Small European finch / WED 11-2-16 / Start of Mad Hatter riddle that went unanswered / Warrior monk of sci-fi / Flat-bottomed boats of old / Typical user of transistor radio / Fuel-yielding rock

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Constructor: Andrew Kingsley

Relative difficulty: Medium-Challenging (just takes a long time to fill in the stupid riddle)

THEME: ugh18A: Start of a Mad Hatter riddle that went unanswered (WHY IS A RAVEN LIKE / A WRITING DESK) 45A: Start of a possible answer to the riddle (BECAUSE POE WROTE / ON BOTH OF THEM)

Word of the Day: SERIN (33A: Small European finch) —
noun: serin; plural noun: serins; noun: European serin; plural noun: European serins
  1. a small Eurasian and North African finch related to the canary, with a short bill and typically streaky plumage. (google)
• • •

There is no level on which I appreciate this. Riddles are corny. They are for children. As the basis of a crossword, they are Ancient, hoary, musty, etc. If 49A: Typical user of a transistor radio (TEENER) feels contemporary and relevant to you, then I guess it's possible this is your kind of puzzle, but otherwise, hoo boy. Quote puzzles are bad enough (no imagination — just a quote that breaks down symmetrically). Riddle puzzles are quote puzzles stupider cousins. Stupider, brasher, more baselessly confident cousins. When that's all there is—just a riddle/answer—it feels abusive. And This Grid Doesn't Even Have The Symmetry That Is Usually The Minimum Requirement For Admission. Ugh. What a waste of time. Why even *have* the rest of the puzzle? Or a puzzle at all? Start a riddle section of the paper, for riddle lovers. There is nothing *crossword* about this. The fill is average-to-bad. Lame fill like OTBS. Crosswordese fauna like SERIN (33A: Small European finch). Scrabble-f*cking in 3/4 of the corners. A single *&%^ing MILK DUD?! No no no. No. No. What do you even say about a theme like this? Nothing. Nothing went into this. Best Puzzle in the World, my Aunt LILY! Next!!

["One of our best writers"]

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


Anonymous 12:06 AM  

Originally had "safer" instead of "surer," which led ever so briefly to "Milk Dad."

jae 12:09 AM  

Easy-medium for me. Me too for SafER before SURER. That and DEMote before DEMEAN were it for erasures. Not really fond of quote puzzles or possibly what @Rex said.

Anonymous 12:09 AM  

@Rex - you missed the bonus part where the riddle didn't really have an answer, nor was one intended. The proposed answer is just more nonsense made up to find an answer that wasn't there. I believe that makes this puzzle a quote puzzle stupider cousin who's falling down drunk.

Dean 12:16 AM  

The riddle was a gimme: read the clue, filled the whole thing in, which was disappointing. But never mind that. There are teens and there are teenagers, but never has there ever been a TEENER. And neither teens nor teenagers have listened to transistor radios for the better part of half a century now.

Anonymous 12:27 AM  

What I would like to know is what exactly makes it a great puzzle according to Rex? I really wonder and would love to find out
I'm serious
I've been reading this blog for a while now and can't figure it out

Larry Gilstrap 12:58 AM  

Hey, I like a good riddle. I'm with OFL on panning this thing because a riddle would contain a pun or a double entendre or some sorta wordplay. Please tell me I have missed something!

I'm trying to figure out in what world a TEENER listens to a transistor radio? Perhaps in the Third World? In that case let's send them batteries. Fun fact: The SAHARA Desert is larger than the USA including Alaska, and getting larger I believe.

I don't believe in mumbo jumbo, but since reading Chaucer, I've always been proud to be an ARIES. Oddly, I have a thing for Leos, and vice versa. apparently. Moles are amazing little mammals that certainly mess up the yard. I've seen a few, victims of cats, and they have a beautiful pelt. MOLEskin. anybody?

Regime change? Heading down to the NYT's structure with torches and pitchforks, who's in? Come on OFL. Finals are like three weeks away?

paulsfo 1:00 AM  

I know that it's not done to talk about a different day's puzzle but, since i want to ask about Friday's, November 14, 2014, I trust that it will be okay. :)
I see one clue that i think is poor and one that i think is wrong. However, neither Rex nor any of the 110 comments raised these issues, so maybe I'm wrong?

41D: Wise one == SAVANT
Seems to me that a SAVANT need not be wise at all; he/she may just know lots of facts or even perhaps just be able to answer math questions without any wisdom at all.

51A: States on a board game, e.g.: Abbr == AVE
The clue is plural and the answer is singular, so this clue seems definitely wrong to me.

Little help? thanks.

Anokha 1:02 AM  

GAM crossed with TEENER crossed with ERAGON was just painful!

Dr. Bunger 1:14 AM  

The Yankee whalers were unparalleled for their skills in the sperm whale fisheries. In Moby,Dick, we encounter pods or groups of whales, but a GAM was when whaling ships met randomly in open ocean and felt compelled to share news, mail, oil, coffee, tobacco, etc. These meetings are the basis for some of the most entertaining chapters in Melville's book.

Ellen S 1:40 AM  

If there are really interesting chapters in Moby-Dick, maybe I'll give it another try; maybe I'm old enough for it now. I wasn't the first time around.

Kind of agree with OFL about the puzzle only with less, well, venom. I didn't mind the riddle or its concocted answer, and I never notice symmetry or lack thereof (except if I'm doing a diagramless, which I don't any more).

Phil 1:41 AM  

Voles are herbivores and moles insectivores or maybe carnivores.

My lawn guy questioned weather they were pests. One has them because one has grubs, true pests. Once they eat them all they leave.

Phil 1:44 AM  

States Ave is a monopoly property

Phil 1:58 AM  

My brother read Moby Dick about 7 times. I heard a prof say if you reread it outside obligatory school read, you find Melville is quite humerous.
I started again late in life and got about 3/4 through. One can imagine it being written during months of open sea danger filled yet monotonous existence. The story is like stormy waves and then like the doldrums. I'll pick up where I left off after I read the latest Peter Hamilton.

paulsfo 2:07 AM  

@Phil Phil: Thanks very much! I recalled some of the Monopoly properties, but not that one. Of course it may have been forty years since the last time I played. :D

CDilly52 2:17 AM  

Holy sarcophagus Batman! The Walkman was introduced around 1979 and even then I would not ever EVER used the word "teener." Just no. The rest of the fill belongs on the ancient bad crossword pyre as well. I began doing the NYT with my grandmother when I was 8 (now nearing 70) and some of this she would have considered "stilted and stale" (her "tsk tsk" phrase for bad fill) way back then. Disappointing doesn't really say enough.

Santo 2:21 AM  

Rex, I love your blog (I've read 2500 entries; I owe you money) but at this point you need to ditch the comic book avatar and become a masked Mexican wrestler, fighting against palindromes and bad fill.

ZenMonkey 2:28 AM  

"GAM crossed with TEENER crossed with ERAGON was just painful!"

I went through every letter in the alphabet before I ended my denial of TEENER. I had "ceeber" ("CBer") for a while out of desperation.

Deep Mac 3:03 AM  

My first impulse upon seeing six squares for "typical user of a transistor radio" was SENIOR. Throughout his adult life and into his declining years, my dad (born in 1920, now deceased) listened to a transistor radio. TEEN? No. TEENER?? G'night.

teevoz 4:47 AM  

I had GEEZER for a brief moment, which makes more sense than TEENER, I think.

Anonymous 5:13 AM  

Hard to understand how this made the cut...

da kine 5:26 AM  

These past few weeks or months I think Rex is just doing an impression of Jebidiah Atkinson, the 18th-century critic from Saturday Night Live.

da kine 5:27 AM  

Uh, make that 19th-century.

Unknown 6:01 AM  

Today marks @Andrew Kingsley's fourth crossword since he made his New York Times debut just a shade over half a year ago. His own take on the puzzle, found at the @Jeff Chen / @Jim Horne site, is expressed in verse rather than the usual prose for constructor's notes. Nicely done, @Andrew.

@Rex's critique is much appreciated, and there are further insights among the over twenty comments already posted. It is worth noting that, other than the four theme entries, only VAPE is making its first appearance in a @Will Shortz-edited crossword. That includes TEENER (14 times).

The puzzle did bring back warm memories of my own teens, when World Series games were still played on October afternoons and could be enjoyed through the word pictures painted by the likes of @Vin Scully or @Curt Gowdy on my transistor radio, rather than tonight's upcoming climax (repeat after me, November classic) for the benefit of primetime TV.

I can also vouch for the difficulty of developing original quips, especially to have them parse symmetrically. @Michael Hanko and I gave it a shot just about four years ago with Debatable Strategy: Carry a Big Shtick--a puzzle that I would venture to say is even more relevant today. Give it a try and please let me know what you think.

three of clubs 6:30 AM  

One of those days when I'm sure that the puzzle was selected to taunt our OFL.

Anonymous 6:51 AM  

Well this hit the trifecta for a bad puzzle:

1. A long theme fill based on nothing. A riddle?

2. Antiquity: Lana (Turner, I'm guessing), Frank Sinatra, transistor radios ...

3. Lazy crossword junk that we see all the time: ADORE, OLAV, NOGS, SWEE ....

Not to mention plurals where there should be done, and vice versa. I'm looking at you MILKDUD and OTBS,

smalltowndoc 7:02 AM  

I'm pretty much in agreement with Rex on this one. TEENER is unacceptable. Not to mention using "transistor radio" in a clue in a 21st century puzzle.

But the dealbreaker is something I didn't even notice until I read Rex's blog: Asymmetry in NYT puzzle? How does this get published??

Passing Shot 7:11 AM  

DNF. Did not know SERIN, never heard of ERAGON or Christopher Paolini, had DEMote for DEMEAN, SafER for SURER, and gEEzER for TEENER. I refuse to acknowledge TEENER is legitimate.

Lewis 7:14 AM  

Piece of background on the riddle from The Guardian:

LEWIS CARROLL himself proposed an answer in the 1897 final revision of Alice's Adventures. "Because it can produce a few notes, though they are very flat; and it is never put with the wrong end in front!" The early issues of the revision spell "never" as "nevar", ie "raven" with the wrong end in front. Martin Gardner, in More Annotated Alice (1990) gave two possible answers, sent in by readers: "both have quills dipped in ink" and "because it slopes with a flap". In 1991, The Spectator held a competition for new answers, among the prize winners were: "because one has flapping fits and the other fitting flaps"; "because one is good for writing books and the other better for biting rooks"; and "because a writing desk is a rest for pens and a raven is a pest for wrens".
(Dr) Selwyn Goodacre, Editor, Journal of the Lewis Carroll Society, Swadlincote, Derbyshire.

And this, from the site WiseGeek:

A number of people have come up with creative answer to “why is a raven like a writing desk.” The answer “Poe wrote on both” is popular, as is “they both stand on sticks” and “they both come with inky quills.” One wit responded with “because there is a B in both and an N in neither,” an answer which was meant to highlight the absurdity of the original question. (Saying it aloud might make it clearer.)

RAD2626 7:17 AM  

Maybe because I was in a good mood that we are getting a Game 7, but I will be out the the early mainstream in saying I thought the puzzle was fine. If you do not like riddles treat it as a themeless. Liked the more contemporary fill and clues. Also started with "safer". Did not recognize asymmetry until pointed out. Did not bother me either. I fill in the white squares not black.

kitshef 7:30 AM  

Why is a raven like a writing desk? Because they both have bills.

I feel proud that just days after I called the need for symmetry in puzzles pointless, the NYT has chosen to break the rule. I just wish it had done so for a puzzle that did not include TEENER.

Did not time myself, but likely fastest ever Wednesday. 1A, 1D, 2D, 3D, 12A, 15A, 18A/23A and 21A all went in as fast as I could write them, so 40 seconds in I had entire NW and huge chunks of the rest of the grid filled in.

Only slowdowns were the center, where the terrible I RULE crossed WoE SERIN and unremembered DUETS, and the absolute conviction that TEENER could not possibly be correct, and the triple-checking of every cross to see what I had done wrong.

I do love the recent trend to using national capitals in clues. Always good to get a refresher.

Bigmistake28 7:35 AM  

Only finished because Eragon sounded correct... after reading all of the comments I still don't understand teener answer!

Anonymous 7:38 AM  

From Chicago favorite, "The Flat Five":

Unknown 7:51 AM  

States Avenue in Monopoly

Unknown 8:03 AM  

The wordplay of a riddle may come in the answer. In this case, Poe "wrote on" a desk as he "wrote on (about) " the raven. Hey, you didnt specify that the wordplay had to be sharp and witty!

Lewis 8:11 AM  

@kitshef -- Same experience here. Filled in a thick periphery in a flash, leaving me with an empty impenetrable middle.

L 8:12 AM  

Teener? NEVER heard that, ever.

Glimmerglass 8:14 AM  

1. This puzzle was easy because the "riddle" is a gimme for anyone familiar with Alice in Wonderland. I filled in the whole thing from WHY IS plus the V in OLAV. m. That's 21 free squares.
2. @Rex and most of the first commenters completely miss the point that Lewis Carroll is making fun of riddles. It is not (in Alice) really a riddle, because it is supposed to have no answer. It is meant to be a stupid riddle. That's why its clue gives it away.
3. The "answer" is not a gimme, but it is stupid, because the point is that the Mad Hatter says his riddle has no answer (evidence that he is mad). However finding POE gave me most of that easily. I didn't know that Carroll later proposed an answer. Disappointing.

wgh 8:14 AM  

Are we sure TEENER is meant to mean teenager? I just can't comprehend how someone imagining an association for teenagers would come up with "transistor radio", it's just too ridiculous to be possible.

TonySaratoga 8:16 AM  

Yes, that was by far the worst part.

Ted 8:17 AM  

Finished, but the last pair of squares for ERAGON / GAM / TEENER was a two minute head scratcher.

I liked the theme fine. If you knew the quote (and the potential answer) then it was easy, otherwise it would be a pretty good challenge.

seanm 8:28 AM  

took me medium wednesday time. the ERAGON/GAM/TEENER was the worst part for me. having SAFER in there first certainly didn't help me figure out ERAGON. i spent a few minutes googling TEENER after the puzzle, to see how it was connected to transistor radios (and then another half hour learning about transistors), and there was really nothing except information about Meth. terrible terrible word, and to cross with a recent children's book (that none of us were young enough to have read as kids) is pretty bad

Bronxdoc 8:28 AM  


Alysia 8:28 AM  

HA! I was trying for ceebee-er for quite a long time, but couldn't make it fit (obviously).

Your avatar looks like my cat.

GILL I. 8:31 AM  

Lots of mapy stuff - CHAD OSLO SUEZ OMAN SAHARA. I almost wished that N'Djamena had been an answer.
What a way to clue NASCAR. I thought bowling was the most watched.
VAPE is probably the most contemporary answer and DE SICA is dead. I loved his Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow and Sofia Loren is still alive and I love all her movies so I guess that's good.
NOGS. That's always the answer for a rummy holiday drink though I don't think I've ever had one - unless it's eggnog.
Pod/GAM Moby Dick. I always want Pod.
There are 30 white horses on a red hill. First they champ, then they stamp, then they stand still. What are they?
I don't like riddles....

Kim Colley 8:35 AM  

I'd never heard the term "teener ," so I Googled it. According to Urban Dictionary:

Teener - One sixteenth of an ounce of cocaine half the size of an eightball which, you guessed it, weighs 1/8 of an ounce or 3 and a half grams.

How does 1/16 of an ounce of cocaine use a transistor radio? Now there's a riddle for you!

evil doug 8:37 AM  

Not a great riddle, but I kind of like the challenge of needing to apply some intuitive crossplay instead of simply plugging in obvious patterns on theme puzzles. I had YOU instead of POE for a bit.

I know some of you dislike commercial or product use in xwords, but they're usually vivid and induce some fun memories. A Milk Duds surprise when Dad came home from a trip, Arby's when all they had was one type of sandwich, sharing my son's first Budweiser with him before he left for college, Sinatra's album....

Only question about 31D: Will it collapse under its own weight before it's repealed?

paulsfo 8:38 AM  

@Jennifer Freeman

thank you. :)

Steve M 9:03 AM  

I had a transistor radio in my youth but didn't know I was a teener😫

Anonymous 9:07 AM  

Remembered this quote from Simpsons Krusty Gets Kancelled, in which Krusty does ventriloquism and this is the question he asks Alphonse, his dummy. Of course, we never hear the answer because he ends up destroying Alphonse. LOL. This puzzle? Meh. The video? Awesome. They BS banter is captured perfectly.

Mel Torme 9:32 AM  

My only thought is that TEENER is possibly an antiquated term for teenager (although I've never come across it anywhere other than the crossword), and anyone listening to a transistor radio had to be from an antiquated time. Just awful.

Art Wholeflaffer 9:36 AM  

The riddle is a gimme for Alice fans, and the possible answer is as well if you're familiar with Martin Gardner's The Annotated Alice.

But there's no such thing as a TEENER, with or without a transistor radio.

mathgent 9:37 AM  

Rex said it all. I hadn't heard this riddle from AIW before. Had a little fun figuring it out and the clumsy answer. That pulled it out of D territory: C minus

webwinger 9:47 AM  

FWIW I didn't remember the riddle from AIW, and liked the answer, more so after reading comments by @Lewis et al. Didn't notice symmetry violation until reading the RexRant. There does seem to be a kind of "balance" in the grid that somewhat makes up for it.

Re teener/transistor: I suspect this was an intentional pairing of two terms believed to have been commonly used in antiquity, though I was once a transistor toting teen but never a teener myself.

Hungry Mother 9:50 AM  

Easy Wednesday for me. I enjoy riddles in crosswords much more than trivia. I enjoyed the smooth sailing, but TEENER was a jolt.

G.Harris 9:52 AM  

Had to google to get serin crossing duets. Otherwise I ruled.

chefbea 9:53 AM  

did not like the puzzle...the only thing I have to say about it...CHAR again!!!!!!

jberg 9:53 AM  

Like everyone else, I guess, SafER before SUREER, DEMote before DEMEAN, and a long break while I ran the alphabet for GAM/ERAGON. G was the only letter to sound OK.

Doc Bunger, says GAM can be either what you said (the gathering of ships) or a similar gathering of whales. A pod is smaller and permanent, a GAM larger and ephemeral. I didn't know that either, but looked it up after I finished.

A better, but maybe objectionable clue would be "Betty Gable had a nice pair."

I've got nothing to say about the riddle.

mlm 10:01 AM  

Liked the puzzle, just came here for the TEENER hate. Not disappointed. Terrible use of pretend slang.

@0651 Anon...You are showing your antiquity by not recognizing Lana Del Rey! ;) She's been the hot young(ish) shoe-gaze, drugged-out, semi-controversial ingenue for a few years now. Probably most notoriety for a flubbed SNL performance a while back.

Greater Fall River Committee for Peace & Justice 10:02 AM  

I thought SURER was inadmissible English, like DEADER. No comparatives, or superlatives.

Airymom 10:07 AM  

Poe lived for a time and was buried in Baltimore. Our team is the Ravens. But the puzzle still did nothing for me and those facts don't compensate for a major no-no. "Teener"---hmmm--my daughter is 17 and a h.s. senior. When she gets home, I will ask her if anyone has ever referred to her as a "teener" or is she's even heard the word.

I figure, let's make it easy for her to roll her eyes at me and say, "you're an embarrassment."

Trey 10:19 AM  

Teener first use 1894 per M-W dictionary. Likely used subtely - an old term for teen to pair with an old device that the said teen used when teener was still a recognized word. If this is the case, clue and answer are appropriate. If not, then I agree with the others

RooMonster 10:20 AM  

Hey All !
For those who can't see the Non-symmetry, it's the three black squares in SE. They should be two rows higher for apt symmetry. Although this is a break from normal, I think that the constructor pulled off something cool, with having 15-12-15-12 themers. Symmetrical would've been 15-12-12-15. See? Those three blocks are the only ones out of sync.

As for the puz itself, I can take or leave quotes and riddles. This one seemed fine to me. A tad tough for Wednesday. This whole week so far has been tougher than regular. SafER/pod like most of you. Wrote in the AR of CHAR waiting for either char or sear. HATHA a WOE. A Q away from a pangram. Haven't eaten at ARBYS forever. Beef and Cheddars, awesome.


Nancy 10:22 AM  

Hand up for SAFER/MILK DAD. So then I had EfA-ON at 27D, and I ran the alphabet to try and figure out the School of whales at 44A, where I had -AM and had no idea. After running the alphabet, I still had no idea, so I left it blank.

Despite my DNF, I thought this was a boring puzzle with completely unimaginative cluing. No fun at all.

For the record: I chuckled at the 30A "Golf or tennis coup" clue, with the answer ACE. An ACE in golf -- meaning a hole-in-one -- is a humongous coup: something even quite good club players are most unlikely to ever achieve over a lifetime of playing golf. An ACE in tennis? Well, let's just say that I, as a small woman not boasting much in the way of either height or musculature and who, while being a quite respectable tennis player, am not exactly a Central Park legend, hit many, many ACES in my time. (Of course, my serve was my best shot.) A tennis ACE is a lovely thing, but it's hardly a coup in the sense that a hole-in-one is.

Mohair Sam 10:22 AM  

In 1961 (just 5 years" after the SUEZ crisis) Freddie Cannon's "Transistor Sister" hit number 35 on the charts. It was huge with TEENERs. I threw in TEENER off the "T" today - what's your problem?

Our big battle was the East - had SafER and Deco and pod, whoa what a mess - each seemed to make sense on its own. Puzzle partner grabbed GAM from one of those memory bubbles and saved the day. Hadn't heard the riddle (not much of an "Alice" fan) but things filled fairly enough.

Thought it was a clever theme - but knew @Rex would be SEETHing given that he never likes quote puzzles and then TEENER (with its clue). He didn't disappoint, we're still laughing here. NASCAR number 2 watched? Big surprise there. That's caramel inside MILKDUDs huh, didn't know. LANe before LANA, OLAf before OLAV, DEMote before DEMEAN. Yikes.

Puzzle seemed up to date to me. I'm gonna grab my Philco transistor radio, take the 50 cent ferry ride over to Leja Beach, and listen to Vin Scully cover the Brooklyn game this afternoon while I catch a few rays. I'll listen to Freddie Cannon's new "Abigail Beecher" on my way back.

Dorothy Biggs 10:29 AM  

Did not like. I didn't like the cluing and I didn't like the theme.

TEENER makes me laugh out loud. Twenty three skidoo! There are some words that have fallen out of favor in the English lexicon...teener surely is one of them.

IRULE. A singular MILKDUD. SERIN. TEENER. Those were my snags.

Unknown 10:35 AM  

Agree completely. I was around for transistor radios, had one, loved it, but never heard the word teener. Ever.

Hartley70 10:36 AM  

Yes, TEENER was a groaner, but I'm still in agony contemplating @EllenS and her desire for double cataract surgery without sedation or local anesthesia. The discomfort of TEENER is nothing compared to the groan I issue when considering that prospect. @EllenS, thy name is fortitude.

I thought the silly riddle and potential answer were fun. I didn't remember the Mad Hatter's quotation so it was all news to me. It's been 60 years since I read the book. It's a miracle I remember as much as I do. My DIL made the most glorious Queen of Hearts costume for Halloween so the book was on my mind this weekend when I saw her. I was mightily impressed with her talent because I didn't know there were any young women who still could sew. The first and last item of clothing I sewed was a horrid dung brown gathered skirt in junior high. The real horror is that I continued to wear the misshapen thing regularly for the rest of the school year.

Any puzzle with a new word, SERIN, a hot topic VAPE, a bit of nostalgia, PANAM, and some schmaltz, TEACOZY, is fine with me. Throw in some POE and I'm over the top. I think you did a great job with the hump day, Mr. Kingsley!

MotsCroisés 10:41 AM  

I am surprised by Rex's ire today. This puzzle was "a-okay" to me. I happen to love Alice in Wonderland and anything by E. A. Poe. So I didn't mind the rather obvious answer to the riddle. My own answer, as an underpaid writer, would be "Because both destroy nest eggs."

I had a near DNF at "Eragon/Gam" crossing. Never heard of either (other than the lovely, late Rita Gam) even though I love "Moby-Dick" and anything to do with whales. For the lady who asked about Melville's magnum opus, I suggest she read the chapter entitled "The Cassock."

Anonymous 10:48 AM  

Lana, Sinatra and transistor radios are antiquity only to those who think History begins the day they're born.

Anonymous 10:53 AM  

So agree. Tweener, maybe. But that was coined in the Walkman era. I listened to "Keener 13" in Detroit back in the day on my transistor radio, though.

Leapfinger 10:58 AM  

In the forest of the night;
Andrew Kingsley, WHY do I
SEE THEre's 'nuff of symmetry?

@Lewis, thanks for the interesting backstory.

@EllenS, if you can stand sepia, try the movie. Gregory Peck, you know.

@phil phil, I APPreciate the lawn pest info. I can just imagine, when all the grubs are gone, a furry exodus (Holy MOLEy!) traversing the road. Not as impressive as a lemming run  maybe,  but RARE enough to cause a traffic JAM.

@McGillicudy, the entry is SEETHES, not TEETHES.

Not much love for TEENER either, but a little act TEENER my sin APPropriately administered can sure cure some major ills of DE SICA among us. Can be administered orally or in a SERINge. 

ACE RAPT, now that's kinda cute.

IIRC, it was Tony Curtis said  "I am SPARRED a cuss", not Rita GAM.

OTT to be heading to work, so enjoy y'all's Wednesday.

x 11:11 AM  

Don't always agree with Rex and the usual detractor trailers, but today amen. Teeners is way awful, and the idea that Poe wrote "on" a ravel is kinda pffffffft.

Joseph Michael 11:15 AM  

When Ott was a teener
At his writing desk,
He went raven mad
From a crossword grotesque.

After running amok
Like a mole in the mud,
He sedated himself
With a bite of Milk Dud.

Anonymous 11:25 AM  

NASCAR may be the least watched TV sport if the EPA gets its way "In July 2015, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) introduced a proposal that would have prohibited the conversion of street vehicles into race cars used exclusively for the track"

FOLK at a coffeehouse?? Maybe in the 60's Now it's New Age, Jazz, anything nouveau, even NEOclassical

Phew! Worked in Obama. (CARE). [And swoon.]

Must I be an ORNITHOLOGIST to know every damn FINCH on the planet in order to solve a puzzle? Just say no to unknown birds.

Mohair Sam 11:44 AM  

@Ellen S - @Leapfinger gives you great advice - see the flick. I've read "Moby Dick" twice and seen the movie innumerable times, Peck is Ahab as the mind imagines him in the book. To this day whenever I take my morning stroll and my wife asks me, upon my return, "How's the weather?" - I'll put on my best Peckian voice and say, "A mild, mild day, Starbuck, and a mild looking sky. On just such a day I struck my first whale . . . ."

Yes, she's long-suffering.

Masked and Anonymous 11:49 AM  


Seems appropriate, that a WedPuz based on a Mad Hatter riddle would be a little asymmetric. I seem to recall someone askin Merl Reagle once "Why Are Crossword Puzzle Grids Symmetric?" His very wise answer was somethin like that if they didn't have to be symmetric, then any old such-and-such could make one.

Kinda liked this puz, Mr. Kingsley (U old such-and-such). Thanx for the fun and the funky.

Funky bullets:

* SERIN. No idea. This has the desperate smell of PEWIT about it. Quote the M&A: Nevermore!
* TEENER. This didn't especially shake me up. Have seen TEENER many times in puzs (yo, @Barany dude), and it's sorta dated-feelin, just like "transistor radio" feels.
* VAPE. Recently saw a big dude vapin in his pickup, parked next to me at the drugstore, while I was waitin for the PuzEatinSpouse to kwiki-shop. When vapor dude exhaled, real thick smoke immediately filled up the whole cab! Looked like the start of a primo disappearin act! But, I digress …
* OSLO. M&A has for real visited this Viking museum, one time. Wasn't quite what I was expectin, but, still … Go Vikes!
* ERAGON. I had no idea, again. Maybe that's why is a SERIN like an ERA GON? (Anagrams to ONE ARG, btw.)
* DEMEAN, SURER. yep. DEMOTE, SAFER. (yo, @almost everybody) Lost valuable nanoseconds.
* MILKDUD. fave long entry. What on earth else would U call **one** of em, @RP? MILKDUDE?

Off now to gam & gimbol in the gabe,
Masked & Anonymo5Us


Anonymous 11:49 AM  

Your comment about the coup clue is spot on. A powerful server (or one who places the serve well) might serve as many as 20 aces or more in a match. A very accomplished golfer might go a lifetime without a single ace. It was indeed a very poor clue to equate an ace in golf and tennis.

Blue Stater 11:54 AM  

Rex has it exactly right. Abusive. I felt abused by this puzzle: its mistakes, its corniness, its lameness. We deserve better.

Numinous 12:25 PM  

I didn't dislike this. I didn't love it either. I usually find quotes or riddles in puzzles tedious. I was an Alice fan when I was 18 and I devoured Martin Gardner's Anotated version. I have always been happy with the notion that there is no answer to that riddle.

"Twinkle, twinkle little bat,
How I wonder what you're at.
Up above the world so high
Like a tea-tray in the sky . . . "
–The Mad Hatter

Not the dormouse in the original. Disney perverts everything. I read the same stuff @Lewis read, I still prefer that there is no answer to the riddle. To me, Dodgson looses a little for coming up with an answer even if it was nevar back to front.

I also had a hole in the middle of this puzzle until I googled for DUETS. I can't stand Frank Sinatra so there is no way I would have known what his best selling album was. When he went to Australia in the early '70s he called a female journalist a two-bit whore. That didn't sit well with the journos so they boycotted him. The Journos' union was affiliated with the film, television and theatrical industry union, of which I was a member, so nobody would work on his shows and most of them were cancelled. That union was also affiliated with the airline union so no Australian airline crews would fly a plane with him on it. After a few weeks, Sinatra grudgingly apologized to the female journalist though he had absolutely refused to do so at first. In the end, to compensate the people who'd bought tickets to the cancelled shows, there was a nationally televised TV special after which, the airline crews flew him out of the country.

I remember transistor radios turned down so low one had to hold the speaker up to one's ear. Then there was the earphone in that nasty hearing aid color. For a while, kids in jr. high got away with listening to the radio in class. Mine didn't have an earphone jack. I've only ever encountered TEENERs in crossword puzzles. Apparently, according to @Trey, they've been around since the 1890s, just ask Merriam-Webster. I recall reading in some advice to writers article that the Merriam-Webster New Collegiate was the publishers standard for diction and the Chicago Manual of Style was the standard for usage. If it's in M-W, it must be true.

I always thought GAMs slid out from under the skirts of molls in noir detective novels.

@Leapy from yesterday, I remember Merriam Makeba from the 60s Doesn't everyone who was there?

Carola 12:25 PM  

Some days ago, I decided to stop listening to or reading the news until after November 8; it's just too stressful. So then the puzzle jars me by starting off with memories of a hanging CHAD. Anyway. The riddle theme was fine with me; thank you @Lewis for the Lewis Carroll lore.

Nice eye rhyme: SUIT - NUIT.

Knew SERIN from earlier crosswords and ERAGON from having read it (given to me by a TEENER nephew).
Do-overs: me, too, on DEMote; also SEEs red before SEETHES and a stab at MIni-something before MILK DUD.

@phil phil - I didn't know that about moles; I'll try to come to terms with the guy who's ripping up my lawn and perennial bed.

@Ellen S. - I took Moby Dick off the bookshelf for the first time a couple of weeks ago but stalled out while still on dry land. The talk here of GAMs, though, has spurred (SPARRED?) me to get undeway again.

Malsdemare 12:28 PM  

I had a transister radio and back then we were teenie boppers. TEENER? Just no. I've never heard of GAM, and, god help me, somehow I managed to escape reading Moby Dick, despite being a hotshot in a private high school -- where getting away with not reading an assigned book was almost impossibke -- and an English major as an undergrad. I have read "In the Heart of the Sea," the story of the ship upon which Moby is based. An amazing tale of incompetence and lousy luck.

@George Barany. I really enjoyed your puzzle. I'm laid up today -- my 75 lb malamute rocketed into me at 10 mph last night during agility class, and I shall be on the sofa all day today; NEED MORE PUZZLES, and good book titles. And someone to deliver meals:). True to form, Mr. Mals is in Alabama, obeying Mrs. Peter's Principle: anything that can go wrong, will go wrong, when Peter's out of town.

Maybe I'll get Moby Dick from the e-library . . . Or find more Barony puzzles.

old timer 12:38 PM  

I would have loved the puzzle if the answer to the riddle had been the least bit amusing. Since it was terrible and did not bring even a twitch of a smile to my face I am with OFL today. Here's a better one, paraphrased from Patrick O'Brian: In British naval tradition, when offered a choice between two pieces of decayed bread, which must an officer select? A: The one with the lesser of two weevils.

I thought TEENER was OK. It was used to refer to teenagers, back in the day when every teener carried a transistor radio. I'm not so upset about ACE being a golf term. Probably every pro golfer has scored one, at least in a practice round, and definitely seen one scored (by a competitor) in a tournament. The father of a friend of mine got an ACE when he was 80.

The Clerk 12:39 PM  

The answer is clever because it has the same number of letters as the classic answer: becauseitisnevarputbackwards.

travelstockblog 12:53 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
travelstockblog 12:55 PM  

I had Ceeber first too - but I like Geezer best. I got a transistor radio for my 7th birthday but I never heard of a teener even back in the 60s.

OISK 12:57 PM  

Nancy and I share the same DNF. Eragon with gam (I had jam) is just not OK. Not even on Saturday. Not much to like to offset the Natick. Boo!

Blackbird 1:20 PM  

Rex you sure are brilliant enough to solve challenging puzzles easily, but you really don't get the wit and pizazz of a lot of clues and answers that aren't sufficiently part of your cultural interests. This is not a "riddle" puzzle. The quote is a tribute to the great polymath Lewis Carroll, who was highly erudite, a philosopher, mathematician, poet, social satirist, photographer, and more. The "riddle" is deliberately not answered in his work, and the solution offered in this puzzle is creative and witty. Also, Rex, you seem to be an "era" snob, only interested in something you can say is " talking about my g-g-generation". I really enjoyed the 49 across transistor radio--teener pairing. Blast from the past. 64 across e-cigarette--vape pairing is totally contemporary. Well, hookah and huff could be contemporary, and hookah and puff could be centuries old. Jane Austen and Paul Beatty have more than a century between them, and an ocean as well, and both are brilliant social satirists, who could be the subject of any fine crossword puzzle clue and answer. As we said in Paleolithic times, "Duh!"

Greg 1:22 PM  

Just here to pile on the TEENER/ERAGON/GAM clump of ugliness. yeesh.

puzzle hoarder 1:23 PM  

Based on my memory of his earlier puzzles today's offering was quite a disappointment. Not being familiar with the Carroll quote did slow my solve but a clean grid was inevitable with so much standard fill. HATHA and SERIN are at least interesting words. I share the general disdain for TEENER. @Mohair Sam seems to be the only commentor familiar with it. Webster's does give it this cryptic 1894 date but with no explanation as to why. I assume it hasn't been used since but if @Mohair Sam could cite some modern usage it might give this clunker of a word some redemption.
GAM in reference to whales is one of those only in puzzles usages. It surprises me how many times it's been used vs the much more natural POD. However my kids read ERAGON so not a problem.

Blackbird 1:27 PM  

Bravo. Ageist rejections of cultural references as "antique" are offensive. Should I refrain from saying "sophomoric"?

Teedmn 1:30 PM  

Hoo boy, what a mess for the ages - I have never read "Alice In Wonderland" for some reason - it seems it would be right up my alley but somehow it was never on any reading list or recommended or given to me as a young reader. So the existence of a riddle was news to me.

TEENER - I resisted that answer mightily - off the TEE, I just kept looking at SEETHES, wondering if CeeBER could be the answer (not that they have anything to do with transistor radios but do you expect logic in an Alice inspired puzzle?). I poked at it over at Xwordinfo and found it has been used multiple times (last seen in 2014) but it does not have PB1 immunity, so there's that.

My biggest "doofus" moment was not recognizing the name of ERAGON's author - he was considered a boy-wonder back when the book came out, when he was 16 or so. At the time, I had a discussion with a co-worker's 10 year old son as to whether he preferred ERAGON to Harry Potter. To my surprise, he did. I didn't - HP rules! And it was a crummy movie too - Jeremy Irons, ick.

MILK bar, that's the only thing I could come up with as a Hershey product, mostly because I don't consider MILK DUDs as caramel-ey. And I don't consider car racing a sport either - socCeR for a long time before NASCAR. Who knew Budweiser had CROWs on their logo (I knew they didn't but I can only blame DESICA, ARBYS and HATHA for that!)

I did not hate Andrew Kingsley's puzzle and I like the symmetrical effect of the asymmetry but this puzzle gave me Bridgegate brain.

foxaroni 1:30 PM  

My only write-over was putting in "sear" for 5D. That left me wondering what a SLOD was, and trying to figure out how SEALE was a fuel-yielding rock.

When the Sinatra clue added the year (1993) and I had D-U-_ _ _, the answer was easy for me. At first I thought "Something Stupid," Sinatra's duet with his daughter, Nancy, was on the album. Wikipedia says no. "Something Stupid" was #1 in the U.S. for four weeks in 1967, quite a while before the "Duets" album.

If I know the riddle (as I did today) or quote, then the puzzle is much more enjoyable. Otherwise, as @Rex said, it's a real slog. Or SLOD.

Masked and Anonymous 1:30 PM  

@Teener Non-believers: Among oldies record collectors, the term TEENER refers to any song that's similar in style to "I'm Sorry" by Brenda Lee or "Take Good Care of My Baby" by Bobby Vee, say. So … TEENER is definitely a for real thing. Wasn't clued that way today, I'd grant.
Some obscure TEENER songs are a real hoot: There's that one tune about the girl who broke up with a guy at Woolworth's, and she cried all the way to Sears. Don't make em like that much, anymore. Milleniers miss out on so day-um much.

@Malsdemare: Yeewowch. Sounds like yer pooch passed the "raw agility" test, anyhoo. For pointers to lotsa **free** xwordpuzs, U could go to here: [Fear not -- many legit, non-runtpuz sites are listed.] Enjoy.


Blackbird 1:33 PM  

I'm not an ornithologist nor even a birder, but I knew "serin". How? I read. Also, "folk in a coffee house" is pretty accurate. Yes, 1960's, and still apt. "Inside Llewyn Davis" is a 21st century movie about a folk musician in the 1960's. And some 2016 coffee houses still feature folk music.

Blackbird 1:37 PM  

Abused? Using this word inthis context demeans people who have been truly abused. Saying you are abused by a crossword puzzle that isn't racist or misogynistic or xenophobic is an abuse of language!

nick 2:15 PM  

Had a dnf because I couldn't believe 'teener' would be the answer. Have never ever heard that word. And transistor radios? Still a thing?

But honestly this seemed a perfect fit for the old-fogey wheelhouse of so many nyt puzzles.

tea73 3:03 PM  

Transitor radios clued me in that we wanted some old fashioned term for teens, but I've never heard of TEENER. Luckily I did know ERAGON, derivative and just not very well written, though pretty good for a 16 year old.

I hate quote puzzles and don't care much for riddles, but actually thought this one was pretty clever and gettable.

We listened to Alice in Wonderland on a car trip once with the kids. The grown ups wondered what drugs Lewis Carrol was taking when he wrote it. The kids just wondered why it had no plot. I think we switched to a different tape before we finished it.

Unknown 3:22 PM  

What you said about what Rex said

Donna Chapin 3:23 PM  

What is a teener? Even my phone hates writing it.

Outside The Box 3:39 PM  

Agree. When transistor radios were used, they were used by teenagers, not "teeners," which is much more modern day (and dumb) term.

Kingsley is misdirecting his solvers by using a clue that requires a basically incorrect answer.

Mohair Sam 3:44 PM  

@puzzle hoarder - @Masked and Anonymous covered the definition of TEENER as I knew it from way back. I always thought of TEENERs as the audience, that's why I threw in the Freddie Cannon "Transistor Sister" reference - matched the clue. I'm really surprised more of the old set here didn't know it.

Other Prof. 4:30 PM  

Isn't "Poe wrote on both" a double entendre, with the play on the word "on"? Also, the answer is not concocted for the puzzle. It is cited in Martin Gardner's "The Annotated Alice".

old timer 6:24 PM  

@teedmn, it is *never* too late to read and enjoy "Alice's Adventures Underground" and "Through the Looking-Glass." As funny now as they were then. And I have always felt an essential part of any well-read person's intellectual furniture. To this day, I always sing, "Twinkle, twinkle little bat, how I wonder what you're at." And once you know your "Jabberwocky", if you also know French you will be delighted by the French version, "Le Jaseroque".

Anonymous 7:42 PM  

Wow. As a late solver, I was glad to see that I was not alone in my mistakes (safer for surer, demote for demean). And what "teener" has ever SEEN a transistor radio?? What a slog !

GILL I. 10:03 PM  

@Leapster. TEE HEETH...or should I say Ha Ha..? ;>)

Pdxrains 1:39 AM  

Teener? Transistor radios? Jesus Christ, is it 1908? Massive fail for this 33 year old.

Anonymous 6:33 PM  

I have to agree. This puzzle was very frustrating and unsatisfying. "Teener"? User of a transistor radio?

spacecraft 11:23 AM  

Tell us how you really feel, Fearless One. Wow! I don't much care for big long sentences/paragraphs broken down into theme segments either, but I'm not that much of a hater. As it happens, I left a natick square blank to concentrate on the very tough center--then forgot to go back and guess at ERA_ON/_AM. I thought whales was a pod. So, single square DNF. SERIN was bad enough; that word looks like a deadly poisonous gas to me, not a harmless bird.

The fill's not as awful as OFL says it is, but we're still going to give this one a bogey. Our sweater girl of yesterday takes a curtain call today: LANA, who loves ya? Med/chall for a Wed.

Burma Shave 11:34 AM  


LILY and LANA SPARRED over some verse.
than a SERIN who SEETHES
and DEMEANs as he breathes?”


Anonymous 11:56 AM  

5 pissers and a meaningless, unknown "riddle". Rejected.

rondo 12:24 PM  

O,MAN, it’s killing my time because I have to figure out a riddle, therefore it is a terrible puzzle.
Get over it. The NYT advertises it has word puzzles. This one happens to be in a xword format. If you want to complain about a word puzzle, check out the monthly Harper’s puz which I generally complete correctly each month, in about 3 or 4 hours. Makes this offering look like a walk in the park. I suspect most of the complainers would get nowhere with a Harper’s puz.

Hand up for DEMote and SafER to clog up that area for a while. And ERAGON by crosses. And not believing TEENER could possibly be a word, much less correct. But all of it in correctly at the end.

Sorry @Devin. There were no transistor radios in 1908. Somewhere I may still have my first one from more than 50 years ago. AM only. 8 transistors as compared to my older brother’s model with 10. With an earphone (some things never change)! How else was a kid (not yet a TEENER) to JAM to that new group, The Beatles?

I have to go with yeah baby LANA Del Ray as clued. If you haven’t heard her sing or seen any of her videos (High by the Beach comes to mind), you really OTT to.

I’ll bet that I like today’s puz better than the gimmick that is likely to show up tomorrow, but I won’t be hating ONBOTHOFTHEM. There’s not that much in today’s puz to DEMEAN. Except TEENER.

Diana,LIW 1:00 PM  

LANA Del Rey (not Turner) is very current.

Saw TEENER in a puzzle recently, but I have many anthologies I'm working thru. And yet, tis a non-word. Akin to its step-cousins, tween and tweener.

As soon as I saw transistor radio I knew a rant was coming. Surprised the coffeehouse music didn't get more of a hit.

I'm not a fan of quote puzzles, but that is just me. Not a great fan of the rebus. But I didn't write the rules, and neither did - some one person.

Too many unknown proper names for me to have a true solve.

Mr. W watches NASCAR - he says it is a sport, as it is dangerous. Huh. So is smoking cigarettes - or VAPEs.

Dina, Lady-in-Waiting for Inverted Jenny postage stamps

rain forest 3:12 PM  

Like @evil doug I kind of enjoyed figuring out both the riddle and its "surprise" answer. It's kind of like doing a themeless with stacks where the crosses have to be worked out in order to get the whole deal. If the riddle, and its answer, isn't a knee-slapper, so be it.

I'm quite unsure about the difference between a GAM and a pod when it comes to whales. I wonder if the whales know. "Hey, I think I'll ditch this pod and go hang with the GAM. Anyone want to join me?"

Considering that I'm reasonably well-read, I was dismayed that I haven't heard of that writer and his Cycle, so that section was the toughest for me. TEENER didn't help. However, I do have a Peugeot mountain bike. That didn't help either.

The puzzle was a nice diversion. I don't approach these things with an agenda of finding fault. I just solve them, as I did today's, and I liked it, at least a little.

leftcoastTAM 3:57 PM  

Needed to get the riddle in order to solve puzzle, and don't mind riddles or quotations as themes. In fact they can be helpful, as today.

Last letter to go was the "G" in the ERAGON/GAM cross. Both are obscure to me, but the G just sounded right for ERAGON and GAM faintly sounded from the deep.

TEENER with transistor radio? Long time ago, it seems.

"Go me!" and IRULE are just off-putting.

Had DEMote before DEMEAN, and SafER before SURER. Fairly SURE that I'm not alone on those.

Not quite AOK but good enough.

Blogger 11:52 PM  

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絹スミレ 7:04 PM  

My original thought was ‘because she wrote on both’ (you know, “murder, she wrote”...) that had me stuck for a while...

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