2014 Broadway play based on Moss Hart's autobiography / THU 1-29-15 / Onetime Road Runner rivals / Archaeological discovery of 1920s whose fossils have been missing since 1941 / TV debut of 1975 / Piece in rockhound's collection / Longtime Crosby partner

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Constructor: John Farmer

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging

THEME: "CUT OUT THE / MIDDLE MAN" (17A: With 58-Across, buy or sell direct … or what to do in this puzzle three times?) — three times there are black squares where you will want to put "MAN" … those black squares are situated between (i.e. in the "middle" of) two MEN … or MANs, I guess: one on top of said black squares, one on the bottom.

Theme answers:
  • RAIN (20A: Best Picture between "The Last Emperor" and "Driving Miss Daisy")
  • THE ICE / COMETH (34A: With 37-Across, drama set in New York's Last Chance Saloon)
  • AGUA (53A: Central American capital)
Word of the Day: "ACT ONE" (3D2014 Broadway play based on Moss Hart's autobiography) —
Act One is a play written by James Lapine, based on Moss Hart's autobiography of the same title. The play premiered on Broadway in 2014. // Act One premiered on Broadway at the Vivian Beaumont Theater in Lincoln Center on March 20, 2014 (previews), officially on April 17, 2014. Directed by James Lapine, the cast features Santino FontanaTony Shalhoub (as George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart) and Andrea Martin. Martin plays three women in Moss Hart's life; Shalhoub also plays three roles: as the older Hart, Moss’s father, and George S. Kaufman. The play closed on June 15, 2014 after 67 performances and 31 previews. It was filmed to be shown on the PBS television program "Live from Lincoln Center." (wikipedia)
• • •

This is a puzzle that doesn't seem to know what either "middle" or "cut out" means. For the premise, CUT OUT THE / MIDDLE MAN, to make any sense at all, you have to imagine that there was a MAN where three black squares are, where the expected but absent MAN would have sat between one MAN (on top) and another MAN (below). So, you (solver) "cut out" a "man" that was in the "middle" of two other "men." Only I, the solver, do not do that. What *I* do is cut out MAN. I just don't enter it. Or, rather, I enter it twice, once above where it should've gone, and again below. The cut-out MAN isn't in the "middle" of anything except this ridiculously contrived, entirely theoretical "MAN" stack. "MAN is not in the "middle" of "RAIN [Man]"—it's at the end. The only place I "CUT OUT THE / MIDDLE MAN" is with "THE ICE [man] COMETH." There, MAN is in fact in the middle. Otherwise, *I* just cut out (or leave out, because I have nowhere to put it) MAN. The fact that that "MAN" (in an impossible, imaginary, non-existent grid) would have sat in the "middle" of a MAN sandwich has nothing to do with me. *I* didn't do anything to said sandwich. This puzzle is a conceptual mess with inaccurate, confusing instructions. And the fill is no good, but you knew that. Actually, it's probably NYT-average. At this point in the NYT's history, that is not a compliment.

Never heard of PEKING MAN (23A: Archaeological discovery of the 1920s whose fossils have been missing since 1941). Real familiarity outlier, given how common the other "MAN"-containing answers are. The other *huge* outlier is AGUA. You just snapped that word in two, whereas with the others, you removed the word "MAN" (also, those other two altered answers are titles of dramatic performances, making [Man]AGUA an even huger outlier: foreign, broken, not a drama. Difficulty for me came entirely from the man-sandwich angle; I could see how "MAN" was missing, but then it kept turning up. I thought we were cutting MAN, but we're not … except sometimes. Putting it all together, finally, did not make for an AHA moment. More "oh" [shrug]. Never heard of "ACT ONE" (3D: 2014 Broadway play based on Moss Hart's autobiography), though that seems like a fine clue for otherwise not great fill. Heard of GTOS, but to me Road Runner is Time Warner's high-speed internet service (33A: Onetime Road Runner rivals). I'm still not sure how 24D: Chapter seven? works for ETA. Is it that … ETA is the seventh letter of the Greek alphabet, and chapter is some kind of fraternity/sorority reference? I hope not, 'cause that is weak. And the expression is "Well I'LL BE a monkey's uncle" (not "I'M A") (59D). It's like … you wouldn't say "Well I'M damned." You'd say "Well I'LL BE damned." It's like that. That "I'M A" clue was the most painful thing in a largely unpleasant puzzle.

I feel like I would've felt more warmly about this puzzle if MANWICH had somehow been involved. Seems to express what's happening better than today's revealer does.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld


Greg 12:17 AM  

As usual, I'm not quite sure I understand Rex's tired complaints about what I considered to be a fine puzzle. Had the theme answers included the missing "man", it would have been in the middle of two other man's. Hence, the middle "man" was cut out. It's a simple concept, which Rex obviously understood, as did any reasonable crossword-doer. Not the best theme, not the best puzzle, but certainly reasonable.

ghkozen 12:27 AM  

I just want to go ahead and complain about the cluing for MANANA. Its not an English word. It should have Spanish in the clue. Period.

Whirred Whacks 12:29 AM  

Solved the puzzle just fine. But I felt the reveal was worded in a confusing way, and so I just ignored it. (Agree with the Rexster on this one.)

Surprised Rex wasn't familiar with PEKING MAN. Of course, he's got me beat on the names of rap singers.

Carola 12:32 AM  

I liked this one better than @Rex did. I thought it was a clever idea and nicely carried out - virtually cutting out the MAN that would have been the MAN-wich filling works fine for me. I loved how the center grid spanner works Across as well as Down, with MAN missing from the MIDDLE of the play's title as well as from the MAN-stack. I also liked the variety of "MANs" and that you might hear MANANA in [MAN]AGUA.

But I found it too EASY for a Thursday. Maybe it helped that I happened to know PEKING MAN and saw the MAN groupings early, but this one went by very fast.

jae 12:36 AM  

What @Carola said, except easy-medium for me mostly because I held on to SNL for too long.  Caught the theme with ICE (MAN) COMETH and it was pretty smooth after that.

You know you've been watching too many shows like Homeland when DAR es Salaam is a gimme.

Had MANnY before MANDY which is a pure brain fart as I've been a fan since Inigo Montoya (@ Z and Roo - also one of my favorites).

Perhaps a tad to easy for Thurs. but I thought the theme was clever...liked it.

Octavian 1:11 AM  

Super-excellent puzzle -- great theme, well explained -- totally disagree with Rex assessment -- bravo

Steve J 1:21 AM  

Yeah, this was a mess. Not really for at least some of the reasons Rex said - it's far too literal a take to insist that CUT OUT THE MIDDLE MAN is an instruction to the user, rather than the concept behind the theme's visual - but it's a mess.

The theme revelear, at least to me, strongly implied that the middle man is being taken out of the theme answers. But that's not what's happening, other than with THE ICEMAN COMETH. For the other two, you're taking them out of the end or beginning. And it's not apparent until you're done with the puzzle - or at least the surrounding fill - that you're taking the man out of the middle of something else. Themes are intended to help in solving, not serve as an endnote after the puzzle's done. This would have been more elegant with MAN in the middle of all themers, and no other MAN in the puzzle.

And (MAN)AGUA was just awful. At least MAN has actual lexical meaning in the other two entries, whereas MAN is just a syllable in MANAGUA (at least in English).

Nice clue for HITMAN. Odd, borderline wrong, clue for S-CLASS: all Mercedes sold in the US are luxury cars; S-CLASS just happens to be the top level. I'm always amused by the word GHERKIN for no good reason.

Anoa Bob 1:48 AM  
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Anoa Bob 1:52 AM  

Would this work better for the clue/reveal at 17-Across? "With 58-Across, buy or sell direct...or what has already been done in the puzzle three times."

chefwen 2:22 AM  

Rex's write up has me more confused than the puzzle.
Finished it, but thought "what the ?". Is the MAN in or out?

Keep trying Thursday! One of these days you'll come up with a fun rebus. Hurry up, I'm losing patience .

I skip M-W 3:21 AM  

Pretty easy, not as vile as Rex says.

George Barany 3:30 AM  

Count me squarely among those who loved @John Farmer's puzzle, especially because the full brilliance of the theme emerged slowly. There is just enough misdirection, e.g., SNL vs. GMA at 33-Down; LEANTO vs. SHANTY at 48-Down, among others, to raise the difficulty level while retaining fairness, but where the puzzle really shines is in a graduated series of "aha" moments.

With the grid partially solved, CUT_OUT_THE (9) MIDDLE_MAN (9), symmetrically placed, seems to tell the solver all that is needed, especially when the center row has THE_ICE_(6)_(MAN)_COMETH_(6) with the deleted "man" smack in the middle. So far so good. But then, what's going on with entries like HITMAN? The "man" seems to be back, right above the three black squares in the middle row. Other "men" emerge as the solving goes on, and there are momentary hiccups, like thinking "Piltdown Man" for 23-Across, so is "man" now a rebus? And what's going on with RAIN(MAN) -- the "man" at the back end -- or (MAN)AGUA -- the "man" at the front end; neither in the middle? Much head-scratching ensues. Only with the grid essentially completed do we see the the middle man that is to be cut out is from a horizontal stack: MAN over (MAN) over MAN. Final aha, and a big smile!

Having completed my solve, I checked my e-mail, and was pleased to get an alert from @Hayley Gold that this week's acrossanddown.net webcomic is about this very puzzle. Man alive, does she have an interesting take! I won't spoil it for you, just click on the link.

Game Ringan Terbaru 2015 4:02 AM  

Niki Lane was great once in singing and playing the guitar. Introduction and I am from indonesia, I permit other articles to read my friend:)

TokyoRacer 4:19 AM  

Totally agree with Rex (as usual). The theme was a mess.
Also agree with his outrage about the IMA clue. That's just about bad enough to make you stop doing the NYT puzzle.

Ted Cole 5:27 AM  

I love slide guitars!

Elle54 5:39 AM  

Cute and fun! I liked it!

GILL I. 5:54 AM  

@Rex...I have eyes rimming with tears after reading your write-up. It was supposed to be funny, right?
I thought so.
Very clever, John Farmer, and visually appealing. Would have been WOwed even further had you thrown in a WO or two....!
Butterfly's are definitely MADAMES
and the monkey's uncle I know is I'LL not that rascal IMA.

Anonymous 6:18 AM  

Agree with Rex that theme is misleading and poorly executed. If the puzzle had been at all difficult that probably would have tripped me up. But I solved everything quickly with crosses, noting The Ice[man] Cometh enroute, then went hunting for the two I missed...both of them very unsatisfying. You need to have a certain trust with the cluing or you feel betrayed. I'm fine with "ah, silly me, how could I have missed that?" But this one was, "Seriously, that's it?" I came here hoping I'd find there was more to it, but no...

tthax 6:48 AM  

Somebody please explain the clue for "Hitman."

John Child 7:06 AM  
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John Child 7:09 AM  

I found the reveal easily and then the three places where I wrote MAN in the black squares. But then I felt annoyed like many others. {man}AGUA isn't in the middle! If I'm cutting MAN then why are these other spaces begging for MAN? AAARGH!

But when I saw it, all was forgiven. In spades. I think this is an excellent puzzle.

It reminded me a bit of a Thursday puzzle from a couple of years ago. Look here for Rex's write up of that, or here for a PDF or PUZ file.

Luca Brasi 7:20 AM  

"Off" as to kill. Offer- one who kills.

evil doug 7:27 AM  

Better title: Missing Man Formation.

1A: Quickly entered "esos", made a mental note to check the cross later for possible gender change, cruised easily through remainder of grid, and left "octone" unchecked. Perhaps it's an acetone cousin?

Still, not tough enough for my Thursday expectations.


OldCarFudd 7:33 AM  

Loved it! Got the revealer right away, then got annoyed because the "MAN" I was removing wasn't in the middle, then saw how it really WAS in the middle, and grinned from ear to ear. xwordinfo points out a separate mini-theme, that the answers with the missing MANs are all wet - rain, ice, and agua. Lots of fun.

Gubdude 7:45 AM  

Seeing SACK LUNCH reminded me of the fake movie in Seinfeld Elaine wanted to see.

"do you think they got shrunk down or it's just a really big bag?"

tthax 7:52 AM  

Still waiting for somebody, anybody to explain the clue for "Hitman"

Unknown 7:55 AM  

Yeah, it took me a while to see that there were actually THREE missing "middle MAN" stacks. Once I saw that, the puzzle felt a lot better.

HITMAN =Offer (one who offs another)

Anonymous 7:59 AM  

Tthax, a HITMAN is someone who kills ("offs") people for a living. Therefore, "offer".
Agree with Rex on the disjoin between revealer and solving experience, and on IMA and ETA. But enjoyed the puzzle anyway.

wordie 8:11 AM  

I think Anoa Bob is right, his modification of the clue for the revealer would address many of the complaints being made here.

How is ROMAN an upright type?

I never heard of officialESE. Lots of other ESEes, but not that one. I am a lawyer and am appalled at how often I am accused by opposing counsel of using legalese. I write in plain English, but hey, we do have terms of art and names of legal doctrines. Am I supposed to pretend that we're not all lawyers here? Seems inefficient. Perhaps it's just that recent opposing counsels have been not-so-great, which is certainly the case.

I was solving an old NYT crossword, and the clue was you will find no performers here, and the answer was JAPAN. Can someone explain this? TIA.

Mohair Sam 8:16 AM  

Easy/medium Thursday here. Liked it a lot and disagree with Rex's rant about the theme. I thought it was a nifty aha moment when I realized where the CUTOUT's really were (after we completed the puzzle, btw). Nice misdirection.

Agree with Rex on the Chapter 7 clue, but disagree on his complaint about IMA - although not nearly as common, I have heard and read both "I'M A monkey's uncle" and "I'm damnned".

Surprised Rex hasn't heard of PEKINGMAN, I've wondered for 30 years why it ain't changed to Beijing Man, of course then we'd need Beijing Duck too.

Great Thursday John Farmer - keep 'em coming.

Mohair Sam 8:17 AM  

@wordie - Think Times New Roman font on your computer.

Dorothy Biggs 8:21 AM  

I agree with Rex's rather convoluted assessment of the why the puzzle doesn't quite make the grade. And I say "convoluted" because the puzzle's problem is that it is convoluted...so in order to pinpoint the problem, you have to go a long way around the block.

To me there are two things going on here. One is the MAN stack with the missing middle man. That is the theme. But it gets confusing because that middle man, who ought to be there, is approached several ways (per Rex's description) which turns out to be the thing that confuses the theme. If you can set aside the approach to that left out man in the middle, then the puzzle is simple and makes sense: the middle man of the three-man stack has been "cut out," never mind by who. The pattern is that wherever there are three black squares, there ought to be a MAN, and it has been cut out....no matter how you get there.

I'm guessing for those that enjoyed this puzzle, they are able to just see those triple MANs and see where the one is missing, it's been cut out. For those of us looking for a deeper organizational pattern, there is none. The MAN in Rain MAN has been dropped while the MAN in MANAGUA has been broken off. Ignore all of that and you get a simple theme.

It seems we've run into this recently with another theme that was very simple and defied any more complicated organizational structure. IIRC, Rex was looking for a deeper meta organization to Tuesday's "ro/rot/row/reau/roe" theme. Today's theme is similar in that, if you take the theme at face value and not make much more of it, then it stands.

I don't fault Rex or anyone else from wanting more of the theme...but, there you go.

I just have one question: how is a ROMAN an "Upright type?"

wordie 8:27 AM  

Thanks, Mohair Sam. Doh!

joho 8:28 AM  

Maybe a bit confusing at first. I wondered why all the MANs in the grid until I realized they had to be there to create the missing MAN in the MIDDLE. I saw RAIN(MAN)and THEICE(MAN)COMETH right off the bat but struggled finding (MAN)AGUA ... in fact, for a time wanted 39A. Butler, eg. to be (MAN)HELP.

Only writeovers were leanto before SHANTY and faNATIC before LUNATIC.

I thought the concept was super clever and suited a Thursday ... but, I like others, am looking for a rebus!

@OldCarFudd, thanks for the "all wet" revelation ... that really helps tie the theme together.

And thank you, John Farmer!

joho 8:31 AM  

@wordie, must be referring to Japan's no theater ... but I thought it was spelled noh???

wordie 8:44 AM  

Thanks, Joho! I think you must be right, though I also thought it was spelled Noh.

AliasZ 8:50 AM  

Man oh man, how I enjoyed this sexist Farmer John puzzle! IMA believer.

Also, IMA little teapot, IMA gummy bear, but I'm no monkey's uncle.

To further over-analyze today's theme:

It became obvious to me fairly early on that the MANs above and below the three rows of black squares are astral projections of The Invisible MAN that must be hiding inside each one of those triple black squares -- call it a coffin, a snuff box, an etui, call it anything you want, it's unimportant for the purposes of this discussion.

Go with me here.

Essentially, we are asked to quickly obtain some imagination, and an acute sensitivity to the spirit world around us, to realize that if there is astral projection, there must also be a source, perhaps The Invisible MAN, hiding inside each of those black etuis in the middle of the projections. Then we are asked to rub out that middle MAN.

There's the rub. Once you off The Invisible MAN, the whole scheme collapses. If there is no middle MAN, then the astral projections of him can't be there either, can they? Thus we end up with a puzzle with three 3x3 gaping holes in it.

And this is what I liked about today's puzzle. We all see in it what we wish. Everything is possible in the spirit world.


Tita 8:50 AM  

@ED - my Spanish puzzle answer rule o'thumb is to match genders - thus "Maria's" should be ESAS, "Roberto's", ESOS. In my very scientific study, that works about 85%.

Wait - the reveal is perfect!!
This was a clever challenge.
Was it confusing? Yes! Thinking the MEN had to come out of the middle of the phrase, rather than the middle of the stack, hindered the solve.
And even though I highlighted all the MEN in the grid after I was done, I still didn't see the stacks!

So I only got the 'aha' moment reading Rex. Annoyed at myself for missing it, but admiration flowing none-the-less. Don't we want a twist?
@SteveJ - your suggestion would be fun too, but more run-of-the-mill. This approach, IMO, is much more inventive.

[MAN]AGUA is unfortunate...

Rex - "ADIT" is obscure. "PEKINGMAN" is something you don't know. There's a difference.

Thanks, Mr. Farmer - I loved it.

Phil 8:55 AM  

Roman type qualified as upright. Too far of a reach to be a good clue.
MAN gimme a break, MAN.
It's a monotype. It has an italic, which would not be upright.
Maybe they call it block letters. Serif tyoe. But upright.

AnnieD 9:01 AM  

Took a little longer than a usual Thurs to solve, but then again I did it at night. I'm so much fresher and speedier in the a.m. Not sure how y'all solve so quickly at night. IAC, I was so confused by the theme with the man not being in the middle of all the themed answers. And once I figured we were cutting "man" out, I didn't understand why it kept appearing in the answers. It wasn't until the puzzle was complete and then I saw the 3 spots with the man stacks. Big Doh! The middle man was missing! Then I appreciated the theme far more.

Gracie H 9:01 AM  

Thanks Rex for helping to clarify why this puzzle is so confusing and, in the end, unsatisfying. Not an easy task, to explain confusion. Today reminds me of a middle draft of an essay. Some interesting concepts, but lacking the precision of a final edit.

Thursdays are hard enough for me without this added challenge. Looking forward to next week!

Lexi 9:02 AM  

I had two surprises after solving this. First, I was surprised it was a Thursday puzzle, thanks to a glitch in the calendar feature of my iPad app. Then once I realized it was a Thursday I was surprised to see Rex rate it medium-challenging, since I thought it played like a Wednesday. I enjoyed it.

Ludyjynn 9:08 AM  

@NCAPres., hand up for enjoying the puzzle ALOT for the reason you stated so clearly. EASY now, Rex; no cause for teeth gNASHing!

I'm not the biggest rebus fan, so this was an EXCELlent Thurs. alternative, IMO.

Agree w/ @GeorgeB that there were just enough clever misdirects to keep it interesting throughout.

They're calling for a RAIN/sleet/snow mix (again) later today; I could use an island ESCAPE where the women wear SARIs right about now. Maybe MANANA.

ALOHA and thanks, JF and WS.

RooMonster 9:09 AM  

Hey All !
Count me in the liked it, disagree with Rex about it group! Thought it was a fine puz, with the triple stacks of MAN, leaving (cutting) out the middle one. Makes sense. Neat concept, and the two (RAIN(MAN) & MAN(AGUA)) are actual words sans MAN. Nice added bonus.

Had the nice misdirect snl for GMA, also leANTo for SHANTY. This being Thursday, wanted to rebus in ILL BE for Monkey's Uncle clue! Also, 32D, Ripped Jeans, wanted fad, then put in Hot, then HIt, finally HELPed to HIP by HELP!

Agree with the easiness on a ThursPuz, but sometimes easier puzs are welcome! I think WS is setting us up for a challenging Fri & Sat!


Zygotic 9:17 AM  

What evidence is there for the oft stated, "Themes are intended to help in solving?" (@Steve J today, but it is often asserted here). Sometimes themes help in solving. More often, and more satisfyingly in my opinion, they help to give order where there didn't seem to be order, fulfilling our need for patterns. I've said it before and I'll say it again, "I didn't get it" is not a valid criticism of a puzzle by itself. Rex's "I got it but the viewpoint threw me off" is weak tea. I had the puzzle filled and had no idea where two of the missing men were. I enjoy that, "Oh, now I get it" moment and I don't really understand why other puzzle solvers don't.

This is a well-executed theme as evidenced by so many smart people going "WTF."

@Evil Doug - Rather than write in an O or A I left it blank. I've been bitten before. I suppose I could try to remember that O is masculine and A is feminine so put in the A from "Maria" in the clue, but what fun is that?

jberg 9:27 AM  

A HIT MAN offs, ie kills. People

RooMonster 9:27 AM  

Anybody hear any of the Soft Balls parody songs about the Patriots deflated balls, based on the AC/DC Big Balls song?

Awesome! There are a few different versions, all very funny! Maybe someone can post a link? (Not tech-savvy enough here!)

Oh, and TEATIME, on the last post! :-P


Hartley70 9:30 AM  

Farmer John is the man! I loved this today. Sure, I want a rebus, but this was a very satisfying alternative a la @GeorgeBarany. I saw it as a rebus misdirect, good one! And then the stacks were nifty. It felt like it was raining men.

Tsk, tsk that Rex doesn't know PEKINGMAN or ACTONE. Could it be an age thing? (Benefit of the doubt as a kindness).

jberg 9:41 AM  

I knew Moss Hart's book had a ONE in it, which seemed to confirm ESOS. kept that one for a long time. As for the theme, I'm with @George Barany, see it as an unfolding, nicely done!

"Noh" is actually spelled in Chinese characters (as the Japanese call them) and has varying transliterations. WB Yeats called in No, for example.

As for ROMAN, it has two meanings--there's the font we call Times Roman, but in any font there's the choice to use roman or italic type.

But wait! Isn't Rome part of Italy? There's your trouble.

wreck 9:57 AM  

I agree with Z on this one, and I think ED had a much better title for the theme.
I completed this one in below average time for a Thursday (Wednesday-ish), but had to really study the grid upon completion for the "aha moment."

Zygotic 9:59 AM  

ROMAN type is not the same thing as New Times ROMAN font. The things I don't know continues to far outstrip what I do know....

BillyC 10:14 AM  

ED-- clever take on "missing man formation," you must be a pilot. ;-)

Others-- Lots of griping that the missing "man" should be in the middle of a piece of horizontal fill, as it is in "The Iceman Cometh." I too was looking for this at first. But the fact that it's inside vertical stacks isn't at all unfair or inappropriate; in fact, I think it's a clever piece of misdirection.

I agree that "IMA" doesn't fit at all. Shame on Shortz for not requiring a rework -- it couldn't be too hard

Nancy 10:14 AM  

Wonderful puzzle. Agree with all who loved it and especially the comments of @George Barany. I also was misled and had SNL and lean-to at first. Because of those mistakes, the puzzle probably would have been undoable for me without the theme answers. And that to me is the secret of a great trick puzzle: the trick doesn't just show off the cleverness of the constructor, but is absolutely essential to the success of the solver. I picked up the trick at RAINMAN, and then flew happily through the grid, writing down "MAN"s wherever I saw they had to be. Even with all that, I didn't catch onto MANAGUA. What the bleep country is AGUA the capital of, I kept asking myself. Only saw what I was missing when I came here. A really interesting, fun solving experience.

chefbea 10:22 AM  

late to the puzzle and no time to read all the posts...gotta get the chili started for super bowl.
Too MANy MANS in the puzzle. Knew the middle ones but why have so many others?? Gland Mandy Patinkin was in there

OISK 10:22 AM  

I had no idea what Vlasic meant. (Googled it. Gosh, I hate product clues!) Didn't like the clues for eta, GTOs, (??) or Roman. Longtime Crosby partner is Nash? A rock clue, right? My comfort zone would have included Ogden Nash, or Nash Rambler. (but somewhere in the back of my mind the name "Stills" kicks in with Crosby, and I think there was a Young as well. ) "Axe" - another brand name that could have been clued many other (and better for me) ways.

2 down, Gulf War Ally. But the answer was plural, Saudis. Shouldn't the clue be "Allies"?

On the other hand, the only theme clue I got was The Iceman. When I was all done (correctly) I realized that there should have been two more theme answers, and I had to search for them. Rain Man! Managua! Of course! The pleasure of discovering those outweighs my annoyance at some of the fill. Clever puzzle.

RnRGhost57 10:25 AM  

@Z and 9:17 comment: very well stated.

chefbea 10:25 AM  

Just received an e-mail from mail delivery substation saying my post at 10:22 couldn't be delivered. What's this all about??? my post is there

evil doug 10:28 AM  

I think it's because you mentioned Mandy's "gland"...


Hartley70 10:29 AM  

I just did The Tuesday puzzle and read the comments and howled with laughter when I got to the time discussions. Roober is my new favorite month and @Tita is hysterical. Good fun!

Hartley70 10:32 AM  

Can't stop laughing today.

Anonymous 10:35 AM  

Welcome to day 5 of Rex's week of dick. He's an addict, he just can't help himself.
This was a clever if ridiculously easy Thursday. Does Rex say "challenging" when he doesn't like a theme? Hard to believe he's weak enough to have been challenged by this one.

Malsdemare 10:37 AM  

I never picked up the trick; in fact, I was two-thirds through this blog (and had revisited my completed puzzle many times) before the lightbulb lit. I was actually pretty pleased with it, despite taking forever to grok GTO even though my husband is a muscle car freak, and just assuming there was a Central American city named AGUA. But I knew PEKING MAN, caught ROMAN early, somehow knew ACTONE, finished it without even a tiny google. On to Friday!

Bob Kerfuffle 10:40 AM  

Was getting annoyed, with the thought that if we are cutting out the middle man, why are so many MANs appearing in the grid? Once I caught on, about 3/4 of the way through, liked it a lot - all as well explained by @George Barany et al.

One write-over, LEANTO before SHANTY.

Agree, I'LL BE a monkey's uncle sounds so much better.

Two tangential stories:

My first entry was 3 D, ACT ONE. I saw it on Broadway, with a good friend. But said friend suffers from some cultural lacunae, as many here have accused Rex of suffering. The star of the play was Tony Shalhoub, and one of the several characters he played had more than a touch of OCD. Of course, the audience howled disproportionately at this, but my friend was unmoved. I had to tell him after the show about the character of Adrian Monk.

Also, seeing MANDY Patinkin reminds me that last night his character was killed off on Criminal Minds (probably the most violent and repulsive show on broadcast TV, but so addictively repulsive). Patinkin had played the lead on the show when it began, but TV gossip says he was unhappy and hard to get along with, so he was replaced many years ago by Joe Mantegna. Last night Patinkin's character was killed and buried without his face being shown.

Steve J 10:41 AM  

@Z: I love the aha moment. While I'm solving the puzzle. I don't think its a well-executed theme if you can only figure it out after the puzzle is done correctly (unless a puzzle is explicitly a meta puzzle where you're supposed to figure out something that, by design, is only hinted at within the puzzle).

It would be one thing if a few of us just missed the theme. But it's nearly universal so far today that people didn't see it until after completing the puzzle today. That, in my completely subjective sense of what makes a good theme and what doesn't, is a problem.

mac 10:42 AM  

Easy puzzle but a little confusing theme. I got it early with Rainman, then pieced together the reveal, which let me believe that there should be NO men (mans) in the puzzle. Hence GAL Friday.

Thanks for the explanation of the manwiches, Rex.

Notsofast 10:50 AM  

An "offer" could also be "HIT, MAN? in Colorado. I found the puzzle very easy, but fun.

Anonymous 10:54 AM  

Well Steve J, a good solver would have noticed pretty quickly the large number of MAN's and realized something was going on. The easy cluing made it incredibly simple to figure out what that "something" was, and the theme became blatantly clear.
The argument that it was a bad theme because you (and a bunch of other solvers on a random crossword blog site) didn't see it doesn't mean it was a bad theme (just like Rex's ignorance about "Peking Man" doesn't make it an obscure clue). The goal of a constructor should not be to create a puzzle that everybody "gets" right away, except maybe people who make children's puzzles or Mondays for the NYT.

BillyC 10:57 AM  

On "chapter 7" being "eta:"

Rex is right that it's "some kind of fraternity/sorority reference."

To be more specific, for example, the first "chapter" (fraternity location) of the Sigma Chi fraternity was at Miami of Ohio; as such, it is the "alpha" chapter. The seventh (eta) chapter is at Ole Miss.

More than you wanted to know?

Jane B. 11:00 AM  

Hayley Gold's blog is right on today! Awesome of her to point out, in a genius and hilarious way, how sexist the crossworld is. Just take a look at this blog and the people who comment on it. She's my new hero.

GILL I. 11:10 AM  

Mandy's "gland".....!
I hate it when coffee spews out of my nose.

old timer 11:13 AM  

Anoa Bob came to this discussion early, with a good point: The revealer should have said "what as already been done three times in this puzzle" Right on, MAN!

I thought it was a delightful puzzle. Not easy, but easier than a lot of Thursdays.

I had no trouble with ROMAN for upright type. In Junior High I had to take a semester of Printing, where we learned to set type by hand using a California Case. Of course, such learning was almost totally useless even then. But I did learn that the two kinds of type most in use were Roman and italic.

Anonymous 11:24 AM  

Wholeheartedly agree with George Barany and Z (and others) who appreciated the creativity and cleverness of this puzzle. I would have preferred more difficult clues, but the final AHA moments more than made up for the quick solving time. Evil Doug, your sharp, quick wit is one of the only reasons I visit this site. Thank you for making me laugh.

AZPETE 11:26 AM  

It's a play on the word no.

Joseph Michael 11:26 AM  

Thought this puzzle was a mess until I finally saw the three man sandwiches. Great misdirection and satisfying payoff in the end.

Also liked the two theatrical references to Hart and O'Neill.

Unknown 11:41 AM  

oCTONE/ESoS. Damn. 36. I played whack-a-vowel at HITM_N, ET_, AG_A and LI_ I guessed right in all cases , but ETA HITMAN AGUA & LIU don't make sense as clued. Huh?! I'm mean, Is Brooklyn really Long Island? Is water money? Is a murderer an offer? Is an arrival time a book chapter?

oCTONE seems like a fine name for a play.

Zygotic 11:50 AM  

@Bill C 10:57 - Again, what I don't know far outstrips what I do. Thanks. Most of what I know about Greek Life comes from Animal House and whenever they manage to make headlines (I'm looking at you University of Michigan).

@Jane B - One should be very careful about presuming to know the gender of the commentariat. Some make their gender obvious by their nom de blog or their avatar, but others have been here for quite awhile without revealing their gender. Some of the more dominant and beloved voices here in the past have been women. Of the frequent commenters today whose of gender I'm fairly certain I counted 17 males and 11 females. I do tend to think of all the mean-spirited anonymice as male, but that's my own bias.

pmdm 11:53 AM  

I think nobody above has explained the theme, so let me. There are three sets of answers stacked on top of each other.

rain man
peking man

hit man
the ice man cometh

man friday

All three times, the letters MAN are aligned over each other. Each time, the black squares "cut out" the middle man from your vision.


MetroGnome 12:02 PM  

No Muddy Waters fans on board? "I[']MA MAN" would have been a perfect prompt for this puzzle's theme.

Anonymous 12:12 PM  

Either way, clue struck me as somewhat bigoted.

MetroGnome 12:20 PM  

Okay, let me correct things -- "I'm A Man" was a Bo Diddley song; Muddy's version of the same theme was "Mannish Boy."

[Kicks self for stupid mistake.]

And actually, in evolutionary terms, all of us are already monkeys' nephews and nieces!

Fred Romagnolo 12:20 PM  

@LucaBrasi: that was a fishy comment; also see @Oldcarfudd's comment. It will always be PEKING MAN no matter how many times the Chinese change the spelling. My big drawbacks were confusing the book ACT ONE with the play; I knew the book long preceded 2014; and ROMAN being "upright," Nero, Caligula? Like others, I didn't fully get it 'til I was finished and "looked" at it. Good job, John Farmer! As I've said before, Rex is pretty good, but his lapses in some fields (including, alas, literature) can be embarrassing. But he never minds telling us what he doesn't know, so that's refreshing.

chefbea 12:20 PM  

@PMDM thanks for the explanation!!! Now I get it

Leapfinger 12:43 PM  

Yup, Mandy's gland et seq pretty much had me prostrate.

There was a MAN upon the stair,
A little MAN who wasn't there.
He wasn't there again today;
How I wish he'd go away!

Agree that Farmer John gave us an EXCELlent Thursday alternative to rebus, reminding us how a MAN often isn't there when you expect him. As specified variously by @GeorgeB, @Z and @AliasZ, I love stuff that operates on more than one level, that surprises by coming at you around an unexpected corner. It's like going from 2-D to 3-D.

Gone is gone, so don't see the difference between 'dropped', 'broken off' etc, and am largely surprised that [MAN]AGUA gets so little love. That was my last MAN and the best, I thought. (Maybe the last one is always the best?)
A bonus that it reminded me of my old WaterMAN pen:

Per Wiki: The Waterman pen company was established in 1884 in NYC by Lewis Edson Waterman, and is one of the few remaining first-generation fountain pen companies.
The initial years of Waterman's involvement in pen manufacturing are unclear. The earliest records of reservoir pens date back to the tenth century, with the oldest surviving examples dating back to the 18th.
I had no idea fountain pens went that far back, but remember clearly how cool it was to fill up those rubber reservoirs. Since the year 2000, WaterMAN's has been owned by the American group Newell Rubbermaid, which strikes me as a bit of a letdown.

Agree with @Gilly that Rex's hyperanalysis must have been tongue-in-cheek (I hope). His interesting choice of phrasing got me wondering how many among this readership may ever have found themselves 'in the middle of a MAN sandwich'. Or would admit to it...

Yes, Virginia, there is a MANASSas.

Muito elegante, Farmer John. A pleasure, as always.


Anonymous 12:45 PM  

Amen! Rex has become so petty and tiresome and (worst of all) predictable. I feel sorry for him.

Masked and Anonymo4Us 12:46 PM  

@63: Day-um! Good mornin, sunshine.
p.s. "Manwich" = harlarious.

Theme is cool. See @pmdm at 11:53, for about the same kinda explanation I'da used, if I was that lucent. Nice use of the "QED", btw. har

Fill is pretty solid. Dash engine light flickers ohso slightly in the SE grid corner. IMA DAR MDII SCLASS has a nice, subtle whisper of desperation. Tricky enough that you'd almost think U were havin to solve a puzzle, or somethin. But otherwise, pretty clean. Nice job, Farmer John. Had me some kinda fun.

****** <--- this dude.

** gruntz. also mutant gruntz **

Mike Fitz 1:07 PM  

It was one of my first Thursday solves, perhaps just my second... so it was plenty enjoyable to me.

I cross filled AXE, got NASH after I couldn't make HOPE work. Got GTOS after watching the auto auction at Kissimmee all last week. Guessed at ETA, HITMAN seemed like the only choice. Got Peking Man. Enjoyed SACKLUNCH and GHERKIN.

Must've been an easier puzzle, there was no German quips for me to struggle with.
- Fitz

mathguy 1:24 PM  

BillyC: Nice explanation of "Chapter seven?"

Liked the puzzle but the entries were all pretty common, especially for a Thursday.

M and Also 1:27 PM  

Really too bad that 18-Across couldn't be WOMAN. Hayley G. woulda been soooo much happier.
Was Elmer Fudd ever in the MAWINEs?

Otherwise, the best NE corner fill M and Desperate could come up with would be...

9. Feet at certain times
16. Brewers since 1998
18. rOMAN cutout-er??
9. How some chefs cook stuff up
11. YWCA or YMCA regular
12. Zil opener or ze closer??
13. What the IRS has, on Michael Sharp

[Clues stay the same, where not changed, above]

QED. (Questionable EDiting).

M and A
"Man on the end"

LaneB 1:30 PM  

All went well despite some questionable clues; e.g., a18, d55, , and MEG and AXE were thus problems. Managed to avoid a DNF anyway. A little harder than the usual Thursday IMO.

Davidph 1:41 PM  

@BillyC. The same is true of Phi Beta Kappa chapters, except it is state by state. Eta would be the seventh chapter in the state. So maybe it's common for Greek societies.

Chip Hilton 1:42 PM  

I loved it. I thought the theme was clever - and appropriate - and found the symmetry of the placements to be quite elegant. In no way did I find this challenging for a Thursday and wonder if Rex's rating has to do with his dislike of the puzzle. (Never heard of PEKINGMAN? Really surprising.). In the SE corner, I thought leANTo was a gimme, particularly with ANT in place. I love when that happens: a plausible solution with several letters in place only to find an equally plausible replacement. Thanks, John Farmer. Great fun.

JFC 1:53 PM  

I see the old Rex has once again reared his sour side after a number of kinder gentler critiques lately. I agree with @Chefwen that Rex’s criticism was more confusing than the puzzle and others who liked this puzzle for its clever theme and execution.

Sometimes, when I see how cranky Rex is, I think maybe Will Shortz has just rejected one of his puzzles.


Ellen S 2:19 PM  

I have to get the dogs walked before I read the rest of the comments but I'm glad everyone is having a good (uproarious) time. I saw ICE [man] COMETH and wanted two more answers the removed the middle "man", so I never even considered [Man]agua, just wondered how bad my sense of geography had gotten, or whether water is so scarce in Central America that it is used as money (if not now, will be soon, and maybe sooner than that here in California, where we think a heavy fog is a downpour).

I'm more embarrassed that I didn't even question RAIN. I just thought, "I gotta get out of the house more; I didn't know there is a remake of the movie Sadie Thompson from the 20s." (No, or noh, I never saw it. There was another movie, maybe a Bing Crosby "Road" movie? Where one character says of another something about she should be playing Sadie Thompson in "Rain." It was an old enough movie that viewers would get the reference. I saw it on the Late Nite Movie years later and just inferred the meaning. After Al Gore invented the Internet I was able to look it up. Thank you Al Gore, and all of your commenters for an enjoyable morning.

Lewis 2:36 PM  

When MAN started appearing in answers, I was thinking that it would be a more elegant puzzle, since MAN is part of the theme, to leave them out. But after entering my third MAN it made me think that it had to do with the theme, and everything fell into place. And it actually helped my solve.

The only jarring moment was IMA -- for me it's always been ILLBEA. I liked the clues to ROMAN, TEATIME, ERA, and ANT. And the answers MANFRIDAY and GHERKIN. The puzzle felt easier than the typical Thursday, maybe because the trick came to my brain early in the solve.

My first thought was that Rex et al were just overthinking this, but so many people were confused by the theme, now I'm thinking that it perhaps could have been executed better.

Unknown 2:43 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Roy 2:43 PM  

I thought it was one of the NYT's better puzzles in some time (maybe that's not saying a lot). Not overly difficult, but fun to solve.

Lewis 2:46 PM  

Factoid: "S-CLASS" is the anglicized version of "S-Klasse," a German abbreviation of "Sonderklasse," which means "special class" (in the sense of "a class of its own"). (Wikipedia)

Quotoid: "I'm blessed. I have a 13-year-old girl's eye and a 14 year-old boy's eye. I've been given the gift of sight by people who decided to donate organs. I try to do as much organ-donor work as I can." -- MANDY Patinkin

Anonymous 3:44 PM  

I agree that the theme isn't as coherent as it could be. But the fill is fine.

The fact that Rex does not know PEKINGMAN is a statement on his ignorance, not on the puzzle quality. This is 5th grade level knowledge and should be familiar to someone educated enough to be a college professor.

TimJim 3:45 PM  

I found this easy and the theme clever and pretty straightforward. Rex's "analysis" made my head explode, or would have had I tried to understand it. Hope it was tongue-in-cheek, as some have suggested!

dk 4:34 PM  

🌕🌕 (2 mOOns)

I always gird my GHERKIN for Thursdays as the theme, rebus component tends to befuddle my little gray cells.

But this day: cruise for ESCAPE and maxi for SARI got my goat. Then I knew, just knew ROMAN was the fill but put in yoman (a misspelled yeoman) as I, to this day, over think the question.

I wanted eliminate rather than CUTOUT. The theme and fill just sorta escaped me -- Hence the 2 moon rating.

Ludyjynn 4:35 PM  

@SteveJ, I, for one, saw the theme as I solved and liked it. The only momentary glitch I faced was the same as @EllenS re (MAN)agua and for the same reason.

@NotsoFast, very funny...inhale, cough.

@Lewis,that was quite a moving, interesting quotoid from (glandular) MANdy P.

@Leapy, thanks for the WaterMAN pen reference. Brings back fond memories of my Dad teaching me the process of re-inking the cartridges. Had to take care the ink was dry or it would smear on the page, making a mess.

@Z, I think your instincts are correct re the anonymice gender. OTOH, they may be anonyfelines, as in catty women. I hope not!

retired_chemist 6:06 PM  

I am on the side that found this convoluted and less entertaining than I like. So, for the second day in a row, I am pretty much with Rex on this one.

Didn't like the clue for SACK LUNCH. Comprise is a better word than contain, which refers to the physical container. The clue called for lunch sack or lunch pail IMO.

Dave 6:09 PM  

Stumped at how "hitman" and "chapter 7" work. An man is at the beginning of Managua, not the middle.

But otherwise, I found it fairly easy, if obtuse, for a Thursday.

Teedmn 6:46 PM  

It's only a SHANTY in old SHANTYtown
The roof is so slanty, it's touching the ground

My 100% Irish grandmother used to bang out that song on the piano - nice old tune.

I wrote in the missing MAN in the three black squares after RAIN thinking it might be a "Men in Black" theme. But when I worked my way backwards to 17A, I made the connection, filled in 58A and finished the rest. Except I went one error further than @ED and @Casco and had oCTaNE, 3D being a WOE. But hey, I knew PEKINGMAN, so no complaints here.

Thanks for a nice Thursday puzzle, Mr. Farmer.

Zygotic 7:07 PM  

Sad News regarding Bernice Gordon.

Carola 7:21 PM  

@Z - Oh, so sad to hear. Thank you for letting us know.

chefwen 7:23 PM  

Very sad. What a interesting history, she will be missed.

Unknown 7:32 PM  

Have to agree with RP. This puzzle was a mess. Finished in sub-average time, but it was still a mess. Too cute for its own good, I suppose.

retired_chemist 8:23 PM  

What a wonderful lady Bernice Gordon was, and how nice the writeup @Z cited. She will be missed.

Anonymous 8:31 PM  

Absolutely agree! He's definitely an angry loser who has an ulterior motive. What a dick!

GILL I. 8:32 PM  

@Z....Thank you for letting us know...
Oh gosh, I'm so sad.....

chefbea 8:38 PM  

What a lady

Anonymous 8:38 PM  

With all this man on man action you think Will would have rethougth SACKLUNCH.

Tita 9:10 PM  

Sad to hear about Ms. Gordon.

Anonymous 9:21 PM  

This puzzle had a lot of MANure in it.

neil B 9:40 PM  

i agree was not the greatest puzzle. The monkey's uncle was wrong as should be I'll be and when you do that on a Thursday it makes you think there is a rebus or something else there

Anonymous 10:09 PM  

I do the puzzles in the actual paper. I did them for a brief calm rest. they have sucked for so long I am beside myself. I DO NOT WANT TO FINISH A PUZZLE IN 10minutes Please give me SOMETHING more>>>>>>

Anonymous 10:17 PM  

You are beside yourself? I suggest you scoot over just a tad.

Nancy 11:45 PM  

So the photo of Bernice Gordon was from when she was "only" 100? She looks pretty great to me. I don't remember reading her crossword byline in the Times and I had never heard of her. So thanks to @Z for providing the news. Didn't sound so sad to me. To live to be 101; to continue to live in your own home; and to still have the smarts and stamina to create demanding crossword puzzles -- we should all be so lucky! Sorry I never met her. I would have loved to have been invited to one of her parties!

retired_chemist 1:31 AM  

@Nancy - she co-constructed a NYT puzzle with David Steinberg a year or so ago.

mrksat 7:45 AM  

Agree with Rex. Should have been themed: "C'mon, cut out the muddle man!"

mrksat 7:45 AM  

Agree with Rex. Should have been themed: "C'mon, cut out the muddle man!"

mrksat 7:47 AM  

Agree with Rex... should have been themed: "C'mon, cut out the muddle man!"

mrksat 7:47 AM  

Agree with Rex... should have been themed: "C'mon, cut out the muddle man!"

pfb 2:29 PM  

I am agreeing with Rex again (happening a lot lately)--I expected man to be in the middle. I was looking for that after getting the theme almost immediately. To be fair, MAN was cut out at the end, then the middle, and then the front, so at least had a pattern of sorts but not as suggested.

I found this to be on the easy side for a Thursday.

xyz 4:25 PM  

Catching up

good but easy Thursday

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rondo 9:09 AM  

OFL has never heard of PEKINGMAN and goes so far as to call it obscure?! And this from someone who is supposedly molding younger minds?! I've suspected that education in this country has been going downhill for some time now, but maybe more quickly than I thought. The near future is looking bleak. MAN!!

I figured out the gimmick, not theme, almost immediately, found the invisible and cut out MANs, and filled in the the other MANs before cleaning up the fill. I rather enjoyed it and this will probably be the only time I will ever use MANs in a sentence.

Only bit of w/o was the leANTo SHANTY.

45d could have been a yeah baby instead of a NY school - LIU.

Encore appearance for EMAILLIST.

MODELA and SCLASS crossing seems an oddity, quite a difference, no?

Rex must have taken a bitter pill before his write-up; I couldn't disagree more. Hand up for enjoying this one when I usually groan re: Thursday (and Sunday) puzzles.


Burma Shave 10:18 AM  



CUTOUT that noise you ASS,
he’s an ESCAPEd NCO,
not driving an SCLASS,

NAY, let’s take MADAMES NASH
through THEICE and the RAIN.
We’ll ESCAPE in a mad dash
from that LUNATIC, he’s insane.


spacecraft 12:13 PM  

I liked it ALOT better than OFL did. Makes perfect sense to me; I don't know what he's on about. We do have an unfortunate RRN, and I agree about the monkey's uncle expression being "I'll be a" rather than the entry, but the rest of it is fine.

My main MAN MANDY Patinkin broke things wide open for me--though I know his name from "Criminal Minds," not "Homeland." But that name is unmistakable; there's not a chance in the world that there exists another famous Patinkin.

I didn't get the butterfly thing for a while, but DAR and the RRN date were enough to suggest MIDDLEMAN, and from there I went ONAROLL.

Good tough cluing and a very thick theme pulled off (mostly) really well make this an A-. Any grid that contains RAIN MAN, probably one of the ten best movies ever made, is aces with me.

Burma Shave Too 1:31 PM  


ONAROLL, he had a hunch
of where the PEKINGMAN was lurkin’.


rain forest 3:52 PM  

I thought this puzzled verged on the brilliant. In fact, having got the middle themer on either side of the MAN stack, and then seeing another one just before AGUA, I then went up to RAIN and wrote in MAN twice following, and whole thing made enormous sense, and was a delight to figure out. Three AHA moments.

Excellent in so many ways, and enough to make me overlook I'M A...which for me was the only wince-inducing entry.

Too bad that @Rex went on so long demonstrating that he really didn't get the trick (or 'conceit') which some people like to call it.

DMG 3:59 PM  

I count this a DNF because I never understood the theme. Kept looking for answers with a missing MIDDLEMAN, and, of course, outside of the ICEMAN failed. Sadly, even with RAIN and AGUA standing alone, I needed Rex to point out the Manwich. On days like this I need all the help I can get!

leftcoaster 6:20 PM  

Okay, having read many of the above comments, I think that thematically the puzzle was both messy and good. (Even the 27D clue cut out the middle man, Stills, from Crosby and NASH--adding to the messiness.) And after filling it all in, I had to read RP before I saw how it all was supposed to fit together, with the stacks of MAN.

My DNF was at the GTOS-GMA cross.

Unknown 8:18 PM  

Rex, why can't you just enjoy a puzzle? You are a whiny nitpicker... I'd like you to put out a series of original puzzles and let us critique them...lighten up a little.

Unknown 8:21 PM  

Rex, why can't you just enjoy a puzzle? You are a whiny nitpicker... I'd like you to put out a series of original puzzles and let us critique them...lighten up a little.

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Mohamed Ali 9:10 AM  

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Alex James 9:30 AM  
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