One-named rapper with hyphen in his name / SUN 12-1-13 / European capital on Svisloch River / Eponym of Warsaw's airport / German Expressionist Otto / Three-time NBA All-star williams / Yuri's peace

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Constructor: Alan DerKazarian

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: "Two Halves In One" — I have no idea what that title is supposed to mean, but the revealer, BACK IN BLACK (98A: 1980 hard rock album that went 22x platinum … or a hint to how to cross this puzzle's 27-Across), says it all: "BACK" is represented by a black square four times, dividing two phrases into two parts each time (although only twice are those parts equal, i.e. "halves"). [I have been told that the "two halves" are the two halves of the grid that are not (except by BLACK squares) connected at all. So it's two themes in one, or some kind of hybrid theme … not sure the puzzle knows. All I know is the title sucks]

The BACKs:

Word of the Day: T-PAIN (7A: One-named rapper with a hyphen in his name) —
Faheem Rasheed Najm (born September 30, 1985), who goes by his stage name T-Pain, is an Americansinger-songwriterrapperrecord producer, and actor. His debut album, Rappa Ternt Sanga, was released in 2005. In 2007, T-Pain released his second studio album Epiphany, which reached number one on the Billboard 200. His third studio album, Thr33 Ringz, was released in 2008. T-Pain has earned two Grammy Awards alongside artists Kanye West and Jamie Foxx.
T-Pain is the founder of the record label Nappy Boy Entertainment, established in 2005. Throughout his career as a singer, T-Pain is known for using & popularizing the Auto-Tune pitch correction effect. Throughout the years of 2006-10 T-Pain was featured on more than 50 chart topping singles, his most successful feature to date was in Flo Rida's debut single "Low" which has since been certified 6x Platinum. (wikipedia)

• • •

I'm making myself laugh by imagining the hilariously terrible (and, as yet, fictitious) crossword clue, ["___ Drank" (T-Pain song)] => "BUYUA."

The revealer on this thing is spectacular. Just a great repurposing of that song/album title. Execution of the theme is also nice—all four BLACK squares along the SW/NE axis, all theme answers symmetrical. One thing about the theme—it made the puzzle Super Easy. I was surprised I didn't break my Sunday record. I guess there were enough road bumps to keep me from tearing it up too fast. Perhaps the poor / slight interconnectedness of the "two halves" of the grid had something to do with it.

All things considered, the puzzle is solidly filled. I don't honestly believe that anything can be NUTTED, but that's the only answer that made me make my "Really?" face. Puzzle was so straightforward and so clean and so easy that I'm not sure what to say about it. I'm kind of wondering how much T-PAIN tripped you all up (by "you all" I mean the hundreds of people who have written me telling me that they don't know "rappers" but they do know [something allegedly important] and "how can you not know [something allegedly important]!?"). I know the solving audience enough to know that the bulk of solvers are going to be like "….?" I think all those crosses are fair, though the PEE DEE … I don't know (8D: The Carolinas' ___ River). I certainly never knew that river til I started doing crosswords. Hope fortune was with you on that one. Also with DERON, who pronounces his name just like "Darren" (56D: Three-time N.B.A. All-Star Williams). I've heard of him—he's a true NBA star—but had never seen his name written out. Kind of like seeing Dwyane Wade's name written out (confession: I misspelled it just now and had to look it up—that's how weirdly it's spelled). All other names in the grid seem pretty familiar. Have you seen Otto DIX's work? (83A: German Expressionist Otto) Disturbing. Great, but disturbing.

Good night.
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


jae 12:11 AM  

Easy-medium for me too.  Liked the divided grid and the clever/tricky theme.  Plus the grid seemed pretty smooth...well except maybe @ Rex NUTTED?

Most of this was pretty easy but I got hung up in the center and NE.  SHimS for SHOES, hid for ATE, mINt for FINE, and teND for MIND didn't help.

I've heard of T-PAIN and like Rex know PEEDEE from crosswords so I had no problems there.

Fun Sun!  Nice one Alan!

Steve J 12:19 AM  

Now this is how you do a Sunday puzzle. Fantastic theme, fantastic reveal, fantastic grid. On the latter point - the grid - I'm extremely impressed. Not only does it bisect the puzzle, the BACK/black squares are evenly spaced, and the BACK/black squares function in both directions.

Plus, every last one of the theme answers is a real thing, doesn't feature changing its case or tense in order to force it into the theme, and is a lively expression. It's really brilliant. Yes, once you figure out what's going on things flow pretty quickly, but I didn't care.

Add in that there is nearly a complete lack of crosswordese and dreck, and that just makes this shine that much more.

Even so, I technically DNF. I had sIP instead of NIP at 99D, leaving me with sIA_ARA as some college in some upstate New York town I don't recognize anymore than I recognize "Little Caesar" as anything other than a purveyor of mind-bogglingly awful pizza. Half a dozen things could conceivably go in that blank spot. I tried them all.

Nevertheless, I loved this one. Certainly the best Sunday I can recall in a very, very long time.

Anonymous 12:30 AM  

Not to mention how the DIX-SODOM-BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN linkage is kinda nifty as a tertiary sub-theme.

Benko 12:33 AM  

I've heard the word NUTTED many times before, but never in this context. Usually it's pretty gross.
Grew up in the Carolinas, so PEEDEE is always easy.
Also am a basketball lunatic, and saw DERON Williams play live a couple of months back, at the beginning of the season. Much easier than a baseball or football clue for me.
I know, like @Rex, we will get the inevitable complaints, mostly from older solvers (not from all of them), that rap is stupid and they hate it and it doesn't belong in crosswords. It's been around for 35 years and exists in virtually every language now, so get over it! TPAIN's music might be pretty stupid, but hip hop at its best is an art form, love it or leave it. And it certainly has much more cultural relevance than a pop song from the 40s.

John Child 12:34 AM  

I liked this more as I went along. At first "So you take out BACK. Meh." Then "So that's how you get between the two parts of the grid." Then "Oh! The BACKs intersect!" "They are symmetrical too!" And then the clever reveal. The reveal actually helped me go back and complete GREAT DIVIDE.

Cleverer solvers probably got all of that quicker, but I think I got the maximum enjoyment by seeing it come out bit by bit. Clever and a great deal of fun. Thank you Mr DerKazarian. But it's no surprise from this constructor. Remember his Jumping Beans Puzzle from last summer?

TPAIN across PEEDEE, EEW! The Venn diagram of people who knew both answers must be pretty close to a null set. Shall we call that sort of cross a Pewit's Eyepit?

Zeke 12:37 AM  

Where I come from NUTTED means castrated. And where I come from is anyplace where veterinarians work.

Steve J 12:43 AM  

@Benko: I had the same thought about NUTTED.

And well-said regarding rap and hip-hop. Like you said, it's hardly a new cultural phenomenon. It may not be my thing, but I've picked up a lot by osmosis, and complaining about it seems about as fruitful as my complaining about opera (which I've also largely picked up by osmosis). It's definitely part of the wider culture and isn't some sort of flash-in-the-pan.

And I think you were being charitable regarding T-PAIN. He sucks.

Anonymous 12:50 AM  

Comment on TPAIN's song "Bartender"

Am I the only 14 year old that thinks classics aren't this $hit. It's things like BDP, Kid Frost, Eazy, Tupac, and biggie. I mean, of course i like some new kid ink and a very little number of Tyga songs and others of course. But if you were nine when it came out, you haven't had a "Back in my day".

Anonymous 12:50 AM  
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Noam D. Elkies 12:54 AM  

Ah well, a promising grid and some nice subsidiary material, but too many mystery names (yes, 7A:T-Pee and 56D:DERON, and also the scrabble-sucking 96D:SIKES — make that K a D or an R, losing a few Scrabble points but gaining two actual words — and some others), plus the title and 27A:GREAT_DIVIDE which suggest a somewhat different kind of theme (indeed Rex apparently didn't even recognize "great divide" as thematic), and then a big anticlimax of a reveal/summary 98A:BACK_IN_BLACK. I don't care how many millions of records that thing sold: it's still a r*ck album of 30+ years ago that means nada to me. And if it *did* mean something to me, then given that the band is ACDC I'd surely want that to appear in the grid, clued innocuously as (say) "like some outlets".

61D:LACROSSE_BALL, now that's a good sports clue and answer. 56D:DERON, 50D:SHULA and the like are just dross, and probably not necessary (though the cure is not as immediate as for 96D:SIKES). Though I suppose I should be thankful for learning about Warsaw's 58D:CHOPIN Airport in return for slogging through a region that had 50D:SHULA stacked with 58D:CNBC and crossing 63:NUTTED.

Three Spanish clues in the SE, including 92A/92D both with Ñ but alas not crossing in that letter (and with French 106A:ÎLE stacked with Spanish 110A:SUR).

Yes, I didn't see 99A:NIAGARA either, and figured that the unfamiliar "Siabara" was of a piece with all the other garbage names...


meg 1:10 AM  

There must be something wrong with me as I had the revealer and most of the theme answers in place before I understood the theme. Once I got it I was pretty pleased. This was the most enjoyable Sunday in quite some time even with my weird inability to grasp themes.

Give me rappers over TV characters of ages past any day of the week. I've never heard of SGT SHULTZ or LINC but T-PAIN came easily once I had PEEDEE in place. (@John Child: Pewit's eyepit is a lonely pit indeed.)

Where I come from NUTTED has a much more graphic meaning than castrated.

dm3000 1:37 AM  

Back in the day, the Chock Full O'Nuts chain in NYC offered a Nutted Cream Cheese sandwich that was my mom's favorite. So I've seen that word before.

Evan 2:13 AM  
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Bob Kerfuffle 2:16 AM  

Wonderful puzzle!

Just that one seemingly unavoidable write-over at 99D, SIP before NIP.

@NDE - How can you complain at such length about the name of a character (96D) who makes such a fuss about his name? [Note lyrics printed beneath the video.]

Evan 2:17 AM  

The reveal is definitely cool, and fitting in GREAT DIVIDE to match it is nice. I think it would have been a little better if all of the non-BACK words could stand on their own as regular crossword entries. All of them work except for THERE AND and THE CLOCK. Still, almost all of them do work as singular entries, the complete theme phrases themselves are great, and the a-ha moment you get from figuring it out is neat. Before I got it, I had CRASH at 89-Across, and was going to complain that it wasn't merely a nominee for 2005 Best Picture, it was the winner! (the correct answer should have won Best Picture, in my opinion)

But, I'm pretty turned off by the T-PAIN/PEEDEE crossing. I say that even though I think it's more than appropriate to include rap stars in crosswords and this one was not a Natick for me -- I know of T-PAIN as the rapper from The Lonely Island's "I'm On A Boat," and it's for that reason that I love him as an entry. But if you don't know him, it's cruel to cross that P with an Appalachian river you may or may never have heard of (if this list is correct, the PEE DEE is the fourth-longest river in North Carolina). That consonant can be pretty much anything if you're stuck there. Much as I'd like T-PAIN to be in puzzles, potentially risking it with a Natick or near-Natick crossing isn't worth it, and maybe it would be better to revise that section in the north anyway since neither AETNA nor A TIE are exactly great entries themselves.

And whoa, this is eerie -- I was just mentioning to @Loren on Wednesday that I thought LACROSSE GOAL wouldn't be a good entry because it sounds too arbitrary, and there's LACROSSE BALL today. The term does have its own Wiki entry, so maybe it passes muster as a phrase, but I don't know by how much. I have a feeling most people would just call it a BALL, but it is unique to its sport, so perhaps it works simply by the fact that the sport isn't called "Lacrosseball" -- I mean, you don't call the ball in the NFL a FOOTBALL BALL.

And just in case anyone is wondering (like I did) why they gave a simple English word like WON a really tough clue with the Korean currency, they couldn't make it the past tense of WIN since WINS is already at 30-Across. All the crosses on that are fine, but still, I had to do a double- and triple-check on WON before I felt okay with it.

Isabel Archer 6:30 AM  

@ Rex- Agree re Otto Dix.
First saw his work at Busch-Reisinger in Cambridge and returned frequently.

That museum is now also undergoing "expansion" - a national fad to wreck old lovely museums while providing architectural firms (and bored Boards) with A LOT of five-year projects: the Peabody Essex, Fogg, Gardner (against Isabella's will) the Pierrepont Morgan, now renamed the Morgan.

Do we art lovers need a two-story atrium in every museum? The finished spaces end up for the most part empty and result in higher ticket prices and less room for, um... art.

baja 6:52 AM  

Super impressed

Milford 7:50 AM  

Loved this clever theme, got the album title not too far into the solve, and soon after got the BLACK square trick. Husband loves AC/DC, our dog is named after Malcolm Young. However, I did not see what the GREAT DIVIDE in the grid was until I came here. I suppose if the puzzle had been harder I would have realized the two sides were separated.

What made the theme answers a bit tricky was that the beginning words *sort* of stood alone ok;
30D - "Stands one's ground" = WON'T and 75A - "Inexpensive reprint, maybe" = PAPER.

Loved MENTAL NOTE, LOSS LEADER, and the "Wedges" clue for SHOES.

If I had to use it in a sentence, I would say, "The player got NUTTED by the LACROSSE BALL in the game."

I agree with others that the bashing of rap is old and pseudo-intellectual. I first learned about rap in 1981 from my awesome middle school music teacher, Mrs. Bertha McNeal. If your thought process is "things unknown by me = stupid and not worth learning about" - please, just stay away from my kids.

August West 8:15 AM  
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Glimmerglass 8:17 AM  

Wonderful puzzle. Somewhere I've heard that a NYT puzzle submission will not be accepted if there are isolated sections; in other words, all the words must be linked somehow to all the others. Good rule. Today, the two halves were isolated from each other by the diagonal GREAT DIVIDE, but the two halves are linked by the [BACK] squares, which connect the halves in four ways, more than enough to fulfill the spirit of the rule.

August West 8:17 AM  

Easy, clever, fun, quick Sunday. Loved it, for reasons already expressed by Steve J and John Child. PEEDEE went in off its clue. If it's a six-letter river in Carolina, and it's in a crossword puzzle, it's PEEDEE. Needed all crosses for TPAIN, but they were all easy, so no reason to carp there. No other holdups. Loved the reveal, and LACROSSE getting some love twice this week.

Mohair Sam 8:23 AM  

Wow. Tough for us because we thought the reveal clue referred only to itself and 27A. When my wife finally figured things out with HUMP back, and I remembered the Hobbit subtitle we ran through this one in a hurry.

Visited family in Florence, SC last month and saw at least two zillion signs saying PEEDEE, so the hated cross with the unknown TPAIN didn't natick us.

Fun Sunday with nice fill, once we figured the theme.

Brookboy 8:26 AM  

Color me super-impressed. Thank you, Mr. DerKazarian, for a delightful challenge.

@Steve wrote: "Yes, once you figure out what's going on things flow pretty quickly, but I didn't care." My sentiments exactly.

In the puzzle, 17D was "What pickers pick". My first thought was nits, but that didn't fit. It sure seems to fit in some of these comments, though. (OTOH, perhaps what's a nit to me is wit to another. I say this to justify my calling that other person a nitwit.)

Unknown 8:50 AM  

I had iS idle and eSa. Maybe I'm being a sore loser because I DNFd an easy puzzle, but the last time I looked, my car didn't have an IDLE gear. I can be in NEUTRAL or be IDLING, but not IN IDLE. My bad that the only Disney deer I know is Bambi, who came to her demise in this classic animated short:

That being said, I really enjoyed the theme.

jberg 9:09 AM  

@Russell Long-- I treasure the memory of when you once spoke to me on the Senate floor, so it's nice to see you here! I believe ENA was Bambi's mother, generally known only in crossworld.

DNF because I didn't know T-PAIN or PEEDEE. I don't mind rap clues, but it was a tough crossing.

I was away all yesterday, tried to solve it at about 5 PM, couldn't, and I think it threw me off today - so I never noticed the GREAT DIVIDE or that the theme answers crossed each other at BACK - and am kicking myself now. My only consolation was that somehow I recognized ETHANOL from the formula with no crosses.

I hope Monday is kind to me!

Bambi 9:22 AM  

@Russell Long -- Dammit, guy, I'm a boy!

Unknown 10:02 AM  

I know PEEDEE from the old ECHL hockey team of that name. I wondered what the heck PeeDee stood for, and learned about the river. Obscure connection, but it worked for me since I am only aware of a handful of rappers and TPAIN ain't one if them. I did see Run DMC in concert tears ago, but that's about the last time I paid attention to rap.

Anywho, am I the only one who thought that WARE was a singular, so that 'Goods' should be WARES? I got the answer, but....

AliasZ 10:10 AM  

Lovely theme and excellent execution. At first look I thought they are two puzzles for the price of one. Then when I got the GREAT DIVIDE and BACK IN BLACK, it all made sense, although I caught on to the hidden BACKs at HUMP[BACK]WHALE.

A flood of theme phrases popped into my head, starting with John Osborne's Look BACK in Anger, William Inge's Come BACK, Little Sheba, Welcom BACK, Kotter, The Beatles' PAPERBACK Writer which is what I thought 75A should have been, Neil Young's Hold BACK the Tears, Janet Jackson's Come BACK to Me and many others. But the one best suited for today has to be this old gem by the Los Lobos: BLACK is BLACK, I Want my Baby BACK.

I never went horseback riding in fear of throwing my back out, or at least getting a lower back pain, and I wouldn't want to come back for more. I do have a lucky bounce-back ability though, and I am sure EMT's would be able to bring me back to life, in which case I would be right back where I started. The journey back home can be difficult, especially if you can only enter through the back door. But if there is a silverback gorilla in the back yard, that may be a problem. You have to pace back and forth, which definitely takes a back seat to sitting back and relaxing. Now I think I'll go back to bed and prepare for getting back to work tomorrow.

See you all back here then.

r.alphbunker 10:27 AM  

Never heard of BACK IN BLACK but it was a perfect revealer. @Glimmerglass's comment was another greater revealer. Everything makes sense now. This is how a puzzle should end!

Carola 10:39 AM  

I join in the praise for this creative theme and very nifty construction feat. I solved the puzzle on paper and after finishing, highlighted the intersecting theme answers. Very pretty.

Fauna rundown: ENA the DOE (in the WOODS), MAKO and HUMP[BACK]WHALE (in the SEA), COW, NAG, EWES (homeless), WATER VOLE (in the PEEDEE or NIAGARA River).

Liked the WATER-EIS-SNO trio on the right edge.

Unknown 10:40 AM  

Loved it! Mistakenly wrote ESPIEs instead of ESPIED for 12d and for the life of me could not parse the theme at 39a. I kept seeing it as THE something, not THERE. Eventually corrected it. Couldn't figure out the "Two Halves" thing either. Kept rereading Rex's explanation, and *now* I see the black diagonal line...DUH. Very fun, great job Mr. DerKazarian!

Captcha = wartypo

Ω 10:40 AM  

Wow - I wonder what the 12:50 a.m. commenter said in order to get deleted by OFL. I can count on one hand and have fingers left over the number of times I've seen that happen.

T-rAIN anyone? My CrossRivers data base is pretty much limited to European Rivers with one or two from Asia. This is a pure Natick of the first order, i.e. Cultural Reference of limited scope (as in NC WYETH) crossing a geographical reference of limited scope (as in NATICK, MA). Hell, I couldn't tell you the fourth longest river in Michigan and I've lived here for most of my 50+ years and you're asking me to know the 4th longest in the Carolinas? The entire rap discussion is a non sequitur. As a point of comparison, BACK IN BLACK has sold 50,000,000 copies world-wide. All of T-PAIN's albums together haven't sold 5,000,000. Lot's of Rap artists are known outside their genre, Jay-Z, Tupac, The Notorious B.I.G., Dr. Dre; T-PAIN isn't one of them. Simply, this is a bad crossing.

I am familiar with DERON Williams, but that E was a "pick-the-vowel" situation for awhile. Having WATERmOLE next to it didn't help. OTOH, I normally go through Ontario whenever I head to the NE US, so Lewiston is where I normally cross between NY and Ontario, making NIAGARA a gimme.

Beer Rating - North Peak's Diabolical IPA - An aggressively hopped puzzle, with a nice caramel sweetness. This puzzle features multiple additions which provide an abundance of creativity & just enough challenge to be interesting.

David Hidalgo 10:47 AM  

@AliasZ - Los Bravos, not Los Lobos.

chefbea 10:49 AM  

Did not like the puzzle…too tough for me!! Did not understand the title and still don't.

Of course loved 62 Down and of course knew Peedee!

joho 10:49 AM  

I really enjoyed jumping across the GREATDIVIDE as I discovered which were the 4 BACK squares that gave us the 8 theme answers. It was fortunate and perfect that GREATDIVIDE and BACKINBLACK are both 11's.

I loved this! Thank you, Alan DerKazarian!

Oh, and I wasn't familiar with Otto DIX' work but find it fascinating. Another plus.

Nancy 11:03 AM  

Got all the theme answers before getting BACK IN BLACK. Of course, by then I knew that "back" was in the black square, but had no idea why and thought it was arbitrary. It was a great reveal. But I had sABITHA, giving me sPAIN. Had "tend" instead of MIND, which gave me tASS (???)instead of MASS and FeNE (???) instead of FINE (a term I don't know.) A good puzzle, but with major irritations for me, and certainly in no way easy.

Joe The Juggler 11:06 AM  

One of my pet peeves appeared twice in this puzzle: treating Ñ and N as the same letter.

@ Andrew: my first thought was that "Goods" and "WARE" is a mismatch, but I'm not so sure. In the rhyme "Simple Simon" "ware" is used to refer to the pies he's selling. It's sort of like considering a bunch of count items collectively as a mass. (Either that or it's poetic license just to get it to rhyme with "fair".)

AliasZ 11:06 AM  

@David Hidalgo, of course, Los Bravos. I just wanted to see if anyone was listening. My sincere apologies to Los Bravos and Los Lobos.

Joe The Juggler 11:14 AM  

It felt pretty easy to me. I had a little backtracking at first when I wanted to put in "THEREAND NIAGA". It didn't take too long to realize that wasn't right.

I didn't think the theme was done very well. I didn't like that sometimes "BACK" was a stand alone word, and sometimes it was part of word either before or after "the great divide". In fact, there was another big "sometimes": "back" is in the black across the great divide only sometimes.

AliasZ 11:23 AM  

On T-PAIN and rap in general:

Let me reiterate that I hate rap references. Rap has been around for 35 years, so I got over it, thank you. I accept it but I do not enjoy it. @Benko, I hope your preemptive strike wasn't intended to make everyone who dislikes rap feel inferior or ashamed, or to discourage them from expressing their feelings sincerely and without fear. I have accepted many entries I disliked over the decades of crossword solving as entirely legitimate, in-the-language-valid fill.

@Steve J, rap is certainly not just a flash in the pan, which means we will have to endure it for some time to come. With its puny 400+-year history on the other hand, opera has outlived its usefulness by at least 365 years, and it is about to go by the way of the dodo bird any time now. Millions of hip-hop fans agree.

jae 11:47 AM  

Just to clear things up for future reference ENA was Bambi's Aunt. ENA is also the nickname of Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg a one time Queen of Spain.

@Z the 12:50 comment was a double post of the preceding comment if I'm remembering correctly.

Master Melvin 11:49 AM  

Driving south on I95 thru SC the roadside signs tell you that you cross the Little PEE DEE River then the Great PEE DEE R. I wondered if they were both tributaries, but Wiki says the main river is known as either the PEE DEE or the Great PEE DEE. The Little PEE DEE is a tributary.

Doesn't it violate some kind of rule to have both PEE and PEE DEE in the same puzzle?

Sandy K 11:50 AM  

Loved the BACK IN BACK theme!

This was fun to solve- lots of 'satisfaction' in getting BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN/BEND OVER BACKWARDS, HUMPBACK WHALE, and some other answers that elicited a hmmmm...wonder if they were intentional.

Somehow I had heard of T-PAIN somewhere... and guessed right at SCREEN/DERON!

Interesting puzzle. Enjoying the FEEDBACK...

Sandy K 11:52 AM  


lawprof 12:20 PM  

Clever, elegantly-constructed puzzle. Even the grid looks lovely, with that long diagonal divide. Sort of picked up the theme early, recognizing that "back" was part of the theme answers, but took some time to understand that it was hidden in a black square. Aha moment came with 89-90A, BROKE[BACK]MOUNTAIN, which proved hugely helpful with the rest of the fill.

Alas, I succumbed to the TbAIN/bEEDEE crossing. I knew I was naticked, so I ran the alphabet and came up with 19 plausible entries (your count may vary), so I knew I had only a bit more than a 5% chance of finishing correctly. Although there seems to be some dispute about whether we NYT X-word solvers should be familiar with rappers (sniff), I gather that many agree that obscure Carolina rivers should be familiar to us. (For USA Today solvers, it would presumably be the other way 'round).

Anoa Bob 12:42 PM  

I also finished (DNFed, really) with sPAIN rather than T-PAIN. Shoulda known that wasn't right

Liked many things in this fine piece of puzzling. The title seemed almost arbitrary, though. "Across the GREAT DIVIDE" would have been nice.

Heads up. Merl Reagle has an article in today's WaPo celebrating 100 years of xwords.

OISK 12:47 PM  

Never heard of Tpain, and did not recall the Peedee, so I was doomed to a one square DNF. I hate rap-hip-hop clues. But let me be clear; I have never suggested that they don't belong in the puzzle, just that they, like any other "special" topic should not dominate, and that I personally hate the genre and anything associated with it. I have never suggested that my own preference for opera is superior, but it is my preference, and expressing our preferences is keeping this BLOG really interesting. There really is someone who calls himself T-Pain? A more serious complaint about rap-hip-hop clues is that when you are missing one letter, it could be just about anything. No way to guess intelligently. T-Bain? T-Wain? T-Dain? All sound just as good (or bad) to me. I went for the Beedee river…

One bad square does not ruin a puzzle for me, and this was a very fine Sunday.

Blue Stater 12:50 PM  

I, alas (and predictably), do *not* join in the praise for today's puzzle. For me it's in the running for Worst Sunday Puzzle of All Time. I keep hoping that Sunday will be declared a Trick-Free Zone as it used to be -- even under the WS regime -- until fairly recently. But no such luck today.

Sir Hillary 12:50 PM  

What an awesome puzzle. Ironically given the faux bifurcation, the grid feels really open for a Sunday. I didn't even notice the bifurcation until about one third of the squares were filled.

I echo everyone here who loved the theme and the reveal. "Back In Black" was my soundtrack in the summer of 1980, when I spent waaaaaaay too long sanding and staining my family's outdoor furniture just so I could listen again and again. To this day, it remains one of my favorite albums off all time.

@Milford, count me as simpatico with your husband in loving AC/DC. How great that your dog is Malcolm, as opposed to the more typical dog name Angus. In my opinion, Malcolm is the engine that drives everything the band does musically, and I would rank him second only to Keith Richards in the pantheon of rhythm guitarists. all-time favorite random celebrity encounter was Brian Johnson (AC/DC lead singer, for those unfamiliar) in 1989 at the Raleigh-Durham airport. My wife and I had gotten married the day before and were connecting to Hilton Head for our honeymoon. He was passing through on the way to a golf outing for Rock Against Drugs (remember that campaign?) He invited us to "pull up a pew" and bought us each a beer. He could not have been nicer.

JC66 12:50 PM  

Hey guys, think WAREhouse.

Questinia 12:53 PM  

Dim-witted Q looks at grid... says "pretty".
Q solves part of NE until hitting black squares... says "that's annoying".
Q figures 27A means there's an afterlife puzzle "on the other side" and starts in at SE corner. Thinks maybe they will all be capcha words.
Drool recedes in Q's mouth as 20 W lightbulb goes off in Q's head...
"I need to go BACK and put 'BLACK' somewhere".
Q *solves* for BlACK MOUNTAIN. Gets the reveal at the unlikeliness of WON'T BlACK DOWN and BlACK (W)HALE.
20 W => 60 W => 120 W until Happy Pencil-Tada.

Perfect Sunday puzzle, Mr DerKazarian.

Anonymous 1:12 PM  

@BlueStater The very first Shortzian Sunday puzzle in 1993 had a "trick". After 20 years, I think the ship has sailed.


Steve J 1:42 PM  

Re WARE: As JC66 says with "warehouse", think of WARE in terms of its role in complex nouns (a few other common ones: software, hardware, dinnerware, cookware). I don't think it's commonly used on its own anymore, though, and I hesitated with it for a moment.

Re rap/hip-hop: To clarify, I'm not saying everyone should embrace it (I don't listen to it myself, outside a select few artists), or that no one should have a preference for certain types of answers over others. And I agree that any puzzle that is over-reliant on any category is problematic. My point in agreeing with @Benko is that hip-hop/rap seems to be the one category - even more so than sports and brand names/proper nouns - that prompts complaints from posters every single time they appear, even if it's just once in a puzzle.

Re T-PAIN: Regardless of what I said above, I see what people are saying about the T-PAIN/PEE DEE crossing being a Natick. I happened to know T-PAIN (only as a meme, though, and not as a rap artist: he's arguably more known for SNL appearances and being mocked for his over-reliance on Autotune than for his actual recordings), but he's definitely on the more obscure end and doesn't have the same sort of crossover appeal that artists like Run DMC, Dr Dre, Ice T and Ice Cube, etc. have. And PEE DEE is definitely very limited in its geographic scope (and could be anything, as I'll point out in a second). Either entry is fine on its own, but has to be crossed carefully. This crossing was definitely a tough one.

@Questinia: I thought 27A referred to the afterlife at first, too, including having GREAT DIVINE at one point (the river could have easily been PEE NEE, as far as I knew).

@Alias Z: I think opera has a long way to go before joining the dodo in memory. But it's definitely been in a long, slow decline, as the financial struggles of many companies even before the Great Recession showed.

@Z: as @jae mentioned, the deletion was just a double post.

Anonymous 1:50 PM  

did not like this puzzle-the theme was clever tho the title was totally wrong headed- but some of the answers were obscure and who cares. not one of my favorites

mac 2:26 PM  

Very good Sunday puzzle. I knew there were some backs hiding somewhere, but I had EVERYTHING above the divide, nothing below, before I bothered to figure it out. That certainly sped me up.

Siabara before Niagara, and I tried the olden "nutten" before nutted. Like oaken? Silken?

mac 2:29 PM  

The Neue Gallerie in NY probably has some Dix work. Love that place, its German expressionists and the restaurant.

Questinia 2:36 PM  

@ mac, The Neue Gallerie had an amazing exhibition of Dix back in 2010, I believe, and the restaurant is umglaublich gut!

Benko 2:42 PM  

@AliasZ: You're right, it was a preemptive strike. But, like @Rex and @SteveJ noted, rap seems to be the topic which elicits the most negative comments from solvers on a regular basis. I grew up with hip hop, born around the same time as it was, loving it. To me, music is music...some is good and some is bad, but genre bashing is pointless. I feel like the myriad comments regarding rap in the past have possibly made those of us who like it feel inferior and culturally unintelligent. I'm just expressing the opposing view in a way which is honest to my feelings.
That said, I don't like TPAIN's autotune gimmick, which is cheap and too easy, and would rather listen to some opera, which I also love.
@Z--PEEDEE is a relatively minor river, but the funny sound of its name and its umpteen appearances in crosswords probably make it memorable to many. But you're right, it's pretty obscure.
Also one trivia fact for everyone: BACKINBLACK is second only to Thriller in terms of global sales for an album.

Anonymous 2:55 PM  

As a big AC/DC fan, loved the theme. Enjoyable fill and clever crosses make this a fine Sunday puzzle.

ksquare 2:58 PM  

I recall passing through the Don SHULA toll barrier in southern Florida a few times ago and wondered what his claim to fame was. Now I know. I always enjoy learning somethin new from the puzzles.

Golden1020 3:10 PM  

Hey, I love solving the puzzle and often read the comments. Just wanted to throw in 2 cents about the PeeDee river - a rock from this river's region was once used as the standard for stable carbon isotope analysis - and values could be reported as some difference from the PDB (PeeDee belemnite) value. Just an oddball geology fact to help that name stick in your head (in case you're NOT from around there)!

JDipinto 3:18 PM  

Evan, "The Clock" is the name of a mid-1940's Vincente Minnelli film starring Judy Garland. A bit obscure, maybe, but still works as a stand-alone. "There And" remains the one non-stand alone.

I also contemplated CRASH for 89A and also thought "but it won - why would it be clued as a nominee?" (And I agree that BbM should've taken the prize.)

Tita 4:14 PM  

Chillax over folks who complain about rappers. It's just like a complaint about woodworking vocab or biochem vocab or an old celeb.

Remember - more than many other wordy-realm, rap's NUTTED spellings mean they can't be inferred. THAT'S why they rile so many of us. I bet that not all of the *bulk* are claiming it doesn't belong in the Gray Lady's grids. (For those that do, pls see everyone else's coments here.)

Puzzle? I sure liked it. A lot. Even with the dnf at TPAIN and BamA for BIGA.
Clever, clever, clever stunt, great revealer.
I semi-copped on to it at THEREAND AGAIN, thinking much like @Joe the J, but that got resolved right quicks-like.

Thank you Mr. DerKazarian for a wonderful tricky Sunday!!

Phil McHale 4:49 PM  

I liked the puzzle too and enjoyed cracking the theme.

I realize that the NYT Sunday Puzzle isn't particularly cryptic, but some of you may have heard that one of England's greatest crossword clue setters, Araucaria/Rev John Graham died last week at age 92, and included the phrase "time to go" as one of the answers in his last crossword. Puts all this TPain/Peedee stuff into perspective.

See for more on his style and best clues.

AJD 4:57 PM  

I found the puzzle's theme kind of dull and unmotivated, but that was because I solved all the theme answers before I even saw that there was a revealer—so I was like, okay, some black squares have BACK in them, but the puzzle doesn't make any attempt to hide which black squares do that, so couldn't they just be white squares and this would be a pretty pedestrian rebus-square puzzle and a little more challenging? And I never noticed the great divide at all.

So I dunno, the moral might be that if you're going to have an explanation for your theme at the bottom of the grid, the theme shouldn't be so easy to solve without that explanation that people get through the whole puzzle wondering what the point of the theme was.

Loren Muse Smith 5:46 PM  

I have been so busy with family, cleaning up, cooking, airport runs, that I haven't had time to post yesterday or today. I think yesterday's Walden/Wilbur collaboration was excellent. When I got the email from the NY Times about the week's puzzles and saw their names for Saturday, I messaged Brad that I would just pull the covers over my head and sleep in on Saturday. So I was really, really happy that, though it put up a fight, I managed it!

The aha moment for today was so so satisfying. I adore themes like this. This will be one I'll remember for a long time.

I agree with @Evan that LACROSSE BALL is more of a "thing" than "lacrosse goal." Heck – if you lower the standards, we'd start having stuff like "lacrosse jersey" or "behind the back lacrosse goal," which my son can do and I just said that to brag about him.

I've canoed on the PEE DEE river, so that was easy.

Loved, loved, loved the clue for WATER VOLE. I didn't even know there was such a creature. Man. They must be pretty intrepid - even more intrepid than the lesser-known Water Pewits.

17D – "What a picker may pick." Wow. Where do I even start with that one. When my son was in fourth grade, I took him to the doctor's office for some illness. When the doctor got out that light thingy and said he needed to look into his nose, I said, "Dr. Meisel, I can assure you that you will find absolutely nothing in either nostril."

Alan – really, really great puzzle. Thanks.

Milford 7:11 PM  

@Sir Hilary - just read your Brian Johnson story to my husband - he loved it, but oh so jealous you had a beer with him!

And actually, we did have a dog named Angus for a brief time. :)

Ω 7:42 PM  

"This comment has been removed by a blog administrator."

as opposed to

"This comment has been removed by the author."


I don't recall seeing PEE DEE before today, but given the crossword friendly letters I can see how it would be a fairly common CrossRiver.

Most games have unique balls, LACROSSE BALLs, basketballs, baseballs, racquet balls, squash balls, and, my personal favorite, Ultimate's flat balls (AKA flying discs). Nevertheless, there is a certain green paint feeling to LACROSSE BALL.

T-BAIN - Romney Rapper
T-CAIN - Garden of Eden Rapper
T-DAIN - Snobby Rapper
T-EAIN - Scottish Rapper
T-FAIN - Italian World Cup Rapper
T-GAIN - Johnny Football Rapper
T-JAIN - Non-violent Rapper
T-KA-IN - Egyptian Rapper with soul
T-LAIN - T-LIE's brother
T-MAIN - Street Rapper
T-RAIN - Tyco Rapper
T-SAIN - Just Sayin'
T-STAIN - Sloppy British Rapper
T-VAIN - Carly Simon Rapper
T-WAIN - Conestoga Rapper
T-X-AIN - RRN Rapper
T-Z-AIN - Madcap Rapper from Michigan

Anonymous 9:39 PM  

Found this impossible and still don't really get the theme. Barely filled in half the grid after having finished every Sunday puzzle for many weeks. Came here expecting to see the puzzle denominated as "extra challenging" and was gobsmacked to see the word "easy" associated with it. I guess sometimes my mind and the constructor's are just on different planets.

Mr. Benson 10:35 PM  

Only complaint is I have no idea how the clue at 46A (Fins) goes with the answer of ABES. Googling it, I guess both both describe five dollar bills, but I've never heard "fins" used that way. Crossing the unfamiliar DENTALCARIES (?) and SES, those vowels could have been anything.

Anonymous 10:42 PM  

I figured out the "back" theme but didn't think it was particularly well-executed. I've heard of T-Pain but never followed him as I am not a hiphop fan. There is a use of TASS (amateur astronomical society) which made getting "mass" and "mind" rather than "TASS" and "tend" difficult; finally got it by giving in on "fine" as a coin classification term (talk about far-fetched!) because there is no word "fene." As for "nutted," the only references I have seen for that term is as the past tense for a slang vulgarism associated with sexual acts, as also pointed out by previous commenters here. When I solved the "great divide" clue, I thought it had something to do with the puzzle theme, but this was not the case- it was irrelevant to the theme. Got "Back In Black" because I'm somewhat familiar with ACDC. A lot of what I consider shoddy crosswordpuzzle-ese as well. Didn't think it was particularly easy; not impossible, but not easy. And not at all satisfying. How "back in black" theme relates to the puzzle title is a complete mystery to me. The title is generic ("two halves") whereas the missing "back" located evidently in the black squares is not related to a "divided halves" theme except extremely tangentially. Not a fan of this puzzle in the least.

Anonymous 10:46 PM  

Oh, and does a "picker" "pick" ore??? What in hell is that? I might think of a million clues for the word "ore" (itself a paradigmatic exemplar of lazy crosswordpuzzle-ese in the fill if there ever was one) but "picking" and "pick" would not be involved in any of them. Unless it has something to do with a pickaxe, ostensibly a common piece of gear for old-fashioned gold- and silverminers, but that IS a stretch. Stupid puzzle on the whole.

Anonymous 9:36 AM  

Surely everyone has heard of the navy landing ship USS Pee Dee River LSM(R)-517, launched 1945 and struck 1960.

Great puzzle!

oldbizmark 10:02 AM  

late to the party but have to say that Deron William's name is pronounced DERR-on, not DARR-on like you incorrectly point out in your post. Maybe that is an upstate thing (like the lack of difference in pronunciation between Erin and Aaron), but since it is his name, he can tell you that there is a difference.

winderspartan 8:23 PM  

having spent much of my recreational life on a golf course, "nutted" often refers to a very well struck golf ball. Fun puzzle but took me longer than I expected to finish the last ten percent.

spacecraft 12:30 PM  

As to the natick, my paper had the 8d clue as: "The Carolinas' ww______River," and since the ww made no sense to me I just tried the alphabet in the 8 square. From somewhere in my crazy memory came the sight of a poster on a telephone pole with the name T-PAIN on it. I remember thinking, this must be one of those rappers, and he wants us to feel his...whatever. I'll go on no further with that, you know where I'm at by now.

I was working off one of my gimmes, MOTORPOOL, when I filled in BROKE, and grokked that the black square must be "back." But I thought the next part would BE "back," i.e. NIATNUOM. But that didn't fit so I had to make my MOUNTAIN stand up straight.

I too got confused with the Los Bravos hit, thinking the revealer was BACKIsBLACK. But ELSINO was el no-no.

Overall, I liked the puzzle--theme, revealer and fill. NUTTED and U-NO-HOO excepted. PEEDEE? Wow. Washington crossing the...nah.

rain forest 3:03 PM  

When you get a Sunday puzzle where the title accurately describes the theme (two halves in one: the two halves defined by the diagonal blacks) the theme answers are all good phrases which have the word *back* contained in the black squares of that diagonal, and are placed symmetrically, and the dual revealer, BACKINBLACK, and GREAT DIVIDE, are in opposite halves and also symmetrically located, *AND* the fill is very good, *THEN* you have a great Sunday puzzle.

Of course there are those who will obsess about one or two entries that for some reason or other irks them, and ignore the brilliance in front of them.

Someone complained about 96D, "Dickens villain". Bill SIKES was a bonafide villain in Oliver Twist.

Dirigonzo 5:20 PM  

It took too long for the significance of BACKINBLACK to sink in but I eventually managed to get the grid done with my usual OWS, and we all know where that was. I didn't fully appreciate the elegance of both the theme and the construction until I arrived here to have it explained.

Has anybody mentioned that there's another pretty good song title at 30d/54d?

Anonymous 11:29 PM  

Would someone explain what the clue "ñ" means? Thanks.

Helpful Harry 6:45 AM  

@Anonymous, 11:29 PM - It would help if you specified what clue number you are talking about.

Anonymous 10:11 AM  



Helpful Harry 10:40 AM  

With so many media and sources in play, it is sometimes difficult to know exactly what another solver is seeing, but in the puzzle as I can view it, the "clue" you are asking about is simply a tilde (~), which signifies the absence of a clue because of the tricky nature of the puzzle. I cannot tell where you got the ñ from - is that how it appears in your puzzle?

Solving in Seattle 2:15 PM  

I still don't understand the puz title" "Two halves in one." Did understand that "back" was omitted (or represented by a black square), which made for a fun solve and clean fill, Alan.


I worked on my uncle's ranch one Summer and rounded up the cattle and got the calves ready for auction. That's the right clue.

SiS lol award of the day to @Z for his T-PAIN lookalikes.

Capcha: auhenre. Your old-maid aunt summoning her butler?

Dirigonzo 4:15 PM  

@SiS - I seem to recall that someone suggested that the "two halves" refers to the two sections of the grid that are completely separated by black squares, and the "in one" indicates the sections are rejoined by the theme answers that begin in one section and end in the other, joined by the missing BACK in the black squares. Makes sense to me.

Anonymous 7:29 PM  

Helpful Harry...Thank you, thank you. I finally know what the ñ clue. I have given up on lots of NYTs puzzles because I didn't know that. I owe you a beer!!

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