A general and his country / WED 1-29-14 / "The Kiss" sculptor / Smile like Snidely Whiplash

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Constructor: Michael Black

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: "Organization Men" — Four guys with an apt initialism/acronym ensconced in their names

Word of the Day: SABO [1988 N.L. Rookie of the Year Chris] —
Christopher Andrew (Chris) Sabo (born January 19, 1962, in Detroit, Michigan) is a former third baseman in Major League Baseball who played for the Cincinnati Reds (1988–93, 1996), Baltimore Orioles (1994), Chicago White Sox (1995) and St. Louis Cardinals (1995). At 6'0" and 180 lb (82 kg), he batted and threw right-handed. He attended Detroit Catholic Central High School. [Wikipedia]
• • •

Theme answers:

20-Across [A general and his country] = ULYSSES S GRANT
37-Across [A hoops great and his league] = ELGIN BAYLOR
44-Across [A comic and his former show] = ADAM SANDLER
59-Across [A president and his conflict] = WOODROW WILSON

This is a good theme that could've been an excellent theme. Notice how cool it is that Elgin Baylor (on the NBA's All-Time 50 Best Players list, if you didn't recognize his name) hides NBA and that Woodrow Wilson hides WWI. Those are perfect. If the constructor had found two more that hide their acronym intact like those two do, I'd be giving this theme a 10. But scattering them amid the whole name in Ulysses S. Grant and Adam Sandler robs the theme of a big chunk of its tightness. For example, of the 139 cast members in SNL history, three others also contain SNL in their names (Christine Ebersole, Siobhan Fallon, Chris Parnell). Sandler is the most famous, of course, but I'm making the point that the constraints are seriously loosened if you don't require the three letters to be consecutive.

I don't have suggestions off the top of my head -- a famous athlete from a three-letter college would be a good start, for instance -- but if the constructor had found two more this would've been a beautiful theme. As it is, I'll give it a mild thumbs-up. (Put suggestions in comments -- two winners get a set of crossword stationery from me. Surprise contest!) Note to budding constructors: tighten those themes up as much as possible, especially when you've got a very nice core idea.

I've been whining for the past two days about the musty vibe of the the week's first two puzzles, but the windows have been opened and a tide of fresh clues has cleared my sinuses. We get a Jennifer LOPEZ shout-out, a RAZR phone, even a JPEG and a SKORT. Combined with the usual (and welcome) classical references (RODIN, NIOBE, AQUA / VITAE) I'd say this is a nice mix that won't leave younger solvers feeling, like, totally alienated, you know?


The fill, though -- oof. This really needed some TLC from the editor. SALA, AMOLE, OAST, ENOL crossing ENA, ISOLA, AGIN, OME (ugh), A-TESTS, WEIR clued as [Small dam] instead of Bob of the Grateful Dead or Peter who's been nominated for Best Director four times. That's some harsh wordage. Again, unnecessary suboptimal fill seems to be an unsolvable problem for NY Times puzzles; you just don't see this level of dreck in other top-level crosswords. Like a golfer who's good from the tee and the fairway but loses tournaments because his putting is shaky -- that's what we've got here. The NYX needs to up its short game. (But the constructor did do well from the fairway: SHADOWBOX and PAY-TO-PLAY are excellent).

In the NE and SE corners we have examples of what foul-mouthed crossword constructors call "Scrabble-f!@#king." You heard me complain yesterday that Tuesday's puzzle didn't have any of the rare letters in it (X, Q, Z or J). That's not a crime, but you do like to work those into the mix when you can lest your grid fall into a torrent of RSTNLE and not much else. But the key is to work them into the mix elegantly, without paying a price in fill. That Q at the corner of ESQ and AQUA isn't so bad, for example.

But in the NE the price for the nice JPEG is the awful OAST, and in the SE the price for the nice LOPEZ/RAZR crossing is the icky ISOLA. This -- going too far for your expensive Scrabble letters -- is Scrabble-f!@#king. Constructors, avoid this! Go for the lay-up if you're not sure about the slam dunk. If you've got the dunk, though, by all means, go for it. While wearing a skort.

Signed, Matt Gaffney, Regent for five more days of CrossWorld


r.alphbunker 12:12 AM  

A new version of your PIEDMONTESE system is available. The esometer read 45.5 parkers after I was done. I now think it is a little harsh to penalize all 3 and 4 letter words. For example I really like the impossible football score clue for ONE. I think we should make answer length penalties optional. The simpler metric program contains the words of today's puzzles. I am thinking of phasing it out because I am liking your system more and more.

Wouldn't it be nice if ELgIbaylor played his college ball at Yale? Or would that require that the other three theme answer also contain two references to the person.

George Barany 12:14 AM  

Spot on commentary from Matt Gaffney. I did notice over at xwordinfo.com that constructor Michael Black credits editor Will Shortz with the clue for 5-Down, the answer for which is FIVE. How often does a number appear in the fill for a puzzle at the exact position of the clue number? Finally, I'm absolutely shaking my head at the FITB clue for ENOL ether. That subject doesn't even come up in undergraduate college organic chemistry!

Andrew 12:15 AM  

I enjoyed the puzzle, and can only assume that the intersection of MOPE and SNEER were intended as tribute to the blog's absentee author (enjoying your write-ups, Matt, in the meantime).

One factual inaccuracy in the puzzle:

ONE is clued "Impossible point total in American pro football," but believe it or not, it actually IS possible to score a single point.

This oddity is called a "Conversion Safety" and is outlined under NFL rule 11-3-2-d. The Wikipedia page for "Safety" has the details.

It's such a rare play that it has occurred exactly zero times in the NFL. However, it's happened twice in D-I college football, most recently just over a year ago. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zVZTvoczq2w

wreck 12:19 AM  

I'm not quite so upset with "iffy fill" as the bloggers generally are. I mainly have issues with "iffy fill" that crosses "iffy fill" (a Natick.) I also have a problem with some strained abbreviations and clues that are really tortured like "ILOSE." Complete, stand alone clues like "OAST" are not really a problem with me.

Anonymous 12:22 AM  

Andrew, I took the clue to refer to the total score of an entire game. A conversion safety can only follow a TD, so the clue is correct.

Andrew 12:27 AM  


Ah, I think you're probably right. My mistake.

Even so, conversion safeties blew my mind when I learned about them, so hopefully somebody else will enjoy some new knowledge.

RnRGhost57 12:29 AM  

As a lifelong Cincy Redlegs fan, all was redeemed with Chris SABO. And of course the first professional baseball team was the Cincinnati Red Stockings in 1869, President U.S. GRANT's first year in the White House.

Ortuno 12:36 AM  

How about a late night host and the city he originally broadcast from. JohnNYCarson

Jimmy Rothschild 12:37 AM  
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Jimmy Rothschild 12:38 AM  
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Steve J 12:39 AM  

A tale of two puzzles.

The good: Two of the theme answers (ELGIN BAYLOR and WOODROW WILSON; as Matt mentioned, they're excellent because the "name contains the thing they're known for" idea is a singular unit). A good portion of the fill: PAY TO PLAY, SHADOWBOX, AQUA and VITAE (and that's with me usually not liking cross-referenced clues), CABO, RAZR, SKORT. Some very nice clues, like 25A and 5D.

Then there was the side I was not crazy about. Agreed that the non-connected letters were nowhere near as elegant in the other two themers. There's a cornucopia of subar fill (in addition to the ones Matt noted, SALA and OME jumped out, plus there's a lot of stale crosswordese like ALEE, ELIS, ELSA, NALA and ENO - a couple would be fine, but that's an awful lot of glue holding things together).

That said, while I think it would have been great to have all four theme answers live up to the BAYLOR/WILSON standard, I imagine it's devilishly hard finding those. It wasn't tremendously easy for me to come up with two more examples that could have fit the theme with nonsequential initials within their names (CYRUS VANCE, former Secretary of State for the USA, and JOHN FITZGERALD, center throughout the 1970s for the NFL's Dallas Cowboys). Do you sit on this - potentially for years - until you stumble across two more examples to fill things out? Or do you go with what you've got?

I'd say if you could improve the fill, you go with what you've got with this one. Unfortunately, the fill needed to be stronger than it was for this puzzle to really stand out, instead of being a mixed bag.

Jimmy Rothschild 12:40 AM  

One option for a better theme answer (although it's twelve letters, so you'd have to reconstruct) would be something along the lines of "Popular soap opera character, and his show": ADAM CHANDLER, referring to the long-time All My Children patriarch

Anonymous 12:40 AM  

Michelle Wie is pretty. But isn't that just a skirt?

jae 12:42 AM  

Easy for a Wed. for me.  Liked the theme, especially WOODROW WILSON /WWI.  Pretty clever.  Again, not much zip but my expectations are low for M-W.   Give me an interesting theme and a reasonably smooth grid (Matt makes some good points) and I'm happy.

It's tough to compare M-W to independent puzzles like BEQ and AV Club because even their "easy" ones are more like a Thurs.

Nice pair:  I LOSE/FED UP


Erasure:  NaOmi before NIOBE.  I know this, brain fart?

So, liked it and can't seem to find a controversial clue/answer.

Carola 12:43 AM  

I thought ELGINBAYLOR was the most elegant, with the acronym right in the center and none of its letters repeated elsewhere in the name, unlike the extra S's in ULYSSESSGRANT and the extra W in WOODROWWILSON.

CABO and SABO - an echo from yesterday's BO puzzle.

Ortuno - Nice!

John Child 12:44 AM  

Did anyone else find he down clues or words easier than he across ones? I filled in, I think, only JPEG, ESQ and ONE on first scanning of the top section, then entered most of the downs. Same experience with the middle and bottom.

Each of the theme answers went down easily for me. The fill had lots of names I didn't know, but they were all crossed fairly I think. I finished this faster than either Monday or Tuesday.

A little easy but enjoyable here.

Captcha appears to be oildrest. How roughnecks go to work or come back from it?

Benko 12:49 AM  

JPEG, LOPEZ, and SKORT all existed ten years ago, no? Jennifer LOPEZ is probably more passé than any of the classical references.
And which other daily crosswords don't have the suboptimal fill of the NYT? I would like to know about them so I can do them. The only crosswords I know of which have better fill only publish once or twice a week.

Matt Gaffney 12:51 AM  

MARIANO RIV(ERA) has ERA and is a 13 to balance Woodrow Wilson. Since WWI isn't an organization like the NBA is I think we could broaden the scope a little to include a very relevant initialism like ERA, especially for a very famous pitcher like Rivera.

So now all we need is an 11. Can't be sports since we've got two already.

Matt Gaffney 12:58 AM  

Here's a 12, but he's not really famous enough for crosswords. But there's potential.

Blackberry founder, or his degree from Harvard


Matt Gaffney 1:13 AM  

Civil Rights leader, or her country


Matt Gaffney 1:17 AM  

Acting great, or his hometown


Steve J 1:18 AM  

Illinois politican and his title: Everett Dirk(SEN).

That's all I've come up with sequentially so far. And i feel like I'm almost cheating with the sequence being at the end of his name.

Matt Gaffney 1:22 AM  

Not bad Steve J, but it really needs to be an initialism / acronym to work, not an abbr. Maybe that could be a different them, though.

It was interesting to me that when Ron Paul was in Congress he was a Rep. (Republican), plus a Rep. (representative), and his initials are...wait for it...his middle name is Ernest! Amazing.

Anonymous 1:23 AM  

Gotta split over two words.

Maggie W. 1:27 AM  

16 letters, so unusable, but music critic or the paper he writes for:


Amole Cabo Meaty 1:33 AM  

Fun contest! Thinking cap on!

Agree that next to each other is elegant, but I didn't know ELGINBAYLOR nor SABO for that matter.

Love SABO/CABO ...
two escapees from yesterday's puzzle!
CABO/SABO... you could do a soccer mambo to that one!

And loved the pangram and would wrestle anyone to the ground to think that ISOLA is some sort of sacrifice to have the fabulous LOPEZ/RAZR crossing!

Pangram! Pangram! Pangram!

fun theme, Pangram, and it inspired a Gaffney contest!!!!

SHADOWBOX and WAXY is way cool and I love RODIN and
@George Barany 12:14 pointing out that FIVE is at FIVE down makes my evening!!!!

Points for having a woman, etc. but even if you had SUSANBANTHONY/USA someone would inevitably complain that it didn't cross both parts of the name!!!

Too bad SUSA NBA NTHONY wasn't in the NBA!!!

(And you want yet another sports guy (MARIANO RIVERA) that I've never heard of...who are you, Peter?!)

Anyway, loved this and found it to be original and snappy!
Even the one horrible word, OME, had a nice literary reference.

Maggie W. 1:36 AM  

Kind of obscure, but if we want an 11:

Air Force officer, and the organization he directed:


acme 1:36 AM  


(Mathematician and the undercover org he worked for)

Evan 1:43 AM  

A four-time Pro Bowl linebacker from 2009-2012 and his league:


chefwen 1:52 AM  

Thought this one was easier than Monday and Tuesday combined, but I sure did love it. The theme helped a lot with the solve.

Spent much time at 50D DEL MAR when we lived in the San Diego area, more than I like to admit. Learned more about horses than I ever wanted to know, but it sure was fun and I think I even ended up on the plus side of the gambling boards. Best damn corn beef sandwiches with onions and pickles at the "Carvery" on the fourth level, I salivate at the thought of them. Might have to go back this summer.

Evan 2:04 AM  

A good 15-letter one that unfortunately doesn't span two words:

The March King and his country:


retired_chemist 2:37 AM  

First casualty of a revolution and his country: Crispus Attucks. OK, I admit there was no USA for a decade or so, but still......

retired_chemist 2:39 AM  

And I am with George Barany on ENOL ether. I first put it in then took it out. WAY too obscure and technical. But it came back.....

MetaRex 5:53 AM  

WoodroWWIlson was a WOW. A fairly rare case of a theme answer that I think will stick in my semi-senior mind.

I was meaner than @r.alph in my eseometer ratings--compared to his 45.5 parkers, I got 70, which is a pretty high number. I believe one reason for the considerable difference is that I double banged a fair amount of stuff like ENA, ENOL, NALA, and SALA as both ese and as obscure.

Do ya need to temper toughness w/ love? Ya bet...today I found myself clicking brand name for RAZR and dinging it even though RAZR is in fact considerably better than an average four-letter answer. Maybe r.alph's excellent programming chops at some point will allow us in Rexville to try v. 3.1 of PIEDMONTESE, which gives credit for long words and allows bonuses for sparkle/crunch...

treedweller 6:02 AM  

Apropos of nothing, a few years back there was a lot of talk here about Donald westlake. Since then, I have read many of his books, and mostly enjoyed them, but often found them to fall a little short of the comparisons to chandler and Hammett. Just wanted to say, if anyone who was here then is still listening, I just read _The_Comedy_Is_Finished_ and I would say it is one of his best so far. For whatever that may be worth.

Eddie Wilson 6:30 AM  

Maybe a bit obscure, but 'Air Force Lt. Gen and the defense group he directed?'

Eddie Wilson 6:38 AM  

Oh, Maggie W. beat me to it! Damn. Oh well, there's always Craig Ferguson and those shows he did for the USO.

Anonymous 6:52 AM  

Gah, or the television performer and the union she represented:

mac 7:12 AM  

Very nice Wednesday, medium for me.
I'm enjoying the comments and the contest!

jberg 7:34 AM  

My mind's blank on the contest, but just have to say that I love OAST. Always have, probably always will.

OTOH, I thought VEILS were for when you weren't in the harem; but I'm no expert on that. Nice easy puzzle, semi-cute theme, pangram - I enjoyed it.

Unknown 8:01 AM  

Flew through all but north. Had ELIS and USAGE okay. Had tImE for FIVE. Then took 15 minutes of thrashing to abandon tImE and guess VITAE. Then ran the alphabet on xxVE (two letters!) to detect F and I in FIVE. FEDUP, PEERS and ILOSE fell quickly then.

And ILOSE: SIDEi/SiBO. Oh well. Another mostly easy puzzle with one ambiguous block and one Natick.

Got all theme clue TLAs after ULYSSESSGRANT.

r.alphbunker 8:13 AM  

I will try to put in most of the good cop part of your system tonight. Also, what we need is a way to compare our scores other that just the number. I think it will be easy to publish a string that represents all our choices. E.G., something like 2afg5bc... which would mean that word 2 got dinged on points a b and c and word 5 on b and c. You could then copy and paste that into the program and it would produce a side by side comparison of your ratings and mine.

I would also love to be able to playback Morgan Freeman reading our evaluations. It would be easy to create a script for him to read but it is iffy if he would want to do it.

Unknown 8:19 AM  

In agreement with Matt once again. Have my thinking cap on for a non-sports word-spanning 11-letter themer. Will need at least one more cup of coffee to get in the zone.

chefbea 8:38 AM  

Fun easy puzzle..but don't understand syne for 21 down

Trying to think of a sandwich or taco that will fit…got one!!!

A sandwich and where it's made….tOASTed cheese.

Z 8:39 AM  


Will look for non-sport winners.

Loren Muse Smith 8:41 AM  

Loved FED UP right over I LOSE. That's me. I couldn't come up with a contest entry – I went the NPR route, certain that I could find something. I did notice that WBO is in SHADOW BOXER. That should be a consolation prize, Matt? I've become increasingly, ridiculously, panicked that I won't get any stationery.

And WAXY crossing OILY. I've been having trouble with my skin this winter.

Thank you for the clue for 8D.

Not much to add – I think maybe NALA looked up to ELSA? And the flipped mirror image ONE/ENO.

I never thought of a SNEER as a KIND of smile, but I guess, yeah, you do show your teeth. I dunno, maybe a SNEER that is a facetious smile could be a "smier?" That you make when wearing a SKORT and eating brunch with a spork? At Chateau Portmanteau?

I didn't know "-phage" meant EATER, and I'm fascinated with the possibilities. I could totally dive into a HOHOPHAGE PHASE right now. I love those things.

Agree with Andrea - thanks to @George Barany for pointing out that 5D is FIVE. I hadn't noticed that one. Those of you who are always looking for more puzzles to solve – Marcia Brott and George have a great one that almost all of us can appreciate right now.(My dad told me this morning that our high in WV is colder than it is in Fairbanks. AGIN.)

Baby, it's cold

Agreed – the NBA and WWI answers were terrific. But since I've been trying to replicate that and seen how hard it is, I'll take the USA and SNL ones.

Thanks, Michael – I enjoyed this and will continue to find an entry.

Lewis 8:43 AM  

There have been several good suggestions for alternative theme answers, but non I like better than what is in the puzzle. I think it's a case of -- you try for the perfect, for the most elegant, but if it doesn't exist, you make the call if what you have is good enough for publication, and I believe this one is.

Had to guess at NIOBE/CABO, and guessed right. I liked the misleading clue for HYPO.

@georgebarany -- I think "This" would have been a good clue for 5D.

Milford 8:55 AM  

I keep trying to think of a musical one...ELO, GNR, CCR, OMD...KMFDM?

Rob C 9:04 AM  

Medium Wed. I liked the theme. Yes, if all 4 had been consecutive strings it would have been amazing.

Only write-over was 34D Thumb sucking, HABIT instead of PHASE.

ZSA Z(SA G)ABOR - assuming she was a member of the Screen Actors Guild (which I'm not sure of).

joho 9:07 AM  

I hate when work gets in the way of crossword fun!

The only one I could come up with is obscure: English actor in "Pirates of the Caribbean" and the theater chain where you can watch him" S(AMC)CLAFLIN

I loved this one, thank you, Michael! Any puzzle that instigates a crossword contest is a winner in my book!

It also got me to thinking: You better use WAXY or a RAZR before donning a SKORT.

Mohair Sam 9:09 AM  

Personal natick on the B in NIOBE/CABO. Wife insists that I point out that she wanted the "B" but I had the veto today and went with "M". Tomorrow the veto reverts to her.

Otherwise an easy Wednesday. Liked it. And agree totally with what Matt said.

SKORT is a new word? Seems like it goes back for decades.

@Matt - thanks for the definition of scrabblef---ing. Always wondered what you pros meant by that.

Anonymous 9:27 AM  

Yes, enjoyed the new knowledge. Thank you. Added to the discussion I had with my husband about this last night.

Anonymous 9:31 AM  

@Chefbea. 1/1 is January first when we sing auld Lang syne

bweinh 9:50 AM  

to go back to sports again:


bweinh 9:50 AM  

ah, I see someone got there already

r.alphbunker 10:02 AM  

I survived a PhD program and my name has a PhB in it. Aren't there some languages that don't distinguish between the sound of D and B?

OISK 10:12 AM  

Crisp, smart, clever, and no problem for me. I, of course, enjoyed the "musty vibe" of the first two puzzles of the week, much as I dislike pop culture and product clues. (Like Razr, although at least I have heard of that.) Matt would like to clue "WEIR" using Bob of the Grateful Dead - I am grateful that it wasn't. I have no idea who or what The Dead are - some rock group that spawned something called "Deadheads", right? - but I never could have guessed Bob's last name. I find nothing wrong with ISOLA, which is perfectly good, oft used Italian, and OAST is fine. In other words, I like pretty much the opposite of what Matt likes. (although we agree on shadowbox and pay-to-play, but those are not particularly "young" expressions). I liked this puzzle very much, as I enjoyed the last two that Matt did not. (happy to be on a two week winning streak now!) Constructors, DO NOT LISTEN TO MATT!!

MetaRex 10:12 AM  

Love the theme suggestions today and also yesterday...spent a few minutes yesterday trying to think of an Obama tie-in and couldn't make it work...WRAP IT UP WITH A BO was v. nice...

Great on adding the good cop stuff, @r.alph...hey, just do what works best as you see it...as Ellen S. can tell ya from her efforts to teach me how to link on blogger, MR is about as good a programmer as Jabba the Hutt...

Orange 10:34 AM  

@Benko asked what daily puzzle has reliably good fill. The answer: The Newsday crossword, available free here: http://www.stanxwords.com/today-newsday-crossword.html

The early-week themes tend to be fairly simple, but editor Stan Newman ensures clean-as-a-whistle fill. The Friday puzzle is at Wed/Thurs NYT difficulty, the Saturday puzzle is fiendishly difficult (still will super-smooth fill), and the Sunday puzzle is a speed contest.

Sheesh, if today's NYT constructor was deliberately aiming for a pangram and this fill was the result, then I would take this as proof positive that "achieving" a pangram is a worthless feat.

Anonymous 10:46 AM  

Fact: Patrick Berry, arguably the best constructor on the planet, has published 180 puzzles in the NY Times and none of them were pangrams.

Two Ponies 10:49 AM  

Fun and mostly easy. Debi who?
You only know it's a skort from the back.
Seemed like a lot of old "favorites" in the grid: oast, Ena, Eno, A tests.
Nice write-up Matt. Thanks for standing in.

@ treedweller, Thanks for the recommendation on Westlake. So far I have found his titles more interesting than his prose.

Beaglelover 10:57 AM  

I got 57D because of the crosses but I don't get the clue.
What does J to tha L-O mean?

Tracy Bennett 10:59 AM  

First woman elected to the House of Representatives and a proposal she supported


quilter1 11:01 AM  

Liked it and rated it easy. Never heard of RAZR but I will remember it for next time. Surprised myself by getting ELGIN BAYLOR right away.

Anonymous 11:14 AM  

I am really enjoying your write-ups Matt. Interesting, informative, and they seem right on the money for me. Nice job.

Sandy D.

Ellen S 11:15 AM  

All you chemists crack me up. I put in ENOL with no hesitation, and never took organic chemistry. The clue could have been "chemistry thing" and I would have put in ENOL.

Speaking of crosswordese, @R.alphbunker and @MetaRex, what do you mean by Piedmontese? I find your project fascinating. (And @MetaRex, you got how to put in links, so you're ahead of the pack.)

And SKORTs have been around at least 50 years, but who's counting?

I enjoyed the puzzle and the writeup and seeing the contest entries. And nice that we're not fighting today.

Steve J 11:18 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pete 11:20 AM  

@Two Ponies - From the back isn't the only vantage point which will provide definitive proof it's a SKORT. In fact, it's the least important vantage point, SKORTwise.

Steve J 11:22 AM  

@Beaglelover: Jennifer Lopez is also know as J-Lo. "J to tha L-O" is an album of remixes of some of her songs.

@Benko: Regarding quality fill in daily puzzles: Another factor on the other side to consider is the volume of submissions the NYT gets, compared to many other publishers. One would hope cream would rise to the top.

Ultimately, the fill question I think is a philosophical one. And it's not one about declining standards or sloppiness, as is often intimated or stated.

Over at XWordinfo today, Jeff Chen mentions that Will Shortz apparently has an editorial philosophy of not mucking around too much with people's fill, unless he finds something particularly egregious. Jeff points out that he disagrees with that, but understands where Will's coming from (Jeff was also as critical as he ever gets regarding today's fill). Those two camps are mirrored here: We have several regular posters who are focused on the theme; if they like the theme, the fill doesn't factor in as much for them. Then there are others who consider both theme and fill in their evaluation. Cynics would say a few are focused only on fill.

Is either approach wrong? Well, I do think one is (I'm sure regular posters here can easily figure out which camp I fall in), but it's not wrong like 2+2=7 is wrong. It's wrong like preferring one style of music over another is wrong. In other words, it's ultimately a question of taste, not objective right and wrong. (And, like many questions of taste, it will invite very strong, passionate arguments.)

If Jeff's account of Will's editorial approach is accurate, then it really isn't an issue that the NYT has gotten sloppy or less exacting. It's an issue that it has an editorial philosophy that differs from others', and from many solvers' preferences. However, there is something to be said that the NYT has stronger competition than it arguably ever has in the world of crosswords, and people will note what's going on elsewhere, which will influence their opinion of the reference point.

C'mon Man 11:32 AM  

Will has an editorial policy of not mucking around with fill? Well, let me be be the first URGER that he recondider that position, and moving to an editorial policy of producing the best possible product for his paying customers.

William S 11:39 AM  

More contemporary pro-football player. KC Chiefs CB BrandoNFLowers.

Carola 11:58 AM  

@Mohair Sam, @Matt - I had the same thought about SKORT going back decades. In 1967 I was sent home from work (huge office that assessed state Medicaid claims) for wearing a SKORT. I remember having felt quite bold for daring to wear it - actually, I had an attitude problem with the supervisor, so I probably intended to provoke her. She had previously disciplined me for being "ambitious" when I'd suggested an improvement to the mistakes-ridden filing system.

@Tracy Bennett - Awesome.

r.alphbunker 12:04 PM  

@Ellen S
I would love to hear any suggestions you have on how to measure quality algorithmically.

I just checked it on the iPad and the list of answers is a dropdown rather than a fully displayed list which is what I see in the Chrome and Safari browsers on my Mac and the Chrome and IE browsers on my Windows box.

A brief search of the Internet indicates that I can't get a full display from a list on mobile devices. All I can control is the size of the dropdown. This means that I will have to implement the list using a scrolling div. Right now MetaRex and I are prototyping features so I want to put this off for now.

So if you are using your Bermuda Triangle device :-) your UX will not be ideal.

Z 12:19 PM  

@Steve J. - Well put. As for "Budweiser" - I think of NYTXword as a Sam Adams, quality brews meant for a knowledgeable albeit broad audience, while Fireball and BEQ are more like a Bells Two-Hearted or Atwater Vanilla Stout - brewing for a smaller audience that demands more from their beer and crosswords.

@C'mon Man - "the best possible product for his paying customers" is not such an easy thing to achieve. I refer you to @OISK's comments as a perfect example. If your "paying customers" include seniors like @OISK who don't know who the Grateful Dead are and seniors like my son for whom the Grateful Dead are Moldy Oldies and Deadheads who know the finer points of bandana meanings in between the two groups you are going to have just a little bit of an issue.

Z 12:21 PM  

{Who needs commas - I hear they are disappearing from the written word anyway.}

Matt Gaffney 12:26 PM  


Humor me: if OAST and ISOLA are cool with you, can you give me a list of 5-10 fill words that would make you scowl during a solve?

Matt Gaffney 12:26 PM  

The SKORT is that old, eh? Now I know.

Lewis 12:28 PM  

Chicago mobster Charles O'Banion, a noted SOB.

Matt Gaffney 12:28 PM  

Steve J:

Not fixing bad fill, especially when it's easy to do, is not a valid editorial position or school of thought. It's the editor's job.

If there's a close call, or if a corner has been filled in some creative way that's not perfect but it's at least defensible, then that's one thing.

This ain't that.

MikeM 12:30 PM  

i would think the J LO clue gave away too much of the answer

Benko 12:36 PM  

Crosswording is a subjective experience. There is no objective measure for the quality and value of a crossword, like there is no objective measure for the quality of a poem or a song. All this critical discussion is just intellectualizing our own emotional reactions to this very subjective experience, not reflecting some absolute ideal.

Masked and Anonymo3Us 12:38 PM  

Can't believe I was passed by like that.

@GuestBloggerDude: Writeups thUmbsUp. What's wrong with OAST? I agree on ISOLA, all-tho I do admire its desperadoness. Heck, tho... just rewrite that corner and replace ISOLA with ISUZU. There's yer rodeo; got yer two extra U's, yer product placement, and yer intact pangram.

fave fillins: PAYTOPLAY. SKORT picture. LIBYA. AGIN. AQUA VITAE. (C/S)A(B.O.). WAXY OILY. FEDUP. FIVE (down). Lot to like.

Weejects AnonymoUs:
* ENA meets ENO meets ENOL. Mighta tried to make AWOL and SEXY, or IDOL and FOXY, or somesuch, work down there in the SW. But ENA has that quiet, aunt deer desperation that is so hard to outdo.
* ESP meets ESQ. Start of a meaty run, that really needs ESR, ESS, EST and -- dare I hope -- ESU to round out the field.
* ENO symmetrically opposite ONE. Primo. thUmbsUp on the whole puz, just or that little feat of constructioneerism.

BAT(M AND)ARK KNIGHT. Gettin a wee desperate? Thought so.


Dansah 12:46 PM  

Think auld lang syne. 1/1= New Year's Day.

Matt Gaffney 12:47 PM  

Benko -- If that's the case, why doesn't a daily crossword editor just accept the first seven puzzles that appear on his doorstep each week?

Of course there are objective measures of quality that intelligent people can disagree on. But there are subjective ones as well.

Two smart judges can see the same figure skating routine and like one better than the other; but if one skater falls on her ass five times and the other zero, then the judge who chose the fiver will have some explaining to do.

The fill in this puzzle is the equivalent of falling on your ass five times.

C'mon Man 12:48 PM  

@Benko - You're wrong here, and I offer the following as proof by contracition:

You're one I don't want to lose,
but I lay here overcome by booze,
I fear that should I choose to snooze,
I will never be the one that you choose.

See, one can objectively evaluate poetry. This sucked.
DEBI/ENA/ENOL sucked. If it was there because that was the only way the puzzle could be filled in to get the precious panagram, and Will respected the constructor's desire to have the pangram, that's a valid editorial decision. Not one I would agree with, but one I can respect. If it's there because Will didnt' want to "muck around with fill", then that's not doing the job of an editor.

M and Also 12:55 PM  

BAT(M AND A)RK NIGHT. Must. get. it. right. even. tho. hopelessly. desperate.

@M.G. -- Ooooh! Scowlometer Contest! I envy the OISKmeister this opportunity so much, that I will chip in my own list...

* OPQR. Would accept PRS, tho. For some odd reason.
* OWWW. Would accept OWIE or AWWW, tho. Maybe EWWW; depends on the clue. BEQ could probably nail it.
* OISK. Sorry, dude...
* OOOO. Feel the same about XXXX.
* ONE+(a letter). Other than -S. Or -U.
* OOFY. Dude! It's been used!
* OMGS. hars.
* OYLY. Which no doubt means somethin, in French?
* OKIN. Would accept OKAYIN. Or KAYOIN.


Two Ponies 12:56 PM  

@ Pete 11:20 am, Not to belabor the skort thing but I don't understand your comment. Every skort I've ever worn looked like skirt from the front (like Matt's photo) and shorts from the back.

Benko 1:00 PM  

Because he/she doesn't like all seven of them, of course!
@C'mon Man:
How is "that sucked" an objective evaluation?

Z 1:03 PM  

When doesn't the "editor" make Michelangelo fix David's hand? It is so obviously over-sized that it wrecks the whole sculpture.


Hyperbolic Z

Kman23 1:04 PM  

Alright, according to Wikipedia, I think I've got one:

A singer and his record company

C[AB C]alloway


Pete 1:07 PM  

@Two Ponies - Every SKORT I've seen has been worn by a woman in an athletic contest, the point being they appear to be wearing a tennis or golf skirt for custom's sake. They're accomodation ridiculous customs but fundamentally are shorts to be worn by atheletes. I've never seen one as a skirt in the front, shorts in the back. Do these ladies also have mullets?

Kman23 1:07 PM  

and btw the Cab Calloway comment was me...i didn't have a name tagged

LaneB 1:08 PM  

Had to guess on some of the fill, particularly the SW corner, what with DEBI, ENOL and ENA stuffed into the same small BOX. Likewise with ELSA and NALA in the middle section, making SINAI difficult. In the NE corner , there was JPEG and OAST stacked, and only the fact that OAST is common to puzzles saved it for me. Two wrong guesses detracted from an otherwise pleasant morning solution.

Benko 1:12 PM  


Also, there are a fixed set of rules which govern what can happen in ice skating and how many points to deduct for each such event going wrong. In crossword fill there are no such fixed standards. Some people might see the fill you listed as "falling on your ass". Some people might see things like EXA crossing EXALT, EVE crossing EVEN, PSIS, BEDAUB, OLEELO, NISSIN, ZABAR, and BADER all in the same weekly puzzle as "falling on your ass". Doesn't make 'em right!

dk 1:25 PM  

Moon poster and dental problem: dk…. wait that is stupid and does not work at all: Never mind.

🌕🌕🌕 (3 Moons) No MOPing over this one. Fresh fill and approach. A MEATY Wednesday

Matt Gaffney 1:25 PM  


What's wrong with falling on your ass? Why is that a subjective wrong? Why is that part of the fixed rules?

You could quantify crossword entry quality by combining the ranked databases of top crossword writers. Or you could just intuit quality by eyeballing it, which is what people who aren't being willfully obstinate do.

I have zero problem with you comparing the fill in my puzzles to the fill in NYT puzzles. I welcome it. If EVE crossing EVEN is your Exhibit B, I think I'm doing fine. If you haven't heard of EXALT, the Greek letter PSI, BEDAUB, NISSIN Cup Noodles, or Ruth Bader Ginsburg then I don't know what to say.

And finally: "There's no objective quality in crossword fill" is the last refuge of those who can't keep the quality of the fill in their crosswords at a high level. Why keep defending the indefensible?

Take your last shot if you need to and then we'll move on.

Bird 1:29 PM  

OK. Didn’t exactly have fun, but I liked the puzzle. Needed to change OBI to YEN because I misread the clue. Concur that 3 consecutive initials in all the themers would have been much better.

Happy Humpday!

Benko 1:39 PM  

@Mattgaffney: Yes, everything you do is defensible, but not what others do. And yet it provoked a nerve, apparently, to bring up your own fill. "Take your last shot"--as if what I was doing wasn't responding to your own repeated shots at today's crossword! Yes, it doesn't feel good to have someone tell you your own hard work sucks, does it...that's the point I was making, of course! I liked your crossword, and I liked this crossword. What I don't like is your idea that what you like or dislike is the "truth" about what is right or wrong.
Now move on! ha!

Eric 1:47 PM  

Film and the stars' org.
(Osage County)

ahimsa 1:59 PM  

I liked the theme and was fine with entries that had non-consecutive letters. I liked the balance of having two entries with consecutive letters and two without.

I'm with ACME -- Elgin Baylor was a complete unknown to me -- but I was happy to learn about someone new.

It's been fun to read the suggestions. When you add in the extra conditions of spanning words (e.g., I thought of and then discarded John Philip Sousa and Susan B Anthony), and then needing matching length theme entries, it makes me admire today's effort even more.

So, kudos to Michael Black!

PS to M&A : Love the desperation. Keep 'em coming. :-)

PPS. Hand up for having worn a SKORT in the 70s. And it mos def looked like a skirt from the front. I thought that's what made it different from shorts or culottes but I'm hopeless when it comes to fashion.

AliasZ 2:02 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Z 2:04 PM  

That would be "why." Between that and run on sentences I'm becoming the poster child for "objective criteria."

I would say the gradual devolving of an otherwise illuminating debate is good evidence as to why the commentariat needs to self-regulate the three post maximum rule generally observed here (he writes while violating said rule).

As for me - Yes, there are objective rules for crossword puzzles that allow us to understand what works and what doesn't (EELS and RRNs should be avoided, English before foreign languages, Pop Culture should have fair crossings, no two letter words, 15x15, there should be a balance of areas of interest and time periods in any given puzzle, etc, etc, etc). All these rules may be broken in service of a greater good (how many objective rules does a rebus break and we all (generally) love them). I think an editor avoiding mucking with anything other than "egregious" fill is a perfectly acceptable position, if hard to defend since one woman's "egregious" is another's "beauty of the language." Based on my residency here, I think several constructors would be surprised to hear that this was the editors position, but there you have it.

Kman23 2:05 PM  

Fighter and his organization -

Willia[M MA]cario

AliasZ 2:07 PM  

Call me Ishmael, but I think 1A is like the first sentence of a novel. It sets the tone. It can be the best of times or the worst of times after that. SALA did not bode well, but it actually turned out to be a rather MEATY Wed. puzzle, I thought. A bit WAXY and OILY in places, but not eely. OME, ONE, ENO, ENOL, and guacAMOLE were a little iffy, but I liked AQUA VITAE, SHADOWBOX, NIOBE, SKORT (like spork), and quite a few others. I am scared of Mr. Purple People EATER.

Pangram, shmangram.

I wonder if AYNRAND was a member.
There was nothing like this in the lifetime of BLAISEPASCAL.
Can this be performed by a HYDRAULICPRESS?
How many times was BRADWILBER pulled over?

Here is a rather obscure opera by a rather obscure composer, Agostino Steffani (1654-1728): NIOBE, Regina di Tebe (1688).

MetaRex 2:10 PM  

@Ellen S.: PIEDMONTESE is the revised version of the eseometer that tries to measure the good stuff (PIEDMONT) along w/ the less than good (ESE)...it's at http://valuecompetition.typepad.com/metarex/2014/01/piedmontese-v-31.html

[I'd put a nice lookin link in but I still go back to yr comment on the blog to do that, and I gotta run to a mtg now...yep I know I should just save the line from yr blog post :)]

Numinous 2:11 PM  

I'm a bit preoccupied with the weather here. We've had over 1200 accidents and at least 2 fatalities though there will probably be more. It's fantastic the way citizens are pitching in and helping. Someone started a Face Book group, Snowedoutatlanta which has over 35,000 followers asking for help or offering help to the motorists stranded on Atlanta area roadways and Interstates. Some people have been stranded in their cars for 24 hours, stuck without insulin or other medications, running out of gas, phone batteries dying. The fact that so many folks have rallied to help is amazing. I'm not really fond of FB and Twitter but this points out the potential value of social media.

Now, @Mat, considering complaints of inappropriate clothing and inappropriate outbursts, is Michele Wie such a great exemplar of the SKORT?
And speaking of SKORTs, @joho, I thought they were a good way to avoid uses of WAXY or RAZRs.

Not much else for me to say about this one. I liked the clue for UNPIN, though it was easy, it made me smile.

Anonymous 2:18 PM  

GOBI/AWOL/SEXY is an easy fix for the SW corner. Plopping SEXY into your grid without any scrabble****ing...you just can't lose.

Bob Kerfuffle 2:18 PM  

@M and Also - from Werriam Mebster's (sic):

OYLY (adj) - In the style of Popeye's Olive Oyl

The laugh's on me: I kept coming back to 71 A, "Like candy corn's texture", WAXY . . . because I continued to mis-read the clue as "like cotton candy"!

retired_chemist 2:53 PM  

@ Ellen S - I was interested to see what the response to ENOL ether would be. Since most students with a year of organic chemistry under their belt wouldn't have seen the term, the lack of complaint must mean (as you say) that ENOL is one of the chemistry go-to 4 letter answers, which has a crossworld life independent of its relative obscurity in chemistry.

I guess constructors are learning how to obscure the word, much as arcane facts about ETON are now in fashion for cluing that. There are other examples in other areas of course.

C'mon Man 2:53 PM  

@Anon 2:18 - Excellent re-write. It even topped one thing I thought the constructor might have liked, crossing OILY with WAXY. OILY/SEXY tops that, hands down.

Last Silver Bull Woot 3:10 PM  

@ahimsa-- U betcha. thanx U.

@ShyBloggerMGDude: U realize, of course that my Scowlometer list was just for things that out-toasted OAST. Remind me to show U my out-isola-ted ISOLA list, sometime.

One more time:
har! Nailed it, that time!

(M AND A)RIN ORANGE DUCK. After whom a famous dish and tasty fruit was named.
NOR(M AND A)VIES. Noted historian.
SHER(M AND A)Y THATCHER. Noted Ojai school founder.
The list goes on and on, dependin on how desperate U wanna get. But that about gets it, for the likes of m&e.

Hey, @muse... how's that country-stuff/city-stuff puz comin along? Better ratchet the fill on it up a coupla notches. The Blog subs here don't take no OAST for an answer...


Orange 4:21 PM  

I have had SKORTs that appear to be a skirt from the front and the back, but have a hidden shorts aspect beneath, so you can sit down cross-legged and not display your underwear to everyone around you. All you have to do is Google "skort" to find a whole bunch of skorts like that. One of my dictionaries tells me there is a "central flap" but you know what? The garment industry makes skorts with full skirt coverage.

sanfranman59 4:41 PM  

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

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

Wed 10:04, 10:26, 0.96, 43%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Wed 6:30, 6:15, 1.04, 59%, Medium

Dave 4:58 PM  

Hate to nitpick, but OAST is not a brewery fixture. An oven used to dry hops would be at the location where hops are grown, not at the brewery. As a brewer, I've visited many, many breweries and never seen one with an oast - that includes the smallest micros and the largest mega-brewers. Why? Hops lose roughly 75% of their mass during drying, why pay to ship all that water?

Steve J 5:12 PM  

@Matt: "Not fixing bad fill, especially when it's easy to do, is not a valid editorial position or school of thought. It's the editor's job."

Of course it's a valid editorial approach. Is it a good one? Well, that's a very different question.

When I used to write for a living, I had editors who viewed their job primarily as coaching writers, setting expectations, and accepting their work or not. If they accepted it, they didn't change it much. Then I had editors who always changed things.

Both are valid approaches, and both can be used to good and poor effect. Some hands-off editors still ran good to great stuff, because they selected well; some had a lot of bad stuff because they weren't choosy enough. Some hands-on editors made articles much better through their influence; some sucked every bit of life out of articles or bolloxed up their meaning and intent. I see the same with the two broad swathes of crossword editing we're discussing.

Now, I happen to agree with you that when there's an opportunity to fix fill, an editor should take advantage of that opportunity. I happen to think that pretty much everything can be approved with skilled, judicious editing. Someone posted a bit earlier this afternoon an example how easy it would have been to clean up the SW and get rid of the dodgy ENOL and DEBI. Why not do that? That's a question that any of us can't answer, of course.

(And please keep in mind my "mucking about" comment is a paraphrase of another person's paraphrase of someone else's approach; we're talking degrees of Kevin Bacon here. None of us knows - except for the people who've worked through the submission and acceptance process - how hands-on or -off the NYT is.)

Enough from me today.

Carola 5:24 PM  

@Dave - I was interested in your comment about OAST. I learned the word when my husband and I visited an historic brewery in Sonoma County, CA, some years ago, so I think there was one there on site. Sorry I can't remember the name of the location. For a while I kept a postcard with a picture of the brewery, a brick building with a very impressive chimney.

Britany 5:27 PM  

What underwear?

Anonymous 6:24 PM  

Your dream of ISUZU's can come true, in the SE:
* O U T A
* A Z U R
* D U S K

Just sayin'.

xkcd 7:34 PM  

Regarding DOLCE and TACOs

OISK 7:36 PM  

I really like what Z posted at 2:04. To answer Matt, I am not crazy about "Oast," but it is gettable. Isola is a very common Italian word, that ought to be familiar to anyone who has been to Italy, or has ever learned any Italian, and I really don't see your objection to it. A foreign term now and then is fine. But you would prefer a clue about the last name of a member of an old rock group, not even the lead member, to a straightforward definition of a perfectly fine English word. (weir). We completely disagree about what should be in the puzzle. An occasional pop reference is fine; I can almost always figure it out from the crosses, but it is not necessary, and does not "improve" the puzzle. Five fill words that would "make me scowl" as requested by Matt - INXS, NSYNC, puma as a sneaker brand, Jayz, Homie . So just why is "Isola" "icky"? Because you don't travel and don't speak Italian? I don't wear sneakers or listen to rock-rap-punk or whatever they are calling it these days. I don't have any problem (as others seem to ) with Matt's rating the "fill." But it sure is NOT objective, certainly is a matter of opinion, and my opinion differs from his.

Numinous 8:20 PM  

Speaking of WEIR, @Matt's definition, I knew him, visited him and his wife often and worked with him, some forty years ago, in Australia. All I have to say about that is they left the d off the end of his name.

Pete 9:21 PM  

@Oisk - I don't travel, and I don't speak Italian, so ISOLA was a bit of a wtf, though as an English speaker, I got at least half of ISOLA, its being cognate with island.

But why would INXS, NSYNC, JayZ, Homie bother you? You live in a world where they're all around you. You may not specifically listen to their music, but you've heard it. You may never have read about them, but if you've ever stood in a checkout line you've seen their names. If, in your travels, you ever asked the guy standing next to you at the airport what they were listening to on their ipod you most likely would have met someone who was listening to them at that very moment.

You know why pop culture is valid for inclusion?: It's all around you at this exact moment. It's the world you live in, the people you meet, or if not, the people you actively, willfully ignore. Italian for island?, not so much.

Questinia 9:25 PM  

@Numi... Hah!

OISK 9:37 PM  

Pete - as you point out, Isola is obtainable not only from the cognate with English, but also with Spanish. If I didn't know it, but figured it out, I would go "Aha! So that is "island" in Italian. I doubt that I have heard INXS, NSYNC, or JayZ, although perhaps it is the stuff I ignore ( or walk out on) in restaurants. I am much more interested in geography than in rock-pop-hiphop etc. So if I figure out a clue, and I care, Aha! When I get an answer like INXS, it's strictly WTF?? Anyway, I don't think pop culture isn't valid. It certainly is, and I never said otherwise. I said I don't like it, which is not at all the same thing. And including it is OK, while saturating a puzzle with it is not. Trust me, I have never asked anyone who was playing rock on his IPOD what he was listening to! (you can tell it is rock as the bass notes carry past the headphones)

Anonymous 9:45 PM  

It's important to remember that this site is only a small cross-section of solvers, many of them constructors themselves or cream of the crop solvers. In the real world, answers like ENA and ENOL are incredibly obscure, known to likely less than 5% of the population, and most people on either side would hardly care about them if they didn't show up in crosswords.

sanfranman59 10:09 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 6:46, 6:26, 1.05, 76%, Medium-Challenging
Tue 9:32, 8:15, 1.16, 85%, Challenging
Wed 10:08, 10:26, 0.97, 44%, Medium

Top 100 solvers

Mon 4:24, 4:00, 1.10, 85%, Challenging
Tue 5:44, 5:12, 1.10, 76%, Medium-Challenging
Wed 6:19, 6:15, 1.01, 54%, Medium

Anonymous 10:25 PM  

Me, I'm more interested in my fellow man than rocks.

SandyM 11:12 PM  

A forfeited football game (team no show) is scored 1-0. Therefore one is not entirely correct. There is no number which correctly answers this question.

NFL Rule book 12:14 AM  

Says NFL Rule Book

Rule 11 Scoring
Section 1 Value of Scores
Article 1 Winning Team. The team that scores the greater number of points during the entire game is the winner.
Note: If a team forfeits a game, the opponent will be declared the winner by a score of 2-0, but the points will not be added to
the winning team’s record for purposes of offensive production or tie-breakers.

r.alphbunker 12:42 AM  

Mickey Mantle is a man
Bart Simpson is an imp
Little Orphan Annie is a Leo

Anonymous 5:40 AM  

laurenCE Oliver
kiM BAsinger

Eddie Wilson 6:37 AM  

Not a name, but something that appeals to my inner nerd (and anyone that played Dungeons and Dragons back before it got bought by Wizards of the Coast):

Board game with 'Bolotomi' and the company that released it:

Anonymous 7:47 AM  

johN RAmbo
daN RAther

dk 9:01 AM  


Evan 1:30 PM  

Fashion designer and the main ingredient of a drug he probably smoked in his youth:


Anonymous 4:38 PM  

jennifER Aniston
bAT Masterson

Anonymous 4:51 PM  

danNY Thomas

Susannamac 5:28 PM  

Been lurking here and love the commentary! My two cents:
Female Russian Cosmonaut and her country's rival:
SvetlaNA SAvitskaya

Susannamac 5:51 PM  

My better half says I have too many letters for a regular crossword. Looks like it would be a Sunday. And probably a WTF! :)

Unknown 9:39 AM  

Portion of my paycheck and who took it

unfaIR Share

Waxy in Montreal 10:36 AM  

Reduced to employing Google for Bambi's aunt to complete the SW corner. Otherwise, MEATY mid-week puzzle with a fun theme.

Another WEIR clue, albeit with a Canadian slant, could have been "2003 Masters golf champion Mike".

spacecraft 12:15 PM  

One thumb up, for the long downs and the brilliant WoodroWWIlson, and one down for the yucko fill.

Of late, I've noticed a disturbing proliferation of N- and A-TESTS. Let us draw up a N/ATEST BAN TREATY!

SHADOWBOX is great--thanx to @lms for noticing the WBO--but do we have to PAYTOPLAY with PRS/OME/SIDEA? Oh yeah: in the treaty, we'll include a clause for banning SIDEA and SIDEB. These crutches grate against my very eyes.

Luckily I ran into the inexplicable letter crush of JPEG just last week, or the NE might never have gotten done. However, @Matt, what's wrong with OAST? That's an actual W*O*R*D!! Not a proper name, not an acronym, not an abbr. or a Romanumeral--a WORD! It's fine. What else is a word in that whole section? Don't say HYPO: that's actually an abbreviation for hypodermic ["needle" understood].

As to the theme, I'm in tune with many others who wish all the entries had their "organizations" in a row instead of scattered.

Really? Muscals have only II ACTs? Guess it's been a long time since I went to one.

Ginger 3:31 PM  

On finishing Matt's write up I noted 140+ posts. I thought, OH,no. Not another day of nit picking and snarky comments. Thankfully not totally the case. This is a day of delightful alternatives and fun wordplay, with a little sparring thrown in.

I like a puzzle that stimulates the creative juices, and obviously this one did. Also, it was fun. Got the theme with ELGIN BAYLOR. For those too young to remember, ELGIN was a master of grace and smoothness on the court. He was beautiful to watch.

@Spacey I had the same thought about musicals.

SKORTs are not just for golf, but they're absurd, uncomfortable and ugly (except on Michelle Wei).

Dirigonzo 3:53 PM  

My overall assessment upon completing the puzzle was "neat theme, not much dreck" - apparently my standards are too low. Oh, I now see that I finished with OWS: NIOpE/CApO. Obviously the constructor's fault, or maybe the editor's, certainly not mine.

Dirigonzo 3:59 PM  

By the way, my research is incomplete but so far it appears that WAXY may be the earliest contributor to this blog who still resides in syndiland. Shouldn't there be some kind of award for that?

Dirigonzo 4:05 PM  

By the second way, based on the late comments yesterday it appears "Synchronauts" (thanks, @strayling) is the favored name for prime-timers who follow and occasionally contribute to the conversation here in syn-city.

Waxy in Montreal 4:53 PM  

Thanks @Diri for your research results - how 'bout the old "fickle finger of fate" award they used to hand out on Laugh-In?

Dirigonzo 6:01 PM  

@Waxy - Do you remember the very first presentation of the Fickle Finger of Fate award?

And while I'm still in historian mode here's something for @Z: today's NYTXP daily calendar puzzle was from 9/8/2010 and the theme was CATCHINGSOMEZZ. You weren't among the commenters so I wonder if this was before your time, or did modesty keep you away? There were 9 squares with the rebus ZZ in them, so if ever there was a puzzle dedicated to you, this was it.

strayling 7:33 PM  

A nice consolation prize after I failed to complete this puzzle.

Too many US-centric proper nouns for this ex-pat to handle, but I liked the theme so I'm not complaining. On the contrary, I like learning new cultural references by attempting these crosswords.

strayling 7:39 PM  


Very interesting ...

Waxy in Montreal 7:57 PM  

@Diri, had forgotten. Thanks for the link. And you can bet your sweet bippy things haven't changed at Congress regarding gun control over the intervening 46 years.

Z 8:14 PM  

@Diri - I created my Blogger account in May 2011. I lurked, then I think I was an anonymouse for awhile, and I may have posted as Z without a Blogger account. Maybe I'll take a peek and see if I can discern when I started commenting. I do not recall that puzzle, but I was just doing Sundays at first.

jpstuart 10:40 PM  

Andrew and anonymous... I believe that in football a forfeit is recorded in the books as 1-0. So "one" is a possible score. The only score not possible is a 1-1 tie.

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