Eponymous Bloomer / SUN 11-9-14 / Robotic dog on Dr Who / Alternative name for Troy / Facetious unit defined as amount of beauty needed to launch one ship / Modern purveyor of Scrabble Monopoly / Prey of morlocks / Lerner's partner on Broadway /

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Constructor: Tom "The Real" McCoy (sometimes "Da Real," "Realz," or "the GAWD," "GAWD" standing for "good at word designs")

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: "Colorful Characters" — four phrases that follow the pattern [color] [word] have the word reimagined (homophonically) as a letter, which appears only when you color in answers in the grid from which that particular color has been left out. That is, the four theme answers, when read out loud and reinterpreted homophonically, FORM LETTERS (102A: Impersonal notes … or what four groups of this puzzle's answers do (totaling 11 words)) which you can find in the various corners of the grid:

Theme answers:
  • YELLOW SEA (57A: Body of water found in this grid's upper right corner) gives us a yellow "C" made up of
[yellow] BRICK
[yellow] BELLIES
[yellow] STONE
  • BLUE JAY (6A: Bird found in this grid's lower-right corner) gives us a blue "J" made up of
[blue] BERRY
[blue] RIBBON
[blue] MOON
  • GREEN TEA (80A: Beverage found in this grid's lower-left corner) gives us a green "T" made up of 
[green] LIGHT
[green] GABLES
  • BLACK EYE (85A: Injury found in this grid's upper-left corner) gives us a black "I" made up of 
[black] HOLES
[black] LISTING
[black] MAGIC

Word of the Day: MILLIHELEN (34A: Facetious unit defined as the amount of beauty needed to launch one ship) —
There is no source that I can find for this—just one of those things that's out there in nerd humor land, with various attributions. I am, however, enjoying David Lance Goines' "Table of Helens and Equivalents," which includes the Microhelen, which provides enough power to "christen a motor boat and start a grass fire," and the Gigahelen, which can "launch the equivalent of one trillion Greek war ships and destroy the solar system."
• • •

OK, it has taken me so long to color and scan my grid and then format all of the above that I totally forget what this puzzle was about. Luckily, I just have to look at the grid and there are bright letters there to remind me. This is a great After-The-Facter, i.e. you can appreciate the puzzle's core concept properly only after you've finished. This one also sort of requires you to color your grid, or to have a vivid imagination, or not to give a **** one way or the other. I went with coloring. What I will remember about this puzzle is MILLIHELEN, and the fact that the letters spell nothing, and anagram to nothing. JICT! Is that something? Like … a Jute and a Pict had a baby and boom, JICT!? (that one was for all my British medievalists out there. Scop!  (pronounce like "'Sup!?" — it's how we greet each other. ANYway…)). I could tell Jerry. I can take judo. I crave Tom Jones. Can I jump that? What if I told you this was a meta? Well it is. Seriously. But I don't know the answer. Please tell me the answer. Spend all day trying to figure it out, then report back. I'll be waiting.

We've seen this word/letter homophone thing recently, as the basis for some other theme in some other puzzle. But I like this one. Of course I don't remember the other one, so it's not a fair comparison. Still, I stand by whatever it is I just said. This grid has axial (as opposed to rotational) symmetry. I don't know what the "(totaling 11 words)" bit is doing in the revealer. Kind of unnecessary. If they don't get the gag, solvers aren't going to be helped by counting words. But otherwise, I thought the title, theme answers, colored letter answers, and revealer all worked together nicely. This puzzle was actually fun. ELEVENTY times funner than lots of other Sunday puzzles I've been subjected to (48D: 110, to Bilbo Baggins). Big puzzles are hard to make good. They usually end up feeling long. More long than good. This was both. Could've been longer, i.e. it could've been harder (quite a bit), but still, the ride was enjoyable. Clever.


  • AMELIA (118A: Eponymous Bloomer) — I get her confused with AMELIA Bedelia. They're pretty different.
  • BY FAX (6D: Quaint way of sending documents) — had the "X" and went with TELEX, which is an actual thing, unlike BY FAX, which is an arbitrary phrase boo. 
  • K-NINE (17D: Robotic dog on "Doctor Who") — that's cute. Unless the "K" is silent, in which case that's just stupid. 
  • APP STORE (41D: Modern purveyor of Scrabble and Monopoly) — great modern clue and answer. Hurrah.
  • ILIUM (92D: Alternative name for Troy) — which brings us full circle:
Was this the [thousand-MILLIHELEN] face that launch'd a thousand ships
And burnt the topless towers of ILIUM…  
 — Christopher Marlowe, "Dr. Faustus"

Good day.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Z 12:06 AM  

McCoy is a spellcaster - the meta is obviously Jesus Is Coming Tomorrow.

Scenes from Zeke's House 12:16 AM  

Honey, do we have any crayons?
Why the hell would we have crayons? We're in our seventies!
Well, maybe for the grandkids.
We don't have grandkids. We didn't have kids.
Well, still, do we have any crayons?
No, we don't have any damned crayons. What the hell do you want with crayons?
I'm doing the crossword puzzle, and I need crayons.
I thought you did the puzzle to forestall senility - did you just jump over intermittent senility and dive into the deep end, drawing pictures in the magazine? 'Cause I can get you magazines made especially for senile old bastards such as yourself, and they're cheaper and have more pictures to color.
Seriously, I have to color in the puzzle. And yes, I did put all the words in correctly, it's just that you have to color the puzzle.
You been hitting the booze again?

Steve J 12:26 AM  

Liked this a lot. Clever theme that was executed quite well, and had just enough mystery about it not to become apparent straight away. Only flaw was the revealer. Completely superfluous (the title was much better and did a much better job of explaining the theme), not really descriptive of what's going on (again, the title did it better), and as a result it was took some air out of the theme's lively balloon.

Add in how remarkably free of gunk this is for a large grid, and this is one of my favorite Sundays in a while.

I've never encountered MILLIHELEN before. It's now one of my favorite things.

(BTW, the recent similar puzzle was this one from Jeff Chen from about a year ago, where he used the letters themselves to form large-format versions of the letters within the gird.)

Unknown 12:29 AM  

Busy puzzle. Easy enough here. At 80 minutes, it's my fastest Sunday ever. Caught on to some aspects of the trick at STONE but had to push through the solve and study it to see how the theme clues FORMedLETTERS. JICT meant nothing, at that stage, until I came here and saw @Rex's and @Z's takes. Close, but I'll give the nod to @Z's Jesus is Coming Tomorrow.

I sense A CUT ABOVE envy. Somewhere, Jeff Chen is considering what he's spawned.

MILLIHELEN is priceless. It goes in the pantheon of units, right up there with RCH.

Whirred Whacks 12:45 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
chefwen 12:49 AM  

I think our Rexie had a couple of cocktails before his write up. @Rex?

I love coloring my puzzles after competition, but only have pink and yellow highlighters, so my finished product wasn't as pretty as I could have been. Dang!

Had so much fun with this after the last two puzzles. Had to take a couple of Tylenols after yesterdays, which I quit at the half way mark.

One write over at 89D lieBACK, layback, O.K. SIT BACK, I get it!

Just fun, fun, fun. Thank you Tom McCoy. just what the Doc ordered.

chefwen 12:51 AM  

@Zeke - Loved the peek into your house.

Whirred Whacks 12:53 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Whirred Whacks 12:57 AM  

I first encountered the concept of the MILLI-HELEN in the Journal of Irreproducible Results back in the early 1980s. I included it and some other of its “conversion factors” in one of my books. For your enjoyment they are:

10^12 microphones = 1 megaphone

10^12 pins = 1 terrapin

3 1/3 tridents = 1 decadent

4 seminaries = 1 binary

10^21 picolos = 1 gigolo

The APP STORE answer was great. I kept trying to work HASBRO in, but the crosses finally led me to this 2010s-style answer!

Enjoy your Sundays!

jae 1:52 AM  

Easy-medium for me too.Got slowed down in the middle for some reason.  Only a couple of erasures, @chefwen lieBACK before SIT and BASic before BASAL.

BLACK HOLES took a while to see as I was thinking HOtties and maybe a rebus?

And I had to stare a bit after I finished to figure out what was going on.  @Zeke crayons would have been helpful except the grandkids have all of them.

Add me too the tricky, clever, fun Sun. contingent.  Liked it!

John Hoffman 2:52 AM  

1. Harder than Easy-Medium for me!
2. Cheers for excellent construction. No weird crosswordese. NYT has good themes but I complain that it comes at a high price of too many non-words. Today's was excellent.
3. I liked the theme. Didn’t see it until after I’d finished.
4. MilliHelen is unique! But well clued and clever clever clever.
5. Some hard stuff:
- Petroleum byproduct = ETHANE?
- Future imago = LARVA?
- Plant = AMELIA?
- Mars Illuion = CANAL?
- Potato chips = ACETATE?
- Quaking = ASPEN?
6. Overall, a good puzzle!

John Child 3:09 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
John Child 3:11 AM  

@Chefwen may be right about the cause of the loose writeup, and I say Another Round. Excellent post from Rex, and I'm right in tune with the him and the comments so far that this was easy and fun; a very nice Sunday puzzle.

I saw yellow BRICK, BELLIES, and STONE pretty quickly and wanted Yellowknife too. That sorted itself out readily, and so did my other missteps, like ASPic for ASPEN.

Maybe others (like @Rex) will share their crayon stories too?

Danp 4:49 AM  

"Sodium Acetate is used in the textile industry to neutralize sulfuric acid waste streams" - Wikipedia

Yum! Now I wonder what ethane flavored potato chips taste like.

'mericans in Paris 5:12 AM  

Enjoyed this puzzle, but we never found the hidden letters until Rex revealed them. Even looked at the puzzle in the fresh light of day and thought we saw a sort of "J" in the southeast, by working backwards from the BLE in LIABLE and then working upwards to catch the U in YULES. Even said to ourselves, it's not HOLES but black HOLES. But still didn't see the trick. Oh well.

Hats off to Mr. McCoy for a very clever and clean puzzle. Write-over at the BELLIES-ETHANE crossing, as we didn't think of adding yellow to BELLIES and thought perhaps BULLIES made more sense. But then reverted to BELLIES-ETHANE with a shrug.

Thought of Chef Wen while filling out the grid. Can picture her AT PEACE, SITting BACK in her favorite chair on her LANAI, snacking on some TRAILMIX and sipping on GREEN TEA while watching some WAHINE surfing in the SEA. Perhaps she's playing her HARMONICA while consulting an ATLAS.

r.alphbunker 5:29 AM  

Color In The Joke?

My guess is that these letters will launch a 1000 quips today.

pmdm 7:00 AM  

The theme is asymmetric in that three of the letters require three words and the other non-symmetric theme letter requires only two words. Certainly, complaints such as "All four of the theme letters should have needed three words to define them" are not uncommon at the site. So the purpose of the reveler is probably simply to distract those of you who carp about such things.

What people should carp about is the answer to 17D which should be K9 as any Doctor Who fan knows. Mr. McCoy does if fact acknowledge that fact in his comments on the Wordplay blog. I wonder if Mr. Shortz realized this error and let it get by purposely. Don't believe me? Here's a link to the titles of the pilot episode that never went anywhere. [Sorry I must run to church and don't have any time left to make the link clickable.


steve b 7:02 AM  

Just under 39 minutes for me. So much faster than a normal Sunday. Nothing very exciting. I figured out the trick with "BLUEJAY" and "YELLOWSEA". After that it was beyond easy. No clue what a "WAHINE" is or who "AMELIA" refers to, but the crossing clues did the trick. I also don't like it when numbers are spelled out "KNINE" and "BTWELVE". Whatever.

Anonymous 7:15 AM  

The color is joy, joke, jargon?

Bob Kerfuffle 7:29 AM  

Fun puzzle! Glad Rex enjoyed it also! :>)


Also, from someone who used to read the funny papers but has never had cable TV, 43 D, DILBERT before COLBERT (hey, 71.42857...% agreement of letters!)

chefbea 8:01 AM  

I figured out all the missing colors but had to come here to see the beautifully colored puzzle. . Too tough for me. Never heard of millihelen and didn't understand canal!!

Anonymous 8:19 AM  

@chefbea, Helen of Troy. Her face launched a thousand ships so a milliHelen would laun one ship.

Before we had rovers on Mars people saw what they thought were canals through telescopes and hoped or feared that there was life there.

Arlene 8:28 AM  

I loved this puzzle - never occurred to me to color it in. Ummmmm - just realized, I don't have crayons either (and the grandbabies would just chew them if I did.)
I used the technique all of us growing up with black and white TV know how to do - IMAGINE the colors!

Z 8:32 AM  

@Danp - I hear they use dihydrogen monoxide, too.

Note that the color words form a pyramid (top at BLUE JAY) and there is a single EYE in it. It is an Illuminati message to prepare for Jesus.

Anonymous 8:34 AM  

I had fun with this but now I can't get the crayon off my iPad.

I color to joke?

Dorothy Biggs 8:41 AM  

Did I miss something, or is there a revealer that actually tells you to color in the letters? "Colorful Characters," as the title, doesn't clearly tell you to color them in, and the actual revealer, with its cryptic allusions to the 11 words, doesn't either. When I finished the puzzle on the NYT site, it automatically colored in the letters, but had I done this in AcrossLite or on paper I would never have known to do that.

This puzzle can go two ways for me. One way is that the road to unpacking all of the levels of the theme is a fun, discovery-filled journey where hidden treasures are revealed as you go deeper and deeper into the theme. The other way is a little like my Uncle Jack's joke telling in the way that he takes a very long (very long) way to get to the (not funny) punchline. You stand there, hanging with him through his convoluted intricacies in the story, complete with sound FX, only to arrive at a punchline that isn't funny at all. I am an expert at selling my courtesy laugh at the end of his jokes.

I can't truly tell which way I see this puzzle. On the one hand, I see the superior level of brain power it takes to think this up and then execute it. But on the other hand, it really goes a long way to say not very much at all. And, absent the direction to color the letters, it may even fall a bit short of the final payoff.

It may take me much of the day to figure out if I really liked this puzzle or if it deserves a courtesy laugh.

I Completed The Job. 8:52 AM  

Did this over breakfast, so I Can Taste Jam. I liked this puzzle--It Caused The Jitters. I got so excited I hit my brother Tom. Impact Cracked Tom's Jaw.
Maybe the constructor works for the International Center for Transitional Justice?

Anonymous 8:54 AM  

Why not ICTJ
I see the joke?
I see TJ?

Z 8:55 AM  

@NCA President - read the answer at 57a aloud. Imagine the first word as a command, not an adjective. Tada a wordplay command to color your letters in. This isn't a rebus like we are used to, we don't put "yellow" in a grid square. Instead, to get YELLOW BRICK you have to make the BRICK yellow. Unfortunately, the app denied you the right to finish the puzzle properly without software assistance.**

**Unlike my previous posts, I'm actually being serious here. Sadly, the Illuminati among us cannot tell the difference, so the note.

Anonymous 8:55 AM  

Judging from the ridiculous embelishment on the constructor's name, Mr. McCoy is apparently a friend of Rex. Ergo, to wit, Rex liked the puzzle.

GILL I. 9:09 AM  

Holy black-eyed peas... What a marvel!
We had guests for dinner last night and all of us took a poke at the puzzle. We all knew there was a color scheme of some sort going on but too much wine kept the whimsical reveal from showing its colors.
Thanks to my insomniacal state of affairs, I came back to the puzzle in the wee hours and just stared at FORM LETTERS. What kept me scratching my head was having BuLLIES instead of BELLIES - so yellow was just another color. WAIT....colors/letters. Turn to my sharpies and see if this makes better sense.
I'm in awe Tom McCoy. This was clever, fun, easy to solve but hard and VERY interesting to discover the reveal.
Oh, by the way...If you're going to tell someone you love them in Spanish, leave out the YO. TE AMO is sufficient!

Maruchka 9:20 AM  

Quite smooth, liked it, but - did anyone else feel a teensy bit let down? Like the kid in 'A Christmas Story', who finally gets the secret decoder ring, and the message reveals as (tada!) -DRINK OVALTINE.

Do-overs: ALL eyes for ALL EARS, Avalon for GABLES.

Fav of the day: HAP. Lovely word.

@Rex - Thanks for the HELEN Mirren shot. I'll bet she's launched a few. And still can..

@Chefwen - I vote for a 64-colors box in every home. Long LIve Periwinkle!

@John Child - Love the quaking ASpic visual.

LHS 888 9:25 AM  

I l-o-v-e loved this puzzle! Partly due to my disastrous defeat at the hands of yesterday's offering; PRedOMINENTly due to introducing me to the brilliant concept of a MILLIHELEN for which I will be eternally grateful. I smiled when I got the clue. I laughed out loud when I read DLG's treatise. Thanks @Rex for providing the link. Fantastic!!

This may have been my fastest Sunday solve ever, but I don't keep track of my times so I can't be sure. I got the theme at BRICK and HOLES. I didn't get the full beauty of the meta until I came here. (I solve using an iPad, and I'm disinclined to use crayons or highlighters on my screen.) Anyhow... Wow!

kId > RIB
teleX > BYFAX


Xword-ease: AMATI (warmed up yesterday), LANAI

Favorite clues: STORK, YODEL, ATLAS, and, of course, MILLIHELEN!!!


Thanks for a wonderful puzzle Tom McCoy / WS.

Bob Kerfuffle 9:29 AM  

@chefbea - About that 16 D, "Illusory sight on Mars" -- All a mis-understanding actually. The Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli saw what looked like natural lines, or channels, on Mars. Unfortunately, the Italian word for "channels" is "canali", so the English-speaking world started referring to those lines as canals, implying artificial construction!

Mohair Sam 9:37 AM  

Easy/medium and a lot of fun. Although I see @NCA's point on the lousy punch line. Anyhow, once we got the idea with (blue)MOON and BLUEJAY the solving was quick.

Highlight for me might be @Zeke's comment at 12:16.

Hand up for liking APPSTORE, also hand up with @Bob K for diLBERT before COLBERT.

Got the new-to-me MILLIHELEN off the N from the gimme EDEN. Wonderful term that I'll find a way to use.

Whenever @Rex's comments make me chuckle like today's I suspect a drop of the bubbly is involved.

Guess I'll spend the rest of the day trying to do better than @Z on the I-C-T-J quasi-meta, but he'll be hard to beat.

Anonymous 9:38 AM  

As a long-time subscriber to the NYT puzzle, I'd like to say that this was a great puzzle for me. Funny and clever and just hard enough. If all solvers were exactly like me this is what you would want to publish each Sunday.

Wanted Dilbert or Dogbert at 41D.

Teedmn 9:43 AM  

This was a fun puzzle, and thanks @Rex for putting the cherry on the top i.e. showing the colored letters as spelled out by the four color clues. Seeing the revealer, I tried to sketch out letters on a piece of paper, getting some vaguely stickman-like forms and said' "huh?"

I too loved MILLIHELEN. Had two errors -wanted "dis" for JAB at first. Put in FEELsAD and figured JAs was more slang, if I noticed at all. Then had AGASSe and WAHINi so SieSMIC was wrong. Enjoyed the mini Hawaiian theme - I was in Maui last February and loved it, but apparently paid no more attention to the bathroom labels than it took to go in the correctly gendered loo.

Anonymous 9:45 AM  

Color Is The Joke

Nancy 9:48 AM  

Solved easily; got the four colors in the answers; but like @Arlene and @NCA Pres, had no idea I was supposed to color in the theme answers. Stared at FORM LETTERS blankly, having no idea what it meant. Knew I was missing something, so came here for the full aha moment. This is one of those puzzles where you can solve perfectly well without knowing the full gimmick. A very, very, very well constructed and clever puzzle and a much-better-than-average Sunday.
@LHS88--I had EXACTLY the same 4 writeovers as you.
And everyone -- don't miss today's Cryptic. It's very challenging -- much tougher than this puzzle, but you'll feel really smart if you can finish it.

Carola 10:17 AM  

I thought this puzzle matched the Platonic FORM of Sunday crosswords. Creative theme, beautiful construction, a FEST of great entries, many little pleasures along the way (TWELVE x ELEVENTY). Loved it. I caught onto the letter shapes at YELLOW SEA and started coloring in. After having the I and C in place, it was easy to get the T and J, but I had to piece together the reveal...which I thought was a terrific pay-off.

Charles Flaster 10:19 AM  

DNF. Until I read Rex almost a DNC (did not care). Did not like the reveal but I realize it was very creative.
Did enjoy clues for EMBOSS, YODEL and TRAIL MIXES.
Have a beef with YAO MING--sports star??
Thanks TC.

joho 10:23 AM  

Super creative and incredibly captivating... color me happy!

Also glad to see so many others were as tickled with MILLIHELEN as I was.

Thank you, Tom McCoy!

Ludyjynn 10:25 AM  

Got the theme early w/ SW 'Green' corner. The midsection was the last to fall, as I had 'raffles' before RESELLS at 66A. New word for me = OTIOSE. Like the way it rolls off the tongue!

Some beautiful clueing, but I share @NCAPres. and @Maruchka's anti-climactic sentiments. However, upon further review of the finished grid, it really is quite a feat. Will we be seeing more from this constructor? IHOPESO!

Thanks, TM and WS.

AliasZ 10:25 AM  

Kudos to Tom "the real" McCoy for this wonderfully entertaining puzzle. It made my Sunday.

Enjoyed the colorful theme which took me a little longer to figure out than it should have, as did the fact that they formed the letters spelled out in the theme answers. But it was great fun doing so.

Loved the KNINE, ELEVENTY, BTWELVE numberplay.
NEON GAS? What's next, iron metal?
ARMLETS, wristlets, leglets, fingerlets, noselets, earlets, etc. - the possibilities are endless.

MILLIHELENS - it occurs to me that it is incorrect to use a metric prefix with a Troy unit.

Here is a little [black]MAGIC. Enjoy!

Anonymous 10:29 AM  

Easy Sunday for me after catching on to the color thing early. Less than an hour, no Googles (!), and just one error: SLAB/LOEBE instead of SLAW/LOEWE.

Nice changeup after yesterday's beating.

jberg 10:33 AM  

Since yellow BRICKs are bricks, I didn't think anything was missing at 13A, but got the theme with BLUE JAY (once I'd ruled out BLUE tit, something that might be harder to draw with puzzle entries). But I think the yellow cee was the first letter I actually noticed in the grid. That enhanced the solving, since as soon as I got either part of the theme answers I could get the rest.

I liked it a lot -- so intricate! And I liked the centered theme answers, the extra bird at the bottom, and the pairing of GAR and EEL (not quite symmetrical, though -- too back about that.)

I didn't much like NEON GAS, kind of like 'iron metal.'

@squirrel, AMELIA is just what the clue says, the eponmymous bloomer -- i.e., Amelia Bloomer, the 19th century American feminist who advocated wearking the aforementioned garment instead of skirts.

It never occurred to me to color in the letters; it's easy enough to see what they are anyway.

Malsdemare 10:33 AM  

A story I heard was that Winston Churchill -- yes, THAT Winston -- used to rate women by ships (sort of like Seinfeld's Elaine rating men as spongeworthy, only with more options). You could be one ship, twenty; when he saw his future wife, so the tale goes, he said "a thousand." I'd fall for a short, dumpy, moody, cigar-smoking brainiac if I knew he said that about me.

How I know this -- and whether it's true -- escapes me. Good Catholic girl educations don't usually lead to this sort of revelation, although it was a nun who Pointed out the puns in Hamlet.

DNF because I saw "gets," not "gels," and that gave me SEeS and ELEVENeY. So NYT didn't color in my grid. Wah!

Thus was this more fun once I came here to read the comments.

LOVED Millihelen.

TimJim 10:43 AM  

May hap???

Ichabod 10:46 AM  

Yuck! No fun for me.

F.O.G. 10:49 AM  

I wanted ABACA instead of AMATI. Must get a Benjamin to see if the back really is TEAL. Have never watched Dr. Who, so wanted YellowKNIFE instead of K-NINE.

All in all an enjoyable puzzle, despite my shortcomings.

jdv 10:53 AM  

Easy-Med. I didn't know what was going on with the theme until post-solve. I like that the letters actually look like they're supposed to. Often times with crossword art, you have to use your imagination. I'd be surprised if anyone threw down BASAL off the 'B'. NE was almost my undoing with MILLIHELEN crossing HAT and KNINE. Better than average Sunday.

Outlaw Z 10:59 AM  

I've seen lots of nits in my time here amongst the commentariat, but I do believe @AliasZ's, "MILLIHELENS - it occurs to me that it is incorrect to use a metric prefix with a Troy unit." is mayHAP the best I've ever seen. Kudos.


quilter1 11:07 AM  

Fun for me and I liked working out MILLIHELEN. I have crayons but didn't color in. Just crunchy enough to be interesting, but easy enough to be doable.

Norm 11:15 AM  

I nominate Zeke of Zeke's House for Comment of the Year!

Anonymous 11:29 AM  

@Whirred Whacks LOVE the Journal of Irreproducible Results. I'm a virologist by training and had completely forgotten about this "journal". There is so much bad science that actually gets published and JIR takes a whack at it. I remember one article "The Twinning of Gummy Bears" written like a formal dissection detailing the stuck gummies pulled out of the writer's pocket.

Thanks for the reminder and the re-direct. http://www.jir.com still exists.

Leapfinger 11:29 AM  

Lovely puzzle, cohesive and coherent on so many levels.

Would up the ante from ELEVEN[TY] words to thirteen-ty, however, since PEAS come in YELLOW as well as GREEN, and BLACKEYE, too (hi @Gilly!).

Have heard of putting the pedal to the metal, but thought it was the foot, not the NEON GAS.

Bill Clinton quotoid (sorry, @Lewis): I never meant to HARMONICA

ATLAS my love has come along. and it's the real McCoy! How sweet it is to have both a BTWELVE bomber and a NERD FEST!

Anonymous 11:30 AM  

And yes, here's to Zeke!!!

PuzzleCraig 11:42 AM  

@Danp, sodium acetate is used for vinegar flavoring. Per this page, it's in the form of sodium diacetate, a 1:1 ratio of sodium acetate and acetic acid:


Steve J 11:45 AM  

@Zeke: Loved your dialogue.

@AliasZ: Loved your take on MILLIHELEN.

@pmdm: The purpose of the revealer is to distract people from an argument that no one is making? Is that where we're supposed to color in the puzzle's red herring?

Mohair Sam 11:57 AM  

@Alias Z 10:25 - Nearly gagged on a cupful of coffee when I caught your take on MILLIHELEN. Great stuff. Clearly the term could not exist - Shortz misses another one.

Fred Romagnolo 12:04 PM  

Bravo on "Troy unit". This was a really great Sunday puzzle. McCoy's my boy, real or not. Getting all the ideas together was the most fun. Didn't know about B TWELVE, will probably be needing it soon! "X contributor" was a terrific clue for MOTHER. I even knew the rapper clue for LIL. It's true about not needing YO with TE AMO. Understood.

Leapfinger 12:15 PM  

My first exposure to the JIR was "Stress analysis of a strapless evening gown", reprinted from the Zeitschrifft fur Gierschifft und Krankschafft, early 1960s.

Priceless piece of engineering.

madsymo 12:21 PM  

Troy and Ilium just meant Kurt Vonnegut to me (until today.) My HS didn't believe in classical education.

JC66 1:21 PM  

Best Sunday puzzle, @Rex write-up, and comments in ages.

mathguy 2:03 PM  

Absolutely great Sunday!

I think that I first heard MILLIHELEN when I was in college in the 50s. I can't remember where I saw it. I don't think I've seen it again until today. Bill Butler suggests that Asimov coined it.

Great posts from @Whirred Whacks and @Scenes from Zeke's House.

Carola 2:05 PM  

@Nancy - That crytic was too much for me - three clues I just couldn't parse. Liked what I could get, though!

Anonymous 2:20 PM  

@ zeke enjoyed your witty blog!while i have no grandkids i treated myself to a box of 68 of crayolas which i had covetted as a child. today i missed the fun of coloring between the lines for as i literally completed the puzzle i fell short of truly solving it as i didn't see the letter shapes in the grids. i just remembered that my brother and i used to melt crayons on the radiator when we were little and created drippy new colors and a crayon odor that persisted for years.

Masked and B.Unonymous 2:24 PM  

As I recall, there are several young collegiate puz constructioneers that (like M&A) would've really really wished to see the following themer:


Go Brown Bears. This is, no doubt, the answer to the recently announced @63 Prizeless Meta Contest (tm).

Primo SunPuz. Colorful. thUmbsUp. Fun, but not particularly easy, solve for those of the masked cerebral cortex persuasion. Seems like many of the all-time-best NYTSunPuzs have involved crayon work.

SuperPrimo writeup. Solid snark-tipped bullets. @63's happy-solve experience always shines thru, in his prose. Think we should all celebrate, and make cupcakes. I'll bring the apple cider.


okanaganer 2:38 PM  

Sometimes I answer without thinking and get it wrong by several orders of magnitude. I had MICROHELEN...the face that launched a million ships! Yowza!

Anonymous 3:17 PM  

Finally, a Sunday puzzle that was fun instead of a slog. Very clever construction.

mac 3:42 PM  

Very good Sunday! Confess to not getting the color pencils out, but it was pretty clear. Can't get the ICTJ out of my head now....

Love mayhap and millihelen, and hand up for Telex instead of by fax.

RooMonster 3:58 PM  

Hey All !
Journey Into Colorful Theme!
Liked the puz, hands up for many Huhs? as the solve went on. Thought at first all would be T's after the BLACK corner, but then got the BLUE corner, but didn't see BERRY. So back to the BLACK where I finally sussed the I from BLACKEYE, saw the MAGIC that completed the I, then it all fell into place. To quote Ms. Smith once again, Sheesh!

But fun solve, as I left three of the corners for last as I was sussing everything out. Only had three wrong letters! Two in the NE as that was last section and just wanted to finish! (CANis for CANAL, I figured you can see the stars well on Mars!)


Lori 3:59 PM  

Wow! Thanks so much to Mr. McCoy. I found this puzzle just pure fun - great theme, clever cluing, and for me a Goldilocks puzzle - not too hard, not too soft. Awesome Sunday!

Fitzy 6:20 PM  

Regarding 8 Down: A "Beehive Stater" is a UTAHN or UTAHAN. Merriam-Webster defines UTE as "a member of an American Indian people originally ranging through Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico." Imho, the clue should should have had a "maybe?" tagged at the end. Loved this puzzle otherwise!

Arizonian Z 6:31 PM  

@Fitzy - Or UTAHIAN or UTIE

michael 7:17 PM  

Really great puzzle, even if I didn't completely get the theme (despite getting all the squares right) until coming here,

LaneB 8:52 PM  

Took me forever but finally avoided a DNF while watching 49ers pull a near miracle vs. the Saints. All in all a good Sunday.

J Tearney 1:34 AM  

Got most of the puzzle but had a problem in NW corner after putting in 'EYE' in the first black box and 'CANDY' in for 1 across.

alan75 12:34 PM  

Didn't realize I had as much fun as I experienced until reading all these comments. Please tell me more about me.

Dave 4:43 PM  

Like @Whirred Whacks, I remember the JIR story about trivia, still have a clipped piece of "Standards for Inconsequential Trivia" that included such gems as "10^-9 goats = 1 nanogoat, 10^-12 boys = 1 attoboy".

But this was puzzle seemed very easy. Finished all but the meta reveal area due to a problem with 71D as Tee Time and 89D as Lay Back. But even then, that was only an extra few mintues.

Anonymous 7:20 PM  

Not easy for us, but we really had fun!!! And just finished.

D and A

Anonymous 8:44 AM  

The I, C, T, and J: color them in. You get a black I (black eye), yellow C (yellow sea), etc.

Anonymous 2:05 PM  

My 16-yr-old daughter and I each work on our own copy of the puzzle. She got the theme LONG before I did. I'd get pieces of it, but she kept telling me I was missing some of it. Finally I finished and still didn't get it all. She sat back, arms folded, laughing at me as I worked it all out with her commenting "you're about to get it" and "Oh, I thought you were going to get it", "keep looking", etc. Very entertaining and a lot of laughter--mostly from her directed at me. Most fun puzzle in a long time. The only problem is that, unlike the rest of you, we like it when the Sunday puzzle lasts all week and here it is only Wednesday and we're done.

Pete 9:30 PM  


Dirigonzo 2:49 PM  

Where's the syndi-commentariat, I wonder? This was a fun puzzle, I just wish I had the imagination required to find the colored letters before I came here for the explanation.

101 - that might win if no one else shows up.

rain forest 3:55 PM  

Yes, I'm late, @Diri. Watching the Seahawks game.

This was a lot of fun, I have to say. I couldn't figure out the trick until I got the revealer and saw that the italicized clues told us to form letters. The first one I saw was the J. Prior to that, I was looking for synonyms or examples, like chai for green tea, and some sort of injury, which I realized was senseless.

A very good Sunday-clever, clean and tight themewise.

1120 Only 4, but in the lead so far.

Red Valerian 5:24 PM  

Didn't get it until seeing Rex's coloured grid. Fun, fun, fun!

320. Still earlyish goings, but what's the prize?

Anonymous 6:11 PM  

Loved it!!! I also am questioning mayhap

Dirigonzo 7:26 PM  

@Pete and @anony 6:11pm - it may be archaic but it's definitely a word.

@Red Valerian - it's good to see you back. If your 5 holds up (and it's looking good) all you win is bragging rights and a virtual "high five" from the losers.

spacecraft 8:08 PM  

Sorry so late; delivery kid screwed up and I never got my paper till afternoon! BTW, I hate those all-automated phone systems. CONNECT ME WITH A HUMAN BEING!!!!!

This one took time; my attention was compromised by a thorough, embarrassing beatdown of my beloved Eagles by Green Bay. How in blazes did they ever lose three games? I did finish and enjoy it; had to work through several sideways clues, plus it took a while to get exactly what the theme was all about.

Needless to say, MILLIHELEN went in on crosses, but it does make its own, admittedly weird, sense.

Pretty good fill, IMO; a few clunkers, but in a big grid not unexpected. Took me forever to see "BYFAX." I had teleX. While we're on colors, here's my greenpaint entry for the day: NEONGAS. It's neon. Neon IS a gas, gas, gas. But it's all right now. A-.

1648: overthrown, like...oh nevermind, I don't wanna talk about it.

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