Japanese flower-arranging art / THU 11-7-13 / Cereal killer / Joe of NCIS / Parthian predecessor / You in you caught my eye in 1965 #1 hit / Willingly old-style

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Constructor: Alan Derkazarian

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: 1 2 3 4 — theme answers are theme answers that begin with "[number]-[noun]" compound adjective, e.g. "four-way"; each such adjective is represented by the [noun] appearing (rebus-style, in box by itself) as many times as the [number] indicates. Thus [WAY] [WAY] [WAY] [WAY] STOP for "four-way stop."

Theme answers:
  • 18A: Casino sights ([ARMED] BANDITS)
  • 24A: Small-time thieves ([BIT] [BIT] CROOKS)
  • 54A: Con game ([CARD] [CARD] [CARD] MONTE)
  • 62A: What an intersection may have ([WAY] [WAY] [WAY] [WAY] STOP)
Word of the Day: ERGOT (57D: Cereal killer) —
Ergot or ergot fungi refers to a group of fungi of the genus Claviceps. The most prominent member of this group isClaviceps purpurea ("rye ergot fungus"). This fungus grows on rye and related plants, and produces alkaloids that can cause ergotism in humans and other mammals who consume grains contaminated with its fruiting structure (called ergotsclerotium). Claviceps includes about 50 known species, mostly in the tropical regions. Economically significant species include C. purpurea (parasitic on grasses and cereals), C. fusiformis (on pearl millet, buffel grass), C. paspali(on dallis grass), and C. africana (on sorghum). C. purpurea most commonly affects outcrossing species such as rye(its most common host), as well as triticalewheat and barley. It affects oats only rarely. (wikipedia)
• • •

I feel like I've seen this theme, or themes very much like it, before. Hard to pick up, but once picked up, pretty easy to solve (that is, if you can figure out the database-generated stuff like IKEBANA and OPORTO and ERGOT, at least one of which was probably tough if not outright new to many people) (I learned all three from crosswords, and couldn't remember the first one today for a good long while). Spent a lot of time getting nowhere in the NW—in retrospect, it's very clear why (the two BITs I had no hope of seeing early on). Then I got [ARMED] BANDITS and spent a good deal of time looking for other ARMs or body parts or something. Figured the conceit out after ramming my head against CARD CARD CARD for a while.

Lots of short gunk in this one sort of soured the whole experience. Uncovering the theme was a nice challenge, but otherwise it's a lot of FIVE-O this and INI that and RIATAS aplenty and whoever the hell SPANO is (6D: Joe of "NCIS"). Quite an OLIO of yuck. Ridiculous double cheater squares in SW/NE, but they are understandable given how hard those WAYs must've been to accommodate. A TOUCH OVER is an interesting improvisational answer, and RETURN FIRE has some spark. The crosses on the rebus squares are fairly skillfully handled.

I call complete B.S. on 4D: + 6 (TEN). At a minimum, you'd think there'd be a question mark, since the clue number is never (ever ever ever, except in certain rare, specially designed themes) a component of the clue itself. 4+6 = TEN? Am I even interpreting that right? Is there another scenario where "+ 6" means TEN? I don't think so. That is some miswit, right there. Also off: [One usually buys a round one] for TRIP. No. You don't buy a TRIP. You might buy a round-TRIP *ticket*. But the phrasing here is deathly. And again, no "?" Sloppy (or lazy, or surprisingly imprecise) editing.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Evan 12:14 AM  

I thought the idea was clever, but I wish there had been some pattern tying the rebus squares together. Alan talks about a couple of iterations he went through at first on Xwordinfo -- the current puzzle just has what's essentially a random collection of words that can follow one, two, three, or four. FIVE-O sorta rubbed me the wrong way because I thought that would have been part of the rebus too (i.e. OOOOO).

Also interesting to note that FAIN was the constructor's decision because he wanted to make that corner tougher and because he found the word interesting even though it's archaic. I don't think that's a good trade-off. You can always make a puzzle tougher by making clues more difficult, and it's not a good idea to jam in an archaic word when a more current word will do just fine. Just make it RAIN.

Anonymous 12:19 AM  

I'll give Rex the +6..and the trip gaffe...

But some of the other complaints are just ridiculous. Since when did IKEBANA become poor fill? Sure, it's not as popular as origami, but this is Thursday, isn't it? Perfectly fine. And the complaints about the cheater squares..cmon now, that's just nitpicking.

Anonymous 12:21 AM  

P.S. NYT needs to use BONES in reference to the TV show soon. It's been running for over nine seasons now...throw it a *bone*

jae 12:22 AM  

Delightful.  Easy-medium for me and just about right for a Thurs.  Zippy amusing theme, reasonable fill...liked it a lot!  Caught the rebus immediately with INHABIT/RAREBIT and just kept looking for the next one.  

Erasure: AtrA for AFTA

No WOEs.

Thanks to whoever mentioned APOLO Ohno recently. 

Joe SPANO has been around for a long time.  I remember him from Hill Street Blues.

Nice one Alan!

Anonymous 12:23 AM  

Might want to check the "official" answers. I also had sw[arm]/[arm]bandits. The official answer was [armed], which makes sense since the down clue was overran not overrrun.

RLZ, long time reader, first time poster

retired_chemist 12:40 AM  

This was fun. Got the theme by first noticing ARMED at 7D/18A and wondering why the across word needed a one. Went on, found that I needed four ways in s row at 62A, and there was the theme. For me, uncovering a rebus that easily, particularly one based on four different words, was unusual and quite satisfying.

Yes, some poor fill, and some questionable cluing pointed out as usual by Rex, but the theme was worth it to this rebus-challenged solver. However, IKEBANA, A TOUCH OVER, FAIN, (CARD)AMOM, and IT'S ME (hello being a clever misdirection) were nice.

Time OK for a medium-chsllenging puzzle - at least I am close to my usual percentile on the NYT site. This despite having rotator cuff surgery this morning and as a consequence typing and mousing with one hand.

Thanks. Mr.Derkazarian.

August West 1:26 AM  

Buckle in. On review of the completed grid, I've grown into a like-a-little-bit/hate relationship with this puzzle. But it was not an enjoyable solve. It wasn't difficult, in the main, and I finished it in "easy" time, but, man, I pretty much hated it all the way through.

My disdain began where the puzzle does, in the NW corner. Now, I know Welsh Rabbit. RAREBIT? That sent me to the interwebs, where I learned

"The word rarebit is a corruption of rabbit, "Welsh rabbit" being first recorded in 1725 and the variant "Welsh rarebit" being first recorded in 1785 by Francis Grose. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, 'Welsh rarebit' is an "etymologizing alteration. There is no evidence of the independent use of rarebit."


In his 1926 edition of the Dictionary of Modern English Usage, the grammarian H. W. Fowler states a forthright view: "Welsh Rabbit is amusing and right. Welsh Rarebit is stupid and wrong."


The word rarebit has no other use than in Welsh Rabbit[although] "rarebit" alone has come to be used in place of the original name."

Man, that's a long way to go to justify a stand-alone "in the language" argument.

Then there's A TOUCH ABOVE, said no one, ever. A little above? A bit above? A little bit above? A tad above? A skosh above? Maybe. A touch above? No.

POCs all over the place: RIATAS, IFS, BONES, ARRS (arrrgh!), TINTS, TOTES, and *two* of the theme entries.

Hated (one) ARMED BANDITS. At least the other three rebus fills are things; nouns. Armed (or one-armed) is a descriptive; adjective. 18A lacked continuity with its theme partners.

EIN? Okay. Bie... Wie... NIE? That other tripe spelled backward? Come on.

Topps sells baseball cards and football cards and [insert sport here] cards. Topps sells trading cards. No self-respecting erstwhile collector would ever call what he pulled from a Topps package a "SPORTSCARD." Bad.

FIVEO sucks, along with that old GASX [s]chea[/s] gag. ARD is NOT clued, "New York Giants' All-Century Teamer Billy"; ERGOT makes it fungal return, and; it's PORTO. Go ahead, argue with me about it.

But what makes this puzzle particularly odious is its inclusion of the word FAIN. Dudes in Shakespeare fancy the word fain. Old-style? I'd say so. Worst word ever.

Now, this thing does have some nice fill. RETURNFIRE, and IKEBANA, and AVARICE, and KINTE (for the family memory it prompted of huddling in front of the TV as Roots made its debut) are all pretty good. While I consider it horrible ese, OLIO is one of my dad's favorite words, so that made me smile. (Oh, no!) APOLO shows up a day late, which also made me grin.

All in all, though, as LT said to Kenny O'Brien on sacking him for the fourth time in a single game [at 2:50->]: Son, y'all gotta do better than this.

Anonymous 1:31 AM  

yeah, one-armED, not arm.

Davis 1:34 AM  

It took me several minutes to figure out why I wasn't getting the all-clear from the Magmic app—I tried entering the rebus squares in both rebus and non-rebus form (since there's been a history of inconsistency on Magmic) before realizing the problem was ARMED vs. ARM.

That snafu aside, I liked this puzzle. IKEBANA is really nice fill—as a chado practitioner, I think it's nice to see Japanese cultural references other than the overused NOH and the occasional ORIGAMI.

Weird error that somehow made sense in my head: EGGOS for 57D: "Cereal killer"—leaving aside the number mismatch, interpreting that a Eggo waffles replacing breakfast cereal briefly seemed reasonable. Sometimes my brain does weird things.

retired_chemist 2:09 AM  

Welcome aboard, RLZ! Pick a nom de blog and become a regular!

Anoa Bob 2:14 AM  

ONE ARM BANDIT, i.e., a BANDIT with ONE ARM, seems right to me. That's the way I remember slot machines being called back when they still had the arm or lever that you had to physically pull to get the mechanical wheels to spin.

Got the first clue to the theme at THREE CARD MONTE, so went looking for three cards in the other theme entries. When the one, two, and then four rebuses showed up, almost simultaneously, it was a hoot of an aha moment.

This was a clever, well-constructed, star star star star star puzzle in my BOOK.

Carola 2:20 AM  

I always look forward to the challenge of a rebus, and I enjoyed solving this one. It took me all the way to the 4-WAY STOP to understand what was afoot; then it was fun to go back and deal with the BANDITS, CROOKS, and CARD game scam - lots of theivery going on! SAP nicely placed under the CARDs. I thought the Down crosses were very creative.

Despite yesterday's reference to APOLO Ohno, I mistakenly wrote in ANTON and then had "neck" as a place to get a bite. FAIN came to me immediately, from my childhood Sunday hymn-singing days.

ACPT Judge 4:01 AM  

If you had ARM instead of ARMED you had a DNF.

John Child 5:47 AM  

Fun, fun, fun! Took me twice as long as a typical Thursday, and I enjoyed every minute of it. Long time looking for the trick, since the first pass through left suggestive holes in all quadrants. Then _ _ _ MONTE broke the impasse only to get stuck, deliciously, again and again. Every Thursday should be this much fun.

OFL risks becoming a self-parody. Yesterday he complained that the fill seemed to be done by hand and today he decries fill by database. A la Professor Wagstaff: "Whatever it is, I'm against it."

John Child 6:01 AM  

Ergotism: read The day of St Anthony's Fire by John Fuller. Out of print, but your library will have it. We'll worth the time.

MetaRex 6:09 AM  

Groovy theme.

A lotta ESE...66 1/2, making this the second highest puzz I've scored on the Eseometer.

There's subjectivity as usual...gave IKEBANA a 0 and skunked A TOUCH OVER with a 3.

Loren Muse Smith 6:59 AM  

We all know it's IT'S I and not IT'S ME. Sigh.

Hi, @RLZ. You're gonna love it here!

@August West – "Go ahead, argue with me about it." Ok. FIVE-O and GASX were two entries I really liked. Also, Mom made Welsh RAREBIT for us in Chattanooga fairly often, and we knew it was RAREBIT even though we all said "rabbit." So it is totally in my language and has been since the '60s. I loved that entry.

@Evan – if FIVE O had been OOOOO I would have FAINted with delight. As it was, I was delighted with the theme.

@Davis – I had "eater" for cereal killer and was really happy with that clue/answer. I mean I can flat kill some bowls of Honey Nut Cheerios. Cool that you know how to do a tea ceremony! (I always called it cha no yu, so I had to google Chado.) Agree with you on IKEBANA, though flower arranging eludes me. Every time my husband goes to the grocery store for me, he gets me flowers. So I put them in a vase, and it always looks like I arranged them blindfolded with my feet. (And, @Davis, FWIW - I spent a week one night at a Noh performance in Kobe. Sheesh. Different strokes and all that.)

Speaking of sending a man to the grocery store. . This is about eight minutes, but this Tar Heel is a masterful story-teller. And it's wicked funny:
don't send a man to the grocery store

Agree that the TRIP clue was weird.

So FAIN I will rate this one star star star star star along with @Anoa Bob. Nice work!!

Sam H 7:13 AM  

Ditto the recommendation for "Day of St Anthony's Fire." Amusing read about a mass hallucination in a small town in 1950's France. As I recall the active ingredient in LSD is derived from ERGOT. Entertaining read, and you will never forget ERGOT again.

Some Shakespeare Dudes 7:15 AM  

Measure For Measure, Act IV, scene III

LUCIO: O pretty Isabella, I am pale at mine heart to see
thine eyes so red: thou must be patient. I am fain
to dine and sup with water and bran; I dare not for
my head fill my belly; one fruitful meal would set
me to 't. But they say the duke will be here
to-morrow. By my troth, Isabel, I loved thy brother:
if the old fantastical duke of dark corners had been
at home, he had lived.
Macbeth , Act V, scene III

MACBETH: Take thy face hence.

[Exit Servant]

Seyton!--I am sick at heart,
When I behold--Seyton, I say!--This push
Will cheer me ever, or disseat me now.
I have lived long enough: my way of life
Is fall'n into the sear, the yellow leaf;
And that which should accompany old age,
As honour, love, obedience, troops of friends,
I must not look to have; but, in their stead,
Curses, not loud but deep, mouth-honour, breath,
Which the poor heart would fain deny, and dare not. Seyton!

[Enter SEYTON]

Anonymous 7:25 AM  

There is an ear worm buzzing in my head, probably an old hymn "I FAIN would take my stand" so that clue was actually easy. My father also would cook Welsh RAREBIT for Sunday dinner (recipe from the joy of Cooking). I thought I was so sophisticated because I had beer in my food! All fair Thursday clues!

Doris 7:46 AM  

Lines from super-famous folk ballad:

‘What d’ye leave to your true-love, Lord Randal, my son?
What d’ye leave to your true-love, my handsome young man?’
‘I leave her hell and fire; mother, mak my bed soon,
For I’m sick at the heart, and I FAIN wad lie down.’

r.alphbunker 7:56 AM  

Loved the puzzle. The quarter dropped with the two BITs. Wanted two WAYSTOP but the actual answer was way way better.

I think the two clues without question marks were unusual enough not to require them. Brings to mind the following Gary Larson cartoon

Scarab 7:57 AM  

This is the one I didn't finish on Saturday at the Arlington Puzzle Festival during whatever the time limit was. I was surprised to see it today, since it had felt much harder than a Thursday. I hadn't looked at it since, but it didn't give me any trouble today. I'm normally pretty quick to pick up on the rebus ones, and it worked for me just fine today. I think I have to blame fatigue for Saturday. It's a good lesson for future tournaments.

r.alphbunker 8:06 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
r.alphbunker 8:12 AM  

Was litzing a 1958 puzzle shortly after commenting on the question mark when I encountered this clue: {Serving as a warning, as the color of certain poisonous snakes.} and the answer was SEMATIC.

I guess the ? is a semantic convention which BTW virtually never appears in puzzles edited by Margaret Farrar.

FearlessKim 8:35 AM  

Hi y'all! ITSME (sorry, @lms! Couldn't resist...). Thanks for the imbed -- what a hoot!

Oh yes, the puzzle! Got the trick at BIT BIT and rolled through the rest of the puzzle at warp speed. One advantage: never noticed much of the fill that has OFL so unhappy this morning. Had a lot of fun with the rebi.

I know M&A will be sad to see only one U (OHNO!), but if anyone out there is counting Os, this is a great, great day for you.

Thanks, Mr. Derkazarian!

Anonymous 8:37 AM  

Has Rex jumped the shark?

Sir Hillary 8:40 AM  

Great puzzle. Took me forever to get the theme, because the first one I had was [ARMED]BANDITS, and I erroneously wrote in INDEXeS instead of INDEX[CARD]S. It was a real "aha" moment when it all came into view, which is all I can ask for.

Rex's review struck me as overly nitpicky. Next time Patrick Berry has "cheater squares" (which he has before) I'll make sure to point them out as "ridiculous."

And @August West...Oh my goodness August, where to start? I'll agree with you on FAIN because that corner could so easily have been fixed (how about TRY and WOE instead of FBI and ALF?). However, without getting into all the detail, suffice it to say that I completely disagree with you on RAREBIT, ATOUCHABOVE, ARMED just because it's an adjective, SPORTSCARD, EIN/NIE and OPORTO (Porto is a soccer club, Oporto is a city). Ah well, divergence of opinion is the spice (CARDAMOM?) of life. Oh yeah, and LT was a cokehead! :)

Acme 8:45 AM  

Loved it! Fell for OOOOO .
If that weren't intentional, I'd have left it out.

Anonymous 8:48 AM  

The constructor said he put FAiN in deliberately because he thought it was an interesting word. So no fixing necessary, seeing as it's his puzzle and all that. For those solvers who didn't know the word.. Now they do :)


joho 8:51 AM  

@loren muse smith, I feel better now that you had Eater, too! Funny clip!

I didn't get the rebus until WAYWAYWAYWAY into the puzzle @Carola. That was the sweet aha moment I was looking for. At that point I went back and finished ... very happily so.

I loved IKEBANA.


Thanks, Alan!

Glimmerglass 9:18 AM  

Like joho, I didn't catch on until 4-way stop. Drove me nuts higher up. I saw the ARM rebus, but then looked for missing numbers, not replicated rebuses (rebi?). Fun puzzle.

Mohair Sam 9:24 AM  

So who does @August West's cooking? Not he apparently. RAREBIT is all over cook books, the word is in all dictionaries, and it is commonly used in kitchens. My mother made Welsh Rarebit with bacon, talk about and artery clogger.

And why are so many folks angry at FAIN? Great clue, fresh fill, and clever. I wouldst FAIN use that clue joyously were I a constructor.

Fun and challenging Thursday for us. Although there is no forgiving putting that blasted RHONDA song in my brain - It usually takes about a week to clear.

Missed a letter, so we're a dnf. I knew both CARDAMOM and OPORTO phonetically and used "A" instead of "O" at 69A.

Alan DerKazarian 9:37 AM  

Hi everyone. Glad many of you liked the puzzle. Agree there was a little too much crosswordese but this grid was a bear to make let alone fill. Also I must admit I never saw the FIVEO! I'm surprised Will didn't mention anything. He usually does when it involves theme inconsistency. I have to assume he didn't see it, either!

Norm 9:43 AM  

EPIC puzzle! Thanks.

Pete 9:47 AM  

@August West - Excellent rant. I was about to join you in hating the entry but all your citations as to how RAREBIT sucked was cherry picked from an article on Welsh RAREBIT.

@Alan D - Why get greedy and use two last names? Alan Dirk or Alan Azarian would each be fine. There are many poor folks out there without one last name, why do you have to use them all up?

JFC 10:22 AM  

Here’s what I’m thinking today. We are “benefiting” from my retired wife’s healthcare medical plan, which is a secondary plan to Medicare and it has doubled in cost in the past five years. For the most part the plan has turned into nothing more than paying for prescription drugs (which is substantial with my wife’s three back surgeries and my own health issues). So I have been trying to shop for a PDP (Part D Prescription) Plan and a Medicare Gap Plan. This is akin to what millions of Americans are now being forced to do as they shop for plans to replace the plans that have been cancelled because of the Patient Protection and Unaffordable Care Act. I can assure all you under 65 employed people out there that this is more challenging that this puzzle’s rebus. Rex doesn’t have this concern. He no doubt is covered by some wonderful taxpayer paid plan through his university. So as I read his gripes about +6 and round trip, I think he should count his ever-lovin’ lucky stars that he doesn’t have real issues to deal with. Otherwise he might have a stroke.

I think the puzzle is a very nice clever debut, notwithstanding some technical issues...


Bob Kerfuffle 10:36 AM  

I enjoyed the puzzle greatly.

I would have enjoyed it even more if I had not had the misfortune of seeing @August West's rant posted on yesterday's comments before starting today's puzzle. Even though it has been removed and won't show on the blog, it remains in the email of everyone who signed up for follow-up comments yesterday.

I haven't read the constructor's comments elsewhere, so I don't know if this was a consideration, but I noted that the rebus entries were




and WAY x 4,

and I thought, if it had been "Thanksgiving, to many" the answer could have been


giving A B C D rebuses.

retired_chemist 10:40 AM  

@Anoa Bob - SWARM is not acceptable as an answer for 7D. Otherwise I think you would nave a case, although I have always heard ARMED in 18D.

ArtO 10:41 AM  

Kudos for a well done, clever rebus which had most of us stumped most of the way through. As usual, too much carping but agree with ARM vs. ARMED. The slots were always operated with one lever (arm), not armed which is called for by 7 down (overran).

retired_chemist 10:42 AM  

@ Bob K - 19 characters, and on a Sunday it would have been great!

quilter1 10:45 AM  

IDEBANA used to be taught in our adult education department. I have been to OPORTO and bought port there. Joe SPANO is a good character actor adding a lot to NCIS having a special connection to the Mark Harmon character by having been married to the same woman. Once I got CARDCARDCARDMONTE The rest fell easily. However, I bought a round TRay instead of a TRIP so technically did not finish. It looked OK to me. Good solving experience and fun as well.

Steve J 10:48 AM  

This puzzle is a good example of how if the theme sparkles, the tolerance for less-appealing stuff increases. With a less-engaging theme, I would have been more bothered by the abundance of crosswordese. But I really enjoy the theme, so I easily glossed over the other stuff.

The theme was a lot of fun. Took me a while to chase it out, but once I did it came together pretty quickly. God (ARMED) BANDIT early, but like others thought it may be some kind of body-related theme. Finally figured out that ____STOP needed four WAYs at the front, and the others fell quickly.

Agreed that having FIVEO in the puzzle took the bloom off the theme's rose a bit.

Second consecutive day with a referenced to three-(CARD) MONTE.

@August West: Regardless of how the word RAREBIT originated, it's the accepted spelling of the dish Welsh RAREBIT now, and has been for some time. Plus, there are uses outside of Welsh RAREBIT (many mentioned in the wikipedia article you posted). It's a legit entry.

As far as OPORTO: I will argue with you. You are correct that the city is properly called Porto, both in Portugese and English. But, it is a common and historical (mis)spelling, on par with Peking and Bombay (instead of the correct Beijing and Mumbai), so it's again legit. Arguably, it should have been clued in a fashion that indicated the variant spelling. But Will seems to have stopped flagging variants (witness the recent REATA debacle) for reasons known only to him. (Bad clue flagging is also in evidence today in the examples Rex noted. 4D especially was completely nonsensical.)

@Loren: If I didn't send a man to the grocery store, I'd never eat, seeing as I live by myself. Also, I can handle grocery stores just fine, being that I'm actually quite good in the kitchen. The trope that men don't know how to do domestic things is about as tired as the trop that women can only do domestic things.

Mohair Sam 10:50 AM  

@ArtO (and others): Slots in slang have long been called "one-armed bandits", just as the Fugitive was always searching for the one-armed man.

Google Fight 10:51 AM  

What kind of bandits?

Nancy 11:21 AM  

Why so much irritation at FAIN? That was one of the easiest fill-ins for me. Knew it as a child from the folk song, "Lord Randall":

Oh make my bed soon
For I'm sick to the heart
And I FAIN would lie down.

Beautiful song, haunting chorus, and thus I fain would hear that word more often.

Loved this puzzle, which I found very challenging. It was clever and unusual and the sort of puzzle I hope for on Thursdays!

Two Ponies 11:36 AM  

Loved this one!
Wonderful aha moments.
Thanks Alan D.

Nancy 11:37 AM  

And I'm back to say that I just went to the Wordplay blog and discovered that this is Alan Derkazarian's debut crossword in the Times. Congratulations, Mr. D, you are very talented and have created a puzzle that was challenging and great fun. I'm sure you have a real future as a puzzle constructor.

AliasZ 11:41 AM  

I loved this rebus. I got it at 3-CARD MONTE since MONTE was clued similarly yesterday and it was still fresh in the mind. After that 2-BIT and the rest came easily. I also loved the fact that they were in numerical order from the top down. Nifty!

How about:


If ice tea is acceptable in NYT puzzles, I would think (1-)ARM BANDIT would be also. In my mind there was no need for the past tense in the clue for 7D. In fact, I entered [ARM] into the timed Java applet and it accepted it. Not a DNF. In comparison to the ONE-ARM vs. ONE-ARMED BANDIT Google fight, here is the ice tea vs. iced tea version.

OPORTO vs. Porto: "Porto (occasionally also known as Oporto in English) is the second-largest city in Portugal, after Lisbon, and one of the major urban areas in Southern Europe and the capital of the second major great urban area in Portugal." Wikipedia. It reminds me of the Albanian Tirane/Tirana conflict.

How many of you remember that Mork’s boss was called ORSON? I did not, but found it a fresh clue replacing Welles and Bean.

Ohno, it’s the one-L APOLO, whose name I mentioned yesterday. What are the chances?

Non-theme entries I loved: IKEBANA, RETURN FIRE, A TOUCH OVER, CARDAMOM and STEAM PIPE. We should not forget words like FEIN and ERGOT, but GASX, yes.

GILL I. 11:58 AM  

I really like this puzzle.
Like @Carola, I had to travel to the 4-WAY stop to finally unslap my head. Big AHA and big smile...
OPORTO is the way the English say it and spell it. If you go to Portugal though, you might get lost if you're looking for the "O." PORTO is the name of the town It's a bit like Habana (correct) and Havana (as pronounced and accepted in the English vernacular).
Ever since they no longer have one ARMED BANDITS in the casinos I no longer play slots. What's the fun in pushing a little button when you could right pull a big wooden lever with all your might and listen to the whirl of the fixed cogs spin round and round and hoping to hear that loud clang of a thousand coins spilling out....progress...[sigh]
I used to make little doves from the silver paper in cigarette packs. I always thought it was origami. I learned IKEBANA from this blog. I think @MAS and @Foodie had an interesting back and forth on the subject.
Thank you AD for a really fun Thursday. As someone else mentioned, I hope to see these type of puzzles every Thur....

Unknown 12:00 PM  

I got the theme early. Always on the lookout for a rebus on Thurs. That made it easy/med for me. Thought the theme was entertaining and clever. I agree completely with Steve J that if the theme sparkles, the tolerance for less-appealing stuff increases.

I cried foul at first on the 4+6, but came to accept it, and then even like it. Why not? Who says a rule can't be broken. It's a new and different way to look at things and we like new and different, right?

Masked and Anonymo4Us 12:28 PM  

Primo debut. Kinda hard to get goin. Bless U, Derkmeister, for that teeny NE corner, which, along with IAN and then DONT, gave old M&A just enough data to wanna stuff ONEARMED into box #18. Not quite right, but enough to get us rollin...

Andrea darlin preemptively scarfed up my HOWDAH pun yesterday. But I'm hopin I am the very first in line to tell today's puz constructor this: GOODUUUU.

Tough crossin at [rebus-ball]AM?M/?PORT?, down there in the SE made it the Corner of Nope. Otherwise, fun-ky solve.


dick S 12:30 PM  

'A touch over' … WOW. I needed to write it out to fill it in.

'Ikebana' … Thursday and not unfamiliar at all, and hardly worthy of 'computer-generated'. Come by the old train station in Tacoma to see Chihuli's 'Lakawana Ikebana' constructed on an old Delaware and Lakawana RailRoad sign. The Tacoma renaissance due to native son Dale Chihuli.

M and Also 12:58 PM  

@4-Oh: I hereby propose the two-question-mark clue genre. To wit, end the clue with 2 ?'s when...
* intense wordplay, such as puns and anagrams, is involved in divinin the answer.
* answer runs backwards.
* answer is to arithmetic or other sheenannigans bein performed on the clue number.
* Answer is tryin to draw a picture with its letters.
* any other kinda cryptic-crossword noogie trick.

For example: + 6 ??

Other than that, let me be the first to pat myself on the back for gettin TEN as the answer, off no letters.


dk 1:15 PM  

I know it as OPORTO, FAIN was ok, GASX sounds like a critique of my posts and finally I think all rebuses should be banned forever… although this one was exasperatingly cute.

Runes for BONES messed up my morning along with all these pesky reporter calls regarding health care reform.

JFC I empathize from the payer/provider side as we attempt to eliminate non-conforming plans and begin the path to a more robust and wellness focused healthcare system. Sadly for some of us the real change may be to long in coming.

Back to work

🌟🌟🌟 (3 Stars) nIce debut Alan and welcome RLZ

And And And Out 1:28 PM  

@4-Oh, Been meanin to ask... How is that frozen shoulder of yours doin? Hope the answer in A-Oh-K.
Worry about yah. Too much pain might eventually make yer blog start to tend toward snarky, or some such.

baja 1:44 PM  

Loved this many times over. Hesitated on the Hawaii five or ooooo - could have been either. Definitely a fun one!

ahimsa 1:48 PM  

This puzzle was great! For me there were two layers of puzzle in a single puzzle--first, figuring out that it's a rebus, second, figuring out the number part.

Like other have mentioned when I figured out [ARMED]BANDIT I wondered, Hmm, where did the "one-" go? It was only when I got [CARD][CARD][CARD]MONTE -- because [CARD]AMOM was an easy one for me -- that the whole idea fell into place.

Kudos to Alan DerKazarian!

@Rex, I'm not sure why IKEBANA is assumed to be from a database. It may be a word that Alan knows. It's one thing to say that you dislike certain themes, or fill, or clues. That's a matter of taste. I enjoy reading those opinions, by you and others, even when I disagree.

But it's another thing to assume what a person knows and/or how they know it. I know a lot of uncommon words from reading, hobbies, and so on. I'm sure most others could say the same.

And the word IKEBANA is not even that uncommon! Our local Japanese garden advertises these kind of flower shows on a regular basis. I see this word out in the real world, not just in crosswords. So I'm baffled.

Acme 1:58 PM  

By the way, there is another debut today... my friend Gregory Cameron!
Check out today's LA Times puzzle.

We met at the Alameda tournament 4-5 years ago...and this is a collaboration from a cute idea he had.

ahimsa 2:24 PM  

@Acme, I did today's LA Times puzzle - cute! I missed one letter (I won't say more to avoid spoilers) but it was fun. Congrats to you and Gregory Cameron.

AliasZ 2:32 PM  

@JFC, now you are experiencing first hand what happens when the geniuses in Congress pass a bill without first finding out what is in it. So sad.

Lewis 3:00 PM  

card card card card card card card card card card
card card card card card card card card card card
card card card card card card card card card card
card card card card card card card card card card
card card card card card card card card card card
card card


Notsofast 3:00 PM  

Did you know ERGOT caused "witches" to ride brooms? Fascinating stuff.

gifcan 3:08 PM  

Thanks to @AliasZ for the timely APOLO reference.

Ala @AugustWest I was expecting PORTO rather than OPORTO.

Thanks for stopping by Alan D., great puzzle. I even liked +6.

Anonymous 3:30 PM  

Actually in English it's "It's me." English has no grammatical rule requiring the nominative case after a copula. People who believe that a modern Germanic language should have the same grammar as the Romanic language spoken in a central Italian city-state two millenia ago have that rule.

Anonymous 3:40 PM  

Almost got this without the down clues. Once I caved and got the NW, kicked myself I didn't have more time to ponder it. Some clues were easy for me due to history. I was a huge fan of the Beach Boys in 1965, I studied German, etc. Oh well, it was close. -skeptic53

Azbert 3:42 PM  

You are as big a jerk as Rex Is.

Bird 4:38 PM  

A fun puzzle today. Had very little filled in as I was trying to figure out the gimmick and my aha came at 54A when I had three blanks in front of MONTE. That made the rest of the puzzle fell right in place.

Also had INDEXES, which slowed me a bit.

When I answer the phone I usually say, “HELLO” and not “IT’S ME”. But that’s just me.

Another pasta suffix clue?

As for the answer at 22A, they may be SPORTSCARDS, but I’ve never heard the term. I usually hear baseball or football cards.

No idea on the clue for 4D. But if @Rex is correct (4+6) then I agree that it is terrible. No complaints at 31A however, as the meaning can be stretched.

sanfranman59 5:01 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 21:17, 16:44, 1.24, 85%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Thu 12:43, 9:45, 1.30, 84%, Challenging

Anonymous 5:20 PM  

fun one.

Melodious Funk 5:59 PM  

@Lewis: WAAAAHAHAHAHA! Excellent, I wonder why no one commented.

This was a wonderful puzzle, A.D. deserves whateveh credit he can muster from this blog. More!

I'm of MIND MIND about one ARMEDBANDITS. A notable seafarer had one leg. Would we call him a one-legged pirate, or would it be a one-leg pirate? I dunno actually. I leave it to LMS to guide us, although I've always heard one-arm bandit.

Anyone who posted today before 3:40PM 6:53 PM  

@Azbert - You may well be right, but what was it I said that offended you so?

August West 7:10 PM  

Hi lms: I was actually inviting argument of OPORTO v. Porto, for the reasons already set forth by Steve J, AliasZ, Gil and others. Your having loved certain answers that I despised again highlights the importance of the subjective impressions of the individual solver.

@Mohair Sam: You are correct, Sir. My "cooking" depth equates to mad tailgate grilling skills and the ability to: "Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Open package. Remove product from package. Place product in oven. Bake for 35 minutes at 375 degrees, turning product once."

@Pete, Steve: Of course the piece I linked to (to which I linked?) was entitled Welsh RAREBIT. That is what I googled on having never heard of the word. That's on me, owing to my ignorance of most things culinary. I wasn't proposing that it was a "bad" word, unfit for inclusion in the puzzle. I didn't shirk from including the (waaaaay down the piece) throwaway representation that RAREBIT has been adopted in place of the original term. I was just noting that my (again, concededly subjective) negative solving experience began right out of the gate with a personal WOE.

Did love the clue for ORSON in lieu of some trite old reference to Mr. Welles.

Steve J 7:34 PM  

@August West: Ah, thanks for the explanation. That makes total sense. I've found myself also disliking something even though it's totally my fault.

And agreed with the clue for ORSON. That was a nice change of pace.

r.alphbunker 7:58 PM  

for (int i=1; i<=99; i++) {
print("Bottles ");
print("of beer on the wall.");

Anonymous 8:20 PM  

I loved it....never posted before but enjoyed it so well that I need to thank Mr. Derkazarian. More like this, please.

orangeblossomspecial 9:34 PM  

Anonymous at 7:25. The hymn is "Beneath the cross of Jesus". I fain would take my stand.

orangeblossomspecial 9:35 PM  

Anonymous at 7:25. The hymn is "Beneath the cross of Jesus". I fain would take my stand.

sanfranman59 10:05 PM  

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 6:18, 6:07, 1.03, 69%, Medium-Challenging
Tue 8:56, 8:15, 1.08, 71%, Medium-Challenging
Wed 9:03, 9:44, 0.93, 33%, Easy-Medium
Thu 20:50, 16:44, 1.25, 85%, Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:58, 3:46, 1.05, 74%, Medium-Challenging
Tue 5:12, 5:09, 1.01, 53%, Medium
Wed 5:32, 5:37, 0.99, 45%, Medium
Thu 12:15, 9:45, 1.26, 83%, Challenging

Mikey from El Prado 6:17 AM  

On a par-4 golf hole, taking ten strokes is +6. I wanted a connection between rebus entries. Is there one I missed? Armed bit card way?

Anonymous 4:43 PM  


Z 7:00 PM  

Dearborn to Marquette to Cadillac to Lansing to Dearborn this week. Haven't had much time to to solve and comment.

@Anonymous3:30 - English is Germanic, not Romance in much the same way I am Dutch, not Spanish.

Loved the puzzle despite knowing less than nothing about Japanese Flower Arranging (There's a special kind of flower arranging in Japan?).

Amy T 3:00 PM  

Love love love. Many thanks!

spacecraft 10:24 AM  

Me likee. This may have been done before; OFL has seen exponentially more puzzles than I have, but it's new to me. For a while I thought that the descending black bar at top center was supposed to represent the "one" of ONEARMEDBANDIT--but then the TWOBITs showed up. Very clever, and IMO, fresh. Nor do I have any serious fill issues. If this is indeed a debut, it's a smashing one. Just hard enough for a Thursday. Thumb thumb up.

dmast 1:48 PM  

Enough of the absurdly tricked up themes! Puzzles like this remind me of certain golf courses I have played over the years, where for whatever reason, the designer chose to "trick-up" the course rather than just allow its natural characteristics to influence play. Most players hated that type of course because you had no way to win. Obviously, the better the player, the less they cared about such things, but the argument still held.

How about getting back to puzzles that rely only on great clues about literature, history, even science and have a natural flow to them. Seems like the NYT puzzles have been on a bad run in the past several weeks in this regard. Elizabeth Gorski please come back!!

Solving in Seattle 2:01 PM  

Alan, I award you a perfect 4D for your debut nytcwpuz. Loved your clever rebus.

Knew something was afoot with 2D, INHAB (where's the "IT"?), but I caught on to the scheme at 62A with the four "WAYS."

Learned MEDE today - folks wiped out by Cyrus. Liked GASX next to AIR.

Who's this guy IKE BANA that everyone's posting about, Eric's brother?

Cheers cheers cheers for Alan!

Waxy in Montreal 3:35 PM  

Smartly solved the NE after divining the (ONE) ARMED rebus at 18A, then tried shoehorning it in all over the rest of the grid - obviously with no success. Gave up and came here to find out what was going on. EPIC - bring on the GAS-X!

captcha = truckd, exactly how I feel.

Red Valerian 4:03 PM  

I thought it was great fun, though I struggled. Wanted "SWAmpED" for 7D (overrun), so that slowed me down. (Speaking of swamped, I should not be on this blog, let alone posting. urk.)

@SIS--IKE BANA--lol. Now I might remember both--thanks!

@dmast--tricks don't mean there's "no way to win". Puz too hard for you?

Speaking of cranky, I'm with @M&A and others in worrying about OFL's snarkophilia. But it's fun to read, even if maybe it's not fun to be Rex.

DMG 4:51 PM  

One of those days. Got everything but the rebus. Had (armed)BANDIT. Decided maybe some people leave off the "one" part and went looking for missing words, confirmed by INHA(bit). Didn't work!!!! Thought the cheese thing was, maybe RAclette, leading to a (tte)(bit)CROOK? . Thought the Indian spice was gAraM (masala) which made the hole thing rINiNG. Don't know German forwards, let alone backwards, so decided to stop having "thoughts" and came to see what the gimmick was. Found it to be something that would never have occurred to my pedestrian mind, and envy those who got it.

@Ginger. thanks for the up-date. Our cable master (Time Warner) does offer the Tennis Channel, but only in a package with 30( count 'em, 30) other channels, none of which we would ever watch, so I wait for the matches big enough for general broadcasting.

Captcha: sitYea. What I do after waiting in line.

rain forest 5:20 PM  

Jumping on the love train for this puzzle. I liked the 4+6, clue, as well, and no trouble with IKEBANA or ATOUCHABOVE. "Well, Sir, the limit in this here state is .08, and you just blew ATOUCHABOVE that".

But, of course, the theme and its execution was impeccable.

"The crosses on the rebus squares were *fairly* skillfully handled"
That counts as effulgent praise from OFL, who is approaching OFC status-Our Fearless Curmudgeon, although he doesn't measure up to @August West, whose scathing comments I simply cannot read. Probably a nice individual in person, though.

Dirigonzo 7:30 PM  

Well that's strange, my earlier comment has disappeared - but not to worry, I just copied it from the email follow-up message and here it is in all it's original splendor:
"Stopsign" fit so nicely I was reluctant to give it up until the crosses moved the "STOP" to the other end, with 4 blank squares in front of it and "four-way" needing to fit into them. I may be dense but it didn't take me too long to figure how that was going to work, and all of a sudden (one)ARMEDBANDIT made sense. The symmetry of the grid made (two) and (three) easy to find. I finished without having to make any guesses only because WPP knew CARDAMON. I want Thursday puzzles to be challenginly fun and this one fills the bill nicely. My only disappointment was learning that FIVEO was not a bonus theme answer with a reverse spin - it could even have been clued as a revealer of sorts.

@rainforest, life is too short to read all the long, scathing posts such as the one you cite so I just skip over them. I love that syndi-solvers take a much more gentle, generous approach to commenting than some of the prime-timers - perhaps having to wait 5 weeks for the puzzle to appear makes us more appreciative of the final product?

strayling 7:46 PM  

I'm sure this one was far more fun to construct than it was to solve.

A note on the rabbit/rarebit discussion: I grew up with an extended Welsh and English family, and we only called it "rarebit" when we were mocking people who tried to be posh.

Ginger 1:36 AM  

Late to the party, after a long day doing volunteer work. Started early on, and got the BIT BIT, then needed to leave. Coming back I looked for more bits with just pieces SWARMing everywhere. After aeons, 4 (WAY)STOP fell and it all came together.

Love this puzzle, and especially the challenge it put up. Thanks A.D. for the puz, and for dropping by.

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