Cartoon chihuahua / WED 5-8-13 / Old Mideast alliance for short / Ho Chi Minh trail locale / Certain radio enthusiasts / Lifebuoy competitor / Lamprey hunter

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Constructor: Bruce Venzke

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY  // puzzle note in electronic version: "The print version of this puzzle contains the following additional clue after the Across and Down clues:

1 Annual message"

—theme answers are verb phrases referring to things one might have done (past tense) for Mother's Day, all clued as [Remembered Mom, in a way]:
Word of the Day: HAROLD Lloyd (50D: Lloyd of the silents) —
Harold Clayton Lloyd, Sr. (April 20, 1893 – March 8, 1971) was an American film actor and producer, most famous for his silent comedies. // Harold Lloyd ranks alongside Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton as one of the most popular and influential film comedians of the silent film era. Lloyd made nearly 200 comedy films, both silent and "talkies", between 1914 and 1947. He is best known for his "Glass" character, a resourceful, success-seeking go-getter who was perfectly in tune with 1920s era America. (wikipedia)
• • •

It's not Mother's Day. Diagonal "message" is an almost interesting touch, but ... it's not Mother's Day.

Missing indefinite articles in first two theme answers are strange. Last two theme answers can follow pronoun "I" or "you" easily to form a complete sentence. Same can not be said of first two.

And then there's the fill. Today, it's all forgettable-to-terrible. Why we continue to get puzzles with fill this creaky, ancient, and crosswordesey in 2013, I just don't understand. There are great puzzle editors out there who would Never allow something to come out looking this ratty and dated. This fact comes up on a regular basis among my top constructing / solving friends (most of whose names you know). OH ME? When did *that* become a thing? I had trouble enough accepting AH, ME! OH ME can BITE ME. The pluralizing of sounds / exclamations like PSSTS and OHOS is just criminal. You could blame the extra burden placed on the grid by the "message," but you just have to look at the N/NE and S/SW (where the "message" holds no sway) to see that the "message" is not the problem. The inexplicably stale fill is. Straight outta 1979. Do they even make Lifebuoy any more? "Although Lifebuoy is no longer produced in the US and UK, it is still being mass produced by Unilever in Cyprus for the UK, EU, US and Brazil markets, as well as in Trinidad and Tobago for the Caribbean market" (wikipedia). So ... yes-ish? When's the last time ASTA, ELIA and EELER were all in the same 15x15 grid? Don't answer. Just ... don't.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Anonymous 12:23 AM  

Went on Xwordinfo, saw that there was a diagonal clue across the grid and I guessed it would be "HAPPYMOTHERSDAY".

Sadly, that was the best part of this puzzle.

Kemal Kilicdaroglu 12:25 AM  

Sure, make fun of Lifebuoy, but all of us Cypriotes love Unilever. It's the only functioning part of our economy.

jae 12:32 AM  

Easy Wed.  Only erasures other than spelling issues were:  I mean for ID EST and aHas for OHOs (aren't they both cries of discovery?).  Sorta cute M-Day tribute, but pretty unremarkable.  I have no idea how hard it is to do a diagonal or what kind of constraints it imposes, so maybe meh is what you get?

Anonymous 12:34 AM  

Alternative fill for SW


I'd say mine is superior overall. No one outside of crossword knows or even cares about UZIS.

I of course, could probably do better if I tore up ALLSTAR, but hey, ALLSTAR is pretty good fill, and I'm not getting paid to do this.

dmw 12:54 AM  

Any Wednesday I can do completely is a good Wednesday. Loved the cluing of "ARK." Didn't see the message until alerted by Rex. Can't they fix Across Lite?

retired_chemist 1:21 AM  

OK. Easy. Felt like a Monday, and my only problems were typos.

Agree with Rex - there is an old feel to some of the clues. I don't recall seeing Cheers (cf. 72A) even in reruns for a long time. DODOS are extinct. At least the UAR is called old.

Brendan McNamara 1:26 AM  

I figured this theme ran today to remind us to send something to our mothers while there's still time.

Will Shortz 1:31 AM  

One thing I don't understand about Rex's puzzle critiques ... Why does every puzzle have to have a modern vibe?

Yes, Wednesday's crossword skews a little old. There are a lot of older solvers out there. Other crosswords skew young ... there are a lot of younger solvers, too. Over time things balance out.

When I started the job in 1993, a lot of older solvers criticized the inclusion of modern pop culture in the Times crossword. I replied ... if young solvers have to know older stuff, then old solvers should have to know modern stuff. It works both ways.

The intolerance and narrow-mindedness of older solvers then was something I couldn't stand. I feel the same way about the intolerance and narrow-mindedness of younger solvers today.

The Times crossword is for everyone, young and old. If a particular puzzle isn't to your taste, just wait. There's probably one more to your taste that's coming up soon.

--Will Shortz

Ellen S 1:31 AM  

I ain't going to say anything. Because
a) there are EELS and ELIA in the same puzzle. Along with many other old friends, as Rex pointed out. ASTA was among the first crosswordese answers my hubby taught me: Erne, aloe, adit, asta. The Muses. The two jockeys--Shoemaker and Arcaro.

b) whatever I say I'll probably get it wrong.

Same writeovers as @Jae. Too easy for a Weds. (Tomorrow will be tough and then I'll complain about that.)

Adela Cacao Motos 2:01 AM  

Yikes, scary that even anon folks are correcting corners!
But to complain that Cheers clues are too old, makes me want to kick something. Let's be realistic here, people!
Shall we ban "Star Wars" clues for being 30 years old?

Malapopped, sorta, right off the bat, put Sentflowers for SHIPPEDGIFT off the S..but, I guess so what.

Must admit without note , I totally missed diagonal, that does add wow factor. Liked SHIRK.

However, I too am bothered it's not Mother's Day, but since Mother's Day is ALWAYS on a Sunday, and Friday and Saturday are always unthemed, and it was too easy for Thurs, what to do?

Rather than the Wednesday before maybe run this on Monday May 13th, the day AFTER Mother's Day.
Since all the clues are in the past... And it was easy, just a list.

The day was wrong, but the bigger problem, for me, was that it was list-y with no word play to speak of.
As long as we are saying what we wish we had seen, I would have made the theme answers have a double meaning.
For example, make it PHONEHOME and clue it a la E.T.
Or have (you don't) SENDMEFLOWERS and clue it a la Barbra.
( SHIPGIFT could have a pun too.)

Bottomline for this puzzle, i sort of felt sorry for it...appearing Wednesday May 8 thru no fault of its own. I mean, what if Bruce Venzke meant it for the Monday after? It might have held up on all levels.

However, I've been working VERY hard to make this Monday NON Mother's Day to promote the book "No Kidding: Women Writers on Bypassing Parenthood."
(if you are in SF, come to Booksmith in the Haight on Mon May 13th...check it out:
Can everyone help me make that a reality?)

Anoa Bob 2:15 AM  

Always enjoy it when the Shortzmeister drops by and gives us his perspective. More, please.

I agree with the Rexmeister that the repeated clue "Remembered Mom (why the capital 'M'?), in a way" calls for past tense verb phrases for answers. Then we get two that can stand alone, SENT FLOWERS & CALLED HOME, while the other two, SHIPPED GIFT & MAILED CARD, sound like something an ESL teacher would want to correct by suggesting the student review how English uses indefinite articles.

Acme 2:17 AM  

PS my above comments were written before I saw Will's remarks. He made my Cheers point better.
But the puzzle had other problems, like day it was scheduled and list-iness.
But this blog is an excellent way for genuine feedback which was absent for a long time.
I agree that many here can be way too harsh, but the other solvers who particpate give very good insight to a full range of thoughts and that's invaluable.
It's a microcosm... The Times has saved a fortune not needing to hire an independent research team to find out what solvers are thinking.

Anonymous 3:23 AM  

Rex sure is a cranky guy, if you ask me.

Unknown 3:39 AM  

I'm a fairly new solver. I started doing crosswords about five years ago, and between my Nintendo DS and my iPhone I've done just about every crossword going back to the late nineties in that time (I travel a lot, and it's not uncommon for me to do 10-20 crosswords on an overnight business trip).

Whether the fill is dated or faddish, shouldn't the main criterion be that it be good? I don't really think there's a big difference between NEYO and ASTA, but there is a huge difference between PSSTS and IMHO.

EEL, EELS, EELER, and EELERS are not old - they are just terrible. I get that they are useful crutches, and that construction is hard beyond my talents, but I think we can all agree that they have never made a puzzle better.

I think as a solver I am spoiled because once every week or two, a puzzle strikes a perfect balance of theme and fill. When one like this comes along, the combination of shaky theme and bland fill makes for an uninspiring solve.

I have a lot of friends who like Sudoku, and I hate it even though I am usually better at it than they are, because it is joyless. Good crosswords bring me a lot of joy. Bad ones are no more interesting than word searches.

Today's puzzle was fine, but undeniably boring.

Magenta Crayola 4:10 AM  

The NYT xword is not published only for the clique of 100+- rexites who consider themselves to be the ONLY legitimate xword solvers of any worth. The NYT puzzle is published for millions of people in the US and around world who live, work, and are very successful outside of the ivory tower -- and have no idea and could care less who the latest thug hiphopper is.

Yep. Today's xword is a little dull and old fashioned, but it does not deserve the vitriol heaped on it. And, personal attacks against the editor are childish and petulant. He serves a broad base of solvers -- not just arrogant know it

Davis 5:11 AM  

I can get over some of the old crosswordese, but I am really hung up on the weird theme answers: SHIPPED GIFT and MAILED CARD. What's the deal with the missing "a"?

Also, the Magmic app once again screwed up the extra bit of this puzzle — it had the note that read "The print version of this puzzle contains the following additional clue after the Across and Down clues:" but left off the actual clue. It'd be nice if the NYT would put a little pressure on Magmic to fix the many problems with that app, since user complaints seem to be unavailing.

mac 5:23 AM  

I did not see that diagonal answer: the best part of the puzzle.

Easy and not very exciting, but I loved shirk, rhetoric and blear. For some reason I thought "Knight" at 8D, but I realised that was not ABC!

Travelling back to the U.S. today, just as the weather is beautiful and warm in Holland....

jae 5:41 AM  

The joy (@Keith H) of NYT puzzles for me is that they cover such a broad range of stuff.  I personally skew older (67 to be exact),  but,  because I love doing them, I intentionally pay attention to pop culture/sports/movies/music...knowing that it's all fair game.  I've also done enough puzzles to have absorbed most of the standard crosswordese. So, @Will old vs. young is not an issue for me.  It's all good.  I mean (ID EST) yesterday's delightful Ancient Mariner was pretty ancient, but today's was just dull.

And, yes, Sudoku is joyless.

Paying attention anecdote:  As I printed out BEQ's last Thurs. puzzle I noticed that the 5a clue was an actress in The Great Gatsby clued "? Fisher."  At that point I knew Carrie from Star Wars and Jenna from The Office (which it turns out is spelled with a c).  I was going to do the puzzle late Fri. afternoon.  Fortunately in my Fri. morning LAT there was a pic of ISLA Fisher in an article about Gatsby. 

GILL I. 6:35 AM  

This sounds like a list you might make before Mother's Day so I didn't have any problems with it appearing on a Wed.
"Old Timey" has saved me numerous times. The "new" stuff usually gets me in the REAR but I have fun trying to figure it out.
This was just fine for a Wed. and I loved that the diagonal has HAPPY MOTHERS DAY.

Unknown 6:43 AM  

@Magenta Crayola

Your generalizations are odd. Having lurked here for some time, I think the statistically average poster/solver here does not know much about "who the latest thug hiphopper is", except maybe those with kids and they probably can't be accused of caring about said thug.

On the other hand, there are millions of Americans who both read the NYT and are into modern music (including some thug hiphoppers, lol), but by your implication the crossword should not cater to them because they are ivory tower rexites (?!). Thankfully, @Will doesn't share your disdain for these solvers.

Also, what ivory tower are we in? Isn't it far more of an "ivory tower" pursuit to know about Greek gods and Biblical weeds and silent film actors than to know about computer programs and current events? To be sure, I love old clues and answers in crosswords as much as I love new ones. But the idea that liking Kanye West implies that one is an ivory-tower rexite should be as plainly silly to you as it is to me.

ZenMonkey 7:09 AM  

"Latest thug hiphopper" -- now there's a phrase that thoroughly discourages further discussion.

I agree with those who find the problem here to be dullness, not age. I enjoy challenging myself with Maleskas and Farrars; skewing older is fine. It's that the fill is mostly very tired, as others have described.

When I saw EELER again I knew it was going to get people ALL RILED UP...

MetaRex 7:12 AM  

Why was this puzz published today? Well, it does happen to be MetaMom's case she's reading the comments this morning (instead of just reading Rex as she usually does), Happy Birthday, Mom!

My line on Rex-Will and the issue of pop and old school puzz fill (is AHI of Satan? ANOA? Both? Neither?) is at ADELA-ASTA or ADELE-ESTA?

Milford 7:15 AM  

Puzzle was pretty easy for a Wednesday. I don't get bothered by crosswordese so much, but am usually wrong about things like hee, har, esto/esta, OH ME, oh no, uh uh, etc.

I personally liked the UZIS corner, with INCA, CACAO, and ZEAL.

This puzzle did feel a little joyless. I think mostly because the theme answers felt robotic - both the wording, and the Hallmark recipe nature of what to do on Mothers' Day.

Perhaps if the theme entries were more my reality I would have liked if better...


Joe The Juggler 7:25 AM  

Maybe the missing articles would have made sense if there had been one more theme answer: SEND TELEGRAM

Anonymous 7:28 AM  

If ivory tower refers to Rex and his academic status, I do not think teaching comic books at a second or third tier school as ivory tower. He furthers that feeling by his disdain for knowledge gleaned from many sources - fine literature, music, art - as being too dated. If I, a professional woman, almost 40 years out of a Seven Sisters college, know these factoids, then surely a current college professor should too!

Anonymous 7:40 AM  

I'm an "older solver" who hates the contemporary pop references. Will has perfectly expressed my view. I see learning the names of American Idol finalists or rap stars about as interesting as memorizing Rhine tributaries.

But Rex's comments are usually worthwhile. I.e. except when the blog is dominated by detailed discussions of exactly where he lost 10 seconds; like who cares?

Not a puzzle critic 7:45 AM  

I liked it!!

AliasZ 7:59 AM  

Regarding "the missing indefinite articles," I expect someone who makes it his business to analyze and critique crossword puzzles to notice the fact that today's theme entries are on a Mother's Day to-do list:


Thus I really can't take anything else appearing in today's blog seriously either, coming from someone who failed to pick up on this simple but cute twist in a pleasant mid-week puzzle.

Cranky indeed - or not enough sleep.

Perhaps listening to MOTO Perpetuo by Paganini may shock one out of a mental daze, played here by the incomparable Yehudi Menuhin. Or if not that, then perhaps a little ROYAL Fireworks music.

@Will, thank you for your note. I for one am in complete agreement.

Miss Evernote 8:05 AM  

I make a lot -- and I mean a LOT -- of to-do lists. And yet I don't recall ever having made one with the entries in the past tense. Therefore, I really can't take anything else appearing in the last comment seriously.

Paul Keller 8:09 AM  

Have you ever been distracted by weak dialogued or implausible plot twists while watching a popular movie or TV show and thought to yourself there must be a legion of starving writers who could have done better but didn’t get the chance? I understood Rex's comments to be in that vein as opposed to vitriolic.

I thought the solve was on the easy side for a Wednesday, except that I couldn't get the ERLE ELIA crossing until the third guess. The clue for ARK was good for a chuckle.

Airymom 8:14 AM  

Thanks, Will and Rex for your comments.
As far as "modern"...I have one puzzle left to solve in the "20 under 30" collection. I'm 57 (with one kid in college and one in high school). I found the puzzles very challenging. My kids have alternated from being impressed with my up-to-date knowledge to looking at me with disdain.

Rex objects to a clue about "Cheers". Yes, it's been off the air for some time. But, while solving the "20 under 30" puzzles, this is some of the answers this middle aged gal was expected to know...Skrillex, Pottietang, Roca-fella, and T Pain. Here are some of the theme answers in those puzzles--microorgasms, break up sex, pimp my ride, gotta get down on Friday.

So, I'm sorry if a "Cheers" clue seems outdated, but I think we're even!

dk 8:19 AM  

Rex does a fine job. Wil does a fine job. The x-world is a big tent and Andrea is a dreamboat.

That said, IDEST say this puzzle does not pass the Wednesday bar.

Sorry Bruce but aside from 1 Diagonal the rest of the puzzle is DODOS LAVing with DIAL.

As I have written a puzzle needs to hang together like a short story. This one is contrived and feels like it is held together with duct tape.

Although... if you can get your hands on some French FETA, sprouts and Blood Oranges you have the fixens for a fine summer salad.

📞 (call the doctor)

Rob C 8:22 AM  

Easy-medium Wed. for me. I didn't mind the older skewed fill as much as the seemingly missing indefinite articles in first two theme answers, as Rex pointed out. Even after I got the theme, I hestitated at putting the second words in without the 'a' because it just seemed odd. The diagonal message was a nice touch. Close enough to Mother's Day I suppose.

In fact some of the fill was very good DOG FACE, ALL RILED UP, ALLSTAR, RHETORIC, SCORPION

I always enjoy the opinions expressed here, that’s why I come back. I don't necessarily think anyone is too harsh. Hey, your opinion is just that. I do think, however, sometimes we lose sight of the fact that there are all types of solvers. For some, it’s all about the theme, for others it may be about speed-solving, smooth fill, avoiding eels or plurals. As has been pointed out, some like a modern vibe, some like more classic. Just because one person or group doesn’t enjoy a puzzle, doesn’t mean it’s a bad puzzle. Rex never claimed that he is trying to give a balanced view-it’s just his opinion.

Also, the posters here skew toward skilled and experienced solvers who, as a whole, may enjoy different aspects of a puzzle than newbies. So a puzzle that plays poorly with this crowd may be a big hit with an inexperienced solver. Too many puzzles with elaborate themes and tricky clues, as clever as they may be, may make them inaccessible to a new solver.

Unknown 8:28 AM  

Of course Will is right....puzzlers come in all ages and if you are patient, one will come along that is just right for you.

But this is Rex's blog, and we are here to read his opinion, whatever it may be.

This one felt kind of tired, for me. The fun diagonal message could not overcome the blah fill. Tomorrow is another day!

AliasZ 8:38 AM  

@Miss Evernote @ 8:05 AM - you could have simply ignored the previous comment @ 7:59. Obviously, it wasn't meant for you personally.

But to explain to everyone else, a mental to-do list contains items you wanted to make sure you didn't forget to do. I make a lot of those -- and I mean a LOT -- and they are always in the past tense.

joho 8:42 AM  

I laughed right off the bat at the clue for HEP! Maybe HEP is so square it's now hip!

@Airymom, you make your point very well. Our 18 year old idolizes Skrillex so that's the only one there I know. You also support @Will's point ... that old and new both deserve their places among the NYT puzzles. I love that what I know from the past helps me at times and what I need to learn may hurt me, but so what? Learning these new words fascinates me.

Can you imagine how many puzzles Will sees a day? It would be ludicrous(the rapper is Ludacris BTW)for him to only choose puzzles with a "new" vibe. He sees that the NYT must represent all ages and walks of life. I applaud him for his openmindedness and also for stopping by!

I'm not crazy about a theme that's just a list so this one missed a bit for me. However, the diagonal HAPPYMOTHERSDAY definitely added some wow factor.

Today DODOS, recently YOYO. I'm looking for BOZO next!

jackj 8:46 AM  

Today’s puzzle has a sweet “old-timey” feel to it, sort of like hearing a good barbershop quartet sing a rousing rendition of “Sweet Adeline”. (Comfort food for those who find pleasure in reminiscence, maybe).

Exhibit A for “old-timey” presents itself at 1 across, looking for HEP as “Not square”, that ironically looks pretty square to me, but seeing SHIRK as the next across answer eases the sting a bit, at least until we get to that hard-hitting insult, DODOS for “Boneheads”. HUBBA-HUBBA!!

There are treats as we work our way through the puzzle, RHETORIC, certainly qualifies as one, as do ALLRILEDUP, BLEAR, PAPERTOWEL, DOGFACE, ALLSTAR and the clever cluing of IDEST.

The flip side of things, the non-treats, is admittedly also extensive as HUH, EDIE, ASTA, EAVE, HAMS, IDI, LOFT and SASSY don’t do anything to distinguish the puzzle (and these are just some of the down answers from the first across row) but, the constraints of the theme, a check list of things to do in remembering “Mom” on her day was likely a large factor in the constraints on the fill.

Further, those who solve with AcrossLite, as I do, are missing a rather substantial clue that is available on the PDF and print versions, a clue listed at the end of the DOWN clues as:

1 Annual message

And, when you read the letters in the diagonal, beginning at 1, it reads HAPPYMOTHERSDAY, clearly something that demanded a heap of constructing rigor to complete.

Shame on the Times for leaving us in the dark; at worst there should have been a suggestion that we solve it as a PDF.

But, thanks to Bruce Venzke for a respectful tribute to “Mom”.

Loren Muse Smith 9:10 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
datageneral 9:10 AM  

As the editor of the 20 Under 30 collection mentioned above by airymom, as well as the American Values Club xword (, both of which are representative of the younger generation of puzzle features under direct and indirect discussion here, I think it's worth weighing in.

I want, first, to express my respect and admiration for Will Shortz. It is crucial to understand that the New York Times puzzle speaks to a far broader audience than the AVCX, both in terms of numbers and range of age and knowledge. That is a difficult challenge, and one I would argue that Will has handled very well in his tenure.

Second, I want to make clear that as an editor of puzzles that skew more pop cultural and R-rated, my intention has never been to alienate anyone. Bad words only have value for me in the context of funny clues or implied commentary on dimensions of language. I look at slang like a linguist or lexicographer would - as a dynamic, creative human practice worthy of serious consideration even when it involves rural teenagers talking about cheap weed or something. We can still find words fascinating even when we don't condone their referents.

Every so often, the AVCX or my Ink Well puzzle will go somewhere that solvers don't like, and I fully acknowledge that there are and should be limits to puzzle content. I therefore *always* reply considerately to those who express dissatisfaction with the presence of an entry, and more importantly always take their feedback to heart.

Third, I want to briefly speak on behalf of hip-hop, which is often lumped in with disposable television shows and consumer products in broad objections to "modern" content. Hip-hop and rap have been around since the early 1980s, or earlier by some reckonings. Many people who came of age in the early years of the genre are in their 40s or 50s today, and the genre (in many forms) has had undeniable staying power. The argument against including Jay-Z or Nas in a crossword is about as persuasive as an argument against a famous painter or jazz musician would be.

Let's admit that the relevant distinction here is between good and bad puzzles, no matter what generation their content tends to flatter. Great fill and themes abide. A strong generational skew is only likely to come up when the puzzle is weak in other ways. My idol when I began constructing was Frances Hansen, who could hardly have been more traditionalist and who was older than 80 when I discovered her work. Her puzzles are worth revisiting today.

Finally, if the Times puzzle doesn't suit you one day, I invite you to check out that week's American Values Club puzzle at Or BEQ or Jonesin' or Gaffney's meta or Ink Well or Rows Garden or Fireball. There are a lot of options nowadays for a range of solvers. It's OK for different people to have different sensibilities.

Ben Tausig
New York City

weingarten 9:12 AM  

I'd like to redefine the issue. It isn't old fogey answers; Shortz is right about that. The issue is tired, "gimme" answers, like elia and eeler and Asta and esne and amah and whatnot. These should be banished for 20 years. I also think Denver-to-Dallas directions trope should get a rest.

The Bart 9:24 AM  

Burns: That's it! The radio! I'll go on the most popular program of the day.
I assume that's still Don McNeill and his Breakfast Club?
Bart: Oh, get with the times, man. It's Jerry Rude and the Bathroom Bunch.
Marge: Oh, I don't think Mr. Burns would like that show.
Burns: What's the matter? Think I'm not hip? I don't have enough vo-dee-oh-do?

Carola 9:34 AM  

Didn't see the Mother's Day greeting until coming here. I solve the puzzle in the paper and didn't notice the "DIAGONAL" clue after the Downs - I guess I didn't look there because I finished with Acrosses. Seeing the message would have been a nice treat after what felt to me like a fairly joyless (thank you, @Keith H for putting your finger on it for me) exercise.

I did like SPRY along with the old-timers ASTA, ELIA, ERLE, ERROL, and HAROLD.

The SCORPION is right behind the EELER. One can always hope.

@Milford - Love your list!

Lindsay 9:41 AM  

Sure hope Mother is up on her crosswordese.

That EELER/LOA/REOIL sector (among others) fails to meet my aesthetic standards.

Steve J. 9:43 AM  

Ben -- I am an "old guy" (63) who loves YOUR puzzles, too. I'm not too old to learn new stuff, rap or otherwise. I am a subscriber to your puzzles, along with the great Matt Gaffney Metas and BEQ twice every week. Thanks for your thoughtful comments. And agree with Will and others -- it's a big tent and plenty of room for all

Scott 10:00 AM  

My two cents:

As a younger solver, Will's comment is mostly well-taken. However, I feel like we can distinguish between clues/fill that is old and fill that is old things that people memorize for crosswords. DIANE as clued is a good example of the former (although mybe not quite old enough for it), MOTO and ERROL Flynn might be such cases too. Something that might be difficult for younger solvers by virtue of its age, but which seems totally fairplay as Will argues and might reasonably enhance the experience of some solvers.

But things like EELER and ASTA are not really just old, they're just old things people memorize for crosswords. Older solvers don't sit around talking about eelers and Asta is not there because older solvers remember them or think of them anew, but simply because you memorize them for crosswords.

As for OHME, I have never heard this before, so I have no sense of whether it is old or young (though it is a Nirvana song title, so there's that).

Loren Muse Smith 10:05 AM  

I echo the thanks to both Rex and to Will for stopping by. I love this place!

I found this a spot on Wednesday for me except that I dnf because of all the proper nouns due south. Cheers’ Sam? Coach? Carla? Norm? Not getting DIANE (Seriously? Shame on me!) and not knowing I can LAVE (with some DIAL) just messed it all up.

My very first entries were “how to” for USERS, “tush” for REAR and “oily” for SPRY. Morning, @Nanpilla.

Mr. MOTO’s portrayer is ERROL backwards. Put *that*one in your pipe and smoke it.


CACAO. OH ME. Forget the “place the H” game. Let’s put the A, A, and O under little cups and move them all around really fast to confuse the speller. I can never spell this version.

I counted the letters in “got a tattoo” before I really sussed out the theme.

@ Acme - “Must admit without note, I totally missed diagonal, that does add wow factor.” Me, too. I actually said, “Wow.”

I did furrow my brow when SHIPPED GIFT fell without that indefinite article. Then I looked back at the other themers and saw that it works fine for me. I totally agree with @Alias Z and @Gill I.P. - a checklist (@Acme – “listiness”): MAILED CARD – check, SENT FLOWERS – check, SHIPPED GIFT – check. That it’s past tense doesn’t bother me in the least.

On the fill discussion – it’s frightening how much thought I give these damn puzzles. Before I discovered this blog, I guess I would have been like the majority of the solvers out there and not really have been too grumpy about EELER, ASTA, and ELIA sharing a grid. I would have chalked them up to crosswordese and been pleased that I knew them and could finish. Now that I’m more *educated* I fill these in, say a silent prayer for the constructor, and feel more hopeful that some of my EELERS-laden grids may be accepted. Obviously we all have different aspects that float our boats. For @jae – it’s the "broad range of stuff." On a Mon-Thurs for me, it’s 95% theme. Give me LOA and OHOS any day to see the diagonal HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY and the list.

And when we get a themed puzzle like Jeff’s yesterday, it’s just a rare treat. Kinda like today’s is a big ole Tootsie Roll and yesterday’s was Lindt’s finest. I like them both.

Hi, Mom

Anonymous 10:15 AM  

When the half words aren't even real words, or they're crosswordese, you know it's going to tank.

r.alphbunker 10:24 AM  

Bad timing, Rexxie. You don't burn a mother's day puzzle at the stake. They belong on refrigerator doors along with the pictures of boxy cars with crooked wheels and smiling flowers. They don't belong in academic journals.

My mother would have loved this puzzle!

Anonymous 10:35 AM  

I agree with Will Shortz, but that's not the issue here.

The issue is the huge amount of things that don't really appeal to anyone. This is sometimes reflected in the cluing as well ("Noted library pseudonym", huh?)

How many people outside of crosswords know what the following are?

* Mauna Loa
* Hilo, Hawaii
* Uzi
* Idi Amin
* Dogface
* Asta
* Eva of "Die Mesitersinger"

The complementary question to ask is, "How many of these are IMPORTANT?"

According to Wikipedia, Mauna Loa hasn't erupted since 1984. Hilo, Hawaii doesn't seem like it's ever done anything. Uzi, UAR, Idi Amin, Asta, and this Eva...what did they ever do that was worthy of note? I'm guessing nothing, but feel free to prove me wrong.

quilter1 10:36 AM  

Oh, it was OK. I agree with Will about needing to appeal to all ages and tastes. I agree with most that I get tired of ASTA, EELERS and Miss Eyre, although I have read her several times and enjoy her story. I didn't mind the theme either, though this year is bittersweet. What to do when mother remembers she is a mother but doesn't remember you? You visit anyway.

John V 10:45 AM  

This older solver got snagged in the South, LAVES and friends.

I like old and new, having solved under three editors. Everything I know of pop culture I learned from the puzzle. Seriously. Just sayin'

Anonymous 10:46 AM  

I would reckon that many NYT puzzles are not modern enough.

Many parts of modern pop culture that could be used to reduce crosswordese have yet to be used by the NYT crossword, or obscure references of old have been used instead of words more commonly known in the now.

Two Ponies 10:48 AM  

I sure wish I had noticed the diagonal clue.
If the theme answers are a list then I guess I buy it.
I really dislike clues such as the one for rear. I don't know how describe such clues but they annoy me.
@ Will, Thank you so much for stopping by. You are my favorite of all the NYT editors.
Old vs modern only is an issue for me when it comes to TV (never watch it) or rap/hip hop (which I find very offensive). I tried BEQ's for awhile but the pop culture spoiled the fun.
I love this blog!

Bob Kerfuffle 10:51 AM  

D'Oh! Did the puzzle in the paper, but never noticed the Diagonal clue.

As I was solving, kept thinking that this four-themer could easily have been a five-themer:
"x A - Remembered Mom, in a way" - VISITED GRAVE.

Eric 10:53 AM  

Oh lawdy lawdy, bring on the lynch mob for this one...

I'm with Rex on this one. Though the diagonal *ahem* revealer was cute, this was a case of where the puzzle was destroyed, I repeat, destroyed by the theme.

My inner grammar nazi won't let the forgive SHIPPED GIFT and MAILED CARD.

OHOS, EELER, USCG, AAA, HUH, APR, UAE, OHME, DEP and UNSTOPS all in the same puzzle = fail.

On a positive note: DOG FACE was cool.

Nick 10:56 AM  

Yes, easy for a Wednesday and yes, finished easily, but oh what a dispiriting slog. Crummy start to the day.

Two Ponies 11:03 AM  

One more thing, in an easy puzzle the crosswordese seems tired but there are days when if not for a bit of asta, eeler, etc. I might not have a toe hold to get me going. Those days I am very happy to see some old friends show up to lend a hand.

ArtO 11:16 AM  

An expected "easy" rating but perhaps unexpected excessively cranky criticism from our leader. After all, getting the diagonal "Happy Mothers Day" was surely praiseworthy and might have merited greater tolerance of the criticized entries.

Much appreciated, though, was the spirited dialog from the bloggers and an excellent contribution from Mr. Shortz.

I'm an older (75) solver who manages well through mid-week and finds the Fri/Sat puzzles (even those rated "easy") mostly challenging. As such, I may represent a middle of the road cohort when it comes to those who work on the NYT puzzles but are not crossword fanatics like many who contribute daily to this blog.

Those "other folks" enjoy working at the puzzles early in the week but simply don't even try anything beyond Wednesday. They enjoy the challenge, do not time themselves and have fun at their level.

Trying to keep our brains active is why those of us in the retirement years keep at it.

DBGeezer 11:38 AM  

I am an 84 year old who enjoys doing crosswords. I enjoy this blog and am glad Will added his reflection today.
I have fun with these puzzles and don't mind using Google to get some references to modern pop art and music. I am also happy to have references like IDI AMIN, TYCHO BRAHE, and Coleridge's poem pop right into place.
I am a little disappointed that so many of the contributors feel the need to complain. That is one of the reasons that I so much look forward to and enjoy Acme's contributions. She rarely gripes, and I can always feel her smile.
So friends, enjoy, be happy, smile, and as you share your joy, you will increase ours. :-)

Unknown 11:43 AM  

Your comment made my day. I must visit cyprus soon.

A Visitor from the Future 11:58 AM  

If you liked today's offering you are going to looove tomorrow's. Cannot *wait* to see the reaction.

jberg 12:04 PM  

Like @Carola, I solve in the printed NY Times, deliverd to my porch each morning -- but I work from crosses, so I never saw the revealer at 1 Diag. I would have liked it more if I did; and while I started out hating the missing articles, I think @ACME's suggestion of running on a Monday would let them be seen as punchlist items, clued as "What you may have done yesterday."

But ID EST? You don't say that in English, you say i.e. On a Wednesday, IMHO, it needs something Roman in the clue.

And while I may not like EELERS, I do think about ASTA from time to time; those movies were before the time of almost anyone living, but they are still terrific.

More generally, I'm with Will on this point, and really grateful for his stopping by.

But UZIS? I don't get the complaints; they are very current, not just in the armories of the Middle East but in the inner cities of the United States (where I happen to live). If you don't care about them, you can't be paying attention.

AliasZ 12:24 PM  

There are no old jokes, only old people. To a newborn every joke is new.

The same thing applies to crosswords.

When I read through mountains of comments about how old-fashioned or tired some individual entries and clues are, the above slogan immediately pops into my head.

Thank goodness we have someone like Will Shortz at the helm who fully understands this concept.

I for one, would have clued 54D as "Word in a Stravinsky Scherzo" as an example, which would have been promptly rejected by Will, and rightly so.

Be that as it may, let us enjoy his "Scherzo à la RUSSE."

Mike 12:29 PM  

Fun puzzle. I wish NYT would at least provide a jpz file in addition the the Across Lite file when there are extra gimmicks. This puzzle would have been more enjoyable with a good way to enter the diagonal clue.

syndy 12:29 PM  

Dear @Will Shortz, you know we love you and appreciate your work,right? We show it by deconstructing said work to our hearts content-but repectfully.To thine own self be true but please make allowance for our doubting too. Old may not have been such a problem if it was SPRY instead of creaky

Masked and Anonymo5Us 12:33 PM  

If y'all are tired of seeing the same 3-, 4-, and 5-letter words, you should probably switch over to Sudokus-ville. Guess what. Most of 'em have been used quite a bit, since 1912. Might as well say you're tired of the same old 26 letters showin up in the puz.

Most younger solvers are kinda lucky, in that the fill all has a freshness to it. You haven't gotten to personally celebrate the 1000th anniversary of EEL or ERA yet.

Most older solvers are kinda lucky, because of yer breadth of knowledge and trivia. Very useful in the crossword-crackin business. You may not care much about who let the dogs out or wha sup or whathaveyou, but hey -- Unless yer just sittin in a corner, droolin all over yer 1962 times crossword, you can still do research and learn new stuff, cantcha?

Fave fillins:
* SHIRK - 8th appearance. Stale. Brittle.
* SCORPION - 4th appearance. Over the hill.
* RHETORIC - 4th appearance. One foot in the grave.
* PAPERTOWEL - Debut appearance. How long are we expected to roll with this stuff?
* ALLRILEDUP - Debut appearance. yawnerino, dude.
* DOGFACE - 2nd appearance. Not only as old as scorpions, but also militarized. Nice that it's in the same sector with ASTA, tho.
* ALLSTAR - 11th appearance. Give me a commercial break, here.
* KOPPEL - Debut appearance. Old news, bro.
* HAROLD - 5th appearance. The Harold is silent.

Fave weeject:
* UAR - Sorta like a U and har combo.

Eric 12:40 PM  

@DBGeezer, your profound optimism has led me to two conclusions: 1) you've realized that life is way too short to sweat the small stuff. And I sincerely appreciate that as it is very refreshing to hear a grounded, well-intentioned, and friendly voice amidst a sea of incredulity and skepticism. 2) You're Canadian.

JFC 12:43 PM  

1. Not nearly as bad as Rex's tone.

2. Acme, solvers far outnumber constructors, and there wouldn't be any constructors if there weren't so many solvers, so I wouldn't dismiss their opinions so readily. Constructors give an “inside the Beltway” insight but there are many more people who live outside the Beltway and their opinions probably mean more.

3. Another reasonable comment by WS, which makes me wonder why he insists on using "hillbilly" in his cluing. Loren might not mind but it is pejorative as well as elitist. Maybe because he does not consider Hoosier pejorative, he thinks hillbilly is not. I don't know but I wish he would stop...speaking of "intolerance and narrow-mindedness...."


Mohair Sam 12:54 PM  

Agree here with Will Shortz. I've posted here before that I don't get angry when a puzzle is full of pop culture and comic book hero questions because I'm well aware that younger solvers have problems tomorrow with Helen Reddy and Harold Lloyd clues. One puzzle is easy for me, one ain't. Big deal. It all evens up.

I do, however, agree with Rex and others here about the amount of Crosswordese. Good old ASTA and EELER.

jodi 1:05 PM  

Chef Bea here. Loved it!!! Especially since I came to visit my daughter Jodi for mother's and we did the puzzle together!!!

EdFromHackensack 1:06 PM  

It is only a crossword puzzle. Why shouldnt old and new terms be acceptable? If I ever had the know-how to construct one of these things I would certainly use every color on the palette. Just the fact that Bruce V was able to put "HAPPYMOTHERSDAY" in the diagonal and make the whole thing jive symetrically boggles my mind. So kudos to the constructors and to Will. Who am I to complain one way or the other on these brilliant constructions. The time spent doing the NYT crossword is often the highlight of my day.

LaneB 1:08 PM  

Agree with the "easy" designation any time I can finish a Wednesday in less than 45minutes. Am sundresses everyone else did even lots better.

Benko 1:46 PM  

Had Imean for IDEST and ahme for OHME. Didn't know ADELA off the bat.
I grew up in the countryside of North Carolina and every kid in elementary school knew what an UZI was. Rambo!
I actually have less problems usually with older cultural references than contemporary ones, for one simple reason--the older ones are established, classic, great and still remembered artists, in the main, while the newer ones can be some flash in the pan no one will care about in 5 years, let alone 50. Don't tell me an American Idol runner up is in the same category as one of the greatest jazz singers. It's just not true.
That said, there is a difference, as many have noted, between legitimate cultural references and words which no one ever uses in real life, which are used in crosswords over and over simply for convenience. Crosswordese may help experienced solvers, but I think it is one of the biggest barriers to new solvers.

Bird 2:02 PM  

Harder than it needed to be and not much fun to solve. I did get a kick out of having a Diagonal clue. Agree with @Rex on the theme answers.

I agree with @WS on the Old vs. new fill - it all balances out. But, seeing the same “unique” fill 3 or more days in a week does get annoying.

OWE before HEP
HOF before MVP
LAMB before ELIA

OHOS and OH ME?! C’mon, really?

Never heard the term DOG FACE used for GIs.

BULL S**T also fits at 46A

Happy Humpday!

John 2:10 PM  

God equally loves the nattering nabobs of negativism and those who appreciate a noble effort, which today's puzzle certainly was. Keep'em coming, Will. And to Rex, whose scathing comments I often cannot abide, I applaud your chutzpah and thank our lucky stars that we live in a country where opinions of the individual can be freely expressed, even if counter to what might be the prevailing view as John Stuart Mill reminded us many years ago they may be in the right.



Lewis 2:11 PM  

@milford -- great suggestions

Thanks for coming in, Will. Happy to have the balance you give from time to time.

Easy for a Wednesday, my favorite answer was ALL RILED UP, and perhaps that can be the theme for today's blog?

Paul 2:20 PM  

Agreeing with you Will. Even though I enjoy this website,, "Rex" is sometimes a bit too pompous.

Nameless 2:34 PM  

This is @Rex's blog and if likes new fill, that is his prerogative and he can write whatever the hell he wants. Even if he is in the minority.

Thanks for stopping by Will and totally agree on the new/old fill argument.

@Bird – LOL. Good point as some folks think BS and Political RHETORIC are the same thing.

Mr. Benson 3:49 PM  

I never understood Rex's insistence that puzzles be contemporary rather than "dated," but in any event this one does have a 21st Century entry in MSNBC.

Sparky 4:04 PM  

Dogface immediately made me remember Bill Mauldin's cartoons. Apparently it is credited to Ernie Pyle. WWII forgotten.

@joho. Don't forget HOBO twice recently.

Didn't see the Diagonal clue lurking in SE corner so missed it.

True @BobK, true. So sorry @quilter1. Great to see you so happy @Chefbea.

@Andrea,I'm on the way to buy your book. It's all about choice.

Sparky 4:08 PM  

I don't know how that big space happened and I don't know how to fix it. Sorry. Talk among yourselves.

sanfranman59 4:44 PM  

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

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

Wed 9:12, 10:07, 0.91, 29%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Wed 5:49, 5:59, 0.97, 41%, Medium

ZenMonkey 4:58 PM  

I don't understand the argument that we should all just sit back, relax, and enjoy every puzzle. Isn't this blog the place to chew over this stuff, share opinions, teach and learn? I've learned a lot from the debates and differences of opinions. I don't learn much when everyone is permasmiley and uncritical. Also, I love that people here are so passionate about the puzzles that they hold them to a higher standard than some other blogs.

I've enjoyed this discussion. Thanks.

Arby 5:16 PM  

Acceptable silent film stars for crossword puzzle clues:
1) Rudolph Valentino
2) Charlie Chaplin
3) Lillian Gish
4) Greta Garbo
5) Buster Keaton

Unacceptable silent film stars:
1) Everyone else.

No arguments. Arby has spoken.

Arby 5:26 PM  

It's not Mother's Day, true, but perhaps the constructor/editor wish to remind us to do these things before it is too late?

chefwen 6:13 PM  

@Bird - Laughed out loud when I read your comment. I never got around to commenting last night, but on my puzzle I scribbled 46A - BULL S**T works for me.

Millie 7:51 PM  

The puzzle should be contemporary because it is TODAY'S puzzle! It even says so on the webpage.

If I want puzzles from yesteryear there are plenty of old books on Amazon.

Get with the Times, Will and Co.

Tita 8:00 PM  

@Brendan McNamara - thank you for your positive spin on this as a reminder for all of us to do one or all of these things!

@acme - your past tense observation is a good one, but...if it's the Wednesday before Mother's Day, these things had better been done in the past

@Milford - I was looking for BREAKFASTINBED too...a tradition for the Moms in our family.

@LMS - I thought of @Nanpilla too with SPRY!

@M&A - exactly! See my avatar - ,y cat yawningly asks "you do realize it's just the same 26 letters over and over..." (Marz doesn't know that not all puzzles are Pangrams...)

@Will Shortz - nice to see you here - stop by again. Makes the Point-Counterpoint more interesting.

Tita 8:07 PM  

Oops....puzzle - liked it fine - I like the topical puzzle, even if it doesn't make my Top 10 list.

And, appropriate to the theme, my 89-year-old Mom (who wondered why capitalized "M" - really???)
went over to the local hospital to deliver 9 of her most recent quilts to the less-fortunate Moms and babes. She has probably made close to 100 of these quilts, bringing them to a few different organizations who care for Moms and there kids.

Today they took pictures of her, and all the neonatal and preemie nurses came down to meet her and thank her.

One of the best Mother's Day leadins for her - ever.

And it doesn't matter that it was Wednesday.

Michael 8:32 PM  

After doing this puzzle, I thought "Rex will hate this" and for once I will agree with him about the fill. But then I saw the diagonal and felt better about the puzzle.

But mostly I thought (as Will Shortz says) that another puzzle is coming tomorrow and maybe I'll like it better. Hard to got worked up about a crossword puzzle...

Z 9:52 PM  

Great discussion today (with one exception). I like this puzzle more now than during the solve because a)missed the diagonal clue and b) was bugged by the missing articles. Much happier about it now, but the fill brought this down as I solved. "EELERS have never made a puzzle better." Yep.

Looking now, there is a lot to like, especially the long downs, so on balance I like this more than OFL, but there's been better.

@Will Shortz - you've set a high bar. Miguel Cabrera sometimes grounds out, but I'm glad he's a Tiger. Elvis Costello released Goodbye, Cruel World but he is still king. I'll complain heartily about tired fill or a lame theme, but I will still wake-up tomorrow, make my coffee, and open the Arts section.

Finally, @Magenta Crayola -"rexites who consider themselves to be the only legitimate xword solvers of any worth." Seriously? Maybe you should actually read what people write. I comment as my tiny contribution to this community. Hopefully some find my comments worthwhile in the same way I find others' comments. I am a better solver from reading this blog and these comments, and I appreciate the puzzles more. I have never interpreted any comment here as suggesting the sense of superiority you claim to see.

Anonymous 9:57 PM  

Yes, you sure do. Big virtual hug!

-- FearlessKim

DBGeezer 10:58 PM  

@eric 12:40. thank you very much. I'm not Canadian, but have spent many years overseas.

sanfranman59 1:17 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 6:13, 6:14, 1.00, 47%, Medium
Tue 9:05, 8:14, 1.10, 74%, Medium-Challenging
Wed 9:15, 10:07, 0.91, 29%, Easy-Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:53, 3:44, 1.04, 71%, Medium-Challenging
Tue 5:38, 4:49, 1.17, 86%, Challenging
Wed 5:33, 5:59, 0.93, 32%, Easy-Medium

221b BakerSt 8:27 AM  

@Mohair Sam- As a devoted fan of Harold Lloyd, my 20 something daughter was thrilled to see him show up in the puzzle. :)

@Arby- Don't leave Harold off that "Silent" list in front of aforementioned daughter!

@Magenta Crayola- "thug hiphopper" ?? ouch. Talk about perjorative. (I'm being kind)

@DBGeezer- May we clone you?

Waxy in Montreal 2:01 PM  

Extra clue for Happy Mother's Day diagonal didn't appear in my paper but given that it'll be Father's Day on Sunday here in syndiland, I didn't miss it at all.

Despite all the RHETORIC above, found this quite a fun puzzle to solve. Only writeovers were GLARE for SNARL at 71A and PEER for COIN at 42D. Surprised that one of the theme answers wasn't actually VISITEDMOM as this trumps all the other actions as far as I'm concerned.

DMGrandma 2:17 PM  

What a tempest in a teapot! I'm just pleased someone constructed a puzzle and offered it for my solving pleasure, or, as sometimes happens, frustration! That said, I agree with those who found the theme answers rather curtly worded, but once you got one, the pattern was there. Other than that, only problem was having forgotten there is an "h" in rhetoric! As an aside, I have long been friends with silent star Lloyd Hughes' daughter, and briefly thought that he was at last receiving puzzle stardom, but 'twas not to be. Maybe another day.

rain forest 3:37 PM  

OMG! The ARK is in there. It must be from at least 4000 BC. Talk about your old fill. DIANE from Cheers is quite modern in comparison. Rex doesn't seem to understand that this a Wednesday puzzle, and so of course it's not Mother's Day. Many people send cards or gifts before Mother's Day so they arrive on time.
As @DMGrandma says, the puzzle isn't perfect, but I enjoyed doing it and appreciate the constructor's effort.

Dirigonzo 3:52 PM  

Jeez, it's hard to just type it diagonally so I can't imagine what a challenge it must have been to get it into the grid - good job, Bruce Venzke!

Nice to see the prime time crowd ALLRILEDUP as it definitely livens up the commentary.

@Tita - I hope your 89 year-old Mom had a wonderful Mother's Day as it sounds like she's still being a caring Mom to lots of folks.

@SiS (if you stop by) - here was an article in the local paper about two widespread power outages that were caused by branches falling from Osprey nests onto the poser lines below. I think they are starting to take their revenge for all the nests that have been removed or relocated.

Dirigonzo 3:54 PM  

Well it was diaganol when I typed the comment, really it was.

Tita 10:34 PM  

Alas, pour @Diri...the intertubes chew up all the extra spaces, deeming them irrelevant!

...yes...she wears out her kids and grandkids...
She's now prepping and primping for her 90th bash...thanks...I'll tell her you said "hey"!

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