Kind of acid in soapmaking / MON 1-27-14 / 1963 Elizabeth Taylor role / Mideast bigwig Var

Monday, January 27, 2014

Constructor: James Tuttle
Relative difficulty: Easy

THEME: It's about TIME! Theme entries are comprised of two words that can precede or follow "time" in a phrase.

Word of the Day: FIBONACCI — [Eponym of a number series that begins 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, ...]
Leonardo Fibonacci – was an Italian mathematician, considered by some "the most talented western mathematician of the Middle Ages." (wikipedia)
• • •

Matt Gaffney here, filling in for Rex this week while he's doing who-knows-what in historic Binghamton (probably just grading papers, but let's pretend he's parasailing days and drinking absinthe evenings).

Quick graf to establish my sterling bona fides: I've been a professional crossword puzzle writer for the past 15 years. I write a daily mini-puzzle here (easy), a weekly current events puzzle for The Week here (medium), and a weekly crossword contest here (difficult) . I also write a crossword blog here. And I do other crossword stuff which is easily Googleable. Or Bingable, since Rex lives in Binghamton.

On to the Monday NYX:

Theme answers:
  • 17-A [*Flying] = AIR TRAVEL
  • 24-A [*One placed between warring parties] = PEACEKEEPER
  • 32-A [*Contestant's help on "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire"] = LIFELINE
  • 45-A [*King, queen or jack] = FACE CARD
  • 52-A [*Piece of furniture that might be under a chandelier] = DINNER TABLE
  • 63-A [Vacation lodging purchase ... or an arrangement between the two halves of the answer to each starred clue?] = TIME SHARE
It's OK to do a crossword theme that's been done before, but if you're going to do it, do it with a new wrinkle. And that's what James Tuttle does today: each of the five theme entries (besides the revealer) consists of a two-word phrase, the first of which precedes the word "time" in a phrase, and the second of which follows it. So we have "airtime" and "time travel," then "peacetime" and "timekeeper," and then three more that you've probably already deduced.

This kind of "word that follows ...." theme is well-known, but I applaud the wrinkle here that the two phrases "share" the word TIME, as given in the TIME SHARE revealer. I'm told that real-life timeshares can be a huge pain in the ass, but this one was quite pleasant. So thumbs-up on the theme.

  • Star fill: the aforementioned FIBONACCI, plus CLEOPATRA, I DUNNO, BLEND IN, and a FACE CARD which is always welcome in my beloved weekly Texas HOLD 'EM game. You want all of these in your crossword.
  • But: Rex and other smart critics have repeatedly highlighted the Achilles' heel of the New York Times puzzle, which is early-week suboptimal fill, and as a crossword demon I can't let it pass without comment. OLEIC [Kind of acid in soapmaking], EMEER [Mideast bigwig: Var.], and OATEN [Like some cereals] don't belong in crossword puzzles period, and on a Monday I'll ding those three a full .75 on the 5-star scale used at the blog Diary of a Crossword Fiend. The "Var." tag should be used about three times a year in a daily crossword, and never on Mondays. Ne[Var.]. There's some other less-than-Monday stuff in here, too (EWERS, NICAD, IRANI) that you don't see in other top-level crosswords.
  • I dig the amusing linked clues at 2-Down and 14-Across, TRIED and TRUE. Good decision to go unconventional on the cluing there.
  • General un-dig: this crossword doesn't have a single clue that couldn't have been written ten years ago. How about a "Book of Mormon" reference for LDS, or a "Blue Jasmine" reference for ALLEN for Woody instead of Ethan, or a David SPADE reference instead of [Digging tool]? Would that've killed anyone? I'm not saying the NYX has to become one of the hipster crosswords, but every single clue in this puzzle could've been from pre-2004. [First number dialed when calling long distance] for ONE doesn't help the musty overall vibe, either.
  • Not that there's anything wrong with classical: AENEID, DOLCE, AHAB and PENN are all solid items in the Western canon.  
On the Fiend scale I'd give the theme here a 4.30 out of 5.00, but the fill and overall stale cluing vibe a 3.50. We'll average that out to a 3.80, and I will say that I enjoyed the solve and look forward to the rest of the week, and congratulate Mr. Tuttle on what I see is his 4th Times puzzle. Bravo to him, and over and out until tomorrow.

Signed, Matt Gaffney, Regent for one week of CrossWorld


Anonymous 12:05 AM  

Dolce is "sweetly", no? Had PIANO at the start.

Steve J 12:10 AM  

Found this to be a really solid Monday. Theme was well-executed and, as Matt said, was a nice, fresh rendition of the word-precedes/follows-X type of theme. It definitely helps that each of the themers was a real phrase or term that didn't need to be bent, folded, spindled and mutilated in order to fit, plus each phrase adding "time" was had the same quality.

My favorite fill came outside the theme. Loved FIBONACCI and I DUNNO. TRIED and TRUE was one of the very rare cases where cross-referenced clues enhanced the solve rather than served as an annoyance.

Outside OLEIC and EMEER, I thought this was pretty free of dodgy fill. Disagree that IRANI is non-Monday (it'll be rare that anyone cracking open the NYT isn't going to know that Tehran is in Iran).

Nice start to the week.

jae 12:12 AM  

Solid medium Mon. for me.  Liked it, but agree with Matt about the fill.

I took the Millionaire test (2 actually, one for the regular show and one for the movie knowledge version) a few years ago and passed them both.  Got interviewed followed by a post card that basically said "We'll pass."  My gut feeling, having watched the show quite a bit, was that geezers weren't the demographic they were looking for.

Anonymous 12:14 AM  

As a classically trained pianist, I was also shocked by the DOLCE cluing. Not to mention disappointed that Rex isn't here to rant about a Monday that I actually didn't like for once.

Anonymous 12:19 AM  

They could share time.

r.alphbunker 12:26 AM  

Liked it. After doing the puzzle I threw together a web page to help me compute the theme and fill quality. I gave the theme a 100 and the fill a 91, labeling HES, IAN and EMEER as bad.

Matt Gaffney 12:26 AM  

dol•ce (ˈdoʊl tʃeɪ)

Music. sweet; soft.

Questinia 12:26 AM  

♪ (cresc. molto) Dolce is sweetly sfz! Piano is softly... or sotto voce sfz! Makes me agitato presto con fuoco sfz!♬♭

Matt Gaffney 12:27 AM  

Ralph -- how are IAN and HES bad?

Carola 12:35 AM  

Very nicely done. When doing themed puzzles, I'm always checking along the way to see if I can figure out what the theme answers have in common. This one withheld its secret from me, even after the reveal: I looked in vain for some hidden time reference (sec, min,...) uniting the two halves. Finally I saw that what they shared was TIME itself. Enjoyed going back through and seeing how they all worked so well.

Do-overs: DINing TABLE, KeBaB.

CLEOPATRA and FIBONACCI made a nice pair.

John Child 12:38 AM  

Challenging /appropriate caveat/ here. Entering butch and cucoo (misspelled) made the NW hard to see, and MAGNETO and RANDD hid for several minutes. Fun puzzle overall.

r.alphbunker 12:39 AM  

I don't care for plural pronouns or suffix clues (nothing wrong with IAN, just don't like the clue). But these are quibbles, they did not ruin the puzzle for me.

Also the metric evolved rapidly in about an hour so I had to evaluate many times and probably lost touch with the actual solving experience in the process.

Fortunately I solved using a program that I wrote so I was able to rapidly generate the list of answers.

Matt Gaffney 12:40 AM  

OK Ralph, I see your point on the IAN clue. A bit odd, agreed.

Matt Gaffney 12:43 AM  

Steve J -- OK, but "Iranian" is way more common than "Irani." I don't recall seeing that form in non-Xword writing for many years. Even as an adjective, I mean.

Unknown 12:45 AM  

DOLCE jumped out as misclued (piano was in fact clued), but so did ELF, which has come to mean "svelte forest being," at least in the Tolkienized world. I can't quite imagine Liv Tyler as a munchkin. But Santa's elves will forever be short, so in some subdominant context, the clue passes muster.

This is the crossword, which I'm learning is hardly ever denotative and is not even necessarily connotative. As we've seen recently, fabrege eggs are DAINTY when they only sometimes are, and "groups that no one on earth has ever joined" consist exclusively of people on earth, so why can't "softly, in music" really mean not-softly-but-sweetl, instead? Really, it's not the clue-solution agreement we seek but a self consistent grid, clued every which way.

I'm happy to have finished in under a half hour with no histrionics of my own.

Garth 1:01 AM  

Had the same problem that @Carola had: Couldn't understand the theme even after looking at the revealer. In fact, my density was so pervasive today that I couldn't figure out theme until I read it in the blog. Makes me shudder to think how I survived before the pre-blog days.

I found the puzzle a little crunchier than an average Monday.

Ellen S 1:25 AM  

zipped through the puzzle, but like @Garth could not figure out what the revealer meant until reading the blog (thank you @Matt).

Could not help noticing, exactly two weeks ago we had a Fibonacci "SERIES" everybody had a goat over; I said I was thankful I didn't have to spell Fibonacci; that would be really unfair, especially on a Monday. And whaddya know, here the eponym for the "series" shows up in all his glory. Well, Mr. Tuttle, you don't scare me. When I was a kid, my father used to take me out to dinner and make me spell words like "bouillabaisse" before he'd let me eat. (Haha, I would starve to death if it were today: I just had my spelling corrected by spellcheck!)

AMA today was "Doc grp." and one week ago, it was "Docs' org." But at least today no IRKS, IRES or EELS. And DOLCE is fine: by the Ellen S corollary to the Kerfuffle Principle: as long as I can guess the desired answer, and it's vaguely related to the clue, whatever. I'll always learn something new about the subject coming here, so it's worth it! Thankee Mr. T.

chefwen 1:30 AM  

@Z - E WEN, loved it and not a bad idea.

Other than guessing incorrectly at the C in FIBONACCI/NICAD crossing I got 'er done. Can't remember the last time I failed on a Monday. Sniff... Am I really supposed to know those two? Must have failed something in high school. On to Tuesday.

Auras Cacti Magneto 1:41 AM  

Lovely lovely theme... TEN theme answers and a perfect reveal...nice nice nice.

Suspect we'll have our usual FIBONACCI and IRANI discussions...

I would say non-Monday fill was OLEIC, HOV, NICAD, ENID, MAGNETO...
Then again, I'd say this was a Tuesday, due to theme density and having to look closely and go back and discern the theme, in which case, all the words pass muster.

Really the only thing I would do differently is not to start a puzzle with "Attack with a Knife"

UHOH, MACHO hope not TRUE.
I'd have gone with STAG/GETS or STAN/NETS
or had the clue have something nonviolent.
Not what I want first word, Monday morning.

Loved the shout out to the ONION, that I think even @Matt might agree is up to hipness standards!

Anyway, classy, sassy, and fun.

Garth 1:57 AM  

@chefwen: I had a Monday dnf a couple of months ago. I feel your pain. Like you say, Tuesday is coming.

Evan 2:08 AM  

Thanks for filling in, Matt.

This is the kind of early-week theme that usually impresses me most -- I know it's been done a lot, but it's always struck me as being more difficult than other simple theme types to get solid phrases, where both elements precede or follow a certain word. Some other possibilities include WAR ZONE(S), BREAK OUT, SHOWPIECE(S), and SHOW TRIAL(S), but it took me a good deal of searching just to find that.

Obviously the theme isn't the entirety of the puzzle. The fill's decent -- MAGNETO is my favorite of the bunch, though....EMEER. Variant spellings are really high on my do-not-use list, so that made me grumble. Jeff Chen's not kidding, however, when he said that it's not easy to dump EMEER when you've got CLEOPATRA and I DUNNO up there. You could take out EMEER but at the price of RE-ADD instead of R AND D, which isn't much of an improvement.

I also had the same confusion that others did with DOLCE. "Sweetly" doesn't necessarily mean "softly" -- one can play a few bars of a melody with a DOLCE manner but still at mezzo-forte volume. That's nitpicking, perhaps, but it still felt strange.

Evan 2:19 AM  

Hmm, now I'm curious: why didn't they go with ALLAN/HAS instead of ALLEN/HES? It's not the most critical part of the puzzle, but HAS seems like a better option than the plural pronoun, no?

A Nonni Nonny 5:18 AM  

Refugee-ing from the uncooperative NYT site.

The dictionary you cite is worth what you pay for it. DOLCE is 'sweet' literally and musically. The clue, alas, was out of tune.

Enjoyed the puzzle despite some quibbles, and enjoyed learning something about constructors's constraints.

A long time since visiting this site, and it seems like I chose a good week to dip a toe into the water. I recognize Acme and Chefwen....few others!

John V 5:58 AM  

Clue for DOLCE is simply wrong. Clue should have been, sweetly in music. Free dictionary is wrong.

jberg 6:58 AM  

OK, I just love OATEN, The word, whether or not it's in a puzzle. For me, that was worth the EMEER and RANDD needed to get it. I suppose it's an acquired taste, though.

And whatever you think of HES, it was nice crossing it with MACHO.

Me too for DINing TABLE first; other than that, it was all smooth and silken.

GILL I. 6:59 AM  

Why not just clue it "con affetto"...?
Really - this is a Monday?
No NEATO at this DINNER TABLE. Well, maybe ONION and CACTI on BRED.

Loren Muse Smith 7:09 AM  

Perfect Monday. And so elegant with the reveal. I did see the theme, did *get* it toward the end and was just so pleased with the word SHARE. Nice job, James.

Also – any puzzle with UH OH, HOLD'EM, and I DUNNO is ok by me. And agreed – the TRIED/TRUE cross was an added flourish. I also liked HOV crossing SOLO. Better not even try that; apparently the Powers That Be can even spot one of those ghastly blow-up dummies in the passenger seat.

"Silly" goose is one thing. But "silly GEESE" feels weird. It's like a lone bonehead goose will straighten up and become a well BRED goose once HE'S with his AIR TRAVEL buddies.

Agree with Andrea – love the shout-out to The Onion, whose two greatest strengths are the horoscopes and matching the picture to the story. Period.


Is "Fond" a place in France? ADIEU doesn't seem so "fond." I would leave happier having been bidden "ciao."

@M&A from yesterday – really, really good advice. Loved HICKEY HOUSE! I also like the idea of "country" and "city" literally. (Now he has tunnel vision on the fact that urban and rural both contain a ur. . . ) He was extremely pleased with your interest in his theme, I might add.

EMEER reminds me of the SEHR trouble from a couple of days ago – I see no way around including foreign words in a puzzle of this caliber. When does SEHR begin to enjoy the status of bueno or mucho? When does the word stop looking all foreign – "emir" or EMEER – and become a bona fide word in our lexicon – shampoo, safari? But these words from non- ABC languages are always problematic. I, like @Carola, had trouble spelling KABOB; EMEER went in effortlessly. (I guess CLEOPATRA was originally written in some other system – hieroglyphs? – but we've seemed to settle on one spelling there.)

I actually had a dnf and forgot to go back and guess a square - the FIBONACCI/NECAD cross. I know we saw the former very recently, but I certainly didn't commit it to memory. In my world, an "r" or an "n" would have worked just as well as that C.

All in all – I really liked this one. And thanks so much for filling in, Matt! I enjoyed your write-up and look forward to the rest of this week. May Rex enjoy a little ME TIME (hope) for a few days?

palomarPuzzler 8:05 AM  

Thank you, Mr. Gaffney, for a temperate, well-reasoned commentary and for filling in. Refreshing! Thanks also to Mr. Tuttle for a decent Monday theme. Agree on some of the fill but the puzzle was easy enough that some of it, emeer and irani for instance, fell on the crosses and I didn't see them until I was finished. Dolce also came from the crosses, and I am not knowledgeable enough about musical terms to know the clue was off.

Interesting that all 27 comments so far dealt strictly with the puzzle, and not the blog commentary. Just sayin'......

MetaRex 8:07 AM  

A red-letter day for number nerds! Kudos to Matt for his numerical breakdown of a Fiend rating, and kudos to @r.alphbunker for his word-by-word crucimetric rating system. If ya make @r.alph's system interactive w/ a buncha people clickin in their ratings every day, ya could have a really interesting alternative to the open-ended ratings on Amy's site.

Are there legit value differences b/w a simple rating system like
r.alph's and the pretty intricate PIEDMONTESE system I've advanced? Ya betcha...I think there's a golden mean somewhere in between the two approaches. A good crucimetric system should have some nuance, but it should also be simple so it can be crowd-sourced.

Mohair Sam 8:23 AM  

Fun Monday, loved the theme. Agreed that the fill was not-so-hot. Am voting with the majority here on DOLCE. Obviously neither James Tuttle nor Will Shortz has seen "La Dolce Vita" - Anouk Aimee (a crossword favorite, btw) is anything but soft in that classic.

Thanks Matt Gaffney for a peek into what crossword pros look for in a puzzle. I wasn't aware that the dreaded "var" was sorta taboo. That explains why I find myself saying "shouldn't that clue have had a (var) at the end?" The Times has solved the (var) problem by just not labeling variants.

Anyone else notice that old FIBONACCI and his sequence were a well-kept secret of math fiends until "The Girl With the Dragon Tatoo"? Now he's everywhere - jeopardy, TV scripts, here. Fibonacci should be clued Sequence, not series, IMO.

@jberg - Agreement on OATEN, it is a great word that should be excused from any bad fill list.

Unknown 8:24 AM  

I did like the theme very much, but some of the fill and clues caused audible groans. I for one am glad to see Fibonacci getting some press. Next, Bernoulli!

joho 8:27 AM  

@Andrea, "Really the only thing I would do differently is not to start a puzzle with "Attack with a Knife". LOL!! Just the other day wasn't @Evan stabbing somebody or "something" with a TINE?

Thank you, James Tuttle, for a perfectly delighful Monday. The reveal is spot on.

And thank you, Matt, really good write up!

chefbea 8:36 AM  

No time to read the write up or comments. Just want to say…hardest Monday ever!!!DNF!!!

Be back later

ludyjynn 8:55 AM  

Easy, but not too easy Monday puzzle. It got the little gray matter moving (apologies to Agatha Christie's H. Poirot!)

Anonymous 8:57 AM  

Dolce puzzle but must join the chorus and complain forte.

Z 9:09 AM  

When too much technical knowledge gets in the way of your solve we end up with kvetching about DOLCE and series v. sequence. With my personal "mile wide, inch deep" knowledge, I have no issue with DOLCE. It is clued precisely okay. And no, the freedictionary isn't "wrong." It just is giving an alternate acceptable definition (and is the third definition listed - the prior listings are more in keeping with those who dislike the clue).

Fine theme. Mostly okay fill (EMEER and AMEER both bug me, but not to RRN levels). Time to shovel, again. This has been the winteriest of winters since 1978 in my opinion.

WA 9:17 AM  

Dolce sounds like the dessert listing for Italian mall restaurants.

Norm 9:27 AM  

I'm personally happy with pre-2004 fill. The changes Matt suggested would have had me growling. ;)

Lewis 9:32 AM  

Monday with a little bite -- as it should be in the NYT. HES is ugly, and I only know EWERS and OATEN from crosswords (never heard spoken out of someone's mouth), but overall, a clean and enjoyable puzzle. Clever theme. I like the contrast of REPEL over BLENDIN, and someone could make a story out of the top line: STAB, UHOH, MACHO.

Loved the intelligent and insightful writeup!

quilter1 9:42 AM  

Easy, enjoyable Monday. Good write-up, too. I ate at the DINing TABLE first, but the waiter moved me. Surprised I remembered FIBONNACI. And, BYW, Poirot had little gray cells.

Pete 9:53 AM  

DOLCE As Evan pointed out, softly can have many meanings. One is volumetric, so piano would be the logical answer to softly in this case. The other is textural, and softly would clue DOLCE in this case.

Anonymous 9:57 AM  

The average of 3.50 and 4.30 is 3.90.

Anonymous 9:58 AM  


Dolce is wrong. The Free Dictionary is wrong. So are you. Oh, and it's sequence, not series. There's a difference, an importnat difference in fact.

-some mathematician

Anonymous 9:59 AM  

Easy-medium FOR A MONDAY, or possibly medium, based on some of the fill and non-beginner-friendly answers like Fibonacci. Note that medium FOR A MONDAY still makes for an easy puzzle overall, but that doesn't change the fact that it's not easy FOR A MONDAY. Ten seconds longer than my Monday average (bu still faster than 6001 of 6280-some finishers o far).

Dolce and Gabba Gabba Hey 10:02 AM  

In the print edition of the Times, there's a Super Bowl supplement with a 21x21 puzzle, tied to the game. Don't know if it's distributed outside the NYC area.

Go whichever team you're rooting for! And thanks for the write-up, Matt.

Z 10:19 AM  

@anon9:58-some mathematician - why of course. Words can only have one meaning and can only be used in one context and those meanings never change over time nor are they ever used differently in different settings. I don't know why we even bother to document alternative uses for words because alternative uses are so obviously wrong. And no, I didn't, not even for a nanosecond, consider you a narrow-minded anonymouse. Okay, maybe I did, but only for a nanosecond. Honest.

Rex Parker 10:23 AM  

Thumbs down. Got to the end and thought, of the theme, "oh, that's clever." But *during* … no. Ask my wife how often I made the bad noises. A lot, I'm guessing. You gotta fill better than this. Much better.

Evan's point about ALLAN/HAS says it all. You either care about your fill or you don't. You put time in, or you don't. Also, CARB is a [Bit of pasta] precisely Never.


Matt Gaffney 10:27 AM  

"The average of 3.50 and 4.30 is 3.90."

Yeah but there were two ding factors (fill and stale cluing) so they got extra weight.

Diane from FL 10:29 AM  

The theme was fine.
The fill cudda been better.
The reveal was confusing.

Nice write-up!

Anonymous 10:47 AM  


Why the ad hominem attack? No one is suggesting that language doesn't change or their word may have multiple meanings. But in music the term for soft is piano. That hasn't cahnged, at least not yet. In music dulce is sweet. Thet two terms exist precisely because there is a difference. If they were interchangebakle, I'd be right there with you. But they simply arent syonymous. No need to believe me, look it up yourself. But may i suggest that there are lots of better sources than the free dictionary.


-some mathematician

Anonymous 10:49 AM  

I thought everyone would be coming here to say it was terrible. The theme was ok, but it took me well over double my normal Monday time.

Numinous 10:51 AM  

Listening to Anne Akiko Meyers play Vivaldi's Spring on the 'Vieuxtemps' Guarneri del Gesu violin. Sure is DOLCE, but not ppp. Never seen Dolce in a musical score to mean anything but sweetly.

Steve J 11:05 AM  

@r.alphbunker: Nice idea on the scoring system. One suggestion: There should be a way to give a bonus to particularly good fill. Or maybe there's good and fine. Both GEESE and I DUNNO are good fill, but the latter is a step above the former.

@Matt: Agreed that "Iranian" is much more common than IRANI. But it's still easily inferable on a Monday given the clue and the crosses.

@Rex: Runners often carbo load, or load up on carbs, prior to a long race. Pasta is often the carbohydrate of choice. The clue is certainly not true in a literal sense (nobody's ever going to say, "hey, you dropped a piece of CARB"), but metaphorically/colloquially, it works. It also could have been clued much better.

Re DOLCE: For whatever it's worth, my dictionary (New Oxford American) also includes "softly" (as well as "sweetly") in its definition. Dictionary editors (even at the Free Dictionary) tend not to make things up, so there's likely to be cases of its being used in the sense of "softly" out there somewhere.

Of course, the debate just illustrates my stance that just because you can find something in a dictionary doesn't mean it's a good answer or clue.

r.alphbunker 11:07 AM  


Ah, I have found another crucimetrician!

I have thought a lot about crowd sourcing as an alternative to what we have here on this blog and have written a prototype system to do it.

I will be in touch by email.

AliasZ 11:09 AM  

DOLCE = sweet
mosso = movement

"DOLCE far niente" - Sweet doing nothing.

While DOLCE can be inferred from "softly," and MOSSO from "rapid", for a Mon-Tue both these clues are off. They do not express precisely the meaning of these musical modifiers. I know a clue is not a definition, but such oblique clues should be reserved for Fri-Sat.

I LIKED today's theme, and the additional theme suggestions by @Loren. Here are a few more TIMESHAREs:


A STITCH in TIME-themed puzzle? Perfect entry. It made me laugh out loud.

Let me bid a fond ADIEU with the Sonata in E-flat major, Op. 81a, by Beethoven.

Numinous 11:11 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
mac 11:11 AM  

I did this one online, so the feel is totally different, but I enjoyed it, found it medium and my only write-over was dining table for dinner table.

Thinking about that: to me the dining table is the piece of furniture, the dinner table is the time you spend in the evening. "At the dinner table the kids told me about their day" (I wish).

I'll be air traveling to London later today.

Anonymous 11:19 AM  

I enjoyed doing today's puzzle, even though it was not very challenging. I also liked the tone of your commentary, Matt. It was nicely written; your critique was not aggressive, rather pleasantly worded. Bravo!

Personally, I prefer using "are composed of" or "consist of" or "comprise," rather than..."Theme entries are comprised of two words..." although I am aware that the passive voice (is/are comprised of) is considered acceptable usage in this day and age.

In any case, well done, Matt.


Numinous 11:20 AM  

It doesn't matter one bit what the Free Dictionary lists as alternate meanings, the clue was "Softly, in music." So the musical definition is required. Can't have half of an orchestra scratching their heads and playing sweetly while the other half can barely be heard. Musical definitions are set.

Thanks, @AliasZ for the musical moment.

Kathyce 12:04 PM  

Yes dolce means sweetly in music and piano means soft
That clue is somewhat incorrect

Mohair Sam 12:18 PM  

I am changing my stance on DOLCE.

I quote Elson's Pocket Music Dictionary copyright 1909: DOLCE (It.) Sweetly, softly, delicately.

There it is from the horse's mouth. We can complain about using the second definition on a Monday. But if Elson's says it is OK, it is OK.

C'mon Man 12:32 PM  

@Numinous,@etal - It apparently escaped your attention that the definition in the Free Dictionary specifically denoted that this was in musical terms. That other (cited here) dictionaries, including Sam's citation, specifically cited musical terminology which supported DOLCE for softly. That others have explained the difference between volume and textural approach to music.

I have never seen so many people spend so much time rejecting what they don't know as being factually false outside of Fox News.

AliasZ 1:03 PM  

@C'mom Man,

That's because we are all idiots. Finally someone has the guts to come out and say it. It is also refreshing to hear you telling us what we all know and don't know. Thank you for that. From now on I will seek your advice before commenting. Fox News should do the same.

Z 1:16 PM  

@anon-some mathematician - Please note: "Dolce is wrong. The Free Dictionary is wrong. So are you." As opposed to: "Never seen Dolce in a musical score to mean anything but sweetly." And for the record, I really meant nanosecond, you obviously have lots of company. Based on what I've read, it seems like an acceptable Saturday misdirection but a bit rare for Monday. Nevertheless, it is pretty clear from the sources cited by others that the clue is not "wrong."

@RP - I took the "bit" as a signal for an abbreviation as opposed to part of an actual common phrase. With our obsession on Carbs and Gluten and salt and sugar and trans fat and and and... I found the clue to be fine and non-fattening.

r.alphbunker 1:23 PM  


Here is an idea for a fund raiser for the site: record the noises you make while solving a puzzle and sell them on line. I would buy one.

Like iTunes does you could indicate which lyrics are clean.

Maybe M&A could do the same and give you a commission. And @Questinia could perform an opera of her solution.

LaneB 1:25 PM  

Didn't find this all that easy by reason of the cross at HOV and UHOH. Not being a commuter by auto [or at all for that matter] I didn't recognize the lane involved and "Oops-a-daisey" in my lingo is said when lifting someone or something up onto something, not as an expression of warning or doubt.
Hadn't heard of Fibonacci, either, making the cross with 61a iffy
And still don't get "the arrangement between the 2 halves of the starred clues" But then I'm not very smart. Just old.

KarenSampsonHudson 1:32 PM  

As a musician, and especialy as a brass player, I also object to "dolce". Some not-so-soft passages in music are dolce! :-) I've noticed clues involving music are sometimes a little off in the NYT puzzles---could use a little vetting by musicians!
Generally, this puzzle was a bit hard than the usual Mondays.

KarenSampsonHudson 1:36 PM  

Make that, " a bit harder than "

John V 1:40 PM  

I defer to Elson's on Dolce. My copy is on my piano in CT; I am in Albany as I write this.

So, that said, if so many in 2014, musically trained (moi) come up overwhelmingly with a different slant, we might simply say that using a technical term, especially early week, is fraught with peril.

I recall a similar thread around the word NULL, some time back. The database geeks (moi) came up quite literally with an argument based on three value logic that took most of the air out of the room.

Tiptoe-ing dolce, two and out.

TenaciousDecaf 1:55 PM  

Nice write-up, Matt. I really enjoyed the commentary- specifically the [Var.] remarks.

Sandy K 1:58 PM  

I thought the theme was very clever- when I finally saw the before and after SHARE of 'TIME'-

That made the revealer even better as an explanation of the word play as well as a TIME-SHARE being "an arrangement between two..." or more parties.

LIKED the puzzle and the write-up!
And a good TIME was had by...some.

R. McGeddon 2:10 PM  

Matt left out of his CV that he wrote a history of the crossword called "Gridlock" -- which I read recently and recommend.

Carola 2:14 PM  
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Carola 2:16 PM  

@loren - Your comment about ADIEU made me curious (loved your idea about France!). It came to me automatically, and I wondered why. Checked the OED and read, "a. Used as an expression of farewell: ‘goodbye’.
In earlier use usually emphasizing fondness, kind wishes, or sorrow at parting. In later use sometimes regarded as a more final expression of parting, contrasted with au revoir." However, none of the many usage citations show "adieu" together with "fond." In contrast, Googling "fond adieu" brings up a fair number of hits, with the phrase used in headlines as a stock phrase, like "fond farewell."

Nameless 2:17 PM  

HES?!?!? That is just Godawful fill.

I did like the rest of the puzzle though.

Benko 2:25 PM  

What the hell does playing "sweetly" even mean? Sweet refers to a taste sensation. You people are all insane.

Anonymous 2:35 PM  

AliasZ, some advice from the Mayo clinic: "If you're struggling with passive-aggressive behavior — or you think a loved one is — consider consulting a therapist."

Anonymous 2:35 PM  


My question remains: why the ad hominem attack on me? Why call me narrow-minded?
I'm curious how you came to that conclusion?

Some mathematician

retired_chemist 2:37 PM  

Wikipedia is OK with either series or sequence for FIBONACCI. preferred term actually seems to be FIBONACI numbers but all three are OK. Not gonna get my knickers in a knot over this rehash of the issue.

Liked the puzzle, but only about a third as well as the writeup. Mr. Gaffney provides the same sorts of criticisms as OFL, but the dispassionate tone makes it much easier to view them as analytical and helpful instead of idiosyncratic and angry. Bravo, Matt!

My dictionary says DOLCE means sweetly and softly. Indecisive thing,it won't take a stand.

Good theme, and none of the fill gave me heartburn. Easy. Thanks, Mr. Tuttle.

Why are the very clear numbers now often use as CAPTCHAs deterrents to spambots? I would think any bot could decipher them. What am I missing?

retired_chemist 2:42 PM  

Bah. Several typos in my post. Sorry. Not worth fixing. probably not worth my remarking on either.

dk 2:56 PM  

Even when Rex is away he airs his cranky pants.

OATEN was the only clunker for me. Although we did breakfast under a chandelier so is it really just a dinner table. I guess in Downton as they breakfast in the morning room… DINNERTABLE is ok…. all this change.

The real tragedy was finding out that Amy gives stars as well. Not only does she give more stars (5 to my 4) she does it more often. Obviously she is a pro. What is a rank (pun intended) amateur do?

🌕🌕🌕 (3 Moons)

Z 3:33 PM  

Open-minded behavior would be looking at various resources and considering how my own prior understanding might have been in error. Calling others "wrong" and refusing to accept independent verification is a perfect exemplar of narrow-mindedness. So, to answer your question, by definition. Perhaps this is rubbing salt in the wound, but continuing obtuseness is hardly indicative that I was correct in only holding that opinion for a nanosecond.

Since you asked me a direct question I have responded, but there is a posting limit of three a day for good reason. This is four, so I'm done.

C'mon Man 3:33 PM  

@Alias Z - No one was telling you what you should or shouldn't know. What I was saying was that, after having been presented with multiple citations where one has been proved wrong, it makes no sense to continue to insist that one is right. That when it's explained that softly doesn't necessarily mean of low volume but can refer to the phrasing of music, that one might recondider their objections.

C'mon Man 3:39 PM  

Yes, they must recondider their objections. I will brook no modifications to objections other than recondideration.

Anonymous 3:43 PM  


I'm neither wounded nor obtuse. Your blithering answer not only unmasks your limited command of the language, it reinforces my long-held suspicion that you're not a real great guy.

Some mathematician.

Numinous 3:54 PM  

The horse seems dead but I can't resist beating it a bit more. If you google "dolce music term" you will be referred to ten pages which hold twelve definitions and a thesaurus definition. Only one definition, the third on includes the word softly. Two others there include the word gently with the thesaurus defining that as "an artistic form of auditory communication incorporating instrumental or vocal tones in a structured and continuous manner" which would mean not marcato, staccato or accento. Eleven of the definitions simply state " sweetly."

AliasZ 4:32 PM  

@C'mon Man,

I trust you noticed my facetious tone. It was meant as a hyperbole with tongue in cheek, to counteract the somewhat harsh tone of your post as I perceived it when I read it.

My final word on DOLCE was stated at 11:09 AM.

Since I started studying music some 55 years ago and even until now, DOLCE always meant "sweetly." It was more a phrasing and playing style rather than a dynamic indication, as others already stated. There is plenty of music indicating mezzo forte and DOLCE at the same time. Elson's dictionary most likely refers to "softly" as an antonym to "harshly." That would be absolutely accurate.

Now I am off to seek therapy to address my passive-agressive behavior, which was so correctly diagnosed by Anonymous at 2:35PM, at no charge no less.

Garth 4:46 PM  

@AliasZ's last explanation of "dolce" is pretty much on the mark. But if a discussion with this level of emotion about the possible meanings of one word unfolded in one of my classes, I would tell my students to chill.

Director, School of Music & Performing Arts
University of Louisiana, Lafayette

r.alphbunker 5:05 PM  


It is unlikely to happen in class because it is hard for students to be anonymous.

You may get a kick out of this video

Anonymous 5:43 PM  

I'm recondidering everything I think.

sanfranman59 6:24 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)

Mon 6:48, 6:26, 1.06, 77%, Medium-Challenging

Top 100 solvers

Mon 4:29, 4:00, 1.12, 88%, Challenging

And the sample size for the stats I post continues its downward trend. So far today, there have been only 361 correct solutions posted via the online applet. The previous low was 415 and the average number of Monday solvers before the Times revamped its Premium Crosswords billing policy was close to 800. It's been relatively consistently in the 450-500 range over the past year and I'm hoping that today's count is an aberration. Time will tell.

DigitalDan 7:13 PM  

Unless one is Humpty Dumpty, one must stand with those who rail re DOLCE. It has only one musical meaning, in my nearly-infinitely-vast experience, and it ain't "softly", although playing softly is often also indicated. As a lyrical trumpeter, it is one of my favorite notations.

Clark 7:45 PM  

Beethoven almost never used the indication "mezzo piano." (Two times in all of the 32 piano sonatas, or something like that.) Someone proposed a theory (I suppose it was in a doctoral dissertation) that Beethoven's frequent use of the term "dolce" was a stand-in for mezzo-piano. The idea isn't that the word could mean that, but that Beethoven seems to have thought of "sweet" playing as "somewhat soft" playing. (There was no doubt much analysis in the dissertation of musical passages to show that this was how Beethoven used the term.) Brahms, in contrast, clearly thinks of "dolce" being possible at many different dynamic levels.

I mean to stay out of the food fight on this one!

foxaroni 8:57 PM  

Personally, I think you all are wrong. The correct answer is that 3,141 angels can dance on the head of a pin. :-)

Steve J 11:21 PM  

Foxaroni wins the thread!

Tita 11:29 PM  

Way to late to the game. Mired in a hotel all week, as I was last week.

Just have to rant about why I need to dial a ONE to call people in next town, (CT), while my mom in NY can dial the entire state with no need for a ONE.

If the phone system knows enough to tell me I need to dial a ONE, then just go ahead and dial it for me!!!!!!!!!!

Love the "Silly" birds.

A fine puzzle - thank you Mr, Tuttle.

sanfranman59 1:56 AM  

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

Top 100 solvers

Mon 4:24, 4:00, 1.10, 85%, Challenging

Today's final sample size = 384 solvers or approximately the average number of Saturday solvers before the policy change in July 2012.

Anonymous 4:19 AM  

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Bob Kerfuffle 3:57 PM  

Darn, catching up after a weekend away, but didn't think I would get here after the spellcaster!

As I solved for FIBONACCI, I said, "Nooooooo! Not again!" But look, the furor over Mr. F has been minimal. Sweet!

Oh, wait a minute. Maybe "sweet" isn't the best exclamation today . . . .

Garth 1:00 AM  
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spacecraft 11:25 AM  

What an unexpected furor over DOLCE! La DOLCE Vita was always translated "The Sweet Life," but I guess "The Soft Life" works as well. Anyway, no bother here.

Minimal bother here with "Had a crush on" for LIKED. Clue seems a bit hyperbolic, but "like" has gone through many stages over the years, so it gets a pass, as does STITCH for "Hilarious person." Must be a regional thing; it's not in my book. And slthough NEATO has not been uttered by a human since 1955, it isn't terrible.

However, the disaster that resulted when 36a T-boned 28d amidships sent debris scattering. Among the jetsam can be found two swatches of yellow cloth--from the pocket of yours truly.

Smashups aside, I have to give props to a solid, dense theme with a clever revealer. [Aside: if you're thinking about buying one, DON'T! Pay particular attention to the phrase "belonging to you and your heirs and assigns, in perpetuity." They are referring to the annual maintenance bills!]

The long downs, though proper names, are, um, NEATO. But why clue a real thing, MAGNETO, as a proper noun? Don't we have enough of those? You didn't clue SOLO as "Millenium Falcon pilot," did you?

I LIKED this, but I certainly didn't have a crush on it.

4's full of 2's.

Waxy in Montreal 12:26 PM  

IDUNNO, think maybe OATEN should be verboten but otherwise not a bad start to the crossword week. LIKED the theme but not enough for a NEATO reaction. Bring on Tuesday...

Anonymous 1:23 PM  

Had OATEY so RAYDD was a wtf. RANDD was a wtf too, until I saw the 'and'. Duh.
Nice writeup. Sweet, even.

Ginger 1:57 PM  

102 comments, and 101 of them (pardon the hyperbole) about the correct clueing of DOLCE. UGH

Today's comment thread makes me appreciate Syndiland. I can do without personal attacks and vitriol.

Oh, the puzzle. Liked it. A little tough for a Monday, but I found it honest with fair crosses.

row boat 2s over 3s

Z 2:16 PM  

@Ginger - "Only" 31. I must admit that I enjoyed the dust-up in a "car-wreck" sort of way. I should probably go to confession except for that whole "I'm agnostic" thing.

I'm getting blurred letters so I don't get to play.

Dirigonzo 6:09 PM  

Aloha before ADIEU - I must have had @SiS in mind.

@Z - It's good to see that you escaped the fray unscathed. I'm just glad that my ignorance of all thing musical (for example) innoculates me against the hypersensitivity that many exhibit to "wrong" clues.

My four deuces are looking very good at this point.

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