Three-pronged fishing spear / THU 1-3-12 / Old guitarlike instrument / Earthen casserole dish / Ancient Roman coins / 1967 disaster / Start of motto first published in 1844 book

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Constructor: Bruce Haight

Relative difficulty: Medium (except for one square, where I guessed wildly, and guessed wrong)

THEME: 1 — black squares form four different "1"s in the grid. Four different answers are completed by the mental addition of "ONE" (puzzle note: Four answers in this puzzle are incomplete. The missing part can be found in four other places in the grid)

Word of the Day: LEISTER (10D: Three-pronged fishing spear) —
A three-pronged spear used in fishing.

tr.v., -tered, -ter·ing, -ters.
To spear (a fish) with a leister.

[Probably from Old Norse ljōstr, from ljōsta, to strike.]

Read more:
• • •

Where to begin...? It's just not good. I mean, flat-out, unequivocally not ready for prime time. Conceptually, there's something here. But the execution is so subpar that I am sincerely astonished it was accepted as is. Now, I have failed to complete NYT puzzles before (very, very rarely, and almost always involving just one square, but it happens). But I have never failed because of a crossing so preposterous that rather than making me frustrated or angry, it makes me laugh out loud. Literally. If I had to *invent* an example of an unfair, ridiculous cross, I could not do a better job than today's 55A/41D crossing (Old guitarlike instrument / Ancient Roman coins). It's straight out of some Maleskan torture chamber. Here's an indication that your crossing *might* be unfair: one of your clues contains the word "old," and the other contains the word "ancient." I mean ... is this a parody puzzle? Because it's kind of awesome in its absolute fearlessness with absurd words / '80s crosswordese: TOPE! LEISTER (!?!??!), MARYORR (!?) (34D: Writer of the story on which "All About Eve" is based), SION (15D: Priory in "The Da Vinci Code"), 'OME, NATATOR, TROUPED (Verb! That's what's happenin'). If you are going to go through with this admittedly cute theme idea, then your fill should be sweet and smooth and interesting. Instead it's just four (4!) relatively boring ONE phrases. This puzzle should've been sent back to the constructor with a note saying "Love the idea, but the fill needs to be a lot smoother before I'll take it." Simple as that. I'm dumbstruck by the latitude that a puzzle can get if the basic idea simply "tickles" Mr. Shortz. The constructor needed—in fact, deserved—constructive criticism and help pulling this idea off. But, man ... man I'm still laughing at BANDORE / DENARII. It's gonna be my new exclamation, i.e. "BANDORE DENARII, that's a one spicy puzzle!"

Theme answers:
  • 1A: Start of a motto first published in an 1844 book (ALL FOR...)
  • 7A: 1967 Disaster (APOLLO ...)
  • 59A: Serious rap (MURDER ...)
  • 60A: Sports coup (HOLE IN ...)
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


jae 12:10 AM  

Kinda bi-polar.  West half easy, east half tough.  The theme was pretty obvious so, no problem there.  It was the crossing clusters of WOEs in the NE and SE quadrants that gave me problems:  LEISTER (I wanted trident), NATATOR, and the relatively obscure LA STORY (very good movie BTW) in NE, and DENARII, EPIGONE, BANDORE, TERRINE, GAM (vs. the more popular pod) in SE.   These weren't all WOEs but together they made for a tough solve.  Plus, I don't remember seeing a puzzle with two double ii before.

Did I like it?  Not so much.   I'd rather have a less obvious theme with some zippier fill.  I started doing puzzles long after Maleska departed, but given everything that been said about his puzzles on this blog I can see why Rex invoked  his name.

Pete 12:13 AM  

Ok, you got your LEISTOR crossing NATATOR, your TROUPED/TERRICE/BANDORE crossing EPIGONE/DECARII corners. They're admittedly less than great.

But hey, they support such gems as ONEAPOLLO and ONEHOLEIN! Man, that's friggin genius! You've got 4 ones there in the grid, at least use each in a manner that the grid one fills in the phrase! What you've got is two of the four 1s filling in, one a real phrase, one a nonsense phrase.

retired_chemist 12:28 AM  

Didn't like it, for much the same reason Rex didn't. Obscurities abounded.

DENARII, however, went in without a cross. In fact it corrected my POD of whales to GAM. It is AFAIK the reason the old British penny was abbreviated d.

Had LITERATE for 29A, making the movie L. A. STORE and the trident (my first shot at 10D) a LEISTET. Since I didn't know either and both incorrect answers were at least plausible, I was cool with it even if Mr. Happy pencil wasn't.

A minor frustration was that I couldn't get the whole note to display in AL. Enough to suss out the gimmick, however.

Anonymous 12:37 AM  

Wow. Right there on the same page as Rexy again. Two days in row. Twice in a month is more usual. Ha!

I like the theme, but found it rocky. Got the gimmick fairly nicely off of MURDER ONE. Then I got confused with TEED, because it was right under a ONE, so was thinking TEED ONE UP. (Get it?) Really think that is a bit of a flaw because it wants to fit in so very well.

Got APOLLO 1 easy enough, but was first thinking APOLLO 11 (which also worked in the grid) (and also confusing it with APOLLO 13 (disaster turned great moment)).

Finally decided that ALL FOR ONE had to be right, even though there wasn't really a ONE there. Not really; not nicely following like the others. The ONE had to be contrived in my mind, as in 'go steal a ONE from somewhere else in the puzzle.

Sorted out HOLE IN ONE, so I get that all four entries are in the corners, but still think ALL FOR a bit weak and TEED still stands out as easily connected to the theme - even though I did decide that it wasn't.

Like yesterday, I was down to a few letters in a longish but decent Thursday time. Also like yesterday, I burned that much time again trying to finish it off. Unlike yesterday, it didn't work out.

Threw a dart on LEISTER / NATATOR. Never heard of the former (last seen in 1999), but I know that a natatorium is a swimming facility and that got me through. (First time in Shortz era for NATATOR.

Had POD for GAM for a long time, but vaguely recalled that GAM could also be correct, so that gave me DEMEAN like I wanted. (The etymology of, and difference between, POD and GAM for whales turns out to be interesting. Well worth the Googling.)

That left me with BAND__E crossing EPIG_NE and DENA_II. Guessed right on EPIGONE (last seen in 2007). I had four potentials for the last letter. Went with L. Grrr. And the R was my second choice. Grrr. Luck was my only hope there. First appearance for BANDALORE.

The theme was cool, but a lot of long junk - as much as yesterday but not worth the price like yesterday's was.

Finished grid.

Carola 12:37 AM  

Found it challenging, was happy to crawl across the finish line. Didn't notice the "1" shapes until I filled in HOLE IN - I'd expected to see "one" spelled out somewhere. Nifty idea! But agree with @Rex about the overall experience of solving this one.

SE almost did me in, but correcting "pod" to GAM recalled to mind EPIGONE from long-ago grad school LITERARY studies and DENARII, probably from some non-literary sword-and-sandals effort.

Liked LIEABED over IN A COMA @Pete - I also liked that bit of crossword SADISM: LEISTER piercing the NATATOR.

Anonymous 12:41 AM  

Edit: "first appearance for BANDORE." Grrr.

syndy 1:24 AM  

DENARIus I'm familiar with so the plural was inferable but EPIGONE and BANDICOOT was a total natick! OBOVATE also chased my eyebrows over my hairline.I wanted Pod and Trident-I still want them.and I hated LASTORY found it insulting!

Davis 1:51 AM  

What the heck was this?

TROUPED, BANDORE, EPIGONE, MARY ORR, NATATOR, OBOVATE, LEISTER, OME, SION, TOPE (and GAM, for me)? There's something wrong when DENARII is one of the more familiar-sounding pieces of fill in this puzzle (I blame Latin class).

There was not a single entry in this puzzle that I enjoyed. And worse, even when I had the entire puzzle filled in correctly, there were whole swathes of the grid that just didn't look right. Will simply cannot be this hard up for good submissions.

chefwen 2:03 AM  

Of course I knew that something funny was up when I saw that crazy grid being spit out of my printer. Got it pretty early with APOLLO 1. It was still crunchy and not a speed solve by any means. EPIGONE??? DENARII?? ILIESCU??? obtained only from crosses.

Pretty upset that I haven't seen a Humpback Whale yet this season, much less a GAM or pod. Husband says that if I didn't have my mug glued to a crossword puzzle and actually looked out over the ocean occasionally, I would see one or more. Must take his advise.

r.alphbunker 5:43 AM  

The recent X puzzle came immediately to mind when I saw the note. That was the last time I felt smart doing this puzzle!

The assumption that each of the black square ones would be adjacent to an answer that was missing a ONE really slowed me down.

Alioto Coma Murders 6:42 AM  

This certainly went against a lot of the things Will usually says he doesn't want:
Four separate mini-puzzles with only one square entrance into each area,
obscure words,
theme answers that are seemingly complete in some respects (MURDER/APOLLO) but partials in others (ALLFOR/HOLEIN).

So, I must admit, wasn't crazy about this, despite the clever grid shape and nice idea. But I would not go as far to say it's not worthy of publication.
If Will feels it is, then de facto it is!

As @Carola pointed out, there were interesting things to like eg LIEABED/INACOMA. I'd add UDO under TERRINE.
The juxtapositions were the best part.
(as well as @jae pointing out the two double ii's)

DATAPLAN seems fresh, and who doesn't love OTTERS?!

Those are my positives on this, but over all, problems abounded.

I tried to put "onE" for 32A: "Single, slangily" ACE, but ONE is hardly slang. I hadn't noticed the black square shapes and was looking for a reveal in the middle!

I had TWO wrong squares EPIgONE/gAM, having heard of neither...but that's on me. I wanted EPIGONE to be ERSATZ with more letters.

Also missed TROoPED/EoR, as even with the correct answer EUR I didn't get the clue. "It.'s here" meaning this is where Italy is located in abbreviated form?
I just thought that period was an "ErR".

There were a lot of words you see in Scrabble all the time. DENARII, AIRIEST (very common bingo, esp if you have two i's), TOPE, and what we politely call "only in Scrabble" words, like OUTSTEP.

But, as usual, for me, too many sports related clues (REDASH, PINETAR, LINEOUT, ACE, TORONTO (esp when there are fifty other ways to define TORONTO besides hockey)

Strangley, TORONTO was a bleedover malpop for me for OTRANTO, which appeared same place in the grid yesterday...

Actually, the back-to-back puzzles were strangely parallel, in that ILIESCU next to MARYORR made yesterday's obscurities (in the same SW quadrant) seem like gimmes!

OTD 7:11 AM  

Liked the theme, but a lot of obscure fill. Liked BANDORE/EPIGONE/DENARII. Also IINSIST/LEISTER. First time I've seen two ii's in one puzzle. This really was four mini-puzzles joined at the center. Interesting.

webwinger 7:14 AM  

Really liked the grid and the 1's, which I didn't grok until I'd finished the puzzle and searched in vain for the word one--then had a very satisfying aha! moment. Took a lot of time (occupying, for better or worse, a bout of insomnia) and a lot of googling, but that's what Google's for, right? Having been an occasional happy solver during the Maleska era (actually go all the way back to Will Weng), I don't find obscurities all that grating, especially given the online tools now available for dealing with them. And you get to learn new words, right word lovers? Even if you'll probably never get to use them...

Glimmerglass 7:56 AM  

I didn't see that MURDER and APOLLO were similar to ALL FOR [one] and HOLE IN [one]. Both the former would stand alone without the [one]. So Rex got Naticked today? Boo-hoo. It happens to me, but I don't cry about it. I'm surprised Rex's academic experience didn't include denarius -- the plural is inferable.

S James 8:26 AM  

I am not a fan of the quadfurcated puzzle where there is only one entrance into each section. Doesn't provide the alternate path to a solution. Especially with some of the very obscure fill.
I got stuck in the SW with "Sports Coupe". Wanted Hot Rod or something, but it didn't fit the theme. WTF, that's "Sports Coup", duh. I never saw the ones until I went to the blog.

Unknown 8:28 AM  

I thought the grid looked cool and anticipated the use of the 1s easily enough, but yikes, the fill! Nasty.

Blue Stater 8:33 AM  

I agree with Rex on the general wretchedness of this effort (it was the NE in general that killed me - DNF). But I respectfully differ with his (and some commentators') criticism of Eugene Maleska. I have thought for years (and have said so in various crossword blogs) that Maleska's editing of the puzzles was vastly superior to that of the present regime.

Danp 8:35 AM  

I'll go one step further than Glimmerglass. ALLFOR also stands alone. You only need to see a theme for HOLEIN, which otherwise makes no sense.

The theme would have been nicer if the theme answers ended where the black ones were (1A, 13D, 42D and either 59A).

Denarii is close enough to the Italian denaro or the Spanish dinero that the r shouldn't have been too difficult to guess. I used to have a bandurria, but never knew it had an English equivalent, and never heard of EPIGONE. That would have been my word of the day.

Joe 8:36 AM  

Wild guess on the SION/NATATOR cross. In fact, I get a red squiggly line under NATATOR when I type it in here. And I could have stared at that SE corner for days before filling it in. BANDORE GAM EPIGONE DENARII can all go do to each other what Boehner told Reid to do to himself the other day.

jackj 8:39 AM  

Well, I never!

Here a guy makes his crossword debut on a Thursday and has the effrontery to give us a puzzle that has more entries that are unknown unknowns than any puzzle in memory, including the hairiest of Saturdays.

And so we meet a formidable constructor, one Bruce Haight. Welcome, (I think).

The simplicity of the gimmick, (although the missing ONES looked vaguely like hockey sticks in the grid), was some consolation but, by my quick count, there were at least 8 answers that needed the crosses (or suffered the indignity of a wild-ass guess) to complete.

It started with OBOVATE and seemed to get worse at LEISTER until NATATOR reared its ugly snorkel and, not to be denied their moment in this grid of infamy, along came EPIGONE with two partners in crime, BANDORE and DENARII.

If we count proper names there are ILIESCU and the other ORR, Ms. MARY but by then, MURDER(ONE) seemed a plausible option (he says as he GOESAPE).

Things started so nicely with known knowns like TORONTO, SION, ALIOTO and PINETAR but then, then………Mercy, Bruce, when did you first become a practitioner of SADISM?

Like all puzzles that are ultimately completed, all’s well that ends well, except this one will likely wreak some occasional havoc on my memory for a bit longer.

Oh, Bruce!

(Can’t help but wonder, did you pull the wings off flies when you were young?)

joho 8:46 AM  

Yep, the fill was dusty, boring on SADISM for some. I print in light gray so didn't see the number one in the grid (that's my excuse!). I did figure out ALLFOR(ONE)but killed my brain cells trying to figure out the SE corner and never finished. And I didn't care!

@Anon 12:37, good point about TEED(ONE)UP.

Perhaps because our son, Bryan, is not OBOVATE he's a really good NATATOR. He is surely not an EPIGONE and has given up the drums for the BANDORE. We gave him a new LEISTER for Christmas!

joho 8:50 AM  

That's bordering on SADISM ...

dk 9:29 AM  

I thought it was a pod of whales!

I got the theme right of the bat!

I know what a BANDORE is!

I wanted trident instead of LEISTER but as folks occasionally spear carp in these parts a leister is not unknown.

My reaction to this puzzle is not as visceral as my blog mates. I liked the design of the grid with the ACE in the hole. Obscure defines some of the fill but at least it was not reality TV or sports related -- kinda old school.

🌟🌟🌟 (3 Stars - Oddly Opalescent said Tom swiftly)

Milford 9:39 AM  

Wow, so far in 2013 I've been getting hammered by these puzzles. Basically agree with most of what's been noted.

Agree that the west was fun and Thursday-like, but the east, especially that SE, were an ESTONIAn bear to get through. Thank god I knew for sure that the Stanley Cup lives in TORONTO. Also misread coup as coupe and was trying to find a car, so that didn't help.

The grid does look cool, though.

MetaRex 9:42 AM  

Oh, delicious! A vintage pan by Rex...seem to remember there used to be lots of them...not so recently. Rex is as good as he is as an insta-critic partly because he can do tear-downs very of my reasons for MetaRexing was to learn from and respect that skill, which is I think a very useful one for teachers like Rex and MetaRex to be able to command and to respect, if not necessarily to employ with our students.

Personally, I liked the puzzle considerably more than I like most...this is a very pretty grid with the crisp clear "1s" and the dot squares.

More here

Norm 9:43 AM  

DENARII does not seem at all unfair to me. The classics majors deserve a break now and then. As I've said before, one person's gimme is another's Natick. I liked this puzzle a lot more than Rex did, obviously.

John V 9:43 AM  

Bah. SE was a train wreck, per @Rex. Even a half hour delay in the Park Avenue tunnel didn't help. Two DNF in a row this week.

Got the theme before starting, reading the note and looking at the grid made it pretty obvious.

Not my cuppa'. That said, congrats, Bruce Haight, on your debut.

Lindsay 9:46 AM  

What happened to Will? Has he been body-snatched? The year is not off to a good start.

My first entry was EUR, crossing with TEED. Grrrr. Then come FAC & OME. Grrrr. DENARII was actually my toehold in the inexcusable SE (As @retired_chemist points out, an old-timey way of abbreviating penny).

Never saw the black-square gimmick but can report that EPIGONE contains the word "one", plus there's a "one" on the diagonal in the NW, and a misshapen clump of "one" in the SW. Came to the blog to find the 4th 1. Grrrr.

Cold here today.

Horace S. Patoot 9:58 AM  

I found denarius to be an obvious giveaway -- easier than test tube. I've worked in labs my whole life, and haven't seen a test tube in decades. Falcon tubes, vials, microfuge tubes, cryovials, yes, but not test tubes. Or bunsen burners either, for that matter.

Anonymous 10:14 AM  

Birds of a feather seem to flock together. At least as far as crossword critics goes.

I though this puzzle was high quality. Good enough theme. Instead of obscure proper nouns, unusual words. I suspect that many dislike this puzzle because there were few proper nouns to help with the unusual words. I think that's great, what a crossword puzzle should be all about. Congratulations to WS for publishing this and congratulations to BH for constructing a puzzle in a fresh way. Variety is the spice of life, and this puzzle introduced some much needed spice into the NY Times crossword universe.

Z 10:20 AM  

"quadfurcated" - That's one great swear word.

E-PIG-ONE - at least as real as E-CASH.

Interesting that when Rex writes less commentators write more. DNF here because of the mess in the SE. TERRINE, UDO, GAM, E-PIG-ONE are new to me. DENARII and BANDORE are vaguely familiar (went with BANDeRo before I caved). There is very strange trivia cluing for ESTONIA which I guessed at by having the E from TEST TUBE and the T from TORONTO. I also wonder if the RED in RED ASH is really relevant to guitars. Are other ASH trees not used in guitars? Indeed - I googled "Red Ash" - went to the Wikipedia Article that turned up, and got a long discussion on Green Ash and White Ash. UGH. This is trivial cluing at it's worst.

Ted of Albany 10:28 AM  

I'm going to form a band and name it "Maleskan Torture Chamber."

Z 10:29 AM  

Catching up on the late posts from yesterday I came across this very appropriate post for today from @acme:

@Michael 10:17
of course there are dictionaries and databases...
that's the only problem I have, this is nothing personal to David who is in a class by himself, but the thing is, when folks use databases instead of drawing from their own knowledge, I think they have difficulty discerning what is totally obscure from plausible and gettable (which of course is what an editor is for, but once it's in the grid hard and fast, hard to undo.)

Matthew G. 10:49 AM  

This is one of the worst puzzles I've ever seen in the Times. I'm sorry, but it wouldn't be honest not to say that. At first I thought it wasn't going to be so hard -- my first entry was APOLLO, having guessed the theme immediately -- but then the avalanche of arcana buried me.

Have flat-out never heard of: NATATOR, LEISTER, MARY ORR, BANDORE, or DENARII. Do not know GAM as a word related to whales, wanting POD there (Google now informs me that a family of related whales is a POD and a group of whales living in sin is a GAM).

Printing this puzzle was pure 42-Down.

Two Ponies 10:52 AM  

DNF because of the SE of course.
I think the idea was a good one but could have benefitted from a collaboration with Liz Gorski. She's an expert at visual grids like this.
I think "hole in" is a stand-alone phrase in golf but I'm not certain.
"All for" can stand, if a bit shakily, without the one.
@ Rex, I hope you are not considering a font change like we see at the end of your write up. It's WAY too small.

oldbizmark 10:53 AM  

I think the themes are 1) 1 FOR ALL; 2) 1 IMAGINES; 3) LITERARY 1; and 4) HOLE IN 1. Puzzle sucks either way. Utter garbage. Two days in a row.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:53 AM  

I followed my own wrong path: Having gotten ALL FOR ONE, I was certain the grid must also contain ONE FOR ALL, especially with (the intentional mis-direct?) 35 D (AMI). Spent a lot of speculation on that point, but ultimately finished with only the mistaken LITERATE at 29 A.

evil doug 11:05 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
evil doug 11:10 AM  

Acme: "...when folks use databases instead of drawing from their own knowledge, I think they have difficulty discerning what is totally obscure from plausible and gettable (which of course is what an editor is for, but once it's in the grid hard and fast, hard to undo.)"

Totally agree---and add that when I learned that puzzle-constructors use databases and magic tools like auto-fill programs instead of just grinding out their grids with wit, pen and paper, I lost a lot of respect for what I thought was an art instead of a science.

My one letter off was next door to that from most here: I went with a 'dam' of whales when pod wouldn't work, and epidone vs. epigone didn't offer an obvious winner. (As I write this, I note that spell-checker is saying they're both wrong.)

And I don't know squat about technical terms like 'quadfurcated', but I know what I like---and breaking a nice long grid into four little bite-size pieces didn't work for me.

Denarii? Must be a good Bible word that I read in the lessons as a worship assistant. Maybe that 'unto Caesar' stuff, or lending/borrowing parables....

There's a Waikiki Natatorium War Memorial just to the (I guess) east of the main beach, so no problem on 'natator'.


Newbie 11:16 AM  

Two Questions:
1) How did this not immediately get sent back to the constructor with the instructions to use each of the graphical 1s in an answer, and to have the answers read, across or down, as an actual phrase (as opposed to say ONEHOLEIN)?
2) What the hell is TERRICE? I've Googled the hell out of it, and only found people named Terrice which, I assume, is some affectation of Theresa

Lenscrafters 11:20 AM  

@Newbie - Not TERRICE - it's TERRINE.

GILL I. 11:25 AM  

@Rex your write-up today brought out the chuckles - BANDORE DENARII!!!! can't wait to use it.
When I printed the puzzle I could see the 1's so I pretty much knew from the note what was in store.
So agree on the Maleska comparison.
@Blue Stater: My mom's best friend (who really introduced me to crosswords) just hated "that new person whose taken over Maleska's job." She could spit out a Maleska era puzzle faster than a bell clapper in a goose's ass. Will's, not so much.
@Alioto Como: I thought the same about defining ESTONIA. Yikes marinated bear!
Had BANjORE and didn't really care. Actually didn't find the puzzle that difficult since I've seen these old answers before.

Dan' Boone 11:36 AM  

Damned high falutin' epicures! Oh, I git all my meat at Whole Foods. Well lah-di-dah. Back in the day it wasn't so easy. Say you kill a baar with your bare hands, as I did all the time. Those things are tough and gamey. You gotta marinate the hell out of those things for them to be edible.

Carola 11:39 AM  

On NATATOR - Luck got me that one, as I was able to work backwards from our local pool, the Natatorium. Honolulu has the striking Waikiki Natatorium War Memorial, now sadly in disrepair.

@acme -
On that "It.'s here" clue - I first thought the answer would be the Italian word for "here" (which didn't seem all that obscure in the context of this puzzle), so wrote in "qUi." One of those "I'm so clever" moments that turns into "Um, not."

lawprof 11:42 AM  

Cowboy linebacker Hollywood Henderson once ridiculed Steeler quarterback Terry Bradshaw as so dumb that he couldn't spell cat if you spotted him the c and the a. Well, I couldn't have completed the SE corner if you'd spotted me the EPIGOME, DENARII and BANDORE.

I felt totally battered before I finally gave up.

In most cases when I DNF I come to this blog, see the solution and give myself a good headslap for being so dense. Not today; the solution was still beyond me.

So, was this puzzle "unfair"? I suppose only in the sense that a 100 meter dash between Usain Bolt and me would be unfair.

Sandy K 11:49 AM  

I really wanted to like this 1! Because of the 1s! The idea was a good 1...but the execution was DEMEANing and SADIStic!


Agree this 1 should've been REMADE!

Cheerio 11:50 AM  

I agree with Anon above to note that this time the words are obscure rather than the more usual situation where the celebrities are obscure. I personally would rather learn some new words than the names of some minor or long-dead celebrities. It surprises me when I have never heard of a word before,at least if the word is not technical jargon. That's the positive. On the negative, there is a sense people have of when a word or a celebrity is too obscure. Seems like people think the words today are too obscure to have possibly come from someone's noggin rather than from a dictionary or program. I guess we prefer puzzles to draw on things that have some claim to common knowledge, broadly defined. But, on the other hand, there are a LOT of words. Why do crossword puzzles use so few of them? (OK, I know why, but I'm JUST SAYIN).

I appreciated the GAM clue, since I initially felt pretty darn pleased that I was able to pull POD out of my own noggin. Ah well.

I went to print the puzzle out today and was faced with the rude discovery that I now have to pay $20 for a premium crossword subscription even though I already pay for a home subscription. Wah!!! After being absolutely furious for about 10 minute, I decided that it was mean-spirited of me to begrudge the poor old NYT $20, given how much I love their puzzles. But just a shout out guys at the NYT - I may not be typical and you may be alienating a lot of people this way.

Anonymous 11:53 AM  

I too can't believe that ONEHOLEIN and ONEAPOLLO got through here. I agree it's a good theme idea, or at least has the seed of turning into a good theme, but as presented it has not been properly developed.

I have had far better-executed themes with much smoother fill rejected than this puzzle here. I am shocked that Will didn't send this puzzle back to the constructor.

Sandy K 12:01 PM  

Oh, man- I thought I only got 1 natick- but I got NATATOR and LEISTER wrong too!

JFC 12:16 PM  

@Matthew G. - Love "avalanche of arcana."
@Acme - The fact that WS decided to publish this puzzle does not mean it is worthy of publication, only that WS deems it worthy. Even the US Supreme Court gets it wrong from time to time.
@Rex - enjoyed your commentary.

@Me - Thursday puzzle. Thursday gimmick. Fill secondary. Would have been more impressed if there weren't those 4 black squares. If Hugh Hefner can marry someone 60 years his junior, then WS can publish this puzzle....


Evan 12:31 PM  

Pretty much everything that I wanted to say has already been said. I'll just add that as of now on Amy's site, 34 users have rated the puzzle on a scale of 1-5 stars. 20 of them have given it 1 star. The remainder consists of 2's and 3's. Ouch.

I wonder why the NYT went with TOPE/TSP when TOKE/TSK would have added a more Scrabbly letter and removed the crosswordese TOPE from the conversation. Not that it would have changed the rest of the Maleskan cruelty everywhere else, but still.

Rob C 12:38 PM  

I agree with the general points of the comments today.

Complete trainwreck for me - didn't even get half the answers before I threw in the towel. Which to @acme's and some other's point about the fact that this was really 4 separate puzzles with almost no opportunity to use one completed section to establish a toehold in another section. First thought when I saw the grid was "cool". followed shortly after by "uh-oh"

I was also looking for the "side" ones to tie into theme answers. That may have helped - but, no.

Katzzz 12:39 PM  

I agree with all of the criticisms and add an additional one: the crossing of the outs in "line out" and "outstep."

Merle 1:05 PM  

Poor Rex. He had to rip the puzzle and puzzle constructor to shreds. I've written and published book reviews, and some film, CD, theater, and art reviews as well, and lucky me, I only review material I like, so I never have had to write a bad review.

I don't know why this puzzle stirs up so much wrath. I didn't get the theme at all, and, when I read the blog and found out, I didn't care. The theme wasn't interesting, but the answers were. Like others, I had pod instead of gam -- hey, I thought gams were legs! -- but once I got terrine and teed I got epigone and denarii, and then plain old simple demean, and pod was gone with the tide.

No problem, by the way, with terrine, epigone, denarii, bandore. Puzzling is about frame of reference, right? And I wouldn't spend my denarii on any epigone, but I might like to try my hand at strumming a bandore. My frame of reference also included natator and L.A. Story. But, culturally deprived as I am, I didn't get tostada or data plan. Got the plan, but was data-deprived. And I didn't know Mary Orr, but the crosses filled in her name. Of course I had trident, like others did -- leister sounds like it should be part of a small town name -- Leistershire.

Anonymous 1:11 PM  

I had a great time with this until SE corner...knew Denarii...15 years of parish ministry, Denarii feature prominently in the Second Testament...had no clue on the ancient guitar...couldn't even find it in a Google search...

Jeff Chen 1:12 PM  

The dawn of a new Rex-ism! BANDORE DENARII = level two NATICK.

Anonymous 1:29 PM  

Would have been a decent puzzle were it not for the bandore/denarii/epigone double-cross fiasco. "Epigone" I might have eventually seen, but not the other two.

Anonymous 1:38 PM  

I loathe closed grids; consider them to be multiple mini-crosswords contained in a box. This is closed as one can get and yet it is the least of this puzzle's problems.

The SW mini-crossword is a Maleska Saturday-plus. Is there an extra hidden theme here; is this a tribute puzzle to the old crank?

Masked and Unonymous 1:46 PM  

The Good:
* Super duper primo theme. And a debut! ThUmbsUp. Let me count the ways:
1. ACE plumb smack in the middle. har.
2. (Funky++) Grid layout is part of the theme answers (1's)
3. One solitary black square in each quadrant.
4. Sneaky and symmetric blah-blah-1 answers, except for the aha at the end moment HOLEIN? entry. Masterful. Trumps almost all accompanying puz indiscretions. QED.
* Constructor dude's name is Haight. Didn't go for the pen name. Parker would've been the safe route. Gutsy.
* Four big tough-to-fill almost isolated sections. Toughens up the solve, also. This puz'll put up one heck of a fight, no matter what fill gets selected. Like.
* Five U's. Commendable, since the grid fill is puttin' up a constant fight.

The Bad:
* Not even close to a pangram. Can U imagine the 31 fireworks display, if it had been? Well... I can dream, can't I? The explosion alone would've redecorated the blogsite.

The Slightly Ugly:
* SE corner fill. Missed an opportunity, not havin' TESTICLE for 31-D. Wouldn't change much else, tho. This corner was like the Nat-tick county seat. Produced tremendously funny comments, all around. Day-um, folks: so you had to do research. So you had to (choke) go out and learn somethin'. Grow a pair of 31-D's. Naw... I kid y'all. But, wow, what a corner.
Peace on earth, good will toward Haight.

M and A Deux 2:34 PM  

Incredible Coincidence Dept.
Both TRex and I were born in the Bandore Denarii star system.

Man, this puz is just chock full o' material.

r.alphbunker 3:12 PM  

I am reading "Why Does the World Exist?: An Existential Detective Story."

The author describes one interview he had with a scientist whose book he remembered giving a favorable review to. He introduced himself in an email as the reviewer who had given the book a favorable review.

The scientist emailed back "I just checked on Google, "Arrogant in tone and marred by leaps of logic" - is that the one?

The scientist then asked for the first place that a leap in logic occurred and the place where it first becomes clear to you that its tone is arrogant.

Rob C 3:25 PM  

@r.aplh - Rex has that same conversation every time he meets a constructor.

Lewis 3:38 PM  

I did smile when the big black ones showed themselves to me. I initially had ONE as the answer to 9D because I had figured out the theme, at least the part about the four words needing ONE to finish.

BANDORE DENARII, I'm enjoying the comments today!

Notsofast 4:02 PM  

I had a pretty easy time with this beast until I got to the SE. Then it kicked my ass. It's so effed-up and ridiculous that I don't even feel bad about not finishing.
Screw you, BANDORE!

sanfranman59 4:07 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)

Thu 22:43, 17:05, 1.33, 91%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Thu 14:32, 9:27, 1.54, 94%, Challenging

A rare Thursday DNF for me today. I just couldn't get through the SE quadrant without cheating. I managed to fight through LEISTER and NATATOR in the NE, but the combination of TROUPED, TERRINE, EPIGONE, DENARII and BANDORE in the SE was just too much me.

xyz 4:16 PM  

3 for 3. Tomorrow will surely be pure genius.

2013 NYT year of the reject puzzles- coming to the silver screen near you this summer's blockbuster horror film.

Starting to reach comical proportions.

Rube 5:01 PM  

Clawed my way thru this one until the SE where I got stuck. DENARII was a gimme and knew there was another term for group of whales, but thought it was dAM. Eventually had to cheat as the 4 letter block under the Es of TEED would not come.

Was furious with myself for not remembering EPIGONE. First learned this word when I started seriously doing crosswords about 3 years ago... considered myself to be one and said so on this blog... still do. I think I first saw this word in a Safire essay.

Will make TERRINE my WOTD. OBOVATE, LEISTER and BANDORE are too obscure although they were gettable from crosses.

@Chefwen: There are lots of Humpbacks down here on the South Shore... spouting and jumping to the delight of us "haoles". (Hey, that's potentially great crosswordese.)

Evgeny 5:41 PM  

@Merle summed up my feelings about the puzzle *and* about today's write-up better that I ever could, thanks!

wonder, whether "Dinero in Serbia" would be a legit clue for "Dinar"? Or wouldn't it, because dinero and dinar both have the same origin? And what would that common origin be, i wonder...

Evgeny 5:43 PM  

*thaN I ever could, sorry

Airymom 6:53 PM  

Tried to complete this puzzle while sitting and sitting in a waiting room at the Wilmer Eye Institute of Johns Hopkins Hospital. I took my 90 year old mother there to see the retina specialist and get a shot in her retina.

I believe she had more fun during those two hours than I did.

Melodious Funk 7:26 PM  

I've been doing these since Margaret Farrar. Went though Maleska and Weng. Shortz acquits himself very well, he's no idler. Probably the best, he's made an institution out of puzzling, something the others never did. HE'S FAMOUS, for goodness sakes.

One needs to cut these editors a break it seems to me. They get thousands of them (ok, maybe hundreds) each week and have to get the best vetted by confederates they trust. This is no mean feat.

Today's is a good example of obscure words, clever theme, and pretty good fill. What more could one want ? That one finishes and clocks it should give some satisfaction. BANDORE crossing with EPIGONE and DENARII is classic good stuff. That's not to say that it's apple pie for some, but that's ok, isn't it?

My recent Shortz favorite was the BILLCLINTON BOBDOLE double in 1996 I think. That both names worked was miraculous. Second was Matt Ginsberg's double homophone and anything by Gorski. These people are terrific, my hats off. I call a gerontological compatriot whenever I see the special ones like these.

I read Rex and hardly ever agree with him, he's a PITA actually, quite sanctimonious, self-righteous and holier-than-thou. But that GOOD! I love it that he takes this so seriously, it gives a standard on which to judge one's own position. More power, I'm on his wavelength.

Joe The Juggler 7:46 PM  

FWIW, this one is arguably a rebus puzzle.

Anonymous 8:01 PM  

Found this article about the constructor. Considering he's only been constructing for six months, you've got to tip your cap to him.

michael 8:28 PM  

I'm glad that I'm not the only one who had trouble (well, couldn't do) the southeast. I usually dislike negativity about puzzles (after all I have no idea how to construct one), but have to agree with Rex on this one. Way too much obscurity...

Arnie Perlstein 8:59 PM  

Rex, you completely missed the deeper joke in this puzzle, which made me forget its otherwise humdrum clueing:

@JaneAustenCode on Twitter

Stephen 9:42 PM  

Rex is mean some days when he gets beaten up.

I'm not such a great Xworder, so along about Thursday I usually start googling. Today, googling started in earnest, and the whole effort was WONDERFUL! I learned a whole gam of new words and expanded my proto-indo-european root dataplan. That's at least half the reason I do these puzzles. When I hate a puzzle it's because of a lot of pop junk proper nouns. Only Mary Orr and LAStory were in there today; that's a low trash count in my view.

Thank you @Arnie for the tip: ONE for ALL!

Stephen 9:45 PM  

and BTW, the theme and 1s were cute and original and suggestive without being obvious. I got the theme late in the solve, but it helped lock in and clean up various difficult parts. Thank you BH. Ignore that RP guy!

chefwen 9:52 PM  

@Rube - Must be too cold for them up here.

Still trying to pin down PTPP. I guess times are tough right now for serious football fans.

Odd my capcha is nflocure, is there one?

Doc John 10:30 PM  

That SE was ridiculous! Many times, I can revisit a puzzle later and finally finish it or at least only have one square left. I could have looked at this one until the cows came home and it wouldn't have made a difference. I'll add GAM to my lexicon but damned if I'll do the same for all those others! Bah!

sanfranman59 11:54 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 5:45, 6:12, 0.93, 18%, Easy
Tue 7:31, 8:37, 0.87, 14%, Easy
Wed 14:17, 11:52, 1.20, 87%, Challenging
Thu 22:43, 17:05, 1.33, 91%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:43, 3:39, 1.02, 58%, Medium
Tue 4:33, 4:57, 0.92, 18%, Easy
Wed 7:54, 6:34, 1.20, 90%, Challenging
Thu 13:38, 9:27, 1.44, 91%, Challenging

Ellen S 3:41 AM  

@lawprof: hey! Terry Bradshaw taught me to "Breathe in through your nose; slowly out through pursed lips." Keeps me from having an asthma attack if I walk in cold weather.

I'm wiith @Merle exactly on theme (didn't get until coming here), words I knew & didn't know except I knew data plan after geting a few letters. Wanted pod instead of GAM, of course, and qui instead of EUR, and eur instead of DOL (Austria, Australia, they're all foreign countries, right?).

I'm pretty happy -- I can do tougher puzzles than I used to before finding this blog. Though this one, I had to let AcrossLite tell me which I had gotten wrong. Have a printed book of Tough NY Times Puzzles that I just knocked one off except the last 5 and just phooey Googled them. But way less looking up than I used to do.

Ellen S 4:00 AM  

Oh - and might we take note that #31 works these puzzles every night except when he doesn't, which isn't often, so that we may all come on this blog and complain about his writeup? Or is that all part of the game? (I'm watcing my two dogs fight over three bones right now--each dog wants all three, but they can't count plus they can only carry one at a time so it's rather amusing, except for all the noise and furniture being knocked over. Kinda like this blog.)

So, I had to google some stuff, and thought some of the clues and answers were too easy, and others too hard. Just like all the others. @Joe the Juggler -- not a rebus, because the extra word was only ever in your head, not in the grid. Well, not in my head because I didn't figure out the theme until coming here. But other people's heads.

Tita 3:06 PM  

@Carola- same thought with It's here - though I shoulda noticed that it was It.'s, not It.s. Either one is an awkward misdirect.

All I can say is ouch.

Oh - I can also say that I liked learning two things:
Terrine comes from the latin word for earth,
And very possibly the Portuguese word for money, Dinheiro, comes from DENARII.

@Ellen S - my sister has 2 dogs like yours...

Spacecraft 10:47 AM  

I don't know if I'd stood a better chance of getting this if there'd been a "puzzle note" in my paper; there was none. As such, the "one" concept was totally lost for me, and the puzzle was not only Staurday-hard, it was, like, championship Saturday-hard. DNF by a long shot.

SION was a gimme, and I started to write in ANIMATE at 7d--but when I came to the I, I noticed that 15a would have to begin with II. Well, said my brain, that can't be right; lessee, "No use arguing with me" has to be I'm right, right? What could save me in the NE? 1967 disaster? Did I mention how terrible I am at timelines? I know many Steve Martin flicks--Roxanne (which fits) among them, but I have never heard of LASTORY. How about the swimmer? Well, I know that a pool is called a natatorium, but NATATOR itself is not a word! Oh, and all of us spearfishers know a LEISTER, right? Yeah, sure.

And I'm supposed to know where they eat marinated bear? How exactly would I know that? Other "everyday" words: OBOVATE, TERRINE, BANDORE. C'mon, man.

And you throw this at me on a Thursday? A THURSDAY?? You gotta be kidding me.

Ginger 1:52 PM  

After an epic struggle, and a google (MARYORR), I was able to finish 3/4 of this nightmare. Then I hit the SE. Impossible. Google couldn't save me, so I threw in the towel. Had REDoak, ceramic, pod and a lot of white squares. My hat is off to you who were able to 'giterdone'.

Solving in Seattle 2:18 PM  

What a coincidence, I was in a foresome with Bandore Denarii when he got his hole in one. Not wanting to demean him, but he was actually born in a test tube in Estonia. Or was it Toronto? For lunch we had a terrine of udo before we teed off and trouped to the first par three. The actual shot bounced off a red ash tree into the hole. My poor tee shot was an epigone of Bandore's.

DMGrandma 2:53 PM  

"Finished" this one with two ?marks. Couldn't figure what I had done wrong in the SE. Turns out nothing-must look up EPIGONE. But the other ? was in the SW, where I had the incorrect AshIEST. What a difference two letters can make.

I agree this was a semi-return to the Maleska days, but I prefer puzzles where some sense of how language works can help you work out answers. I got NATATOR from associating NATA.... with swimming. You can't do that with proper names.

Now to look up EPIGONE and OBOVATE. Just can't picture an inverted egg- is it just upside down, or is it thinner where an egg is fatter? Must be over thinking this.

DJ Stone 4:15 PM  

Boy, that Bruce Haight must have some vocabulary. Oh, wait. This is the age of Google, where you can just type in random collections of letters and see if they're real words!

Any constructor with even a shred of self-respect would realize that crossing natator with leistar, and then crossing bandore with denarii is just crap. Plain and simple. Crap. Give me an hour with Google and an unabridged Merriam-Websters and I can guarantee I'll come up with a puzzle that Bruce Haight couldn't solve in a lifetime.

Dirigonzo 6:10 PM  

In keeping with the "kinder, gentler" approach to commenting, I will say only that I finished with one blank square in the NE and two in the SE - you know which ones they were. I thought the rest of the puzzle was pretty do-able, entertaining and certainly educational, so not a bad Thursday.

@SIS - you get the award for AIRIEST comment today.

Joshua 9:31 PM  

This was a rare DNF for me, thanks to EPIGONE, GAM, and BANDORE. If you have to use GAM in such a tough corner as the SE one today, at least have the courtesy to define it as something like "Betty Grable's leg, e.g."

Dirigonzo 9:52 PM  

@Joshua wrote: "If you have to use GAM in such a tough corner as the SE one today, at least have the courtesy to define it as something like "Betty Grable's leg, e.g."" - "Like" (sorry - I just came from fb). (But really, wouldn't a "Like" button be a cool thing to have here?)

Anonymous 1:47 AM  

Agree with everyone. Along with all the other crimes, how about the 2 ones in the middle that don't have anything to do with any of the clues or answers. I kept trying to figure out what those ones went with and finally had to conclude . . . nothing. I finally got NATATOR because U of Wisconsin has a natatorium so that gave LEISTER with all the crosses. In the SE I threw a bunch of stuff up and was amazed it all worked until I got here and found out it wasn't BANDOLE and DENALII. OUTSTEP, UDO, OME, UGH.

Anonyrat 8:27 AM  

This puzzle (or at least the SE) was a DNECCTFF for me. As a kid I collected coins, and actually have 2 or 3 "ancient Roman coins," and as an adult collect musical instruments, and I have NEVER heard of either Denarii or bandore - that should give some idea of how obscure the answers in this puzzle are. I was going to chalk it up to Mr. Haight being way smarter than me. Then I read the article about the constructor linked by one of the anonymice above and learned that he has been doing (and constructing) puzzles for only six months. And according to the article, he's constructed 30(!) puzzles in that time. At that point I concluded he was one of those folks referenced by Acme in her comment yesterday - someone who uses autofill to construct a puzzle with no discretion as to how to properly use it. I hope the ghost of Maleska leaves Mr. Shortz in peace from now on and that we don't see another utter travesty from Mr. Haight in the foreseeable future. If you're way smarter than me and a "professional" constructor (like, say, Patrick Berry) fine, I'll take my lumps every now and then, but to have to suffer through something like this from a hobbyist/amateur/wannabe/hack who evidently relies on a computer program for most of his fill without any understanding of how to use it, well ... Mr. Shortz needs to a better job of editing. As others have noted, this puzzle was of Saturday plus obscurity, even in the Maleska era (wasn't around then, but I'll take you all's word for it). And to run it on a Thursday ... sheesh.
@ DJ Stone 4:15 PM - Wish I could have summed it up that succinctly. You da man!
And the capcha - sidesps (seriously! Not kidding!) How ironic ...

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