Japanese chess / TUE 1-7-14 / German city on canal of same name / Alley Oop woman / Headline event in India in 1974 '98 / 1969 platinum record for Creedence Clearwater Revival

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Constructor: Mark Bickham

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging (*for a Tuesday*)

THEME: "IS IT GOOD?" (62A: Question posed while pulling leftovers from the fridge … or a query about the initial words of 18-, 24-, 33-, 43- or 50-Across) — first words are slang expressions that (mostly) sound as if they are negative but really mean "good."

Word of the Day: KIEL (12D: German city on a canal of the same name) —
Kiel is a city in Calumet and Manitowoc counties in the U.S. state of Wisconsin. The population was 3,738 at the 2010 census. Of this, 3,429 were in Manitowoc County, and 309 were in Calumet County. The city is located mostly within Manitowoc County, though a portion extends west into adjacent Calumet County.
It was once known as the "Wooden Shoes" Capital of Wisconsin as it held the only wooden shoes factory in Wisconsin. (wikipedia) (Kiel is also a German city with about 240,000 inhabitants; this Wisconsin city is just more fun to contemplate)
• • •

Lots of problems here. First, the revealer is not nearly tight enough. "IS THIS GOOD?" You'd probably say "any good" or "still good." You *might* say "IS THIS GOOD?" but revealers are supposed to be bam, pow, spot-on. This one simply isn't. Next, what does RADICAL have to do with all these others? I can see how the other first words have a kind of negative cast that make their "good" meaning unexpected/paradoxical. But RADICAL just doesn't seem to fit whatever pattern this puzzle is supposed to have. Yes, it's a slang adj. meaning "good," no it's not a regular adj. describing something bad (except perhaps in political and tendentious ways that still make it out of step with the other first words). I'd've replaced it with something starting with, say, SICK. Means "good," looks bad. SICK OF IT ALL fits, if you really have to stick with the 11-letter length. I'm sure there are better options, but RADICAL—seems off. Then there's the fill, which is demonstrably subpar. SHOGI (1D: Japanese chess) has only ever appeared in two NYT puzzles in recent(ish) years, for good reason. KIEL is a place (12D: German city on a canal of the same name), and valid if you really need it, but again, it's a foreign word of no great fame that could Easily have been replaced with something better.. I mean, what's it holding in place, IT RIP!?!?! SLO?? Yeesh. The entire grid is weighed down by tired crosswordese. Everywhere, in every corner, the fill is either dull or looks like it's straight out of a Maleska-era grid. That south, man alive. OOOLANOOILOLIO! DO I? OH GOD, indeed. Just a mess. EZIO and EFT, ARNO and OKRA. IRINA and N-TEST. ENTR' and ECARD. There's just no escape. Yesterday's puzzle wasn't Great, but it was solid and had some colorful fill. This one is a strikeout, I'm afraid.

My wife and I, independently, wrote in 'ER RIP at 16A: "Let ___!" ("Full speed ahead!"). I am thus sure that we were not the only ones. IT RIP is one of the worst partials I've ever seen. Yes, worse than the very random A SCAR.  I'm just gonna let this one go now, and hope for better days ahead. If you want to do a fun (and free) puzzle, head over to Neville Fogarty's site and pick up "2013 in Portmanteaux." It wasn't my Puzzle of the Week last week, but it was up there.
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


    August West 12:01 AM  

    _ _ _ boy!


    Is this good? OH GOD, NOT.

    Gruel utterly overpowered what better long stuff there was, and that wasn't great. The kind of puzzle that just steals my good mood and annoys me to no end.

    These are the things that drive me crazy! These are the things that make me BAD!

    Anonymous 12:11 AM  

    The list of stuff called not good above is something I would protest. Entries like FROS, ESL, ETC, AAA, WAHOO, TGIF, HAS, RBI and COT are all entries I would greatly protest as NOT being crosswordese.

    Things I would try to avoid on a Tuesday: ITRIP, NTEST, SLO, AUST, ARNO, EZIO, EFT, AIRE, OLIO, FOSSE, STET, SHOGI, AUDEN, CLIOS, OKRA, ENTR, ECARD, MAS, IRINA, OOOLA, NOOIL, ISLEY, DOI, ASCAR, OTB, KIEL and APSO. That's twenty-seven crosswordy entries in one grid. 35% of all entries. More than I've seen in any puzzle...ever.

    Pathetic display of a crossword. Trash.

    Steve J 12:12 AM  
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    August West 12:36 AM  
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    jae 12:37 AM  

    Easy-medium Tues. for me.  Liked it more than Rex did but agree that RADICAL doesn't fit and that @anon 12:11  there too much sub par fill for a Tues.

    No erasures and no WOEs (only because I've finally committed to memory Chekov's sisters).

    @Questina - BAD MOON RISING is definitely zippy.  BIFF would have been zippy if clued by Back to the Future, but that's not a Tues. level clue.  JIMI and ISLEY on the other hand...  Feel free to disagree.

    August West 12:39 AM  

    Anon 12:11 I agree that your upper, or first paragraph, list is not punctuated by crosswordese, per se, or stuff that one minds in small does to hold together a greater good. For me it was just too much small lazy crap on top of all the other crap.

    Interestingly, I gave stuff like SHOGI, AUDEN, FOSSE, IRINA, ISLEY, even CLIO and KIEL a pass, for trying.

    wreck 12:43 AM  

    Let 'er rip - taterchip!

    Steve J 12:48 AM  

    (Spotted some editing errors in my original post ...)

    Another problem with the reveal (on top of the issues Rex already noted, which indeed are problematic): It's not clear enough what it's getting at. You can look at IS IT GOOD literally, and be left going, "Hell no". That's what I did. KILLER? Nope, no way that's good. INSANE? Also really no way to make that one good. Ditto WICKED. RADICAL? Doesn't really fit under this sense, either.

    The theme answers themselves were all good (other than the poor exception of RADICAL SIGN; I'm starting to feel bad for it, since it can't fit in anywhere). And I like the concept on its own. It just needed a much better and tighter reveal. Your reveal cannot be left open for very easy - and valid - misinterpretation. Fix that (as well as replace the RADICAL SIGN misfit), and this would have been a very good theme.

    IT RIP is indeed one of the worst partials I've seen in a while (A SCAR is as bad), and while I wanted 'ER RIP, looking up comparative results on Google, "let IT RIP" is much, much more common. The phrasing is legit. Its inclusion as a partial is not. Lots of other grating stuff, but that's already been well covered (although I will point out that the Texas section is impressive in presenting such a bad-fill pileup; I think the letter O has met its quota for the week).

    DocRoss 12:49 AM  

    I didn't hate it as others did, but mostly because of the JIMI/ISLEY crossing, since JIMI played with the ISLEY Brothers before going on his own.

    Everything south of the revealer was not GOOD though.

    August West 12:55 AM  

    @ Steve J: Funny re: the Texas pileup/O quota!

    Anoa Bob 12:58 AM  

    This is what often happens in a puzzle with six theme entries. After all those squares are filled in, there's very little wiggle room left to finish the grid with quality fill.

    I think going with five theme entries (Dele RADICAL SIGN) and kicking them all off with KILLER WEED would have given the puzzle a bit more punch and left room to clean up the fill.

    I'm a CCR fan, so seeing BAD MOON RISING was nice.

    Carola 12:58 AM  

    Along the way, I pondered what the theme answers might have in common and came up empty - so I enjoyed the GOOD surprise, though I agree that the phrasing of the reveal seems a little off.

    I liked JIMI over FROS and picturing "OH GOD, OOOLA - NO OIL!" in a cartoon bubble, as a Paleo diet admonishment.

    Questinia 1:01 AM  

    @ jae~BAD MOON RISING is zippy! But is SHOGI crunchy?


    ... well, it did taste more like Hamburger Helper trying to pass itself off as Bolognese.

    retired_chemist 1:06 AM  
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    retired_chemist 1:08 AM  

    Easy here. One of my best Tuesday times. Hand up for 'er RIP.

    Solved it as a themeless, so the weak thematic connections and the odd reveal didn't bother me while solving. Can't defend the fill against the previous criticisms. In retrospect, DO I think, "IS THIS GOOD?" Or GREAT? Did I shout WAHOO? OH GOD, NOT.

    On to Wednesday.

    chefwen 1:30 AM  

    @Carola - Your last sentence had me spewing wine. A friend of mine bought me the Practical Paleo book. My head spins just trying to read it. Just give me my mayo, I'll be fine.

    Liked the puzzle more than most. I just accept it and enjoy. Filled in Let it rip with nary a thought to Let 'er rip.

    Had a great lunch with @Rube and Mrs. Rube, we had a year to catch up on and I think we got 'er done.

    dmw 2:03 AM  

    I had no trouble with "radical." Maybe I am old, but it seems we used that word synonymously with "killer" back in my teens.

    Evan 2:04 AM  

    What an arbitrary phrase for a revealer -- I DON'T KNOW IF THIS IS GOOD OR BAD would make just as much sense and would have the same currency as a phrase (which is to say, not much). I wonder if these 10-letter phrases would have been better, noting that it's difficult to give them an accurate, non-tortured clue:

    * GOOD AND BAD -- you'd have to lose BAD MOON RISING, but at least this one might make the theme clearer.
    * GOOD VS. EVIL -- [Age-old conflict ... and an apt way to describe the first words of 18-, 24-, 33-, 43- or 50-Across]
    * GOOD ANSWER -- [Cry heard on "Family Feud" ... and an ironic description of the first word of 18-, 24-, 33-, 43- or 50-Across]
    * IT'S ALL GOOD -- ["No problem, man" ... and a phrase describing the first words of 18-, 24-, 33-, 43- and 50-Across]
    * SOUNDS GOOD ["That's fine with me" ... and what the first word of 18-, 24-, 33-, 43- or 50-Across does]

    Alternatively you could just put GOOD and EVIL as separate answers in the grid and use them as revealers.

    There's still the subpar fill that many others have already pointed out. I'm with @Anoa Bob (and Amy on her blog): cut one of the themers and the fill likely improves dramatically. But even if you don't, you could probably change a couple of things up. Here's an alternate northeast corner, which I'm not in love with, but it gets rid of things like IT RIP, AUST, SLO, KIEL, and APSO. I've changed KILLER BEES to KILLER APPS.

    Billy 2:08 AM  

    Regardless of what Steve J above said, I'm not even going to check Google, as I know that "Let er rip" is correct, and let it rip is something that has never ever heretofore been uttered.

    Rube 2:15 AM  

    Didn't like SHOGI as a Tuesday level answer. But more importantly, didn't think the theme worked very well. After the solve, had to go back and think how the theme answers worked. There was no "aha"... just, well, I guess so, or OK, that's about right, or maybe...

    Agree with @jae that BIFF would be more zippy if clued to Back to the Future.

    Only writeovers were WAHOO/yAHOO and ITRIP/erRIP, (and misspelling ISLEY).

    As @Chefwen said, we had a most enjoyable lunch today catching up on the past year's events. It's too bad her Packers had to fall victim to my Niners again this year. Well, there's always next year.

    Apso Clio Molts 2:25 AM  

    I thought the 8 Os below was fun!!!

    I also thought INSANEASYLUM, BADMOONRISING and KILLERBEES were VERY fresh theme entries.

    Very musical, a little JIMI Hendrix, some ISLEY Brothers, CCR's BADMOONRISINGBob FOSSE choreographing it all...
    Very literary with BIFF, IRINA, AUDEN, ODIN, the MUSEs...

    It all depends on how you look at this as to whether THIS IS GOOD!

    jae 2:28 AM  

    @Questina -- Yes. But for a puzzle to be crunchy you need enough "SHOGI" answers to push it into the medium-challenging zone. Again, a subjective call.

    ESP 4:03 AM  


    Of your alternate revealers I love IT'S ALL GOOD and think it works here much better than IS THIS GOOD.

    But I don't think KILLER BEES can be changed to KILLER APPS because in the latter's case KILLER is being used in a context that means "good." In all the other themers the "bad" word is actually used in a negative context, with the notable exception of RADICAL SIGN, which is why RADICAL SIGN should've been thrown out.

    Questinia 5:55 AM  

    @ jae ~ If I ever construct a puzzle I promise to clue MINSK a la Seinfeld.... would that be zip?

    and add, @ Evan, rodent subspecies names in latin... now that would be crunch.

    @ Carola explained things perfectly but I need that 'enry 'iggins' "I think she's got it" feel.

    Loren Muse Smith 6:08 AM  
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    Loren Muse Smith 6:15 AM  

    As a mom who's subjected to listening to her 21-year old son talk on the phone to friends, discussing plans to play ball, go out, watch the bowl game. . .and hearing a *ton* of adjectives whose meanings are completely lost to me, I thought this theme was nasty. And how elegant that it ends with GREAT!

    @Steve J – "(Spotted some editing errors in my original post ...)" Been there, done that, got the t-shirt. Almost daily.

    I rarely get to brag that I knew something that others didn't, but SACS and SHOGI were my first two entries. (I still remember with fondness, nostalgia, the day I knew KENAI when others didn't. I really do. Sheesh, I need to take up something in addition to these %$#puzzles. @Tita – teach me to knit if you come to Brooklyn!)

    @Evan and @ESP – I've said here before, whenever anyone says, "It's all good," actually, it's all pretty damn bad. Usually it's the guy who's been eliminated from Top Chef, and he says "It's all good" with his lower lip trembling and his eyes brimming with tears.

    So much of the fill people are complaining about was stuff I liked, I guess (surprise surprise) because a lot of them evoked some memories. While visiting AUST, I slipped under a sign and illegally stood in Hung. It was INSANE! My husband loves to remember his trip to Florence, always mentions the beautiful ARNO (and maintains that the Uffizi is KILLER). My daughter and I used to go to the Meadowlands to a huge dog show, and we loved seeing the Lhasa APSOs being groomed; the procedure is RADICAL. ENTR' pleased me, as always (like "maître d') because an apostrophe jumping to and FRO is just plain WICKED.

    We ate plain old boiled OKRA growing up. Good times. As a kid, I was lucky to get the COT at big mama and big daddy's house; otherwise I had to sleep on the floor on a "palette." Received an ECARD just the other day. Sorry, but it's true. MAS – gotta love him!

    @Anoa Bob – was expecting a comment from you on INSANE ASYLUMS.

    IS THIS GOOD, TURN (Ahem, my daughter and her friend, Maria, are The WICKED Expiration Date Police)
    MUSE, GREAT (Look, I rarely note these obvious, embarrassing shout-outs)
    SLO, and then slap some lipstick on it to get OSLO. Made me smile. (Hey, @M&A)

    Me, too, for ERRIP, thinking vaguely that it looked like one of Errol's sons – ya know – he played that small part opposite EZIO in South Pacific. "I tell you, EZIO was GREAT, but ERRIP just knocked it out of the park at the end there."

    Agreed – RADICAL to have a bad connotation isn't as tight as the others, but I still can picture it being bad. (@jberg – I would just feel stupid using its there. Sorry.)

    "Hey, I know our pewit is infested with FLEAS, but, seriously, a forced MOLT? Did you have to be so RADICAL?"

    So maybe NASTY HABITS instead of RADICAL SIGN?

    Liked it, Mark. Thought the theme was da bomb.

    Danp 6:47 AM  

    I'm not bothered by RADICAL. It does mean good, but not here. The fact that it's the only one that isn't used to mean bad is only a slight diversion. I'm more bothered by WICKED, which I think means more estreme than good.

    Mohair Sam 7:41 AM  

    We've never disagreed more with @Rex or the crowd here.

    Found this a fun easy-medium Tuesday. Nifty theme, and no problem with RADICAL imo, it fits well enough. Thought the OOOO block that annoyed Rex and others was kind of clever (we chuckled).

    Yes, too much crosswordese - but putting FROS under JIMI was neat, and I like OLIO underpinning the "O" square in the south. I think a couple of words on the crosswordese list are strained anyhow - AUDEN is fine, as is KIEL.

    It was a nice Tuesday, lighten up folks.

    Glimmerglass 7:42 AM  

    @dmw. I agree. The theme, however confusingly revealed, is words that usually mean something bad turned by popular slang into synonyms for "good" (Including BAD). RADICAL (noun) was once a synonym for "terrorist" or "anarchist." Remember the cartoon character with a round bomb with a fuse? RADICAL (adjective) was then 90s slang for "good" (because unusual or surprisingly different). Sort of a variation of 60s "far out."

    joho 8:10 AM  

    I thought this was a GREAT way to point out the INSANE way our language works showing how what sounds BAD really means GOOD ... fun!

    dk 8:12 AM  

    Huh! Did not find this puzzle to be the same bane of xworddom as others have. Perhaps it is the memories evoked by the music fill. Spent the late 60's and early 70's photographing rock musicians so names like JIMI and CCR take me to the sunny slope of memories.

    Liked the long fill a lot. And, as a single male the reveal is an oft heard phrase in the dk house. Chef son will say "When in doubt, throw it out."

    I might have clued 16A as. "What does one say after taking a hit of blotter acid?" But.... Overall the theme works for me and the reveal ties it all together.

    ** (2 Stars) in the words of Lincoln Hayes: Solid man! See old Mod Squad shows for context.

    OISK 8:21 AM  

    A first, or a worst, if you prefer. An error today, as well as one yesterday. Yesterday, forgot how to spell Shyamalan - will probably forget it next time it comes up as well. Today, Shogi? I guess most here have heard of an online source for TV shows (Hulu), but I haven't, so I had Slogi and Lulu. A rough cross, IMHO, but especially inapt on a Tuesday. Didn't much care for the theme, either. O for two, this week. (Don't know anything about Credence Clearwater either, but it's a pretty fair clue for most people…)

    AliasZ 8:28 AM  

    WAHOO! -- what a mediocre puzzle! First ITRIP on my own shoelace in the NW with that ZULU, LULU, MULU, PULU and SZOGI, SLOGI, SPOGI, SMOGI Natick. Than ENTR' EZIO from OSLO with a Lhasa APSO infested by FLEAS and OLIO & OOOLA NOOIL with an EFT, I thank OHGOD that I knew KIELbasa are connected ENDWISE, otherwise I would've ended up with a NERVE breakdown for all the REDOS, and the eight Os in that tiny 4x4 in the south center. However ASCAR go, the Jag is a good BRIT. Did someone say escargot? NOT! Now I'll have some OKRA and a shot of VODKA. I,DI IDIOT with other VIRTUAL INCUBATES in da INSANEASYLUM: JIMI DALI, BIFF FOSSE, AUST AUDEN and IRINA KIEL, am sending this ECARD while looking for the bathroom on the right. Thank God It's Finished. DOI hear a "No MAS"?

    Unknown 8:43 AM  

    Easyish. I liked it but did not say WAHOO when I got to the revealer. I also ERRIPped.

    Anonymous 9:03 AM  

    Wicked pissah, Mark!

    Milford 9:18 AM  

    Fast Tuesday, liked all the themers on their own, but agree that the reveal had me a tad confused. As others have said, though, the fact that we have so many BAD=GOOD words in English is pretty amazing. Maybe "dope" could have been included?

    I personally liked the SACS-JIMI-VODKA run across the top.

    Hand way-up for 'er RIP. But I kind of liked the O-fest in the south.

    When we pull Tupperware or takeout from the fridge, our usual phrase is "What day did we have this?" Often this is followed by staring and silence. Then we know the food is too RADICAL to eat.

    -15 F this morning. Still home with the happy kids.

    Z 9:23 AM  

    I'm with @Mohair Sam and @DK - liked the puzzle.

    What is with all the complaining about multiple O's? Perhaps more oil would help...

    I had the image, a la @lms, of someone trying to make sense of some teen's conversation. Hence, RADICAL works just fine.

    Happy winter, everyone. May your Polar Vortex be safe and warm.

    Z 9:31 AM  

    IS THIS GOOD? {warning: It's Carlin, so, you know, there might be an F-bomb}

    mac 9:48 AM  

    Easy-medium for me today. As so often, Tuesday gets a spanking.

    It played mostly as a themeless for me. I learned "radical sign", never heard that term before, although I can do the math.

    I agree with some who had nice memories brought up by fill: Austria, Arno, Bad Moon Rising, my ear worm today.

    I love leftovers, but the rule is: when in doubt, throw it out.

    I'm going to try to make a dent in my backlog of puzzles, am layer up for a couple of days after foot surgery. Not bad timing, with this extreme cold!

    efrex 9:50 AM  

    Ran hot and cold on this one throughout, but ultimately came down on the plus side of the ledger. Actually liked the AUDEN/ODIN cross, and more than enough decent-to-good fill words to drown out the higher-than-normal quantity of fill goop. Had YAHOO before WAHOO but resisted ERRIP for ITRIP. No complaints about RADICAL on my side, and the theme answers were sparkly and numerous enough to overcome a weakish reveal, IMHO.

    Much obliged, Mr. Bickham!

    quilter1 9:53 AM  

    Didn't find it hard, but it felt off to me. No fun. Tomorrow is another day.

    chefbea 10:00 AM  

    I understood the theme to be all bad words…then at the end…is this good??

    And of course I am a killer!!!

    PapaLeroux 10:06 AM  

    I really did not like today's NYT puzzle. I probably could construct something like that without any software.

    On the positive side, I liked 2013 in Portmanteaux. A lot of that stuff wasn't in my wheelhouse, but it was still fun.

    A great morning activity when the outside temp is -13.

    FearlessKim 10:19 AM  

    @Rex, etal., absolutely erRIP before ITRIP.

    Theme reminds me of the day I got in the car with my son at the wheel, and he's got the radio tuned to the alternative station he likes, and from the speakers I hear: "I like her for her, Not because she's fat like Cindy Crawford" and I go "WHATTTT???? I can't believe that guy said that!" And on and on, until my son explains that it's actually "phat like Cindy Crawford" which is a "COMpliment, Mom, GGGGG" "Oh. Never mind."

    By the way, the song is "Hey, Leonardo" by Blessid Union of Souls. Fun rock ballad.

    It's so cold today I will leave the house only on a VIRTUAL ITRIP. Or I'll have some fun with it! Throw some water in the air to watch it freeze!

    MetaRex 10:21 AM  

    Liked the ambivalent tone of the reveal...wonder whether Mark B. wanted RADICAL SECT for its badness frisson, couldn't make it work, and shifted to the kinda off RADICAL SIGN.

    Bob Kerfuffle 10:36 AM  

    Already alluded to by @lms, but I wondered if 47 A, TURN, either should have been clued differently, since the clue "Spoil" fits directly with the reveal of stuff from the fridge yet is seemingly unconnected, or if it should have had a symmetric entry along the lines of KEEP (which even I find far-fetched and unsatisfying.)

    r.alphbunker 10:46 AM  

    I enjoyed solving this one and I loved how the revealer changed how I was viewing the theme answers. I see it as a celebration of how our language is ever-changing and how such disparate words can all mean the same thing. I really had no desire to go back later and rip it apart.

    A couple of days ago, our host chose erik agard's What are you doing New Year's Eve puzzle as the puzzle of the week. This puzzle also played on synonyms and it was a nice aha to realize what the O clues meant. Good stuff as BEQ would say.

    But our host could easily have trashed the puzzle by pointing out the following (no real spoilers follow)
    1. The theme answer for 7D is never used in practice. (It is an outlier like RADICAL today)
    2. The {Singer Songz}/{The Fox (What Does the Fox Say?) comedy duo} is a Natick.
    3. The clues {Smokey Robinson's daughter (hidden in BRICK TAMLAND} and {Edward Cullen's adoptive mom (Hidden in SHE LOVES ME) are totally bogus attempts to justify the inclusion of obscure answers in the grid.

    But why am I doing this? Any long time reader of this blog knows that our host can be very inconsistent at times.

    Two Ponies 10:46 AM  

    I guess I'm in the minority today because I thought it was wicked good fun.
    I love our crazy language.
    I really admire our friends here who speak English as a second language and yet solve these puzzles. Amazing.

    Bob Kerfuffle 10:52 AM  

    It's not every day that you see a serious poem titled Crossword, but here is one.

    Steve J 10:56 AM  

    @MetaRex: In noting RADICAL SECT as an alternative, you hit on exactly why RADICAL SIGN doesn't fit with the puzzle.

    Everyone is correct that RADICAL can have both a bad and a good connotation, like the other theme adjectives. The problem is, it's not used in a bad sense in the puzzle. The sign is not revolutionary or extremist. It's just a sign (the name comes from the Latin root of radix, meaning "ratio").

    All of the other theme answers have their adjectives used in their bad, undesirable senses. Which is why RADICAL SIGN is not a fit with the rest.

    James 10:58 AM  

    The "all entries that begin with 'E-' stink because @Rex said so" ban is silly and arbitrary, and should be lifted. Yes, some are kind of made-up and crappy (E-MAG leaps to mind).

    But... E-CARD is a great entry. People say that. It's a fun, new part of our language, our culture. Of all the possible 5-letter entries beginning with E, it's top-shelf IMO. And guess what- based on the rules of American crosswords, 5-letter entries that begin with E will always be in crosswords. A lot. So accept (and enjoy!) the good ones, and forget the arbitrary rules. Same goes for E-VITE, E-MAIL. Jeez, even E-FILE and E-TAILER are pretty fresh and modern (although maybe more late-week as far as fill).

    Food for thought.

    Carola 11:18 AM  

    @chefwen - Definitely yes to mayo. And "Dairy State" and "Paleo" just don't mix :) Too bad about the Pack.

    Anonymous 11:21 AM  

    From what I can tell, 80 million people E-FILE every year. So I would say that entry easily fits in a Monday.

    Evan 11:28 AM  


    Good point. I didn't consider the second words in the themers because I figured that the revealer only called attention to the first words. Makes me wonder how one might go for a different angle on the themers -- i.e., make the supposedly bad things sound good:

    * KILLER BEES -- [Awesome swarm?]
    * INSANE ASYLUMS -- [Incredible shelters?]
    * WICKED WITCH -- [Spectacular sorceress?]

    And all of that only underscores how RADICAL SIGN doesn't fit with the others.


    I've now been searching the internets for the last ten minutes to find how my name is Latin for "rodent subspecies" and coming up mostly empty -- the closest I could find was the species Caryomys eva. Just know that I feel both amused and insulted at the same time for even trying to figure it out.

    James 11:28 AM  

    Perhaps I was being overly diplomatic @Anon 11:21

    Anonymous 11:57 AM  

    Maybe the blog should become Rex Parker Does Some Crossword Puzzle off the Net, Conveniently Linked to in Across Light Format, Which Is Superior to Today's NYT Crossword Puzzle.

    Lewis 12:18 PM  

    Yes, ITRIP and ASCAR made me wince, but I'm in the camp of "enjoyed it!". I liked the theme answers and have heard these kind of answers often among those younger than me. I liked HULU and JIMI and DALI, oh my!

    Easy and fun. Mark, you earned your $200 with me!

    Z 12:22 PM  

    iTrip - Apple's new virtual LSD

    Carola 12:34 PM  

    @Z - Nice! And when you're on it, you can send your friends an E-CARD

    EdFromHackensack 12:42 PM  

    If you were a teenager in the 70s you'd have no problem with RADICAL being in this puzzle. INSANE reminds me of Crazy Eddie

    Masked and Anonymo5Us 1:14 PM  

    Somebody needs to stand up for the RADICAL answers of the world, so I reckon I will. But, first...

    @4-Oh-- har. Good mornin, sunshine. Appears that U may be fixin to formulate a counterpart award, called the Puzzle of the Weak. This puz was, of course, funky enough to obtain M&A's always questionable thUmbsUp approval award.
    Didyah notice how the vowels were spread out so semi-equitably? QED:
    A's = 18
    E's = 17
    I's = 21
    O's = 19

    Believe m&e, that don't happen very often.
    This part does, tho:
    U's = 5.
    Sigh. And after an early break right outa the gate, with HULU. day-um.

    Weejects Anonymous (as always, please -- no wagering):
    * SLO. @muse: next step up would actually be OSOSLO, methinks. OSOSLO.
    * DOI. Famed radical brother of HOI and LOI.
    * ESL. Loosi's nesdoor neighbor.
    * EFT. Ultra radical left: so much so, their head done exploded.

    fave big boys: WAHOO. KIEL (do them folks have KIELER BEES? Makes yah think...) SUNDAE (mmmm). IRINA (other sister name candidates: JIINNI, BIRTHA, IDI).

    But I've digressed. Back to RADICAL... I think it used to kinda have a bad context, especially in the late 1960's, no? RADICAL Underground militia, etc. Soooo... @Evan: RADICAL SIGN = [Bitchin cool traffic guider] would still be primo.

    The off part is that RADICAL in math, as in RADICAL SIGN, don't really have a bad context, like the other themers. Yah don't hear lots of discussions in the Math Dept., along the lines of: "oh, day-um! It's another one of them mother-extrapolatin radical numbers!". Just don't ring quite true, IMO. (hey! IMO -- another sister name candidate!) Always have taken a shine myself to the square root of -1, especially...


    Radical M and A 1:44 PM  

    @Evan: SooooooooOooo...
    RADICAL LEFT = "Bitchin cool move off a right turn signal" would be primo-est! Love it, on dayz where my brain sorta works.

    M & A & drivin like a BRIT.

    Anoa Bob 2:13 PM  

    @lms, I was going to mention that INSANE ASYLUM is one letter short for the matching symmetrical theme slot for BAD MOON RISING and needed a POCifying S to kick it up a notch, but I thought I was the only one who noticed this sort of thing or who thought that fudging the letter count on a theme entry had any significant impact on the puzzles's overall quality.

    It happens quite a lot. You mentioned MACHINE V(ending) in your comments on Thursday 1/02, e.g., but the actual entry was MACHINES V(ending).

    On another note, some others, including Rex, have listed OKRA as crosswordese. Huh? We grew them in our garden when I was a kid and they, along with beans, potatoes, tomatoes, corn, and the like, were regulars at mealtime. Gumbo anybody? Or my favorite,

    Fried Okra

    LaneB 2:29 PM  

    Another Googlless finish. WAHOO! Even for a Tuesday That pleases me., with or without a theme.
    ARNO appears regularly, it seems, and I'm glad to see it because it brings back the 6 months I lived there after retiring in 1993. Such a wonderful place. I was single at the time, had rented a lovely 2bdrm apartment on Borgo San Jacobo between the Ponte Trinita and the Ponte Vecchio overlooking the Arno. I invited everyone I could think of to come for a visit. Not unsurprisingly everyone accepted,leaving me with a major logistical issue. It all worked well, and I could play host, tour guide and all-around big shot the entire time. The only drawback was that my goal of learning Italian suffered what with all the English-speakers about. Not a terrible price to pay for all that ego-stroking.
    Enjoyed today,s edition, Mr. Bickham. Thanks

    Benko 2:30 PM  

    Hey, the Primitives! All right Rex! Loved that band.

    Last Silver Radicalia 3:36 PM  

    Random Roamin Numskullery Dept.

    @Benko. yep. Another real good garage band: The Primates. They did the esquisite "Knock On My Door". Primo stuff. Probably on YouTube.

    @muse: M&A should be at the big crossword show, but, unfortunately, disguised as a regular person dude. Still, if someone comes up to U, breathes a mite hard and says, "har" and then disappears into the crowd, U never know...
    If, however, that someone hangs around and immediately opens up his raincoat, that ain't me. It is just one of the show's many regular exhibitors.

    @math fans: A radical number is the product of another number's prime divisors. So, for 4, its radical number is 2. For 5, it's 5. For 6, it's 2 times 3, or 6.

    @PEWIT: I'm beginnin to suspect that U aren't gettin any respect. My kind of varmint. May have to ease up on U, a little bit... nah.


    Loren Muse Smith 5:20 PM  


    ALDA ALPHA AMANA Alan's head appliance
    EYRE EMCEE EDGE Jane's got it in the bag
    IRINI, IT'S I ICI, C'mon, lemme into the dacha. It's &^%$in' freezing out here!
    ONO'S OH SO SLOW OSO hippy ursine who am. . .bles
    UHURU'S URU URDU – little known fact to Trekkies, sorry, but there it is- rare form of the language spoken in Montevideo.

    When I was in ninth grade, I was on the yearbook staff and hence knew some seniors. At the beginning of the year, this one high-profile guy took me into his confidence and told me that he had a WICKED crush on this other very high profile girl. It would have been one of *the* stories of the year had I blabbed. I never did.

    I am a master keeper of secrets and the soul of discretion.

    ANON B 5:45 PM  

    Considering some of the comments you left in, I can
    imagine how bad some of those
    you removed were.

    Tita 6:39 PM  

    I was on a very different wavelength - thought this was way hard for a Tuesday.

    2nd day in a row where I didn't get the full impact of the theme.
    Didn't sink in that all hte words could be good or bad.
    When I learned that here, though - 'big deal'...
    But that might just be orneriness from missing the gimmick.

    Further hopelessness due to giving myself a CLoe[S] award...
    Made mething the glittery stone was a GleDE (Hey - a hot ember glitters, no?)

    @LaneB - yuor Florence experience sounds wonderful! I always treasure a local guide!

    @AnonB - i think it was you who asekd "?" of me yesterday? Not being snobbish, I just didn't know what you were referencing. Plus, I had made anout a dozen comments, so had def outstayed my welcome.
    Thank you Mr. Bickham.

    sanfranman59 10:22 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 6:54, 6:22, 1.08, 81%, Challenging
    Tue 8:02, 8:12, 0.98, 44%, Medium

    Top 100 solvers

    Mon 4:02, 3:58, 1.02, 55%, Medium
    Tue 5:03, 5:09, 0.98, 41%, Medium

    Anonymous 10:35 PM  

    Thanks for The Primitaves "shout-out". My favorite secret indulgence.

    Anonymous 10:18 AM  

    I know I am a very poor crossword puzzler but I do enjoy them. I only do Monday-Friday. Mondays are so easy only tv guide is easier, although nowdays I watch little tv so TV Guiide might be hard.

    There are times I simply do not see the connection betwixt the clue and answer, and other times it is so thin as to be silly or just not there at all. BUt hey this is the NYT.

    I have written to the gent who manages the Newsday crossword puzzles as he says he helps/suggestions. HIs answer was an advertisement for his biz, his book, his cruises.

    I don't think I will ever get to a Friday (complete) and even a Sat, and a Sunday. (YIKES)

    But I keep plugging on.....

    sign me

    lost on long island

    Cary in Boulder 5:55 PM  

    Posting before I even looked at the blog because ... I just got done with Sunday's puzzle. Too much football, must-see TV and other distractions. Got a DNF because I was naticked at the AKELA-NALA crossing. Do I REALLY have to rent a copy of "Lion King" if I want to get ahead in X-word world? I was a Cub Scout once upon a time and AKELA means nothing to me. And how is URN a "makeshift ballot box"? OK, on to today's puzzle.

    Go BRONCOS!!!

    spacecraft 11:55 AM  

    ISTHISGOOD? Uh, NOT. KIEL's not so bad; you can better clue it for a Tuesday with "Richard____, 'Jaws' of Bond films." As an obscure town it doesn't even belong in a Saturday grid. But some of the other stuff: WAHOO/OOOLA/NOOIL? All under the MOON? OHGOD!

    Agreed: ITRIP no; 'ERRIP yes, if partial you must. I note that "boxer" as dog is a misdirect that has apparently filtered down to earlyweek. This is all part of making today's puzzle "mediun-challenging (for a Tuesday)." All the other criticisms, er, lambastings, plus this: The BADMOON ain't "RISING," it's A-RISIN.' Ask Mr. Fogarty.

    Couldn't even salvage a decent poker hand: 2 pair. On to tomorrow.

    Solving in Seattle 2:25 PM  

    Hey Mark, this puz was KILLER, INSANE RAD, WICKED and BAD!

    Nit: 5D should have been clued with the airports' codes - EWR and LGA.

    Nit 2: DALI crosses with NOOIL. Aw contrare, he did paint in oil.

    Capcha: setdoer. Movie scene maker or perhaps my hair styist?

    Dirigonzo 4:54 PM  

    Sometime reading the write-up and much of the commentary reminds me of an old ditty I learned years ago, which I think could apply to xword puzzles: "There's so much good in the worst of us, and so much bad in the best of us, that it ill beooves any of us to talk about the rest of us".

    Today's NYT Daily Crossword Calendar was a construction by one Michael Sharp that contained the likes of GROT/OIE/PXS/NMI/IED/NOS and AUS, yet it was a great puzzle with a fun theme and lots of great theme answers. So what should a reviewer focus on, I wonder? In this case the reviewer was none other than @ACM, and I think it would be fair to describe here write-up as "killer".

    Two pair might win the pot. Mine are 9s and 5s.

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