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Thursday, September 3, 2015

Constructor: Merl Reagle (1950-2015)

Relative difficulty: Easy-Medium

THEME: "The Gods Must be Crazy" — a puzzle from the 1999 (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!?) American Crossword Puzzle Tournament where ordinary words are imagined as Greek gods through the magic of REPRONUNCIATION (39A: Key to understanding the theme of this puzzle)

Theme answers:
  • MANACLES (14A: Greek god of bondage?)
  • ERUDITE (15A: Greek goddess of learning?)
  • TELEPHONE (16A: Greek goddess of communication?)
  • GAMETES (27A: Greek god of fertility?)
  • ENVELOPE (31A: Greek goddess of messages?) (hardest laugh—my wife's name is "Penelope")
  • ANTIBIAS (48A: Greek god of equal opportunity?)
  • AMPERES (53A: Greek god of electricity?)
  • FOLLICLES (64A: Greek god of healthy hair?)
  • SPAREUS (67A: Greek god of mercy?)
  • LIMEADES(69A: Greek god of tangy drinks?) 
Word of the Day: COURT TV (1D: Cable channel that broadcasts trials) —
truTV is an American cable and satellite television channel that is owned by the Turner Broadcasting System division of Time Warner. // The network was originally founded as Court TV, a network that focused on crime-themed programs, such as documentary series, legal dramas, and coverage of prominent criminal cases. With its 2008 re-launch as TruTV, the network revamped its lineup with a focus on reality shows and "caught on camera" programs, which the network marketed as "actuality" television. In October 2014, the TruTV's lineup was re-oriented with a focus on comedy-based reality programs. As of February 2015, approximately 89.7 million American households (77% of households with television) receive truTV. (wikipedia)
• • •

I've written about Merl. I've done interviews about Merl. I've said all I can say at this point. I'm just going to let this puzzle sit here and speak for itself.

On second thought, just a few things.

1. This puzzle is 16 years old
2. This puzzle has enough theme answers to field a football team
3. I legitimately laughed, over and over

Recognize greatness.

Or don't.

Your call.

See you tomorrow.

[1992. Close.]

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Steve J 12:04 AM  

Greatness is recognized. Absolutely fantastic puzzle. It gave me several good laughs. The only downside was that it went by too quickly. And that we'll never see the likes of Merl Reagle again.

jp flanigan 12:12 AM  

I generally liked this. But seems like there is a ton of REALLY bad fill, no? My only real nit to pick here is that RAP isn't a category at the Grammy's. Rap is a music genre...Best Rap Album is a category. That bothered me.

I loved the theme

Whirred Whacks 12:13 AM  

Delightful fun.

This puzzle (1991) says that it was edited by Will Shortz, but he didn't become the NYT puzzle editor until 1993. Do you think Shortz re-worked any of the clues? One clue seemed odd to me: "Tony Blair, for one" for BRITON. Blair became PM in 1997. Would most Americans have been aware of a young Blair six years earlier (and in the opposition party to John Major)? Seems like a stretch.

jae 12:44 AM  

Easy- medium for me too.

Silly, delightfully silly.  

Guackynyt 1:07 AM  

Long time reader first time poster (so be gentle).

Many times I don't understand Rex's complaints about the fill or the theme or whatever. Then, a puzzle like this comes up and its brilliance is so self-evident that all the carping becomes understandable. I mean, seriously, when was the last time getting the answer to a thematic clue actually made you laugh out loud (and if you didn't with at least some of these, man, you have no soul!). and as Rex points out, it's from 1991 and yet feel completely fresh.


I feel bad for tomorrow's puzzle -- tough act to follow. Impossible, actually.

How great to have left behind something as great as this!

wreck 1:41 AM  

I enjoyed this puzzle, but it shows the difference of expectations. This was a Tuesday difficulty factor (maybe Wednesday), but in the day, was a great puzzle. I think Rex would have had a cow if it was published today as a new puzzle. To me, it served it's purpose - 20 minutes of fun (no matter when it appeared).

Anonymous 1:56 AM  

There's not nearly enough wit, humor or playfulness in crossword construction. Merl will be greatly missed.

chefwen 2:37 AM  

That was so much fun I may solve it again tomorrow.

JTHurst 2:57 AM  

I am sure the comment has been and will be made but this puzzle was FUN. All puzzles should be fun. Compare this to last Sundays puzzle which was just a slog. How much effort does it take to coax a puzzle into being fun. Merl's puzzles were always fun.

My favorite Greek God answer was follicles. Maybe this was named after Berenice or Rapunzel but knowing Merl it was probably fashioned after Haira (Hera).

I was OK except for the Southeast part of the puzzle. I just knew 52d had to be craps which entails snake eyes, acey ducey and boxcars. And I stayed with it even when I knew ironers and rbi were right. OH well. I loved his method of pluralization of names like 16d and 21a instead of the normal clue like 'Kennedy and Cruz'. And his reversal of clue usage like 4d. Instead of an easy clue with a difficult answer he reversed it with the difficult clue and an easy answer 'tryst and met'.

Nancy C 3:30 AM  

Yes! So much fun!

Charles Flaster 4:55 AM  

EZ Thursday and had me roaring.
Amazed at the number of ERUDITE themers.
I imagine MR had a grand time creating this one.
Thank you Sir MERL!!

Hungry Mother 5:38 AM  

Pure fun. I didn't know it was Merl's until I read the blog.

smalltowndoc 6:18 AM  

Yes, the theme answers were cute. Yes, the constructor is a sorely missed legend. But the fill is horrible (TSE, SQYDS, IAM, CDE, IRONERS, PREWRAP,etc) and the difficulty is Tuesdayish. Surely, from the immense oeuvre that was Merl's, Shortz could have found a better choice to honor his life and career.

evil doug 6:55 AM  

I had no idea how good he was. My bad.

RAD2626 7:05 AM  

I was going to say that ANTIBIAS and FOLLICLES made me laugh the most but that would not be fair to MANACLES or ERUDITE. Twenty four years old and before effective computer assistance. Just amazing. I wonder how long it took him to compile the list. Wonderful tribute and agree with everyone about fun level.

r.alphbunker 7:15 AM  

Puzzle report (but who cares, it's like analyzing a joke)

What is remarkable about this puzzle is that Merl was able to shoehorn his personality into a medium with so many constraints. Imagine sending a Beethoven symphony over a tin can telephone.

@Whirred Whacks,
Will Shortz was running the ACPT before he became editor of the NYT puzzles. This puzzle was written for that tournament. My guess is that it is unlikely that Eugene Maleska would have published this puzzle.

Numinous 7:16 AM  

I caught the theme at TELEPHONE (tay-lay-fonay). The European pronounciation of vowels was drilled into me long ago in a francaise class. 22 minutes for a Thursday is Ludicris (appologies to the singer who's Grammy category is 8 D). This was so much fun I just had to chime in to show I still give 58A.

Leapfinger 7:28 AM  

Delightful theme, each one bears coming back to to smile over and play with. Right now, I'm thinking ANTIBIAS is just Fibulous; a few minutes ago, I was hungry for SPAREUS Ribeus.

Outside the theme, loved MEL OTT'S HOMERUNS that 'ERODE inon to them thar 'ACES.

@jpflanagan, what seems like bad fill now was probably fresh in '91.
@Whirred, nice pickup on the Tony Blair clue. It struck me as odd, but I didn't linger. I do think any Reagle that's re-released should be sans tampering.

What a lovely talent! Merl Reagle played with words like a kaleidoscope.

Sir Hillary 7:51 AM  

Such fun.

Even at 17x17, this one fell much faster than a normal Thursday. I can only imagine that the ACES at the ACPT ripped through it very quickly. And had a blast doing so.

RIP, Merl.

Zwhatever 7:55 AM  

@Whirred Whacks - I saw on Twitter that this was an ACPT puzzle. As for the BRITON clue, I'm guessing that may have been someone of passing infamy originally.

Caught the theme early, but had a little issue with "Life partner," tIMe being 50% correct didn't help. Otherwise a quick solve slowed mostly by the REPRONUNCIATION process after getting every themer. Yes, I paused and figured every one out. I still don't know how to repronounce ANTIBIAS.

Mohair Sam 7:58 AM  

For those of us who limit our crossworld almost entirely to the New York Times this was a delightful change of pace. Tuesday/Wednesday easy, but laughing throughout. I'll never again read the snooty word ERUDITE without chuckling. Here's hoping Will is able to treat us to the occasional old Reagle from time to time.

Saw Gigi for the second time a few months ago on Turner. Best Picture? 1958 must have been a terrible year for movies.

GeezerJackYale48 8:04 AM  

Enjoyed the puzzle as much as the rest of you. But had a hard time getting my mind past Rex's notes about TruTV. 78 million people get this channel? How many get it without being aware that they have it? How many would choose to get it? Ah forget it - rant for another kind of forum, I guess.

Dorothy Biggs 8:06 AM  

The puzzle was good. I think it's a bit of a cop out that Rex doesn't point out the "greatness" and yet goes out of his way to point out schlock. That seems to be an easier thing to do...being critical is always easier...and when a "great" puzzle pops up like this, instead of just assuming everyone should recognize such greatness, he really should take the time to point it out.

I've read this blog a long time and have always been struck with the apparent ambiguous critique of fill, especially three-letter fill, and how some days the fill is good and other days it's abysmal. How some themes are "tired" and others, like this one, are "great." This is a lost teaching moment for Rex to show us exactly WHY this is what the NYT should be.

For instance: SPAREUS doesn't sound Greek to me, but Latin. That's a problem that I'm sure wouldn't get past Rex if there were constructed by a "normal" person. Shouldn't Butler's last words not be criticized for being a partial? And the revealer is "REPRONUNCIATION?" Is that a word? Why is ANTIBIAS okay compared to the rest...it's two words, or at least hyphenated...and the rest are a single word? And the three-letter fill seems no better/worse than any other day. Then there's the fact this is a Thursday puzzle at about a Wednesday, or maybe even a Tuesday, level.

I'm not saying this puzzle sucked...I'm saying I'd really, truly, seriously would like to know why this puzzle is so categorically great that it goes without saying, while there are so many instances of things that would never make it if this were a "modern" puzzle. I'm not criticizing Rex or disparaging his blog, I'm just amazed that he missed the opportunity to explain why this is so good.

George Barany 8:07 AM  

Everyone in the crossword community, even those who interacted with @Merl Reagle only superficially, are feeling his loss, and there has been a great outpouring of love and (renewed) admiration. It's only fitting that his New York Times "tribute" puzzle is one by the grandmaster himself.

@Whirred Whacks raises an issue about the timing, but I suspect that one is easily addressed. Even before he became the New York Times crossword editor, @Will Shortz was running the ACPT. The puzzle we have solved today is taken from tournament archives.

Over at the Crossword Fiend blog run by @Amy Reynaldo, there is a star rating system. I checked a few minutes ago (and mind you, it's still early), and note that the 19 responses average out to 5.0 stars (the maximum). Yet another nice tribute from the community!

GeezerJackYale48 8:08 AM  

Oops: it is 89.7 million. My recall was blurred by Senility, the god of old age.

Carola 8:53 AM  

I think I'm the rare commenter here who wasn't already familiar with Merl Reagle's puzzles. Now I see what you all have been talking about. This was great zany fun. My favorite was ERUDITE - I'm imagining her as the brainy sibling of Aphrodite, the pretty sister in the family.

And I guess I'm also rare in not finding the puzzle easy....scanning the first Acrosses resutled in Nope, nope, nope; then my eyes fell on DAMN Yankees, so I began there, making FOLLICLES my first god....which I misinterpreted as a REworking, not a REPRONUNCIATION, of...maybe...somehow...Achilles (I know, not even a god; I was struggling). So, alas, I didn't appreciate the first few gods as entirely new members of the Pantheon as quickly as I should have.

A few of you have mentioned books of Merl Reagle's puzzles - I'm glad to know I have the opportunity to catch up.

Matt Williams 9:02 AM  

I am not a CrossWorld insider. Most constructor-specific distinctions are lost on me. Many times, after a particularly nice solve, I'll look at the name of the constructor, see the name "Patrick Berry," and say, "Ah, makes sense," but that's about it.

I got three clues into this and thought, "Who the hell made this?"

Clueless as I am about The World, the header name would simply have left me shaking my head in confusion were it not for Rex's tribute from the other day. But that tribute had led me to read other tributes, and I solved the rest of the puzzle with a sense of reverence and with immense pleasure.

Many commenters have said that this was Tues/Wed level. I did indeed solve it faster than my Thursday average. But upon finishing it, I felt as though the puzzle was very difficult and I was brilliant. While neither of these is true, the sense of deep satisfaction was real.

I'm not an experienced enough solver to have strong feelings about short-answer fill quality or other matters of expert critique. I just solve crosswords for the fun of it. And this one was more fun than anything I've solved in a long time--maybe, just maybe, ever.

So I can see why Merl is revered, and join enthusiastically in the sentiment.

Rex, thank you again for your blog, which makes my solving experience a lot more informed and interesting.

astroman 9:21 AM  

A lot harder if you were positive that 1A was COPSE.

joho 9:25 AM  

My mere words cannot express how much I am impressed by Merl's amazing way with words. What a marvelous mind!

I did notice that the reveal is a 15 making the grid 17 x 17 (hi, Sir Hillary!) which in no way slowed down my solve or diminished my sheer joy in reciting all the REPRONUNCIATIONs.

Will, maybe run a Merl Reagle puzzle once a year on his birthday?

Tita 9:35 AM  

This puzzle was hilarious and fun. But I didn't think it would have mass appeal...I took a minor in the Classics...always have been fascinated with Ancient Greek civilization and mythology, so I thought it would be only for myth nerds like me.
I didn't read the note or look at the constructor's name...I kept thinking how Rex would hate MCHALE etc. as dated...you know...the usual things he hates. I mean, even in 1991 lots of that was dated. So @NCAPres...I kindof get what you're saying.

I think 20a "Had wings" might rank up there in the top 2 favorite clues ever.
In town we have a college kid hangout that regularly failed, got new owners, failed, etc. until the current owner instituted 1 free wing for every year old you are on your birthday. Now here it really pays to be a geezer. We may take my mom there on Friday...she,lol be 92!

@GeezerJY...it's one of those marketing numbers...sure, that many people have the channel foisted on them. But they didn't ask for it, and most (God I hope most) never watch it.

Thank you, Merl, and thanks Will for publishing some of his more unique work.

(Though I can't help feeling bad for whoever got supplanted today...I hope it wasn't a debut constructor!)

Ludyjynn 9:35 AM  

Welcome back, @Numinous. I've missed you!

I liked the theme a lot, esp. LIMEADES. I discovered the refreshing drink ten years ago while visiting Norfolk, VA, where my godson was competing in a sailing regatta on the Elizabeth River. Weather was hot, hot, hot and we happened upon a drive-in, an old fashioned curbside service joint called Doumar's Cones and BBQ. The place is a dump, really, but they have (allegedly) the original waffle cone machine right outside the entrance, where you can watch 'em make the cones. Between the limeades and the cones, it's worth a brief stop.

I AM pleased to have completed this ODE to Merle Reagle after learning so much about him since his untimely passing. What a wonderful legacy. Thanks, Merle and WS and ERUDITE.

Elephant's Child 9:41 AM  

@Z, an-TIBBy-us
Like a kick in the shin.

cwf 9:42 AM  

It was a very sad August. But at least I've been rereading a lot of Oliver Sacks and doing a bunch of Merl Reagle puzzles, so there's that.

chefbea 9:52 AM  

What a great puzzle...need I say more?

Loved the clue for ate...wanted something about flying

Joseph Michael 9:52 AM  

The best clue I've ever seen for ATE.

Lewis 10:05 AM  

@numinous -- Good to see you!
@rex -- Perfect call to let the puzzle speak for itself.

Yes, the subtext of this puzzle is fun, not only in the theme answers, but in so many of the clues (ATE, ADAMN, IRONERS, SLED, CDE, EARN, SHE, AIMS). Even though, obviously, there are no contemporary references, the puzzle doesn't feel stale. Even though there isn't much zippy fill (but I did like DORMANT, COAX, and NEMESIS, which maybe could have been a theme answer), the puzzle feels fresh. Playfulness overcomes all, and this puzzle oozes with it, even little things like OTT over TOT.

Thanks for the redux, Will, and wherever you are, Merle, thank you!

quilter1 10:07 AM  

Five stars indeed--no, ten stars. I've always enjoyed MR's puzzles for this very reason: they are fun to do. That's what I want in a puzzle. RIP, Merl.

Airymom 10:15 AM  

It's also a pangram. I admire the constructor and understand Rex's grief, but there is a lot of junky fill in the puzzle (most mentioned previously). Also, I have sewn for 50 years and have never said (or heard any other sewing friend say) "square yards". "I need 2 1/2 yards of fabric, please."--that's how fabric is measured. Fabric is 45 or 60 inches wide, so it's never measured in square yards. Why doesn't the clue say carpet measure?

Maybe I'm just too old to go to a "Doobie Brothers" concert on a Wednesday night and only sleep from midnight to 5 A.M., but I am not "getting" the theme. Using erudite as an example, please explain what it's all about. Thank you.

Masked and Anonymous 10:23 AM  

Merl, U had me at CLUMP. And iced it, at RHUM.
Puzs like this can come back, any old time.

Thanx, Mr. Reagle. thUmbsUp.

Masked & Anonymo8Us

p.s. The gods must be crazy, plus also demandin equal time, this week.

Bob Kerfuffle 10:28 AM  

Are there rebus puzzles in the Merl archive?

pmdm 10:35 AM  

I had the same feeling as NCA President. Do we really want to see more NYT puzzles with the likes of JAI ALAI, MEL OTT, ODE, SHE, XES, EMOTE and so on? The theme answers were cute and the theme density was certainly dense. But then again, if all Times daily crosswords were 17 x 17 we would probably get puzzles with dense thematic fill more frequently.

Don't get me wrong. I enjoyed this puzzle more that most Thursday puzzles. No doubt, that's partly due to the relative lack of proper nouns. I really am pretty amazed at the low number of proper names, which in a sense does justify to me some of the crosswordese fill (whose presence, in general, doesn't bother me as much as it bothers some). And when some may consider a few of the entries a bit esoteric, all of them were nicely gettable form the crosses. That was a very nice feature of the puzzle.

Today's constructor is a well-known and loved constructor. When looking a byline, recognition of a well-loved and well-known person can certainly influence one's reactions. Subconsciously, people could let things pass that they would not ordinarily. This reminded me of one of Beethoven's opus. His Opus 39 consists of two preludes for organ manual that traverse all twelve keys. (The keys are limited to the major mode.) They are hardly ever played, so most people have probably never heard them. I have to music to them and did play them many years ago, and found them undistinctive enough fto have completely forgotten. Anyway, consider your expectations of what Beethoven might have written and compare what you expect with what you get.


Since publication of comments is delayed, I cannot find out if the link works immediately. Hopefully it does.

And by the way, as of my composing this comment, no one has mentioned that the puzzle is a pangram. Yet another example why trying to create a pangram puzzle need not result in garbage.

Brett 10:38 AM  

This. This. A thousand times, this.

Rex's grumblings seem so arbitrary.

Having never heard of this constructor (sorry), I looked at it unbiasedly. And I saw a too-easy-for-a-Thursday puzzle with inconsistent theme answers and bad fill, by Rex's normal standards. And cheater squares, if I understand the concept correctly.

RooMonster 11:04 AM  

Hey All !
Cute puz. With REPRONUNCIATION a 15 letter entry, wondering why Merl went 17x17, could've stayed in 15x15 size. It was for the ACPT, though, maybe that's why.

Interesting long downs. Tough to get good words around so many themers. Nice way to stick in the Q for the pangram!


PJohnson 11:05 AM  

So sad to learn of Merl's passing. Much too young. And I routinely did his Sunday puzzles and found them very enjoyable and rarely arcane. Some groaners. But that's a part of puzzling. Godspeed Merl and his family.

John V 11:08 AM  

I confess that I solved this okay, if a bit slow, but completely do not understand what the heck is going on. Sorry. Me idiot today.

Chip Hilton 11:15 AM  

Glorious. I found myself giggling at least nine times, especially at ENVELOPE. This stands as a wonderful tribute to a brilliant constructor. Too easy for a Thursday, perhaps, but the pleasure it gave more than makes up for that. RIP, Mr. Reagle, and thank you.

Malsdemare 11:19 AM  

Sigh! Such a nice puzzle, lots of fun, over too, too quickly. My only hangup, courtesy of not ONE biology course in 22 years of education, was GAMETES. I simply couldn't quite parse that whole "dash units" thing, and GAMETES was definitely not a word I use often . . . Or at all.

So many theme answers and I laughed at them all.

Could someone help me with the CHE puzzle from yesterday? I got the puzzle, which was quite fun and beautifully done and I see one part of the two part theme (the easy one). What is the other name from history? Perhaps email me so not to spoil the fun for others? Or leave a baroque hint?

If we rant enough, do you think Will might run another Reagle puzzle for us? Pretty please? I don't know how copyright law works here, but I'd love more. Meanwhile, I shall spring for books.

Anonymous 11:24 AM  

Please enlighten me about 41D: NOMS?

Anonymous 11:25 AM  

I didn't start doing NYT puzzles that early, so this was not loaded with any memories. My thoughts all the way through it were: "This is a clever idea, but otherwise it's nothing special." Does knowing it was constructed by Merl Reagle influence a rating? If it had been attributed to someone unknown, would it have been laughed off the page?

AliasZ 11:50 AM  

One has no choice here but to PILEON [god of backhoe drivers] the superlatives. That is a FOREGONE [goddess of the inevitable] conclusion.

From xwordinfo we find out that Merl Reagle had only ten puzzles published in the NYT, the last one seven years ago (Nov. 2008). The first was in 1967 when he was 17 years old. Wow! So sad that we will never see another one like this.

NEMESIS (Νέμεσις): goddess of retribution. At first I thought this was a missed opportunity but at second look, it is a straightforward word, directly borrowed from Greek, thus it doesn't fit the REPRONUNCIATION theme.

Favorite: SPAREUS, Perseus.

- MONOCLES was my only error, but he was the Greek god of optometry, not bondage.
- Did Heracles perform miracles?
- ANTAGONIZEUS: goddess of animosity, daughter of Zeus and Antigone.
- I don't give ADAMN on Agamemnon.

Now I have to answer my Persephone, then go out and put some more coins into Demeter. But not until I figure out how to occupy ANACREON public land.

old timer 12:11 PM  

I liked the puzzle and it was great fun rempronouncing MANACLES and TELEPHONE and FOLLICLES, all of which could be Greek names. Not so sure about ENVELOPE, hilarious though it sounds, because Greek does not have the letter V. SPAREUS is just Wrong. It would be a Latin noun or name, but never a Greek one.

In other words even the great Merl can carry a theme just a little too far. But look at the fill! Hardly any Crosswordese. And if you are going for the old chestnut OTT, why not add MEL into the mix? MEL, in fact, was the first word I wrote in, followed by MANHATTAN, which opened the puzzle up for me and gave me GAMETES and hence the theme.

I'm pretty sure Tony Blair was someone I had heard of in 1991 as a rising star in the Labour Party.

Martel Moopsbane 12:28 PM  

I agree with NCA Prez's comment. Much of the small fill was of a type that Rex would usually skewer. That said, IMO the dreck was more than offset by the extremely high quality and quantity of the other fill (and the clues), especially the themers. Perhaps that is where greatness lies?

Bronxdoc 12:36 PM  

In honor of the marvelous puzzle, let's ban, for the day, Backbite, Greek God of snarc.

OISK 12:40 PM  

Laughed out loud several times! Really enjoyed the puzzle, although for me it was an all-time easiest Thursday. This may be because my mind is still locked into 1991. I don't see the objections to the "fill." An easily discernible abbreviation, like Sq Yds is perfectly fine. An obscure acronym, like APGAR, or a three letter rap group like NAS, or NWA, - those are bad fill. But as I said, I am still living in 1991....

Martel Moopsbane 12:42 PM  

If the puzzle took too long to solve, could we blame Infinite, the Greek goddess of eternity?

If the puzzle was ultimately unsatisfying, would that be the fault of Anticlimaxes, the Greek god of let-downs?

Beadola 1:23 PM  

I always loved Merl Reagle. Back in the 90's, he started publishing books of his puzzles, and I started buying them because I didn't get a paper with his puzzles. They are all available on Amazon for those who would like to experience more Merl.
Today's puzzle was delightful. Some crosswordese is inevitable. The balance is what matters and in the truly great puzzles, the icky fill disappears.

evil doug 1:34 PM  

Cellulite: goddess of cottage cheese.

Anonymous 1:36 PM  

Rex would have trashed this on any other day, so let me point out one of his pet peeves. I direct your attention to the south west corner, in which Rhum crosses EUR, along with Earp and Khan, not to mention Kea? This is just plain dreadful fill and it can't go unmentioned. and what is spare us? really? great puzzle, but a long way from perfect.

Anonymous 1:58 PM  

Wonderful, and new to me--many thanks.

Chim cham 2:35 PM  

Amen. I've been hearing many praises sung of Merl Reagle since his passing. As someone who is not yet familiar with individual creators' styles, this puzzle deftly laid out why he is so enjoyed and, as Franco pointed out, why other puzzles have likely left a permanent hand print on Rex's forehead by now.

Unknown 3:18 PM  

One of my fastest Thursday times ever. (That's not a complaint!)

MIEinMA 3:54 PM  

Now I understand why everyone loves his puzzles. This was a fun solve with little of what I think of as crosswordese. Easy for a Thursday but so what.

RHUM and KHAN crossing as clued was a WOE for me but guessed the H correctly.


Hartley70 4:11 PM  

Hellooo @Numinous!!! I've been on the lookout for you for a long time and I'm delighted to see you're okay. I hope your wife has had a full recovery too. You've been missed.

The Greek REPRONOUNCIATION of English words has given me an extra laugh as I am addressing invites to half the wedding guests who are all Greek. I am rhyming EN-VEL-OP-EE with Calliope in my head right now. Great idea by the now mythical Merl. I love the idea of running one of his on his birthday each year, Joho!

CarolynJS 4:54 PM  

Well, as a BEE major in college, I never got to learn the Greek gods whatsoever, so I had to Google what all the fuss was about. Still thought it was easy for a Thursday.

Zwhatever 4:58 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
DigitalDan 6:01 PM  


Why, Euripides?

RIP, Merle Reagle

mathgent 6:12 PM  

As one who didn't do Merl Reagle's puzzles, I liked getting a flavor of his work after reading all of the accolades about him.

Lobster11 7:06 PM  

A few folks have been critical of the fact (or perception) that OFL gave a pass to several elements of this puzzle that we would normally expect him to excoriate. I urge those few to consider that:

1. This puzzle was produced 16 years ago. Times have changed; standards have changed; the bar has been raised. It should be evaluated by 1999 standards, not 2015 standards.

2. Think about what you would have said instead had OFL had displayed the same level of (amusing) contempt and disrespect for this puzzle -- one published as a tribute to one of the great crossword-creators of all time, in recognition of his death -- as he does for most.

I suppose you can please some of the people some of the time, etc. I have no complaints today. I'm still alive, enjoying crosswords.

Teedmn 7:14 PM  

I got the theme at ERUDITE - the title certainly helped figure it out.

Like @Tita, I really liked the twist of "Had wings" along with the clue for EARN at 29D and 38As clue for LIRE, a really dated one but nice. I once got a check at work written in LIRE. Even though I deposited it with a note drawing attention to the non-US currency, the bank deposited it in U.S. $$ so for about a day our account had a balance of over a million - definitely the peak, even to this day.

My ride was ROcky till BUCHANAN made ROUGH clear. This was A LOT of fun - I am one of those previously unacquainted with Merl's work and now I can see why he was cherished.

@Numinous, count me in as one of those wondering how you and the Mrs. fared.

Clyde M. Nestra 8:06 PM  

Hey, @AliasZ, That line 'I don't give A_DAMN on Agamemnon'... I know it's Tantalizing, but that's My line!!

Clever construction there, Antigonizing Zeus.

Natticus 8:07 PM  

That was really fun! I also legitimately laughed a few times. NYT's typo about the year it was published created some question marks for me, notably about ESPN's Outside the Lines and BRITON Tony Blair. Spent too much time wondering, "What the hell was TB doing in 1991?" Didn't help that I had EDUCATE in place of ERUDITE.... But still. Super fun.

ZenMonkey 10:50 PM  

I agree with others who have remarked on the kind of fill Rex would normally denigrate. Personally, my tolerance for bad fill (already higher than Rex's) varies according to the rest of the puzzle. And this one actually made me happy for the bad fill that enabled this puzzle to be created. The theme is just exquisite, and hilarious to boot.

Vale Mr. Reagle.

Da Bears 1:00 AM  

Well, Rex said see you tomorrow but tomorrow has come and gone and there is no Rex. It never ceases to amaze me how Rex can be so critical of the NYT from the content of the puzzles to the technology and he cannot run a blog on a decent schedule.

Leapfinger 3:47 AM  

@AiryMom, no telling if anyone answered you after 4pm, so...

Re-pronounce Erudite as if you want to rhyme "Mighty Aphrodite"...
Manacles and Follicles with Heracles (John Cleese)...
Telephone and Envelope parallel Penelope...

In a way, it's the flip side to the old joke "Euripedes?" "Yes. Eumenides?"

pray for earth 9:53 AM  

My only gripe was that one of the most important gods was omitted: Testicles.

paulsfo 1:52 AM  

The theme clues were amusing but, as has been pointed out, the difficulty level was Tuesday. But what really annoyed me was the absolute banality of of the other clues. "Facts ___ facts", "Work hard", "Common lunch hour", "Pep rally cry." Couldn't a brilliant constructor, or his editor, have spared a few minutes to not have the absolute most boring clues for incredibly easy clues?

I really, really don't understand the raves about this puzzle. And the idea for the theme is clever but, once you the idea, it would almost be harder to find 3-4-syllable words which *wouldn't* work as theme answers.

A boring day's puzzle, with shockingly overinflated reviews.

Susanna 4:23 PM  

Whirred Whacks: this puzzle says it is from 1999, not 1991.

Burma Shave 12:07 PM  


SHE COAXed me to JOIN her and exchange GAMETES,
but I MET my NEMESIS in where SHE AIMS her mini-cam,
especially that ONE SCENE WHERE I EMOTE, “IAM beat.”
SHE said, “We ARE pushing the ENVELOPE.” SHE CARED not ADAMN.


spacecraft 1:36 PM  

First thing I noticed was the 17x17 size grid. "Different is good," I thought. Next thing was one of the long clues; any time a clue takes up more than three lines my eye is drawn to it. 39 Key...etc. So of course there's where I started. At first I was a little put off that the theme entries were unchanged, spelling-wise, but the 39a did produce some chuckles.

You might say that the crossing of PDQ/SQYDS seems awfully forced, but it does provide a neat finish to the corner. I don't know how you'd fix it any other way without tearing it all out. Same (I guess) with XES/EXILER, but ye (Greek) gods! they're ugly. One writeover: "You want to go___?" tHERE before WHERE. WOE: RHUM.

Loved seeing EMOTE right above "KHAN!" If ever a single word of dialogue was EMOTEd, it was that one. It's also interesting that a bona fide Greek god, NEMESIS, appears. And see, @Rex? Pangrams and cheater squares (yikes, 16 of 'em!) CAN be palatable. A-.

rondo 3:24 PM  

By all accounts Merl was a helluva guy, so why choose this puz? All that theme led to some questionable fill. Just the number of plurals was over the limit (even excluding the themers) IMHO, just check a few of those diagonals by the black squares. And a letter run. Normally OFL would rip all of that. But I did get a chuckle out of some of them. Though SPAREUS and ANTIBIAS sounded Roman or Latin or something besides Greek.

Pushing the ENVELOPE by running a few AMPERES through your MANACLES might make your FOLLICLES near your testicles stand up. SPAREUS the details, please.

Tyne DALY doesn’t fit the usual yeah baby profile, but in The Enforcer with Clint, SHE was not hard on the eyes.

So I didn’t hate it, but this particular puz doesn’t exude “greatness” to me. Sorry folks.

leftcoastTAM 4:14 PM  

Great theme, clues, and answers. But I botched the revealer, going with dEPRONUNCIATION, due to the RHUM/KHAN cross, which I deciphered as druM/KrAN. I wasn't sure about my entry for the revealer, but I was stuck and had nowhere else to go with that [a]DAMN cross.


Anonymous 4:19 PM  

... And all letters of the alphabet were used.

GDM 8:09 PM  

I’m sure no one will read this comment, as I am posting it over three years since this puzzle was published in the NYT, but I’m relatively new to crossword puzzles. I’ve been avidly solving the puzzle daily for the last year and a half, doing them daily as they are published as well as going back through the archive. Well, I just finished this puzzle and I really loved it, so I thought I would check out the blog archive too and I’m happy I did. Seeing all these great comments about a wonderful puzzle maker is really heartwarming and I’m glad to know Merl Reagle was so revered. Hopefully I can find some more of his puzzles to tackle.

Anonymous 3:50 PM  

GDM said...
I’m sure no one will read this comment, as I am posting it over three years since this puzzle was published...

I read it!

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