1965 Physics Nobelist Richard / WED 11-20-13 / Harry Potter's owl / Third-largest city in Italia / Celebrity groom in 68 headlines / Johnny Winter's musician brother / Omertà group

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Constructor: Peter A. Collins

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: "RUNNING / ON EMPTY" (55A: With 57-Across, 1977 Jackson Browne album … or a hint to what's depicted in this puzzle's grid) — Grid uses circles to depict an ARROW pointing at an (unchecked) "E," which sits directly opposite an (unchecked) "F"; remaining circles describe a roughly semicircular shape that spells out GAS GAUGE

Word of the Day: Richard FEYNMAN (48D: 1965 Physics Nobelist Richard) —
Richard Phillips Feynman (/ˈfnmən/; May 11, 1918 – February 15, 1988) was an American theoretical physicist known for his work in the path integral formulation of quantum mechanics, the theory ofquantum electrodynamics, and the physics of thesuperfluidity of supercooled liquid helium, as well as inparticle physics (he proposed the parton model). For his contributions to the development of quantum electrodynamics, Feynman, jointly with Julian Schwinger and Sin-Itiro Tomonaga, received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1965. He developed a widely used pictorial representation scheme for the mathematical expressions governing the behavior of subatomic particles, which later became known as Feynman diagrams. During his lifetime, Feynman became one of the best-known scientists in the world. In a 1999 poll of 130 leading physicists worldwide by the British journal Physics World he was ranked as one of the ten greatest physicists of all time. (wikipedia)
• • •

I liked this one quite a bit, largely for the weirdness of the unchecked letters (which ended up having a significant role in the theme, thank god), and also for SLOW ON THE UPTAKE (11D: A bit dense), which is just a great 15. Felt pretty thorny, but I was done in 4:11, so it couldn't have been that bad. Fill is much better in the long stuff than the small stuff, but the small stuff is largely inoffensive, so that's just fine. I got a bit worried about that unchecked "F" at first because my first reaction to seeing a physics Nobelist clue is "how the hell should I know?" But then I realized that it was one of the most popular physicists around—a guy whose mug I have seen many times in bookstores. FEYNMAN was a great popularizer of physics. Anyway, even if you didn't know FEYNMAN, the theme allows you to infer the "F"—the "Full" symbol on our imaginary gas gauge.

Didn't have any pronounced trouble, though the center was mildly rough, as I couldn't remember Harry Potter's owl and couldn't figure out what "dep." was supposed to mean in 33D: Opposite of dep. (ARR.). Had PESTS for NESTS, as I'm sure many people did before figuring out the Jackson Browne song (56D: Exterminators' targets). Didn't know HABANERA was a [Cuban dance], though I'm almost certain I've seen it before. I'm more familiar with the HABAÑERO pepper. Not much else to say. The bar is low, but this is certainly the best puzzle of the week (so far).

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


August West 12:06 AM  

Did 9/10 of this puzzle entering acrosses only, in sequential order. Two answers I wasn't familiar with: OBELI and FEYNMAN, the former confirmed via its crosses; ditto the second, plus "F", inferred from the theme "picture," the only time I considered the theme along the solve. Too many 3s; too simple for a Wednesday. A fine 4:03 Monday. Perfect introduction puzzle for the new solver.

optionsgeek 12:09 AM  

This puzzle absolutely rocks. Nearly every part of the upper 2/3rds of the grid is pulled into thematic service. Yet, amazingly, there are some truly great long answers and the requisite fill is almost entirely benign. Well done, Peter Collins, well done.

optionsgeek 12:15 AM  

. . .however there is one not so minor nit. . .,every gas gauge I've ever encountered indicates a lowering fuel level with a clockwise rotation of the needle. This seems backwards to me.

jae 12:15 AM  

Medium-tough for me.  And, the theme resolved a Natick as both TULLY and SUH were WOEs.   HABANERA and OBELI is another tough cross, but I knew HABANERA.

I hope AEON was everyone's gimme. 

Yep for pESTS.

Loved this one.  Plenty of zip, amusing/clever theme, great reveal, low on dreck...A fine Wed. Mr. Collins!

Anonymous 12:24 AM  

I bow to your collective brilliance, but I thought puzzle was much too hard for a Wednesday. The graphic component of the answer is virtually impossible to see even when told. And "OBELI" -- kind of a gimme because of 5 down -- but still. A ridiculous word.

I bet that for most solvers--even very experienced ones--this one was tough.

Yet another example in which Shortz demonstrates he's more interested in obtuseness (which is considerably different from difficulty). Difficulty is fine; obtuseness, not so.

Steve J 12:28 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Evan 12:29 AM  

I'm more lukewarm on this puzzle. Even conceding that the idea was cute and the long non-theme stuff was cool, some of that short fill didn't really sit well with me: ASSOC., TULLY (crossing SUH, whom I know, though as @jae says you can get that from the theme if you don't), WAC, POI, WGN (even being from Chicago I'd be wary of expecting NYT solvers to know this, though at least all the crosses are fair), partial A NOD, ALG., TOR., TECS (do people still use this term?), AEON, ASL, EDS., ARR., PAESE.

None of those things are deal-breakers, but there's just a bunch of them. And that's before getting to OBELI crossing HABANERA, which I have a feeling might trip people up because a) OBELI? and b) some may be tempted into thinking that a Cuban dance might sound like HaVana. I only got it right because I once sang in a choir that did the Habanera Dance from "Carmen."

It's certainly tougher than a typical Wednesday offering and has an off-beat flavor, so kudos for that. And any puzzle that puts in a Harry Potter answer earns points from me.

Steve J 12:30 AM  

Didn't pick up on the pictogram, don't know FEYNMAN, and mis-entered ALS for ASL. So big, fat DNF for me.

As a result, wasn't terribly fond of this, but that's very likely due to me and not the puzzle. I get the E and F aspects now, but I think 48A is a bit of dirty pool. If you're going to have an uncrossed square, you need to make sure that the answer is quite gettable. I don't think FEYMAN is broadly enough known to count as such, and I can't imagine that there weren't many other possible alternatives there to improve the gettability of that answer.

NW was rather tough for me, too (even without my ALS/ASL error). Could not remember OBELI, and I do not know La VALSE. And since I didn't pick up on the theme, the circled letters did nothing to help me.

Loved SLOW ON THE UPTAKE, even if that does describe me regarding the theme. EARSHOT was nice, too.

Anonymous 12:39 AM  

Shouldn't ARROW be in the grid backwards? Might have made me like it a little more.

Anonymous 12:42 AM  

And as other have said, I think there's far too much of the short stuff.

My opinion on short stuff is that there's so many different combinations of three letter words;therefore, any puzzle with this much crosswordese should literally have nothing but amazing entries. I did not see this here.

okanaganer 12:49 AM  

This theme was a big zero for me. I finished the puzzle, read the revealer, stared at the grid, and came up with: nothing. Well, I did briefly consider the grid might look like a car dashboard but dismissed that as...goofy. Then I considered ELECTROMAGNETIC and SLOW ON THE UPTAKE and thought...the black squares looked kinda like the holes in electrical plugs? Something to do with devices whose batteries run down, but they take too long to charge? Uhhh...no.

From the other side of the room, squinting, the grid looked like it could depict a guy--possibly sitting in the driver's seat--with an erection. Sorry about that.

chefwen 1:51 AM  

Didn't even notice that RUNpING on EMPTY didn't make any sense, so pESTS remained, making this a big DNF. OBELI was obtained solely off of DEIGN.

Cute puzzle, no complaints except my own incompetents. That's a word, right? I'm so unsure lately.

chefwen 1:55 AM  

Lets try incompetence. I'm blaming the drugs, yeah that's right, it's the drugs.

Benko 1:56 AM  

@Rex--You've definitely seen HABANERA before, and heard it many times. It's one of the most famous pieces of music in the world, from Bizet's Carmen.
@SteveJ--If people don't know Richard Feynman, that's their problem! Easily one of the most influential scientific minds of the 20th century, for dozens of reasons.

Jim Peredo 1:58 AM  

At first, the Ben Tausig in me thought the puzzle was going to be about a juggler with a great big package...

Marcy 2:06 AM  

Totally agree with optionsgeek that the gas tank imagery in this puzzle is backwards - the "F" should be on the left & the "E" on the right. Maybe it's an Israeli car!

dmw 2:07 AM  

Way too easy for a Wednesday for me, like a former commentor I got it mostly from crosses. But then, of course, could not figure out the theme!

Evan 2:15 AM  

@optionsgeek and @Marcy:

If you look at Google Images for "gas gauge", most of the pictures actually show the E on the left and the F on the right, just as in the puzzle.

Granted, the needle probably doesn't make a complete 180-degree rotation as suggested in the grid. In fact, the gauge in my car (a Toyota) looks slightly different from the puzzle's gauge in that my F starts around the 10 or 11 o'clock position and moves counterclockwise to about 8 o'clock. Still, I think the counterclockwise rotation is more common than you think.

Atria Cornsilk Moonbeams 2:54 AM  

Peter Collins always always always inventive!


Middle took me the longest...Didn't know HEDWIG (know the angry inch one) couldn't grok the dep (couldnt get past deposit) nor "boot one" or c??OM . Carom?
FINALLY CDROM dawned on me

I didn't see the black squares as a phallic symbol, but why is thos not symmetrical? Oh, I guess it is as a mirror...but is that part of a picture I'm not seeing?

Like @Rex, really glad the E and F paid off. Like that sort of boldness.


AEON was one hell of a bleedover from Friday!

Valerie 3:06 AM  

Well I certainly feel SLOW ON THE UPTAKE. I couldn't figure out the theme of this puzzle for the life of me. I liked it regardless except for VALSE and OBELI. I got them with the crosses but it just looked so wrong. Too obscure for a Wednesday IMO.

Loren Muse Smith 5:11 AM  

I had 80% of this filled before I had the aha moment and put the F in FEYNMAN, so inferable once you see the theme, like Rex predicted. For that matter, the U in the TULLY/SUH cross I got the same way. (Morning, @Evan.)

I almost had a dnf but guessed the OW in AVOWING (figuring that "aver" would have an extra "r") and the B in HABANERA.

Hey – NO FEE crosses FREE!

"Like eggs in omelets" – made me wonder again - what is it about a tiny little eggshell in the eggs you're eating that is so utterly, totally repulsive and vile?

Tiny "Tim" was my '60s groom for a while.

SLOW ON THE UPTAKE – loved it! Think of all the euphemisms we have for this. "One sandwich SHY of a picnic. . ."

DEIGN is such a terrific word. I kind of knew it, but had to look it up to make sure I could use it correctly sometime today. So I admit I deigned to look it up.

"Shucker's debris" – another great word – "debris." So what's the difference between "debris" and "detritus?" For me, the former feels more a result of Mother Nature (clue notwithstanding) and the latter feels more the result of some kind of human activity. Storms have debris but wild parties have detritus?

"Hightails it." Hah! The day before yesterday I was walking through the woods. I ran into the guy who helps us with the upkeep of this place, and he said it wasn't too smart to walk through the woods on the day after a storm (the night before had had extremely high winds). Limbs are still falling, according to him. So I picked up the pace while I nervously kept taking stock of all the trees' tops, thinking


I made it out alive. Then at his shop another guy was telling me to be careful because a pack of hungry coyotes will attack a human. Sheesh.

Peter Collins – really creative theme! I like all your pictures but miss that headband one.

GILL I. 6:10 AM  

@LMS - Fly the coop.
This was easy PAESE for moi. My only hangup was AEON/FEYNMAN but I guessed right at the N.
@Evan - I almost wrote in MERENGUE for the Cuban dance but that's more Dominican Republic. The V versus B in HABANA as well as using the tilde is always amusing to me.
HABANERA with a tilde that you see when referencing the pepper (as shown by @Rex) is really incorrect (it's borrowed from English) but because it's used so often it has become the norm. HABANA (Spanish) HAVANA (English).
Thank you Mr. Collins for getting me out of my crossword funk...I really enjoyed this little drive.
@chefwen. Glad you're back. You sound like your old self....!

MetaRex 7:02 AM  

Oh yes...when ya can sorta resolve the sea of letters and blocks that is a CWP into a visual image, it's nice. (Not so much if the image is the one suggested by @okanaganer...havin trouble losin that one...)

Given my image of a gas gauge, I wanted ARROW to run from the E square to the lower middle.

Yielding to @Evan on ESE itemization...my quick and dirty ESE count was 69. That's kinda high if ya rate the theme density of this puzz as low, as Jeff Chen does at xwordinfo...if ya count the squares for all the words in which the circles and the E and F are embedded, ya get a theme count of 60 and a pretty average relationship between grid POI and thematic density.

Glimmerglass 7:34 AM  

Don't recall ever having seen FEYNMAN, but easily got all but the F. Was angry about the uncrossed square until the moment the clue for 55A hit me. Prototypical AHA moment!

John V 7:41 AM  

Hand up for freaking out at the unchecked F. Weird thing is that I did not not notice the unchecked E, as EARSHOT fell into place with no pause. Like @Rex, F was inferrable from the theme.

Kinda knew the the album had to be Running On Empty; we're talking major ear worm for this Wednesday!

Good one, Peter Collins. Fresh look for a Wednesday.

Anonymous 7:50 AM  

FEYNMAN and ELECTROMAGNETIC were gimmes but OBELI? With HABANERA, a true Natick for me. HAvANERA/OvELI was my guess. So . . . Almost.

Jimmy Van Heusen and Johnny Burke, 7:52 AM  

A country dance was being held in a garden
I felt a bump and heard an "Oh, beg your pardon"
Suddenly I saw polka dots and moonbeams
All around a pug-nosed dream

The music started and was I the perplexed one
I held my breath and said "May I have the next one?"
In my frightened arms, polka dots and moonbeams
Sparkled on a pug-nosed dream

There were questions in the eyes of other dancers
As we floated over the floor
There were questions but my heart knew all the answers
And perhaps a few things more

Now in a cottage built of lilacs and laughter
I know the meaning of the words "Ever after"
And I'll always see polka dots and moonbeams
When I kiss the pug-nosed dream

Airymom 7:55 AM  

The theme involved Jackson Browne (and I still have not recovered from learning that his son, yes...his son, turned 40 this month.) In college, I played his albums and lusted for him along with so many other SUNY-Binghamton women. As I explained to my daughter, "he was my Adam Levine."

So thanks, Peter Collins. What a way to start the day.

jberg 7:55 AM  

If you don't know FEYNMAN, forget about quantum electro-dynamics (which is related to ELECTROMAGNETIC in some way) and read his many hilarious short books of memoirs: "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman," "What Do You Care What Other People Think?," --well, I guess that's not "many," I thought there were more but can't find them.

I enjoyed the unusual grid, including the bi-lateral symmetry-- but am kicking myself because for some reason I wrote down ASm instead of ASL, had no idea about OBELI so OBEmI seemed just as bad, so finished with an error.

AliasZ 7:57 AM  

There is nothing to dislike in this puzzle. Peter Collins gives us a distinguished, cultured, elegant grid with plenty of substance and just enough difficulty to keep us interested from beginning to end.

La VALSE, ART, Alice TULLY Hall and HABANERA started me off in a good mood, and the Italian lesson on the right side only made it better: NAPOLI, Bel PAESE, PRONTO and MAFIA, the Omertà group.

Obelus (symbol: ÷, plural: OBELI) is a symbol consisting of a short horizontal line with a dot above and below. It is mainly used to represent the mathematical operation of division. It is therefore commonly called the division sign.

True, some dashboards have the GAS GAUGE in a vertical position, F up north, E down south and the ARROW pointing to the east. That is the image of a G-A-S-G-A-U-G-E in my mind, but I still got the visuals. It does not take an overactive imagination to pick up on the stylized nature of the graphics in the grid. It's the last thing to complain about today.

Perhaps SUH, ALG, GRE, TOR etc. are less than stellar, but today I didn't mind them at all. SLOW ON THE UPTAKE, CORN SILK, DEIGN, ELECTROMAGNETIC, EARSHOT, Richard FEYNMAN and the already mentioned plethora of fine entries more than made up for them, not to mention the RUNNING ON EMPTY theme revealer.

After yesterday's excellent David J. Kahn puzzle, another winner from Peter A. Collins today. Things are not quite as gloomy after all in the NYT kingdom of Cruciverbia ruled by Will Shortz as some may feel.

joho 8:19 AM  

Beautiful grid, Peter Collins!

I drew the semicircular GASGAUGE and the ARROW pointing to E but missed getting the "F." Clueless regarding the physicist, I chose "R" because it matches the
"R" in Richard. So I was beyond SLOWONTHEUPTAKE which,yes, @Rex, is a fantastic 15! I should have studied the finished puzzle a few moments longer.

Loved the car-related SPEEDS and HITS playing on the STEREO.

Loved this puzzle!

Unknown 8:24 AM  

I loved this. Ditto everything @John V said.

SUH is probably my least favorite NFL player, now that Ray Lewis has retired.

MikeM 8:25 AM  

This is an A+ construction. Thank you Peter Collins. Got caught up in the NW and North Central. I was convinced "Moneymaker" was ATM instead of PRO. I found this on the challenging side and didnt really get the theme until I was completely day. Very enjoyable

Davidph 8:33 AM  

A TV movie about Feynman just came out this past weekend, on Science and Discovery Channels. It's called the Challenger Disaster, about Feynman's role in discovering the cause (failure of the O rings). William Hurt plays Feynman. I thought it was a really good movie and a great portrayal by Hurt.

Anonymous 8:35 AM  

ARR, AMA, POI, TOR, ETRE, WAC, GEE, WGN, OBELI crossing HABAVERA, SUH... I could go on, but the reason I read your blog is I expect you to do that heavy lifting

dk 8:45 AM  

Greetings from Moab UT.

While awaiting a walk to the Love Muffin for an espresso doupio I solved this conceit.

Smooth going and as always the little trick was wasted on me. That said it is a good one.

Had to guess the Cuban dance.

*** (3 stars) nice one Peter

Anonymous 9:27 AM  

could someone tell me how ARR is related to dep? ARR, in my world is arranger...as in ARR by me. dep could be deployed, department, deposition, depending, etc.


Norm 9:28 AM  


Anonymous 9:30 AM  

DEParture vs ARRival

Lewis 9:33 AM  

Terrific concept, and good execution. My only complaint is the grid gruel, too much IMO. I learned OBELI (which I'll never use in real life), and happy to be reminded of Richard FEYNMAN.

The cluing was more direct than I'd expect for a Wednesday.

Overall, however, for me, a very enjoyable solve.

Pete 10:11 AM  

I suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, so I both had SAD and was sad when I saw Peter's name as the author, along with his damned circles, last night. He won me over with SLOWONTHEUPTAKE, so all was not lost.

With my raised mood I sought to better understand my SAD, and I think I've figured it out. It is generally thought to be a complex interaction of sunlight and brain chemistry combined with the stress of living a 16 hour waking day in a 10 hour day-time. I now think that's wrong. What causes SAD is having ice hockey take up 50% of ESPN programming in the winter months. Having 6 of the Top 10 plays being hockey plays.

That's enough to make any non-Canadian want to slit his or her throat.

Carola 10:15 AM  

After a month away from home, solving on my iPad, it was fun to be back to newspaper pencil for this one - I enjoyed connecting the circles of the GAS GAUGE, putting my own circles around the E and F and making the ARROW point to the E. It's nice that SHAPE and IMAGE echo the theme.

Very nifty puzzle! Found it on the tougher side. No idea about OBELI; had misremembered AEON as AEro, so was almost BEATEN by the SE corner until I remembered FEYNMAN.

Liked the cross of the two dances, HABANERA and VALSE and the city NAPOLI crossing "country" PAESE. @AliasZ - to the MAFIA group we can add HITS (do they ever involve CYANIDE?).

Thank you, Peter Collins. I always enjoy your puzzles.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:20 AM  

Feyn puzzle, man!

Saw all the circles.

Filled in the grid/forgot about the circles.

Said "What the heck is the theme?"

Rediscovered the circles, tried putting them together various ways.

Said, "Aha!"

Nancy 10:22 AM  

I'm with Norm. "Meh" seems about right. Finished the puzzle, but didn't understand the unchecked letters until I came here. Now that I know, I still don't care. FYI, I have never EVER worked on a puzzle with circled letters in the grid that I've enjoyed. Those letters never have anything to do with solving; it's just for the constructor's amusement. You solve these puzzles as though the circles weren't there, then find out what's going on after the fact. I put circled puzzles in the category of non-theme puzzles, since the theme is entirely irrelevant to...me!

KRMunson 10:27 AM  

Disliked this puzzle. Finished it and still didn't get the theme. Had to guess at the "F" in Feynman without any rhyme or reason (a total Natick). Guess I'm SLOW ON THE UPTAKE, too.

Milford 10:29 AM  

I really liked this puzzle. The long downs were great - the ones everyone has mentioned, plus CYANIDE and OLD GLORY. SLOW ON THE UPTAKE is just a fantastic phrase.

I'm proud that I had the same panic of the unchecked letter for _EYNMAN, but was able to step back and look at the E in EARSHOT and have that lovely Aha moment that doesn't always happen with a puzzle.

The obscure IKEA designer clue made me chuckle. PAESE and OBELI were both new to me.

The Mensan = NERD clue feels a little harsh, but I know many feel that NERD is a complimentary term now.

@lms - around here, especially this week, walking in the woods is dicey because of rifle deer hunting. Every day this week I have woken up to barely-dawn gunfire.

Also, @lms, I agree that detritus is nature-made, like leaves, but debris is more generic and could be both natural or man-made.

Mohair Sam 10:42 AM  

Terrific Wednesday puzzle, great theme. Didn't remember Feynman (I know, I know, I'm an idiot). So the "F" was our last letter, gotten by a wonderful aha moment when we noticed the theme. Rex is right.

And for those of you complaining about the shape of the gas gauge - Oh c'mon. They come in several different designs, but the one Peter Collins used was right off my parents 1956 Olds Delta 88. Perfect.

Ellen S 10:47 AM  

I liked it a lot, for a change. I was thinking of giving up on crossword puzzles there for a a while. I loved seeing Richard Feynman; a nephew pointed me to videos of his lectures. I'll try to find them and post the link here. He's a very amusing, animated lecturer--somehow I don't see William Hurt in the role.

The only groaner in the puzzle, for me, was TEC. That was one of the first crossword puzzle words my husband introduced me to when he got me hooked 30 years ago. I have never heard anyone refer to a detective using that word ever. But I guess it's alright as long as they don't start breeding, and show up in puzzles all over the place.

Thank you Mr. Collins, for restoring my faith in crossword puzzles.

Two Ponies 10:50 AM  

I loved this even though it was a DNF due to V or B toss-up in the
NW. Excellent visual construction.
Nice one Peter.

quilter1 10:50 AM  

I didn't think I was even going to get started on this after scanning the clues, but I kept hammering away and finished with no errors. Phew! I did enjoy it, however, and liked the long downs. I didn't really pay attention to the theme and after reading @Rex, I don't think it would have helped.

AliasZ 10:53 AM  

There are many famous and lovely VALSEs and HABANERAS:

- Soirées de Vienne: VALSE caprice d'après Schubert, No. 6 by Franz Liszt [7:39];
- Another VALSE by Ravel, this one called VALSEs nobles et sentimantales; [7:33]
- VALSE oubliée No. 1 by Liszt; [3:09]
- HABANERA by Ernesto Halffter; [3:59]
- Pièce en forme de HABANERA by Ravel; [2:38]
- and finally, another Ravel work: HABANERA, the third movement of his Rapsodie espagnol. [2:24]

Take the half hour to listen to all, or at least some of these. They will make your day.

Ellen S 11:04 AM  

I don't know if any of these links are good anymore...

Richard Feynman lecture

 Part 1: Photons - Corpuscles of Light Or
this one.

Part 2: Fits of Reflection and Transmission - Quantum Behaviour or
this one.

Part 3: Electrons and their Interactions or
this one.
Part 4: New Queries or
this one

On youtube:  Richard Feynman - Law of Gravitation, part 1,2, 3 (2 min/8 mn/8 min)

In some of the lectures, as I recall, the audio was terrible but the problem was his microphone wasn't working. If he had been a failure as a physicist he could have been a great standup comedian.

Anonymous 11:15 AM  

Great biography: Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman.

Anonymous 11:26 AM  

I didn't understand dep/arr, so thanks. What would we do without these comments?

baja 11:32 AM  

Full on clever

Masked and Anonymo3Us 12:13 PM  

It's a gas. thUmbsUp.

Why didn't they circle the E and the F? Ain't that part of the picture? Confuses the M&A.

Is Feynman that physics dude that was always shown playin the bongos on the book jacket blurbs? Not sure I woulda remembered his name, but everything crossin was gettable. or gaugable. Altho, did have a hopeful moment that 66-Across might end with a T.

Luv the grid layout. Has that cool fuel gauge symmetry, that we so seldom get to enjoy. I vote for lots more weird symmetry puzs -- spices up the solving experience, makin yah zag in unusual directions. Also like havin 15-er entries that ain't themers. Also like unchecked letters. And bizarro circle patterns. And graphic themes. And Jackson Browne -- went to one of his live concerts once; only bummer was it was an outdoor event, which really diluted the secondhand weed experience...
But I digrass.

Runnin on... runnin on empty.
Runnin on... runnin blind.
Runnin on... runnin into the sun,
But I'm runnin behind.

Everyone I know, everywhere I go...


mac 12:26 PM  

Excellent puzzle! Very thoroughly executed theme and some beautiful words: earshot was my favorite. I don't think I ever saw that in a puzzle.

Hand up for pests before nests, and staring at O-eli for a while.

My car's gas gauge has Empty at the left and Full the right, but the arrow goes down.

Anonymous 12:38 PM  

Hi from ct . It,s chef bea. Trying to post from my daughters I pad.
Fun puzzle but DNF.
Really cold here.

ahimsa 1:07 PM  

Very clever and enjoyable puzzle! Kudos once again to Peter A Collins.

Hand up for having trouble at the TULLY/SUH crossing. The only TULLY that I know is the coffee company and don't know sports at all. But the U was easy to fill in once I saw the theme.

I saw the main part of the theme while solving but I was confused by the unchecked letters. Only after I was finished with the whole thing did the light finally dawn!

I'm with M&A that it might have looked nicer if the E and F were circled. Wonder why they were not?

@optionsgeek, GAS GAUGEs in cars can vary a lot! And these days so many are digital - they don't even have a needle.

But just as one example my own car's gauge does not look like the one in the puzzle bug it does go counter clockwise. It looks sort of like this - sample gas gauge

M and Also 1:47 PM  

@ahisma: Came up with one possible explanation on them there non-circled E and Fs. Maybe the circled material is all the stuff that is normally just shapes and not letters, and all the lettered stuff is then in another category and hence not circled, to contrast that. Does that make any sense? If it did, what the heck is amatter with U.

Speaking of QED! That was the name of one of the Feynman dude's famous books. Subtitled "The Strange Theory of Light and Pewits" (approximately--hiya, Collins dude)

While I am back here. fave weeject=ERR/ARR. har. Talk like a mistaken pirate day. Fun puz.


LaneB 1:48 PM  

Liked the clues for ASL,ZOO and SHAPE, but had to assume that OBELI was correct, never having heard of the term. Even when I looked it up on Google, I didn't get the "Division signs" clue [unless the sign referred to a dagger used in editing.] The cross of GRE and KASEM was also troublesome and required some guesswork. The "F" in FEYNMAN was left blank until I remembered a recent film based on his personal life starring Matthew Broderick [who will always be Ferris Bueller to me.] Otherwise, the puzzle deserved its 'medium' rank, and I only used Google to check the spelling of a couple of answers, e.g. VALSE and HABANERA.
No DNF today. I'll save it for Friday or Saturday.

Bird 1:50 PM  

More circles?

That was a bit of a struggle. Didn’t know 2D, 14A or a7A but I reasoned correctly. Lots of writeovers also slowed me down and made a mess of the grid (ADO at 18A, AVERY at 16A and CORN HUSK at 40D to name a few). First time through yielded little as a lot of my responses were “no idea”, “that could be a million things” or “WTF!”

In the end I didn’t care too much for this puzzle or its theme (needed some tickmarks or fractions around the dial) and almost stopped solving. I do like the long downs.

My gas gauge runs clockwise from F at 12:30 to E at 5:30.

Happy Humpday!

Anonymous 2:14 PM  

7Can someone tell me the difference between the commentators whose names are in blue, and the others who aren't? And how does one join the Blues? And what, if any, are the advantages in doing so? Thanks

Doc John 2:36 PM  

I am surprised at your lack of mention of OBELI. I mean, who knew that the division sign had a name? Does the plus sign also have a name?

Bob Kerfuffle 2:50 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bob Kerfuffle 2:56 PM  

@Anonymous, 2:14 PM - From my limited understanding, the names in blue means that the commenter has a Google account, and you can click on the name to see the person's Google profile. Those in black do not link to anything.

To join the Blues, you have to set up a Google account (or was that a Blogger account?). It's free and all that, but I did it so long ago I forget what I did, but I'm sure it's quite simple.

The advantages are that you can establish a blog identity; you can click a box so that all comments after yours are sent directly to your email address - you don't have to check back at the site to see what others are saying; and, you get a trash can icon on your comment, which only you can see, so you can erase your mistakes, if any.

Nameless 2:56 PM  

@Anon2:14 -

Blue commentors are logged in with Google accounts. Black commentors (other than Anonymous) use the Name/URL option.

Some claim the Blues have superiority because they have accounts and are not anonymous, but that's a load of malarky as we are all really anonymous. At least until we meet at tournaments and put faces to "names".

However, if you are Anonymous Rex tends to ignore you. Maybe that's an advantage to some?

Me? I get enough email so I prefer not get an account.

gifcan 3:23 PM  

A description of Feynman?

He had a broad face, and a little obeli
that shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly

Nonsense, I know.

Saw the unchecked squares and grew suspicious. Forgot about them and quit before I got the F.

Liked the puzzle and loved hearing Jackson Browne again.

Loren Muse Smith 3:27 PM  

Rex isn't the only one who doesn't read comments by the anonymice; well over a year ago he recommended that we not pay attention to anonymous posts. I found two places where he addressed this:

"I haven't read an "Anonymous" comment in years. I see some people occasionally bothering to respond to "Anonymous." This will get you nowhere. Just. Stop. Life is sooo much better when you do."

"If a commenter is "Anonymous," I don't read the comment. If a commenter *replies* to an "Anonymous," I *really* don't read it. Don't feed the cowards."

I tried it out and found that not reading anonymous comments *greatly* reduces the amount of time I spend here. I make myself skip past almost all the anonymous posts. There may be others out there who don't read them, either. I have to confess that in the afternoon and it's slow, it's hard not to read any comment that shows up, but I really try not to.

So get a google account and an avatar. That way we'll get to know you, and you'll find that before you know it, you have a bunch of new friends.

@Nameless – I beg to differ! Most blue commenters and commenters with names are still pretty anonymous, but some of us are not too anonymous at all. Hey – my decision; I'm probably too trusting and as I type some Identity Thief Creep is planning my demise. I don't know how that stuff works.

Bob Kerfuffle 3:33 PM  

I read all comments. The vast majority of Anonymous posts are no different in tone or content than most "named" posts. It's easy to skip quickly over the nastygrams.

And if we didn't read Anonymous posts, how would we guide their authors into full "membership" in the community? (Where's the emoticon which will indicate that I mean that in a completely friendly, non-exclusionary way?)

Loren Muse Smith 3:42 PM  

@Bob – I had the pleasure of getting to know you in NYC and fully understand that anything you say to me is meant in a completely friendly manner. You're charming and you have an ever-present twinkle in your eye!

Truly, my* skipping over them, especially early in the day, freed up a lot of time back when I was working full time. And of course you make a great point about not being able to help anonymous posters who want to go blue! So if this person shows up tomorrow with a blue name and a picture, it will be because you read his/her post.

*hey, @jberg.

Steve J 3:43 PM  

@Nameless: Yes, in a way we're all anonymous unless we've met in person. But for me, the value of people having a name - even a name that's clearly an alias and not a person's actual name - is that over time I get to know a bit about each of the regular posters, their style, the things they like/dislike, etc. Since a lot of the dialogue here comes from regular posters, it's nice being able to make those associations.

Of course, one can have a regular name without having it linkable. I do that because I don't have to re-enter who I am every time (if you're signed in with an account, it remembers you) and so people have access to my email. It's led to zero discernible spam, and it's led to some good and interesting offline conversations.

And the risk with being anonymous is getting lumped in with the subset of anonymouses (hey, I just got why some people call them anonymice!) who do nothing but come in to bitch about people being allegedly bitchy. (Notice how they're conspicuously absent on a day like today when most everyone, including Rex, likes the puzzle.)

@Benko: Saying not knowing Feynman is "their problem" is a bit much. I don't expect everyone to know hugely popular sports figures, rock stars, rappers, etc., even when they seem painfully obvious to me. Everyone has their strong suits and blind spots. I still stand by the statement that if you're going to have an uncrossed letter, it really needs to be something that's going to be easily gettable by virtually everyone. I wouldn't expect that with virtually any person's name.

Bird 3:45 PM  

To all responding to Anon2:14 - That was a test! It was Rex looking to see who would respond. Oh, wait. Today's not April 1. Never mind.

Bird 3:50 PM  

@Steve J - I agree with you on knowing / not knowing answers. I love sports and music, but I can't answer every tennis or rap question as they are not my strong suits. Yes, an uncrossed letter needs to be easily gettable or part of the theme as the case is today (I would not have gotten the F otherwise).

3 and out

retired_chemist 3:50 PM  

A wonderful puzzle - a gift that keeps on giving. The 16A/10D U that ought to be a Natick fro many of us turns out not to be when you figure out the point of the circled letters. The unchecked E and F - they aren't actually unchecked, though I didn't see that until I read Rex's writeup.

There are any number of ways Richard FEYNMAN has made it into the public consciousness. One is the 1973 Nobel prize in Physics. It was his stature in the world of science that got him onto the Rogers Commission, which Reagan appointed to study the Challenger disaster. Feynman was the one that actually showed physically that O-ring failure was the cause. Meanwhile he also pointed out the failure of NASA management to give science proper credence, making him a PITA to the bureaucrats but a savior of future astronauts' lives.

Oh,BTW I cannot recall any gas gauge in any car I have bought that didn't look in essence like the one in the puzzle. I'm a Ford guy FWIW.... And a 68A (though not born on Columbus day).

Last square was the change of HABANERo to HABANERA. Didn't know either Sicko or what oMA was - but it made so much sense when I fixed it. A personal victory.

Thanks, Mr. Collins. Super job.

Cheerio 3:56 PM  

I don't understand 37A. How is ERR related to "Boot one"?

ahimsa 4:04 PM  

@Cheerio, I do not get how "boot one" means ERR either. I was hoping someone here would comment.

I read on WEB's NYT crossword blog that he thinks "boot one" refers to a baseball error.

Does anyone here know?

sanfranman59 4:12 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 10:29, 9:52, 1.06, 69%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Wed 6:27, 5:49, 1.11, 77%, Medium-Challenging

We wore out the grooves of RUNNING ON EMPTY when I was in college and I've probably listened to more Jackson Browne music in my day than anyone other than the Beatles, Springsteen and Elton. So the theme definitely brought a smile to this solvers face.

@Cheerio ... Booting a ball is baseball slang for when a fielder fumbles a ball that they should play cleanly ... aka an error.

M and A's Last Silver Bullet 4:49 PM  

I read all the comments. Feel a slight kinship with the great unwashed and anonymous peoples of the world.

Doesn't take much extra time to spruce up one's identity a little bit, tho, by typing somethin in under "Name/URL". And then most of these real nice folks will read yer comment, no matter how weirdo you are. I'm probably exhibit A, on that deal.

I'd do a blue nameplate, but then it'd be awful hard to bury the daily puz U-counts in there. Millions of folks no doubt depend on that data, at this point. And some used to complain, when I stuck all that crucial info in the comments, taking up valuable space that needed to be set aside for top ten lists and fave weejects and random song lyrics and buzzin some fur off 4-Oh, when needed. QED.

Best type-in-able Name entries that aren't taken yet:
* Dazed and Confused (I almost went with that one)
* High and Mitey
* Gnat and Tick
* Barns and Nobel
* First and Ten
* Cross and Down (**ooooh!**)
* Shock and Owl
* Err and Arr
* Duck and Coverlet
* Ike and Mike (delicious)

Any of These would epecially be great, if it was a team of two people. Don't have many of those here. Be the Siskel & Ebert of puz snark. Start today, former anonymices.

Ok. That oughta do it. This is waaaay too long for anyone to bother readin', now...

M & (they pay me by the word) A

Dolgoruky 5:38 PM  

Opera fans will recognize "Habanera" as an aria of Carmen's.

Z 5:51 PM  

Struggled in the NW and went with HAvANERA/OvELI - seemed reasonable for a Cuban dance one way and is a near homophone in the other.

My first thought on seeing the grid was space invaders, I did not notice that the space invader was on viagra. Considering last night's Daily Show piece on the Qatari soccer stadium, I'm amazed I missed the invaders aroused state. (FWIW - I can find the press box).

Agree with the praise of this puzzle. FEYNMAN was a gimme and gave me pause, saw the matching E and filled in the circles.

This is definitely a toss-up between a New Holland Mad Hatter IPA or a Bell's Two-Hearted Ale (in case you are wondering, two of the best IPAs around, and IPA is my favorite style of beer, so I'm putting this at the top of Wednesday puzzles). Inventive, pushes the envelope of a "cross" word with the not really unchecked squares, and a well endowed space invader; what more can one ask for?

I read all the comments and have occasionally erred by responding to anonymice (as opposed to anonymous comments like "please explain xxx" which I answer if no one else beats me to it). When you have a discernible identity your comments have voice and people are more accountable for what they write. No one would ever mistake Z and AliasZ, for example. I read the anonymous and anonymouse comments with fascination, even the trolls. We are such an interesting group of people, and even the trolls have opinions worth hearing, if we can just get them to express them in a comprehensible form.

Anonymous 7:04 PM  

Hold on,

Let me get this straight. If I type a name, I'm not anonymous. I'll bite, please explain.
Steve J., you can refrain. I've read your rationale. It's wanting.

Sfingi 7:25 PM  

@STEVE J - The trouble is that many sports lovers DO expect everyone to know their stuff.

I liked this because it was mathy, and I got ELECTROMAGNETIC for my first word after fill-in-the-blanks and 3-letters. I keep a picture of its spectrum on my laptop, But I assume 99% of the population has neither knowledge nor interest in it. It's useful for explaining why they can't get chromosome damage from microwaves. If they believe me.

And always loved Jackson Browne and FEYNMAN.

Got HABANERO from figuring it was a dance from the main city of Cuba.

On the other hand, ARR(ival) and DEP(arture) gave me pause, and I usually ask Hubster the sports stuff.

SHY 7:38 PM  

Good to hear you, Jackson Browne.
In ’69 you were 21.
Fast forward a few
Orpheum…she knocks on your door, Right off stage left.
Seeing a crowd, quickly retreats, but not before seeing you
Tripping over instrument cases to get to the closing door.
“Hello? Can I help you?” Not really. To make conversation, since
You’d come all that way across the room –
“Where do you go from here?”
“The Parker House.”
Funny. “No, what city?”
(What did you take her for, huh? When she told you she was with that tall guy over there in the wings…)

Anyway, long time no see -
No more benefits for would-be pols?
They can’t all be runnin on empty.

Z 9:35 PM  

For @anonymous 7:04

Steve J 11:31 PM  

@Z: Which Daily Show clip? That sounds too excellent not to view.

Also, agreed with you on IPAs. Can't fully agree with you on Two Hearted, though. In years where the Centennial crop is great, it's great, but other years it suffers a bit from being a single-hop IPA. Also, I've totally gotten spoiled by the very aggressive West Coast IPAs.

@Sfingi: Yes, there are sports people (and opera people, and geography people, and rock people, and rap people, and Simpsons people) who think that everyone should know their things. They're all wrong. (And I say that as someone who, some years back, likely started his commenting career here with some sort of "how could you possibly not know X" comment; I've lived and learned.)

@Anon 7:04: Thank you for proving my point.

OISK 11:49 PM  

Admired the creativity, but never heard of Jackson Brown, and don't know who or what Casey Kasem is. That diminished my enjoyment a bit. I would also appreciate a moratorium on Harry Potter based clues; do I really care what his owl was called? But I understand that others enjoy such references.

sanfranman59 1:13 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 6:36, 6:06, 1.08, 82%, Challenging
Tue 7:49, 8:12, 0.95, 34%, Easy-Medium
Wed 10:26, 9:52, 1.06, 68%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:59, 3:46, 1.06, 78%, Medium-Challenging
Tue 4:50, 5:01, 0.96, 36%, Easy-Medium
Wed 6:23, 5:49, 1.10, 76%, Medium-Challenging

Osi The Cat 2:32 PM  

Question for everyone here: Didn't this puzzle violate the rule of symmetry puzzles are supposed to have?

Bob Kerfuffle 3:38 PM  

@Osi The Cat - The puzzles does have left-right symmetry, but in fact there are no "rules", just ways that things are usually done. The uncrossed "E" and "F" also violate a usual "rule", but they are allowed because they serve the theme. Some puzzles (very rare) have no symmetry at all, in the service of a really clever design.

Check the instructions the next time you do a diagramless puzzle. They will say, "This puzzles has regular crossword symmetry," or ". . . left-right symmetry", or sometimes even ". . . top - bottom symmetry." There may even be unsymmetric diagramlesseseses.

Cheerio 10:06 AM  

@sanfranman59 Thanks for explaining "boot one." With @ahimsa, I figured it had something to do with baseball. I was thinking maybe it referred to if you mistakenly punt the ball with your foot (boot). But that seems like an unlikely way to goof in baseball. So, then I wondered if it was from some other sport...

Waxy in Montreal 2:49 PM  

Was ANOD a nod to all syndilanders celebrating Christmas today? HO HO HO. Have a merry one.

The HABANERA, VALSE, OBELI area along with the TULLY/SUH cross meant this Wednesday puzzle was no gift, despite the season.
And as a one-time Mensan, my stereotypical descriptor at 30A would have been Einstein, brilliant, genius, very high IQ, etc. - unfortunately though, none of them fit so I guess I'll have to settle for NERD!!

spacecraft 11:26 AM  

Merry Christmas, syndilanders!

The term "unchecked" in OFL's blog confuses me. By that I can only assume he means "uncrossed." This is a very rare instance of letters appearing in just one direction in a crossword--unlike the British version, which features many such. But our E and F get a pass because they're included in the "diagram." It's all very clever, enhanced by having two NON-THEME 15s! And both are great, as are the other longish downs (didn't ANYbody have CORNhusK before CORNSILK?).

The short fill? Well, with 21 three-letter entries it's hard to remain clunk-FREE, but Mr. Collins comes close. Really a fine effort; at least both ears. OBELI, which I was SURE was going to be the WOD, is a bit much, but all goes in on crosses. Didn't need a cross for FEYNMAN, as I not long ago saw "The Challenger Disaster," in which William Hurt gives an unforgettable portrayal of the original "man who thought outside the box."

Blessings upon all, and your families.

jeff 12:24 PM  

Don't know if anyone else noticed this, but "Running on Empty" was NOT the name of the album that the song appeared on - it was "The Load Out" - the first live album with all new songs.

Ginger 3:46 PM  

Haven't done the puz yet, or read the comments, but dropping in now to wish all of you in Syndiland, a MERRY CHRISTMAS, and a HAPPY HOLIDAY. And a big Thank You for the laughs, insight and just plain fun you share.

strayling 10:27 PM  

@Ginger: Merry Christmas to you also, and to all the other left-coasters out here in syndiland.

UK Nomad 1:57 PM  

Hi all Syndilanders! Hope you all had a Great Xmas. Having read this blog for a couple of months religiously, have decided to comment and be one of the many NYT admirers in the Great White North. I'll probably usually be the last to post since I generally do the puz a day late, waiting for my kindly neighbor to bring it to me after he's finished with it. Fortunately he does not do the puzzles.

@ Waxy in Montreal..I am your neighbour In Pte. C

Waxy in Montreal 2:36 PM  

Welcome aboard, @UK Nomad.

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