Actress Durance who played Lois Lane on Smallville / SUN 11-17-13 / Narcissus Goldmund author / 2004 movie set in 2035 / Stan Lee's role in many a Marvel film / Dish Network competitor / Javert's portrayer in 2012's Les Miserables / Skiing maneuver at bend in course

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Constructor: Julian Lim

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: "Vowel Play" — theme answers are two-word nonsense phrases that have all five vowels appearing in a row (broken across the two words)

Theme answers:
  • 23A: Paintings of French estates? (CHATEAU OILS)
  • 28A: Carrier for Casanovas? (ROUÉ AIRLINES)
  • 52A: Aid for submarine séance? (UNDERSEA OUIJA)
  • 82A: Hawaiian wine lover? (MAUI OENOPHILE)
  • 103A: Last words from a coxswain? (ADIEU, OARSMAN)
  • 112A: Garlicky sauce in central Europe? (PRAGUE AILOI)
  • 40D: "Happily ever after" with Han Solo? (LEIA OUTCOME)
  • 36D: All the writings of a Persian faith? (BAHAI OEUVRE)

Word of the Day: ANEAR (5D: Not far from, in poetry) —
anear [əˈnɪə] Archaic
nearly (
• • •

Painful. Starting with ANEAR, which made me wince, and ending with SOVS, which made me literally say, out loud, "Oh, come on!" And then there was the in-between—a theme with nonsense phrases. Theme was not nearly good enough to support the generally bad quality of the fill. AWS? Gah. Nevermind the run-of-the-mill crosswordese, which abounds. The fill was just lousy. STEP TURN (70A: Skiing maneuver at bend in course) is vaguely interesting. THE SOPRANOS down the middle is pretty cool (and nice clue on that one, too) (38D: Hit show with many hits). But I spent most of this one with a grimace on my face. LEIA OUTCOME cannot be redeemed by any clue. Why in the world is "Happily ever after" in quotation marks in that clue? No one said that. Hyphenate the damn thing if you want to use it as a concept. Also, it's Mac vs. PC, not MACS vs. PCS (1D: One side in a computer rivalry). POST-GAME (59A: When scores are settled?) is a time when players do interviews. "Scores" are "settled" the moment the game is over. POST-GAME is the time *after* that. What the hell is it with the NYT's sports cluing? God-awful. Chopsticks come in pairs, not TWOS. Yes, there is a difference. [Hole in the wall] for VENT makes about as much sense as [Hole in the wall] for DOOR. ERICA Durance?????????? (98D: Actress Durance who played Lois Lane on "Smallville"). Laughable. Is that an attempt to toughen this thing up? I watched "Smallville" for like five seasons and had no idea what that actress's name was.

Clever and good beats cutesy, affected and nuts. Why is this so hard to grasp? The mail I've been getting lately supports my general contention that the NYT is in a prolonged funk. I won't call it a tailspin. Yet. But it does feel like there's a long, slow slide afoot. ABEAT. ANEAR.

Gotta go watch "National Lampoon's Vacation" with my family now. See you tomorrow.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

PS a little birdie alerted me to the pre-existence of this theme—see here.


Pete 12:10 AM  

@Rex, c'mon man! You know any crap is justifiable as long as you claim poetry as the basis, right?

GILL I. 12:11 AM  

Yes @Rex... so agree with you [sigh]. I'm still waiting for some bang for my buck. No such luck lately.
I kept looking at ROUE AIRLINES thinking that this was maybe a play on some kind of word other than vowels showing up hither and yon.
THE SOPRANOS was about the only think that I enjoyed.
Had to look up Putsch since it sounds like a BAHAIOEUVRE.

Unknown 12:23 AM  


thursdaysd 12:27 AM  

I thought maybe there was some subtlety I was missing, but clearly not. What a waste.

jae 12:39 AM  

Easy except for misreading a couple of clues.  And, once I caught the theme it was helpful.  Clever but not particularly entertaining  or amusing.  So, Rex may be onto something.

Evan 12:59 AM  

Easy-medium for me. I can't say the theme wowed me, though I felt more positive about the puzzle given some pretty neat fill like MEDIA BIAS, THE SOPRANOS, GET REAL, DON'T PANIC, DIRECTV, SUN LAMP, NEWSROOM and NOT IN IT.

Still, looking at the grid again, there's a little more crap than what I'd like: OKRAS, ABAA, THU, UNI, ITERS, SOVS, EEE, SHU, CRAN, ANEAR, STOATS, APSE, A BEAT, OR I, RKO, ESSO, AGIN, IRAE, DOL., AWS, GOA, say nothing of the crosswordese stuck in the theme answers (ROUE, AIOLI, OENO-). BAIRNS really made me wince -- I was sure it was wrong, but everything else checked out fine. Having to cross it with ABAA....yeesh.

Ethan over at Crossword Fiend suggested LOUIE ANDERSON as a real-life theme answer. In fake world, here are some other possible themers:

* SEQUOIA EDIFICE [Big tree house?]
* ONOMATOPOEIA UNO [Sound card game?]
* QUOI, EARL? ["What did you say, Monsieur Warren?"?]
* Double crosswordese special! ENNUI AEON [Great time which is really boring?]

And my favorite (and most inappropriate) one?

* F*** YOU, AIELLO! [Hateful words for actor Danny?]

AliasZ 1:10 AM  
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AliasZ 1:17 AM  
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JFC 1:18 AM  

Gee, gosh, holy moly, golly, gee willikers, Batman, you don't like a vowel run? Me neither. Boring. Snooze. What a waste for a Sunday puzzle. Amazingly, I finished with SOVS also. The difference between this puzzle and Saturday's is this: Saturday's was torture by the rack. This puzzle was torture by the Chinese water drip, drip, drip....


AliasZ 1:25 AM  

So this is a theme? Rather thin and uninspired, methinks. And what happened to lonely, poor-old, sometimes Y? Anyone? Anyone?

How about a theme that has all the consonants in order, from thinnest (J) to fattest (W)?

The rest of the puzzle was pretty clean, not much junk in it. I loved THE SOPRANOS, but aren’t FIND PEACE and BE CALM exactly the same as DON'T PANIC? I also liked the HAIRPIN STEPTURN, which often is, and the ERUDITE ADSPEAK which rarely is. I thought RSVPD should have been RSVP’ED. I hated HOT LEAD as clued. I would have clued it as "Potential buyer."

Oh no, not another Apple reference. It seems we have at least one every day. Wait, didn’t Apple also make the IROBOT? It seems a natural succession after iTunes, iPod and iPad.

Lots of A’s in row 19: AARON, OKRA, ABAA, AGRA. In fact, there are 10 more A’s than E’s today.

Here is a brief excerpt from the opera Billy BUDD by Benjamin Britten, based on the moving novella by Herman Melville.

Happy Sunday.

Steve J 1:44 AM  

Could not figure out the theme as I was solving, and even when I finished, it wasn't apparent. Not a banner start. (For a good part of the puzzle, I thought there was some sore of swap - vowel for consonant, or vowel of one sound for another - but it became clear that wasn't the case. What was there never became clear to me.)

While it's problematic enough that the theme wasn't terribly apparent (which is probably my fault), the bigger problem is that the theme answers are just plain dull. No humor, no cleverness. Just straightforward descriptions of the clues. It's not a good theme when the most interesting bits of fill are all outside the theme answers.

SOVS was the last thing to fall for me, too, because it was so daft (and bad). So bad that I spent several seconds wondering how in the hell kings and queens were Soviets.

Did like THE SOPRANOS (and its very good clue), MEDIA BIAS and DON'T PANIC. Didn't like much else.

Does anyone add an s to OKRA in real life? To me, it's always been like fish or deer or moose - plural and singular are the same.

Evan 1:48 AM  


My R-rated theme suggestion includes Y in that vowel run. I wish I could say I planned it that way, but I didn't. I'm just as guilty of shunning Y as everyone else. Just like Stephen Colbert once said, "A, E, I, O, U, and sometimes Y? Consonant or vowel? Make up your mind. We're at war!"

Davis 3:36 AM  

One groaner to add to the list: ITERS clued as "Roman roads" is terrible—tacking on the English ending to a Latin word gives a result that's garbage in both languages. (For the record, the correct answer would have been ITINERA.) This should have been clued as "Anatomical passages", since that gets you to ITERS without abusing either language.

Also, I wonder if DON'T PANIC originally had a Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy clue.

paulsfo 3:47 AM  

I agree that RSVPD should have an "e" and I think that OKRAS would only be correct if it were referring to multiple varieties of the vegetable.

For some reason I got a kick out of LEIAOUTCOME and ADIEUOARSMAN.

Carola 4:43 AM  

It took me an embarrassingly long time to get the theme - way down in the nether regions somewhere - so I missed what fun (and help) the vowel runs offered for almost the whole puzzle.

From the first theme entry, CHATEAU OILS, I (mis)understood that the vowel run at the end of the first word would sound like the vowel that began the second word, as "EAU" sounds like the letter "O." It also happens to work with ROUE AIRLINES, as the accented E is pronounced like "A." But after that....

It turned into a long, more dogged than enjoyable struggle - close to an ENNUI AEON (thank you, @Evan, for that smile, and your other ideas, too!).

@AliasZ - Your consonants idea really made me laugh. For me, this is one of those days where the comments is where the fun is.

The albatross 5:31 AM  

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Part V

I moved, and could not feel my limbs:
I was so light--almost
I thought that I had died in sleep,
And was a blessed ghost.

And soon I heard a roaring wind:
It did not come anear;
But with its sound it shook the sails,
That were so thin and sere.

MetaRex 6:00 AM  
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MetaRex 6:15 AM  

The ESE count edged up from the last two Sundays to 108 1/2.

Like @AliasZ's point about BE CALM, FIND PEACE, and DON'T PANIC...ya could also add GET REAL. HOT LEAD and THE SOPRANOS also work well together.

Yep, LEIA OUTCOME is hard to swallow. How about LEIA OUTTAKE? The image of Carrie Fisher c. 1977 laughing as she muffs a line is pleasant, and ya could replace EEE, DIRECTV, OWE, DEMON, and REST (ESE = 6 by my measure) w/ EAR, BIRETTA, AIL, DEKES, REDO (ESE = 5), and HERE, DIED, TWOS, and VENT (ESE = 4) w/ HARE, BIRD, TIED, and ALSO (ESE = 3).

Nickyboy 6:28 AM  


Bob Kerfuffle 6:34 AM  

Worked this one fairly steadily north to south. As noted by @SteveJ and @Carola, I tried to make some sense of the theme answers by pronouncing some of the vowels differently to see a magical transformation into a familiar phrase, but of course it never happened. Got the idea by the third themer.

But I still like to see a constructor trying something new. I'd love it if solvers could take a few weeks off from complaining about every three letter word in a grid.

AliasZ 6:35 AM  

Instead of wasting my time (and boring everyone else to tears) with further analysis of how inane today's theme was, let me have a little fun with it.

When Chachi, the “Happy Days” heartthrob visited Rio, he heard "Scott BAIO, EU te amo!" a lot. When he is in California, he usually goes on a seqUOIA Ecotour. When he visits France, he says OUI EArly and often. The last time he even asked the French if there was a chance of ever seeing a Gérard DepardIEU OAter. However he never said "tic-toc" (onomatopOEIA Used to imitate the sound of a timing device) aboard an airplane. He is smarter than that. Scott has a wide range of interests that include astronomy and paleontology. He took part in the CassiopEIA OUtreach event at a local observatory recently, and had the opportunity to admire the beauty of that constellation. He also studied fossils from a KaUAI EOcene-era excavation site.*

Speaking of which, Friday we had NIIHAU, today OAHU and MAUI. At this rate we should see Molokai, Lanai and Kauai by Wednesday.

*I wrote this between 8:00 and 9:00 p.m. last night, but decided not to post it as my first submission because I had other critically important silliness to say first. In the original version I had Scott Baio as Louie Anderson’s best friend, but here I am removing him in deference to @Ethan on Amy’s site, and to avoid a potential plagiarism lawsuit. I also apologize to @Evan for having come up with a couple of very similar vowel-run groaners on my own. This is a convoluted way of saying GMTA.

Loren Muse Smith 7:39 AM  

OOH. I - the bored person who stares out the window thinking of phrases like "small llama," "three eels," "taboo ooze". . . the German student who constantly went to Dr. Weatherford's office to see if a *ridiculous* sentence with a pile up of five or six verbs at the end (…hätte sprechen können sollen wollen) could theoretically be possible - I. Loved. This. I don't care if the themers don't sparkle or amuse; just to see phrases with five vowels in a row pleased me enormously.

Puns and wordplay are great, but manipulating language like this is what I like most. So, Julian, even though I groaned a bit when I printed out the puzzle last night, (my husband said, "What?" I said, "This guy's puzzles are usually tough for me, at least his themelesses"), I'm so happy to have finished this and will remember it for a long time. And I'll be constantly on the lookout for phrases like this, with five vowels in a row. (Hey - did you play around with six in a row? CHATEAU AIOLI, ADIEU OUIJI, ROUE oeuvre? Or even seven – "queue oeuvre?")

@AliasZ – great catch on DON'T PANIC, FIND PEACE, and BE CALM.

@Steve J – I was thinking you'd like this one more than you did. Oh, well.

@Evan – BAIRNS went in with nary a blink. Go figure.

Loved the clue for DIED. I always use hyperbole to death.

West Virginia – state of the HAIRPIN turns. Seriously. They'll just kill you.

I wanted an E in RSVPD, too. Funny how that abbr. has become a verb. "Yeah, I répondez s'il vous plaîted. It's really RUDE not to répondez s'il vous plait, so you really should call her."

SAGE TEA, JEW – reminds me of my daughter's remarkable piano teacher, Edna, who was from Israel and had the most energetic spirit and warm heart. Once Sage was at a lesson and had a stomach ache. Edna, with great flourish and ceremony, made her some herbal ginger TEA with honey and assured her it would cure it. It did. So even now, that's what I give her when she has a stomach ache.

The best Edna story – a bunch of neighbors were caroling one Christmas season. Several of the kids were Edna's students, and her house was becoming more and more, uh, ANEAR. It was decided we would carol there. Sage hissed to me, "We can't carol there; she's JEWish!" I assured her it would be ok. So we got there and were singing "Rudolph" at her door. She opened the door, motioned us into her massive foyer, sat down at one of the two grand pianos, and started accompanying us while her husband passed out tambourines, maracas, triangles. . . all while she was playing the piano and "directing" us with an arm. Then she switched to "Jingle Bells," and then "Silent Night," and several other carols, creating a cool medley of Christmas carols. A memory of a lifetime. The most fun I've ever had caroling. At the JEWish lady's house.

Julian, again, I really got a kick out of this. I LAUD you.

John Child 7:42 AM  

I didn't have as negative reaction to today's puzzle as others who have commented so far, but it found it bland and joyless. Better than the Saturday puzzle though. On a day's reflection I had a clearer feeling about that: brilliance that reflected the creator's gifts, but without the depth that he will attain in time.

Kingdaddy 8:21 AM  

"Funk" is a polite word for "lazy, imprecise, and uninteresting." Too many abbreviations, rap names, repeat clues (irae, agin, eke, aloe, etc.), strained themes, inexact clues (e.g.,savoir faire is not tact)...Is it really that hard to design a straightforward, challenging crossword without these shortcuts and crutches?

Glimmerglass 8:28 AM  

I've told you guys a million times not to exaggerate. Didn't think the puzzle was a bad as Rex and most of you are saying. Except that it was too easy to be a real challenge. I admired the constructor's task of finding phrases with the five vowels in a bunch -- until @Evan came up with a bunch more. (I like ENNUI AEON.)

Kathy Smith 8:32 AM  

This was my least favorite puzzle of all time and I've been attempting the NYT puzz seven days a week for about a decade now. The theme just doesn't grab me in any way and, unlike Rex, I love puns and silliness so my standards are pretty low.

Milford 8:35 AM  

For some reason, the theme was apparent to me almost immediately, and I wrote in CHATEAU OILS very early in the solve. It did help with the theme answers, knowing I had to look for the 5 main vowels. What I didn't even realize until coming here was that the five vowels were in a row in the middle of the phrase! Somehow I completely missed that. So now that bumps it up for me.

Like @loren, I'm going to like this kind of wordplay in most cases, but I can appreciate what people hate about the fill.

I know I said this not long ago, but when we were finding a middle name for our third daughter, we wanted to use my husband's grandma's name, Aloise. I had a geeky moment when I thought it was spelled "Alouise", a name with all five vowels. Ah well.

SOPRANOS was clued great, as noted. Hey look, there is our RADII again.

SANDBARS makes me think of swimming in Lake Michigan. Always fun to swim out to the first one, sometimes waist-deep, sometimes knee-deep. And they created great waves.

Hey @Z, did I mention I've gone to Green Dot Stables twice now? Great sliders and beer.

Time for me to prove I'm not an I, ROBOT with the captcha.

ken 9:05 AM  

this should have been titled
"Vowel Movement"

Mohair Sam 9:23 AM  

What Rex said on this one, except we were fine with ANEAR. Easy-medium for us. And yes, THESOPRANOS clue was great.

@steve j: Agreed on the OKRA plural thing. I'm about as likely to ask for a can of okras as I am a can of corns.

heidi seitz 9:41 AM  

Really basic mistake: french estateS, plural, is spelled chateauX. LAME!

Milford 9:54 AM  

@unknown - I don't know French, but I think the clue/entry is correct. In English the clue could be, "paintings of homes" and answer would be "house oils", not "houses oils", yes?

Z 9:59 AM  

I'm with @LMS on this one. There is something about UNDERSEA OUIJA that you just have to love. MAUI OENOPHILE! Fruity with silly undertones.

@Milford - it is a great place. We're doing a little condo shopping and lunched at Z's Villa on Friday. How can I not love a place with a name like that? Near Wayne State, it has a neighborhood dive vibe to it, but the food was decent, they carry a smattering of microbrews to complement the usual swill, and the waitress made a point of displaying her cleavage (granted, the last may not be of interest to everyone, but I was thoroughly amused).

OISK 10:17 AM  

I liked it. Caught the theme immediately, and enjoyed the word play. Liked seeing "bairns" in a puzzle "all the wee bairns are sleeping…" Also, after wasting over an hour yesterday with that horrid collection of product names and twisted clues, it was nice to tackle a puzzle that was actually solvable. No complaints from me at all. Thanks, Julian.

Anonymous 10:25 AM  

Steve J---Agree. I've eaten a lot of okra in my lifetime but never ate any okras. Poor plural use.

quilter1 10:26 AM  

I did not know the ski reference so DNF. I got the theme and that helped with the theme answers. I was not offended by the puzzle. I admired how Julian got all the vowels into the phrases.

jberg 10:39 AM  

I'm basically with @Loren on this one - I loved MAUI OENOPHILE, UNDERSEA OUIJA, PRAGUE AIOLI, and ROUE AIRLINES. CHATEAU OILS bothered me a little because of the language shift, but I guess CHATEAU is English, too. ADIEU OARSMAN should have been plural, though, since coxes always talk to he whole crew.

But: those lines are not adspeak, they're just boilerplate. And since "mortified" means "DIED" the latter is not hyperbole for the former. Most important, a piece of OKRA is a "pod." If a recipe calls for two of them, it will say "add 2 pods of okra." I'll have to take it on faith that someone, somewhere, has once called them "lady fingers."

What I learned from this puzzle: Napoleon was an Italian tourist (34A).

@Milford - you description of wading out to a sandbar in Lake Michigan really brought back the memories. I couldn't really swim at that time, but I loved to do that and let the waves lift me up. I grew up in Sturgeon Bay, where there were only a couple weeks in August when the lake was warm enough to swim in, but it was still an important part of life. I go back to that beach whenever I am out there - it's now a state park, which is nice but means you can't make a driftwood fire to cook hot dogs on anymore.

baja 10:49 AM  

Thought MacDonald should be in here somewhere - aka the guy with the farm.

SvenDog 11:01 AM  

Didn't really enjoy this one, but I did manage to get through all of it without too much trouble and only one mistake. I had STOP TURN for 70a instead of STEP TURN. But that wasn't really a problem for me because BAHAI EOUVRE and SEVS is every bit as good to me as BAHAI OEUVRE and SOVS in that all of them are completely meaningless.

AliasZ 11:09 AM  

ANEAR: Something you lend (if you have two and you friend none)
OKRAS: Former French President (backw. abbr.)
ABAA: Half of a black sheep's call
AGIN: "And a tonic" precede
EEE: Capital of Libya
RSVPD: Pick-up baseball game betw. WS winners and Boston’s finest
NOTINIT: Answer to "Should I chrome this hub cap?"
ELBA: Female arm joint
GOADS: "Just do it!" and others
DOOS: What are deducted from longshoremen's paychecks each month
AIMEE: One who is in the crosshairs
SOVS: "I spent a glorious night with ____" in texting lingo
TWOS: Like 10D vis-à-vis "eso"
MACS: Eldniws
ASGARD: Bottom protector

Anonymous 11:13 AM  

This is probably not the place for it, but I agree with Rex that the NYT is in a prolonged funk.

Having done the Sunday crossword for half a century or so, if find recent versions no fun, but more importantly, the paper's reporting and copy editing have deteriorated, and its editorials have become a mixed bag.

Sundays are the worst. What once was The News of the Week in Review has devolved into The Weekly Review, a few pages with huge illustrations and a lot of blah-blah on how the mind works by academic publish-or-perish types.

Steve J 11:17 AM  

Regarding CHATEAU(x): Yes, the plural in French is chateaux , but the word also exists in English. And you wouldn't say "chateaus oils" any more than you would reference Rodin's "nudes sculptures". In English, the custom is to pluralize the noun, not the adjective, and in this instance CHATEAU is serving as an adjective and not a noun.

So, while the answer isn't terribly interesting, it is grammatically correct.

@Loren: Maybe I would have liked the more had I sussed out the theme while I was solving. Even if I had, I don't know how much it would have improved my impression. I'm not a big fan of "mechanical" themes like this (as well as vowel runs, word ladders, etc.) in and of themselves, unless they lead to some really interesting, zippy fill. I didn't find that to be the case today.

@Davis: Thanks for the Latin lesson. Hadn't thought of that at the time, but now that I see it, I agree that it's a weird, forced mixing of pluralization rules. Of course, this puzzle runs in a newspaper that thinks "millenniums" is not only acceptable but preferred.

retired_chemist 11:18 AM  

Finished and thought it was much more pleasant than yesterday's puzzle. Read the criticisms here and have to agree with most of them, however.

Kinda fun to learn of so many phrases (however contrived) that have the five vowels in order. There are actually 120 such sequences. Anyone want to try to figure out answers involving each of the 120?

SOVS <= Sovereigns? Poor.....

Started badly with taupe @ 1A, BAbieS @ 14D, Basis @ 60D. Debated gOd @ 76A (and lost).

Thanks, Mr. Lim.

thursdaysd 11:31 AM  

@jberg - okra is known as lady's fingers in Middle Eastern cookery.
see, for example: and

And I agree that the plural is okra not okras!

jburgs 11:53 AM  

A challenge for me but able to make it through after setting aside yesterday's puzzle that was impossible for me.

I think some of Rex's criticisms of fill were too severe. I thought the clues for VENT and TWOS for instance were fine.

The clues I hate the most are ones for heraldic terms. There have been a couple in the last few weeks. Had not seen them for some time and had hoped they had disappeared forever.

Anonymous 12:37 PM  

No complaints about 63A Post production locale clue and 58A POSTGAME in the grid? I thought that was a no-no - and so close together, too.

AEON FLUX 12:38 PM  

This was my penultimate unfavoritest puzzle of all eternity.

Yesterday's wins for THE WORST!

Bird 12:38 PM  

Yep, what Rex said.

Hope the week gets better.

Go Big Blue!

Benko 12:52 PM  

Didn't hate this puzzle as much as some, but it did have its fair share of crosswordese. Most Sundays do, much grid to fill.
Agree that OKRAS and ITERS both seem incorrect. Agree with @metarex that LEIAOUTTAKE beats LEIAOUTCOME hands down...the constructor/editor should have seen that.
RSVPD...It gave me pause, but I seem to recall seeing it spelled "RSVP'D" rather than "RSVPED", so I think it's OK.

Unknown 1:06 PM  

@ken, "Vowel Movement" - YES!!!

This just felt awkward all over the place. The Scrabbler in me kept expecting SEQUOIA. So much yuck to plow takes away from any fun in seeing all of those vowels in a row.


Anonymous 1:24 PM  

Thus theme would only have worthwhile if all the vowels were in standard(aeiou) order. And what happened to "Y"?

Anonymous 1:31 PM  

At least the vowels could be in order. Stupid puzzle

Anonymous 1:45 PM  

A ridiculous puzzle -- and ridiculous in a way that Mr Shortz (sp?) should answer for. This "theme" was atrocious, and so many recent ones have been. By all means challenge me, but don't insult me. Infuriating!!!

Anonymous 1:55 PM  

@ AEON FLUX: Ditto.

Norm 2:03 PM  

I want Evan to rewrite this puzzle. Even though he's already revealed his theme answers, it would be an upgrade. But, please warn us before you post another "F*** YOU, AIELLO! [Hateful words for actor Danny?]" The sip of coffee I snorted out my nose was rather painful.

joho 2:14 PM  

I loved that the simple AIEOU we might find occasionally in a Monday grid was turned into a Sunday theme with some amusing phrases my favorite being UNDERSEAOUIJ. Adding that "J" there really jazzed it up.

I'm a little surprised to see all the negativity today, but not really because @Rex, who hates themes like this, set the tone early on.

At dinner I'm going to be sure to bring out the PRAGUEAIOLI I special ordered just recently and which was delivered by a very sexy man who flew over on ROUEAIRLINES. I know you won't believe this, but he told me his name is ... Casanova!

Thank you, Julian, for putting a smile on my face this morning!

joho 2:16 PM  

That should be OUIJI!

Anonymous 2:24 PM  

Actually, it's OUIJA.

Sandy 2:25 PM  

This whole damn puzzle felt like homework. I finished it because I should, not because I wanted to.

Man up, NYT!!!!!!!!!!

Tita 2:27 PM  

@lms - great piano teacher story...

I found this tough. In fact, could not have finished it without the theme.
Liked it more than some of you, though I did cringe at all the cringe-inducers OFL and others have mentioned.

I know of GOA as a former Portuguese territory, but did not know it was a tourist spot. Learned from post-wikiing that is is the richest state in India.

I did know ELBA as a tourist spot, having spent an enchanting week there. Also just came back from the Gallery of Maps, the long room just prior to entering the Sistine Chapel, with frescoes from 1580 of all of Italy along the walls, including ELBA. Oddly, Corsica was painted upside down.
(Maybe Danti had a premonition that it would wind up French, and this was his way of getting back, in advance.)

DNFd Friday on the flight back from Italy - thought it was hard - maybe I'll skip Saturday based on what y'all are saying.

Anonymous 2:27 PM  

Agree with you, Rex- but it's AIOLI.

Brookboy 2:53 PM  

This wasn't my favorite puzzle by any means, but I didn't hate it either. I'm surprised by some of the really negative comments. And I'm appreciative of the ability of the constructor to come up with phrases that resulted in the string of vowels. (Have to give a shoutout here to AliasZ for the consistently witty and creative post-puzzle remarks. Keep 'em coming...)

It helped that I got the theme pretty quickly, which helped me finish the puzzle rather quickly (for me).

Also have to disagree about the supposed prolonged funk of recent puzzles, at least the Sunday one. I do agree that some of them are more mundane than others, but I also think we've been treated to some extraordinarily creative ones in recent weeks/months.

Just sayin'...

North Beach 2:54 PM  

Jeez, talk about Irritable Vowel Syndrome…!

I liked it.

joho 4:05 PM  

Yikes, double typo, thanks, @anon. 2:24.

Anonymous 4:11 PM  

First time in a long time I attempted the Sunday crossword, and I had only two squares wrong. I'm pretty pleased with myself, given Rex's medium rating.

And....I kind of liked this puzzle. Take, for instance, 32 Down: Extremely sharp. Hairpin was a very satisfying answer, one I, of course, only got with crosses. Adieu oarsman (or even oarsmen, as I incorrectly filled it) is pretty clever. Yes, Leia outcome and Prague aioli are weak, but bahai oeuvre and maui oenophle aren't so bad, really.

Nick 4:36 PM  

It's as though the puzzle exists to justify for the pun in the title.

Questinia 4:56 PM  

Straightforward. No metas. The intention may be more in the beholding of the grid upon completion with the jumble of vowels giving a fun house effect.

Questinia 4:56 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
nurturing 6:30 PM  

Enjoyed the puzzle - no complaints, except for "okras". I suppose I'm too simpleminded to find fault the way so many of you do.

Anonymous 7:27 PM  

Been doing the NYT Sunday seriously for about ten years - this was a low point.

August West 9:15 PM  

But, hey, it did have THE SOPRANOS.

r.alphbunker 9:21 PM  

@Bob Kerfuffle.

Well put.

Anonymous 10:26 PM  

Monday is a Monday, but lots more fun than this Sunday. At least the theme answers have some zip. I'm sure the constructor worked hard, but this was The Worst Theme Ever.

Anonymous 11:25 PM  

I don't understand DOL for "Almighty" item. Can anyone help?


Anonymous 11:28 PM  

It's not almighty dollar, is it??? Oh, I hope not.

Anonymous 11:30 PM  

Last question: why did Rex put in the Lyndsay Buckingham clip? I don't see the connection.

LaneB 12:53 AM  

Always do the acrostic first and then slog through the x- word. Did about half and then tired of wrestling the rest. Still don't understand SOV and DOL and the theme answers were IMHO too nonsensical for a decent Sunday. So gladly quit, slightly pissed at the cleverness of it all. Lim is another constructor on which I'll henceforth waste little time. Agree entirely with Rex's critical comments-- just more so.

sanfranman59 2:40 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 6:03, 6:06, 0.99, 45%, Medium
Tue 7:59, 8:15, 0.97, 39%, Easy-Medium
Wed 8:31, 9:44, 0.88, 22%, Easy-Medium
Thu 12:31, 16:44, 0.75, 9%, Easy
Fri 21:51, 19:17, 1.13, 79%, Medium-Challenging
Sat 37:26, 26:51, 1.39, 98%, Challenging (5th highest ratio of 192 Saturdays)
Sun 30:20, 29:23, 1.02, 62%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:49, 3:46, 1.01, 54%, Medium
Tue 4:46, 5:09, 0.93, 21%, Easy-Medium
Wed 5:09, 5:37, 0.92, 27%, Easy-Medium
Thu 7:17, 9:43, 0.75, 9%, Easy
Fri 12:09, 11:12, 1.08, 66%, Medium-Challenging
Sat 25:38, 17:01, 1.51, 98%, Challenging (5th highest ratio of 192 Saturdays)
Sun 20:47, 20:23, 1.02, 55%, Medium

Mohair Sam 6:55 AM  

@anon 11somethin' and @LaneB.

Yes, it is the almighty DOLlar. And it is SOVereign.

Mohair Sam 6:56 AM  

@anon 11somethin' and @LaneB.

Yes, it is the almighty DOLlar. And it is SOVereign.

Unknown 7:57 AM  

These are just the benefits on piano learning online. However, these pros are quite effective if you are obtaining a website that is good and reliable enough to teach you to play piano without giving you the urge of having a human instructor.

Anonymous 12:40 AM  

Rex, you spelled aioli wrong in your "Theme Answers."
A reversal of L and O.

ournyt 2:25 PM  

Actually, I kind of got a kick out of this puzzle, but how many years will go by before they can revisit this concept?

spacecraft 1:48 PM  

Can somebody 'splain how "Pressed charges against" comes out RANAT? I've been rackin' mah brain. Also, "Savoir-faire," loaded as it is with vowels, does not exactly square with TACT. You can have plenty of the former and still lack the latter. Poor clue.

A very possible definition for "National Security:"
'Nuff said.

I don't think this theme is so terrible, or that the NYT Puzzle is entering an era of funk. If anything, the funkiness lies in playing fast and loose with mixed-language plurals, and all-consonant entries like RSVPD (Ugh!). I do appreciate the difficulty--and novelty--of coming up with phrases, however nonsensical, that shove all five vowels together. Thumbs up on one double-A entry, AARON; emphatically down on the other, ABAA. Funk alert! This particular subject, poetry rhyme patterns, is a cheap sellout. It's obvious you couldn't make ANYTHING else work, and you hate your own entry, but there was just no help for it. I dunno, but I think I'd just scrap the whole thing and start over. Rather do that than be forced to EKE out (oh, no! Not again!) a solution using ABAA.

Connie in seattle 4:20 PM  

@M&A where were U today? I thought U would be jumping for joy at the 15 U's!
PS I think UR very funny.

Dirigonzo 6:55 PM  

I knew right from the git-go there would be lots of hatin' on this puzzle, but I had a lot of time on my hands so I just hunkered down to figure out how to cram all of the vowels into an answer to make any kind of sense, and I eventually got it done. It tickled me more than a little that in a grid abounding with vowels, Julian Lim managed to sneak in an all-consonant answer, RSVPD! Others may complain about it (Hi, @spacecraft!) but I think it is a masterful stroke as a counter-point to the theme. OK, maybe EEE was a little gratuitous but it works as clued, so why quibble?

I've tried and tried to come up with a way to reconcile RANAT with "Pressed charges against?" and the best I can come up with is to use this definition of "charge" as an intransitive verb: "1. To rush forward in or as if in a violent attack". So it appears to be a case of cluing that's too clever by half - I blame Shortz.

rain forest 2:42 AM  

Hey @Spacecraft - love your definition of National Security. I run into that every time I cross the border into your country, eg. "Where are you going?" "Orondo". "Why?" "To play golf". "You can play golf in Canada". "Well, we're having a getaway weekend". "Why do you need to get away". "We don't need to get away. We're just going to have some fun". "Can't you have fun back home?" At this point, we think maybe we should just turn around and give up the whole idea. PARANOIA EUPHEMISM.

I suppose, if one wants to, one can just trash any effort to come up with a puzzle that has a unique idea, which this puzzle has. Me-I enjoyed finding places where I had intractable vowel progressions and figuring out how the missing ones would fit in. Apparently, not everyone agrees with me on this. Well,I RUE AIOLI sauce every time I eat it.

Pour mOI? EAU de toilette est bon.


Solving in Seattle 7:35 PM  

Golfed yesterday, so late to the Sunpuz party. The AEIOU theme was more fun after finishing. The Seattle Times failed to credit Julian Lim - nice job.

Best comments came out of Syndieland. @Diri, good catch on the RSVPD. @Rainy, wondered how long it took you to come up with your two examples. I'll never forget "I rue aioli."

Anonymous 12:30 PM  

I wanted to give up on this puzzle several times, but felt compelled to stay the course. UGH! I should have avoided the drudgery. The finished puzzle looks less like intersecting words than a bowl of alphabet soup! What is expected is a core of actual words or phrases filled in with an occasional obscure word or crosswordese out of desperation to complete the puzzle. But this! It starts with rubbish, ends with rubbish. The art of crafting a crossword puzzle is not affected by a dying industry, just by the creator's skill, or lack thereof. I hope this puzzle creator redeems himself in the future, or just fails to reappear.

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