Compound in Agent Orange / WED 11-28-12 / Toby filler / Poet with fanatic's heart / Fictional Flanders Devine / Gumbo thickener / Young newt

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Constructor: Adam G. Perl

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: Random algebra problem —


Word of the Day: BIX Beiderbecke (1D: Beiderbecke of jazz) —

Leon Bismark "BixBeiderbecke (March 10, 1903 – August 6, 1931) was an American jazz cornetistjazz pianist, and composer. // With Louis Armstrong, Beiderbecke was one of the most influential jazz soloists of the 1920s. His turns on "Singin' the Blues" (1927) and "I'm Coming, Virginia" (1927), in particular, demonstrated an unusual purity of tone and a gift for improvisation. With these two recordings, especially, he helped to invent the jazz ballad style and hinted at what, in the 1950s, would become cool jazz. "In a Mist" (1927), one of a handful of his piano compositions but the only one he recorded, mixed classical influences with jazz syncopation. Beiderbecke also has been credited for his influence, directly, on Bing Crosby and, indirectly, via saxophonist Frank Trumbauer, on Lester Young. (wikipedia)
• • •

I have no idea what this is. Or, rather, I do, but don't understand *why* it is. Is this a famous equation? It appears that this equation is in the grid only because it somehow manages to fit into the grid in three symmetrical segments. I didn't even have to do any algebra. The grid just filled itself in, and I'm left with the ... pleasure? ... of reading the world's easiest algebra equation. Yup, it checks out. Now what? Where's the twist? The zing? The "here's why you've been entering an equation into the grid for the past five minutes or so"? Nowhere. Not that I can see. Someone needs to fire the IDEA MAN (50A: Think tank types).

One thing this grid has going for it is Xs. Granted, two of them are wasted on the horrid crosses XED and XOX, but DIOXIN is lovely (probably the only time you'll hear someone say that) (45D: Compound in Agent Orange), and, well, now I have heard of this BIX guy, so I learned something, at least. Love the long Downs, but the fill in general is mostly short and mostly trite (perhaps not the TRITEST, but not fresh, at any rate). Contains two of my least favorite bits of crosswordese: AH ME (which is exactly one tick worse than AH SO), and IRED, which no one has ever said in the history of the world. There was some occasionally interesting cluing, like 68A: Kind of day for a competitive cyclist for REST and 30A: Poet with a "fanatic's heart" for YEATS, but overall this was mostly fairly dull.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Hungry Mother 6:46 AM  

Found it easy for a change on Wed.

Clif 6:59 AM  

You didn't like it Rex because you didn't know how to solve the simultaneous linear equations with pretty basic algebra. If you had known, then filling out the last line (the solution) gave you other crosses, rather than having to rely wholly on crosses to solve the equation. In my view remembering basic algebra is much more useful than knowing trivia about characters in kiddy comic books or baseball players from 1930. So I liked it.

Z 7:11 AM  

Why? A tribute to Chi, maybe?

Only writeover was SExTET, thinking I would need that X. X PLUS Y, Y MINUS X, SESTET, SIXTEEN, SIX, ESSEX - it all seems a little redundant.

To his credit, the academic theme gets bonused by EQUATE, THE GRADUATE, and MEANER ('tho "more average" doesn't seem quite right). Meanwhile, the undergrads are busy with POT and LSD.

Since OUI is Canadian today, not French, I thought we would have a French Free puzzle. But no, Louis the XVI showed up and ruined it for the xenophobes who want an English Only puzzle.

TRITEST or I'M IMPRESSED? I agree with Rex...Why?

Z 7:13 AM  

That would be Louis XIV who made an appearance. Damn RRNs.

Milford 7:24 AM  

Felt challenging as I worked it, but my time was completely average.

I'm not going to complain about any math- or science-themed puzzle, but I was sad that we didn't have to actually solve for x or y ourselves. I'm not even sure how that puzzle would work, maybe a single loner square to put an answer in?

Because I had SExTET before SESTET, I had XIX in the middle of 17A and was worried the equation was going to be in Roman numerals. Seriously.

Liked that EQUATE was included. Had UNITE for 66A before I realized it had to go in for 53D. Hope the French (ROUX and ETAT) and "old-timer" music (Sabbath = METAL) are acceptable to all today.

@Rex - if my Magmic app grid looked like yours with the marked corners, it would mean every letter was wrong, I think.

dk 7:46 AM  

Today is national French toast day so I get OUI. The x and y thing is a little lame. I was hoping for ten X's and six Y's in the grid but.... Santa never reads my mail.

All in all more fun than guessing sports and TV stars. It is nice to see a puzzle that math nerds support with obscure references to linear equations. I will be spending most of this week toying with regression models so this was a fine theme pour moi.

XXX (3 unknowns) Thanks Adam.

joho 8:01 AM  

Very unusual puzzle. I always like seeing something new and different but having no interest in math of any kind the equation left me cold. It was eXtremly gettable by crosses, though, so I'm grateful for that. And, I'm happy that all the mathematically inclined solvers had something fun for them.

I did like all the XXXXXXXXX.

syndy 8:08 AM  

No,I agree with Rex,solving this most basic of EQUATions did nothing for me.I knew when I did it that I did not need to but couldn't help seeing the answer. I knew TRITEST was gonna bite Mr Perl;s butt.Me IM not IMPRESSED.

Anonymous 8:14 AM  

I liked solving the equation before filling in all the crosses! Yay Algebra!

retired_chemist 8:15 AM  

No problem with the theme. Same algebra strategy as Rex, i.e. just fill it in as usual and check at the end. Asserting he can't do the algebra, as someone did above, is not fair. You could say the same about me based on my statement, and I assure you that you would be wrong.

Nice downs, acrosses not so much. Overall OK.

Shamik 8:28 AM  

Thoroughly, totally, utterly meh. Agree with Rex 100%.

Only difference is that for some reason my father used to talk or have a recording of Bix Beiderbecke, so that was a gimme.

jackj 8:38 AM  

“Numberplay, the Puzzle Suite for Math Lovers of All Ages”, a regular NY Times feature on Mondays, invades our Wednesday puzzle and rudely asks us to call up whatever algebra skills we had (or thought we had) and solve this rather elementary equation, (assuming we can pull together the words to define it from some clever crossing entries).

But, tricky Adam Perl, if we just wait until we get to the bottom of the puzzle, the reveal shows us the answer and anyone who worked on the solution first has to be IRED at the wasted effort when, if they knew STASIS, DIOXIN and IMIMPRESSED (among others), they could have quickly learned that XISTENANDYISSIX, problem solved.

“Response to “Who, me?” as YESYOU was perfect and with the puzzle’s launching entry for “Goose egg”, BAGEL, they were special highlights, as were ROUX and that thing that “has feathers and flies” for DART but, what do I know, IMEASY.

Finding interesting entries for all the X’s and Y’s needed for the math test gave us some clever bits with the best X (after ROUX) being DIOXIN and the better of the Y’s was SALARY, cleverly clued as “Subject of a cap, in sports” (not headgear, obviously) and then Adam gives us a grace note of sorts with a lover’s sign-off of XOX. First rate!

An excellent puzzle, from an expert constructor who just quietly slips us a winner every now and then.

Thanks, Adam.

Tita 8:41 AM  

What @dk said...

And happy belated birthday, Rex.

John V 8:54 AM  

Well, okay. SW a touch slow but very easy for a Wednesday; used the theme to get DIOXIN, which I guess I knew but didn't want to pop up. Liked STASIS; right there with @Rex re: IRED; alternate clue for IRED: "Crazy ride?" Is Cruciverb up to date? It says the last time IRED was used in the Times was Nov 23, 2010. That seems wrong.

WFH today, so no mileage rating. Today is the tree lighting at Rock Center; management told us to not come into the City so as to avoid the gridlock.

tptsteve 8:56 AM  

Not a bad Wednesday puzzle; having to think mathematically early in the morning was a nice change of pace.

Glad to see Bix Beiderbecke as wotd. Bix was a superb trumpet player, who drank himself to death at a young age. The movie Young Man with a Horn, starring Kirk Douglas, was based on his life (trumpet playing in the film was by Harry James.


nanpilla 8:58 AM  

I like math, so I did enjoy this puzzle, but as puzzles go, it was rather vanilla in the fill, once you got by all of the Xs ans Ys. One of the least 'pangramatic' puzzles in a long time.

It did remind me of the time my middle schooler came home with some math homework that was almost just like this problem and asked for some help. I said, "Oh, these are fun, just use two equations and two unknowns". He replied "My teacher said that some of the parents might try teaching us that, but we were told we weren't allowed to do it that way". What followed was some convoluted technique that I can't remember, and a lot of muttering on my part about "new math". Any Math teachers out there that can tell me why we can't do it the easy way?

Oh, and happy belated birthday, Rex. When do we get to see the cake?

Anonymous 9:07 AM  

Easiest Wednesday I can remember. If you thought Math was just a drag course you had to finish then: (1) You weren't taught right, and (2) You probably didn't like this puzzle. But if you love math, then you probably loved seeing some math in a crossword.

A bit tangential but a favorite story I heard is about the academic committee who encountered a student named Cicero who had failed Latin. Everybody laughed. A bit later they encountered a student named Gauss who'd failed Math. This time only the Math/Science people laughed. I leave the comments on which group was narrowly educated to others.

Gerry W

Unknown 9:14 AM  

@Clif - Ouch!

I'm with @Milford...this would have been more fun if we had to somehow solve the equation. Pretty easy for a Wednesday.

chefbea 9:18 AM  

Great puzzle!! Use to be a whiz in Algebra back in the day. I think My father had a 78 record of Bix Beiderbeck.

Sandy 9:27 AM  

You don't have to know or like math to solve this puzzle. I don't see how being math friendly even adds to the solving pleasure, since you don't need to do any actual math to fill in the grid. If you did find yourself doing math, it wasn't very fancy stuff. I agree with Rex that the puzzle needed to give the math a purpose, a reason to make me care.


Anonymous 9:27 AM  

Easiest Wednesday in awhile. I've been reading Steven Strogatz's new book, "The Joy of X" this week and simultaneously hearing it reviewed on several NPR programs. Could it be a coincidence?

Carola 9:28 AM  

AH, ME - an algebra problem for breakfast. From 1A, I'd have rather continued with a breakfast baked-goods theme. Along with BAGEL, could have had scone, crumpet, oat cake, and English muffin. More my cup of tea.

Pete 9:30 AM  

XPLUSYISSIXTEEN is perhaps the lamest 15 word phrase ever to make it to a puzzle. Ditto for the other two theme entries.

If 58A were LINEAREQUATIONS, and two other three letter entries were TEN and SIX, clued as X=, Y=, respectively, then it would have been an interesting puzzle. One that would annoy many people, sure, but at least an interesting puzzle. As it is, it's just entering nonsense phrases.

Captcha: ngestPO. The opposite of what I do when I ingest POO

Variety is the Spice of Life 9:35 AM  

Medium-Challenging??? Give me a break, I would call this a Monday puzzle since most of the fill seemed Monday-simple.

Why oh why do some people think they have to love the theme for a puzzle to be good? Why oh why do they think the Will Shortz has to limit the puzzles he accepts to only the type they want? I would never contest anyone who said they don't like a particular puzzle. But calling a puzzle bad just because theme doesn't grab you is simply an attempt to create a uniform world that consists of nothing but what you like, and it is a sentiment that is all too often found on this blog.

I thought today's puzzle was nice; it was fun to solve, if a little easy for Wednesday. I hope Will Shortz continues to include a wide variety of themes even if some of them will not be universally appreciated.

True, there is no special significance to the equations. But there doesn't have to be. A song's lyrics don't have to be profound for the song to be wonderful. Time to lighten up.

OISK 9:35 AM  

Loved this puzzle. It was consistent with a recent trend (for me) of Wed. puzzles going much more quickly and smoothly than Tues. It also helps that I am much more familiar with algebra than I am with Jimi Hendrix. I also enjoy algebra FAR more than I enjoy Jimi Hendrix. So today's delightful puzzle was the antidote to yesterday's.

John V 9:35 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
John V 9:36 AM  

Re: Bix Beiderbecke, etc: You can hear him on The Big Broadcast, WFUV, 90.7, 9:00 p.m. Sunday, hosted by Rich Conaty. Highly recommended.

evil doug 9:41 AM  

Hey! Who stole the crossword and replaced it with Sudoku? Pretty good fill, pretty lousy theme. If we're going to have math, present us with some Fibonacci or Pythagoras or doing calculations that create dirty words when you turn your calculator upside down or something.

So there I was, solving the crossword with my wife, enjoying my special annual, you know (wink, wink), birthday present from her---she couldn't really contribute many answers since her mouth was reallllly full (of cake, people---get your minds out of the gutter!)....


George Castanza 9:51 AM  

@ED - You've managed to add food to sex? Way to go!

jberg 9:54 AM  

Happy birthday, @Doug!

I think a lot of people are missing the point of Rex's comments on the theme. It's not a matter of "liking" math or not. I love math! I even solved the equations to get SIX, despite knowing it would be faster to just do the crosses. The point is that the theme should mean something - not just be random. Running this on the 16th of the month, or on the palindromic 1/6/61 (but too late or too early for that one) would have made it better - or, as many have said, making you actually solve for x and y.

Still, it does have some strong points - EQUATE, other STEM terms, ROUX (though I thought you thickened gumbo with okra), and a nice POT of ALE.

One question, though. If ESSEX is a "historic English county," what are the non-historic ones?

J 10:10 AM  

The whole thing was trite in order to fit in the theme--all the Xs and Ys.


joho 10:16 AM  

I wonder if THEGRADUATE was a math major?

JFC 10:19 AM  

What I really enjoy about Rex's commentary is it is never just print. It is etched in stone with lightening bolts. Sometimes that makes his fair points seem unfair. Like today. Rex makes a fair point, as I read him (though who really knows what he is thinking). What is so special about this equation to make its way in a NYT XWP? Apparently the only thing special is that it fits into the grid. That seems a bit thin. As for liking or disliking math, this hardly qualifies as math. It's more trial and error. How may combinations of two numbers equal 16 and then which combination when one is subtracted from the other is 4? And the puzzle is about as exciting as the equation.

I like all those red checks in Rex's completed puzzle. What better way to illustrate his dislike for this puzzle?

PS. ED essentially makes the same point but his gets lost in birthday cake....


evil doug 10:24 AM  

Jerry: So, how's the fornicating gourmet?

George: Doing quite well, thank you. Yesterday I had a soft boiled egg and a quickie. You know what? If I could add TV to the equation, that would really be the ultimate.

Jerry: George, we're trying to have a civilization here.

Loren Muse Smith 10:30 AM  

A while back, @retired_chemist (I think it was) said something like, “I like all the puzzles.” Hear Hear! (or Here Here – Mr. Chen, now I don’t know which!!)

Yeah – upon seeing the theme in its entirety kind of has a “na und??” feel, but I enjoyed the process.

@Carola – we can expand the food theme beyond breakfast: BAGEL, TSO, UNI, ROUX, METAL POT, SAUTEED, RARE, OAT, MRE, ALE, and REST (my husband always carves the roast before it rests).

I agree with@ joho - YES YOU is terrific.

Happy Birthday, ED.

Thanks, Adam.

Anonymous 10:30 AM  

I like this one a lot.

People were gushing over the theme on Monday and I thought that was one of the lamest puzzles in a good while.

The Jimi Hendrix crossword seemed to fall between generations for a surprising number of people; people too old or too young.

I mostly don't care what anyone thinks, but it's a hoot to watch sometimes.

chefbea 10:44 AM  

@Evil Happy b-day. Good to have you back

GILL I. 10:58 AM  

@Variety is the Spice of Life: You're right, it is, but I think you should enjoy it like @Evil Duck and his cake....
I think all theme puzzles *should* grab you; this puzzle was another "fill in the blanks" and there was no satisfaction in the end.
Count me in the meh group.

Bob Kerfuffle 11:24 AM  

Random musing: (Doesn't count as a write-over, because I never wrote in the wrong answer) - Glancing at the grid and clues, my eyes fell on 34 D, "Cause of a boom and bust?", and I first thought of our old friend SST, as in "Cause of a [sonic] boom and [now a commercial] bust?", but it was not to be.

As a believer in evolution, I favor trying all kinds of crossword themes and seeing which survive.

Lewis 11:24 AM  

@variety -- good luck in asking Rex to lighten up.

You know, it comes down to this. Are there enough themes out there for the NYT to come up with a mind blowing theme every S-TH? Year after year? I'm guessing no. So I celebrate the special ones but am okay with the more mundane ones, so long as the solve was enjoyable.

Lewis 11:26 AM  

@bobkerfuffle -- at that clue, cause of a boom or bust, I had T_T, then I looked at the word bust...

Ellen S 11:28 AM  

@jberg, I also put okra instead of ROUX, hoping the stuff had some function besides adding slime to the recipe, but alas okra is a veg (or alien life form) with not a single virtue. My husband used to make gumbo, and I would eat it, but, well, I could say more but I'll spare you.

I solved the equations before filling in the crosses, partly because I wanted to and partly because I used the answer to verify the THREE sports-themed clues that crossed it. Although they were all easy, TRITE answers.

@JFC, the idea behind algebra is to give you a simpler approach than trial and error. I hated arithmetic in grade school, just froze at the sight of all those numbers to be added, subtracted, multiplied, divided. Was in heaven when high school let me play with the relationships between numbers and shapes instead of all that mindless arithmetic.

wordie 11:32 AM  

When I was a wee thing I thought his name was Bic Spiderbeck

Rookie 11:39 AM  

Happy birthday, @Evil

It is great to have you back.

evil doug 11:40 AM  

Well, now I've put myself in a spot---but I have to be honest.

I told one of our pals here that I thought the Willard Scott-esque birthday thing on the blog has exploded out of control. Today I was actually satirizing Michael's birthday cake comment Monday---and subsequent labeling at the end of that crossword as "Birthday Puzzle"---but here it's blown up in my face as a result of your kind and generous (and belated, as it happens) wishes to me. I am the enlightened Grinch, the reformed Scrooge.

I thought about just letting it go. Only one person would be the wiser. But my better self (there is one in there, sometimes) said go the honest route.

So, thank you. Really. It did feel unexpectedly nice to receive warm regards when my comments often attract quite the opposite, and I will not deny others the same pleasure. Likewise to those of you who noted my lengthy absence, and both urged me to return and welcomed me when I did.

And now back to my normal, rotten self.


Rob C 11:41 AM  

Got the theme with a lot of help from crosses. Was trying to figure out what the significance of the theme was until I came here and saw there was none. I'm just not feeling any love for this. Nice way to work a bunch of x's into the fill. Pretty good fill though.

Tomorrows puzzle: multiple choice history question

Rookie 11:46 AM  


So you snookered us!

Even better. Should have known.

Thanks for the laugh ... And the sweet admission, too.

John V 11:56 AM  

@Rob C ROTFLMAO re: tomorrow.

In that spirit, I offer this MapReduce idea from the same folks that ask you prove you're not a robot. This, of course, would be a Thursday puzzle.

Three and out.

jae 12:15 PM  

Ken Ken??  Very easy but not my cup-of-tea and I love math.  So, I'm with Rex and the meh sayers.  THE GRADUATE was the only zippy answer, although  IM EASY, BIX,  and DIOXIN come close.  Never got into Hendrix but am a big Simon and Garfunkel  fan.   Gonna have koo-koo-ka-choo running through my head all day...

And a belated welcome back from me ED...

maXXed and anonYmous 12:18 PM  

U-Count = (Shoppin' Days Til Christmas) / (G-Count)

G is the Rodney Dangerfield of consonants, IMO. I've brought this up before, altho not really part of my focus group.

And a very happy un-birthday to all you mad hatters out there. Peace on Earth, Good Will toward constructors. algebraicthUmbsUp.

mac 12:25 PM  

I must say that I found this a fresh idea. Easy for a Wednesday, but some good fill. And the XOX at the end was cute.

Happy birthday, Doug!

mac 12:27 PM  

Fool me once....!

Bill 12:48 PM  

Bix Beiderbecke was a gimme for me. I had a college roommate from Davenport, Iowa, where they have an annual Bix Beiderbecke jazz festival. A really big event in Davenport.

Stephen 1:08 PM  

Agreed: no one in the history of the world ever said the word "IRED".
But also, in my long search to resist it, I could not come up with any explanation for TDS either. They sell reels? Google does not reveal anything. Anyone?

Two Ponies 1:23 PM  

Puzzle was OK by me.
A liitle something different is all right in my book, esp. on a Wed.
Yeats again and purple haze bled over as LSD.

Good one Evil Doug!

Anonymous 1:26 PM  

Can someone please explain how a BAGEL is a Goose egg?

Milford 1:27 PM  

@Stephen - TDs are touchdowns, which would be shown on film reel of great plays.

Anonymous 1:29 PM  

@Anon 1:26 - ESPN Highlights frequently show touch-downs (TDS)

Sparky 1:31 PM  

@tptsteve said my line re the movie. I mix Beiderbecke up with Berrigan. Ignored the equation. The last line gave the answer. YEATS again. Since when is Goose egg a BAGEL? Xmas before NOEL.

This has been bothering me for days: A bialy is not an onion roll and an onion roll is not a bialy. Each is a roll with onion on top but different. I wish I could insert pictures. You will just have to take my word for it.

I liked this puzzle okay. Have a nice day.

Masked and Anonymo6Us 1:37 PM  

@Bill - I have been to one of those Davenport BIX concerts. Primo jazz fest.

@Stephen: Sorta already covered, but w.t.h.: "Highlight reel" is kinda old-fartese for sports report highlights. Touchdowns (TDS) and collisions producing blood spatters are usually fodder of choice for such reporting. Speakin' of sports (awful sorry, Tobias), IRED woulda been a great Auerbach autobiography title. Anyhoo, I'd bet my Hawaii condo (har) that some cockney personal director has uttered the words "You're 'ired!"

Jimmy Connors 1:38 PM  

Re BAGELS - If you loose a tennis match 6-0, 6-0, 6-0 it is said that your opponent hung a triple BAGEL on you.

Imfromjersey 1:44 PM  

In tennis, when you lose a set 6-0 they call it being bageled, hence bagel for 0.

Bird 1:45 PM  

Meh. Same experience as @Rex, except the theme helped in the solve. That NW corner might be blank otherwise as I guessed BAGEL (not as familiar as DONUT for zero), 1D is unknown and wasn’t completely sure about 2D. Maybe Adam likes X’s and Y’s and found a way to create a puzzle around those difficult letters.

Write-overs include ALAS before AH ME at 16A, OUST before TOSS at 34A. The long downs are nice and refreshing. TRITEST seems made-up.

I didn’t know @Rex has been around since the beginning of time and talked to every single person to know that IRED has never been used. He’s older than Mel’s 2,000-year-old man.

@ED – What gutter? I knew your wife was eating cake. But I’m sure it was a really small piece. Wink, wink.

Happy Humpday!

Unknown 1:55 PM  

Loved the puzzle. I made my way through the clues, leaving blanks where I wasn't sure. Then at the bottom, I got enough crosses to figure out "XISTENANDYISSIX". So, it was easy to go back and "solve" the two equations and get enough crosses to get the ones I missed on the first pass. Fun and fresh.

JFC 1:59 PM  

@Ellen S - We don't disagree but the equations in this puzzle are so basic that it requires a trial and error approach to determine X and Y. Algebra was ok but I really liked geometry. So the puzzle doesn't present much in the way of math, which means to me that even if you like math that is not a reason to like this puzzle. And the opposite is true. But that leaves very little to like....


Clif 2:11 PM  

@JFC: You said: "We don't disagree but the equations in this puzzle are so basic that it requires a trial and error approach to determine X and Y."

That's not right. No trial and error is required; simple algebra is all


By adding those equations, you can solve for x, since you'll have one equation with a single, simple variable. Adding yields


So x=10

Put x back in either equation and you know y, e.g.,


No trial and error required.

Rob C 2:21 PM  

BAGEL or DONUT as 'zero on a scoreboard' would have worked well with Monday's breakfast theme - except it wouldn't have passed the smother in syrup test

Anonymous 2:38 PM  

What Variety is the Spice of Life said.

@EvilDoug: i like you normal and rotten.

Sandy K 2:39 PM  

The puzzle was OK, but I agree with @Rex as to Y?

@Sparky- It's been bothering me too...I didn't think that a bialy was the same as an onion roll either.

Tomorrow's puz sounds intriguing.

Sharpie 3:31 PM  

@BIALY questioners - A Bialy is not an Onion Roll, but it is an onion roll. An Onion Roll is a specific thing, an onion roll is one of a genera of rolls with onions on/in them.

@Variety... - There's a huge difference between themes that don't grab you (though they should as that's the point of themes) and themes that are ugly. This one had you enter two random linear equations, then the solution. Emphasis on random. If this grabbed anyone, great, but I, for one, found it ugly. @Pete made a suggestion that would have raised this above the ugly.

chefwen 3:52 PM  

Hey, how come no one is thanking ME for luring @ED out of retirement with my Petrie/Petri gaffe?

@Sparky and Sandy K - Food Lover's Companion "bialy (bee-AH-lee) Jewish-American in origin, this large very chewy yeast roll is round and flat with a depression in the center. The bialy is sprinkles with sauteed chopped onion before baking (I add poppy seeds and a little olive oil also) The name comes from the Polish city of Bialystok."

@Ellen S - Couldn't agree with you more re. okra.

Thought I was in for trouble when I saw the PLUS Y line up. Major mind block about math after years of Dear Old Dad trying to beat it into me. Relieved when it turned out that no actual math was involved. Phew!

One write-over 23A stalEST before TRITEST.

Nice shout out to my little guy TOBY in the clues.

Happy (belated) Birthday ED.

Sandy K 4:41 PM  


Your recipe sounds yummy, but here in Brooklyn, an onion roll is an onion roll and a bialy is a bialy. They don't look the same or taste the same.

@Sparky- Wish you could insert pictures!

PS. Zero Mostel's character in The Producers was named Max Bialystock. By the way, I'm Jewish. ; )

JFC 4:49 PM  

@Clif - It's been many years but I believe what you are shorthanding is this:

x + y + x - y = 16 + 4.
x + x = 20 (+y and -Y cancel each other).

Unfortunately that 2X = 20 or my equation was not in the puzzle, so since I do the puzzle on the computer my imagination left me with trial and error. I agree it is algebra.

Anonymous 4:51 PM  

@Sparky- a bagel and goose egg both mean zero. (And bialys are better than onion rolls, and definitely not bagels)


chefwen 4:54 PM  

@Sandy K - Totally agree that they are not the same. I'd take the bialy over the onion roll any day, I think they have a greater depth of flavor.

@ED - You might want to check the LA Times puzzle today, I think you would be amused by it.

David from CA 5:00 PM  

@Variety... - This one had you enter two random linear equations, then the solution. Emphasis on random.

Yesterday we had to enter several random songs, followed by the singer. Was that thereby an equally terrible theme? The vast majority of themes have a random aspect to them.
I happened to solve this one from the bottom up, so got to write in the whole 1st line once I had the 2nd and 3rd theme entries. Made for an easy Wednesday.

mac 6:14 PM  

Just a question: all those red marks on Rex's puzzle, does that mean he didn't do the puzzle, just click "reveal"?

sanfranman59 6:26 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)

Wed 10:11, 11:48, 0.86, 22%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Wed 5:56, 5:57, 1.00, 53%, Medium

evil doug 6:41 PM  

Thanks, chefwen! I wouldn't have known since I don't do the LA puzzle. I maintain my anti-shout-out stance, but since we've been celebrating my (un)birthday....


I'm famous!!!!!!!

Since this is my birth semester, this puzzle was all for me!!!!!!!

And in humble honesty now: Doug Peterson---perhaps because of our shared name? perhaps because all Dougs are cool?---has always seemed to treat me with especial courtesy. So while we can presume this puzzle had nothing to do with me, I appreciate the guy.


Not Letterman 6:52 PM  

Top Ten List of most used words today:

#10 Equation
#9 Random
#8 Bagels
#7 Bialys
#6 Onion rolls
#5 Goose eggs
#4 Boom
#3 Bust
#2 Bix Beiderbecke
#1 Evil Doug

Z 7:01 PM  

@LMS - Hear Here?

@Bird 1:45 - Funny.

On Birthdays ("H-alpha is used as the base unit of time, length, frequency and temperature throughout the universe. Well, the civilized bits of it, at least.")

@Rob C - "The smother in syrup test" sounds like something for the fornicating gourmet.

@David from CA - Random doesn't mean what you seem to think it means. The reason so many are calling today's theme "random" is that no one has come up with a reason for this set of equations to be used out of the, literally, infinite possibilities. The pattern yesterday was very easily deduced and commented upon.

Algebra Cosine Minus 7:20 PM  

Hunh! Late to the party most has been said, but I loved the Xs, the attempt at an original idea...
Only thing I was caught up by was the repetitive IMEASY/IMIMPRESSED (crossing with AHME no less!)

But as I was noting that in the margin, a commercial for Pillsbury's Crescent rolls came on and the woman said "Wow! IM IMPRESSED" at that moment, so the synchronicity trumped all specific feelings about the puzzle.

I think I would have liked to have had it as a puzzle you had to figure out...but the theme definitely gave me the X in BIX which I'd otherwise not have known.

Rob C 7:22 PM  

@Z Hey, watch it, I almost take offense to that!

Not Letterman 7:43 PM  

The Top Ten List of Most-Used Words Today

#10 Equation
#9 Random
#8 Bagels
#7 Bialys
#6 Onion rolls
#5 Goose eggs
#4 Boom
#3 Bust
#2 Bix Beiderbecke
#1 Evil Doug

Anonymous 9:30 PM  

The gentleman who served as curator of pianos in Brewster, Mass., in the late 1980s (perhaps the only person to ever hold that job) had a "Bix lives" bumper sticker on his car. He was also a Dixieland jazz musician. So 1 Down makes perfect sense. I'm with Rex on some of the fill -- and the algebra. Fairly ho-hum.

Has anyone else noticed the tendency for fill to be repeated on consecutive days? YEATS today and yesterday; ICEE (yuck) a couple of weeks back.

sanfranman59 10:05 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 6:31, 6:46, 0.96, 37%, Easy-Medium
Tue 8:20, 8:57, 0.93, 37%, Easy-Medium
Wed 10:16, 11:48, 0.87, 22%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:44, 3:41, 1.01, 63%, Medium-Challenging
Tue 4:46, 4:41, 1.02, 59%, Medium
Wed 5:51, 5:57, 0.98, 48%, Medium

Ellen S 10:47 PM  

@anonymous 1:26pm and @sparky, thank you for asking about BAGEL / Goose Egg! I thought everyone but me knew, so I was shy about asking. I figured Goose Egg as Zero -- used to get those a lot in Obedience Trials with my dogs, alas. Never heard of BAGELed. I guess based on @Bird being more familiar with "donut" for zero, it's just because of the shape. That makes sense. I guess.

@sparky, I've enjoyed bialys (only from the Schrafft's cart that used to come around to the Time-Life Building at coffee break time)and eaten Onion Rolls elsewhere. But as @Sharpie suggests, a Bialy may be a subset of the universe "onion rolls" and as such can appear in @John's suggested MapReduce puzzle.

@jfc -- regarding no need for trial and error, @Clif had one approach, adding the two equations, which eliminated "Y" in the result, which solved for "X" which could be then plugged into either original equation to get "Y". What I did would work even if you didn't start with "X+Y=" and "X-Y=", which eliminates Y. I solved the second equation for X in terms of Y and plugged that in to first equation to get one equation in one unknown:
x-y=4 is equivalent to x=4+y
x+y=16 is
(4+y)+y=16 or
4+2y=16 or
2y=16-4 or 2y=12 or y=6
Back into either of the originals:

Does doing the puzzle on the computer forbid use of pencils on the side? (this was easy enough to solve in my head, easier than doing it by trial and error, certainly.)

acme 1:50 AM  

Was trying to figure out if Purpose was the name of the singer singing about Algebra, or if Algebra was her name...
Finally googled. Algebra Blessett. Sort of an unfortunate name, but sort of close to Angela Bassett.
Seems very cool tho.
One of the things I like about this blog is the introduction to new music thru the clips you post.
Thank you.

@Anony 9:30pm
If you are still around...
I call them bleedovers (YEATS, EERIE this week)
My first ten years doing the puzzle I thought they were intentional, put in there for a connective thread. Will insists not.
Now I just enjoy the synchronicity.

Stephen 11:05 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ben D. 11:08 AM  

Question from a newbie: Shouldn't the clue for 4 Down read," Unlike this clue's answer: Abbr" and not "Unlike this clue: Abbr"?

I found this puzzle to be Thursday easy-medium because of all the very short crossword-ese answers.

Unknown 5:51 AM  

I did this puzzle fully drunk and stoned. The whole time I was inexplicably laughing. It was fun enough.

Spacecraft 12:46 PM  

Will, are you all right?? --No way this piece of "jettison" gets into the Times normally. A totally meaningless Algebra I problem necessitates the Fill from Hell. I won't list them; it'd take too long. Two items worth mentioning are IRED--already covered--and the clue for IMEASY: "Fine with me" isn't exactly congruent with that sentiment. Since I had no clue about Porter's Miss OTIS, this off-center clue held me up in the NE for a while.

Perhaps one bright spot would be ADMIRE riding next to IMIMPRESSED, but it's a long way from saving this one. A couple of the clues were cute, notably "Parks in front of a bus?" for ROSA, but please, count my vote with the NAYS.

DMGrandma 3:20 PM  

A little ways into this puzzle I latched onto all the x's, so for a brief moment had "xmas", which seemed to fit the imagined pattern. Beyond that, the puzzle sort of solved itself, but then I'm old enough to have met MIss OTIS once or twice, mainly in crosswords.
Thanks to @Yahweh for setting me straight on the pamphlets yesterday. Agree with@Diri about the similarity of proselytizing door knockers.

Dirigonzo 5:50 PM  

My [sigh] was AHhh, until I came to my SENSES; AHME. The ill effects of Agent Orange are still being discovered as Vietnam veterans continue to come down with new maladies related to exposure.

I thought people who fear ALIENS were called... (oh,never mind.)

Dirigonzo 5:54 PM  

(Sorry, forgot to check the follow-up box.)

rain forest 6:31 PM  

Hey, @Dirigonzo, let me finish your sentiment...REPUBLICANS!

I don't know, I sort of liked this one, but it isn't the sort of theme one wants to see often. A change of pace is somewhat refreshing, I think. "Ired" is of course only ever seen in crosswords, and we're never going to get away from those sort of words, so just let it go...

Lovely day here on the West Coast.

Anonyrat 10:26 AM  

Bix Beiderbecke is the WOTD? If you know anything about Jazz, he's a total gimme. Incidentally, he is also famous, or infamous, for having to managed to drink himself to death by age 27 during Prohibition.
Re the theme, folks always complain about Random Roman Numerals in the puzzle, so I guess Mr. Perl decided to give us Random Arabic Numerals (on steroids) just for a change of pace.
This is now the third time I've seen EFT, a word I've never seen outside the puzzle, and finally guess-membered it correctly. From now on I going to remember it by thinking baby newts are so defenseless they are much pretty much "eft" if faced with any threat.
Re 45A, I was hoping for something a little more amusing, along the lines of "What has six wheels and flies? A garbage truck."
@ Z 7:11 AM - In addition to OUI and ETAT, we also had SES, LISLE, ROUX (which was Cajun today) and SAUTEED, so there are actually six French words. OUI and SAUTEED are fine with me since they are common enough to be fair game. I know what "L' etat c'est moi" means, but have never heard the phrase so needed most of the crosses to get it, and never heard of SES, LISLE or ROUX (needed every cross for those). I don't think it's "xenophobic" to object to excessive use of a foreign language in a puzzle. If the puzzles were routinely saturated with Spanish or German words it would be fine for me, but I would still agree with folks who had a problem with it. I don't think the puzzles should be English only, but the use of foreign words should be limited, and should be restricted to words that people here actually would know or use. I just don't think you should need extensive knowledge of a foreign language to do the puzzle, especially a language that is spoken by less than one half of one percent of the population. Spanish is by far the second most common language in this country, and there are no Spanish words in this puzzle. Chinese is third, and there is only one Chinese word, a common menu item that anyone who has ever been to a Chinese restaurant would know. The disproportionate usage of French in the NYT puzzles basically says 'this is a puzzle by elitists for elitists' and the 'riff-raff' can just bugger off.
@ Milford 7:24 AM - Yes, despite my general objection to too much French, today was acceptable because it was at least gettable from the crosses. What annoys me is when it is crossed with other obscure foreign words/names that require you to randomly guess if you didn't major in French and/or Arabic/Swahili or some such.

Anonyrat 10:30 AM  

P.S. - For those of you who are annoyed by Google using the Captchas, and us, to help them decipher house numbers, I have discovered that while you can no longer type in a random number, you can get away with typing a number that's reasonably close (e.g., 3 for 8, or 8 for 3) and they will usually accept it. I do it as my one small act of defiance.

Z 10:38 AM  

@Anonyrat - The less readable pics will still take any random number. The clearer images need something close to accurate.

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