Old dagger / MON 12-10-12 / Milton leader to Uganda's independence / Kind of scale of mineral hardness / Cashew hazel in grove / Drool catcher

Monday, December 10, 2012

Constructor: Michael David

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: SIDELINES (21D: Where to find coaches at football games ... or a description of the answers to the 16 starred clues?) — first three and last three Down columns are filled with words that can precede "LINE" to make familiar words/phrases



Word of the Day: CONGA (45D: *Cuban drum) —
The conga, or more properly the tumbadora, is a tall, narrow, single-headed Cuban drum. Although ultimately derived from African drums made from hollowed logs, the Cuban conga is staved, like a barrel. These drums were probably made from salvaged barrels originally. They are used both in Afro-Caribbean religious music and as the principal instrument in rumba. Congas are now very common in Latin music, including salsa musicmerengue music, and Reggae, as well as many other forms of American popular music. (wikipedia)

• • •

Here's a sentence that I honestly uttered just seconds after finishing this puzzle and surveying all the different LINES: "Wait ... what the hell is an AIR LINE?" You'll be happy to know I figured it out.

This puzzle is impressive in retrospect, but not a ton of fun to solve. I only noticed just now that the "SIDELINES" implicated in the theme run three deep on each side. I only noticed the two at first. But solving it, I mainly felt "wow, there are a lot of 3-letter words in this thing and that is a Lot of black space on the sides there ..." Grid is definitely solid and some of the longer answers are even enjoyable (I do like a good SHEEPDOG) (47A: Border collie, for one), but the actual solving of this thing was only moderately enjoyable. The aha came post mortem. I guess that's OK—maybe that still counts as part of the overall experience. I will say that IRES is a word that should die and OBOTE (51A: Milton ___, leader to Uganda's independence) seems to be the new IDI, in that I've seen it twice now, both times in easy puzzles, and I can't remember the last time I saw IDI. Maybe I'm seeing him all the time and I'm so used to him that I don't even notice any more. But my gut tells me his appearances have been fewer of late. OBOTE up, IDI down.

I've been helping to edit a lot of puzzles lately for this charity collection I'll be telling you about soon, and it's made me oddly attentive to the tiniest details in puzzles. For instance, I would probably have asked the constructor to get rid of GAS (39A: Exxon product) just so that there would be no LINES that weren't SIDE. I know, nuts, right? This is the kind of editorial hyper-attentiveness that Patrick Blindauer (the editor I'm helping) has begun to drill into me. And yet I'm still botching bush league stuff like "make sure to the write the constructor back and tell her her grid is approved" and "make sure the grid doesn't contain duplicate words," etc.

Oh well. Live and fail and learn. Talk to you later.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Tobias Duncan 12:04 AM  

< Professor Frink Voice on>
" A cashew is not a nut its a seed ...luuaaay"

Anonymous 12:10 AM  

There are non-theme lines contained in the puzzle other than GAS. If you've ever been to the Korean version of a DMV, you'll note they have lines for KIM(s), Lee(s), Park(s) and Others to speed people along their way. In Japan, SAKE lines can stretch for blocks.

Unknown 1:18 AM  

my quickest Monday ever; either an extra easy puzzle or months of reading this enjoyable blog is (finally and thankfully) helping to improve my game... from a Mon-Weds beginner: most obliged to all involved from rowdy Rex to adorable Acme to my favorite constructor: Michael David

Assembly Conga Mohs 1:46 AM  

Wow, 16 themes!!!!!!!! Now that's how to do it!
Michael David is also from Minnesota, but I swear that's not why I liked this!

To paraphrase @Rex, this might impress you more after the fact...

Look how he has all these words going down that go with LINE and yet they make wonderful words going across, effortlessly!!!

I mean look how Michael David formed PHOENIX with LINE-words crossing that N, the I, and the X
and still manages the fun "Wheel of FOrtune" reference...AND manages to get the reveal straight down the middle!!!

OBOTE is NOT a Monday word, nor is KIM Clijsters...but that really is beside the point.

I had a few writeovers, (bONGo...even tho I was imagining Ricky playing away).

Plus Ceo/CFO. I only learned what a CFO was as opposed to a CEO when my crossword partner Michael Blake corrected me when I introduced him as the CEO of an org. he is the CFO for.
I guess that really was (San) Andrea's fAULT!

Thoughts about 42D. BOTTOM...
A few weeks ago, on the new "Family Feud", the question was to name the top SEVEN words for "fanny" that began with B. Seven!!!
Try and name 'em...it's weird they all start with B!

Bottom, Behind, Butt, Buttocks, Booty, Badonkadonk, Booty

Why B? Because it looks like one?

So as not to end on THAT note, I would also like to say I liked the sprinkling of Js and Ks.

chefwen 1:50 AM  

Super easy puzzle that I whipped through like nobodies business. Only trip up was at 36D, I was thinking DIAGONAL but wrote in diameter. DOH! Needless to say, that fell flat on it's face. Easy fix once I got my head on straight.

@Carola - Are your fingertips as short as mine. I don't know how much longer my heart can withstand these cliffhangers. Go Pack!

jae 2:12 AM  

Easy Mon.  for me and a pretty impressive dense theme.   Very smooth grid.  I liked it.

Only WOE:  OBOTE.  My bad.  Again, paying attention to what is going on in the world is important if you want to solve these (especially late week puzzles) with out any help...e.g. Mark Cuban from yesterday.

OTD 6:20 AM  

Super easy even for a Monday. Nice theme, and the way they words interact is more impressive than the individual fill itself. Done in record time.

OTD 6:23 AM  

Super easy even for a Monday. Done in record time. The intricate way the theme and theme words interact is the most interesting thing about this puzzle. Nice.

OTD 6:26 AM  

Still trying to figure this blog out. How do I erase my first comment?

Zygotic 6:52 AM  

@OTD - I think you have to have a blogger sign-in to get the trashcan that let's you delete your own comments.

Much more impressive after the fact. Even with four letters written-over I flew through this. SAm before SAL, TWELvTH before TWELFTH and heY, what's up? before SKY. I didn't quite get the "side" part of SIDELINES until coming here. All those threes IRES me, but they served a good cause (nope, can't make it work - definitely time for retirement).

Milford 7:23 AM  

A whole lot going on for a Monday! Fitting that I was watching the Lions/Packers game while solving all these SIDELINES. Cool how the grid makes a mini-football field with all our LINES waiting to play.

I loved that ELAPSE/PASSION/ARTICLE corner - great words. Also loved TWELFTH (so tough to spell) and our sorta-spillover from yesterday, PHOENIX.

@Rex - I had the same stupid pause at AIR line (like AIR quotes?? Oh....). Also paused at END line, but I guess that could be a sports reference.

@jae - I agree, of course current events are going to help one out in a puzzle, along with dozens of other sources of knowledge. I'm all for calling out gimmes, but don't personally have the need to GLOAT and imply others are idiots for not knowing things. We're all ignorant in some area, yes? Ah, but I guess that's the nature of a blog. (BTW, I'm not picking on you, @jae, just using your comment above as a reference!)

joho 8:05 AM  

I can't imagine what more you could ask of a Monday puzzle that this! Easy and smooth with an intense theme density.

I was very slow on the uptake so at first I thought, "How lame, so all the theme answers are on the side of the puzzle." A true aha moment when I got the connection to LINE on all. Fantastic!

I do hope that Michael David won't be sitting on the SIDELINES for long!

Unknown 8:22 AM  

@acme You have "booty" twice...are you missing "bum"?

Ditto Rex's opening comments. I was impressed when seeing the columns LINEd up, but it was kind of a dull solve.

dk 8:46 AM  

@Susan, with Andrea its booty, this booty that, I am telling ya she just goes on and on. She is a pirate after all :)

Smooth Monday and an interesting theme… albeit wasted on me.

The MOHS scale is the ultimate scratch test.

🌟🌟 (2 Stars) What Rex said.

chefbea 8:59 AM  

So easy. !!! Still haven't finished my bowl of cereal!!!
Great puzzle.

John V 9:23 AM  

Yep, easy, done rolling through the Greenwich fog. I mean REAL easy; almost didn't any down answers. So, okay to see the theme afterward. A theme typically give a solver a way to solve the puzzle based on theme answers. This one sure didn't do any of that for me. Interesting technical feat, pretty blah solving experience. 80 words says it all.

evil doug 9:27 AM  

"Hello, Michael? Will Shortz here. We're interested in your submission, but I'm going to have to make a change. '___ Moines' would be a little difficult for our primary solving population---you know, New Yorkers---since they're not real familiar with locations west of Hoboken. So let's make it '___ Moines, Iowa' to give them a fair chance...."


jackj 9:29 AM  

Michael David brought us a graphic that didn’t require us to “connect the lines” but just had us use our imaginations to create a virtual football game in today’s grid. With a properly sized rectangle repping the “field” and three columns worth of “SIDELINES” on each side of the grid, the only thing missing for football fans are a tease of charming, (read scantily clad), cheerleaders.

Seventeen theme entries, (including the reveal), sounds like it could be a record for most theme entries in a Times 15x15 puzzle but they are mostly clever and fun, (even though they use too many 3 and 4 letter answers).

The best of them are evidenced by SKY(LINE), ASSEMBLY(LINE), BOTTOM(LINE), PICKUP(LINE) and the aptly placed EXIT(LINE) as it leads us out of the grid like a band’s drum major at the end of half-time.

A quick scan of the non-SIDELINES entries turns up one answer that might draw the ref’s flag for being off-side, GAS, (which is too often the type of LINE we end up in), but the other non-themers that bring sparkle and color to the game include TWELFTH, PASSION, SHEEPDOG, (our mascot, perhaps) and GLOATED.

Michael David’s only other Times puzzle was an April 23, 2012 royal treat that had seven words ending in KING with the theme giving us such as PROVO KING, THIN KING, etc. and true to form, with his trademark irreverence, our Rex 31* was teased into commenting “LOO KING, but no PEE KING?”. Ah, memories.

Thanks, Michael David. With puzzles of this caliber we can handle all you want to provide!

(Acme- too much BOOTY, too little BUM).

Bob Kerfuffle 9:30 AM  

@Rex says, "I would probably have asked the constructor to get rid of GAS (39A: Exxon product) just so that there would be no LINES that weren't SIDE."

But in just a couple of weeks after Hurricane Sandy, all the GAS lines had disappeared! :>)

Anonymous 10:06 AM  

GAS - It would have been so easy to get rid of, I assume that no one picked up on it, or just didn't think it important.

jberg 10:14 AM  

OBOTE did indeed replace IDI, but only with the aid of the Tanzanian army. And now, in a sudden attack of dementia, I can't remember who the current president is. Oh right, Museveni.

Other than that, what Rex said, including the gas. And I have to confess that, until I read Rex's comment, I was thinking of AIR LINE as something divers try not to get blocked.

Sparky 10:22 AM  

A bit of a slog at first. Checked the revealer right away. Then warmed to it with number of theme answers. Satisfying after all.

Have rare access to a computer. Today big day for me. Hi, y'all.

Two Ponies 10:40 AM  

I thought this was an outstanding Monday puzzle. The theme density was impressive indeed. So many very nice words in the fill.
Thanks Mr. David.

Sandy K 10:51 AM  

It was an easy solve except for write-over- had behind before BOTTOM. Didn't realize that the SIDELINES went 3-deep til coming here.

Have new-found appreciation for constuctors since reading the ARTICLE per Rex's referral...

So I was triply impressed by the job
that Michael David did! SOLID!!!

Anonymous 10:57 AM  

Fanny is a very offensive word in the U.K. so I am greatly offended by the cultural insensitivity shown today.

orangeblossomspecial 11:01 AM  

I don't understand by SAL is a mule. Will someone please explain?

Anonymous 11:05 AM  

Had the same experience as Rex. If I had been solving on paper, I probably would have had a better experience with the theme. I came here fully expecting to complain about SIDELINES missing the mark, until Rex pointed out to me that they were all, in fact, on the side.

Having said all that, this really is an awesome puzzle. Yeah, I agree, it wasn't mind-blowingly fun to solve, but what Monday ever really is? The construction is a thing of beauty. Really no bad fill.

Carola 11:19 AM  

What a nice grid(iron)! Another day of needing blog+comments to get all that's going on. While solving I noted that all the theme words were vertical...but needed Rex's write up to appreciate the three rows of complete SIDELINES on the edges. Too bad this puzzle doesn't include the frequent "D'OH" for me to quote!

Thanks also to @jackj for pointing out the EXIT (LINE) and to @evil doug for heaping scorn on the "Iowa" in the DES Moines clue.

@chefwen - No kidding! That brutal first quarter gave me visions of a repeat of the Giants game. But now on to packers.com to watch the highlights video...several times :) Go Pack!

Bob Kerfuffle 11:19 AM  

@orangeblossomspecial --

Aren't you our "Music for Every Topic" person?

Here's Sal, the mule.

andy 11:31 AM  

EXIT line? Pretty sure I've never used or heard that phrase. Confused by JAd as a thing that moves up and down when you talk until I realized my dRY sense of humor wasn't twisted the right way.

mac 11:32 AM  

Good Monday, very easy but incredible theme density. Tried to figure the theme early on, but found it slowed me down rather than help me.

I also had to look at air line for a moment, and there is even more than one meaning!

Lewis 11:49 AM  

Some clues too easy even for Monday, a couple of clues more suited to later in the week. Impressive theme and execution, quick solve. I enjoyed it.

After finding out what constructors make to be published in the NYT, I guess crossword constructing isn't in great danger of being outsourced...

Z 11:59 AM  

@Evil Doug - I know I often confuse the Iowa city with the Washington town and the New Mexico village.

ANON B 12:51 PM  

@Evil Doug and Z
Very pedantic. How many people, other than those who live there, are aware of Des Moines,Wash.
and Des Moines,NM?
But then, you two aren't the only ones here who like to show us clods how knowledgeable they are.

Z 1:08 PM  

@anon b- Seriously?

I found @ED's observation about not needing Iowa in the clue funny. I then figured that there had to be at least one other Des Moines somewhere. Wikipedia showed this to be true. Hence, I feigned extra knowledge. I also learned that there is some debate about the origin of the name. "Excrement Face" is too precious to be true. None of this extra knowledge is needed to fill in DES in the grid. ___ Moines would have sufficed.

Anonymous 1:17 PM  

It's clearly not a football field, rather not an American Football field, but a soccer field. Otherwise, Mr David would have stretched the grid to 17 rows, and added an endzone.

JFC 1:18 PM  

@Anon B (aka Nate) ED is in a bad mood because his Bengals suffered a bad loss.

@Chefwen - Please stop drooling for popcorn.

@Rex - Your writeup today almost makes me want to take one of your courses....


Bird 1:37 PM  

Pretty good. At first I couldn’t understand why the 2nd and 3rd answers from the sides are part of the theme, but as I’m writing this I figured it out. Duh. Lots of 3-letter-answers to go around.

No writeovers today. Almost put in OIL at 39A, but quickly checked a crossing down and put in the correct answer.

I always thought the past tense of shoe was shod, at least for blacksmiths anyway.

For those still confused by 27D: AIRLINES (like Delta and Jet Blue) and AIR LINES (like hoses used to pump AIR at the GAS station).

Carola 2:27 PM  

@andy -
About EXIT line - In theater, it's the line an actor says just before going offstage. In ordinary ocnversation, I think of it as a parting remark that has some wit or zing to it.

evil doug 2:29 PM  

Anon B,

What else was ___ Moines going to be? Las Moines? New Moines? Acme Moines?

Pretty sure there's only one clod here today, but I'm happy to offer my pedantic service to you. You're welcome.


Anonymous 2:54 PM  

@ED - Or, it could have been LES Moines, talking about the monks if you're a francophile. Iowa was in there to point out the geographical aspect of the clue.

Tita 2:56 PM  

Solving on my tablet, highlighted all starred answers, in red, green, gray...aHA! SIDELINES!
That made it all worth it.
And since I am in the land of PASTA, even more fitting.
Thanks, oh constructor.

chefwen 3:43 PM  

@Sparky - Love your new avatar.

sanfranman59 4:16 PM  

Midday report of relative difficulty (see my 8/1/2009 post for an explanation of my method and my 10/15/2012 post for an explanation of a tweak to my method):

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

Mon 5:50, 6:16, 0.93, 18%, Easy

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:37, 3:39, 0.99, 37%, Easy-Medium

For no reason in particular, I've decided that this is the week when I'll start reporting ratings based on using the median of just the previous 26 weeks (half-year) of puzzles as the basis of comparison (i.e. the 'average for day of week').

Ellen S 5:12 PM  

@Bob Kerfuffle, thanks for the link to the Erie Canal. To fill out @orangeblossomspecial's Mule-related musical education, here's another working mule: http://youtu.be/iu0vNw5LCw4

And this from The Weavers should complete our knowledge of the Erie Canal: http://youtu.be/z2xTIvxyJIg.

Darn, I seem to be a robot. See if I can fool the Captcha this time.

Ellen S 5:25 PM  

Yuck. Not only am I a robot, but my links aren't links. Okay, let's see if this works: :
The other Mule song, here. And The Weavers doing the other Erie Canal song here.

(The Captcha looks like it may be beyond my robotic abilities. Must. Eat. Brains. Oh, wait, that's zombies.)

Michael David 9:19 PM  

Thanks everyone for the comments!

I originally wanted this to be a SIDEBURNS puzzle, but SIDELINES had SO many more possibilities...

GAS was not in the grid I submitted. I had HES for 39A and BAM for 42A. (This makes 39D HAS, which is pretty ugly with HADA at 28A. Maybe that's why it was changed.) Otherwise there were no edits to the grid.

I wish my clue for ATSTAKE had been left in. I had this clued as "On the line." Too cutesy?

@Sandy K or Rex - which article?

Thanks again!

Sandy K 9:35 PM  

@Michael David

Ben Tausig wrote an article that you can access by going to right side of Rex's blog and clicking on Dec. 7, 2012.

Scroll down to where Rex invites you to click here to read the article.

Re: "Puzzlemakers might finally get the recognition and compensation they deserve."

Looking forward to more of your puzzles, Mr. David!

Sandy K 9:43 PM  

Go to Blog Archive and click on 12/8/12.

Then scroll down to Ben Tausig.

sanfranman59 11:57 PM  

This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 8/1/2009 post for an explanation and my 10/15/2012 post for an explanation of a tweak I've made to my method. 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 5:56, 6:16, 0.95, 22%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:33, 3:39, 0.97, 30%, Easy-Medium

Unknown 8:23 PM  

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Spacecraft 12:43 PM  

This is the second time we've been invaded by wallpaper ads. Go away, @Zahid Ali, no one here wants your stuff!

So. Would you believe I did this whole thing without even seeing that each of the starred answers can take "line" after them? I thought SIDELINES simply meant "a description of" the LOCATION of "the answers..." Even made up a little story to try to link them:

TIME to PICKUP my DATE and go to the ASSEMBLY. It's not my FAULT she looks like the ENEMY; she's got a SOLID JAW and a FLAT BOTTOM. She does the CONGA on the DIAGONAL with her rear END pointing SKYward.

But after reading this page and realizing the -LINE aspect after the fact, I just went "Wow! This guy is UBER-clever!" I can suffer IRES and ASSTS for the SAKE of this result.

Me? I'd LIEAWAKE till the TWELFTH of never before coming up with anything like this. I wouldn't blame Mr. David if he GLOATED.


DMGrandma 2:02 PM  

Sped through the puzzle, but took the revealer too literally. Thinking it meant the kind of things one does as a secondary job, as in "I'm an author, but I dabble in pottery when I have time.". Couldn't fit any of the starred answers into that kind of logic (?) and came here to be enlightened! What would I do without you all?

rain forest 2:33 PM  

@acme, in addition to "bum", what about "backside".

This is a surprisingly enjoyable puzzle, given the superficially simple theme which is executed brilliantly. Didn't notice that "gas" (and therefore gasline) was an outlier, and don't care either, especially since the constructor didn't have it in there to begin with. Very nice way to begin the puzzle week.

Dirigonzo 4:21 PM  

Who would have thought that DES Moines would have sparked a controversy among some of the commenters?

@Spacecraft, I like your little story to connect the theme answers but you omitted a couple. It seems to me that if you continue to AIR that description of her, she'll show you to the EXIT.

Spacecraft 7:49 PM  

Thanks, @Diri. I knew I'd omitted EXIT; that's why I signed off with it, but totally missed AIR. I didn't MEETWITH her anyway. She smells like a SHEEPDOG.

ARSEnio 8:47 PM  

Then there's BUNS...

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