Woody tissue / WED 1-9-13 / Plant used as ground cover / Part of terza rima rhyme scheme / Did didn't

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Constructor: David Ben-Merre

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: Did or didn't — theme answers are phrases that can mean incompatible or opposing things depending on whether (as the clues as us to imagine) they are read literally or figuratively.

Theme answers:
  • 18A: Did or didn't agree to end the illustrators' strike? (DREW A LINE)
  • 20A: Did or didn't dilute the prom bowlful? (ADDED PUNCH)
  • 33A: Did or didn't perform a New Year's ceremony? (DROPPED THE BALL)
  • 40A: Did or didn't surpass a D.J.'s mark for accident-free days? (BROKE THE RECORD)
  • 54A: Did or didn't play a good round of golf? (SHOT SUBPAR)
  • 60A: Did or didn't participate in the Boy Scouts outing? (TOOK A HIKE)

Word of the Day: VINCA (17A: Plant used as ground cover) —
Vinca [...] is a genus of six species in the family Apocynaceae, native to Europe, northwest Africa and southwestAsia. The English name periwinkle is shared with the related genus Catharanthus (and also with the common seashore molluscLittorina littorea). In India the plant is known as sadaphuli meaning "always flowering". (wikipedia)
• • •

Something about this theme feels oddly loose. Just spent a semi-hilarious few minutes bandying other idiomatic phrases (and their potential "Did or Didn't" clues) back and forth with another constructor. Seems like you could make virtually any idiomatic phrase work depending on how willing you were to torture the clue (the clue at 40A, for instance, is pretty tortured, i.e. preposterous in its imagined scenario, whereas the clues on the idiomatic phrases that specifically suggest NOT doing something, i.e. 16A, 60A, work more easily). [Did or didn't use a jackhammer on a road crew?] HIT THE ROAD; [Did or didn't continue being a botanist?] TURNED OVER A NEW LEAF; [Did or didn't pack for a poolside vacation?] THREW IN THE TOWEL, etc. I know these aren't great, but the point is that neither is BROKE THE RECORD. And SHOT SUBPAR isn't even an idiomatic phrase. In fact, I don't know what it is. SUBPAR is the word that is figurative. The "SHOT" part brings it back to golf, but golf is the origin of the idiom in the first place ... very strange. I think I just can't quite get my head around this puzzle; its parameters seem fuzzy. I like the idea, but when I was done I had this feeling of "I don't know what this is, exactly."

VINCA and XYLEM (10D: Woody tissue) held me up slightly, but otherwise this was a cakewalk. Lots of gimmes, nothing terribly out of the ordinary. Interesting clue on ABA, which normally involves lawyers (48A: Part of a terza rima rhyme scheme — that's the rhyme scheme of Dante's "Divine Comedy'). 1A: Repair bill segment provided an interesting challenge, as both PARTS and LABOR are five letters. I wrote in MONEY instead of MOOLA (since I always think of MOOLAH with an "H" ... why, I don't know). That's really it as far as ambiguity or trouble spots go. Odd theme, Monday fill.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


jae 12:04 AM  

Yes, a very easy Wed.  Cute theme, but I started filling in the answers with out reading the clues.   Not much zip...MOON...and zero crunch.  Only WOE was VINCA.  Maybe the days got mixed up this week? And,  I had the same thoughts as Rex about SUBPAR.

@Carola -- If you print out the puzzle using AcrossLite there is an option for printing no black squares i.e. diagramless.

I too was wondering what happened to LMS, anybody know?  ED also seems to be on hiatus again.

Danny 12:13 AM  

This was the easiest Wednesday puzzle I've solved in aeons. Enjoyable, but easy.

Anonymous 12:20 AM  

I liked this one quit a bit. All that theme; most of it excellent. I'll grant that if you Google "shot subpar" at 12:06am and and this blog is the #3 result - it ain't a thing. For that reason, it is the weakest entry. But we've got six theme entries, mostly very strong. And could you have less junk in a puzzle with this much theme? Probably not; there pretty much isn't any junk.

SHOT SUBPAR is an example of the negative limitations of enforced symmetry. After decades of 'this is how we do it', maybe more thought should be given to why.

The folks that love 'wacky entries' won't mind this one. Overall, the puzzle was so good that I didn't really care and just let it slide, and I am not a fan of wacky clues and especially not a fan of wacky entries.

Few themes can avoid being tagged as 'loose'. If it works, and this one does for me, I don't care.

I do feel a certain animosity toward the word VINCA. No reason - just don't like the way it looks. I liked XYLEM though. Go figure. (Maybe because I knew it. (Not that I could tell you hardly anything about what it is.))

I especially liked the clue for CROOK.

F for ffert with "Part of a terza rima rhyme scheme"

A bit uninspired on the clues, and way easy. Certainly one of my fastest Wednesdays ever.

Finished grid. (9:50)

Anoa Bob 12:28 AM  

I like this one more than Rex. Maybe knowing VINCA off the V in LAVA, and XYLEM off the Y in RYDER helped.

Mr. Ben-Merre packs in six theme entries with minimal dreck, no small feat in itself, and gives them a whimsical turn that made it a fun, light-hearted solve for me.

I think the Wednesday slot is a tough one to fill because it is a bit of a segue between the easier, early-week puzzles and the tougher stuff to come. This one worked for me.

Rube 1:12 AM  

Definitely an easy Wednesday despite my hesitancy on XYLEM. Only writeover was MarxISM/ISt.

XYLEM will be my WOTD, although I'm going to have a tough time using it in a sentence today/tomorrow. Particularly as I'll be in flight for 5 hours tomorrow, heading back to the SF Bay Area.

Garth 1:19 AM  

Many thanks to Rex for continuing to generously impart his vast knowledge about crossword puzzles and allowing for this open forum. I have a learned a ton from reading the blog over the last year or two and I know he's been at it a lot longer than that.

But I really loved this theme and feel that Rex is making some missteps that critics in other areas commonly make. A work of art (in this case a crossword puzzle) might be judged using a number of aesthetic criteria. By noting that "[S]omething about this theme seems oddly loose," he seems to be indicating that a sense of "looseness" is not a good thing in a crossword puzzle. For a number of decades, jazz was subject to this sort of (and much worse) criticism. The problem was that most of the critics that were making these judgements were applying the aesthetic ideals of European classical music to jazz. In fact, the "looseness" heard in jazz music was part of its strength, and underneath that looseness was a different type of brilliance. Similarly, I found this theme to have a wonderfully playful feel to it and each theme answer had its own "aha" moment.

I believe that the best critics work to expand their understanding the strengths of different styles of the art form and, over time, tend to get less critical of those with different aesthetic bearings.

Thanks again to Rex and everyone else who participates.

Garth 1:22 AM  

Oops, I should have said "their understanding OF the strengths..." in the second to last paragraph.

Elaine2 1:36 AM  

I agree with all who liked this puzzle. I thought the theme was fun, and I was really happy with the lack of junky fill.

Nothing is perfect, but this was better than many!

chefwen 1:42 AM  

Probably one of the fastest Wednesdays I have ever solved.

Whenever I see the word VINKA the Jimmy Durante song comes to mind, Ink A Dinka Do. Thanks for saving me that ear worm with Hit the Road Jack.

Learned all about XYLEM and Phloem in plant science class. Never forgot them as they are fun to say together.

Aloha @Rube - Safe travels and come back soon.

Evan 1:42 AM  

Easy for me too, and the fill is for the most part pretty clean given how much theme density there is. However, I agree with @Rex that SHOT SUBPAR is weaker than the rest. The concept for the puzzle is totally fine, and I'm okay with the other theme entries, but that answer isn't really an in-the-language phrase. SHOT PAR, UNDER PAR, OVER PAR, yes. SHOT SUBPAR, no. If you put it in quotation marks in Google, it nets you only 1,370 hits.

And VINCA. That's a first, not just in the New York Times, but almost anywhere. According to my version of Matt Ginsberg's database, VINCA previously appeared in two puzzles of unknown origin, one in 2000, another in 2001, and that's it. That crossing with LAVA was scary, too, but only because I couldn't remember what "pumice" was. I thought at first that it was a fruit (I probably confused it with POME), but since I figured that no other LA-A possibility made sense, I went with the V. Got it right.

Alkie Columns Moolas 3:45 AM  

Maybe would have been better as a Monday with four entries only, sans awkward SHOTSUBPAR and ADDEDPUNCH.
I don't know...

I sorta agree with @rex and/but totally agree with the jazz guy, except to say that tightness of theme is a legitimate criteria by which to critique a puzzle. But one should make more room for different styles but @Rex has shown us time and again that that is not what he's about.

I too wanted an H on MOOLA, and ALKIE raised an eyebrow. So fifties.

Lots of Os, lots of Ks... so not a Knock Out but definitely OK.

Oh! I know something else I liked...the ISm over SCH looked like the word SCHISM all MUSSed up!

Evan 4:39 AM  


I'm glad you brought up the issue of Rex Parker filling a role as art critic -- I've made the same comparison before, so I'll use that idea as a point of debate.

(Bear with me, this will be lengthy.)

You're right that people might judge puzzles using different (and subjective) criteria. Are the theme entries funny? Are the clues particularly clever? Is the fill solid? Does the grid have entries that really sparkle? Does it contain too much crosswordese? A crossword critic might emphasize some of these questions more than others depending on the overall experience of solving a particular puzzle.

However, I think you're stretching with your description of Rex's judgment of the puzzle's "looseness" as a criticism against any and all looseness in crosswords. While I don't pretend to speak for Rex, I don't think he has a magic standard for which all puzzles need fit. I know that he has lavished praise on puzzles that broke traditional rules -- as one example, you can read his take on Joe Krozel's famous LIES puzzle of June 2008. Here's what he said about Byron Walden's innovative but very difficult State Quarters puzzle of May 2012: "I wish every Sunday (or every tenth Sunday) puzzle were that inventive."

On the overall question of "looseness" -- if it seems that Rex is applying a classical standard where perhaps he should instead view a puzzle as "jazz," it may be because today's grid fits the former standard better than the latter. To me, this puzzle strove for a traditional pattern -- take popular idioms and put a new spin on them in the clues. There's nothing inherently wrong with that per se, but as Rex noted, two elements made the theme less cohesive -- the bizarre, "tortured" clue for 40-Across where the others were less complicated, and the fact that SHOT SUBPAR is not an everyday idiom like the other theme entries.

It would probably be wrong if Rex were to, say, fault the AV Club crossword puzzles for having too many modern video game references and profane language in their clues because the NYT doesn't do it that way. They're different publications. But I don't think Rex is doing that here: I think he simply acknowledged the theme concept but didn't think it was executed as well as it could have been. One can certainly break the rules of traditional crossword themes, but there should still be a smoothness to it. And, well, the Times does have traditional standards for publication, and tightness of theme counts for a lot with them.

For all of these reasons, I disagree that this particular puzzle is one of "different aesthetic bearings" and that Rex has a particular aversion to puzzles like that. I also disagree that a mark of a good critic is the tendency to become less critical, even for art forms to which we're not accustomed. If anything, I think if a smart critic is going to introduce himself to new art forms, he'd probably become more critical of it because he'd learn how artists produced the best work for that genre. Think of it this way: if you've never watched a football game before, you might be hesitant to criticize the play of Tim Tebow -- after all, he made it to the NFL, so he should probably be pretty good at what he does. But the more you watch football, the more you'd probably criticize him for being far inferior as a quarterback compared to Peyton Manning.

Anyway, all of this long-winded comment is meant in the spirit of providing good discussion, so hopefully you'll take it in the spirit in which it's intended. I look forward to your and others' responses.

dk 6:49 AM  

@Evan and @Garth, two things:

1. I take back every teasing comment I made to Andrea about being wordy (not woody as XYLEM).
2. Whatever it is I'm against it (a Marxism).

Easy breezy Monday and with a light hearted theme kind of like Holly Golightly's cat named: Cat.

🌝🌝🌝 (3 MOON) Hump day can be easy

Considering chickens πŸ”. Any solvers have chickens who have any tips. Keep in mind I am a country poser, with my knowledge of country life limited to Max's Kansas City or CBGB. But I now own a red pickup.

MetaRex 6:51 AM  

Yes! I love the ambivalence theme. Sets off pleasurable, vaguely disquieting vibes in a non-heavy way. There are plenty of reasons to do the NYT CWP, not all of them easy to defend...getting one's mind pleasurably bent is about the best one to my mind.

Evan for a Parker Poster award!

Milford 7:00 AM  

Not to sound like a BROKEn RECORD, but I agree that this puzzle was fast and fun. Each theme entry made me smile and the only one that slightly held me up was ADDED PUNCH (it didn't quite make sense to me).

VINCA vine was known to me, so no hang up there. It's a filler in a lot of hanging basket plants, and it's sometimes ground cover in the woods, except we always called it myrtle.

Liked IONIC COLUMNS, although I initially thought Doric.

All in all a fun puzzle, thanks David!

OTD 7:05 AM  

Easy puzzle when the toughest words were VINCA and XYLEM. Pulled the latter up from the memory banks, but got the first only from the crosses. So learned something new to start the day. Always a good sign.

Liked the theme.

Z 7:24 AM  

I tend to agree with @Evan on this regarding Rex's aesthetic standards. He seems pretty consistent in wanting a puzzle to live up to its internal standard. @Garth is correct about the danger of "paradigm lock" for critics, but I don't see this as an example of it.

I had a DNF because of my ignorance of XYLEM. (Marx)ISt works just as well as (Marx)ISM, and I have no frame of reference that tells me XYLEt is wrong. Not a Natick, but not a particularly fair cross in my opinion. On the other hand, VINCA went in off the I in AMID for me.

My other write over was Honky dOry before Honky TONK (right above all the ALKIEs).

I was emailing @LMS last night. Short story is that the holidays are a very busy time at work for her. She said she will be returning soon.

@anon12:20 - you are posting consistently and are bravely linking to an image of your grid. Don't you think it is time to leave the ranks of the anonymice?

jberg 8:29 AM  

On looseness and jazz - I agree in general, and thought 40A was fine for that reason. A theme that took phrases and came up with really tortured definitions would be great. But SHOT SUBPAR was still weak, because nobody would say it (you shoot below par, right? I haven't played golf for 50 years, so I'm on thin ice here.) But that's the only weakness (well, that and the H-less MOOLA), so it was still a fun puzzle.

Anyone else think 53D, "Super-duper," was going to be an attempt to butter up Acme?

PIX 8:39 AM  

@14A: Vinca plants are important because they supply several compounds currently used to treat cancer (vinca alkaloids).

Rob C 8:40 AM  

Interesting conversation today. I'm definitely closer to where @Evan is on this, but Garth makes some good points.

I thought the theme clues made the puzzle fun. Agree that a few were a bit strained, but still fun. Good, quality fill too.

I once submitted a puzzle with similar phrases, but clued as bits of bad advice using a play on the different meanings of the last word. Was rejected b/c it didn't float the editor's boat.

FIGHT THE POWER - clued as, Bad advice to an electrician

TAKE THE FIFTH - Bad advice to a sot

KICK THE HABIT - Bad advice to a nun

FORCE THE ISSUE - Bad advice to a newspaper editor

PS - I think I like David B-M's clues better

jackj 8:42 AM  

When I bumped into XYLEM early on, my immediate thought was, “uh oh, this guy is forcing a pangram” but it was not to be; not even close, so first-timer David Ben-Merre didn’t have to suffer any added slings and arrows of our favorite reviewer, 31*. Good move, David.

The theme was terrific! Can we call the theme answers G-rated double entendres? We can certainly call them clever and inspired. The clearest example came with TOOKAHIKE that also earned best of the bunch from me, while SHOTSUBPAR was a credible runner-up.

The puzzle had started in a very clever way, looking for a five-letter word for “Repair bill segment”, is it PARTS or is it LABOR? With 1 down, asking for “Source of pumice” (LAVA), that didn’t prove to be of much help but David had set a nice tone for the rest of the solve.

The fill was generally of good quality with a few minor exceptions like “Dean’s domain: Abbr,” for SCH that seemed pro forma, as did the predictable cluing of NAP as “Siesta”, (though in fairness, after NAP has appeared 98 times in previous Times puzzles it’s hard to be original).

The ever titillating entry of MOON drew the puzzle’s only PG-rated double entendre, “Butt out?” and VINCA, (or, as I call my ground cover, periwinkle), brought a nice mid-winter bit of cheer.

Finally, I don’t know if ALKIE is a pejorative to boozehounds but it was a fun entry, with no apparent malice intended, just an “I feel your pain” moment for a “DT’s sufferer, for short”.

A super debut, David Ben-Merre; we’ll look forward to your next one!

Unknown 8:50 AM  

Easy for a Wednesday. Ditto Evan's first paragraph, and ditto Milford's comments re: VINCA.

Unknown 8:55 AM  

I suspect Rex thinks of moola as having an H due to the Fabulous Moolah of wrestling fame.

chefbea 9:19 AM  

Easy but DNF...couldn't get the north-east. Didn't know xylem. Wanted drew a blank for 18 across.

Masked and Anonymous 9:21 AM  

Did or didn't conquer the crossword: RIPPED UP THE PUZ. How's that for oddly loose? I prefer the term "funky". Generally, I like a little funkiness, which this puz did have. It also had plenty originality. thUmbsUp.

It also had four U's. Which reminds me...

M and A Part II 9:24 AM  

I Fink U Freeky – 2nd Annual Awards
Celebrating the Rodney Dangerfield of vowels in Crosswords
For 2012:
1. Patrick Blindauer – “I Love U” – Feb, 2012. A 15x15 puz with 50 U’s. Not a rebus. Each of this puz’s 86 words has at least one U in it. Runaway, freek-U-out winner. U Pauer!
2. Joel Fagliano – NYT, July 26, 2012 – A double-U (and W) rebus puz. Only 3 U’s, but then throw in 8 UU’s. So, 19 U’s, using creative accounting. Uuouu-er of the puz: mUUmUU.
3. Peter Gordon – Fireball #36 of 2012, entitled “Themeless 55”. 12 U’s, in a 70-worder. Themeless high-water mark, for 2012.
4. Sharon Delorme – NYT, June 5, 2012. Letter substitution: I’s get converted to U’s. Totally lukable theme.
5. C.C. Burnikel & D. Scott Nichols – LAT, Nov 26, 2012. 11 U’s, plus a -xUxU theme! Sample themer: HIKARUSULU. Pure cream.


M and A Part III 9:28 AM  

Thanx to @Lewis, for inspiring this addition...

And I Like U a Lot Awards:
1. @John V: For his comment on June 5, 2012:
2. @Incipently Violent Man: For his Aug 20, 2012 comment: (Extract from a longer rant)
“I want young people to open doors for old people. I want people to quit smacking kids.
Seem an absurd goal? Not to me. Yet I don't get this, yet M&A gets a puzzle full of Us.”
3. @Andrea, Darlin’: For her Aug 20, 2012 follow-up to Incipently, above:
“@Incipiently - wow, U are right, 11 Us! M&A will rejoice...or rejuice or whatever he does...”
4. @Bird: For the form of address used to begin a Dec 18, 2012 comment:
“@MandU – I too was trying get STAND IN to fit …” Groundbreaking.
5. @31: For the crossword title: “U Can Do This”. And for hosting all this Freekiness.
6. Various real nice RexWorld commenter folks throughout 2012, for pointin’ out U-filled puzs, at other sites, to the M&A/M&U.

p.s. [Also see: www.youtube.com/watch?v=0WJ3OHPL8fc]
Masked and AnonymoUs

Bob Kerfuffle 9:30 AM  

So I'll never be a critic: My feeling while solving the puzzle was, "Brilliant, just brilliant!"

Other thought: 37 A, MOON, could be worked into a clue on the lines of, "Show great affection for, or show disdain for."

AnnieD 9:34 AM  

What a nice easy puzz for a wed with such a fun theme...

baja 9:39 AM  

Loved this! Maybe its partly because I am trying to learn Spanish and starting to notice idioms and the perils of translating literally. Still remember in high school french trying to figure out what "son of a pistol" meant and then realizing the author was saying "son of a gun"

Rob C 9:41 AM  

@ M&A
I am hurt and disappointed that I didn't make your list. I wrote the 8/20 NYT puzzle with 12 U's with you in mind. Don't know if I can go on today...may have to leave work early. Oh, the pain...

ArtO 10:04 AM  

It may not be necessary but certainly kind to add a voice to the kudos for this very clever enjoyable puzzle.

joho 10:09 AM  

Loving the comments today! Thanks to @Rex and all Rexites. I think everybody is making valid points.

I liked the puzzle pretty much but can see where had it been tighter it would have been even better. Regardless, a fun, easy-breezy Wednesday for me.

Congratulations, David Ben-Merre!

Shamik 10:16 AM  

Fun little puzzle. Easy little puzzle coming in at 7th easiest out of 248 tracked. Not that I'm counting or anything. ;-)

Howard B 10:26 AM  

I can only say here that I have to give credit for originality of theme. I enjoyed figuring out exactly which turn of phrase fit each theme clue.
A few challenging fill words, a theme that hasn't quite been seen before, from a different perspective, I'd say overall that's an enjoyable experience while solving. And for most of us, that's all we ask over a cup of coffee, commute, or lunch break. Works for me.

From Whom It May Concern 10:27 AM  

@Rob C: Owzer! U were #6 on the list. Day-um... Oh, so close. That one was a primo puz, too. Please try again, in 2013. That "leave work early" dealy sounds like a winner in my book, btw.
Fond regards,

Anonymous 10:58 AM  

Ugh.. what @Z and @chefbea said. V. easy with a DNF. XYLEM / ISM was XYLET / IST. Terrible cross IMO.

lawprof 11:00 AM  

Today's puzzle was like the running back who has to wait for the hole to open before blasting through. Had to wait on 1A (pArts or LABOR?) and 16A (hertz or RYDER?) to clear before moving forward.

Still, the NE slowed me down a bit because I had only a dim recollection (if that) of XYLEM; and ERA, EXIST, SEND and IDID could have been just about anything. So this section was the last to fall.

Two writeovers: CAbal/CADRE; Jacks/JOKER.

Overall, pretty much mediumish for a Wednesday with a clever theme and perky fill.

(The big challenge today is proving I'm not a robot. I can't even SEE the first part of the captcha, so here goes.... Mulligan first time around; try again - looks a little easier now)

Sandy K 11:05 AM  

Easy, but very clever puzzle!

Theme was below PAR- actually, above PAR...had a lot of PUNCH!

First time seeing VINCA, but still an A-ONE solve for me!

John V 11:08 AM  

Liked it. Count me as a fan of the "looseness", whatever that means. Theme is fun, minimal CAP. Only kvetch was how easy this was; may have been my fastest NYT puzzle ever, three miles, Noroton Heights to Stamford, way faster than my typical Monday time.

@M&A Thanks for the award. I can now die a happy man.

jae 11:17 AM  

@Z -- Thanks for the LMS update.

mac 11:45 AM  

Fun puzzle, with only the 40A clue a little weird. Also had to stare at "have being" for a while.

Glad that LMS is ok, just busy.

webwinger 11:57 AM  

Not much left unsaid at this point, but wanted to chime in that I really liked both the theme and the fill, found the puzzle quite easy, and much enjoyed reading the thoughtful comments inspired by today’s @Rex review. Also want to second the comment suggesting that anonymi who are repeating posters adopt a handle. It’s really quite easy. Get a teenager to help you sign up for a Google ID (like my daughter did for me recently), or reply to this message for directions. Re specifics, XYLEM somehow popped up from memory after hibernating for almost 50 years since high school biology—that’s a kind of thing I really like about doing these puzzles. As noted earlier, VINCA is familiar to healthcare professionals because of its connection with some important drugs, but it filled itself in for me from crosses before I even saw the clue, which I doubt would have helped anyway.

webwinger 12:01 PM  

Just in case someone does want to reply, should be possible from this post.

efrex 12:14 PM  

I finished this one faster than both Monday's and yesterday's puzzles, but had quite a bit of fun doing it. Yes, SHOTSUBPAR is a bit dodgy, but the rest are all pretty solid IMHO. Six theme answers added up to some annoying fill (all that 3-letter gunk in the center of the grid, ALKIE, IDID etc., but nothing particularly unforgivable.

Welcome aboard, Mr. Ben-Merre!

Carola 12:15 PM  

Very cute. I think my favorite was ADDED PUNCH (which also has PULP suspended in it). Agree on it being very easy - I filled in answers from the top down without a break until I got to JAIL (have never played Monopoly); normally I'd never get that far on a Wednesday. Surprised to learn that VINCA is new to the puzzle - have often used it in my window boxes.

@jae - Ah, thanks. Did not know that. Right now on vacation - California! Sun! - so solving on my iPad, but will remember for when I'm back home.

JΓ©rΓ΄me Verstrynge 12:53 PM  

For those looking for words lists for their crosswords, I have created some at: http://find-word.blogspot.com/ Enjoy !!!

Unknown 12:57 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown 1:02 PM  

@Bob, @milford, @jae. Thanks for helping me find the trash can. I just used it at 12:57
DB Geezer or David Barnhouse

Sparky 1:02 PM  

Had a good time with this. Chuckled at the double meaning answers. I too remember XYLEM and Phloem from botany course. Only write over aye before YEA.

Interesting discussion @Evan, Garth and others. I think I come down on the side of tightness, However, SHOTSUBPAR, though shaky, doesn't bother me because I have so little interest in sports. It may depend on where you are sitting: in Lincoln Center watching Conerto Barrocco or at Birdland listening to Thelonious.

Welcome back @mac. I am glad the cokie problem is solved.

Lewis 1:51 PM  

SUBPAR means below average, and "SHOT SUBPAR" means shot below average. Makes perfect sense to me. Doesn't even feel weak.

@acme -- great line about the O's and K's.

Posts made for interesting reading today, thank you, especially Evan, Garth, and M&A.

David -- excellent debut! Looking forward to more.

Today was Tuesday level, but clever. I learned that pumice comes from lava, and VINCA, which I may or may not remember.

Did or didn't make the limbo contest harder? RAISED THE BAR

syndy 1:53 PM  

Honestly if XYLEM had been an across I would never have fallen for this.XYLEt did'nt look right but until mr pencil told me I had an error I missed it-When I went back and changed it I'm all "oh! that makes sense!" This would have been a truly Lovely Monday-but Will must have thouight that cleverness trumped difficulty!If the clues were a little tortured (I did think so)In the end It was worth it.I could not figger out how to rephrase them. Now are we talking Real Jazz or that Fusion abomination?

Tita 2:08 PM  

@dk - I have chickens, but they are of the tipless variety.

Now, I can tell you that JenCT is a chicken expert, and if anybody here has chickens with tips, she would.

ALso like XYLEM & phloem...and I encourage VINCA everywhere in my shady garden.

Can someone explain the 2nd meaning of ADDEDPUNCH? I can't see it.

Wasn't overwhelmed with love for this puzzle, though as always with the rare puzzle that I don't love, I appreciate it more after coming here.

What a bunch of lUnatics we are.
I love it here.

Bird 2:18 PM  

This was an easy fun puzzle. I liked the theme and almost all of the fill (i.e. - 46A IMO is iffy). The only theme answer that looks awkward is 54A. “I SHOT SUBPAR” is not a phrase I hear a lot, even on a golf course when someone shoots below or under par. But hard to complain when there are 6 theme answers in the grid.

I started writing LABOR then stopped and checked a couple downs to make sure it wasn’t PARTS before proceeding.
Hand up for MOOLAH.
Terrific clue for 37A.

@M&U – Thank you. I am deeply honoured (see what I did there to get the extra U?) to be even considered for inclusion in your I LIKE U A LOT post. I would like to thank the blogosphere, my wife (for putting up with me) and of course @Rex (for putting up with all of us).

Evan 2:28 PM  


If you figuratively added punch to the punchbowl, you spiked it, hence diluted it. But if you literally added punch (the drink) to the punchbowl, then you didn't dilute it.

Acme 2:32 PM  

ADDPUNCH is both to liven things up and to add punch, the drink to something...It doesn't work as well, like the SUBPAR answer because you are not adding punch, you are adding liquor to the punch...you're adding to...it's a liitle off which is why I thought if those two answers were pruned it would have strengthened the overall effect but shifted it back a day or two in the week and prob gotten only raves were it a Monday, but many W-F solvers might have missed this fun idea.
Here is another, from my fave game, DRAWABLANK... The most paradoxical situ in Scrabble!

Anonymous 4:08 PM  


While I liked this puzzle and its theme, I agree with Rex. Tightness of theme in a crossword puzzle is an orthogonal concept to "tradinionalness" of theme.

To stick with a musical analogy: whether you are listening to a straightforward rock act or an experimental jazz band, the music will be decidedly worse if one of the parts is out of time or out of tune.

"SHOT SUBPAR" is not a jazzy flourish in an otherwise traditional composition. It's a missed beat. It fails to fit with the other theme entries (as noted, it is not a common idiom), and it doesn't do so by being somehow more interesting than they are. It takes their enjoyable formula (idiom + double meaning = opposite outcomes) and subtracts from it by removing the idiom.

Anonymous 4:09 PM  

^ *traditionalness of course.


sanfranman59 4:38 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 7:50, 11:52, 0.66, 1%, Easy

Top 100 solvers

Wed 4:45, 6:34, 0.72, 1%, Easy

Will seems to have gotten the Tuesday and Wednesday puzzles backwards this week.

Tita 4:44 PM  

@acme...DRAWABLANK...one sing-songy "Aaw-some!

(Capcha -sibrBuz...what this blog generates?)

long suffering mets fan 5:19 PM  

BABE IN THE WOODS -- opportunistic gal who lives in a PGA tour city

Oh, the puzzle -- I give it a 60 -- the beat was pretty good, but not that great to dance to. A little late, but did anybody else catch Dick Clark's (RIP) Rockin New Years Eve? Psy? Pitbull? Who? What? and a moronic unfunny Jenny McCarthy. The highlight of the show was the 30 clip countdown of the best of Dick Clark


Peace and out

retired_chemist 6:18 PM  

Liked it.

Agree that the ADDED PUNCH clue is weak to the point of being incorrect. If you add punch, you presumably add more of the same which doesn't dilute it. If you add liquor, yes, you add some punch (zing) to the stuff, which doesn't dilute it either.

U-HAUL for RYDER, ONYX for OPAL, MarxIST for MarxISM (tough M if you don't know XYLEM), DORIC for IONIC, BUD for BRO, i.e. the usual sort of overwrites. Makes it fun.....

Thanks, Mr. Ben-Merre.

Anonymous 6:40 PM  

Dear Parker Universe,

As they say on the radio, "first time, long time." I was anxious about the reception. So I just wanted to thank you for the warm wishes and helpful critiques. This was a very interesting discussion indeed. Like a wedding ceremony that was or wasn't performed, this puzzle went off without a hitch.

I wanted to say that I loved Lewis’s "RAISED THE BAR" and Acme’s “Draw a blank” and Rex's "Threw in the towel."

Best wishes to all,
David Ben-Merre

Anonymous 6:45 PM  

Subpar is not figurative...

Milford 7:30 PM  


Sfingi 8:19 PM  

Easy, but satisfying to work.

One side of my front yard is vinca, and it's well established. The other is wild strawberry, which is usually amazing, but in 2012 was sad because of the drought in the spring.

mac 8:29 PM  

Thanks Sparky, but I just came in through a back door: Internet Explorer. My regular venues will not allow me to comment.
Very interesting puzzle day.

Carola 9:41 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Carola 9:43 PM  

@retired chemist - On the diluting question: I thought of the "prom bowlful" as containing something like Hawaiian Punch plus some kind of alcohol. So if somebody ADDED PUNCH, they'd be diluting the drink, alcohol-content-wise.

9:41 PM

JenCT 9:43 PM  

Wow, I could never be a puzzle critic; all I know is whether I liked a puzzle or didn't: this one, I liked!

Of course, I loved XYLEM and VINCA; don't remember seeing ALKIE before...

@dk: email me with any chicken questions; I'd be happy to answer them (thanks for the plug, Tita!)

Glad you figured out a work-around, @mac.

sanfranman59 10:04 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 7:19, 6:12, 1.18, 98%, Challenging (5th highest ratio of 160 Mondays)
Tue 9:58, 8:37, 1.16, 83%, Challenging
Wed 7:49, 11:52, 0.66, 1%, Easy (lowest ratio of 159 Wednesdays)

Top 100 solvers

Mon 4:09, 3:39, 1.14, 94%, Challenging
Tue 5:49, 4:57, 1.18, 86%, Challenging
Wed 4:37, 6:34, 0.70, 1%, Easy (lowest ratio of 159 Wednesdays)

Spacecraft 12:00 PM  

Isn't our language fascinating? That you can take a common idiom and drop it into a circumstance where it has the exact opposite of its intended meaning. I think the theme is marvelous, chuckle-inducing--and just plain fun.

And the best one of all is @David's hilarious example in his blog: "Went off without a hitch." Welcome, my friend, to the show that never ends. Come inside, come inside. And do favor us with another puzzle soon, please.

DMGrandma 2:34 PM  

Enjoyed this puzzle. Small hang-up with markIST, but XYLEM solved that. VINCA is a common plant in these parts, and I've grown my fair share of it. My slow-down? Having to run the alphabet to get MOON. I really do lead a sheltered life. See you tomorrow!

Dirigonzo 4:32 PM  

A fun puz that I completed with no write-overs and no error - that happens about once in a blue MOON for me. A conspiracy theorist might see something unsettling in having CIA and DIE cross smack dab in the center of the grid but I'm sure neither DB-M not Will had anything sinister in mind.

Anonymous 5:18 PM  

Unlike for many others here, VINCA was a gimme for me, as I'm a gardener with some horticultural & botanical background. I also knew AMINO had to be right for 14A, so _AV_ was obviously LAVA, which solved any hesitation over "parts" vs LABOR in 1A. Took a little longer to ADD the PUNCH line, but fairly easy to get across the top once it fell into place. One initial mistake was Marx ISt instead of ISM, but because of my botany, XYLEM saved me.

I thought OCTAL was a bit weird, but I DROPPED THE BALL for sure on 33A. Needed way too many of the crosses before the light finally went on.

I thought it was surprisingly easy for Wednesday, but just loved the puzzle!

Waxy in Montreal 6:41 PM  

ECHOing others who found this a fun theme. Also shared the XYLEM/XYLET predicament but guessed right, maybe having learnt some botanical terms from previous puzzles.

Started my career as a programmer on an OCTAL-based computer (GE-400 series) on which decimal 8 = octal 10, 9=11, etc. Remember it being very confusing at first, especially converting large numbers from one base to the other.

Ginger 6:54 PM  

Blogger ate my post, so I'll try again. Loved the word play of the theme. Amazed that the constructor was able to find so many G rated double entendres. I guess the old gray lady didn't want to cross the line. Also love the clue for MOON, smile.

A bit easy for Wednesday, but I guess that makes up for the extra crunch the last two days.

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