Philippine seaport with reduplicative name / TUE 12-24-13 / Class of automobile inspired by Ford Mustang

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Constructor: David J. Kahn

Relative difficulty: Challenging (*for a Tuesday*)

THEME: NELSON MANDELA (36A: Late political leader who wrote "Long Walk to Freedom") — bunch of Mandela-related answers

  • PRESIDENT OF / SOUTH AFRICA (18A: With 60-Across, 1994-99 role for 36-Across)
  • ROBBEN / ISLAND (8A: With 68-Across, prison where 36-Across spent 18 years)
  • F.W. DE KLERK (29A: Predecessor of 36-Across and sharer with him of the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize)
  • APARTHEID (48A: Bygone policy in 60-Across)

Word of the Day: PONY CAR (24A: Class of automobile inspired by the Ford Mustang) —
Pony car is an American class of automobile launched and inspired by the Ford Mustang in 1964. The term describes an affordable, compact, highly styled car with a sporty or performance-oriented image. (wikipedia)
• • •

I don't know why the Times runs puzzles like this—dashed-off trivia-crammed puzzles about the recently deceased. This doesn't come off as tribute. Comes off as a rush job. Bunch of data crammed in a grid. Fake theme answers like TATA (46A: Father, in Xhosa, and a nickname for 36-Across) and ATTENDEE (3D: Barack or Michelle Obama, at the memorial service for 36-Across) only add to the haphazard, arbitrary, whatever-fits feel of the "theme." A well-crafted puzzle with a clever hook of some kind would've been worthy of the man. This just feels weirdly slapdash. Certainly NELSON MANDELA's life is worth commemorating. I just don't quite see this as rising to the level of "commemoration." Also, "role" is a very, very weird word to describe PRESIDENT OF / SOUTH AFRICA. Broadly defined, sure, I guess "role" works, but I was like, "Mandela was an actor???"

This puzzle was much harder than your typical Tuesday, but I think it's an asterisk puzzle—not made in accordance with normal Tuesday standards. Singular. An outlier. A obituarial one-off. PONY CAR!? Yeesh. That, crossing DYE, nearly derailed me. Never heard of a PONY CAR. I LOL'd at TWO-D (27D: Having no depth, briefly), which came up in a recent Rex Parker Facebook discussion as one of my reader's Most Hated Crossword "Words." I suggested we start saying it as one word, TWOD, pronounced just like it looks. We could use it as a pejorative for someone we don't like. "Don't be such a TWOD, Steve." It's good because it sounds profane but is merely nonsensical. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go REPACK for my trip to the Philippines, where I am planning to REMAP ILO ILO (actually, I just have a really early appointment and so need to get some sleep).

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


retired_chemist 12:09 AM  

As usual, I enjoyed the puzzle much more than Rex did. Once I got 36A it all fell into place. Having seen the Mandela tribute, I got ROBBEN ISLAND easily, and almost all the rest I had known before. TATA was strange - it is either an affected goodbye or a female anatomical feature, so I needed the crosses for that.

Somewhere in crossworld, long ago, I heard some ranting about ILOILO and remembered the name. Lucky.

Good one. More medium than challenging. Thanks,Mr. Kahn.

JFC 12:14 AM  

Rex, even if I were to agree with everything you said, I would still say you are in need of a greater perspective. Actually, I agree with almost everything you said. But let it go. It's only a puzzle and it gets a lot of related stuff into a small grid. And you didn't even mention RAFT and AFT....


Steve J 12:23 AM  

I am *not* a TWOD.

(TWOD is how I read it when I was filling in the puzzle; didn't grok TWO-D until I read Rex's commentary. I didn't like IN 2D when that showed up a few weeks ago; time has not warmed me to it.)

I may have liked this more had it been timely. Coming nearly three weeks after his passing, it seemed kind of odd. And this just felt like trivia, some of it odd.

The supporting fill didn't offer any zip, and some of it was quite subpar.

If anyone deserved a tribute, it was NELSON MANDELA. But this didn't measure up to the man, from my perspective, especially coming quite a bit after what would have been the appropriate time. (Heartening back to Sunday's discussion, this is another advantage the indie puzzles have; much shorter lead times, allowing super timeliness.)

okanaganer 12:28 AM  

Rex comments that it seemed a bit slapped-together...yeah, okay, I guess. I know newspapers used to (or still do?) make up obituaries ahead of time, so just in case, they can be quick on the draw. I don't know if this one was constructed a while ago or since the sad event--no mention over on WordPlay. I was disappointed not to find MADIBA in the grid.

Anonymous 12:36 AM  

Trivia-crammed puzzle indeed.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good Rex.

Garth 12:39 AM  

"I don't know why the Times runs puzzles like this"
Perhaps because many solvers like myself find it enjoyable to solve puzzles like this.

"This doesn't come off as tribute."
Yes it does. It's a lovely thought and a perfectly nice puzzle.

"A well-crafted puzzle with a clever hook of some kind would've been worthy of the man."
A blog with a more balanced approach to its subject matter would be more worthy of the communities of solvers and constructors.

jae 12:39 AM  

Yep, a tough one! That's two tough Tues. in a row for me.  Probably because I was only half paying attention to the news.  Was iffy on spelling FW DE KLERK and on the ISLAND name.  Plus there was some tough stuff for a Tues.....CIE,ILO ILO, PONY CAR (you had to be around in the '60s), ARNO (as clued), LEDA...

Leer before OGLE.

This was just OK for a tribute puzzle and the constraints took their toll.  

Attendee Cie Mandelas 12:43 AM  

TATA was not arbitrary, that is specifically what he was called, I'd say maybe even more often than MADIBA.
It would have been nice tho to have a corresponding four letter theme word.

The thing is, the man is almost too great for a tribute puzzle or any sort of tribute would sort of pale next to who and what he was.

I saw David Kahn's name and honestly thought it was going to be a Peter O'Toole tribute.

The fact that APARTHEID is the same amount of letters as FWDEKLERK was enough for me.
And ROBBEN ISLAND was nicely parallel in the corners.

I thought FREEREI(G)N echoed the sentiment and ATTENDEE was a bit random, but I took to be a bonus atmospheric entry.

RAFT was a bleedover from yesterday.
My only writeovers were indYCAR/PONYCAR and YEa for 52 A "Vote for" which seems to suit the clue better than YES.

I do think the TWOD thing is funny and might be useful at some point. Depthwise, I don't understand the diff between ONED and TWOD.

Little shout out to REX at the bottom, or maybe that X was just Scrabblef-ing!

Anonymous 12:49 AM  

One thing I'll never understand is why puzzles with so much junk fill continue to get published. Tribute puzzles are a poor excuse. An extra 10 minutes spent on this puzzle almost certainly could removed half of the 18 or so questionable pieces of fill. Maybe I'm just the only person who fills their grids cleanly in half an hour or less...I don't know.

Theme felt odd with two sets of non-symmetrically placed themers.

Anoa Bob 12:55 AM  

ILO ILO shows up regularly and, like the recent appearance of ATTU, is always a welcome inroad into a puzzle for me. It's a seaport and a major province of Panay in the P.I. If you do a lot of puzzles, file it away---you'll see it again.

I betting, on the other hand, that this is the first and the last time we see FWDEKLERK in an xword puzzle. That alone was worth the price of admission for this one.

Unknown 1:05 AM  

I did a face plant at PFC, sticking with Pvt, which was insignatorially wrong. That gave me vWDEKLERK, which sounded almost right, and tIE for the French corporate suffix, which sounded totally arbitrary and therefore perfectly French. Oh well.

A couple of years ago I asked a buddy to watch our cats while my wife and I went on a trip to her parents in Michigan. "What can I bring back for you?" I asked. "A pony," he replied, gamely. It was a crossword moment in my pre-crossword existence. "Pony gift from Michigan" was the clue. What was solution? A Ford Mustang matchbox, I surmised. But I couldn't find one, and complained the same to my father-in-law. "But you don't need a Mustang, per se. Any pony car should do," he said, solving the present debacle (of that moment) and the present debacle (of this momen), all in one go.

Greg 1:13 AM  

I have a sincere question, and I hope this is taken by the readers of this blog as genuine and not trolling. Is there another venue that does essentially the same thing as the Rex Parker blog but without the constant vitriol? I really like the New York Times crossword puzzle; sometimes it's good, sometimes not so much. But part of the fun for me is in reading about others' takes on the daily puzzle, and this blog has always been the best venue that I know of for doing so. But I think I'm kind of done with the constant whining/bitching that the author has clearly embraced as his default response. I would love to hear of other options, if anybody knows of any.

Unknown 1:33 AM  


I like Rex for his word-of-the-day tutorials and media embeds, which are always excellent. I doubt you'll find anything like it anywhere else. Considering his production time is very short, I think he does a terrific job.

Rex's critical style is candid, and if it seems a bit cramped, well, that may be due to the small conceptual set available to crossword critics: quality of fill, consistency of theme solutions, cleverness of clueing. I'd you seek an expansion of the critical toolkit, then be the change you want to see. That's a cliche, but hey, that's how paradigms get shifted!

That said, glimmerglass wrote a hilarious parody of a Rex review in the comments section last Friday. I highly recommend it.

Bookdeb 1:37 AM  

@acme... Think of a line, a square, and a cube. OneD has only length, twoD has length and height, 3D has length height and depth.

@greg... Agreed.

Steve 1:48 AM  

Perhaps a nitpick, but a boycott is not a ban. That bugs me. A ban is not voluntary.

I agree MADIBA woulda been good. Coulda been paired off with SOWETO. And if they had been really really contemporary, now would've been a good time for SELFIE.

Btw, the BOXSET puzzle was naughtily clever. Thanks for the link, Rex!

Anonymous 6:00 AM  

I agree with you, rex....the only good news today was entering e-card and realizing the flood of made up e- words had stopped

Danp 6:23 AM  

TATA was a nickname for Mandela. In his memorial speech, Obama referred to him as Tata several times. Thus, it was appropriate for this puzzle.

Gareth Bain 6:35 AM  

I'm sorry, I found this puzzle tacky and borderline offensive. Yet another person using the Madiba "brand" for their own profit.

John Child 6:35 AM  

A bit too easy to be fun for me. From the first theme answer I filled in all the rest before resuming to work through the clues.

Some clunky fill, but I counted 65 theme squares not including the two non-symmetrical answers.

wreck 6:54 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
AliasZ 6:58 AM  

@Greg at 1:13 AM, in answer to your question, yes there are two other NYT puzzle blogs open to solvers' comments, the other two being NYT's own WordPlay hosted by Deb Amlen (accessible from the main puzzle page), and Diary of a Crossword Fiend by Amy Reynaldo, both linked also from Rex's blog.

No matter which blog you read, you will always find things in them, and in their readers' comments, with which you will vehemently disagree. That's the beauty of this community. We are invited freely to express our personal opinions -- thanks to their generosity of providing a forum for such expressions at no charge -- without getting into personalities. It is not the point. The point is hearing other people's opinions and presenting your own without being judgmental.

The Wordplay community has been dubbed an army of sycophants, and Rex as nothing more than an ill-tempered kvetcher who can find the most innocuous things to cause the collapse of Western Civilization. But after the initial shock wears off, you'll learn that each blog has its own style, its merits and drawbacks, and its own charm. One may appear TWOD-ish, another more 3D, depending on the day of the week and the mood of the blog-master/mistress. It's all in good fun, and a pleasant distraction from our daily pressures.

We all have the free will to ignore, be influenced by, or contradict, other opinions based on objective observation, or our subjective bias, as long as we are sincere, respectful, and maintain a sense of humor.

Enjoy yourself!

jberg 7:26 AM  

I was going to say that I found this one really easy - but then I read @ACME's comment about YEa seeming better than YES, and realized that I had left the former in; just never checked 48D.

@Gareth, I don't think I agree with you completely, but I shared at least some of the feeling -- once you think of it as a tribute puzzle, the presence of COOT or OGLE seems wrong. But that's asking too much -- the thought was sincere, I think.

@Okanaganer, I like the idea of pre-writing tribute puzzles like obituaries, but there's an important difference. Obits are written by salaried staff (except for those of the less famous, whose families or press agents write them and persuade the papers to publish them); puzzles are written by underpaid freelancers. So either they'd have to wait a long time to be paid, or the papers would have to make a big investment in building up its store of puzzles. At some point they would have to turn to assassination in order to realize their investment!

Beagle lover 7:51 AM  

I agree with Rex today.
I also agree with Steve. Boycott came into the English language when Irish tenant farmers united against an odious rent collector named Captain Boycott. No one would harvest the crops and the locals would not serve his family. The news travelled far. The British govt. paid 10,000 pounds to harvest a crop worth 500 pounds. The crop was saved, Captain Boycott got a new job in England and a new political weapon was born which 100 years later was used by the international community to force an end to apartheid.

Unknown 8:15 AM  

I agree with @acme, any puzzle would probably seem too small for the man. That said, I do appreciate the desire to do a tribute in a timely manner. Perhaps the fill suffered in an attempt to get something out sooner rather than later. But still, I appreciate the effort.

Milford 8:23 AM  

Found this fairly easy initially, the theme was obvious almost immediately. But I got hung up twice (or is that TWOD?). First at the Mustang clue, and I lazily asked husband, who knew PONY CAR without hesitating (even without being born in the 60s). The second was where I stubbornly had STop before STAY.

I don't mind a tribute puzzle per se, but it's definitely a different feel - more of a trivia test, less a word puzzle, I guess.

PERUSE is such a funny word, meaning read carefully or read casually. Personally, PERUSE is what I do with People magazine in the grocery line (hi, @lms!).

@Greg - as noted, there are the three main crossword blogs. I personally found them in Goldilocks fashion, with @rex being Just Right. But then again, I hail from a pretty sarcastic, snarky, everything-debated pool of friends and family, and find @rex's tone way less insulting than most.

Uma 8:26 AM  

Slow morning and I put in Walledin getting me _ _ deKlerk. That is when I thought that I have forgotten the name of one of the most powerful men of the era but I could remember every detail of Nelson Mandela. Says something about power and legacy.
Although, I must say that without DeKlerk, the transition might have been a lot messier.

Katzzz 8:37 AM  

Today I learned that "peruse" has two contradictory meanings. Always thought it meant "to look over or through in a casual or cursory manner" (according to Merriam-Webster). Now I find the first definition is "to examine or consider with attention and in detail."
And though I was a teenager in the '60s, I never heard of a "pony car" before this morning.

Mohair Sam 8:46 AM  

I normally don't mind tribute puzzles, but this one should have been skipped or turned into a brilliant Sunday. I don't totally agree with @Gareth Bain, but his comment of "borderline offensive" made me think.

I thought PONYCAR was a nickname for the Mustang and only the Mustang. Hmmm, live and learn.

I see we have more twods complaining about @Rex's attitude. As they say in the military: "Don't let the bastards grind you down" Rex, your critical grumpiness and wit is exactly why we come here. But you already know that.

retired_chemist 8:50 AM  

@ ACME -

@bookdeb is right. The analogous clue for ONE-D would be "Having no depth or width, briefly." So, technically the clue also kinda fits ONE-D, but IMO about as well as Béarnaise sauce serves as an ice cream topping.

I started with eWOD there because I misplaced Née. Sigh.....

chefbea 8:53 AM  

Tough puzzle but I got thru it. Never heard of pony car. I too had walled in

On to Christmas!!

Anonymous 8:58 AM  

Other 'Pony Cars' included the Plymouth Barracuda, like the original Mustang, a styled body on a pedestrian chassis and powertrain. The Mustang was nothing more than a Ford Falcon with sleeker sheet metal, really the original lipstick on a pig.
And as for Rex's attitude, he just wouldn't be the same if he took 'normalizing' meds. Like Tennessee Williams who said he'd put up with himself rather than go into therapy, which would have robbed him of his talent.
So it goes

retired_chemist 9:08 AM  

Hand up for never having heard of a "PONY CAR." Has s(gt)FC for 24D, leading to sONY CAR for a while. Wondered if the sound system gave the car its sobriquet. Not.....

Dan 9:14 AM  

On the subject of "twod" as a word... I recently solved a puzzle that referred to the D TEN tank gun, and all of a sudden I was like, "Wait, you mean STEN is actually S10?" But no, it's not. It really is "sten".

But I wonder if there's some other common crosswordese phrase I'm misreading as a single word...

joho 9:15 AM  

@Rex, I wrote in the margin: is a TWOD related to a twit? And, yes, I agree, I think it should be used from now on as an derisive adjective. Much better than TWO D.

I can't decide, is the EIRE/AIR cross good or bad?

I just realized after doing this that I don't really like tribute puzzles. I even did a SNL tribute which included MORECOWBELL which was summarily rejected. Now I see why. I think I'd rather read or watch tributes about Nelson Mandela than see his life crammed into a 15x15 square. I know this is meant in the right spirit and I totally take it that way, but the vehicle here is too small to really honor the man.

Z 9:20 AM  

The Commentariat is in rare form today.

@Gareth Bain - as the only known South African here, your response carries more weight than most. Nevertheless, I was a bit surprised at the "borderline offensive" response. Our (the USA) conflicted response to APARTHEID in the '70's and '80's made it one of the central "Who Are We, Really?" issues of my 20's. Having a tribute in whatever form one expresses oneself just seems a natural response to me.

@Garth - Yep. Lots of people do like tribute puzzles. I'm generally not a big fan, preferring tributes come in essay/poetry/painting/song form, but as tribute puzzles go this one was fine. Maybe one more editorial turn to rework a section or two.

@Attendee Cie Mandelas - Your X comment made me chortle. Touché.

@cascokid san - "which sounded totally arbitrary and therefore perfectly French." I often have that response to German answers.

@Milford - I don't get people who don't get snark. Please lighten up people. I understand when a snarky comment of mine gets misunderstood here, it is hard to convey snark absent body language and intonation, but why do so many people jump to assume the worst? What really gets me shaking my head are the questions like today's and yesterday's about other blogs. OFL has had those links to other blogs, independent puzzles, his other blog, and other crossword sites as long as I've been coming here. You don't like the tone here? Rex has already told you where to go.

PONY CAR has to be a gimme for someone who lives in the hometown of Henry Ford. My only stumbling block was not parsing WALL OW-N correctly and thus questioning the W in FW DEKLERK. The space finally moved and I was finished. Typical Tuesday time for me.

Carola 9:21 AM  

I found the puzzle a lovely tribute in content and layout (as @ACME noted, the symmetry of ROBBEN ISLAND and PRESIDENT OF SOUTH AFRICA - I find it interesting and pleasing when words fit that way).

With the clue for 8A making the theme clear, I thought the puzzle was going to be easy, but I was brought up short by being unable to remember FW DEKLERK without most of the crosses.

I liked how REMAP (used figuratively) unites DEKLERK, MANDELA, and APARTHEID.

Do-overs: BITter before BITING and YEa before YES.

AliasZ 9:28 AM  

There is a lot to like in today's puzzle, first and foremost the honoree of the tribute NELSON MANDELA, a remarkable man indeed. But since this has been fully covered, allow me concentrate a bit on the fill.

I loved BONY and PONY CAR, BAN and ALIENATE, the double meaning of PERUSES, FREE REIN and My Bonnie LIES OVER the Ocean. The lower half of a choir is well represented by ALTOS and BASSI. If STARER is the rubbernecker, staree must be the one being OGLEd. There ARNO ESSO stations in the US.

I'd bet dollars to doughnuts that David Kahn thought of REX Parker when he entered 70A.

There was an unpopular TAX
That gave us no cause for tail WAGS.
When levied on TEA,
We all said: "NO FEE!"
And Britain was given the AXE.

ILO ILO, it's off to work I go... TATA for now.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good day.

George Barany 9:40 AM  

Nobody does tributes better than @David Kahn, one of my all-time favorite constructors [click here and here for two of his books that I have on my nightstand]. He even managed to squeeze in a shout-out to @REX as his last theme entry. Some solvers might have difficulty with the F of PFC that overlaps with the first initial of NELSON_MANDELA’s partner in ending APARTHEID. Having David’s puzzle appear on Xmas eve is highly appropriate, what with “peace on earth, good will to men” being a pretty concise summary of Mandela’s legacy.

@Michael Hanko, @Martin Herbach, @Tom Williams and I put together Elba Was He … and posted it on our website a day or two before the funeral. Not too surprisingly, three of our theme entries are an exact match. Our puzzle has its own Natick, but we were able to make a virtue out of this shortcoming by adding six circles which give the solver a particularly satisfying bonus answer. The aforementioned link also directs to other sites that may inspire or amuse you.

cacjac 9:44 AM  

Thanks Beagle Lover. I had that same nitpick as Steve
with boycott, but glad to learn of its origin. And I'm no car guy but I've heard PONYCAR plenty(maybe it's
regional-chicago, here).
And after too many rough Fridays or Saturdays when
I take forever, or DNF, only to see others say it's easy,
how could today be anything but a typical, or even easy Tuesday?

chefbea 9:50 AM  

On another subject…anyone else having a problem with yahoo mail??? What's going on??

MADIBA 9:54 AM  

extremely easy. Too easy. bah, MADIBA should have been in this grid at the very least. utter crap puzzle

Tita 10:07 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pete 10:18 AM  

A tribute puzzle might well contain moral attributes that the honoree personified. Say steadfastness, reconciliation, any of dozens might come to mind. Instead we are treated to tangential people, places, nicknames. We got a brief bio, not a tribute.

Lewis 10:53 AM  

I have nothing to add... but happy Christmas Eve, all!

r.alphbunker 10:56 AM  

The best tribute puzzle I have ever done was George Barany's puzzle commemorating the 100th birthday of Alan Turing available here

BEQ had a "commemorative" puzzle for the iPad released on the day after it was announced. See here

What made these puzzles noteworthy was that their fill was not straight biographical data but rather they played in a creative way with some aspect of their subjects life: Barany's with encryption, BEQ's with the interest that Steve Jobs had in Eastern mysticism and the Internet.

Most commemoratives of the Kennedy assassination left me flat because they were too biographical, but Michael Sharp's was interesting because it was about the conspiracy theories that have arisen from the event. I don't remember where I got the puzzle from

Perhaps a puzzle featuring forgiveness or patience would be a fitting tribute to Nelson Mandela.

Loren Muse Smith 10:59 AM  

@anoa bob - ILO your inroad? I believe you that it shows up enough. I guts the beauty of having a mind like mine like a steel colander is that I learn (and promptly forget) lots of interesting tidbits.

@Laurence Katz - so do STARERS PERUSE rather than OGLE?

Rex - yes, let's coin the noun TWOD as a kind f twit. And I get the TWOD Nod today because my PONY CAR was first "town CAR," and I thought, "wow. Who knew?"

@joho - the AIR/EIRE cross did't draw my ire.

"Oops" before YIPE, which made that whole corner with its ROBBEN spelling a big SNAG for a while.

I, too, am so-so on tribute puzzles, but I finished this one, unlike a lot that I just put down and go off to do something else, so today's was ok by me.

Happy Holidays, fellow REXites! I received an early Christmas present - plane tickets to NYC this March for the ACPT! Anyone who can - be there!!! It's so worth the money!

Rexfan 11:00 AM  

I wish people who whine about Rex would just go away. The rest of us love his insane rants so give us our fun and quit your fucking bitching. These puzzles are written by Paid Professionals so the harshest criticism of their flaws, especially when any idiot can see the puzzles can easily be improved with just a Moment's Thought, is entirely justified. Rex seems to be the only writer with the balls to reveal the ugly truth about new York times crosswords, and it's fun for us to hear him rant, so go away!

Tita 11:06 AM  

@casco - cute story. PONYCAR was a gimme for me too...

I have seen some awesome tribute puzzles - from our own JohnV.
(I edited this to not give it away, since maybe it hasn't been published yet?)

This one did seem slapped together and unworthy.

I thought as "just a puzzle" it was fine, though. Liked YIPE for "Oh no!".
Didn't we just see REMAP yesterday? Or was that in the @acme-reviewed Rex puzzle she pointed us to yesterday.

STARER had company in his rubbernecking at OGLE.
Have NEVER seen ILOILO - hope I can remember it - seems handy.

Put in arcS before WAGS for Dog tail motions.

Like Log chopper in its literal sense next to Saw logs .

Merry Christmas to all!!!!

Bob Kerfuffle 11:11 AM  

No complaints about the puzzle from me. No matter what the subject, the crossword format imposes severe constraints on what goes in - not every word can be relevant to the theme.

@chefbea - Yes, I had a problem with Yahoo mail this morning, although it seems to have been fixed for now. After the trouble a few weeks ago, I have that terrible feeling that I should start using a different mail service -- but I have such an investment of history in Yahoo!

Fred Smith 11:25 AM  

I'm on the side of those here who are put off by Rex's rant.

Hey, he's built up an amazing franchise and deserves abundant credit for it. And if he has issues with specific fill or the puzzle as a whole, let's hear it!

But I believe he's overstepping his license when he lapses into vitriol. At this point, he's not only dissing the constructor -- he's dissing us as well.

JMO ...

Another Rexfan 11:35 AM  

@Rexfan - I couldn't agree more!

Joe The Juggler 11:41 AM  

I liked it. It felt more like medium for a Tuesday to me.

r.alphbunker 11:44 AM  

I am of the opinion that this blog is the creation of Rex Parker and the people who choose to take time to help him comment on the puzzle. How many of us would come here just to read what Rex Parker says?

Next year I am going to view Rex Parker as just another commentator who happens to have more HTML available to him when his writes his comments than we do.

What distinguishes Rex Parker from us is the Donate button. We work for free. This happens a lot on the Internet. Youtube gets sold for billions of dollars because of the millions of unpaid "workers" who uploaded their videos for free.

Jaron Lanier's "Who Owns the Future" is an excellent discussion of this inequity.

Anonymous 11:48 AM  

Thought this would be extremely easy as I wrote in most of the answers immediately, only to be naticked by 3-D,24-A,and 29-A. I even had WALL--IN, P-NYCAR, and F-DEKLERK but never heard of a pony car and could only guess at an initial for DeKlerk, and WALLEDIN was grammatically impossible and made hash of the cross words. Oh well, tomorrow has got to be better.

Unknown 12:28 PM  

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Anonymous 12:32 PM  

Definitely medium at most for a Tuesday and probably more like easy-medium for anyone with decent knowledge of Mandela. My time was a minute faster than my Tuesday average. I liked it.

Mohair Sam 12:35 PM  

Whoa @r.alphbunker. I think a speak for many non-constructors and non-top crossword solvers when I say that I enjoy the comments of so many people on this site, but would probably not be looking up their crossword blog and certainly not be clicking their donate button.

Rex works against a self-imposed deadline, works without an editor (think net), finds definitions, links links, and gets this stuff out there quick for folks to enjoy or to rip apart. Those who disagree add to and often improve the conversation - but they have tons of time for reflection, googling, and chin scratching before putting their thoughts out.

Christmas Eve, gotta go - but let me say that Rex's blog works for reasons other than HTML availability.

Peter G. 12:53 PM  

Why do I continue to be amazed that Rex (1) celebrates his own cultural cluelessness (how can one not have heard of a 'pony car' and have lived in the U.S. for any length of time) and (2) then imply that using a word that he doesn't know is evidence of bad puzzle construction. Are we all expected only to enjoy puzzles with all-known words simple enough to solve in under 10 minutes? Isn't it possible to enjoy the form by actually being puzzled from time to time, and thereby learning something? Something occasionally beyond the SAT-level stuff that too-frequently trips up Rex and compels his confessions ...

lawprof 1:10 PM  

PERUSE seems to suffer the same ambiguity as the word "scan." Both are used in almost diametrically opposed ways, viz, (1) to read over carefully; vs. (2) to read quickly and superficially. English is indeed a funny language.

r.alphbunker 1:24 PM  

@Mohair Sam

Good point. We posters have time to mull things over whereas Rex Parker is starting from a blank slate and often is the one who gives us things to mull over.

Mohair Sam 1:40 PM  

Thanks @r.alph

Benko 1:42 PM  

Who says this puzzle was a tribute, anyway? Just a puzzle referencing someone who is recently deceased. The "tribute" is all in the mind of the perceiver.
I'm a person with great respect for Mandela, but find it interesting that he has such a TWOD image among people in the popular culture. Just a nice peaceful old man who campaigned for his people's leading an organization whose violence was deemed as "terrorist" by many people at the time. I like him, I think he was justified, but he wasn't the Gandhi most people imagine him to be.

Masked and AnonymoUUs 1:52 PM  

This blog is like a Christmas present that I get to open up darn near every day of the year. And there's always a nice grab-bag of contents. Everything from Rexes to MetaRexes. From AliasZs to Zs. From fleakillers to chefgals. From anonymice to 2 ponies. From Acmes to Kerfuffles to r.alphs. Sometimes an old friend drops by. Or a new voice. Or a puz editor. Or a wiley constructioneer of the day. Day-um!


This NYT puz dealy is like a Christmas present that I get to open up darn near every day of the year. And there's always a nice gab-bag of contents. Everything from Nelson Mandela to Abraham Lincoln to Al Hirschfeld. From AAMILNE (17) to ZZTOP (25). Lotsa times you get a tricky little theme that some clever constructioneer has dreamt up. Sometimes you get to draw little pictures inside individual squares. Sometimes you get to draw big pictures by connectin the dots. Sometimes you get to do word searches. Sometimes -- most times -- you learn somethin new. Old friends like Berry, Kahn, Gorski, BEQ and Silk drop by. Day-um, dude...

Peace on Earth, Good Will toward Y'all.
Merry Christmas, Sir Shortzmeister.
Merry Christmas, 4-Oh.

Anonymous 2:04 PM  

I am constantly amazed (and amused) by the things Rex says he doesn't know but I am also constantly amazed (and amused) by what he does know. All of us have different realms of knowledge and ignorance and I don't think Rex is "dissing" anyone by what he says. His blog has personality. If it didn't have some snarkiness I probably wouldn't come here pretty regularly. Sometimes I disagree with Rex and sometimes I disagree with him. Isn't that the nature of literary criticism?

chefbea 2:08 PM  

@ M&A very well said!!

Merry Christmas to all!!

Tita 2:11 PM  

Best post of the year!

Merry merry Christmas!!

JenCT 2:11 PM  

PONY CAR a gimme for this Brooklyn girl...

@jberg: I totally agree with your "...puzzles are written by UNDERPAID freelancers..." (emphasis on the UNDERPAID being mine)

@Rexfan: "These puzzles are written by Paid Professionals..." Have you actually seen how little the constructors are paid? That definitely needs to be changed, and seeing how popular the NYT Crosswords are, it's shameful how little the constructors are paid for their efforts.

I agree that it's Rex's blog, and he can say whatever he darn well pleases. If you don't like it, there are other blogs to join.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

August West 2:26 PM  

@ Benko: Thanks for finally saying it. This latter-day fawning over Mandela is a bit confusing, to say the least.

"Now let’s get this out of the way because I am sure I will receive the typical response from the uninformed who will call me a racist rather than arguing the facts, which they usually seem to know nothing about.
Nelson Mandela was very instrumental in the defeat of apartheid, and apartheid is, and was, a crime against humanity. It is his methods I question, and his methods that the world tends to conveniently overlook..."

"You Americans are so uninformed. You think he's a peace leader. We say he was a terrorist. He wasn't in jail for political reasons. He was in jail because he killed people."

Anonymous 2:27 PM  

@Benko, thank god someone had the cahones to say that!! created an entire tree last night that was 75% ponycars but didn't know the name. must have been in deep brain though as I figured it out. Claire

mac 2:29 PM  

I found this puzzle easy, except for de Klerk's first initial. I guessed right.

Disappointing as a Kahn work, and disappointing as a tribute. Peruses, alienate and free reign are nice, but all it all there isn't a lot of beauty.

I like Rex just the way he is.

A happy Christmas Eve to all of you.

Anonymous 3:33 PM  

Whether you agree or disagree with Rex (and I don't all the time), I have to commend him for letting people who disagree with him comment freely on his blog. It's not uncommon for bloggers (and I'm not referring to any other Xword bloggers) to censor and outright ban people who voice disagreement... a thing very common on political blogs of all stripes.

-Martin Ashwood-Smith

ANON B 3:50 PM  

Come on. "Like"? From a Professor of English?
I almost said an English Professor but you weren't born
in England, were you?

Z 4:31 PM  

@M&A - Two pewits up.

Anonymous 4:54 PM  

I'm really tired of hearing about this guy.

GILL I. 5:15 PM  

Merry Christmas
Feliz Navidad
Frohe Weihnacten
Joyeux Noel
And all the other languages I missed...

jburgs 5:43 PM  

To be honest, I have not checked out any other Crossword blogs since coming across this one last year.

I enjoy the lively discussions, stories and learn lots of stuff.
It is tiring though, to hear people complain humourlessly about the attitude of the author. Please go to the other blogs so as not to soil your eye pits. I enjoy those who creatively express their complaints.

Also, to be honest, I have never clicked on the DONATE button. I will right after I can get a decipherable captcha which are incredible today.

Benko 6:36 PM  


I find it exceedingly ironic that the author of the blog post you linked to, decrying Mandela's violent revolutionary tactics, uses the symbol of a much bloodier revolution as the logo for his blog.

AliasZ 6:53 PM  

Buon natale (It.)
Счастливого Рождества (Ru.)
Καλά Χριστούγεννα (Gr.)
Fröhliche Weihnachten (Ger.)
Mele Kalikimaka (Haw.)
Felix dies nativitatis (Lat.)
Wesołych świąt (Pol.)
Vrolijk Kerstfeest (Dutch)

Kellemes karácsonyi ünnepeket (Hu.)

@M&A, thank you for the loveliest post of the year, a beautiful Christmas present to us all.

Thom Jefferson 7:00 PM  

@August West:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.

Seems to me that Mandela just did his right and his duty.

chefwen 7:39 PM  

@Gill I.P. I was going to mention
MELE KALIKIMAKA but I see @AliasZ beat me to it.

Like @mac and others, I like Rex just as he is, wouldn't change a thing.

@M&A - That was sweet, brought a tear to my EYE PIT.

r.alphbunker 7:42 PM  

I love your posts. I bet you are a writer. I am going to do your Xmas puzzle tomorrow and send you a report.

Norm C. 10:35 PM  


Thanks for the link to the Alan Turing/H.R.Haldeman puzzle. It's one of the cleverest puzzles I've seen, bordering on genius. It was especially timely to see it today since Turing was finally pardoned by the queen earlier this week.

Turing changed the world, and England thanked him by arresting him for "gross indecency" which, along with his sentence, led to his suicide a few months later.

Happy holidays to all.

sanfranman59 11:58 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 5:54, 6:13, 0.95, 25%, Easy-Medium
Tue 9:14, 8:12, 1.13, 79%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 3:44, 3:49, 0.98, 32%, Easy-Medium
Tue 5:36, 5:09, 1.09, 72%, Medium-Challenging

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Sqiar 6:29 AM  

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Anonymous 2:44 AM  

Hey Rex,
Ever been to Robben Island? Of course not. Stay in your world.

spacecraft 11:49 AM  

@Peter G.: I have lived in the U.S. for all (excepting a 3-year tour in England) of my 73 years, and until I picked up today's puzzle and forced in the letters on crosses, I never heard of the term PONYCAR. The only thing I can figure is that somebody saw the horse logo on a Mustang and started calling it that. But not where I ever lived.

Other NHO's: ROBBEN, which LIESOVER ILOILO. Good thing the NE had easy downs. Cluing seemed a little off for a Tues. "Large number" for RAFT, e.g. Not wrong or unfair ny any means, just...not-Tuesday.

With such a dense theme the fill is bound to suffer, and it duly does. The RE-sisters, E-anything and 2D attest to that. Can TAROT be pluralized? It's Tarot cards, no? Adjective or noun? I thought just the former.

The -E ending to ATTENDEE is one of the many curiosities in our crazy language. I would think the event itself was the "attendeE," while those present would be attendeRs. Maybe if they saw something startling, they'd be STAREES.

Oh well. I don't wish to ALIENATE anyone, but it seems as if there's a lot of reaction to OFL's "whining." Unfortunately, a RAFT of it sounds like more whining. Isn't whining ABOUT whining counterproductive? Would anyone like some EDAM with that?

Heavens, I can actually READ the word captcha today! Deal me out.

Ginger 1:47 PM  

Had a problem with the DECLERK initials, wasn't expecting that tack. That segment was my only hangup. The puzzle theme was easier than it should have been because I saw a 'spoiler' in yesterday's blog. Oh well.

As to OFL; Even on those occasions of disagreement, he is erudite and interesting. I also relate to his wry sense of humor. OTOH, I can do without personal attacks.

This blog, Rex, Real-timers and Syndilanders make up a community that never ceases to inspire and amaze. Thank You All

4 5's and a pair of sixes

Waxy in Montreal 2:38 PM  

Interesting that the underwhelming Hyundai Pony (had the misfortune of buying one in early '90's - don't think they were sold in the US) was anything but a PONYCAR!

Don't have any problem with this puzzle as a tribute to NELSON MANDELA. Like @ACME's suggestion that MADIBA might have been included.

RIP - Pete Seeger. "So Long, It's Been Good to Know Yuh”. And perhaps we can even look forward to a tribute puzzle in his honour.

Solving in Seattle 2:44 PM  

"There's 3 million white people-there's 14 million black people. Now does the name 'Custer' mean anything to you?" - Robin Williams.

Regardless of the circumstances of that quote, Mandela could have been Crazy Horse to DeKlerk's Custer after being released from prison and the ANC could have emulated what happened in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe and other African countries as the native blacks took over from white colonists.

He chose forgiveness and a path to peace and co-existence. Much like the victorious American revolutionaries offered peace and land to any of the British forces who wished to remain in America following Yorktown and the English surrender.

A revolution is not a dinner party, or writing an essay, or painting a picture, or doing embroidery; it cannot be so refined, so leisurely and gentle, so temperate, kind, courteous, restrained and magnanimous. A revolution is an insurrection, an act of violence by which one class overthrows another. - Mao Tse Tung.

Mandela's eventual legacy, today's Apartheid-ridden, multi-racial Republic of South Africa, is testament enough to the man.

Puz was meh.

Four Nines.

Go Hawks!

Ginger 3:03 PM  

@SIS Well said

Dirigonzo 3:44 PM  

Finally getting to the syndi-comments after one PERUSES the preceding commentary is like arriving in a snug, placid harbor after a long, storm-tossed ocean voyage. Thank you all for putting the puzzle back in proper perspective.


rain forest 5:30 PM  

OK, let's agree:
A puzzle tribute is perhaps inadequate, but the intent of the tribute is welcome.

The black/white opinions expressed by some are neatly countered by @M&A (lovely man, day-um), @Thomas Jefferson, by @SIS (always a voice of reason), and sweetly summed up by @Dirigonzo here in the welcoming and warm place of Syndiville.

@Waxy. I join you in fond memory of Pete Seeter, another individual who worked toward social change. He'd probably reject the idea of a tribute puzzle, though I certainly wouldn't mind seeing one.

PONYCAR - a gimme.

Insufficient cardage - fold

DMG 5:50 PM  

What a lot of fuss over something as non-earthshaking as a crossword puzzle. Glad I dwell in Syndiville! I found this one stretched my memory as I searched for places and events that seemed to hang on the fringe of my mind. Also join those who are unfamiliar with PONYCAR, but In the long run it all came together, so DF.

Thanks @Thomas Jefferson for his post. It's always a pleasure to read his carefully chosen words and muse on where we would be without our founding fathers.

Three 3's, two 5's,

Winnipeg 8:31 PM  

The CW puzzle no. the guy who died maybe. Although, SA and the ANC today are not what he envisioned.

Anonymous 2:01 AM  

Rex, thank you for posting the video of "Nelson Mandela"by The Specials. That is one of my favorite songs and a great SKA tribute to the man.

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