Baseball's old professor / WED 12-4-13 / Topiary pro / Tony-nominated musical based on 1992 Disney movie / One seeing pink elephants / Dye-yielding shrub / Kosygin of Russia / Area jiggled while twerking

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Constructor: Daniel Raymon

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: SK- to SQU- — familiar phrases where an SK- word is changed to an SQU- word, with wacky results:

Theme answers:
  • SQUID MARKS (17A: Food critic's assessments of calamari?)
  • SQUARE TACTIC (27A: Maneuver on a chessboard?)
  • SQUIRT CHASER (43A: Rug rat pursuer?)
  • GREAT SQUAT (57A: Outstanding posture for a catcher?)
Word of the Day: Casey STENGEL (41D: Baseball's Old Professor) —
Charles Dillon "Casey" Stengel (/ˈstɛŋɡəl/; July 30, 1890 – September 29, 1975), nicknamed "The Old Perfessor", was an American Major League Baseball outfielder and manager. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1966.
Stengel was born in Kansas City, Missouri, and originally nicknamed "Dutch", a common nickname at that time for Americans of German ancestry. After his major league career began, he acquired the nickname"Casey", which originally came from the initials of his hometown ("K. C."), which evolved into "Casey", influenced by the wide popularity of the poem Casey at the Bat. In the 1950s, sportswriters dubbed him with yet another nickname, "The Old Professor" (or "Perfessor"), for his sharp wit and his ability to talk at length on anything baseball-related.
Although his baseball career spanned a number of teams and cities, he is primarily associated with clubs inNew York City. Between playing and managing, he is the only man to have worn four of New York's major league clubs' uniforms. He was the first of four men (through the 2012 season) to manage both the New York Yankees and New York MetsYogi BerraDallas Green, and Joe Torre are the others. Like Torre, he also managed the Braves and the Dodgers. He ended his baseball career as the beloved manager for the then expansion New York Mets, which won over the hearts of New York partly due to the unique character of their veteran leader. (wikipedia)
• • •

More evidence of the NYT's declining standards, and what I can only imagine is a significantly shallower talent pool than in previous years. Time was this kind of theme execution, with the utterly inconsistent final theme answer, would've been rejected out of hand. Symmetry, elegance, consistency—these are all elements that used to matter in theme execution. It's a basic theme—a simple sound-changer with just four theme answers. If the sound change is in the first word for the first three answers, it must be there in the fourth. Want to mix things up? Great. Then go 2 and 2. Make it first and last, first and third, second and third—all defensible. What's not defensible is this sad, which-of-these-things-is-not-like-the-other outlier business. All first words, all last words, or two and two—those are your acceptable options. I can't believe this puzzle was even submitted, let alone accepted. It's the NYT, for ^$&%'s sake. That's *supposed* to mean something. And it's not like the fill is so great on this one. Nothing much of interest outside the theme answers. Also, super-gunk like REUNE (seriously, the worst), and then crosswordese aplenty (the east and the south having a particularly high density, but see also ANIL, EER, ETH, etc.).

Puzzle played harder than usual for reasons that I think have to do with vague cluing. I had an oddly hard time seeing LANDSCAPER (gotta love APER crossing APERS, amirite!?). Topiary seems like a specific art, so the general "landscaping" idea never came to me. At one point I had (or thought I had) SQUARE ANTIC, but I must've had SQUARE TANTIC … I clearly wasn't seeing the grid well. I have no idea what 41A: One seeing pink elephants (SOTeven means. I have zero frame of reference for that [I now know it's from "Dumbo" so you can stop writing, thanks!]. Is that something drunks in the olden days saw? I had -OT and thought "TOT?" Ugh. Worst slow-down was in the west, where I had ALTS for HGTS (not surprising) (32D: Elevs.) and, later, PIANO for GRAND (also not surprising) (37A: Steinway offering). This made me consider QUO for 28D: Proof finale letters (QED). Never mind that "quid pro QUO" has nothing to do with proofs.

Perhaps the most joyless Q-laden experience I've ever had as a solver. Someone needs to tell the emperor he has some sartorial issues.

See you tomorrow.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Evan 12:05 AM  

This puzzle rubbed me the wrong way for the same reason -- that bizarre theme outlier in GREAT SQUAT. I'll accept that each pun is solid by itself, and the phrase GREAT SQUAT just makes me laugh for a whole lotta bathroom-humor-related reasons. But the fact that GREAT SQUAT has the SQU- word at the end whereas the other three have it at the beginning makes the execution overall less elegant. Daniel wrote on Xwordinfo that he would have preferred otherwise as well, but couldn't find any other phrases that would work for his purposes. So, let's consider some of the other options that Rex mentioned.

First, yes, it is tough to find words that you can change from the SK- sound to SQU-, so I can appreciate the difficulty in finding alternatives. Doing a pun on a 10-letter phrase where SCOTT is the first name might not work so well because the phrase would probably be too bizarre for cluing. SQUAT TUROW, SQUAT ADAMS, SQUAT would you clue those? ["Get down, former U.S. Senator from Massachusetts!"?] Nah, too tortured of a clue, plus it would require solvers to know who SCOTT BROWN is, and those who don't wouldn't find it amusing.

Second, you could perhaps shorten the first theme answer to the singular SQUID MARK and match it with a 9-letter answer. One possibility is SQUAT-FREE, though I think that too would be weaker than the rest of the entries, especially in cluing it [Crouchless? / Like a workout routine that doesn't feature a lower torso exercise?]. Yeah, those are pretty bad clues. A better possibility is SQUEE BALL [Formal event where everyone sounds like excited fangirls?].

Third, instead of making all four entries begin with the SQU- word, you could split them two-to-two, though might have to shorten two of the entries yet again. You could keep SQUID MARKS and GREAT SQUAT, and perhaps find matching 10-letter entries like SQUARE CROW [Nerdy bird?] and MINI-SQUIRT [Shrimpy imp? / Little little guy?]. Right now the theme has 44 squares, which is already on the low side, so is 40 that much less? If so, maybe have four 10-letter answers and a 9-letter answer in the middle (SQUEE BALL, anybody?), though that might be tough to pull off because of all the Q's.

Obviously this is all an academic exercise. I just think that, no matter how tough it is to come up with alternatives, it's better to be consistent with theme symmetry. Breaking the tried-and-true theme rules is fine, but it should have a purpose beyond "it's too tough to come up with a different theme answer."

Steve J 12:09 AM  

Ugh. Completely agreed about the very poor execution of the theme. I coincidentally solved them in top-to-bottom order, and with three theme answers beginning in SQ, I naturally assumed the next one would. But I already had the STENGEL cross, which I was 100% certain was correct. I stared and stared until it dawned on me that the SQ may come later in the answer. After saying, "They can't possibly be that sloppy with the them, can they?" I realized that yes, they could.

It needed to be 2 and 2, or all 4. Having one outlier is bad enough, but the last one just makes it stick out that much more.

I did kind of like SQUID MARKS and SQUIRT CHASER prior to that point.

Lastly: 46A is just a spectacularly awful clue. I recognize that yes, technically speaking, since THEISTs encompass both monotheists and polytheists the clue is technically correct. But what's described is clearly a monotheist, and it would be been very easy to clue this with Wednesday-appropriate cluing that wasn't a mile off and accurate only in the most literal sense.

There may have been some good bits here, but those two things so soured my impression that I don't recall them. Just like a really well-executed theme causes me not to notice or care about low-quality fill, a badly executed theme causes me not to notice or care about any good fill.

Evan 12:09 AM  

Just to add, soon I'll probably be dropping out of range for a couple of weeks -- end-of-the-semester madness beckons.

Steve J 12:13 AM  

@Evan: You wrote "Daniel wrote on Xwordinfo that he would have preferred otherwise as well, but couldn't find any other phrases that would work for his purposes."

I'm not a constructor, but am I off in thinking that if someone does construct, and they can only come up with three answers that fit their theme, that that's a good sign that maybe it's time to move on from that theme idea and accept that it won't work? I would imagine every constructor goes through things that start off as good ideas that just don't have enough steam to get over the hill.

Anonymous 12:19 AM  

Newspapers sell ads in column inches (i.e., 1 inch deep and a standard column wide) or in fractions of a page. Square inches? I don't think so.

Charles in Austin 12:29 AM  

Always the odd man out in this company, I LOVED the puzzle. I found GREATSQUAT a charming closer to the sequence.

(And I did notice that it broke the pattern.)

PK 12:42 AM  

Reune is not a word. Or a thing. Certainly not a verb. See, my computer just underlined it in red.

Anonymous 12:44 AM  

Except for the IRAQ Q, all the Q's felt forced. ESQUE, SQIN and QED. Yuck.

Benko 1:12 AM  

Yeah, "pink elephants" is a '30s cartoon's idea of what a severe alcoholic undergoing acute DTs sees. They're more likely to hallucinate writhing snakes or insects than delightful pink elephants, so I'm told, but it's a common cliche.
There's even a good Belgian beer called Delirium Tremens which uses a pink elephant as its logo. Pretty popular import, but a bit sweet for my taste.

retired_chemist 1:29 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
retired_chemist 1:31 AM  

Agree that this is not fine stuff for reasons stated by others. That said, medium and enough fun that my 7 minutes and change didn't feel like a waste.

monISTS for 46A was where the clue led me - better answer than THEISTS, as Steve J points out.

Thanks, Mr. Raymon.

mrfugu 1:46 AM  

I'm taken aback by the crowd's intense dislike of trivial asymmetry in the theme answers. I think the grid's boring short fill is a flaw worth noting, but who decided placing the sound change symmetrically was sacrosanct? The theme answers are funny, and GREATSQUAT is the funniest one. So many puzzles are symmetrical and unfunny. If we relaxed a bit on arbitrary minutiae we might enjoy funnier puzzles.

jae 1:53 AM  

Liked it. Theme answers made me laugh, which is just fine for a Wed. Oh, and easy-medium for me.

If you get a chance to see NEWSIES on stage go for it. We saw it in New York and it was a lot of fun!

Unknown 1:55 AM  

I discovered the theme accidentally. By mistake. After the puzzle was done and in. Is that the way themes are supposed to work? I'd much prefer a theme that is a) discoverable during solving and b) helps in the solution.

In this case, the four wacky answers had only their wackiness in common -- really -- so the theme was far more impediment than help.

I fretted, "But I c'n't!" Then, after a 'squirt' and a 'squat' and a good long squint, I proclaimed, "I did 't! Glad I didn't squit!" (Squatology unintended.)

But yeah. About that cute.

Andrea Qarla Miqhaels 1:56 AM  

Right in my SQUEAL house, thought it was lots of fun.

Symmetry off, but great scott, so much sturm und drang!

Yes, I would've gone with two and two.
SQUATETACTIC isn't nearly as much fun as SQUIRTCHASER and SQUIDMARKS, so I'd focus there.

I liked that Loren and Jeff's ASPS got loose from last week and snuck into thos puzzle.

Learned REUNE from crosswords and then got challenged in Scrabble when I played it :(

i guess this gets a GRADEA MINUS.
Overall, I thought it was Qool!

Anonymous 1:58 AM  

Proterozoic eon???? Back in the Middle Ages when I learned such things, it would have been the Proterozoic era. "era" implies specific, whereas "eon" implies immeasurable. Seems to me like abuse of the language to fit the puzzle.


Evan 2:01 AM  

@Steve J:

That's one option. The other option is to keep trying till you get a fourth one that fits the pattern, or change the pattern up so that there's still a logic to it, which is what I tried to do in my first comment. Constructors scrap whole sections of a grid and move black squares around because the fill might not be good enough -- theme entries get the same treatment. Actually, they should get the highest level of scrutiny since they're what's holding the puzzle together in the first place.


That asymmetry is neither arbitrary nor trivial to me. I've had puzzles rejected when the editors told me that my theme answers didn't follow a consistent pattern. Would you randomly throw in an extra, asymmetrical black square at the end of one theme entry because the resulting answer would be funnier if you did that?

Like I said, I'm all for breaking traditional crossword conventions, but not if the reason for doing it is that it was too hard to get the theme entries to fit a consistent, logical pattern. Try harder.

Benko 2:27 AM  

I've been thinking about it, and the only viable 10-letter entry that would preserve symmetry, in my mind, is SQUALLCAPS. It's a POC, yes, but it would work with the theme.
Good clue? Not sure. "Rainwear for rabbis?" comes to mind.

chefwen 2:37 AM  

38A reminded me of our old friend @Jesser who lives in LAS Cruces N.M. I miss him and his humor. Hope you are doing well.

I said to Jon - "there is going to be a dust up with the last answer ending with SQU." Can't wait to see the rest of the comments. Didn't bother me too much, we'll see what others have to say.


George Barany 3:29 AM  

Solved this puzzle just before calling it a night, so maybe too tired to notice the theme inconsistencies now pointed out by @Rex, @Evan, and others on ths blog. The puzzle did leave me with a smile on my face, though.

I was introduced to baseball at the tail end of Casey Stengel's stint as an malapropologist for the hapless expansion Mets (I missed his long reign leading the imperious Yankees). One of my all-time favorite quotes is attributed to him: "The key to being a good manager is keeping the people who hate me away from those who are still undecided." And guess what? See Liz Gorski's puzzle of Sunday, March 11, 2001!

May I offer the following hypothesis? K and C (of "Casey") are the two letters in the original phrases that this puzzle changes (twice each) to Q.

John Child 4:03 AM  

"So did you likes it or did you didn't?"

I liked it. Noted the asymmetry and predicted sturm und drang from Rex and the chorus, but it was a fun puzzle. That's enough on Wednesday.

dk 5:30 AM  


**. (2 Stars) barely crossed the Wed. bar for me. Once one figured out the SQ thing it was a Tuesday.

Nothing more to say that has not been said.

Gretings from our Nation's capital

Eddie Wilson 6:50 AM  

Quite enjoyed the puzzle, but then I'm out of the NYT's distribution area, so I only get the pleasure of seeing the grid rather than solving it.
I guess I just... found it surprising that there weren't any better alternatives. Would SQUAW CARDS (Minnehaha's clubs?) be off the table?

Anonymous 7:03 AM  

I actually liked it, but for me it was too easy for a Wednesday. All puzzles have puzzle-ese in them, and to comment on this ones as exceptionally bad is not really a negative. I agree "Reune" is awful, but I've seen similar in puzzles you've liked.

I guess I decline to join the dog pile on this. Why do you think the pool is worse, ultimately? I'm guessing that the honor of a NYT Crossword is not enough anymore...

Glimmerglass 7:04 AM  

"A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds."

Mohair Sam 7:43 AM  

Enjoyed the puzzle, except for REUNE. Had a little Hang-up because Kosygin is ALEksey in my memory. But I'm enjoying the quarrel about the theme even more. I'll vote with @Rex on this one - It is the NYT, the Cadillac of crosswords. Overlooking a theme inconsistency, however minor, makes this puzzle a nice Chevrolet.

Anonymous 7:58 AM  

"I'm getting ready to retire, so I don't give a f&%# anymore."
Will Shortz

jberg 8:07 AM  

I didn't like the asymmetry, but thought I was being too picky until I came here. And I'm with @Steve J on 41A; the same might be said of the clue at 6A, since ALL areas of math feature proofs.

My biggest problem was around Texas, because of the symmetry issue -- crossed out the last three letters of STENGEL thinking there must be some guy named STENson or something, but when I saw LANK I realized the truth.

I was OK with REUNE, though; not as a word, it's horrible, but people do say it, so I think it's OK as an entry -- as ok as twerking, though not as much fun.

John V 8:07 AM  

Played challenging for me, esp RHO/ACTION area. I was surprised to see the inconsistency with the arrival of GREATSQUAT, which threw me off for some time.

Unknown 8:12 AM  

I liked it and didn't mind the inconsistency so much. What got me was REUNE. As soon as I read the clue, I knew that's what it wanted and I just. Did. Not. Want. To. Enter. It. Also had an issue with column inches vs SQIN.

I have no idea why my brain knew STENGEL but it plopped it right in there. Go figure.

joho 8:28 AM  

GREATSQUAT! At first glance I though this puzzle was authored by Damon Runyon!

I liked it. The theme answers were fun, yes unbalanced, but fun.

I loved the parallel MINUS/ASSET.

I noticed that if you don't parse TREX and DROZ right you come up with some pretty odd answers.

The hardest part of the puzzle for me was REA/EEOC but I got it right.

@Rex, you never like nonsensical, wacky phrases so that was a given. However your other objection is valid for sure. It just didn't bother me the way it did you.

I found the theme original and amusing ... thanks, Daniel!

AliasZ 8:35 AM  

I saw the word "outlier" more often in today's blog and comments than probably in my entire life. There is nothing like nitpicking a theme to death. Great Scott, lighten up people. This is only a puzzle, a Wednesday one at that, not the Affordable Care Act.

I was perfectly fine with the SK-sounds punned into SQU- sounds, whether in the first or in the second word of a phrase. The punny phrases all worked and made me smile. My special favorite was SQUID MARKS. If we had the theme reversed, that is, SQU- sounds changed to SK-, SQUID MARKS could be HERSHEY SKIRTS.

I loved all the theme phrases. Perhaps it would have been funnier if the SQU- phrases were replacing SCR- sounds, as if by a person with a speech impediment: SQUAD for SCROD. Perhaps not.

Here are a few of my own theme suggestions:

SQUILL SETS: Collections of early spring flowers
SPECIAL SQUILL: Choice sea onion
SQUINT TIGHT: Scrunch up the eyes even more
RHODES SQUALOR: Destitution on a Greek island
ALPINE SQUEEZE: Swiss sweetheart
BREW SQUEEZE: Beer extortion

The fill was a little less satisfying, except for a few longer entries: SENSITIZE, WREATHS, LANDSCAPER, GRADE A, STENGEL and MR. SMITH. But TOME, OUTLAID sounds forced, REUNE, EON as clued, and HGTS were ugly, ESQUE is Kafkaesque, EEOC, EER, ANIL, ALOE, ALIT, are a-boring, and CROP crops up once again.

Otherwise, my impression and solving experience was mostly positive and satisfying, in the easy-medium range. A good effort from Daniel Raymon.

Here is the Overture to the opera COSÌ fan tutte by W. A. Mozart.

Enjoy your day.

Loren Muse Smith 8:42 AM  

Well, shoot – I didn't finish because I went to 57A and filled in SQU for the first three letters. @Steve J – I don't speak baseball, so STENGEL could have just as easily been _ _ _ _ Q U _. And I just finally gave up.

I also had "paint" for PINTO. Erasing "alts" for HGTS opened up the west for me, though, so I got most of it. With Rex, too, for "piano" off that A.

ASSET crossing GREAT SQUAT – I always marveled in Japan as I watched the head of the family head in to the LAV – (a hole in the floor with neat little places to position your feet) with the newspaper and emerge maybe twenty minutes later. Remarkable.

"IPA" will always be for me International Phonetic Alphabet. So I tried some abbr. of "alphabet" before ALE.

REUNE – It made me smile because of @M&A's appreciation of obvious desperation.

Look – in the constructor group, I'm obviously among the biggest NEWbIES, so I have a kind of a different take on 37A. It makes me want to revisit many, many theme ideas that I gave up on for this very reason – one themer didn't follow the pattern. @Steve J -Just yesterday in the car mulling over an idea, I had two 10's and two 12's, but one had the trick at the beginning and the other three had the trick at the end. So I dismissed it and started singing "Me and Bobby McGee" with Janis Joplin. I'm such a chicken, so afraid of Rex, et al that I probably can't bring myself to follow through and submit it or any of the others. So it's a weird situation here. I'm not a Blindauer, Chen, Agard, Der, Livengood – to solo in the NYT would be *huge* for me. So do I submit a puzzle with an outlier like this? Especially now, seeing that it might have a shot at being accepted? And then torn apart?

I've often and openly admitted that my standards are not nearly as high as othe'rs with regard to theme tightness. Believe me, I know so many of you roll your eyes and get sick of my Always Like Everything take on the day's fare, but it really is sincere. I get a big kick out of any language play, tight or not.

In my BR life (Before Rex), I would have probably SPED through this with hardly a blink at 57A and then appreciated how clever the theme was. But I've grown so much as a solver by participating here that I was certain that 57A would begin with SQU.

I talk to Dad every morning about the puzzle. He doesn't read Rex regularly (Mom still does – Hi, Mom) – he prefers Deb mainly to get toe-holds. A solver like Dad would not be bothered by the outlier – he probably wouldn't really even notice. I think Will has a tough job. He has to consider solvers like Dad (and even weaker solvers) AND he has to consider pickier solvers like us, who are going to expect neat, tidy, tight themes.

In the end (alert the press), I'm with @mrfugu and all the rest - I liked this puzzle because all four themers were fun.

REUNE was funner, though.

Zygotic 8:49 AM  

Liked the theme and l-o-v-e GREAT SQUAT - just think of the Urban Dictionary entries for that one (then poke your eyes out).

DR OZ is not someone I've ever watched, but the name always strikes me as unfortunate for someone who wants to be taken seriously.

Beer Rating - Atwater Dirty Blonde - it would have been a Grand Circus IPA but got taken down a notch for inconsistency.

Notsofast 9:01 AM  

This was something of a bitch due to the strange cluing. But I did like SQUIDMARKS and SQUIRTCHASER. They kind of saved the puzzle for me.

Davidph 9:10 AM  

Where o where is the crossword Utopia where themes are perfect, the fill is pristine, and there's never a Natick or a POC?

Seriously, post a link. If there is a place like that, I'd like to visit. Until then, I can't seem to muster outrage at a fun puzzle like this.

chefbea 9:13 AM  

Did the puzzle early this morning while at the dentist getting my new Xmas crown!! Gave me something to do while waiting.
Thought it was a great puzzle. Crop - 2 times this week

Carola 9:22 AM  

I liked the goofy theme, especially SQUIRT CHASERS, but otherwise the puzzle seemed bland to me. Maybe I've been SENSITIZED by doing too many crosswords, but ANIL, ALOE, OAK, EON, APERS...seemed old and tired.

Do-overs: LooS before LAVS, monISTS (checking the dictionary, I see that it's actually a word, just not the right one here) before THEISTS, and creditS before TEASERS.

Liked CRATE crossing PINTO.

@Evan and @Alias Z - SQUEE BALL and RHODES SQUALOR - thanks for the laugh!

retired_chemist 9:26 AM  

IPA is isopropyl alcohol to a chemist - a little taken aback the first time I heard it applied to a beverage.

Norm 9:31 AM  

oh pooh on all the criticism and lack elegance. I liked it. The theme answers all made me smile. A nice Wednesday puzzle.

Anonymous 9:46 AM  

On your "2 on 2" point...

Yesterday's puzzle did, in fact, have a paired horsey theme (saddle shoes AND halter tops) yet you missed it, complaining that saddle shoes were a one of a kind.


Bob Kerfuffle 10:00 AM  

@lms - May I join your Always Like Everything club?

One write-over, 59 A, ERA before EON, but yes, @Anonymous (GF) 1:58 AM, the puzzle is correct. See this Wikipedia entry and scroll down to the table - way down!

As @joho did, I noted the (symmetrically placed!) MINUS/ASSET answers, but thought there was a missed opportunity for paired clues, where 18 D could have been "Weak point" to match 42 D's "Strong point."

mac 10:03 AM  

I had to snake around this one to get started. Some funny parts, some a little painful. EEOC/eon was probably the last area to fall.

Love how Stengel crosses "great squat". There's a funny old English word for squat, harkins. Not sure about the spelling and no time to look it up.

Anonymous 10:05 AM  

Just curious - is the NYT crossword no longer considered the "elite" crossword? I'm a little disappointed that now that I decided to tackle it on a daily basis it's nothing to be proud of.

Masked and Anonymo5Us 10:18 AM  

Liked it.
All these smarties comin to the last themer and just automatically fillin in the "all-to-obvious" (sniff) SQU- at the front, to save precious nanoseconds. har! Wrong again, WedPuz breath: Turned the tables on yah! An extra ahar moment that leaves the grideratti howlin. Sweet. thUmbswayUp. Hootsville, dude.

@muse: yeppers. REUNE is a fragrant, welcome flower to M&A, on multiple levels. Nice of the constructioneer to share that desperate moment with Us. Makes one feel so COSI...

"My name is Weejects Galore." --- "Day-um, I must be dreamin," replies agent MA007... ETH, NES, EER. REA-YEA. ...QED.

Did I get round to mentionin that I really liked this one? Wouldn't want to squip over the punchline.


Steve J 10:31 AM  

@mrfugu: You noted that the asymmetry was "trivial" and that focusing on it "arbitrary minutiae".

To me - and I suspect others who have the same issue - the asymmetry was not trivial. And I'd argue that issues with symmetry in crosswords are not arbitrary minutiae. Crosswords, after all, are based on symmetry. The grid is symmetrical. The theme answers are placed symmetrically. The theme answers are the same length, at least in their symmetrical pairs. Symmetry is the gravitational force that rules every crossword puzzle.

So, breaking that is very jarring. It needs to be done for a very, very good reason.

Of course, internal symmetry within the theme is not quite as vital as the grid's symmetry, but when you've been conditioned by thousands and thousands of crossword puzzles over the years to expect symmetry, it's disorienting when it's not there, unless it's done to great effect.

Add in the expectation that, as @cascokid san mentioned, the theme serves to help the solver and that the one irregular actually presents a red herring for solvers (see @Loren's post where, because she didn't know Stengel, she got stuck because she expected an initial SQ, not a midstream one), and you can hopefully see why some of us find this to be more of a triviality. A crap word like REUNE is trivial. And while I disliked it, it didn't shape my impression of the puzzle one way or another.

I point this out not to convince you or anyone to dislike the puzzle. Many people think that the quality of the theme answers was strong enough to overcome the breaking of pattern. And that's a perfectly valid opinion. Had my overall impression of both the theme answers and the other fill been stronger, I would have probably been more willing to overlook the inconsistency.

But the opinion that the puzzle fell short is also perfectly valid. By saying that opinion is based on triviality, you (and others) are saying the negative opinion isn't terribly valid as it's based on next to nothing. In fact, it is based on something. It may not be a persuasive argument for others, but it's not just pulled out of thin air and crankiness.

@AliasZ: I think the "only a puzzle" boat sailed a long time ago for all of us who come here every day to discuss the puzzles. Clearly they have some import to all of us. Or we all clearly have nothing to do with our time. :)

@Evan: Forgot to mention last night that I *loved* SQUEE BALL and its clue. That would have made me squee had I encountered it in a puzzle.

lawprof 10:56 AM  

Maybe I'm just easily amused (shucks, I enjoy those puzzles in airline magazines), but I got a kick out of this one. Yeah, the outlier (now there's a word I picked up here that I'll use in the future) GREATSQUAT called attention to itself, but I thought it was just the catcher calling for a curveball at the end of a 3-0 count to keep me off balance.

I did furrow my brow at Proterozoic EON, which I got, but first thought was improperly clued. Then I read @Bob Kerfuffle's post and was set straight.

lawprof 10:57 AM  

Maybe I'm just easily amused (shucks, I enjoy those puzzles in airline magazines), but I got a kick out of this one. Yeah, the outlier (now there's a word I picked up here that I'll use in the future) GREATSQUAT called attention to itself, but I thought it was just the catcher calling for a curveball at the end of a 3-0 count to keep me off balance.

I did furrow my brow at Proterozoic EON, which I got, but first thought was improperly clued. Then I read @Bob Kerfuffle's post and was set straight.

Two Ponies 11:25 AM  

The puns made me smile. So I forgive the rest. It is only Wed. after all.

@ chefwen, Las Cruces made me think of and miss Jesser too.

DigitalDan 11:49 AM  

Dumbo and his mouse friend get drunk and . . . well, here:

Benko 11:52 AM  

I've gotta agree with @lawprof and @m&a--seems like,the last entry's nonsymmetry served a purpose...otherwise the puzzle would have been too easy. Nice to have a curve ball sometimes for those of us who are conditioned to expect anything but the unexpected.
I had more of a problem with the theme itself than the theme symmetry. Add a "w" what? I don't see that as being very interesting wordplay. If there was some kind of overarching theme that added something to it, it would be more impressive. Am surprised there aren't more comments about the failure of this puzzle's central idea to be puzzle-worthy rather than its AAAB structure.

gifcan 11:54 AM  

Couldn't remember how to spell STENGEL (STENGaL?) and didn't know an EEOC from an aEOC. DNF.

@Steve J - Do you ever sit in for Rex? Your comments are always so thoughtful.

Lewis 12:04 PM  

I guess it comes down to frame of reference. If you're used to theme answers following the same pattern or symmetry and believe that is how it should be, then this puzzle is sacrilege.

If not, this is not.

The former will say work harder to get it right, and if you can't, scrap the puzzle. The latter will say, the sk to squ theme held for all answers, it's okay.

I believe that is what has happened here today.

Is there an Absolute Right here? If so, what is it based on?

Me, I did like the theme and its answers, and enjoyed the solve. But I have come up to similar situations in my puzzle constructing, and never have opted to keep the non-symmetrical theme answers because I know there are strong feelings in the community against it.

Just as this is Rex's blog and he's entitled to say what he wishes, this is also Will's domain, and he's entitled to set his own standards.

Noam D. Elkies 12:11 PM  

I guessed right that the 3+1 would cause much hate. I actually enjoyed it: if it were 4+0 one could fill in the first three letters of 57A automatically; also the last theme entry is different in another way — the theme word also changes spelling (great Scott ≠ great scat, bathroom humor notwithstanding) — so it should be the odd-man-out. Anyway rules like "4+0 or 2+2" are meant to be broken occasionally. Imagine if the theme of Beethoven's Fifth were just the same not four times ;-)

Outside the theme, several math entries: 6A:GEOM [me: what part of math doesn't have proofs?], 28D:QED, 26:SETS as a noun, and 38D:LOCI though it was clued non-geometrically (and in a way that suggests FOCI). Plus the SQUARE chessboard.

47D:REUNE has been around for years as a humorous back-formation of "reunion". I have no problem with it, nor even with "ush" (from "usher"); it's having fun with the language, which is what crosswords are about too.


Noam D. Elkies 12:11 PM  

(Same note four times, that is...)

Blue Stater 12:14 PM  

"Someone needs to tell the emperor he has some sartorial issues."

I've been telling him -- and the NYT -- that for many years, to no avail. Long past time for a change.

jburgs 12:18 PM  

Fun, challenging puzzle for my unsophisticated level. Saw the asymmetry as a good curve ball.

Much talk recently about comparing LAT and NYT puzzles. I don't know anything about the LAT one. Seems it can get a little heated. Hope this East-West thing doesn't escalate like it did in the Rap world. You should all get along.

M and Also 12:22 PM  

@Benko: I gotta agree with U agreein with us. Hey, tho -- whenever my analysis has been ruled valid and sound by a lawprofessor's, that's AFIRST. Usually M&A is ruled Incompetus Mentus.

As for the theme itself, it's pretty standard stuff, I reckon. Replace an "SK" sound with a "SQW" sound. But the results, U must admit, are kinda funny. SQUID MARKS instead of yer regular SKID MARKS, ferinstance. Heck, if a puz gives me a good har, I'm on its side.

I mean, Day-um, a body could have a pretty good day, just comin up with alternate clues for SQUID MARKS. Example: "disadvantage of havin a cephalopod is yer shorts".

so... Have a good day!

Alan D. 12:39 PM  

I feel like I have to defend the NYT here. The talent pool is definitely shrinking as many of the best constructors have taken their puzzles to alterative and oftentimes independent places. But according to crossword-guru Matt Gaffney the NYT had one of the five best puzzles anywhere in Nov. and three in Oct.! That's pretty good for a "shrinking pool."

Last Silver Squirt Chaser 12:43 PM  

"What the inky underwater message to Captain Nemo was written in".


MikeM 12:46 PM  

The inconsistancy bothered me not a bit. Does it really matter it didnt follow the other 3? Who cares. I got REUNE but didnt like it and EON/Era tripped me up so I DNF.

Outlaw Manda 12:51 PM  

BEAT ME UP SQUATTY = 15, btw...

Anonymous 12:52 PM  

@George Barany -- just noticed the "KC, KC" ("Casey") thing myself -- quite nice.

baja 12:52 PM  

@ George Barany - liked your explanation with the 2 K's and 2C's from Casey (KC) Stengal. Good puzzle.

etc 12:54 PM  

Should been "BEAM..."


4-Poster 1:14 PM  

Best one I could come up with--
Pocahontas' errata?


MetaRex 1:17 PM  

As a stand-alone exclamation, GREAT SCOTT is different from the first three themers...ya could view it as a nice final punctuation! of the in that camp personally...have no prob w/ Will or another editor accepting on that ground, or w/ a decision to reject on asymmetry grounds.

Never noticed the asymmetry as I was solving...a possible side effect of a rare day w/ a faster time than my two betters and pace cars...

End of the semester blues for me, too...good luck, @Evan. Some of us need tips from OFL on time management...

Anoa Bob 1:36 PM  

For those who always find something to like in every puzzle, I appreciate y'all stopping by on a regular basis. You provide a pleasant buffer for those of us who might wax splenetic from time to time.

retired_chemist 1:44 PM  

KC is way cool considering also where Stengel's nickname came from:

"Stengel was born in Kansas City, Missouri, and originally nicknamed "Dutch", a common nickname at that time for Americans of German ancestry. After his major league career began, he acquired the nickname "Casey", which originally came from the initials of his hometown ("K. C."), which evolved into "Casey", influenced by the wide popularity of the poem Casey at the Bat." (Wikipedia)

C.J. from Green Bay 1:46 PM  

@m&a, re: Your marvelous 15-letter theme answer BEAMMEUPSQUATTY:

Clue: "Emergency out of TP message from Captain Kirk"

A diehard Trekkie,

Acme 1:55 PM  

In terms of shrinking pools, etc. one should note that altho pay is paltry all around, NYT is still only $200 and no residuals for syndicated reprints, books, calendars, airplane mags, mugs, ashtrays, you-name-it...
Whereas the LA Times is less than half... $85.

My last collaboration in the LA Times netted me $42.50 two rewrites and two years later.

So, um, lighten up. It's still out of love and creativity and striving to make stuff great.

There was a consistency of SK, SC, SK, SC sounds
And using the very difficult to work with Q in 8 entries
Obviously trumped the 3-1 consideration this time around.
Again, more elegant to go 2-2, so I'd have focused not on GREATSQUAT which is fun and energetic but the more lethargic (relatively) SQUARETACTIC.

It's still a nice theme and was obviously difficult to pull off perfectly. Since everyone's so baseball-y here, I'd say it was a triple, not a home run, but still belonged in the big leagues.

I do admit tho if you were using the theme to help you get thte answers, which is a great part of what they are all about, it would be a major trip up and you could go splat, like ms LMS or speedsolvers who would be outraged...and apparently were!

Sticklered Pink 1:57 PM  

"Pink Elephants" are NOT from Dumbo, despite what everyone is writing, @Rex.
There is a reference to the idea in Dumbo, but it was commonly used before that.
Looked it up,, and the first recorded reference of the term is by Jack London in his book John Barleycorn. It is thought to have evolved from an earlier phrase, "pink giraffes."

Bird 2:13 PM  

Was doing great and liking the puzzle until I got to the SE. Entering CREDITS (TEASERS are not always shown during the closing CREDITS) and SQUAT-something (the old final themer switcheroo trick) spoiled it. I too thought 59D was an ERA (never heard of named time periods as EONS).

SQUID MARKS is sorta funny though.

Considering all the alternatives offered today, that SE corner should have been rewritten.

@retired_chemist – I had the same first thought, but the clue has periods between the letters (I.P.A.).

Happy Humpday!

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Evan 2:26 PM  

For everyone who's saying something to the effect of, Oh, who cares about the theme inconsistency; nice to get a curveball every now and again; etc, I have a few questions:

1. Per what I asked @mrfugu, why not have a puzzle where you have perfect grid symmetry except for a single, random black square in a corner, or a single, unmatched theme answer with one letter chopped off at the end? Would you defend that? It's just too hard to fill that corner without the extra black space, and hey, they're just throwing you a curveball, after all. How is that rationale any different?

2. Let's say you a had an even simpler change-one-letter theme, where four theme answers change M to N, but the fifth one changes M to S. Would you defend that? Curveball, once again.

3. Consider the counterfactual: If the theme entries in this puzzle had been completely consistent -- all four SQU- words at the beginning, or a two-two split -- would you have complained about how they should have made it a three-one split instead? If not, what's the downside of balancing them as four-zero or two-two?

4. How do you square the "who cares about symmetry" argument with the fact that the constructor himself said he would have preferred a four-zero symmetrical arrangement instead of three-one?

For the record, I don't mind when people say that they found things to enjoy about this puzzle in spite of the asymmetry -- sure, the theme answers by themselves are pretty good puns. The point I'm trying to make is that the symmetry still matters. There's no downside to balancing theme patterns, but there is a downside to making them imbalanced if there's no reason to do it. The NYT's own publisher specification sheet says that "Themes should be fresh, interesting, narrowly defined and consistently applied throughout the puzzle." Whether the editor considers a theme fresh and interesting is highly subjective. The consistency element is not.

And yes, I have gotten puzzles rejected for failing to apply themes consistently. So my feeling is, fine -- then every themed puzzle should be held to that same standard.

Anonymous 2:40 PM  

It's frustrating (and artistically damning) when a movie violates the rules it spent the first two acts establishing.

This puzzle did the same thing.

I recognized the theme pretty quickly, and plugged in "SQU" for the first three letters of 57A. This made it almost impossible to complete the puzzle.

Maybe I was solving to dogmatically, but I'd say that the puzzle failed because it violated the very rules it established.

Anonymous 2:41 PM  

^ *too*

evil doug 2:54 PM  


Why don't you elaborate your point one more time? I don't think I caught it the first five. Guess you're firing every last round before your schoolwork--mercifully--takes you away....

Some of you constructors need to calm the fuck down.


Dangerfield 3:06 PM  

Evil Doug nailed it! I was just going to say these angry ranting people sound like they need to get laid! or sour grapes (I didnt get away with it so no one else can.)

chefbea 3:08 PM  

Good ole @Evil is back!!

Anonymous 3:17 PM  

I feel vindicated. Not terribly long ago I asserted that Elvis was known for his sneer. Lots of folks in here told me I was wrong. There was lots of piling on, and of course, lots of gratuituous attacks on anonymity. Imagine my delight at filling in the final couple of letters of today's puzzle (which I enjoyed. warts and all).

Fire away at my lack of taste, sophistication and name.

jburgs 3:18 PM  

@Evan 2:26: I understand your argument but it doesn't change my mind about liking the puzzle. You must admit that the curveball was easily hit and only slowed down the solve slightly. I am not at level nor inclination to try to speed solve. Hopefully I will at some point. If it had been more of a knuckleball, like your second point in the post, I would agree with you.

LaneB 3:26 PM  

Cluing is certainly the key factor in determining the difficulty of the puzzles, and the clues in today's were often vague. Thus the 'medium-challenging' designation. I had trouble with 15a REAR because I had no idea what twerking was. Also fooled for a while by the clue for RHO. Likewise the clues for EON, SQIN, ESQUE,SETS and ALIT. Also hated to see REUNE [though I think we've seen that one before.]
That said, I liked the SQU for K device and didn't care whether it appeared first or second in any answer.
Took me longer than usual, but I soldiered on and finished.

Anonymous 3:28 PM  

Evil Doug,

Thank you!
If you had a newsletter, I'd subscribe.

Rob C 3:29 PM  

Med/Chal Wed for me. Liked the theme and the Q-ness of the grid.

Great discussion today. That's what brings us back - we're all crossnerds.

My 2 cents - I noticed the theme inconsistently immediately. It was a minor bother and didn't keep me from enjoying the puzzle. However, I do not wish to see this become the norm. The more consistent a theme, the more elegant the puzzle is to me.

Grid symmetry and theme consistency serve a functional purpose also - to assist the solver.

I don't agree with @Evan about his random black square. Grid symmetry and theme consistency are separate considerations in my book. Interesting that when we get grid asymmetry, it doesn't seem to get the troops riled up like this. (But, there's usually a purpose to grid asymmetry, not always though. And it's never just one misplaced black square)

I do agree with @Evan and @LMS - If I dreamed up this theme, not only wouldn't I have submitted it, I probably would not have constructed a puzzle.

john towle 3:31 PM  

I believe all you nattering nabobs of negativism are too young to be curmudgeons or maybe just with too much time on your hands, but as John Stuart Mill, among others, was fond of saying: the opinions of the minority need to be respected because they might be right.



Rob C 3:36 PM  

PS - There are also degrees of consistency/inconsistency, which is why some of the points on @Evan's list would bother me to a greater extent than today's puzzle did.

Two Ponies 3:52 PM  

Maybe the fourth theme answer not playing by the rules was the "trick" to this puzzle. It seems that several people nearly didn't finish because they assumed that 57A would play along. If this is the case then I like it even better!

Hi Evil Doug!

AliasZ 4:06 PM  

@Loren, reading your excellent post, I felt the need to respond.

Do not listen to much of today's comments. The other day we had the theme BIG BAD WOLF scattered randomly around the grid, yet the reaction to it was a lot more forgiving. It was certainly mentioned a few times, but not with the sheer volume of words and loudness level we are experiencing today. Honestly, I am surprised at the negative reaction of @Rex and others for the fourth theme answer being off kilter.

Of course this is @Rex's blog, and he clearly states his opinions honestly, strongly and with conviction, as we all do. But do not allow his or anyone else's opinion to be the only determining factor. I do remember a Michael Sharp puzzle that contained the word EYEING, which alone would have made me redo at least that side of the grid, if not chuck it completely. Yet he submitted it and Will accepted it.

Trust your instincts. They are good. And veteran constructors like Jeff Chen.

I for one am looking forward to your solo debut.

Evan 4:10 PM  

@Rob C:

Fair enough -- I'd probably be bothered more by a random asymmetrical black square too, though I find it hard to defend one but not the other.

@evil doug:

If you have something to say about the actual arguments I presented, then say it.

sanfranman59 4:20 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 11:01, 9:52, 1.12, 77%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Wed 6:36, 5:49, 1.13, 83%, Challenging

Zygotic 4:20 PM  

Perhaps the most pertinent observation regarding the theme inconsistency was, "I've had puzzles rejected when the editors told me that my theme answers didn't follow a consistent pattern." This isn't just Rex or @Evan, then, but an understood standard for having puzzles published. I enjoyed the themers immensely, but I get the criticism.

I think the second most pertinent observation was, "My last collaboration in the LA Times netted me $42.50 two rewrites and two years later. So, um, lighten up. It's still out of love and creativity and striving to make stuff great."

Noam D. Elkies 4:56 PM  

FWIW I also think (and have mentioned this before in this forum) that we make too much of a fetish of symmetry and I'd have no problem with an unobtrsive asymmetric black square. All the more so if the alternative is a symmetrical grid with much worse fill.


Loren Muse Smith 5:53 PM  

@AliasZ – thanks. My whole life I've been plagued with questioning myself/performance on everything and really caring what other people think. Not to hear the "meh," "crud," "POCs" as I wobblily (someone else spell that adverb for me) fill a grid is simply beyond me. I just don't have the confidence. I'm still, well, stunned, at how hard it is to come up with a clean grid. These guys who produce one or two terrific puzzles every week just blow me away. I just finished one that had so many plurals it wasn't funny. EYEING is one thing – I think I had EELERS or REEYING or something recently.

For me, there's a bigger picture here. How delightful that we can all have such a spirited discussion about theme symmetry, today, and clues some other days and this stuff truly matters to us!As @RobC put it – "That's what brings us back - we're all crossnerds." Group hug.

I've said so many times before, when I stumbled upon this place, I felt like I'd come home. I know there's a lot of negativity; opinions of puzzles are so subjective. But I'm still really, really grateful to Rex for doing this day-in and day-out.

So, shameless sycophant that I am, I will encourage everyone to remember to send some money Rex's way. And Fiend and BEQ, too, if you go there. (Brendan – I haven't forgotten you – it's coming.)

acme 6:03 PM  

@Z Thanks

To change the subject for a moment...
JUST received my first Christmas card from one of my oldest friends from college and her new address?
NATICK, MA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Just Joe 6:52 PM  

@LMS, I'd like to join your club along with @Bob, too. I too get unusually annoyed by misspellings and butchery of the language which is usually due to laziness - see Apple's "think different" campaign. And I've been known to talk back to the TV and radio when someone drops the "ly" off an adjective, which my wife thinks is "cute". Anyhoo, not to lecture, but you should take care of that tooth sooner rather than later. I had a molar removed recently (pulled they use to call it) after a 2 year ordeal of trying to save it. Dentists are people too :) And I second @AliasZ's sentiments - Give em hell!

Really enjoyed this puzzle though I had more erasures today than I think I've had over the past few months…and that's saying something. Good thing it wasn't on paper or I would have had a Swissword by the end. Had piano, loos, squarechaser, aclu for eeoc (?), and many more. Had fun though - keep em comin, symmetrical or no.

August West 7:00 PM  

You guys playing cards?

Just Joe 7:18 PM  

"We're O. K. Gotta a game of acey-deucey going."

August West 7:59 PM  

Well, "when you fire the fish, put them well up forward. We don't want to have to die slowly."

Joe The Juggler 8:26 PM  

I enjoyed the theme, but I totally agree with Steve above about the problem with the THEIST clue. I don't mind when clues are intentionally ambiguous so as to mislead, but this one seemed unfair. (Also, it wasn't a clever way of misleading nor a particularly effective one.)

Anonymous 8:43 PM  

There’s a reason these are called Crossword Puzzles--they are suppose to puzzle the mind. They are not supposed to be so logical that answers come easily. There is nothing wrong that 3 of 4 theme answers start with SQ and the 4th one doesn’t. Where is that axiom writing? Are you the sole arbiter of crossword rules? I think not! Awhile back you ranted about Max not being a classical dog name when it is the most popular dog name in America; get a grip and stop your unrelenting bitch-fest.

JCM 9:07 PM  

How about SQUATCARDS clued perhaps as powerlifting records, and turning into a deck of Skat Cards?

sanfranman59 10:02 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 5:43, 6:07, 0.93, 19%, Easy
Tue 8:18, 8:12, 1.01, 57%, Medium
Wed 10:50, 9:52, 1.10, 73%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:40, 3:46, 0.97, 31%, Easy-Medium
Tue 4:46, 5:01, 0.95, 31%, Easy-Medium
Wed 6:26, 5:49, 1.11, 76%, Medium-Challenging

Keenan Mahoney 4:20 AM  

RHODES SQUALOR is amazing.

Anonymous 4:56 AM  

At&T is not a domed stadium.

Purple 12:29 PM  

visit my recipe World Recipe

spacecraft 12:31 PM  

Lots and lots of verbiage over the fact that SQUAT does not simply trade QU for C as in the other three, but changes the ending from -OTT to -AT. Yes, I noticed this, and yes, it felt "wrong"--no, that's not it--inconsistent. But for me that's not enough to pull the flag; it's just an annoyance. I realize there has to be a little give, else neither a puzzle nor a bridge could ever be constructed.

More painful to me was HIREES, an ugly, almost never-used word--but still a word. However, REUNE is NOT a word--at least it would be rejected in a Scrabble tournament--and THAT's the offense for which today's flag flies.

Besides which, there's too much forced stuff. All the Q crosses, as has been mentioned, and weird abbrs. like GEOM (really? The flag almost came out right there) and HGTS. BTW, I agree that news space is sold by column/inches, not, forheavensake, SQIN.

FOCI are better centers of attention--or anything else--than LOCI. There's some good fill here; STENGEL comes to mind. But overall? Thumbs down.

Back to totally illegible captchas (sigh). At least they have taken to subbing numbers in the second one. Thanks, I guess, for that.

rain forest 12:45 PM  

Really enjoyed the protracted lecture about grid symmetry, theme placement symmetry, and theme symmetry. Stimulating.

@Evil - attaboy, Doug

Personally, though I didn't like EON, or THEISTS, this puzzle was fun, and GREATSQUAT is hilarious. "OK, Johhny, get into your crouch. Great squat!" Loved it, and you know what? I didn't mind that three themers started with SQU, and one didn't. I guess I don't share the vision of the perfect puzzle that others do.

Seems to me that Liz Gorski has done several puzzles that have no symmetry, and there was no revolution. GRIP. What some need to get.

Anonymous 1:15 PM  

THANK YOU, Evil Doug! Sometimes my blood boils reading all the nitpicks and/or criticisms. Honestly, I think some of the solvers here need to get a life. Hey, "it's only a game."

Ron Diego 10:15 PST 1/8/14

P.S. I enjoy & appreciate most of the puzzles, unless they're too easy.

DMG 3:29 PM  

Enjoyed doing this once I recognized the sound change-out. My pause came in the central south, but I finally recalled that STENGEL was a baseball name, and tentatively filled in GREAT, accepting the odd use of EON. However, GREATSQUAT was total nonsense too me until @spacecraft put things together.

I join @evil doug and @rain forest in wishing for less of the "protracted lecture" stuff. However, it's fairly easy to skip to more user-friendly Syndiland.

Dirigonzo 4:40 PM  

Usually when there are over 100 comments I skip over many, especially the longer ones, so I'm not too eye-fatigued to read all the syndi-comments, but the vitriol of those who hated the puzzle sucked me. @M&A very nicely (and humorously) expressed my very thoughts on the puz. I know a fellow who bought a boat to celebrate his divorce - he named it "Scott Free" which annoyed his ex to no end (but I don't think he gave a squat).

Still being dealt low cards for my poker hand - this time I drew a straight (or a full house with sixes over fours if that's a better hand).

Did I mention I liked the puzzle?

Waxy in Montreal 6:02 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Waxy in Montreal 6:06 PM  

Attaboy, @Evil Doug. Loved your 2:54 PM GRADE A comment directed at @Evan Almighty. Bet he's been SQUARED OFF.

Enjoyed the creative theme entries today. Could care less that one is asymmetrical. Less pleased with the EON/EEOC cross and especially REUNE and the poorly-clued THEISTS.

Writeover - SUN before RCA for Elvis's label.

Dirigonzo 6:35 PM  

@Waxy - me too for Sun before RCA; Sam Phillips discovered Elvis and some other notable rockers.

Solving in Seattle 6:37 PM  

Not wanting to pile on, still, while solving this kinda fun puzzle I had the feeling a few times that it just wasn't tight.

I've never seen written or heard said out loud the past tense of "outlay" before. Ever. And don't want to see it again.

I also circled the clue for 22D and kind of held my nose. And to be totally accurate, believers in one god are monoTHEISTS.

SQIN? Oh, that's what a SQUID writes with to make MARKS.

I guess if ED is coming back for his REUNE with the blog he might as well do it with biting sarcasm.

@Diri, your full house beats my two pair.

Ginger 9:05 PM  

Normally I enjoy reading insightful comments about the trials and tribulations of crossword constructing. Not so today. Too much ranting, way too much verbiage.

I got caught in the trap at 57-A. And...I managed to solve it. Feel good about it. Someone mentioned 'crossnerd'! Great word, I represent that word.

Anyway, enjoyed the puz, especially the curve ball.

Captcha, shoulda kept my ante

Ginger 9:08 PM  

As I understand it, 'Classified ads' are sold by the column inch, but 'display ads' are by the square inch. I think the clue is correct.

Unknown 9:47 PM  

Does Elvis really have a trademark on his sneer?

JT 1:35 AM  

It pre-dates Dumbo.

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