Faux fat / WED 1-16-13 / Projecting wheel rims / Pointy-eared TV character / Seller of TV spots

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Constructor: Michael David

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: TRADITIONAL / ANNIVERSARY / GIFTS (28A: With 49- and 69-Across, a hint to the meanings of the bracketed clues) — theme clues are just numbers in brackets, representing the year that corresponds with the appropriate anniversary gift

Word of the Day: FLANGES (41D: Projecting wheel rims) —
A protruding rim, edge, rib, or collar, as on a wheel or a pipe shaft, used to strengthen an object, hold it in place, or attach it to another object.

[Possibly variant of flanch, device at the side of an escutcheon, perhaps from French flanche, feminine of flanc, side. See flank.]

Read more: http://www.answers.com/topic/flange#ixzz2I6acXdwI
• • •

The grid looks pretty good, but I don't think that much of this theme. It's pretty ragged. I mean, there are a lot of anniversary gifts in there, and (after 1) they are all multiples of five, so they're roundish, but they are placed in the grid all harum-scarum, and even the revealer ends up being somewhat alop. Plus I just don't care much about this topic, so PFFT. It's not a bad puzzle. I just didn't care for it. I did, however, like the biggish corners, which I thought were going to make the puzzle a bit more difficult than usual, but didn't. OFF-PEAK (3D: Like late-night commuter trains) and ILLEGIT (11D: Dishonest, informally) are nice, unusual answers, and "ONE LOVE" has a nice resonance with the theme, but the random placement of the theme answers, and the general dullness of those answers, has me playing a game in my head where I wonder anniversary is the STYRENE anniversary (12D: Compound in disposable coffee cups). Or the OLESTRA anniversary (2D: Faux fat). I personally can't wait for the NABISCO anniversary (what is that, 22?). My next anniversary is TIN, which ... oh, now, come on—is it TIN because TIN kind of sounds like "ten"? That is pretty weak.

Theme answers:
  • WOOD (1A: [5])
  • PAPER (5A: [1])
  • SILVER (21A: [25])
  • TIN (31A: [10])
  • PEARL (51A: [30])
  • GOLD (70A: [50])
  • CHINA (20D: [20])
  • DIAMOND (24D: [60])
  • CRYSTAL (46D: [15])
  • RUBY (52D: [40])

Nothing very troubling today, difficulty-wise. I forgot that "South Pacific" was set in BALI (15D: "South Pacific" setting). Wasn't sure if a [Seller of TV spots] was an AD MAN or an AD REP (38D: Seller of TV spots). Wrote in LAIRD for LIEGE (27A: Feudal lord). Flat-out didn't know FLANGES (it's a word I've heard but could not have defined ... very accurately). Everything else was something close to Monday-easy. My daughter is going slowly but steadily plowing through the original "Star Trek" on Netflix, so I have been seeing SPOCK (19A: Pointy-eared TV character) on a regular basis lately. I'm kind of hoping she gets burnt out on the series before she falls into the black hole of Trekdom. She's nerdy enough, frankly.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


jae 12:10 AM  

Caught on to  this fairly early, so easy-medium for me.  Clever theme and a very smooth grid.  The Bob Marley classic is a nice touch especially if you've made it to DIAMONDs.  (We are creeping up on GOLD). 

No erasures and no WOEs.  A fine Wed. from a guy with two first names.  I'm just hoping this isn't the third or fourth time it's been done.  I've been doing the NYT for around 8 years and I don't remember seeing this particular theme. 

Elaine2 12:28 AM  

I agree that the random theme answer placement was weird, although the puzzle was OK (and easy....)

One small problem, though -- South Pacific does NOT take place in Bali (which is part of Indonesia.) There is an island in the show called Bali Ha'i, which is actually "modeled after" an island called Ambae, in Vanuatu.

Anonymous 12:31 AM  

MUPPETS and MFFT. Pshaw.

chefwen 1:44 AM  

@Anon 12:31 - It's PUPPETS and PFFT.

Handed it over to PTPP while I went to throw dinner together. He said "what's with the bracketed numbers" I said "I don't know yet" that's when the light bulb clicked on. Woo Hoo, Anniversary presents. The rest was history. Loved it.

I wish I had the right words to describe to you all how much your words and thoughts meant to me today, a most difficult day. The worst part was picking Jon up at the airport and telling him that his best little buddy didn't make it. Everything you said made me day a lot easier. I read Jon many of the comments and they eased his heart a little too. We are going out tomorrow night to celebrate Toby's life and my birthday. I'll raise my glass to all of you for your support and kindness. ( Man I'm drinking a lot lately)

Bob Kerfuffle 2:00 AM  

(Sorry, I haven’t done today’s puzzle yet.)

For those eagerly awaiting a report of last night’s Puzzle Wright Press puzzle get-together at the Barnes and Noble in Clifton, NJ - You will only read about it here:

Rexville was extremely well represented, with Beth Newton, known to those who have been to the ACPT as @nanpilla’s sister, sweeping top prizes in all categories.

The two hours of puzzles and fun were hosted by Tony Orbach, who brought along members of his family, who also played along just for fun.

There was only one actual crossword puzzle, from Peter Gordon, on the easy side.

More difficult were trivia and word games, drawing on our knowledge or lack thereof concerning Sesame Street, South America, animals in films, old TV shows, etc; anagrammed names of fictional characters (with extra letters added); five-vowel phrases; etc.

There was also one Sudoku presented, but no one got very far with that!

Finishing at second place in all contests (or last place, if you insist) was your humble correspondent.

Both contestants received books of puzzles and trivia for their efforts.

Adrep China Michaels 2:59 AM  

Another puzzle for Michael David of Minnesota so soon!
Loved it!
At first when I got (ten) TIN I thought elements...but once I saw
PAPER was (1) it dawned on me they were for anniversaries.
so wonderful he got so many in there! It made sense to do one then multiples of five (to me). To get TEN theme answers in there AND the long TRADITIONAL ANNIVERSARY GIFTS would seem to have made symmetry impossible.

Hand up for ADman before ADREP...tho originally I had eD??? as I had King LEeR!!!! (I guess that's the porn version.)

Oh yes, and the whole MFFT thing had me miffed at first!
My last letter was the X of APEX...so satisfying to end on an X!

Super smooth and VELVETY.

Love ONELOVE and @Rex's riff on which year OLESTRA and STYRENE would be gifts for. Funny. But no Marley video???

were there only two of you and Tony's family? Sounds like someone should hire a PR person. There were only about 15 of us at the SF one and that was after strong-arming folks to come!

Elle54 3:12 AM  

Me too!

syndy 3:25 AM  

WOOD and PAPER told the story.Having so many theme answers made it easy but often that is true.Shirley if they had been in order or orientated in some way it would have crossed a line for easiness?PORTOPLIEEFF down the center is not however an attractive feature in a puzzle.

C. Ross Word 3:34 AM  

@chefwen So sorry for your loss. Nice positive outllook to celebrate Toby's life; my thoughts are with you and Jon.

I liked today's nice, clean grid though it seemed a bit easy for a Wednesday. I seem to remember a quite similar theme (within the last year or two?) but can't be sure.

Got a chuckle about the placement of BRAS above HANG! HADTO mention it!

Evan 3:41 AM  

Maybe I haven't been married long enough, but I wasn't even aware that there were traditional anniversary gifts. I mean, yes, I knew about tried-and-true romantic gifts like cards, roses, diamonds, gold bracelets, and tickets to a married couple's paradise -- but I had no idea that there were specific materials reserved for different anniversary years. That's why I couldn't make heads or tails out of the theme until I got the revealer. Everything else was relatively easy.

APHIS aside, this is a surprisingly clean grid, considering that the theme takes up 77 squares altogether. Actually, it reminds me of the first crossword I ever tried to construct four years ago. I tried to squeeze all twelve months into a single grid with the goal of cluing them simply as "1," "2," etc. I dropped it once I learned that too much theme density makes it impossible to build a grid, so I applaud the constructor for being able to squeeze all of those GIFTS in there, even though they're placed asymmetrically.

Bonus note: The first crossword I "successfully" built -- meaning the first NYT-style puzzle with a completely filled grid -- was a Greek letter rebus puzzle on January 7, 2009. Remember, I only said that I filled it -- not that the fill was good. Running right down the middle? You guessed it: DEATH S[PI]RAL TRAPS! Clued as "Financial vortexes which are hard to escape?" Hmm, I wonder why I never submitted that one?


My condolences on your loss.

Rube 4:01 AM  

@Chefwen: Had to reboot yesterday and missed the announcement of your loss. My condolences. "Eerily" enough, tonight Mrs Rube and I were discussing possible names for our new kitty. Toby is not a possibility as it's a she. Neko, (Japanese for cat), was also discarded as being too masculine per our Japanese speakig daughter. Will let you know the decision.

Re the puzz, I'm sure I've seen this theme before, but don't remember where.

Thought the reveal was especially special: CEREBRALLY TRADITIONAL ANNIVERSARY EGGBEATERS. Now that's a great celebratory present.

Anonymous 4:13 AM  

Easy. Thirty-one minutes to the pop-up advising I had solved the puzzle.

Qvart 6:16 AM  

Could name these gifts off the top of my head but once I figured out the theme it went down fairly medium-ish.

Late for work...again.

Gonna head on back to Beale Street and oblivion.



NYT - 7:48

LAT - 8:16

Qvart 6:17 AM  



dk 6:39 AM  

@Chefwen, perhaps a cocktail with cream.

Not so much to say about this one. As kids we had Emily Post's book in our bathroom and we used to delight in asking obscure questions from it. Thus once I figured out the theme, from the revealers, it was VELVETY sailing.

@Evan, your copy is in the mail. This stuff is important.

** (2 Stars) not enough grist for the Wednesday mill

OTD 7:07 AM  

@chefwen: so sorry for your loss. We lost our twelve year old Chihuahua last month, so I know what you are going through.

Puzzle was easy/medium for me once I caught on to the theme. Had to pull some of those gifts out of the old memory banks--crosses helped. I've seen this theme somewhere before, but years ago and I con't recall where. Had fun with it.

Milford 7:13 AM  

Liked the theme, got it at DIAMOND. Knew a couple married the same year as us that stuck to the gift theme every year, even when it was ridiculous and meant they gave each other pointless crap neither of them wanted.

CEREBRALLY and EGGBEATERS are RAD. Hand up for mUPPETS first, and also Acme (!) before APEX.

My ONE LOVE and I will celebrate 20D this year (hey, look, 20D is 20 - cool!) and we hope to go somewhere warm. DAY-O!

@chef wen - still thinking of you. Several years ago we lost our first dog Stanley actually ON my birthday. No fun. Keep drinking the wine if it helps.

Z 7:15 AM  

I had no idea about any of these gifts, but I still finished 13% more quickly than yesterday. TIN, PAPER and ---mSA-Y (ADman first here, too) was enough to see the ANNIVERSARY GIFTS. TRADITIONAL took a couple of extra beats. So even with my general ignorance of the theme answers, this was still an easy Wednesday.

Glimmerglass 7:39 AM  

First bite of the apple came when I had all the letters of SILVER. After than, even if I didn't know which gift goes when, the materials are all familiar to the genre. A appreciate Rex's "non-tradition al" anniversaries. I'm wondering if the *last* anniversary is always the PFFT anniversary.

DBlock 8:00 AM  

Hello Everyone,
I have been doing the puzzle for about two and half years and following the blog religiously for the last six months and it is one of my daily joys. No one else in my personal life does the puzzle so it is great to come here to read how we each experience the solving and I remain fascinated by what is easy for some and hard for others. It confirms my view that everyone has things they are smart about (and not so smart about--especially me).

I had not posted before but the use of the word flange today inspired me to come out of 'lurkdom'.

In the early 1970s there was a short-lived TV show starring the great Broadway actor, Herschel Bernardi, who worked for the Continental Flange Co. The premise was that for some inexplicable reason he had been promoted from the loading dock to senior management and oh the class related humor that ensued. It is a marker of its time and featured other great character actors of the era, Roger Bowen from the Mothers-in-Law and SueAnn Langdon.

As you can see, TV and Movie trivia are easy fills for me!!

Thank you all for providing such a great on line community.


Unknown 8:10 AM  

Pretty easy Wednesday. I fall in the middle on this one. I appreciate all of the theme related answers, but it is a bit dull. Favorite part: ROLO! Yum. Husband and I will be expecting your PEARL gifts this August.

evil doug 8:14 AM  


"DBlock": A good nickname for a prison inmate. You spend time in Joliet? Sing Sing?

As long as you don't have a strong opinion on 'orient' vs. 'orientate', you'll be welcome here.

And I'm guessing you're referring to the short-lived "Arnie", and the actress in question is probably Sue AnE Langdon---a fact you'll want to remember since her unusual spelling makes her a useful tool for constructors of the Times crossword.


jackj 8:41 AM  

The TRADITIONAL ANNIVERSARY GIFTS theme was apparent at (1) with PAPER and there were no challenging theme entries thereafter, maybe a try with BRONZE (8) or SAPPHIRE (45) might have pepped things up a bit.

My biggest disappointment came with the fill on learning that the clues I liked had almost all been simply word-for-word repeats of the most recent clue as listed in XWordInfo.

I stopped counting after 7 such reveals. (One of my favorite clues had been “Word on either side of “å”, for VIS, but it was an exact replay of the most recent clue for that word by Peter Collins).

That meant that I only had one clue left to comment on and that was AVE. It seemed to be some weird reference to Monopoly or an equally strange Connecticut or Louisiana abbreviation until, oh my, it was seen as Court and Lane channeling Avenue. Excellent clue!

Some further editorial attention to the puzzle would have been helpful and welcome.

Too bad; it couldah been a contendah.

B Donohue 9:01 AM  

The only tricky spot for me was the PFFT/PUPPETS/FLANGE area. I quickly entered mUPPETS and was stuck on -LANGE and -F-T, never before having seen PFFT in print.

jberg 9:06 AM  

@Jackj's point is very interesting - not something that I noticed, but still a good point. Thanks for having the patience to check the clues!

Other than that, we had our PAPER anniversary (second time around for both of us) last month, so I was feeling in the mood for this puzzle. It was very easy, though, in that any single theme answer pretty much gave you all of them.

APHIS was no problem (for the puzzle - a big problem in the garden!), but I,too, had mUPPET/mFFT for too long.

Gotta go ...

joho 9:09 AM  

With the "U" in place I so wanted 52D [40] to be tUna!

We just celebrated our 11th .. no TRADITIONAL ANNIVERSARY GIFTS for us!

I'm with @Adrep China Michaels and @evan in that packing all those theme answers into the puzzle was impressive and excuses the assymetry of the answers. This could not have been easy!

I had the same pause as @Rex with ADREP and my only writeover was also LIEGE after Laird.

I think it's too bad that you start out your marriage having to be happy with PAPER and WOOD when you really want the good stuff like DIAMONDS and GOLD!

chefbea 9:17 AM  

Easy puzzle. Got the theme right away and I knew the different gifts.

Did you know that today is Fig Newton day??? Think I'l have to whip up a batch.

Anonymous 9:21 AM  

I had mFFT and mUPPET, which I believe is a perfectly acceptable solution. PFFT.

I liked the theme, but that might just be because it made it easy since I picked up on it quick and know what the traditional anniversary gifts are.

Now next week, we'll have a puzzle with the modern anniversary gifts.

John V 9:49 AM  

Medium, I guess: 16 miles, Darien to Harrison. Liked the theme, having to suss out several of them, not knowing them a priori. Hand up for wanting MFFT.

So, @jackj, re: XWordInfo: so? your point is? Does the source of the fill affect quality of the puzzle? The grid was pretty clean, good theme. 'Nuff said.

lawprof 10:03 AM  

Ten theme answers plus a three-word revealer: that's theme density. The compromise, inevitably, is lack of symmetry, and so the puzzle gets dinged by some.

For me, the trade-off is worth it. Besides, the grid is, in fact, "kind of" symmetrical. See, e.g., 1A/70D; 8A/69A (albeit one is a theme answer, the other part of the revealer); 28A/49A; and 21A/51A (well, not quite).

This was more of a constructor's puzzle than a solver's puzzle, but I for one enjoyed it.

Pete 10:21 AM  

@JackJ - If you're dissapointed in the puzzle only because, post solve, you found that the clues you most like were repeats by looking things up in XWordInfo perhaps you're overthinking things.

You enjoyed the clues.

Tita 10:29 AM  

@Rex - love the OLESTRA & STYRENE anniversaries! And the rest of your writeup too. Though I liked the puzzle from beginning to end.
Was highlighting so many fun words that I had to stop, as the whole grid was turning green and pink.

VELVETY, BELT clued as Asteroid area, EGGBEATERS, OFFPEAK, NABISCO instead of oreo - I DEFY you to tell me I didn't have fun...

As for PECKAT, my husband always tells me I eat like a bird - twice my body weight each day...

Running to the dentist - will read more comments later.

Thanks Mr. David!

@acme - King LEeR!!!!

@Bob K - thanks for the play-by-play.

mFFT/mUPPETS here.

GILL I. 10:35 AM  

Numbers PFFT. I just couldn't get started but because I rarely toss a crossword away, I kept at it.
PAPER and SILVER made me think CEREBRALLY and then la luz went off.
@Evan, the only reason I knew the TRADITIONAL ANNIVERSARY GIFTS was because of my very "Victorianesque" grandmother.
She had a bevy of what she termed "useful information" that I should memorize. This was one of them....Now if we have a puzzle that has the amount of SILVERware and CRYSTAL that should be displayed at a dining table and all in its correct order, I would pass with flying colors. No elbows on the table and don't EVER scoop your meat into your fork...
Back to the puzzle...Once I figured out the gist I sailed through and enjoyed it.
VELVETY next to ILLEGIT my favorites.

Two Ponies 10:41 AM  

@ Rex, Alop? Creating your own crosswordese? I'd bet that you would pan that word in a grid.

@chefwen, Thinking about you totally overshadowed any real feelings about this puzzle. So sorry. I'll raise a glass later to Toby.

Masked and Anonymo3Us 10:47 AM  

symmetry schmymmetry. Puzworthy idea. Covered the 1-5-10-15-20-25-30-40-50-60th anniversaries, plus a 3-part reveal. And some long stacks of fill. Bout all I could reasonably ask for. Well... maybe chip in a couple more U-know-whats.

Only downside on this theme might be that the [aha] moment came pretty early, and then it was pretty routine cleanup. Methinks I had WOOD n DIAMONDS from the crosses, before the dome light sputtered on. Altho, didn't know 40 was rUbies. I be needin' to take the Puz Eating Spouse to Ruby Tequilla's, next year.

M&A WOTD = PFFT. Hoping some day for the long-awaited "Dud's sound (var.)" clue. This will be when some desperate constructor needs a xFFy pattern fill to complete a magnum opus puz, where x and y are pretty much random letters. It'll come, one day. Something like DFFZ. har. 31 will go into snark overload.

GILL I. 10:47 AM  

P.S. DBlock. Welcome. I see you have already been introduced by our welcoming ADREP Mr. Emily Post also known as @Evil Doug.

Anonymous 11:07 AM  

I found this difficult and not enjoyable as I was solving, but looking back through the grid.. maybe it's not so bad. I wish some of the longer answers had sparkled a bit more. What's the point of big corners if you're going to fill them with OLESTRA (ugh), STYRENE, FLANGES, and the like. Theme is cute but not much fun from my perspective (oh, another number/metal pairing that means zilch to me! Yay!)

Evan 11:16 AM  

@John V and @Pete:

I don't see why it's unfair or "overthinking things" to critique the fact that a puzzle reuses too many old clues. I think constructors should create their own, original clues, even for oft-used answers. In fact, there was a recent string of e-mails on the Cruciverb-L mailing list that dealt directly with this, where Will Shortz offered a pretty stern warning to constructors not to borrow too many old clues word-for-word from puzzle databases. He issued that warning after accepting a puzzle which he later learned took every single verbatim clue from Cruciverb, going so far as to call that "stealing."

This comment isn't regarding this puzzle in particular. I haven't checked and thus have no idea how many of the non-theme answers recycled clues. Maybe it was only a couple of them and hence not that big of a deal -- after all, it's hard to be 100% original with everything in a grid. Plus, if there were repeats, we wouldn't know where they occurred in the editorial process: Maybe the constructor originally built them that way, maybe Will changed them and ended up recycling clues. My point is, if a puzzle did borrow way too many old clues word-for-word, then yes, that does affect the quality of the puzzle.

joefrombrooklyn 11:27 AM  

I have a question unrelated to this puzzle. Do most of you play "against the clock" on the NY Times? I just started doing this but I'm finding the application difficult. I cannot enlarge the grid,, it constantly asks me if I will allow it to run Java even though I click "don't ask me again," and the help page will not load.

Is that just me or does everyone have issues with it? Is it possible to have a recorded time using "across light?"

Any advice/recommendations would be appreciated.

M and A also 11:36 AM  

Because Solvers Dig Completeness Dept.
[35] = coral
[45] = sapphire
[55] = emerald
[65] = blue sapphire. So, evidently for 45, the dreaded puce sapphire will suffice.
[70] = platinum. Trillion dollar coin, or some such.
[75] = diamond and gold. Not very original. I propose Will Shortz's Favorite NYT Crosswords, Volume 8.
[80] = oak. Too much like [5]. Or are we starting to make coffin choices?
[90] = blood plasma
[100] = debt celing vote
[200] = PFFT

Pete 11:38 AM  

@Evan - JackJ said he liked the clues as he solved, then decided to dislike them post-solve, looking them up in the database and finding they had been recycled.

That's like finding a joke funny, then deciding it wasn't funny after you learn it's an old joke.

Further, he attributed this to lack of editorial rigor. It's equally likely the clues are Will's as the constructor's, so that's an unfair assertion to make.

jackj 11:40 AM  

Thanks @Evan for responding to the issue.

When I find an especially clever clue for a word that has appeared previously, curiosity makes me wonder how the others had presented it in their puzzles.

Sometimes the result is revealing, sometimes disappointing; perhaps the Crossword Editor's Guild needs to implement a Code of Constructing Guidelines.

jackj 11:49 AM  


To the contrary, my comment on "editorial attention" wasn't directed only at the constructor but at Will, too, since he is famous for making major cluing changes in puzzles he publishes and always has responsibility for the final product.

Three and gone.

retired_chemist 11:53 AM  

Enjoyable. Not a fan of traditional anniversary gifts but I knew them, mostly. Just celebrated our 5th last year and non-puzzle wife got a bracelet. It was NOT wood.

Got the theme at P_PE_, i.e. early, and breezed through. Love the concept of an OLESTRA or a NABISCO anniversary. STYRENE, not so much. If you were in Midland MI in the 60s, before Dow was made to clean up its styrene emissions, you would know it is not a pleasant compound. As the reference says, it is kinda nasty, hazardous, and toxic, although I grant you there are a lot nastier.

But more irksome to this chemist is that there is NO styrene in disposable coffee cups. POLYstyrene, yes. That's what they are normally made of. One can write the structure of polystyrene and see that it comes from styrene moieties strung together, but there is no styrene compound as such in there. Would have dinged an Organic Chem I student for that error. 'Scuse the rant please.

The puzzle - easy. 27A was THANE, 63A was BIOL, 16A was FACE. All fixed easily. Was pleased that PFFT (which could have been a lot else), APHIS, and EGGBEATERS stayed despite my initial thoughts that they probably wouldn't.

Thanks, Mr. David.

MetaRex 12:00 PM  

ONE LOVE paralleling DIAMOND is nice, and the way some of the anniversary numbers loosely float around and in one case correspond to their clue numbers is kind of neat. The grid and the fill are fine.

But I share Rex's non-excitement. One possible reason is that there's not a nice subsurface meaning that bubbles up today the way there was on Monday and Tuesday.

More at Jubilee

M and A's Last Silver Pfft 12:11 PM  

Maybe [80] = oak, 'cuz most dudes are out of money by then. Used up their lifetime HMO amount at [70-something], etc.

@Original Clue Forum: I prefer a mix of old friends and creative twists, in my clues. Plus, the really creative, ?-marky-type clues often are gonna have to wait until Thursday or later, no? And, unless the clue is extra extra sparkly, being accused of stealing a clue is a little like being accused of stealing a fill word, IMO. Altho that would be kinda cool: World Word Theft Tribunal begins today -- Patrick Berry on trial, accused of stealing the word PFFT. I'd be riveted to the screen.


Anonymous 12:22 PM  

Wife and I decided that one year (28? 29?) was the Joke Gift Anniversary: she gave me an accordion and I gave her a Barbie Doll Pet Rescue Vehicle and a pair of batons for twirling

Evan 12:58 PM  


No, @jackj didn't say that he disliked the clues post-solve. He said he disliked the fact that they were recycled word-for-word. If a comedian had a 10-minute set which you thought was funny, but then later found out he recycled a joke verbatim from someone else's material, you'd probably be disappointed -- not because the joke isn't funny, but because the comedian tried to pass off someone else's work as his own.

Again, I'm not making any statement on this puzzle's overall originality, nor am I saying that @jackj is correct in his judgment of the puzzle's clues. Aside from VIS, I don't even know which answers he's referring to -- it could have been just a couple of throwaway 3-letter answers with recycled clues where everything else was original. But I stand by the principle that if a puzzle reuses too many of them word-for-word from other people's work, then that weakens the puzzle's quality.

Of course, that not only gets into the issue of which databases you're checking, but how many recycled clues is too many -- 50% of them? 75%? More? Less? That's a subjective call and I'm not fully sure what I'd answer, because how many different ways can one really clue EYE and make it be acceptable for a Wednesday NYT?

Anonymous 1:15 PM  

Me three!

Ulrich 1:36 PM  

Oh god, thinking about all the money I spent on jewelry when something made of wood or tin, not to speak of styrene, would have been more appropriate...:(

Bird 1:39 PM  

Thank you Mr. David for this good, easy solve. I liked it and do not remember seeing this theme, discovered after 1A and 5A, before today. We lose the symmetry because of the different word lengths, but that doesn’t take anything away from this grid. IMO. And I learned a few things today with the help of well placed and easy crosses.


Two write-overs: ADMAN before ADREP and ESPN before NCAA.

@chefwen: My sincere condolences on your loss.

Carola 1:48 PM  

Nice puzzle, impressive number of theme answers. I HAD TO get all the way to CHINA before I understood that we were dealing with TRADITIONAL ANNIVERSARY GIFTS. After that things moved along quickly. Thanks to those who pointed out DIAMOND paralleling ONE LOVE. Liked all of the long down answers in the corners very much, with VELVETY maybe the favorite. I'm not a Trekkie, but I think SPOCK fits with CEREBRALLY?

@jae - My husband and I are also going for the GOLD (4 more years).

@DBlock - Welcome! Same here on being the only puzzle-doer in the family and appreciating HANGing out with this crowd!

Frank 1:50 PM  

Me four.

Sparky 1:59 PM  

@chefwen. Awwww, so sorry about Toby. Thinking of you.

Innocent bystander 2:13 PM  

@Evan - Please parse "(One of my favorite clues had been “Word on either side of “å”, for VIS, but it was an exact replay of the most recent clue for that word by Peter Collins)." so that it doesn't mean that it was one of his favorite clues, but wasn't once he found out it was an exact replay.

Joe The Juggler 2:21 PM  

Oh well. . .at least I can't claim I've never run into "alop" anywhere but in a crossword puzzle. FWIW, it's not on the Scrabble TWL.

Sparky 2:22 PM  

Thought golf with WOOD, then maybe rock, sissors and games with PAPER. Finally, with E_SARY and GOLD had my Ah Hah moment. Was able to go back and fill in. I knew some but not all.

Laird (Macbeth again) before LIEGE, ADMan before REP, THEm before THEY. Liked clue for DEERE.

Me too @Elaine2 re BALI. Entered it with a grumble. @BobK I would have attended if I was in NYC. Thanks for the report.

Thanks M&A for the list. We will hit Sapphire in April. Can't believe it.

Oh, my first thought seeing the numbers in brackets was "Used to be rebus Thurdsay now we have wacky Weenesday."

jackj 2:26 PM  

Innocent bystander_

If my words were inexact when you read them, let me restate so that hopefully my intended meaning is perfectly clear:

Substitute for the word "but":

"I was disappointed to learn"

Tita 3:14 PM  

Maybe yesterday's "REICE" was a tribute to Frank Zamboni Jr., who was born Jan 16.
(Thank you, google doodle.)

(Capcha "uralland")

Innocent bystander 3:14 PM  

@jackj - It's none of my business what criteria you use to judge a puzzle, nor how you express it. Go wild. I was commenting on Evan's reply, which I know now that I shouldn't have.

My apologies for continuing the mahem.

chefbea 3:25 PM  

@Joe from Brooklyn - I do not time myself...just have fun solving in pen after printing the puzzle from the computer

Lewis 3:25 PM  

@elaine2 -- wow, I thought Bali Hai and figured it was Bali. Thanks for that information!

@rex -- if you can't define something "very accurately", you can't define it.

The Styrene Anniversary -- end of the first week?

I did have an aha moment, but it was tepid. Once I figured out the theme, though, the puzzle flew.

sanfranman59 3:29 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)

Wed 10:01, 11:52, 0.84, 13%, Easy

Top 100 solvers

Wed 5:54, 6:34, 0.90, 23%, Easy-Medium

mac 3:52 PM  

Welcome Debbie!
Easy puzzle, but when I figured the theme I hoped "parsley" would show up. I think it's an early one.

When there is a theme, it always prefer it to be dense. This one certainly was!

evil doug 4:13 PM  

Third date anniversary gift: Latex. Or lambskin, for those of us not in the middle class....

I say 'legit'---but I don't think I've ever said 'illegit'. 'Not legit', perhaps. I note that spellchecker allows 'legit', but gives me the big red gash for 'illegit'. I think this answer may be illegit....


Dictionary.com 4:30 PM  

@Evil Doug - ILLEGIT is at least as legit as ORIENTATE. It's been around for 100 years, after all.

irony.com 4:35 PM  


evil doug 4:42 PM  

'Orientate' is a word? Huh. I hadn't heard that before. I think we should debate that. For another whole day....

Looks like we have some more charter members of the "I Don't Understand Satire" club....

Too legit to orientate

JenCT 4:52 PM  

I love PFFT!

@Evil - your post reminds me of Too Legit to Quit, an MC Hammer album...

In honor of @chefwen yesterday, I've changed my avatar, as I'm now appreciating my dog much more today.

jae 4:56 PM  

@ Tita -- Thanks for explaining the google doodle, I wondered what was going on.

@r_c -- Thanks for the chemistry lesson. I had no idea.

Z 5:02 PM  

@Evil - We haven't heard from Satire Online dot Com. If you're not careful ORIENTATE could appear tomorrow. That would be the third date anniversary, so latex would be accepted.

Anonymous 5:12 PM  

To hell with "Traditional" anniversary presents, I give my wife wood on each and every anniversary.

JenCT 5:34 PM  

@retired_chemist: Forgot to thank you for your chemistry lesson...

chefwen 5:49 PM  

@JenCT - Very handsome, indeed!
@Everyone - Thanks again, I'm feeling all warm and fuzzy now.

CharlieSig 6:07 PM  

I'm new to the website. Can someone fill me in on why one block in the solution is always highlighted in red?



Newbie Once Myself 6:11 PM  

@Charlie Sig -

Please click on FAQ at the top of the blog and see what is there. After that, plenty of people will offer help if you have advanced questions.

(Oh, and welcome to the crowd!)

Qvart 6:13 PM  

@Charlie Sig

If you solve in Across Lite the red square is the one you're typing in and it moves with every letter. If you take a screen pic of the puzzle as it looked when you finished, the red square is the last one to have a letter typed into it.

DBlock 6:18 PM  

evil doug--Alcatraz actually
after I saw Dblock there in 1986, I began signing my work that way and no one has ever gotten the prison reference until you--clearly I have found a home here and yours and the other warm welcomes are helping me orient myself nicely...

John 6:28 PM  

I liked this. Six theme answers AND a three word revealer all crammed in a 15x15 puzzle with very little crosswordese.

chefbea 7:41 PM  

@tita missed the explanation. what was it???

Tita 8:19 PM  

@chefbea - what explanation - the google doodle? The inventor of the Zamboni machine was born today...and yesterday we had reice in the puzzle...
Or am I missing somthing...?

Welcome to the new folks...Debbie, Goose (love your limericks)...and your pitching - I was an absurdly obsessed Yankee fan until George Steinbrenner sucked all the joy out of the sport... ;)

John in Philly 8:39 PM  

had Rugrats for the longest time in the SW and then gave it up for puppets. Otherwise, PFFT.

Michael David 8:52 PM  

Thank you for the comments!

chefbea 8:56 PM  

@Tita Thanx...didn't understand the google zamboni. Now I do

sanfranman59 11:26 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 5:58, 6:12, 0.96, 30%, Easy-Medium
Tue 8:20, 8:37, 0.97, 39%, Easy-Medium
Wed 9:58, 11:52, 0.84, 13%, Easy

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:35, 3:39, 0.98, 34%, Easy-Medium
Tue 4:54, 4:57, 0.99, 47%, Medium
Wed 5:39, 6:34, 0.86, 12%, Easy

Spacecraft 10:42 AM  

Liked it. One had to do a little sleuthing. Bunch of bracketed numbers, plus a "hint" spanning three long--no, wait--two long and one short--acrosses. Hmmm. So, I started working the NW: WOOD? 5?

Luckily, SPOCK was a gimme (note to OFL: "Trekdom" is not a "black hole." As we who enjoy it know, it is full of many valuable lessons that would improve our lives if we took them to heart.). This soon led to PAPER [1] and at that point the jig was up.

Another theme-dense grid: 65 squares, pulled off pretty darn well, IMO. There's even an effortless X tossed in there.

A couple of long cringes: CEREBRAL extended to -LY, LEGIT to IL-; and short: STS, EFF (doesn't "EF" cover it?), but hey. Still good.

Never heard of OLESTRA, got it all on crosses. Sounds like that old Philly arena, the Palestra. Takes me back. Thanks, Michael.

NM Robin 12:06 PM  

@joho: so funny as I am coming up on 52D and I HATE tuna - can't even stand the smell let alone try to eat it.

@DBlock: I'm the only one that does the puzzle in my family so coming here and reading the comments helps. I feel like part of this family.

I had MFFT and MUFFETS and I did not correct. I had one error so did not finish.

I started in the NE and caught on to the theme at TIN. The rest was a piece of cake. I did not fall into the ADman quagmire as I had ANNIVERSARY in place and that helped.

I like the puzzle and it should have been easy. I need to remind myself to double check dubious answers.

Ginger 1:29 PM  

Thought Uh Oh at first glance. Bracketed numbers? Then it fell into place. Enjoyed it a lot.

South Pacific was filmed on the North Shore of Kauai, (home of @chefwen), so putting it anywhere else was difficult for me.

Welcome to @DBlock, and @CharlieSig from Syndiland

@M and A - love your list (chortle)

Husband and I just missed our 50. Great memories!

Dirigonzo 2:42 PM  

My only unique write-over stemmed from not knowing how to spell LIEGE, but I know "South Pacific" probably was not set in BALe so it was easily corrected.

DMGrandma 2:57 PM  

First word in was VIS, and from there things went pretty smoothly except for an original DEnY and "par" for the golf thingie, and ADmen. Enjoyed working out the gifts once I realized we weren't talking atomic numbers.

Wonder if my Captcha is x-rated: yetwFk??

rain forest 6:45 PM  

First of all, though I got to the puzzle late, I want to thank all you syndi-folks, and a couple of regular-time bloggers, for your condolences re the loss of Zoe, my cat. Gives this part of the post a family feel.

I thought the sound of a dud was spelled "PHHT", and felt shame when I realized that it wasn't. I liked this puzzle, didn't care that the theme answers were not symmetrically placed, and also thought ILLEGIT was not legit. Doesn't matter.

Red Valerian 11:14 PM  

@chefwen and @rainforest: please let me add to the condolences. I'm not as regular as I'd like to be. um, I mean, I sometimes miss hitting the blog for days at a time. (And, of course, I'm in Syndi-land, so way out of whack for the "prime-timers".) Seeing some of the comments "today" made me go to the older post. My heart goes out to you both.

Liked the puzzle, though I was bemused (as was @Rube) by the CEREBRALLY TRADITIONAL ANNIVERSARY EGGBEATER GIFTS.

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