Bowl-shaped part of ear / THU 2-28-13 / French wave / Family name on Roseanne / 1997 Nicolas Cage John Malkovich thriller / Bit of mountain flora

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Constructor: Joe Krozel

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: PRO AND CON (1A: With 4- and 7-Acros, both sides ... or the missing starts for all the remaining Across answers) — all across answers start with (missing) PRO- or CON-, i.e. you have to supply it mentally in order for the answer to make sense. [Forgot to mention last night: black squares in middle of the grid form pluses and minuses, representing, presumably, PRO AND CON—nice visual touch]

Word of the Day: TERCET (13D: Group of three rhyming lines) —
  1. A group of three lines of verse, often rhyming together or with another triplet.
  2. Music. See triplet (sense 4).
[French, from Italian terzetto, from diminutive of terzo, third, from Latin tertius.]

Read more:
• • •

I love the puzzle that this puzzle wishes it was.

Why promising ideas are allowed to go to press in this bad a state of disrepair is beyond me. Let me illustrate what I mean with one simple  suggestion: change 14A to DONE. Go ahead. With one very simple move, you have removed the most laughable bit of fill in the whole puzzle. Seriously, I laughed as I was filling it in. NOED? (9D: Declined) One of my friends suggested it should've been clued "Don't do it, Asner!" I mean ... it's utterly unnecessary. And nobody caught it, no one suggested a change. Stunning. The level of inattention to fill quality is stunning. *I* should not be able to improve a puzzle with one minor change like that. A constructor who actually cares about clean fill, or an editor, or assistant, or someone, anyone, should've looked at NOED, thought "oh come on," and noticed the fix. This is to say nothing of ASE'S (!?) (4D: "___ Death" (Grieg work)), FICT (50D: Half of a best-seller list: Abbr.),  and the ridiculously spelled PNOM (1D: ___-Penh)—the answer single-handedly responsible for all the slowness I experienced in this puzzle—I thought for sure the puzzle was a rebus, because PHNOM (the correct spelling) wouldn't fit. Then there's the fact that CONCHA (23A: Bowl-shaped part of the ear) and CONCHES (62A: Big shells) are essentially the same word. If you saw them both in the same grid normally, you'd be like "what the hell? that's not right." So I don't know why that sentiment shouldn't apply here as well.

The core concept is clever, in its way, though PRO AND CON isn't the strongest self-standing phrase. PROS AND CONS, sure. But I don't have a problem with the core concept. It's the pitiful execution, the absolute tin ear when it comes to fill, that is maddening.

  • 37A: Family name on "Roseanne" (CONNER) — really wanted it to be DAN before I got the theme.
  • 49A: 1997 Nicolas Cage/John Malkovich thriller (CON-AIR) — really wanted it to be "FACE/OFF" before I got the theme. I must've thought the clue said "Nicolas Cage/John Travolta."
  • 5D: Conjunction that's usually part of a pair (NOR) — first thing in the grid, which eventually helped me figure out the middle word of the revealer (AND), which eventually got me to the theme. It took a while, but NOR got me there. 

Initial reports from the American Red Cross indicate that "American Red Crosswords" has raised at least $10,000 so far. That's just the amount that came in via the link we provided on the website, and I know of many people who donated via other links, so the amount is likely somewhat higher. The crossword collection will be coming to iPhone and iPad soon. Stay tuned.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


jae 12:05 AM  

Definitely more interesting than yesterday's.  Figured out what was going on from the "Roseanne" clue and it was pretty easy after that.  Only hang up was the TERCET/CHA cross.  Same issue as Rex.  With CONCHES already filled in at 62a I was a tad uncertain.  No erasures however.

AYKM (Are you kidding me):  Rex is right, NOED?  NYETS are fine but NOED is a verb?

Didn't count but it looks like an even pro/con split.

I assume the plusses and minuses in the grid are part of the theme.

Fun Thurs.  Thanks Joe.

Geophany 12:19 AM  

So fun! I caught on first thing so it was easy.

DocRoss 12:22 AM  

I caught on right away too. What got me was "____ pal". I had spelled (Con)NER as NoR. I couldn't figure out what a BoA pal was.

Anonymous 12:31 AM  

It would be very interesting to know why they went with NOED. Sadly, the NYT (Shortz) cultivates opaqueness.

Rexy's schtick of 'this sucks' as his default setting has pretty well worn itself out with me. I would support a coup that installed the Almighty Crossword Madam at the keyboard of power.

Anonymous 12:31 AM  

Wow! I got it right away and finished with a PB!

Anonymous 12:41 AM  

Noticed the grid was filled with black pluses (pros) and minuses (cons). Being generous to think this was part of the theme?


Me happy! Very, very happy!

Long time listener, first time caller 12:48 AM  

I liked it!

As a newbie, my sensibilities may differ from more experienced solvers, but I liked it a lot. I found the pro-con twist made the solving experience fresh as solving the puzzle made me draw on a different part of my brain.

Sure, NOED could have been improved but, for me, a clever and very enjoyable puzzle.

Love the blog.


Pete 12:53 AM  

Unlike @OOXTEPLERNON, I wasn't very happy.

Once you get the gimmick, easily enough done by reading the clue for 1A, you've got 39 applications of it. 39. 39 times to get the right word starting with PRO or CON. That's about 36 times too many.

Half the answers to the puzzle are then come from 1/10000 of the avaiable words/phrases in English. That's like trying to find your one true soul-mate while restricting yourself to hemophiliacs. Then waiting for the first to die, and doing it another 38 times. I guess it's a thing to do, but really? Why?

Evan 12:59 AM  

Rex's first sentence pretty much captures my exact reaction.

To be sure, I thought there was a lot to like about this puzzle. I enjoyed trying to figure out every across answer completely -- sort of a neat puzzle-within-a-puzzle experience. I had to confirm each across answer individually because the potential for the missing prefix to be either PRO or CON made it that much more important to check over the grid. I also thought it was cool how each across entry (as far as I could tell) had only one correct possible prefix -- not just because they fit the clues, but because you couldn't replace PRO with CON (or vice versa) in any way. Much as I would like PROSTRAINS, CONFITEERS, PRO-AIR, CONBONO, and PRO-SCIENCE to be words, they're not.

Even afterwards I started counting up how many missing PROs and CONs there were -- 15 PROs, 21 CONs, by my count. What would have really sent the puzzle over the top would be if a) the number of PROs and CONs were equal, and b) if all of the across answers were acceptable standing entries by themselves (like SCIENCE and TROLLED), but those two conditions (especially the second one) likely would have made it impossible to pull off. So that was all good.

Having said all of that, there was a lot -- a lot -- that I didn't like about this puzzle either. PNOM, ASE'S, ONDE, TERCET (crossing [CON]CHA), STANS, INSTR (hooray random abbrevs!), EINES, STALES (verb?), FICT, IF HE. Then there was NOED -- one of those rare times in a NYT puzzle where I get the first two letters and say out loud, "I really hope it's not [correct answer]," then groan when I find out that I was right. Plus there's NYETS, which has the same root word as NOED, which itself is just...just...just NO. It's a bad word, no matter how you slice it.

I dunno. I applaud the ambition of the puzzle and I'm always a fan of thinking outside the box, but the down fill was really lacking for me to fully enjoy it.

Ases Comet Menades 1:03 AM  

Ha ha ha, love the last comment from OOXTEPLERNON!

Of course s/ he would be pleased but that wasn't the point!

Right there with you!!! But I left it as BoA Pal :(
Despite NOR was elsewhere in the grid.

My light didn't go on till CLAIMED (which didn't really the PRO) plus I thought it was EX that wasn't there!

Then I calmed down, like @Rex, the AND gave me PRO AND CON. Also thought about PROS and CONS. And was a little "wha?" over CONCHES and CONCHA, but I was so stuck on "lobe" and didn't know if it was PROCHA or CONCHA!

Anyway, so original and such a feat...and if those PLUS/MINUS black squares are thematic (which I needed the comments to notice) then my breath is taken away!
I think @Rex fix was a good one, but i don't know how much better this could have been..
I wouldn't let NOED and CONCHA kill this puzzle...or delay it.
Because when you look at it, it's the ugliest fill alive due to the gimmick, so it's up to the solver to see What's not there, not what is, if that makes sense!

mini-malapop...i put OAT for OHS and later there was OATERS.

Put me in the PRO column on this one!

I'm gonna hang out at the ACPT, pls come up and let's meet! I'm gonna just be floating around.

chefwen 1:23 AM  

Like @jae caught on right off with Roseanne CONNER clue, plus all the little plus and minus signs. I did end up with a blank space which was the C in the TERCET/CONCHA crossing, pulling another DNF on a Thursday, dang! Other than that little snag I really enjoyed it and thought it was quite easy.

Hey @chefbea you made it into another puzzle, way to go.

Grats Mr. Krozel.

Anonymous 1:28 AM  

CONCH(E)S! Where did that (E) come from? No way!!! Bad!!!

pooloniousmonk 1:49 AM  

No idea about ear parts. But, ears look like shells, so figured the answer might be like conches, and, sure enough, that was it. I like it when you can learn a word from another answer in the same puzzle.

Anonymous 3:46 AM  

Overwhelmingly agree with Anonymous 12:31. The schtick is tired.

jae 3:52 AM  

That should have been one less S in pluses and after @Evan actually did count I'm changing "even" to "more or less even"...

Clark 4:31 AM  

Got it immediately at 1A. That never happens to me. Made the darn thing pretty easy.

r.alphbunker 4:46 AM  

I loved this puzzle. Pro and con, plus and minus, black and white, good across fill and evil down fill. I love Joe Krozel's work and hate seeing it maligned

webwinger 6:08 AM  

I too got the theme from the 1A clue (though I didn’t make sense of the black pluses and minuses until I came here). Impressive as a feat of construction. Finished in a (relative) jiffy, probably my fastest time ever for Thursday and just over twice Rex’s, but was bored all the way through for reason perfectly articulated by @Pete. Agree that PNOM (15 times as many Google hits for PHNOM) and NOED are icky, but that wasn’t a big deal for me--the latter almost makes it into the so bad it’s good category. More bothered by the overall lack of appeal in downs.

Milford 6:12 AM  

Had fun with this one, made me have to really focus on the theme, but turned out to be one of my faster Thursdays. Once I read the first Across clue I switched and did a pass through all the downs, which helped me get the theme.

Loved the + and - visual in the grid and KVETCH.

Like others I was less thrilled with PNOM spelling and the two (CON)CH answers. I think NOED must have filled itself in because I don't remember groaning. Hand up for (CON)NoR before (CON)NER and puzzlement with BoA?

One tricky part was thinking 17A "Disclose" was (pro)vIDE before I got (CON)FIDE.

Put me in the PRO column, because it was fun to work out. Plus (+) I like seeing HIBIT NER GEALS in the middle, for some reason.

Gill I. P. 6:22 AM  

I liked it because it was so different. It took me a loooong time though to get the PRO AND CON theme. Con AIR is when I finally got it...Sucky movie by the way.
I kept hoping that all the theme answers might be real words but like @Evan said, that might have been impossible.
NOED didn't get my Dander up - not after seeing orientated. What I will KVETCH about is the spelling of PhNOM PENH.

MetaRex 6:43 AM  

CrossWorld buzz aka "aha factor" high, CrossOver buzz average. All those PROs and CONs! Especially w/ the grid pattern factored in, lotsa surface and subsurface "ahas" here. Think the fact that most but not all the Acrosses are words is a likely major distracter for real people as opposed to us puzzle nerds--thus a lower CrossOver than CrossWorld buzz rating.

I personally v. much like the reversal here of CrossWorld norms, with the short answers like TEM, TES, and NTO having more zip than the long ones. The heavy lumber load (52 black squares!) is not nice; the grid is pretty, though, which counts for a lot for me. Love the + - point made by jae...

MetaRex 6:52 AM  

A brief semi-defense of the nasty NOED and PNOM

Oscar 7:00 AM  

If the + and - stand for plus and minus, the T's must stand for Truly Terrible Thursday Travesty.

jberg 7:21 AM  

I'm going to be laughing all day about @Pete and his hemophiliac lovers.

Aside from that, this was an awfully easy Thursday once you got the theme. I had to guess at OHS/CHA, but that turned out OK (I, too, had Oat first; I never eat packaged cereals and had no idea). And FIDE held me up a minute or so (no speed solver here!) because I couldn't see what might start with BF ... at 14D. But it all fell into place.

So: it's true the acrosses look weird, & that's OK (I mean, they looked weird that time they were all backwards, too), but I think @Rex's point is that the downs could still be better. I liked it, though, they weren't all that terrible, and the puzzle was fun. Also fast, on a day I have to get out the door early, so I appreciate that!

Glimmerglass 7:38 AM  

Add me to the PRO list. I liked it, despite some ugly fill. I thought the concept was a challenge to construct, pretty well executed. All the acrosses were legitimate, not an easy thing to do with a theme that contains almost 40 "theme answers," evenly divided. Add in the graphic element (four plusses, four minuses). Some of the fill was hard (B FLATS gave me trouble; TERCET, I knew), but the theme was so helpful that I'd rate this puzzle as easy. I caught on at [CON]NIVE.

baja 7:46 AM  

Really liked this one! Huh? the first time thru, but sweet after the aha. Any day where you can get a true aha moment (trivial or not) is worth the price of admission. Words like noed are like fining a piece of bubblegum stuck to your shoe - off-putting but doesn't change your day (hopefully).

joho 7:54 AM  

Elsie NOED her discontent.

@r.alphbunker, I love your addition of "good" and "evil" regarding the across and down fill. Of course, it was done on purpose! Quite frankly, the fill didn't in any way lessen my appreciation of this amazing feat.
BTW, the plus and minus signs in the grid are brilliant!

I got the theme almost immediately and, sure, I knew how the answers started but they still didn't come easily.

Joe Krozel, this puzzle shows you for the true PRO you are AND I will not utter one CON!

Harvey Briggs 8:05 AM  

I really hated this puzzle. Not because it was hard (it wasn't) but because it was filled with dumb, wrong answers. PRO BONO does not mean "for free". It means "For Good" as in I'm doing this for the good of mankind (e.g. Rex does his blog pro bono, and he does it for free.)

Noed? Siring? Stales? Ugh. This is enough to make me want to give up my subscription.

Worst puzzle of the year.

efrex 8:23 AM  

Oh, look! It's a Joe Krozel puzzle, and it's generating lots of love and hate simultaneously. Color me shocked.

When I read the first across clue, I skipped straight to the downs, and sussed out the theme pretty quickly. From there, it was a pretty smooth solve, although the (CON)CHA and (CON)CHES doublet had me questioning myself. Probably one of my fastest Thursday times ever. I can nit-pick from here to tomorrow, but the theme ambition just blew me away, and realizing the black-square pluses & minuses just put the cherry on top.

Bravo, sir! I hereby forgive at least half of the crazy four-letter words I've had to pull my hair out over due to your quad-stack puzzles...

orangeblossomspecial 8:32 AM  

Very imaginative. A fun puzzle to work.

The first clue is a line in 'Both sides now' by Joni Mitchell.

It also reminds me of an old hit from the 30s (Ella Fitzgerald) and 50s (Ames Brothers): 'Undecided'.

dk 8:32 AM  

@Harvey Briggs is having a bad puzzle day: Fer sure! And, as bitter should not be a party of one….

The agony and lack of ecstasy is what I call this muggle (please note literary references that span decades and marvel at my bon mot).

All through the solve I asked mineself: Why! I prefer OOS for breakfast over Etherial Cereal (Putney Swope reference for the uniformed).

What I like about this puzzle is the grid. Reminds me of Tetris.

➕➖(egads it must be Tuesday)

jackj 8:34 AM  

Had this puzzle been presented without a credit for the author, those people who regularly solve the NY Times Thursday through Saturday puzzles likely would still have been able to discern who constructed this puzzle without hesitation.

Joe Krozel always seems to be looking for ways to advance the art of cruciverbalism and with today’s clever concoction he does it again. Brilliantly!

Once the three three-letter entries on the top line are determined the puzzle is an easy solve but it oozes cleverness and has the feel of being a first cousin to a George Bredehorn “Split Decisions” puzzle of the type often presented as a Times Second Sunday offering.

When finished, a review of the completed puzzle proves fascinating and if an unsuspecting person were to look at the grid they would surely wonder what language was used in solving it.

Of course there are some answers that are real words, SCIENCE, TROLLED, BONO, STRAINS, CLAIMED et al, but the most fun comes from the tail ends of the other PRO or CON words.

The central entry of NER is unremarkable but the entries above and beneath it are charming, HIBIT and GEALS. Consider a few of the others that stand out, KSOUT and FITEERS, SIST and SODY and an active mind might want to play a game of “Interchangeability”.

That would get one CONSODY and PROSIST; CONFITEERS and PROKSOUT; CONHIBIT and PROGEALS and we have “Scrabble in Tongues” aborning.

Joe should be forgiven the few stretches needed to make the puzzle work like ASES, PNOM, FICT and NOED. Let’s just be thankful that he has once again shared with us the wonders that his extraordinary imagination can deliver.

Wonderful, Joe!!


Milford 8:38 AM  

Ooh! It just occurred to me that if 34D had indeed been BOA we would have had BOA (CON)STRICTS (with a rt turn).

I also wanted to give a shout out to whomever mentioned ASA'S Death the other day - it helped!

MikeM 8:44 AM  

I loved this. Once you got I got the gist, which was early for me, it was easy. I thought Rex would have a probled with conKSOUT; it is parsed so poorly. NOED was indeed ugly, but somethings gotta give in a puzzle like this. This has been one of the bedst puzzles of the year, IMHO

Rob C 8:47 AM  

Krozel Krazy and fun. You have to enjoy the pushing of the envelope, even when his puzzle's don't hit the sweet spot for you.

Caught the theme right away and so it played easy for me. After all, there were only 2 choices for the first part of each across word.

Have to agree with Rex on the fill. Worth the price though. I can't even imagine how difficult this was to construct with such constraints on the acrosses. It's difficult to put a puzzle together with no constraints on the fill. That's why JK is a master of the art.

evil doug 8:51 AM  

Can't really argue with Michael's gripes, but they didn't ruin it for me.

And I was prepared to hate this puzzle on 'look at me' grounds---one of those CONcoctions that is meant to let the CONstructor pleasure himself at my expense.

But after I chugged into it, I started grooving on it. CON is a curious prefix---sometimes it means 'with', at others 'against', so that added to the intrigue. I suppose if I was a clock-watching solver I'd try to concentrate on the downs so as to avoid the multiple options on across answers---but the fun was in those horizontals today.

Funny how something small---a PROton---enjoys an ironic answer of 'tons'. How a 'moral sense' produces 'science'. How 'hinders' yields 'strains'. How 'explosions and substances' are 'trolled' (I've been accused of that). How 'stops working' offers 'ksout'---or K/S out, the PROgram box score symbol for striking out swinging.

I'm PRO Bono, CON Cher (and I don't mean one who gathers shells).

I spent my first summer out of high school washing dishes in United's flight kitchen at O'Hare. I spoke pretty good Spanish, and a lot of Hispanics worked there---so I tried my best to speak in their language instead of forcing them to habla mine. As a reward they taught me all sorts of good Spanish cusswords. "Concha de tu madre!"---"Your mother's sea shell!"---was one of their faves. I think you get the picture....


Tom 8:52 AM  

Another in the PRO column. Fun, fairly easy (I get about half of the Thursdays) and a good number of those "aha"s.

Given the diversity of opinion, it must be awful reading reviews. You're pretty much guaranteed to have a whole bunch "worst crossword ever" reviews, no matter what one does - just different people 'ugh'ing each time...

Anonymous 8:58 AM  

Super easy for a Thursday, once you figure out the theme which was easy given the clue for 1A.

I liked that the theme applied to all across answers not just to selected items.

No problem with 14A. 1D's odd spelling of PNOM tripped me up but only for a second.

B Donohue 9:12 AM  

I loved this puzzle! I'm firmly in the PRO camp.

I felt that all the clues were easy-medium Thursday, but that getting my mind to conjoin the answer letters with PRO or CON made this an entertaining challenge. I noted, but didn't mind the CONCHES & CONCHA. I feel as if NOES or NOED have been in the NYT crossword multiple times this year, whether we like them or not; perhaps NOED is used more often outside the northeast.

Like DocRoss, my one wrong tile was with BoA/CONNoR. I didn't think anyone else would share that error in common with me. I chalked that up to not reviewing my answers closely enough and awarded myself a "finish."

chefbea 9:20 AM  

Too tough for me, though I got the theme right away. DNF. came here to see all the answers. No time to read all the post - busy day. I'll try to come back later

Anonymous 9:26 AM  

Hand up for all those who loved the cleverness of this puzzle. (Joe has done it again!) From the concept to the grid shape, this puzzle deserves an A.

Naturaly, our body of expert solvers always finds a nit or two to complain about - and that reinforces their credentials. However, most of us who do the Times puzzles are not speed solvers or participants in Will's annual contest. We struggle with the more difficult end of week entries and often DNF. But, we do enjoy the challenge of keeping our aging brains from deteriorating.

Sorry, I found it a fun solve.

John V 9:36 AM  

Flubbed it at CONCHA, but otherwise all okay; felt easy for a Thursday. NOED notwithstanding, a good puzzle; note that the grid blocks make pluses and minuses, e.g. PRO and CON. Joe does cool grid things!

Been a long time since we had a 78 word Thursday. Thanks for this one, Joe.

oldbizmark 9:37 AM  

always happy to see a "medium-challenging" when i kill a puzzle in record time. thought this was easy peasy mac and cheesy. saw iran - and immediately got the pro and con theme. that is all she wrote.

Paul Rean 9:46 AM  

I'm now guessing at least half the solvers are like me, in that when they see a clue that's a paragraph or two long (1A) their eyes glaze over and they move on without paying attention. How else can anyone have missed the instructions and be talking about when they had their aha moment?

Is this true?

OISK 9:49 AM  

Record time for me, too, but I missed two squares at conchea, tercet and ohs. A natick for me does not ruin the pleasure at this brilliant puzzle. Really enjoyed it!

I don't understand the objections to Ases (death) though. It is a melody from Peer Gynt, which was played for us in elementary school, and is pretty easy for anyone who listens to classical music. I don't know any hip-hop, nor almost any other recent popular music, but I only mind those clues when they result in a collection of letters, such as INXS, that I could not possibly figure out even if I knew all but one. ( although I did not enjoy Tuesday's puzzle, since I knew only one of the five songs that made up its theme!)

Dr. Frank Jobe 9:54 AM  

Yup, ASES, the American Shoulder and Elbow Surgeions, of which I am a founding member. You can thank us for Tommy John, Johann Santana.

We're definitely crossworthy.

Susan McConnell 10:20 AM  

I thought this was clever, easy for a Thursday, and fun. I popped in PRO AND CON right off the bat and it made the rest pretty simple. While I am in the PRO camp, I have to agree with Rex and others that NOED, and PNOM are ugly. NOED especially, since it was so easily avoided.

PROtect CONdors 10:22 AM  

When I looked at the grid, I thought that the puzzle would involve a rebus since Thursdays puzzles lacking long answers tend to use rebuses. But then, at least for me, figuring out the puzzle theme was simplicity itself. 1D had to begin with P. (We've seen the PNOM spelling before, so I wonder why it would throw off anyone.) 7D was obviously COIL. That meant 14A was obviously [PRO] BONO which gave away PRO AND CON. And 5D confirmed the theme, since NOR was a possible answer. For a Thursday puzzle, it seemed way too easy to figure out the theme.

Once I solved the puzzle theme, the puzzle solved like a Tuesday puzzle, which meant compared to most Thursdays this puzzle to me rates "very easy." The lack of obscure words (especially obscure names - with the exception of ASES) is perhaps one reason why I though this puzzle seemed simple to me.

I started attacking the across clues in the SE corner (NOTE, GRAM, AIR), so I thought at first all the across answers would be real words or names. Now that would have been quite an accomplishment.

I remember a theme similar to this one. It was published on a Saturday shortly after Shotz took over from Maleska. In that puzzle, all IFs ANDs and BUTs were missing, but the missing parts could occur anywhere in the answer. For example, the answer ANDYGRIFFIN became YGRNIN, and the answer NOFISANDSORBUTS became NOSSORS. I wonder if joe Krozel constructed that one also.

PanamaRed 10:27 AM  

@Anonymous 9:26 - Ditto!

Loved this puz.

Notsofast 10:33 AM  

The grid and the concept are BRILLIANT! With a little more effort, the fill could have been as well. I also crashed at the intersection of TERCET and CHA. So...except for a few blemishes, this was a blast! B

Bob Kerfuffle 10:46 AM  

No PROtest here. I was quite CONtent with this puzzle.

But then, I will never be named a PROCONsul of Crossworld.

Carola 10:46 AM  

I enjoyed grappling with this one a lot. I see that there are some KVETCH-worthy Down answers, but I thought the theme idea was very creative and a real feat to carry out. I didn't see the connection with the grid's +'s and -'s until coming here - thanks to those who pointed that out.

Even though I got the theme early, I still had to work at quite a few of the acrosses. Mistakes also slowed me down: Oat for OHS, sNARLS. Once I corrected that "s" to a G for (CON)GEALS, I finally was able to see BE A pal and write in my last entry with a smile.

Ein PROSIT, Joe Krozel! Thanks for another brain-racker.

Two Ponies 10:51 AM  

Great twist on our Thursday surprise. A tad too easy but still fun. I forgive the fill since I had a good time.

quilter1 11:10 AM  

At first I didn't think I'd get anywhere with this puzzle, but after figuring out the theme it went down smoothly. I also hated NOED.

Tita 11:11 AM  

Will be out of pocket all day, so jumping in here quickslike just to complain....

Was expecting that all the left-hand words would start with PRO-, all the middle words would start with AND-, you get the idea.

Really disappointed that the reveal was right at 1A - eliminated the joy of puzzlement.
And AND was in the clue AND in the answer?

Can't believe @Rex didn't complain about any of those.

OK - I'll catch up with y'all again tonight to talk about what I liked...

Evan 11:24 AM  


Last night I was also going to KVETCH about the word AND being in both the clue and answer, but didn't because I thought my grid clue was different than how Rex phrased it. I've now just discovered that there's a difference between how it appears on Across Lite vs. the dead tree version.

Across Lite: Exactly how Rex wrote it (actually he's got a small typo with "Acros").

Paper: 1, 4 & 7 Both sides ... or the missing starts for all the remaining Across answers.

In the paper version (which is what I used), the ampersand is embedded in the clue number before you get to the actual clue, so it makes it that much easier to ignore. But in the Across Lite version, the word AND follows "With" and is part of the clue that you and I would pay the most attention to. So I don't really know how to feel about it, except to say that it'd probably be good to eliminate any discrepancies between how clues are presented online vs. on paper.

Masked and Anonymo2Us 11:52 AM  

Real pretty grid. Pluses, minuses, and tees. thUmbsUp for originality. This musta been an S.O.B. to 'struct. DONE sub is a nice catch by 31, altho it woulda then tilted the balance even further in the CON direction, 22-14.

PNOM seems to be more popular than PHNOM, with 'structors. 8-5, in NYTpuzs. Just sayin'.

Thanks for somethin' fun and different, Joe. Refreshing. U have a 'mising future in puz 'struction. Remember to keep yer U count up.

Sfingi 12:02 PM  

I usually don't buy the NYT from Thurs, on because the puzzle gets too hard; but, today the LA was so annoyingly easy that I needed more. This was fun, and the only thing I didn't eventually get was my NAtick at CHA crosses OHS. I always called that part of the ear a "pinna" or earflap, and I'm unfamiliar with many common cereals.

Glad I ventured this puzzle. Thanx Krozel!

mac 12:08 PM  

As he often does, Joe Krozel constructed a constructor's puzzle. I got the theme quickly, but it was still work to fill it all in.

Malapop at 44A: constricts, which showed up right next to it. Last letter to fill in was the C in tercet.

Beautiful how the grid includeds the plus and minus signs.

Mohair Sam 12:39 PM  

Well that was fun and different, and once we figured the pro/con thing, rather easy for a Thursday.

BUT - Rex is dead right. NOER? Yikes. And it is Phnom, we got stuck for a few there trying to figure another Penh place.

And like most of us we were stuck on terCet. But guessed right so we can credit ourselves with a completed Thursday.

Anonymous 12:52 PM  

ASES, NOED, ONDE, IFHE, STALES - yuck and meh - did not like this one

Crux Logger 1:43 PM  


Bird 1:53 PM  

I thought I liked this puzzle more than Rex did, but as I read his post I started to agree with him more. I love the concept, but 1D also left me wondering about the spelling. 9D sucks. I also wondered if AND (4A) would be used as the clue at 1A suggested. Nope. The grid looks awesome though.

DNF because of 13D crossing 23A – didn’t know either and with CONCHES already in the grid I settle on TERsET/sHA.

This puzzle got me thinking a couple times. For example, “Why does PROHIBIT mean ban when PRO means for?”

Don’t forget that John Cusack also stars in CON-AIR. That poor Corvette.

Again, kudos on the American Red Crosswords book. I haven’t had the chance to work on in it, but I plan to do some this weekend.

Hand up for wishing the Across fill could stand alone.

Sandy K 1:53 PM  

Just got back from my dental PROfessional who CONducted a PROcedure during which I CONKed OUT. So I'm a little late.

Thought the puzzle had its PROs AND CONS. Very clever CONstruction, and fun to solve, but agree with Rex and others about PHNOM, NOED, but I got other stuff to KVETCH about today. So the puzzle was a PRO not a CON for me!

the redanman 1:55 PM  

I'll bet this is way more fun trying to construct then to fill it in. I found it tedious and tiresome but easily doable. There is some ugly fill but it's the New York Times so I expect the ugly fill, I've just come to accept it, sad that I do.

Azbert 1:57 PM  

Really fun puzzle. This is RP at his nit-picking, bilious worst.

Jeremy Mercer 2:24 PM  

I agree with Rex on the weak down fill, but what really annoyed me was how boring the puzzle was because the revealer was upfront. If the revealer was 65, 66,and 67Across I think I would have been a fan.

Rex Parker 2:32 PM  

Glad to see OOXTEPLERNON and Paul Rean out and about. I've missed you guys.


Ulrich 2:32 PM  

Just to set the record straight: PROSIT is not German--it's Latin and means "may it benefit (you)!" So, I'm not sure about the clue. Yes, it's used as a toast by German speakers, but that doesn't make it German, or does it? I mean, Latin "exeunt omnes" is used as a stage direction in English plays (as we learned a few days ago), but does that make it English?

Interesting puzzle, though, not the least bec. of the shape of the grid.

Lewis 3:00 PM  

Gorgeous grid, makes up for being black heavy. Good fix on 14A Rex. I think it was Evan who thought it would be great if there were an equal number of PRO and CON answers, but I'm guessing that if it were possible, Joe would have done it. I'm guessing he really tried to do that. I also would have liked some order to the PRO and CON answers, but still.

I thought in the beginning that instead of AND there would be a word that was between PRO and CON, meaning the same as neutral, but I couldn't think of one. I also thought that under PRO would come the pro answers and under CON the con answers, but not to be.

Congratulations to Will for publishing a puzzle that wasn't absolutely perfect, yet showed publish-worthy spark, and was fun to solve. And keep on keeping on, Joe. Please.

I remember once on a puzzle that Rex constructed, that he apologized for an ugly answer, but there was no way around it. Rex, you need to show some understanding if a puzzle has a couple of ugly answers. In my opinion, you sometimes let them ruin an otherwise wonderful puzzle. I understand that 14A was an easy fix, and I agree that someone should have done it. That's a valid criticism, and please keep finding these things!

acme 3:09 PM  

Good catch, mein herr!
You are probably right! People don't associate PROSIT with Latin, they just think of it as a German toast!
That would be like saying Schadenfreude is English!
Thanks again for further enlightening us! See you at ACPT????

I'm also intrigued by the comment that CON paradoxically means both "together/with" (in Latin)and "against" from ? Greek?
Linguists, pls weigh in...
Or is simply a prefix that is like those words that mean both, like "Cleave"

Victor/Victoria 3:13 PM  

@Lewis - For an answer fitting the word in the top row which is neither PRO nor CON, would you accept ROGYNOUS?

mac 3:24 PM  

@Ulrich: I wondered how you would feel about "eines".

Bird 3:26 PM  

@Lewis - Is that your avatar we are finally seeing?

A PROmising puzzle that coulda been a CONtender, but PROfoundly failed. Not much else to add to the CONversation.

I'm like, outta here.

retired_chemist 3:54 PM  

From looking at the top row, I decided I needed to get some downs to figure it out as the first order of business.. So, PNOM was both misspelled and ugly but there was no alternative. RIFE, ASES, NOR, and ONDE gave me PR_ AN_ _O_. The first three answers, i.e. the key to solving the puzzle, were now obvious.

Generally a good one. Little to add to what everybody said. But it took me a Saturday time. I was mentally off and and here is why:

We were up at 2:45 this morning since our golden girl decided that that was the right time to start having her litter. And with her panting and shifting in bed, there wasn't much sleep before that. Bag of water broke right on the bed, and out came the first pup immediately.

We got her off the bed but she insisted that the whelping box was NOT where she wanted to have them. Not cozy enough. So she appropriated a small dog bed the pugs use and was willing to compromise to the extent that she let us put it in the whelping box to keep all the mess off the floor.

Anyway, we now have four girls, three boys, all happy, noisy, and healthy. We did lose one other girl - dog breeding is not for the faint of heart. Gotta go shopping so I won't even get a nap.

Anonymous 3:57 PM  

Sour grapes from Rex who lacks the ability to be so clever in design. I can see people having a problem here or two but this puzzle is not only clever, it's fun and adds an element to solving.

Anonymous 3:58 PM  

"Stale" and "no" as verbs? In the same puzzle? Baloney.

ANON B 4:06 PM  

Can someone explain Rex's comment about replacing 14A with "done"
and, with one move, removing the
most laughable fill in the whole
And please don't repeat the comment about pro bono not
meaning for free. In common,
everyday English, that's exactly what it means.

Anonymous 4:11 PM  

I am a relatively new crossword solver, and this is the first puzzle that I like enough to comment on. Once I figured out the theme, it was fun to figure out the sideways answers. The down answers were a little tough, but that is to be expected when crossing all the theme answers. I had a lot of fun with this puzzle.

Anonymous 4:13 PM  

The first 50 citiations of NOED in the NGRAM viewer from 1964 - 2000 were either instances of bad OCR or references to the National Occupational Exposure Database.

I've OKayed things & I've nixed or vetoed things, but I've never yessed nor NOED them.

sanfranman59 4:18 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 16:01, 17:02, 0.94, 36%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Thu 10:27, 9:57, 1.05, 60%, Medium-Challenging

This is one of those Thursday gimmick puzzles where I don't trust the relatively easy rating from the All Solvers group. I'm guessing that some solvers who might have posted higher solve times just gave up when they couldn't figure out the gimmick. In support of this hypothesis, there are fewer than the usual number of Thursday solvers. However, this is getting difficult to assess since the number of online solvers who post times continues a significant downward trend that began with last July's billing policy change and the "Play for fun" online solving option.

Anonymous 4:25 PM  

@Anon - B

The upper left is currently:

_ C O N

If you change BONO to DONE you get

_ C O N

This way you change NOED to NEED, BFLATS to DFLATS. DFLATS is no better nor worse than BFLATS, but NEED is much better than NOED.

Anonymous 4:31 PM  

@Nate - Sorry, [PRO]BONO becomes [CON]DONE

Ulrich 5:07 PM  

@Andrea: I don't think so--too much money to pay in order to be publicly humiliated.

BTW Germans hardly say "Prosit!" these days--they say "Prost!", which IS a German word, with a Latin etymology.

@mac: Yes, I had started a comment about EINES, but then deleted it. It's technically correct: It IS a German article, the masc./neut. genitive singular of the indef. article "ein". Apparently, that's acceptable to WS--I don't see how, but that's the way it is. To me, the only acceptable way of cluing "eines" would be as a German partial, like "___ Tages, in Köln".

DPH 5:40 PM  

When a store offers something for nothing as a come on to get you into the store, it is "free" but far from "pro bono".

long suffering mets fan 5:54 PM  

exactly as Rex -- wanted PhNOM at 1d, spent way too much time looking for a rebus, as I did while staring at NOED in disbelief that it could possibly make it into an NYT crossword.

Overall, though, I enjoyed the concept of the puzzle

Lewis 5:54 PM  

@bird - yes, finally got that darn thing in. It turns out I had to upload it to my Blogger account, as silly me hadn't done that yet... thanks for noticing!

JFC 6:51 PM  


Phnom Penh
[nom pen, puh-nawm pen] Show IPA

a city in and the capital of Cambodia, in the S part.

Also, Pnom Penh, Pnom-penh, Pnompenh.

As for NOED, ugly yes, but I like the BONO over FIDE and willing to overlook imperfection for the fun of that kind of match. I therefore do not think DONE is an improvement, only a road to mediocrity over brilliance.

There is an expression that nothing is ever as bad as it seems or as good as it looks. The concept likely inevitably leads to some ugly fill and so there is a choice to be made....


Wha????? 6:58 PM  

I can see liking BONA over FIDE, but can't for the life of me understand why one would like BONA over FIDE. Where's the brilliance?

"likely inevitably"?

Some thins are, in fact, as bad as they seem.

JFC 7:01 PM  

On Wordplay Joe Krozel wrote:

I put the Aha moment at 1, 4 & 7-Across rather than 65, 66 & 67-Across... because I didn't want this puzzle to be construed as a rebus along the way.


Z 7:46 PM  

NOR was first word in, then thought it must be PRO AND CON. Worked some downs, looked at some acrosses and went with it.

PNOM is bad. NOED is bad. And they are key words in the north so they really call attention to themselves. Enjoyed the solve but the north brought down the over-all good feelings.

JFC 7:48 PM  

@What?????, you had a couple of typos that spoiled your points but I still like BONO over FIDE since there is no pro bona. "likely inevitably" likely means exactly what it says.

As for your other point, carrying that negative attitude is not helpful to anyone, including you. Rex's rant is likely either exaggerated to make his larger point or over the top and I think the former....

I'm sorry you thought so ill of my comment. I'll try harder next time.


Anonymous 8:31 PM  

I didn't like NOED and had trouble with OHS and OATERS, but otherwise I loved the theme and had fun with the puzzle. I'm a newbie at crosswords, and I do them because I am terrible at them! So I was impressed that someone had made this puzzle, and I hope to improve over time.

Tita 9:07 PM  

Oh yeah - as @evan said, I thought it would have been cool if all the words could standalone as well...SCIENCE, TONS, TROLLED...

Also thought of @Anoa Bob - can't think of a justification for gratuitous plurals - CHES? TES???


I don't get Mr. Krozel's defense of such an early revealer - isn't a puzzle supposed to puzzle us? I was totally bummed that I knew the trick right off the bat.'s not a trick if you tell us with 1A!

I did like the grid layout.
And loved KSOUT.

Anonymous 9:56 PM  

ugh, filling this out felt like doing high school homework - a gimmick that made my brain work just hard enough for something I didn't care about. Worst was the conche/concha, which is not such a family friendly set of words if you speak Spanish.

sanfranman59 11:18 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 6:16, 6:10, 1.02, 60%, Medium
Tue 7:55, 8:23, 0.94, 32%, Easy-Medium
Wed 8:21, 11:28, 0.72, 2%, Easy (5th lowest ratio of 166 Wednesdays)
Thu 15:43, 17:02, 0.92, 34%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:44, 3:41, 1.02, 55%, Medium
Tue 4:28, 4:52, 0.92, 15%, Easy
Wed 5:03, 6:28, 0.78, 5%, Easy (8th lowest ratio of 166 Wednesdays)
Thu 10:05, 9:57, 1.01, 52%, Medium

Davis 12:10 AM  

This belongs to a class of puzzles that leaves me bemused.

On the one hand, I can step back and say "Wow, that's a neat construction trick." Rex's easy improvement (and the wrong definition of PRO BONO) notwithstanding, putting this together was a pretty cool feat.

On the other hand, that cool trick didn't really make this puzzle *fun to solve*. Not much sparkly fill, plenty of not-so-great fill, and the theme failed to add that certain something to the solving experience.

With this sort of puzzle, I usually come away glad to have seen it, but with no desire to experience it again. Which, oddly enough, also describes my experience of the Terrence Malick films I've seen.

Anonymous 7:13 AM  

I thought this puzzle was great fun. It was a pleasure to have something that required another corner of mind and imagination to work with. Thank you Joe Krozel it was bright and enlivening

LaneB 7:30 AM  

A late start but I enjoyed this one and it went pretty well after figuring the PRO AND CON part. Thrown off by the spelling of PhNOM and AaSES. Also, thought Roseanne's show family name was ConnOrS. Otherwise feeling a bit smug a bout the whole thing. On to Friday!

Merle 11:45 AM  

Great puzzle. Once I caught onto the challenge of pros and cons, which was fast, the puzzle was easy -- but fun. The puzzle stayed "challenging" not in terms of difficulty, just in terms of figuring out what was pro and what was con. A challenge met quickly and easily, and with enjoyment.

APM 1:40 AM  

I liked this puzzle. A lot. It took a few hours of simultaneous beer-swilling/dog-head-scratching/grid-filling to do it but it was a ton of fun, especially for a Thursday. I actually thought afterwards, 'I wonder what Rex Parker has to say about this one!' and came to the site after an absence only to be....disappointed. Sure, 'noed' stunk.....I stuck it to the side w/ 3 question marks behind it at first, but who cares? You gotta break some eggs to make an omelet, though, and it seemed like you were more worried about cleaning up the yolk off the counter than sitting down for breakfast. An absolute tin ear would have led to a disaster of a puzzle and this one was not on that end of the spectrum....a good time, especially for a guy who ends up nodding off over half of his puzzles because it's past bedtime. Two thumbs up for Krozel....even if, yes, someone might have called the editing in on this one.

rain forest 1:42 AM  

It's become clear that Rex doesn't like Joe Krozel's puzzles--haven't seen one that he has been positive about, despite the fact that Krozel is one of the most creative puzzle producers around. Don't know what it is, but it is evident. Anyway, THIS puzzle is terrific, forget the NOED. Tough, yes, but so intriguing, and doable to boot.

Solving in Seattle 1:33 PM  

The CON: I agree with Rex about the spelling of PhNOM Penh. I started out thinking this was a rebus. Joe probably wanted me to think that. NOED???? STALES for "Loses freshness"? And finally, the PC questionableness of "___ holler, let...?

The PRO: I caught on to the theme with 4, 5 & 6D and took off from there. What fun to test pro and con in front of the suffixes and figure out which was the prefix. Also like the plus and minus signs, which Rex pointed out to me. Very clever idea, Joe. Thanks for a fun solve.

Go Mariners!

DMGrandma 3:32 PM  

A workable puzzle, but other than admiring the constructor's facility with the gimmick, I really didn't enjoy it. The strange downs, noted by many others, kept me feeling I was doing something wrong. Took me a long time to successfully parse NETO, probably because I was looking for a single word. Other than that I finished with only the TER_ETA blank. On to Friday!

Dirigonzo 4:19 PM  

The spelling of the Cambodian city always eludes me but I know it starts with "P", and with NOR in place that was enough to crack the code to the puzzle. Only the NE corner provided any resistance and that was self-inflicted as I had interpreted the C notes to be money - BFLATS was my personal "Aha!" moment. Finished with OWS in TERsETS/ (CON)sHA, where I resisted the C because of the (CON)CHES already in the grid. Lots of fun but the completed grid would certainly be confusing to the uninitiated observer.

(PRO)SODY is a new word for me.

"elarms" - computer warnings of danger?

Ginger 7:31 PM  

This was certainly an ambitious puzzle, that has coaxed many PROs AND CONS out of their comfort zones. That it is a huge departure from the norm is both it's plus and it's minus. Yes, there was some crummy fill, but the overall quality (IMO) made it worth the effort.

Alas, I DNF, got hung up at the TERCET/CHA cross. Yet, I found this one fun, interesting, and intriguing.

strayling 7:50 PM  

I really enjoyed struggling against this one. Missed "ohs", but I should have been able to get it from the crosses, so I consider the puzzle both fair and fun.

Waxy in Montreal 9:05 PM  

Other than a TERTET/CONTHA (never sounded right) Nattick and my new BFF, BOA PAL, thought this was quite easy but somewhat tedious. And for too long, thought the Across words had to work with both PRO AND CON starts. But full marks to Mr. Krozel nevertheless for coming up with a grid out of the ordinary. Except for NOED.

maruf hosen 1:48 AM  

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Split face Tile

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