Food preservative for short / TUE 12-31-13 / Site of Kubla Khan's pleasure dome / North American finch / One of Spain's Balearics

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Constructor: Tracy Gray

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: LARGE and its anagrams

Theme answers:
Word of the Day: BHT (11A: Food preservative, for short) —
Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT), also known as butylhydroxytoluene, is a lipophilic organic compound, chemically a derivative of phenol, that is useful for its antioxidant properties. European and U.S. regulations allow small percentages to be used as a food additive. While there may be some dispute in BHT's use in the human diet, the chemical is widely used in industry wherever oxidation in fluids (e.g. fuel, oil) and other materials must be treated, and free radicals must be kept in check. (wikipedia)
• • •

The puzzle has its merits—mainly some lively fill and decent theme answers. But there are a couple of inexplicable problems here, both intrinsic and extrinsic. Let's start with the small, easy-to-fill corners in the NE and SW. There's just no excuse to go with a French word like PLAGE there, esp. as Nothing Good Is Being Held in Place there. You go w/ PLAGE and you *still* make us suffer through GLO and ESS? I don't get that. But worse, much much worse, is BHT. I've never heard of it, but I've never heard of many things, so that's not the main problem. The main problem is that a. it is comparatively obscure (NYT hasn't used it in Over Ten Years, and then it was on a Thursday, and, presumably, *necessary* to make some important thematic thing happen); and b. it is an initialism where there absolutely, positively doesn't need to be one. I'm dumbfounded that the constructor, the editor, someone wouldn't take ten seconds to rid the puzzle of BHT. It's not holding Anything in place. You can tear that corner out and refill it a jillion different ways. BHT? I can't even … I don't know. Your ear has to be so tin to think that's a good idea. Mind-blowing.

And then on to the extrinsic problem: this theme has been done before. And recently. And by god the first thing any seasoned constructor does (in this day and age) when pursuing a themed puzzle is check to databases. Has it been done? If so, are you going to do it differently? In this case, yes, it has been done, and no, you're not really going to do it differently. I just plugged *lager* into the database and found the following grid, but if you'd simply searched ROCKET'S RED GLARE or CHIVAS REGAL, you'd have ended up in the same place:

[Randall Hartman, CrossSynergy, May 2010]

Due diligence. It's important in the electronic age (in any age, I guess, but especially now—you simply can't construct puzzles as if this database information does not exist; not anymore).

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Questinia 12:13 AM  

♬♪ Tracy and Will got in trou-ble♩♬

jae 12:14 AM  

Very nice medium Tues.  Just a tad faster for me than yesterday's.  I would have finished even sooner if not for preCUT before DIECUT.  Had no idea the theme had but done before (CrossSynergy is not part of my rotation), but the gird was mostly smooth and had some zippy stuff like GIVE A RIP and CANOODLE so it seemed like an above average Tues. to me.  HENCE, I liked it. 

WOEs: @Rex PLAGE and JUNCO.  I knew BHT but no idea how I knew it.

Benko 12:33 AM  

I thought of BHT right away. And I do not think initials are inherently bad fill, especially when they are much more commonly known as initials than as whatever words they stand for. But I did not know JUNCO.
The theme, in my opinion, didn't have that much going for it as a cohesive idea. if there were some phrase liked "mixed LAGER" or "LARGE in confusion" to hold it altogether, maybe...but as far as I can think of, there isn't.

okanaganer 12:59 AM  

Wow...not only done pretty recently, but with virtually the same theme clues. And exactly the same one in the middle! That's gotta be a major blunder, NYT.

Ironically, looking at this theme I thought: if only she had used ELGAR, she could have had all 5 theme words start with a different letter.

Anonymous 1:08 AM  

Don't even need software to fix the NE:


Scrabble-wise, we lose the H to the L ( a significant difference). But with the high scrabbliness already, we can afford to lose it.

Anonymous 1:14 AM  

Never been a fan of answers end in anagram puzzles, unless the anagramming is provided via a revealer. The theme answers are somewhat lively, but not especially so. Overall, theme is a thumbs down.

Fill is crap as usual.

Steve J 1:28 AM  

Nice overall. Thought there was some good fill (CANOODLE, BLING, AVALON, XANADU - which managed to get pulled off without Scrabblef'ing - GIVE A RIP) and some decent cluing in spots.

Theme's pretty well executed as well. (I'll get to the point of its having-been-done-ness in a moment.)

It also felt like this was supposed to be yesterday's puzzle (which should have been today's, based on relative difficulty).

@Benko: I also picked up BHT pretty much straight away. Apparently I read too many ingredients labels. (Anon 1.08: I like the swap of BLT instead of BHT, but I'm not sure RAE is an improvement overall in that corner.)

@jae: I also had preCUT instead of DIE-CUT.

Back to the "it's been done" issue:

In general, that doesn't concern me much. After 100 years I don't think there's a lot left to be done in crosswords that hasn't already been done (outside of Thursday-type trickery). But it does definitely look bad when the exact same theme answers were used so recently.

And while a constructor should indeed check these things, I think this falls much more on the editor's shoulders than on the constructor's. The editor's ultimately responsible for the quality of the puzzle, and freshness is a component of quality.

Regardless, I hadn't personally encountered the previous puzzle, so I naturally was unaware of the uncanny similarities. I can see how people who had done that one would be irked, though.

Ellen S 1:38 AM  

I thought it was okay, because I've heard of BHT. I think it's in all the cheap dog food. Maybe in the PREMIUM dog food that I spend a fortune on. Just checked. No BHT, but the Blue Buffalo ingredient list ends with "enterococcus faecium dried fermentation product." Isn't that what they get snacking out of the cat box?

@Loren, I enjoyed your Musing yesterday, and happy birthday Sfingi.

[the Captcha was a longish string of obvous numbers, and a blurry photo of a couple. I tried just typing the couple, no go. It now switched to all letters, some blurry some not. I'm being seriously punished because I can't read the corrupted one at all.] [And can barely type because at 25 and a half hours before the New Year, someone somewhere is testing their explosives and my 50-pound wimpy non-BHT'd dog is trying to climb into my lap.]

jae 1:59 AM  

GGGGG - grid not gird

George Barany 2:12 AM  

@okanaganer's mention of ELGAR jogged something in my memory, prompting a visit to the databases. Sure enough, on Tuesday May 22, 2012, @Kyle Dolan had a puzzle with the reveal ENIGMA_VARIATIONS (16 letters, right across the middle) and four anagrams of "ENIGMA" embedded at the beginning (twice), middle, and end of interesting phrases. @Rex's rather favorable review of that puzzle is found here.

Anonymous 2:24 AM  

The above grid suggestion was literally done in 5 seconds, Mr. Steve J. While I'm confident it could be improved, I would defend RAE on accounts of both Norma RAE and Carly RAE Jepsen being crossword-worthy. My point was ultimately that not even a computer would be needed to improve that section; you could do it instantly

JFC 2:40 AM  

Rex, I know this is going to be hard to believe, but sometimes you are just flat wrong.

It is not the constructor's job to check databases, even though the more experienced constructors who have access might. That, it seems abundantly clear to the most fair-minded individual, is the job of the editor.

So don't blame Tracy if she came up with an idea that the Times accepted when the Times is in a much superior position to know better....


Jisvan 3:11 AM  

On the easy side for me, knew most of it and the crosses filled in the rest. Liked living large near Horatio Alger; Xanadu and Avalon; red rockets going off while we drink premium lagers and Chivas Regal in Ibiza to ring in the New Year!
@rex, if you start reading the ingredient labels on snack foods, you'll find BHT and all kinds of other potential puzzle (and probably liver) fill!
@jae: Your typos are so tiny, I bet no one even notices them. (I don't, until I see your corrections.)
@EllenS: My old lab was terrified of fireworks, even a random car backfire would turn her to jelly. Then in the last couple of years of her life, she seemed to get over it. We considered it might be the wisdom of age, but it was probably the deafness of a really old dog...

Aflac Chivas Maltas 3:36 AM  

I winged thru and really liked it!


Loved that it was just a Q short of a pangram...

It's really too bad three of the five are the same, but for all we know, Tracy submitted this in 2009! ;)

I believe Sunday's Pool table puzzle was just given a pass despite having been done...
At least this was in a different publication, so Will prob figures different audience.

I do think it falls more on the constructor these days... When Will chooses a puzzle he is looking at the puzzle to see if it's tight, well done, etc.
I can't imagine him sitting around plugging every theme entry into the database to check to see if it's been done. Hadn't been done in the NYT and that's prob what counts to him.
I really really liked this puzzle, so sorry it will be slammed for having so many similar entries.
Obviously, no one knew...but it stands on its own merits.
I'd be pissed if I were Randall Hartman, but as I am not him, and had not done his puzzle, I loved this one!

39D GIVEARaP, so couldn't figure out what was moving at the movies was out of aMA?E.
Then I tried GIVEARAT('s ass)...
Otherwise very smooth sailing, literally my only writeover.

Why is Jackanapes plural, or is that just an IMPish word that ends in an ESS?

@anon 1:08am Like your quick fix!
Do agree that BRING/RAE/BLT/LANCE is much stronger, but BLING is fun!

George Barany 4:56 AM  

Best wishes of the season to @Rex and this eclectic and passionate discussion group.

For those of you who want some more challenges, my crossword group is proud to host a new themeless puzzle, entitled Joust in Time for a Happy New Year!, written by Martin Ashwood-Smith.

Other puzzles of various styles and vintages at our website may appeal to you as well. Contact me via e-mail to if you would like to join us.

GILL I. 6:33 AM  

I didn't GIVE A RIP because Randall didn't have CANOODLE!
@Ellen S: Now you got me checking our dog food...;-)
Perhaps this fun sassy puzzle could have run yesterday?
Oh, I think CHIVAS REGAL is so overrated. It taste like charcoal to me....If I'm going to sip a blended whisky, I'll take Cutty Sark.
Cheers everyone.

Unknown 6:42 AM  
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Anonymous 6:44 AM  

I just read that Horatio Alger died in 1899 in NATICK Massachusetts.

Happy New Year to all!

Danp 7:06 AM  

The hardest thing about this puzzle was figuring out the theme. But MYBAD made it a slightly better puzzle than yesterday's SOWHAT.

Glimmerglass 7:07 AM  

JACKANAPES is a singular (he's a jackanapes). "Imp" seems a bit off to me. "Foolish prankster" is the sense of it for me, not "mischievous child."

Sam Adams 7:14 AM  

"All-malt beer" (47A) is ... just beer. What makes beer "premium" would be the quality of the malt, hops, yeast, water, and recipe. Yes, and marketing.

And what makes it a lager, as opposed to ale, is the type of yeast.

Plus, plenty of premium beers are not all-malt. Some may have wheat as an ingredient, for example.

Hoppy New Year, everyone. Cheers!

Beaglelover 7:23 AM  

I thought BHT was the easiest clue in the whole puzzle!
Didn't you ever wonder why most packaged foods have expiration dates months or years away? It is because of BHT! We are being embalmed even before we are dead.
The jewelers eyepiece and the French beach threw me off. I thought this puzzle was good but I certainly get Rex point. Will should edit!

Zwhatever 7:26 AM  

Captcha Secret for @Ellen S and anyone else - The Picture half of the captcha can be typed in as anything (42 is the preferred number here but do whatever floats your boat (I've been doing the binary version of 42 for awhile now)) or nothing. The curvy letters/numbers have to be typed in faithfully. Can't read the curvy letters (or can't sort out the L's and I's from the J's)? Hit the circled arrow next to the "Type the text:" field and get a new set.

"All-Malt" does not mean "premium" except in some fevered adman's presentation. Other than that, this one had a real party-animal feel. LIVING LARGE, wearing BLING, drinking CHIVAS REGAL, ALE, and PREMIUM LAGER while jetting to XANADU, IBIZA, the isle of SKYE, MALTA, and AVALON.

On the whole "it's been done" issue, one thing we don't know is who did this first. As @Aflac Chivas Maltas pointed out, this puzzle could have entered the pipeline before Hartman's was published. Then, what...?

Zwhatever 7:29 AM  

I see @Sam Adams made the same point while I was typing. Will should edit better is all I'm saying.

Loren Muse Smith 7:38 AM  
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Loren Muse Smith 7:40 AM  

I've said before – anagrams are definitely growing on me (like that pesky dew claw on my shin). I really liked LARGE, ALGER, GLARE, LAGER, and REGAL. I liked that there was no reveal.

As to its being done before. . . hmm. Who's to say what happened? @Andrea and @Z have a good point that this could have been submitted before that CrossSynergy puzzle ran in 2010. Andrea and I have one in the queue, and it's been there for a while. I'll be devastated if some mean, hateful upstart beats us to the punch and publishes a similar theme at another venue before ours runs. I want full credit that I have had that wordplay idea since the early 90s. (Well, at least the reveal. Once Andrea released the constructor part of my BEAN, I saw that it could be turned into a puzzle, and with her expertise, voila!) Hurry, Will!

@jae – CrossSynergy puzzles aren't on my radar screen yet, either. And if they're not on mine or yours, they're probably not on the vast majority of NYT solvers. So if databases had been checked and this had puzzle been ditched,* this very cool group of LARGE, ALGER, GLARE, LAGER, and REGAL would have remained un-spotlighted (un-spotlit?) for tens of thousands of NYT-only solvers. IMAGINE how much richer their lives are now for having seen this group. Well, ok. Right. Hyperbole and all that.

@Steve J – "But it does definitely look bad when the exact same theme answers were used so recently." I would argue that it looks bad to a relatively small, elite group of solvers. Will has a much, much bigger audience to consider.

@Questinia – your post has the same tune as my NA NA NA NA NA NA from yesterday. Also – I think you're spot on about wanting to match "frige" to the conventional "ridge, "bridge," "smidge" guys.

@jae – gird, grid. Just thought you had jumped on the anagram wagon. ;-)

I had "MSG/since" before BHT/HENCE. And I didn't finish because I had Odie saying, "Die, cat!" crossing burnt "amber." Oh, well.

Did you know that TWIRL, whirl, swirl, and girl are the only viable words that end in IRL? I keep checking, and it never changes.

@Bob Kerfuffle, @Tita, et al – you can skip this. . .@Ellen S – I have to add that in second grade, proudly wearing my state-of-the-art PANT SUIT, I desperately wanted a FLIP a la Marlo Thomas in That Girl. But noooooo (say this sing-songy). Mom insisted I have a pixie, and considering that I was this incorrigible tomboy: tree-climbing, fort-building, bug-catching, snake-digging (my friend, Jo Ann, and I would set out in the morning, mysteriously, each with a brown bag lunch and a spade, and our plans were to dig for snakes or at least dig to China to check to make sure everyone was upside down) band aided tomboy, I could live with a pixie. It matched my style. But on picture day, Mom would show up at school with a rat-tail comb and a big bow. While I stood in line, she would tease my hair up high, spray it, and put a bow in front of the impressive poof-pile. Picture my avatar without the FLIP parts on the sides and a big bow resting in front of the hump. Hi, Mom.

Tracy, Will – I liked the puzzle.

(*Passive voice is convenient for not taking sides on the editor/constructor database checking issue.)

schmuzz 7:40 AM  

i do crossSynergy every day...what can i say?
only that i don't remember this theme being done ...LOL

probably because i'm oldER

Mohair Sam 7:42 AM  
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Mohair Sam 7:43 AM  

Seemed to us that 2/3 of the grid was easy Monday, and 1/3 was Thursday. I guess that averages Tuesday, but it's not fun.

DNF'd here because couldn't spell ORZO and never heard of IBIZA.

Nevwer heard of BHT or JUNCO but the fill was easy on the downs so we weren't bothered. But crossing PLAGE and LOUPE was nasty (although we guessed the "L" correctly).

Not so upset that the theme has been done elsewhere. We only do the NYT puzzle and the rare airline mag time filler. But I agree with most here that those things should be caught by the editor, not the constructor.

r.alphbunker 8:00 AM  

You really are the opposite of a LONER! If you ever give a class on crossword construction I would like to ENROL to see if you can help me rid my puzzle of EMUS.

A perfect post!

I have no problem with the similar themes. IMO, I like HORATIO ALGER better than EDWARD ELGAR, LIVING LARGE better than EXTRA LARGE and PREMIUM LAGER better than LIGHT LAGER. And it would be a shame to get rid of BLING.

What other possibilities are there for GLARE? Try going to and type in "*glare"; ROCKETSREDGLARE is the only response that is remotely interesting.

ArtO 8:19 AM  

Done in by jackanapes and "Survivor immunity token" as I never watch that ridiculousness. Otherwise a very fast Wednesday.

jberg 8:23 AM  

Like @ACME, I wanted to GIVE A RaP (after 'hoot' didn't work). I also had RAvE for RAGE. I didn't like the resulting aMAvE, but figured it must be some Italian film-buff word. Boo-hoo.

For me, anagrams are more fun with a revealer. If Elgar had been used instead of either LARGE or REGAL, "___ mix-up" could have been it (answer, 'SNAFU' or something like that).

The usual issue with "done before" is lack of originality, aka copying. Since no one seems to think that happened here, it doesn't bother me.

Unknown 8:25 AM  

I think PLAGE is a much bigger crime than BHT. BHT is very familiar to label-readers, whereas PLAGE seems like just a bunch of letters that ended up there and fortunately for the constructor, happens to be a word in some foreign language.

That said, I liked this puzzle. I do puzzles from a couple other places on a regular basis, but am not so deep into the Crossworld that the other LARGE-rearranged puzzle ever entered my mind.

AliasZ 8:36 AM  

It was only last Thursday that we saw the GENERAL disarray anagram puzzle by Tim Croce. This is what first popped into my BEAN when I realized today's theme was anagrams of ELGAR. That alone would have stopped me from publishing it so soon.

I never saw the Randall Hartman / CrossSynergy one before, but I bet Randall is plenty pissed looking at today's NYT. What if Tracy Gray saw that 2010 puzzle and thought "What a neat idea! Let me change a few things and submit it to Will, NYT readers would never know." I am sure this is not what happened, but it could have.

Anonymous 8:38 AM  

Wasn't sure whether to have a goat or give arip.

Dorothy Biggs 8:44 AM  

Many (and I mean *many*) years ago, my high school did "Anything Goes." In one of the show's opening numbers, "Bon Voyage," there is the line, "By the seashore, you mean sur la PLAGE." For some reason, over all these years, that line still pops up in my head. Now, thanks to this puzzle, it will be rattling about in my head for the next few hours. Ugh.

I had "Dawnsearlylight" originally...seemed legit at the know, because you can see by it. So constructors, there's a 15 for your use free of charge. Your welcome.

FWIW and IMO, 43A was rather non-Tuesday-ish for my money. Balearic? IBIZA? Yeah, no. It didn't prove fatal, but it was definitely a WTF moment.

chefbea 8:55 AM  

Got the theme right away. Never heard of BHT. Have been to Ibiza and Malta. Have a loupe, which comes in handy when I have to see the numbers on a watch battery.
@GilP..I also do not like Chivas…much prefer J&B

John V 9:08 AM  

A fine Tuesday puzzle. Did not know PLAGE nor it's cross ESS. As to that corner's mirror, I had no issue with BHT either from the perspective of knowing it (I did) or quality of construction. RAE is not better, to my taste, being a trade-off of Crosswordese for an Abbreviation. These tight corners are the price paid for 11 letter themers at rows 3 and 12. So, this is a constraint required to make the theme work. Randall Hartman didn't have to deal with this, as his rows 3 and 12 were 10s.

So, Tracy ended up with more CAP than we might like. Given the theme constraints, density (61) and high word count for an early week puzzle, that's fine with me.

As to the theme being done before, I'm quite sure that apart from some on this blog, there will be few if any Times solvers who'd have seen the CrossSynergy version, so I totally do not get this point.

Yo, @Rex, have an IPA and a pickled EEL on me tonight. Really. Happy New Year, dude, and thanks again for creating and hosting this community.

Anonymous 9:09 AM  

Was not familiar with the word umber and took a while for "G".

Loren Muse Smith 9:10 AM  

@R.alph bunker – terrific anangrams! Yay!

@AliasZ – it's been my experience that NYT constructors operate with the highest of ethics in terms of puzzle ideas. On a couple of occasions, I had an idea that was just beyond my ken, a constructor took the idea, elegantized it, and then offered to collaborate. Both times I said, "Hey, obviously you don't need me to help you with this. I hereby release the idea and will be thrilled to see your puzzle." On both occasions, the constructors said they would not feel comfortable unless I collaborated.

One has already run, and you can guess who Mr. Nice Guy was(FWIW, George Barany is about to publish on his site my original grid with the idea. I hate to self-promote, but I'm kind of proud of that grid. And while I'm self-promoting, @M&A, the very first puzzle I wrote alone is on his site – Recreational Puzzle –which I can totally picture you solving, munching cinnamon buns and snorkeling at Cheech and Chong.)

So if in the future, you see my name at the top of a themeless grid alongside the name of a Themeless God. . .well, he, too, was loath to use my seed. I helped a little in the fill, but mainly carried his luggage and gave a GOAT to most of the cluing.

Anyway, I would swear on my JUNCO that Tracy absolutely did not copy.

Krampus 9:12 AM  

First, Regarding BHT: It's very hard for me to believe that the editor (not to mention test solvers) didn't think about that. Will Shortz is smart and experienced - maybe (gasp!) even more so than @Rex? There is a good chance that @Rex doesn't know everything about what goes on in the editing process. Any number of good reasons could have led to the inclusion of BHT - including, but not limited to, the fact that maybe he (the editor) felt it was time to give people who know BHT a chance to flex their knowledge in a puzzle, or for non-BHT-knowers to learn something. Wow, that doesn't seem so terrible. If we get rid of all the stuff @Rex (and others) don't like because they're obscure and could be replaced with, say, CAT, then we'll be in a very boring place indeed. No learning, just filling in familiar words.

Second, regarding the fact that the theme has been done before: it simply hasn't been done in the New York Times. That's all that matters. Nothing else. Similar (or identical) themes have been repeated across publications since the beginning of time. Themes have even been repeated in the same publications many times! The idea that because CrossSynergy put out the same theme almost 4 years ago no solver in any publication should ever see it again is just nonsense. As long as the puzzle is different, go for it.

Good, divisive blogging today, though.

Anonymous 9:26 AM  

A junco is not a finch, it's a type of sparrow. That's a glaring error to those of us who are into birds, sort of like calling "Breaking Bad" a movie. Sucked the fun out of this puzzle for me.

David 9:27 AM  

I don't understand the clue answer connection for 38D: how does "G" get to THOU?

Anonymous 9:29 AM  


Theses are CROSSWORDS we are doing and if a Times' Tuesday level solver can't get BHT through the CROSSES, as clued, perhaps a shift to Ken Ken is in order.

Size 9:34 AM  

Can someone help me by explaining ESS? I don't know Lombard Street.

Dorothy Biggs 9:40 AM  

@David @ 9:27AM: one "THOU"sand is equal to a "G"rand

@Size @ 9:34AM: Lombard, I believe, is that snaky street in San Francisco?

Dora the Explorer 9:42 AM  

@Size: Lombard St. In San Francisco is curvy like the Letters "s."

chefbea 9:44 AM  

@David a G note is a thousand dollar bill

JaimeB 9:46 AM  
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JaimeB 9:49 AM  
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Notsofast 9:50 AM  

I thought "G" was pretty damned cool.

Suzy 9:50 AM  

Rex-- this was a pleasant enough puzzle for a Tuesday. Why must you be SO critical?!

joho 9:51 AM  

I love anagrams HENCE enjoyed this puzzle immensely.

I never saw the Randall Hartman version of this theme so that didn't bother me a bit. I hope he is enjoying some notoriety here today.

The clue "It's moving at the movies" for IMAGE tickled me.

LBAR was new to me.

Great job, Tracy!

BTW, when I saw Tracy Gray at the top I thought, "Wow, she's a singer and a constructor, too!" No, that's Macy Gray. So I Googled Macy Gray only to learn she was once married to a man named Tracy!

JaimeB 9:54 AM  

Give a rip is nothing I've ever heard or seen in print. Give a rap, yes; even Give a dam... But you can't just make up "slang" and use it in a puzzle. That's not kosher!

quilter1 10:01 AM  

@David: imagine a gangster snarling "the ransom is a hundred g's." Slang for a thousand.

@Size: Lombard Street is famous in movies for car chases. It is winding and hilly with ESS curves.

@loren: we are putting three generations of family photos on CDs and our refrain is that we thought we looked good at the time. I had that bow as well.

The puzzle: I knew JUNCO as we watched birds for years and I got a Campfire Girl patch for bird identification (trees, too). I love to CANOODLE and as I never see these theme anagrams while solving for me this puzzle was fun to do, especially since my paper didn't arrive today.

Happy New Year to all and to @Rex, thanks for enriching my solving since 2008.

Will Shortz 10:07 AM  

Almost everyone has some cross to bear. It turns out that my cross is Rex Parker and getting pummeled here everyday. So be it.

But just for the record ...

I don't give a hoot what CrosSynergy did three years ago -- or anytime. Couldn't care less. The percentage of Times solvers who saw that similar 2010 puzzle is minuscule. And if a CrosSynergy constructor innocently repeats a New York Times theme idea from three years ago, no problem.

Regarding BHT, it seems fine to me. I just checked two breakfast cereals in my cupboard. Both list BHT among their ingredients.

And I have no problem with PLAGE. I've seen Eric Rohmer's classic "Pauline à la Plage." PLAGE is related to the Spanish "playa," which everyone should know. And the crossings are fine. PLAGE probably isn't what I would have put in that corner, but then it's not my puzzle. It's Tracy Gray's. And unless there's a problem, I tend not to change things. As much as possible I try to respect the integrity of the constructor's work.

Also, it's been said many times, but I'll say it again ... just because one doesn't know something doesn't mean it's bad. It may not even be obscure.

OK, let the pummeling continue.

--Will Shortz

mac 10:11 AM  

Easy for me, with all the trouble spots for others right in my wheelhouse. Did not know BHT but it certainly wasn't a problem up there.

In the last three days I've seen tenet, tenon and tenor.

Loved canoodle and Xanadu, but to my ears "My bad" is the height of insincerity.

pmdm 10:14 AM  

In the world of artistry and creativity, there is a fine distinction between plagiarism and tribute. Look at the world of music. How many Beatles songs have been rearranged and recorded by others? How many composers "stole" and used the theme of Paganini's last Caprice for solo violin? It can be very enjoyable to re-experience something in a different light. There have been many crossword themes I seen over the years that I would enjoy seeing again in a different puzzle because I though the ideas would support additional clever ways of using the themes in a puzzle. I simply do not care if a theme has been used before. I care if I enjoy solving the puzzle. Isn't that what really matters? Based on a number of comments above, it seems others share my view.

I can appreciate that it would have seemed better if some of the answers did not duplicate the exact answers of the earlier published puzzle. But considering how often non-theme answers turn up in crossword grids (and I am not even thinking of "crosswordese" fill), I'm willing to accept repeat answers as long as the execution of the theme justifies the repetition.

I have been recently watching the serious of DVDs of the "classic" Doctor Who serials, all of which include commentary by actors, producers and writers involved with the serials. Many of the comments describing the genesis of many of the serials seem related to the discussion here. Some of the writers actually said they though there are only about 6 different sci-fi stories and that every story in some way was just a variation of the six. Fortunately, that is hardly the case for crossword themes. But when the commentators point out how some of the stories were stolen from previously made stories (like King Kong, for instance), it hardly diminished the enjoyment of the serial. All of which makes me wonder if sometimes we overrate originality and underrate execution, although certainly some of the criticism of today's puzzle did center on execution.

r.alphbunker 10:15 AM  

Maybe RP is running for NYT puzzle editor and engaging in smear tactics. It sure reminds me of what you see in Congress nowadays.

retired_chemist 10:43 AM  

Yay Will. I had not seen the theme, do not normally do CrossSynergy puzzles anyway, thought it was a good theme well done, knew BHT the obvious aforementioned way, knew PRAIA (Portuguese) and PLAYA (Spanish), and so was prepared for something similar.

Hand up for prECUT (45D), liking CANOODLE, DAWN'S EARLY LIGHT @ 37 A (which I was SO SURE of I wasted a fair amount of time trying to use it), and for pewit instead fo JUNCO.

Nicely done, Tracy Gray.

Krampus 10:45 AM  

It would probably be good fodder for conversation if we all took a look at @Rex's puzzle from 2012 here. See his comments in the writeup.

Zwhatever 10:48 AM  

@LMS - All this talk of "Themeless Gods" and sowing theme "seed" makes me wonder if you know any swans.

@Will Shortz - Thanks for sharing. I guess in a perfect world Tracy Gray would have mentioned to you that the theme was similar to one on an indie site in 2010 and you would have made the conscious decision that it was still okay to run. Curious minds here (well, me, at least) wonder how long this was in the pipeline.

Anonymous 10:56 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous 10:59 AM  

Will be livinglarge tonight when I have a goat canoodling with my fave amie.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:59 AM  

Everything's already said, but I'll indulge in a few "ME-TOOs":

I thought a good title for this puzzle might be "BIG Mix-Up."

When I first looked at the grid, nothing filled in, noted DAWN'S EARLY LIGHT would fit at 37 A.

Happy New Year to all, Don't drink and drive, and in my tradition the first food of the New Year should be herring, not eel.

r.alphbunker 11:05 AM  

Curious minds also wonder whether that was really Will Shortz. :-)

Zwhatever 11:08 AM  

@r.alphbunker - true - but he has appeared here before so I accepted it as the true Shortz.

Milford 11:27 AM  

Oh my, are there really 70ish comments at 11AM?

Super-fast Tuesday for me. Didn't see the theme until near the end as I was typing in the BHT/HENCE cross and realized I had misspelled ALGaR.

Thanks to those that explained G=THOU today, didn't get that before. And thanks M&A from yesterday for explaining OTTO = auto. I do indeed say those words the same, but I really don't think my brain has ever made that connection. Maybe I live close enough to the UP and Canada, and I think auto is pronounced Ow-toe. :)

Not much to say about the already-done theme discussion. It was new to me (I only do the NYT puzzle).

Confirmed with ballet-dancer daughter that pirouette does indeed mean TWIRL. Actually, she said she thought it meant "whirl", but that's close enough, isn't it? Does whirl =twirl, @lms et al.?

I have several slate-colored JUNCOs (or is it JUNCOes) at my feeder this very moment.

Happy New Year, Rexites! Thank you, @Rex, as always, for this blog and it's community.

Tita 11:27 AM  

"BHA/BHT added to preserve freshness" is seared into my brain from reading countless cereal boxes at breakfast, so that was a gimme. (Just needed to wait for the A/T from crosses.)

The picture of that fat little JUNCO made the puzzle better. We have dozens at our feeders.
Anagrams are only slightly less interesting to me than word ladders - so far, a 'meh' start to the puzzle year.
That is not a ding against the puzzle - it simply doesn't rock my world.

There was some really fun fill, as y'all have highlighted.

@Sam Adams - the German Beer Purity law, enacted in 1487, made it illegal to make beer with anything but water, malt, and hops. (They didn't know about yeast back then.) So I think yer right. "Lager" refers to the brewing and storage method (lager means storage), and not to hte ingredients.

Wait - was @Will inconsistent? He says re: BHT "just becaise one doesn't know something doesn't mean it's bad..", but also said "playa" is something everyone should know.
Anyhow, a) is that really him, and b) I agree - I don't really care all that much if it's been done somewhere before, though I probably would if my puzzle submission had been passed over for a re-run. With the incredibly long gap btwn acceptance and publication, we really have no clue, unless constructor chimes in.

(Also like ORZO/BEAN, and my dad used to make Jigsaw puzzles by glueing pics from Life Magazine onto a piece of wood, then using his - wait for it - jigsaw - to [DIE]CUT them! Good memories there.)

Happy New Year, and thanks, Ms. Gray!

Tita 11:31 AM  

His Blogger entry show 'member since December" - when he last "appeared" here.

Sounds like him, but who knows. @BobK - maybe we can ask him in Westport.

Anyone else here besides John V & Bob K going to the Westport Library tournament Feb 1????

It is so low key, lots of fun. ANd costs about 1/50th what ACPT costs!!

Anonymous 11:33 AM  

Regarding Will Shortz's comments: I simply do not agree that an ingredient being on a cereal box being bought by millions of people makes it "crossword-worthy", or else we'd be seeing entries like TRICALCIUMPHOSPHATE.

Steve J 11:36 AM  

@Loren: Yes, it's a small group of solvers that would have noticed such a thing (I myself don't have CrossSynergy on my puzzle rotation, so I'm not part of that group), but it's not an insignificant one.

That said, an editor should have as a primary consideration his or her audience. I get why Will Shortz may (and apparently does) care primarily about whether something's been done in the NYT before (and if so, has it been done recently - see the discussion at Xwordinfo for Sunday's "pool" puzzle on that point and the idea of a crossword statute of limitations).

For whatever it's worth, what I noted (once it was pointed out) was not that the same theme had been done. I couldn't possibly care less about that. There's a limited amount of what can be done, imo. But what struck me was that the same answer existed in both puzzles, and another answer was virtually the same (I don't count EXTRA LARGE and LIVING LARGE as virtually the same, as their meanings are so different). That's the part that, were it me constructing or editing, would have given me pause. Had it been the same theme but with different answers? I wouldn't have hesitated.

Personally, I do think that it would be good to have as standard editing practice running at least the theme answers through the databases to see if there's repetition, even in other publications. If you catch repetition, then you have to make the decision whether the puzzle is good enough to stand on its own merits. In this case, I think it was. As @r.alphbunker pointed out, there don't seem to be a lot of good options out there for phrases ending in GLARE, so maybe you go ahead with this one anyway.

And, despite the protestations of a couple commenters, I do think constructors have a responsibility to check for duplication as well. For self-interest, if for no other reason. I in no way think that Tracy Gray plagiarized, but the question was already brought up in the discussion here (even if hypothetical). I would never want that to even be a question, let alone an accusation.

Not to mention, I'd want the focus to be on the merits of my puzzle, not its similarities to another. It's unfortunate that what was a pretty good Tuesday puzzle is getting mostly attention around a side issue. (Not that the issue isn't a good one for discussion, because I think it is, especially with two examples - Sunday's puzzle and today's - occurring so close together.)

Will Shortz 11:39 AM  

In answer to Z's question ...

I accepted Tracy's puzzle on 6/24/12. That's on the long side for a wait for publication. But I have a lot of inventory for Tuesdays (and Wednesdays).

There was no need for her to tell me that a similar theme once ran in CrosSynergy. I don't care.

Monday's inventory is lower -- under a year's worth. My stock of non-rebus Thursdays is the lowest of all. The next two Thursdays, e.g., were accepted on 8/29/13 and 11/8/13, respectively.

--Will Shortz

MetaRex 11:42 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
AliasZ 11:46 AM  

@Loren, far be it from me to accuse anyone of plagiarism. I furthermore have no doubt of the utter sincerity and ethics of this small and tight-knit group of constructors. It was not the point of my post.

But we are running into duplications more and more of late. I remember the MIDDLE EARTH (clEARTHeair, linEARTHinking, etc.) NYT puzzle from October 22, which was almost a carbon copy of a 2009 puzzle by Todd McClary in the LA Times. Also, the DOUBLE theme (the word DOUBLE making new phrases of both the first and second words of the theme entries) that two highly reputable constructors came up with independently, and within a short time of each other. I don't remember the dates or details, but maybe Mr. Barany can help.

On Sunday we had Joel Fagliano's POCKET pool puzzle that was a repetition of one by Michael Shteyman published in 2006. The most astonishing one of all: Matt Gaffney and Mike Shenk both came up with the same theme in which the word RAVEN is hidden inside other phrases.

My point was, duplications are almost unavoidable.

One way is for constructors to research the and databases before even submitting. Then the editors themselves do the same thing, and I am sure they do.

I have no problem with duplications as long as one has a snazzier fill or more innovative theme entries.

I enjoyed this one a lot, especially XANADU, JANCO, CANOODLE, but not GIVE A RIP, which I never heard anyone say. L-BAR sounds to my like a made-up concoction to help the constructor. T-BAR, I-BAR yes, L-BAR not. I hate MY BAD -- not as an entry, but as an expression. My bad what? BAD. Is. Not. A. Noun. Error, mistake, fault, left foot, etc. are. Is the opposite of MY BAD "my good" or "my excellent"? Come one now.

Tracy Gray, I liked your puzzle. Your[sic] excellent.

MetaRex 11:50 AM  

Those interested in reflecting and/or opining on issues re shared themes and ethics are invited to check out the brief quiz here.

Jeff Chen 11:56 AM  

Hey all!

I exchanged emails with Tracy, who let me know she chose PLAGE "having just been to the French side of the island St. Maarten when I constructed this puzzle. Since it translates to 'beach', I thought it tied in nicely with my mini-theme of islands/beach towns such as Ibiza, Malta, and Avalon."



John V 11:56 AM  

@BobK, looking forward to seeing you in Westport!

Masked and Anonymo7Us 12:03 PM  

@Q: har.
@May 2010 CrossSynergy puz: day-um, dude, can I buy a U, please?
@Sir Shortzmeister: Well said.
I was never any good on the pummel horse in gym class. More of a tumbler dude. So, Let The Tumbling Continue...
@Constructor Tracy: I thought BHT was extra cool. Other than it don't anagram to much. No Ihs, Ahds, or Bhts.
@Muse: cinnabuns. mmMmmm...

That about covers any possible conceivable discussion or digression or pummelhorsin around on this here real good puz, except to say...

Agt. 007-U will return, in "Canoodle Royale"...

Benko 12:05 PM  

As long as we are on the subject of CHIVASREGAL, I suggest that you all buy a bottle of 12 year old Glenlivet,single malt. it's one of the ingredients in CHIVASREGAL and costs about the same, but it's better on its own.
Lager also is brewed at a much lower temperature than other beers, as one of its distinguishing chararacteristics.
I have to agree with @WillShortz that just because one doesn't know something doesn't mean it is bad fill--a very common perception these days. There are things worth learning even among the very esoteric. But I don't know that I agree that it doesn't matter if a puzzle has done before. if a piece of music used as many themes and lyrics from a song which was done a few years ago by a smaller record label, you'd probably have to pay them royalties.
note: It's time to start plagiarizing the ideas of indie puzzles, cleaning them up, and submitting them to the NYT for sale, if this is the policy.

Steve J 12:08 PM  

@James Borrazas and AliasZ: We said GIVE A RIP (as in "I don't give a rip") when I was a kid growing up in Minnesota. Don't know if it's a regional thing.

Actually, in looking up some mainstream use, California's former governor used it about 10 years ago, as mocked on the Daily Show.

In the funny/uncanny coincidences department, the clip is from the start of the show, when John Stewart announces his guest for the night. His guest on that show? Will Shortz. (He's not in the clip.)

lawprof 12:20 PM  

What constitutes plagiarism in the world of crossword construction? Just wondering.

The fact that this theme has been used before (or subsequently) didn't bother me in the least. If I'd done the other one at some time in the past, I certainly didn't remember it, so today's puzzle was a fresh and perky Tuesday for me.

Hey @Loren: did you know that supercalafragalisticexpialadocious is the ONLY word that ends in ...upercalafragalisticexpialadocious?

John V 12:31 PM  

To @Benko's point of actually learning something from puzzles: everything, and I do mean EVERYTHING, I know of pop culture has been learned from the NYTimes Crossword puzzle.

Three and out.

M and Also 12:33 PM  

If any constructor wants to polish up my every-answer-is-all-E's puz, and resubmit it as part of the Save the NYT ThursPuz Relief Effort, then...
a. as always, no refunds.
b. ok as long as I don't have to share the byline.
c. y'all might wanta try anagrammin some of the answers, just fer variety.
d. No cluin EEEEEE as "pewit call".
e. No fair changin the fill.
f. No cluin EEEEEEEEE as "Poke in the eyepit reaction".
g. I will not do any guest promo work on talk shows. Well, maybe on Letterman...
h. Y'all is too desperate for words.

Let the canoodlin continue...

r.alphbunker 12:46 PM  

Save time. Just use

MetaRex 1:03 PM  

@Tita--I'm looking forward to Westport.

Mohair Sam 1:07 PM  

Having read Will Shortz's defense of repeating a theme from elsewhere, I gotta agree with him.

I'm still grumbling about PLAGE on a Tuesday however.

Caffeine 1:11 PM  

to one of the @Anonymous:
You're right. My Sibley's Guide to Birds says a JUNCO is a sparrow, not a finch. It seems no one GIVES A RIP.

Lewis 1:15 PM  

Yes, if someone copied a non-NYT puzzle outright, slapped his name on it, submitted it to Will, and he published it, then, when the word got out, all of a sudden, he would begin to care about non-NYT puzzle content.

Fortunately that hasn't happened yet (or I think we would have heard about it here today), and I hope it never does.

Will, I love the NYT crosswords, which I've been doing for six years. I believe you are doing a terrific job. Have a wonderful year ahead.

Anonymous 1:26 PM  

I can not imagine the editorial staff of the NYT would allow a writer to lift wholesale from the reportage of another journalist. Pretty low standard for originality on the Xword side of the ledger.

dk 1:36 PM  

Hi Tracy, Truely an enjoyable puzzle and it is Tuesday no less. I could not have made up anything better than BHT. It saved a strong corner. As Andrea (my dove) noted BLING is worth it.

FOB triggered a rage response as I loathe that new car feature. Note my truck and car have roll-up windows and if I could have ordered side or a hood vent.... I digress.

*** (3 stars) Dining on lental soup while holding a silver coin will ensure health and wealth for the new year: Just sayin.

chefbea 1:41 PM  

@lawprof just too funny!!!!!

Will Shortz 2:00 PM  

To Anonymous 1:26 ...

Any constructor who's published in the Times must sign an agreement swearing that their work is original. Same as for the rest of the paper.

As others have pointed out, crossword themes are innocently repeated all the time. There are only so many ideas in the world. I've even repeated theme ideas from the Times itself. After sufficient time has passed, which varies according to how memorable the original puzzle was, I think a statute of limitations applies.

If a constructor shows a pattern of repeating old ideas, that would be a problem to be looked into. But that's not an issue here, and never has been with anyone.

Happy new year, everyone! And as is the policy here, three and out.

--Will Shortz

M and A Pummel Desk 2:15 PM  

@Muse... re: Recreational Crossword puz:
Possible Spoiler Alert: somethin in our fridge is startin to grow hair.

1. Primo stuff. Rolled er up and smoked it, to celebrate finishin.
2. fave weejects: 35-, 37- and 40-Across. All would really shine, with some chersh double-?? clues.
3. Way to keep U in play.
4. Relative difficulty: Uncle Zeke.
5. Heck of a debut effort. Measures up favorably with my all-E's debut. U have a great future as a grid lady.
6. Best clue = the 24-Down one.
7. Really liked that yer puz had a (pot) belly button.
8. 64-Across was just clues all kinds of wrongly.


AliasZ 2:20 PM  

@Will Shortz -- I think I speak for everyone here, and indeed for everyone solving NYT crosswords puzzles, when I state that I cannot imagine a better puzzle editor than you. I have been solving them since Will Weng (off-and-on since 1969, to be precise), and I have not experienced a decline in quality, innovation, creativity and sparkle at all, in fact, quite the opposite. Through the past twenty years there has been a marked improvement in quality of construction, cluing, and sense of humor that was mostly lacking in previous decades.

What ties us together is our passion for crossword puzzles. This may cause our occasional grumpiness and ill-formulated expressions of displeasure regarding specific puzzles, entries or clues, theme duplications, but in no way calls into question the ability and professionalism of their editor. I do not subscribe to the theory that one or two sub-par puzzles, entries or clues are signs of an overall decline in quality of NYT puzzles. It is still the gold standard, thanks mainly to your efforts.

I admire the work you do, your sense of humor, and your enthusiasm for presenting us with ever fresher, more challenging and satisfying puzzles of superior quality. I hope you continue to care, and continue doing for the next twenty years exactly what you have been doing the past twenty.

Happy New Year!

Merriam Webster 2:20 PM  

@Caffeine -


We write the dictionary, and we say:

Definition of JUNCO
: any of a genus (Junco of the family Emberizidae) of small widely distributed North American finches usually having a pink bill, ashy gray head and back, and conspicuous white lateral tail feathers

National Geographic 2:26 PM  

Damn you, Merriam Webster! You don't know horse feathers about birds.

Dark-eyed juncos are unique sparrows that nest on or near the ground in forests.

palomarPuzzler 2:30 PM  

To Rex, Hapy New Year and thanks for all the effort in putting up this blog every day. I usually don't agree with your criticisms or tone, but I do appreciate everything I learn from you.
To Will Shortz, thanks for chiming in with your perspective. You do get pummeled here pretty often, but i think there are just as many of us here who appreciate your efforts as well in making the NYT puzzle an important part of our day.
As for the rest of you commenters, all I can say is I read every post every day and enjoy every minute of it - the chuckles produced, the aha's when I see a twist I hadn't thought of and the fresh outlooks you all bring. Thanks (but I do miss Evil Doug....).

LaneB 2:38 PM  

First thing I did was fill the 15-letter cross with dawnsearlylight. You can imagine what confusion followed until I repeated the Anthem's verse and found ROCKETSREDGLARE..
The rest went smoothly enough except for aMBER rather than UMBER. That made a real puzzle out of the jigsaw puzzle clue.
Didn't know what BHT was or JUNCO either but figured with the rest of the fill they had to be OK.
Easier than yesterday's.

Anoa Bob 2:43 PM  

The clue for 7D YEAST "It's not used to make matzo" reminded me of a "Cheers" episode where Cliff Clavin was on


His Final Jeopardy answer was technically correct but was disallowed by Alex. Same could be said for potential answers to the 7D clue. A lot of 5-letter ingredients are NOT used to make matzo.

I thought "Ragged Dick" (clue for 24A) was one of those diseases that the hospital corpsman warned us about right before we went on liberty call in Hong Kong.

Acme 3:08 PM  

See! Tracy is a cosmopolitan, world traveller who thought about a mini-theme and didn't PLAGE-rize nothing!

(but someone might want to buy her a subscrption to the database files... I've discarded more ideas than I've gone forward with as a result. My rule of thumb is even if it's totally original idea to me, if there is a puzzle with two or more themes that are the same, I scream a big "drat!" and try and think of something new or discard)

Happy New Year!

Two Ponies 3:16 PM  

To @Rex and all of Rexville, Thank you for being part of my daily life. Sometimes it's the best part of the day. Happy New Year!

@ Will Shortz, Thanks for dropping by. I agree with you. And thank you for doing an excellent job. The puzzles have never been better than under your leadership.

Oulaw M and A 3:17 PM  

correction. @Muse: evaluation bullet 8. Scratch the word "was". My mind ain't dead -- just circlin the drain.

Happy New Year, everybody.

Danp 3:25 PM  

There are only so many ideas in the world? I thought only heavy metal guitarists thought that.

Steve J 3:39 PM  

@Will Shortz:

Thanks for stopping by and chiming in on a couple recent discussions. It's good to hear the perspective from the source rather than all of our speculation.

And while I'm sure it can be tiring to deal with complaints and ranting (from all of us; I know I've done plenty), hopefully it comes across as illustrating that the NYT Crossword has a strong and passionate fanbase. Just like with sports teams, passionate debate - even when it goes over the top - is a sure sign of a fanbase that cares. A team can survive snark and second-guessing; it can't survive apathy.

Hope you continue to pop in periodically to offer context and background. It's been a nice addition over at Xwordinfo, and it's a nice addition here.

And hope everyone has a very enjoyable, safe and happy New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.

C.J. from Green Bay 3:50 PM  

On this occasion, I feel it only fitting to reflect on three items.

Thank you, Will Shortz and Rex Parker, for all the fun you generate. You are so deeply appreciated.

Anagrams of the moment:
Hepper Anyway.
Rye Way Happen.
Hyena Pep Awry.

NFL superwannabes: We are f-ing 8-7-1 and coming to get you. Go Pack.


i am not a robot 4:01 PM  

Just for the record, in a recent interview I saw with Will Shortz he said he no longer reads this blog because it is too negative.

So, who knows, maybe its not the Real Deal.

Hmmmm.... (and yet, his comments are so well written!)

PETER 4:02 PM  

I guess I should be scolded, too. I had this puzzle:

in the LA Times long after Randall's. It happens.

I thought Tracy's puzzle was great.

- Pete Collins

Caffeine 4:03 PM  

@Merriam Webster:
Using a dictionary to correctly identify a bird? FAIL!

Sibley's says:
Juncos - Emberizidae family
Finches - Fringillidae, Passeridae families

Obviously this is a case where a common usage (calling a junco a finch) isn't technically correct. Anyhoo, I'm going to go outside now and enjoy some birdwatching without further nitpicking.

Benko 4:10 PM  

@danP--agreed. The only people who truly believe "there are so many ideas in the world" are people who have run out of ideas.
That's not to say I don't appreciate the times and Will Shortz's editorialship. But I have to think that there are better defenses than "I don't care what non-times puzzles have done before" and "there are only so many ideas in the world". I agree that the similarity was in all probability very innocent. But there has to be a line somewhere, and Will has drawn it when he said that all constructors have to sign an originality agreement and not show a pattern of similarity to old puzzles. That's better than "if it hasn't been in the times it doesn't matter to me".
happy new year's crossword folks! time to watch the magic!

Mette 4:40 PM  

Mr. Shortz - I agree with @AliasZ. This community is here because we are all solving the NYT puzzle. There are certainly disagreements, but overall, there is much more admiraion than pummeling. With positive poll ratings in the 90's, you must be doing something very right.

Happy New Year to all.

Anonymous 5:05 PM  

@Gil I.P., @chefbea --no CHIVA either; Jameson for me.

I went off and did @George Barany's Joust puzzle, lots of fun even if I did have to use AcrossLite which I hate (Puzzazz more to my liking). Then a friend called with what turned out not to be a computer problem but took two hours anyway. Lovely coming back to see @Loren's pointy hairstyle avatar. Weren't those the days of pointy tailfins on car fenders, and pointy bras you can go jousting in- so many ways people could get impaled.

@pmdm - interesting about the 6 sci-fi themes I think I've seen more, but heist movies there are probably only about three variations. There's the "one last job", and, um, the "one last job", and um, the improbable allies kind, and, um, "one last job". Crosswords, even with identical themes, show a lot more variety.

Thank you, Will, and all the constructors, for providing us with so many (in my case, with each puzzle) hours of enjoyment, and Rex, for your insights that we all disagree with. And with each other, but happy New Year, all.

O... crap. The captcha is ... a box with "Visual verification" typed in it. Under the box it says "Type the text: Type the words you hear." (phew - when I screwed that up, it returned to a real captcha.)

Ellen S 5:07 PM  

What? It logged me out and posted my brilliant comments as "anonymous." I'm Ellen S. This captcha is "furvives" -- haha, when the animals shed on my floor and no amount of vacuuming removes it! (and now I'm signed in, without doing a thing. ???)

evil doug 5:12 PM  

I miss you, too...

Ellen S 5:14 PM  

CHIVAS, not CHIVA . haha, I just read that is Spanish for for the worst Mexican heroin; good stuff to stay away from. As in, don't have a goat.

David 5:32 PM  

Belated thanks to those who answered my question (9:27 AM).

Anonymous 5:42 PM  

Blogger AliasZ said...
@Will Shortz -- I think I speak for everyone here, and indeed for everyone solving NYT crosswords puzzles, when I state that I cannot imagine a better puzzle editor than you.

Let's be clear. You do not speak for everyone here, much less for everyone solving NYT crosswords.

Yes, Will has by and large done a great job as NYT's crossword editor. NYT puzzles now are markedly better than they were in 1993, and Will has maintained a devoted solvership demographic. But if you can't imagine a better puzzle editor, then you have a limited imagination. Patrick Berry, Ben Tausig, and Mike Shenk, just to name three, have all shown in their tenures that solvers can and should expect more than merely satisfactory output from puzzle editors.

I'm neither calling for Will's retirement nor his head, but to the extent it's possible to attach objective value to the term "best," it's delusional to call Will the best editor in the game today. Let's call the NYT puzzle what it is: a better-than-average product with the power of brand recognition, goodwill, and prestige behind it. It's the Golden Globe of crosswords. I love the Golden Globes, but I'm not kidding myself that they signify the best of anything.

bswein99 5:47 PM  

My thanks as well for explaining that a G is a thousand-dollar bill--I got it from the crosses but I hate not knowing why a clue is correct.

Since BHT didn't cross with anything else excessively obscure, I don't see why such a fuss about it.

jae 6:09 PM  

@Z and others with captcha issues. Actually all you need to type in are the curvey letters/numbers. You can skip the stuff in the box completely.

chefbea 6:49 PM  

119 comments!!!!! wow

GILL I. 7:34 PM  

@Benko and all you Rexites.....I raise a Glenmorangie to all of ye.
Let the fireworks begin....or am I late to the party?

Anonymous 7:34 PM  

Nothing like two conflicting, but defensible, opinions to elicit hurt feelings and outrage.

Dorothy Biggs 7:46 PM  

um...seriously. I would bet lots of money I do not have saying that was NOT *the* Will Shortz.

It's probably a better chance (which isn't saying much) that it was Rex who created the sock puppet account and posted as Mr. Shortz.

In other words, no chance for either at all.

Nothing to see here, people. Move ahead to a new year....

Tinker Bell 8:14 PM  

@NCA President - Believe

jae 8:30 PM  

@NCA -- Will has chimed in here off and on since I started following the blog in early 2007. Id est, I'd take that bet.

To clarify my previous comment on catpchas you can skip anything except the obvious robot debunker.

...and I find Johnny Walker preferable to CHIVAS, but occasionally enjoy a single malt.

ANON B 9:11 PM  

Again, a reason why I enjoy
crosswords. How many people
when confronted with the need to find a clue for "ess" would
come up with "Lombard Street

ANON B 9:17 PM  


Id est?

michael 9:48 PM  

I do not find it the least bit objectionable that a similar theme was used (doubtless coincidentally) several years ago in a site that the vast majority of NYT crossword solvers (including me) on a Tuesday (as opposed to a Saturday) have never heard of. My sympathies are completely with Will S. on this one. And I see no reason why he or Tracy should have searched some database for similar themes.

This reminds of authors of obscure novels claiming plagiarism (and yes, I know, that no one is accusing Tracy of plagiarism) when similar themes occur in a blockbuster novel.

Agree with Rex about BHT, but my complaint (which a got right by guessing) was the plage/loupe crossing.

jae 10:10 PM  

@ANON B -- Latin for "That is" or "In other words" and a cross word answer that would be good to have in your memory.

Anonymous 10:41 PM  

Michael: I am a constructor/member of the site "the vast majority of NYT solvers... have never heard of". We are called CrosSynergy and the site in question is that little known paper called The Washington Post. That said, nobody in our group is claiming plagiarism. Last I checked, we are all reasonably well known NYT constructors too.

-Martin Ashwood-Smith

Anonymous 12:46 AM  

The best crossword editor in the country, by a wide margin, is Peter Gordon. And no, Shortz is not even #2 (or #3).

This has been the case for over a decade. He first edited the New York Sun Puzzle and now edits Fireball Crosswords.

If you are only comparing Shortz to previous NYT editors then of course he looks good. If you compare him to his contemporaries, not so much.

Look at the Sun or Fireball crosswords. You won't see any of the garbage fill that regularly populates Times puzzles.

If you only solve the New York Times, then yes, you would have a hard time imagining a better editor than Shortz. If you solve other puzzles as well, then you know better.

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michael 4:26 PM  

@Martin Ashwood-Smith

Surely you're not claiming that a significant percentage of people attempting to solve the Tuesday NYTimes have heard of CrossSynergy?

I'ldbet less than not close to one percent of the people attempting to solve the puzzle have heard of CrossSynergy.

Anonymous 4:58 PM  

Michael: they may not have heard of CrosSynergy (the name of the group) but they likely will have heard of the Washington Post, which is where the puzzle was published, online and in the physical print edition of the paper as the Washington Post crossword.


RonB 7:34 PM  

I also found BHT me "G" to signify " thou" is the worst offender, though.

spacecraft 12:20 PM  

Wow, 135 already! Gotta be some kind of record. If you've done nothing else, Tracy, you got people yakkin.' For me this puzzle had a Thursdayish feel; both via convoluted clues and rarely-used words. One does not expect to find JUNCO, IBIZA and PLAGE on a Tuesday.

I agree that themes of this sort are enhanced by a revealer. The closest here is in leadoff position: LIVINGLARGE. While not expressly conveying the anagram idea (scrambled, mixed, tossed, etc.), it sorta has a revealerish feel. Anyway I'm guessing that's what M. Gray was hoping.

When MSG wouldn't work for 11a, I just let it fill, HENCE BHT. Now that the letters are up there, I seem to recall, dimly, something about it. Loved the comment that we're being embalmed before we die. Wasn't there a "Criminal Minds" episode where some ghoul did that?

PLAGE, though clearly not belonging in a Tuesday grid, is fine. Just clue it as a hot spot on the sun, which is what it is. French beach be damned.

GIVEARIP must be regional--just not MY region. I thought it was going to be GIVEARat, though where I come from we don't give the WHOLE rat, just the "pellet factory."

Fill is a mixed bag. CANOODLE good, XTRA bad, and so on. A thumb in each direction, I guess. Medium-challenging, I make it--and not even adjusted for a Tuesday. LBAR? Sheesh!

2 pair again; at least this time it's 9's-up.

Anonymous 1:15 PM  

Despite the bunko Junco and the flat Premium Lager, this was a pretty good puzzle, one I could canoodle with.

Ginger 1:51 PM  

Suffering with my personal bugaboo, spelling. CHIViS and ZANADo messed up my grid. Once corrected by crosses, the puzzle fell nicely. Knew of IBIZA because of the Ibizan Hound named for it. Like others, prECUT for a while and like others had not heard of BHT.

Got home very late last night, but must weigh in on the terrific showing by the Hawks! Watched the game with the kids, grands, and great grands. Great Grand Fun. Several were wearing Orange jersies so quite a bit of friendly, family rivalry.

3 little pairs, I fold.

DMG 2:31 PM  

Another tempest in a teapot. I enjoyed this puzzle even tho I never saw the anagram aspect. My grandmother always said "I don't given hoot". I've never seen that in puzzles. They seem to favor "give a fig", so I learned a new expression today- along with the French for beach.

Another major storm in New York. Never have lived where it is "majorally" cold, and can't imagine how you all survive it. On the other hand, would appreciate it if you send some of the melt water here, where we are facing major water shortages and rationing!

Two pair, 6's and 2's, pot seems to go to @spacecraft.

Waxy in Montreal 3:54 PM  

@DMG - heard a story about the drought in California on the radio just this morning and things do seem serious. For what it's worth, you're more than welcome to as much of the snow melt up here as you'd like!

Tough - not just for a Tuesday. Never heard of UMBER (which I assumed was AMBER), JUNCO, LOUPE or GIVEARIP (I was a RAPper). So ended with a DNF.

However, did enjoy the theme answers even though I didn't connect the LARGE anagram dots til arriving here. And ROCKETSREDGLARE must have been the easiest 15-letter answer, evah!

Five 5's in my hand today - I win.

Dirigonzo 4:30 PM  

The puzzle was anagrammy fun, most of the criticism is bogus. As to whether the them has been done before, I don't give a rip.

A full boat ain't good enough against five (?) of a kind.

rain forest 7:02 PM  

Late. Sorry. Still recovering from the Super Bowl party...
Way to go, 'Hawks!

I don't think that was Will Shortz. I don't believe he'd comment 3 times. I think it was Evil Doug with a very good impression of Mr. Shortz.

Liked the puzzle, found it easy, although the clue for French beach might have been incipient PLAGiarism.

Interesting to find out that there are people who can really get riled in a discussion about whether or not a JUNCO is a finch.

I don't GIVE A RIP that there are other crossword puzzle sites. I don't have time to do more than the one NYT a day that I do.

Solving in Seattle 7:14 PM  

I don't do well with anagrams - my brain doesn't seem to work that way, so I didn't see the LARGE picture here.

This Tuespuz felt more like Wednesday for me. Not much JUNK(O) here. Nice job Tracy Gray.

Don't care for CHIVASREGAL. My taste goes more toward the Macallan single malts.

Looking forward to the Seahawks victory parade tomorrow in Seattle. this town is going nuts.

two pair isn't going anywhere with this group.

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