Academica author / SAT 11-1-14 / 1979 comedy set at Camp North Star / Husband of Elisheba / European Parliament locale / Porter Ally McBeal role / 1989 AP Female Athlete of Year / 1977 law school memoir / Apostle of Cuban Independence / Subject of tribute album every man has woman

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Constructor: Trip Payne

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: COVERT OPERATIONS — That's the title this puzzle was *designed* to have. Also, blurb was to have read: "No one said there was going to be math!" But fate and other nonsense intervened to give us this untitled puzzle with a condescending blurb.

Anyway, the basic idea is that the numbers in the themers relate to the numbered boxes in the grid, so you need to substitute the answers from those numbers and *then* read the equation out loud in order to make sense of the clues, ID EST

Theme answers:
  • BATTLEFIELD (19A: 81 ÷ 27)—i.e. PLACE (81A) divided by WAR (27A), i.e. [Place divided by war]
  • NEUTROGENA (34A: 61 + 86)—i.e. PERT (61A) Plus RIVAL (86A), i.e. [Pert Plus rival] ("PERT Plus" being a brand name)
  • REPEATEDLY (63A: 56 x 42)—i.e. MANY (56A) times OVER (42A), i.e. [Many times over]
  • GROSS PROFIT (83A: 33 - 21)—NET SALES (33D) minus COSTS (21A), i.e. [Net sales minus costs]
Word of the Day: NELLE Porter (37D: ___ Porter, "Ally McBeal" role) —
Nelle Porter is a fictional character on the Fox television show Ally McBeal. She is portrayed by actress Portia de Rossi and appears in Seasons 2 through 5 of the show. A Boston-based lawyer, Nelle joins the fictional law firm of Cage & Fish with the ambition of someday becoming a partner. Romantically involved with partner John Cage during Seasons 2 and 3, she later appears mainly as a source of comic relief. She is also notable for her close friendship with Ling Woo, one of the show’s most remarked-upon characters. (wikipedia)
• • •

Title-less-ness and lame-blurb-ity are just two of many indignities this puzzle has suffered over the past year. This puzzle is semi-infamous in crossword circles—it's the puzzle that was supposed to be an American Crossword Tournament puzzle (hence it's non-standard size), but Mr. Shortz decided to leave it out for cameras to see during a TV profile, and since it was (if memory serves) clearly labeled as a tournament puzzle. Ah, here we go … it was a  "Business Insider" profile. Shows the completed puzzle and everything. Big gaffe. So puzzle couldn't be used, and then [drama redacted], and here we are. It's a wonderful puzzle, and I don't think the title is necessary for many top solvers and regular meta-solvers. Actually, it may not be necessary at all, from an ease-of-solving standpoint. Whether you know the title is "COVERT OPERATIONS" or not, you still have to figure out that you aren't actually doing "math," but using the answers associated with the numbers to create phrases that would make appropriate clues. Cosmetically, I prefer the puzzle with the title. But you get what you get. And this is good stuff (back story aside).

I had no idea what was going on until I was done. Until after I was done. Like most of you (probably), I actually did the math. But I was bugged by [81 ÷ 27]. Why write it that way? Why not simply [9 ÷ 3], if we're just doing math? Made no sense… and that was beginning of the thinking that got me to look at the boxes with the numbers in them (the same way you had to look at the boxes with the numbers in them to make sense of the Patrick Blindauer meta-challenge from last month). When I noticed that the "56" in the clue for REPEATEDLY (63A: 56 x 42) was the clue number for MANY (56A: ___ a time), I thought "'MANY times …' aha!" and then sure enough, the "42" part was OVER (42A: Supervising). So REPEATEDLY is [MANY times OVER]. It sure is.

I started out pretty fast on this one, but then it turned out that I had to get Every Single Themer from crosses + inference. That definitely slowed me down. Difficulty level otherwise felt more Thursday than Saturday. No tough or obscure fill (except NELLE, ugh—I remain philosophically opposed to any and all "Ally McBeal" clues, and this only gets truer with each passing, blessedly "Ally McBeal"-free day) (37D: ___ Porter, "Ally McBeal role). Toughest parts of the puzzle for me, by far, were those tiny, mostly walled-off corners in the NE and SW. Somehow managed a good guess in the SW with YEARS leading to SPRY and things coming together from there, but in the NE I was not nearly as fortunate. Why? Well, I can't spell NEUTROGENA. I had it as NEUTRAGENA. Still seems reasonable. Anyway, as I had no idea what "Academica" was, 11D: "Academica" author was blank. I had it ending -ERA. So that effectively meant No Access to that NE corner. And since the clues up there were at least slightly vague / hard. I flailed around quite a bit before I put together the correct answers. Managed to finish and still be wrong. Had HOSTS for 21A: Lists for (this seemed reasonable from an Internet standpoint), and so with the NEUTRAGENA misspelling, my author ended up as CIHERA (™, by the way—it's my new pen name, and it's pronounced "Sierra").
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


    jae 12:12 AM  

    Medium-tough Sat. with a nice twist and an interesting history.  The NW and middle were the toughest parts for me.  I think the middle might have been a tad easier if I'd read the clue for the stand by crossword gimme at 59 across.  Unfortunately I never saw it until it was almost all filled in.

    LimA and soyA before FAVA.

    Fun Sat. and I definitely needed the extra time.  Liked it.

    Zeke 12:13 AM  

    I've done a lot of work over the years for NEUTROGENA, written dozens of reports for them about their products. I always spell it Neutragena. I've added Neutragena to my word dictionary but, apparently, elves come by at night and remove it and, once again, I send out a report with the client's name misspelled.

    Lon in Austin 12:15 AM  

    Thanks for the explanation and back story. I immediately did the math -- that's always my problem -- failure to see the big picture.

    Unknown 12:17 AM  

    That I finished it means it was an easier than average Saturday. I did not suss out the darn theme until I had the puzzle very nearly completed. And then I felt foolish for not having seen it much earlier.

    Whirred Whacks 12:18 AM  

    Rex said: "I had no idea what was going on until I was done." He's one-up on me. I still had no idea what was going on after I was done.

    Least enjoyable puzzle for me in a long time. Maybe it was just a reality check Saturday (for me).

    Bee relative? OPIE. Yes, I finally made the connection, but that's a stretch.

    Some clues were funny though:
    BEANO for "wind stopper"
    NO MAAM for "Miss dismissal"

    By the way, were there any people on this blog among the 20 Blindauer META prize winners? Like many of you, I submitted "TEMPUS FUGIT," but was not one of those selected by Cap'n Shortz. Maybe next year!

    Carola 12:21 AM  

    I found it an enjoyable challenge. I caught on to the "math" about half-way through solving, when I saw a connection between NET SALES and GROSS PROFITS (which I'd filled in from crosses). Understanding that helped me with OVER, BATTLEFIELD, and NEUTROGENA. NE was last; clawed my way in via author ending in -RO.

    While solving, I was thinking how much I was helped by decades of doing these crosswords, just having so much of the standard repertoire at my fingertips: elate, inane, stenos, Ashe, id est, esses, One L, can I, eerie, rears, enl, spry, adore, plie, erase, ire, eat up, Ono, onto, editor, and areas.

    RnRGhost57 12:24 AM  

    Sussed it out fairly easily but notalotta fun. Perhaps enjoyable inside baseball for certain denizens of crossword bizarro world.

    Dave in California 1:19 AM  

    Saw immediately that it couldn't be math--56x42 was too large of a number to be reasonable--so figured it had to be combinations of other clues or answers--and when I saw that every referenced number was in fact the start of the clue I was off to the races. Fun puzzle!

    Mette 1:38 AM  

    GROSSPROFIT made no sense to me for 12. A gross is 12 x 12. At 19A, had --TTLE----- and wanted to make little pigs fit with 3. Maybe little peegs? Finally twigged it only because of Blindauer's puzzles last week and even then needed Cihera's help to truly understand it all. Did enjoy it and moreso learning the backstory.

    mathguy 1:48 AM  

    Terrific puzzle. Don't get why INTER is "Lay low?"

    mathguy 2:05 AM  

    It just came to me. INTER means bury. I was thinking of it as a prefix.

    Moly Shu 2:13 AM  

    Same reaction as @RnR, not much fun even when I got the trick. Did like BEANO, hi @Whirred. A lot of clues were either stretches or to obscure for me. As for the backstory gripe @Rex, so what.

    @Mathguy, to inter someone is to bury them. Hence "lay low".

    Moly Shu 2:16 AM  
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    John Child 5:42 AM  

    Not bleeping medium here - 1:20 to complete cleanly. But very gratifying to progress up the ladder from "Wha?" To "I'm screwed" to "I can do this" to Mr Happy-Pencil.

    Complicated, difficult, crunchy and no drek. Three cheers!

    LHS 888 6:54 AM  

    @John Child - Well done you. I never got past "I'm screwed". I was able to fill in SE and work my way up the East coast. SW also no problem, but mid-west & NW just wouldn't fall. Add in a few key errors in the center, and... totally screwed!

    I'm also with @Whirred in not getting the "math" until I came here. I had to get every themer from crosses or infer them, sometimes successfully, sometimes not. Oof! I'm 1 for 3 on recent metas. I guess I'm not yet ready for prime time.

    Googles: NELLE, LOLITA
    Errors: 40!!

    Choice write-overs:
    meRE > PURE
    tuRn > PERT
    heman > MRBIG
    nurseS > ELBOWS
    STaNza > STENOS
    wasp > gnat (trying anything at this point) > OPIE

    Favorite clues: ELEM, SCIFI, BEANO, ELBOWS
    Favorite word: REPEATEDLY

    Too tough for me. You got me good TP / WS!

    Anonymous 7:05 AM  

    The print edition had the blurb "With daylight saving time ending tonight, you have an extra hour to work on this extra-hard, oversize puzzle."

    Lewis 8:01 AM  

    Wow -- this must have been a bear to construct, and it works so smoothly. I loved the clues for SNOW, EDITOR, EGOTISTS, DELE, OPIE, WAR, ERASE, and NOMAAAM. This kind of fun cluing makes a puzzle special, I believe. And the theme was brilliant.

    I didn't figure the theme out, but now I feel like if I stuck with it a bit longer, I should have. Lesson learned.

    RooMonster 8:37 AM  

    Hey All !
    Just had to comment before I even started this puz. I once sent in a 17x17 puz to Shortz, as theme necessitated that, and not only was it a "Not excite me enough" but he also said he doesn't publish 17x17 puzzles! Humph!

    At least I got a reminder about DST.

    Will Shortz! (said while pumping my fist in the air)

    Mohair Sam 8:53 AM  

    Really enjoyed this one. A medium Saturday test for us - and like Rex we didn't get the theme until we'd filled the grid. Wife found it looking at BATTLEFIELD's formula - great aha moment. Now she'll spend the rest of the day reminding me who's the smart one around here.

    Also Like Rex (and @Zeke) we misspelled NEUTRaGENA. Puzzle was filled except for total blanks in the far NE. Finally thought of COLOR for 11a, which gave us CICERO and corrected aGENA, and we were done.

    Lots of fun clues in this one, agree with all on BEANO - awesome.

    @Rex - thanks for the back story on this one. @Zeke - thanks for the NEUTROGENA back story. You must be damned good at what you do if the keep coming back in spite of that.

    evil doug 9:00 AM  

    Wonderful workout. Don't care about the back-story. Really glad the original note didn't get published. And appreciated the puzzle's bonus size.

    Sucked in early by the math, since 81/27 is such a clean 3. After I solved the trick, I thought I was brilliant when I came up with eAsTgErmany. So it took a while to break down the SEA-TAC region.

    A pleasant couple of hours that was much mo' bettah than Law&Order reruns.


    AliasZ 9:24 AM  

    Will Shortz has quite a different story about this puzzle at xwordinfo than Rex.

    According to Rex "... Mr. Shortz decided to leave it out for cameras to see during a TV profile, and since it was (if memory serves) clearly labeled as a tournament puzzle..." which clearly indicates malice aforethought.

    But according to Mr. Shortz, it was an honest accident: "At that point I had forgotten all about Trip's puzzle, which was nowhere near the desk where I sat anyway, so I said yes [to Business Insider's request for an interview]. Well, wouldn't you know it, during the course of the interview the cameraperson panned around my office, including the printer, stopping, in fact, to dwell for four seconds on Trip's puzzle, which just happened to say across the top: '2014 ACPT Puzzle 5.' Sometime after the interview was posted online, a friend who'd seen it emailed me..."

    The question is, what part of Rex's mind thought up Will's evil plan to purposely leave it out for the cameras to see? How would such a deliberate act benefit Mr. Shortz, or anyone else for that matter? Or is this just another way for Rex to prove what a doofus Mr. Shortz is?

    The greater question is, which story do I believe, the one told by the subject of the story, or the one told by someone who has heard and read about it after the fact? Can I believe anyone anymore?

    Oh, the puzzle was great, enjoyed it tremendously. It would have been extra nice if EGOTISTS were also a theme entry, clued "self/others". How difficult was it to squeeze SELF and OTHERS somewhere in the puzzle?

    How about a lovely Lullaby from the ballet Gayane by LARAM Khachaturian?

    chefbea 9:39 AM  

    WOW - too tough for could anyone figure it out?? The instructions on my puzzle said "with daylight savings time ending......" So we have an extra hour to figure out this extra hard oversized puzzle

    Had a terrible storm here this morning - thunder, lightening and sleet!!! Brrr

    Anonymous 9:55 AM  

    Like Rex, I too solved it without any clue to its theme. However, I was stopped by GYP. I think of it as offensive, as does Wikipedia: pejorative and sometimes offensive word for cheating or swindling. It refers to Gypsies. I live near Methuen ,Massachusetts where there was once a Gypsy War. It still seems it could have been clued differently: Here are two possibilities from Wikipedia: Gyp Mills (born 1946), a sculptor and songwriter known as the companion to the singer-songwriter Donovan or Gyp the Blood (1889–1914), a Jewish-American gangster and a leader of the Lenox Avenue Gang in New York City---Wait, that might be offensive too! Never mind obscure.

    Charles Flaster 10:13 AM  

    Great puzzle with many aha moments.Medium and finished without knowing theme but tried several alternatives .
    Saw the four basic operations and thought "operations" should be in the title if it was a Sunday puzzle.
    Last answers were IN DEPTH, SCIFI,CAIMAN.
    Loved many of the clues especially for VILLA.
    MEATBALLS is a classic to overnight camp people.
    Thanks TP.

    quilter1 10:27 AM  

    I didn't get the theme. I got a lot of the answers and got them right but just couldn't finish. Very clever.

    Leapfinger 10:29 AM  

    @AliasZ, as I've heard, that composer referred to himself as LARAM E. Khachaturian. Don't understand, Why om[it]ing his middle initial?

    Anonymous 10:39 AM  

    Could someone explain 39A? Who/What is ELEM?

    Nancy in PA 10:43 AM  

    Well, damn--I wish this HAD been Puzzle 5. I found it easier than the actual Puzzle 5. And enjoyed it tremendously!

    He is who?! 10:45 AM  

    @anon 10:39. He is the chemical/periodic table abbreviation for "helium," which is an ELEMent. He is an abbreviation of sorts, so the answer is an abbreviation as well. Hope that helps.

    Newf 10:46 AM  

    He is abbreviation for the element Helium

    Bob Kerfuffle 10:53 AM  

    Good puzzle! Challenging for me; took an hour.

    But got the gimmick, rather late in the solve, finished correctly with just two write-overs: 7 D, CAYMAN before CAIMAN, and 37 D, BELLE before NELLE.

    Always chancy to take issue with either Will or Trip, but I must disagree with 5 D: if ENL stands for "enlargement," then clearly it is a printing option, not a developing option. (Or am I missing something?)

    Newbie 10:56 AM  

    Favorite puzzle in a long time. Loved it. I'm not the whiz solver that many of y'all are, but this was the right balance of challenge and "aha" reward for me. Clever cluing with just enough gimme to keep me alive. Thank you Mr. Payne!

    Steve J 11:00 AM  

    A mix of surprisingly easy and completely impenetrable for me. Couldn't figure out what was going on with the themed acrosses, so some of the crossing downs were difficult to get, especially in the NW. Other themers did fill in as words became apparent, but with no idea why those were the right answers. Never thought of translating the "math" into clue-number references.

    Enjoyed several clever clues, stumped by others (Bee/OPIE), realized I know cars better than I know reptiles (I spelled 7D CAyMAN), and ended this one admiring the puzzle's idea but still not sure if I enjoyed it.

    Teedmn 11:01 AM  

    Great workout today. I had all four corners filled plus the bottom middle and then sat in idle. Too many sports clues. Had BATTLE and saw the theme and had SAFER and FOLD and still couldn't see FIELD. Erased SAFER and FOLD and put in "lines" and then "Front" and then re-erased it all again. Finally got NEUTROGENA and the N gave me CAIMoN (all my caymans have a Y and apparently an O).

    I finally had to google Newhart's co. Because I had the crosswordese etTu for TATA (it's a checkout line in my book), really didn't want GYP even though MANY was obvious, and WOE is USAIN?

    Thanks, Mr. Payne

    loved it! 11:04 AM  

    This was a GREAT puzzle! Fun to solve, amazing meta.
    Really sick of rex's need to a) show what an important puzzler he is by dropping names and inside information that is irrelevant to the puzzle, and b)slag Will Shortz. Guy makes an honest mistake and rex feels the need to insult him. Inadequate much, rex? Jealous?
    Gratuitous jerkiness=unforced error. Makes rex look like an ass. again.

    joho 11:05 AM  

    I got stuck in the upper middle section so Googled in frustration...something I never do. That cheat gave me AARON and zip zip I was done. I ended up with all the correct theme answers but never figured out they were right until coming here. WOW! What an amazing puzzle, Trip Payne!

    The only negative I have today is @Rex's continuing Will bashing which is getting really old.

    Steve J 11:07 AM  

    @Bob Kerfuffle: Both film and prints are developed (i.e., both are run through a chemical solution that converts light-exposed particles into ones visible by the human eye).

    GILL I. 11:08 AM  

    I haven't enjoyed a puzzle this much in a very long time...
    I wadded through the answers without too much trouble then sat back and stared at the math equations not having a clue what they meant. I was so determined to figure this one out and I had all the time in the world. It took about 20 minutes or so but by gum, I got it at REPEATEDLY...I would fail miserably at any of the crossword contests because I'm very SLOW!
    Good one Trip (love your name) Payne.....

    Leapfinger 11:16 AM  

    A. There's no such thing as 'extra time'; time is inelastic and ultimately irreducible. Chopping up and moving bits of time is an artificial construct, and possible only by popular agreement. cf Blindauer.

    B. That whole Business Insider brouhaha was PURE Serendipity, that let the likes of us get this fabulous ACPT#5. How much better to let thousands have a GO AT it with the time to enjoy, then to have far fewer rush through it as fast as possible.

    Saw the light early: with BATTL- just above WAR, knew it would be BATTLEFIELD, since BATTLEGROUND wouldn't fit, and that was clue enough.

    In World WAR I, some BATTLEFIELDs were OVERdone, so I browsed Somme and Verdun, found my way to (hi, Martel). Their precis do a good job in presenting content, I think; I found this snippet, which is probably familiar to most, but worth a re-visit, don't you think?

    Argonne Forest, Autumn 1918:
    'Another American platoon was pinned down by machine gun fire until sharpshooting Corporal Alvin York picked off the gunners one by one. He eventually ran out of rifle ammunition; when he did, eight German soldiers charged York’s position. But York simply emptied his pistol into the attacking squad. With 28 soldiers killed by York alone, the German commander surrendered the rest of his unit—132 men—to the American corporal and his seven surviving comrades.

    York’s story was turned into a movie; most of the Meuse-Argonne campaign was filled with less dramatic, bitterly fought progress. Yet by 10 October, the Americans had cleared the Argonne Forest and were marching toward Mézières.'

    Interestingly, in an earlier time, battles were scheduled affairs; ladies and gentlemen would drive there in carriages to spectate from the sidelines; media coverage in early days of the Iraq War was eerily reminiscent. By and large, we've become civilized enough to spectate most conflicts in the sports arena, but aren't quite civilized enough yet to do away with 'real' battles altogether.

    Enjoyed the solve immensely. Cool operator, Mr. Payne, very trippy!!

    Nancy 11:31 AM  

    So, so clever -- now that I know the trick, that is. What a bummer: to completely fail at a puzzle I would have loved, if only I'd gotten it. For me this was impossible: the only theme answer I got was GROSS PROFIT and I had no idea why it was the answer to this clue. A beauty -- but much too hard for me to figure out. Would a title have helped me? Probably not.

    Questinia 11:32 AM  

    Found this easy yet it took me an hour and a half.

    I began the puzzle but dozed off after already solving for GROSS and after having started looking to see how and if the number 144 figured anywhere.

    But one of the benefits of dozing off after a few fills, the puzzle resting gently upon the bosom, clock ticking in syncopation with the heart, is that one awakens with what appears to be a solar plexiform *understanding*.
    Deprived of a day's worth of prejudicial thoughts must have liberated me to finish the thing speedily as I instantly saw the numbers as allusions. The recent Blindauer meta probably helped with that line of thinking.

    A brain wave rinse is sometimes the only thing needed.

    Masked + AnonymoUs 11:35 AM  

    Fun trip! Also: fun, Trip!

    This puppy is what I would show to other folks, to explain to them why crossword puzzles are so cool.

    Suspected the theme trick pretty early at BATTLEFIELD, but hard to verify early, since needed to know what 81-A was. Also, wasn't quite sure I was sure, because of the "division = army unit" angle. NEUTROGENA was no day-um help, since it's factors were even further downstream, and I thought the stuff was a coffee additive. So I just MOTORed along, enjoyin all the neat, nasty, noodletwistin clues.

    Most fun I've had on a Saturday since the time that crate fell off the cinnamon roll truck.

    Bravo for Payne-ful puzs.


    p.s. I really liked it. Kinda glad it got leaked to the press, or whatevah.

    Leapfinger 11:42 AM  

    @Teedmn, USAIN Bolt, Olympic winner (London). Isn't Bolt a great name for the fastest runner on the planet?

    Questinia 11:45 AM  

    @ jettay-le-dwah Extra time is like the extra money some people see after returning a bought item and experiencing it as a windfall. But who would we all be without the occasional absolute capacity to fool ourselves? Inelastic with STENOSis.

    PuzzleCraig 11:52 AM  

    @WhirredWhacks (12:18 am), I'm the Craig with the very quick solution, referred to by Will Shortz in the writeup in the WordPlay blog. I am so glad I wrote Patrick Blindauer during the week to tell him I had the solution early.

    I'm also glad you mentioned the contest, because I had forgotten to look at the results. :D

    Unknown 11:56 AM  

    Gotta agree with @loved it on this one, sad to say.

    Lewis 12:06 PM  

    Factoid: The film MEATBALLS featured Bill Murray in his first starring role. He was signed to do the film at the last minute because of his commitment to Saturday Night Live. Murray's outfit, the Hawaiian shirt and red shorts, were the clothes he was wearing when he showed up on set.

    Quotoid: "I used to be SNOW White, but I drifted." -- Mae West

    jberg 12:13 PM  

    You guys are being too deep about the "extra time" thing -- we get an extra hour to solve this one before tomorrow's paper hits the porch (or however you online solvers get it ); Will owes us an easy one next spring, when we'll have an hour less.

    Fortunately, I didn't need all 5X5 hours. I was slowed down by the note, thinking the numbers would be about days, hours, or other units of time -- but of course all that FUGITed a week ago. That was followed by a few moments of idle thought about Fibonacci numbers. Also slowed by aPId at 22A after 'wasp' didn't work, which fit so well with jumP AT for 2D. Also be thinking 7D really must be iguana, even though it obviously couldn't be.

    Finally I got REPEATEDLY and NET SALES, which let me work backward to get 33D and 21A. I think in every case it was the math answer that helped me get its components, other than the other way around.

    I woiuldn't exactly say I 'enjoyed' all the clever and difficult cluing, but it was fun AFTER I solved it, which is how it should be.

    Teedmn 12:14 PM  

    Thanks @Leapfinger, it now sounds vaguely familiar.

    Extra time just like that extra money called "tax refund".

    Darla 12:21 PM  

    Agreeing wholeheartedly with Anonymous above -- GYP is a no-no! What's next, the clue "Haggle" with the answer JEW? Have some respect, Payne and Schwartz!

    Whirred Whacks 12:23 PM  

    @Puzzle Craig. Thanks for reminder.

    Here are the 20 winners (drawn at random) of last week's META puzzle. Are any of you on this list?

    David M. Bachman, Washington, DC
    Alan Broner, Brooklyn, NY
    Tom Burke, Scranton, PA
    Jim Finnegan, Chappaqua, NY
    Amy Gelman Daniel Goddard, Madison, CT
    Maren Jennings, Medina, OH
    Larry Kamin, New York, NY
    Douglas Kubach, Minneapolis, MN
    Dirk Langford, Nashville, TN
    Jaclyn Levi, Houston, TX
    Albert Madansky, Chicago, IL
    Stephen McClure, Chicago, IL
    Steven Rapkin, Hoboken, NJ
    Susan Rudin, Belle Harbor, NY
    Annie Schwartzberg Don Spencer, Darien, CT
    Skylar Sukapornchai, Los Angeles, CA
    Mike Sullivan, San Diego, CA
    Kris Verdin, Boulder, CO

    WOOT! 12:28 PM  

    This was esily the hardest and most satisfying puzzle I've solved completely on my own. Thank you to constructor and editor. Great clues, great meta theme, extra large. I am ELATEd, chuffed, thrilled. I ADOREd it, I EATedITUP.

    Anonymous 12:44 PM  

    All of Rex's paranoid delusions and narcissistic rants remind me of the Groucho Marx line: "Who are you going to believe? Me or your own lying eyes?"

    M + Also 12:54 PM  

    I just read The Shortzmeister's account of the "leaked puz" affair, over at the xword info warehouse. Hey, coulda been worse -- they mighta wanted to film everything in the powder room. Makes me wanna see the BEQ #5 ACPT sub-puz, now. Maybe BEQ'll post it, eventually (hint,hint).

    Actually, I thought Trip's puz today was pretty easy, at least relative-difficulty-wise for what an ACPT #5 puz is said to be. Wonder if The Shortzmeister softened up the clues, for mass consumption?

    I found this puz kinda inspirational, btw.



    Wow! Great captcha! (ppposts Sunday)

    Anonymous 12:57 PM  

    @Anony 9:55
    What would you have us do? No E-GYP-tian President, from Nasser on, would have favored changing that country's name. The horses are out; don't bother bolting the door!

    I bet INTER would probably have clicked for you in the 'Cask of Amontillado' setting.

    Glenn Kenny 1:01 PM  

    Here's an interesting coincidence: Like Rex, I really had no idea what was going on, and was doing the calculations as I thought the puzzle was instructing me to; I noticed that 34 across, "61+86" added up to 147...and many Neutrogena products are sold in 5 ounce containers, or, in the metric system, 147ml. containers. Needless to say, this revelation threw me off for another good five minutes or so.

    Last Silver Bullwoot 1:19 PM  


    @Sir Shortzmeister: Same time next year, invite that same film crew back over. Suggest they film in the powder room. Pre-place a filled-in "ACPT #5 puz" on the sink or (even better!) in the toilet bowl. But, this time, ...

    1. Substitute a "ringer" puz that has the exact same grid design and title.
    2. Ringer puz has answers that sorta fit the real #5 puz's clues, at least in the upper part. Except all the answers are different, and thus incorrect.
    3. At the tourney, check out how many contestants finish the #5 puz in under 2 minutes, scorin a perfect -1195 points, or whatever.
    4. Publish a "Flusher Scam" list of the suckers U catch. (Heck, I'd probably make the list.)

    "Keepin Em Honest"

    jdv 1:25 PM  

    Easy-Med. I was able to solve it without the theme. It took me 5-10 minutes post-solve to see it. The clue 'He is one' is fantastic. Never heard of a CAIMAN.

    @sanfranman. The solve times on the scorecard today seem uber-fast. I came in at #195, for now anyway. Do you have any insight as to what's going on?

    Sir Hillary 1:49 PM  

    Things I learned today:
    1) I can complete a puzzle intended for ACPT...
    2) ...despite not understanding the theme.
    3) GYP is considered pejorative by some.
    4) @Rex professes to know the motives of everyone in Crossworld.

    Anonymous 1:59 PM  

    @Darla and Anon,
    Yep, I've had someone say 'jewed me down' to me without batting a whiplash; by the same token, whenever I meet someone called Evan or Dylan Cadwallader, I make sure I use the verb 'welsh' at some point.

    Unknown 2:14 PM  

    Challenging. Very. So challenging, I called my solver buddy after 90 minutes, got 20 minutes of general coaching, including the meta reveal, and it still took me another 40 minutes to finish the grid.

    This one was well beyond my ability as a Rexworld first-grade, but hats off to the constructor and to all of you who could avoid the minefield of wrongness and solve a pretty tricky meta. I stepped on every bomb. I was totally and unequivocally defeated by this puzzle. No, I didn't come close to solving the meta. [81 / 27], for instance, had me working on sqrtoFnine, other equations for which 3 is the answer, and a wide variety of roman numeral variants. As my crosses were nearly always wrong, I could only work directly from the meta-driven clues themselves. Deep, deep wrongness there. Even after I had been told the meta, I couldn't use the information because the other clues were ungettable straight up, and ungettable from crosses, or hopelessly lost to wrongness. I. couldn't. see. anything.

    BUT, what a great puzzle!

    NW wrongness
    [Bee relative] wasp then quiz. Never got OPIE. I always think of her as Aunt Bea, not Aunt Bee. My bad. @ChefBea, I'm looking at you!

    N wrongness:
    [Cut from a log, maybe] pRunE
    [Comparatively trouble free] tAmER.
    Then death

    NE wrongness:
    [Apricot or eggplant] fruit
    [Supertrendy] mOd.
    Then death.

    W wrongness:
    [The Apostle of Cuban Independence] fidel (guess)
    [like illegal charades clues] said.
    Then death.

    E wrongness:
    [Digs near the ocean, perhaps] lanai
    [Utopias lack them] jaILS
    [Supervising] head.
    Then death.

    I had no wrongness in Center or SE as I had no idea what to put there.

    I'll give myself credit for FOLD, RETILE, IRE, and the SW corner and southern border all by my little self.

    What adds to the luster of this great puzzle is that each quadrant required just a few bits of culturally fair knowledge (CICERO, MARTI, MEATBALLS, COEN, ALSACE)

    This has to go on a short list of best puzzles of the year.

    Leapfinger 2:26 PM  

    Say Hey, congrats to @PuzzleCraig, the fastest meta-solver on the Planet!

    @Q-Girl, satay/sate, jettay/jette.
    Yup, have always been troubled by the inelasticity of Time, but there's been a definite METAstasis ever Blindauer; a spate of Time-warp symptomatology over on WP today.
    Had a roar at the PERTy way you squeezed in STENOSis; too bad the only thing for Payne is that no-good PLACE-Bro.

    [One day I'm going to work in 'Ankle, Oh sing "Spondee lie, Sis"']

    LEAP AT your service & apologies for the OVERAGE.

    Ludyjynn 2:51 PM  

    Hated it. Other than easy-medium NE, WC and SW quadrants, an ultra challenging, frustrating DNF experience. Math or no math, this was completely outside my ken.

    Onward to Sunday. Happy DST, all.

    Ellen S 3:04 PM  

    Thanks to those who pointed out the wrongness of GYP. There's nothing wrong with Egyptian people being called Egyptian (if I could stop spelling it "Egyptian"--at least my favoring the letter "o" helped with NEUTROGENA). There's more wrong with the Roma being assumed to come from Egypt, but the worst wrong is for them to be assumed to be thieves. I wouldn't want to say, "Hey, everyone thinks you're a bunch of horsethieves and pickpockets. So what, get over it!" We need to get over it and become aware of the way people are mistreated based on stereotypes.

    Used as verbs, GYP, Jew and Welsh are all pejorative. (Thanks, @anon 1:59pm.)

    The rest of the puzzle: I loved it. @Casco I'm impressed by your upbeat attitude despite the solving disaster. I had to get all but the last themer just from crosses, but I did a lot of cheating (reveal word: no, that's not it, try something else.) I tried looking up Academica on Amazon, which is the best list of "Books That Were Ever In Print". They had nothing so I figured it was something classical, so put in CICERO after a C and and E or something. Haha, just occurred to me maybe I misspelled it in my Amazon search;no matter, my reasoning was correct.

    Amazaon was no help even negatively for the Dolores Haze clue. I read Lolita years ago but had forgotten her name. Went to Amazon again and found myself in that section at the back of the video store, you know what I mean? Lolita is there, but also some other novels authored by Dolores Haze. No information on their content except "Don't be here if you are under 18". But LOLITA was there in crosses so I finally put it in.

    Like Cihera and others I had to get the themers just from crosses, as their clues made no sense. The original blurb wouldn't have helped me, nor the title, except in retrospect. Finally after I filled in REPEATEDLY I figured it out, and it did help with GROSS PROFIT (since I had already filled in its components). Nice.

    I'm not so sure about NOMAAM as a "Miss dismissal". Would you address an unmarried woman as "Ma'am"?

    And I've never lived on or seen a cul-de-sac called "..... PLACE". Mostly they are "..... COURT". Not saying it couldn't happen, just not likely. PLACEs are usually regular streets in my experience.

    But what the heck, it's a crossword puzzle. The wrongness didn't stop me. Put me in the camp of those who are glad the puzzle got exposed, so we got a chance to solve it.

    Oh -- inelasticity of time. Yes, DST is exactly like having too much tax withheld from your paycheck. It's not "extra" money or time, but it's money or time you wouldn't have had at this moment, otherwise. The only thing DST is good for is, in the spring we "bank" an hour, so in the fall we get an extra hour to sleep or do the puzzle. And get our clocks recalibrated right except for my kitchen clock which is always wrong anyway.

    Jyqm 3:08 PM  

    For the relative newbies (and even for those of us who have been doing these things forever), this was a good puzzle to practice some nitty-gritty solving techniques, e.g. creating toeholds for yourself by filling in just the ends of the comparative/superlative and plural answers.

    First letters in the grid for me were -ER at 6D. That immediately got me REM, which got me CAIMAN. Over in the east, the final S at 36D allowed me to see ESSES. The initial RE- at 48A made the EVERLY brothers apparent. Chipping away at some of the basic building blocks of the puzzle like this can make it much easier to get going.

    Dirigonzo 3:39 PM  

    On my first pass through the grid I just ignored the "math" clues because I had no idea what was up, but I eventually managed enough crosswords to see REPEATEDLY and I finally managed to make the connection to the numbers - clever! In the end only the NE corner caused any serious heartburn and that was self-inflicted as I had decided that apricots and eggplant might be fruit, which I confirmed with iNon for "well aware of". It took a whole lot of teeth-gnashing and hair-pulling to finally get them out of there and the correct answers in, and I used up my extra hour in the process. A fine way to spend a Saturday afternoon with a blanket of SNOW in the forecast.

    Unknown 3:44 PM  

    @EllenS With the exception of very few clues [Developing option] comes to mind for reasons mentioned by @BobKerfuffle, the solutions fit the clues perfectly AND are in the language. We've had a lot of cases recently when that wasn't true. David Woolf gave us both E=mc (which is flat wrong) and ARIZONIAN (which is not in the language) and I was rather outspoken about those. But this one was so good, I can only find that the problem lies between my ears. ;)

    I did slow down on this one. I did take deep breaths. I did open my mind to lots of avenues for error. But I could only suss the appropriateness of ERASE in the post-mortem, and COLOR and HOT just didn't come to mind during solve-time. For [Utter] I had sUch rather than PURE, which meant that I had the right subdef of [Utter] but I didn't pull out the right 4 letter synonym. Damn. Lots of that in this puzzle.

    OK, I'm still wondering: what's a TOTE board? A clipboard?

    Anonymous 3:53 PM  

    How about we stop stereotyping and mistreating people and at the same time keep some perfectly good words? Can Dr. Dolittle's dog still be Jip? Is it hunky-dory to go Dutch? Not long ago, I read an article about someone in D.C. Government who was briefly investigated and quickly relieved of his job after using the word 'niggardly; someone took offense!

    Who's zoomin' who?

    M+A Help Desk 4:04 PM  

    @CascoKid: Tote board is where they display the odds and results at the horse racing track.

    michael 4:04 PM  

    Solved the puzzle, but didn't get the theme until I came here. Really unimpressed with Rex's comments about Will Shortz. Almost pathological.

    evil doug 4:21 PM  
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    evil doug 4:29 PM  

    [Jerry tries to make amends with Winona, who he had unknowingly offended by giving Elaine a cigar store Indian....]

    WINONA: So, where are we gonna go eat?

    JERRY: I thought we'd eat at the Gentle Harvest.

    WINONA: Ooh, I love that place, but it's usually so crowded. Can we get a table?

    JERRY: Ah, don't worry. I made reser... (catches himself)

    WINONA: You made what?

    JERRY: I uh, I uh, I arranged for the appropriate accommodation. And then, Knick tickets, floor seats.

    WINONA: How did you get these?

    JERRY: Got 'em on the street, from a scal... (catches himself again) A uh, one of those guys....

    WINONA: What guys?

    JERRY: You know, the guys, that uh, they sell the tickets for the sold-out

    WINONA (angrily): Oh.

    Anonymous 4:50 PM  

    I'm with @Anon 3:53PM; just because stupid, uneducated people "decide" to be offended by something that was inoffensive doesn't mean WE HAVE TO HUMOR THEM.

    Sweet Sioux 4:56 PM  

    Hey there, EVIL! That was brave of you, Chief.

    Fred Romagnolo 5:00 PM  

    I'm amazed by all you people who thought this was a great CROSSWORD puzzle. It was complicated, and ingenious, but it wasn't a crossword puzzle. It had elements of a crossword puzzle, but it was something else, like that META thing. I leave it to all of you to come up with a word to designate it. Perhaps an adjective preceding the word CROSSWORD; something that would make it possible for people like me to be warned! I don't mind rebuses or the other kinds of quirky usual Thursday stuff, because I know it's Thursday; forewarned is forearmed. Have pity, at my age time is precious!

    JDipinto 5:08 PM  

    @CascoKid--- besides M+AHelp Desk's explanation, a Tote Board is also used on TV telethons to show how much money has been raised.

    puzzling 5:13 PM  

    People who hate puzzles because they can't finish them are like people who hate movies because they make them sad. Sometimes, great puzzles are too hard for average solvers. Sometimes, great movies don't make you feel happy. Of course, judge them however you like, but be aware of what you're saying about yourself.

    Unknown 5:26 PM  

    @M&A, @JDipinto, Hay, much grass! --@casco

    Hungry Mother 5:37 PM  

    Took me half the afternoon, and I really needed the math, with no help. Very satisfying for me as a plodder to get it.

    Mohair Sam 5:45 PM  

    @Sir Hillary. I never registered that - my wife and I just completed an ACPT puzzle. Ready for the big time! Wonder if Will is OK with us competing as a team?

    And like Sir Hillary I never knew Gyp referred to an ethnic group. I Have friends from the Netherlands. Hope they never think of the origins of the terms "going Dutch" and "Dutch oven".

    @Evil Doug - Love the Seinfeld reference. Is there anything they didn't touch on?

    Ludyjynn 6:41 PM  

    Dear @Puzzling, In case you are referring to my prior comment, I did not hate this or any other puzzle that I DNF simply because it was "too hard for average solvers". I hated this puzzle because I hated this puzzle. Period. BTW, because of constructive commentary by Rex and others on this blog, my solving skills have improved enormously over the past year. Thank you all very much! I value your insights. Keep 'em coming!

    Charlene 10:19 PM  

    Ugh. Awful puzzle with a grossly racist word and another racially insensitive clunker - INUIT IS ALREADY PLURAL, DAMMIT. The singular is "Inuk".

    OISK 10:35 PM  

    Liked this one! Finishing it gave me a perfect solving week, after 3 DNF's ala P.Blindauer last week. A long while ago a clue appeared that I thought was horrid. It was "Bee's charge." The answer was "Opie." Since I never watched that show, I had no idea. I vaguely knew that there was a character named "Opie," but how could I get there from Bee's charge? Fortunately, much as the clue annoyed me, it stuck with me, so today when I saw "Bee's relative," and wasp, ant, and hornet didn't fit, (all in the same order, hymenoptera, I think…) I remembered! Opie!

    Z 10:38 PM  

    Hmmm - Rex wrote something negative about Shortz today? Please feel free to point it out to me, because I don't see it. I went back after missing it the first time and I still can't find it.

    DNF in the north, mostly from boredom. Jabbers -> ELBOWS still puzzles me. I fell for the wasp trap (shame on me) and wanted remit where ELATE belonged. I'd made similar mistakes elsewhere but had worked through them all, but there just wasn't enough sparkle to encourage me to wade through to the end. The best bit was INTER after yesterday's "immure kerfuffle."

    As for GYP, other than late 19th century, the origin seems fairly unknown (you see lots of "probably from gypsy" in the dictionaries). Nevertheless, it seems to me awfully niggardly of people to use the term knowing some are insulted by it, or is "swindled" too much of a mouthful to use instead? Seriously, we're crossword puzzle solvers here, we have plenty of synonyms to choose from. Or we could just use a captcha and coin a new word.

    Z 10:41 PM  

    Jabbers are not people prattling on and on about immurement versus internment, it's someone using their ELBOWS to jab someone. Duh.

    Texcritic 11:13 PM  

    23 Across -- Kind of Sleep: REM. Shouldn't that have had an abbreviation in the clue?

    Anonymous 11:20 PM  

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    OISK 12:14 AM  

    Thanks, but what are the down clues? I get that 14 across is "amulet," ...

    Virginia 1:06 AM  

    Medium? No way. This puzzle was fiendishly difficult, with obscure cluing and many little barely connected sections, so that finishing one area wasn't much help with the next. Filled in the theme answers on crosses and intuition, but I never did figure out the meta. I got "Opie" last of all, leaving me a bit disappointed with myself, since I loved the Andy Griffith Show as a kid and feel I should have been able to get it much sooner. Overall, I admire the puzzle's construction, but I can't say I enjoyed it much.

    Would anyone care to explain "ENL" to me? I have no idea what it means here.

    jae 1:02 AM  

    @Virginia (Only The Good Die Young) - ENL = Enlarge which is an option for developing pictures.

    Leapfinger 7:42 AM  

    umm, best I know, 'enlarge' is an option in printing, not developing pictures.

    But it's a puzzle.

    Atlantasolver 9:22 AM  

    Tough puzzle. Got it. Feels good.

    Virginia 4:00 PM  

    @Jae, many thanks for the explanation! As with so many things (in crossword puzzles and in life), it's obvious once you see it.

    --Virginia, neither young nor dead, draw what conclusions you will about my character.

    Tita 12:54 AM brother"repurposed" the tiny room of my bedroom into his darkroom. He had an ENLarger there, with which he developed some really extraordinary pictures.
    The first of the clues i got was GROSSPROFIT. Answer to the math was 12...scratch head. 12 squared is a GROSS...
    So...81÷9=3 ... scratch some more. .. 9 squared is 81. 3 squared is 9.
    Trip. ..did you do that on purpose?

    A little math knowledge was a dangerous thing today. I was soooo wrong that i came nowhere close to finishing.
    But i think the idea was cool.

    Unknown 4:52 AM  

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    Anonymous 9:40 AM  

    Here it's already the 4th, and I finally gave up on solving this puzzle and read Rex's blog. You people call it medium? Incredibly hard. The theme was incredibly subtle, and it was full of Berry-esque clues sending you off in the wrong direction ("Bee relative") or giving away so little that you didn't know where to start. The cluing was the best I've seen out of Trip and gives me some hope for his future as a constructor. But still, way too many proper nouns. Trip keeps thinking he's providing gimmees, when they're only gimmees to himself and members of his social class. Trip -- don't ask me to share your interests in life, and I won't ask you to share mine. Deal?

    Unknown 7:29 AM  

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    Anonymous 12:46 AM  

    my name is Marisa James,i am From GERMANY I never knew I could be happy again cause my life turned in a mess by my ex boy friend named James, cause the love I had for him was incomparable, I loved him with all my heart but he dumped me just because of other girl, ever since then I have never been my self cause I love James and think of him every seconds of my life so I cant just let him go like that cause I think he is the love of my life, so I decided to go on research on net on how to get lost lover back. At hot mail blog that was how I saw a lady who testified the great things which Dr.AYO did for her after reading I was convinced to give a try to Dr. AYO to see if he can help me also. So that was how I contacted him and told him my problem. So when I told him my problem he just told me not to worry that I will have James back within 48hours, I was so surprised, I he call me and all he said was that he was so sorry for everything that happened,. I was so surprised and was short of words cause I could not believe what I was hearing. So that was how James came to me and now we are living happily than ever before. My friends out there who needs help I will advice you contact Dr. AYO for help.You can reach him via:

    Unknown 8:19 PM  


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    rondo 12:05 PM  

    Nothing to report today as BOTH the St. Paul and Minneapolis papers had a "best of" puz from 2011. Don't know what that's about, but I hope it's a fluke and not a trend.

    Chris 1:36 PM  

    @rondo... Same in El Paso Times. On another blog someone mentioned Denver also. Someone said it had to do with grid size - it's 17 x 17. Boo.

    Waxy in Montreal 6:32 AM  

    Montreal Gazette too. Thought I'd done this one before!

    Rex Parker 3:47 PM  

    IS this it?


    Waxy in Montreal 7:10 PM  

    Yes, @Rex, that's the one. As soon as I read the clue for PLASMATV, knew I'd solved it before!

    Dirigonzo 9:32 PM  

    The "best of" repeat puzzle appeared in my local paper, too, but since it was originally published before I began solving Saturday puzzles thought I had not seen it before, so I felt pretty smart when I solved it relatively quickly. I still have a weird sense of deja vu, so maybe it was in one of the collection books I've been working on?

    @Rex - just when I was beginning to think you had abandoned the comments completely you show up to post a helpful link in the syndi-section. Very nice, and very much appreciated!

    Joe more 10:23 AM  

    Hello every body out there am from USA i want to share a testimony with every one on how God used a man named Dr Azuka to help me in retrieving my love i was in love with a boy and both of use where living happily suddenly i did not know what happened my love started developing hatred towards me one day which was on Monday 6/10/2010 my love just came back from work and told me that first thing tomorrow morning am living his house i was so shocked and i was so surprised because i did not offend him in any way, i did not know what to do next i decided to plead with him but he insisted not to see me around him again, so the next morning he parked my things out and told me to go, i pleaded with him and ask him to forgive me if i have wrong him unknowingly but he never agreed with me so i decided to go to my sister's place and stay, i love this boy so much even when i was in my sister's house i was still call him and plead with him all the time he told me to live him alone he even changed his line just because of me. That was how we brooked up but i still love this guy so much i have been looking for solution on how to get him back for years, one day i was going through the internet when i saw how great Dr Azuka help a girl in getting back her love so i decided to contact him because i have been looking for help for years just to get him back when i contacted him i told him everything and he told me not to worry that my love will be back in just 2days i did not believe him at first because i said how could you just bring back somebody that has gone for 2years, he said that is very possible that he is the one that is going to do it that i should not worry that my love will be back in just 2days that he promise, so i said okay then he told me what to do and he casted the spell, in the next 2days after he has casted the spell which was on Sunday morning on the 10/2/2013 i heard a knock on my door i did not even think if he would be the one, that was how i opened the door and i saw him he went on his knees and started pleading begging me to forgive him i was shocked and was full of surprises and at the same time filled with happiness and i accepted him without wasting anytime because i love him so much, and we celebrated the valentine together and now we have gotten married and now we are living happily than ever after. Thanks be to you the great Dr Azuka for helping me. In case you want to thank him for me or you need his help you can contact him through his private mail: or What's App +2348132777335 Once again thank you sir.

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