the top of my memory swirl and then my only problem was the spelling.

And, for those who are keeping score and/or paying attention, please ignore the extra Ns in RONEE in my previous post.

Brendan Emmett Quigley 6:46 AM  

Love the Pavement.

Milford 7:38 AM  

I really loved the egg theme! I love them sunny-side up or OVER-EASY myself.

Another DNF, which is a bummer, because once I got the theme, so much filled in that I thought I was home free! DAZE (initially hAZE), led to ONE DOZEN, led to the justification of my having ROOS, YOO, OOM in the middle. With the dairy aisle reference, I think I was too focused on an item from a cow, maybe some crazy brand name that had mooo in it?

DNF was two-fold: ReNEE/TeSH and not knowing EUTERPE/PRIE/EADS. At least I'm not alone. The SW and the theme made up for that, so overall a fun puzzle. Thank you, Stu!

Stupid, newbie question: is the constructor from yesterday the son a of a wonderful actor, as @JFC alluded?

Z 7:40 AM  

What @syndy said.

I like SMACK DAB/LIBERACE/ONE DOZEN. That's a fun corner with one name in it. I finished the PANACEA/OVER EASY/REUNITED/CREATORS corner pretty easily. One name there as well.

Did not like the trivia quiz in the SE. MR. DEEDS (Mr. Smith went to Washington, not to town), ULEE, EUTERPE, ELANTRA, GIGLI, EADS - that's quite the proper name pile up down there. Then there's Je vous en PRIE (which my translator widget tells me means "please"). Uhgly.

The NW isn't quite the six car pile-up that the SE is, but RONEE crossing CAMILLE and NATALE isn't pretty. Also had a problem with "first of its kind?" That "its" indicates a thing, not a person, to me. Is the question mark supposed to suggest a clever use of "its?" To me it seems just wrong, not a clever play on words. Or maybe I'm just nit-picking because of my DNF.

Glimmerglass 7:59 AM  

Gee, Rex. I thought this puzzle had a lot more good than bad. The theme was well-executed, and if the fill was occasionally obscure, at least it wasn't ETUI and OREO. Some of the fill was very clever, as others have written. If a baseball pitcher throws a complete-game two-hitter and allows only one unearned run, I don't complain that he didn't throw a perfect game. I especially liked the dozen goose eggs in the middle. The theme was gettable as soon as three O's in a row turned up. Nice Thursday-level challenge.

John V 8:09 AM  

Loved the theme, hated SE which gave me a DNF. Had MRDIBBS, PRIE, EADS both WTF, likewise NES. Had BALLTOSS for Arm Raiser. Crossing EADS with NES totally NG.

@Xan thanks for the grid commentary. Very interesting.

Fun graphics on this grid over at XWORDINFO

Sue McC 8:12 AM  

I guess I liked this one. I grew up on a large family egg farm, with about 8000 laying hens and a regular delivery route to homes and stores. So the egg theme is nostalgic and appealing. I also loved the words SMACKDAB, LIBERACE, and the clue for GESTALT. There were some rough spots, but overall, it's a keeper. It was fun popping in all of those oooooooooooos!

dk 8:54 AM  

Cheech and Tobias, I am the police. Fortunately for you two the only serial crime you commit is blogging :)

I had the same, all not not as erudite, reaction as our dear leader.

All this talk of puzzle structure and rules reminds me of the time I was actually able to use the phrase: "badges, badges, we don't need no stinking badges."

** (2 stars) This one needed Humpty Dumpty or egg head, you know some fun to liven up a great theme.

JC66 8:58 AM  

The NE DID kick me in the crotch. First DNF in ages.

jackj 9:00 AM  

Will Shortz can borrow and adapt the famous Variety headline of 1929, “Wall Street Lays An Egg” into 2012’s, “New York Times Crossword Lays An Egg”.

Much of the fill for this puzzle was exceptional but the theme was embarrassing, "ONEDOZEN" zeros acting as eggs to fill the puzzle’s “EGGCARTON” and we are told they might even be the product of "FREERANGE" chickens and wait, wait, you can even order them "OVEREASY". Be still my heart!

What a waste of some brilliant fill, SMACKDAB, MANHOOD, LIBERACE, ELANTRA, EUTERPE, GESTALT, BONEDRY, DOORDIE, PANACEA, DELTOID, et al, these are the meat and potatoes of a special puzzle, not just decoration to support the puzzle’s hokey “master stroke”, a reveal of: "OOOOOO, OOOOOO".

Fuhgeddaboudit!! A good puzzle scrambled when we hoped for sunny-side up.

JFC 9:03 AM  

Liked it. Wish Stu had worked in America's traitor for some Eggs Benedict instead of that odd crepe.

Where's @Acme not complaining about those two MANs?

@Rex had his fill of eggs but the side orders were not satisfying?

@Milford - Yes, Tony is the son of the late great Jerry.

@Z - Isaac is too slow but God works in mysterious ways and gives us the bad with the good. The Midwestern farmers will be more appreciative than the bayou residents....


Carola 9:14 AM  

I thought this puzzle was ACES. I love the motley musical bunch EUTERPE, CAMILLE, LIBERACE, and GIGLI, along with their artistic complements CREATORS, IDEA MAN and GESTALT.

Since I broke into the grid in MR DEEDS’ neighborhood, that EGG CARTON in the middle was one of the first things I filled in - making the corners with their theme answers a lot easier to solve. Besides the cute breakfast-time theme, so much to like - SMACK DAB, BONE DRY, PANACEA, PHASER....

However - DNF, due to NATALi/RONiE. I also had to guess at EADS/NES but got that one right.

Thank you, STU OCKMAN - loved it.

joho 9:20 AM  

I think my brain was scrambled while doing this. Got it all but the NW were I wouldn't give up AvId at 1A. I also wouldn't give up thinking that VOR was the start of a word that means "home wrecker." I still can't think of it.

I thought the egg theme was cute but instead of seeing an egg carton in the middle I thought, "Oh, all those zeros are goose eggs!" So I was wondering how big that carton would have to be to hold twelve of those!

My favorite answer: SMACKDAB.

Well done, Stu Ockman!

ArtO 9:24 AM  

Not ever could I correct @Rex until now. Elantra is Hyundai not Kia!

ArtO 9:25 AM  

Sorry. Hadn't seen previous correction.

hazel 9:43 AM  

Red letter day on my calendar (8/30) - the day i agreed with rex.

I looooved the theme, ALOT of the fill, but loooathed those pesky obscurity corners, i mean loathed them so much that i gave it 1 star raring at the crossword fiend site - which i did in the heat of having just solved last night - and i feel a little bad about it now.

The trickiest theme piece was FREERANGE. See some freerange chickens in the store but eggs are mostly CAGEFREE. Based on shelf space allocation in my neck of the woods CHEAPEST appears to be whats popular here - though they do save some space for us dogooders to buy our humane alternatives at higher prices. (i'm putting myself squarely in the dogooder category so no outrage please!)

Anonymous 9:48 AM  

Not bad, but TEE TIME in the grid and "Tee sign abbr." in the clues? So easy to avoid the latter.

orangeblossomspecial 9:48 AM  

Maybe Rex started his period today. I thought the center Os were goose eggs, so couldn't grasp the them until Rex explained it. Now I get it.

Peaches & Herb had an immortal in 11D 'REUNITED'.

No place better than 'My honey's lovin' ARMS'.

Lots of Beniamino GIGLI is on the web. This is 'Core ingrato'.

chefbea 9:51 AM  

Got free range right away and figured this was going to be all about chicken. Love eggs cooked any old way.

Great puzzle but DNF as I had a tough tome with the north east.

chefbea 9:53 AM  

meant tough time!!

GILL I. 9:57 AM  

Word count/square count...it's all the same to me. Really liked the puzzle - maybe because I knew most of the proper names.
I really can't pick out a single ugly word here at all. I'm with @Glimmerglass on the fun-o-meter scale. @jae: I saw your DOORDIE and you had me scrambling....Oh, DO OR DIE!
GESTALT therapy was all the rage in San Francisco in the early 70's. Every Single Man I Dated was in that therapy looking for their MANHOOD.
Thanks Stu Ockman for the memories and one terrific puzzle.

retired_chemist 10:04 AM  

Did Z ever get an answer to why ADAM (24A) is clued with "its" instead of "his," and what the question mark is about? I don;t get it either.

Emmett Fitz-Hume 10:05 AM  

For a short time while solving, I was convinced that George W Bush and Dick Cheney had been initiated as ElKs. As in . Can't you see them both wearing the antlers?

Tita 10:08 AM  

I hope @JenCT chimes in here...
Her chickens are most definitely FREERANGE! And their eggs are fabulous, both OVEEASY and soft-boiled (my favorite way to have fresh eggs).

Got FREERQ\ANGE right away, which made me think chickens, got OVEREASY with just the OV, which made me think eggs.
Since I had _OO with _OO under it, was thinking about GOOSE eggs somehow.
Getting OOM as the 3rd set of O's made me instantly fill out all hte rest.

Great fun - love the theme, love the fill others have pointed out, don't give a hOOt for the word count.
(Though I did really like hearing hte detailed explanations - thanks @Rex and @xan. I do, however, stand by my right to learn and appreciate the behind-the-scenes construction whys and wherefores, but enjoy the puzzle in spite of less-than-stellar technique.)

quilter1 10:22 AM  

I enjoyed it. Cute theme and the fill wasn't the same old same old. I'll remember GIGLI--reminds me of giggly grandgirl.
@chefbea: It is a beets weekend. I'm roasting golden beets with honey balsamic glaze and also making a pickled beet salad with tupelo honey I found when clearing my mom's apartment. If they are good I'll share the recipes. I bet tupelo honey is cheaper where you live.

Matthew G. 10:23 AM  

I agree with Rex today. Awesome theme, terrible fringes. I grinned when I quickly spotted the dozen eggs at the center of the grid, but the joy faded as I completed the edges.

The SE was a nightmare. Never heard of GIGLI or EADS, and I was unaware that the 2002 movie MR DEEDS was a remake of an older film (but since the remake starred Adam Sandler, I'm sure the original was far better).

But it was actually the north where I finished with an error: NATALi/RONiE instead of NATALE/RONEE. What can you do? Never heard of either the actress or the film.

Noam Dozen Eggskies 10:25 AM  

Wonderful concept, and fun to solve modulo some gratuitous bilgewater in the supporting fill. 49A:GESTALT might be a bonus theme entry.

What ReXan didn't mention, perhaps because it was too obvious, is that wide-open spaces are harder to fill well in a themed puzzle because they're required to contain a theme entry.


Two Ponies 10:31 AM  

Cute theme.
Like a few of you, DNF because of tosh/Ronee and that train wreck in the SE. Enjoyed the rest of it.

Cheerio 10:37 AM  

I think this puzzle is super elegant, with it's big white sections in the corners. I thought the fill (the acrosses) was impressive.

Milford 10:41 AM  

@JFC - Thank you. Talented family, for sure.

@Z - could the ADAM clue maybe want the "it" to mean mankind? First of mankind? Ok, still pretty weak, I agree.

There was a whole lotta man stuff in this puzzle. With the exception of 1A. ;)

Sparky 10:42 AM  

Truly a tip of the hat to @JenCT and her chickens.

DNF as had PRIx/NxS. Used Evan's rule but chose the wrong letter. Wanted omelete before CREPE, bOSH/TOSH, alte/NEUE. I have always sung LOO-RAh. Can't hear the L at all but if you say so.

Like @Z confused with ADAM. Clues such as Desperate=DO OR DIE, Less than fair=POOR felt mushy or vague not like clever misdirections.

Mr. Deeds was Gary Cooper, Mr. Smith, James Stewart.

I am so glad to have finished early. I have the whole day ahead of me and I am going to turn off the computer.

Saba 10:53 AM  

A lovely theme. It was novel, coherently executed and entertaining.

My quibble was with the TOSH RONEE and NES EADS crosses, each of which contains a problem that I think should be outlawed, namely the need to know the names of actors in network TV programs.

I may be part of a very small segment of the population that rarely, if ever, watches those programs but I'll bet that even regular viewers don't pay much attention to the names of the actors. This sort of obscurity simply makes solving boring.

This is especially so when the crosses (TOSH and NES) are equally obscure. "Bilgewater" is a word in my active vocabulary; I never heard of TOSH. I probably should know what "Wii" means, but I don't. That made NES, crossing with EADS, nothing more than a guess.

These problems took much of the joy out of solving this otherwise excellent puzzle.

mac 12:01 PM  

I started out finding this puzzle too easy for a Thursday, until I got caught out at Eads/Nes. Not a clue.

I thought a Parisian pig was a cochon, and the meat/pork porc, but apparently pork is used for the animal as well, especially a human one.

Loved smack-dab, but too bad it wasn't in a better location. Liberace, droughty/bone dry, panacea and Euterpe look good, as well.

Sandy K 12:12 PM  

I for 0ne, l0ved my 0NED0ZEN 000000000000s EGGSactly

CAMILLE Saint-Saens, Ge0rge Eads and EUTERPE helped t0 unscramble
R0NEE, PRIE and NES f0r me leaving my mind SET sunnyside up!

Rob C 12:13 PM  

Fun puzzle. I'm always willing to live with a bit of junk and obscurity to have a unique theme idea and the other great fill already pointed out.

Always interesting to read the comments on this blog. Some look at it strictly from a solving experience, while others incorporate construction into the analysis. There's been a few posts re: not caring about the word count and number of black squares, which, from a solver's point of view is how it should be. But realize that it's those building blocks that result in the overall solver experience. Some construction results in unavoidable junk, other construction allows for the ability to incorporate the fresh zippy entries we all enjoy so much. @Xan and Rex did a great job breaking the puzzle down for us on this level. Thanks.

jberg 12:18 PM  

Thought this was DNF, then suddenly saw DELTOID while waiting for my computer to boot so I could come here. But then I had to guess, and got it wrong: NEe/EADe instead of NES/EADS. What was NES, anyway?

Like many, started with Mr. Smith (Washington is a town, after all), totally puzzled by AMARNA (almost wrote in khARNA), but like @Rex, unlike @Jackj, I loved the eggs! So I'm happy with the puzzle, despite my error.

Crossword advice: learn the muses! They'll come in handy.

Masked and Aeuterpemous 12:25 PM  

Superb theme idea. thUmbsUp. Could only have improved on it, by servin' up a carton of U-bolts. Actually, my thumbs are looking pretty much like old 31's, today.

Thinkin' of drawing up a Grover Nerdquest-type pledge form, for constructors to sign, concerning weird-ball names taking over entire puz corners. By weird-ball, I mean stuff like GIGLI, EADS, RONEE and EUTERPE. Gotta be birth certificate misspellin' accidents. As welcome to fine, upstanding solvers as bilgewater backup.

Cute grid layout, btw. Is that what the Quigmeister meant by Pavement? Overall, the puz had a different funky feel, that was kinda refreshing. EUTERPE's gotta go, tho.

Finally thru all the b-day puzs, over in that other puz universe. Faves: Chen one (great squashed grid), Peterson 15x one, Hilger one (for its use of circles), and anything Andrea Darlin' ever does. thUmbsUp, everybody.

Not a Carpenter Z 12:39 PM  

I don't care if the carpenter used a butt joint, a mortise and tenon, a dove tail joint, or a mitre joint. Until I'm sitting on my rear with pieces of broken chair around me, that is.

Mel Ott 12:58 PM  

Loved the Dozen Eggs theme. As several folks have noted a string of zeroes is usually referred to as Goose Eggs in our vernacular. I doubt if I could hop down to the local Stop & Shop and pick up a dozen goose eggs. But that's a minor quibble and does not detract from the great exucution of a novel theme.


syndy 1:06 PM  

Could someone explain exactly how to find the Shortz birthday puzzles?

Carola 1:10 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Carola 1:13 PM  

@M&A -
Are yoU serioUs? EUterpe, the mUse of mUsic? ( :) )

Masked and Anonymo2Us 1:35 PM  

@Carola: U certainly do have a pleasin' way of bringing out that Euterpe dude's strong points. Still, if that name had come up in a captcha, I'da probably mashed on the "recycle" button in a NY second.

P.S. Is "Too Ra Loo Ra Loo Ral" part of Euterpe's body of work? snort. Anyhoo, don't get me all wrong; I thought this was a grade-A puz.

M and A's Last Silver Bullet 2:06 PM  

@syndy: How about a non-url approach...

1. Go to "Diary of a Crossword Fiend". Google will help you find it.
2. Pick Forum from the site's menu bar.
3. Pick one of the heres in Forum's intro sentence.
4. Pick "Happy Birthday, Will Shortz" off the menu list.
5. Pick a puz and get to work.


Loren Muse Smith 2:17 PM  

How clever! Seeing that DOZEN of EGGs SMACK DAB in the middle is too cool. Nice one, Stu!

I found this a bit more difficult than some- let’s just say I’m not a speed-solver.

The SE was really hard –boiled my brain over GESTALT. (Nota bene- dictionary has GESTALT defined a little differently, but I still don’t understand it.)

My head, after correcting “ulle” typo, ached for a while looking at the EUTERPE, ELANTRA, DELTOID group. And that farthest (devil) edge of NES/EADS I just didn’t know.

Hey, but on the sunny side – up in the north, I liked PORC (“cochon” just. didn’t. fit.), NEUE, FREE RANGE, and the cluing for ARMS. In the northeast, erased “avow” for AVER, as usual.

I kept wanting “torpedo” for TORNADO. Dumb.

I actually had to stop to pick up eggs on the way home from work! We mow through almost two DOZEN a week. Was held forever because I ran into an acquaintance who, regaling me with details of her slipped disc, rambled on and on and on. Jeesh.

edmcan 2:29 PM  

Loved the conceit of this puzzle; what a wonderful 'aha' moment. Stumbled a bit, but made it through.

Stevlb1 4:30 PM  

I don't know what it did for his acting career, but "ULEE" certainly made Peter Fonda famous, in the NYT crosswords.

sanfranman59 4:36 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)

Thu 15:04, 18:50, 0.80, 18%, Easy

Top 100 solvers

Thu 8:24, 9:21, 0.90, 34%, Easy-Medium

jae 5:38 PM  

@Saba -- RONEE Blakley has acted in TV series, but Nashville was a Robert Altman movie that came out in '75. She is still pretty obscure.

@Rob C. -- While I come at these from a solver's perspective, I really appreciate the "looks behind the curtain" that Rex, Xan, you and others provide. I knew nothing of word count guidelines, black square placement, cheater squares,... before following Rex's and Amy's blogs.

retired_chemist 8:17 PM  

@ mac - apparently porc and cochon can both be translated as pig. I do not understand the difference. Maybe one of the better Francophones on this blog can help us.

acme 8:32 PM  

Here it is, I've been posting a link every day in case folks didn't do Sun thru Wed puzzles!
It's not too late for anyone to create and add his/her own! The more the merrier! Orange was good enough to host it on her space.
We are up to a dozen, including a super Sunday-sized...and a wordoku by Wei-Hwa-Huang! Plus a new word one by Merl!!!
"Happy Birthday, Will Shortz!" board now created. Feel free to upload puzzles and greetings.


acme 8:33 PM  

SHould that be Over-Easy-Medium?

acme 8:35 PM  

oooooooooooops, of course that should have been @syndy
Too much time Down under!

GILL I. 8:39 PM  

retired_chem: COCHON is that cute little animal when it's alive. PORC is the meat - hopefully dead - that we eat.
@acme: Thanks so much for that fun link. I've done them all and I'm hoping Will publishes them!

michael 9:15 PM  

For once I completely agree with Rex. Great theme,, but the SE corner was awful and I had three mistakes in euterpe/prie/nes . I thought it was euterbe (closer than I had any right to be) and prie/nes is a total natick for me.

Tita 9:42 PM  

@ret_chem...to expand on Gill I.P.'s succint description...
I've read that the names of the animals come from the German...Cow/Kuh, Sheep/Schaf, Swine/Schwein.
The words for what we eat come from the French...
Beef/Beouf, Mutton/Mouton, Porc/Pork.

@Rob C - my point was that I love or hate puzzles based an a - well - baser instinct than knowledge.

That doesn't mean I don't want to know the facts about construction - au contraire...
One of my favorite things about this blog is what I have learned about construction - I consider it my "Puzzle Appreciation Class". In particular, I like it when Rex, and the commentors, discuss not only something like max word counts, but WHY it makes a difference. Knowing that a rule was broken doesn't mean much - knowing why it is a good or bad thing is what I look for.

Since your recent puzzle, I know that you are a constructor, and am thrilled that you are one of a few that regularly write in here to help us learn.

Thanks!! It makes struggling with capchas worthwhile!

sanfranman59 11:33 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 6:02, 6:49, 0.89, 7%, Easy
Tue 7:16, 8:56, 0.81, 5%, Easy (8th lowest median solve time of 166 Tuesdays)
Wed 12:56, 11:48, 1.10, 75%, Medium-Challenging
Thu 15:19, 18:50, 0.81, 20%, Easy

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:32, 3:41, 0.96, 32%, Easy-Medium
Tue 3:58, 4:39, 0.85, 7%, Easy
Wed 6:54, 5:55, 1.17, 88%, Challenging
Thu 8:02, 9:21, 0.86, 27%, Easy-Medium

JenCT 11:00 PM  

Thanks for the egg compliments, @Tita & @Sparky - I agree!

Super-behind on my puzzles.

I wanted to do a chicken-themed puzzle, but my ideas need a lot more work (thanks for the critique, Rex.)

Ginger 2:24 PM  

@Emmett Fitz-Hume, Cheney and Bush in antlers gave me my biggest laugh of the day!

000000000000H how I enjoyed this puzzle, though I DNF. The ugly SE did me in. I thought the Wii ancestor was NdS (Nintendo Display Station). I also needed Google to spell EUTERPE and GIGLI. By the way, Wii is a great fun way to eggsercise.

My first pass gave me CAMILLE and PANACEA, which opened up the NW. Got the theme with OVEREASY, then slowly, word by word, I got the rest eggscept for the aforementioned SE. Loved the theme entries, but it made me hungry for Deviled Eggs.

I hope my fellow NW syndilanders are enjoying this phenominal weather!

Spacecraft 2:26 PM  

A fun puzzle, but DNF; naticked in the SE. Did not know ULEE, or the Muse (after Erato my brain clouds over), or the French expression. I found these with Google, but have read here that one either finishes by oneself or doesn't. There was a lot more that I didn't know; AMARNA and CEDRIC were filled 100% with crosses.

One writeover: in a DAZE, I first wrote hAZE. Liked the cleverness of DOORDIE to fit into the theme.

Not 70 words, but 68. You can hardly call a row of 6 O's a "word." Although, perhaps you could come up with a legitimate definition: "Ghostbusters' phone number?"

While I was doing this puzzle, my wife informed me that Dr. Oz says that eating more than two egg yolks a week is almost as hard on your arteries as smoking. Ouch! I don't smoke...but I LOVE eggs--and so I liked this puzzle.

DMGrandma 3:41 PM  

Joined those who were blindsided by the SE. Didn't know the tenor or the TV character. Know Wii, but never heard of nes (NES?). Couldn't figure out what 49A was talking about, and now having looked up GESTALT, I'm no wiser. So that corner turned an otherwise "scrutable" puzzle into a CNF (cannot finish). Did love all those eggs I the middle.

rain forest 5:26 PM  

As usual, I liked the puzzle (I seem to like them all), and I echo many others who found the SE nasty, but my problem was that I was ABSOLUTELY POSITIVE the guy who went to town was Mr. Dodds, and so I was multiply Naticked in there until the "-lantr-" showed up giving me Elantra and the correct name of the guy going to town. Clever theme, much great fill, regardless of the number of words or black squares, the explanation of which eludes me:
"...ahem, now if it's a themeless, then the blacksquare count minus the square root of the word count will could well result in a lot of tosh from the blogosphere".
Love eggs.

Dirigonzo 7:38 PM  

Loved it, except for ReNEE/TeSH and that pile-up in the SE. I sure hope they get all of the debris cleared out of that section before tomorrow's puzzle comes along.

bocamp 12:05 AM  

Commenting a year after the fact; this is a good tough, chewy Thursday puzz. I aced it last year and did so again this year, but with some trepidation. Anyway @Stu, thanks for the challenge! 👍

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