Arthur his family in Hoop Dreams / WED 2-20-13 / Repeated cry in Ramones Blitzkrieg Bop / Kazakh border lake / Classico rival / Burmese P.M.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Constructor: John Farmer

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: BOOK — circled letters in corners spell out "BOOK"; puzzle note reads: "The answer to each starred clue is a compound word or a familiar two-word phrase. A certain four-letter word (spelled out clockwise by the circled squares) [i.e. BOOK]  can follow the first half and precede the second half of each of these answers, in each case to complete another compound word or familiar two-word phrase."

Word of the Day: U NU (15A: Burmese P.M.) —
U Nu (Burmese: [...] also Thakin Nu; 25 May 1907 – 14 February 1995) was a leading Burmese nationalist and political figure of the 20th century. He was the first Prime Minister of Burma under the provisions of the 1947 Constitution of the Union of Burma, from 4 January 1948 to 12 June 1956, again from 28 February 1957 to 28 October 1958, and finally from 4 April 1960 to 2 March 1962.
• • •

Weird. This is one of those puzzles that seems quite competently made, but that I did not enjoy solving at all. There are a gajillion theme answers + the BOOK thing, which is impressive, from a purely architectural standpoint. Given that density, the fill is actually pretty good. But stuff like U NU (which I think was a big gimme for enthusiasts before my time, but which, thankfully, has been virtually exterminated in the Shortz era) and AGEES (?) (25D: Arthur and his family in "Hoop Dreams") and KATS and INKA and KOH (22D: ___-i-noor diamond) still hurt. Worst was SLC, which I couldn't make any sense of. I figured I had an error. I didn't know if the "capital" in the clue was maybe ... a monetary denomination? Wasn't til UTAH finally went in that I realized that I did indeed have NARCO spelled right, and that SLC was Salt Lake City. I've heard the term BLUE JACKET, but had no idea it meant simply "Sailor." So this was just ... someone else's puzzle. Maybe a much older person. Lastly, I am not a big fan of having to read a lot of $%#@ at the end to figure out what the theme is. Also, never heard of "Vanity BOOK." That must've meant something to someone at some time. Just nothing to me today.

Theme answers:
  • 17A: *Approval indicators (CHECK MARKS)
  • 21A: *Ban (BLACKLIST)
  • 39A: *December 31 (YEAR END)
  • 55A: *What a "forever" stamp lacks (FACE VALUE)
  • 64A: *Union supporter? (MATCHMAKER)
  • 11D: *Magazine with an annual Hollywood issue ("VANITY FAIR")
  • 28D: *Sailor (BLUE JACKET)

There were some lovely and original answers and clues here and there. Loved everything about HEY HO (31A: Repeated cry in the Ramones' "Blitzkrieg Bop"), mostly because it quite literally forced me to remember the song, tune and all. Had to sing it to myself to remember the answer. Somehow the clue on ARC also struck me as fresh (35A: Shape of the Aleutian Islands, on a map), or at least thoughtful / creative. Don't know what "judokas" are, but I know what "judo" is, so DOJOS clue was both colorful and gettable (48A: Places for judokas). Less happy with OSH, both for just ... being OSH ... and then for being clued in a cross-referenced clue (71A: City ESE of the 10-Down). Pro tip: don't tangle your crap fill up in cross-rerferences. Just makes it more annoying. Also, what the hell is up with the clue on KOBE (59A: 2007-08 N.B.A. M.V.P., to fans)? You know why "fans" call him that? 'Cause that is actually his name. KG, K-ROD, DR.K—these are what sports stars are "to fans." I'm trying to imagine "MICHAEL" or "STEVE" clued this way, and can't.
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


    jae 12:05 AM  

    Easy-medium except for the NW which took a bit of staring.  BACH was a Bond girl a very long time ago and SerbIA made it tough to sort out.  

    @Rex --  The Blue Jackets Manual is the book given to Navy recruits in boot camp.  Every thing you might need to know about being a sailor.

    Pretty impressive puzzle!  Lotsa theme stuff plus the circles.  Figured out what was going on with out reading the note which, after yesterday's subtlety, makes me wonder if the note was really necessary?

    This seems just about right for a Wed.  Fun theme, smooth grid, plus some zip...FINK, FARGO (wood chipper victims for $500 Alex), ICK, NARCO, INKA...

    Possible problem: HEYHO/KOH, but H is the only fit that makes sense. 

    Nice one John and just out of curiosity where in Ohio did you go to school? I'm a Kenyon alum.

    Anonymous 12:08 AM  

    27A and 50A were not theme answers.

    Anonymous 12:15 AM  

    I liked it. Their was some horrible fill, but a good trade I thought.

    I prefer a note or other device that sets out the theme. Yesterday's BS editing effort, with no title, and therefore no theme for most solvers, was unfortunate.

    Today's note, at 53 words, is a nearly incomprehensible block of poorly edited text.

    How about this at 25 words:
    A four-letter word (spelled out by the circled letters) can follow the first half, and precede the second half, of each of the starred entries.

    DocRoss 12:47 AM  

    Thanks for the Elvis!

    Of course Barbara Bach was at one time Mrs. Ringo Starr

    DocRoss 12:49 AM  

    Oops. I guess she still is Mrs. Starr

    Evan 1:03 AM  
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    Evan 1:05 AM  

    Rex, as pointed out by @Anonymous 12:08 above, neither FBI AGENT nor POSTCARD was a theme answer. They didn't have stars on their clues -- though I had to check afterwards to make sure.

    Still, seven theme answers in a grid is a lot. Pretty impressive to get all of them to work in the grid, I'd say, though I could have done without AAMCO and OSH -- it's only because I've heard the name AAMCO that I got it right, not because I've seen it recently in crosswords. I guess they could have gone with NAMCO, the video game company which created Pac-Man -- surprising that's really never been in puzzles before. Or, they could have gone with the partial A GUT or A GUN instead of AGUA, which might have made filling that southern section a little less, I dunno, OSH-y.

    Like @jae, the northwest corner gave me some trouble. All I had was OSHA and ATM before skipping into the next section. Of course, I erased OSHA a bit later and put in ACLU, which fit with LATVIA at 1-Across. Then SERBIA. Then finally BOSNIA. Ouch.

    Aveo Curla Matchmakers 2:17 AM  

    As @Evan said, FBIAGENT and POSTCARD are not theme answers...but I still tried to make sense of them too...
    They LOOk like they are placed there to be...

    I don't think you need a note at all, personally.

    Had a malapop! 3D I put in OUST for SPEW which really screwed up my Balkan guess...Then there it was at 13D!!!

    Bleedover ABEND became BEND today.
    (and RAGU from earlier this week...more a spillover than a bleedover!)

    I get what you are saying about cross references, esp with iffy fill, but John Farmer is very much a pro (he's had well over 30 puzzles in the NY Times) so I'm not sure that it was not a purposeful manuever.

    Obviously some editors enjoy cross-referencing and/or having the same definition a couple of times.

    For me KOBE will forever induce an immediate gutwrenching ICK factor. I think his equally icky wife finally left him with a big old ring on her finger.

    Spent a lot of time trying to remember James Dean's role in "East of Eden", only to have the answer be OKIE.
    (At least it wasn't cross-referenced to ORU!)

    My heart leapt at H-dos-O thinkng AqUA = pangram...but no X either! 8 Ks gotta count for something!

    As for my Jimmy Kimmel appearance, looks like I was left on the cutting room floor.
    Ah, that's show biz....

    chefwen 2:42 AM  

    @Andrea - Damn, I'm recording it. Rats!

    Started out a little slowly but picked up major steam half way through. I guess I'm a "much older person".

    Only one write-over at 61D skew before BEND.

    @chefbea - There is your hated RAGU again, man that jarred stuff is ugly.

    Had to wait for crosses to choose your innIES from your OUTIES.

    Good one Mr. Farmer, thanks!

    syndy 3:00 AM  

    Hand up for trying to squeeze in non theme answers.also the OUST malapop,but the really embarrassing mess up was putting in OSk and not knowing where UTAk was. Somewhere in Siberia? I don't know the capital of Siberia!

    Anoa Bob 3:14 AM  

    I dozed off about half way through the windy explanatory note/dissertation, so decided to just do the puzzle, which was enjoyable and went down smoothly, and then come here and let Rex explain what all the falderal was about.

    Maybe BEFORE AND AFTER as a theme answer would have simplified things a bit.

    Did a hitch in the Navy so that helped me get BLUE JACKET right away, but that's gotta be a tough one for the other 97% of solvers who haven't.

    I always drink my ale from a TANKARD.

    Anonymous 3:23 AM  

    Who knew you knew U NU.

    Jack Lee 5:31 AM  

    For some reason, puzzle notes don't appear in the International Herald Tribune (the paper I get my puzzle in), so I am often left wondering what the theme is if it doesn't appear in the clues. Why? Why? DNF, by the way - too many Americanisms like ORU, UTAH/SLC, NYER and AAMCO. OSH? Really?

    loren muse smith 5:53 AM  

    Well, I feel mildly mollified after not seeing yesterday’s (or Sunday’s) theme. Because I’m not a Bond Girl expert and because Annie Hall had on a “men’s” TIE, the NW was the last to fall. I still hadn’t sussed out the theme. . .but from _ OOK I inferred BOOK, and then saw whole trick and quickly dispatched what was left. So the theme actually helped me. And at the top of my paper, it just says “see Note” – I guess in Across Lite, the note doesn’t print on the paper?

    Loved the fiendishly vague “on” clue. I immediately, tunnel visionedly (?)and completely committed to the drug route. “using” “taking”. . .

    AN YA think I would remember by now that the man is ANKA and the symbol is “ankh.”

    @Rex – your last part beginning with “Pro tip. . .” spot on and funny! And thanks for explaining SLC. And my sister lives there. GEEZ.

    @jae- you called the exact path that lead me to that H. (My son was accepted with a small scholarship to play lacrosse at Kenyon but decided to study petroleum engineering instead.)

    Yo - @Anoa Bob- I think of yous now when I fill in things like LAPS, DOJOS, KATS, and DOG EARS.

    @Andrea and fearlesskim – I think of both of yous when I start counting K’s- eight!!

    With FBI AGENT crossing NARCO, and DOG EARS to MARK the spot in all these books, I say, HEY HO, John, very, very impressive. I SPEC I’ll spend the rest of the day trying to come up with entries of my own. PLAY GROUP, maybe?

    Anonymous 5:55 AM  

    So, what IS a "vanity book"?

    Herman Melville 7:04 AM  

    As the Handsome Sailor, Billy Budd's position aboard the seventy-four was something analogous to that of a rustic beauty transplanted from the provinces and brought into competition with the highborn dames of the court. But this change of circumstances he scarce noted. As little did he observe that something about him provoked an ambiguous smile in one or two harder faces among the blue-jackets .

    Danp 7:06 AM  

    A vanity book is one you publish yourself, then keep in your powder room so guests know how smart you are. They are usually much too clever for your guests to appreciate. Trust me on that one.

    Imfromjersey 7:07 AM  

    Other than the largely unnecessary note being poorly worded (I had to read it a couple of times to get it) a perfectly nice puzzle. Had Serbia for Bosnia before working on the downs but otherwise not too many writeovers. Seemed just the right level for a Wednesday.

    MetaRex 7:34 AM  

    A wow on thematic density/intensity...

    From a hidden theme one day to a didactically explained one the next..yes to variety!

    Usually I like implicit themes, half-themes, and cross-referenced subthemes, but not always. Yes to UTAH plus SLC as opposed to SLC by its lonesome in today's puzz...but no for me to the half-theme, sorta-theme answers FBI AGENT and POSTCARD, which made me wonder whether you can stick BOOK in front of pretty much anything. You can't--and this is a v. impressive theme--but you don't want solvers wondering whether your magic is all that magical.

    The Well Rounded Philistine 7:46 AM  

    I solve from the International Herald which almost always omits the notes that accompany the puzzle. This time it didn't slow me down but...we Europeans feel like second class citizens. BTW the 24 page paper costs 4 Swiss Francs here (over $4!).

    Milford 8:07 AM  

    I was thinking @Rex included the "extra" theme answers accidentally on purpose.

    Medium Wednesday, note was probably unnecessary to finish, but I think I used the second O in BOOK to get ERGO.

    Liked VANITY FAIR entry (not VANITY BOOK so much) and the movie cluing for NECK TIE, FBI AGENT and FARGO. The FACE(BOOK)VALUE theme answer was the best one, I thought.

    Did not love NYER (really?) over the many KATS. And although I loved the "Deal breaker?" clue, the answer of NARCO instead of NARC is odd to me.

    Otherwise fun puzzle, lots o' theme.

    dk 8:12 AM  

    Let us see FBI AGENTS BOOKem and there are BOOK AGENTS and with a POSTCARD you can put it in a BOOK or make flippy BOOKs with them…. nope cannot make theme answers no matter how hard I try.

    Took a few whacks with a PEEN to get TALESE.

    Generally a classic Wednesday.

    📘📘📘 (3 BLUE JACKETed BOOKs)

    evil doug 8:14 AM  

    Andrea is right: With the circles and the italics, no (particularly overly wordy) note is necessary. It's Wednesday---we can infer that something is up, and the pleasure of discovering it would have been a nice little bonus.

    But so much to like here. The contrast with the compound words earlier this week is stark. More devious clues ('forever stamp lack', 'union supporter?'), colorful answers ('blacklist', 'postcard', 'face value') and more vivid mind pictures than the pedestrian stuff the other day. Plus the linking word that brings it all home in satisfying fashion.

    Other good stuff, too. I was trying to come up with a character name for the 'FBI agent' clue, like from a "Public Enemies" movie. Also enjoyed 'deal breaker?' as a new way of cluing 'narco', and 'dog ears' for 'place savers of a sort'.

    Where it seems we've had a run of puzzles that got undeservedly promoted to late week status, this is a grid that probably would have legitimately met even Thursday criteria---and is a great flag-bearer for a Wednesday.


    evil doug 8:21 AM  

    I went back and looked. That compound word puzzle was actually last Thursday---which really makes the enhanced quality of today's grid leap in comparison.


    wordie 8:22 AM  

    I had a different experience than most of those who have commented. My first entry was KATS; I am reluctant to fill in answers unless pretty certain of them. Then I pondered the note and with the K in the last spot and looking over the theme answers, i came up with MATCHMAKER at 64A, which made me smile, good cluing I think. I had some trouble here and there. I wanted MAN U instead of RAGU at 16A, and did not notice it was a problem, so DNF. And I can't believe I didn't notice FAsGO for the Coen brothers movie. They and this movie are favorites. ICK. Good puzzle, except for the wording of the note and the other things Rex and others have noted. I thought for a bit that TOAD would be wOrm and thought it was a bit more theme. I was wrong.

    DBlock 8:27 AM  

    Just wondering if there had been no note, circles or italics it would have been a puzzle for later in the week as we would have had to realize that the four corners could have been inserted in the theme answers. Or would it have been like yesterday, that one could solve without picking up on that?
    I leave the questions to longer time solvers.

    Susan McConnell 8:33 AM  

    I'm with Rex on this felt "old" to me. And I'm old. When I read the note I thought that the puzzle would be either tougher or zippier. I I think I would have enjoyed it more without the note.

    OISK 8:34 AM  

    Rex suggested that older solvers might like this puzzle more than he did; I quite enjoyed it. I have no idea who the Ramones are, although someone named Joe Ramone appeared in a recent puzzle. Still, because KOH i noor is a gimmee, I was able to come up with Heyho. (I vaguely recall a song with the line "Heyho, nobody home..." could that be it??) All in all, nice theme, very clever cluing, that neat "Aha!" moment when I saw that the corners spelled out "Book" - a very fine Wednesday, of appropriate difficulty.

    orangeblossomspecial 8:36 AM  

    Jimmy Durante's 63A 'INKA Dinka Doo'.

    Fiddler on the Roof featured a musical version of 64A 'MATCHMAKER'.

    joho 8:39 AM  

    Loved this one! A perfect Wednesday with tons of theme plus the bonus BOOK.

    ICK factor is fun. Also DOGEARS!

    Really well done, John Farmer, thank you!

    (Andrea, I watched and was so bummed when you didn't appear!)

    jackj 8:45 AM  

    Another Wednesday, another Hooker**.

    Today’s theme can be discovered by seeing if the circled letters spell a useful word and let’s see, KOOB, nope, OKBO, hmm, no, oh, how about BOOK? Yes, that’s it! BOOK!

    (There was no note on the printed puzzle in AcrossLite only a reference to see one in the note pad, blessedly allowing the solver to skip it).

    Put the theme word after the first word and before the second word in each starred clue and you’ve got it—CHECKMARKS yields CHECK BOOK and BOOK MARKS as an example. All seven starred answers play the same way.

    The fill was a cut above, beginning with BACH (and not J. S. or P. D. Q. but Mrs. Ringo Starr, Barbara BACH), but then we are faced with a jarring clue asking for “1950s heartthrob Paul” and every ounce of my being screams, “NO! It wasn’t the 1950s; the 1970’s maybe, not 60 years ago!!”

    Moving right along, DOGEARS, that frowned upon mistreatment of good BOOKs, was an excellent surprise answer for “Place savers of a sort” and drifting down to the lower left corner we are given a sort of teasing mini-theme with INKA and ANYA that add some supplementary beef to the earlier confusing, wrongly clued ANKA entry.

    I’m not sure about slipping the tyrant Mussolini into the puzzle, but Il DUCE is used to provide the “U” for jutting navels, OUTIES, so maybe that is sufficiently demeaning to take the edge off his inclusion.

    Now, if Gussie BUSCH will treat us to a Bud, we can hoist a TANKARD in praise of John Farmer’s puzzle.

    **(Hookers are early week crosswords with no theme reveal in the puzzle, leaving it up to the solver to determine what the theme is, so named by Amy Reynaldo to honor Henry Hook, who consistently argues for themed puzzles sans reveals).

    Jeremy Mercer 8:53 AM  

    A little stumped by the clue to CURL. Make waves? Are we talking about curling hair? But wouldn't curled hair have ... curls? Otherwise, people curl on ice, so no waves there.

    Anyway, on to more important matters. Thrilled to have an IHT thread today. I began solving in the IHT and it was five years before I realized there was a Saturday NYT puzzle! The IHT is Mon-Fri + a weekend edition that has the Sunday puzzle. What's worse, they seem to flip between putting a Friday and a Saturday in the Friday paper so the difficulty is all over the place in the IHT. Not sure what @Jack Lee + @The Well Rounded Philistine are doing, but if you're not getting your Saturdays online already, it's worth the digital puzzle subscription to have the cream of the week's crop.

    Glimmerglass 8:57 AM  

    This was a clever theme, and the puzzle would have been much harder/impossible for me without it. I had the B and the O. Not many words start like that (boil? boat?, bout?), and that was enough to reveal CHECK MARK. After that, the starred clues fell easily. Even BLUE JACKET, which was buried deep in my memory from 19th century sea novels. I struggled with some of the fill and was Naticked by KOH and 31A, but guessed the H correctly. I think a VANITY BOOK was a scrapbook of press clippings. A vanity novel is one you self-publish (there's a Vanity Press Co.). Maybe that's meant.

    chefbea 8:58 AM  

    Took a little longer than most Wednesdays...but a good puzzle. Didn't get book til the end so the theme didn't help me at all.

    jberg 9:04 AM  

    @Rex, I suppose non-fans call KOBE "Mr. Bryant."

    U NU was the father of Aung Sung Suu Kyi, and wasn't Premier very long before the military deposed him and threw him in prison. The story I heard (in college) was that his guards had to be changed frequently because he was so persuasive that he would win them over to his side with his vision of a new Burma.

    I don't know whether the OSHA/OSH combination is a strength or a weakness; tending toward the latter, though.

    Writeovers: Nova before AVEO, BLACKball before LIST, and AqUA before AGUA (I should have known better); and I too had the malapop OUST.

    ORU? Is that Oral Roberts University? I was pretty sure of FARGO, but really wanted an S there instead of an R.

    Finally, @jackj, thanks for teaching me a new word!

    Mitzie 9:14 AM  

    What @Rex said, mostly. Except this wasn't "medium" for me. Took forever.

    KOBE clue sucked, as previously stated. What were they thinking?

    I felt the notepad was necessary, but agree that it was overly wordy.

    However, I'm a longtime, above-average (imo) solver, and I like cross-referenced clues! It's fun, ya dinguses.

    lawprof 9:23 AM  

    I tend to think of a "heartthrob" as a young, pretty-boy celebrity(e.g., a singer or actor) who is idolized by teen-aged girls. From the 50's Ricky Nelson and Fabian come to mind, but Paul Anka, for some reason, does not quite fit that definition. I could be wrong.

    On another, totally unrelated, note I'm curious whether those of you who clock yourselves factor in the time it takes to read the clue. If so, today's would add a substantial amount of time to solving the puzzle. I had to read it three times before it made any sense to me. In the end, I'm not sure that understanding the theme would have helped much in the solve; the puzzle stands up well as a themeless.

    webwinger 10:00 AM  

    Found today’s puzzle middling in every way, but not without its pleasures (hey—a LITOTES!) OUTIES, DOGEARS, HEYHO, INKA (Dinka Do was old when I was young); nice cluing for NARCO, FACEVALUE, MATCHMAKER. Theme was serviceable. Hand up for Ohio @jae and @lms (Oberlin College), though not sure how that crept in.

    Leftover thoughts from yesterday: Is OBAMA the most crossword-targeted POTUS ever? Does the Secret Service maintain a file of clues?

    Rob C 10:15 AM  

    I found today's puzz on the difficult side. Did about half of it, hit a wall, reread the note and figured out the theme, which got me kick started so that I was able to finish.

    Liked the density of theme. All things considered, the fill wasn't too bad.

    Carola 10:38 AM  

    I join @chefwen and @OISK in the AGED "much older" group that liked it. Very impressed with the constructing feat and the theme entries. Loved how DOGEARS goes with BOOK, also liked TANKARD, NECKTIE, POSTCARD. Do FBI AGENTs figure in the TALESE BOOK?

    I appreciated having the Note (once I understood it) - when almost finished, I still had a blank NW and a blank square in the far NE. Could only think of serbIA and kosovo and considered only consonants for ?UST. So, ??OK-->BOOK-->BOSNIA and OUST - what I needed to finish.

    @Anoa Bob - Loved your response to the Note. Dork that I am, I copied and pasted it into my word processing program so that I could refer to it when things got complicated.

    @evil doug - I also wanted a character - wrote in eliotnes and couldn't believe I ran out of room. But - wrong idea, wrong movie, wrong department.

    @jackj - Same "It couldn't be" reaction to Paul ANKA and the 1950s! But yeah, "Diana," 1957, @lawprof - Also agree with your non-heartthrob take. Now, Troy Donahue....

    Z 10:44 AM  

    I was thinking that if SKEET shooting could have an in-the-news clues than HEY HO could have a Lumineers clue. That's 30 years old as opposed to 30 weeks (or so) old. HO HEY!

    @jberg - non-fans call him "rapist."

    ORU - SLC - OUTIES - AZT - Who knew?

    Isn't a "lowly sort" a TOADy? The missing fifth letter made that whole section work for me. That and dreaming of Jeannie before Mrs. Starr made the west far more difficult than the east. I did the entire east, even UNU, in about 8 minutes. The west took another 23. A fun solve.

    the redanman 10:53 AM  

    Less than tasty. Tacked like a sailor, did not see note reference on printed a-lite until done. Agree with Rex - don't cross reference crap, especially abbr. crap

    Sandy K 11:06 AM  

    Felt more Thursday-ish.

    Agree with @Z Wanted Lumineers clue for HEY HO!

    Altho it was too wordy, I appreciated the Note- since I could've used one yesterday for the HOO WAT WERE...puzzle.

    Masked and Anonymo7Us 11:07 AM  

    65 letters of themers, plus DOGEARS. Dang, Farmer -- is that all you got? har. Dude has more books in his grid than I got in my whole library.

    Finished at the KO?/?EYHO junction. Kept puttin' that one off, on account of... well, I was about to say having no clue... but that ain't... (snort) ... anyhoo, I guessed H.

    @31--Preeee-mo writeup. I mean, check it out. Right off the bat, got yer WOTD that is 67% U's. No doubt in honor of the U-nanza count of the lil jewels in this grid. Awful nice of Farmer John to shoehorn that many in, amongst all that reading material. Kinda liked the extra touch of havin' a nice short story included in the Note, too. Suggested shorter Note: "this puz is about Books".

    thUmbsUp. Only possible themer missin': RELET.
    Well... Patrick Berry's used it...

    quilter1 11:15 AM  

    Easy for me, but I am old. I liked it, but didn't bother with the circles or fitting them with the theme answers. I figured @Rex would do the heavy lifting for me. I think VANITY BOOK may refer to the product of a VANITY press, which with all the resources we have to self-publish now may be going away.

    Anonymous Book Masked 11:27 AM  

    p.s. 69 letters of themers. Almost forgot the Circles. The jury is still contemplating FBI book AGENT and POST book CARD, btw. My advice to the jury would be to let it go, tho.

    Kelly 11:29 AM  

    Way past the tipping point of random, junky trivia. Not much fun.

    Sparky 11:46 AM  

    DNF. Missed 38 & 48A and completely forgot to go back and guess TOAD. Not really sure what is meant by lowly. I think a TOAD is similar to a RAT which would be bad or rotten but not lowly. Ah, well.

    Wanted peaJACKET. TALESE no problem. Got the word with the bottom O and K. Thanks, John Farmer, I had a good time with this.

    MikeM 12:43 PM  

    I had B_SC_ and stared at it forever. BoSCo Forest? Feel kind of dumb I came here without figuring it out. But I did enjoy the puzzle

    mac 12:50 PM  

    Nice puzzle, but I too would have preferred it without the poorly written note.

    I spent some time staring at post card, making them work with book.... Also had Kosovo at 1A for a moment.

    I buy the IHT in Holland every day (@ E 3.60) and have a very good friend email me the Saturday one. I've just broken down and bought the yearly subscription for the puzzle. Two free months!

    @chefbea: I'm making a fresh tomato sauce (with meat balls) right now.

    Anoa Bob 1:10 PM  

    @Z & @Sparky, I got TOAD straight away from "Lowly sort". I save my worst epithet, "Odious TOAD", for someone I think is truly despicable.

    @loren muse smith, thanks for noticing the POCs (plural of convenience). Sometimes I think I'm tilting at windmills on this issue, but I do think it is germane to the overall quality of a puzzle.

    retired_chemist 1:10 PM  

    Felt Thursdayish, and enjoyable as a themeless, as others have said. Note was an afterthought for me.

    Has 1A and 20A before 14A and 17A, so Bond girl without much thought was Barbara BUSH. Also AAMCO was AMOCO. I know better on both scores. Did get TEAL straightaway, although NILE, JADE, etc., were unneeded fallbacks.

    It did play old IMO, so maybe we superannuateds had some advantage. U NU and INKA were gimmes.

    Nice one Mr. Farmer. Thanks.

    Lewis 1:43 PM  

    Bravo, anonymous 12:15, on your revised note.

    @evil -- agree with you today word for word

    @m&a -- 6 u's, respectable

    @rex -- funny take on KOBE

    It felt like a solid puzzle to me, with not much crosswordese (like ORTS, has anyone ever heard anyone say this word? Can we ban it?)

    It took some thinking to discover that so many words that go with BOOK can go with each other. I do like the theme and there was some expert cluing. Not a wow but definitely a big thank you for an enjoyable solve, John!

    Bob Kerfuffle 1:46 PM  

    I was jumping around the grid, filling in what I could, and only by working from the bottom up did I fall into a trap: There are (53D) "Car repair chain"s named both AAMCO and MAACO. My only write-over in a rather slow solve. (And looking at Wikipedia now, I see that both chains were founded by the same person, both chain names based on his initials!)

    Bird 1:52 PM  

    I like today’s puzzle. The solve was pleasantly challenging. I had trouble at two spots – at 27A I was thinking this was the agent’s name and at 38A where OSU refused to be ORU. Theme density is impressive and doesn’t take too much away from the fill. Write-overs include NOVA (is that car still made?) before AVEO and I malapopped OUST at 3D. I imagine that 34A crossing 25D will give people headaches.

    Nits . . .

    - I don’t care for clues that cross-reference each other (45A/58D)
    - Nice try at the clue for 52A, but even the question mark didn’t help
    - They are KIT KAT bars, not KIT KATS
    - Clue for 57A fails miserably
    - The note

    Happy Humpday!

    Lewis 1:52 PM  

    Technical question. I do have a Google profile, and it does have an avatar, but for some reason it doesn't show up here. How can I fix that??? Thanks in advance.

    Charley 1:57 PM  

    Found it very easy for a Weds. And I just ignored the theme and the starred clues.

    Italics 2:09 PM  

    @Charley - starred clues?

    600 2:10 PM  

    All those early posts about POSTCARD and FBI AGENT not being theme entries--well, obviously. What am I missing?

    As for Rex's thinking this puzzle might work for a person much older than he, I am such a person and this puzzle chewed me up and spit me out. DNF, well, at least not without a lot of "cheating," and that's fairly rare for me.

    Evan 2:22 PM  


    Rex initially listed FBI AGENT and POSTCARD among the themers last night, then deleted them. I think he might have also had a brief sentence on how he hadn't heard of an FBI/POST book and deleted that too, but I'm not 100% sure.

    600 2:25 PM  

    @Evan--Thank you! I thought usually when he does that he puts in a note. I guess not this time. Thanks for easing my mind, which I thought perhaps I was losing.

    The answer to Lewis' question? 3:12 PM  

    @Lewis - Do you have "Share my profile" Checked off in your profile settings?

    sanfranman59 3:48 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 12:22, 11:52, 1.04, 62%, Medium-Challenging

    Top 100 solvers

    Wed 7:36, 6:34, 1.16, 85%, Challenging

    NYER 4:23 PM  

    Can someone please explain "malapop" to us newbies?

    loren muse smith 4:30 PM  

    @NYER - a "malapop" is when you fill in a word for an answer and it turns out that it's not correct in that spot but it is the correct answer in another part of the grid. So today, people had malapops with the OUST/SPEW pair.

    Do you understand Natick?

    FearlessKim 4:53 PM  

    I must be just the right amount of old, 'cause this one just flew.

    Lots of answers with *snap*: CHECKMARKS, BLACKLIST, AZT, BLUEJACKET, VANITYFAIR, FACEVALUE, FINK, TANKARD, HAZED. Yummy letters, indeed, as noted by @acme and @lorenmusesmith :)

    Shout out to my in-laws with the OK micro-theme at 38A & 60D

    Fresh clues for 40D ALP and 55A FACEVALUE!

    @AnoaBob: YES to a simple "Before and After" clue. Furthermore, I came to the blog *certain* that @Rex would include a link or at least a reference to "the Wheel." Since he didn't, here's one I think the gang will like:

    So, following up on @NYER's question about the term "malapop," ably answered by @lms, I also have a question: does Rexville have a term for this type of synchronicity: the front page of today's Food Section in the Washington Post features the BLUEJACKET craft brewery under construction in the old Navy Yard in DC! I never heard the term before this morning -- so glad I read the paper before tackling the puzz! if there's no term (other than synchronicity, of course), then let's come up with one!

    chefbea 5:33 PM  

    @fearless Kim I'm sure Andrea can come up with a NAME

    Sfingi 5:36 PM  

    7 Googles and DNF because of KOBE. No idea when it comes to sports, and Google misdirected me.

    Got theme right away. Well made in that department.

    BOSNIAns now make up 10% of Utica, NY. They have a mosque (once was a church) next to City Hall. They stucco everything in site.

    Tita 5:40 PM  

    Had to put this down, then come back to it...

    I had thus instead of ERGO, making the circled word BOsK.
    Got all but the SE without having read the note.
    The note made it obvious, so I quickly filled in the rest.

    Still DNF, cause of sloppiness at leaving BoSCH/UNo and OSk/UTAk.

    Not having reaf the note, discovered that the 2 first entries interchange...
    wondered if that could be it. Nope.

    @Rex - I agree with your crap fill/cross-ref rule.
    Kind of like not wearing your seatbelt with and expired registration sticker. Only do one bad thing at once.
    The KOBE clue - that too...

    Also wondered about a USPS theme, with that forever stamp clue and the POSTCARD (which was a great clue, by the way.)

    Oops @acme - you just made me realize another natick and error - OsU/FAsGO. The intersection of pop and sports. Hopeless.

    Oh - I recorded Kimmel too - well, at least now I don't have to watch it.
    I got left on the CarTalk cutting room floor...I think it was because Ray asked me if menopause was the reason why I wanted the heated seats on when I drive top-down in the winter...

    All the goodness everyone else pointed out.
    Thanks, Farmer John - a fair struggle.

    Tita 5:41 PM  

    @fearless - I thin kAndrea HAS come up with a name - it's "synchronicity"!

    Acme 5:48 PM  

    This was a mini-malapop because it was more or less the same definition, so could have been either...
    A real one, more exciting, is when you put in an answer that has nothing to do with the intended one and then it "pops up" later, esp when it's some crazy word!
    I live for those synchronistic moments...

    And by the way, the constructors yesterday originally HAD REV not BEV in their puzzle!!!!
    Always frustrating that a change was made and it adversely effects the discussion (chances are there were 20 other changes that wildly improved and avoided getting brick-batted, but yesterday's derailment discussionwise of an otherwise wonderful puzzle was a perfect example of the former...)

    Just again, folks point out from time to time that constructors take the blame ( or accolades) when it was an editing decision...
    Happened in my last puzzle for TWOL for TWO LL LLAMA...I'd neverut that in my puzzle, but some thought it was their favorite thing, others felt it was hideous!

    So keep that in mind with uber-focusing on one word that "ruins" the puzzle to the point where you overlook a magnificent theme!

    Elle 54 5:51 PM  

    Glad Ringo and Barbara are still married!

    Acme 5:55 PM  

    Writing when you that's synchronicity, too! jung wwould be proud. And normally I'm fine with what folks know and don't know, but surely you've heard of FARGO and the nice Jewish boys from Minneapolis who made it?!?!
    If not, get thee to a nunnery...oops, to a netflix!

    I guarantee you, non-fans of KOBE have much more apt nicknames for that creep than "Mr. Bryant"...

    joho 6:08 PM  

    @Acme, fascintating REVelation about REV being the constructors' choice ... bravo for Barry and Sara and not so much for whoever changed it to BEV. Very good point well made!

    JohnV 6:51 PM  

    DNF. What@rex said plus I thought the whole west/southwest was a mess, Natick City. Bah.

    mskeels64 8:02 PM  

    Not that Rex reads all of our comments, and I did not read all of them myself, but surely someone pointed out to the Master that a vanity book is a book that is published by its author. I would think that in the era of epublishing, there would be a plethora of vanity books.

    retired_chemist 9:47 PM  

    You mean that, in the world of publishing, there IS a vanity clause?

    sanfranman59 11:48 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 5:46, 6:07, 0.94, 22%, Easy-Medium
    Tue 7:45, 8:23, 0.92, 24%, Easy-Medium
    Wed 12:23, 11:52, 1.04, 62%, Medium-Challenging

    Top 100 solvers

    Mon 3:35, 3:39, 0.98, 33%, Easy-Medium
    Tue 4:37, 4:52, 0.95, 29%, Easy-Medium
    Wed 7:28, 6:34, 1.14, 84%, Challenging

    Jack Lee 4:52 AM  

    @Jeremy: I'm afraid I don't get the weekend edition so I only solve Mondays to Fridays. I work in a university and am picking up a complimentary copy of the IHT, which is only delivered on weekdays.

    ANON B 9:23 PM  

    I don't read all the comments,
    so this may have been covered,
    but GNP has not been used, in the least, for years.
    It's GDP, Gross Domestic Product.

    ANON B 9:29 PM  

    My error. GNP is used, but rarely. It includes output of U.S.
    enterprises not located in the U.S.
    whereas GDP is for those within the U.S.

    "somebody" 9:43 PM  

    @ANON B - Wrong day - and yes, "somebody" covered that point around 9:00 a.m. on Thursday.

    Spacecraft 10:53 AM  

    This was a mighty struggle for me, but that could be partially attributed to the printing in my paper: there were NO Italicized clues! So after reading the rambling note, I plunged in. Guess which compound word I happened to fill in first? You guessed it: POSTCARD. Lessee now, post-what? and what?card??? Nor did Staurday-level cluing help. "On." I'm supposed to get a six-letter word from that. Name two southwest cities that also just happen to be SUV models. I tell ya, this had all the (DOG-)ear (CHECK-)marks of a puzzle that doesn't want to be solved.

    I have heard of vanity publishers, who will agree (for a hefty fee) to put your beloved brainchild in print, so I suppose that the books so published would also be called that--though I have never heard that expression. Other never-heard-ofs: UNU, OSH, ICK-factor.

    Was about to add ORU to that list when I thought, waitaminute, Oral Roberts. Still, a tougher-than-Wedensday get. I agree with many about the clue for KOBE--right on, fearless leader--but the one that made me groan the loudest was NYER. I can tell you with 100% certainty, John Farmer is NOT a native New Yorker. The pain of creating that entry would have been too great. No New Yorker could bring himself to do that.

    I eventually finished correctly, but would never call this medium. It was full-on challenging for me.

    Waxy in Montreal 1:24 PM  

    Probably age-related (INKA, UNU, KATS, etc.) but I found this one quite easy. Am more familiar with the term "vanity publisher" than VANITYBOOK but they're obviously closely-entangled. Had never heard the term BLUEJACKET for sailor but was readily discernible from its crosses.

    And based on @Space's comment, kudos to my local paper for including the italics - sometimes, the entire syndicate gets it wrong but thankfully (for me) not today.

    DMGrandma 2:14 PM  

    With no note and starred clues, I came here to see why the corners spelled out BOOK. Other than that, this puzzle pretty much solved itself once I waited for the crosses to give me the name of the Chevy and Arthur's last name. Guess sometimes it pays to be the old timer referred to by some posters!

    Dirigonzo 4:00 PM  

    @jae said in the very fist comment, "Possible problem: HEYHO/KOH, but H is the only fit that makes sense." Yup.

    The puzzle's note and theme helped me greatly because I had the "certain four-letter word" complete except for the first letter, which I was able to infer from the theme answers. That B gave me BOSNIA and my entry into the NW corner which was the last section to fall.

    I owned a Vega, a wretched little car, in 1972, so it took a while to see AVEO which I understand was not much better. I did not know the ARALSEA is a lake until now.

    @DMG - Full moon alert! Hope you get to enjoy it.

    centralscrewtinizer 6:01 PM  

    Capital puzzle.

    I am not writing from the Capitol.

    rain forest 6:47 PM  

    After 10 days in Mexico, it took awhile for me to get into puzzle-solving mode, but I have to say that the theme and the BOOK thing was very well done, and helpful. I'm not sure what a BOOKLIST is other than a list of books, but everything else was fine by me. I have a friend who used to be a VANITY BOOK publisher, and by all appearances, an apt description. I believe Salt Lake City is known as SLC to its fans... Enjoyed this one.

    strayling 7:41 PM  

    Enjoyable. Talese/agees/oru evaded me, but I liked the concept enough to forgive the general knowledge quiz nature of those answers.

    Dirigonzo 9:28 PM  

    @strayling - I was pretty proud of myself for putting in TALESE with no crosses, but I needed a cross to fix OsU and Arthur and his family were a mystery to me until the crosses produced AGEES. I love being able to solve the puzzle without *knowing* all of the answers.

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