Suffix meaning little one / TUE 12-17-13 / Bruce who played Dr Watson / Supercute marsupials / Hemingway novel title location / Italian granny

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Constructor: Paula Gamache

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: NBA (54A: Org. found in the answer to each asterisked clue)

Theme answers:
  • 17A: *Sheriff's insignia, in old westerns (TINBADGE) 
  • 3D: *Tanning method (SUN BATH)
  • 29A: *Actor named in a "Six Degrees" game (KEVIN GAME) —wtf is "a 'Six Degrees' game"? There's only one such game. It's not a genre of game. It's "Six Degrees of KEVIN BACON." The "a" is comical, and not in a good way.
  • 11D: *Recover, as lost love (WIN BACK)
  • 46A: *Tangy breakfast item (ONION BAGEL) —"tangy" is not an adjective I'd ever use to describe this breakfast item. Orange juice is tangy.
  • 40D: *Tommy's game in the Who's rock opera "Tommy" (PINBALL)
  • 44D: *Feature of many a charity gala (OPEN BAR)
  • 59A: *Packers' hometown (GREEN BAY)
Word of the Day: KIR (57D: ___ Royale (cocktail)) —
A drink consisting of dry white wine or champagne flavored with cassis. (
• • •

Pretty bad. Just because you manage to shove eight theme answers in there doesn't mean it was worth it. With no concept and no real revealer, this is just a bunch of theme answers that happen to have a letter string in common. Snore. What's the point? And yet I should probably be grateful for the theme, since the theme answers are the only tolerable part of the puzzle. They look positively Gorgeous next to the rest of the mediocre-to-horrid stuff that dominates the grid—stuff a real pro should have down to a bare minimum, even in a theme-dense grid. Buncha sounds like HOS (ugh!) and HAHA and OOP OOH NAH. The NW alone is a disaster zone. SATI?! *and* THESEA *and* ACADS *and* the totally arbitrary SCENEV? And then, all over: KNT, ENT, KIR (Yet Again), ASON, ULA, AARE, SNERT, GES, NONNA. The repetitiveness of RELY ON  / SPIT ON / IN ON. And for what? A no-concept letter-string puzzle. Depressing. No care. No craft. Adequate, perhaps, but you'd think more would be expected of Old Hands.

That's all.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Cheryl Miller 12:04 AM  

Paula, girlfriend - You couldn't sneak one WNBA into the damned grid? Just one? For the sisterhood? It's simple: Oscar Brown Jr's Brown Baby. Tell me that doesn't beat ONIONBAGEL.

Steve J 12:07 AM  

Mechanical, uneventful, uninteresting solve for me. The theme was a really thin peg to hang a hat on.

Agreed that "tangy" is an odd description for an ONION BAGEL.

Anonymous 12:11 AM  

I'm a chess player from way back... with over 1000 chess books in my collection. Most of the older ones before 1970 use English descriptive notation (rather than algebraic). And I don't think I've ever seen the chess piece Knight abbreviated as Knt (it's N or Kt).

Anonymous 12:18 AM  

Originally, I had thought the worst NYT theme of the year was going to be the 09/18 puzzle where a word was randomly inserted as a rebus for no reason at all.

But this...this has got to be one of the most pathetic themes I've ever seen? The theme is so thin, you could literally make over 1 million variations on this puzzle using some random abbreviation. That's how pathetically pathetically pathetically pathetic the theme is.

Don't even get me started on the fill...awful junk everywhere.

ARS, INBUD, INON (consecutive dupes??!?!?!?!), BBS, SATI, THESEA, TIO, KNT, GES, IPOS, HOS, STENT, AARE, NONNA, KIR, ACADS, ASON (another dupe?!?!?!), SCENEV, SNERT and ULA. The most crosswordese I've seen in a single puzzle in weeks...

Bad fill, horrid theme...this puzzle is just flat-out trash. How did this atrocity get published???????

Will Shortz 12:32 AM  


Questinia 12:35 AM  

I thought the first word answers of the asterisked clues were NBA teams like
The Phoenix Suns
The Oneonta Onions
The Seattle Rains
The Kalamazoo Kevins
or something like that. Not just the letter sequence NBA.

♫♬ Mediocre-to-Horrid♪♫

(Sorry Paula!)

jae 12:40 AM  

Medium for me.  Liked it more than Rex, but it was still pretty meh. 

The NONNA/ SNERT cross could be tricky. 

I always have to wait for the crosses to reveal whether it's KEBAB or BOB.

Erasure: SPIT at for ON

KIR should be a gimme by now. Isn't this the third time in less than 2 weeks?

Wondering 12:45 AM  

One wonders why Will Shortz keeps publishing Michael Sharp puzzles given how ruthlessly Rex trashes Will's work.

Not the most ingenious puzzle in the world, but hardly one of the signs of the Apocalypse either.

okanaganer 12:49 AM  

@Questinia...I like your theme better.

Personally as soon as I saw ---BACON and ONION---, I thought it was going to be foods. Mmmm...where's the cheese?

August West 1:04 AM  


PK 1:23 AM  

I thought it was a lovely puzzle and fun to solve. But I don't time these things, so I think that the fact that it messed up some people's Tuesday times is the cause of all of the negativity here.

Benko 1:28 AM  

@CherylMiller: I prefer BROWNBAGIT, but I see your point.
@jae: Yes, we keep getting KIR over and over again. I was surprised to see it so soon too.
@Wondering: Where are all these Michael Sharp puzzls that "Will Shortz keeps publishing"?
I agree that this is a relatively poor puzzle by a veteran constructor. I would encourage all the readers of this blog to see if they can do better. Don't like the puzzles in the NYT? Submit better ones and improve the trend!
I for one have just gotten Crossfire for my Mac and plan to make some themeless puzzles. I'm not much for coming up with themes, although I could probably put NBA in some phrases.

chefwen 1:29 AM  

@Rex gives it a medium/challenging rating and then a SNORE. I'm so confused.

Paula, I usually love, love, love your puzzles, but this one left me on the cool side. I filled it in mostly by rote. One write-over at 38D tra before OOH. Highlight was at 59A GREEN BAY, go Pack!

Anonymous 1:35 AM  

Chefwen says: "Rex gives it a medium/challenging rating and then a SNORE. I'm so confused."

Agreed. Maybe another martini woulda helped.

Rex, I mean.

Senseless puzzle garnished by senseless commentary.

Garth 1:41 AM  

Rex seems so knowledgeable about crossword construction. It's a shame he has to express himself with such negativity towards puzzles he disapproves of. As a music professor of 20 years, I've found that measured criticism of students usually gets the best results. Overly harsh or overly soft criticism isn't as effective.

Anonymous 1:55 AM  

Medium-Challenging? This was one of the easiest Tuesday's I've done in a long while.

Jisvan 3:18 AM  

Easy Tuesday for me. Liked gorged,open bar and tonnage. Tis the season! On to Wednesday!

Mike in ABQ 4:18 AM  

I think Rex's comments are worse than the puzzles, which I find to be mediocre on Mon/Tues anyway. This completely insulting approach will not improve the quality as Garth mentions.
Also, judging difficulty of a puzzle strictly by solving time is a limited approach to evaluating said difficulty. Sometimes the solving is in one's wheelhouse, and sometimes not. I'm sometimes amazed at the trivia Rex doesn't know, yet his average times are less than half of mine. Sorry, but I want to see a more positive approach to criticism. The negativity is getting more difficult to read. C'mon Rex!2

Ellen S 4:34 AM  

I tried to save my really negative comments for, like, stuff that Congress does. By that measure, this was just a little uninteresting. As @Wondering said, not a sign of the apocalypse.

Except for the return of the EELS of course. That is pretty low. Paula, on top of everything else, or more accurately, at the bottom, did you have to do that?

I use to knit. And I noticed after several years that the patterns in the knitting magazines were showing signs of a certain desperation. I remember in particular a sweater that had only one sleeve. I am wondering if after 100 years, maybe crossword puzzles are having the same problem. It's hard to come up with something fresh and new month after month let alone day after day.

Anonymous 4:59 AM  

People need to be less sensitive to harsh criticism. The puzzles aren't free, the constructors get paid, it's in the public domain. And just because Rex finds something horrid or spectacular doesn't make it so.

I like that he doesn't mince words, know it's not meant personally, but also don't take his word as gospel. (I only take the Crossword Fiend's word as gospel!)

I thought the puzzle was fine and harder than the average Tuesday which is always a plus.

Signed Pex Rarker, Rex Parker's virtual, dyslexic cousin 23 times removed.

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AliasZ 6:35 AM  

The only thing I didn't like about this puzzle was the ONIONBAGEL. I prefer plaiNBAgels.

As to why Will Shortz continues accepting Michael Sharp puzzles, the answer is simple. He is a gentleman who judges the product on its own merit.

It appears to me that all this criticism loses sight of novice solvers, for whom this may be a clever, yet simple enough theme to get early and give them a little joy figuring out the answers to the asterisked clues. It's a Tuesday puzzle and as such, quite acceptable. Yes we have seen better from Paula, and yes we will see better from her in the future. We hardly need to point out each and every clunker, I am sure she is painfully aware of them all, as is Will. The theme and the fill was average for a Tuesday. At least it did not have UlaNBAtor in it.

So relax, leaNBAck on your beaNBAg chair, put on a CannoNBAll Adderley album, or JohNBArleycorn Must Die by Traffic, and chill. You may want to turNBAck the clock and go for Jacques OffeNBAch, JeaNBAptiste Lully or the master, Johann SebastiaNBAch himself. Your choice, as long as their heads have not been shaveNBAld.

I hope we all have the ability to regain some of our lost sense of discovery, joy and wonder, and our sense of humor, with each day's new challenges, instead of sitting there white-knuckled, teeth clenched and sweating bullets, turning what should be a pleasant diversion into a dreaded chore or a hated job. And remember: there are no old jokes, only old people. To a newborn every joke is new.

Doug 7:35 AM  

For the record, any good bar tender will tell you that a kir is white wine and cassis; a kir royale is white wine and champagne. There is a difference, despite what the free dictionary says.

Doug 7:39 AM  

Great post, AliasZ. Can't agree with you more, especially about the music. You should have written today's blog. Rex is on a grumpy roll, probably due to the holidays.

Unknown 7:53 AM  

This was one of my fastest Tuesdays ever. I wondered if I was reading the blog for the right day because I didn't
recall seeing a lot of the nasty fill Rex pointed out. As themes go, this was kind of a bore, but hey, you can't hit them all out of the park. Yes, Rex's critique did seem unnecessarily mean and nasty, but at least he has the guts to do it out in the open, unlike the cowardly and cruel Anonymous poster at 12:18.

Beagle lover 7:57 AM  

47D confused me. Those dashes were unnecessary. I thought they were for a missing word. I had to look up Tommy's game. I finally learned something about that rock opera, so that' good!

Loren Muse Smith 8:09 AM  

@AliasZ – well put. "our. . . sense of discovery, joy and wonder. . ." Mine's alive and kickin'. And, hey, I'm an experienced solver and still am pleased to be shown a bunch of phrases that embed N BA. Heck, I'm so easily amused and fascinated with language that I would like to see any group of phrases that embed the same three letters:

OOP – poo poo platter, tattoo parlor, kangaroo paw
EEL – nine eleven, Duke Ellington, give the elbow, Hurricaine Ellen. (Had to do that, @Ellen S!)
ADO – polka dot, prima donna, china doll
ULA – café au lait, see you later, fond du lac
TAU – great aunt, Saint Augustine, Port-au-Prince
GES – garage sale, postage stamp, stage struck

Just so you all know, since I was in the business and all - what most people call an OPEN BAR, event planners call a "host bar."

@jae – me, too, on spelling KEBAB. And STENT. I always entertain "stint." Oh, and that pesky IN ON - half the time could be "on to" and even "up on." GGGGG

DELT – I took my daughter to Planet Fitness yesterday. She's never really worked on any weight machines, so I had to explain to her our main goal is to work our DELTs to get those "peanuts" up there.

Unlike Rex – I got a kick out of the HOS/HA HA cross. Surprise, surprise.

@Miss Sunshine from yesterday – welcome and so glad you posted! I'll look forward to more from you!

@Acme – I could never be organized enough to write. I marvel at David Sedaris and how he structures his essays. If only I had his gift of spinning . . .

Wonder if Paula considered Elgin Baylor (how cool would *that* be?!), prison bars, cotton ball, Boston baked beans, carbon based, one-man band, rain barrel, bean bag, male pattern baldness. . .ok – I've procrastinated long enough. Time to clean house. (Hey – consider yourselves lucky not to see all the ones I've bitten back.)

Thanks, Paula! I think I'll listen to Joan Baez while I clean. . .

Dorothy Biggs 8:26 AM  

I was wondering if, at xwordinfo, Rex wasn't called out by both WS and Jeff Chen. They make a point to mention that you shouldn't judge a puzzle by it's "worst answers."

This might be the answer to Rex's questions about why he thinks the NYT puzzles are on the decline. Evidently WS believes that fill is less important overall to the big picture, to wit, this puzzle.

Maybe that's the answer Rex was looking for?

John V 8:35 AM  

A fine Tuesday, a bit more challenging than not. Got snagged by SATI, even though it was fairly crossed. Somewhat surprised to see SON and SONNY in the same grid, but, whatever.

joho 8:36 AM  

This may not be the BIGIDEA puzzle of the year, but I enjoyed circling all the NBAs when finished. It is Tuesday, after all, and the theme is dense and the solve easy.

I like seeing SNERT.

PINBALL is making huge comeback I hear.

I was amused by NAH/HAHA as a sort of taunt.

I definitely liked this a lot better than @Rex!

Dennis G 8:39 AM  

Terrible puzzle. The standard gets worse and worse. Depressing. Some of the clues are so obvious. Just one example: Not... (be patient). What else could that be than yet? Ugh Ugh Ugh

Michael Hanko 8:49 AM  

@Dennis G

Not'll have to wait for my answer.


Mohair Sam 8:56 AM  

Has Will Shortz met a SIRI who likes KIR?

Thought this was an easy Tuesday, we flew through it with little resistance. Agree with one of the Anon's about KNT, and Where does Paula Gamache buy her onions (Tangy?)? Or am I wrong about flavors?

I liked @aliasZ's post, however I take Rex with a grain of salt each day and chuckle at his rants - I just thank God I don't work for him. There are plenty of great solvers and constructors on this site to balance Rex when he gets carried away - the back and forth just adds to the fun of the puzzle for us. And, as someone else said, at least he doesn't hide behind "anonymous."

Unknown 9:01 AM  

Easy puzzle. Not inappropriate for a Tues. Plenty of filller but I thought the cluing was ok.

Great video. I have the song on my ipod. I didn't remember the Deal sisters as being so attractive, but the video doesn't lie.

jberg 9:03 AM  

I finished with KEBoB/NoH. Sob. Aside from that, I liked it more than some -- mostly because I didn't like the stars, so when I saw that the theme answers really were symmetrical, and the stars therefore unnecessary, my opinion of it went way up. I mean, "found eight other times in this puzzle" would have done fine.

I grew up in Sturgeon Bay, 35 miles NE of 59A, so that was the high point for me, closely followed by the "guys with first names as last names" sub theme. Low point was SCENE V; better if Shakespeare had been replaced by "playwright who liked to write about people named 51A."

I think I'm going to go buy some KIR.

@Loren, please construct that EEL puzzle!

Anonymous 9:05 AM  

Doug --

I know you meant to say that a Kir Royale is Champagne and Cassis.

-- Fred

chefbea 9:18 AM  

Easy puzzle but had no idea what the theme was until I got to 54 across. Thought maybe it was breakfast items. Not one of my favorite puzzles but an OK one

Carola 9:23 AM  

Agree with @Rex in being cool on the theme itself but liking the theme entries. Also liked SUN next to RAIN and the neighboring ACADS - PHD - BIG IDEA (to be defended ORALLY at dissertation time).

@Questinia - LOL!
@Alias Z - Love the NBA + composers theme and @loren, your coming up with Fond du Lac! - neighbor of GREEN BAY (Hi again, @chefwen!).

Zwhatever 9:31 AM  

GGGGGG Lou EEEEE - if you don't like what Rex writes you don't have to read it.

@Rex - The mathematicians here can say for certain, but I believe that every person on the planet has no more than six degrees of separation from any other person on the planet. The KEVIN BACON game is just a fun derivative of this mathematical theory.

Anyway, I'm older and slower these days, but I can still throw the disc with touch and accuracy, a pretty valuable skill in ultimate (though not as valuable as being fast). As consequence, I tend to touch the disc a lot during league play and my completed pass rate is high. This past Sunday, in a very close game, I had a wide open receiver running to the right end zone corner. I threw the pass, a 40 yarder, but 30 yards in on its journey a gust of wind caught the edge, lifted the disc, and sent it flying to the back left corner of the end zone. I knew the wind was there, it had grabbed other passes and done the same thing to them, but I threw it anyway. My NONNA might have given me words of encouragement, but my teammates expect me to keep that kind of crap to a minimum.

Beer Rating - EEL on an ONION BAGEL with a KIR chaser.

lawprof 10:04 AM  

Speaking of GREENBAY, there are losses, bad losses, and ignominious losses. Sunday night's collapse by the Cowboys to the Packers falls into the latter category.

mac 10:05 AM  

Medium Tuesday, but a very, very easy Paula Gamache. I usual like her puzzles a lot, but I suspect they are mostly themeless and later in the week.

I also thought we were in for breakfast food at first, a three letter theme seems rather thin.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:10 AM  

From the first several themers which I filled in, I thought the reveal would be some SYMPHONY "IN B".


Tracy B. 10:25 AM  

Every published mathematician has an Erdos number. Kevin Bacon isn't the only version of this game, though that's the popularized version of it.

Sandy K 10:26 AM  

Ok, so we shouldn't be too snarky about a puzzle, cuz it's the constructor's baby and after all, I couldn't do this, so...

I liked ELAINE from Seinfeld, BARBRA Streisand, Tommy the PINBALL wizard, wouldn't mind an ONION BAGEL, a side of BACON, and an OPEN BAR. And Jennifer ANISTON- who doesn't like Jennifer ANISTON?!

Oh, and then there's the fill, and

Anonymous 10:35 AM  

It's a badge or a tin star, but not a tin badge.

MetaRex 10:52 AM  

SUBWAY was my fave non-thematic answer.

PIEDMONTESE = +49, based on +164 PIEDMONT pts. (a high 67 for thematic density, 64 for Scrabbliness, 28 for long non-thematic words, and 5 for sparkle) and -115 ESE pts (a high 50 for KNT, HOS, GES, etc., 28 for short words, and 37 for blocks).

Yesterday's PIEDMONTESE was +79--less thematic density, but also considerably less ESE than today's.

Steve J 10:57 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steve J 11:01 AM  

@Loren: ELGIN BAYLOR would have been a great entry. One of the things that struck me about this one - and one of the reasons I was so uninterested in it - was how there was nothing about the theme's organization in the puzzle (other than the throwaway alley OOP). The only reason that three-letter sequence has any interest is because of the league, so throw a little something in there related to it.

@NCA President: Maybe so, but note what Jeff says:

"Will brings up a good point about the trend to judge a puzzle by its worst answers. I enjoyed all the theme density, but understand how people could find the trade-off not favorable."

As many people have said here many times before, the tolerance for bad fill is inversely proportional to the quality of the theme. The better and more enjoyable the theme, the more easy it is to forgive - or even not notice - fill that's not strong.

@AliasZ: I get what you're saying regarding novice solvers, but I don't agree that that's directly relevant. Being good for novice solvers doesn't mean the puzzle's of good quality. It just means it's gettable.

And I'm assuming we're all relating our own experience with the puzzle. And for those who comment here regularly, I'm pretty confident that most are able to judge each day's puzzles relative to the standard for that day (a lot of the drive-by commentary, not so much).

Which brings me to criticism in general:

I'm always amazed at how many people here react to the mere presence of critical comments. There are many people who are able to articulate their disagreement with criticism rationally and by focusing on the points made and through offering counter-argument (the three people I've addressed in this post are good examples). And then there those who determine that if someone didn't like a puzzle they liked, or were even neutral over, that must demonstrate some sort of personality flaw on the part of the person who was critical. They're too cranky, they're too negative, they've got some sort of personal grudge, they're upset about their time, they are humor/whimsy/amusement/enjoyment-impaired, etc. Meanwhile, nobody questions the motives of people who say they like something, or who like nearly everything (nor should their motives be questioned, just to be clear).

We're all going to disagree on the merits of each puzzle. Look back on days where the overwhelming consensus is that we all love the puzzle: There will be some commenters who didn't like it. Are they flawed people, or do they just have a different opinion? If they're not, why are people flawed when there are many who dislike a puzzle?

As far as Rex himself: For those who profess wonderment or dislike over his general tone, I do wonder why those people come back again and again if they find it so bothersome. He's been doing this a long time now, and we all know what we're likely to get. Being surprised by that is like sitting in the front row of a Gallagher show (the comic who smashes watermelons all show) and being shocked that you got watermelon all over you.

(And in the case of drive-by anonymice, it's clear that they enjoy bitching about Rex, demonstrated by how readily they jump in yet how silent they are the 50% of the time Rex is neutral or positive about a puzzle.)

Personally, I think we'd all be better off as commenters if we focused on our impressions of the puzzle rather than worrying about other people's reactions. (And, yes, there's more than a little irony in my closing out this long post with that admonition.)

quilter1 11:10 AM  

Why was this rated medium/challenging? It was gimme after gimme and those weren't good. I expect a 6th grade student would have finished this and felt good. I'm usually not very critical but this was a big disappointment.

Two Ponies 11:27 AM  

Agree with the Med. rating. The sati area was slow coming as I expected a more specific place than "the sea."
Scene V was weird but the rest was okay for a Tuesday. Early in the week I like to remember when even a Monday was a challenge and hope the new solvers are enjoying it.

Who let the Mumbai robot in?

dk 11:39 AM  

@Steve J as the Marquis de STARS I could not agree more with your comments.

It is my pleasure to announce that TUESDAY is baaaaccck as the most hated puzzle. All is right in the World.

I thought I was going to be one of a few to make the Chess comment but I am happy to see other nerds in the mix.

As I fan of Oaters it is TINstar not badge. Badges, badges we don't need no stinking badges.

And Tang is a tangy breakfast treat, an ONIONBAGEL is a lump of gluten and cholesterol (albeit a tasty one).

So, three strikes and your out in my opinion. The solve was entertaining I just wish for more.

🌟 (1 Star) Is Rex the Grinch… inquiring minds need to know.

GILL I. 11:40 AM  

Sheesh....I had to go back upstairs to re-read @Rex's post. No, nothing different, same honest opinion, a bit mean spirited, funny, didn't hold back....CHECK (thank goodness!).
Paula IS a real pro and I always expect something spiffy from her. This is just as @Rex said: "adequate."
When I don't like a puzzle from one of the "pros," I'm reminded of Meryl Streep singing her way through "Mamma Mia." Here's one of the finest actors on this planet trying to (painfully) sing her way through a terrible movie with an ok plot. I thought I was being punished!
GES sayin. Carry on.....

Masked and Anonymo3Us 12:19 PM  

"With no concept and no revealer...". har. Good mornin, (Mr.) Sunshine. Look on the plus side: check out the black squares pattern in the center.

Exhibits for the defense:

Concept: IM&AO, it's about the NBA. Sometimes yer NBA's even cross, producin NBA "teams", so to speak. The NBA is the only league that regularly schedules games on Christmas Day, btw. NBA can stand for Nope But Almost. And it anagrams to BAN and NAB. Or expands to BANANA. There's yer rodeo.

Revealer: See 54-Across. So, then its sorta a Where's Waldorf game, to go find a whole passle of NBA-ers. Fun stuff.

Weejects Anonymous: HOS, KNT, ARS, TIO, KIR-PHD, OOH/OOP. ULA! DEM was mighty good.

Any puz that comes with an OPENBAR is OK by me.
Peace on Earth, Good Will toward Gamaches.


Captcha stumper query: how do yah make a dotted m?!?

Mohair Sam 12:25 PM  

@steve J. Well done. The Gallagher metaphor said it perfectly.

@Gill I.P. - Easy on old Meryl, she sings just fine in that Garrison Keillor movie.

Zwhatever 12:42 PM  

@M&A - "how do yah make a dotted m?!?" One more KIR should do it.

mac 12:48 PM  

@Gill I.P. I seem to remember Meryl studied opera/voice before she went to drama school.

pmdm 1:07 PM  

Steve J: I've said it before and I think it bears repeating. There is a big difference between saying "I hated the puzzle" and "The puzzle is crap." I suspect those who admonish some of the commentators do so because of comments that are more condemnation than expressions of reaction to a puzzle.

Of course, people don't like just stating their reactions, which isn't that interesting (to me). They want to relate why they had their reactions, which is much more interesting (to me). And it's real easy to come across a bit strong when relating reasons you feel the way you do. Sometimes it winds up sounding that you are mandating that all puzzles reflect your own preferences, which can be a bit presumptuous. In this sense, the criticism of the criticism is valid.

Probably one of the problems is that Monday and Tuesday puzzles have to (by editorial decision) have easy to get theme answers. It's simplicity and not elegance that has to determine what puzzles get published on those days. We all know that a puzzle can be both simple and elegant: we've seen them. But if there are a dearth of puzzles that are both, on Mondays and Tuesdays the inelegant simple puzzle must win out over the terrific hard puzzle.

M and Also 1:09 PM  

@Z, you magnificent beast: yep. Swig a few more KIRs at that there OPENBAR, and then check out my Christ-m&a-s puz, at here:

Happy Holidays, y'all...

Dick Swart 1:17 PM  


Agree! The puzzle is a morning experience to start the day. I used to do them on the train, sometimes struggling to finish by 'Change for Jamaica'. Now I do them with a cuppa TJs Irish Breakfast and an English muffin with PB and marmalade looking at Mt Adams from the Oregon side.

GILL I. 1:20 PM  

Yikes....Didn't mean to offend.
Meryl, thank you for choosing drama.
My comment was used to show a parallel opinion...Cheers.

Notsofast 1:35 PM  

Remarkably unremarkable.

Dr. Dre 1:36 PM  

I wonder if the clue 52A originally referred to ladies of the night, rap style.

LaneB 1:41 PM  

Don't know why, but I raced through today's edition--even without recognizing the "theme". Made up for last week' s failures. Somewhat.

Mohair Sam 1:41 PM  

@Gill I.P.: Awright, awright. Point taken, she was pretty bad.

Benko 1:46 PM  

This is a blog. The commentary is subjective. Read other people's commentary on the Internet regarding other subjects in popular culture and you will see that @Rex isn't so nasty after all.
There seems to be a backlash against strong, opinionated criticism when it comes to the subject of crossword puzzles. People need to realize that no area of pop culture is immune to this type of criticism on the Internet, and it could be a whole lot worse.
And the strong opinions are why many people read! Even people who claim to be against the negativity seem to come to this site with the attitude of, "Uh oh, what's Rex gonna say about this one?"
Also, not every puzzle is equal, let's admit it. So when we rate them on a scale from terrible to amazing, some of them are bound to be closer to terrible. That's how rating things works.

Anonymous 1:48 PM  

Ah yes. The painfully obvious.

i am not a robot 1:49 PM  


Really? I must have gone to sleep and woken us as Tyler Hinman.

Bird 1:56 PM  

I saw the byline and thought I was in for a good puzzle and was not disappointed. High theme density makes up for the ordinary fill, IMO.

However . . .
I thought sheriffs wear BADGES that are TIN STARS
I spell 29D as KEBOB so that slowed me just a little as I wondered if 41A could possibly be NOH
What is SATI? Is it SAT 1? I Googled SATI, but that refers to an unpleasant Hindu tradition. Ah, it’s SAT I.

@Paula - I am looking forward to your next diagramless.

Lewis 2:14 PM  

Well, I did like SNERT. As far as I'm concerned you can put that in every puzzle ever again.

This is a Tuesday puzzle. I expect Tuesdays to have a little bite, spark, unconfusing clues, a not too sophisticated theme, and a pretty easy solve. And as a NYT puzzle, I expect there to be only a small amount of grid gruel. So I don't ask much, but there is a bar there. Todays puzzle had a higher amount of gruel than acceptable, to me, and not much spark, and the theme did seem thin even for a Tuesday, so I wouldn't give it a wow.

But when I finished the puzzle, I wasn't thinking, "What a piece of crap puzzle!" I enjoyed the solve, as I usually do, and basically felt good about the experience. So, Paula, hopefully you found the overall feedback helpful, and thank you making this puzzle, which absolutely added to the quality of my day!

Anonymous 2:27 PM  

A GRAPEFRUIT is tangy, an ONIONBAGEL is just gross.

This one was trivial for me and I'm just a beginner that this.

Mr. Benson 2:29 PM  

HOS would be okay in my book if it were clued "Where my __ at?"

As a Seattle native who detests all things NBA-related, the sooner I forget about this puzzle, the better.

Miss Sunshine 2:37 PM  

Go Ravens!! Up late watching yet another nail biter.

Anonymous 2:46 PM  

total shit
nothing to recommend
I hate basketball, bunch of thugs

Steve J 3:31 PM  

@pmdm: Agreed with your clarifications and additions. Completely agreed that what makes the discussion interesting is why people like or dislike something. And I think it's absolutely valid to debate those conclusions or reasons.

I'm referring more to the habit I see some posters have of speculating at personal reasons behind not liking something, as if the person is flawed (again, the too cranky, too grumpy, too whatever line of thinking).

And you bring up a very good point about how it's easy to come off as stronger and harsher than you may intend. I know in the past I've gone off on some puzzles, and it comes off much more ranty than I intended. Such is the limitation of plain text. I try to be cognizant of that when I do have a critical reaction to a puzzle.

Enough from me on this today. Hopefully tomorrow's puzzle is one of those nearly everyone enjoys.

Zwhatever 3:59 PM  

@M%A - wonderfully done. Only nit to pick is that you omitted RRNs. Let's see what @MetaRex gives you for a Piedmontese score, now.

Benko 4:13 PM  

@SteveJ: What I don't like is the seemingly prevalent idea that constructors are too fragile and artistic to take harsh criticism, and need to be protected from it. It's hard to feel bad when there are artists, musicians, filmmakers, and writers who work on a project for years or even a lifetime and get far tougher reviews from the public.

Sfingi 4:35 PM  

@AliasZ - I prefer poppy or sesame.

I believe Rex is so Ruff because it gets you-all to respond and just jumps out of the way. Look at the numbers of comments. If he had a love-fest like some unmentioned blogs, it would be tedious and sickening. There's life here.

One good thing, I don't have to know anything about sports to complete this puzzle.

@Dr. Dre - That's how rappers refer to 2 hos.

Yeah, why medium challenging, even for a Tues.?

retired_chemist 5:32 PM  

Medium. Fun. Some nice fill but agree there are a number of clunkers. Not among Ms. Gamache''s best. Theme OK. KNT seems off,agree with Anon 12:11 on that.

On to Wednesday.

jae 5:49 PM  

@Gill I.P. -- Compared to Pierce, Meryl was Julie Andrews.

C.J. from Green Bay 5:59 PM  

Paula had me at 59 Across. Unusual grid, with nothing longer than ten letters. Speaking of grids, perhaps we'll get hidden N-F-L strings, tomorrow? INFLAMMATORY, anyone?

@m & a -- Just completed your Christmas crossword. A toughie. Liked your ?? clues. You are a weird duck. I somehow know you'll like hearing that. Thanks for the extra workout.


Bob Kerfuffle 6:32 PM  

@M & A -- Thank you for your special puzzle!

I breezed through it in just 66 minutes and 31 seconds! (Plus about five Googles and three "reveal letter" shots --I was determined to finish!)

GILL I. 7:13 PM  

@jae: Actually, compared to Pierce, she was Kiri te Kanawa....;-)

Anonymous 8:12 PM  

Autofill could do a better job.

OISK 8:32 PM  

Did not mind this one at all. Just about right for a Tuesday; some of my students were able to finish it. The theme was OK, not OMG brilliant, but not as awful as some have said.
I enjoyed it, just was not dazzled by it, but I don't expect to be dazzled on a Tuesday. Thanks, Paula

Tita 10:00 PM  

@Mohair - I echo your weel-expressed sentiments re: OFL - in fact, pretty much word-for-word what you said.

I do have to offer a very rare "meh". I hardly ever meet a puzzle I don't like. This was one such.

@Steve J - great, if ironic, post!

Welcome Miss Sunshine!

Tita 11:16 PM  

Oops!! *well* - I must have been channeling @Ellen S and her weel-expressions!!!

Only noticed my seely typo cause I had to come back to thank @M&@A for a fine puzzle - though I required a few more "reveals" than @Bob K.

M&Any thanks!

Anonymous 12:50 AM  

Hey law prof! If you are using the term latter(or former), it can only refer to one of two possibilities, not three. Just saying;

acme 3:30 AM  

VERY late to the party, if you can call it that!
(More like I've arrived to broken beer bottles, passed out guests, an injured cat, and spilled ashtrays!)

The theme is NOT thin. Altho it APPEARS that it's but three letters, what with eight entries of 10, 10, 8, 8, 7, 7, 7, 7 you have 56 theme letter squares!

B is a hard letter to work with, so I thought that was great.

I liked that there was a feminine vibe (to have the word "Supercute" in a clue blew me away!)
along with BARBARA and ANISTON and CHIC.

And I liked SUN next to RAIN as someone else the foodie mini theme:
ONIONBAGEL, SUBWAY sandwiches (was eating one while I solved!), Kevin BACON, KIR, KEBAB, EEL (my fave sushi) and GORGED.

I also found this chatty in a way that I like...
NAH, SONNY, OOH, HAHA, "Happily EVER after"

I'm not a fan of ONENOTE criticism...and yes, there was an unusual amount of stuff to dislike (TINBADGE, SATI, GES, KNT, ASON/SONNY) but I thought overall, the BIGIDEA was good.

I also liked that both HENRY JAMES and NIGEL BRUCE are two double first named writer/actor.
It makes the clue slightly obscure in a good way and seems somehow like the genesis of another puzzle.

You can rest assured that Paula won't ever see these comments!

Unknown 6:39 AM  

I know you intended to say that a Kir Royale is Champagne and Cassis. through

Melinawatson 8:48 AM  

Don't know why, but I rushed through today's edition--even without identifying the "theme". Made up for last week' s failures. rather. Visit-

Anonymous 9:15 AM  

I found this a very easy Tuesday and totally surprised by Rex's rating of medium/challenging.

spacecraft 10:47 AM  

When I react unfavorably to a puzzle and prepare to hack it to pieces in here, two things slow me down: 1. "You think YOU can do better, a******? Go ahead!" No, I know I can't. I don't know how they do any of it.

And 2. OFL has already beaten me to it.

I will say this: if that exact same grid had been submitted by an unknown, it's 90% that Will would have tossed it on the rejection heap.

I eagerly await your next attempt to WINBACK my admiration, Paula!

DScheer 11:03 AM  

Dave S - 29D should be "kebob" making 41A "noh" meaning an emphatic "EN O."

DMG 2:38 PM  

Tangy, or,otherwise, I cant imagine eating an onion anything for breakfast! That said, my only slow down with this puzzle was that I spell that stuff on a stick, KaBoB, and had to correct it.

Never saw so many negative Nellies as today's commenters, which is why I skipped them once the trend became obvious. Seems that happens a lot these days. Wonder why people continue to do something that they don't enjoy?

Pair of 8's pair of 6's. It'd be a full house if I adopted @Ginger's wild 2's.

Solving in Seattle 3:31 PM  

If I were DESPOT for a day, I'd get a KOALA and rent it out to all the grumpy guses on this post today for hugs. I'd make a fortune.

Getcher koala hugs here - five bucks a minute - getcher koala hugs - guaranteed to make you smile...

I had NoH/KEBoB, which I believe is a traditional Japanese dish served during theatrical performances. Nice goin' Paula on slipping that one in.

The NYTcwpuz gives me two fun events in my day: solving it over a cup of coffee or two while watching the previous evening's Letterman, and coming to Rex's place to see what the Braniacs are ranting or raving about. I have to say that I agree with @Spacy when he asks if anyone can do better. And with @DMG when she asks why folks are so negative. I like Syndyland.

Trip nines over sixes.

Go Hawks!

Dirigonzo 4:05 PM  

I'm glad ACME's comment came late in the thread to put a more positive spin on - I was beginning to forget why I liked the puzzle.

Apparently we syndilanders, in addition to being kinder/gentler in our criticism, can't spell KEBAB correctly - my initial variation was the same as @DMG, but alas I corrected only one of the two wrong letter resulting in Hemingway's novel taking place in THESaA, which I believe is a small island nation off the coast of east Africa.

Now I'm off to see if I can find the puzzle m&a claims to have constructed.

Two pair - nines over fives. Hard to believe that would win anything here but we'll see.

rain forest 4:32 PM  

Before I joined the Syndi folk, I confess I would, on occasion react unfavourably to a puzzle, and would allow OFL to explain why I felt that way.

Now, however, in agreement with @Spacey and @SIS, I just like doing these things, I appreciate the ability of the people who can put a puzzle together, and I enjoy the challenge as the week progresses.

Clearly, there are some who take the construction and solving of puzzles VERY seriously, and aren't shy about demonstrating how seriously. Well, I guess you gotta be passionate about something.

I know it is a TINSTAR, but I could see the answer was going to be TINBADGE. Big deal. I spell it KEBAB, but I also say tomayto, while you say tomatto. Also big deal. In Maine, correct me if I'm wrong @Diri, they say "warsh" your hands, which is kind of cute, I think.

I want to have numbers so I can play poker, too!

Waxy in Montreal 4:39 PM  

@DMG, toasted ONION BAGEL with butter or cream cheese - yum, yum, but maybe an acquired taste.

With the exception of a few writeovers: SUNLAMP before SUNBATH, TINSTARS before TINBADGE and AGOD before ASON (oh, yeah, and JOB before PHD, but that's actually a pet peeve) found this trended on the easy side, especially in comparison to recent Tuesday puzzles.

Wondering if this is the first time GREEN BAY and the NBA have been mentioned in the same breath?

And let me be the first to second @Diri's ACME comments. Needed saying.

Waxy in Montreal 4:40 PM  

Or maybe I'm actually now the second to second...

DMG 4:42 PM  

Just looked it up, and apparently all the following are accepted variations: KABOB, KEBOB, and KEBAB.

@rain forest: Just hit the little circular arrow at the end of the "type the text" space. Another choice will appear, and lately it's generally numbers, much easier to interpret.

This time I got a full house, but not a good one, 2's over 3's..

Dirigonzo 5:05 PM  

Just back from completing (with liberal assistance from the "fill in current answer" button) @m&a's Christmas puzzle. It was, for lack of a better word, "offbeat", much like his posts. If you're tempted to give it a try let me offer a hint - don't take it too seriously. It's a good way to try solving on-line though (and it will make you appreciate solving on paper even more, I'll bet). copy/paste this into your browser:

strayling 7:04 PM  

In contrast to a puzzle the other day which I likened to jazz music (fun for the constructor and critics, less so for the audience), this was a nice bubbly pop song which I enjoyed despite the rolling eyes of people who think I should know better.

Rock on, Ms Gamache.

Cary in Boulder 8:07 PM  

Thought t was pretty easy ... and still got a DNF, as I spell mine KEBOB. Theme was indeed pretty meh. I could see that the second word in each answer started with B, but so? Took the revealer to see NBA, and again ... so? And yeah, a lot of the fill was uninspiring.

Still, I agree with the rest of you syndys, it's just a pastime that I probably spend way too much time on (certainly way more than Rex, et al, do on a given puzzle), but not really worth getting my official NBA shorts in a bunch.

So, about SATI. I took the SAT back in the dark ages -- did pretty well, too. What's with the "I"?

Fours over nines full house. That and $100 will get me 1/4 ounce of Colorado's over-the-counter finest. And a trip to the Mumbai Escort Service.

Ginger 12:15 AM  

Today's comments (or should I say yesterday?) are why I love Syndiland. Kinder and Gentler, yes, but just as insightful and clever as the real timers. Thank. You. All.

Sometimes it seems that the comments follow Rex's lead, either in snarkiness, or praise. Of course this could be attributed to the quality of the puzzle, but I sense a need on the part of some, to follow the prevailing wind and not take a divergent tack.

I actually liked this puzzle. Yeah, there was a lot of grid gruel, but I like what @Acme said about it; 'It's the glue'.

Though I'm into most sports, I'm not an NBA fan. First, NBA athletes are notoriously hard on the eyes. And the uniforms are ugly. So; 'A bunch of pituitary problems running around in their underware', seems to describe the sport.

One pair, nines, time to foldem.

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