Fishhook attachment / THU 4-4-13 / Like opera Wozzeck / Great taste since 1905 drink / Old sports org with Virginia Squires / Hookah component / Gather on surface in chemistry

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Constructor: Corey Rubin

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: LARGE PRINT — in the paper, there are 10 super-sized squares that, taken together, spell LARGE PRINT. In the online version of the puzzle, however—whole other story ... [Note: "The newspaper version has one oversize square for each block of four circles. We strongly recommend using the PDF version and solving on paper"] [Unnoted: where the hell the PDF version is]

Word of the Day: SNELL (44D: Fishhook attachment) —
A length of fine threadlike material, such as monofilament or gut, that connects a fishhook to a heavier line; a length of leader.

[Origin unknown.]

Read more:
• • •

More techno-fails from the NYX site. It's pretty simple—if you're going to make puzzles that your apps / current software can't handle, then put a warning up front on the puzzle page and provide a well-marked link to the PDF. Today, mission 50% accomplished. By the time this posts, the tech folks will have realized their screw-up and fixed things. Still, failures of this kind continue to be a semi-routine occurrence. Me, I go straight into the applet, so all I knew was that there was a "note"—I didn't know what the note was, and I tend not to look at them, since they take time to read (the timer is running!) and they usu. give me unnecessary aid. Today's puzzle would *definitely* have been easier if I'd known what was up w/ all those damned circled squares (or been faced with just the over-sized squares, like in the paper), but I was still able to figure out the gimmick and finish in a pretty normal time. The online times today will thus be useless for determining exactly how hard this puzzle was. They're gonna show it Challenging, and it's just not. None of this tech stuff is the puzzle's fault, so ... on its own merits, the puzzle seems fine. Fill is pretty dull except for STRAIGHTENS UP, HOE-DOWN and TRUMP CARD, but the theme itself is at least interesting. My solving experience isn't going to be that relevant to you because I had the four circled squares (see grid) instead of the one large square. So I wrote in SNAP PEAS for 3D: Common stir-fry ingredient, because it fit, and then I knew UPC was probably right (23A: Bars from the supermarket, for short?) but ... too many squares. Wasn't until DR. ZHIVAGO that I *knew* something like doubling was happening with those squares (9D: Film character who says "I hate everything you say, but not enough to kill you for it"). Quickly realized that all four squares were the same letter (and were to be treated as a single letter). The puzzle then got Very easy.

    Strangely, I got traction in this thing via ADSORB (?) (8A: Gather on a surface, in chemistry) and BOSNS (13D: Petty officers, for short). That's sheer xword experience, right there. I've never seen ADSORB in the wild, and I know BOSN only from Shakespeare's "The Tempest." But they got me going. I'm usually pretty good with RAPS, but I'll admit I've never ever heard of "Ms. New Booty." Clue wasn't hard to get, in the end, but it did not come instantly. I've never used (smoked?) a hookah, so I had no idea URNs were involved (14A: Hookah component). I misread [Like the opera "Wozzeck"] [Like the Mozart opera [something...]] and though I could see it had to be ATONAL, I thought "Mozart? ATONAL? Seems ... wrong." Indeed. What else didn't I know. Some guy named PYE (24D: Poet laureate Henry James ___) and the non-legal ABA (8D: Old sports org. with the Virginia Squires). I think Dr. J used to play in the American Basketball Association. Yep, only person ever to be MVP of both ABA and NBA. Now he does Crown Royal commercials.

    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


    jae 12:07 AM  

    Did this on paper using an AcrossLite print out against the recommendation in the note.  I drew boxes around the circle squares and it went OK.  Good thing I don't time myself after Tues.  That said, this seemed pretty easy for a Thurs.  Only iffy spot for me was the SNELL/ATP/PLOP area but nothing else came close to working there. 

    So, interesting idea with a smooth grid, but kinda meh over all.

    Anonymous 12:09 AM  

    Fabulous, fabulous crossword. Easy for a Thursday, but so cool. Nearly every entry is locked to the theme, and it is still so very good. Bravo.

    Completed highlighted grid:

    I briefly had Bert and Ernie as ENEMIES instead of ROOMIES. Ha!

    I had ADSORB instantly and loved seeing it. It is one of the few sciency things that I know a bit about.


    The only negative is with the NYT. The download link at least tells us (though not especially prominently as would be best), that the PDF print version presents the grid properly (which they NEVER used to tell us). And then fails to provide a link to the PDF right there. WTF. I had to go to the archive to get the PDF. That's just stupid.

    Also, the PDF itself is formatted as poorly as possible. Near half the page is pointlessly wasted space. The constructor deserved better than no effort to present the crossword in the best possible way. (Though constructors of special crosswords know darn well what a horrible job the NYT does with them (despite the vaunted 'upgrade' to the solving experience) and should be providing ideally formatted PDFs themselves, cause it ain't happening otherwise.

    *****These things are not, primarily, technical failures. Nor are they "semi-routine". They are the norm when special crosswords come 'round. The responsibility falls to the man in that's like, you know, actually responsible for providing his customers a premium experience with every crossword. Yet the some of the most special ones get zero special attention. Mission fail.

    FearlessKim 12:12 AM  

    The note was more alarming than the reality, as pointed out by OFL. Sheesh.


    Some words and non-words I'd like to avoid forEver: ULT, AER, OOF, ATP, ABA, LTS (though I like the way it's clued :) and especially OHED. Sheesh. Also the word Wozzeck.

    Nice clues for 16A BRONCO and 23A UPC.

    Severe Natick potential at the intersection of PYE/AYERS/LOCARNO.

    Lots of lovely foreign language: ILS, NUIT, SOIE, TRE, FINI

    WOE: WOE


    A very disjointed experience for me -- the captcha is notforu, which I'm sorry to say I agree with. I give it ONEPIN. Sorry, Corey.

    retired_chemist 12:13 AM  

    Annoying, frankly. Didn't check the note either so it took me some time to figure out what was going on, which eventually I did. However I lost a lot of time before wising up rejecting obvious answers: LAT, ROOMIES, PENNA, UPC, AYERS Rock, etc. Not fun.

    Once I had all squares filled in I found I had three errors: LOCARNO and ALEK Wek were complete unknowns to me, and I was looking for a person instead of a genre @ 4A. So PASS AS seemed fine, as did LACARNO, and ELSK or ALSK was not odder that Wek as a name. With the technological issues with AL for this puzzle, plus the words I didn't know, it was my least favorite puzzle of the year so far.

    On to Friday.....

    Pete 12:20 AM  

    I hated most every second of my solve. I even quit midway through & went to watch the tube. I guess the best I can say about this pussle is that it's better that Psych, and more convenient than finding my remote.

    So, you took out 30 squares from a grid. It's not like you found 20 phrases with repeated letters, crossed them, no, you just added 30 gratituous letters, letters that spelled out LARGE PRINT. Gee, if I could have found that damned PDF file, maybe I could have at least written in LARGE PRINT. Gotta tell you, having just typed in LARGE PRINT 3 times in LARGE PRINT it's just not that fun. The fourth time wasn't fun either.

    Pete 12:26 AM  

    Oh, while I'm at it, the single L adjacent to the needlessly duplicated L in SMAL[LL]er, as well as the P immediately adjectent to the needlessly duplicated SNAP[PP]eas also pissed me off. Either duplicate all Ps (Ls), or not.

    thursdaysd 12:30 AM  

    I solve on an iPad, so I wouldn't be able to access a PDF even if there was a link. However, I read the note before I started solving, which made it pretty obvious the squares would be doubled, which in turn made this about the easiest Thursday I can remember. Still, they need to provide an equal solving experience for ALL media, since they charge separately - I was really annoyed when I read the note.

    Evan 12:46 AM  

    Can't say I've had much trouble getting the PDF, but then, I always do the PDF puzzle on Thursday-Sundays, so I just instinctively go the archive. Rex is right that it they should put it right on the front page, though.

    After I was done, I couldn't help but think, didn't we see this same gimmick somewhat recently? I went into the archives and found Ben Pall's Thursday puzzle from September 6, 2012, where five-letter words meaning "joined" or "shared evenly" were stretched into extra large boxes in the grid so that two long theme answers shared the same five letters. Similar concept today, although the extra wide boxes here cover four crossing answers, and the theme is that the words are meant to be LARGE rather than simply shared.

    Anyway, I thought this was fairly easy, probably easy-medium, and it had some nice long fill (excepting the UPC/LOCARNO crossing). I nearly ended with a bunch of mistakes after putting in ANGORAS instead of AFGHANS. That mistake gave me OOED, and I thought, Oh that answer is awful. Then I caught the error and, well, OHED was not much better. I might have gone with an OHER/SARS/AES combo -- Michael OHER is the NFL player that the movie "The Blind Side" is based on -- but, eh.

    I'd put FEAR OF HEIGHTS in the good category -- seems like a nice tie-in with AGORAphobia, although I think the former is "acrophobia" and the former is fear of wide open spaces, right?

    (After looking it up, AGORAphobia is a little more complex -- it's the fear of having a panic attack in a public setting.)

    Anonymous 12:59 AM  

    "Still, they need to provide an equal solving experience for ALL media, since they charge separately - I was really annoyed when I read the note."

    Not gonna happen. All media has limitations. Sometimes one will be superior to any other. I do agree that if I'm buying the crossword, I should be able to access it on any platform;especially the 'ideal' platform. Someday the very best crosswords will only be worth doing in a digital environment (hopefully with open source software that everybody can use). That day is not near here and the very best puzzles are best done with pen and paper.

    JFC 1:47 AM  

    The fact that Rex and others are talking about the technical difficulties of the puzzle instead of the technical difficulties of the puzzle pretty much sums it up.

    Rex, you have something against Crown Royal? Or doing commercials? They didn’t pay in Dr. J’s day what they pay today....


    Evan 1:47 AM  

    Correction to my last comment: I meant....

    "although I think the former is "acrophobia" and the LATTER is fear of wide open spaces, right?"

    Ellen S 1:57 AM  

    Easy puzzle--18:52 not counting the hour I spent looking for the PDF and not figuring out THAT mystery; all I accomplished by that was my browser kept freezing. But as others noted, working with the four squares wasn't hard. @Evan, I think you habitually go to the archives for the PDF, not instintively. Otherwise, I want one of them instincts.

    Never heard of Wek, never heard of Ms. Booty, so I just left their intersection blank; and I had mAUAI, or rather, mAAUAI, instead of KAAUAI which I didn't find until I checked at the end. My bad. Otherwise I think I knew all the answers. I had LuCeRRNe until SPPAT inspired me to try to guess LOCARNO. And I knew ADSORB, PUNIC Wars, Wozzeck (one of my mother's favorite operas. Oh, I got the basketball thing on crosses, but I really did know the other ones. I think. GRRRAF might be an angry long-necked ruminant.

    Gotta go. Jury duty tomorrow, have to leave the house at 7. Retired people shouldn't have to get up so early unless they're catching a plane to Maui or Kauai.

    Ellen S 2:01 AM  

    I mean "instinctively" Can't spell that any better than Mackerel . And of course LOCARRNO, to be consistent. GRRRRRAF.

    Anonymous 2:14 AM  

    Got the gimmick from the start, but who cares how clever you are when your puzzle is filled with such indefensible crud? Would elaborate, but that job has already been done admirably by FearlessKim. Except I will ask: Who still uses "a rap" to refer to a track from an album? "Rap" is a genre nowadays, not a descriptor for a song. Saying "Listen to this rap!" sounds like something from the 80s / my grandmother.

    Benko 2:55 AM  

    A hateful, spiteful, disgusting puzzle. Despised every second of it. If I didn't I insist on doing every nyt puzzle I would have skipped it. Horrible.

    syndy 3:24 AM  

    Ditto on being annoyed by the extra L's and P's-so not elegant! Aside from that what OFL said-not much to it.Insult before retort AnGGoraS before AFGGHANS OH and RCCOLA was also an outlier. Still I wouldn't bother fixing it.

    chefwen 3:32 AM  

    I was able to download the PDF format @Diary of a Crossword Fiend. Orange's place. I must say, that it was not a lot more helpful than the circles. Took me a ridiculous amount of time to put one letter in the blank places. I think NI(R)VANA threw it wide open to me. It was fun after a rather slow start.

    Don't do this again Corey, unless you provide the Aspirin.

    Who will win the prize guessing @loren muse smith's Avater du jour?

    Aztecs Cola Michaels 4:08 AM  

    DR ZHIVAGO top ten of fave movies of all time and 64% of my Russian History knowledge, 76% of the source of my love of Omar Sharif and 98% of my love of Julie Christie.

    Like how LARGE PRINT looks when you're finished.
    Very inventive despite NYT tech messup.

    Hand up for questioning PLOP, AnGora/AFGHAN.
    (love that FGH and the GHT runs in STRAIGHTEN. And HEIGHTS)

    SOIE crossing NOIR should make long lost much missed Seth scream.

    PENNA seems to have an extraneous A. Don't like. Too pasta-like or something.

    jae 4:33 AM  

    @FearlessKim -- Thanks for the list. Apparently I repressed or missed some stuff. Upon reflection I retract smooth. OHED is a "dealbreaker" (thank you Liz Lemon). If you are going to go with marginal fill at least go with OOHED.

    Jeremy Mercer 4:49 AM  

    I feel much better now that I see I wasn't the only one flummoxed by a fruitless search for a PDF link.

    Loren Muse Smith 6:14 AM  

    Hah! - @chef wen, I’ll POSE AS you today!

    PDF is definitely the way to go with this one; the finished grid is cool with the big ole fat letters!

    I got the trick right off with HOE DOWN, even though I couldn’t see those crosses yet and resisting the mighty urge to spell it “how down.” Jeesh.

    @Ellen S – I always look forward to your posts. Loved your GRRRAF comment. I had to scurry off to look up “ruminant.” I went with “Lucerne” first, too. Great place.

    @Acme – I agree on PENNA.

    @FEARlessKim – You called it – I dnf because of the PYE/AYERS cross. And I, too, liked especially that French area of NUIT, FINI, SOIE. (I always thought the shoe was “peau de soir” because you could wear it only at night. That was my Georgia Pre French Major era. It wasn’t until later, I realized it was “peau de SOIE. Right?)

    Why is “Your mother wears army boots just a ‘retort?’” I’ve cleverly opened with that one many times.

    The corners without the big letters were for me the toughest.

    The handful of puzzles I’ve submitted (and had politely declined) were pedestrian grids with 10’s, 11’s, 12’s, etc. Maybe a snazzy 5 in the center as the reveal. I’ve tried on a couple of occasions to build a grid from scratch, but I’m too green. So. . . I’m impressed when I see tricks like this. I just cannot imagine constructing this! And to have two 15’s intersecting – good ones, too! I can’t STRAIGHTEN UP my daughter’s room because of my FEAR OF HEIGHTS – the piles of clothes resemble AZTEC pyramids.

    Great job, Corey!

    Elle54 6:46 AM  

    Didn't try to find PDF because last time they did this, I ended up with a free NYT app and still failed to get the PDF.
    But about a year and a half ago, there was a contest and all the puzzles from the week were related. They did provide the PDF on the iPad so I was able to print them all out.
    Hand up for the two Naticks at AYRES and ALEK but I guessed right.

    Anonymous 7:31 AM  

    Nope, didn't like fun clues..almost didn't want to finish it.....

    MetaRex 7:33 AM  

    A creative gimmick, but a thumbs down for me. My reasoning for not liking the "same letter quadrupled" construction from a purist POV is at WHHHHA

    Jack Lee 7:57 AM  

    Did the dead tree version (as usual) and had fun!

    Mohair Sam 8:07 AM  

    Whenever they recommend .pdf version I back door it to Wordplay blog which offers a "pdf" button. Why the NYT can't put this feature on the actual puzzle page is beyond me.

    Anyhow - did not like the gimmick but solved quickly until I somehow forgot AYERS Rock (feature of at least 5 bad Austrailian movies), and had no idea who Mr. PYE was. So a DNF it is.

    mea culpa 8:09 AM  

    ADSORB appears (-ed) on a container of Johnson & Johnson baby powder. I read it several years ago and thought it was a mistake so looked it up. I've remembered it ever since.

    Unknown 8:11 AM  

    Thought it was on the easy side, then realized I finished with 2 mistakes: PaSs AS for POSE AS - the crosses were a Swiss city name and a model I've never heard of, so no help to see the mistake. And AGORo for AGORA - thought the cross was spelled Sodr City.

    Fun enough, but trying to follow the words through the large boxes on pdf gave me a headache. Not as bad as the tech issues some ran into though.

    @Evan- nice shout out to Penna at 47A. (However, even though I've been living in PA for 18 yrs and raised 2 kids here I still consider myself a NYer)

    Anonymous 8:28 AM  

    Looked for the PDF in response to the warning at the top of the puzzle. Couldn't find it. Dove in anyway and the theme was readily apparent. The theme was not an issue, though some of the clues (SNELL, OHEED) had me scratching my head.

    Anonymous 8:46 AM  

    Did no one else think SNOWPEAS? It drove me nuts.
    Hated this puzzle using the iPhone app.

    Ulrich 8:48 AM  

    Count me among those who liked the puzzle, really. Yes, I lost time hunting for the pdf version, but then I reread the note and it became pretty obvious what was going on--and the solve was easy from then on (except for the crossing of Pye/Ayers Rock, which I remembered in the end).

    The moral of the story: When confronted with a difficulty, you can either go into a sulk and swear at the people who created it, or you can mobilize whatever brain power you have left (not much in my case) and try to solve the problem. If you do, you end up with a deep sense of satisfaction. Guess where my preference lies!

    oldbizmark 8:49 AM  

    i have never seen pennsylvania abbreviated as PENNA. that is like abbreviating Arkansas as "ARKS." Like the theme. Did not like the fill. Overall, a medium for me but I did it in print. How anyone does puzzles on a computer is beyond me... and I am 35. Peace.

    Unknown 8:50 AM  

    Easy enough. I solve on an iPad and got the square thing at UPPS/SPPAT. I spent last week on the beach in Aruba. Turkish family at a nearby palapa had their lovely hookah out on the beach all week. I would not have described any part of it as an URN, but what do I know? I liked OOF...I see it showing up more and more.

    jberg 9:03 AM  

    The trouble with themes like this is that the fill has to be too easy; otherwise most of us would never figure out what to put in those big squares. So this puzzle was not all that exciting. I guessed right at ALEK, but finished with an error: I went with tLS (Times Literary Supplement) rather than RLS (which did not occur to me), and figured Ms. New Booty must be named "tAPS"

    Also, stuck with AYreS way too long. (Properly called Uluru, fwiw).

    @jfc--@Rex is being subtle. The Dr. J ad is a reference to 12D.

    evil doug 9:12 AM  

    Michael: "I didn't know what the note was, and I tend not to look at them, since they take time to read (the timer is running!)..."

    You remind me of those aggravating students who are in such a rush to finish their work that they don't RTFQ. I've got to believe you've preached that sermon to your own charges, no?


    Anonymous 9:12 AM  

    As is his custom, Will always Shortz his electronic customers, as he did again today.

    OISK 9:24 AM  

    I always get The Times delivered and solve on paper. I really liked this one. Didn't see until I was completely done that it spelled out "Large Print," and thought it was really clever. I have been to Locarno and to Kauai; geographical clues are fine with me! On the other hand, surely there are better ways to clue "Raps" than a reference to a single "rap" that is completely unfamiliar to me, ( and while I don't know ANY rap, I imagine that this one is unfamiliar to most solvers here.) I agree with others who don't like "Ohed". Those are but minor quibbles! Great, creative, fun puzzle! WTG, Corey!

    Z 9:26 AM  

    Got to page C6 and my first thought was that all the techno-solvers would be whining today. PSYCHOPOP!

    Is Mr. Rubin one of those under 30 constructors? If he is I take umbrage at his LARGE PRINT theme. One shouldn't make fun of us old folk and our reading glasses.

    I had a couple of the large letters and grokked the theme. Visually, it is a little harder to process those large squares as I did the crosses, so that fact alone moved this into medium territory. ALEK Wek and SNELL didn't help. Nevertheless, I found this to be creative and fun.

    jackj 9:29 AM  

    This puzzle was an exercise in irritation for me, largely caused by a too casually clued 23 across that asked for “Bars from the supermarket, for short?” that seemed to be asking for a plural response of UPCS.

    Because of that bit of confusion, I tried solving concurrently in AcrossLite and as a PDF, which only compounded the problem, until “Bert and Ernie” proved to be ROOMIES, (one square short of ROOMMATES).

    Then, looking at the other squares in the block, they were all looking for an “I”, with the clincher, oddly, being a classic bit of crosswordese, SOIE, proving to me that it was a four for one, mega-letter gimmick and from there to the end it was mostly Monday level.

    The final hitch was staying too long with ABSORB rather than the ultimately correct ADSORB that made me first ponder whether Al Capp had another weird character named BRZHIV….., (like Joe BTFSPLK, a sixth cousin maybe), but ZHIVAGO finally became too obvious and a B/D swap closed it out.

    All that discommodiousness and what it boils down to is having the super-gulp sized, four-for-one letters spell out LARGE PRINT in the grid?

    Brilliant for some, a bother for others.

    Anonymous 9:30 AM  

    All the puzzles should be playable in a digital format. If you are messing with the grid, then it is not a crossword puzzle, it is a variety puzzle and it should go into the Sunday variety rotation.

    I hated this puzzle and didn't even bother finishing.

    lawprof 9:30 AM  

    I'm a paper solver, so when I opened the Arts section of the NYT to the puzzle the ten large squares immediately jumped out. My first reaction was that I was having a migraine -- you know, when you have those blank spaces in your field of vision. But no...just a scary gimmick, which was not difficult to decipher, but which nevertheless slowed me down because the answers were visually broken up.

    In the end, although I had completed the puzzle, I had the sense that I wasn't finished because of all the white space remaining in the grid. It reminded me of the Navajo rug design called the "eye dazzler" because of the visual tricks played by the pattern.

    This one isn't getting a lot of love, but I enjoyed it.

    Anonymous 9:31 AM  

    Still no PDF at 9:30 am. Fail.

    Milford 9:47 AM  

    Solve on the Magmic app, note gave away the trick, so I knew I just had to fill in the circles with the same letters each block. Finished it fine, but I'll bet it looked way cooler on paper at the end.

    I liked the theme just fine, had LuCuRNe before LOCARNO, PaSs AS before POSE AS, like many others. Had to run the alphabet to get the OP ART/OOF cross. Loved seeing DR ZHIVAGO and NIRVANA. I have a definite FEAR OF HEIGHTS.

    We had a hookah bar in our town for a short while. They targeted the teenagers, which may not have been the best business plan. I truly know nothing of hookahs, but if I had to guess, I'd say the water reservoir might be the URN?

    Do some people really get this angry about a puzzle?

    oldbizmark 9:55 AM  

    @jackj - agreed with you on UPC when solving but like RBI, the acronym does not require as "S" to be plural(ized).

    Stop dumbing down everything 9:59 AM  

    So, why does DR ZHIVAGO get clued as a movie character? Does Will think everyone gets their knowledge from movies rather than literature?

    Eric 10:03 AM  

    LOVE this puzzle! Glad I solve in the print version or, as Rex pointed out, this would have been annoying.

    The highlight for me actually wasn't the was the teeny-tiny 3x3 in the SE with the FOE/WOE, FEW/NEW crossings. Made me smile more than the theme epiphany.

    Lowlights were: SADR, BOSNS, OHED

    The whole NE gave me trouble and slowed me down, but once I got SO TO and ABA, the rest started falling into place.

    Difficulty-wise, this was a high-Tuesday/low-Wednesday, but hey, with the originality of the theme, I'll give it a pass on Thursday.

    Bob Kerfuffle 10:07 AM  

    I found it to be a fun puzzle, done on paper.

    My write-over at 59 A of INSULT before RETORT reminded me once again that in crosswords the answer need only be plausible.

    Anonymous 10:11 AM  

    Completely terrible job by NYT! Wasted a lot of time on across lite! Note is not completely revealed!

    Good grief. Puzzle deserved better. So did the solvers! Its not as if the puzzles are FREE you know.

    FearlessKim 10:17 AM  

    @lms -- love “peau de soir”! The shoes my mother wore to her (morning) wedding were "peau de soie" according to the society page report. As a kid reading the article, I was in love with the feel of those words. Cue Homer S.: "Mmmm... peau de soie..."

    Pete 10:18 AM  

    Speaking of DR ZHIVAGO, can someone please explain to me why women love that movie? He's the most passive of protagonists in all of literature/moviedom, and he leaves his wife and child in the direst of circumstances to go after some blond bimbo. Yes, he's a "poet" and therefore sensitive, but damn, he's a worthless example of manhood. Yet women love him. This has always befuddled me.

    FearlessKim 10:20 AM  

    @EllenS: will find a way to work GRRAF into my day :)

    Notsofast 10:22 AM  

    I usually find Thursday puzzles challenging and fun. I always print out my puzzles, 'cause I like doing them the old fashioned way. This little beauty was completely wasted on my meager intellect. I just couldn't get it. And I feel cheated out of a Thursday puzzle. So, no offense, and I mean this in nicest possible way, but please kiss my ***. Thank you.

    Twangster 10:33 AM  

    This one had an unwelcome irony for me. One reason I prefer Across Lite is because the print is larger, and I can read it without taking my glasses off. But I followed the directions and squinted my way through the PDF, only to find the theme was large print.

    Kevin 10:33 AM  

    It is strange that we have to go to the archive to get the PDF - I've just changed my bookmark so I go straight to the archive every time.

    Sandy K 10:39 AM  

    Agree with those that said it was a lot better on paper!

    Looked scary at first, but answers PLOPped in and LARGE PRINT appeared.

    Don't know if it's OP ART, but it was a GAS to solve!

    Anonymous 10:44 AM  

    the xwordinfo program always has a huge PDF button and a huge Across lite button on the home page. As far as I can tell it's the one reliable way to get Times puzzles.

    Two Ponies 10:52 AM  

    I do my puzzles on paper so no tech glitch for me. I got the gimmick early but the actual puzzle was a mix of boring and annoying.
    Snow peas go in your stir fry.
    Snap peas are hard shelled and then
    snapped open to get the peas out.
    The only clue I liked was for bronco.

    Gareth Bain 11:06 AM  

    When I want the PDF, I copy the link to the .PUZ and change PUZ to PDF... That says a lot for accessibility. Pretty neat gimmick though! Would've been hilarious if it were made by the JASA Crossword class!

    GILL I. 11:30 AM  

    Once figured out, the puzzle became fairly easy. Not my favorite Thur. though.
    Fun to see AGORA as a phobia lead in rather than his usual place at the Greek market.
    @Pete - maybe because Omar Sharif happened to be the handsomest man alive...GRRAF!

    Masked and Anonymo6Us 11:31 AM  

    Learned long ago to always always print out that there pdf version of the ThursPuz. So no probs, there. Didn't know I was supposed to write bigger letters in the bigger boxes; used regular-sized ones -- ended up with small large print. Mighta been easier on the eyeballs that way while solvin', so maybe lucked out there, too. 4-Ohs version of the grid looks real hard on almost every body part.

    @the gal with the many ponies: yep. You'd hafta at least string them snap peas, first. Sorta like knowin' to use pdf.

    Chip Hilton 11:35 AM  

    Happy to be a paper solver today. Cute idea, but way too easy for a Thursday. For once. my eraser took the day off.

    Campesite 11:42 AM  

    I studied with Tibetan Lama's in McLeodganj, India for several months many years ago. I learned much from them about living and dying and finding NIR(R)VANA, they learned the fundamentals of basketball and the mysterious nature of NBA officiating. Seems fair.

    Comment of the day, from ACME
    "DR ZHIVAGO top ten of fave movies of all time and 64% of my Russian History knowledge, 76% of the source of my love of Omar Sharif and 98% of my love of Julie Christie."

    Carola 11:46 AM  

    @acme - When my husband and I were expecting our first child, he wanted "Lara" for a girl's name, after you-know-who. We "compromised" on "Laura" as a middle name (it was a girl).

    @retired chemist - I also thought ALSK was reasonable. I was even further off, however, as I'd mistakenly typed in UPs for UPC (I knew the "bars" were Code, but out-of-control fingers typed an "s"). So my resort was LasARNO.

    @thursdayd - I also solve on an iPad when I don't have my paper Times and find the lack of a link to the PDF (that we're told to look at ) very annoying. However (please read on)....

    @Anonymous 12:09 and @Evan - Thank you for mentioning the archive. Didn't know about that option for seeing a PDF of the puzzle on an iPad. I can't use it to solve the puzzle but it would have been nice to get a look at the grid.

    Anonymous 11:59 AM  

    Hand up for INSULT before RETORT.


    Anonymous 12:08 PM  

    Mark a spot baby. Youse all a**!

    thursdaysd 12:14 PM  

    @Carola - right, if even you can see the PDF on an iPad, most people with one still can't print it out. If the NYT is going to charge separately for mobile access it should not treat mobile users as second class citizens. The obvious solution is for all crossword subscribers to be able to access the crossword from all platforms. It is ridiculous that I can solve on my iPad, but not on my desktop, which is currently in the same room!

    bigsteve46 12:51 PM  

    Lovely opportunity for us old farts to feel a little smug about our pen and paper ways. Everyone kvetching about their PDF's and their iPads - maybe I'll write a rap about it!

    John V 12:55 PM  

    Medium on paper, thank you, Albany Hilton Garden Inn. Hand up for SNOWPEA, too. Grid was disorienting ala @prof migraine. Feeling inchoate today, whatever that means

    Blue Stater 1:01 PM  

    My copy of the Times today did not contain a crossword puzzle.

    M and A, missing the bullets, 1:02 PM  

    Silver Bullets...
    * NI[R]VANA--Lamas dig scoring the entire Kurt Cobain discography.
    * K[A]UAI--Hawaiians are cool. Will stick a U in darn near anything.
    * OFNOTE--Huh. Sure glad I wasn't on Wheel of Fortune. Woulda blurted out ORNATE. Pitiful. Vanna woulda laughed so hard, sheda needed two hankies just to clean up her nose. But I digress.
    * AYE[R]S--Form of rock music involving always voting yes, thru song. Originated in Brisbane. INXS was much bigger, even among sichophant politicians.
    * PUNIC--Got this immediately, but yet got hung up on OrNaTE. Brains are weird; especially in the fillintheblanks lobe, evidently.

    Anonymous 1:06 PM  


    big thanks for such a great site. can you recommend a MAC crossword construction program so that I can submit to NYT?

    E. Lee

    Penna Resident 1:28 PM  

    if you havent seen Penna, then you have probably never bought food.
    almost all nationally available baked goods have "Reg Penna Dept Agr" somewhere on the label, even outside the state.

    Penna was the commonly accepted abbreviation for our state before the 2 letter post office standard was adopted.

    Penn is a university in philadelphia, which does have an italian rest called Penne on its campus.

    Bird 1:36 PM  

    Solved on paper (home delivery). First reaction was “Wow. Look at those large squares”. Second thought was “I hope they are common letters to the affected fill”. In the end I liked it, but getting there was tough at times due to the weird, obscure and otherwise confusing clues that could be any answer (prefix to phobia = ????). Knowing the NYT offers LARGE PRINT editions (not that I read them) gave me LARGE PRINT after just a few letters. Aha!

    4A was HITS for the longest time. So RAP is now a noun as well as a verb? Go figure.
    PYE crossing AYERS seems a bit unfair. Ran the alphabet and settled on Y. Lucky me.

    @JenCT – re: yesterdays post about The Scooter pitching for The Money Store: I do remember those ads.

    It can't be that hard 1:50 PM  

    I always download from XWord Info. Completely reliable. Today it even shows the grid correctly if you look at the solution.

    If programs like cruciverb and xwordinfo can always display accurate grids, I can't see what prevents the Times software from doing the same. Very frustrating!

    Glimmerglass 2:18 PM  

    Today, I struck out. Got the NE and SW corners, and very little else. I can't remember the last time I was so soundly defeated. No complaints. Completely missed the "doubling" feature.

    M and A's Large Silver Bullet 2:18 PM  

    p.p.s.s. Jeff Chen, one of my all-time fave constructors, has the LA Times puz today. Only thing -- you have to sit thru a Chuck E. Cheese commercial, to get to it. So, slight bummer, upfront. Jeff is also talked about at BEQ's site, today. Way to go, JC.

    Back to the NYTPuz. Liked it. Dared to be different. Different is good. thUmbsUp good.

    Maybe someday, we can have a FEAROFHEIGHTS puz, where the HEIGHTS part sorta falls off a cliff, like

    Matthew G. 2:19 PM  

    What's so aggravating about the NYT site is that the PDFs become "available" immediately in the sense that they you can access them by putting in the correct URL, but that they are only listed under archives.

    When you first log in to the Crosswords page, there should be a link to the current puzzle Right There every day, irregular grid or not. You should not have to know that they are in the archives. This is Not Complicated.

    chefbea 2:20 PM  

    Very late to the party. Had our monthly NARFE meeting and luncheon. Started the puzzle early and just got home to finnish iit.

    What a great puzzle!!! Loved it. Loved the big squares. Maybe later I will read all the comments

    Matthew G. 2:21 PM  

    Oh, and PENNA is not a real abbreviation for Pennsylvania. It's either PENN or PA. Not PENNA.

    retired_chemist 2:34 PM  

    @ Matthew G. - PENNA is fine. Not as common as it used to be but still in my dictionary.

    Anonymous 2:40 PM  

    BOSNS should be clued "Some Petty officers". Lots of petty officers aren't Bosn mates. Gunners mates, e.g.

    Lewis 3:06 PM  

    @ benko -- can you elaborate what is hateful and spiteful about this puzzle?

    @ ellen s -- 49A could have been EEEL

    @ ulrich -- nice post, and I agree completely

    My grid was practically blank my first across pass through and I thought I was in trouble, but got the theme and things got much easier. Great idea, great look to the finished grid. My only complaint is that there was too much ugly fill. I did like the crunchy cluing.

    Sparky 3:24 PM  

    Lke @lawprof, I thought I was having a migrane. Also trouble keeping leaps across the big square straight. Putting in 4 of the letter no help. The whole thing is still making me a bit queasey. Also I don't see it as four for one but one for four. Whatever. Hand up for SNowPEAS for far too long. Mild ah ha when I saw the LARGE PRINT catty corner. Basically a slog.

    Tita 3:40 PM  

    I love a clever puzzle. This one was clever.
    I also refused to comply, and solved in my app on the tablet, guessing that one letter was meant for each group of 4.

    It was a bit of a self-imposed slog, as I used the free-form Rebus feature to try to do this anti-rebus...
    See my grid here ...
    I tried to put 1/4 of the letter into each little square...!!!

    FEAROFflIGHTS went in for a while.
    Wasn't till after I finally finished, and was highlighting each letter, that I read what they spelled out. Doh.

    I did think this was hard, though, and dnf with AuER/PuE.

    Totally agree on the sloppy execution on the NYT's part. No (excusable) reason at all for that.

    Thanks Corey!

    Del Resident 3:48 PM  

    as my neighbor to the north alluded to at 1:28, Penna has been standard in the food industry for 80 years.

    Reg. Penna. Dept. Agr.: An abbreviation connoting that a food bearing that abbreviation on its package label has been processed by a food establishment that is “registered with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture” in accordance with section 14(a) of the Food Act.

    and if youve driven on I-76, you may know this sign:

    Anonymous 4:11 PM  

    Did it on paper and while the clues hardly glittered loved the end result. A beautiful looking puzzle with LARGE PRINT in diagonal.

    (Had a bit of trouble when I put down HUNTER for "What may go for a buck.")

    sanfranman59 4:26 PM  

    Midday report of relative difficulty (see my 8/1/2009 post for an explanation of my method and my 10/15/2012 post for an explanation of a tweak to my method):

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

    Thu 20:45, 16:58, 1.22, 84%, Challenging

    Top 100 solvers

    Thu 14:32, 9:56, 1.46, 92%, Challenging

    As Rex says, today's ratings based on the online solve times must be taken with a very healthy dose of salt because the gimmick didn't translate well in their app.

    Milford 4:53 PM  

    @Del Resident - thanks for the link, I knew there was a reason that PENNA looked completely kosher to me.

    Ulrich 6:30 PM  

    @Del Resident: I second @Milford. I now know why PENNA looked so familiar to me who lived in the state for many years.

    Mitzie 6:35 PM  

    You haters are all a bunch of dinguses.

    joho 6:36 PM  

    Wow, I thought I'd come here to find a lot more applauding and less polarizing. Do love the comments, though ... and Corey, you've successfully stirred everybody up. Congrats! Not only on that, but your (to me) fun, innovative creation. I loved it!

    I predict that you will be very LARGE in PRINT in the future!

    mac 6:48 PM  

    I do the puzzle in the paper, so this was cute. Got the theme pretty quickly, but it still wasn't a very quick solve.

    @two ponies is right, it's either sugar snaps or snow peas (I had those for a while) that go into a wok.

    I thought besties before roomies and I'm blaming Rex's BFFs!

    How does the Hookah work? I have to look that up.

    @Ellen s.: why the problem with eels? Because they're in your name?

    LaneB 7:03 PM  

    I solve on paper and liked today's puzzle. Made a few mistakes early which always slows one down: Insult for RETORT; Cronies for ROOMIES; Angoras for AFGHANS. But ultimately everything got corrected, and I thought it was nice to get one big letter for four answers.

    chefwen 8:02 PM  

    @M & A - You can download the LA Times puzzle from American Mensa No commercials to sit through.

    @loren muse smith - How'd you do dat? Of course I laughed!

    Outlaw M and A 9:36 PM  

    @chefwen--thanx. will chek it out.

    Anonymous 12:01 AM  

    The Punic Wars were in the third and second centuries, not the second and third centuries.

    Joseph B 12:23 AM  

    To find the PDF, I went to the Technical Support page, which says to choose the Print option for the puzzle, and then print it to a PDF.

    That gave me the exact same puzzle layout (with the groups of four circles) that I got from Across Lite.

    If the only place to get the actual PDF is the archive, maybe the Tech Support page should send you to the archive. Or better yet, add PDF as an option in the Play popup, and then no one will need tech support to find it.

    sanfranman59 12:38 AM  

    This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 8/1/2009 post for an explanation and my 10/15/2012 post for an explanation of a tweak I've made to my method. In a nutshell, the higher the ratio, the higher this week's median solve time is relative to the average for the corresponding day of the week.

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

    Mon 7:02, 6:12, 1.14, 92%, Challenging
    Tue 7:22, 8:19, 0.89, 16%, Easy
    Wed 9:25, 10:16, 0.92, 30%, Easy-Medium
    Thu 20:46, 16:58, 1.22, 84%, Challenging

    Top 100 solvers

    Mon 4:22, 3:42, 1.18, 96%, Challenging (8th highest ratio of 172 Mondays)
    Tue 4:21, 4:52, 0.89, 13%, Easy
    Wed 5:20, 6:04, 0.88, 18%, Easy
    Thu 14:10, 9:56, 1.43, 91%, Challenging

    Anonymous 1:30 AM  

    It's 13:30 on Friday in Hong Kong and still I'm only seeing yesterday's technology complaints.

    As a displaced American, I am spoiled by, but thankful for, this site and my IHT (soon to be INYT).

    Can't remember my name from last time 1:26 PM  

    Penna as Pennsylvania - this gets used on road signs there, such as the Penna Tpke.

    Anonymous 3:20 AM  

    thanks for sharing..

    MSJ 10:43 AM  

    Beyond annoying, it is my least favorite Thursday puzzle. I did half of it and turned on the news.

    Spacecraft 11:46 AM  

    Another triumph for old-school PRINT (LARGE or SMALLER) over tech gadgets. I just never run into those fancy glitches that beset the e-geeks. Sorry, guys, but I do NOT feel your pain.

    I do, however feel one in my head, after trying to get started in today's grid. There was a ton of stuff I didn't know--so I won't list 'em--plus a few false starts, particularly ROOMMATES (while I still thought that more than one letter went into those big squares) before BUDDIES before ENEMIES before--at last!--the correct ROOMIES.

    When I saw that the R of AYERS was right, and had _R_NT opposite ____E at that point, I glommed onto LARGE PRINT, which helped a lot toward my getting correctly finished. Still, though, not "easy." By any stretch.

    I note that in my paper there was no "note." If there had been, I'd have read it. Thankfully, for me, there is no "timer running." My intuition is that I've already lived longer than I would've if the clock were my God.

    A clever enough grid, Corey--but please, no more like that. My head hurt just looking at it.

    Syndi Solver 1:35 PM  

    Very clever -- kudos to Corey Rubin!

    My first reaction at seeing those big squares next to the small ones was, "Wait, is that a Mondrian pattern?" Which probably shows how little I know about art, actually, but that's what came to my mind at first. :-)

    Doing the puzzle on paper makes the end result look much nicer as well as making the theme more obvious. That helped a lot with the solving. I wrote in LARGE PRINT after I had just LAR-- and P---- in those big squares. I'm amazed at all these speed solvers who only noticed the LARGE PRINT after the fact! I needed those extra theme letters to help me solve. And it still took me about 30 minutes or so.

    I also thought that it was a good puzzle for anyone who is, ahem, shall we say a bit older? My close eyesight is not what it used to be. Even with reading glasses sometimes those numbers inside the puzzle are too small and I write an answer in the wrong place. And I'm only in my early 50s....

    RE: PENNA as an abbreviation, I saw this answer in a puzzle some time back and questioned it. So, I looked it up, saw it was legit, and that knowledge helped me out today.

    @Tita, loved your clever idea of trying to draw a big letter that spanned 4 squares. Genius! But I'll stick with paper for this type of puzzle. :-)

    @Spacecraft, I chuckled at your comments about not wanting to have a timer running. I get what you mean.

    Waxy in Montreal 3:03 PM  

    Since all (I think) we syndcity solvers use the dead tree medium to solve our NYTCs, I suspect we'll be able to endrun the primetime technogriping above and focus on the puzzle itself. That being said, once the gimmick (FOURSCORE again?) became apparent, I didn't think this was a particularly challenging Thursday. Only real trouble OFNOTE was at the 4A/5D nexus where it took me forever to HOPON the supermodel Wek / Ms. New Booty (are they ROOMIES too?) bandwagon.

    For whatever reason RAPS, OOF, SPAT, PLOP, STRAIGHTENSUP and FOE together with the clue for 46A evoked fond memories of the old 1960's Batman TV series. OPART at its best.

    Dirigonzo 4:27 PM  

    Came home from work, turned on the radio and "Lara's Theme" was playing; opened the paper and started the puzzle (after staring at the large squares for a time) and Dr. Zhivago appeared - SYNCHRONICITY! Finished with OWS as my supermodel was ALEc. When I was done I had to double check to be certain I had filled in all of the squares because of the amount of white space remaining.

    strayling 7:15 PM  

    Most enjoyable puzzle. Did anyone else think of OPART as a sort of hidden reveal? When I think op art I always flash on those huge Escher posters - large prints.

    DMGrandma 7:19 PM  

    Struggled until I figured the big white squares held just one letter, and then this thing I had been staring at cross-eyed just sort of solved itself. The last letter was the correctly intuited A in RAPS. But I hope we don't see more of this kind of thing. I join those who found it headache inducing, and decided I didn't care to finish, only to come back after all the errands were done to see the SURE/NIRVANA cross and decide to stick it out. One hold-up for me was 38D TRE. Guess another gap in my knowledge stack has been exposed.

    On the other hand, I suppose this was some kind of a creative wonder?

    Well I just failed the Captcha-and the new one looks no better, the letters are so piled up these old eyes can't tell one from another!

    rain forest 7:32 PM  

    A(nother) victory for paper/syndi solvers! This is the type of puzzle where the pure pleasure of discovering the trick afoot is missed by those whose only goal is speed. I very much appreciated the construction feat here, and once I realized that each large square contained only 1 letter, I got moving. Like @Spacecraft, once I saw that LARG was correct, I immedately printed in PRINT in the other squares. Maybe some quibbles with some of the fill, but with a puzzle so clever and different, why moan about that. A lot of fun, though I guess you can't repeat something like this.

    Tita 8:28 PM  

    @Syndi...thanks - I had fun with it.

    To all the Syn're quite right - what freedom you have.
    Yes, we are beholden to so many technologies over which we have no have only the printing press and distribution/delivery technologies.

    I was the last person I would have expected to give up paper solving. But I have. Happily. Well, most of the time.
    My app is the closest to being able to erase, doodle, and use my own handwriting.

    Anonymous 12:08 PM  

    Newspaper solver catching up on my puzzles from the week. I had finished Wednesday and had Friday & Saturday (today) at hand, but could not locate Thursday's paper. My plan B was to just go ahead and do Friday's, squinting to blur my vision while I slapped a Post-it over the Thursday answer. Thankfully I found Thursday and completed it first, because I can see that, even with my poor eyesight, that squinting trick was NOT going to work.

    For a while I had the big letters as LAR_ _ PRIN_ and was wondering who the heck LARRY PRINE was. All I've been able to find out since is that there are 5 professionals named Larry Prine, who use LinkedIn to exchange information...

    LARRY PRINE 7:49 PM  

    @Anonymous 12:08 PM - So what's your point?

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