Having freedom of tempo / SUN 3-17-13 / Bay former US base in Philippines / Classic verse that begins Ah broken is golden bowl / Middle brother in 2000s pop trio / Epithet for Nadya Suleman / Young actor Smith / Hit single-player game of 1980s / Either Zimbalist

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Constructor: J. R. Leopold

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: "Any Pun For Tennis?" — familiar phrases, clued as if they related to tennis

Theme answers:
  • 23A: Tennis clinic focusing on drop shot skills? (NETWORKING EVENT)
  • 38A: Coaches who help you use your wrist in shots? (SPIN DOCTORS)
  • 49A: Tennis players who clown around? (COURT JESTERS)
  • 67A: "For a righty, you hit the ball pretty well on your left side," and others? (BACKHANDED COMPLIMENTS)
  • 88A: Line judge's mission? (FAULT-FINDING)
  • 96A: "Nothing" and "aught"? (LOVE HANDLES) — this clue (unlike all the others) has nothing directly to do with tennis.  Odd. [I *know* LOVE means "nothing" in tennis—I'm talking about the clue. Clue clue clue. That's why I italicized "clue." Well-meaning emails on this issue can stop now, thanks.]
  • 116A: Luke Skywalker's volley? ("RETURN OF THE JEDI")
  • 17D: Mistakenly hitting into the doubles area during a singles match? (ALLEY OOPS)
  • 78D: Start of a tennis game? (SERVE TIME)

Word of the Day: RUBATO (54A: Having freedom of tempo)
n., pl., -tos.
Rhythmic flexibility within a phrase or measure; a relaxation of strict time.

Containing or characterized by rubato.

[Italian (tempo) rubato, stolen (time), rubato, past participle of rubare, to rob, of Germanic origin.]

Read more: http://www.answers.com/topic/rubato#ixzz2Nki0gE1x
• • •

An important announcement up front about a friend of mine and a frequent contributor to this blog's comments section, Jennifer Tanner (JenCT). If you've attended the ACPT in Brooklyn in past years, you've seen her—long brown hair, bright smile, wheelchair. Jen has MS.

I have a particular affection for Jen—I sat and watched the ACPT finals with her a few years back, and got to meet her and her family (incredibly sweet people). Jen has also made neckerchiefs for both my dogs out of this crossword-patterned fleece material. Now, I generally shun all crossword-patterned garments, but my *dogs* wear those neckerchiefs proudly, every day. Anyway—Service dogs are super expensive, and Jen is trying to raise $9500 to offset the cost of raising her dog. The non-profit NEADS (National Education for Assistance Dog Services, aka Dogs for Deaf and Disabled Americans) does amazing work, and Jen has a personal webpage there that allows people to donate directly to the cost of her dog. Please, if you are at all able, if you have enjoyed this blog and/or the people who read it, if you have even a spare $10, please consider contributing to Jen's cause. If you were considering donating money to this blog this year (as many of you generous people have), please, give it to Jen instead—at least 'til she meets her goal. Then, by all means, send all your spare cash to me. Jen is a lovely woman and an important part of the community that has grown up around this blog. Any help you can provide would be Phenomenal.

[UPDATE!!!!!!!!! (3/21/13)—within four days, thanks to generous Rex readers, Jen's $9500 goal was met! Behold the power of CrossWorld!]




I took one look at the title and shouted "No! God, no! No puns for tennis!" Then I accepted my fate and dove in. As pun puzzles go, this one is pretty good. Answers themselves aren't punny, but their clues turn them into a species of pun, I suppose. Aside from the fact that there's nothing particularly tennis-y about the clue [Note that I say "clue," not answer; clue. Clue clue clue. Clue.] on LOVE HANDLES, the theme was consistent and the "puns" at least mildly interesting (I like the idea of Luke Skywalker swapping out his light saber for a tennis racket). Lots of middle-length non-theme fill gave this one some life. JOE JONAS (32D: Middle brother in a 2000s pop trio) and OCTOMOM (35D: Epithet for Nadya Suleman) gave the puzzle a contemporary feel, and most of the other 7+-letter Downs, while not scintillating, are at the very least solid. DIM PAST was the one that took me longest to get—found it really irritating until I got it; then I thought, "yeah, OK, that works" (52D: Barely remembered days of old).

I do want to point out, however, that this is the third day in a row with a questionable cross. I should not be able to tell you at what exact square most people non-finishers / mistake-makers will wipe out, but I can tell you with almost complete certainty that today, that square is the RUBATO / SUBIC crossing. Let's all agree that SUBIC (44D: ___ Bay, former U.S. base in the Philippines) is by far the more obscure term of the two, and probably the most obscure thing in the grid. The vast majority of solvers are going to have to piece SUBIC together *entirely* from crosses, and all those crosses are common phrases or terms from non-specialized languages—except RUBATO, which requires specific, specialized knowledge indeed. I pulled RUBATO out of god knows where (after entertaining a "G" and an "M" for that square), but the point isn't how I got it or what I do or don't know or whether you, specific dear reader, "knew it." It's that one can foresee the inevitable failure of many solvers, right there. In that square. Guaranteed. This is not a flaw in the solvers—it's a flaw in the construction. It's not about whether you should or shouldn't know RUBATO or whether it's valid. Of course it is. Not the point. It's that you've got a *highly* obscure geographical term crossing clearly specialized knowledge at a totally uninferrable square. This is a design flaw. To illustrate my point further, let me direct you to SUBIC's symmetrical counterpart — an equally nutso-looking bit of fill, NACIO (70D: "Singin' in the Rain" composer ___ Herb Brown). As with SUBIC, I had to hammer that thing out *entirely* from crosses. But check out NACIO's crosses: COMPLIMENTS, RARE, SAUCER, FINDING, ODE. Not a specialized term or odd word in the bunch. Clue 'em as trickily as you want, everyone has a fair chance of getting them, eventually. This is why I can tell you that despite NACIO's obscurity, no one is wiping out on that side of the grid. *If* they are wiping out, they're wiping out across town, where the manifestly bad cross is. This is not a "bad luck" problem, the way some struggling solvers seem to assume. This is a structural problem, an editorial / construction flaw, and people who make these things for a living know it. The problem is that ordinary people don't test these things. Pros do. And sometimes I wonder if they can see where crosses are going to go terribly, horribly wrong. Today's isn't as bad as either Friday's (yeesh) or Saturday's (that obscure LEE guy had not one but two not-that-famous proper noun crosses—totally avoidable clusterf**k). But I still think you gotta do something about a crossing that will predictably and unentertainingly blow up the grids of a sizable chunk of solvers.

Of course it's possible your problems involved OLERUD / AMIDOL (59D: Batting champ John + 64A: Photo developing compound) ... or that you had no problems whatsoever.

Again, I liked this puzzle. Solid work. The bad cross thing has Got to stop, though.

  • 9A: Classic verse that begins "Ah, broken is the golden bowl!" ("LENORE") — EAPOE! (now *there*'s some ugly fill). Sort of in my wheelhouse and it still took a good deal of effort. 
  • 32A: Young actor Smith (JADEN) — Will Smith's son. I could think only of JADA for a good long while (she's W. Smith's wife).
  • 119A: Hit single-player game of the 1980s (SIMON) — Ha ha. Awesome. I was totally baffled until I got the last cross, and remembered that damn fat disc with the primary-colored buttons that would play a sequence that you'd then have to play back. That was SIMON, right? Clue had me thinking video games. Big mistake.
  • 2D: Setting for a 1935 Marx Brothers comedy (OPERA) — as in "A Night at the..." Not a big Marx Brothers fan. Took me a while. I thought "setting" would be a geographical location at first. 
  • 9D: Modern kind of name (LOGIN) — Clue felt nonsensical at first. But it's ... sensical enough.
  • 68D: Anchor-hoisting cry ("HEAVE HO!") — I love this. And TIP JAR (99D: Container on a counter, maybe). Seriously, there's really not That much gunk in here. It's just that the  small bits of gunk are Pretty Gunky (see above).
  • 80D: Either Zimbalist (EFREM) — I admire the "whatever" attitude of this clue.
  • 92D: 1958 hit with the line "Yip yip yip yip yip yip yip yip" ("GET A JOB") — I love a clue I have to sing to get. Yes, that literally happened—me just saying "yip" a bunch of times. Hey, it worked.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Anonymous 12:12 AM  

What about "NLER" for "Pirate, e.g., for short"? What does that possibly mean?

jae 12:14 AM  

Fairly pedestrian Sun.  Easy for me except for the AMIDOL/OLERUD/NACIO area.  All were WOEs and not easily inferable.  Guessed right.  SUBIC, on the other hand, was a gimme.  I'm a Navy vet and was stationed on a West Coast ship in the mid '60s.  Everyone who had done a Vietnam cruise had a story about SUBIC Bay.

There was some nice fill but the theme was a bit meh.

A Pittsburgh Pirate is a National Leaguer -- NLER.

acme 12:14 AM  

glad to see this blog taking a turn for the generous, with the Red Cross puzzles, and JenCT's dog that @tita tried to raise awareness of throughout the ACPT.
Yay @Rex! Hope it works!

Rex Parker 12:23 AM  

NLer = National Leaguer. Common, if unlovable, fill.

DocRoss 12:46 AM  

18 minutes for me. Very easy, and I was looking for the uninferrable. I wouldn't have guessed RUBATO/SUBIC would have been a problem. But I'm a musician, so it was a gimme. Non musicians wouldn't be so lucky I suppose.

Milford 1:08 AM  

Pretty standard time and difficulty for a Sunday, for me. The proposed naticks were solved with somewhat educated guesses (e.g. -OL is a fairly common chemical suffix). But these seem to occur pretty often in a puzzle, for me at least.

Had trouble with LETT - never heard of that reference to a Latvian, and I grew up in a city with a large Latvian base. Also thought 97D was "i swear", before DARE ME (which is a bit awkward) and sort of thought 52D could possibly be DIaPers before DIM PAST (awkward also).

The Tennis Puns were all cute and clever, and probably did help with some fill, as per usual.

Loved HEAVE HO, and OUIJA over SIMON. And I'll bet that @Rex and I were not the only two to sing to figure out GET A JOB.

@JenCT - I'm in! Service dogs are absolutely amazing creatures, It would be an honor to help. Thanks, Rex.

Ed C 1:37 AM  

Boy, I gotta start brushing up on my former US bases in the Pacific Rim.

webwinger 2:19 AM  

I too found this quite easy. Pretty sure I learned RUBATO from another NYT puzzle within the past few months. NACIO Herb Brown is one of those names that is so bizarre you can’t forget it after hearing it once. Even knew the sports trivia answer OLERUD—he played for the Mariners exactly the same years I lived in Seattle. Theme was just OK, though I did chuckle at some of the answers (LOVEHANDLES, ALLEYOOPS). Biggest challenges, and best rewards, came from the SW corner: OUIJA board superfamiliar, planchette completely unknown. Could hear and sing the chorus (along with Sha Na Na) but didn’t connect to the song title until almost all crosses were in. And the clue for ONEBC: true X-word greatness!

Have been looking for a crossword-friendly place to send some of the $$ I didn’t spend on one night at the Brooklyn Bridge Marriott after cancelling for ACPT. Was feeling bad for Rex this past week and thinking he should be the beneficiary, but Jen’s dog seems like an even more worthy cause.

Jeep 2:33 AM  

RUBATO and MULETA are both lovely words to know. I hope we don't keep hearing about them here.

Anonymous 3:21 AM  

I just sent a donation to Ms. Tanner after the very moving request. It is wonderful to see this community pull for one of their own.

chefwen 3:29 AM  

Husband was number one doubles player when we were in high school, so a lot of the terminology was ingrained in me.

Most of my successes were crazy guesses that just happened to work out.

Burgers were replace by SLIDERS at the White Castle place, denim was replaced by SERGE at 72D, SAW replace axe at 33A. That was about it!

@JenCT - I will be honored to contribute to your VERY good looking service dog and your cause. Count me in.

Anonymous 3:52 AM  

Jen and Ollie ... friends forever!
Count me in too! :-)

Anonymous 5:37 AM  

Can't understand why you are so bothered by Subic Bay. Clue was a giveaway to any reader of WWII history.

Thoracic 6:19 AM  

Me too for denim(SERGE) and burgers(SLIDERS) at first. Really fun puzzle for me. Only 2 googles, not bad for a Sunday. Got RUBATO just by guessing that it sounded right. Ya gotta be lucky sometimes.

Bookdeb 6:23 AM  

Let's Do It (Let's Fall In Love) by Ella Fitzgerald
Birds do it, bees do it
Even educated fleas do it
Let's do it, let's fall in love

In Spain, the best upper sets do it

Lithuanians and Letts do it
Let's do it, let's fall in love

Anonymous 6:26 AM  

Love handles: "love" is 0 in tennis scores, no?

Bob Kerfuffle 6:27 AM  

A reaction I rarely have to a puzzle: Great big yawn. Word play was too subtle for me, maybe.

Knew I had one write-over: 76 D, HTTP before HTML. Call it carelessness.

But only discovered my mistake cluster from reading Rex's blog: Had finished with 75 A, "In ____ form", as PURE (rather than RARE), and the totally unknown proper name crosses as NUCIO and OLEPUD (both looked a bit strange, but when a constructor is driven to obscure names, you never know!)

Agree with others above that anyone who lived through the Vietnam War era certainly should be familiar with SUBIC Bay.

Jeremy Mercer 6:29 AM  

Ahh, the prescience of Rex. I had RUNATO/SUNIC.

And, also, bravo to the generosity of Rex. I gladly donated to Jennifer in lieu of my 2013 donation to Rex.

JenCT 7:13 AM  

@Rex: I was completely overwhelmed & in tears when I read your very generous write-up.

Thank you to you, and to the overwhelming support from others on this blog.

I'm verklempt!

Will write more later...speechless right now...

Anonymous 7:18 AM  

I recall the decision by the Filipino government not to renew leases on Clark Air Base and Subic Bay Naval Base as front page news in the early 1990s.

Brian B 8:05 AM  

Trying to donate at the link and it gives me error messages like "Stop using IE 7, use Firefox or Chrome" when I AM using Firefox.

Please follow 8:08 AM  

@Jeep 2:33 and @5:37: You guys seriously need to work on your comprehension skills; it's not that people shouldn't know these words, or that they are definitively bad fill, it's that they're not going to be known by a large number of solvers and therefore need fair crossers. Is that so hard to grasp?

Unknown 8:17 AM  

Hey, who doesn't love a tennis pun! This was pretty fun. I am proud of myself for nailing JOE JONAS. By that, I mean I guessed it lickety split. Favorite of the puns was LOVE HANDLES. ORANT was new to me, but what else could it be? Music background helped me avoid the SUBIC nastiness. I'm glad this was a speedy Saturday solve (on paper, the good sections get delivered on Saturday for me) since I will be swimming in relatives, and corned beef and cabbage today.

Loren Muse Smith 8:21 AM  

I don’t play tennis, and puns usually don’t float my boat, but I really enjoyed this one and couldn’t wait to uncover each theme entry. Great clues!

I couldn’t let go of NO matter for NOT AT ALL. Misspelled Efram and fell for “burgers,” too.

LIKEABLE has one more letter than “amiable” and “affable.”

I need to bone up on my vice presidents. I had NO IDEA on either.

I agree with @Rex – two tough crosses. Really good point about the test solvers all being pros. Will – if you need a schmo to suss out obscure crosses – I’m your man!

@JenCT – Ollie is beautiful! I’m sending money your way.

@Rex – that was a really nice thing you did.

Glimmerglass 8:40 AM  

Great puzzle. "medium" is right for me.

Anonymous 8:40 AM  

I"m a web developer and I still do not get how "abbreviation after a period" is HTML

GILL I. 8:56 AM  

I never say NOT AT ALL after a thank you. I'm from the "you're welcome" neck of the woods.
Bad start..:( but ALLEY OOPS made me smile.. :)
The OLERUD/AMIDOL made me CURSE and like @LMS I always misspell EFERM AFREM.
@Rex and JenCT Good thought$ and wishe$ being sent your way.

Pete 9:01 AM  

I almost always only do half of a Sunday puzzle, so I quit before I found out if the best of all possible tennis puns was included.

Was one of the theme clues "What Mr. Conners did on his wedding night"?

JenCT 9:02 AM  

@Anon. 8:40: Some URLs end in .html

imsdave 9:12 AM  

Slow going here - @BobK - I had in fine form for quite a while. It was one of those RARE puzzles where the puns actually helped me with the fill rather than the reverse. Pleasant way to start the day.

Some of us were lucky enough to get to see Jen and her husband at the Westport tourney this year, which I can assure you is always a delight.

If you can, please help out. Very special people and a wonderful program.

Ruth 9:17 AM  

Whose OREOs are crumbly? I wouldn't call them crumbly. I kept putting OREO in because it seemed so obvious and taking it out because of the %#$!@% clue.

joho 9:24 AM  

@JenCT ... just happily donated to you and Ollie ... what a beautiful photo of both of you!

I enjoyed the puzzle this morning but was left wanting something a little tricker or lot funnier. But still, a pleasant start to the day.

Anonymous 9:25 AM  

I agree with Ruth that OREOs aren't particularly crumbly. Seems like a lazy clue. And I've never heard of the fabric called SERGE, which is surprising since it has so many common letters, and I do crosswords often.

Robin C 9:44 AM  

Menage for housekeeping? looked it up in dictionary and it just doesn't seem right.

Robin C 9:45 AM  

And love is related to tennis - means zero.

Rex Parker 9:55 AM  

Of course LOVE is tennis-related. This is why I italicized the word "clue".

Loren Muse Smith 9:58 AM  

I was able to send a donation. My computer said this, too, but it worked anyway:

“Our donation form does not support Internet Explorer 7 or below. If you have problems making a donation, please download Internet Explorer 9, or use an alternative browser like Firefox or Safari.”

Just FYI.

Z 10:03 AM  

SUBIC/RUBATO - good call Rex. And for the record, I read quite a bit about WWII back when I was living through Vietnam and, yet, SUBIC never stuck. RUBATO seemed vaguely familiar from a previous puzzle(s).

Répondez, s'il VOUS PLAÎT gets in twice, along with OLERUD and CREES. How very Canadian.

MÉNAGE is always the first word of a three way phrase as far as I knew. What an interesting way to do housekeeping.

Not quite sure what to make of early morning BACK-HANDED COMPLIMENTS.

JFe 10:05 AM  


Thanks for a wonderful way to start my Sunday...

Z 10:11 AM  

@JenCT - Done. Many hands make light work.

carolguthrie 10:22 AM  

Rex!!! Have you never played tennis? Love is a key word in scoring...I liked the love handles clue best of al

r.alphbunker 10:34 AM  

Rex: Thanks for giving us a chance to help @JenCT. I knew that she had MS because her blog used to say "You can have my handicapped parking spot if you take my MS".

Re the puzzle. I got the B of SUBIC but ended with SUBoC because I had The fix IS oN. That was carelessness on my part.

Glimmerglass 10:35 AM  

Just sent 20 bucks to help Jen Tanner, whom I've never met. Perhaps Rex's kinder, gentler review of today's puzzle put me in a generous frame of mind. Good blog today, Rex.

PanamaRed 10:42 AM  

SUBIC Bay was a gimme for me - stopped their many times in 1960 and '61 while serving on the USS Bexar. The town adjacent was Olangapo, where sailors and marines would party into the night. Maybe we'll see Olangapo in a puzz one of these days.

Enjoyed this puzzle - played a lot of tennis in my younger days - thanks JR.

jackj 10:51 AM  

J. R. Leopold makes his debut as a constructor in the NY Times with a clever Sunday puzzle sporting a twisted tennis theme, “ANY PUN FOR TENNIS?”

The theme is certainly serviceable, as happenings in tennis are rearranged to produce punny incidents whereby, for example, “Line judges mission?” clues FAULTFINDING and that gives a bit of a chuckle, but the hearty guffaw producing puns are still practicing their volleys at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Of the tennis related theme clues and answers, the one that most solvers will likely single out as their favorite is the entry BACKHANDEDCOMPLIMENTS but I’d like to make a case for a different one that is markedly more clever.

With the clue of “Nothing” and “aught”?” we are asked to fill in an eleven-letter answer and, since “nothing and aught” each mean “ZERO”, and ZERO in tennis is “LOVE”, then the answer we are looking for is LOVEHANDLES. Now, that is one clever bit of wordplay!

The fill of the puzzle was good, with the likes of ITERATES, FALSETTO, DIESIRAE, HEAVEHO, SLIDERS and APOLOGIA, but there are two distinctive problem entries.

One of them looks for the first name of a rather obscure young actor, JADEN Smith (which I guessed correctly) and the second one, (“Batting champ John”, which I somehow remembered was OLERUD), has its obscurity level increased by not even indicating he was an American League slugger for Toronto and won the title in 1993. (It’s tough enough to get even with such details and then when tied to AMIDOL, “Natick” likely comes to play discourtesy of Times Square).

As a final aside, the clue at 1Across, “Polite response to “Thank you” was answered as NOTATALL but lately it seems that almost every store clerk, ( teens especially), respond to “Thank you” with “No problem”. (A gentle gibe back at them to remember that “You’re welcome” works just fine, too).

This is a very intelligent, LIKEABLE piece of work from Mr. Leopold who earns the crossword version of game, set, match and tournament for his sterling effort!

Happy to help that special partnership of Jen and Ollie! Thanks to Rex for offering the opportunity.

Eleveniss 10:56 AM  

Had a DNA because of ménage/uta/cense crosses. Rest was easy. Subic Bay is on a par with Gitmo I think--navy friends/relatives or history readers. I would never have filled rubato without Subic. Arigato Mr. Rubato!

Great cause, BTW

MetaRex 11:00 AM  

Donation made.

CrossWorld and CrossOver buzz, along with MetaRex's solving confessions, part xyz, at Deuces Wild

Starbucks 11:03 AM  

We were just forced to donate to Jen, thanks to some clown who decided that just getting up 3 minutes earlier, making his own (actually, his wife did that) coffee and having a bowl of cereal instead of enjoying a cup of our overpriced, overheated coffee & an overpriced muffin was a reasonable tradeoff.

Unknown 11:06 AM  

@JenCT - Just made a donation. Good luck in reaching your goal and God bless.

@Rex - thanks for making us aware

Thought this was a fun puzzle. Easy until a DNF b/c of the NW. Stuck with APPROVAL at 20A. Not sure why. Didn't know LAIRDS, but now that I haer it, it rings a bell. Also, I had NET to begin 23A, but I was looking for it as a stand-alone word as the other theme answers are, not part of a longer word. So I never saw NETWORK...

96A - LOVE means 0 in tennis, so the clue "nothing and aught" are tennis related.

Liked seeing "It's a Wonderful Life". My 11yo daughter is active in our community theater and her first role was Zuzu in a musical production of IaWL when she was 9yo at the time. Showed her the clue, she got the answer hands down and stayed to "help" with the rest of the puzz.

Starbucks 11:10 AM  

ps: If any of you have a suggestion as to how to stop Evil Doug from mooching our newspapers, please advise.

pps Astonshing fact: The numerals in both my captchas was the same. I lied about both.

MetaRex 11:36 AM  

Reflections on Naticks and fudging at MINAS-MULETAS, ABE-LEE, and SUBIC-RUBATO

Victor 11:38 AM  

@jackj: LOVEHANDLES is even more clever, as a "handle" is also a synonym for a name!

Charley 11:51 AM  

Love handles is, of course, tennis related; love being zero in tennis. As to Subic Bay, not obscure to people of a certain age.

I'm too important to read what you said or the preceding comments 11:59 AM  

Hey @Rex - Didn't you know LOVE was tennis related? Didn't you know SUBIC bay was semi-famous in the 1940's?

Anonymous 12:15 PM  

To all those who questioned @Rex's comment about the "love handles" clue, go back and read what he actually wrote: "there's nothing particularly tennis-y about the clue". The clue is "Nothing and aught" and there is nothing particularly tennis-y about it.

Anonymous 12:19 PM  

Forget needing to go back to world War II, Subic Bay was all over the news in the early 90's.It was one of the largest overseas US military installations in the world. ( In fact, it WAS the largest briefly) You couldn't shake a stick and not hear some twit or another talking about it when the DOD suggested closing it. Oh yeah, and when Pinatubo ( someone can set me straight on the spelling) erupted, lots of American media used Subic as a base of operations.

Ella Fitzgerald did several marvelous renditions, but the song was by Cole Porter. trust me, it's easier to sing a great song than to write one.tx

optionsgeek 12:29 PM  

@Anonymous, re: HTML as the answer to "Abbr. after a period". I, too, am at a complete loss here. ".HTML" might be valid syntax in some of the various web coding instruction sets. However I have no idea how this construct would appear in a context likely to be in common use. Seems suspect to me.

diywriter 12:54 PM  

I used to do xwords decades ago, then went on hiatus (something to do with raising and feeding kids)and have now been back at it for about a year. I do appreciate Will reducing the occurrence of "oleo," "alai," and the like. But there's something I miss from olden times: As I recall, there used to be more long quotes meandering through the puzzle. I liked those long quotes: they offered a few additional ahas, and provided another avenue for solving--trying to figure what an author might say. And some were mighty witty, while a few were at least slightly profound. Last Thursday had a quote that I found amusing and thought-provoking. Puns are fine, but I grow a bit tired of them. Is Will anti-quote?

Am I in the minority on this? Or do long quotes often lead to bad fill? Or am I remembering incorrectly?

jae 1:00 PM  

@JenCT -- Done and best wishes.

mac 1:13 PM  

Quick (everything is relative) and funny Sunday puzzle. I put in "totes" at 3D, laughing, and then it ended up being right!

My husband knew Subic, so that area was ok, but I had the most trouble with the SW. Was thinking Atari, Zelda and Mario for the game, and again needed my husband to sing and give me "get a job".

Captain Hook went to Eton??

We used to call the White Castle sliders mouse burgers for their weird grey color.

Very happy to help Jen! She is a lovely person with wonderfully supportive husband and son. She has so many interests and has created such an idyllic environment in and around her house, it was a real pleasure to visit.

treedweller 1:14 PM  

There is usually at least one 0 in a soccer game's score, so I declare "nothing and aught" to be fútbol-related. Oh, and baseball. Wait, what sport doesn't have aughts?

chefbea 1:16 PM  

@JenCt Just donated. Good luck

Puzzle. Found it a bit tough and really wanted a St. Patty's day puzzle!!! Have fun today everyone..puttin' on the Green

Black Bear 1:22 PM  

@JenCT Just donated happily. What a great dog! Good on you @Rex. Thanks for letting us know about this wonderful project!

Anoa Bob 1:27 PM  

Hand up for having been to Subic Bay, as a swabbie in the 60's and as a DoD teacher in the 80's. It used to be the home port for 7th Fleet ships on WESTPAC (Western Pacific) deployments.

POCs (Plural of Convenience) always catch my eye, especially when they are in theme entries. Need an 11-letter entry to complete your theme set but all you got is a 10-letter one? Just take a short cut and throw on an "s". Easy and effortless. And if it works once, what the heck, do it four or five times, as is the case today.

I try to be TOLERANT on this issue, but I think if a puzzle is excessively POC marked, the UNMAKE button should be clicked a few times.

Nancy in PA 1:28 PM  

Have just donated to @Rex (do so every year ACPT time) and will happily now donate to Jen/Ollie. Friends who have a child with a brain tumor got a helping dog years ago and Lucy is invaluable to every member of the family!

Don't play tennis, liked the puzzle OK but got distracted and didn't realize I had "finished" with a blank at the RUBATO/RUBIC cross. I guess I didn't care enough to go back and run the alphabet.

Davis 1:30 PM  

After getting nailed by two of the three horrible crosses Rex noted here, I just want to second his call to make these stop. Somehow RUBATO was sloshing around in my brain pan so I didn't trip up today, but I still think that's a brutal intersection. For those folks who mention SUBIC in the news as a path to knowledge: I was in junior high school when that issue came to the fore. How many news stories of middling significance do *you* remember from when you were 13?

diywriter 1:30 PM  

Captain Hook was indeed an Eton man. The book (written after the play) goes on at length about how he was greatly concerned to avoid behavior that could be considered in "bad form," in accordance with public-school ethics. Charming stuff, really.

Liz 1:34 PM  

I went to high school in Manila, Philippines, and had a friend whose father was military. Spent a liquor-soaked, unchaperoned weekend at Subic, fell in love with a sailor and ate my fill of American food. Subic obviously has a special place in *my* heart, and like others have commented, anyone who was in the military or is a World War II buff has heard of it. There were a LOT of other more cryptic answers in this puzzle. Everyone has their area of specialty, I guess.

I need to brush up on operas, sports and musical terms, myself.

ksquare 1:36 PM  

I learned of Subic Bay naval base when at Manila, P.I. in 1945. Never thought I'd hear the name again.

Liz 1:37 PM  

"Rubato" made me think of the Styx song "Mr. Robato" (one of my least favorites of their repertoire.

syndy 1:53 PM  

I went for HTTP before HTML-its all greek to me!SUBIC was a gimmee I guess that one sorts the sheep from the lambs.My waterloo was the AMIDOL/OLERUD cross (at one point toyed with the idea the man's name was Onerun!)but the 'L' was the most obvious guess-ditto for the 'g' in MENAgE/DREg.Now to help pay for the pretty pup!

Sandy K 1:55 PM  

@JenCT- Happy to be able to help in some small way. Living with disabilities can be very challenging.
Good luck to you!

@Rex- Lovely! Thank you for what you do.

Puzz seems less important now, but agree with Rex about those crosses. Kinda hard, but remembered the toughies from other puzzles.

An emotional Sunday...

Evan 2:05 PM  

Nice and EASY for me, today. I woke up pretty groggy this morning, didn't have any breakfast before tackling the puzzle, and yet I still whipped through this one. I remember once reading that there's potentially a scientific basis for how people do better on puzzles and tests while sleepy and/or hung-over. Or maybe today was genuinely easy.

Whatever the reason, I didn't have many slow-ups, except for DIM PAST, ORANT, SUBIC, and the entire southwest corner until I changed RAZE to RUIN. I also had OTTOMAN before OCTOMOM....I must have been thinking of Suleiman the Magnificent when I read the name Suleman.

I knew RUBATO from all my years of piano and choir, but SUBIC was a total mystery. I also got OLERUD right off the O, and while I'm not really a baseball buff, I've seen his name enough over the years that it stuck.

Some quibbles -- a few proper nouns I've never seen before: NACIO, HEL, EFREM, and ANC (as well as SUBIC). DARE ME is a little strange -- does anyone actually say that? Same question with DIM PAST.

Well done, Rex, for soliciting donations to @JenCT. Today's a lucky day, so I'm happy to donate what I can. Happy Irish(wo)man day, all!

Sandy K 2:09 PM  

Oh, and- agreed with Rex right down to having to sing the "YIP"s to get to- GET A JOB!

Evan 2:09 PM  


I once got a rejection on a quotation puzzle a few years ago where Will's assistant Paula Gamache told me he doesn't like to run quotation themes that much anymore. I doubt he's entirely anti-quote, but who knows how long ago Mike Buckley submitted the one that was published on Thursday?

Anonymous 2:10 PM  

I think Subic Bay, Philippeans is very well-known. If nothing else, it was mentioned in the movie "An Officer and a Gentleman," which everybody of any reasonable age saw. Rubato is a little trickier, but not an obscure term, at least for musicians. I got caught on OLERUD and AMIDOL, which are, to my mind, WAY more obscure.

Nicki 2:12 PM  

For a certain subset -- anyone with a crush on Richard Gere in "Officer and a Gentleman" -- Subic was actually getable. The Defore/cense crossing however, was accursed.

Anonymous 2:32 PM  

SERVE TIME occurred to me for 78D early, but I resisted entering it because it though SERVE is definitely tennis, SERVE TIME sounds like a hokey noun phrase made up to fit the clue. Only after finishing all the crossed and looking at it for a while did I get the verb phrase meaning, I.e., "do time.". All the other theme clues match as to syntax - nouns to nouns, verbs to verbs. This seems like a generic clueing fault, a kind of clueless misdirrction. Anyone else thrown by yhis, here or in other puzzles?

Anonymous 2:39 PM  

those long quotes were fun.

Unknown 2:40 PM  

I'm not sure whether the puzzler is intimating that Frankie Valli is dead (Frankie Valli sang in it), or that he no longer can sing in falsetto. Neither is true! Hehe

Anonymous 2:43 PM  

@JenCT Best wishes to you and Ollie. Happy I could help a little.

Thanks for the info, Rex.

Anonymous 2:51 PM  

just donated to jen tanner with my kindle fire. went right through.

Anonymous 2:58 PM  

As always, Rex, your comments suffer from Rex-o-centrism...

I got SUBIC because all the crosses were easy...for ME.

Rubato is a common term to musicians. Chopin was famous for it...

On the other hand, I had to fix "Nacio" region because I never heard of Olerud and guessed "In pure form" instead of "in rare form." Olepud didn't sound believable, but then neither does "Olerud"

Oh well.......

Sparky 3:00 PM  

I'm in for JenCT. She's a lovely woman. As@Mac says she has created a wonderland around her home. A joy to visit.

Thank you Rex for the generous and moving appeal. "Youse is a good guy Perry."

And here's to all of us. Such a great response. I am all teared up, too.

Oh, the puzzle. Hole in the very SW; had GETAdog. Erased most of Soso. Up top twoPair, JAmEs which messed up LAIRDS (glamis?) Have to reread Macbeth. But did have a smile or two for the puns. Happy Sunday.

Anonymous 3:04 PM  

"Menage" is the French word for household.

A "Menage a trois" is a household of three....

Joe in Montreal 3:14 PM  

FRA is specifically NOT a monk, he is a friar. This should have been caught.

janie 3:17 PM  

one man's natick is another's, what?, boston?

no problem with RUBATO, but was unfamiliar with SUBIC and couldn't remember whether that [...fix] was ON or IN.

ah, well..... livin' 'n' learnin' --


Nigel 3:17 PM  

I'm guessing I'm like many other solvers. I know things I don't know I know. Or, I know words and don't know why I'm storing them in my brain. When I hit 44D the first word I put in was Suvla (a Bay in Turkey near Gallipoli) because I had MSS and Suvla Bay is mentioned in a great Australian folky song called "The Band Played Waltzing Matilda. Then when I got BACKHANDEDCOMPLIMENT I immediately changed it to SUBIC because my brain told me to, and I even had an inkling what country it was in, but really didn't know for sure.

However, I found the tennis puns quite boring and uninteresting. They weren't really funny, either in the cluing or in the answers so why bother. Dull. really - RETURNOFTHEJEDI? Nope, not funny.

My favourite answer was OUIJA because it's the only place I've ever seen the word planchette used - so it was a gimme.

Confession - I had to google for NACIO. I'm embarassed to say I just couldn't come up with that damn SAUCER. Sometimes it's the easy ones that bite you in the ass.

One good one I really liked was APOLOGIA - great word, even though I got it early with only the lettters ---L---A because like I say, my brain holds things and patterns I do not understand.

Anonymous 3:20 PM  

Don't usually like puns but this was pretty easy save for the discussed subic/rubato cross.
Contributed to J Tanner; do hope she achieves her goal.

Unknown 3:33 PM  

'I will argue that 'Subic' bay is a actually a simple answer for anyone over age 40 -- we finished that section first, in fact.

I got screwed up on 'dim past' because I put 'ago' as the last three letters and could not let them go, oddly enough.

This was a fun puzzle for my 14 year old daughter who, not knowing much about tennis, was the first to get the majority of the theme answers.

Plus, she knows all about 'Joe Jonas'.
She got 'simon', too.

We got hung up on 'dim past' as a family, however.

Carola 3:38 PM  

I liked the puzzle a lot. Thought the theme was very solid, especially liked FAULTFINDING, LOVE HANDLES, and SERVE TIME. Had fun filling in the rest - HEAVE HO, MENAGE, APOLOGIA, even ORANT. Didn't blink at RUBATO/SUBIC but had to guess at AMIDOL/OLERUD. Knowing German helped me with LETT, as in German, Latvia is Lettland.

@diywriter - I always liked the step quotes and wish we had more of them. @Evan, thanks for the background information on this.

@Anonymous 2:32 - SERVE TIME was actually my favorite, because of the verb-to-noun shift. I saw it as a bonus twist.

@JenCT, @Rex - I'm happy to be a part of this community and happy to donate. Just went through. Best wishes to you, Jen!

Tita 4:03 PM  

Fun puzzle - all the same mistakes.
Theme answers helped.

@Sparky - you had an epic and timely malapop - GETAdog, when that is exactly what @JenCT is doing (and needs help with)! LOL!

I think I mighta been donor #2, as back in early March I had been pleading with her to be sure to come to ACPT, and she explained why she couldn't.
If anyone would like another example of how amazing our Jen is, read about her bringing a little bit of magic (Metamorphosis & Lunch) to the luncheon at my place back in the fall.

I will also add a donate link to that page - I think I get about 1/100,000th the traffic of Rex's site, but every little bit helps.

Best of luck Jen!

Happy St. Patrick's Day. (Since it is actually today, I agree would've been nice to have such a theme.)

Anonymous 4:09 PM  

Agree with whoever it was who commented on the "Rex-o-centrism". I grow wearing of the rants about "bad crosses," etc. Just because something is obscure doesn't mean it's "bad." And considering the number of commenters who apparently didn't have a problem with SUBIC or with RUBATO or with either one (and I was one of the latter), that cross isn't really all that obscure.

Where are the arcane rules that define what, in Mr. Parker's mind at least, constitute "bad crosses." Are they written down somewhere in the secret annals of crossworddom? Does one have to be a 32nd degree crossword wizard to know them? Or do they just exist in the Lex Rexana?

Rex may want bad crosses to cease. I want that kind of whining to cease. (Just my humble opinion.)

Anonymous 4:10 PM  

The eruption of Pinatubo was not middling news. (Nor was the closing of the US military's largest overseas base)It was far away from most of the people posting here, but it was in fact, literally an earth-shaking event. I assume you've heard of Mt St. Helens; I mention it because in the US, everyone invokes it. But the rest of the world shrugs. Pinatubo's eruption was vastly larger. it affected the world's weather and temps for a good while.

Michael Hanko 4:13 PM  

You're doing a really good thing, @Rex. I admire your generous spirit and your creativity in using your bully pulpit to help out a fellow crossword buff.

P.S. There AUGHT to be a law regarding careless reading of your blog!

Anonymous 4:14 PM  

Anonymous 4:09 PM
You're my hero. Or heroine. Either way, I say amen and thanks.

Anonymous 4:16 PM  

4:09pm - meant to type "weary". My bad.

Z 4:26 PM  

anonymice @5:37, 7:18, 12:19, 2:10, 2:58, 4:09, 4:10, and 4:14 - Rex actually explained in some detail what makes a cross bad in some detail, with a counter example from the same puzzle. In his rather extensive explanation he specifically explained why your comments would be off point. "Whining" is repeatedly and annoyingly making the same erroneous statement on a subject that you, apparently, don't fully understand. Please stop.

Anonymous 4:35 PM  


Rex was utterly unpersuasive. Lots of evidence to support that assertion, ( see every other post for the last five hours). Rex whines. He's a great solver, but an ego maniac. And a whiner.

Thoracic 4:43 PM  

Why come to the blog to say you don't like the blog? I don't waste time reading people I dislike. Rex offers interesting opinions and allows a forum to trade our experiences. I like the give and take, as well as the interesting facts I learn only here. The general sense of humor always amuses ad well. Thanks Rex

Tita 4:47 PM  

@All you whiny Anonymice - the hilarious irony is to be found in the blog's faq - which you clearly haven't read.

The sad thing is that on a day when Rex and all of the community he enabled agree about the kindly act of supporting, and soliciting support for, one of the nicest people on this blog, who might be forgiven for her own personal whinings, but who never does, you are bickering over such an insignificant point.

Choose to be LIKEABLE, at least for today!

Anonymous 4:51 PM  

Who said I didn't like the blog? I enjoy it very much. That doesn't mean Rex doesn't whine. It's a fault of his, everyone has them. Rex also has empathy and compassion ( ask Jen), an encyclopaedic knowledge of literature and pop culture, a quick wit. I bet he has other fine qualities. But enough about Rex, aren't we giving and taking? Why question my motives?

Jean 5:20 PM  

I was 5 or 6 when Subic was in the news but I remember it from WWII movies, so for me it was a gimmee. Rubato, too. It's the damned rock groups that stump me, ancient of days that I am.

Ulrich 5:26 PM  

Whatever happened to Rex's observation that comments about comments are tedious? This always has been a blog where everybody is allowed to disagree with everybody else, which includes, of course, Rex himself. And this can be done without name-calling or attempts to make someone look stupid.

My greatest disagreement over the last three days is with people for whom a single natick, GIVEN THEIR SPECIFIC STATE OF INCOMPLETE KNOWLEDGE, can be enough to sink an entire puzzle, regardless of its other merits. And that, to me, is a case of a tail wagging the dog.

BTW My personal natick to day was the OLERUD/AMIDOL crossing, which I'm taking on the chin...

...and I do not understand the fuss over HTML. As a file extension, it follows a period, always, and that's all I have to know.

chefwen 5:26 PM  

I am having a hell of a time trying to donate to @JenCT. Three different credit cards. Each time I have gotten to the expiration date they tell me it's incorrect, it's not!

I have sent them an email and will try to clear matters up tomorrow.

Best of luck Jen.

bygowi - Now that's a good one.

Ulrich 6:01 PM  

Oh, and speaking of "A Night at the Opera": Here's a comment from a critic I'll remember for ever: "The Marx Brothers do to 'Il Trovatore' what should be done to 'Il Trovatore' ". I also remember that watching the havoc they were wreaking on the set in the climactic scene made me laugh to hard and so long that my sides hurt for hours afterwards...

Thoracic 6:06 PM  

I apologise if my remark offended anyone. Of course everyone is entitled to their opinion and can express it freely. I just thought " egomaniac " and " whining " were a little rude, but I'm a newcomer and perhaps ought to not impose my overly polite Canadian sensibilities on everyone else, eh? I'm sure Rex neither needs nor wants my defending. I'll be nicer.

Anonymous 6:24 PM  


I don't think you need to apologize for anything. You were perfectly nice. I believe you were wrong, but you were perfectly pleasant.
As for my diagnosis of egomania, who but an egomaniac, or a genuine genius, would have a blog?
Hemingway was invoked quite a bit recently, was it yesterday or Friday? Either way, within the first three pages of The Sun Also Rises, Roberts Cohen's wife is described as being "Canadian, and having their easy social graces".
Once again, Papa proves correct.
You have MY apologies, if I offended you. (But I still say Subic Bay is worlds away from obscure)

Thoracic 6:30 PM  

Anonymous, fair enough. I can always handle being wrong, but shudder at the thought of not being nice!

Unknown 6:58 PM  

Thanks, now I get what login was. Thought it was a modern variation of Logan. Oddly Subic jumped right into my head as did rubato, which I only know from puzzles. I had lots of fun with this puzzle.

Anonymous 7:41 PM  

But isn't love a term used in tennis? Just kidding thought I'd throw that in again.

A Capriote 7:47 PM  

Haven't seen CAPRIOTE in a while. That really pissed Rex off!

jberg 7:50 PM  

I'm with Gill I.P. People may say "no problem," "sure thing," or "NOT AT ALL," but they are not making the "polite response" unless they say "You're welcome!"

I knew RUBATO and SUBIC BAY (but @Rex was right, they shouldn't have crossed), but JADEN/JOE JONAS was a total guess. Could have been mADEN and MOE, for all I knew. Or bADEN and bOE.

Those of you beefing about the clue for html, look at the address windown for the blog you are reading. The last 5 characters are a period followed by the abbreviation 'html'.

It's late in the day, and almost everything has been said, except that if you have to have an EEL, the partial "spiny ____" is a better clue than most.

I loved this puzzle, once I got BACKHANDED COMPLIMENTS -- I did notice it was a POC, but I loved it anyway.

@JenCT, so happy I could make a small contribution.

@anonymous - get a name! Especially if you want to make a point to @Rex, who says he doesn't read anonymous comments.

OISK 8:01 PM  

My only guess was Joe Jonas and Jaden Smith - never heard of either, but it somehow looked better than Moe and Maden. This time, I won. Yesterday, (Dee or Lee) I lost. Agree with the person who commented that a single Natick ought not detract from an otherwise well-constructed puzzle. Olerud played for my Mets for a while, and "Rubato" is (I thought) a pretty common term in music. I complain when too many clues that rely on the same type of knowledge are piled into one area of the puzzle. For me, that was 3 product names and 2 pop culture references in the NW a week ago Saturday.
I like adding to my knowledge base with tidbits like Subic and Muleta. And thanks to Liz, I now know that there is a group called STYX, which will help me in future puzzle solving, I am sure.

Anonymous 8:18 PM  


OK, though I don't much care what Rex thinks. After all, he tells us often enough what he thinks. I was commenting on comments. Still am. You were spot on regarding manners. You were on less solid ground regarding computer code and its usage, and dead wrong on names. I mean jberg? That's a name? Never heard of it, but I'm an obliging sort. Thanks for the order.



sanfranman59 8:41 PM  

All solvers (this week's median solve time, average for day of week, ratio, percentile, rating)

Mon 6:44, 6:14, 1.08, 82%, Challenging
Tue 10:18, 8:23, 1.23, 89%, Challenging
Wed 11:32, 10:59, 1.05, 65%, Medium-Challenging
Thu 12:23, 16:58, 0.73, 8%, Easy
Fri 24:49, 22:18, 1.11, 76%, Medium-Challenging
Sat 27:42, 24:59, 1.11, 82%, Challenging
Sun 28:35, 29:14, 0.98, 50%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 4:07, 3:42, 1.11, 88%, Challenging
Tue 5:59, 4:54, 1.22, 94%, Challenging
Wed 6:41, 6:22, 1.05, 62%, Medium-Challenging
Thu 6:56, 9:56, 0.70, 5%, Easy (9th lowest ratio of 168 Thursdays)
Fri 13:41, 12:57, 1.06, 59%, Medium
Sat 19:11, 14:38, 1.31, 93%, Challenging
Sun 18:05, 19:26, 0.93, 33%, Easy-Medium

MikeM 11:10 PM  

Found it surprising people did not know RUBATO. I play piano but I thought it was kind of a common musical word, like ADAGIO. Good luck JenCt I will donate tomorrow. Rex, you've done a very nice gesture.

IronMike 2:00 AM  

Subic was a gimme but never heard of Rubato. I was able to infer amidol (originally thought amigos) once I got dies irate. OK theme.

Elle54 7:32 AM  

Put me in the DUH category. Didn't know RUBATO, SUBIC, OLERUD,AMIDOL, LEE,ABE,MULETAS . I enjoyed this puzzle, but it took me a long time.,

Anonymous 9:43 AM  

Subic Bay did not have great significance in WWII, but for anyone who served in the U. S. Navy in the West Pacific during the Korean and Vietnam Wars, it was a gimme since it was the main American naval base throughout the period. We can all tell you stories of liberty jaunts (mostly unprintable) in nearby Olongapo City.

DPH 6:58 PM  

It all depends on what you happen to know. I'd never heard of lots of things in most of these puzzles, but Minas, Abe and Subic were all gimmes for me.

Anonymous 12:26 PM  

Dear Rex and the readers of this blog,

We at NEADS/Dogs for Deaf and Disabled Americans were completely blown away by your generosity on behalf of Jen, who has been raising money to help pay for her new assistance dog. In less than 4 days Jen reached her goal! That has to be some kind of record and is in large part due to the overwhelming thoughtfulness of this community. We have about 80 people fundraising for assistance dogs at any given time, and we wish that even half of them had such an enthusiastic and generous group of people to rally around them as you have done for Jen.

And a very special thanks to Rex, for bringing Jen's efforts to the attention of this generous community.

With sincere admiration for all you've done for Jen,
Your friends at NEADS/Dogs for Deaf and Disabled Americans

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Anonymous 12:31 PM  

I for one had no problem with Subic and rubato. The latter was in a puzzle just days ago. My husband and I were stationed at Clark Air Force Base in the Phillipines in 1967-8 and visited Subic Bay naval base numerous times.

Anonymous 3:18 PM  

I'm a movie buff, so got Subic from Officer and a Gentleman.

Dirigonzo 4:45 PM  

From Syncity, it seems there was a lot of FAULTFINDING in the comments a week ago. I stalled in a couple of areas (yes, those ones) due to general ignorance about some of clues but every time I managed to find a crossword to get me going again - except the L in AMIDOL/OLERUD, that was a guess but I like to think a well-reasoned one.

I knew two things in advance of doing the puzzle because I "like" RP's fb page: OREO is a crumbly snack (or not really, maybe) and @jenCT needed assistance with her service dog. Both of these tidbits were helpful for different reasons.

SharonAK 3:17 AM  

I am SO GLAD there are NO more of those LONG QUOTES. I remember one, just one, that was really humorous, enough to make the struggle worth it. But having long, long spaces with no way of guessing what to put in them until all the crosses were done was a total drag for me.

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strayling 7:20 PM  

FOAD, spammer.

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