Fluctuation of musical tempo / MON 12-30-13 / Birthright seller in Bible / Novelist Allende

Monday, December 30, 2013

Constructor: David Steinberg

Relative difficulty: Challenging (*for a Monday*)

THEME: P-NT vowel progression

Theme answers:
  • PANT-SUITED (18A: In some common women's office attire)
  • PENT UP ANGER (24A: What may lead to an emotional explosion)
  • PINT MEASURE (36A: Half-quart container)
  • PONT-L'ÉVÊQUE (51A: Creamy French cheese)
  • PUNT RETURN (59A: Gridiron runback)
Word of the Day: PONT-L'ÉVÊQUE —
Pont-l'Évêque is a French cheese, originally manufactured in the area around the commune of Pont-l'Évêque, between Deauville and Lisieux in the Calvados département of Basse-Normandie. It is probably the oldest Norman cheese still in production.
Pont-l'Évêque is an uncooked, unpressed cow's-milk cheese, square in shape usually at around 10 cm square and around 3 cm high, weighing 400g. The central pâte is soft, creamy pale yellow in colour with a smooth, fine texture and has a pungent aroma. This is surrounded by a washed rind that is white with a gentle orange-brown coloration. The whole is soft when pressed but lacks elasticity. It is generally ranked alongside BrieCamembert, and Roquefort as one of the most popular cheeses in France. (wikipedia)
• • •

This was messed up on a couple of fronts. First, it's simply not a Monday, difficulty-wise. Over my average Tuesday time, and I'm clearly not alone judging from times posted at the NYT site. Not a *hard* puzzle, in absolute terms, by any means, but way off the Monday average. PONT L'ÉVÊQUE I've never even heard of. Looking at pictures, I think I've eaten it, but yeesh. Not a Monday answer in this country. PONTIFICATE fits, and probably would've worked better on a Monday. But I wouldn't be complaining about this answer on a Tuesday. It's a fine answer—it's just one of the reasons this played tough for Monday. Another: a low word count (for a Monday, 74 words qualifies as low). All corners are pretty wide open, making footholds harder to find. Again, doable. This puzzle is simply (and obviously) misplaced on Monday. Bigger problem, for me, was PANT-SUITED, which is a horrific and unnecessary answer. It's an adjective that you would simply rarely, if ever, use. Other PANT- words exist. PANTHEISTS. PANTAGRUEL. I mean, I haven't really tried, but there have to be more and better answers than PANT-SUITED, which is only here because that answer needs to be as long as PUNT RETURN, and PANT SUITS is one letter short. There really aren't better PUNT- answers, I don't think. PUNT BLOCK is OK, but far less common. So thumbs-down to that themer, and thumbs-down also to PINT MEASURE, which appears to be … a pint? I guess we're talking about the container, so OK, I'm sure it's a thing, but of all the PINT- answers … yuck. There's also something so desperately awkward about the clue. [Half-quart container] … oh, you mean a pint container? 'Cause that's what we call "Half-quarts."

No one says SOAPER (42D: Daytime drama, informally). Please change "informally" to "in erstwhile times," and then Kill this answer, please. RUBATO (48D: Fluctuation of musical tempo), very tough for Monday. Fine word, not really in my vocabulary. Again, more late-week than it is Monday. WEB APP, again, not Monday (1D: Google Calendar, e.g., informally). I had WIDGET at first. Don't mind the answer. Just baffled, again, by the placement. NANANA is manifestly terrible, but I can let an answer or two like that slide. Really like OUT THERE, but that was also hard to see. Anyway, this was a hit/miss Tuesday puzzle.

See you tomorrow.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


A. Lush 12:08 AM  

I can't tell you the number of someone's commented that I always arrive at work three-piece suited. I'd guess the number is zero, but I'm frequently in a blackout even at 8:30AM, so I'm not sure.

jae 12:22 AM  

Yup, tough Mon.  Nice four letter vowel progression but lots of stuff that might be off putting for novice solvers...PONT LEVEQUE (a WOE for me), ESTE, RUBATO (needed the crosses to be sure), OZMA, ACTO, BRIO, TENON, EMO, SKAT, the geezer unfriendly WEB APP...

Slightly cringy: SOAPER, PANT SUITED

Erasure: POWER bAr for NAP

Liked it but it felt more like a Tues. and apparently David felt the same way given his remarks on xwordinfo. 

August West 12:37 AM  

There is just such an...affected air to Steinberg puzzles. Even a Monday can't just be...fun. I'm thinking of the novice toe-dipper confronted with ISABEL Allende, IPANA, TENON, BRIO, RUBATO, OZMA, MESSRS, PONTLEVEQUE, TORA (as clued). Sheesh. Like Rex, I'd never heard of the cheese. Or, in my case, the Chilean author. Or the fairy princess who appears in all of Baum's "Oz" books except, um, "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz." Like Rex, I found them all eminently gettable, or simply knew the "noob killers" from years of doing crosswords, but....sheesh. It's Monday.

PANTSUITED and PINTMEASURE were terrible themers, which makes me wonder: just when does a constructor abandon an idea and circular file the effort? NANANA should be outlawed, along with SOAPERS. I did like OUTTHERE and POWERNAP but, overall, hated it!

Anonymous 12:47 AM  

Very tough for this beginner; dnf due to emo/ozma/fez and l'eveque/rubato. 13 p's and 5 b's, no j nor x. Agree with our host that puzzle seems a bit forced yet thanks Mr Steinberg for the effort

rini6 12:50 AM  

Totally agree. This was harder than some Wednesdays IMHO. Ipana? Pont Leveque? Ozma? Este? soapers? Rubato? Tenon ? Odd.

chefwen 1:03 AM  

As soon as I saw the constructor I knew it would be tougher than our usual Monday romp in the park. Yup, I was right. Have been to France many a time and have a tendency to gravitate to fromage shops and I have never run across PONT LEVEQUE although I'm sure I would love it. I haven't bumped into a cheese that did not like. Maybe Kaukauna brand (sorry, cheeseheads) Really did not like PINT MEASURE, seemed rather redundant, or as that kid on two and a 1/2 men would say REDUMBDANT. Anyhoo, got 'er done and that's what counts.

Go Pack!

Garth 1:10 AM  

I understand Rex's issues with the puzzle, but I don't understand this statement:

"Bigger problem, for me, was PANT-SUITED, which is a horrific and unnecessary answer."

I can see the word "horrific" being used to describe war crimes, a terrible injury or illness, etc. To use it describe a word he doesn't care for in a crossword puzzle seems a tad hyperbolic.

AliasZ 1:12 AM  

I almost had a goat when I saw PANT-SUITED. Is this even suited for a Monday? Not that I didn't get it from the clue, but I usually go to work blue-jeaned and sneakered, in other words casually attired rather than neck-tied. Never tongue-tied.

The vowel run on P*NT as stand-alone words severely limits the choice of snappy phrases that start with them, especially with PANT (normally plural), unless it's PANT FOR AIR. Otherwise I found the theme entries fair enough, if PINT MEASURE a little forced. Perhaps PINT OF ALE or sum such would have worked better. PONT-L'ÉVÊQUE was unknown to me as well, but loved learning about it.

The fill was interesting, if a bit over the head of the novice Monday solver: RUBATO, IPANA, POWER NAP (?), WEBAPPS, OZMA, but the junk was at a minimum (except for NANANA), which is always appreciated. Reading David Steinberg's notes in XwordInfo we can see that he indeed intended this as a Tuesday puzzle at least.

A fairly easy solve for me, about average for a Monday.

Steve FRIESS 1:16 AM  

PANTYHOSED would've been better -- could've been a funny clue. Woulda killed OUTTHERE, but I think Rex was just being kind cuz it's not that great. Agree on SOAPER.

Anonymous 1:22 AM  

I had a lot more to say, but in short:

- Hackneyed theme (vowel progression), lack of lively theme answers makes theme very dull/pointless.

- Average fill, maybe just a tad worst than normal

- Tough cluing (took 3+ minutes to understand the OTTO clue.

Should have been a Tuesday. Must be running out of Mondays.

Clark 1:45 AM  

I'm basically in agreement with everyone today, except that I grew up in a house where pyrex liquid measuring cups were called "cup measures", "quart measures", etc. If we had had a 2-cup measure, I am sure we would have called it a PINT MEASURE. So that did not strike me as a problem at all.

Odd coincidence: I've been doing late-week puzzles from 2008. I did two puzzles today (today's and one from March 2008) and they both had NA NA NA in them. (Sorry about the 2008 spoiler.)

Ellen S 1:52 AM  

@AliasZ, I think I love you. So, are we adopting "had a goat" as the blog's unique catchphrase? yay! It's like a secret handshake, right?

I thought this was REALLY EASY for a David Steinberg puzzle. All the stuff I didn't know was easy to fill in from crosses; with the cheese, it was helped a little by French spelling conventions. I had PANTSsuits before PANTSUITED; didn't carefully read the clue. But if a little hard for a Monday, I don't see anything not-doable. Is it really that much easier for an experienced solver who never heard of PONT L'ÉVÊQUE ... um, I'm not sure how to finish that question, but it was such a struggle to put inthe accents, I'm just going to let you guys (Chicago dialect, I swear) figure out what I meant.

Steve J 2:26 AM  

@August West: "Affected air" is a great way of putting it regarding the thing that I've been feeling about Steinberg's puzzles but haven't quite put my finger on. He's obviously got lots of talent, but there's usually something that feels a little forced and self-conscious about his puzzles.

That was definitely on display today, with lots of answers and clues that felt like they were trying a little to hard to be challenging or rare. I recognize that we all ask for and appreciate new, fresh fill, and we all ask for some crunchiness early in the week, but this just felt like it was a hair off of what we're actually asking for in those things. It's still tough to point to it exactly without going the Potter Stewart route, but it's there. At least from my armchair quarterback's position.

I had the same raised eyebrows as others over PANT-SUITED, PINT MEASURE, NA NA NA, etc. And also thought this was likely to be tough for Monday-only solvers. I finished up just past my average Monday time, but things felt tougher than that.

acme 3:41 AM  

Glad seeing vowel runs (or tone poems as I like to think of them) inspired young David to create his own but to be honest,
I don't understand Will's comment at all...bec despite a three letter M*C, my last four (H*CK, P*CK, M*LT and last year's F*LL) were all four-letter strings and published on Tuesdays.

I had abandoned P*NT a while back bec I didn't think there was a good PONT that wasn't French or too hard for a Mon/Tues, but I guess not.

Either Will has totally changed what he wants for a Monday (Our TAKEITTOTHEBANK puzzle last coulda been a Tues) or I no longer f*lly understand what's what.

Now I'm afraid some of these entries are going to make even more people turn against this kind of theme when they can be really fun.

acme 3:52 AM  

Oops, I was mistaken, all our four-letter string vowel peoms were indeed Mondays. Only the Three-letter M*C was a Tuesday.
But I agree with all that the vocab in this was definitely not Monday-friendly. Hand up for not knowing the words RUBATO nor ATCO, OZMA nor LEVEQUE.
Liked the Q and Zs. Never heard SOAPER (I tried SOAPop) and I'd have left out the other Ps as being a little distracting.

Jack Lee 5:01 AM  

Thought it was OK, though I didn't finish due to the ATRA/ATCO cross. Got all the tough answers through crosses.

GILL I. 5:01 AM  

Where did my easy breezy fun and whimsical Monday puzzle go? Off to OZMA (although I had uZMA) I presume.
I knew PONT LEVEQUE because Trader Joe's featured it as their cheese of the month and I always try a cheese of the month but by golly it didn't belong here today is all I'm saying.
I like @Rex' PONTIFICATE and I
agree with @August W comment.....

Krampus 5:32 AM  

Couldn't disagree with you all more about NA NA NA. It's fun. You guys still like fun, right?

Evan 6:27 AM  

Played on my tough side too, especially for PONT-L'ÉVÊQUE (which I kept confusing in my head for the PONTE VECCHIO in Florence) and PANT-SUITED, which sounded sorta made-up as an adjective.

Rex, I don't know if PONTIFICATE or PANTHEISTS would work since the other P-NT words are meant to represent the beginning of a phrase rather than a single word -- at least I think that's the intent, even though PONT-L'ÉVÊQUE and PANT-SUITED are hyphenated terms. I'm not in love with PANT-SUITED at all, though it's probably very tough to come up with alternatives where PANT and PONT stand by themselves (@AliasZ's PANT FOR AIR is a decent one).


I know you've been critical of Rex's tone before, but are you really nitpicking him because of that one word? His point would be the same even if he replaced "horrific" with something more mundane like "bad." Yes, there are worse things in the world besides a less-than-stellar crossword theme entry. Doesn't mean a puzzle critic shouldn't express strong displeasure about it.

dk 6:43 AM  

"I just know them as soaps!" Lavezed Tom sudsily.

Putting on airs is derogatory? Pour moi - it is a state of being.

** (2 goats) not baaaaaaaaad

Glimmerglass 7:06 AM  

Tough Monday. Yay! OZMA will give some younger solvers a problem. She is in several Oz books, but not in the one they made into a movie. I had trouble with PANTSUITED, not just because no one says it (no one does), but I think of the outfit as a pantS-suit. PONTLEVEQUE sounds yummy.

Loren Muse Smith 7:34 AM  
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jberg 7:41 AM  

The Oz books, featuring OZMA, Dorothy, the Wizard, and many other characters (Billina the Hen, e.g.) were a huge franchise -- around 30 of them published, so popular that Baum's daughter kept writing them after he died. OZMA is definitely crossworthy, but I agree that this is not a Monday -- but seriously, go read some of those booke, whether or not you have a child to read them to. (The Nome King - he should be in z puzzle!)

I'm with Clark, a PINT MEASURE is a one-pint measuring cup, definitely a thing.

In my misspent youth I played sheephead (aka schasskopf) all the time, as did my father -- SKAT existed mythologically as a purer, more challenging form of the game, but no one actually knew how to play it. It lives on in puzzles, though.

One said thing: OTTO has apparently lost his throne and is scraping out a living in a garage.

Loren Muse Smith 7:46 AM  

I had a dnf with the EMO/OZMA cross. I like pontificate, pantheists, too, but agree with @Evan - the PONT, PANT aren't separate words. Agreed – really hard Monday, but I enjoyed it. I knew PONT LEVEQUE early on but couldn't spell it. I worked in a gourmet food store and we sold it. (The cheese dept manager was a purist and insisted we pronounce gouda as "xhxh ow dah," that first sound being one of those velar throat-clearing noises.)

So do the UCLA BRUINs have a lot of BRIO? Famous for their brash BRUIN BRIO?

Bit of a critter demise vibe going on with LARVA and then SQUISH, RUB, ZAP. Choose your method. I used to be a get-a-huge-wad-of-paper-towel-and-descend-upon-it -without-looking-and-hope-not-to-feel-a-crunch doer-inner. I don't much kill bugs anymore, though.


Add three more NAs, and you get the taunting chant I would do when one of my sisters got in trouble for something we *both* did.

Look – I'm an early riser, and while everyone else sleeps, I have to sit here and kill time because I don't want to wake anyone. So my posts will get a bit shorter once things are back to normal. You poor people like @Bob Kerfuffle who read everything – skip over this next stuff. It's just blabbering.

If I own up to watching the Real Housewives train wrecks, then I must admit that I was once an unabashed SOAPER watcher. At a piano recital in Ridgewood, NJ, I was seated and heard, "Is this seat taken?" I looked up, choked under pressure, and said, simply, "Lujack!" Vincent Irizarry said, "Yeah. That was me."

I agree on PANT-SUITED, but I've been kicking it around enough now that I just may use it (and think of M&A). Family Christmas group shot: "Ok. All the PANT-SUITED women up front kneeling and all the pencil-skirted women stay in back because you can't really move much anyway. And the booted, legginged college girls can kneel with the PANT-SUITED gals. Christmas-sweatered moms, grandmoms, aunts, and Uncle Bob's new friend – we'll get you all in a separate shot; there are too many of you. Red-vested and blinking neck -tied men – stand behind the pencil-skirted group. Wait. Where's Aunt Gladys?"

When I was in second grade, my aunt Maryon visited us in Chattanooga from Miami. We hardly ever saw her. (She was the genealogy aunt who told us we were related to George Washington but we found out after her death that she regularly consulted the Ouija Board for her research.) Anyway, she was mysterious, exotic, and in my sisters' and my eyes, wealthy. She gave me a full-blown beige PANT SUIT with a polyester animal print belt – PANT SUITS were just entering the scene, so this was cutting edge. Plus, Mom allowed me to wear this pair of shoes I had with medium heels, so I clicked more than Darlene F. (the queen shoe clicker) when I walked, frequently, to the pencil sharpener. . I wore that thing to school as often as I could and just thought I was the most stylISH, chicest second grader at Rivermont Elementary.

Talk about serendipity – all day long yesterday, we were talking, believe it or not, about PUNT RETURNs. This guy, Ryan Switzer, from my daughter's high school in Charleston, WV (they were even lab partners), is a freshman playing football at UNC and just yesterday tied the NCAA record for PUNT RETURNS against Cincinnati in some obscure bowl.


(Everyone said Ryan couldn't play D1 ball because he's too small. Wrong.) My daughter is a freshman at Pitt, and she called me from the stands recently during their game against Carolina after Ryan's second PUNT RETURN to score a touchdown. "Mom. I've been sitting in the stands watching Ryan score touchdowns for six years now. This is enough."

There's no HUME. Made ya look! Never understood his stuff anyway.

MetaRex 7:54 AM  

POWER NAP and POP TUNE added P-N panache...

Decided to apply the PIEDMONTESEOMETER to measure the good, groovy, and the ugly in my pre-Shortzian debut puzz as well as in David S.'s puzz today...the results are here...they do not support a movement to replace Will and David S. w/ ETM and MetaRex...

AliasZ 8:41 AM  

I'd like to see a PANTomime on a PONToon bridge in PUNTa Cana, DR, that reenacts the game of PINTails on donkeys accompanied by music in the PENTatonic scale.

@acme, sorry to see there was not one word starting with C in today's puzzle (I almost said "C-word" but that may have been misunderstood). The pontOON bridge gave me an idea. How about if we switch focus, and use stand-alone 4-letter words that can precede OON? Like: HARPoon, BASSoon, CARToon, BALLoon, LAMPoon, DRAGoon, RANGoon, etc. It could be a funny Tuesday theme. On second thought, never mind.

Off to see that PINT-sized PANTyhose-wearing PUNTkicker, PONTius Pilate, in the PENThouse overlooking the PONT Neuf bridge in the City of Light.

Size 8:47 AM  

I realize that not all commenters here are the same skill level... but still it's weird to see people who I think solve a Saturday in 1/2 - 1/3 of my time, yet never heard of Ozma, rubato, or Pont-Leveque... what very different backgrounds we all must have.

Dorothy Biggs 9:06 AM  

I'm sure David is a fine constructor, if not prolific (100 submissions to NYT alone?)...but I get the sense from doing some of his puzzles that he goes through a dictionary/thesaurus and picks words that fit his puzzle without really knowing those words.

It would be like me doing a german puzzle and opening up a dictionary and picking random words. A fluent Deutsche speaker would look at those words and laugh. Even though I insist they are actual words, they might actually not ever be used in casual/formal/technical speech.

PANTSUITED is one of those words as is PINTMEASURE. Yes, those words are English. No, we don't use them. Just because they may or may not be in the dictionary, does not make them fair game...unless that's your schtick. And if it is, then fine, but let us in on the joke too.

This isn't an isolated case. I remember a not too long ago puzzle of David's I *hated* because of this kind of thing.

Don't get me wrong...I like the freshness of new words...but come on, just using random words from a dictionary is not a sign of mastery of the language, it's just making things difficult for difficulty's sake.

That said, I didn't have too difficult of a time with the puzzle. Just a few cringes here and there...

Danp 9:08 AM  

I understand this was a tribute puzzle to PeaNuTs, but why? I would assume a constructor would start out with the 5 theme answers. But if they're junk, move on. And definitely don't include an answer like "SO WHAT?"

John V 9:13 AM  

Save for four the French cheese, pretty easy here. Yes some of the words were not typical for a Monday, but ask fairly crossed. Though SE might be a bit rough for some, with RUBATO. F2f puz, David.

chefbea 9:18 AM  

Agree with everyone. Tough for a monday. Liked the ziti with ragu. Think I'll try to find some pontleveque to serve New Year's Eve!!

Ω 9:22 AM  

I solved this last night after polishing of one of my christmas presents - a 650ml bottle of Dragon's Milk (definitely a Saturday beer - it's a "Bourbon Barrel Stout"). Still finished in the 8 minute range which is my medium Monday time slot. Through the milky haze the only answer that arched an eyebrow was PONTLEVEQUE. Looking at it over my coffee this morning I have to say I agree with OFL, more of a Tuesday puzzle.

I grew up very close to OZMA's home (I don't recall ever hearing any of the "haunted house" crap mentioned in the link). Local legend has it that Baum took lots of inspiration for the Oz books from Castle Park and its environs.

Anonymous 9:35 AM  

I'm an ink-on-Monday only solver but switched to the pencil today immediately after popping Sam in and scanning the rest of the clues. Actually turned out to be simpler than anticipated, but not normal Monday.
Interesting how we each have our unique reactions to the clues; I had a dear relative who loved Pont Leveque so it was easy for me and it used to make me feel knowledgeable with French waiters.

Ω 9:37 AM  

@AliasZ and @EllenS - I wonder if a certain someone will have to use "Had an anoa?" - 'tho it's not a GOAT the avatar always makes me think of one.

Anonymous 9:37 AM  

How could I not have added that seeing it here made me smile today.

Anonymous 9:48 AM  

Had a goat at PANTSUITED and just knew that Rex would hate it.

Fred Smith 10:05 AM  

I criticized Rex for his negative tone in a post last week -- thought it was overdone. Snarky, snarky.

I agree with him entirely today, though, on every point. And in a moderate tone.

-- Fred

Rex Parker 10:11 AM  


I would never in a million years speak hyperbolically. How dare you, sir.


Sandy K 10:16 AM  

I agree with Rex. This was definitely not Monday-ISH.


Then there was PANT-SUIT*ED* ?(the clue was not up to PAR either) ATRA/ATCO, SOAPER? HUNH?

MikeM 10:21 AM  

Tough for a Monday but everything was gettable from the crosses. PANTSUITED sgould never have gotten through, IMHO.

Milford 10:22 AM  

Definitely not your average Monday. Not too difficult in the end, but time was slow for sure. The cluing sometimes threw me - e.g. OTTO - why the ? in the clue? Am I not getting some play on words here? And definitely the clue for PANTSUITED was read a few times.

I found POP TUNE awkward.

I did like OUT THERE, SO WHAT, and PENT UP ANGER (or is it PENT-UP? Do we use the hyphen here?).

I always like seeing GARY, my dad's birthplace, in a puzzle. I'll have that song as an earworm the rest of the day.

@Z - never had heard of the Ozma castle before - thanks.

I think I can admit to feeling a twinge of getting schooled by someone my kid's age when I struggle with a Steinberg puzzle, but that's really my issue, not his.

Mask-Suited and Anonymo9Us 10:34 AM  

Hey, now. All five themers had at least one U in them. Now that's my kind of vowel movement theme. This Steinberg kid has some class. Unleash ye not the goats of war uponeth him, my children. Speakin of livestock...

A lotta moocows opted to stay in the barn for this MonPuz. But "Bird's 'arm'" was a nice, fluffy lob to start things off. Quad stacks of six will invariably scare the patties right outa most moocows, tho.

Weejects Anonymous: HAW is pretty good. ABU and ISH have a certain boquet d'Esperation about em, that I can sniff along with. Gonna give the outstandin achievement award, tho, to the always-hard-to-pull-off triple NA sawcow. Handclap.

Cool puz. SQUISHy.


joho 10:38 AM  

I was gobsmacked that PANTSUITED was accepted as a theme answer. I would have thought, "Go back to the drawing board" an appropriate request here. At least PONTLEVEQUE is pretty, if not Monday theme worthy. And I do like learning new words, but maybe not so much on a Monday. PINTMEASURE is a lot like green paint.

Perhaps I'm venting some of my PENTUPANGER.

Favorite answer: SQUISH!

Bob Kerfuffle 10:46 AM  

@loren muse smith - Literally (and I use the word precisely) Laughed Out Loud reading your comment, "You poor people like @Bob Kerfuffle who read everything . . ." Why yes, I do!

For one thing, I want to avoid repeating what others have already said. One GOAT is plenty for me.

But I also want to post some comment daily so I get in on the thread -- because I don't want to miss great stories like those you, ACME, and others tell every day, or the great humor of M&A.

Now if only I could read a little faster . . .

quilter1 10:52 AM  

The SE was the hardest to fill for me, not knowing the cheese, the actress or the musical term. Husband helped with PUNTRETURN as I don't know football at all. Kind of sailed through the rest and finished with SERVES. OK Monday, if challenging. On to BEQ.

quilter1 11:06 AM  

Also, I had two Uncle OTTOs.

Anonymous 11:18 AM  

I'm less hateful of PANT-SUSITED or PONT L'EVEQUE than you are Rex. I like that, unlike your suggested alternatives, the vowel progression remains a separate word in those two clues. I think it would show poor technique if some of the theme answers had the vowel progression in a separate word, like PUNT RETURN, and some were one word, like PANTHEISTS.

So my only issue is that this was a Tuesday level puzzle published on a Monday.

John V 11:26 AM  

I see that I have outdone myself in fat-fingering my earlier posting. I will award a free EEL to anyone who can parse what I wrote, as I certainly can not.

Garth 11:35 AM  


Good point. But no, I'm not really nitpicking based on one word. I wouldn't have pointed it out if Rex was, as a rule, equally hyperbolic in his praise. Even though I haven't (yet) done a scientific study of it, it appears that, as as rule, Rex uses harsh words to criticize the puzzle constructors and editor, but doesn't balance it with equally effusive praise. I am hopeful* that by pointing out the overall negative slant in the blog, Rex might consider moderating his tone, which, in my opinion would make a very fine blog even better.

Cute response.

*not really.

Beaglelover 11:44 AM  

I was coasting along until I got to32D and 42 A. Never heard of either. There were lots of things I only got because of the fill. Somehow I thought of a champaign commercial and got the cheese answer. Maybe they use pant suited and pint measure in Britain.

Questinia 11:54 AM  
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Benko 11:55 AM  

I actually have heard the word PANTSUITED many times--but always in reference to Ms. Hilary Clinton.
I don't really share in the criticism of Mr. Steinberg, though I think he is represented disproportionately in the times...three puzzles in one month is too many for any constructor.

Questinia 11:56 AM  
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Lewis 12:14 PM  

That it is more difficult than a Monday isn't David's fault; that would be a criticism of the editor.

I loved this puzzle It felt clean. It was quirky (loved the clue for OTTO). I liked SQUISH, RUBATO, SKAT, ZITI, BRIO, PENTUPANGER, SOWHAT -- the puzzle had zip. The theme wasn't terribly interesting but helped with the solve. I also like the word PONTLEVEQUE even though I never heard of it.

Fun and spark -- good one!

Questinia 12:17 PM  

I liked this puzzle a lot because it was like a Rube Goldberg machine of quirky verbage moving with RUBATO.

But isn't SQUISH the *sound* that is made as something is SQUaSHed? It's an echo-response vowel progression in the real world. I SQUaSH ... it SQUISHes.

BTW, only office pewits are PANT-SUITED.

Thanks David.

AliasZ 12:36 PM  

NANANA sounds like a kindergartener's mocking retort to IPANA.

My musical selection today is not a POPTUNE. It is the fourth movement of Symphony No. 7 in A major, Op. 92, marked Allegro con BRIO, by Beethoven. A better performance than this one I do not believe exists OUT THERE. Con BRIO all the way with nary a RUBATO in sight. This is no HAW HUM music or performance. If it doesn't make you want to dance, I don't know what will. Do not listen to it with SEALED ears. Or eared seals.

Sfingi 12:37 PM  

@Rex - no one says a lot of things seen on crosswords.

I didn't notice the theme (a problem I often have). If I had, I wouldn't have asked Hubster for PUNTRETURN. The rest was harder than the LA, today, but still smooth for oldsters, esp. IPANA.

PANTSUITED - I'm so old, we wore skirted suits with fluffy shirts.
Cold in the computer room in those early days of gigantic machines that did less than a laptop and generated nuch heat. (Happy Birthday to me - I'm 69, today.)

OTTO was cute.

Speaking of onomatopoetic words like SQUISH, remember Mel Brooks describing "shower" as such? The hot water comes out SHH and when it hits you, you say, "OW"

Cold as a witch's t-t, and windy and icy in Upstate NY, today. Suspect it's better everywhere else.

Unknown 1:37 PM  

How strange. This was a easy-medium Monday for me. Not my best time, but better than average. Only woe was ESAU, which I had as ESEU, due to my lifetime success of escaping all things biblical. (New years resolution to repair my deficiencies there, but I'm leaving French the hell alone.)

I agree with Rex on the horribleness of PANTSUITED.

I guessed well for the 'O' in EMO/OZMA. But it had to be a vowel, and the other vowels were lower probability.

M and Also 1:41 PM  

@Sfingi--happy bday, and 69 more.

@muse-- primo digressin today. I'd hafta get up pretty dern early, to out-digress the likes of U.

@Kerfuffle--Thanx U kindly.

@4-Oh--in erstwhile times, they wouldn't kill off a SOAPER. Smite him, maybe...
Think I have heard tell of this PONTLEVEQUE stuff somewhere before; har -- moocow cheese!
Hate to nyt-pick, but gotta agree with U manifestily about NANANA. Sounds like a doowop revival group made up of nursemaids, or somesuch.
Since MonPuzs are mostly too easy for major leaguers like U and m&e, it is kinda nice to get a bonus one like this now and then that bbq's the moocow a little dab extra...


Steve J 1:48 PM  
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Steve J 1:54 PM  

@Sfingi: "no one says a lot of things seen on crosswords."

From my perspective, that's a problem.

While I recognize that there will be occasions where an awkward usage is needed to make the overall grid work, I'm of the opinion that that needs to be kept to an absolute minimum, and crosswords should showcase stuff that's actually in the language. The defense I've seen from some constructors/editors/testers that something is in the dictionary or can be found in a citation somewhere is a weak one. While the threshold lowers as the week progresses, even Saturdays should feature words and phrases that are pretty commonly recognized by most native speakers as being part of the language (or at least recognized by practitioners of the specialties where some terms will come from ). Otherwise, it's just Maleska-esque verbal trivia.

Were I constructing or editing, my mantra would be "just because you can doesn't mean you should". Finding something in a dictionary or five pages deep on Google shouldn't be sufficient justification for a word's inclusion in all but the most exigent of circumstances.

That said, I think PANT-SUITED and SOAPER are likely the only things in today's puzzle where there's a good case for their not being truly part of the language. (SOAPER is a good example of my point above: Yes, I can find it using this definition in a dictionary and on Google. Yet the first several pages of Google results for "soaper" show mostly references to actual soap and/or soapmaking, 1-2 dictionary definitions, and people with the surname Soaper. I gave up after 15 pages of results looking for a reference to SOAPER as synonym for "soap opera" outside of a dictionary citation.)

@Questinia: My mom always SQUISHed bugs rather than SQUASH them. Could be a regional/dialect thing.

mac 2:01 PM  

Happy birthday, @Sfingi.

Monday theme but Wednesday execution, I felt.

With the clue at 18A I immediately thought "pantsuit, Hilary". Just had to add the -ed.
The strangest was 4A, Whom hosts host. I was thinking tabernacle…. First thought at the car mechanic was "Bill"!

Pont Leveque was a gimme, and that helped a lot in the corner, but I also started with squash.

LaneB 2:10 PM  

As soon as I saw Steinberg's name on the puzzle, I knew it wouldn't be an ordinary Monday. And it wasn't even though I did slog steadily through it without any assists from Google. However, I certainly agree with Rex's comments, particularly regarding NANANA, ATCO, TENON, SHEP, HAW and a couple of other words/clues. NEAP was the last word I filled in. It had to be NEAP but I then had to look it up to find out what a neaptide was.
Today is Monday, isn't it?

Anonymous 2:26 PM  

Definitely more difficult than the usual Monday puzzle, but gettable. I had only two write-overs. Agreeing with @Questinia, I had SQUASH for 47-D until I found that 62-A couldn't be VAAL, and IST for 37-D until I found that 42-A couldn't be SOTHAT. I do not know PONTLEVEQUE but it somewhat magically appeared when I got all the crossing words.

joho 3:08 PM  

@Sfingi, Happy Birthday and many, many more!

@John V, I will take a free EEL, thank you very much.

@Alias Z, "Do not listen to it with SEALED ears. Or eared seals." Very funny.

quilter1 4:28 PM  

@Beaglelover: re 42A, I cannot believe you have never said or heard "so what?" A typo, perhaps?

AliasZ 4:53 PM  


Maybe @Beaglelover never heard of a SOW HAT, like @Rex hasn't heard of HAS A GOAT.

M and A Help Desk and Otto Repair 4:58 PM  

@Milford... not sure anyone answered your OTTO query.
? in clue was because of a play on words with "auto", a mechanic's forte.


Unknown 4:59 PM  

"Otto" for "auto" - thus the "?".

Two Ponies 5:00 PM  

For me this constructor is the anti-Berry. I haven't enjoyed any of his puzzles so far.

Hmm, now the captcha is all numbers.

Unknown 6:33 PM  

The "Otto" clue was cute, but only the first 5 or 6 times I've seen it. Now it's just a standard clue that's wearing thin.

r.alphbunker 8:19 PM  

If David Lynch can do a G-rated movie ("The Straight Story") then there is hope that David Steinberg has a Monday puzzle in him.

I knew this wasn't a typical Monday before I got to the cheese. My first entry was not in the NW corner as it usually is with Mondays.

Sfingi 8:23 PM  

Thanx for the birthday greetings.

@Steve J, agree that PANTSUITED and SOPER are lame. The first is in the category of "put a 're' up front, and an 'er' at the end." create rePANTSUITer, etc. But we get used to.

The other type include the crosswordese, such as ETUI. I recently bought one at Pier 1 for a secret Santa present. Try referring to it as such to a clerk. Dead look. Then explain. Another dead look.

Happy New Year to all - and buon capitann'

GILL I. 8:33 PM  

Hey @Sfingi...Happy birthday...
This is for you...69 is great

retired_chemist 8:51 PM  

This puzzle is missing much of what bothered me about David Steinberg's other NYT puzzles. Other than the lameness of PANT-SUITED and SOAPER, and the relative obscurity of PONT L'ÉVÊQUE, this puzzle seemed on track for a Monday to me. Medium Monday time here.

Thanks, Mr. Steinberg.

Steve J 9:03 PM  

@Sfingi: I love that you went to buy an ETUI. If they had known what it was, I suspect the clerk would have outed him/herself as a crossword puzzler.

Perhaps that's the secret crossword code. Ask someone if they know where to find an ETUI; if they answer yes, you know they're one of us.

Happy birthday, by the way.

Tita 9:17 PM  

Tough Monday - check. Theme answers that are not things - check.
Strange - I have always had fun with Mr. Steinberg's puzzles - except for the last 2.
(Actually, I don't care much that it is hard-for-Monday, but figgered I'd pile on that bandwagon.)

It doesn't help that I think vowel progressions are ho-hum. Might be a very tough construction feat, but I just can't get too excited about them as a mere solver.

J'adore PONTLEVEQUE. It's one of puzzle husband's favorite cheeses. It's nearly smelly enough to be on my top 20 list, A really aged one will move it up to the top 10.
Been to the town, also. I get a real kick out of going to eponymous towns/regions - Oporto, Cognac, Calvados... Do people who live there get sick of the products that are revered everywhere else?

@AliasZ - I usually go to work ROBED. Or is that ENROBED. JAMMIED? ENJAMMIED? I work from home, and am often on meetings that start at 6am. On those days, I must admit, I rarely make it to PANTSUITED.

@Bob K - I too, LOL'd. I almost always (at least try really really hard to) read everything! Who would want to miss a single syllable...

@sfingi - I agree wth your point about crosswordese - but I distinguish between ADIT and PANTSUITED. ANd Happy Birthday to you!

@M&A - nyt-pick ... !!

Oh - and

Anonymous 9:24 PM  

funny--I'm Mon/Tues solver who struggles late in the week, so when you guys struggle I really struggle. I had problems w/ the several obscure ones mentioned but caught them on the crosses, so normal time for this slowpoke. Guess I was just lucky w/ the help i got from crosses.

Ω 9:32 PM  

Just three and a half years and no one cares about the dude' s age anymore.

MaharajaMack 10:16 PM  

I agree that the theme answers were iffy, but I still found it easy. I finished it about two minutes shorter than my normal time (proof that my normal time is still pretty slow). Steinberg always pisses me off because no kid his age should be that much smarter than me.

A legit complaint I have about DS puzzles is that they seem heavy on the "words I know from Crossword Compiler word lists". It's just more obvious when you know there's no way a kid his age could be familiar with some of the clues he uses.

Jealous much? You're damn right.

sanfranman59 12:37 AM  

This week's relative difficulty ratings. See my 8/1/2009 post for an explanation and my 10/15/2012 post for an explanation of a tweak I've made to my method. In a nutshell, the higher the ratio, the higher this week's median solve time is relative to the average for the corresponding day of the week.

All solvers (this week's median solve time, average for day of week, ratio, percentile, rating)

Mon 7:38, 6:18, 1.21, 97%, Challenging (7th highest ratio of 210 Mondays)

Top 100 solvers

Mon 4:42, 3:56, 1.19, 96%, Challenging (9th highest ratio of 210 Mondays)

brandsinger 8:37 AM  

I welcomed the harder Monday puzzle because I was stuck in a car waiting for my wife and needed something interesting to do.

spacecraft 11:34 AM  

As others have said: vis-a-vis Monday, kinda hardish; vis-a-via Steinberg, an absolute breeze.

My problem with PINTMEASURE is not the relative awkwardness of the term itself, but rather the long-I sound of PINT. All other theme entries carry the short sound of their first vowels, and this one just grates. PINTOHORSES, maybe. Or do they all have to have a U? A sUb-theme?

There are other problems, all cited aplenty. I just think this brilliant guy can't quite dumb himself down enough to make a good, simple Monday offering. Endweek is his proper milieu; he should stay there.

Had a near natick at RUBATO/ESTE, but correctly inferred the T. I thought surely RUBATO was going to be the WOD.

And now, congrats to all you Seahawk fans. Absolutely no one saw this coming, and it's yet one more reason why I NEVER, NEVER bet on sports. And anybody who wins consistently at it is just having a monster run, and should quit while they're ahead.

Too bad you can't get credit for three pair. That hand's only good in Pai Gow poker.

DMG 1:50 PM  

Kept thinking this can't be Monday, but struck with all the crazy stuff and guessed correctly at the cheese/ music crossing, and so DF with a smile. But when "words" like SOAPERS appear, I think somebody is trying a little too hard! Have to run, so end of comment.

Solving in Seattle 3:01 PM  

I agree with OFL that this was a tough Monpuz. I had my gal PANT(s)SUITs before I figured out that it's PANT SUIT, but it doesn't sound right.

And, like Rex, I likely have eaten PONTLEVEQUE, I've never heard of it, so my cheese came entirely on crosses.

Liked PUNTRETURN, especially after jumping up and down at Percy Harvin running back the 2nd half kickoff for a touchdown last night in the Seattle Seahawks blowout victory over #18 (@Spacy) and the Denver Broncos. Just have to add what a class act #18, John Fox and all the Denver Broncos are.

@Diri, hope you chose Seattle.

Go Hawks and congrats to the 12th Man!

Dirigonzo 4:30 PM  

I do believe the Red Cross collects PLASMA in a PINT MEASURE. Why don't you head on down to the local donor center to see if I'm right?

@SiS - I was glad for the 'Hawks, they put on an amazing display, but I felt bad for Peyton who looked like he had totally lost his mojo. I wonder if he'll be back next year?

As to 3d: here's all I have to sayon the topic.

Two pair - 9s and 4s.

Waxy in Montreal 6:00 PM  

Great game by the 'Hawks. And in the best of all worlds department, their 29-0 lead after the Harvin PUNTRETURN to start the second half even allowed for a quick switch to PBS at 9pm EST to watch Downton Abbey & Sherlock Holmes.

RUBATO, PONTLEVEQUE and BRIO as verve were unknowns but luckily discernible from their crosses. Certainly tough for a Monday but doable and enjoyable. Bring on Tuesday.

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