Kyrgyz province / SUN 5-24-15 / PBS craft show for 21 seasons / Sci-fi narcotic / AI woman in 2015's Ex Machina / Bariton in Mikado / Local theater slangily / Warrior in Discworld fantasy books / Former Jets coach Ewbank / Speed-skating champion Kramer / Sun's 10th planet once /

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Constructor: Kevin G. Der

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: "A Tale of Many Cities" — celebrating the 142nd anniversary of the publication of JULES / VERNE's "Around the World in Eighty Days"; puzzle note reads:

 Circled letters form a circuitous path around the grid ("world") starting at the "A" in KCAR (93A) and going east, off the grid, and back around to the west side of the grid, ending almost exactly where we began (at the "S" in RAYS (79A)). The circles spell out "AROUND THE WORLD IN EIGHTY DAYS"; further, each long Down clue has an appended clue—a country, followed by word lengths for the city you're supposed to find hidden (in not-always-consecutive letters) in that answer; thus, in the clue 3D: Brooklyn Heights school [U.S.; 3, 9], the [U.S.; 3, 9] part indicates that the hidden city in SAINT FRANCIS COLLEGE is in the US and is two words, 3 and 9 letters long, respectively (i.e. SAN FRANCISCO)

Theme answers:
  • BORN TO BE MY BABY (Bombay)
  • YOU KNOW WHAT I'M SAYING? (Yokohama)
Word of the Day: "THE NEW YANKEE WORKSHOP" (31D: PBS craft show for 21 seasons [U.S. 3, 4]) —
The New Yankee Workshop is a woodworking program produced by WGBH Boston, which aired on PBS. Created in 1989 by Russell Morash, the program is hosted by Norm Abram, a regular fixture on Morash's This Old House. The series aired for 21 seasons before broadcasting its final episode on June 27, 2009. (wikipedia)
• • •


I got the gist of the theme very early—if you get 1D, you get 141D, and very quickly you're down to a finite number of books this puzzle can be about. Here's what my grid looked like less than a minute in:

 [So ... Journey to the Center of the Earth?]

My philosophy on puzzles with "Notes" is "Ignore Them." I like the challenge of figuring out what's going on for myself. So I just plowed forward and had faith that the gimmick would reveal itself to me. And quickly I could see that the letters were spelling out "Around the World in Eighty Days." I didn't stop to see how, exactly, or what the pattern was, but I could tell that's the book I was dealing with. The only question that nagged at the back of my mind for the entirety of the solve was "What do those secondary clues mean?" But I didn't stop to think about it much, because the puzzle seemed to be coming together just fine without my knowing. And indeed, I finished the whole thing and got the Happy Pencil sign and everything and still didn't know what the secondary clues were all about. But shortly after I started thinking about it in earnest, I got it. The numbers had to be word lengths, and the countries had to be places that Phileas Fogg visited ... so, cities. Aha, there's NEW YORK, there's SAN FRANCISCO ... got it. Pretty dang cool. And of course the path of the circled letters, like Fogg's journey, starts and ends in "London" (i.e. 6D), and follows Fogg's globe-circling itinerary—an eastward voyage through SUEZ, BOMBAY, CALCUTTA, HONG KONG, YOKOHAMA, SAN FRANCISCO, NEW YORK, in order—precisely.

It's an oversized grid, so if it seemed to take you longer than usual, that could have something to do with it. Also, perhaps you're like me and you've Never Heard Of several of the theme answers. SAINT FRANCIS COLLEGE? Mystery. Inferable mystery, but still, mystery. "THE NEW YANKEE WORKSHOP"? This is literally the first I'm hearing of it. I know a lot of Bon Jovi songs, but not "BORN TO BE MY BABY." As for SPECIAL COURT MARTIAL ... I'm sure it's a thing, but it's an adjective attached to COURT MARTIAL, as far as I know. And "THE LONG KISS GOODNIGHT" ... well, I confess I knew that one. But I don't know how. In my mind, it co-starred Chow Yun-Fat, but that's "The Replacement Killers," a 1998 movie with Mira Sorvino. "THE LONG KISS GOODNIGHT" co-starred Samuel L. Jackson. I don't think I've seen it, despite the fact that the title is so close to the title of my favorite novel I probably should've seen it now, if only by accident.

Ambition and cleverness will get you everywhere, and it will certainly excuse some infelicities in the fill (ATRI is comically crosswordesish, and a few other things are less than lovely, but they just don't seem that significant when the Big Picture is this grand. Wait, what's an UDE ??? (60A: Ulan-___ (capital of a Russian republic)).  That and OSH and EROO and TEA OR and the like are of course unideal, but I still say those hiccups are too small to significantly diminish my enjoyment and admiration today. Sundays have been ... not great, of late. This, *this*, is the level of artistry and complexity the Sunday should be aiming for most if not all of the time. Haven't seen much from Kevin Der lately. If he can make one of these fantastic Sundays only about once per year ... fine. I can wait. Now we just need 51 more like-minded, like-talented constructors to step up.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

P.S. we're just one week away from the inaugural Indie 500 Crossword Tournament in lovely downtown Washington, D.C.  Solve six puzzles by some of the top young constructors in the country! Hang out with dorks just like you! Realize you have no hope of winning and realize also that you don't care because that's not why you go to crossword tournaments! (That last one applies especially to me). Also, there will be pie. I have been promised. The puzzles will be good and the vibe will be loose and fun and if you've ever been tourney-curious, this will be a good place to start. All the info you need is here. Hope to see you there: Saturday, May 30, D.C.

[Follow Rex Parker on Facebook and Twitter]


Dan 12:12 AM  

"The Long Kiss Goodnight" is actually a pretty good movie. (And Geena Davis is actually a pretty good action hero!)

Zeke 12:32 AM  

Less than 1 minute in I had the same grid as Rex, guessed it wasn't "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea", so the circles had to spell out ATWI80D, somehow. I didn't care how, whether they started at the middle of 90A or the end of 12,000D. You may question how I came up with 12,000D, but that's got to be a conservative estimate of the number of 3 letter entries in this puzzle, 12K minimum, right? It sure felt as if there were 12,000 of them.

So, the first minute of the solve was OK. The rest was a pain, a super-sized basked of short, iffy fill.

Anonymous 1:07 AM  

I "got" the theme right away. Jules Verne was easy and Cities in the title tells you which book. But the obscurity of most of the long theme answers and loads of short iffy fill made this ambitious puzzle a slog to get through.

jae 1:26 AM  

Toughest puzzle of this week for me. Biggest stumbling block was MfA before MBA and not knowing the Bon Jovi song. 

Pretty impressive construction, although I'm not sure I get the path...mountains?

@Dan - Geena rocked that movie.

@Zeke and Anon -  unfortunately, more slog than fun. 

DocRoss 1:47 AM  

It's funny, on Rex's FB page, I used the word slog, and Rex thought I was nuts!

I finished in a decent time for me (38 minutes), but little joy along the way.

WEEB and FANON were my only ???s.

George Barany 2:03 AM  

Thank you to @Kevin Der for telling me that I should find ANIONS attractive, and also for reminding me of seeing "Around the World in Eighty Days" at the Jones Beach marine theater back when I was 8 or 9 years ago. I remember the balloon, but not Dom De Luise who the internet informs me played Mr. Fix. Years later, I saw a revival of the (unbelievably) 1957 Best Picture winner that starred David Niven.

If I may shift gears, in the spirit of @Rex's promotion of the Indie 500 tournament mentioned by @Rex coming up next weekend, please add to your "don't-miss-if-you-can-possibly-make-it" list the Fourth Annual Minnesota Crossword Tournament, which will be held exactly three weeks from now, i.e., Sunday, June 14, 2015. Hope to see a number of you there.

George NYC 2:08 AM  

A lot of those four letter word answers had me thinking of four letter words.

chefwen 2:40 AM  

Never saw the "note", never do. Finished the puzzle, but by the time I was done my poor little eyes were too tired to figure out the circles. Never have I seen such small squares, much less trying to read the numbers. Cheater glasses are in my future.

Slog-a-thon here.

John Child 2:55 AM  

Ambitious for sure! I would have liked to read constructor notes today. Did Mr Der try a 21x first or did he decide on 23x immediately to get spacing for eight theme answers? That's quite amazing.

But 2/3 of the answers here are three or four letters long, and it's hard to make them or their clues sparkly. But at least there's an OPEN BAR!

r.alphbunker 3:39 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
r.alphbunker 3:43 AM  

The small patch of green in SE of the halfway grid indicates that I too wrote in VERNE once I got JULES but soon lost interest in that corner and returned to the top.

The Mid Atlantic went in last. Had Nod for {Win at auction, say} and ROll for {Personnel list}. But then I saw that a EWER has a stiff upper lip (I have seen this trick before) which led to the OPENBAR and it was over in seconds.

Unfortunately early on I had written in UHURu for the Star Trek character and overlooked the obviously wrong SuT. Uhuru is the Swahili word for freedom which occasionally appears in crossword puzzles.

AliasZ 3:48 AM  

23x23 grids are rare, thus we are not used to seeing 40 threes plus 78 (!) fours -- a total of 118 out of the 176 words. So much short fill necessitates that quite a portion of them be below acceptable quality in my view. Even with that, ERI, ERN, ERS, ISH, NES, OOH, ORC, OSH, RAO, REA, not to mention EDER, ERIN, ERIS, EROO, ERST, ESSO, ETUI, OTOE, EWER, NABE, NAYS, KOKO, NONO, NYRO, ONBY, NEHemiah, NAHUM and mOSES etc. seem more than should be allowed. But hey, I am no puzzle editor.

The theme itself was creative and interesting to figure out, and the route starting in LONDON and heading East, then turning around at HONG KONG and jumping back across the globe all the way to SAN FRANCISCO in the West added quite a bit of elegance to it, however the MARATHON solve dowsed my enthusiasm and admiration of its cleverness, sorry to say.

The long phrases hiding the city names could have been constructed so that, in their meanings, they referred to a trip around the globe, but that would have been too much to ask. Nonetheless, a very clever theme, very well executed, burdened by so much dreck as to take most of the joy out of it.

Favorite non-theme entry: STUDFARM.

Here is what SAINT FRANCIS de Paola walking on water sounds like.

Enjoy your Sunday.

Ellen S 4:15 AM  

I thought this was tougher than Friday or Saturday, and, yes, feared the short fill was endless. But I liked the longer bits, theme and nontheme, so I'm trying to consider all those OOHs and OHOHs and UHOHs and whatever as sort of crossword ANIONS, negatively charged particles that hold the positive answers together?

Plus, I learned that I still have quite a bit of Discworld to get through since I haven't encountered Pratchett's ORCs yet. I thought they were only Tolkien creatures. Don't much like Tolkien, but love Pratchett, and please don't remind me that he's no longer with us. A great loss. I read a delightful compendium of his forewords and intros; in one place he said he can't figure out why people think they have to read the stories in chronological (as written) order. He thought he probably got better as he continued writing, so why not read the later ones first? And unrelated to Discworld, I would like to recommend Good Omens, Pratchett's collaboration with Neil Gaiman. Heigh-ho!

Anonymous 6:00 AM  

WOEs galore in the Massachusetts and Northern California areas. DNF. Weak salt, after a good Friday and Saturday.


Bob Kerfuffle 6:15 AM  

Because the note said that the circled letters "will form a path," I drew that path on my grid, and was disappointed that it formed no obvious picture. Only after reading the explanation (at Diary of a Crossword Fiend) did it start to make sense.

The more I learned about this puzzle, the more I warmed to it -- but I was starting from a very cool place.

I know we have seen 77 A, ROTA, before, but it is a word which refuses to remain in my vocabulary.

Anonymous 7:39 AM  

Do spellcasts or voodoo dolls work against trolls?

MarginNJ 7:45 AM  

The icing on the cake would have been for the circled letters to be connected to form a hot air balloon.

Z 7:45 AM  

Impressive construction. But slog slog slog does not a fun solve make. We have ADELE dating WEEB while NAHUM is lost in OSH. We start with JUST ALUM and end OGLEing an OGRE. Ugh.

chefbea 7:58 AM  

Toughest puzzle to date. Too many things going on in those tiny little squares...and I wear glasses!!! Was hoping for a holiday puzzle...maybe tomorrow. Enjoy your cookouts everyone !!

Mohair Sam 8:12 AM  

Came at this one with a bias: Saw the movie as a kid, couldn't stand it. So never read the book. Saw the movie again a few years back, still hated it. Read Will's notes, got 1d and 141d very quickly and said UHOH or NONO, or maybe OOH, this is gonna be a stinkEROO. For us it was.

Thought the long downs were good in that they were just obscure enough to make you work (except the gimme for us SPECIALCOURTMARTIAL), and hiding the city names therein was clever. But all that at the price of so many strained threes and fours just wasn't worth the entry fee.

I forgot that the flick had won the academy award as best picture. It therefore displaces "The Piano" at the top of my personal list of awful movies winning the big prize.

Are we going to have the Court(s) Martial discussion?

MDMA 8:16 AM  

This was a slog due to iffy short fill. I rarely spend this much time on the last handful of blank squares.

Rex always bitterly criticizes pangrams because they result in bad short fill. But here the overfancy kitchen-sink combo of theme phrase plus embedded city names has the exact same tradeoff of bad short fill, yet Rex praises it as an artistic tour de force. Sometimes less is more: show restraint with the gimmicks to achieve a smoother puzzle.

The city names aren't even helpful for the solve. I shrugged and ignored the numbers in brackets, as did Rex and probably most everyone else too. So it's a mere afterthought, but it comes with a high cost.

MDMA 8:52 AM  

OK, the explanation at Crossword Fiend does make it more impressive: the circled-letter path traverses the cities mentioned by name in the book as being visited, in order, with start and end in London. It even vertically matches the I of ETUI with the G of GEL, as if the grid is a Mercator projection map of the world and you sail across the international date line at the right edge and reenter on the left.

So the specifically-named cities and the theme phrase are all part of the visual recreation of the trip around the world. Very nice, although I'd prefer the interestingness of a puzzle to happen during, rather than in hindsight. But maybe we need puzzles like this from time to time, in the same way we need fiber in our diet, even if it isn't much fun while you're chewing.

Anonymous 9:06 AM  

For those who solve in the Times Magazine, where is today's KenKen?

Name that tune 9:06 AM  

Now you know. If the construction is complicated and shows off the constructor's skill in making an intricate, multi-layered masterpiece, I will forgive what has to be the worst pantheon of fill in the history of this puzzle, the forced pangram, the incredibly constricted grid, etc. Usually, I say if a theme compromises the grid or the fill so dramatically, then it should be scrapped and tried again, but not today.


Worst. Fill. Ever. But hey, it's all good, because it was really hard to construct. And I might see some of you soon in DC and would rather not be punched in the nose, so I'll be especially nice this week, even if it means abandoning all of my principles regarding crossword puzzles.

mathguy 9:07 AM  

Terrible puzzle.

I've complained before about big Sundays which are hard. They take up too much time and there generally isn't a compensatory payoff.

This one was even bigger than usual but it was easy. Still, no payoff. Cities embodied in the long downs? Big deal. And connecting the circled letters doesn't produce a pleasing picture.

I guess that Rex didn't pan it because Kevin Der is a respected constructor.

Nancy 9:19 AM  

Five times, now, I've asked myself: Am I having fun, yet? And five times, the answer has been: Hell, no! So I'm stopping right now, with about 20% of the puzzle complete and with still no idea of why those tiny little circles have been put there to annoy me. All those proper names. All that pop culture. When I get an answer, I feel no joy -- only despair at all the answers that still remain to be gotten.

It's a really beautiful morning in NYC. I'm going out to enjoy it, sans puzzle. I haven't looked at the solution and I won't throw the puzzle away. A much less beautiful day will come along, perhaps a Monday or Tuesday, where I may be bored and looking for a long, difficult slog. In that case, I may come back to this puzzle. Or not. We'll see...

demit 9:22 AM  

Sometimes things are more impressive to the creators/constructors than they are entertaining to the audience/solvers. This puzzle was one such thing.

Maruchka 9:23 AM  

Started out JUST fine, since SAINT FRANCIS COLLEGE is my swimming hole(!). Then the clue/solve smooth went a bit WONKY for the very parse-intensive fill. Extreme focusing of the EYES and wrinkling of the brow. Came out looking like a cluttered closet. AH - ME no google!

Fav of the day - FANON. Did not know as a garment, only as Frantz..

@Rex - THE LONG KISS GOODNIGHT v. 'The Long Goodbye'? Liked the movies, love the book. Any Chandler, for that matter.. hi @'mericans!

@Ellen S - Hehe, you always have something positive to say. And thanks for the Discworld heads-up. Did not know of it.

GPO 9:26 AM  

Wow tough one but I got it done in about 40 minutes. Although by "done" I actually mean DNF. I had NA_UM and OS_ and I went through the alphabet, selected H, R and T as possibles -- then guessed R. So close!

Whirred Whacks 9:33 AM  

I'll be charitable:


jberg 9:46 AM  

I like it more after reading @Rex than I did before -- I hadn't noticed that you went around the grid on the other side between ETUI and GEL, so was wondering why the path through the circles crossed itself. And I hadn't noticed that the cities were in order, and hadn't remembered that they were all in the book. Still, it was a long, long solve, as I kept getting stuck while trying to work the crosses -- the only good connections between parts of the grid were the long downs, and I needed corsses to get them.

That said, it was a double DNF for me. First because I was sure that province must be OSk, and couldn't remember that Mr. Tate was NAHUM; and second, because I couldn't think of SUEZ, nor could my wife -- the only 4-letter Egyptian city I could think of was Giza (helped by the Z!)

So while I didn't much enjoy this puzzle, I can now sit back and admire it. I'd admire it even more, though, without any extraneous city names, like AMES.

Dorothy Biggs 9:54 AM  

I didn't care for today's puzzle. WAAAAAAY too convoluted. Epic is right. Only like James Joyce epic.

My major complaints though have nothing to do with all the folderol of the theme. Much of my problem was with the Central California region, namely: TAGSALE, AREAWAY, LAGGER, and TACO.

SoCal was not much better with BAGPIPES down there the way it was. I'm a pianist. I've played literally hundreds of weddings. Not one has had bagpipes played at it. Funerals, yes. Weddings, no. Granted, maybe it's just coincidence that those hundreds of weddings are outliers and that bagpipes are played very often at weddings. Maybe. But in the world I knock around in where I know a lot of wedding musicians, I know of know bagpipe players.

The RAO/FANON crossing was confounding as well.

Overall, I finished the puzzle feeling a little grumpy. So, for that I'm going to say I really didn't care for the thing. I appreciate the effort, but then because I appreciate the effort I don't have to like it. Which I didn't.

Dorothy Biggs 10:00 AM  

@grammar nazi: I assure you my OP was full of typos and not grammatical errors. Too bad we can't edit these things after they're posted.

Frankly, given the mood I'm in post-solve, I wouldn't care enough to go back in a change it.

Btw, TAGSALE? yardSALE, garageSALE, lawnSALE, and a host of other kinds of "sales." TAG??

AREAWAY seems green paintish (as I understand "green paint") to me. AlleyWAY (which doesn't fit) is far more familiar to me.

And the TACO clue was horrible.

That is all.

usaffrank 10:03 AM  

"SPECIAL COURT MARTIAL ... I'm sure it's a thing, but it's an adjective attached to COURT MARTIAL, as far as I know."

Guess again. A SPECIAL COURT MARTIAL is a specific type of court martial, just as a civil court is a specific type of court. The other types of courts martial are SUMMARY and GENERAL, just in case it comes up again.

Anonymous 10:07 AM  

Schindler's List won the big prize for 1993, not The Piano. It won Best Actress and Supporting Actress along with Original Screenplay. But I agree. Awful movie that is one of a handful that I walked out on.

Robert the Bruce 10:23 AM  

@NCA President: Have you ever played a wedding in Scotland? Many here have bagpipes. You Americans can be so provincial.

Ludyjynn 10:37 AM  

AHME. This puzz. was JUST a stinkEROO MARATHON.

It's a beautiful day in the NABErhood, so I am out of HERE.

Thomaso808 10:39 AM  

A very irritating puzzle. The circles have no symmetry or pattern. The hidden cities are random choices of letters within long downs. Neither the circles nor the cities helps the solve, and they do not result in any ahas. Oh so many threes and fours - ugh.

@chefwen said it best. Slog-a-thon.

Anonymous 10:59 AM  

This was an MM puzzle: mental masturbation. For Rex and for the constructor. The rest of us are left flaccid, unsatisfied, and wanting.

Norm 11:13 AM  

This was joyless.

F.O.G. 11:17 AM  


I quickly figured out JULES VERNE and the theme, but lost interest soon thereafter. In addition to the questionable fill, there were a slew of god-awful clues (e.g., for ON KP, NO SOAP and TACO).

AH ME -- agree with @Nancy – too nice of a day to spend it slogging around this abomination of a puzzle – regardless of its merit as Rex found from a constructor’s standpoint. I’M OFF!

Unknown 11:21 AM  

I'm a huge Pratchett fan and have read all the Discworld novels more than once. I know of no ORC warriors. The "warriors" that come to mind are the barbarian heros: Hrun the Barbarian, Cohen the Barbarian, any of his Silver Horde (Mad Hamish, for example). The only ORC I can recall is the very un-ORClike character "Nutt" in Unseen Academicals (the soccer-themed novel). I think maybe the constructor confused Discworld and Middle Earth.

Anonymous 11:39 AM  

There's a note at the bottom of the NYT Mag page explaining..

Anonymous 11:50 AM  

This puzzle was soooo "epic" that I need 2 Advils and new reading glasses!

Thanks @Rex Porker for list of horrible fill!

joho 11:55 AM  

Loved the clue for ASHARP.

I agree with all who admire Kevin's brilliant construction. I also agree with all who didn't find this to be much fun.

Epic, yes. Entertaining, no.

Anonymous 11:55 AM  

There was way too much crap in the fill for this to be anywhere close to a good puzzle. YAWL crossing WEEB? UDE? TEA OR might be the worst partial of the year so far.

Some of the non-theme answers are decent though. HOT DATE, STUD FARM. Not sure what disease HEREITIS is, though.

'mericans on the road to Strasbourg 11:55 AM  

@Maruchka -- greetings to you, too!

On the road to Strasbourg with wife and son. Only just finished, in the sense of GPO -- i.e., DNF. Seemed to be stuck on Hs: GS_ARP & _ASP, and OS_ & NA_UM.

Agree with the consensus: this puz was a slogEROO. Like running a MARATHON while being bombarded by AC/DC music played by an OGRE on TIRED BAGPIPES. YOU KNOW WHAT I'M SAYING?

Loved @Nancy's and @Rex Porker's take. Had looked forward to some ascerbic commentary from OFL. The last thing I expected to read was a five-star rating.

Will take a couple of days before I can get around to posting another episode of Matt Esquare based on this crop of 176 words. I suppose I have a lot to work with!!

So check back here, say, Tues afternoon.

In the meantime, you can find last week's episode near the end of last week's Sunday puzzle, just before the obligatory Spellcaster advertisements.

joho 11:56 AM  

That would be GSHARP!

Malsdemare 11:56 AM  

Not too crazy about the puzzle, but I'll second@Ellen about the joy of "Good Omens." Pratchett is wonderful fun and this pairing with Gaimon is fabulous.

Virginia Fan 11:58 AM  

Wow, what a bunch of whiners! Complaining when the Sunday puzzles are too easy and complaining when they are too hard. I look forward to the New York Times in my driveway every Sunday and enjoy every puzzle! Even more so since I started reading this blog.

I have never been to a crossword tournament before, but would love to meet Rex, should I go? I

Loren Muse Smith 12:02 PM  

Big puzzle! And hard.

Hand up for getting JULES VERNE very early and sussing out AROUND THE WORLD. I cannot imagine finding phrases with the letters of the cities in perfect order. Cool. And each themer except the ones hiding BOMBAY and HONG KONG had just the one necessary letter as the next choice. (You had two O’s to choose from in BORN TO BE MY BABY and two O’s to choose from on THE LONG KISS GOODNIGHT)

I’ve never heard of a LEMON SQUEEZER, but I’m not a big cook. I would have liked something shorter to disguise SUEZ – too bad ABSOLUTE ZERO couldn’t have worked. BUXOM BEAUTY is one letter too short for its match.

I always like spoken phrases, so UH OH…AHEM…OOH...AH ME…OH,OK. Looks like your thought process as you greet SVEN and realize that it really is just a cucumber, and he’s in fact not that happy to see you.

@NCA President – in my two year stint as an event planner at a country club, I saw BAGPIPES at two different weddings.

As a proponent of welcoming language change, especially new words, I love the word WONKY. A WONKY honky tonk – one that has this as its entertainment: (I’ve shared this before, and it’s worth a look even if you’re not all religious and stuff.)


I thought this was an impressive feat, and, surprise surprise, I liked it more than most of you.

Joseph Michael 12:20 PM  

The clue for 48A pretty much sums up my feelings about solving this overly complicated puzzle: STUCK IN A MESS.

Master Melvin 12:25 PM  

Hated it! As soon as I looked at the grid and saw all those 3- and 4-letter answers, I was afraid it was going to get real ugly. It did.

By the time I finished slogging through all that crap fill I was too tired to play around with that route thingy or to figure out the cities.

Worst fill ever.

Mohair Sam 12:31 PM  

@anon 10:07. Thanks for the correction, you are right of course. Also good to find a kindred spirit concerning that flick. I usually get hollered at when I complain about it.

@NCA President - Your Joyce comparison was perfect. Constructors posting here seem to appreciate the art in this puzzle more than the rest of us. We're just looking for a plot.

demit 12:32 PM  

@NCA President: Yes, TAG SALES. As anyone who likes to attend estate sales knows, a tag sale is when items have tags on them and are therefore a defined price, instead of being up for auction, where you won't know what the price is until the hammer comes down.

GILL I. 12:34 PM  

@Mohair....I agree with you on "The Piano" but not at all on "Around the World in Eighty Days." I loved the movie. It was my first big screen color extravaganza. I remember going with my parents and sibs, dressed up in my favorite white dress with a lacy belt that always managed to get dirty with caramel popcorn. I then read the book. Who doesn't fall in love with a name like Phileas Fogg or his servant Passerpartout?
@Rex, I REALLY, thought you would hate this puzzle. I'm so glad you didn't. This is my favorite Sunday in ages. I'm a bit WONKY when it comes to circles and such but Liz Gorsky changed all that and now I love them.
It wasn't easy in many places and I got the JULES VERNE and knew it would be some secret message involving the book. I knew he started in LONDON and I vaguely remembered SUEZ. That's all I needed to get me wanting to finish this gem. I was happy like a child in a TACO shop.
Yes, lots of little crosswordese but I didn't care. This was a smile inducing gem of a puzzle.
Eat hamburgers today, they are good for you.

Anonymous 12:59 PM  

With all of this talk about SVEN and his cucumber, I have to turn a FANON.

Carola 1:02 PM  

I like it when a puzzle gives me a work-out, but this one was more like JUST work. But I didn't know that in the book the journey begins and ends in LONDON and has stops in the other cities, listed in order, no less. So, lots ot admire in the theme, after the fact.

I was surprised, though, at @Rex's positive take: after IRIS and ERIS, ATRI and ETUI (TIRED!), plus circles and hidden words, I thought, UH-OH, here comes one of his exCOR(E)iating PANS. Glad he helped me appreciate the puzzle more.

WHAT else? At the OPEN BAR we have PINA coladas next to the GINS; up top, OOH, HOT DATES at the STUD FARM; STET next to SONNET; and GORGE crossing EGGS, COKE, and ALES, with the TUMS seeming positioned a bit out of reach.

mac 1:03 PM  

Great feat but a lot of work! I'm sure Kevin winked at Atri and etui.

I had only looked at the puzzle for a few minutes when I had to leave. In the car I was thinking of the title, and Jules Verne came to mind. Bingo!

Hartley70 1:05 PM  

I'm with @lms on this. I enjoyed the slog of it all. The fill was short but a lot of it was challenging... not an EEL in sight!

It took me a very long time and a lot of squinting, but I made it to the end only to find my trip around the world had ended in Natick, Massachusetts. Seriously, OSH crossing NAHUM is just cruel.

Bomaka 1:07 PM  

Impressive and enjoyable puzzle, though I would have enjoyed it more if I had saved it until Monday, or Thursday. Guests arriving today and leaving Wednesday. So more into cleaning the house and preparing the lamb for the tagine than paying attention to the puzz. AND this is the first REALLY nice day up north of THE city than we've had in a week or more.

I look forward to more puzzles such as this one!

Imfromjersey 1:15 PM  

A rare Sunday DNF for me, got Naticked by OSH/NAHUM. I Found this kind of a slog, a lot of short bad fill. I appreciate the effort that went into, but it just didn't do it for me.

GeezerJackYale48 1:43 PM  

Looked forward to the puzzle, started late, got disenchanted quickly. I forced myself to finish it, although I went mad trying to get the 42D-43D area because I could not accept NAB for a win at auction; it just has to be NOD. And I needed ROLL for ROTA. And a UDE is what? Oh, no, I didn't finish it because I got tired of looking for cities after I had made a squiggly series of maplines all over the grid.

Anonymous 1:47 PM  

This was the worst fill I've ever seen in a puzzle. Porker is right--Parker is a hypocrite.

Arlene 1:56 PM  

Just to chime in here that I really enjoyed this puzzle. It took a while to get into it, but the bonus fun began after the letters were filled in (and I did it without Googling - even WEEB!)
I solve on paper, so I draw circles around them so when the letters are filled in, they're easier to see - and then I connected them. They did go around the puzzle! And I wrote all the cities on top, with arrows pointing to the down clues they were embedded in. My only mistake was thinking MOSQUE instead of SUEZ.
I really had fun with this puzzle!

Zeke 1:59 PM  

I enjoyed this puzzle and finished in 22 minutes. Easiest weekend of New York Times puzzles in a very long time.

Zeke 2:03 PM  

I suppose if "memorable" is the most important criterion by which we judge a puzzle, this one makes the grade. I suspect we will be talking about this one for a while as an amazing feat of construction. "Memorable" and "unique" are clearly different from "great."

'mericans in Strasbourg 2:04 PM  

@GILL I -- ATWI80D was also my first big-screen film. A special treat for my 4th birthday. (Prior to that, I had only seen snippets of movies at drive-ins, befor falling asleep in the back of my parents' Nash.) I was so blown away by the soaring eagle and the beautiful theme music. Took a long while for me to understand why the wife of the Indian man was due to be put on the funeral pyre with him. Had a fascination with travel by balloon for the rest of my life.

Anonymous 2:22 PM  

Wasn't bent out of shape by all the dreck. I'll theorize that I instinctively recognized that it was in service of something a little grander than, say, a pangram. So I'm a hypocrite.

GILL I. 2:23 PM  

@'american...I was a bit older than you. I think I was about 7. I remember we were newly established 'americans in Havana and we went to this brand new HUGE theatre in Vedado. I even held hands with my first boyfriend there...
Just curious...does your son go to the American School of Paris? I almost took a job there but instead opted to stay in Madrid where I pretty much danced a fandango every night for 8 years!

Anonymous 2:25 PM  

Yes, anon@2:22--if you say pretty much every day that sacrificing good fill and construction for the sake of a theme is bad puzzle making, then when you meet an extreme form of such a puzzle you sing its praises, you are a hypocrite.

Raoul Duke 2:30 PM  

Wow, what a fantastic puzzle! And a 23x23, no less. Reminds me of some of the WONKY puzzles GAMES magazine ran back in the 70s and 80s, back when I was a subscriber. I picked out the cities as I solved, but didn't realize until I had finished that the long downs contained the actual cities from the book, in order, and the circles represented their approximate locations on the map. What an impressive feat of construction.

The theme actually helped me finish, like many people I was stuck on the NAB ROTA EWER section at the very end, but then I figured the circled letters had to spell out the title of the book, so I plopped in the N and E and it all came together.

Of course, I came to Rex's writeup expecting usual bleatings of Geezer Rage from the regular commenters, who seem to be baffled by any theme more complex than "add a letter to form wacky phrases" and seem completely unable to suss out vaguely familiar three- or four-letter common crosswordese from the crosses. I was not disappointed.

However, I was disappointed by the fact that, with AC/DC and BAGPIPES in the same puzzle, no mention of the late great Bon Scott.

So much to love about that video, from the cardboard sign stuck on the truck advertising the band to the teenage girls trying to give Bon a joint at the end.

It's A Long Way To The Top If You Wanna Rock & Roll indeed. Thanks Kevin Der, Sunday of the Year for me so far!

RooMonster 4:25 PM  

Hey All !
Late to the party. Work keeps interfering! The nerve!

I'm in the liked it camp, just for the pure genius of how the puz works. Good stuff. I do agree though about some WONKY fill, and out of place cluing, however. My downfall was that YOU KNOW section. What a mess! Gave up finally, had blENdeR for OPENBAR, tried to get a var. of eulogies in 42D! Oh well.

M&A should be happy about the NW, 7 Us up there! Puz had 95 black squares, seems high, even for a 23x23. And as pointed out by others, lots of 3's and 4's.


ANON B 4:33 PM  

This was a brilliant puzzle.
One exception.
I may have missed in all the
comments which I haven't read,
but Bombay has been Mumbai
for several years.

Anonymous 4:35 PM  

It took me a while to figure out the new CAPTCHA

ghkozen 4:55 PM  

I think my comments can be encapsulated in the the fact that after solving, I felt the need to write "Never Again" in large letters next to Mr. Der's name.

Intricacy and difficulty may be one thing, but I found this puzzle to be the crossword equivalent of receiving fifty lashes. Just awful.

MDMA 5:21 PM  


The cities in the puzzle match the trip itinerary in the book, and naturally also match the names used in the book.

Anonymous 6:20 PM  

I didn't know OSH and UDE were in that book. You learn something new every day.

paulsfo 7:54 PM  

OSH/NAHUM seems like an unforgivable Natick to me (unless most crossworders know NAHUM? Do you?).

"Stuck in a mess?" and "Act the rat" were great clues; I kept looking for gooey things and synonyms for "squeal."

Unknown 10:29 PM  

OSH/NAHUM is the poster child for a natick.

MDMA 11:32 PM  

OSH was last used in a NYT crossword almost exactly a month ago. For some reason I remembered it.

Anonymous 12:05 AM  

A joyless mess. In what world does "wonky" mean "not quite right?" "Areaway?" Is that a thing? And ditto to all those who waded through the endless uhohs and nonos and ohoks and all the other guttural snorts and grunts that mobbed this puzzle like a gaggle of hippies at a 60s be-in.

Fred Romagnolo 4:19 AM  

I've read the comments; I guess I'm the only person in the world who had no idea who Laura NYRO is. I'm not sure how an OPEN BAR is different from any other one. Are there "closed" bars? How does NAB mean win at auction? Obviously I DNF'd in the Mid-Atlantic region. I also wondered why the connecting lines crossed, so I gotta say that was clever. Der pulled off a brilliant (if too convoluted) feat

Billy C 6:22 AM  

@Fred --

An open bar has free drinks. Not all bars do.

Anonymous 6:45 AM  

Did not enjoy this puzzle. I had never heard of the words "nabe" or "rota". I guessed at many others and just happened to be right. Very tedious and unfun.

Paul Kurtz 7:02 AM  

GSHARP=A Neighbor????

Skjellyfetti 7:31 AM  

Just awful. Complete waste of time. Worst puzzle ever. Nuff said.

Skjellyfetti 7:33 AM  

@paulkurtz "Key of A" neighbor.

Nancy 9:44 AM  

Written Monday a.m. Came back to this Sunday night and completed all but the far middle east. What I did do served it's purpose, in that I fell asleep immediately upon going to bed and then slept 9 1/2 hours. (I was also tired from a lot of exercise and not enough sleep the night before.) Finished the last of it just now (Monday a.m.) In keeping with the Rule of not giving away one puzzle on the blog of a different puzzle, I came back here to comment.

Though I assiduously tried to avoid peeking at any of Sunday's answers when I quit on it Sunday a.m., I couldn't miss all the Jules Verne refs. And that impelled me to change 1A from TO A T to JUST, in order to get Jules at 1D. (I had been torn between them on my first go, but chose TO A T, which loused up everything.) This one inadvertent cheat, opened up enough of the puzzle to make me stick with it this time. It wasn't as hard as it first appeared, just dreary and long. I made it less dreary by completely ignoring the irritating tiny little circles, and I haven't read Rex's (or your) comments yet. So I still don't know what the theme of this puzzle is. I'll go read the comments now, but I doubt I'll care about the theme, since most of you also hated this puzzle.

Hugh 4:19 PM  

Like @Nancey, had TO A T for the longest time at !A (misspelled Spok's mate as OHURA) and yes, it messed up the NW for me and took me a long time to get the author.

Even with that, the long downs fell fairly easily - I"m familiar with THE NEW YANKEE WORKSHOP - old Norm teaches you how to build amazing pieces of furniture out of his barn - easy to do as long as you have about half a million dollars worth of the latest carpentry equipment...

I had some fun finding the cities in all of them but did not have enough energy/interest to follow the circled letters. Truth is, I had so many write overs, it was tough to see the circles after I completed the grid!

Not a lot of chuckles, though liked the cluing for MARATHON.

Very much respect the construction and theme here, and I like over-sized grids (I like crosswords, so why not give me more??) but there were SO many short 3 letter answers that were not too much fun, - this took away some of the enjoyment for me.

All in all though, I give it a "Like" - and that's the second Sunday in a row after several slogs.

Have a great short week all!

Anonymous 5:16 PM  

Did no one complain about clues and answers for 92D and 50A. AREAWAY AND NOSOAP?

paulsfo 1:18 AM  

@Anonymous at 5:16pm: Not sure what your complaints are but "Passage between buildings" is the second definition for AREAWAY in multiple dictionaries. I didn't know that that's what those passages were called but seemed like a completely legitimate clue.
As for NOSOAP, my only quibble with the clue is that " they say that it ain't gonna happen" would be a little better (since I dont usually think of it as a refusal but more as a statement of fact). But again, seems like a legitimate clue (unless it's an age thing? I'm 60).

Tita 3:14 PM  

@nca pres...I married an Irishman...We had a piper. Daughter married a Scot...They had a piper.

Tita 3:14 PM  

@nca pres...I married an Irishman...We had a piper. Daughter married a Scot...They had a piper.

Dave 4:53 PM  

Not fun. Too many 3 and 4 letter words and WAY too much crossword-ese. Cute idea, but tries too hard.

weingolb 6:54 PM  

Good example of a bad puzzle.

Map idea nice but loaded with gimmicks lacking aha moments, as @thomas808 mentioned. Memorable because the crosswordese hurt so badly, I'm afraid. I'll remember it next time I see so much 3- and 4-letter fill. I may even recall it every time I see a crossword, which is why this puzzle ought go down as a nadir.

(I was looking at a map today but luckily I did not think of this puzzle.)

old timer 7:57 PM  

It was a slog, but a good slog in the end. I did not remember Mr. MADSEN. That I had to Google. But no naticks for me. Somehow I dredged up NAHUM. And really, every crossword fan needs to know Osh and Ulan Ude, along with some basic French (missing in this puzzle).

Gotta say my first thought on "neighbor of A" was GSHARP.

Nice to see 'mericans putting in an appearance in the blog.

ecanarensis 1:02 PM  

NABE?! UDE? holes in Swiss are EYES? AREAWAYS seemed just made-up. It really seemed like a whole lot of iffy short fill that made for a messy and less than thrilling payoff.

rondo 1:08 PM  

All those 3s and 4s made this a real MARATHON, and not much fun. Payoff not that worthwhile either. I often wondered should I bother to finish. Don't know why I did. WONKY.

LEMONSQUEEZERS make me fall right out of bed. (apologies to Zep)

Better to leave the FANON in the house and go outside to see what this OGRE can OGLE.

2832 meh

Burma Shave 1:22 PM  


When ADELE’s parents AREAWAY, we have HOTDATES,
when AISLE say, “It’s a MARATHON. EXUDE passion. Don’t fight.”
and in the end, “HEREITIS ‘twixt your legs, THELONGKISSGOODNIGHT.”


Anonymous 3:12 PM  

I had PAN PIPES before BAGPIPES. Because, you know...This

Anonymous 3:15 PM  

@ Tita 3:14 PM

Oh really?

AnonymousPVX 4:16 PM  

This entire puzzle is the poster child for natick

Anonymous 10:21 PM  

I agree! Slog city. I'm glad I live in Seattle where I can have some medical herb to deal with the sick headache this puzzle gave me. No fun, not impressed and no real payoff! Put that in your bagpipe and blow it, Kevin Der!

Anonymous 3:13 AM  

Loved Ude. World's biggest head of Lenin.

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Ugh. A long, Naticky slog for me. Yes, I "got" the theme, but far too much OSH/NAHUM (seriously?), RAO/FANON (really?) SHAY/UEYS (need I go on?) Those crosses in addition to all the other crosswordese sucked any fun out of it for me as I flailed to a finish.

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Tamara Barrow 4:28 PM  
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