Mathematician Paul / SUN 3-3-13 / British actress Diana / Chicago lakefront attraction / Cole Porter title woman / TV's Peter literature's Ben / Gold Silver waltz composer / Insect pupa sold as fish food / Fargo's partner / Sexologist's subject / Start of Willa Cather's Great Plains trilogy

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Constructor: Samuel A. Donaldson

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: "Seven Blurbs for Seven Biographies" — Clues are imagined blurbs for wacky book titles, which are created by taking phrase that follows the pattern "THE x OF y" and reversing "x" and "y"

Theme answers:
  • 22A: "It's worth it just for Ms. Behar's famous lasagna recipe" ("THE COOKING OF JOY")
  • 35A: "An insightful look at how playing Miss Brooks took its toll on Ms. Arden" ("THE DESTRUCTION OF EVE")
  • 48A: "You don't have to be a gardener to dig this book about Kerouac's tools" ("THE SPADES OF JACK")
  • 58A: "Finally, we learn how one Jonas brother defined an entire generation" ("THE TIME OF NICK")
  • 73A: "Clinton's a well-known southpaw, so this exposé on his other-handed punches is an eye-opener" ("THE RIGHTS OF BILL") [awkward clue]
  • 87A: "Required reading for all 'Purple Rain' fans who think their idol is too goody-goody" (THE DARKNESS OF PRINCE)
  • 103A: "A gripping narrative about one folk singer's violent turn against Paul Simon" (THE WARFARE OF ART") [weird that this is the only clue w/o title subject's last name in it ... well Prince just has the one name, but still ...]

Word of the Day: Paul ERDOS (28A: Mathematician Paul) —

Paul Erdős (HungarianErdős Pál [ˈɛrdøːʃ paːl]; 26 March 1913 – 20 September 1996) was a Hungarian mathematician. Erdős published more papers than any other mathematician in history, working with hundreds of collaborators. He worked on problems in combinatoricsgraph theorynumber theoryclassical analysisapproximation theoryset theory, and probability theory.
He is also known for his "legendarily eccentric" personality. (wikipedia)
• • •

Recently Will Shortz declared somewhere (I forget where) that he was looking for Sundays with lower word counts in the hopes that it would result in more interesting fill. I am paraphrasing and perhaps garbling the message, but that is what I remember (someone will surely correct me). Anyway, this puzzle seems to be something like he had in mind—there's a Ton of white space for a Sunday. Huge open spaces that do, to some extent, achieve the "interesting fill" goal. But I have this feeling the push for more whiteness is going to yield diminishing returns after a point. For every bit of interesting fill (say, EASY DOES IT or BLISTER PACK) there's something ham-fisted (like CORD OF WOOD) or there's a passel of short junk. NE and SW are good examples of the tension between short and long fill.  I'd take one less 9 in both those corners if it would result in no PARAS, LIRAS (79D: Old Italian dough), PARTER, A PAIR, NO SEE, GO ASK, EENIE, etc. Unnecessary acrobatics (i.e. many showy long Downs) in those corners resulted in much wincing when it came to the small stuff. Plus there's the ERDOS / PASSIVATE crossing, which was absolute gibberish to me (28A: Mathematician Paul + 17D: Give an anticorrosive coating to). I had to flat-out guess at that "S"—the fact that I guessed right means it's inferrable, I suppose, but still: rough. If I'm alone on that score, I'll eat my hat. In general, more white squares to fill adequately  = more reliance on computer assistance with the construction, which *can* result in an acceptance of adequate as opposed to a striving for great. This is especially true in an era when the Theme is Everything. Why bother polishing your work. Your word list is a virtual guarantee that whatever your construction software suggests to you has been used before, and is thus valid, or was, in some context, at some point. This theme is indeed very good. Cute and funny (despite my audible groan at THE WARFARE OF ART—I've only ever heard that title rendered as "The Art of War"). So this is by no means a bad puzzle. I just want to speak out against this "more white space for more white space's sake" idea. If I end up having to choke on stuff like OFST and DORS (32A: British actress Diana) and ATTWO and ANTEGG (1A: Insect pupa sold as fish food) and GEOG and GUNNS and EELER etc., then I don't see the point.

I lost a full minute of time when I actually stopped solving and checked to confirm that ERDOS and PASSIVATE were real things. This almost *never* happens—that a cross is so baffling that I am compelled to check my work. Theme was easy to uncover and easy to solve, and should've made the puzzle easier overall, but didn't. Which is fine—harder Sundays I can get behind. But there was something a bit sloggy about this one.

  • 82A: Chicago lakefront attraction (NAVY PIER) — one of the nicer answers in the grid.
  • 16D: Start of Willa Cather's Great Plains trilogy ("O PIONEERS") — I don't think I've ever read Cather. I read an Alice Munro short story that was indirectly about her. But nothing by her. Still, got this easily.
  • 32D: Some bathroom crystals (DRANO) — again, brutal. The DORS crossing didn't help. Had to guess that "D." 
  • 40D: Composer of the "Gold and Silver" waltz (LEHAR) — rhymes with (see 22A) "Behar." I think.
  • 65D: Fargo's partner (WELLS) — I never thought of those names as belonging to different people. They exist as one word in my brain: WellsFargo. So I thought ... I don't know what I thought, actually. But I sure didn't know it straight off.
  • 75D: Sexologist's subject (G-SPOT) — maybe, I guess, but do sexologists still talk about this? It feels very ... '70s to me. Maybe '80s. But according to wikipedia, the topic still generates considerable debate. More than you could possibly want to know here
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Anonymous 12:19 AM  

Funny how different things are obvious to different people. As soon as I saw "mathematician Paul" I thought "oh, ERDOS". A gimme for me. Not so with "O Pioneers".

jae 12:33 AM  

Unlike Rex, this was on the easy side for me.   No real erasures although some spelling adjustments were required e.g. I wanted an extra S in ASONANT


Smooth grid, amusing theme with some nice long downs, I liked it.

C. Ross Word 12:51 AM  

Cute theme but caught on right away. Easiest Sunday ever for me (approx. 2X Rex's time; I'm almost always slower than that). Seemed like Monday / Tuesday level clueing. Enjoyed trying to guess the theme answers with as few crosses as possible; most seemed fairly easily inferable. Seemed like a half day off; back to the World Baseball Classic.

Anonymous 1:04 AM  

This went down without too much trouble here - as a student of math, ERDOS was a gimme. Some lucky first-instinct guesses and getting the theme pretty early helped a lot.
Incidentally, make sure to read the review and the parody menu Rex linked to; both are pretty hysterical. It isn't often I see something online that makes me audibly chuckle when I'm by myself.

Stuart 1:18 AM  

As a mathematician who taught at the University of Nebraska for 11 years, both "Erdos" and "O Pioneers" were "gimmes".

This reminds me that good guesses would be trivial for the most famous artist, movie star, musician, physicist, etc. of the twentieth century, but the most famous mathematician draws blanks for (100 - epsilon)% (a very small math joke):-) of the population.

B. Donohue 1:37 AM  

Very reasonable puzzle. I got the theme late, but it got me over the hump of solving this. There wasn't anything particularly sexy about this; it felt workmanlike.

A recent trip to Chicago got me NAVYPIER very early on. Despite living in MA, BAYSTATE was a late entry for me.

Finished in 62 minutes, which is great for me for a Sunday!! 4 tiles wrong, because I didn't search through to correct liNNS to GUNNS and SOng to SOLO. Considering that easier answers GEOG, GROUNDS, NATL and IFSO crossed these 4 tiles, I will consider this a "complete" and not a DNF. Either this puzzle was easy or I am slowly improving.

Anonymous 1:42 AM  

Wow, surprised by Rex's difficulty rating. I found it quite easy for some reason.

Help on a clue answer please?

C: Move to the head of the class, maybe


Call me lostboy if you answer so I don't miss it.


chefwen 2:27 AM  

I, also thought this would receive an easy rating as I solved it without any outside help. Unusual for me on a big ass Sunday puzzle.

Was disappointed that 69D was not beam up.

Guy Fieri is a royal PIA and the continual, Drive Ins and Dives reruns soured me off of any further Food Network channel shows. How often can one hear that man's voice without running out of the room screaming.

MetaRex 3:07 AM  

CrossWorld Buzz: All right. The theme is indeed cute, but it's also kinda obvious and not too buzz-inducing for insiders. What Rex said on the downside of the nice open fields...there's some fill here you need a BLISTER PACK to protect yourself from. Felt kinda irritated by AT TWO-TEETER-WIT in the NW being right instead of my TWO A.M.-WAFFLE-ART since TWO A.M. is less nasty fill than AT TWO. Not a big deal. Enjoyed my screw up in the NE corner from laying down MY ANTONIA instead of O PIONEERS.

CrossOver Buzz: Good. The cute theme, the clear title, and the spelled-out thematic clues help make this puzzle a good "aha" one for culturally literate real people who aren't CrossWorlders. Sunday was the gateway drug to puzzling for me all those years ago, and I think it serves that role for many people. Some NYT readers who read books but who don't usually do puzzles will give this one a gander, and some of them will wind up as denizens of CrossWorld.

evil doug 4:06 AM  

Lostboy: "Okay, class, pass in your quiz papers."

After the high standard that was set last Sunday, this has to be a letdown. Tons of 'of' phrases/titles that could be used, and none of these are howlers.

And you're right: "Cord of wood" is an awkward dilution of the theme...

"Erotic moment for classic car-maker E.L.?"
"Wood of Cord".


Jeremy Mercer 5:00 AM  

I am intrigued by Rex's comment today :

"I lost a full minute of time when I actually stopped solving and checked to confirm that ERDOS and PASSIVATE were real things."

Does this mean that elite solvers consider it legitimate to dictionary-check answers mid-puzzle? Would this be allowed, say, at the ACPT? Considering @MetaRex raised the ethics of Googling answers yesterday, I wonder how this dictionary checking practice is generally viewed ...

paulsfo 6:00 AM  

I generally liked it but I thought four of the clues ranged from bad (the cluefor RIVERBOAT; and TDS is a singular stat) to plain wrong: as Rex mentioned, the phrase is "The Art Of War." I'm sorry if that makes for a shorter theme entry; that's the phrase. And, finally, PGA is for "professionals" and a "duffer" is, by definition, a mediocre (or worse) golfer; so again, that's just plain wrong.
I got a rare no-errors on this but I had to guess the "s", as Rex mentioned. However, I'd say it's not a *complete* Natick because the root "passive" and just what's likely to be an English word led me to go with "s".

The Bard 6:10 AM  

The Taming of the Shrew , Act V, scene I

KATHARINA: Husband, let's follow, to see the end of this ado.

PETRUCHIO: First kiss me, Kate, and we will.

KATHARINA: What, in the midst of the street?

PETRUCHIO: What, art thou ashamed of me?

KATHARINA: No, sir, God forbid; but ashamed to kiss.

PETRUCHIO: Why, then let's home again. Come, sirrah, let's away.

KATHARINA: Nay, I will give thee a kiss: now pray thee, love, stay.

PETRUCHIO: Is not this well? Come, my sweet Kate:
Better once than never, for never too late.


The Taming of the Shrew , Act V, scene II

PETRUCHIO: Why, there's a wench! Come on, and kiss me, Kate.

Sun Bin 6:20 AM  

Although my relative Sun Tzu wrote The Art of War, I chose to delve more into the Method.

Anonymous 6:20 AM  

Thanks Evil Doug!!


GILL I. 6:23 AM  

I thought this was just loads of fun. Each answer made me chuckle and I couldn't wait to get to the next theme.
Got it at THE COOKING OF JOY and just kept filling in all the blanks. Didn't even notice PASSIVATE til @Rex pointed it out. It looks like a made up word.
That write-up of Guy Fieri's new restaurant was funny as hell. He has a Tex Wasabi here. If you enjoy food poisoning, sit at the sushi bar.
I wonder how you collect ANT EGGs. In my head I'm trying to imagine someone putting one on at the end of their hook.
@Evan - EDSEL!!!! Everytime I see this now, I will think of you....

MetaRex 6:31 AM  

Johnny Mercer--The "is googling ok" poll is still open and your opinion there is welcome--no responses yet :)

"How Bad Are MetaRex's Ethics: A Poll"

Bob Kerfuffle 6:38 AM  

This puzzle felt easy. I don't time myself, and I typically take 45 - 60 minutes to do a Sunday, but it had an easy feel because once the theme was clear, the answers just popped up from the clues.

One write-over at 28 D - there are several variants of EENIE: EENY wouldn't fit, and I at first had EENEY. All of these and more can be found in the discussion of the counting-out rhyme.

Sorry, but even I have by now learned Paul Erdős's name, and I consider myself a pollymath, that is, one who knows as much mathematics as a parrot.

MetaRex 6:42 AM  

Excuse me, mistake...thought you were a great singer...

webwinger 6:47 AM  

Found this quite easy but uninspired, especially after the brilliance of the last two Sundays. Finished under an hour without googles. Theme seemed tepid, tired, with tortured cluing, and all those THEs—surprised that Rex didn’t complain about them. Long downs somewhat made up for theme weakness: TEETOTALERS, EASYDOESIT, OPIONEERS, and BLISTERPLACK were definite winners; PASSIVATE (opposite of activate?) and ATAHUALPA (WTF/WOE/whatever!) amused; CORDOFWOOD, RIVERBOAT meh. Not much to complain loudly about. Opening cross of ANTEGG (plural would have been better; interesting, sort of, to learn they are not really eggs in this sense) and ATTWO (hand up for two am) was pretty lame. Knew ERDOS—read a long article about him years ago, a magnificently eccentric person. DORS after discarding Rigg with regret. Says something about my evolution into a puzzle guy that I typed EELER and ORTS without a moment’s hesitation… Yes, you got your EDSEL, @Evan (does it count as a malapop if it’s within 1 week?) Thanks Rex for the GSPOT treatise and review/parody of FIERI restaurant—knew nothing about him before, but can’t wait to check it out now!

MikeM 6:52 AM  

I was Naticked at the same cross as Rex. But guessed T instead of S, I do hard copy so didn't realize the error until now. So is a non-Googling one square DNF better than a Googled finish? I consider Googling to be giving up. My father used to have a rule - you could only use that day's NYTimes as a source. It was good for looking up sports teams but that was about it.

Rob C 6:57 AM  

Stunned to see Rex's Medium-Challenging rating. Like other have already mentioned, I flew through this. Usually on a Sunday, I have to stop, clear my head and get back to it. Not so last night, only took one sitting-about 45 mins

I thought the theme was a lot of fun. Didn't think the fill was all that bad. I had the same problem as Rex at the crossing of ERDOS and PASSIVATE. Guessed S, crossed my fingers, and moved on.

@Evan re: The Walking Dead - Yes, it was Shaun of the Dead that had the line about the Z word. I've been hooked on TWD since it started. My wife and I call it a soap opera with zombies. Never been a big fan of soap operas, but somehow an ax to a zombie's head every so often makes it ok. Guess that puts me on the low brow side of things...more evidence, I'm not a Downton Abbey fan.

Unknown 7:16 AM  

Wow. Super fast & fun Sunday. First thing filled in was THE JOY OF COOKING, which had to get switched around right quick. Theme answers were easy to get. Favorite was THE DARKNESS OF PRINCE. I don't time myself but for sure this was one of my fastest Sundays ever, done in one sitting in about 20 minutes, unusual for me. Only snag was at PASSIVATE/ERDOS, neither of which I knew, but got from crosses eventually.

Rob C 7:32 AM  

PS - I did notice the two TEETs on top and the GSPOT down below. Even more evidence of lowbrow...

Elle54 7:58 AM  

I agree with Rex about the S in Erdos/ passivate. That was my last square, guessed and got it right.
But it seems like many have heard of Erdos.

chefbea 8:04 AM  

Started the puzzle last night. Got a lot done but couldn't figure out the theme and fell asleep. Woke up this morning and saw the cooking of Joy and it all fell into place. Very easy puzzle

Of course new 99down. Have seen it at a museum in St. Louis.

David 8:17 AM  

I had SHiEST crossing PLAiAS. What do I know of Spanish beaches? Otherwise an easy Sunday.

mea culpa 8:27 AM  

Did no one else slap down rigg for actress Diana?

Anonymous 8:30 AM  

"Erdos" is a far more obtainable clue than many of the obscure 1950s movie stars that never seem to raise an eyebrow. He is such a famous individual in science/mathematics that the Erdos number arose, which is equivalent to the Bacon number in the entertainment industry.

Anonymous 8:40 AM  

Easy, easy theme made easier with the pairing of "THE" and "OF" in each theme answer. Puzzle itself was kind of boring, to be honest. I expect more cleverness in a Sunday.

Biggest stumbling block was the center top where I could not get DRANO for a long time and, like Rex, had MISLEADS instead of MISREADS. Also though the TEETER - TEETOALERS cross must be wrong, but it wasn't.

Took me just a little longer than Rex. But then I'm not posting my time publicly every day, so there is no reason to rush.

Also, if Rex is reading this, you should remove the Share on Google Reader bookmarklet that appears at the bottom of each post. Google no longer supports this.

Glimmerglass 8:41 AM  

For me, the theme answers were super easy. I wrote in THE DARKNESS OF PRINCE off the T, and I'm not sure I needed that, but I had it before I looked at the clue. However, some of the fill was brutally hard. Being old saved me (GUNNS, DORS). In all, I agree with Rex today. I completed the puzzle only because I made exactly the same guess of the S in ERDOS and PASSIVATE. (I was trying unsuccessfully to remember "galvanize," thinking it was the word I was missing there). Glad to see more challenging Sunday puzzles.

Evan 8:55 AM  

This was easy-medium for me, except for that ERDOS/PASSIVATE crossing. I guessed T. I hate it when the last square I fill in is wrong, especially when it's on an insane cross like that one. Much gnashing of teeth follows.

It's not often that I see three comments in response to me before I've written a comment of my own, but I guess that's what happens on a blog where we all move on to the next day as soon as the post goes up. So here we go.

Okay, @Gill I.P. and @webwinger, you've had your fun with my EDSEL flop. I think my write-over today of THE RIGHTS OF BOOK was funnier. Not just because his name isn't BOOK Clinton, not just because I had to convince myself that there was such a thing as The Book of Rights, but because I had no idea how to parse the answer when I got it. "Sure," I thought, "that makes sense. An expose about Clinton would probably come from the right, so this is the book about the rights....of....???"

@Rob C:

I'm actually a fan of both "The Walking Dead" and "Downton Abbey." I mix my low and high brows, which is probably why I'm also a fan of "Game of Thrones." All of them have their soap opera moments, but sadly, only two of them could plausibly go with "axe-to-the-head" as a normal plot device, unless "Downton" jumps the shark with a zombie invasion of their own.

That reminds me: I highly recommend watching Stephen Colbert's segment on "Breaking Bad" as told by "Downton" characters.

Mohair Sam 9:19 AM  

Very easy for a Sunday. Surprised Rex found it medium-challenging.

Once we filled THEJOY..ING the theme answers were a snap and therefore the fill came fairly easily. This weekend is probably the first where we have finished Saturday and Sunday puzzles with no crossword dictionary and no Google.

Two letters were "educated" guesses (yes, erdoS and also Lehar).

Totally agree with Rex on The Art of Warfare (it's war) being a bit off. And we were pleased at his OTIS guess before KATE. "Miss Otis Regrets" being a personal favorite, best sung by Ella. Good call by the young fella.

Carola 9:39 AM  

I'd have said "easy," except I DNF: I need to learn ERDOS. I guessed PAStIVATE, thinking of some protective paste, like paste wax. The wrong straw to clutch at. And then in going over the grid, I saw that I hadn't checked the cross of the unlikely-in-retrospect GEOl - I knew and loved Peter GUNN for his glamour and Ben for his longing for toasted cheese on Treasure Island.

Today I enjoyed the non-theme swaths more than the theme answers, which seemed too predictable once I got the pattern with THE COOKING OF JOY. Liked BLISTER PACK coming into focus, as well as ATAHUALPA, which I kinda knew but couldn't remember how to spell.

I accepted CORD OF WOOD as a thing, as back in the "everybody has to have a wood stove" era, friends who'd lived with central heating all their lives suddenly became PIONEERS discussing the source, quality, and location of their CORD OF WOOD.

@Rex - Thanks for that menu!

Anonymous 9:42 AM  

Another vote for super easy Sunday but DNF. Unlike Rex, I didn't guess at Erdos/passivate and check my answer.

Tita 9:44 AM  

ruStproof fits at 17D.

This was fun, though maybe not stellar. Theme definitely helped to get the odder fill.

Liked ROAR crossing the clue "Take the lion's share of", and ironic that you can clue the word HOG with the word lion.

Thanks Rex for thise Fieri links.

I did guess right at the natick-of-the-day, so did finish.

jackj 9:46 AM  

The “other” Sam Donaldson, (“our” Sam Donaldson), devised a game of “Can you flip this?” and by taking book titles and common phrases that are simply, “The__A__of__B__” and switching them to “The ___B__of ___A___”, he brings us some clever wordplay, (seven in all), with cluing that accentuates the positives.

I rather fancied the clue “You don’t have to be a gardener to dig this book about Kerouac’s tools” that gave us the answer, THESPADESOFJACK and also, the Simon and Garfunkel entry that produced THEWARFAREOFART was a nice riff on the apparent reality of their situation.

“Our Sam” wasn’t content to rest on his laurels with the clever theme but gave us an abundance of fill that can best be described as splendiferous, from BLISTERPACK to ONIONDIP and TEETOTALERS to CORDOFWOOD and EASYDOESIT to RIVERBOAT.

Spread among these lengthier bits we had very few clunkers, PASSIVATE being among the worst of them and that jockeyed for position with the mathematician Paul ERDOS, Kerouac’s “Ending to beat” for NIK, “phobia’s prefix” for ACRO and perhaps the gnarliest of all, OFST clued as “Spirit____Louis”.

I did a double take when GSPOT appeared, clued simply as “Sexologist’s subject”, only to learn that my reaction would have been more timely when the answer was first used in a Times puzzle 17 years ago by Bob Klahn in March of 1996.

In other fun items, it was nice to see my commonwealth’s nickname shown as BAYSTATE rather than the usual TAXACHUSETTS; the inspired clue of “Be all thumbs as a writer?” cluing TEXT was a primo bit and AURORAS clued without geographic references for “Australis” or “Borealis” was a nice touch.

Don’t agree that this was a happy romp?

“You do not like them.
SO you say.
Try them! Try them!
And you may.
Try them and you may I say.”

Thank you!
Thank you, Sam, today.

Anonymous 9:48 AM  

To chef beta: as to 99D, you did not see it in a museum in St. Louis. The Spirit of St. Louis is in the Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum in DC. What you saw was a reproduction of the Spirit of St. Louis.

Z 9:51 AM  

Easy medium here at 37 minutes. Wanted Euler of the E in EENIE but didn't think his first name was Paul (it's Leonhard I see). That S wasn't a guess, but I did go through 60% of the alphabet before I realized I did know the answer.

Had to change GyNtS to GUNNS, SHiEST to SHYEST, and GET to IT to GET ON IT, otherwise pretty straightforward solve. It took me until THE SPADES OF JACK to grok the theme, then went back north an quickly cleaned it up. Everything south was then quick and easy.

@unknown - I would have dropped in RIGG but I already had -OR- so that stopped me.

@Jeremy Mercer and @MetaRex - Is it possible to cheat at solitaire? It is certainly possible to lie about "winning" to others, but "lying" and "cheating" are two different sins. So how a solver solves doesn't have a moral/ethical component to it, but how one discusses it does.

Unknown 9:58 AM  

I also found this to be the easiest puzzle in a very long time. The theme came quickly. I only had to look up Erdos at the end. (Didn't have the 's'.)
I loved the fill because there were no words you couldn't get from the crosses (other than Erdos). I had to switch Two AM to At Two, rain gear to rain wear, and Is It? to It Is? but very fair and fun puzzle. I'll take this type any day to the ones with dozens of obscure references.
Thanks Sam!

Evan 10:03 AM  

Also, Rex, in regard to what Will Shortz said about Sunday puzzles -- he wrote the following message to Kevin McCann, who passed it along to everyone on the Cruciverb-L mailing list:

"For Sunday puzzles, I'd welcome a little less theme material, if correspondingly more emphasis can be put on quality fill. I'd especially welcome constructions with word counts below the standard 140-word maximum. This would allow longer and (I hope) fresher non-theme material."

So you pretty much got the gist of it. Lower word counts and fewer theme entries are good if the corresponding fill is fresh.

lawprof 10:09 AM  

Like many others, I too found today's puzzle to be on the easy side for a Sunday (the ERDOS/PASSIVATE crossing notwithstanding).

Picked up the theme early on, which helped immensely with the solve.

Speaking of themes, 26A brought on a wave of nostalgia from the late 50's/early 60's. The Peter Gunn music by Henry Mancini has got to be one of the all-time best themes for a TV show.

Notsofast 10:25 AM  

Like Rex, I had to guess at the "S" in ERDOS and PASSIVATE, but guessed right. Unlike Rex, I mostly liked the short crosses he mentioned, especially NOSEE. In the SE corner, I had FART written in before the first part of 103 A; so that was fun. B

Pete 10:30 AM  

Tis a great day for math geeks, such as myself, to lord it over one and all for their not knowing ERDOS. He's way famous. If you're a math geek.

I had TAB for 103D, which left me wondering which of the northeast states had the nickname of GAYSTATE. I'm guessing not Maine.

Pete 10:34 AM  

P.S It's also a great day to live in the northeast. If you're lucky enough to do so, you can see the headline "Man Sucked to Death in Bed" on the Daily News' front page from Saturday, and have your faith in humanity revived for one more day.

Merle 10:35 AM  

Like so many others commenting, I found this puzzle easy -- and the theme amusing -- and the Erdos-Passivate cross challenging, but likely. Re the Art of Warfare-Art of War controversy, if we are talking about the Sun Tzu book, we are talking about a matter of translation. Yes, Sun Tzu's title is usually translated as The Art of War -- but -- warfare makes just as much sense. Actually, tactics or even strategy may make even more sense, since he is not discussing brute force, but logistics. How do you win? Sledge hammer? Or....

I also enjoyed the posts by mathematicians. So out of my wheelhouse, and so interesting to learn about.

If anyone reading this does the other puzzles in the Sunday NY Times Magazine, the "Takeaway Crossword" on page 52 (print version for me), the gimmick of that puzzle is new to me, and solving is fun -- and challenging. The easy stuff is easy -- the challenging stuff is challenging. So if goes.

Milford 10:38 AM  

Easiest Sunday in recent memory, for me, finished in one sitting (just under an hour), which is unusual. Of course had the error with ERDOt/PAStIVATE.

Hand up for two a.m./waffle before AT TWO/TEETER and rigg before DORS. Also had baker before PINTA, thinking of the nursery rhyme for the nautical trio.

Liked the clue for TEXT. We order a CORD OF WOOD every year, so that seems perfectly fine to me (unless the complaint is that it matches the theme too much).

Got the theme early on, but honestly didn't really think that the theme answers were flip-flops on all books necessarily, just *things*, some books, some just phrases (THE NICK OF TIME, THE JACK OF SPADES, e.g.). Ah well.

The FIERI links are both scathing and hilarious. Holy spit-take on my morning coffee!

I'm beginning to think, based on comments here and other sources, that I should really start watching The Walking Dead, since I am patiently waiting for Breaking Bad to start again.

quilter1 10:40 AM  

Hand up for The Joy of Cooking before THE COOKING OF JOY. But after that correction the rest fell smoothly and fast. Technically DNF as I guessed Paul ERDOn and never heard of PASSIVATE, but that's OK.

@chefwen: I feel the same way about GF and DDD, but to be fair, we have found some good places to eat with our Garmin's list of all the places he has visited, including a St. Louis place, Antonini's, which we will visit on Thursday (shout out to @chefbea) when we go to the Missouri Valley Tournament (shout out to @Evil Doug). Go Drake Bulldogs. My daughter posted the NYT review of Fieri's restaurant on FB, but I had not seen the menu.

Milford 10:42 AM  

@Pete - my husband just showed me that headline. Priceless.

Also, I should correct that we get a faceCORD OF WOOD every year. We don't burn that much wood.

Tita 10:53 AM  

Started out as a book compiling awesome, simple, regional places to eat, now is a website.
No bleached hair, no gimmicks.

We got the book when it first came out in 1992. Jane and Michael Stern. They live in the next town, though I don't know them.

They wrote the book puzzle husband and I wish we ahd written.

J. D. KaPow 10:59 AM  

Easiest Sunday ever for me: cut my best time by 20%. Was shocked to see Rex's rating.

Anonymous 11:11 AM  

I thought this was the easiest puzzle in months. I completed most of it in one go-through. Only words I didn't know were Erdos and passivate.

jberg 11:45 AM  

Easy for me - ERDOS was indeed the hardest, but a) I think I've heard of him before, b) it sounds Hungarian, which seems plausible for a mathematician I've barely heard of, and c) you can see how PASSIVATE might mean to make anti-corrosive, even if it is a horrid construction. So inferable.

And I've come around to thinking EELER should be in every puzzle, just to make it feel home-like. OFST though, is my new candidate for Worst Partial Ever.

Thanks to the Bard - until seeing that, I was trying to think of a song named "Kate," rather than a whole show.

As for warfare, Amazon lists a version of the Sun Tzu book with that title: The Art of Warfare

Norm 11:46 AM  

I was thinking Rustoleum and went with ERDOT/PASTIVATE. A complete Natick and an ugly ending that definitely tainted what was otherwise a very enjoyable puzzle.

syndy 11:49 AM  

Hand up for Diana Rigg,but then I also had Montezuma! PASSIVATE is so stupid that yes stopping to google is allowable.easier than sparkling but fills the hole.

Anonymous 11:55 AM  

No complaints from me about running into sexpot Diana DORS!

Very easy puzzle, I thought.

GILL I. 12:07 PM  

@syndy: Montezuma (spelled Moctezuma by the Mexicans) was Aztec. ATAHUALPA is Incan. We can thank good ole Pizarro for having him executed and thereby ending the empire.
Diego Rivera has a terrific painting called "Conquest of the Inca" in Cuernavaca.
All that time in Mexico has definitely paid off.....:-)

Unknown 12:55 PM  

I for one enjoy DDD and have found some great places to eat. Guy can be a bit obnoxious, but keeping an open mind and fast forward on DVR helps. Good food comes in all flavors!

ERDOS was helped immensely by the PASSIVATE crossing. He-he.

Anonymous 12:59 PM  

You should figure it out not look it up if you're Rex or a competitor.

The A of M 1:28 PM  

1. Seems like this SunPuz had plenty of theme material. Seven long themers. Do we normally get a lot more?
2. 136 words doesn't seem like an unusually low count. Ain't 140 the max? So it grows a pair of black squares and it's maxed out?
3. Five U's. Seems about right. For a MonPuz.
4. Had to guess one letter, while solving. Yep. That one. Everything else seemed pretty fair game, fill-wise. Fave hole-in-the-dike-filler = OFST, btw.
5. Fave themer = THETIMEOFNICK. Less wordy clue choice: "Nite". har.
6. Fun solve. Thanx, Sam.


Acme 1:29 PM  

Fwiw, DIANA Dors was born Diana Mary FLUCK!
The British Marilyn Monroe...
Half the Dianas you meet born in the 50s and 60s were named for her!
Fabulous theme Sam Donaldson!

See you all next week!

xyz 1:29 PM  

Medium hyphen challenging my ass, this was the easiest sunday ever. X of Y / Y of X all writes-in after the first one. Not to mention duffer is not synonymous with golfer but rather means untalented golfer, merely the tip of the ugly iceberg.

I guess today was low on crosswordese......

Nigel 1:40 PM  

Gee, what's with all the complaints about CORDOFWOOD. It's a perfectly ordinary phrase. When I was growing up, my father actually would order a cord of wood for our wood burning fireplace, so to me it was quite a logical clue and answer.

I didn't get the theme until I got to THEPRINCEOFDARKNESS and then they all made sense, except for the clue on THEBILLOFRIGHTS - what kind of clue was that?

Finished in 44 minutes - I use AcrossLIte which is not my favourite program - it doesn't intuit what I want so I'm too often putting answers in the wrong direction. Anyone got a better program? I use a Macbook, not one of those cool iPads all the other kids have.

Brookboy 1:57 PM  

Usually when I disagree with Rex about his rating, it's because he has rated the puzzle Easy and I found it REALLY Challenging. I think today is the first time it went the other way.

Mr. Donaldson's puzzle had the misfortune of following that great puzzle of last Sunday. I think any puzzle would have suffered by comparison.

I had the same problem with the ERDOS/PASSIVATE cross, but I (luckily) guessed the S correctly.

Maybe I'm the only one here who didn't immediately think of RIGG instead of DORS for the Diana clue (32A), but I'm old enough to remember when Ms. Dors was a media sensation. In fact she was married for a short while to the game show host Richard Dawson, known then as Dickie Dawson.

Overall, I enjoyed the puzzle (although not nearly as much as last Sunday's).

Joseph B 2:05 PM  

Add me to those who put T in the PAS_IVATE/ERDO_ crossing. "Paul Erdot" looks entirely plausible, especially if he's a French mathematician.

Also, I'm not fond of foreign words in puzzles that are not parts of common phrases. E.g., "Hasta ______" is completely acceptable; but "Spanish beaches?" If I'm supposed to know the Spanish word for beach, why not the Spanish word for fork or spoon? Inferable from crossings, at least, even though I never heard of LEHAR.

Davis 2:30 PM  

Former mathematician, so ERDOS was one of the first entries I put down. And I hate to admit this, but I get a certain satisfaction out of seeing Rex struggle with the name of the most famous mathematician of the last 60 years. After so many posts where he notes the simplicity of names from the humanities that were completely alien to me, I can't help but enjoy seeing the tables turned.

I'm also curious why the negative feelings for CORD OF WOOD—it seems totally legitimate to me. I grew up in a household where we primarily used wood heat to get us through the winter, and I remember my mom ordering cords of wood every year. The only negative feelings I have about the term relate to how much I hated stacking it all when I was a kid.

Overall, I thought this was an easy puzzle. Finished in 18-and-a-half after spending a minute looking for a stupid error (whereas I rarely finish Sundays in under 20). More importantly, I found it enjoyable to solve—the theme was smile-inducing, and the junk was not groan-inducing. I suspect the

Badir 2:32 PM  

As a mathematician, I got ERDOS immediately just from the clue. He really is one of the world's most famous modern mathematicians--learn him along with the 18th century's Euler.

I did balk at DORS, though. Who dat? I think I've heard of ANT EGG.

Sparky 2:48 PM  

Eye first lit on clue for 35A and All About Eve jumped to mind. Too short but got the picture for theme. Pretty smooth sailing today. Rigg for me, too. Also two am, rain wear. All fixed. I think 78A better clue with ! not ? Liked the solve in general.

Used Evan's Rule to guess the much discussed S.

Eydie Gorme my favorite for Miss Otis Regrets and Down in the Depths on the 90th Floor. I miss the Steve Allen show.

Got a haircut and am about to hit the Nutrisse bottle. Want to be all pretty for ACPT.

Fitzy 3:12 PM  

I really enjoyed this puzzle. Spent about an hour on it last nite and an hour this afternoon getting about 80% of it before visiting Rex's fine site. This is really pretty darn good for me & it is very reassuring to see Rex listed is as Medium-Challenging. That said, the one thing that was driving me crazy was: how can one "MISREAD(S)" a memo if one doesn't get the memo. Even w/ a "maybe in the clue, I still didn't "get" it. In fact, I am only just getting the cleverness of this a very self-reflexive way. I always took that phrase "Didn't get the memo" literally as in never receiving it... as opposed to (figurative?) not understanding it.

mac 3:30 PM  

This puzzle felt like a medium to me, and I thought it was fun. I put Rigg instead of Dors too but it was easily fixed.

No problem with cord of wood; my husband usually orders 2 cords, which a huge amount, and the last couple of weeks of the winter/early spring we have to burn a lot or carry it off the terrace...

At 17D I seriously thought "rusticate", from rustoleum, might be a verb.... Sorry, had to guess the S of Erdos too.

See you in a couple of days!

Dave J. 3:52 PM  

One bad clue: "Receiving stats" (58A) should be ":Scoring stats."

joho 4:17 PM  

Been gone all day ... just want to add that the theme was clever and the puzzle fun.

I am envious of all of you who will be at the tournament next week ... reports and pictures, please!

@Sparky, so cute that you're Nutrissing your hair!

retired_chemist 4:21 PM  

Any puzzle with a G-SPOT right at J-LO's bottom has to mean that the NYT is getting kinkier.

Good theme. Enjoyed using it, which I seldom can because I catch on late.

I agree this is an easy Sunday. Didn't have thr problems some had with O PIONEERS and PASSIVATE. ERDOS came through crosses. Since either RIGG or DORS fit 32A, I picked RIGG and was ready to switch once needed.

ATAHUAPLA was an unknown but gettable with crosses.

Ran across FERN's brother AVERY in an old Cathy Millhauser puzzle in a Shortz anthology yesterday. Kinda Déjà vu all over again.....

How is an ANT EGG a pupa? Easy - that's whet they call it, even though Mr. Hyldoft in tenth grade biology would have shuddered at the confusion of egg and pupa. OMG that was a long time ago...

Otherwise, what everybody said. Thanks, Mr. Donaldson.

quilter1 4:24 PM  

@Tita: the Roadfood books are in our automotive library. I like them on NPR also.

LaneB 4:27 PM  

No Sunday is really easy for me , but I did steadily plod through the whole of this one non-stop, pausing to check a few clues via Google. That's probably cheating for the purists, but the whole exercise is challenging enough for me , and I don't want to spend all day on the thing. Got hung up on RIGG as did some others, but not for too long. Thought of DORS right away but discarded it never thinking that she was an actress. More of a pin-up from yesteryear.

John Nash 4:43 PM  

ERDOS "the most famous mathematician of the past 60 years"?

Quiet, I'm trying to type here. I said quiet! Jesus, can a man have some peace while he's trying to type!? No, Jesus, not you, I'm talking to Napoleon. Sorry, but how am I supposed to think with everyone yamering away here. I'm just looking for some peace and quiet!


retired_chemist 5:55 PM  

@mac - rusticate IS a verb. But it means to go spend time in a rural area, along with other secondary meanings, none of which have to do with anticorrosive coatings either.

sanfranman59 6:21 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
Fri 22:11, 22:14, 1.00, 50%, Medium
Sat 26:49, 24:59, 1.07, 75%, Medium-Challenging
Sun 24:53, 29:35, 0.84, 22%, 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
Fri 11:38, 12:33, 0.93, 33%, Easy-Medium
Sat 16:25, 14:38, 1.12, 78%, Medium-Challenging
Sun 15:51, 19:26, 0.82, 18%, Easy

Our host proves he's human today. Rare is the day that the online solve time ratings (and my own) are two or three levels below Rex's.

Totally off-topic ... If you haven't seen Searching for Sugar Man yet, by all means do so. What an incredible and touching story. I watched it Friday evening and I'm still basking in the afterglow.

Anonymous 6:56 PM  

FearlessKim here, with a response to @Merle: loved the "Takeaway" puzzle today! Very challenging for the little gray cells!

M and A further 8:05 PM  

@sanfrandude: That Rodriguez documentary was indeed stupendous. Won an Oscar, just recently. thUmbsUp to your very good taste in film.

I also agree, that the puz today was not very hard; altho I can believe there coulda been little sticky places, for some.

Nhart 10:45 PM  

With the exception of CORDOFWOOD, answers were fine, but the clues for the theme entries seemed tortured. An editing issue, Mr. Shortz.

Overall, meh, but longer Sunday fill is a good goal.

skua76 11:39 PM  

Hmmm, I thought it was easy and fun, although I generally agree with Rex's comments about some of the fill. I'm quite familiar with PASSIVATE as I've seen it done to piping and tanks many times...but as I threw it in with only a couple of crosses, I suspected that it might raise a comment or two here. Hmmm. And @Dave J, I also wondered about the clue "Receiving stats" for 58D.

Thanks Sam!

Anonymous 12:12 AM  

I thought this was easy and fun, thought it took me my usual 45 minutes.

My only gripe: Ashy? Is that even a word? They could have made this a clue about my boyhood idol Arthur Ashe, with very little trouble (TEs, EEE, etc., etc.)

I saw Searching For Sugarman pretty much by accident last summer when it came to my local art house. For the next week, I frantically begged everyone I know to go see it, without reading about it ahead of time. I thought it would slink away into obscurity after its brief run, and it killed me to think that people would miss it. How delightful to see this wonderful and inspiring film get the recognition it deserves.

Ellen S 12:37 AM  

ASHY, EELER -- ugh. Or, well, @JBERG, maybe you're on to something : require EELER, or EELS in every grid, so we'll know we're in the right puzzle. Not like I thought when I saw PASSIVATE. Sniffed around it with great suspicion. Well, if "Passive" means "non-reactive" then maybe to PASSIVATE something would make it resistant to corrosion.

On the other hand, when ATAHUALPA began to grow, I knew that was right.

I'm sorry to confess that I didn't think RIGG before DORS. I did a very scientific survey of about 3 people a few decades ago, and discovered that lesbians, straight men, and apparently everyone of any persuasion (i.e., moi) found Diana Rigg extremely attractive. Ain't nobody ever looked better in a catsuit. And yet I did not hesitate to put in DORS. I dunno.

OFST? Yeah, there should be an award for Worst Partial Ever. Enjoyed the theme, though.

Stephen 10:55 AM  

Hey, I enjoyed A PAIR, NO SEE, GO ASK, EENIE, and ANT EGG ! I didn't even mind OF ST, since it was at least new to me. One man's dreck is another's amusement I guess.

And this once I was ahead of Rex on the mathematician; I don't think I even finished reading the clue before I was looking to see if there was just enough spaces for ERDOS. One man's obscure is another one's obvious.

Apparently I am not old enough to know Diana DORS, but I am old enough to have trouble recalling Mrs. Rigg's name. Name, I said... her image I have absolutely no trouble with. Lost a of time reliving her leather-legged outfits and still not getting her name. I knew it would fit the 4-letter spot though!

Stephen 11:26 AM  

There is a grammatical error in 72D. The word "underwater" is an adjective. The clue should have read "Casino that is partly under water". (Note the space.) In this usage, the word "under" is a preposition and must not be connected to "water" which is the object of the preposition. In other usages like "an underwater museum" the word "underwater" is an adjective and *is* connected. When you dive, you go under water. My mortgage is under water. A sunken ship is under water. In contrast: the underwater wreck is now a fish magnet. The reef is an underwater attraction.

GILL I. 11:36 AM  

@Stephen. Good catch... I wonder how many of us didn't see that!

Tita 2:54 PM  

@Anon @1212 - violating one of Rex's Cardinal Rules of Blogging...

But can't resist coming to the rescue of "ASHY".

Puzzle husband's Irish-born dad always used "ASHY pet" to describe a cat or dog that loved to curl up by a warm hearth.

My avatar is most definitely one. It's remarkable how close he'll sleep to the roaring fire, especially considering his black coat. He feels hot as a glede!

Unknown 3:18 PM  

Best Beautiful Cars, Latest Hot Vehicles, Strange Cars, Super Cars Model, Funny Cars, Car Latest Models, Cars with Girls, Cars like helicopter and Most Speed and Expensive Cars

Stephen 3:37 PM  

OK, I guess I'm starting to see that spammers really are attacking the blogworld with a broadbrush spray of ads. Maybe we do need catpcha protection, which I have decried in the past. But once I've signed in and the site can see my name and IP address, why is there a continual need to force a captcha on me for every submission and every edit?

Anonymous 5:49 PM  

The clue for 46 Down is "Word with pay or page" and the answer is HALF. That seems like a terrible clue. None of "half pay", "pay half", "half page", or "page half" are standard phrases. A good answer to the clue would be BACK. A good clue of this style for the answer HALF would be "Word with pint or time" etc.

Steve Tolkin

Anonymous 8:43 PM  

It's too bad all the mathematicians feel bad for their schadenfreude regrading Rex's profound ignorance regarding anything non verbal. Forget math, Rex and his ilk can barely do arithmetic ( which they habitually and ignorantly) confuse with math. Crossword puzzles are constructed almost universally by folks with an affinity for language; they don't know the difference between an integer and ann interrogative. Don't believe me? Ask Rex to solve any, and I mean any problem his own university's mathematicss department deems college-level. It'll never happen. Rex has a better chance at solving the sequester logjam. Good old Rex will be at the Crossword puzzle championships this weekend, along with a lot of us who do understand a thing or two about numbers. I'm sure many would be happy to check his work.

Z 9:01 PM  

I think I dated Ann Interrogative. I broke up with her because she asked too many questions.

Anonymous 9:10 PM  

What choice did you have?I wanted to date Emily exclamation, but she said "no. Period."

Anonymous 7:48 AM  

The clue for 46 Down is "Word with pay or page" and the answer is HALF. That seems like a terrible clue. None of "half pay", "pay half", "half page", or "page half" are standard phrases. A good answer to the clue would be BACK. A good clue of this style for the answer HALF would be "Word with pint or time" etc.

Steve Tolkin

Anonymous 5:13 AM  

Thought this puzzle was rather easy because of the ease in guessing the theme answers - maybe may age helped since the hardest one was the Jonas brother clue.. Most aggravating answers were PASSIVATE and MISREADS. ART of WARfare and NO SEE ums just plain wrong. On the whole a very uninspiring puzzle.

Spacecraft 12:22 PM  

"By no means a bad puzzle?" Oh man, I can't even begin to list all the bad fill; I'll just take OFL to task on the theme. We start out with a book. Aha, so, reversed book titles. But wait--the next one is a song title. Hmm, looseness of theme already: either a book or a song. No, not even that. Now we have THESPADESOFJACK, one of 52 cards (whole separate theme?). It's nothing. It's THE_____OF_____whatever, all you need is a THE and an OF.


Even the puzzle title is comically unwieldy. It calls to mind a third-rate musical EDSEL called "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers."

Simplistic clues gave the filling of this a sloggy, "what's the point?" feel--yet in the middle of all this: a true natick! I guessed ERDOt, and so DNF. But I assure you that even if I had guessed right I still would have panned it. There was just no...JOY.

Anonymous 3:30 PM  

Wow, this was a piece of cake for me. First answer entered in the grid: THE COOKING OF JOY. I had all seven very early on, and then it was merely a matter of filling in the downs, most of which came just as easily.

One snag was that I initially entered THE RIGHT OF BILL'S, but once I realized who Fargo's partner was going to be I quickly fixed that.

My only other writeover was a result of confusing "Avian" with "Ovine", and entering MAA/MOOSE (102a Like some calls). That straightened itself out when WATT made MAW (??) and I was forced to take a closer look at that 102d clue.

In closing, I offer this nod the the SE corner.

tahir sumar 3:42 PM  

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Dirigonzo 5:51 PM  

Well you know what else means "Give an anticorrosive coating" and has 9 letters? That would be "rustproof", an extremely common phrase here in Maine where the highway department spreads copious of very corrosive salt on the roads during a snow storm. Rusty Jones went bankrupt when its rust-proofing treatment failed to deliver the protection they promised. Needless to say, I stuck with that wrong answer way too long. My only thought upon entering CORDOFWOOD was that you're going to need more than one cord to make it through the winter here.

Unknown 8:13 AM  

Oh, Kirsty MacColl -- miss her.

SharonAK 7:53 PM  

@ Anon 7:48/Steve
Huh? In my world "half pay" and "half page", also "half pint" (whether referring to a child or ale) are all more common than "half back" which I suspect is all one word, anyway.

Is anyone else here a "Numbers" fan? I googled to find out about Paul Erdos and was amused to see that his life stripped of material things to just live math may have been the inspiration for the eccentricities of one of the college progfessor/mathmatician characters. (forget his name)

tahir sumar 5:59 AM  

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