Mars' Norse counterpart / MON 12-9-13 / Onetime Harper's Bazaar illustrator / 1940s computer

Monday, December 9, 2013

Constructor: Nina Rulon-Miller

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging (*for a Monday*)

THEME: CHAIR (64A: Head, as a committee ... or a word that can follow the ends of 16-, 29-, 36-, 47- and 61-Across) — just what it says.

Theme answers:
  • 16A: Coerce (STRONG ARM)
  • 29A: Civic group with more than 45,000 affiliates (LIONS CLUB)
  • 36A: Like some broadcast frequencies (ULTRA-HIGH)
  • 47A: Illicit Prohibition-era establishment (SPEAKEASY) — probably my favorite answer in the whole grid
  • 61A: Where lifeboats are generally stored (UPPER DECK)
Word of the Day: TYR (57D: Mars' Norse counterpart) —
Týr (/ˈtɪər/Old NorseTýr [tyːr]) is a god associated with law and heroic glory in Norse mythology, portrayed as one-handed. Corresponding names in other Germanic languages are Gothic TeiwsOld English Tīw and Old High German Ziuand Cyo, all from Proto-Germanic *Tîwaz (*Tē₂waz). The Latinised name is Tius or Tio.
In the late Icelandic Eddas, Tyr is portrayed, alternately, as the son of Odin (Prose Edda) or of Hymir (Poetic Edda), while the origins of his name and his possible relationship to Tuisto (see Tacitus' Germania) suggest he was once considered the father of the gods and head of the pantheon, since his name is ultimately cognate to that of *Dyeus (cf. Dyaus), the reconstructed chief deity in Indo-European religion. It is assumed that Tîwaz was overtaken in popularity and in authority by both Odin and Thor at some point during the Migration Age, as Odin shares his role as God of war.
Tiw was equated with Mars in the interpretatio germanicaTuesday is in fact "Tīw's Day" (also in Alemannic Zischtig fromzîes tag), translating dies Martis. (wikipedia)
• • •

[DEAR SYNDICATED SOLVERS (if you're reading this on Sunday, Jan. 12, that's you). Please listen to the following pitch. Also, feel free to write me with any comments or concerns. You're well over half my total audience, and yet I hardly ever hear from you. Thanks!]

THE PITCH — [You can scroll down if you've already read it]

So … it's January, the time when I make my annual week-long pitch for financial contributions to this blog. Actually, I didn't make the pitch last year. I used last January to raise money for other causes instead (and it was my pleasure to do so). But this year I once again ask you (especially you regular readers) to consider what the blog is worth to you on an annual basis and give accordingly. As I've said before, as much as I love writing this blog, I treat it like a job— answers and commentary go up every day, without fail, usually at 12:01 am, but certainly by 9am at the very latest. This has been true for seven straight years. I know that some people are opposed to paying for what they can get for free, and still others really don't have money to spare. Both kinds of people are welcome to continue reading my blog, with my compliments. It will always be free. I have no interest in cordoning it off, nor do I have any interest in taking advertising. I value my independence too much. Anyway, if you are so moved, there is a Paypal button in the sidebar, and a mailing address here:

Rex Parker
℅ Michael Sharp
54 Matthews St
Binghamton NY 13905

Maybe I'll stick a PayPal button in here for the mobile users. Let's see...

I think that worked. Cool.

For people who send me actual honest-to-god (i.e. "snail") mail, I have this great new set of thank-you postcards that I'm hoping to burn through: "the iconic Pantone color chip design in 100 brilliant colors." Who will be the lucky person who gets … let's see … Pantone 19-2025: Red Plum? Ooooh, elegant. It could be you. Or give via PayPal and get a thank-you email. That's cool too. Anyway, whatever you choose to do, I remain most grateful for your readership. Now on to the puzzle …

Update: I got my first snail-mail donation —look at the cuteness:

• • •

Did not care for this one at all.

First, a simplistic theme-type with dull theme answers and a randomly-placed reveal. What a basic theme type like this needs is a decent revealer—say, SECOND CHAIR (a common enough concept in law and music), or better yet, redo the whole thing and go FIRST CHAIR. Of course you'd have to change some of the theme answers to make sure they were all truly two-worders. Anyway, the point is, if you want your last-words-are-CHAIRs theme, you gotta do something to make it snap. As is, it's too rudimentary. Not at all NYT-worthy, especially not in this day and age, with so many snappy puzzles out there. When I say this theme seems "old" (and it does), I don't mean it's for "old" people. I mean it seems like something that might once have been adequate, but no longer is. Not by a long shot.

Second, the fill is, as I'm sure I don't have to tell you, entirely substandard. Glutted with short, overly common stuff, including some stuff that just has no business being in an easy-to-fill 78-worder. TYR? Why does that corner, with only the lightest of theme demands, have USN, USE, ELBE, EYED, and TYR. It would be sleep-inducing were it not for TYR, which woke me right up with its not-at-all-Mondayness. But more importantly, there's just dull short stuff everywhere. ADEN / ERTE. RUER / SRS. UNE / ETES (btw: EWES beats ETES, doesn't it? Why not PEW / EWES???). ORR / NERO. VSOP / PIU. And much more. And the puzzle has cheaters*! I just don't think there's an excuse for fill this dull in a puzzle this elementary, this easy to fill. I'm leaving aside the whole PENNIB situation (20D: Fountain head?), which … I expect people to have varying opinions about.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

*cheater squares are black squares that do not add to the word count. They are added to make the grid easier to fill. Today's squares can be found before 9-Across and after 67-Across.


Anonymous 12:07 AM  

I agree with Rex. What happened in the SW/NE? It's clear no significant attempts were made to clean up those two corners. If this grid was handed to me by a constructor, and I was somewhat desperate for Monday puzzles, I'd ask for a revision of SW/NE and then probably would accept it.

I've almost always been unhappy with the amount of crud in NYT Monday crosswords puzzles, but puzzles like these just make me think the editors have no clue what the heck they're doing.

Steve J 12:20 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steve J 12:22 AM  

I didn't notice most of the short fill as I was solving, as I got much of it through crosses and never noticed the actual answers. Probably because of that - and definitely because I was more drawn to some nicer long answers - I thought this was a decent enough Monday.

The theme concept in and of itself is not one of my favorites (and I agree it needed a much snappier reveal; using something like SECOND CHAIR indeed would have been much nicer), but I thought two of the theme entries were quite good: STRONG-ARM and SPEAKEASY. I also thought there were some good downs: NUTCASE, WEASEL, SPLASHY, YUPPIE, PICASSO.

Combine some solid longer fill with not noticing stuff like TYR and KEA as I was solving, and i came away thinking this one was decent in terms of quality. I do recognize that if someone notices the abundance of clunky short fill during the solve, they're likely to come away with a very different impression.

ESP 12:30 AM  

I'm OK with using USE; it can't help it if it's overused.

chefwen 12:45 AM  

Only problem I had with this one was reading the reveal at 61A instead of 64A. Imagine my confusion trying to figure out what DECK had to do with ARM, CLUB, HIGH etc. The light bulb was shining brightly when it finally clicked on. DUH! Must have been the combination of cooking, cleaning, cooking, cleaning of the last few days in celebration of husbands big SIX-FIVE (where the hell does the time go?) Enyhoo, everybody had a great time and I am exhausted.
Didn't even get to Patrick Berry's excellent puzzle 'til late today. Of course I loved it

Matty 12:56 AM  

I mean, I liked the theme answers themselves but then the reveal is a little dull...

Ellen S 12:59 AM  

The puzzle makes me remember why I never used to do Mondays. But then I discovered this blog, and stopped caring how I felt about the puzzle. But then I started solving on my iPad, and here's the sad thing: I don't spend as much time on the blog! Back when I was solving the syndicated puzzle on paper, 6 weeks after the real time solvers had finished, if I needed help I would Google, um, "R&B brothers" (actually I got ISLEY on crosses; never heard of them) and I'd find the answer in the blog, and a long discussion about R&B groups. Or etymology or grammar or chemistry or whatever. Great fun. So now I'm solving in real time and of course the discussion of usage or culture or physics hasn't taken place, so when I want to cheat, I "reveal error" or whatever the online app allows me to do, and I finish the puzzle, and read Rex's blog, and the 5 or 10 comments, and later in the day I'm busy and don't come back... And it's not nearly as much fun as it used to be. I know I could get all the comments sent to my email but I am overwhelmed by my emails anyway.

All this babbling is by way of saying I'm sorry I don't spend more time here. I'll see if I can absorb the extra emails.

jae 1:04 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
jae 1:06 AM  

Tough Mon.  This was more like a medium Tues. for me. I mean some off the wall French...JEU, PIU (which I realize may not be French), odd God...TYR...a tough to parse ?...PENNIB ( kept wondering what a PENNI B was)...European river (you gotta do a lot of crosswords to be up on European rivers unless of course you are really into geography)...ELBE.   Plus some not so pleasant fill @Rex.

That said, @Steve J stuff like NUT CASE, PLAY OUT, YUPPIE, FLAK..provided some zip.  So, I'm leaning towards liked it, but I fear the early week solvers are going to have problems.

Benko 2:08 AM  

Agree with @jae that this played much more like a Tuesday.
So much full which seems more difficult than the typical Monday level--TYR, PIU, ELBE, and JEU come to mind. A lot of foreign words in this one.
The clue for PICASSO also seems fairly hard for a Monday--sure, it's one of his most important works, but how many casual solvers know the name of even one of Picasso's paintings? Seems more likely to confuse rather than illuminate such a solver.
I didn't dislike this puzzle, there are a lot of good entries as well--@jberg mentioned many of them in his post. I would add PLAYOUT to the list, which is very much in the language and not in my memory for any recent puzzles. But it seems like it was printed on the wrong day.

Benko 2:11 AM  

@jae--Realized just now that you listed the same fill as I did in your post. PIU is Italian, I assume, as a musical term. So three French entries, plus the Italian, plus the easier German one.

Anonymous 2:58 AM  

At one point Rex posted on his blog recommendations for quite a few non-NYT crosswords (maybe 6-12 months ago). I've been searching for it this post, but can't find it. Could someone point me to it? Thank you!

Aerator Contac Michaels 4:10 AM  

How bizarre, @lms and I submitted this exact theme last Feb, along with the reveal IS THIS SEAT TAKEN?

Ours had the chairs upfront:


with the reveal "IS THIS SEAT TAKEN?" 15

We considered TAKEASEAT 9 (too short) PULL UP A CHAIR 12 is an even
number (PULL UP A SEAT? 11)

but when it was rejected, I wrote to Will asking if he liked the four phrases, perhaps Loren and I could think up a
new reveal...
involving the actual word CHAIR...

But here is the original rejection:
> On 2/3/13, wshortz wrote:
>> Hi Andrea and Loren,

>> Willsays thanks, but must send regrets on your IS THIS SEAT TAKEN 15x, as the theme didn't excite him enough. Also, he doesn't think the
explanatory entry really explains the theme.
Sorryabout that. He did appreciate seeing this, tho.
>> Regards,

So I don't know what to think! I don't know if this had been submitted before ours, or if he liked it better or what! But the rejection wasn't based on this one by Nina already being in the pipeline.

I don't know if our fill was worse, i certainly think our phrases were lively, there were Xs and Zs and a 15 letter reveal.

It's appropriate for me tonight to see her chairs initial letters Arm, Club, High Easy, Deck spell ACHED!

She did have five plus the word CHAIR. We had four plus a long reveal.
She had lovely downs with PICASSO (tho I put in PIsArrO), LASHY, NUTCASE...

WHO knows, it's all a mystery!

Gruntled 4:28 AM  

Wordplay blog quotes Mr Shortz as saying he held this for three-ans-a-half years, so it was accepted before yours.

I've had a rejection letter almost word-for-word identical, so I think the letter is formulaic, not specific.

Loren Muse Smith 7:20 AM  

Hah! Yeah, this isn't the first time a theme has run that I had already explored. Andrea and I had fun with this! LOUNGE LIZARD was the seed, and I still want to use it.

Andrea – I’m sure I get many, many more rejection letters from the NYT than you do, and they all say exactly the same thing, so who knows? But then people talk about getting letters liking the theme and asking for reworks, new corners, etc. Man. I'm not even *there* yet!

When I got STRONG ARM (great entry), my eyes caught the clue, "Prohibition-era. . .", and I vaguely thought it could be "boot leg." Hmm. Pointed toe, fools rush in, mistletoe, fatted calf. . . hey, something to kick around.

Love the word SLOUGH. Someone recently looked at it – I cannot remember the situation, but I swear – and she mistook it for "sloth." Sigh. Aren't we all such smart prisspots? Ok, well at least I'm a That "Stationary" Should Be "Stationery" Prisspot. In college, I got into a bit of a dust-up in a football class, and out on the field, to some aggressive comment, my actual, scathing, brilliant retort was, "Well, at least I use good grammar." Yeah, I sure showed her.

I also liked WEASEL. Wonder why it's the insult animal. "You WEASEL, you." Not, "You flying squirrel, you." And YUPPIE sure has dropped off the radar screen!

Rex – PEN NIB feels to me just like "veal rib" did.

"Matisse" way before PICASSO. I just don't speak painters. I did visit the JEU de Paume in Paris, though my taste runs more toward Georges de la Tour and Rembrandt than Monet. Ok, I speak rudimentary painters.

I actually had a dnf because I forgot to guess at the TESSE _ A/AD _ N/ _ _TO cross. Oh well. I still enjoyed it. Thanks, Nina!

jberg 7:24 AM  

Yeah, I'm a RUER on this one. But Picasso was nice.

The Google search page (which I used to find the Picasso link, AFTER solving, TYVM!) has a computer telling us that it's Grace Hopper's 107th birthday, but I don't think she was connected to ENIAC.

I had two writeovers, overall before A LITTLE, AERosOl before AERATOR. Otherwise a quick solve; lucky thing, as I have lots of papers to grade! We got our tree up and trimmed yesterday, though, so life is more relaxed than it usually is this time of year.

@Loren, nothing rudimentary about de la Tour!

Carola 7:29 AM  

The puzzle PLEASEd me more than it did @Rex. I didn't see the connection between the theme entries while I was solving, so l enjoyed the surprise of the reveal. And I liked SPLASHY, NEBULAE, AENEID, PICASSO, WEASEL and the crossing landscape features SLOUGH and GLENS.

joho 7:58 AM  

@acme, very interesting about your and Loren's rejection note. I haven't submitted as many as you two, but the norm is "didn't like the theme enough" I think. However, one of mine did say, "Will says thanks, but must send regrets on your SEE RED 15x, as he has another puzzle on file with an almost identical theme."
At the time I remember thinking how in the world does Will keep track of the thousands(millions?) of submissions he receives??? Of course, the computer helps, but still, it has to be mindboggling. And exhausting!

I thought today's puzzle was kind of cute. It is a worthy theme for sure but the fill did lack SNAP.* I so wanted UPPERDECK to be clued as "Baseball card company."

PENNIB is the new EYEPIT!

*I just read Nina's comment. It seems this was one of her first ever puzzles and even she would have worked on the fill if submitted today. This makes me look forward to more from Nina!

Glimmerglass 8:05 AM  

Perfectly adequate Monday puzzle. If it was Tuesday-hard, it's okay with me. Some people will complain about something good because it isn't perfect.

Unknown 8:19 AM  

Yes, PEN NIB took a while to parse, but it wasn't catastrophic. The puzzle wasn't over-the-top-great, but it was serviceable for a Monday,

My biggest problem is that the only thing that should be purchased at a Dairy Queen (34A) is a Buster Bar, or on rare occasions, a Peanut Buster Parfait.

Anonymous 8:49 AM  

Did you not hear me the first time when I said I'm getting ready to retire and just don't give a f@%# anymore.
Will Shortz

AliasZ 8:51 AM  

What made this puzzle better than average for a Monday is the above-average long (6+) fill. It is not every Monday that NEBULAE, TESSERA, PICASSO and the YUPPIE NUTCASE make SPLASHY appearances. Theme density may have been the second deciding factor for Will to accept this one over so many similar, nay, identical themes before and since 3-1/2 years ago.

@jae - you were thinking of JEU and peu, I'm sure. PIU and peu both mean A LITTLE. Very cute, Nina.

@Rex, perhaps PET was chosen instead of pew because PIU, which sounds identical, and POOH were already used.

Speaking of JEU, here is a brief excerpt from JEU de cartes, ballet in three deals by Igor Stravinsky. And to sweeten the pot, let me throw in JEUx d'eau by Maurice Ravel as a bonus. I promise to cover the ISLEY Brothers a little later.

Good one, Nina. Thank you.

I don't know how this will PLAY OUT, but whoever EXPECTS to see a marked quality improvement of NYT puzzles and avoid the Monday crud, will just have to wait until @Anonymous 12:07 takes over the reins as editor. PLEASE. Or as they say nowadays, puh-leez. Under this new editor NUTCASE would be a self-referential entry.

Zwhatever 8:59 AM  

@Ellen S - 80 emails generally worth reading amongst the 200 I immediately delete is a small price to pay...

I liked this far, far more than OFL. As with @Steve J, I barely noticed the short fill and ese. In fact, when I saw the WOD in the write-up I had to go back and see where it was in the grid.

ULTRA HIGH and looking at PICASSO sounds like something I might have done once, so a very nice central pairing right through the central axes. I also really like SLOUGH. O-U-G-H ought to be tough to pronounce for English language learners.

Isn't there an EAP story where a PENNIB is used to create an EYEPIT? Or maybe the PEWIT voices in my head are just making that up.

CAP'N JOLLY ENIAC's Beer Rating - Jolly Pumpkin's La Roja – Deep and earthy with a few sour notes developed through natural aging. Unfiltered, unpasteurized
and blended from barrels ranging from artists to foreign languages to CAMEOS by Hitchcock.

chefbea 9:22 AM  

The puzzle was fine. Lots of yummy stuff. But did not like pen nib. Andy why is marketers target - yuppie.? Don't marketers target everyone???

Lewis 9:44 AM  

@ellen -- I always love your comments, and we haven't had a good EELER rant in a long time. If you can arrange it that you spend more time here, that would be terrific.

@acme -- loved you theme answers, definitely lively

No, nobody says pen nib. They just say nib. Or point.

I like ULTRAHIGH and NEBULAE in the same puzzle. Yes, there was too much grid gruel, and there were non-Monday words, like TESSERA.

But at the end I didn't say ouch, I said aaah, and that's usually good enough for a solve for me.

quilter1 9:53 AM  

I enjoyed some of the longer answers as covered by others. But since I usually do BEQ's hard Monday I'll get my crunch there.

mac 10:00 AM  

This puzzle did not solve as a Monday for me, but the beautiful long fill saved the day. Hand up for not liking pen nib, but I guess it's legal.

Nice that the srs. and the prom are together. Tyr was a nice wake-up.

GILL I. 10:07 AM  

O.K. - is it pronounced sloo, slow or sluff?
@Benco: I'm sure about 99% of the folks doing puzzles would know Picasso's Guernica!
I'm not a SNAP, crackle, pop CAPN Crunch breakfast sort - preferring a piece of toast, some cheese and fruit. This puzzle could have used some good German rye with Manchego and a slice of Bosc pear.
@Aerator Contact and LMS. Count me as one who would have loved to have seen your puzzle....!
@Chefwen: Mine too turns 65 in Feb. No cleaning or cooking at this end though. We're going to San Diego and spend money!

Steve J 10:13 AM  

@chefbea: Marketers are happy to have sales from anyone, but they definitely don't target to everyone. The target market will vary based on the product, but in terms of deciding what kind of message to communicate and where to communicate it, relatively narrow targets are established (e.g., college-educated moms with children under 10 and household incomes of $75k plus, 18-25 year-old men who closely follow sports, etc.). YUPPIE wouldn't ever be a real target, but that profile - higher education, higher disposable income, affinity for more luxurious brands - is a very common target.

retired_chemist 10:14 AM  

Decent, medium puzzle. Doesn't deserve Rex's slam. But it isn't exciting and it seems the last(first)-words-are theme has been used too much recently.

Having quite a few good answers ups my enthusiasm past the meh level.

Thanks, Ms. Rulon-Miller.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:27 AM  

Saved by the reveal!

I had AENEID spelled wrong (yes, that is embarrassing), but when CHAIR had to go in, I was able to correct the entry.

Definitely a bit harder than the usual Monday, but I enjoyed it.

AliasZ 10:27 AM  

Did anybody noticed what a mess I made of PIÙ and peu? Call it premature submission.

PIÙ = It. for more, from the Latin plus.
Peu is French for quite the opposite: little. See also petit(e).

To atone, here is another musical JEU, this time JEUx d'enfants by Georges Bizet.

It's a bit of a shock to follow Bizet with the ISLEY Brothers, but here it is.

Enjoy your Monday.

Rivers 10:37 AM  

@susan mcconnell, are you the other end of the leash? If so, you, a workshop and your book turned a witch of a dog into the best girl I've ever had.

Puzzle was okay but the blog, as always, is entertaining.

Anonymous 10:47 AM  

Did it not bother anyone that upper deck and deck chair refer to the same deck? Plenty of other options for clues or theme answer there.

dk 11:06 AM  

Way to go Loren telling Andrea she may get rejected more than you :).

Delayed flight to NYC has me cranky so this one gets:

** (2 Stars) Play-Doh is a food group.... any parent knows that!

i am not a robot 11:20 AM  

While it does not have the thematic elegance that Rex is looking for, this puzzling was quite challenging, especially for a Monday.

In fact, some of the shorter answers - such as "piu" "erte" and "tyr" -
made this a Monday dnf, which is uncommon for me, a relatively novice

ps. Still not sure I understand the difference between black squares that are cheater squares, and black squares that are non-cheater squares. Don't all black squares make the puzzle easier to solve?

pps - the message to prove that we are humanoid is almost as challenging as the puzzle itself.

ppps - check that, these messages are more difficult than the puzzle. I am already on my third attempt.

Unknown 11:24 AM  

@ M Rivers, dear me, no. But I googled the book, the author is Patricia McConnell, and as you can see from the pic I desperately need to read it!

lawprof 11:28 AM  

This was a Monday that fought back a little bit, so Rex's rating seems about right.

The more I look over the finished grid, the more I like this puzzle. Although the theme didn't exactly wow me, there was lots of zippy fill (e.g., STRONGARM, LIONS CLUB, SPEAKEASY, UPPERDECK, NUTCASE, PICASSO, NEBULAE, et al.)to keep things moving along.

Nice job, Ms. Rulon-Miller. Keep 'em coming.

Ellen S 11:29 AM  

@loren, I think I love you. The rest of you, too, but grammar freaks have a special place in my heart.

When I was in high school (after Sputnik, but before Man Walked On the Moon, which spoiled everything) I read all the sci-fi in my neighborhood branch library. Only about 20 shelf-feet as I recall (dimly), but still a lot of space operas. And last night I stared at 41D forever before NEBULAE came to me. Humiliating.

@Lewis, we haven't had any EELS in a long time, ergo no rants. I think I scared them all away. (The EELS, that is, not the rants.)

@AliasZ, thanks for the music links. Next on my list.

@M Rivers, what's this about @Susan McConnell and dog training? Is there a good new book? My daughter just adopted a 9 month old Shepherd mix who is chewing up everything in the house. I think he need intellectual stimulation (hmmm maybe a Buster Ball would be a good toy for him) but also needs training, and daughter says she can fit in walks but can't commit to the schedule of dog school.

Two Ponies 11:42 AM  

Is this a debut?

I liked it and it did seem more like a Tuesday. Lots of French with Greek, Roman, and Norse thrown in. You don't see slough much. Probably because no one seems sure how to pronounce it.
Thanks Nina!

Rob C 11:45 AM  

Challenging Mon for me. Some nice med length fill made up for the less than optimal short stuff.

@i am not a robot - cheater squares do not add to the word count. So, for example, the black square on top of JEU and to the left of CAPN simply made JEU into a 3-letter word (rather than 4) and CAPN into a 4-letter word (rather than 5). It didn't add to the word count. Its only purpose was to make it easier for the constructor to fill in that area.

In contrast, petend that the N in STRONGARM was a black square. that would have made that 9-letter entry into two words. Since that would add to the word count, it would not be a cheater square.

A cheater square has nothing to do with making the solve easier. When Rex says "make the grid easier to fill", that is from the constructor's perspective

Anonymous 11:45 AM  

My only erasure was 67A, I put "seen" who's second "E" fit "nebulae" I had to rethink that to get 60D "ice" DUH!

i am not a robot 12:10 PM  

@Rob C.

Thank you.

p.s. any help on how to decipher
the "humanoid test"? (I am,
this time, on my fourth attempt!)

retired_chemist 12:22 PM  

hand up for seEn @ 67A. 60A doobY Brothers also slowed me down in the SW. I think it's Doobie anyway....

retired_chemist 12:24 PM  

@ I am not...

You can refresh the captcha as long as you want. Just keep at it.

Carola 12:25 PM  

@i am not a robot - About the deciphering: in case you don't already know this, you can click on the little circle with the arrow to the right of the box where you type the text to get a different captcha. Keep clickinguntil you get one you can read for sure. I often go through four or five before I make my first attempt.

mac 12:27 PM  

Spell check tries to fix things with the captcha!

Dick Swart 12:29 PM  

pennib so bad I have alerted the Pen Police:

ksquare 12:34 PM  

You can't make seltzer with an AERATOR(3D). It puts only air bubbles in the water. You need a CARBONATOR to dissolve carbon dioxide in it to produce seltzer. For those who object to chemistry clues, please forgive this but the misinformation bothered me as a result of my degree in chemical engineering.

Masked and Anonymo8Us 12:55 PM  

Liked it. Any puz would advance into the high country, of course, if it also contained LOUNGE LIZARD. But still, let's tally this puz's existin assets...

1. Every Across answer is pretty straightforward fill fare, except maybe ELBE river. Everything that crosses ELBE is known even to M&A. So, yep... fit for MonPuz.
2. Eight U's. Liitle darlUns.
3. Fantasticaliscious weeject lineup. I mean, a body needs to really grunt hard, to produce some of these. faves: PIU, JEU, TYR, NES. Desperate to the max. Don't get any better than this. Glory be.
4. NUTCASE. Ask PuzEatinSpouse faithfully, every year, if she'd like a (U-encrusted) NUTCASE for Christmas. Always gives me a hard look and says "got one".
5. Great CAMEOS clue. My fave Hitch appearance was in "Lifeboat". He shows up in a dieting ad some starvin dude in the lifeboat is readin.
6. Really solid themers. If you can't have LOUNGE LIZARD, go with SPEAKEASY.
8. Cheater squares. They always make the grid design look more interestin, somehow. Otherwise, all yah got is black lines and holes. Plus, these cheaters also serve to save JEU and TYR for us.

QED, MondaythUmbsUp.
Thanx, Nina.

LaneB 1:25 PM  

Good grief! A Monday DNF Stumbled over PENNIB? And TYR, not knowing The ISLEY Brothers from Adam's cat. Oh well. A little humility isn't the worst thing.

M and Also 1:27 PM  

9. Moocow easy MonPuz openin clue:
"___, crackle, pop". yep. It's a SNAP. Talk about drawin every solver in, with a friendly, welcomin first volley. What else U gonna put down for an answer? KNEE? Day-um. Just invites yah to do the whole rodeo in pen!

Benko 1:50 PM  

Apologies to @stevej for accidentally calling him @jberg in my post. Wrong @j!
@Acme--I like your theme answers better (though I did like SPEAKEASY, EASYBAKEOVEN is at least as good). But I can see the point that the reveal was a bit imprecise, although in today's puzzle the reveal was perhaps overly simple. Is there a good in-between? PULLUPACHAIR, maybe.
@gill--Guernica is definitely the best known Picasso title. But I think you are overestimating cultural literacy at 99 percent. Here, probably close to everybody knows it. But it's a skewed sample, as we aren't casual solvers.
@loren--I think WEASEL is the insult animal because they sneak onto farms and steal chickens. Or so cartoons have led me to believe.

Anonymous 1:54 PM  

Hello, new to the blog. Can someone explain what the red letter means along with the greyed-out answer? Also, what is a reveal? Thank you. Most helpful, especially Saturdays.

Bird 1:55 PM  

Thought this was OK. It is Monday. Played easy except for the SW corner – trying to think of a sport org. at 39A and entering SEEN at 67A combined to slow me down getting 40D and 41D, which in turn slowed me down in getting 51A.

Almost got tripped up by the clue for 31A, initially reading it as Front lines.

Among the bad fill, RUER is the worst IMO. Yeah some people rue, but does that mean we should label them RUERs?

Re PEN NIB: Ugh.

I’m wondering how is JOLLY relates to the theme.

On to captcha . . .

One too many chair posts 1:57 PM  

Also, the best proof (anecdotal, but hey) that this puzzle was too hard for a Monday--
Over on Amy's site she says this puzzle was number one in the Arlington Heights puzzle tournament. Out of 29 tournament solvers, only 4 or 5 completed the puzzle correctly.
I often forget that what seems easy to me as someone who has done 10000 or more crosswords is far from easy to people who are just getting into them. I love hard puzzles, the harder the better, but Monday is for the novice, not for me.

Explanation Man 2:02 PM  

@Anonymous 1:54--
The red letter and gray answer have no real meaning except that they are the last letter and answer that @Rex entered, so they are highlighted on his computer.
A "reveal" or "revealer" is the answer in the grid, usually towards the bottom right or in the very middle (in this case the bottom left with CHAIR) which explains all of the other theme answers in the puzzle.

Obvious (and a bit slower) Man 2:06 PM  

And as with any blog, it is worthwhile to read the FAQs (Click at the top of any day's blog.), although "reveal" has not yet found its way to that repository of wisdom.

Anonymous 2:42 PM  

Thanks very much.

Anonymous 2:43 PM  

Will do

Anonymous 2:57 PM  

Several times on this blog, I've seen the rumour that Will Shortz is retiring. Where does the notion come from? Is there any basis for it? I hope so - I can't wait for an end to the cutesy, gimmicky puzzles with over-used, trite filler words to disappear. Of course, a new editor might be worse - then I'd just cancel my subscription.

ahimsa 3:08 PM  

Cute puzzle in spite of the trade-off of five theme phrases with a short reveal of CHAIR vs. four theme phrases with a clever or "punny" reveal.

I liked the puzzle in spite of the rather rough fill. With this type of theme it's fun to try to guess what they have in common (CHAIR) and I managed to do that before coming upon the reveal at 64 A. So that was fun.

Yes, lots of obscure words in this one, but I will never forget JEU because of a difficult Sat NYT puzzle where JEU was clued in French. (I just looked it up, the clue was "Vingt-et-un, e.g") The cross was PEARL JAM so I figured it out eventually but that was a killer puzzle.

@Ellen S, regarding not wanting to get a huge amount of email, I set up a separate gmail account for posting on this blog. Then there's no fear of having my main mailbox overflow with messages from commenters (or spellcasters!). Just a suggestion in case it's helpful! (not sure whether you're reading this....)

A different explanation man 3:15 PM  

@Anon 2:57 - I think someone is being humorous and explaining the reasoning behind the decreasing level of quality in the puzzles lately.

Hit the captcha 4x before I tried to prove I'm not a robot. Grrrr.

A different explanation man 3:19 PM  

That should be "Hit the captcha reload 4x . . .

A different explanation man 3:38 PM  

@Anon2:57 - PS. Don't tell @Rex I responded to you.

Anonymous 4:05 PM  

Uh ... I suppose a lottery winner could say "I won" twice, but once would suffice.

sanfranman59 4:13 PM  

Midday report of relative difficulty (see my 8/1/2009 post for an explanation of my method and my 10/15/2012 post for an explanation of a tweak to my method):

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

Mon 7:43, 6:07, 1.26, 99%, Challenging (4th highest ratio of 207 Mondays)

Top 100 solvers

Mon 4:58, 3:46, 1.32, 100%, Challenging (highest ratio of 207 Mondays)

I don't think this one will quite finish the day as the most challenging Monday in the 4+ years I've been tracking solve times, but it's going to be right up there. My own solve time wasn't quite that extreme, but it's easily in my Challenging range. My time was inflated considerably because I errantly entered I WiN for 5A: When repeated, lucky lottery purchaser's cry and it took me a couple of scans of the puzzle to see the mistake. But it definitely struck me as a tough Monday even without that gaffe.

Just Joe 6:45 PM  

Thought this was tougher than your average bear Monday. Way too many Au Francaise words for my liking. Did like the longer words though like weasel, nutcase and nebulae. Didn't know erto in the SE corner...had to look it up...errrrr...hate that on a Monday. So I give myself a big fat DNF on this one.

@lms I think weasels got a bad rap because of there locomotion which us almost snake like (and we all know why snakes aren't cool:) and their tendency to break into chicken coops and cause havoc. Didn't sit well when people depended/depend on chickens for survival, I guess.

Questinia 7:19 PM  

My Churchman's Prescriptor has a left oblique cursive italic nib through which flows Heart Of Darkness ink.

Pen nibs rock.

OISK 7:43 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
OISK 7:46 PM  

@EllenS - Welcome back, and hope you keep posting here. IIRC, you told me once to "Come out from under my rock" when I admitted not knowing some pop music star/group/rapper. I got a kick out of it - not offended in the least!

This was one of my slowest Mondays ever, which seems consistent with the difficulty rating, but I still enjoyed it. I don't object to "trite fill" as much as Rex does, and I only just now figured out that pennib is two words. I think that fountain head as a clue for that is pretty creative.

Billy 8:18 PM  

erté crossing Mauna Kea = not Monday

sanfranman59 10:05 PM  

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

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

Mon 7:35, 6:07, 1.24, 98%, Challenging (5th highest ratio of 207 Mondays)

Top 100 solvers

Mon 4:41, 3:46, 1.24, 99%, Challenging (3rd highest ratio of 207 Mondays)

Zwhatever 10:16 PM  

@Questina - I always pictured you as a custom ground nib sort of person.

@Sanfranman59 - so 7 seconds between most challenging and third most challenging for the top 100. Not much margin, there.

spacecraft 10:27 AM  

@Gill I.P.: "Sluff." Cf. in bridge, defense does not want to give declarer a "ruff and sluff--" out of the led suit in both hands, he can trump (ruff) in one hand and discard a loser (sluff) from the other. But the word is SLOUGH. The bridge community simply took liberties with the spelling. To trump a trick is not to "rough;" that word's still RUFF.

On to the puzz. ELBE, PIU, TYR, and the natick at TESSERA/ERTE all seem decidedly un-Mondayish. Other short fill is, um, "rough:" SRS, JEU, HST, IWON, and the ridiculous PENNIB.

The theme? OK, I guess--but what's a "CLUB CHAIR?" Somehow I missed that one growing up.

Sure, there are some nice longer entries, including the deserved central location for PICASSO. But overall, I think my rejection slip pile would have been reduced by one. Not quite what one EXPECTS from a NYC crossword.

A favorite movie moment was triggered by 5a: In "Charade," little Jean-louis exclaims "We won! We won!" when they found the briefcase in Herman's room. Alas, it contained only his spare prosthesis.

GILL I. 11:54 AM  

@spacecraft: Gill from your future here. Thank you for the SLOUGH explanation. It takes someone from my past to answer me!! I will say though that SLOUGH (pronounced slao in England) always throws me for a loupe.

Noelle 12:23 PM  

Yes, a syndicated solver here!! Did not realize we "late" ones could add comments. May in the future. Thanks for all the fine entertainment during the past years of reading your blog!!

Solving in Seattle 1:25 PM  

I agree with those who thought this was a little gnarly for a Monday. I had to wrestle with it kind of like a Tuesday or even a Wednesday.

Do you suppose NERO was a RUER? Or did Tweety have TATs? I SPY a STY.

I went on Ticketmaster this morning to buy Seahawks tickets for the game on Sunday and 15 minutes later they were sold out and the secondary market started at $480. Not in my budget. Anyway, Go Hawks!

Capcha: fortism. Bunker mentality?

rain forest 2:24 PM  

I found the puzzle quite sprightly, and liked the theme answers (even though it is a tried-and-true one) except maybe LIONSCLUB. Btw, @Spacey, a club chair is a short, round-backed armchair, usually leather-covered, and usually dark brown.

@SIS - the 'Hawks need more than Marshawn to beat the Niners. Hope Harvin can play.

Solving in Seattle 2:37 PM  

@Rainy, me too, but he took two hard hits in the game. I wonder if Bush will be fined. The D really has to show up.

Full boat, fours over eights.

DMG 2:46 PM  

A good Monday puzzle with a couple of hard-for-me spots, mostly because I'm pretty weak on foreign languages. Thus the rhyming (I think) PIU and JEU were a bit hard to come by, as was TYR, but all fell from the acrosses, and I just had to look here to see that they were right.

@Ginger: Watched a lot of the Aus. Open yesterday, Always suffer with the players in the crazy weather that happens this time of their year- seems its always furnace hot or tropical storm wet, or both. Wonder why they can't schedule for a more temperate season. October?

Dirigonzo 5:01 PM  

TESSElA/ElTA - an inauspicious start to the week.

Two pair - sixes and deuces - is never going to win a hand here.

Anonymous 9:00 PM  

Thank you all.

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