Puppeteer Tony / TUE 12-23-14 / Former FBI chief Louis / Fireside chat prez / Bake in dish / Rapper with 1991 hit Rico Suave / British rule in old india

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Constructor: Bruce Haight

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: "JACK and the BEANSTALK" — puzzle visually represents the fairy tale with JACK (in circles) at the bottom of the BEANSTALK, GIANT (in circles) at the top, and then the FEE-FI-FO-FUM chant represented in descending and *aaaaaalmost* (but not) symmetrical places in the grid.

Word of the Day: ESCALLOP (39D: Bake in a sauce) —
1. to bake (food) in a sauce, milk, etc., often with breadcrumbs on top; scallop. (thefreedictionary.com)
• • •

No thanks. I mean, it has potential, I guess, but the there are architectural issues, which create fill issues, which create grumpy-face. I mean, with that centered BEANSTALK, you've basically gotta stack sevens in all the corners (hence the cheater squares in the SW/NE corners—those are like release valves). Stacked sevens aren't hard to pull off, but here they are burdened by thematic constraints, and so we get the fallout: EZINE made me wince and ILLE made me check out entirely. Also, circling 5/6 of GIANTS … I mean, you can't really *hide* GIANT in another answer, but still, when you're hiding everything else, it stands out. It's not hard to "hide" FEE or FI or FO or FUM. They don't add much here. They're not symmetrical, as they really should be. and they don't have the right sounds inside their own answers, e.g. it's ELFIN, not ELFINE, and PERFUME, not PERFUM. Mainly it just feels anemic, weak, kind of pointless, not worth it.

[I'm posting this only because I sang it at the top of my lungs with my sister last night as she was driving us around town, with the mystified/horrified kids in the back seat…]

Further: clue on ENABLER is hilarious, in that it appears to be the opposite of true (20A: One helping an addict). If you are an ENABLER, you are not, I assure you, "helping" an addict. "PEACE" for ["Ciao"] is a massive stretch. ESCALLOP … I don't know what that is, but it's not really a fun Tuesday-level answer. Not sure when GASSER was last uttered unironically, but I guarantee you it was before I was born. And doesn't "gas" mean essentially the same thing? Clue on GO FOR (47A: Attempt, as a field goal) … as my friend just said, "You usually use that term when you don't attempt a field goal but try to pick up the first down." This whole puzzle just 46-Down. I prefer a puzzle that is 100% SARG-FREE(H). If you want some genuine (and seasonal) crossword entertainment, please try The Grid Kid's latest puzzle, "Ho-Ho Ha-Ha." It's pretty (read: very) racy, but approximately 763% funner than today's NYT.

Best news I heard today, puzzle-wise, is that in the new year, at least one daily crossword is going to start offering crossword constructors more money than the NYT currently does. And they probably won't be alone. I expect yet another daily to do the same in the near future. This means the NYT will (at a minimum) keep pace, or else watch its talent brain-drain (already well underway) speed up alarmingly.
    Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


    Zeke 12:08 AM  

    I'll donate $10 to the charity of choice of the first person who finds one clue in this puzzle that isn't essentially a definition.

    jae 12:14 AM  

    This was medium for me too, but much like last Tues. there were some tough crosses that I only knew from crosswords.  I was surer of my solutions last Fri. and Sat. than I was of this one.  First, I stuck Tony SARG in the bank quite a while ago but he hasn't been around lately and it's possible for me to confuse him with the muralist Jose Maria Sert (50% overlap).  Next, GERARDO was a WOE.  Then, I'm always iffy on spelling FREEH (keep wanting an S somewhere.) Finally, ISN'T OK does not trip off the tongue.  So, the SW was a potential WMD.

    GASSER is not pretty.

    Not bad for a Tues. (Faint praise?) Liked it.

    JFC 12:24 AM  

    There are two points I really like about Rex’s critique tonight:

    “Stacked sevens aren't hard to pull off, but here they are burdened by thematic constraints, and so we get the fallout….”

    “It's not hard to "hide" FEE or FI or FO or FUM. They don't add much here. They're not symmetrical, as they really should be. and they don't have the right sounds inside their own answers, e.g. it's ELFIN, not ELFINE, and PERFUME, not PERFUM.”

    Those tell me something about crossword puzzles and I am willing to take his word for these technical criticisms (though the second seems obvious after he states it) because I know he knows more about puzzles than I do.

    I just wish all his critiques were this focused.


    Steve J 12:29 AM  

    Cut theme idea, but the BEANSTALK ultimately breaks with the weight of too much clunky fill. Two or three of GASSER, EZINE (please, crossword constructors and editors, it's not 1995 anymore; enough with the e-anything), SARG and their ilk would have been tolerable, but there's an excess that ISN'T OK.

    Did like SKEWER and RANKLES, was amused by the clue for ENABLER, but those weren't nearly enough.

    George Barany 12:39 AM  

    Congratulations to @Bruce Haight for his 8th New York Times puzzle in less than 2 years. I don't have a lot to add to what @Rex mentioned; BULL could just as well have been BEAR, and the crossing of SARG and GERARDO was challenging. So, indulge us a little holiday spirit as my friends and I salute the experience of Club Rex.

    It's no secret that I'm a big fan of Hayley Gold, whose Across and Down webcomics over the past year have offered a new dimension to crossword commentary. After a bunch of us honored Martin Ashwood-Smith with A Lot of Birthday Cake on One's Plate, we arranged for Hayley to create a custom comic entitled I_call_'eM_AS_I_see_'em. We hope you'll agree that the resulting comic is particularly appropriate for XMAS, and wish all of you all the best for the holiday season!

    chefwen 1:10 AM  

    O.K. Puzzle for me, not great but I liked it more than Rex did.

    Two shout outs to our vacationing @chefBEA (BEE), hope you are having a good holiday.

    Had the hardest time trying to parse ISNTOK reading down, kept taking out words that I was pretty sure correct, but nothing was working until I wrote it the margin horizontally. AH SO! I get it now..

    Had a BLAZING fire going tonight. When it gets cold here it feels 30 degrees colder that the temperature gauge reads. I know that no one is going to feel sorry for me, but the quilt is coming out of storage.

    Chalking this one up as a DNF due to some flippin' rapper and the ISNTOK, but I had fun with the rest of it.

    chefwen 1:11 AM  

    Hey @Z, it worked, just skip the capcha dealio.

    John Child 1:48 AM  

    Twenty-seven words with fewer than 10 appearances in an NYT a puzzle and only seven with over 100 appearances! That is remarkably fresh fill any day of the week. A couple of those rare words should probably remain rarely used, but I thought this puzzle was interesting and fairly challenging for a Tuesday. Last letter was the G in the SW, a guess.

    Anonymous 1:49 AM  

    BACKLIT is a thing, not REARLIT.

    Susierah 4:59 AM  

    Bummer! A dnf on a Tuesday. Never heard of Sarg or Freeh, ran the alphabet but could not get the g or e in Gerardo. Usually I'm pretty good at getting rappers, but never heard of this one!

    TokyoRacer 5:11 AM  

    Anonymous is correct: it's backlit. I've written catalogs for TVs, monitors and other displays, and have never used or seen the term "rearlit."

    I've said before that i don't condone constructors falling back on people's names as clues, but it's even worse when three cross, as in SARG, FREEH, GERARDO. If you don't know those people, it's impossible to finish the puzzle. Crosswords should be tests of intelligence (knowing words), not games of Trivial Pursuit.

    GILL I. 5:36 AM  

    When I rust, I OXIDatE. Ergo, Ms Brennan is now EaLEEN. I refuse to ESCALLOP anything...I'm more of an assation type person.
    Aside from GERARDO (who ruined the brief TEE HEE moment) and PEACE as clued for Ciao????, this was a just fine Tuesday moment.
    Yay GIANTS!

    Danp 6:27 AM  

    You mean I don't have to cut those stupid potatoes in the shape of seafood anymore? Well, OK.

    Lewis 7:30 AM  

    LAPD held me up in the SW, but this otherwise felt Monday easy. It is a double-letter party (14). So, after tracking double letters for a good while, I've concluded that it's very unusual for a M-SA puzzle to have fewer than five or greater than 12, FWIW.

    Informative and smile producing writeup, Rex!

    This one woke the brain up, with a cute theme. One of the good ones, as opposed to the lousy ones or wows.

    Anonymous 7:33 AM  


    ___DISH is not essentially a definition.

    Anonymous 7:35 AM  

    Registration is open for the ACPT at the end of March. Considering attending for the first time. Two questions: 1. what's the best way to prepare? 2. How do I know if I'm good enough to play with the big boys?

    AliasZ 7:42 AM  

    A GIANT is not that easy to hide. Too big. However, according to NorweGIANTradition one way to do it is in a huge box of BelGIANTruffles. You can also hide JACK in the box if it's big enough. The YaGIANTenna hides a GIANT rather effectively as well. Its name may be obscure but everyone knows what one looks like. On the other hand, one-time labor leader and ILGWU VP LuiGIANTonini (1883-1968) is way too obscure -- no one knows what he looks like.

    ISNTOK is an Alaskan community ESE of Quinhagak, population 438. You can see the city of Klawock from its church spire. ISNTOK is the honorary DOOK Award recipient of 2014.

    This Alcatraz inmate was amazing,
    He once tried to set his GASSER BLAZING.
    Before he could quit,
    He got his REAR LIT,
    So he was transferred half-fast to Sing Sing.

    The new jail was not as bad as The Rock,
    To fix him up, they called the prison doc.
    He tried a transplant:
    "No donors? I can't!"
    He just gave up and said, "He ISNTOK."

    From the ridiculous, to the sublime: I offer you the artistry of pianist Egon PETRI (1881-1962), a disciple of Ferruccio Busoni (1866-1924), here playing his teacher's transcription of the Toccata, Adagio and Fugue in C major, BWV 564 by Johann Sebastian Bach.

    Happy Tuesday!

    naticknatick 7:44 AM  

    Multiple-Natick potential of SARG and GERARDO and FREEH makes this a piece of shit Tuesday.

    Hartley70 7:56 AM  

    Cute theme, stuck in the SW on SARG,GERALDO,FREEH for a bit until I guessed the G and then I wasn't. The very bottom of the puzzle pushed back for a Tuesday which I liked, but I preferred the obscurity of "ped" yesterday.

    @Anonymous I would bet you need to start paying a lot of attention to your time. Do lots of puzzles lickety split! But I hope you go and have lots of fun.

    Hartley70 8:00 AM  


    Sir Hillary 8:05 AM  

    Not my favorite puzzle.

    So the name of a recent leader of the foremost federal law enforcement agency now constitutes "trivia?" Awesome.

    Lewis 8:07 AM  

    Factoid: A reference for National Spelling BEE contestants is The Consolidated Word List, consisting of all words used in the Bee since 1950; it is 800 pages and 24,000 words long.

    Quotoid: "Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a MANIAC?" -- George Carlin

    Leapfinger 8:11 AM  

    Yes, for backLIT over REARLIT, which sounds kinda risky to moi.

    Also had a connective issue with the SINEW clue. In the phrase 'thews and sinews', the 'thews' are the muscles and the 'sinews' are the tendons & ligaments, i.e., the connective tissue. So go forth and sinew no more.

    With those minor cavils out of the way, I rather enjoyed the solve, even though it was, as @Zeke notes, very well-defined (except for those muscles). The theme was a pleasant frippery, the sort that didn't demand much attention; I thought it cute to have BAD SEED cross the BEANSTALK. Were those three BEANS BAD SEED? How would JACK's answer differ from the GIANT'S? Discuss.

    Agree with @John Child on the pretty interesting fill, but maybe that's only because I wiggled my way through that FREEH-SARG-GERARDO corner. My favourite entry though was Winnie ILLE Pu. No, I hadn't read it, but it came out about the same time as The Pooh Perplex, which is a great send-up, which analyzes the AAMilne works from a number of perspectives: psychoanalytical, erotic and political/ Commie-pinko. Still funny to remember what Eeyore does with the deflated balloon and the empty honey-pot.

    If the Tailor weds the Milliner, what's the HATTER marry?

    Y'all Enjoy your Day 8/ Erev Christmas Eve!

    Dorothy Biggs 8:13 AM  

    I also had trouble in the SW. The triumvirate of names...especially when the anchor name is a rapper...was basically a natick. I do not know SARJ or FREEH, and GERARDO (as a rapper name) could have been spelled 1000 different ways. jaRARDO, jiRARDO, juRARDO, you get the idea. Of all the possible permutations, I never expected it to be the actual spelling of GERARDO. I mean seriously, what kind of rapper spells his name like it's supposed to be spelled?? So after much deliberating, I just thought screw it, and filled in GERARDO. I got the little jazzy jingle. Lucky me.

    I saw a pre-screening of Into the Woods so Jack and the Beanstalk were fresh in my mind. Easy to find. One of a kind. Tried to unwind. To solving was I resigned. Not in a bind. Nor behind.

    Sorry, went all Sondheim-y there. Seriously, I like the story to Into the Woods, but if I'd heard another rhyme for "shoe" I would have done something terrible to myself or someone near me in the theater. Plus, much of the music in Into the Woods sounds a lot like Sweeney Todd.

    TL;DR: The movie was okay, but my god the rhymes.

    zac 8:21 AM  

    So knowing definitions means intelligent. Knowing names means cheap party trivia trick? That seems like one compensating for personal blind spots, doesn't it?

    mathguy 8:29 AM  

    No question-mark clues and no misdirects. Fairly typical for an early-week puzzle, I would say. "Weekly 'Whew' " isn't much like a definition, however.

    Leapfinger 8:37 AM  

    @Alias, nice FREEH FLOE of ideas you have going there; I was pretty well incapacitated by the second sentence. So, d'you have a good cure for the hiccups?

    Z 8:39 AM  


    @anon 7:35 - the really "Big Boys"' the hidden giants, will be cruising in at 1/3rd to 1/20th of my times. So practice practice practice. Otherwise, I'd suggest having fun, being social, and try not to to be an anonymous stranger.

    Anonymous 8:39 AM  

    This puzzle is crap. That's all I have to say.

    Z 8:47 AM  

    @Zac - I think there is a preference for word play over definitions. People, however, should be either widely known or crossed fairly. FBI? How many people can name any director other than Hoover? Heck, I'm one of the more politicized junkies here and I can't come up with the current director's name. I got Rico Suave, but Rap? The E in ESCALLOP may throw us a little, but is inferable with a little knowledge of Internet potatoes. How is one supposed to infer the H in FREEH. There's no linguistic reason for it. Proper nouns always run the risk of landing in Natick, the 13th mile of the Boston Marathon.

    yay for charity 8:50 AM  

    @Zeke: "____ avis" is not a definition. It is a crappy clue, but not a definition. Please donate the $10 to the SPCA.

    Ludyjynn 8:50 AM  

    I liked this one A LOT. So many beautiful words as answers, esp. for a Tuesday puzz. My only nit was the clue for TGIF. I believe it should be "PHEW", not "whew".

    Loved BADSEED crossing the BEANSTALK and even if you solved this (easily, I think) as a themeless, this puzz. sings.

    Rex, have a cup of COFFEE and chill.

    Thanks, BH and WS. PEACE out!

    RooMonster 8:55 AM  

    Hey All !
    Not sure if anyone agress (so far no one has) that this seemed Wednesdayish instead of Tues. Some difficult answers (SARG, FREEH, ESCALLOP, PEADE {as clued}, SINEW, RANKLES, EARTHY {as clued}) for a TuesPuz.

    Did like the theme, however. Some writovers: flowerS for PERFUME (before getting the theme!), pal for BRO, roArING for BLAZING, backLIT for REARLIT, BeLL for BULL.

    Overall, cool BEANS! (As the audience throws BADSEED tomatoes...) Hey, had to GOFOR it!


    Unknown 8:55 AM  

    @JFC - Agreed. I enjoy the technical insights, as I know nothing about crossword puzzle construction.

    ILLE is, maybe, legitimate for a Sunday. I got it through crosses but had to google to figure out why it was correct. Maybe I am wrong, but the Latin version of Pooh seems mighty obscure.

    I am surprised so many people took umbrage at FREEH. Head of the FBI, plus author of the Sandusky/Penn State report? Seems pretty current and notable to me. More so than any music critic I would say. SARG/GERARDO? Now that's obscure.

    Bird 9:03 AM  

    Didn't like this one too much today. Most of the clues were stretching really long or were just plain wrong (in my book). The NE corner took much longer than it should have because of 17A. Then there is 47A, which as previously mentioned usually means the team is going to run a play on 4th down and attempt to maintain possession of the ball.

    One last nit: Also did not like clue for 42D as WMD were never found and we learn later it was all a lie (sorry if this is not the place for this comment).

    Ps. "Happy Holidays" was my captcha

    jberg 9:12 AM  

    "We Three Kings of Orient _____" isn't a definition either; but it's about the worst partial I've ever seen, even if it is seasonal.

    I eventually remembered FREEH, no idea about those other two guys, but GERARDO seemed to make sense, so I went with it. Otherwise, what everyone said. TEE-HEE.

    Mohair Sam 9:27 AM  

    Today is that rare day when we agree with a negative @Rex review. Just didn't care for this one, although we got it in average time for us.

    Avoided a natick by gueussing right on the "G" at the end of SARG, figured the name had to start with G or J.

    Surprised that so many have forgotten former FBI director Louis FREEH - he was all over the news 2 1/2 years ago when his FREEH Report on the Penn State sexual abuse scandal was released and caused a ruckus.

    I think the clues for ENABLER and GOFOR are simply wrong:
    20A (ENABLER) would be better phrased "One hurting an addict", not "helping"
    47A (GOFOR) would be better "Eschew the field goal, with "it"" instead of "Attempt, as a field goal."

    John V 9:31 AM  

    Natick at SARG/GERADO cross. Classic Natick. Tsk.

    quilter1 9:33 AM  

    Sailed through with no pause until I reached the SW and came to a screeching halt up against those 3 names. Also did not appreciate ISNTOK. Got it but didn't like it. I'm not sure I knew there were rappers in 1991, so I did look that one up. I bet he never pops up again.

    Charles Flaster 9:52 AM  

    Easy and almost a pb for me.
    Fortunately remembered FREEH so GERARDO fell in. Rappers not my cup o' tea.
    BAD SEED (The ) was an eerie 1950's movie with some wonderful acting.
    LA SCALA was my favorite Philadelphia restaurant but now defunct.
    CrosswordEASE--SARG, ILLE, RARA.
    Did not comprehend BULL or REARLIT.
    Enjoyed cluing for OXEN, TGIF, and BAD SEED.
    Thanks BH.

    Teedmn 9:54 AM  
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    Whirred Whacks 9:58 AM  

    Medium-easy for me.

    Been a long time since I heard anyone say or use EZINE.

    ILLE brought a smile to my face!

    I agree with @George Barany: Hayley Gold is very funny (and clever).

    Teedmn 10:04 AM  

    The theme was cute but the SW totally gummed up the works. I guessed GERARDO successfully but didn't remember FREEH until I guessed my third choice for movie PDs after nyPD and laPD. DNF due to using the "check" tool for that entry.

    I've heard "PEACE out" used to mean "ciao" but didn't like it by itself. Overall, tougher than the usual Tuesday for me, but not in a nice, chewy way. But the comments make the puzzle - thanks @Alias Z, for the limerick riff.

    Unknown 10:12 AM  

    This long long time subscriber for home and digital will have to ca as its going to be to pricey for me. Enjoyed it while it lasted! Merry holidays to you all at the Times.

    SandySolver 10:18 AM  


    SandySolver 10:20 AM  


    joho 10:20 AM  

    I guess I'm just in the Christmas spirit and happily found this theme to be whimsical and cute. I liked the BEANSTALK growing in the middle of the grid with the GIANT where's he's supposed to be at the top and JACK down at the bottom. "FEE FI FO FUM!!! I smell the blood of an Englishman!"

    I also liked ELFIN juxtaposing with GIANT. And the delight of shouting TEEHEE, TGIF! (Which it is for me today as I start some time off.)

    I do agree that the clue should have been something like, "Aiding an addict" rather than helping. And the SW wasn't the prettiest corner we've ever seen, but FREEH shouldn't be a Natick. SARG is crosswordese and GERARDO is WTF.

    Thank you, Bruce, I always perk up when I see your name at the top. I really enjoyed this fairytale of a puzzle!

    @Rex, and so the NYT/Will bashing continues ... Ugh.

    r.alphbunker 10:21 AM  

    @Anonymous 7:35AM

    The ACPT site lets you solve previous tournament puzzles online. When you finish you get your score and ranking.

    Bob Kerfuffle 10:28 AM  

    Bit later to the party as usual. Others have touched on these points already, but I was thinkking:

    The timing of this puzzle's appearance seems tied to the 12/25 release of the movie musical "Into the Woods." I plan to see it.

    9 D, "Winnie ILLE Pu," was a gimme, no crosses needed. But I had a strange feeling that it was laying open a little private joke among Latin students, something weirdly personal. I remember having the same feeling when I saw "Star Trek Next Generation" for the first time on a movie screen. Something deep within me said, "No, this belongs on television; it shouldn't be shared with all these people!"

    63 A, GERARDO, otherwise totally unknown to me, was a central answer in Patrick Blindauer's widely-hated (and therefore well-remembered, I would assume) "Change of Heart" puzzle. I didn't hate the puzzle, but I have remembered the rapper.

    pfb 10:37 AM  

    Got everything but the SW corner G what with not knowing SARG or GERARDO. I decided not to guess and hope I was right and just have DNF today.

    Johnnymao 10:44 AM  

    ENABLER: : one that enables another to achieve an end; especially : one who enables another to persist in self-destructive behavior (as substance abuse) by providing excuses or by making it possible to avoid the consequences of such behavior..

    Joseph Michael 10:45 AM  

    Cute but annoying. Hated the pile up of names in the SW and wonder why BEANSTALK isn't in circles like the other theme answers. Did this puzzle sprout from a BAD SEED?

    anonymous 10:48 AM  

    Crossing a bygone rapper with an obscure puppeteer is dirty pool. I guessed the "G" but like others derived no satisfaction from it.

    pmdm 10:49 AM  

    NCA President, I'm glad you mentioned the SW problem that seems to bother only you and me.

    Shortz has claimed he has tried to get the Times to increase the amount paid to puzzle constructors. Now that other papers are increasing what they pay, he has a better bargaining chip. I suspect that the Times will quickly follow suit.

    AliasZ posted a link to one of my favorite Bach organ works. The middle Adagio section is actually fairly easy to play quite effectively on the organ. Here are two very different interpretations of the original version. The first is by Anthony Newman, of whom one organist I know said "he plays as fast as every other organist wished he could play." Most of Newman's recordings seem to have the mikes placed very close to the pipes. While this enables you to hear the counterpoint more clearly, the recording loses ambiance and the sound can seem brittle (and the reed stops can sound harsh). The second version is a live (!) recording by Virgil Fox. What a difference. A technical observation: at 4:46 of the Fox version, like most organists he plays the rhythm inaccurately and at 4:59 like most organists he does not add a cadenza. Sometimes in baroque music the music should be played with a different rhythm than notated, and sometimes composers assumed cadenzas would be added at certain points in the music. For what it's worth.



    RooMonster 10:57 AM  

    Jyst realized that BADSEED is part of the theme... Central location in the BEANSTALK. Nice.


    Anonymous 11:11 AM  

    Barany's at it again. Promoting his Xword puzzle in a post that is nominally in praise of Hayley Gold.

    Once again, @George, just have @Rex list your name/url in his list on the right side of the site, rather than co-opting blog space for those of us who have to skip by your posts...

    Danp 11:15 AM  

    I'm a little surprised Gerardo was so hard. I'm pretty sure I learned his name from NYT puzzles, and I vaguely remember his one hit.

    I'm really surprised, though, that people had trouble with Freeh. He had to be the most controversial FBI director since JE Hoover. Self-serving, political to the max, author of three defensive books.

    Unknown 11:23 AM  

    Not getting the FEE-FI-FO-FUM theme kicker cost me ELFeN and, clearly, my snicker is a lackluster hEEHEE, given me heL for nine-TIL-five. C'mon. What's not to like about that? If you think it is missing an L, well, Joey in accounting borrowed it. Go ask him. Between nine and five.

    How can I claim not be be a robot when I robotically DNF on Tuesdays (and Wednesdays). OK. I'm a damned robot. Post anyway.

    Steve J 11:24 AM  

    Regarding PEACE as an answer for ciao: I didn't interpret this pairing as a literal definition/synonymous relationship. Rather, it's in the same category as lettuce/moolah/bread/wampum/etc.: Various slangy/common terms for the same root idea. Both PEACE and ciao are used as slangy substitutes for good-bye.

    Regarding SINEW: @Leapfinger, you touched on something I noticed last night but forgot to comment on: SINEW as an answer for muscle seems wrong. Every definition I've ever seen has SINEW being a word for connective tissue, specifically for tendon which connects muscle to bone. The adjective sinewy implies lean muscularity, but that still doesn't make muscle and SINEW equivalents. I hesitate to call the NYT wrong - both because I've been burned on that before and because, usually, Martin or someone can cite one use 30 pages deep on Google as justification - but I have a hard time calling this one right.

    Regarding FREEH: @Z brings up a good point that even if you know it, you have to specifically remember the name's irregular spelling, as the H at the end is hardly inferable (that said, that H is fairly crossed). I do highly disagree that it's trivia, but I do empathize with people who don't remember the name. Even if you follow news regularly, it's easy to forget a name here or there. We're inundated with hundreds, if not thousands, of names of agency heads, committee chairs, notable candidates, etc. over time. It's easy to draw a blank. for example, I can readily name the previous two FBI directors (Robert Mueller and Louis FREEH), but I drew a blank on the current director until I looked him up (and said to myself, "Duh, James Comey").

    hayley 11:29 AM  

    @anonymous --I'll ask george to stop this as it has made me uncomfortable

    also, i'm trying to get in contact with billyc, if anyone can help me with that please email me at kakumei@verizon.net

    John Child 11:31 AM  

    @anon 11:11 I hope the worst thing you experience today is having to skip by an uninteresting blog comment. Such as the one you posted...

    Airymom 11:45 AM  

    Son is home from college--great semester--Dean's List--doing well as an R.A.--just elected president of AEPi. That's the good news.

    Today's NYT puzzle...that's the not so good news. It's difficult for me to criticize a puzzle, because I couldn't construct one if you held a gun to my head. The sarg, are, freeh corner is inexcusable.
    The clue for "enabler" mystifies me.

    Whichever holiday you celebrate, have a happy one, and let's all wish for peace in the New Year.

    BillyC 12:06 PM  

    Heh, heh ...

    Hayley, huh? Is this the Trash Hauler, or the Detroit Wonder?


    Faux Martin, and only 23 citations deep in a dictionary 12:14 PM  

    1. (Anatomy) anatomy another name for tendon

    2. (often plural)
    a. a source of strength or power

    b. a literary word for muscle

    [Old English sionu; related to Old Norse sin, Old Saxon sinewa, Old High German senawa sinew, Lettish pasainis string]
    ˈsinewless adj

    Steve J 12:23 PM  

    @Faux Martin: Thanks. Figured it had to be out there somewhere. I failed in only going through only about a dozen dictionaries before giving up.

    Arlene 12:25 PM  

    Finally, something I know that others apparently don't! I'm a doll collector/enthusiast - and in the 1930's the Madame Alexander Doll Company (still in business) made a line of Tony Sarg puppets. So of course I knew the answer to "Puppeteer Tony".
    YAY - finally some justice after all the rap stars and sports figures.

    Masked and Anonymo3Us 12:36 PM  

    Lot of stuff U don't normally see in a TuesPuz, which made it kinda novel, and more challengin, for m&e.

    * Almost-seven stacks, in all the corners. I always enjoy those. Usually they pay off with some nice short, crossin desperation.
    * Black squares in NE and SW corners. Sure sign of a construction struggle. Promises some interestin desperation.
    * The longest three answers are the central down ones. Sure sign of someone tryin to get the word count back down to 78. Promises some glorious desperation.
    * The circles. Promises a really entertainin writeup from @63. He's gonna fee fi fo fume.

    All right, then. So, with all that promise in mind, M&A began to solve the puz. It put up a fight, here and there, at our house...

    * ILLE GABLER. U coulda switched the two clues here, and it woulda fooled old M&A. But the crosses were mostly gimmes, so no big prob.

    ** NYT. Fave weeject. Got to inform the PuzEatinSpouse what "WaPo" meant.

    *** TSO. Nostalgic lil weeject, for the M&A. TSO is an IBM online application for getting at its mainframe stuff.

    **** ESCALLOP/OCEANUS. Fortunately, the lovely spouse can cook anything, and knows all the terms. Saved my butt, in the half-caffed SE.

    *#%!* The entire fabulous SW corner. ISNTOK isn't just OK... it's great! SARG/GERARDO is another pair where their clues could be switched, and I'da been none the wiser. Shoot, those ain't circles on HIJACK; they're beads of constructor sweat. har.

    Excellent fun. GASSER. And three token Christmas references! Primisamo.

    "Happy Haridays"

    Martel Moopsbane 12:40 PM  

    There's a hide-and-seek theme buried in the left side. The hider LURKs in the middle until the seeker gives up and cries "olly olly OXEN FREEH!"

    Z 1:39 PM  


    GERARDO. You tell me if this is "Rap."

    hayley 1:39 PM  

    @billyc please email me

    Doc John 2:19 PM  

    I can't totally hate a puzzle in which one of the clues contains my last name.

    Benko 2:23 PM  

    1. Practice,practice, practice! Preferably with pen and paper while keeping a stopwatch handy. Look for the constructors who have been especially popular in the last few years and get to know their styles. Keep up with the most respected crossword outlets and get books to practice on too.
    2. Not to be an ass, but if you have to ask how to know if you're fast enough, you're probably not fast enough. But that shouldn't keep you from having fun and trying to be at your best in the tournament. Instead of trying to compete against other people, I like to think of it as a competition with myself. As long as I get faster and more accurate, I'm happy.

    Benko 2:25 PM  

    @Z: Gerardo is only rap in the way that old Fruity Pebbles cereal commercial from the late 80s was rap..."My name is Fred and I'm here to say, I love Fruity pebbles in a major way!"

    Martel Moopsbane 2:34 PM  

    @Benko, thanks to you I predict we will soon see this clue in a puzzle: "Food for which Rapper Fred proclaimed his love in 1980s commercial."

    xyz 3:00 PM  

    I'm sorry, this was an ugly puzzle. I didn't know the rapper (not any damn puppetrmaster) and didn't care as I filled in the last square. There is so much garbage here, I will honor it by ignoring it.

    LaneB 3:04 PM  

    Amazed that I got thru a more difficult Tuesday without a Google and with a correct guess on the G in the 45d and 63a cross. Never heard oF either of those two. These puzzles ARE getting tougher!

    Benko 4:09 PM  

    @Martel: Probably not in the NYT, but look for it in an indie puzzle soon (@Evan, I'm looking at you!).

    Whirred Whacks 4:50 PM  

    @George Barany Did you ever meet the Hungarian Nobel-prize winning biochemist Albert Szent-Györgyi?

    Your dates overlap, so it's a possibility. I've long admired this quote of his: "Discovery consists in looking at the same thing as everyone else and thinking something different."

    Charles Flaster 4:58 PM  

    My family is very enthusiastic about Madame Alexander dolls but have stopped collecting them??
    Did not know the Sarg connection but knew of his fame.

    Evan 5:44 PM  

    That clue does sorta tickle my retro nostalgia bone, but I'd need to see video or it didn't happen.

    George Barany 5:57 PM  

    @Whirred Whacks, Yes, I had the pleasure of meeting Albert Szent-Györgyi on numerous occasions in the USA, and also know his nephew Andrew who is still alive. The Hungarian muscle community is small and close-knit, and my father Michael Bárány was a student of ASG in Budapest after WW II, before the Hungarian Revolution. My mother Kate had a large poster in her office which the exact quote that you have shared with us.

    There is a legendary story about ASG that crossword types might enjoy. When ASG first isolated vitamin C from Hungarian paprika (a discovery for which he later won the Nobel Prize), he knew it was a sugar but was not sure of its chemical structure. So he submitted a manuscript calling the unknown compound "Ignose" (carbohydrate names end with OSE). The editor wrote back that this was unprofessional, and please suggest a different name. So ASG shot back "godnose."

    I've written all this quickly without links, but would be happy to engage off-Rex with anyone who is interested further. My e-mail is barany@umn.edu. Ditto for a few anonymous posters who have referred to me above.

    Happy holidays!

    Steve J 6:21 PM  

    @Evan & @Benko: Vide proof (although, it was Barney and not Fred).

    Whirred Whacks 6:36 PM  

    @George Barany How fascinating! Thanks for sharing. I used that 4:50 quote as my definition of creative thinking in "A Whack on the Side of the Head" (30+ years ago). Also, speaking of Nobelists and vitamin C, I once met Linus Pauling back in the 70s. Interesting man. I'm sure you have your own Pauling stories. Happy holidays.

    GR 6:49 PM  

    Not sure if it's a good or bad thing that I knew GASSER only from "Who Framed Roger Rabbit."

    I'm dating myself I guess that GERARDO was a gimme.

    Gene 7:01 PM  

    Rarely fully agree with Rex's analysis, but completely agree here. Plus the crossing of SARG and GERARDO were two unknowns, although I guess _ERARDO couldn't be anything else.

    Anonymous 8:20 PM  

    The commenters on this blog are pretentious assholes.

    Z 8:26 PM  

    I cannot imagine why this column came to mind.

    Z 8:29 PM  

    Or this.

    OISK 8:41 PM  

    Ugh. A DNF on a Tuesday. Can't remember last time that happened. But Gerardo, Sarg, Freeh, all in the SW did me in. Especially since I wasn't sure whether Dirty Harry was LA or SF. I now do recall missing Gerardo once before; it didn't stick with me obviously.

    Mike 11:13 PM  

    SW ruined my 18 day no-help streak. Ah well. Need to commit Freeh to memory.

    Unknown 3:48 PM  

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    Malcolm 4:25 PM  

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    Anonymous 4:52 PM  


    spacecraft 11:31 AM  

    I like that the BEANSTALK stands tall and vertical in the center...but BAD seed? Anything that's gonna produse a plant like that has to be a pretty damn good seed, no?

    Two "G" squares were bothersome. I agree that you don't GOFOR a field goal; that's a copout because you WENTFOR a first down and didn't get it. And GASSER? A close cousin to Hooker's "Gaspasser," slang for anesthesiologist. There have been other GASSERs too, best left unexplained. As a "Real hoot?" ISNTOK.

    Then there's the natick, which should no way appear on a flippin' Tuesday. I'm sure a few folks have heard of puppeteer Tony SARG; I just went "Who?" And the other? Well, it's a rapper, 'nuff said. I did guess G, because what else fits with _ERARDO?

    The theme is kinda cute, I guess, but with that "gigantic" defect at 8a, as well as the above fill defects, this one doesn't earn more than a C-.

    rondo 1:34 PM  

    Agree with all the rest on the San Diego area natick.
    Not a great deal of fun here but what the hey?
    Can't we do a wacky band clue for ACDC?
    I believe that Henry the VIII SETAHEAD or two on the table.
    I've heard tell that around a BLAZING open flame a GASSER could get your REARLIT.
    If you get enough assistance from an ENABLER you canould probably hear BEANSTALK.

    I'm not a robot

    rondo 1:37 PM  

    Apparently "canould" is my version of a cross between can and could. Sorry.

    DMG 2:11 PM  

    Ah, it's Tuesday. Fairly straight forward for me. Only one write over backLIT to REARLIT. SARG was a gimme from Maleska days, but the rapper/ FBI cross left me hoping that FREEH was a real name. Never heard of WaPo, but from the answer I'm guessing it must be the Washington Post? Two "doable"puzzles in a row-what will tomorrow bring?

    Captcha says "I,m not a robot" Guess I am, cause now it says1712

    rain forest 2:13 PM  

    I guess if you're trying a 55-yarder, you are GOing FOR a field goal, but most of the time, "settle for" is the correct term.

    Once I chucked LAPD and decided that SFPD was correct, I had three unknowns, all of which I guessed correctly.

    There were enough nice entries to make this enjoyable, and the theme was pretty good, asymmetry be damned, but REARLIT RANKLES.

    I tried to bypass captcha by clicking Preview, but it didn't work.

    Waxy in Montreal 6:46 PM  

    When you're commenter #99 and fully agree with what's been said multiple times above about field goals, ciao and the GERARDO/SARG/FREEH nattick, further piling on ISNTOK. So simply time to GOFOR some COFFEE.

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