Thin sheet metal / THU 5-16-13 / Baseball Hall-of-Famer nicknamed Knucksie / Funny Tracey / Broadway musical that opens with Maybe / Mammal that hums to its young / Canadian PM Pierre Trudeau's middle name / 1931 film for which Wallace Beery won Best Actor / Rapee longtime Radio City Music Hall conductor / Right You Are Mr. 1957 novel

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Constructor: Brendan Emmett Quigley and Liz Donovan

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging (unless you read the new "hint" feature at the NYT puzzle website, in which case it must've been Really %&!#ing easy)

THEME: MAN OVERBOARD (51A: Emergency shout ... or a possible title for this puzzle) — "MAN" has fallen out of the grid—specifically, off the port side.

Theme answers:
  • 20A: Language that gave us "kowtow" (DARIN CHINESE)
  • 28A: Clutch performer? (UAL TRANSMISSION)
  • 46A: Discuss reasonable outcomes upfront (AGE EXPECTATIONS)

Word of the Day: LATTEN (30D: Thin sheet metal)
1. Brass or an alloy resembling brass, hammered thin and formerly used in the manufacture of church vessels.
2. A thin sheet of metal, especially of tin.

[Middle English laton, from Old French, from Arabic ltn, probably from Old Turkic altun, gold; akin to Mongolian altan.]
• • •

Took me Way too long to figure out what was going on. I was probably 75% done before I full understood the concept. My main problem was (obviously) the front ends of the theme answers, but this problem was compounded by crosses, which were not known or clear to me. No idea about this JOEL Spingarn guy (familiar w/ award, but not first name of the guy it's named after), so DJED stayed hidden til the very end, when I ran the alphabet (1D: Entertained at a reception, maybe). Couldn't come up with Tracey ULLMAN for a long time (28D: Funny Tracey), and have simply never heard of LATTEN (30D: Thin sheet metal). Even when it seemed "MAN" was involved all this, I couldn't figure out how. Wanted a rebus, but that would've required "MAND" to be in one square, "MANA" in another, etc., and that's just nonsense. When I got ULLMAN crossing AGE EXPECTATIONS, I thought the "MAN" from ULLMAN was somehow connected to the theme answer to create a complete phrase. So yeah, I stumbled like crazy. Still, I think this is a great idea for a puzzle—nice use of the revealer to create a real "aha" moment. I also love Brendan and Liz for leaving out the "W"—a big middle finger to the very idea of the pangram puzzle (picked up all the hard letters, left a basic one off). The "J" and the "Q" come very close to what we call "Scrabble-f*cking" (shoving high-value Scrabble letters into little corners, just for the sake of having them in there, usually to the detriment of surrounding fill). But I don't think they result in bad fill (TUM excepted), so I don't have a problem with them.

I had the LEMUR as the [Mammal that hums to its young] (LLAMA) at first, but KIM and "ANNIE" straightened me out. Somehow knew (or inferred?) "Right You Are, Mr. MOTO" (1957 movie) right away, though "THE CHAMP" was a total mystery (5D: 1931 film for which Wallace Beery won Best Actor), as was [Canadian P.M. Pierre Trudeau's middle name] (ELLIOTT), WTF? Got QUESO easily (63A: Filling in a gordita), from testing crosses in IQS. ERNO is kind of yucky crosswords, and today it gets a nutso conductor clue instead of your typical Rubik's cube clue. I disapprove of calling attention to your crosswordese with obscure clues, but, again, crosses were kind so I didn't have a lot of time to notice / disapprove. Minimize the damage caused by weak spots! This puzzle largely succeeds on that front.

Note: Wallace BEERY will eventually show up in one of your puzzles. Best tuck his name away right now.

Looks like the NYT Puzzle page is now offering "hints" to tricky puzzles. This is a Terrible idea. The only way anyone gets better at puzzles is by learning to figure out gimmicks by oneself, through patience and failure. Lots of failure. Stupid "hints" will just encourage laziness. Also, it was Not clear that "hint" was any different from the kind of "note" the NYT has provided on many other puzzles. Notepad comments are almost always very general explanatory notes, usually necessary for most people to fully understand a puzzle. Those, I can handle, but today's "hint" was the following: "In today's puzzle, the word 'MAN' can be added outside the left hand side of the puzzle at 20-, 28- and 46 Across to complete these entries." That's just giving away the puzzle completely. Why not just hit "Reveal All" and be done with it? Sheesh. There are all kinds of ways to get the answers now, it's true—but I don't think the puzzle itself should be encouraging people to take shortcuts. 
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


    jackj 12:07 AM  


    My first comments reference the theme of a long ago NY Times puzzle and if anyone wants to solve it, go to XWordInfo and search out the Times puzzle from 6/23/2005 before you read my comments.

    Back in the days of The CRU, then the main NY Times puzzle website, one of the active players in our group was named Court Crocker, the owner of a Connecticut manufacturing company. CRU members who were testing the constructing waters had other willing CRU members critique their work and share ideas for improvement and while Court was an active test solver, he had no apparent aspirations for constructing.

    But, lo and behold, one Thursday, (this was 8 years ago), the Times puzzle was written by someone named Courtenay Crocker III, and it was “our” Croc! His debut puzzle was dynamite and unique, with 6 entries calling for a theme word that could only be entered outside the grid. That magic word was MAN, with the reveal being MANINOUTERSPACE and the theme had such as (MAN)HANDLE on the left side and DRAFTS(MAN) on the right side.

    (He did one other puzzle two years later, a Tuesday with Nancy Salomon and then disappeared from the CRU).

    My comments above are not meant to tarnish the luster of today’s BEQ family effort (congrats to Ms. Donovan on her debut), as the two puzzles only share the MAN (OVERBOARD) concept and are light years apart in style and execution.(Though I hope old pal Croc’s puzzle was at least a subliminal contributor to today’s BEQ Family beauty).

    From THECHAMP to Knucksie NIEKRO and DJED to DEBT, this was what we hope for every Thursday. For me, ironically, the theme didn’t come easily, only because 46 across, clued as “Discuss reasonable outcomes upfront” had an answer that began with AG and quickly was felt to be AGREEBEFOREHAND, which made it a perfect start in tackling the 15’s.

    Not until MANOVERBOARD finally showed me the light and EXMAYOR wiped out my first entry did (MAN)AGEEXPECTATIONS light up the puzzle and clear the way for me to fill in the other excellent theme entries and salvage my solve.

    Sorry for the length of this review but for me it’s a wonderful twofer!

    jae 12:08 AM  

    Medium for me.  Just about right for a tricky Thurs. Things went quickly once I caught the theme.  Erasures: mcED for DJED and DIVided for DIVORCE.  

    Nasty cross:  NIEKRO/KSU. If you've never heard of Phil (or Kuncksie) and you aren't up on NCAA schools you might be in trouble.  e.g.  U of Arizona are also Wildcats. 

    Liked it.  A fair amount of zip...IT GUY (as opposed to Clara Bow),  THESE (as clued), KIM, SKA GROUP,  OZMA... and a clever ruse.  Plus I'm a BEQ fan.  This week's Mon. was a hoot (do people still say that?).

    I had no idea hints were being provided.  That's just wrong!

    Nice family effort! 

    jackj 12:17 AM  

    The "Reveal hint" on the Times main crossword page is a terrible idea and it is shocking that Will Shortz doesn't understand his audience sufficient to realize that it is totally wrongheaded!

    Anonymous 12:18 AM  

    Wow! Great concept, well-executed, no surprise. That hint is everything Rex said, and then some. Like giving away the ending of "The Sixth Sense" to anyone left in the universe who hasn't yet heard... And in case you're reading this, I'm not telling!

    Had no trouble with the theme answers, as the rebus wouldn't gel and it just HAD to be (Man)DARINCHINESE. The rest were easy (sorry, Rex!). I did, however, have loads of trouble with the NIEKRO/KSU cross, which had me running the alphabet and wasting all kinds of seconds until the name rang a bell -- a faint, tentative little bell, but it worked! Other than that, tough but fair.

    -- FearlessKim

    okanaganer 12:19 AM  

    I use Across Lite, so no hints received. I wanted to put CANTONESE in 20A; maybe CANCANTONESE would fit?...some kind of recursive first-syllable theme? Once I realized it was probably (MAN)DARIN CHINESE the "missing man" theme was evident. It would have been neat if all the theme answers also had non-theme equivalents, so the clue for AGE EXPECTATIONS could have also been... "Seniors' fantasies", maybe?

    I really liked IT GUY...once I figured it out, given I already had EX MAYOR, which was sort of a gimme. Got KIM (Kardassian) easily... so help me... does the clue imply there are others?

    Pete 12:23 AM  

    Yeah, I hit the hint button, expecting it to tell me that the circles spelled HAPPY MOTHERS DAY read counter clockwise from 4:30, or some such crap. I quit as soon as I realized I was wrong, but hell, it was just a sentence or two, you can't stop reading a sentence or two. It ruined the puzzle.

    Marty VanBuren 12:28 AM  

    When I saw BEQ's name in the byline, I just whispered "oh shit" to myself. He and I do not share the same frame of reference for just about anything. Today was no different and was not much fun for me.

    The hint feature on the nytimes site I took to be a note on the puzzle. It's not just a hint, it's a total spoiler. That feature should be swept into the dustbin. If folks are that desperate for a hint, isn't there still a 900 number they can call?

    Elaine2 12:30 AM  

    Totally agree about the "hint" -- get rid of it!

    Totally wrecked the puzzle.

    Joe 12:34 AM  

    Speaking of big middle fingers from Quigley and Donovan: the NIEKRO/KSU crossing. Don't follow sports? Well, FU! Try a K after exhausting every other possible letter on the keyboard.

    Joe 12:34 AM  

    Speaking of big middle fingers from Quigley and Donovan: the NIEKRO/KSU crossing. Don't follow sports? Well, FU! Try a K after exhausting every other possible letter on the keyboard.

    Anonymous 12:46 AM  

    Oh and leashed before ONLEASH and tower before ITGUY. Loved ITGUY and its clue.
    -- FearlessKim

    Anonymous 12:48 AM  

    Total agreement twice. The "hint" is the stupidest thing ever and Will ought to be ashamed, and I too saw on xwordinfo that this theme is a total rip-off of that earlier work.

    Wahhab 1:20 AM  

    Always enjoy BEQ puzzles, and this was no exception. Finished in a slightly above-average time, finally Googling KnucksIe to get the last cross, as I am sports-challenged. I went through the downs first in order, then the a crosses, so it took me a long time to reach the reveal (glad I use an iPad and didn't get the awful spoiler). But once I did, the theme answers quickly fell into place, and then the remaining missing entries, excepting the aforementioned sports xing. Thanks, BEQ and Elizabeth.

    C. Ross Word 2:54 AM  

    Cute puzzle with interesting reveal. I was glad I didn't see the online "hint.". Agree that it's a bad idea. Before figuring out the theme, I considered UAwTRANSMISSION (as in United Auto Workers) for 28A. Possible candidate for Tita's HOF? Nice effort by BEQ and Elizabeth Donovan!

    chefwen 2:58 AM  

    Did not see a hint and didn't need it. Got it with MANdarin Chinese.

    Cute theme that took me a lot longer than a Thursday should. Brendan and I are on different playing fields, but as I do more of his puzzles, the fields are getting closer.

    Anoa Bob 3:13 AM  

    Plan A (start at 1 Across/Down and methodically fill in the rest) wasn't working, so I switched to Plan B (search frantically through the puzzle hoping for anything, anything that I can get.)

    I got my break at 48D "Where Archimedes had his 'Eureka' moment". Threw down TUB and did a little happy dance.

    Then I thought I hit the jackpot. Off of the "B" in TUB, I confidently put in LOOK OUT BELOW for "Emergency shout..." at 51A.

    I thought this might fit in with the Wallace Beery film clue for THE CHAMP at 5D, because of this Harold Lloyd 1919 classic,

    Look Out Below


    Asiago Chinese Mounts 4:57 AM  

    Hand up for Lemur initially, the one wrong square on NIE?RO/?SU...and agreement that hint was a terrible spoiler.

    STOne or STOny before STOIC, LAmina before LATTEN, because it was in the puzzle thos week.

    (Two NAMEDROPs becomes NONAME today! It never ends!)

    Only thing that takes the sting out of a one-letter-short pangram is envisioning @Rex having to spend time looking to see if it was one or not, just so he could gloat about it! (Where is the usual insistence that BEQ leaves only his dreck for the NYT?)

    Agree with @okanaganer, why not clue the missing MAN themes as "Bewitched husband's takeout?"
    "United Airlines message?"
    "Living to a hundred, for optimists?"
    (I wonder if that was the case originally... Of course with more clever clues)

    TUB reminds me of the best advice my therapist ever gave me: when the urge to call someone you shouldn't be calling anymore comes, scrub the TUB.
    Urge will pass AND you'll have a clean bathtub!

    Glad Elizabeth (the most beautiful woman with the most charming accent) is getting in on the family business!
    Awaiting Tabitha's first effort!

    Jack Lee 6:17 AM  

    Wowee, hard but fun! Figured out the theme pretty quickly after getting [MAN]DARINCHINESE, but had to Google for lots of the other answers.

    Milford 6:54 AM  

    Flinched a bit when I saw it was a BEQ puzzle, but in reality this was a fairly speedy Thursday for me. Got the reveal MAN OVERBOARD first, and the lightbulb finally lit up when I realized (MAN)DARIN CHINESE. Pretty cool theme! I'm not too concerned about it being done before.

    Like @jae I had mcED for 1D first, and my first Wildcat team took me to Arizona, so I carelessly wrote aSU first, but KSU was of course the correct team.

    I also had a heckuva time in the middle because, before I guessed the theme, I had AGE EXPlanATIONS.

    A lot of fun fill, I thought, with great cluing. I am so, so glad that Magmic did not even offer the hint a.k.a. CRIB to the theme. This was a fun puzzle that would have been absolutely ruined for me if I had known. Is this part of the Everybody Wins mentality?

    Anonymous 7:21 AM  

    An older woman, I still got NIEKRO with no other letters. How many knuckle ballers are there? So few that Phil came to mind immediately. Not a baseball fanatic, I think this was a perfectly fine clue.

    Anonymous 7:28 AM  

    Great puzzle. Didn't see hint. Would have been pretty upset had I read it first!

    What's the point? As Will says, start with Mondays and work your way to Saturday as you get better.

    No sense of accomplishment this way.

    No way to raise a child, either!

    elitza 7:29 AM  

    Wow. Really glad I didn't see the hint. Damn. (Boyfriend says it's been re-linked as "Reveal hint," which is... better. Still, yuck.)

    Technically a DNF for me, which is somewhat mitigated (in my brain) by the fact I did the puzzle at 11:30 at night, after a bottle-ish of wine. DJED just would. not. come. Had down Otherwise, tough clues but a really fun solve. Well done.

    Loren Muse Smith 7:34 AM  

    I saw some of the trick pretty early, but like Rex, I was thinking some kind of MAND rebus. I am familiar with Tracey Ullman, so once I got that west figured out and saw MANUAL, I went looking for the reveal, found it, and figured it all out. Unlike @Marty VanBuren, I seem to tune into BEQ’s vibe easily, so I was delighted to see his name today. Congrats, Liz, on your debut!

    @jae – me, too for “divided” first.

    @anoa bob – I keep picturing your happy dance.

    I guess I’m lucky that I lived in Atlanta from fifth grade until college - NIEKRO wasn’t a problem.

    Rex – for me, another “middle finger” is PIOUS smack dab in the middle. BEQ’s puzzles are so irreverent; I got a real kick out of that one. Speaking of which. . .

    45A – DRIP reminded me of a puzzle BEQ did last year with the same trick – letters outside the grid on both sides – six words like DRIP, and the title was "Side Boob."

    I’m sure glad I missed the NYT hint to this terrific Thursday! Of course I’m going to like any BEQ puzzle. ;-) Loved this collaboration!

    Glimmerglass 7:36 AM  

    Terrific puzzle. My AHA moment came with MAN OVERBOARD. Never looked at the Hint, thank goodness. After coming here and finding out that the hint is a spoiler, I never will in the future.

    Z 7:43 AM  

    No "hint" in the dead tree version, although the 900 number ($1.49/minute) is listed. You can even put it on a credit card. Explains the reason so many people are overly indebted I suppose.

    NIE-RO/-SU cross gave people fits, eh? That is unfair since it is two sports clues, but how many letters could it be? The mascot has to be a state, it's very unlikely to be a vowel after IE, and it is probably a phoneme with the R. That leaves T, P, D, F, G, K, and C. If it had been a 19th century conductor, that's how I would have solved it. This is probably the reason I'm not a speed solver.

    Another fun solve.

    Paul Keller 7:51 AM  

    I'll be the first to say that I should have known better, but I hit the "Reveal hint" before opening the puzzle. Maybe they'll start putting out DVDs with a new feature that gives you a run down of the plot and tells you how it end in five minutes or less.

    evil doug 7:52 AM  

    Started with Tracey Morgan (turns out it's Tracy, no e, anyway).

    Didn't your beloved Simpsons get their start as a short on her show? She was a pretty good singer, too; I remember her "They Don't Know" video as being a pretty popular regular on MTV.

    Yeah, Michael had to go to the trouble of counting letters to make sure there was no 'w'---just like you had to count letters in hopes that there was....


    joho 8:03 AM  

    I'm mortified by the hint idea and so very glad I missed it as it would have ruined this wonderful puzzle. It's a horrible idea which encourages cheating.

    Loved the puzzle, thank you Brendan and Elizabeth!

    Deb Amlen 8:19 AM  

    My bad. I own this one. If you are solving electronically, there was a clickable “Reveal Hint” button on the puzzle page that alerted you to an important part of this puzzle’s answer.

    I asked to have it added because at this time the dev team does not have the capability to render a visual answer. That button has been removed, and I apologize for spoiling the puzzle for some solvers. And for being stupid.

    Unknown 8:36 AM  

    So how adorable is it that llamas hum to their young? Cuteness!

    I liked this one a lot, mostly because I was able to figure out the trick. Solve on iPad and so didn't see any hint anywhere. IT GUY - very fun. Some challenging clues here and there but all in all a fine Thursday puzzle.

    dk 8:41 AM  

    Man oh man. So many missteps and so little time. Like Rex ULLMAN was not a result synaptic firings, no doubt a function of low IQS. Finally got the trick after trying to fit "man the life boats" in to 51A for the ninth time.

    Used to do a lot of BEQ puzzles but work has doomed my puzzling along with my initial attempts at constructing so I shared the aforementioned poop in my pants moment when I saw the BEQ byline.

    So let me get this straight: Our news and political commentary have been reduced to sound bites and now we have puzzle hints. We are going to heck in a hand basket. If you care -- hints (along with profanity and the use of contractions) will reduce your IQS. Imagine that.

    Note: I made up the contractions part.

    🌟🌟🌟 (3 Stars) Nice one

    MaryRoseG 8:44 AM  

    Solve on the iPad, NYTimes app saw no hint

    Had Chinese and when I gor llama thought the MA would carry over, hence only a missing N. tries that route for awhile.

    Tricky cluing, lots of fun. i personally like Wallace Beery in Dinner At Eight with one of the greatest movie casts ever - the Barrymores, Jean Harlow, Marie Dressler who has one of the greatest last lines of a movie, ever. Watch it.

    Mohair Sam 8:44 AM  

    Just like @Anoa Bob I staggered out of the gate and quickly went to plan B and found RBIS (skipped the dance) and, having lived there, EAST Anglia led to a quick fill of that corner - and a guess at DIVORCE made MANOVERBOARD almost a gimme. Then the search for the missing MAN began, and the puzzle became an easy Thursday.

    Only white-out moment was the obvious grated romano being actually ASIAGO. And just like Rex our last letter was the J in DJED.

    Speaking of Rex, he is so right on that hint thing. Kind of like cheating at solitaire, why play? And speaking of the hint - I searched the crossword page online and could not find it - where is it?

    jberg 8:57 AM  

    Got to hand it to @Deb Amlen for coming here and acknowledging the fault. I've made big mistakes in my time; the important thing is how you move on.

    The first time through I was tentative about ET AL and LEAN-TO (sure enough of that to switch leashed to ON LEASH, and took a stab at WHALE for the humming mammal -- whale song is kinda hummy, no? -- but wasn't absolutely sure of anything until ELI and OZMA. It all came together, though -- and finally MAN OVERBOARD let me see the other theme answers (harder because 'consider options' fit very nicely for 46A.

    I knew KSU as my former father-in-law taught there; but figured Mr. Spingarn must be nOEL at first, and that ReNo would be a nice winter playground. MOTO was a gimme for a four-letter Mr. in fiction.

    Yeah, I counted the letters, whatsit to ya?

    Does LATTEN come in a MATTE finish? But seriously, there must be one solver out there for whom LATTEN was a gimme. Let us hear from you!

    GILL I. 9:35 AM  

    Oh, why didn't I finish this? Let me count the ways...NIEKRO, ELLIOTT, OZMAN, SKA GROUP to name a few. To make matters worse, I had MAy day MAy day as the puzzle title. Try and figure that one out!!!!
    I put it down and came back much later; got the MANOVERBOARD by Googling OZMAN and so I finally saw a bit of the light.
    I like the SMEAR of QUESO ASIAGO and @jberg - LATTEN was my last entry!!!!
    Yes, please, no spoilers but thanks @Deb for splainin.

    BobF 9:37 AM  

    I couldn't agree more about the new hints feature; it's ridiculous. This puzzle took me a while but it's good to be challenged. If I had noticed the hint, the puzzle would have gone from difficult to easy.

    Just(say)in 10:08 AM  

    Very big of Deb to fess up, but now I'm honestly wondering: why is the *blogger* making content decisions in the first place?!

    John V 10:09 AM  

    So, what have here is a perfect Thursday puzzle. Really challenging, super concept, brilliantly executed. Got the theme with MANDARIN; wanted DARIENCHINESE but not in 06820. Congrats Elizabeth and BEQ. Just plain terrific!

    chefbea 10:09 AM  

    Tough puzzle. Didn't see the I'll go see what it was.

    Love asiago cheese and carnitas arent bad either

    Trish Scott 10:11 AM  

    I really liked this puzzle and finished without any hints. The hint would have ruined a great puzzle. Glad I didn't see it.

    JC66 10:14 AM  

    I usually don't look at the "note" feature unless I absolutely have to, but because "see hint" was in bright red I clicked on it. Puzzle ruined.

    @ Deb Amlen

    Thanks for showing/owning up.

    I forgive you.

    Mr. Benson 10:14 AM  

    I don't see the harm in hints for novices. I took up crosswords about ten years ago and Googled heavily. It's cheating, but at the same time it helped me gain traction and I was at least able to learn things from the rest of the puzzle, which was better than getting stuck altogether and not being able to proceed. I'd put hints in the same category. What's better (outside of a tournament or contest): (1) quitting and then checking out all the answers you didn't get on a site like this one, or (2) cheating a little and then being able to get several more on your own? To me, the latter is at worst equivalent to the former, maybe better for learning purposes.

    Ulrich 10:15 AM  

    Wow! When I saw the byline, I braced myself for a real workout--BEQ and I live on different planets, for all I can tell. But then, I went at it and finished w/o breaking a sweat, helped, no doubt, by getting the gimmick just in time.

    My only regret: The ship is port-heavy--expected to see some men go overboard also on starboard. I mean, this would be the perfect excuse to sneak in a beauty like

    or (bumper sticker after the 2000 election) SORE LOSERMAN

    Did I mention IT'S SuperMAN?

    Kudos, @Deb Amlen!

    John V 10:19 AM  

    @Deb. Stuff happens. You're a class act. Thanks.

    Anonymous 10:20 AM  

    Thanks for the xword info call out. there are links today to a few interesting similar puzzles that I hadn't seen before.

    quilter1 10:21 AM  

    DNF as I didn't want to give up romAnO cheese for asiago and I still don't get the theme much. Otherwise it was an interesting solve.

    Anonymous 10:23 AM  

    Can anyone explain SKA GROUP? I don't gt that at all, and it seems like no one else had trouble with it.

    Niekro was a gimme for me, but Wildcat wasn't as easy as people thought. There are so many Wildcats in the NCAA, with the most famous one being Kentucky (which I used instead of Kansas State, or KSU. So, that took me longer than expected.

    Once the puzzle trick was revealed, the puzzle cascaded out, so that was good.

    And, for whoever asked, yes, unfortunately, there is more than one Kardashian sister. It is a frightening world!

    Karen 10:25 AM  

    Deb, if the hint were "you may have to think outside the box today" or something like that it might have been fine but you gave away the whole answer!

    Blue Stater 10:29 AM  

    Even better than doing away with the hint, in my view (which I realize is not widely shared), would be doing away with the perceived need for one by doing away with the tricks in the daily puzzles and having them continue in the honorable tradition of Eugene Maleska as tests of general intelligence and word skills only. WS has changed the genre; he has not improved it.

    pmdm 10:32 AM  

    Many of you have complained about problems encountered when solving the puzzle requires entering something unusual, like a rebus or a letter into one of the black squares. I solve on paper, so I was not aware of any hint button on the on-line version. Sounds like the purpose of the hint button was to alert on-line solvers that they would not be able to enter all the answers properly. It also sounds like the hint was poorly worded.

    Firstly, there should have been a prominent warning (SPOILER ALERT) suggesting not to use the hint unless absolutely necessary. There should have been some indication that the hint was not just "instructions" like those that sometimes are included with the puzzle but truly a complete spoiler.

    Hints are not a bad thing if those who want to use them can do so and those who do not need not do so. I found this puzzle unentertaining because it contained too many names obscure to me. So to solve the puzzle I had no choice to use the Internet to search for some of the names I did not know. Some consider doing that to be "cheating" but not being a contestant in a tournament I am free to choose to play by my own rules. The point being people are free to choose to use or not use whatever tools are available to them to solve the puzzle. I have no problem with a hint button as long as 1) it's made clear that the hint is a spoiler and 2) one is free to choose not to read the hint. The hint button in my opinion was not a bad idea, but one that apparently was poorly executed. Deb Amlen take not.

    bigsteve46 10:34 AM  

    "SKA" is a kind of Jamaican music, kind of a precursor to reggae,.

    DBGeezer 10:38 AM  

    I opened the puzzle this morning (CA time) using the online approach. I never saw any hint.
    Could someone explain where the hint appeared?
    There is also no suggestion of hint in the dead tree edition.

    Notsofast 10:46 AM  

    A teriffic Thursday! Some tired fill, but who cares in this case. I think "Entertained at a reception, maybe" should have been DOVE. I also had an exclamation point outside the grid, after MANOVERBOARD! Thanks, BEQ and ED.

    Rex Parker 10:46 AM  

    Thanks for the explanation, @Deb.


    Sandy K 10:54 AM  

    No hints here. This took me a while, as BEQ is the IT GUY who often does me in.

    But not this time! Got the theme at (MAN) UAL TRANSMISSION and even tho I had some write-overs, it was all gettable from the crosses.

    Wasn't sure about the spelling of NIEKRO, but KSU looked better that CSU, had GoV before GUV and hand up for Morgan before ULLMAN (nitpick- isn't MAN in ULLMAN a no-no?)

    @ACME - I'd TOSS IN your clues instead. Made more sense, and funnier- esp "Bewitched"!

    retired_chemist 10:58 AM  

    I think Deb has taken the criticism of the spoiler/revealer to heart and it won't happen that way again. Glad I solved on AL though, since I didn't even know about it until I came here.

    51A was a perfect reveal, which i got about halfway through. At that point I had NONE of the theme answers but I soon had all three.

    I have started putting in whatever damfool thing I think the answer might be and being prepared to give up on it when any reasonably sure cross eliminates it. On that basis, Wine's partner was SONG (worried why women wasn't in the clue), WHALE pups got hummed to, hayseed was HICK, Mr. no-personality was NERD, and the high mucky-muck SYSOP helped after a crash. Probably helped my solve time a little.

    Guessed KSU and NIEKRO became clear pretty quickly.

    A very good puzzle. Thanks to the constructors.

    Today, think of the devastation in Hood County, Texas, last night. Awful. We were safe but it was still too close for comfort.

    Bob Kerfuffle 11:00 AM  

    Don't know sports teams, and couldn't remember if it was THESE droids or THOSE droids, so NIO ARO could have been a Japanese ballplayer who made it big in America!

    Fun puzzle otherwise.

    Anonymous 11:12 AM  

    Here's a link to the MAN IN OUTER SPACE puzzle for those who are interested.

    M and A and N 12:37 PM  

    8 U's. That'll do, Quig. That'll do.

    Areas of (con)tension:
    * ELLIOTT/JOEL - But, no harm, no foul. Honorable mention to anyone who went with EYLIOTT, tho.
    * DARIN CHINESE - M&A's first dim glint of a lucid thought... "Darin', as in Brave, Country Style? OK. Maybe."
    * LLAMA - Wanted the rare humming KOALA crossin FAKIEST, for too day-um long. Lost valuable nanoseconds.
    * ITGUY - Sounds like a 50's schlock flick, as in "Revenge of the ___".
    * THESE - See? Schlock flick references.
    * MAN - Appropriate, that they had an odd number out. I'da gone ahead and stuck an odd W in the margin somewheres, too. WITGUY. WONLEASH. See? Still makes about as much sense, thataway.

    Great him&her collaboration. Did I mention the 8 U's? Liz is having a good influence on the mighty BEQ.

    M and A Nonymo8Us 12:52 PM  

    p.s. Hint Reveal Button should be maintained. When pressed, it should always bring up this message:

    Then keep a count each day of how many solvers mash the button. 4-Oh could publish the results, in a kinda graphic representation. sweet.

    mac 12:55 PM  

    Great Thursday puzzle! I always have some trepidations at the beginning of a BEQ puzzle, but after the panic and moving around the grid it started growing and poof! it was done.

    Some trouble along the way: MCed at 1D, and wanting -Hindic at 20D, and somehow I had "exceptions" at the end of 46D, maybe because of RAP group at 39D.

    In the end I had a mistake: TSU at 40A.

    In itself a hint button is a good idea; you don't have to click it, but if you get totally stuck you can at least find out. Many solvers don't go to blogs so this would be their only way to get the solution.

    I agree with @JohnV: Deb is a class act.

    Such a sweet thought, the llama humming to its young....

    Anonymous 1:24 PM  

    Hint button is a great idea!

    When clicked it should say "Go to Rex. Go directly to Rex. Do not pass Go(ogle). Do get a DNF.

    JFC 1:27 PM  

    1. The tone is Rex's criticism of the hint is excessive and unwarranted.

    2. Deb’s mea culpa is a class act.

    3. Rex's lame thank you should have included an apology to Deb.

    4. I find any criticism of the hint to be disingenuous. I really do not care what the hint said. If the solver did not want help they did not need to opt for the hint.

    5. Solvers should take responsibility not blame someone else for their own actions.

    6. This group of sophisticated solvers should be the last to complain if only because they don't need help.


    syndy 1:33 PM  

    I swept thru this one like a brush fire-leaving only the unmanned theme answers until the reveal.Until then I still was grating romano.I do prefer ASIAGO. I went with the K in NEIKRO because of the nickname "K"nucky it seemed like a hint. I'm glad I never saw the Hint but I rarely see a note on the puzzapp.Thank deb for her explination even if I did not exacty follow it.

    Bird 1:55 PM  

    Okay puzzle. Didn’t like some of the fill – somewhat obscure crossing somewhat obscure. Theme was nice. The central-bottom section was the last to fall – OZMA? ERNO?

    So there are different degrees of FALSE?
    I thought phrase was ON a LEASH?

    HUMAN before LLAMA
    POSED before MATTE
    TECHY and PC GUY before IT GUY
    EACH before APOP after noticing EACH went in at 6D
    ROMANO before ASIAGO

    @M and A Nonymo8Us - LOL. That's a great scene in a great movie.

    Rube 1:57 PM  

    Any puzzle with RUBE in it is a good puzzle. Doubly so in this case as it was a gettable Thursday without Googles.

    ELLIOTT was a gimme for us oldies, Rex, just like NIEKRO, the knuckleballer. Wife and mother are from Kansas so KSU was another gimme.

    Yes, I'm still doing puzzles -- just not spending much time on the blogs... unless there's a good reason. Just got back from 2 weeks on Lake Powell. Does anyone have bass recipes?

    Donald Trump 1:57 PM  

    The hint button is a great idea because you know the NYT will start charging $0.25 each time someone uses it. Wish I'd thought of it.

    @Deb - Only teasing.

    ANON B 1:59 PM  

    I do the puzzle on paper. Is there an online hint every day?
    If yes, then why not put it in the paper too?

    Acme 2:05 PM  

    By the way, I'd have avoided ULLMAN in the puzzle in case you thought it was part of a rebus instead of an outsidethebox... Or put her on the bottom and just be ULL.

    People didn't press hint to be helped with solve, they pressed it because sometimes you're supposed to fold puzzle in half, or connect dots or whatever.
    It's an autoresponse, not a way to have looked to cheat.
    Despite apology, I'll probably never open one again.

    I would've been apoplectic if someone ruined my clever theme...BEQ probably took it in stride, but it's a shame..

    Toothpaste can't be put back in.
    But it is good someone knows how to apologize... Refreshing.

    Second most valuable thing my therapist ever taught me...magic phrase: I'm sorry you're upset. What can I do to help?"
    (tho not totally applicable here, it's more when the other person is ranting needlessly. It calms them down and you can move forward.)

    Anoa Bob 2:09 PM  

    First thought at 19A for "Mammal that hums to its young"---HUMAN. Hey, it could be. Maybe that's how we got our name, Human because we hum to our young. Oh, I guess then it would be Hummer.

    chefbea 2:13 PM  

    So all this talk about the hint...What exactly was the hint??? Great minds want to know

    syndy 2:25 PM  


    Sandy K 2:26 PM  

    You know how you go to the dentist and there's New York magazine, so you turn to the puzz (which is way sub-par to our gold standard NYT puzz) but there's a guy getting root canal, so you have no choice but to distract yourself...

    Well, this one wasn't bad- the theme was S-Capade by Cathy Allis- some cute puns created by the extra S.

    BUT talk about HINTS- examples of clues were: Bruin who wore (and rhymes with)4, Jai ----(court sport), Central Florida city ("A cola" anagram) et al.

    Maybe it was tongue-in-cheek cuz some of the other answers weren't that easy-peasy...where's the hint button?


    Wayne 3:04 PM  

    Didn't appreciate the NIEKRO/KSU Natick. Everything else was fair game and thoroughly enjoyable.
    I meandered down to the reveal (51a) while the grid was still mostly empty, so I had MAYDAYMAYDAY and then MANTHEANCHOR before getting it right.

    I didn't notice who the constructor was at first, but after a while I realized that I was in so much pain, that I said "hey, I know this feeling! I bet it's a BEQ...yup."

    M and A's Last Man Standing 3:12 PM  

    @Greatminds-bea: See last paragraph of Rex's blog, for a facsimile of the note.

    Alas, the note has been removed, evidently forever, from the online NYT puz site. Maybe 4-Oh will install a red button on his site, that we can push. We commenters have certainly demonstrated a luv, in the past, to push all his buttons...

    Honest Injun 4:12 PM  

    Gold Standard, my ass.

    Anonymous 4:16 PM  

    Once again, Shortz reveals his ignorance of the mechanical world.
    lots of things have clutches including the cars we call automatic. It's true that tjose automatics don't have clutch pedals, and therefore they may beout of mind, but be assured that clutches( yeah, there are multiple clutches in your automatic) are working hard for you. And before anyone chimes in with torque converter, just don't. Please, don't. Understand how mechanical things work then comment.

    LaneB 4:18 PM  

    Knew a58 referred to computer crashes but being something of a Luddite, had no idea what an ITGUY was. Since I didn't know the cat's name , I ended up with rUM and IrGUY. That was the only mistake, but I did get Google help and confirmation for a14, a35, d4, d5 and d54. All in all not a bad Thursday having hit on the MAN thing. Is that called a Rebus?

    sanfranman59 4:22 PM  

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

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

    Thu 16:12, 16:58, 0.95, 39%, Easy-Medium

    Top 100 solvers

    Thu 9:59, 9:58, 1.00, 51%, Medium

    joho 4:34 PM  

    Hey, @Deb, so happy to hear! And, as for your brief moment of insanity ... forgeddabodit!

    Lewis 4:35 PM  

    Never heard of ITGUY, but now I know.

    I have no problem with giving a hint as long as we know it's optional (as someone said "spoiler alert"). Experienced solvers won't go after it, but others may resort to it, just as some experienced solvers may resort to Google or checking answers, so that more of the puzzle can be solved. But after Deb's note, maybe this hint thing is a one and done thing.

    retired_chemist 4:48 PM  

    Is "IT GUY" a bit sexist, or a sly reference to the "IT GIRL"?

    John V 4:50 PM  

    @sanfran. Your numbers look surprisingly low.

    wa 5:36 PM  

    I too think it is a terrible idea to offer hints. It is the dumbing down of America. You read the NY Times because they respect their readership and the readership expects the highest standards. This is like Harvard encouraging students to write the answers to test questions on their hands and thighs.

    I too did not get the theme even though I did get the heretofore unkown language Darin Chinese. Which evoked all sorts of politically incorrect song titles.

    oldbizmark 7:46 PM  

    Enjoyed the puzzle but i have to point out that while i got RBIs quickly, it is grammatically incorrect. RBI is already plural. it stands for "RunS Batted In" and it makes no sense to have an "S" at the end as that would render it "Runs Batted In"s. Should not have been allowed.

    Carola 7:54 PM  

    Gone all day, very late to the party. Really liked the puzzle! I needed the reveal to get the "port sides" of the theme answers. Up to then, I had DARI?CHINESE (a dialect I'd never heard of?) and carTRANSMISSION. The Wildcats I know are from Northwestern, but I managed to come up with KSU. My FALSEST answer was pooP for Number 2, probably a result of my being away visiting my new granddaughter, who is filling diapers at an amazing rate.

    Wikipedia 8:14 PM  

    @oldbizmark - your contention has been made before, but is probably wrong

    Tita 9:09 PM  

    A rare day where I agree with everyone. What y'all said, including @Rex.

    I left the NIE_RO/_SU natick blank. A rare Did Not Care there.
    But I liked the trick.

    @Deb Amlen- very classy. Thanks.

    @Carola - now THAT is a Hall of Famer...
    @C.Ross Word - that hilarious enough? Aw, shucks, I'm such a pushover...
    Only problem is, I barely have enough time to come here, much less update the HoF. Folks should feel free to add their own as Comments.
    (I swear I don't know how Rex does it every day...)

    I still haven't added "YOU HAD MEAT, HELLO"!

    Oh wait - I do have one tangential story I must tell...

    Puz spouse's last name is Treacy. His father, in a rage over his brother's changing it to TRACEY, once threw him out of the house, telling him never to return. Slamming the door, he turned, then realized... he was at his brother's house.
    He had just thrown him out of his own house.

    Anonymous 9:18 PM  

    Ribbies dude

    Tita 9:22 PM  
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    Ulrich 9:43 PM  

    @Tita: You show why one should read even the latest comments!

    I miss the out-of-focus house number captchas...

    Kristin 11:21 PM  

    I go the first theme answer and INSTANTLY knew the revealer! The rest was pretty easy except for all the obscure facts.

    John Hoffman 11:39 PM  

    I love having the hint. I'm not that good of a solver. So when there's something truly obscure (like missing letters that extend off the grid), then I'm glad to have this. Otherwise, I would spend hours on a puzzle and get nowhere, get frustrated and know that I should always stop at Wednesday. A hint means that it's another puzzle I can accomplish.

    The smart solvers (and I do envy you) can always decide to not read the hint.

    Tita 12:10 AM  

    @Ulrich - du bist ein Liebling!

    sanfranman59 1:19 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 7:07, 6:14, 1.14, 94%, Challenging
    Tue 6:14, 8:09, 0.76, 1%, Easy (2nd lowest ratio of 180 Tuesdays)
    Wed 8:14, 10:03, 0.82, 10%, Easy
    Thu 16:17, 16:58, 0.96, 39%, Easy-Medium

    Top 100 solvers

    Mon 3:55, 3:46, 1.04, 71%, Medium-Challenging
    Tue 3:48, 4:47, 0.79, 2%, Easy (3rd lowest ratio of 180 Tuesdays)
    Wed 5:04, 5:54, 0.86, 12%, Easy
    Thu 9:32, 9:56, 0.96, 38%, Easy-Medium

    spacecraft 11:05 AM  

    I thought ULLMAN was deliberate, as in, the MAN fell OVERBOARD, but grabbed onto Tracey's "legs--" the L's--and hung on for dear life. Strange that I thought of DJED right away, but the north went in rather quickly, leaving me with DARINCHINESE. Hmm, how do you write "Now, the shark bites..." in THAT language? And a second later, I got it: we're dealing with a missing MAN. So when I had three letters before TRANSMISSION the UAL was easy. The next theme entry, however, gave me trouble. It eventually filled AGEEXPECTATIONS in on crosses. ??? MANAGE EXPECTATIONS? Totally strange phrase. How would you even do that? Looks like complete nonsense to me.

    Notes: ah, the beauty of paper solving: no spoiler. Thought "Nonentity" might be NEMO, the name we fill in on bowling sheets when a team (USA?) member doesn't show. Since I knew neither 52- or 54-down, I wrote it in. But then I looked at OnMA and EmNO and decided that had to be wrong, fooled with it for a bit and finally hit on ZERO. My first impression for the humming parent was HUMAN, but that didn't work. would've given us another MAN. Agree about FALSEST: is that like a whopper as compared to a "little white lie?" The Wildcats clue didn't help much, as there are at least half a dozen NCAA teams with that name. Just three major ones off the top of my head: Kentucky, Arizona, Villanova. Bleedover of sorts: the cat at 59d, from CATS.

    I liked this one. Appropriately knotty for Thursday, I give it a medium. And I wouldn't have given a rat's ass whether it was a pangram or not.

    syndicate Bob 12:01 PM  

    There is a difference between a spoiler and a hint just as there is a difference between an avatar and a professor. So I am speaking to Rex now and not the professor who surely must know that failure is a terrible, awful way to learn.

    The professor probably is hoping that his tenure committee does not quote from his learn by lots of failure and only failure remark today and the avatar is probably realizing that were it not for people looking for answers this blog would have a readership of fewer than 10 or 15 people.

    Syndi Solver 1:37 PM  

    I have a good friend who has studied Mandarin for many years. So I knew that kowtow came from Chinese. That means the 20 A clue was a huge help, almost a gimme. Of course, the problem was that neither Mandarin nor Cantonese would fit in that space. But as soon as I had the DAR filled I figured out [MAN] DARIN CHINESE.

    And that means I could fill in MAN OVERBOARD for 51 A just as soon as I read the clue. It took longer to get 28 A and 46 A but it helped to start out knowing there was MAN in the margin. (although I was not sure, at first, that they'd all be on the left side)

    @spacecraft, I think MANAGE EXPECTATIONS is one of those business buzzwords, like core competence or paradigm shift. It's one of those phrases that I've heard several times but only in a corporate setting. So it is a real thing but maybe only to a certain subset of people.

    There was a lot that I did not know in this puzzle -- JOEL Springarn, Pierre ELLIOT Trudeau, baseball player NIEKRO, "Right you are, Mr. MOTO". But I just guessed and/or accepted the letters filled in by crosses. That K in NIEKRO was a guess. I went with K over T based on the clue saying his nickname was "Knucksie." (thank you, Will, or whoever added that to the clue!)

    One of my biggest difficulties, strangely, was remembering how to spell ASIAGO. For some reason I was thinking ASagiO -- maybe thinking of adagio? That really messed up the crosses so lots of write-overs in that area. And yet the other cheese, QUESO at 63 A, was easy as pie!

    DMGrandma 2:43 PM  

    Fun puzzle, but sadly, a DNF for me. I "cleverly" accompanied my wine with a song, and couldn't give it up, even when it was clearly wrong. And, of course, I didn't get that K. Team names are like RRN to me, if they don't come from the crosses, they generally don't come at all. I did enjoy the missing man idea, revealed by the (man)DARINCHINESE. Without it I would never have gotten the other two theme answers. Guess an ITMAN is some kind of technican, not Clara Bow's screen romance?

    Solving in Seattle 7:22 PM  

    @DMG, an ITGUY is the Information Technician in a company. Your computer/program goes bananas, call the I.T. guy.

    I lived in Vancouver for 18 months during which Pierre ELLIOTT Trudeau was the P.M. and his foxy wife spent a weekend locked in a Montreal hotel room with the rolling stones. Oooh, la, la!

    Pangram, shamgram - who cares?

    I had to solve the revealer, mostly on crosses, before I could complete this very clever puzzle.

    Had a lot of trouble in the Oregon Territory. Had morgAN before ULLMAN, with whom I am unfamiliar. And, I need to get to church more because I don't know cheeses. Never heard of ASIAGO. LATTEN is also new to me.

    capcha: itypiho land. Where many dyslexics live?

    eastsacgirl 12:26 AM  

    Loved it! Got MANOVERBOARD pretty quick but took forever to figure out how to put it to use. Kept plodding through and eventually finished.
    I agree about the "hint". Thankfully I don't use them. Talk about taking the fun out of a puzzle.

    Margaret 3:44 PM  

    To Solving In Seattle - it was Toronto but nevermind.

    Solving in Seattle 4:02 PM  

    Thank you for the correction, Margaret. All that matters is that you got some satisfaction.

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