Cloud Shepherd artist / SUN 12-22-13 / House committee chairman Darrell / Vintage wedding gown fabrics / Spanish cession in Spanish-American war / Majority owner of Chrysler / Rao Serpent Rope novelist / 1997 PGA champ who captained 2012 US Ryder Cup team

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Constructor: Elizabeth C. Gorski

Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: "Good One!" — Clue to all theme answers is [See blurb]. Blurb reads: "When this puzzle is done, draw a line connecting the 21 circled letters from A to U in alphabetical order. The resulting shape will provide a clue to 6-, 8-, 14-, 53- and 70-Down." So it turns out the clue for all theme answers is ANGEL, which is the picture you get when you do all that connect-the-dotting. 


Word of the Day: Angel Cabrera (53D: [See blurb] => GOLFER CABRERA)

Ángel Cabrera (pronounced: [ˈaŋxel kaˈβɾeɾa]; born 12 September 1969) is an Argentine professional golfer who plays on both the European Tour and PGA Tour. He is known affectionately as "El Pato" in Spanish or in English as "The Duck" for his waddling gait. He is a two-time major champion, having won the 2007 U.S. Open and the 2009 Masters, in each becoming the first Argentine to win either tournament. He also lost in a sudden death playoff at the 2013 Masters. (wikipedia)
• • •

Should've been harder than it was. Once I had most of SHOW BACKER filled in, I knew what the theme was. Done and done. Only theme problem I had was remembering what sport Angel CABRERA played (I had baseball, but no: golf). If I hadn't hit SHOW BACKER first, it might've taken me Much Longer to figure out the theme. But as it was—fastest recorded Sunday time since early September. I'm not the biggest fan of post-solve drawing—in this case, it was Highly anti-climactic—but I like the thought here. It's seasonal, and cleverly executed, and the fill doesn't suffer terribly under the burden of a reasonably demanding theme. So thumbs up.

I was surprised to see my time be so low, as I felt like there were a number of times I came to a dead stop or at least floundered a bit. I had some trouble getting into the NE, as I had the bottom but not the top of the theme answer, and then needed to look at all the clues up there before finally getting QUEEG (total lifesaver, as I never would've gotten QBS or GEES or FAR or (especially) RENVOI without that QUEEG kickstart). I love NOEL, NOEL crossing the heart of this grid. Bonus theme answer! "IF I FELL" is another fine-looking answer. Also love HUGUENOT, as it reminds me of my favorite Christmas film, "The Ref." The main family is the Chausseurs, and they repeatedly correct people's pronunciation of the name and then tell them "it's 18th-century French HUGUENOT." Here's the opening marriage counseling scene with Judy Davis and Kevin Spacey (warning: profanity).

Is it weird or bad or apt or what that "ANGEL" is embedded inside MICHELANGELO? Seems intended, so … apt?

A few other puzzles to point you to today—for your holiday enjoyment. The first is risqué, so if you are easily offended, please don't bother. However, if you enjoyed last week's Sunday puzzle, and can handle a little … playful bawdiness, I think you'll get a kick out of this one: "Box Set" (constructed by Anonymous, aka "A Cunning Linguist") (PDF / .PUZ).

The second puzzle is "Seasonal Staff" by Francis Heaney, this week's American Values Club Crossword puzzle. Get it here for a dollar (though you really should be a yearly subscriber by now). I swear you won't be disappointed. It is hard as all get out, but if you make it to the end, the reveal is spectacular (Note: I'd print it out and solve it on paper, if I were you).

Lastly, if you are a fan of Ms. Gorski (today's puzzle constructor) and you are jonesing for more high-quality, relatively easy puzzles to do, consider her weekly puzzle from Crossword Nation. Yearly subscriptions are cheap. They'd make nice last-minute Christmas gifts for pro and novice solvers alike. Information here.

The great thing about the independent puzzle sites I've been recommending is that a. the puzzles are of a very high quality (higher, often, than that of the NYT puzzles), and b. the constructors either own their own product or receive more equitable pay than any newspaper or mainstream puzzle publication currently offers. The NYT pays $200/Mon-Sat and $1000/Sunday, which is an embarrassingly, ridiculously low fee for the self-proclaimed "gold standard" puzzle to be paying its constructors, esp. since the NYT takes in better than $2 million / year *in online puzzle subscriptions alone*, to say nothing of how valuable the puzzle is to the NYT's dead-tree circulation—do you have any idea what would happen to dead-tree subscriptions if the crossword suddenly disappeared? If you think "not much," then after I stop laughing I'll tell you that that's what you're supposed to think. You're supposed to think "not much." You're supposed to think of the crossword as a cute little diversion, tucked away over there in the Arts section. You're supposed to see it as a quaint, ancillary thing. Nothing to do with news. Just a game. A lark. Don't ask questions about money—that's just … not done. Rude, really. Déclassé. But the NYT knows that the New York Times Crossword Puzzle is a cash cow. How big of one? I don't know. I'd love to know. Can someone answer this question accurately: How Much Is The Crossword Puzzle Worth, In Dollars and Cents, to the NYT? It's an important question to ask—I don't think you can begin to determine what "fair" pay is until you've answered it.

Because labor costs involved in producing crosswords are (at this point) very small, and because crosswords are a kind of ritual practice (i.e. they keep tens of thousands of people attached to their papers on a daily basis), the crossword is probably one of the few reliably profitable things about the paper. I stopped submitting puzzles to the NYT in large part because they don't pay constructors anything close to what their product is worth. Many good constructors I know don't submit to the NYT much if at all any more, for this reason as well as other, non-financial reasons (about which … some other time). I don't know why the absurd financial realities of crosswords aren't better known. The pay system is insanely out of whack. But it's What The Market Will Bear (a common defense from apologists) and Pay Has Actually Gone Up Under the Current Editor (another common defense from apologists). So… whaddya gonna do? The NYT crossword puzzles, while no longer the freshest or most cutting-edge, are still decent—occasionally brilliant—and maybe both overall puzzle quality and constructor compensation will improve in the future. In the meantime, independent puzzles are thriving. Their generally high quality and increasing popularity are eventually going to force the NYT to up its game (and—if there is any justice in the world, which of course there isn't—its pay).

I'm told the editor is going to be seeking a constructor pay raise soon. Very curious to see how that goes.
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

    P.S. Patrick Merrell has a free 15x15 puzzle for you — "Up, Up and (when I catch my breath) Away!" ("If you like it, consider it a Christmas or belated Hanukkah gift, even though the theme has nothing to do with either holiday. If you don’t like it, demand a refund!"). Get it here.


    paulsfo 12:09 AM  

    I got 8D fairly early and then wondered how one could depict The Pietà or David with twenty straight lines. ;)

    AliasZ 12:13 AM  

    Boy, we have came a long way since MCMXIII.

    What a wonderful picture puzzle by Elizabeth Gorski! I loved just about everything about it. Despite the self-imposed restrictions brought on by the correctly placed alphabet in the shape of an ANGEL, we also have the grid-scanning MICHELANGELO SCULPTURE right down the middle, making a L-R mirror symmetry, a natural for the symmetrical drawing, impossible. But even with these restrictions, Liz managed to squeeze in tremendous entries like: BAUXITE, HUGUENOT, TOKENISM, FUELTANK, GENEPOOL, EXITROW, OUTTAKES, ANTEATER, etc., not to mention the five theme clues for ANGEL including the center 8D. I also loved the few Christmas clues/entries: NOEL NOEL, the SPIRITED rendition of Deck the Halls and Son of GOD. Excellent work!

    UPRAISING seemed a little clumsy, and I entered unTANGLE which to me sounded more natural then DETANGLE. I did not know RENVOI, SPODE, DAVIS LOVE III, Anne BEATTIE or RAJA Rao. A few ESE were also necessary: ENE, ACK, ALG, TOA, ANET, ALOOP, OOHS, ELLS etc., but I did not mind them much.

    Tue-Wed difficulty with the exception of the NE corner where I ran into a little resistance, not having known RENVOI and the AEROSMITH SONG. Speaking of which, how weird is it that we discussed the two Angie songs from yesterday's puzzle, and today it's ANGEL by AEOROSMITH? And then the beautiful Emily Dickinson poem cited by @ Joe The Juggler for the Word SOLEMNER also contains the following lines:

    ...The Man—upon the Woman—binds—
    To clasp her soul—for all—
    A prayer, that it more ANGEL—prove—
    A whiter Gift—within—
    To that munificence, that chose—
    So unadorned—a Queen—

    A wonderful Christmas gift. Thank you, Ms. Gorski.

    jae 12:15 AM  

    Easy-medium for me.  Fortunately I also figured out the theme and did not have to connect the circles to finish the puzzle, hence easy-medium.   Cute fun theme and pretty smooth grid.  Good day to be a golf fan.

    Noam D. Elkies 12:47 AM  

    I usually like this Gorski's Sunday structures but this one feels like way too ambitious, with far too many theme answers and supporting theme answers (GOD, JESU, etc.etc.) for its and our own good. Never mind that three g*lfers in one grid, including one them answer, is at least two too many. 14D:AEROSMITH_SONG? If you say so. At least I knew of the band's existence. 4D:TAUTENED and 38D:DETANGLE are inferrable but tush-ugly. (Ask Google Ngrams to compare them with "tightened" and "untangle" respectively. Yes, I get that the 38D clue contains un- and thus militates against UNTANGLE.) 75A:RAJ intersects 66D:RAJA which is basically the same word (even worse than intersecting REGAL with a name-clued REX). I suppose somebody will say I'm not being holiday-109A:SPIRITED enough. Whatever — it's not my holiday anyway.

    Sorry, and to all a good night,

    Will Shortz 12:48 AM  

    Rex-- I agree with your argument regarding constructor pay. I've already made my best pitch to the powers that be. Keep your fingers crossed. --Will Shortz

    Unknown 1:00 AM  

    2 and a half hour complete grid DNF grinder. The first hour went smoothly, but I was dead when French crossed French AMI/RENVOI. There ought to be a law. RENVOy is properly english, and AMy is clueable a thousand ways, some even involving French, no doubt.

    GIBE/GUAM/CABRERA/MORON never settled down and left me feeling like the latter. An anchorless four-clue Natick, that one.

    JEANAR?/S?ODE was another roll of the 26-sided die.

    "Like many coats and tunes" very adequately hid BELTED from view. ELLS for wings? No idea how. Stumps the dictionary, too. In Maine, an ELL connects the barn to the house.

    And yet this was an easy puzzle? Yesterday was an easy Saturday. Today was at least a medium Sunday. But don't take it from me. I've slipped to the wrong side of 10000 rank, again.

    chefwen 1:36 AM  

    Love Elizabeth Gorski puzzles, love circles, love drawing on my puzzles. This was win/win for me.

    My only glitch (where is @Glitch) was at 13A and 15D FAR = Much? And RENVOI was a new one for me. Thought it would be the WOD.

    Capcha is ants CA, we sure did have a lot of them there. UGH!

    August West 2:41 AM  

    Good going, Rex. Outstanding.

    August West 2:51 AM  

    From a guy who used to buy the daily Times and spur incredulous amazement as I cooly plucked the puzzle from Section C or the magazine and then threw the rest of the rag in the garbage at the purchase establishment. Our constructors are like D1 athletes -- fucked over.

    George Barany 3:44 AM  

    Leave it to @Liz Gorski to gently transition us from all the 100th birthday hoopla to the holiday spirit, or at least as @Noam has stated, someone's holiday. I solved this one with a friend who had no problem at all with JESU [84-Across; my own knowledge of Bach is far stronger on the music than on the titles], although even my friend was flummoxed by NOEL_NOEL (61-Across). Despite knowing almost nothing about professional golf, you just have to love DAVIS_LOVE_III (27-Across and 63-Down. If only (given the theme) he had been wearing the baseball cap with a halo in its logo, or (given his last name) been coaching tennis's Davis rather than golf's Ryder Cup. We did get a bit stymied in the Northeast French corner: the clue for AMI (39-Across) was fair, fun, and friendly, but given our unfamiliarity with 15-Down, the clue for its crossing word at the R (i.e., 13-Across) was FAR too hard. SACRE BLEU! (36- and 26-Down, repurposed).

    Bravo to @Rex for finding the hidden ANGEL in 8-Down, but somehow he missed his real-life first name staring out at the beginning of the great artist's name (well, almost). For the longest time, which wasn't all that long, we thought that the S that intersects 74-Across was part of a possessive, and racked our brains for specific sculptures [none of David, Moses, or Pieta start with CU], but ultimately figured it out.

    Summarizing, FUN puzzle. Thanks @Liz for entertaining and stimulating us with words and images, and thanks @Rex for your constructive critiques and your advocacy of the cruciverbalist arts.

    jae 4:09 AM  

    @chefwen --

    There has been far to much hoopla about the crossword anniversary.

    There has been much to much hoopla...

    chefwen 4:17 AM  

    @jae - Ah ha. Thank you. We have used that a few times in the last couple of days.

    obdurodon 4:36 AM  

    Anent the NYT puzzle as cash cow, I can't be the only puzzle-only subscriber, so for this little data point, the NYT is a puzzle business, rather than a newspaper. Anent the rise of independents, with the Atlantic out of the business, Harper's seems to be the only US-style variety cryptic left in business. Are there independents here, too, which I've failed to discover, or are variety cryptics (British obscure-word cryptics don't scratch the same itch) too far on the fringe?

    Brookboy 5:05 AM  

    Well, I learned more about the world of crosswords this morning than I ever expected. Thank you, Rex, for your thoughts and observations, and thank you, Mr. Shortz, for responding.

    Sadly, I'm not a fan of drawing figures at the conclusion of a puzzle, but I have to admit that I am impressed by Ms. Gorski's construction with this puzzle. Given the challenge for me in solving it, I cannot imagine what it would take to construct it. The drawing aside, I enjoyed the puzzle.

    It was my first DNF in a long time. I just couldn't figure out what the clue "Much" (13A) could be. I even had the FA, eventually went with d, for FAd and dENVOI. Just a guess, but a wrong one. @jae, thank you for finally enlightening me on that clue. Seems obvious now. Duh!

    I'm often bemused by what others find to criticize. That's not to say I don't have my WOE moments like everyone else, but it is to say that I appreciate the effort and dedication and talent of constructors. Seems to me like a lot of work, entirely on speculation, that you may or may not get paid for.

    But I do have to admit that reading this blog has made me a lot more aware of so many things about crossword puzzles, so I'm really glad it's here.

    Roy Leban 5:12 AM  

    Two quick items:

    1) If you're a fan of Liz's Connect-the-Dots crosswords, check out her new ebook with 10 new Sunday-size Connect-the-Dots puzzles. Visit for more info or just open it up in Puzzazz on your iOS device.

    2) We put together a pretty complete roundup of 100th Anniversary puzzles, articles, videos, interviews, and even a poem by Matt Jones.


    Anonymous 6:10 AM  

    Maybe Rex can list all the independent sites he favors for those interested but unaware.

    If constructors feel they're getting the shaft from the NYT they should organize.

    Bob Kerfuffle 6:36 AM  

    RE: 26 D, BLEU cheese - Told ya.

    Anonymous 7:26 AM  

    Rex has said quite a few times that the independent puzzles outclass the NYT. Would anyone care to offer their own opinion?

    Thanks all.

    Mohair Sam 7:38 AM  

    Agreed with Rex's comments on this puzzle to the letter. I'm gradually learning the styles of certain constructors here, and am always glad to see Ms. Gorski's name - not a bit disappointed today. Gotta believe that the extra ANGEL was intentional. Wow.

    And a big thanks for the education on the economics of crosswords. The importance of the Crossword to the NYT is one of those things we non-constructors kind of know but don't think about. If I had to guess what folks were paid for these puzzles at the apex of the game I would have at least tripled the numbers - only because I'd assume that Times management is filled with cheapskates. Golly, you'd think the Times would treasure these folks who bring in so much cash, directly and indirectly.

    Tip of the cap to Will Shortz for chiming in here.

    Mohair Sam 7:41 AM  

    Oh yeah - @ Bob Kerfuffle. Heartiest congrats on the gotcha!

    chefbea 7:51 AM  

    What a great puzzle!!! I usually start Sunday's Saturday night…then do the rest on Sunday morning. Finished this last night before Rex had posted.

    Thanks Elizabeth for a top of the tree puzzle!!!

    MetaRex 8:04 AM  

    Aah...v. the asymmetry between the left and the right wing an imperfection or a beauty mark?

    Another question...appreciate the outbreak of holiday harmony between Rex and Will on constructor pay...but...for all of us who want constructors recognized as the miniature Michelangelos and Mozarts some of us are--is a higher uniform pay scale the best way forward? Personally, I'd be happy to get my Salieri puzz published for $250 while Peter Gordon or Liz or PB or BEQ or whoever gets say $5000 for a 15 x 15 masterpiece...

    Glimmerglass 8:24 AM  

    Fun Sunday puzzle. Medium (Sunday) for me, but still fun (I like 'em harder). Re constructor's pay: I've made a few puzzles for our local weekly. It took me a long time to make one. The hourly rate was ridiculous, and I wouldn't have done it if it wasn't fun to do. How long does it take an experienced constructor to make a 15x15 puzzle? I've downloaded and printed both the free puzzles Rex recommended. I'll let you know.

    mitchs 8:33 AM  

    @various: I subscribe or contribute to BEQ, Tausig's AV, Matt Gaffney's Meta, and Peter Gordon's Fireball. Each of these produce tough, excellent and creative puzzles once a week. (BEQ somehow manages 2 per week)

    Highly recommend all. These are probably the best known indies, though. Any other recommendations?

    GILL I. 8:55 AM  

    Like @August W. I used to buy the paper only for the crossword then I'd leave the rest on a park bench.
    Loved this puzzle and couldn't wait to finish so that I could draw on it.
    This is the first time I've seen HUGUENOT in a puzzle. My great grandmother was a Huguenot and she always wore a cross of Languedoc which I've inherited. I should have paid more attention during family disquisitions about our ancestors...
    RENVOI is new to me as well. Liz always throws in foreign words and so I learn something new.
    TAUTENED SOLEMNER - sounds like a hymn!!!
    Thanks for the ANGELS, I can always use one or two.

    Glitch 9:13 AM  


    I'm still around, up here in the Rexville Retirement Resort, watching the new kids beat the same dead horses we used to beat.

    Have to go and help trim the tree now, Rex just sent over a new box of crepe.

    Happy Holidays to all!


    Anonymous 9:18 AM  

    Most enjoyable Sunday puzzle in a long time. I had mostly the left side done and discovered that I could do more than half the drawing, but had no idea what it was supposed to be so had to keep slogging. Finally nailed it. What I liked was the way it never go easy.

    retired_chemist 9:35 AM  

    DNF - theFAR/RENVOI cross flummoxed me. I had it right but was so dubious that I kept trying other letters at the cross until ai gave up and asked for incorrect letters. When I did I discovered that DeCKS (45A) was wrong, as would be obvious had I looked at 46D eOHS. My bad.

    The puzzle was easy despite my woes, but I was pretty much done, and had the theme figured out, before I had enough of the key letters to visualize the drawn angel. I continue not to be a fan of such gimmicks.

    That said, nice theme answers and generally good fill make a solid Sunday. Thanks, Ms. Gorski. And thanks, Will, for stopping by and for your fighting the good fight.

    joho 9:53 AM  

    Me, too, buying the whole paper and tossing it immediately after ripping out the puzzle.(Including the Sunday puzzle and just grabbing the magazine.) I've even had the paper delivered to my door and done the same thing, so, yes, @Rex, I'd say the crossword is a HUGE part of the NYT's revenue! @Will Shortz, my fingers are crossed!

    Loved this puzzle. The angel is beautiful as are the theme downs. I always expect to see art and music in Liz's puzzle and smiled at AEROSMSITHSONG: rock and roll!
    GOLFERCABRERA was another happy surprise.

    Is this puzzle like a Christmas present? Yes, it is! Thank you, Liz!

    noreen 10:17 AM  

    I cannot see how the clue for 13A 'MUCH' is answered by 'FAR.' Any help?

    Ω 10:23 AM  

    Guessed right at FAR/RENVOI. Also considered FAd and FAn. My three sided quarter came up R. A fine Sunday.

    Where to find quality independent puzzles, you ask? Well, well, well. Lookie here on Rex's blog... a whole list of links to independent puzzles and crossword related websites. Who knew?

    Is the NYT Xword still the gold standard? I would say it most definitely still is for puzzles that appear in printed form, especially in newspapers. The LAT puzzle comes close, but seems to eschew pushing the limit to the same degree that Shortz at times does. What the internet has done has lowered the cost of production for entry into the market. No print costs. Minimal distribution costs. No or minimal advertising costs.

    Which goes into an aspect of "fair pay" that constructors overlook - the cost of production of the Daily NYTimes. Staffing (IT, editor, office support), facilities, print costs (fixed and variable), advertising, etc. etc. etc. Nor is the puzzle the core business of the NYT. Indeed, it would hardly be surprising if the management of the Times used any profit the puzzle generates to support its core mission.

    At the same time, independent constructors benefit beyond the nominal pay they receive. Perhaps most salient is the free advertising they receive by being published either directly or indirectly? Would any of the indies be known absent the NYTXword. I believe it is unlikely.

    This isn't to say that I disagree with the notion that $200/$1,000 is insulting. Rather, it is only to say that the equation is far more complex than it might appear on the surface.

    Danp 10:25 AM  

    @noreen: Think, "It's a far, far better thing we do..."

    Agree with Rex that the drawing was anticlimatic. But putting in all the letters for the drawing and then not ending up with a bunch of garbage was admirable. I was impressed.

    JayWalker 10:32 AM  

    Well, good for all of you who got that rotten NE corner. Several people have asked: How does "Much" = "Far???" Several have recounted their joy and self-back-slapping at "getting it" but no one is answering the question. As for "renvoi" - I don't even know what to say about that. That NE corner spoiled the entire puzzle for me. Bah Humbug!!!

    JayWalker 10:33 AM  

    ell, good for all of you who got that rotten NE corner. Several people have asked: How does "Much" = "Far???" Several have recounted their joy and self-back-slapping at "getting it" but no one is answering the question. As for "renvoi" - I don't even know what to say about that. That NE corner spoiled the entire puzzle for me. Bah Humbug!!!

    Ω 10:47 AM  

    @JayWalker - See @Danp10:25. I didn't "get it." I got lucky. Of those commenting, some seemed to have parsed the much/FAR connection while others had to make a guess. I don't recall much "self-back-slapping," a feat I'll have to see if I'm even capable of anymore.

    I really, really like that hitting the captcha reload gives me easily read numbers. WooHoo.

    AetO 10:50 AM  

    @ metarex I believe the only asymmetry is in Rex's drawing of the angel. As always, ms. Gorski delivers an exceptionally clever puzzle. Let's face it, getting the angel drawing to work was a tour de force.

    Carola 10:51 AM  

    Nice! I always enjoy Ms. Gorski's connect-the-dots puzzles. This one was on the tough side for me: the first long Down I got was AEROSMITH SONG, and my reaction was, "Oh no, a theme relating to a song I've never heard of." So, when ANGEL appeared in the center, I misinterpreted it as a word in AEROSMITH SONG title. I didn't catch on until I started sketching in the shape. Suddenly SHOWBACKER made sense.

    Besides the Christmas references already mentioned, the puzzle also reminds us that the Holy SPIRIT contributed to JESU's GENE POOL, in the presence of the ANGEL of the Annunciation.

    OISK 10:55 AM  

    Cute, timely puzzle, right in the holiday spirit, doesn't matter that I don't celebrate that holiday. Of course, next year a puzzle that traces out a menorah would be nice… I really enjoyed this entire week's series of puzzles, two weeks without a DNF, largely due to the absence of certain types of clues that often appear INXS. Of course, I have no idea who or what Aerosmith is, but filled it in pretty easily anyway.

    Nice work Ms. Gorski; and thanks, Rex, for reminding me how hugely underpaid the constructors are.

    jberg 10:55 AM  

    @JayWalker -- both @jae and @danp explained how FAR=much; the latter may have posted while you were writing.

    I really needed the drawing, or at least the idea of the drawing. Like @Rex, I got the theme from SHOW BACKER, which gave me good guesses about the letters in the circles. There were a few spots where I was stuck without them.

    A few other subtheme answers: 28D, IF I FELL, is Satan contemplating what MICHEL ANGELO is going to do to him. And the next words given as clue to 61A continue "Born is the King of 88D's country."

    Why I get home delivery of the NYT:

    1. Nostalgia -- I started reading it in college, when it really made a difference, and have stayed loyal.
    2. I campaigned for years to get it delivered here in Dorchester, so want to support it now that it is.
    3. The puzzle (and this is what makes me look for a copy when I'm away from home).
    4. But hey, don't throw away the rest of the paper. Read Mark Bittman, for example! Or the book reviews! You've already read the news online the day before, but sometimes it's nice to get away from the onscreen eyestrain.

    I never heard of RENVOI either, but it's gettable. I had more trouble with the non-standard spellings of GAEA and AMIR. SENAT as "assembly" is a little weird, too -- France has an Assembly, and the SENAT is not it. Those are very minor nits, though; this puzzle was a lot of fun.

    Lori S 10:58 AM  

    I did not yet read everyone's comments because I'm not quite done - so forgive me if I repeat. Just want to say that I really enjoyed the "back and forth" nature of solving this puzzle - I got enough of the words with the squares to connect them into the angel and then went back to look at the theme answers. I thought this puzzle was easy, fun, interesting and unique.

    I'd also like to wish Rex and everyone in this community a Happy Holiday and a wonderful New Year. I look forward to and appreciate all of your comments every week. May your fill always be sparkly and your Naticks nonexistant!

    Lori S

    Pete 10:58 AM  

    @Will - While you're at it, why don't you dig up some extra money and fix the damned web site. Maybe that way when I go to download the puzzle I won't get an error message "Problem loading the page", even after reloading the site 10 times. So I won't give up and download it from Amy's site and never see the damned note.

    The puzzle was a pleasant one.

    Fred Smith 11:03 AM  

    I get the NYT for the news, the editorial page (esp Friedman and Brooks) and the Puzzle. It IS the "national newspaper of record" and I would still get it without the puzzle. BUT, I must say that I spend more time on, and get more enjoyment from, the puzzle than anything else.

    As to compensation, I doubt that any constructors look to this for any part of their lifestyle support,; it's "pin money" to them. Being published in the NYT is recognition that they're at the top of their game in their hobby.

    Should the NYT pay more? I dunno. One can look at this from several points of view --

    Market Supply/Demand: Adam Smith would say that things are working fine now.

    Fair Wage: I 'm guessing (maybe wrong, I've never constructed a puzzle) that a Sunday puzzle takes a skilled constructor 20 hours to make, $50/hour, $100K/year on a 2,000-hour work year. Not bad pay, compared with that of most other skilled professionals.

    OTOH, these folks are the top 100 (or so) in the world at what they do. Maybe they should organize and go on strike. Would we subscribers rebel at the work of their "scab replacements?" I dunno, but doubt it.

    Noblesse Oblige: Ahh, that's the answer. It would be a classy thing to do. Atta boy, Will!

    quilter1 11:16 AM  

    I am not recalling a MICHELANGELO SCULPTURE of an angel. I'll have to check my book of all his works. That said, I enjoyed doing this even though I didn't connect the dots. Always enjoy E.G.'s stuff. Good discussion of constructor's pay.

    Orange 11:32 AM  

    @obdurodon: What?? You mean you've missed the last couple years of terrific cryptics by Joshua Kosman and Henri Picciotto in The Nation? You can subscribe to the web version for about $18 a year and print out the puzzles.

    Cox and Rathvon have one variety cryptic a month in a Saturday issue of the Wall Street Journal. Available free online.

    And Roger Wolff did a Kickstarter earlier this year for a book of variety cryptics by an all-star roster. I don't know if you can buy a copy of the finished book (it's still in progress at this point) if you weren't a backer of the Kickstarter project.

    Orange 11:33 AM  

    (Clarification: The Nation puzzles are generally straight cryptics, not variety cryptics, but sometimes have themes or angles to them.)

    mac 11:56 AM  

    Easy-medium Sunday for me, but I have to add that I used the drawing for a couple of letters. Helpful.

    I always love Elizabeth Gorski puzzles, such a broad range of subjects.

    Renvoi is not a problem when you know envoi. I wrote "fait" before "fini" at 43A, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

    Broad/dame is hilarious, always makes me think of Amanda Yesnowitz.

    mac 11:57 AM  
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    Norm 12:09 PM  
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    Steve J 12:14 PM  

    I'm generally not a fan of extraneous stuff in crosswords like pictograms and drawing on my puzzle, but this worked well. And the angel was actually helpful for me, as I could not get traction in the SE, and seeing that the K and M had to be down there helped flip on the lightbulb above my head for TOKENISM, which gave me enough to get that corner filled in.

    As mentioned, I needed the angel. First themer I got was MICHELANGELO SCULPTURE, which could have been any number of things. I didn't know Angel CABRERA, so even having GOL_ER CABRERA didn't really help (I refused to believe the F belonged there for a while).

    Like others, I struggled with the NE, particularly FAR/RENVOI. Thought about FAd and FAn, like others, but decided only FAR remotely made sense.

    Regarding independent puzzles: Agreed with Rex that they often surpass the NYT in quality. Part of it is due to the NYT needing to cast a very broad net and also having more restrictions on what it can do with clues and fill (constructors like Ben Tausig and BEQ - as well as the roster of constructors at the AV crossword - often add zip by making deft use of innuendo and raciness). Part of it is that the lead times on the NYT between acceptance and submission are often very long (I know there are some recent puzzles that were submitted a good 4-5 years ago). The indies can be much more current and therefore lively.

    Some of my favorites are the AV Crossword (best puzzle out there, IMO), BEQ (2x weekly), Ink Well from Ben Tausig, today's constructor Liz Gorski's Crossword Nation puzzles, Matt Gaffney's weekly context meta-puzzle, Matt Jones and Eric Agard.

    Most of these come with the premium version of the Crosswords app from Standalone. The premium version comes with subscriptions to most of the above-listed puzzles, plus it has tie-ins into puzzles that require subscriptions like AV and NYT so that they automatically download as new puzzles become available. It's been one of the best app purchases I've made.

    Unknown 12:23 PM  

    When French crosses French, as with AMI/RENVOI, we really can't call it a Natick. How about a Vichy? Yes, that captures the sense of betrayal, just so.

    Jim Finder 12:32 PM  

    Rex, thanks for the Juice Newton and "The Ref" videos, and the independent constructor recs.

    Masked and Angelic 1:36 PM  

    Obvious critique of this puz: Good One!

    It's Christmas Time, and time to agree with 4-Oh on (almost) everything, no matter how wobbly or not:

    1. sUnthUmbsUp. E-O-leven U's; lil angels.

    2. How many hours does a constructioneer spend on a daily nytpuz? If two, then that's 100 bucks an hour, less postage and handling. If twenty hours(like me), then less than minimum wage. So, life of poverty, but thrill of torturing millions of New Yorkers. I say that's icing on a mighty thin cake; let them eat the cake, too -- and pay em what they deserve. Whatever that is.

    3. Fireball puzs are the best, pound for pound. But they only have to crank out 45 masterpieces a year. Try tellin Michaelangelo to crank out one every day-um day. He'd squawk a lot, and you'd get a few meh ashtays amongst the artworks. I'm not sure this has anything to do with what 4-Oh just said, so probably I digress... so what else is new?

    Peace on Earth, and Good Will toward Weejects,

    M and Also 1:48 PM  

    Suggested payscale: $50 per U.

    GR 2:26 PM  

    Wanted FELTED and then MELTED(??) before settling on BELTED. Never heard of RENVOI.
    @cascokid san at 12:23 - heh. I like it.

    Noam D. Elkies 2:38 PM  

    P.S. I was looking forward to learning about this 8D:MICHELANGELO_SCULPTURE, but can't find anything other than this apparent art-history footnote, a 20-inch marble statue in Bologna. Was that really what the constructor had in mind? The other theme entries work as crossword clues for ANGEL, though 14D and 53D are mercifully unattested in xwordinfo; but cluing the word as "a sculpture in Bologna's basilica" based on that minor work would be technically correct but evil.

    As for 70D:TREE_TOPPER — just in case you don't know *why* there's an angel atop the tree


    Benko 2:39 PM  

    Re: Constructor Pay
    The thing that bothers me a lot more than the small pay for daily publication is the fact that constructors don't get paid any royalties for the reprinting of their puzzles. There are like 50 different NYT Crossword books at my local bookstore, and the constructors don't make a dime off of being sold that way. There should be some kind of royalty system for those puzzles good enough to sell on their own.
    Re: Today's Puzzle
    I also found that NE frustratingly difficult compared to the rest of the puzzle! Gorski always has a great sense of how to make a visual component to her themes.

    Steve J 2:52 PM  

    @Benko: Really good point regarding the royalties. There are very few creative works where the expectation is that you sell the work to the publisher for unlimited, exclusive use in perpetuity with no royalties (the norm is either nonexclusive and/or limited-time licensing, or exclusive/perpetual license with royalties). Given how many times puzzles may be republished and resold (through books, classic NYT puzzle packages for various crossword apps, etc.), that could represent a good amount of additional income opportunity. I'm sure it wouldn't represent a ton of money on an individual puzzle basis, but on principle it's a raw deal.

    Last Silver Bullet 2:59 PM  

    @Benko--yep. If yer puz is in a book, it would only be respectful for you to at least get sent a copy of the book, autographed with the editor's thanx. And if that editor wants to slip in somethin extra for the old tip jar, more power to him/her.

    My $50 per U is on top of the $200/1000 base, btw.

    fave weejects: ACK, QUA, ZAP, ALG, GRR. Seems like QUA and ACK should have a future life together, in some sorta weird-ball puz theme.

    har, har, har... M&Arry Christmas.

    Anonymous 3:53 PM  

    The Wall Street Journal just had this theme on Friday, minus corny angel drawing.

    Unknown 5:17 PM  

    Feeling kind of dumb, but I don't understand how SHOW BACKER is a definition of Angel...

    The Free Dictionary 5:31 PM  

    @Unknown - See the sixth definition

    sanfranman59 6:07 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 7:08, 6:13, 1.15, 93%, Challenging
    Tue 7:27, 8:12, 0.91, 21%, Easy-Medium
    Wed 10:28, 9:56, 1.05, 66%, Medium-Challenging
    Thu 24:56, 17:56, 1.39, 93%, Challenging
    Fri 16:51, 19:47, 0.85, 25%, Easy-Medium
    Sat no data
    Sun 29:53, 29:48, 1.00, 55%, Medium

    Top 100 solvers

    Mon 4:30, 3:49, 1.18, 95%, Challenging (11th highest ratio of 208 Mondays)
    Tue 4:56, 5:09, 0.96, 35%, Easy-Medium
    Wed 6:29, 5:58, 1.09, 73%, Medium-Challenging
    Thu 16:33, 10:24, 1.59, 95%, Challenging (11th highest ratio of 208 Thursdays)
    Fri 9:50, 11:32, 0.85, 25%, Easy-Medium
    Sat no data
    Sun 20:23, 20:23, 1.00, 47%, Medium

    r.alphbunker 8:21 PM  

    I think it a bit ironic that our host goes on about how the NYT underestimates the value of the puzzle. There is evidence that he underestimates the value of the contributions of posters to this blog. For example, in his commentary on the recent LMS snakes on a plane puzzle with Jeff Chen there was no appreciation of her contributions to this blog.

    There should be a revenue sharing policy for the main contributors to this blog (I do not consider myself one of them). The book "Who Owns the Future" by Jaron Lanier discusses this inequity.

    Anonymous 8:30 PM  

    Think Dickens: "It is a far far better thing I do.." - you could certainly use "much" as a synonym for "far" in that sentence.

    So I went with r, thinking "renvoi" sounded possible.

    As for NYTimes pay: disgraceful!
    They should be ashamed. And all of you constructors need to organize a strike.

    Tita 9:06 PM  

    Nice diversion. Somewhat disappointed that it was not a more fitting tribute to the Anniversary, but I got over that.
    I didn't read the blurb, so had a tough time in New England and Mid-Atlantic... Finally read the blurb, and figured out that it was an F and an I, had to ask Puzzle Spouse for ISSA, and finally finished.

    I was born in New Rochelle, founded by HUGUENOTs escaping persecution, so that was a gimme.
    I've taken the TGV to La Rochelle - beautiful city.
    @Gill - naybe we're related...

    I've also been to Les Baux, the eponymous town where BAUXITE was discovered - another French gimme crossing the other. There is a stunning castle there, on a spectacular outcropping of pure white limestone.

    @Bob K - I hope to be in Wesport - it's great that you'll be there! Anyone else?
    Oh - and you had the same thought re" BLEU as moi.

    Oh - not having read the blurb, and my first two [blurb] answers from crosses were GOLFERCABRERA and MICHELANGELOSCULPTURE, I thought - "OK - A Michelangelo is scultupre is a "good one", and as far as golfers go, I guess the CABRERA guy is a "Good one" - so that's what I thought the trick was. Made it harder for me.

    Thanks, Liz, twas fun.

    (Wow - my captcha was all numbers - a blessed street sign for me to be free human OCR for, and a very easy-to-read string of 8 numbers!)

    Anonymous 10:23 PM  

    People are still submitting to the NYT. Why does the price need to go up? I don't think many people are suddenly going to stop solving the NYT crossword in the near future.

    Anonymous 12:40 AM  

    To unknown at 5:17 PM

    Angel investors who back shows.

    nick 9:55 AM  

    Loved the puzzle and unlike Rex, it played medium-to-difficult for me.

    As for the rest of the post -- bingo. The crossword is 99 percent of why a hard copy of the NYT hits our driveway each day.

    David Stehle 11:39 AM  

    Sorry Rex, but Angel Of The Morning is really a Merrilee Rush song.

    Billy 5:40 PM  

    Drawing the angel gave me a few more squares which made the puzzle easier for me. Still FAR RENVOI QUEEG is too rote for my tastes. That sort of thing d
    So ruins it for me.

    Anonymous 6:49 AM  

    What does WSJ pay constructors for Saturday puzzles?

    spacecraft 12:53 PM  

    I do not draw. So far I have not seen one of these dot-connect puzzles that couldn't have stood alone, without yer stupid circles, and without yer stupid pictures. Today is no exception.

    I liked the theme, the interesting ways to use the word ANGEL, the inclusion of it in the marquee answer and the idea that Michelangelo certainly deserves central billing. And yes, I do realize that it adds considerably to the construction effort to place letters in alphabetical order in certain spots on the grid--but the puzzle is just fine without that.

    Couple of spots gave me pause: I had to run the alphabet with FA_ for "Much." FAB? FAV? FAY? The cross was no help: _ENVOI; whatever that letter was, I wouldn't know the word. I finally thought about FAR--and actually recalled the Sidney Carton quote. FAR it was, but wow! What a clue! The same area made me fill in NERVED; that's not in common usage, at least in my experience. That was a frowner.

    Then the finish in the SE, troubling for the many unknowns there. I always spelled the Earth goddess GAiA, so it was a while sussing out TREETOPPER and that moneymaking PRINTAD. Tough corner, but I got through it all.

    Nice golf mini-theme, with the cleverly-separated DAVISLOVEIII (definitely the most delightfully original way to sneak in a triple-I that I've ever seen!) and the themer CABRERA.

    GO EAGLES!!!!

    rain forest 4:06 PM  

    Though I tend to be ambivalent about circles and post-solve pictures, I realize the constructor is probably indulging a desire to do something different or challenging. I have no problem with that, and in this case, admire the feat

    A lttle trouble with the NE and the SE, but FAR dawned, as did TOKENISM. Overall, very enjoyable.

    As to what the dollar value is of an effort like today's, I really have no opinion. Considering the labour involved, as @M&A has discussed, some sense of the $/hr should be addressed. I'm sure some puzzles will only consume a few hours (or less) for a talented constructor, while others may need to toil longer. I don't think you can use time taken as a means of determining value. So, what of the esthetic/artistic/entertainment value of a puzzle? How do you factor in the prestige and publicity a constructor derives from having their work published in the NYT?

    Rex says that $200 for a weekly puzzle, and $1000 for a Sunday is too little. Does the LA Times pay more? Do puzzle anthologies pay more? Who knows?

    I only do the NYT puzzle. I don't buy books of collected puzzles, nor do I visit other xword sites. I think that whatever the constructors get from the NYT is what it is. Refusing to contribute is one way of stating your opinion, I guess. But others will, and we will attempt to solve them, and we will enjoy the challenge and the opportunity to contribute to this blog, with or without OFL's puzzles to solve.

    However, that said, I do enjoy this blog, and I know it is a non-profit, and I REALLY appreciate the efforts of OFL, 4-oh, Rex, Michael, despite the fact I frequently disagree with him, and so, as soon as I solve my capcha, I will make a contribution to the site.

    Go 'Hawks, Eagles, and Patriots (Canadian, eh?),

    Dirigonzo 7:06 PM  

    Faced with a one in two chance I will guess wrong most of the time, so when the odds against me are worse than even I don't even bother to hazard a guess. Such was the case with FA_/_ENVOI.

    It's clear there is a dire need for constructors to organize and demand higher pay/more respect for their puzzles - they could call their organization CPCU (Crossword Puzzle Constructors Union), which I'm sure would find it's way into a grid almost instantaneously (put there by some Scab, no doubt).

    Solving in Seattle 3:19 PM  

    Like @Rainy, I, too, only solve the NYTcwpuz, mainly so I can visit Rex's blog and catch some humor and insight from the posters. I don't have a dog in the fee foo fight, but I'm guessing there are constructors who would do it for free to be published in the NYT.

    As for Liz's Sunday "Angel" themed puz, there sure were a lot of variant spellings. No big deal.

    Didn't know RENVOI, and the "F" in FUELTANK came tough. "Give it the gas" is stretching it as a clue.

    Wouk is one of my favorite authors. I once attended a corporate off-site where we watched "The Caine Mutiny" as a management training tool.

    If you haven't seen Angel CABRERA hit a golf ball, it's an amazing sight.

    Capcha: morown suspended. Probably for bad spelling.

    Jisaacs2 3:06 PM  

    I solve the NYT puzzle with my wife - a great joint activity for us. I didn't see expected commentary regarding the miss-use of "tokenism" - which definitionaly would subvert equal rights; not support them. Or am I missing some grander design?

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