Farmworker in Wizard of Oz / SUN 12-15-13 / Walt Disney's middle name / Her name is Norwegian for beautiful woman who leads you to victory / Girl group with four #1 hits in 1990s

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Constructor: Jeff Chen

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: "A Cut Above the Rest" — Word "CUT" is spelled out at the top of the grid, with Cs (representing the answers "seas" "seize" and "sees") making a "C," Us (representing the answers "ewes" "use" and "yews") making a "U," and Ts (representing the answers "tease" and "tees") making a "T"; [Cut] then acts as the clue for a series of Downs that are clued "[See above]" (You: "What the hell do they mean by 'above'?" Answer: "See puzzle title")

The CUTs:


Word of the Day: Angelica (87A: Angelica and others => HERBS) —
Angelica is a genus of about 60 species of tall biennial and perennial herbs in the family Apiaceae, native to temperate and subarctic regions of the Northern Hemisphere, reaching as far north as Iceland and Lapland. They grow to 1–3 m tall, with large bipinnate leaves and large compound umbels of white or greenish-white flowers.
Some species can be found in purple moor and rush pastures. (wikipedia)
• • •

Today's puzzle provides a nice reminder that it always helps to consider the puzzle title. I looked at it and promptly forgot about it, which left me wonder how clues could say [See above] when there was no clear referent. Looked for a "note." Scanned the clues. Nothing. Hey, maybe it has something to do with that "U" and "T" you've got up there for no clear reason! Hmmm, can't see how. What do all these  long Down phrases have to do with "-UT"? PUT? BUT? [this went on] [I finished the puzzle in the NW without ever, up to that point, having picked up on the full extent of the theme] [Finally…] CCCCCs! CUT! Oh okay. Yeah, that works. A multi-layered theme that is both clever and Highly doable, with very little true junk in the grid. Hurray.

I would've complained that this puzzle was too easy, except apparently (for me) it needed to be, because I got all those long Downs precisely because I could infer the answers from the (relatively easy) crosses. I finished with a below-average time even though up until the very end I had at best only half-grasped the theme. There's not a ton to talk about, fill-wise. There is a "roll-your-own" quality to both BIONIC LEG (!) and TOOK A TAXI (which, fittingly, sit on the same row). Neither one bothers me too much, but I like the former a lot better (in that I would like BIONIC-anything (well, anything plausible; BIONIC PANCREAS, maybe not), whereas TOOK A TAXI … I don't know—I like TOOK A CAB better, and I wouldn't much like a lot of other stuff that you could plausibly stick in there, e.g. TOOK A BUS, TOOK A TRAIN, etc. Once again the most interesting trivia tidbit of the day involves SIRI. Last week we learned that she's called "Karen" in Australia (?!). This week, that [Her name is Norwegian for "beautiful woman who leads you to victory"]. That is oddly specific—the Norse really have a word for that? How often does one have occasion to use it?

Just a reminder: my Holiday Crossword Gift Guide is up. Useful for those of you scrambling for last-minute presents for loved ones (or for ways to preoccupy yourself during the oceans of "family time" you'll undoubtedly be enduring enjoying). Check it out.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Noam D. Elkies 12:05 AM  

Re 95D:SIRI, see
(seems the name is otherwise better known as Sigrid).

chefwen 12:27 AM  

This is the most fun I've had with the puzzles all week. DNF'S Thursday through Saturday, very disheartening.

First fill was 10A with Jean AUEL, second was 21A LUAU and thought Uh oh, two U's in a row??? Then came TURK and my first reaction was someone we all know and lUv is going to be very happy. Hi M&A. After that I was off to the races. Well, kind of, slow in picking up on the downs, but once I did catch on, I had a ball.

Does anyone really eat FARINA? I was hoping for an omelet.

My biggest mess up was not reading the clue correctly at 110D and put in A TEN instead of TEN O'. That was my last area to tidy up.

Good way to fill a lonely afternoon. Puzzle partner will arrive Monday. He could have helped on my miserable DNF'S.

Anonymous 5:09 AM  

This puzzle has to be one of the best Sundays I've seen and easily one of the best puzzles of the year. The theme and design is so masterful that the quality of the fill almost becomes inconsequential. (Which is not to say I had any problem with it.) It's border-line art, and I challenge Rex to construct something that can even sit in its shadow. (I know you can do it Rex.)

Bravo Jeff! My hat is off to you. (Okay, so I don't wear a hat.)

Signed, Wrecks Parker-Rex Parker's virtual love child.

Danp 6:13 AM  

This puzzle worked like a good crime novel. First you commit yourself to understanding the dilemna, diverted by interesting tidbits along the way. After a few clues (Kickedofftheteam?, Big T) that are more perplexing than useful, you finally get a clue that makes everything fall into place. Enjoyable experience.

Never heard of CHIRR, but I was pretty sure SNIDEPEMARK wasn't going to lead me to the villain.

By the way, does anyone know what angelica tastes like. I was given a French cookbook with a recipe for angelica ice cream, but I can't even seem to find anything that would suggest the flavor.

Danp 6:14 AM  
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Bob Kerfuffle 6:21 AM  

This was one of the rare occasions when, due to my own thickheadedness, I was more annoyed than pleased as I solved the puzzle. It looked to me like a mishmash of a "string of letters" (CCCCC etc) gimmick and a totally unrelated bunch of unclued downs. Only after finishing the entire grid did I see CUT spelled out, and it all made sense!

But one thing I haven't figured out, and Rex didn't mention: How are we supposed to carry out the instruction in 89 A, HIDE "F" ??

You got me good, Jeff Chen!

tthax 7:10 AM  

Hi def, as in high definition.

Anonymous 7:24 AM  

I thought it was hid ef, not hide f, so now I'm not sure what the f is going on.

Mohair Sam 7:33 AM  

Really fun and different Sunday solve, thanks Jeff Chen.

Last week our aforementioned niece-by-marriage, SIRI, was interviewed by a local paper (she's off to the NCAA's in cross-country), they asked where her now famous name originated. She replied, "I'm named after my Norwegian Grandmother." 95D was hence a gimme here. Keep the SIRI's coming constructors - we're ready.

Glimmerglass 8:16 AM  

Never looked at the title. Mea culpa. I glommed the puns (seas, ewes, teas, etc), but never figured out what [See above] referred to. Tatum O'Neal played a little girl who might be said to have PLAYED HOOKEY, but the rest were hopeless. After I'd solved the puzzle (via crosses in the lower 3/4), I stared at my long downs (sensible phrases and clearly correct, but WTF), until I finally gave up and decided to see what Rex had to say. So I found this challenging—the challenge was to solve it missing six long clues.

chefbea 8:19 AM  

Couldn't figure this puzzle out!!! No fun. Had to have Rex explain it to me. Will go back later and finish.
I did get all of the lower half…including farina!!

AliasZ 8:24 AM  


I loved Will's note in xwordinfo, although I would've punched it up a bit: "Traveling bards will write epic tales, and minstrels will sing paeans about this puzzle for centuries to come. Its clever theme, sublime execution and visual elegance is equivalent to a Baryshnikov performance at the pinnacle of his career, a Greek TRAGEDY, a Shakespeare sonnet, the Mona Lisa, Van Gogh's IRISES, Tolstoy's War and Peace, and Einstein's Theory of Relativity, all rolled into one..." etc., if you catch my drift. Why hold back?

Oh yeah, the puzzle.

Wonderful theme, though fairly easy to get. It was one of my fastest Sundays in recent memory. I remember puzzles with letter shapes, a heart, a musical note etc. drawn by the black squares, but not by letters themselves arranged in the shape of their corresponding letters. Truly ingenious, CUTe and A CUT ABOVE THE REST indeed.

I had the bottom two-thirds completely filled before I figured out what IS UP with all the CCCCC, UUUUU and TTTTT. When I finally saw the big CUT above, a light bulb turned on above my head and was able to make sense of the theme answers. How convenient that CUT can be both noun and verb, making it easier to come up with snappy themers, half of them verb, half noun phrases. They were all excellent, my favorite: PIECE OF THE ACTION. Super clever and great fun. A JAUNTIER theme I have not seen recently.

The fill was also super clean. I didn't even mind CTS right above CST, plus ERNES, ASTR, ONEA and ONEAL, CHIRR, and ISUP. And that BIONIC LEG. If I remember correctly, Steve Austin also had a BIONIC left EYE in his eyepit.

I loved the mirror symmetry.

Thank you, Jeff and Will.

Happy Sunday.

Loren Muse Smith 8:48 AM  

NESS AGAIN today. That's about all I have to say about this yawner.. .NOT

Oh. My. Gosh. Do my IIIIII deceive me? How did he 1.Conceive of this? 2. Pull it off with such apparent EEEEEE?

This will go down in history as one of my all-time favorite puzzles, and it's SIRIously not because I'm a Chen brown bionic NOSER.

I've come so far, thanks to this site,that someone could have shown me this grid, asked me to guess the constructor, and I would have guessed Jeff. He never hesitates to have only left/right symmetry. Cool.

It took me quite a while to put it all together. At one point, with almost the whole bottom filled, my inner teen-age boy kept playing around with the ONE above PLAYED HOOKY, thinking, "CUT ONE? How does that relate to skipping school?"

"Churp" crossing "Suri" for a while, thinking, "Oh, really? Who knew?"

My dog, Owen, has started drinking a lot of water (Gareth has been consulted, and we're monitoring him.) I'm sitting here at the window, I swear, watching as he PPPPPP quite a while.

Ok – the clue for AEIOU brought me up short, and I'm going to chew on that for a while. I'm extremely limited in my linguistics experience in that I just stuck to theoretical linguistics (Hi, Noam), but I don't remember at Carolina paying too much attention to the alphabet, writing, etc. It was my understanding that written systems showed up so recently and are so contrived that linguists, at least twenty years ago, didn't really consider them much. And that's what AEIOU are – letters of a written system – certainly not a comprehensive list of vowels in English. So I would have preferred "alphabetic quintet." I need more hobbies. GGGGGG.

@Bob K – I know you were TTTTTTing about HIDE F. ALERT – Reminds me of the bumper sticker - Be alert. America needs more lerts.

Jeff – wow. You're YYYYYYY beyond your years. And a really swell guy. Congrats. One of your absolute best. I'm gonna show this to my daughter when she wakes up.

Rob C 8:57 AM  

Great puzzle! Medium Sunday for me. Liked the multi-layered theme. I thought the cluing was great too - 35A and 65D were fun.

At 43D, I wanted "This is further evidence of the decline of the NY Times puzzle." Wouldn't fit. ;)

Lots of snow with an inch or so of ice on top in NE Penn. It's not even winter, but, is it spring yet?

Rob C 9:05 AM  

FYI - There is a story on crossword puzzles on CBS News Sunday Morning with Charles Osgood.

Richard Silberg 9:38 AM  

Stupendous puzzle! The spelling out of CUT using the C's, U's and T's: (cleverly "above")


was not the only visual but the answer TEACOSY just happens to be next to the T's!!!

joho 9:44 AM  

This puzzle is proof beyond a doubt that Jeff Chen is A CUT ABOVE THE REST!

Absolutely LOVED it! I always like puzzles I can draw on. CUT looks great in shocking pink!

Nothing more to say other than thank you!

Zwhatever 10:03 AM  

That's what we're talking about.

Early on I had the Ts in place and KICK--- and thought it would be something about football tees. Then I grokked the three Cs clues formed a C and was off and running.

Hand up for CHIRp first, wondering about AEIOU, and wondering if anyone eats FARINA.

@Bob Kerfuffle - Har. Good one.

Tita 10:23 AM  

@chewen - FARINA is nostalgia breakfast for me - I still have it once in a blue moon. Mom would make it for us often (NOT the "instant" kind, which is probably why no one likes it anymore). To really fortify it if, say, we were going out to play inthe snow all day, whe would break an egg yolk into it and stir, while it was still piping hot.
Hmm - plenty of snow out there today...!

Adored the puzzle - though I was totally sideways on it till almost the very end.
Like @chef, I saw to Us going down, then a 3rd, and after thinking of our own @M&A, next thought was - those Downs are all missung their Us!
THe vowel U was KICKEDOFFTHETEAM (all vowels from 93A(clever, Jeff) were there but U. U had no PIECEOF THEACTION - oops - that stopped working so well on the others, and WOE with ALBUMTRACK!

Well, Like OFL, I got all the downs without knowing why.
Then I FINALLY figured out the U's, but was still fixated on Us being cut from the grid. It was an Aha Groan when I finally realized how dense I was being.
Thank you so much Mr. Chen!!!

Unknown 10:30 AM  

Same as @chefbea, got the bottom half, didn't get the top stuff and needed Rex to explain it.

Saw Will Shortz and Dan Feyer on CBS Sunday Morning today talking about the history of the first crossword puzzles.

Carola 10:34 AM  

Wow, terrific! Inspired IDEA, masterful construction and very fun to figure out - which took me a while. I got the C-U-T shapes pretty early, but the long Downs were tough. When I finally saw PLAYING HOOKY, I first thought it referred to the hook-shaped (sorta) C above it. However, the "shape" theory didn't work so well with the rest! Finally the light went on. Trouble spot: Teaser (for TORERO) next to Adi(os or eu) for ALOHA. At last, old friend RELO got me straightened out.

SIRI Hustvedt is one of my favorite novelists. If you haven't read her, I recommend starting with What I Loved.

Pete 10:39 AM  

At its heart this was a different definition of the same word puzzle, either barely rescued from the banal by the spelled out CUT, or raised to genius by the same.

I don't know which.

Nancy 10:39 AM  

Solved it without understanding it (or the title) until I came here. Only then did I see that all the Cs formed a big C and all the Us formed a big U and all the Ts formed a big T. Before that I thought the theme answers were asymmetrical. (But then I'm not visual; I've always known that.) And only after coming here did I realize that all the "see above" answers were definitions of "cut." WHAT A BRILLIANT PUZZLE!

chefbea 10:40 AM  

In today's Parade magazine I learned that the crossword puzzle turns 100 on Dec.21st!!

Anonymous 10:42 AM  

What a piece of crap! Tired of these cute gimmicks for all you elite puzzlers.

Tita 10:48 AM  

Oh - and now for all the personal evocations...
Loved playing the game CLUE, so 24A was a gimme after I got SOLO, and reminded me of the halcyon days when I used to eat FARINA.

Synchronicity - was playing solitaire with cards I bought at ELPRADO - all the spades face cards and the jokers are people in Velasquez paintings.

A TEACASY is another speacialty item from my mother's creative hands - she will usually make on in the same fabric you have in your house.

And we were at Loch NESS this fall for daughter's wedding (which is still me avatar).

So lots to personally love too. All in all, a fun and supremely cool JAUNT!

@lms - you R the BBBBB KNEEE!
This may go down as one of your best comments ever.

And as for AEIOU CLUE, it gave me pause for a microsecond too, and I thought of UUUUU (you and Oren, that is - Hi Oren!).

The JJJJ are at my feeder, along with the TITs from yesterday.

AliasZ 10:58 AM  
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Norm 10:59 AM  

This was great fun -- even though I didn't catch on until I was almost done. Kept looking immediately above the theme answers for something that would go with them and solved from the bottom up since the top sectors were just baffling. Had a big smile when I finally caught on. 63 osysdat

AliasZ 11:02 AM  

Notes on the margin:

- The guy with the BIONIC LEG never TOOK A TAXI.
- Simple arithmetic at 105-106A: THRICE a THIRD = ONE.
- Why is CELTS pronounced Kelts but the Boston Celtics Seltics?
- Why is it that HERBS are urbs, but Alpert and Brooks are Herbs?
- Yesteday we had ANCHORAGE ALASKA, today we have JUNO. Misspelled, but there.
- 40A can be a challenge to a fight: Put up your JUKES!
- How do you greet hip-hop artist Mos Def? HI DEF!
- UNICYCLE is an oxymoron. There is no such thing as a cycle of one.
- 119A: I always take out trash but never DATE them. Well, maybe once or THRICE.
- Parents who are LAX with discipline quickly learn their lesson and become ex-LAX.

56A: Will PAL ever be clued as the legendary Hollywood producer, director and special effects designer George PAL (1908-1980)? His credits include: When Worlds Collide (1953), The War of the Worlds (1953), tom thumb (1958), The Time Machine (1960), The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm (1962), 7 Faces of Dr. Lao (1964), etc.

This puzzle screams for one of Dave Brubeck's most original jazz standards. It is written in 9/8 and swing 4/4. The rhythm consists of three measures of 2+2+2+3 followed by one measure of 3+3+3 and the cycle then repeats. Brubeck heard this unusual rhythm performed by Turkish musicians on the street. When asking them where they got the rhythm, one replied "This rhythm is to us what the blues is to you." Hence the title Blue RONDO à la TURK.

Don't forget to dot your IIIII, cross your TTTTT and CCCCC the day. As UUUUU were.

August West 11:33 AM  

Loved it. The trick was great and several clues brought big grins and nice ahas. Favorite: Lab safety org.? No SNIDEREMARK here. Just a stellar execution.

Notsofast 11:41 AM  

Brilliantly executed gem. Multi tips of the Hatlo hat!

jberg 11:48 AM  

Like everyone says, really great puzzle, fun to do and brilliant to admire. It had to be bilateral symmetry, or else would have had to have Final Cut in the title as well -- too much to achieve, and probably not really as satisfying. I'll gladly take TENO if that's the price of a puzzle like this.

Only problem: I did remember the title, so I caught on fairly early that the theme downs were CUTs. I did think at first they would be the ends of phrases starting with CUT, but PLAYD HOOKY made it all clear; so I could fill in most of those before noticing that the top CCC UUU TTT entries actually spelled out the word.

Biggest problem: not thinking of angelica as one of the HERBS, so guessing there must be some pop culture figure named Angelica HERn. I finally saw ALBUM TRACK, so that square was the last to go.

Great start to what I hope will be a great week!

Merry and Anonymo19Us 11:51 AM  

The Chen-meister. UUUUU me, until U UUUUU me Up, dUde. My fave constructioneer, bar none. Plus, he is kind to our Muses.

Great ahar puz moments. sUndaythUmbsUp. Only thing missin was a "cut the cheese" reference.


p.s. lUv U 2, @chefwen

Sandy K 11:57 AM  

Brilliant puzzle!

Loved figuring out the long down CUTs and then CCCCC-ing the icing on top of the cake.

Were 43D and 75D meant as shout-outs to OFL? Was 81D meant for WS?

retired_chemist 12:31 PM  

Liked it a lot. Easy. If I had not got the gimmick early, it would probably have been a bit of a bear. Like Rex, I only half got the theme until the end, but the crosses for the [see above] clues were straightforward and I just plowed ahead. One of my better Sunday times.

If the 89A HIDEF parsers were serious in their dilemmas, try parsing is as HI-DEF.

Lots of cleverness. Nice learning experience with SIRI (again). EL PRADO, ENERO, and TORERO provide a mini-español theme.

Tried maNsoN @ 112A TIN MAN - nope.

Thanks,Mr. Chen.

Mohair Sam 12:41 PM  

Wondering why so many had a hard time with the theme. I'm betting that those of us who solve on paper and are looking at the title of the puzzle constantly got this one a lot quicker than you tech-geeks did on your pads and phones.

Ha! A victory for the analog crowd.

One more time - a great NYT Sunday solve.

GILL I. 12:43 PM  

Deliciously refreshing, if I do say.
Running pants? GASPS...!!! terrific visual.

Anonymous 1:01 PM  

I first heard "brown nose" in high school in the early '60's. It does NOT pass the Sunday breakfast test.

Steve J 1:25 PM  

I was clearly not on the same page as pretty much everyone else. I struggled mightily with this (my longest Sunday in months).

I got the [See above] aspect very quickly, and recognized that the long downs were various definitions of cut. But i could not figure out what was going on up top. I ran into spots where I saw two U's or two C's (or even three) together, and thought that couldn't possibly be right. Sat staring at the top for a long time. Cleared the puzzle to start over, figuring I must have royally f'd something up somewhere.

I hadn't, and I came to accept that these letters were strung together. Then recognized that the clues fit the strings of letters phonetically. But I never recognized the pictogram until I got here.

It's a very clever idea executed well, but I didn't have the same enjoyment everyone else did. Definitely a sour grapes reaction on my part, because I was too obtuse to really grasp this as I solved.

As usual with Jeff Chen, fill and clues were solid with little to complain about. Only thing I didn't really like was the two Canon clues: An EOS is a model of SLR, so that felt a little too repetitive. Personally, I would have liked to see the SLR one clued as Nikon, since the two are intense rivals, and among photographers there's a bit of a PC/Mac or Android/iPhone type of rivalry.

JFC 2:01 PM  

It's nice to see that Rex has finally conceded (by his silence) that JUKES are fixtures in diners. He once refused to accept that simple fact of life because the only diners (and they obviously weren't real diners) he was ever in did not have JUKES.


lawprof 2:17 PM  

I had to put this one down for a while before coming back and finishing. Found it on the challenging side. Completed the bottom two-thirds almost without error (just one writeover: haNnAh/TINMAN, thinking of "hard-hearted Hannah"). So I had all the long answers from the crosses pretty early on, but couldn't see how they related to each other or to the puzzle's title.

My big struggle was with the top. I had UUUUU at 14D, but still the light bulb didn't snap on. Instead it slowly brightened as if controlled by a rheostat, a bit at a time. When I finally got the big CUT across the top, I was so pooped that I neglected to connect the long down answers to the theme. I didn't understand that part of the game until I came here.

I do enjoy these word/letter image puzzles. This one was super clever and ultimately satisfying. Nice job Mr. Chen.

Brookboy 2:17 PM  

Like most everyone else, I thought this a brilliant, creative puzzle. Kudos many times over to Mr. Chen, and thanks for a thoroughly enjoyable challenge.

I got stopped right away at 1A, as I couldn't figure out how the clue "Oceans" could end in a C. Gave up the top and finished the lower 75% of the puzzle relatively quickly (for me).

Then it was back to the top, where I gnawed on pencils, pushed the cat aside repeatedly, drummed my fingers, and kept running into a mental brick wall. In particular, I just couldn't get past 11D, which began with two consecutive Us. Finally, when I realized there would be a third consecutive U, my mental wall began to fall. Once I got the Cs, the Us and the Ts, I was home free.

Lucky us to have Mr. Chen constructing stuff like this.7 jusla

Fitzy 2:19 PM  

Anyone else wondering how "brown NOSERS" passed the proverbial "Breakfast Test"... Surely Will knows the scatological etymology of the term. I'm not offended in anyway... just did a double take as I filled in my answer...

Stockin's Tuffer 2:19 PM  

Makin a big ole SunPuz must really be a roll of the dice for a grid-mason.

I mean, shoot just constructin the mother must be harder than hurdin kitties from Catalina to Katmandu. Could be a lifetime-andahalf-like struggle...

And then the Editor-meister could just cough up the whole enchilada, with one of the followin offhand mystic comments:
1. "Naw."
2. "har. Clever, but Mars is in the wrong constellation."
3. "Sorry. Hafta keep my $1000 for C-presents."
4. "Needs more pewits."
5. "Too many notes."
6. "Maybe. Please send change for a $2000-bill."
7. "The magic 8-ball dealy says Ask Again Later."
8. "Too day-um choppy. If yah don't believe me, ask RP."
9. "Ohhhh. So close!"
10. "Too symmetrical and lacks sensitivity."

har. Well, actually, it might kinda be fun, bein on the Edit-meister end of the stick. Enigmatology degree, eh? IU, here I comes!

So, anyhoo, my hatsoff to all U SunPuz makers, who keep comin back for more hardships. When U coulda just simpled out and made a themeless 11x11 for the Daily Nickel.


Fitzy 2:23 PM  

I see Anonymous agrees w/ me on "brown noser" issue...

Airymom 3:25 PM  

Best Sunday puzzle in months. Thanks Jeff.

bswein99 4:09 PM  

An incredibly clever puzzle, but a cricket goes "chirr"???? It took me forever to get "snide remark" because I simply couldn't believe that "chirp" was wrong. And even if it were wrong, I couldn't imagine that "chirr" was right.

mann 5:12 PM  

Best Sunday puzzle in ages,the top third had me stumped until I finished the bottom two thirds. I especially like how the horizontal row of U's was crossed by the word euro(=U row!)

i am not a robot 5:45 PM  

I wonder if there were any shortcuts to solving this puzzle?

Could have used one or two.

On a (little) more serious note, I thought this puzzle was too clever by
half; it seems the gimmicks are so carefully constructed that they interfere with the natural flow of the puzzle. In other words, it is more about the "joke" and less about the puzzle - imho.

jae 6:01 PM  

Yes! (fill-in superlative here_________)! Got the CUT trick very quckly and caught the definition part about half way through, so on the easy side for me. Extremely fun Sun.! Thanks Jeff.

Wasn't FARINA also one of the Our Gang kids?

sanfranman59 6:06 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 7:35, 6:07, 1.24, 98%, Challenging (5th highest ratio of 207 Mondays)
Tue 9:34, 8:12, 1.17, 87%, Challenging
Wed 11:19, 9:55, 1.14, 82%, Challenging
Thu 26:07, 17:47, 1.47, 95%, Challenging (11th highest ratio of 207 Thursdays)
Fri 25:24, 19:47, 1.30, 92%, Challenging
Sat 29:36, 27:01, 1.10, 78%, Medium-Challenging
Sun 32:50, 30:01, 1.09, 75%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 4:41, 3:46, 1.24, 99%, Challenging (3rd highest ratio of 207 Mondays)
Tue 5:24, 5:09, 1.05, 63%, Medium-Challenging
Wed 6:45, 5:55, 1.14, 85%, Challenging
Thu 18:38, 10:07, 1.84, 100%, Challenging (2nd highest ratio of 207 Thursdays)
Fri 13:06, 11:32, 1.14, 73%, Medium-Challenging
Sat 17:37, 17:34, 1.00, 52%, Medium
Sun 21:33, 20:29, 1.05, 59%, Medium

Has anyone mentioned that Mr. Chen had the rare double-feature: Published in both the NYT and the LA Times on the same Sunday? What's more, O HENRY pops up in both. I found both puzzles to be great fun. What lovely Christmas cheer for cruciverbalists!

mac 7:16 PM  

Clever, good puzzle, but I had a hard time in the NW.

I love Jeff Chen's puzzles, but I could not deal with two Sunday size ones in one day.

Chirp before chirr, of course…

@Danp: I have a package of Angelica in my fridge. It's used in making fruit cakes, in combination with candied fruits (it looks like green candied stalks, vacuum packed). It tastes sweet and herbal, not very strong. I had to order it from Kalustyan's in NY for a recipe in a chocolate cook book.

Anonymous 8:25 PM  

unnecessary snide remark mohair sam

go do something to yourself

Anonymous 8:27 PM  

What a great puzzle! Not at all easy for us. Lots of fun.

D and A

retired_chemist 8:46 PM  

What's the fuss about CHIRR? It's in the dictionary.

OISK 9:08 PM  

Loved this one! Capped off a perfect week for me, so it is nice to see all the very high difficulty ratings. My DNF's tend to occur on the "easy" ones. The Times Double Crostic today had two singers I've never heard of, which seems to be a huge category. They were "Lefty Frizzell " and "Randy Newman." But this past week of regular puzzles was delightfully free of excessive pop culture references, and pretty much up my aging alley. Great puzzle, Jeff.

Vincent L. 9:20 PM  

Loved the comment above, "At 43D, I wanted 'This is further evidence of the decline of the NY Times puzzle.'"

Also, thoroughly enjoyed the puzzle.

Mohair Sam 9:47 PM  

@anon 8:25. Snide? C'mon. Friendly dig, and too self-effacing now that I look at it. I'll be more careful in the future, thanks.

Anonymous 10:34 PM  

I know the word "chirr" but had "chirp" first. Took me forever to figure out the top - kept thinking my uuuu and tttt strings must be due to mistakes.

But what fun when the lightbulb came on!

Very satisfying puzzle.

ahimsa 11:24 PM  

A very late comment (no time to do the puzzle until this evening) but I wanted to add to the praise. Kudos to Jeff Chen!

At first I thought this was going to be too easy. For some reason I got the Cs part quickly (knowing that Ivanisivec is a CROAT helped a lot). Shortly after that I got the Us and Ts.

So I saw the word CUT spelled out across the top quite early. I thought "the rest" mentioned in the title was going to be more spelled out letters. I think I had one or two of the long downs completely filled in before I figured out the theme. It was a great "Aha!" moment!

Very nice. Thanks for a fun puzzle.

MaharajaMack 11:48 PM  

Brown NOSERS, ASS, and TEATS all made it into this puzzle. Makes it top notch in my book. Though I would have preferred a Dennis FARINA clue.

Anonymous 12:09 AM  

2:15 hr, no google DNF because I didn't allow myself to see the trick. 1:45 to do the bottom 80% and 30 minutes of zero progress on the first 5 lines. I couldn't solve for the reveal without getting all the crosses independently, and my wrong answers went unchecked. labs for CSIS. dais for TOUR. Some variant of extradite for serves up/CATER. I spent a lot of time wracking my brains for actual words for oceans, grabs, etc. There was no way to know how wrong I was.

I feel like Scrooge looking glumly through the window at all the Christmas cheer. This one must have delivered a wonderful a-ha moment, huh? Yeah.

Cry in' alone.

Anonymous 12:09 AM  

2:15 hr, no google DNF because I didn't allow myself to see the trick. 1:45 to do the bottom 80% and 30 minutes of zero progress on the first 5 lines. I couldn't solve for the reveal without getting all the crosses independently, and my wrong answers went unchecked. labs for CSIS. dais for TOUR. Some variant of extradite for serves up/CATER. I spent a lot of time wracking my brains for actual words for oceans, grabs, etc. There was no way to know how wrong I was.

I feel like Scrooge looking glumly through the window at all the Christmas cheer. This one must have delivered a wonderful a-ha moment, huh? Yeah.

Cry in' alone.

Anonymous 12:10 AM  

2:15 hr, no google DNF because I didn't allow myself to see the trick. 1:45 to do the bottom 80% and 30 minutes of zero progress on the first 5 lines. I couldn't solve for the reveal without getting all the crosses independently, and my wrong answers went unchecked. labs for CSIS. dais for TOUR. Some variant of extradite for serves up/CATER. I spent a lot of time wracking my brains for actual words for oceans, grabs, etc. There was no way to know how wrong I was.

I feel like Scrooge looking glumly through the window at all the Christmas cheer. This one must have delivered a wonderful a-ha moment, huh? Yeah.

Cry in' alone.

Unknown 12:16 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown 12:23 AM  

Apologies for the redundant posts. Captcha seemed to reject while in fact accepting.

Anonymous 5:30 AM  

Questions about Farina? I'm having a bowl this morning. One of my favorites.

xyz 12:47 PM  

Late to comment as I print out A-Lite on opposite sides of plain paper Sunday & Monday to do together on Monday Mornings.I DO get why those who love this puzzle love it, but the run is far too long for the hop for all but the most high level puzzler-geeks. This is the sort of trick that I figured out, but my rote wasn't good enough to get the "Rex-endorsed 'easy fill'" well enough to keep my interest to see if I had to use some of those extra "C" U" and "T" markers on top by letting them fall into the answers below (which I tried to do before I realized the trick(s)). By then I was far too bored to finish ....

I'm pretty ambivalent at the majesty of this puzzle .... huzzah, I guess?

Anonymous 11:48 PM  

Not as easy for me as some suggest. Had 3/4 done but lost patience. Unfortunately I didnt stay with it long enough to get that "aha" moment. Clever idea!

unclejohn 10:50 AM  

I thoroughly enjoyed this one. Very clever and difficult to construct IMHO. Comment re 100D, I think it could be clued better as I don't C chase as a highlight in an oater.

Anonymous 1:12 AM  

With all due respect to the many witty people, including Mr. Parker, who solved this puzzle, may any and all who enjoyed this puzzle be condemned to eating a bowl filled with Farina (no sugar) for an entire year.

paulsfo 6:45 PM  

@Mohair Sam: I solve with Across Lite and I do rely on the title.

I somehow did the bottom two thirds first, so I didn't have the help of the giant "cut", but I had "cut" from the title. -- So, a slight imperfection in construction, in that I had that clue *before* getting it from the puzzle.

I loved it.

spacecraft 11:18 AM  

My reaction to this puzzle: GASPS! Jeff Chen must be one of those who got TOPSCORE on the SATs. This is OMG-brilliant.

Unable to get traction at the top (no flippin' wonder!), I wedged in at the SE corner, just trying to get enough fill to suss out one of the themers and "get the trick." I had a start, EDIT___, a middle, ___FTHET___, and an end, ___pEMARK (naturally, I had everybody's goof CHIRp instead of CHIRR). Stared and stared. Finally got some traction in the SW and came up with ____EDHOOKY. OK, gotta be PLAYED. I did that, not in grade school but in college, where we called it "cut class." Hmm, "cut." See above. From there, the expressions, all meaning "cut," revealed themselves.

At that point, I thought I was done theming; the top was just gonna be themeless fill. I can just see Mr. Chen going: "He don't know me very well, DOO he?" Up into the NW I crept, brow furrowing ever more deeply. Plurals seemed to be ending in C. Suddenly, the bulb goes off. Oh wow, not only rows of C's--but in the shape of a C! And incredibly, this feat was repeated for each of the other letters in "cut."

I sort of had a writeover, but not really. All I had to do was stick a prong onto the P to change CHIRp to CHIRR--a new word for me.

Mr. "C," please don't ever decide to take over the world. I'm not at all sure .007 could stop you.

Anonymous 2:06 PM  

Hated this puzzle- it was impossible- just a cheap shot with the ccccc etc

Anonymous 3:10 PM  

Anyone else bothered by the obvious editing error? Isaiah Thomas

Isiah Thomas 4:36 PM  


Anonymous 10:39 AM  

For AliasZ - there's at least one more reason for Brubeck's choice of the title "Blue RONDO à la TURK", which is that Mozart's Piano Sonata No. 11 in A Major, K. 331, has as its third movement a rondo to be played "Alla turca - Allegretto". This movement is also known as the Turkish March and is quite popularly played without the two preceding movements.

By the way, I did not like the puzzle because of its excessive cleverness and use of the CCCCC, UUUUU, TTTTT, etc. non-words. Just my opinion.

But I definitely love Mozart's Rondo alla Turca.

Bill Fairchild
Franklin, TN

Dirigonzo 11:12 AM  

"Multi-layered" indeed - solving this was like peeling an onion, with each layer revealing something new. I spotted the repitious letter gimmick early-on so the top layer solved pretty easily but nothing else was making any sense when I quit and went to bed. With clear eyes this morning I spotted the giant CUT across the top of the grid but I still didn't get the significance of the title. A few of the long down answers were filled in by crosswords and a lot of staring at them produce the epiphany that they all meant CUT and the rest was easy, but I needed lots of write-overs to finally get SNIDE REMARK. I would rate it "Challenging Fun" - Jeff Chen has set a high bar for Sunday constructors to match.

Solving in Seattle 3:26 PM  

Checkin' in a day late to comment on this Jeff Chen major opus. What a fab puz. Congrats, Jeff!

Reason I'm late is that I went to the SeaHawks game yesterday and saw the Cardinals unravel our offense. Alas.

To Anon/Bill Fairchild (come by Syndiland more often, please) and @AliasZ, you guys have highlighted two of my favorite musical works: Brubeck's Blue Rondo ala Turk and Mozart's piano sonata (#11) in A Major. I've worn out about thre or four "Time Out" albums and Maria-João Pires album of Mozart piano sonatas (all 18) is my jogging music. Cheers to both of you.

My only nit is the CHIRR for the cricket's sound.

Happy Holidays Rexville, and Merry Christmas to all.

Dirigonzo 6:16 PM  

@SiS - I assume you had CHIRp, as did I and just about every other solver, but CHIRR
is a dead-on accurate and correct response to the clue.

Merry Christmas to you and yours, too!

Anonymous 12:37 AM  

Loved it. This puzzle saw me through six hours in the emergency room after performing a faceplant. My husband was doing the groaning as I reported each new tricky clue or discovery. One of the orderlies even insisted on lending me his pen when I lost mine somewhere on the way to radiology.

Anonymous 1:05 AM  

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