Mob Wives star Big * / WED 2-26-14 / Compadre of Castro / Harry Belafonte genre / Hobby farm denizen / Mike Tyson facial feature / Sheer curtain fabric /

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Constructor: Ruth B. Margolin

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: Sadist songs — -IST is added to familiar phrases, creating much wackiness

Theme answers:
  • CUBIST REPORTERS (17A: Journalists covering abstract art?)
  • POMPOUS ASSISTS (26A: Help from a jerk?)
  • STARKIST NAKED (44A: Canned tuna without mayo?)
  • SLEEPER CELLISTS (58A: Narcoleptics with string instruments?)
Word of the Day: VOILE (38A: Sheer curtain fabric) —
A light, plain-weave, sheer fabric of cotton, rayon, silk, or wool used especially for making dresses and curtains.

[French, from Old French veile, veil, from Latin vēla, neuter pl. of vēlum, covering.]

Read more:
• • •

You know what might be interesting? An ADDICT puzzle. See, that would be your revealer, and then you add -ICT to familiar phrases to create wackiness. Adding -ICT would likely be *much* harder than adding -IST, but my point here is that at least with ADDICT there'd be some rationale for adding the letters you are adding. Adding random letter strings, with no clever reveal to justify it or bring it all together, just leaves me with a hollow feeling. This is a solid puzzle, as this theme-type goes. Theme answers are mildly amusing, and you've got a couple of sassy base phrases in "pompous ass" and "stark naked" that liven things up a bit. That center part—with five consecutive 5+-letter Downs running through two theme answers—is actually very hard to pull off with any kind of grace, and I thought the effort here came off nicely. Fill is not that interesting, but neither is it groan-worthy. So what we end up with is a very adequate grid with somewhat amusing theme answers and no real sense of purpose. Revealers give add-a-letter puzzles purpose. They bring them to life. This one needs one. It doesn't have one. That is pretty much the entirety of what there is to say about this puzzle.

ASPIRE … that has interesting possibilities. [Reptilian anger?]. As you can see, I'm just looking around the grid now trying to think of anything to say. This Is How The Sausage Is Made, People. I thought the Bahamas city was NASHUA, which will be of interest to New Hampshirites, if no one else (15A: Bahamas cruise stop). Thought the [Winter topper] was a  SNOCAP. It felt … right-ish at the time. There's really too many Es Rs Ls Ss and Ts for me to care much about the rest of the grid, so I'll just let you go now.

Reminder: Finger Lakes Crossword Competition is this Saturday in Ithaca, NY. Should be fun. I'll be there. Info here.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


jae 12:03 AM  

Easy-medium for me too. Zippy theme, reasonable grid, some interesting long downs...CALYPSO, GUEVARA, EURASIA, SPORK...what's not to like.  Nice Wed.

wreck 12:07 AM  

I thought it was a solid Wednesday puzzle. I guess I don't really get why people who want to solve a puzzle in 3 minutes gives a darn about how interesting a puzzle is.

retired_chemist 12:12 AM  

Nice puzzle. Easy.

Got the theme by brute force on the northern downs. Made the rest of the theme answers easy.

The chemist in me would have enjoyed "12, 13, and 14" as the clue for 41A.

Thanks, Ms. Margolin.

Garth 12:14 AM  

Rex states, "So what we end up with is a very adequate grid with somewhat amusing theme answers and no real sense of purpose."

It looks like Rex is projecting an existential crisis onto what is an enjoyable pastime. Might be time for a therapIST.

Steve J 12:15 AM  

IST may not be much on its own, but when it's used to as good effect as it was here, as far as I'm concerned it was an excellent theme.

Any add-letters themes are going to rise or fall based on the resulting answers. I thought three of the four were outstanding, two of which gave me genuine laugh-out-loud moments (POMPOUS ASSIST and STARKIST NAKED; I thought SLEEPER CELLISTS was also very good). A revealer would have been a nice addition, but its absence didn't diminish the theme in my book.

Some nice bits in the rest of the fill, only a few bits of suboptimal fill (and, once again, the level to which suboptimal fill irks is in inverse proportion to how engaging the theme is). The only other thing I could have asked for was some livelier cluing, but this was a fun Wednesday.

chefwen 1:04 AM  

Easy week continues. Got it right away with CUBIST REPORTERS, but my favorite had to be POMPOUS ASSIST. Cute puzzle, I'm a little fearful as to what will be following after our glitch free (so far) week.

I liked 42D It carries a shell mated with 51D Shell carries it.

@chefbea - Happy Birthday!

Where is @Glitch?

Moly Shu 1:37 AM  

Easy for me also, got around in under 10 minutes, which is very fast for a Wednesday. Much to like here with POMPOUS ASSiStT and CREDIT RISK being standouts. Also like how the 2 long downs cross 3 theme answers. Very enjoyable , albeit quick solve. The lack of a " clever revealer " doesn't strike me as a negative, sometimes I like figuring out the theme without additional help.

JFC 2:03 AM  


Ding, ding, ding.

I bet my fortune and my wife you never get an answer....


JTHurst 2:10 AM  

@moly Shu if you don't want a clever revealer then subscribe to the INYT, we don't get constructor names or revealers.

@Chefwen stated easy week continues, which is wonderful. If I could have spelled Guevara correctly it would have been easier.

Everyone seems to love 'pompous assist' but it was hard to convert the noun jerk to an adjective, pompous. Fatuous would have been better and never has a jerk related to pretentiousness.

I particular liked the Eurasia answer such that I looked up the other 'superstates' Eastasia and Oceania.

But I don't want to doublethink this puzzle too much or I might fall into a memory hole.

Numinous 2:23 AM  

I said I wasn't going to but I was kinda asked so:

sought an arrogant POMPOUS ASSIST.
An elitist they found
Who directed them round
To a NAKED girl who was STARKIST.

To quote Arlo Guthrie, "I know'd it wasn't the best song I ever wrote . . . " Oh well!

I breezed through this barely noticing the ISTs. I'm dumb that way, focusing on the next clue instead of reflecting. Looking back, I see words that I don't recognize, I guess I got them from crosses because I don't recall the clues either. Am I going about this all wrong?
Anyway, I was kinda distracted 'cause I been listening to Jim Svejda interviewing Hillary Hahn. Amazing violinist. A beautiful woman playing beautiful fiddle.

So, looking back, I didn't have fun doing this one. As I said, I wasn't really paying attention. Reading it over, I guess it's cute enough with not a whole lot of ESE. Maybe in the morning I'll have more to say.

Jisvan 2:58 AM  

Fastest Wednesday ever since I started solving online and began noticing such things. (Fast meaning 16 minutes, instead of my average of 39.) Not too much to say, other than yesterday I wrote down a story from work that has been bothering me for a few weeks, and I posted it to my "blog" , which I started when I was trying to figure out how to get an identity with a picture like many of you have here. Anyway, I called it "The Man Who Swallowed a Spork", and the very next crossword I did had the word SPORK! Synchronicity....(insert Twilight Zone music here)

Questinia 3:44 AM  

I'm with @ Numi and @ Steve J. The narcotizing cluing made it feel like one does when driving to a destination and not remembering passing a whole bunch of places. The "how did I get here?" trance.
A revealer may have been the bracing bucket of ice water to counteract the lullaby.

You know what I've noticed? There are a helluva a lotta fewer Naticks now then in years past. I know that because I do Friday and Saturday archived puzzles.
I CREDIT @ Professor Rex for the evolution. Perhaps he needs to coin a few more descriptive terms for the phenomena he analyzes and takes issue with Once you brand a problem with a name like Natick it's pathologizing. Constructors do not want their puzzles to suffer with a case of the Naticks and so there are fewer of them.
I do believe a puzzle can suffer an existential crisis. It becomes unmemorable and rote and projects upon us. Next thing we know we're in a trance.

That being said, this puzzle was OK. I took an Adderall.

Ellen S 4:52 AM  

@Questinia, I think your comment warrants a reply I'm not awake enough to give, except to say, it's not because the puzzle put me to sleep. I enjoyed it. The theme entries were fun, and the fill was not junky.
@Jisvan, I like your blog stories. They didn't put me to sleep either. In fact nothing seems to be putting me to sleep which is a little frustrating because I'm very tired.

Danp 6:00 AM  

This puzzle won't win theme of the year, but I want to contrast it with last Monday's "Say, say, say" puzzle that Rex described as "a gem of a Monday" (though not necessarily because of the theme). In both cases, the constructor is adding or implying the addition of a common word or suffix for some humorous effect.

But while "say no", "say cheese" or "say what" may be more common than "say cowbell", they are all just literal combinations that don't change meaning or have any interesting relationship.

By adding "ist", however, you change the meaning of the root, and therefore the entire phrase. It is a classic misdirection technique used in joke telling. It may not be LOL funny, but it is clever wordplay within the restrictions of a letter grid.

Now cue up the "corriander is an herb, not a spice" comment.

Evan 7:21 AM  


"I guess I don't really get why people who want to solve a puzzle in 3 minutes gives a darn about how interesting a puzzle is."

Why would it be different for someone who solves a Wednesday in 20 minutes, or 30 minutes, or an hour? It takes speed-solvers 3 or 4 minutes to finish a Wednesday for a very simple reason: that's how long it takes them to come up with the correct answers. It doesn't mean they can't look at a puzzle from different angles and discuss what they think is interesting and not.

I will bet you anything that there are commenters here who can solve today's puzzle in under 8 minutes and will tell you how much they loved it and why they did (presumably because it was interesting). That's fine. But I doubt you'd have made the same quoted statement about them.

Glimmerglass 7:28 AM  

@wrech: Right on!

Ludyjynn 7:43 AM  

Perfectly respectable Wed. solve. I am not a speed demon in puzzle completion; I like to savor the experience, but this was one unfolded very quickly for me.

I could have done w/o the SHE-DEVIL clue; a little sexism this early in the day is a bummer.

@DanP, coriander is referred to as an herb or a spice, depending on its form, i.e., fresh v. dried. So there goes that debate!

Happy Hump Day, all.

dk 7:43 AM  

🌕🌕🌕 (3 Moons) Loved the Orwellian theme. By rereading 1984 and Animal Farm tonight…. hmm 1984 as an Audible book….. hmmmm. Sorry drifted off. Anyway read the books and look at the puzzle again, forget my Newspeak.

"Some animals are more equal than others."

Another -11 (as in liability not ASSET) morning and this time no paper. Grrr

Epic fail was the spelling of GUEVARA. Thank heavens I have been called POMPOUS so many times I have the spelling of that down.

Off to commit Thoughtcrime: ciao and thank you Ruth.

evil doug 7:43 AM  

I'm kinda asking you not to.

Mohair Sam 7:47 AM  

Had the same reaction as @Questinia - sat down, started the puzzle, finished it quickly, and had no idea how I got there.

I'll join the group that feels a revealer would have spiced things up. But still, a good puzzle - pizzazz not being a requirement in the NYT

Interesting point from @Questinia on naticks. I still get "personal" naticks (when I know it's just my ignorance, not the world's) but I think we are seeing fewer.

Unknown 7:50 AM  

@Jiswan - that is an example of the Lattice of Cooincidence....another is a plate of shrimp.

Anonymous 7:51 AM  

Well, I finished the puzzle in 6:53 and enjoyed it! Yes, there were interesting longer answers, some clever cluing, etc., and the difficulty level was good for me. 6:53 was a few minutes under my average for Weds, but only 200ish out of 5000 or so. I would think a speed solver (which I am not) would still enjoy quality fill, interesting themes, etc.

John V 7:54 AM  

A fine Wednesday, nice play on words. Got snagged by 24D, as I wanted TOILE for 38A.

Congratulations, Ruth Margolin, on your debut!

Airymom 8:05 AM  

Loved 1A. I've been to some fancy weddings, Bar Mitzvahs and parties where the waiters are passing around "grilled mahi on crostini with mango-peach salsa", when all anyone truly wants are the pigs in blankets. Thank you Ms. Margolin for brightening up another dreary, snowy day. I enjoyed the puzzle. My favorite was "sleepercellists". I also like the word surly--new word to use on my teenage daughter when she rolls her eyes at me.

Great debut!

Dorothy Biggs 8:07 AM  

@Jisvan: Speaking of synchronicity...i was out doing errands with my kids in the car and as we were talking "clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right" randomly came up. Not two minutes, as we walked into the Walgreens they were playing THAT song in the store. Weird.

I thought the puzzle was, on the whole, a decent Wednesday. I've been doing these things for 30+ years. I guess I take a workman approach to them and just take what the puzzle gives me. In the last several years, after reading this blog regularly, I've come to appreciate the finer points but still, when it comes to the actual solve, I slog through like someone trudging to work with a lunch pail, happy to have a job.

I do wince on occasion. I didn't wince once I'll call it a good day.

BTW, I have to say Rex must appreciate the diverging opinions that are now more common in the comments. Not too long ago you wouldn't see too many differing opinions. I love that people disagree with Rex...although, I am amused that many of them are so snarky about it.

C'mon people, can't we all just get along?

joho 8:15 AM  

As it always is with wacky phrases how funny they are is totally subjective -- @Rex rarely finds them funny so his review today is practically a rave.

I think POMPOUSASSIST is brilliant and worth the price of admission with STARKISTNAKED a close second.

Congratulations, Ruth Margolin, for your debut and way above average Wednesday puzzle!

Unknown 8:28 AM  

Fully accessible cluing. No rabbit holes detected, just a dope-slap DNF of my own impatience and failure to double check. NAuSAU/IuEE slipped though. So did YEh/ASPh. Am I channeling Berke Breathed's Bill the Cat with these hair balls?

@Questinia, Je endorse, which is to say, even the French-crossing-French Naticks (so-called Vichys, for their clear betrayals of truth, justice and the American way) have largely evaporated.

@Mohair, didn't the congressman from Natick say "All Naticks are personal"?

@retired chemist I'm with you on 12, 13, 14. :)

Lewis 8:31 AM  

Seemed easy for a Wednesday, but enjoyable enough. Not much grid gruel, and it kept the brain active.

With very experienced solvers, it seems to me that after some point, so many answers are automatic, that the challenge isn't in finishing the puzzle, but finishing it fast.

The challenge to constructors, I think, is to come up with original clues that make solvers have to think, no matter how many years they've been solving.

Unknown 8:40 AM  

Enjoyable, even without a revealer.

Beaglelover 8:43 AM  

I had abuser for 46D, so that section was a mess.
I liked this puzzle.
Garth, you are a dickhead!

RnRGhost57 8:47 AM  

Liked it much. Thanks Ms. Margolin.

Loren Muse Smith 8:48 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Loren Muse Smith 8:51 AM  

Rex – your "reptilian anger" made me laugh out loud.

@JTHurst – converting the noun to the adjective – not quite sure I understand your beef, but POMPOUS ASSIST was my favorite. Also -"never has a jerk related to pretentiousness." I'm not sure I understand this one, either, especially since I can go from zero to pretentious jerk in about two seconds in a good knock-down-drag-out G-Dropping/Velar Nasal argument. Seriously.

My second favorite was STARKIST NAKED because it was the only IST that wasn't a suffix. In that spirit, GLISTEN CAMPBELL, BELLY DISTANCE,, or all the posts here by ANISTON would have been fun.

"Towers on farms." We have a very special tower, Gail H, who has patiently and expertly pulled our Suburban, Excursion, Kia, Lincoln. . . out of mud we had no business trying to get through. A couple of times he had to enlist the help of someone to fetch the second tractor to ASSIST, that's how stuck we were. I've said before – Gail basically keeps us from seriously hurting ourselves. Farms have an endless supply of idiot potential.

RAW. This conversation happened between my sister and a Ponderosa employee. . .

Employee: "How would you like your steak?"
Sister: "RAW."
Employee: "RAW??"
Sister: "Yes. RAW."
Employee: "You really want it RAW?"
Sister: "Yes! RAW! I want my steak RAW!"
- - - -brief pause as they have a stare-down- - - -
Employee, finally: "Do you mean "rare?"
Sister: "Oh. Right. Rare. Sorry."

@questinia - Dad has been working through old Mondays and Tuesdays once Wednesday rolls around because he thinks he doesn't have a shot. (He does, but he doesn't believe me.) The themes these days feel tighter, too. I look at some of those old ones and think, "Wow. This might not have been accepted these days." Again – some of the same constructors. I've just spent a long time trying to find an example of one such puzzle but have run out of time. I know, right? How much time do I spend here??

Again, @Questinia –"I know that because I do Friday and Saturday archived puzzles." I've just started printing out Fridays and Saturdays from 2009 and am working my way forward. Agreed – it was Natick city back then *and* just this je ne sais quoi inferior feeling to them compared to the ones these days. Lots of the same constructors, too. Goes to show you that practice does count a bunch. It's kind of fun, actually, to see how the regular contributors have improved and grown. If one were to write a dissertation, The Fine Art of the Themeless Puzzle: The Implications and Standard Setting of Early Peterson Works, 2008 – Present, you could find a statement like, "One sees that in his earlier works, Peterson would allow a questionable third person verb, GENTLES, to cross a lesser-known proper noun, JEROME(1), but as he matures as a constructor, such crosses become rarer and rarer, and, if they appear at all, are rather upstaged by his growing autobiographical tones – namely superhero references. (2)

Hey, Ruth – big congratulations on your debut! Enjoy every minute today and make sure everyone you encounter in lines at the store and gas pump understand that it's your name at the top!!!

(1)Friday, Feb. 1, 2008
(2)Doug is, by night, Spiderman and hangs out with Superman and pines after Wonderwoman.

OISK 8:58 AM  

Much quicker than average Wednesday for me, but that is not a bad thing. I got "cubist reporters" immediately from the clue, and then knew what the theme was, so it went very fast. I love starkistnaked as an answer. Clever, fun, only one pop culture clue I've never heard of "Big ANG?" - oh, wait a minute, was that the Michelle Pfeiffer movie? Maybe I actually HAVE heard of big ANG.
Nice Wednesday puzzle. Thanks Ms. Margolin.

pmdm 9:03 AM  

Garth: You hit the head right on the nose. I would call it over-thinking the puzzle. Taking something simple and complaining it isn't a baroque masterpiece. Some people do not appreciate the simple. (Not a criticism, just an observation.) And for those who do, the complaining and/or whining seems a bit much.

Evan: Have you ever heard anyone comment that somebody ate a meal so fast they couldn't possibly have enjoyed it? I like hiking, and if I hike at a fast clip I don't have as much time to enjoy the scenery and viewpoints. So I think the comment you responded to is not as out of hand as your response seems to imply. I suppose there's the assumption that at some point a person would be filling in the puzzle so fast that there would be no time to think about anything but getting to the next clue. I would think for most people that's what would happen with a 3 minute solve. But I guess I would have explained it with this analogy. A pianist who is very talented can play something difficult like a Chopin etude as fast as the wind but still enjoy the music. It's a matter of skill.

Loren Muse Smith 9:04 AM  

I meant "the *other* (not *only*) IST that wasn't a suffix. ...although I've met some people who make being an ASSIST an art form.

Tired Of You 9:13 AM  


Please stop the f$&$&$g hatred. Go away. Please.

mac 9:15 AM  

Fine Wednesday and a very good debut!

The lower third was harder for me, even though I knew the theme. I think I may have thought narcos steal, not sleep.

By now I'm just ignoring the weather forecast. Snow? What snow? We're running out of firewood, though, and the supplier needs to wait for the snow to melt to bring us some more.

Happy Birthday, chefbea!

P.S. Coriander in a jar is seed, otherwise use it fresh.

Z 9:20 AM  

To Reveal or Not To Reveal, that is the question.
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous cluing
Or to take arms against a sea of Naticks
And by opposing end them. To die, to sleep--
No more--and by a sleep to say we end
The solving, and the thousand natural shocks
That minds are heir to. 'Tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep--
To sleep--perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub,
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause. There's the respect
That makes calamity of so long a solve time.

Personal fav is POMPOUS ASSIST, something we've all been guilty of at some point in our lives (well, except maybe M&A, hard to imagine any pomposity there).

Speed Solving.... Hmmmm, it seems we all have a speed (mine was 12 minutes today) and I've never seen a posted limit nor a posted minimium (well, I guess there's a posted minimum at ACPT). Worrying about how fast others solve seems a little like penis envy to me.

Two bad-spelling induced writeovers today, ASsENT to ASCENT and chEVARA. That second one is a pretty cheesy conflation of first and last names, if you ask me. Speaking of which, cilantro is the herb (specifically the leaves that you chop up and add to dishes) and coriander the spice from the seeds in my world. I've never seen it labelled "coriander" in the market.

Carola 9:34 AM  

Goofy and fun, loved STARKIST NAKED, needed practically all crosses before the I SEE! for SLEEPER CELLISTS.

Loved ATTILA over SURLY - now there's an understatement. Also the SENOR GUEVARA CALYPSO three-step.

@chefwen - Besides the SHELL-mates, I also liked 3D and 4D, the desert that gets snow next to SKICAP.

@loren - Love your dissertation excerpt!

ArtO 9:35 AM  

@tired of you, why pick on @wreck and@garth when there's much worse that comes along here. Let's live and let live and ignore the things that really shouldn't bother us. Not worth getting nasty.

Happened to think the puzzle was quite clever with notable theme answers.

chefbea 9:40 AM  

Liked the puzzle. Got the theme at cubist reporters.

Hand up for coriander being an herb.

Use to eat steak tartare all the e aren't allowed to.

Thanks for the b-day off to celebrate!!

Danp 9:49 AM  

@lms - I once went to a restaurant in Madrid. Didn't know the word for rare, so I asked that it not be too well done. The waiter replied in English, you want it poorly done?

quilter1 9:51 AM  

Happy Birthday, @chefbea!
Good puzzle, fun phrases, easy.

Anonymous 9:54 AM  

So confused: why oh why do @wreck and @garth continue to read and comment about a blogger that they obviously despise? Why not simply read and comment on someone else's blog? Or, better yet, start their own blogs? I love to read comments about the puzzle, but the attacks on Rex are sometimes so ridiculous. Agree with Tired of You: just go away.

Evan 10:08 AM  


It's casting aspersions on speed-solvers -- oh, you couldn't possibly appreciate this puzzle as much as I do because I took 30 minutes to solve it instead of 3. The fact that Rex blogs about it post-solve demonstrates the opposite -- why do you think he and Amy and others take the time every single day to write about what they liked and didn't like about crosswords? Besides, there are speed-solvers out there who will tell you that they liked the puzzle a lot. Is it any more fair to doubt them if they said they thought the puzzle was interesting?

I think it's totally fine if people disagree with Rex on whether the theme was good, if the fill was good, and say that they enjoyed it more than he did (for my part, I thought the theme answers were great and I didn't mind the lack of a revealer that Rex mentioned). I just wish there'd be less -- way less -- of people psychoanalyzing him and questioning his motives every time he criticizes a puzzle.


Happy birthday.

Anonymous 10:17 AM  


First of all, I don't think anything I've said is hateful at all -- just a comment on the puzzle and review. You seem to be the hateful one.

JTHurst 10:18 AM  

@Z thank you. It was worth rereading the blog to enjoy your sonnet.

Let's put it to rest on coriander. Any leaf of a plant used in cooking would be classified as an herb and any seed, root or bark would be considered a spice. Coriander produces leaves and seeds used in cooking. It depends on what part of the world you are in as how it is called. In the US the leafy part is called cilantro but in Asia, especially China, it is called Chinese parsley or coriander in English never cilantro and the seeds are sold as coriander seeds, a prime ingredient of curry powder and also herbal soups.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:38 AM  

Was IST hier los?

Seemed like a fine, fun puzzle to me.

Steve J 10:46 AM  

@JTHurst: Agreed on coriander/cilantro. Most English dialects outside North America also say coriander for both the leaf and the seed.

@Loren: Your sister's steak ordering foibles made me laugh.

@Evan: Agreed that speed does not preclude enjoyment. It's simply a reflection of how quickly one is capable of doing something, either through innate ability or through the benefit of practice. @pmdm hit on a good comparison: A proficient pianist can play music faster than a person who's a novice. Do they enjoy the music less? Nope. They just have gained a proficiency that not everyone has.

Howard B 10:51 AM  

This was a solid, enjoyable puzzle in every sense. I can't really find much here to criticize, even if I were to look closely for nits. The theme is consistent and enjoyable, based on lively phrases.
The non-thematic fill is solid and lively throughout.
The design of this grid may lead itself to a few repetitive short-word fill answers, but that's the nature of the beast. Roll with it :). Can't ask for much better here. Nicely done!

Kim Scudera 11:01 AM  

@chefbea: Happy birthday!

I'm grateful to @Rex and others here for educating me about some of the fine points of crossword construction. I get to enjoy crosswords on a deeper level thanks to you! Like today: I count 15 downs crossing two or more theme answers. Wow.

Yes, lots of RSTLE, etc., but also a nice sprinkling of PVW, loads of K (getting our potassium today :), even 4 U's 4U, M&A! and an eel :)
I enjoyed the concept and the ensuing wackiness -- smiled at CUBISTREPORTERS, laughed out loud at POMPOUSASSIST and STARKISTNAKED, admired SLEEPERCELLISTS (especially the way the C changes sound from CELL to CELLIST; makes the theme answer extra tricksy, IMHO)

Liked the clue for 39A ("Medium for short-lived sculptures") while still feeling that a nice cross-cluing opportunity was missed ("You might use this on your 35D"), especially since the answers cross.

I wonder how ATTILA and GUEVARA would have gotten along? today they are sharing an A without apparent incident, although for all we know they are running AMOK behind the scenes...

I remember CARBONS, and mimeos, and Dictaphones...

As to the discussion about finish times, it seems to me that people will finish the puzzle in as much time as it takes. Some are just faster (from @sanfranman's stats, about half the solvers are faster than I), and some of that speed may indeed be the result of blasting through the puzzle without stopping here and there to take in the scenery. BUT, even if we could assume that our crystal-ball evaluation had any validity (and why should we?), I'd still offer a perfectly good reason to move quickly through a grid: in competition, speed matters. Doing every crossword as if it is a competition situation is good practice for competition.

Very nice debut, Ms. Margolin! Keep 'em coming!

Kim Scudera 11:06 AM  

And thanks to all for your helpful comments about posting as your own human self, not an anonymouse. My comment at 11:01 was my first attempt at the Google Blogger post. Cool.

-- FearlessKim

GILL I. 11:08 AM  

I solved it under one minute and still enjoyed it to pieces.
I really thought this was quite clever in a Follow-the-Bouncing-Ball sort of way. That is not a bad thing, as a matter of fact it's fun.
I really admire Ruth's center piece section there with VOILE hugging GUEVARA and ASCENTS.
I do have a pregunta though: Why is Mike Tyson's facial feature a TAT?

Inconsistent 11:09 AM  

not the puzzle, but the reviews frequently are. i was fully expecting rex to make 2 criticisms of the theme as he does most other times it happens.
1. the pronunciation of the altered word changed in two and not the other two. this doesnt bother me but it almost always bothers him.
2. the definition of the unaltered word is unchanged in all but the fourth. again, doesnt bother me.

if this is to be a discussion about the merits of a puzzle, then there must be intellectual discourse which includes differing opinions. because the OP has chosen to include criticism of constructors efforts in the discussion, then equivalent criticism should not be considered off-limits.

Anonymous 11:12 AM  

No outcry over (32A) "OR a" crossing (27D) "OR so"???

You want to sneak in repeated words, at least give them respectable distance from one another...

Sylvie 11:17 AM  

Fast and fun with minimal dreck and some really fun fill. And no '50s-era references (well, maybe "pigs" in a blanket) so, yay!

chefbea 11:20 AM  

Just had to do it.....

There was a young girl with a birthday
Who wanted her cake in the worst way
So she used her spork.
While wearing her skort.
Then said please, I'll have more if I may.

Steve J 11:28 AM  

@Gill I.P.: This picture should answer your Mike Tyson question. He got that inked probably about 10 years ago.

joho 11:37 AM  

Happy Birthday, @chefbea ... enjoy some beets!

Numinous 11:45 AM  

@Chefbea, the happiest of birthdays to you!

You realize, of course, that a SPORK is a post Learian runcible spoon? Runcible is another word I wan't to see in puzzles along with braggadocio. Lear never drew one that way but sometime in the 1920s someone decided that a runcible spoon had tines and a sharpened edge so it could cut, spear and scoop. It wasn't sharp enough to cut your lip but could cleave a pickle, a scalloped potato or a green bean; It's possibly the best weapon to defeat a bowl of french onion soup or a large wedge of birthday cake.

The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea
In a beautiful pea-green boat,
They took some honey, and plenty of money,
Wrapped up in a five-pound note.
The Owl looked up to the stars above,
And sang to a small guitar,
"O lovely Pussy! O Pussy, my love,
What a beautiful Pussy you are,
You are,
You are!
What a beautiful Pussy you are!"

Pussy said to the Owl, "You elegant fowl!
How charmingly sweet you sing!
O let us be married! too long we have tarried:
But what shall we do for a ring?"
They sailed away, for a year and a day,
To the land where the Bong-Tree grows
And there in a wood a Piggy-wig stood
With a ring at the end of his nose,
His nose,
His nose,
With a ring at the end of his nose.

"Dear Pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling
Your ring?" Said the Piggy, "I will."
So they took it away, and were married next day
By the Turkey who lives on the hill.
They dined on mince, and slices of quince,
Which they ate with a SPORK;
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon,
The moon,
The moon,
They danced by the light of the moon.

Nancy 12:10 PM  

A cute puzzle -- unusually enjoyable for a Wednesday (a day which is usually flat, too easy and boring). But I do agree that a revealer makes added letters seem less arbitrary. Wracked my brain to think of a possible revealer that could have been used, but came up short. But then I'm not a crossword puzzle constructor. Can anyone think of a good one? Or has one already been suggested in one of the previous posts? (Blush to admit that I seldom read the previous posts in full. I sometimes scan, and sometimes don't even do that.)
A quick comment on the timing yourself thing. I sort of don't understand it, unless you compete in competitions. What's the rush? What's the point? Rushing through anything just makes me tense and takes away all the pleasure. Just having to find the answer space as quickly as possible and write in letters as fast as you can while starting to read the next clue at the same time -- I'm getting winded just thinking about it. I tried it once on a ridiculously easy puzzle and said: never again. Much more enjoyable to solve at a comfortable rate, everyone; I swear you'll have a lot more fun!

chefbea 12:14 PM  

@numinous thank you for the owl and the pussycat

AliasZ 12:39 PM  

Although the choice of IST as and add-on was arbitrary -- any 3- or 4-letter-sequence would have done -- the end result was cute and entertaining.

I liked @Rex's Sadist song, @loren's middle-of-the-word additions and @Garth's therapIST which I would've made BEAT THERAPIST and clued "One who psychoanalyzed Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg et al."

Here are a few others:

SEMICOLONIST - One who is only 50% pilgrim.
RAMPARTIST - Painter of barricades.
INSIST AND OUTS - If you stay at it, you'll find excuses.
BUM PERSIST - A vagrant's perseverance.

Here is the prelude to the opera ATTILA by Giuseppe Verdi.

Enjoy your Wednesday!

Masked and Anonymo4Us 12:40 PM  

@chefbea: Have yerself a birthday that just beets em all.

@Constructioneer Ruth: Wow. Primo debut puz. U do thUmbsUp work. Coupla points of interist:

* No revealer. Works for m&e. Heck, even *I* had this theme figured out, off the CUBISTREPORTER opener. No extra help required. Like offerin a walker to a buncha fifty yard dash contestants. Plus, no nifty revealer comes to mind. Guess U could stick an IST weeject in some lower corner, but cripes.... mooooo.

* "Fill is not that interesting". No, but it is certainly interestin. SKICAP. EURASIA. CREDITRISK. REPLICA. CALYPSO. SURLY. NASSAU. SEANCE. GUEVARA. WEED ADDICT. QED.

weejects anonymoUs:
ESE - There's a TuesPuz echo in here.
ORA - Mighta went with IRA, to avoid the OR-sandwich effect. But then, yer gettin advice from a dude that uses stuff like TPODA in his own puzs, so...
CAF - Luv, luv, luv it. Luv it. U gotta try sneakin a clue in for it like: "Half carafe??", when the Shortzmeister ain't lookin.

Is ADDIST a word? Should it be?

p.s. One of my absolute fave constructioneers Jeff Chen is performin over at La Times, today.

p.p.s.s. I always try to speed-solve the weejects. But I still treasure the lil darlins.

foxaroni 12:46 PM  

Happy birthday, @chefbea!

Greg 12:47 PM  


Clue: "-------- corrected" or hint to this puzzle

Answer: istand "corrected"

Ist-and corrected

Aviate Creditrisk Mainstreet 1:00 PM  

Perfect puzzle!
Doesn't need a reveal as it's evident by the first theme (which seem to get wackier and funnier as you go along)

Tons of interesting fill... Really would have to look and look and look to find something wrong.

SPICE thru me off, as I'm allergic to cilantro/coriander, in the tastes like soap crowd.... Never thought herb vs spice, just soap vs not soap.
Read an article that said if you were allergic, instead of hives or rash or vomiting, you simply experience a soapy taste.

Hand up for tOILE, so GUEvARA was tricky for me to see for awhile.

Love the ADD ICT idea...perhaps 46D WAS ADDIST/SLOG before everyone realized ADDIST wasn't a word.
Hmmm maybe we can create the word ADDIST: one who likes sums? Totalitarian?

Again, very well done (in whatever language you say it!)

@Nancy 12:10,
If you insIST on a reveal, how about

Acme 1:03 PM  

Ps Happy Beetday, ChefBea!

Nancy in PA 1:06 PM  

Nice puzzle; congrats on your debut, Ms. Margolin!
@lms--your RAW story made me think of the scene in Mickey Blue Eyes where Hugh Grant is trying to sound like a Mafioso. Longish youtube video if you search Mickey Blue Eyes Funny Scene-Hugh Grant. (Don't know how to embed a link.)

LaneB 1:30 PM  

Faster than usual for a Wednesday---and no Googles needed.

Fair clues and a cute fill made for a satisfying morning. Thanks, Ms Margolin.

GILL I. 1:46 PM  

@Steve J: Good lord, he should have spent his money on some teeth...;-)
@chebea: FELIZ CUMPLEANOS....!!!
@Danp: "you want it poorly done?" made me laugh out loud. I love translations.
@Jisvan - just read your interesting blog and @Questinia I also read yours. Fireflies are daunting - almost like watching Monarchs migrate.

M and Also 2:01 PM  


List of life's most puzzlin mysteries:

* When Dan Feyer smokes thru a MonPuz, does he really enjoy it? Does he inhale?

* What's wrong with 2-letter words?

* Why won't 4-Oh construct a SatPuz? Does he inhale?

* On what planet was Patrick Berry born?

* Does David Steinberg have any hope of catchin up to M&A's 2014 pompous published puz count?



Anonymous 2:19 PM  

An "ADD-ICT" puzzle actually has been done already - NYT, January 11, 2007 - but IMHO the theme content in that one is really poor. Since it's already been 7 years, I might give it a shot.

Norm 2:47 PM  

Addend/Adder/Addle/Address might be easier than Addict as a theme?

Mohair Sam 2:50 PM  

Tip of the cap to @cascokid san for the Tip O'neill reference. Did his district actually go out as far as Natick? Spent a lot of time in Eastern Mass over the years, so Natick would never be a natick for me.

Norm 2:50 PM  

BTW, I enjoyed this puzzle a lot. I like coming here to read Rex's critique, and I guess he has a point that the puzzle would have been stronger and more clever with a reveal, but that didn't make me like it any less.

Karl 3:13 PM  

Fairly easy puzzle. I did not care for SLEEPER CELLIST as it does not sound like sleeper cell (+IST) when spoken aloud.
Other than that, moderately entertaining.

sanfranman59 3:32 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 8:10, 10:14, 0.80, 7%, Easy

Top 100 solvers

Wed 5:22, 6:17, 0.85, 10%, Easy

dmw 3:48 PM  

Easiest Wednesday I have ever seen.

acme 4:34 PM  

check out this super fun clever WITH reveal that Micahel Blake did in the LAT Fri Nov 9, 2009

schmuzz 5:20 PM  

my fastest wednesday-and waited til the end to take out the IST....nice

@chefbea---many happy returns of the day!

@Z - i am so jay-lous that you live that close to comerica park....
i will be there for opening day! it's a tradition

Norm 6:11 PM  

@acme: Excellent! I'd forgotten that one, although I must have done it. (The LAT and the Jumble are my companions on the daily BART ride home.)

Anonymous 6:14 PM  

I love the two first across answers in the completed grid. Rex will abide this type of theme when PIGS AVIATE!

AnnieD 7:26 PM  

Is it declasse to ask a question about another puzzle? I was working another puzzle and the clue was:

A la King

The answer was:


I don't get it... can someone please explain?

Norm 7:32 PM  

Steven King would be my guess -- and let us hope we don't draw the wrath of Rex ...

Anonymous 7:33 PM  

#anonomice. In your domain. Director. guess i ain't brave!

AnnieD 7:39 PM  

Thank you completely eluded me! Now that you say it, duh!

Unknown 9:31 PM  

@mohair Tip O'Neil's "storied" 8th district included Somerville, Cambridge and a wacky meander of wards and precincts through Boston that may be (for comic effect, but certainly not stereotypical behavior) likened to a drunken Irishman's stagger home. Brookline native Conan O'Brien would approve of the image.

After redistricting in 2013, Tip's old stomping grounds in north Cambridge were peeled off the 8th to become part of MA5, which ACTUALLY DOES INCLUDE NATICK. Thanks to gerrymandering and redistricting, "all politics are local" and "all Natick's are personal" are indeed geo-politico-linguistically related. Fancy that.

And thank you for asking!

JFC 9:42 PM  


I think I won my bet.

It appears those who responded didn’t fully understand your point. I don’t think the comment was hateful but raised an interesting dichotomy. It’s like eating. Can you enjoy a steak by wolfing it down? There are a lot of good steak houses in Chicago and I assure you for the money a $50 dry-aged bone-in rib-eye should be savored with each bite.

I agree that it is not humanly possible to enjoy this puzzle doing it in 3 minutes the same manner that someone does it in 8 or 15 or 30 minutes. Rex sometimes even misses notes posted because he is speed solving. How can he enjoy the puzzle the same way as someone who reads the note?

However, Rex speed solves and then goes back to comprehend how he feels a solver would react and then does his write-up. Of course, I don’t know that. But it is so logical than it cannot be denied. That’s his assumed job and passion. But I just don’t know about those other speed solvers who don’t write blogs. I’ve always assumed their enjoyment came from solving, not in admiring the art involved in the construction.


sanfranman59 10:06 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 6:19, 6:18, 1.00, 52%, Medium
Tue 6:27, 8:16, 0.78, 1%, Easy (3rd lowest ratio of 220 Tuesdays)
Wed 8:10, 10:14, 0.80, 7%, Easy

Top 100 solvers

Mon 4:19, 4:00, 1.08, 82%, Challenging
Tue 4:06, 5:13, 0.79, 0%, Easy (Lowest ratio of 220 Tuesdays)
Wed 5:07, 6:17, 0.81, 6%, Easy (13th lowest ratio of 217 Wednesdays)

wreck 11:25 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
wreck 11:28 PM  

I REALLY must proofread more often before I post!


I don't understand the vitriol that a few seem to have for my comments. I usually make it clear that I respect Rex's opinions, but I sometimes don't agree with the way he goes about it. I obviously enjoy his blog and the comments or I would not come here everyday AND contribute to his site. I don't think it would be very entertaining if everyone merely sucked up and agreed with his every word.

bumbu pecel bali 10:35 AM  

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spacecraft 12:01 PM  

Me likee. OK, maybe a tad too easy for a Wed., but a little clue-tweaking could fix that. I'll add my voice to others who disagree with OFL; not every theme needs a revealer. Further, IST is not "a random set of letters." It means one who does, or believes in, something. As such, two of the themers preserve this meaning (CUBIST, CELLIST), which may be looked upon as a defect; I choose not to. The other two are absolutely brilliant, changing completely the word being attached. Plus, the root phrases add plenty of SPICE, to say the least.

Now we come to the fill. If this is indeed a debut, it's a remarkable one. Did Ms. M. have any coaching along the way? There is some great stuff here: CREDITRISK, REPLICA, CALYPSO. As OFL (reluctantly??) admitted, that open center section has to be hard to pull off.

Suffice to say, after doing this, I'M UP! Especially my thumbs.

At last, the syndilink job has, apparently, been filled. Hooray!

DMG 1:34 PM  

Enjoyed a Wednesday romp through the "ist" world. Wasn't sure if the fabric should be tOILE or VOILE, so wrote in what I knew and waited for the first letter to show,up. Actually, I do a lot of that kind of thing. My grasp of language lends itself to knowing what part of a word is and then waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Not to be missed is @Z,s Shakespearean tribute to solving!

Solving in Seattle 2:35 PM  

Liked ATTILA over SURLY. Who is that ill-humored Hun, anyway?


The ADDICT in the SKICAP, smokin' WEED on MAINSTREET, is definitely a CREDITRISK. Ruth had a sub-theme running here.

No poker today. Go Mariners.

Dirigonzo 4:30 PM  

Had I known "Mob Wives" (there's really such a show?) Big ANG I surely would have seen Castro's pal GUEVERA to complete the grid without OWS; alas, ANn/nUEVERA stayed in. Oh well, it was still a fun puzzle even if it wasn't the bestIST.

Waxy in Montreal 6:56 PM  

Ja, das IST eine gute Kreuzworträtsel!

strayling 7:07 PM  

IST post!

\sorry, couldn't resist

6s in 9s

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