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Sunday, December 18, 2016

Constructor: Derrick Niederman

Relative difficulty: Medium

THEME: "Mirror Reflection" — Across clues have rotational symmetry, i.e. each Across clue has same clue as its symmetrical partner

Word of the Day: XOTH (4D: Home star of Cthulhu, in fantasy tales) —
The following fictional celestial bodies figure prominently in the Cthulhu Mythos stories of H. P. Lovecraft and other writers. Many of these astronomical bodies have parallels in the real universe, but are often renamed in the mythos and given fictitious characteristics. In addition to the celestial places created by Lovecraft, the mythos draws from a number of other sources, including the works of August Derleth, Ramsey Campbell, Lin Carter, Brian Lumley, and Clark Ashton Smith. [...] Xoth (or Zoth) is the green binary star where Cthulhu and his ilk once lived before coming to earth. According to the Xothic legend cycle, it is where Cthulhu mated with Idh-yaa to beget Ghatanothoa, Ythogtha, and Zoth-Ommog. // Xoth is also the native home of Ycnágnnisssz and Zstylzhemghi, and was the temporary home of the latter's "husband," Ghisguth, and their progeny, the infant Tsathoggua. Tsathoggua later went to live on Yuggoth. Afterward, he fled to Cykranosh to escape Cxaxukluth's cannibalistic eating habits. // Xoth may be the star Sirius, since "Xoth" is similar to "Sothis", the Egyptian name for the star. However, it is more likely that Xoth coincides with the star "Zoth" in Smith's writings. (wikipedia)
• • •

This is remarkable, as a construction feat. As a solving experience, it was less than pleasant—the theme does nothing but make the cluing forced and the fill (esp. the Down fill) awkward. But I did have a "whoa" moment when I realized what was going on, and that the gimmick was so thorough. Actually, at first, I thought it was happening w/ the Downs as well, but at some point I noticed clues not recurring, and then realized that having the conceit work with the Downs too would be impossible / ridiculous. Hard enough to do it w/ the Acrosses alone. The problem here is it's All gimmick. Nothin else to talk about. Nada. Words in a grid, all there to serve the "Mirror Reflection" theme. No sparkle, no fun. Impressive, but not enjoyable.

ET UN (87A: Vingt-___ (multiple de trois)) may be the single worst answer I've ever seen in crosswords, ever (and I've seen plural suffixes like -ENCES, so ... that's saying something). But since it's an Across, and the gimmick is so demanding, I'm not that mad. The Downs are what have me more aggrieved. OFFUN? Right near TRYA? Right near OTTOVI (?) (12D: Old German ruler nicknamed "the Short"), three doors down from OLA, three doors down from REDAN? And, o man, ONYM!? Yipes. Then there are the obscure proper nouns, which I actually didn't mind too much: XOTH and MOLNAR (101D: "Liliom" playwright Ferenc ___). They gave the grid some character. Whereas REHOIST, ugh, no. Ever time I look at that word, my brain wants to pronounce it a different way. See also DETAG. In the end, there's nothing to say. Here it is. It does this thing with the symmetry ... [points at puzzle]. Commentary shmommentary.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]


jae 12:13 AM  

Medium for me too. Pretty much what @Rex said. Some very iffy fill, but wow what a feat of construction! Very cool, liked it a lot!

VIngt et un is Blackjack, and the cross with the Jewish month could be tough.

Unknown 12:18 AM  

This @Derrick Niederman puzzle was really something ... wow! I'm listening to @Rex's musical mirror selection while composing my thoughts. Something about it being cold outside? Amen, all the more reason to stay indoors, turn up the heat, and admire the audacity, persistence, and creativity that all factored into this feat of construction.

Moly Shu 12:35 AM  

What @Rex said. Still trying to come up with a better clue for NOD/DON. I got nothin'. The "anagram of" seems like a cop-out to me.

Unknown 12:54 AM  

I don't have the crossword with clues in front of me (only a M-F subscriber). Could someone further explain the theme for me? Maybe give me an example? Really curious how this works. Thank you!

Anonymous 1:09 AM  

Robert Brown, Go to xwordinfo.com and you can find the clues. Essentially every across word has the same clue as it's rotational-symetrical opposite word

chefwen 2:10 AM  

Rex is spot on with this one. Impressive as hell construction wise but not too enjoyable to solve. Found myself just hacking away at it, a little tough various spots, but overall fairly easy.

New words for me Vingt-et un, enpassant and itinerant. The only one I will remember is itinerant and can't believe I haven't run across it before, maybe I have and just glossed over it pretending I knew what it meant.

Off to tackle the L.A Times.

r.alphbunker 2:18 AM  

http://puzzlecrowd.com/nytsunday.html shows the magnitude of the accomplishment.

Larry Gilstrap 2:30 AM  

I agree with OFL in just about everything in the review. A constructor flexes his muscles and it is impressive, but during the solve it's deja vu all over again. Once I saw the mirror image symmetry, wow! Smooth, kinda like Tinker, to Evers, to Chance.

Those nine word stacks top and bottom center were fortuitous. Jeopardy category: Egyptian queens nine letters. "What is Dickinson?"

Did I see DAZER and REDAN? In LA traffic talk, I think the latter is called a gore point, usually featuring large plastic trash cans filled with sand. Sometimes, when I'm walking around I will think of a bit of crosswordese I haven't seen in a while: hello AGORA, my old friend, and EDO, and EMU, etc.

I was working hard to get vengt-huit, but my French and, apparently, my math are terrible. I asked my resident Francophone, "What's 21?" She stopped and and carefully spelled out "Vengt-et-un" and specified the masculine gender. People on this blog get all fussy about tildes and vergules and other stuff, where's the rage for missing hyphens?

Finally, LANA Turner made an impression on me when I was a young man; I think it was the Postman Always Rings Twice on some old monochromatic TV screen late at night. Moving.

Loren Muse Smith 3:36 AM  

My first entries were TRIX and KIDS. But for the longest time I didn’t notice the theme. I did notice the sometimes odd wording of the clues. When I finally saw the deal, I whooped. Wowser. Unbelievable. And that was Before I realized that it was every single across. I was vaguely thinking it was just some of the acrosses. When the enormity* of the feat hit me, I was gob-smacked. Derrick found 37 symmetrical pairs, each that could be clued the same way. But wait – there’s more. He put’em symmetrically in a grid where the downs had to work.

So yeah, there were some, what, Hail Marys? to make it work. Rex – I usually don’t worry overmuch about dreck, but I did note ET UN, ONCE I, and OF FUN in my margin. ( I had “neuf” for ET UN for too long, ignoring the clue, thinking nine was a multiple of three.)

Talk about your malapops. Hah. I think I had several; bet we all did. AGE for ERA, SHAG for SHOO, AVA for MIA, ASS for OWL… Just goes with this uncharted territory.

Favorite pair because they’re just so different: INTERS, RUMORS.

I have a bone to pick with the current definition of DREAD. The very first entries in dictionaries all involve “fear,” but at least for me it very rarely means “fear.” I dread cleaning house. I dread entering standardized test data and color-coding it. I dread reading 60 tortured, angst-filled short stories submitted for the WV Young Writers competition. But I don’t fear those things. Hmm. I vote that we put the first dictionary entries all as being “to feel reluctance.” Or maybe it’s just me.

I always think that the guy who wrote the lyrics for “Do Re Mi” just still feels so bad about the cop-out line La, a note to follow So when all the other notes can mean something else. Every single other one. Not a lot to work with, though. What. La, a man who played a lion? @Moly Shu -that’s how the DON, NOD anagram clues felt. But, even for that pair, Derrick had to use those letters. So out of 37 pairs, if that’s the only hitch, I’ll take it.

I can’t even imagine how hard this was to construct. I’m not a constructor, at least not a Constructor constructor, but I play one in my mind on weekends sometimes. This puzzle blows my mind. I mean, even after you build the grid and place all the pairs, fill it, you can’t go back in and get rid of stinkers like DAZER. You just can’t. There are five entries with sister entries upstairs.

I’m a fan of stunt puzzles and really got a kick out of this grid of remarkableness. Bravo, Derrick. Bravo.

*Hey, peevologists – I hate the word enormousness and utterly, completely reject your rule about the usage of enormity. Sue me.

msh 3:40 AM  

Australia is known for exporting rum?

Unknown 4:49 AM  

Holy Moley, what a puzzle!

Okay, so what Rex said is correct. It's an incredible feat, but accomplishing it requires some horrid fill. A few of the crosses are incredibly hard. I had a DNF thanks to two crossings: ELUL/ETUN and EL MISTI/MIA. It also requires a whole lot of cheater squares (20, by my count) and 144 words.

But I forgive all. Not only was this impressive, but this puzzle did have sparkle and fun.

First, there's the fabulous, playful clue for BOULDER [City that, despite its name, is smaller than Little Rock]. How can you accuse a puzzle of no fun when it has a clue like that?

Looking at the down entries, the constructor gives us XOTH [Home star of Cthulhu, in fantasy tales], ANTIVIRUS [Like Norton software], HEAPING [Like a more-than-spoonful], and RUN OVER [What many Oscar speeches do]. Heck, I even enjoyed a few of the weak entries like TEN OZ. [Common strip steak weigh: Abbr.] and ONCE I ["___ saw a little bird ..." (Mother Goose rhyme)]. They're weak entries, no doubt, but those aren't the dregs of a wordlist: there's human personality and effort there.

As to the across entries, well, it's true that not all of them stick the landing. But an impressive number of them do.

The very first entry made me smile: TRIX [One of the blanks in the cereal slogan "___ are for ___"]. A double blank! I immediately looked to the last entry, saw the duplicate, and made a mental note to salute the constructor for his creativity.

The stacks in the north and south are wildly impressive. SHORTSTOP and ITINERANT [Tinker, for one, in olden days] impress because of the divergent meanings (a baseball shortstop and an occupation); NEFERTITI and CLEOPATRA [Legendary Egyptian queen] impress because the answers are the two exact answers.* The former pleases via surprise; the latter pleases via precision.

*Yes, there were Egyptian queens other than Nefertiti and Cleopatra, but none whose names are common knowledge now, none who can be described as "legendary."

I greatly enjoyed the other "surprising" pairs: MOTHER and RIDING [Hood lead-in], PUPA and PLOW [Caterpillar product], SEA and EYE [Dead follower], ALTARS and STABLE [Where to find grooms], TWA and EMU [This does not fly], and SHOO and SHAG [Something you can do with flies]. The clue and answers for TWA and EMU [This does not fly] cracked me up. How can you accuse this puzzle of not being fun?

There were fewer pairs that had a precision comparable to the legendary Egyptian queens. I thought that IRONS and WOODS [Set of clubs in a bag] and TRIO and MAGI [Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar, e.g.] were excellent. One step below were ROTOR and RAZOR [Certain blade] and ROSE GARDEN and OVAL OFFICE [White House sight].

This puzzle could have been impressive and dry; instead, it both impressed me and made me laugh. Well done, Derrick Niederman!

Last, of course I had to compare corresponding down answers in search of further pairings. I found one obvious pair: 30-Down (ENOL) is an anagram for 91-Down (LONE). How many of the other down entries can be reworked with symmetrical clues?

- 9-Down/117-Down: Questionable advice to someone trying to quit cigarettes? (TRY A PIPE)
- 2-Down/97-Down: Status of the Colts after losing to New Orleans in Super Bowl XLIV? (RUN OVER, SAINTED)
- 6-Down/95-Down: Like a pile of thrift shop clothes (HEAPING, PREWORN)

@LMS - I like your comparison to "Do Re Mi." Alternate lyric possibility: La, a Spanish article.

Lewis 6:06 AM  

Yes, Martin! This WAS a fun solve. I was also going to point out that there were not only the obvious (WOODS/IRONS, CLEOPATRA/NEFERTITI) pairings, but the playful ones as well (POP/REV, INTER/RUMOR, PLOW/PUPA, TWA/EMU, SHORTSTOP/ITINERANT). And the brilliant opening and end, re Trix. Plus the moment of discovery of the theme. And my two favorite clues (ORNATE, BOULDER) were on down answers! When I realized what the theme was, at first I thought, "What? You mean I have to come up with so many alternate answers to the same clues?" and found the thought daunting. But as I went through it, it was a marvelous solving experience, with me smiling often at the cleverness and POP.

Some stunts make me mad, when they are just feats of prowess but lousy solving experiences, but not this one. The theme added much to the solve, and... and... what. a. stunt! This would have been impressive on a 15 x 15, but on a Sunday! Derrick says in his notes that he has been tinkering on this for three years. When you see an accomplishment such as this, and take so much pleasure in its solving, you don't dwell on some less-than-stellar minutia. You revel in its greatness. And give it its due.

Which I will. This is one of those special ones I will remember, hall of famer, tour de force. In the crossword pantheon. I am a believer, and thank you for this experience, Mr. Niederman!

rorosen 6:28 AM  

I agree with the comments of Martin and Lewis above. I also enjoy their films,..

'mericans in Paris 7:47 AM  

We, too, lean more towards the view of Martin and Lewis than to the grumblers. We've been hearing complaints for months about puzzles that don't break new ground. Now one comes along that not only breaks new ground, but does it on another planet (XOTH, for example), for cripe's sake, and people still complain about the fill (?!).

To pull off a construction feat like this with perfect fill would have been mind blowing, a crossword for the ages. As it is, I would give this puzzle an "awesome" rating. The challenge of finding pairs of words of the same length, mirroring the clues, and then knitting it all together is just ... wow. No surprise that it took Mr. Niederman three years. Thank you for persisting!

Sure, "DON" and "NOD" are weak. And the French number clues might be considered unfair to non Francophones. But overall, this puzzle kicks ASS! What's not to like with a crossword that includes NEFERTITI -- subject of some of the most beautiful ancient art -- as an answer?

Even the three-letter words were predominantly real words, not lame or obscure abbreviations. Learned something new that Australia (a big cane-sugar producer) has diversified into RUM.

Oh, and there was one chuckle. Until we had filled in 118A (RIDING hood), I had thought that the clue in 26A ("Hood lead-in") was refering to the 'hood, as in neighborhood. Hence when MOTHER appeared (as the lead-in to a phrase oft heard in the 'hood), I thought, "Wow, that's pretty risqué!" But then I realized that the clue had in mind MOTHERhood.

Anonymous 8:00 AM  

Muscle flexing is an apt metaphor for this puzzle. Once, as a teenager, I went to a "body building exhibition" with some of my weight lifter friends. After the first three or four extremely well cut gentlemen in speedos went through their series of extremely acrobatic poses, any effect of novelty wore off and one began to see a certain absurdity in the effort.

chefbea 8:04 AM  

What a feat of construction!!! I agree. Did most of it last night and finished this morning.

Now to tackle the PUZZLE section of the sunday times!!!!

Anonymous 8:19 AM  

I also thought using Datsun, which was the old name for Nissans was clever.

Anonymous 8:33 AM  

@ rorosen - !
@ 'mericans - so racist. me outrage.

Phil Schifley 8:40 AM  

Pretty easy for me, although the gimmick had a nice aha moment for me like others have said. This puzzle reminded me of this plastic desserts you see in restaurants: they look fabulous and scrumptious, but meant to be looked at and not eaten. I got no fulfillment from this crossword for me like that.

Glimmerglass 8:47 AM  

@Lorenetc: I bet you love The Princess Bride, in which case you remember "the dread pirate Roberts." Fantastic feat of construction! I loved it. The clue for BOULDER made me smile. Driving across the country in 1961 (headed for my first real job), we tried to buy a soft drink in Big Rock, Nebraska. There was one store, a gas station/convenience store (definitely a metropolis smaller than Little Rock). There were two women in a room behind the counter, watching a soap opera on tv. They said one of them would wait on us during the next commercial, but not before. We decided not to wait. I actually wrote in Big rock (it fits) off the B, and then laughed at myself.

Teedmn 8:54 AM  

Triple DNF today! WOOHOO. LeNA/PeSSANT, INfER/ELMISfI (I know, terrible), SSApS/pENN (yes, a dupe of 79A). Not much sleep, a cold with total laryngitis, 20 below temps, sheer stupidity, take your pick of excuses, I'm going with "all of the above".

An interesting feat, this reflection concept. I'm impressed.

My Caterpiller product at 28A was lUnA for a long, long time (as in the moth) which gave me HEAlING for more than a spoonful (what, an extra dose will cure ya?) and made me grimace at trying to suss 8D's _EAnER being a "grim sort".

Other than those (isn't that enough?) this was a pretty easy Sunday. Thanks, Derrick Neiderman.

I solved using @r.alphbunker's randomizing function.

@LMS, thanks for the link. Mencken says it all.

Anonymous 8:54 AM  

Russians Shmussians. Hillary lost because of NYT xword editor.

Mohair Sam 9:03 AM  

Played more on the easy/medium side here, but that doesn't matter. This was an incredible feat. Yeah, @Rex has a point. But you've got to vote with Martin and Lewis (with a tip of the cap to @Rorosen) - the few strained clues were worth the effort, and some of the double answers were downright brilliant.

Threw in TRIX and KIDS and still fooled around for quite a while before realizing I was seeing everything twice. Particularly liked the stacks at the top and bottom - the clues for 21/127 (Tinkers) and 5/130 (Queens) made the entire endeavor worthwhile. 24/122 (Colleges) were semi-gimmes here - we live near LAFAYETTE and have a great-niece who is a recent grad of DICKINSON.

We stumbled in the SW and NE because the DATSUN brand is owned by NISSAN and we thought that might preclude them being together, DAZER seemed awfully forced, REDAN new to us, and TOVES. Freaking Jabberwocky. But nothing else worked so we fought through.

I force-read Jabberwocky in High School, possibly at gun point. I was tested on same, surely flunked. If I was King all constructors found guilty of using Jabberwocky clues would serve life terms in prison (only because I can't abide the death penalty).

Beyond that felony this was one hell of a puzzle. Congrats and thank you Derrick Niederman.

GILL I. 9:04 AM  

No joy. I even wish I could WOW it, but I really can't.
I enjoy stunt puzzles; maybe I'm spoiled by the likes of Gorski and her marvelous architecture, but for some reason I just ended up saying "so what" when I finished this.
Like @LMS, my first entry was TRIX and then I went on to look for the KIDS. I saw it at the bottom. I worked a bit at the top and then went downstairs and saw the duplicate cluing. OK, that's what the mirror reflection is all about.
Why doesn't TWA fly?

Exubesq 9:10 AM  

My NYT app was obviously drunk. It had my time as 1:03. As in just over a minute. I am one of the nerds that enjoys trying for an all time best but this one was some kind of glitch. And I did zoom through it (for me) but can't really claim bragging rights. Anyone else have this happen?

Exubesq 9:10 AM  

Because it's out of business

GILL I. 9:14 AM  


Z 9:26 AM  

So Will didn't edit any of the across clues? Slacker.

Charles Flaster 9:36 AM  

Just read all previous comments which I usually do not read until I post.
It's all been said. FANTABULOUS puzzle--end of discussion.
I know many graduates of DICKINSON as well as LAFAYETTE-- both fine schools.
Just a wonderful experience so thanks
a whole bunch to DN.

Happy Pencil 9:45 AM  

This will be a "love it or hate it" kind of puzzle, but I'm in the love it group. And like @Lewis and @Martin, I don't agree that it was all about admiring the feat and less than pleasant to actually solve. In fact, I had quite a bit of fun trying to figure out which of the two possible answers went where (sort of more like a jigsaw puzzle, in that you're looking for the right spot for your piece). I also thought there were a few challenging moments as well, when I was stuck in a loop with one answer and couldn't come up with a second.

Yes, some of the fill is appalling -- that was my first clue that something odd was going on here. But overall? Wow. Just wow.

Tita 9:49 AM  

Clue for BOULDER salvaged this puzzle for me. I was thinking that there must be a Big Rock, or Enorme Rock, somewhere in the vicinity, much in the way the Germans do it. If you see a Niederrad on the map, you can bet your weißwurst that you'll find an Oberrad not too far away. Visiting friends in Unterhausen? They might have relatives in Nordhausen, just a few kilometers um north of their.

Yes, I admired it, and yes, I liked it, but... It was a tad on the sloggy side. I did like how many of the pairs had totally opposite meanings. IRONS/WOODS a bit of a bore.

My last letter was the M of ELMISTI...yes, it *sounded* right, but I didn't think the spanish word for misty is MISTI.

All in all, a fun-to-wrap-my-head-around Sunday, that leaves me with time to get to the enormousness f all I still have to do over the next week.

QuasiMojo 9:54 AM  

From hunger. Too easy and not much fun.

Unknown 9:56 AM  

I'm embarrassed for OFL. How do you dedicate your life to crossword puzzles, and then not heap accolades on what we have witnessed here? Almost worse than the petty complaints is the meager amount of attention. "Move along folks; nothing to see here." It's ungrateful. From a solving perspective, there was at least one unique aspect for me -- early on, YOU COULD NOT USE THE ACROSS CLUES AT ALL! When every clue was repeated, with the answers the same length, you HAD to initially rely completely on the DOWN fill. Incredible. I am so grateful for this unique solving experience. And so impressed by the achievement.

pmdm 10:06 AM  

This puzzle reminds me of another symmetrical puzzle published some time ago - might have been on a Monday. The first correct entry was the same as the last and so on. My response to this puzzle was about average enjoyment.

Actually, Z, Will must have changed some of the answers since the constructor elsewhere states that Will changes one of the pairs.

To elucidate on Chefbea's comment, the Times published a special section in today's paper that consists of puzzles and puzzles alone. While there is no regular crossword, there is a contest 50x50 crossword puzzle constructed by Frank Longo, who fact checks all the Times crossword clues. Now we know who to blame for the Enesco entires. And he plays classical piano at that.

Anonymous 10:13 AM  

Noone seems to have noticed that the puzzle's symmetry is rotational, not mirror. They are very different. Otherwise a remarkable achievement.

Nancy 10:14 AM  

Quick -- What's twice as bad as a boring, mindless clue in a crossword puzzle?

Answer: Two identical boring, mindless clues in the same crossword puzzle.

This falls into the category for me: Yes, you can do this in constructing a puzzle, but why on earth did you? I deliberately haven't read any comments yet, since I suspect that many people here have said the same thing. I'm going back to find out. I have plenty of time -- having dropped the puzzle in disgust at about the midpoint.

Shiva Excursion 10:17 AM  

The Local Base Trekking Company in Nepal/
Trekking Agency in Nepal and
Trekking in Nepal

Shiva Excursion 10:17 AM  

High light Trekking Route as
Annapurna Base Camp Trek ,
Everest Base Camp Trek and
Annapurna Circuit Trek in Nepal.

Shiva Excursion 10:18 AM  

Special Trekking Route
Upper Mustang Trek ,
Manaslu Circuit Trek and
Mansu Tsum Valley Trek
in Nepal.

Anonymous 10:19 AM  

Totally in the Rex camp, or even more so. Despite the few clever clues already mentioned there was an odd
two-dimension-ness (as in flatness) about this puzzle, despite its intended two dimension-ness (as in reflection).
Felt like I was solving a super-large Tuesday puzzle, with lots of cute ideas, but nothing terribly challenging or
interesting. The low point, for sure, was the double clue for anagram of OND. To see that clue once is a
disappointment; to see it twice is just a drag.

Nancy 10:20 AM  

Nope -- most of you liked it, loved it even. I guess I'm the outlier today.

JayWalker 10:28 AM  

No Nancy - not at all. I disliked it so much that a little more than halfway through it - I just quit. Too much swearing for a Sunday.

mathgent 10:52 AM  

I'm astounded that some of us, including a few whose comments I usually admire, liked it. I couldn't agree with Rex and @Nancy more. An absolutely terrible puzzle, richly deserving this F grade.

Eamonn Lorigan 10:55 AM  

I totally agree. More than willing to put up with a few,strained fillers to make the across symmetties all work. Lovely, fun, impressive puzzle.

Malsdemare 10:56 AM  

Initially, as I bounced around the puzzle looking for gimmees, I lightly swore to myself; I'm not a fan of duplicate clues. But then -- but THEN -- I realized ALL the acrosses were duplicates, and THEN saw the symmetry, and I was blown away. It became a ton of fun, like looking for the whimsies in some of the high end jigsaw puzzles. So I'm absolutely in the "loved it" camp.

I had Toyota before I put in NISSAN, and then I took it out for a bit because I wanted pSATS. And I'm sorry to say that one of my Aesop animals was an asp; I know nada about chess (and obviously know less than I think I know about Aesop). So another DNF. But I did know about tinkers and throwing and traveling from town to town, I knew the French (though ETUN is really ugly), managed to unearth TOVES from the nether reaches of my brain, knew the colleges, loved the hood clue. It was a fun solve on this brutally cold and ice-covered morning. I feel like I'm living in Dr. Zhivago's world.

Thank you Mr. Niederman.

kitshef 11:00 AM  

When I got the them, I loved it … and knew @Rex would not.

Ambiguity in the cluing is what makes puzzles fun, so having all the across clues be that way was great.

Considering all that ambiguity, in only two cases did I plump for the wrong word first: RazOR before ROTOR, and SHag before SHOO.

Had to Schroedinger NEFERTITI/NEFERTari, which seems appropriate in this kind of puzzle.

Wm. C. 11:08 AM  

I'm with @CharlesFlaster. Ditto, ditto, ditto!

And with @DanSteele. Shame on @Rex for blathering on (and on) about some of the compromised down-fill that was necessary to achieve this amazing puzzle.

Norm 11:09 AM  

Great gimmick; great puzzle. I enjoyed trying to solve each pair together, which probably slowed me down a little, but added to my pleasure.

RooMonster 11:15 AM  

Hey All !
What @Martin said, 100%.

This was an insanely, ridiculously, impossibly hard puz to construct. Holy cow. If this puz didn't Awe you or impress you then you need to stop solving puzs right now. Give it up.

To have every Across with the same clue symmetrically is a mind-blower. And to have Downs that are actual things with that insane of a constraint os remarkable. Especially in a 21x21. And with long Acrosses like the N and S.If you've ever tried to construct a puz, you kow how difficult it can be to get all the Acrosses and Downs to jibe with small dreck even in a 15x15. But to do this feat in a 21x21is just mind altering. Holy sheets.

Derrick, I wondered how long this took to make, I saw from earlier posts three years. I can see how! Man, what a puz. This wins Puzzle of the Year, hands down.

Able to forgive all the nittiness I'd normally have because of the enormity of the feat done hear. *Mouth agape*

Did I mention I liked this puz? :-)


Hartley70 11:20 AM  

Brilliant! Everything a Sunday should be. The construction was a delightful surprise once I found the KIDS to go with TRIX. I was totally entertained as I jumped around the board solving the pairs together. There was lots of short fill that wasn't tremendously difficult (except for TOVES and REDAN) but I was never bored because it never became a slogfest. The puzzle moved fast.

I am normally a huge theme fan. The more involved and tricky, the better. Today, that stood on it's head and it was all about the construction feat! Woohoo!

Maruchka 11:24 AM  

'I get MISTI just thinking of ..'

how fun this puzzle is. No slithy TOVES here. Yes, lots of easy stuff. The construction more than makes up for it. A NOD to the NYT for a whole section of puzzles, today. Happy holidays to us! Thanks, Mr. Derrick.

TINKER - Played Mary Byrne in 'The TINKER's Wedding' back in the day. A very fun part. Sadly, Synge died young, and before it premiered.

@Malsdemare - Ah, the snow and ice in Lean's Zhivago. Beauty. And a beautiful husky(?) to pull the sleigh.

@Gill - Trans World Airlines.. long gone. Last I was at Kennedy, it's Saarinen-desiged hub was still not open. I remember flying to and from there in the late 60s, the days of air travel, not travail.

Anyone for a hot buttered Australian RUM?

Hartley70 11:26 AM  

Don't forget the PUZZLE section in the newsstand edition today! Thanks WS!

Maruchka 11:28 AM  

Fun TO play, that is. Synge was scathingly funny.

chefbea 11:31 AM  

Just looked at the puzzle section of the Sunday times......I'll be lucky to finish it in a year!!!!!

Carola 11:32 AM  

Because I solved the puzzle from top to bottom, I didn't catch on to the theme until I got to the halfway point. I had noticed the strange clue for 1 Across but shrugged it off with "I guess they just wanted to make the clue harder." And I did wonder where the heck this mirror business was. I got my answer when I reached the ROSE GARDEN and OVAL OFFICE. Nice! Then I went and wrote in the KIDS. I enjoyed anticipating how the rest of the pairs would turn out: would they be synONYMs or would they come from different areas? I thought the cluing level was wildly uneven, from the easy as PIEs to the XOTH-like, but those super top and bottom stacks and the central spanner made up for everything.

Leapfinger 11:37 AM  

@Rex, that Agatha Christie cover of "The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side" is spot on perfect.

I'm shoulder-to-shoulder on the BOULDER clue as bouldest of the bould. There were so many delicious bits to find, I could just say "What @Martin Abresch said" and be done with it, but...
*There was also the rhyming match-pair of TENN/PENN
*There was a sharp turn at the corner of DAZER-RAZOR
*There was food for thought with that pliant REHOIST, that had me musing on where a REHOIST would best be doing that REHOIng. Probably Both a Garden and an Angle are involved.
*It maybe was just a cerebral brown-out, but when the cross of 26a/4d boiled down to a T, I was trying to remember if I'd ever heard anything about Robin Hood having a MOTHER
*After you eliminate the chess-players who know about 'en PASSANT', and the Francophiliacs who can sing 'En PASSANT par la Lorraine avec mes sabots' for you, I'll bet there's at least Vingt ET UN solvers who would opt for PISSANT.
*After the recent Magyar birthday, it was a small personal pleasure to have MOLNAR make an appearance.

My solve went from NW to North-Central, then sort of slalomed down the middle, so it was very early in the game that I discovered the NEFERTITI/CLEOPATRA pairing, and that set me off side-tracking all over the grid to see just how the trick was going to work. It all came up so delicious that I don't even mind the TEN Or Zo extra minutes that added to my time. Of course, if I had only looked at the list of Across clues around the mid-point, it would have been All Right There.

Thought today was definitely a Stellar by SunLight, so I don't even mind the constructor took that little short-cut. Sneaky one,Derrick, I'm sure it took a load off to only have to think of half as many Across clues.

Play EL MISTI For Me

QuasiMojo 11:38 AM  

Don't I get credit for disliking it too? ��

I am not a robot 11:40 AM  

I LOVED this puzzle. Starting in the NW, first thought, "Great, another giant Monday." Was treading water, when suddenly tubas from the Jaws them faded in slowly, DADA DAH DADA DAH, a tug on the foot before realizing oh no, this is (sound of being sucked under water). That was the joy of it! Some iffy fill, but well worth the price of a really fun feat of construction.

Anonymous 11:42 AM  

Hand up for the risqué thought about MOTHER used in the 'hood. So thankful the clue was, in truth, quite family friendly!

Unknown 11:44 AM  

Wow! Thank you! That's incredible.

Unknown 11:45 AM  

Thank you!

Joseph Michael 11:51 AM  

Add my applause to the rave reviews for this instant classic. Yes, "Anagram of the letters O-N-D" might possibly be the worst crossword clue I have ever seen, but it's a small price to pay for this astounding feat of construction.

Thank you, @Martin, for your thoughtul and detailed review. I couldn't have said it better.

Anonymous 11:53 AM  

I'm a little amazed that Rex called out et-un as the worst answer he's ever seen while giving "Anagram of OND" a pass. I'm aware the constructor was working with both hands tied behind his back given the theme, and I don't minimize what an amazing feat putting this together must have been, but you should still be held to roughly the same cluing standards as any other puzzle for this to be worth doing, and the anagram clue was ugly.

jberg 11:55 AM  

At first I thought this was a boring, easy puzzle, but wondered why I had not come to a theme answer yet. Then I noticed one or two duplicate clues -- and then suddenly realized what was going on and admired it. It was a little more fun once I knew that -- I could admire where there were completely different meanings, such as SHORTSTOP/ITINERANT. Also, I realized that the clue for 1A was not needless obfuscation. Still easy, and I was glad to finish.

@Tita A, MISTI is a Quechua word meaning something like 'great lord.' There's an interesting discussion on the Wikipedia 'talk' page about whether the EL part is correct.

Nancy 11:56 AM  

The front page of my NYT today proudly announces the inclusion of the 30+ puzzles in the special section today, BUT THERE IS NO BLEEPING SPECIAL PUZZLE SECTION IN MY NYT TODAY!!!!! When it didn't appear at my doorstep, I threw on a robe, half asleep, no breakfast or coffee yet, at 8 a.m. and found (on another floor) two Timeses at two other people's doors. I wasn't planning to steal the Puzzle Section (although the thought did briefly flutter through my mind), but I needed to know IF I WAS THE ONLY ONE WHO DIDN'T GET THE SECTION. So I riffled through the two papers, praying that no doors would suddenly open and reveal me as a probable thief and get me hastily evicted from the building or worse, thrown in jail. No doors opened -- and the big news is that NO ONE ELSE GOT THIS SECTION EITHER!

So I called Times Home Delivery Service and told them that my entire Life was being Ruined, that 30+ puzzles were like 6 weeks-worth of incomparable pleasure and happiness and would they please, please, please get this section to me -- with or preferably without -- the rest of the paper attached. They said they would, but I have my doubts. Although my instructions were crystal clear, I fully expect a 2nd huge Sunday paper delivery with the same section still missing.

I called my neighborhood newsstand. I asked them if they had a special section called PUZZLE MANIA in their Timeses. I had to call back; they were busy. I called back about an hour later. THEY DON'T HAVE THE SECTION EITHER!!!!!


My next call will be to Will Shortz at the NYT. (Or rather his Voice Mail). I will throw myself on his legendary kindness and good nature and good will (he has been really nice to me in the past; he found me this blog, for example). I will explain that I am one of his biggest and most loyal followers -- always defending him from the slings and arrows of the Rexblog -- and that I have witnesses to attest to it, should he have any doubts. In the meantime -- any of you who got the special section today, please let me know, and if you're a home subscriber in NY, also let me know that. Please wish me luck!

old timer 12:01 PM  

This is a puzzle I more admired than enjoyed. It did not dawn on me that every across was clued twice and each pair was rotationally symmetrical though i got TRIX right off and knew its opposite corner would complete the slogan -- which I had thought would be something like "kicks" though with 4 letters.

My only mistake was to confidently write in ETUN where SEPT belonged. And a technical DNF because I forgot to write in the last O in SHOO before coming here. No Googles though: I happen to know ELMISTI and PASSANT and if I did not know the Penna. colleges they were easily guessed.

My favorite moment: Guessing almost right away that Tinker was the SHORTSTOP in the famous old Cubs team (I knew that a tinker is an ITINERANT tinsmith, or in Ireland, a kind of gypsy, though I think the tinkers there are not Roma, really.

My favorite clue: Slithy TOVES. I'm a big fan of the Alice books.

ArtO 12:16 PM  

Agree this was a construction tour de force but did not find the solve at all pleasant.

BarbieBarbie 12:20 PM  

Count me as Easy-Medium and Loved It. It would have been Easy except that the symmetric clues kept making me second-guess myself. Very diabolical.
Yes, the puzzle is rotationally symmetric. It's the clues that have mirror symmetry. More evil. Great puzzle.

John Sooner 12:27 PM  

The clues on the northwest and southeast axes mirror each other, as do the vertical north and south clues. The northeast and southwest axes do not (really, it would have been quite a feat!).

AliasZ 12:28 PM  

This was more fun than any recent Sunday puzzle in memory.

True, NOD/DON was an impossible obstacle to overcome. So instead of calling it a "weak cop-out," let us come up with a better clue. The best I do:

"Land east of, or river north of, Eden."
"56A: 85A spelled backward." "85A: 56A spelled backward."

For a moment I was hoping that the downs will reflect each other as well, as in 30D: ENOL and 91D: LONE. That would have been something!

As it is, I enjoyed this puzzle a great deal. In thought it was a case in which the dazzling construction concept and the solving fun were in a fortuitous, albeit rare, synergy with one another. I find it very satisfying when this happens.

Special mention: NISSAN/DATSUN being the same company, and TWA/EMU, neither of which fly.

True, OTTOVI, DETAG, REHOIST, REDAN and a few others were not optimal, but I didn't mind Vingt-ETUN nearly as much.

Ferenc MOLNÁR, née Neumann (1878–1952) was a prolific writer whose work was the source of many films and Broadway musicals that few people associate with him: Carousel, The Swan (Grace Kelly), A Breath of Scandal (Sophia Loren), One, Two, Three (James Cagney), and many others. But his most successful novel The Paul Street Boys (1907), turned into the 1934 movie No Greater Glory, is required reading in Hungarian schools to this day.

Enjoy your Sunday!

I am not a robot 12:31 PM  

@old timer, Agree, I loved knowing Tinker (first thought, oh, clever, Evers, Chance) and then getting its mirror answer. Early baseball and the middle ages, plus a great aha moment.

Lyon in Winter 12:32 PM  


How's Klaus?

Anonymous 12:46 PM  

@Nancy, visiting in Dallas TX and my host gets the Times. He got the puzzle section. It is very cool looking. Will probably try to find my own to buy.

Maruchka 12:54 PM  

@Nancy - I did get the puzzle section in today's delivery. Header reads "The New York Times Magazine" and below is HUGE type that reads "PUZZLE". Like a broadside, sort of. It was wedged between many seasonal circulars. Did you toss those yet?

smalltowndoc 1:02 PM  

Count me among those who are amazed by this puzzle's construction. And I also loved the clue for BOULDER.

Is "old-fashioned" (the drink) usually hyphenated?

kitshef 1:04 PM  

DON/NOD: Finding a nightcap in your room might be a prelude to this action?

Greg 1:07 PM  

Pretty much agree with Mr P. Groaned out loud on syn(ONYM).

Numinous 1:10 PM  

I had a lot of time on my hands in my last semester in high school. I read both Alice books in study hall. I also memorized the first two verses of Jabberwocky. All of those clues' answers are gimmies with almost no thought. So there.

@Rex called this medium. I have to call this easy. I'll never claim to be fast by any means. I finished this in forty minutes under my almost hour and a half average for a Sunday, about four minutes over my Sunday best. Working down the Acrosses, once I hit the White House I started thinking WOW! Recalling the previous answer for a given clue made finding the new answer a little more difficult though it got me thinking about all the other possible meanings of the clue. I thought some of the downs were a bit wonky but I also thought how remarkable that he found any downs at all. That's the same thing I think about the long stacks in Friday and Saturday puzzles.

In defence of @Rex, he has set himself up to comment on the NYTX. He has to comment on the less than stellar fill or he wouldn't be doing his job. We may or may not agree with his opinions but we have to accept that the fill he comments on can be less than wonderful. After more than ten years of commenting, he's going to have some notion of what is good and what is bad in a puzzle.

According to @Derrick this puzzle in in response to a question from a math professor when he was in college in the seventies. "Is it possible to create a crossword with two independent solutions?" This is not his first stab at that challenge. If I recall, the first tries were cryptic 15xs. That he got this one right is amazing. Well, maybe not, practice makes perfect, or so they say. But I am amazed. I enjoyed this solve along with admiring the construction. I'll remember this one for a long time.

Leapfinger 1:23 PM  

@lms, thanks for that fine little crash course in Peevology. It was a pleasure to see the author welcomed comments identifying errors in his elaborations, because...

*That the prestige of majoring in English is close to nil (though still a notch or two higher than going into the School of Education) makes it necessary to hold even more firmly to that sense of being among an elect.

Seems that finish ought to be 'among the elect' or 'among an elect group'

*The peevologist stands bravely on the ramparts...'

I think it would be better to say 'stands bravely at the ramparts'; mainly because the other way, the ram is likely to strenuously object, regardless of anyone's bravery.

For any who may find this of interest, ramparts in Japanese is 城壁

*'...that's the whole point: there are many, many different "standards." The key is learning when you need to leave your own behind...

Absolutely. A good point to exit (stage left), whistling a Londonderry air...

But not before: Even better than the HL Mencken quote was one commenter's reply (or replier's comment):

All the rules will carry us only so far. One wish for all children is that their parents speak grammatically. A misleading ear is a terrible thing. Forced to choose between a good ear and an extensive knowledge of grammar, I'd probably go with the former. One difference: you learn grammar, but you acquire a good ear.
Yes, I'm a retired guy with time on my hands and and a multitude of stray thoughts. Wish there were a market for stray thoughts.

Happy straying, all y'all.

Norm 1:28 PM  

@Nancy : My 7-Eleven store here in California had the puzzle section.

Anonymous 1:31 PM  

Yup. They grow a lot of sugar cane in Queensland.

Unknown 1:36 PM  

Chuckling at the references to Martin and Lewis. That reminds me, I haven't had anything to drink yet this morning ...

Passing Shot 1:37 PM  

Shaking my head in amazement for the construction. Plus the fact that the fill didn't completely suffer, this was a treat. Well done.

RooMonster 1:38 PM  

Still bedazzled at this puz...
But wanted to say Frank Longo has a weekly 21x21 puz in a free weekly out here. Mostly nice pzs with neat themes. Some times he overloads on the Threes, and has lots of blocks. But overall good. I can't image constructing a 50x50 puz, but if anyone could do it, he can.

Now, don't take that as a challenge, @Derrick! Just keep making these mind-blowing puzs, and all will be okay!


Nancy 1:51 PM  

Missing puzzle section update: So Times Home Delivery delivered a replacement paper within a few hours. But it's just exactly what I feared and what I predicted and what I told the Times rep on the phone please not to let happen: THERE IS NO PUZZLE SECTION IN THE REPLACEMENT PAPER!

I made a call to Will S. and left him a plaintive and despondent message. And he is my last, best, only hope. Unless someone here miraculously has -- or has access to-- an extra puzzle section. In the event that you do and can spare it, George Barany has all my contact info. Thanks.

Suzy 1:53 PM  

Love the play of Boulde/Little Rock-- my home town. Wonder if this is the first time it's made it into a NYT puzzle??
Still wondering what a tove is, other than a name.

Masked and Anonymous 1:57 PM  

Clever Clue Desperate Re-Use! Primo theme idea! Different! M&A is in!

As many have already said…
1. This puppy could not have been easy to construct. [If U think otherwise, try findin many symmetric *Down* answers that you can cover with a single clue, as an exercise.]
2. The entertainment value of the theme was mostly observin how the puz relentlessly, often creatively, covered each two symmetric Across answers with the same clue. This may not be enough -- or may be too much -- entertainment value for some solvers. De bustagut.
3. Some of the Down answers end up deliciously desperate. Heck -- downright XOTHy, at times.

But, I digressively plow up well-mined turf; now for somethin slightly different …

* The central grid worm of black squares, crawlin relentlessly downward, is most excellent! M&A confidently claims downward movement, as its EYE and YAP are labeled, at the bottom. This grid worm so lastingly impressed M&A, that he gave it a name: Mr. Wobbly. (yo, @RP)

* fave desperate dupe clue: {One of the blanks in the cereal slogan "___ are for ___"}. Honrable mention: {Anagram of the letters O-N-D}. har. Both of these critters are straight out of the runtpuz clue playbook.

* fave "well, duh" dupe clue: {One of Frank's wives}. Almost any permutation of letters could work. Especially since it could be Frank somebody-else. Or, even answers like BUN work.

* Amazin trip-stacks of nines, that have to satisfy the dupe clue rule. [See center grid top and bottom.]

* Amazin collection of desperate Downers, that enabled said trip-stacks. fave: ONCEI. Better clue: {Sorta like a cyclop's version of a stink-eye??}.

* TIPI. staff desperation Downer pick. It cries out, to be RE-TIPped. Or RE-TyPed.

Thanx, Mr. Niederman. Man, M&A still cannot believe U rode this puppy (and fantastic Mr. Wobbly), all the way to the SunPuz thousand-buck finish line. Not sure i'da ever even tried a 7x7 version of this here theme. Fun stuff. Congratz.

Masked & Anonymo9Us

Masked and Anonymous 2:13 PM  

fave weeject: OLA. So good, it deserves a symmetric clue duper better than EDO, even tho it's a Downer answer. Somethin like LEE -- then yer dupe clue with OLA could be: {ANG ender??}.

Were there any duped Down clues? Woulda been cool to toss one pair in, if only to light up @RP's tree. [Always lookin for neat gift ideas, to give to @RP.]



Straight from Spivey's Corner 2:15 PM  

Something to keep in mind:
You can't SHAG the fly that you can SHOO, nor can you SHOO the fly that you can SHAG.

otoh, a SHAGgy dog is a pretty good match for a SHOOey pig.

Anonymous 2:18 PM  

You're off the mark with VINGT ET UN. That's precisely how you say 21 in French. You should have just as much hatred for VINGT SEPT. I thought it was great.

old timer 2:18 PM  

I return. The Old Fashioned was originally made with rye. Making it with bourbon is OK but my advice, if you are in q high-end kind of place, is to call for one of the top-shelf ones like Michter's, though Bulleitt is certainly acceptable.

@Nancy, I would share my Puzzle section with you, but I have already started in on my Split Decisions. Perhaps Prof. Barany can find it in a bookstore or a Starbucks. It would be worth the $6.50 and in any case you can get a refund from the NYT if any portion of the Times is missing.

Trombone Tom 2:39 PM  

Pretty much what @Rex said. The construction feat blew my sox off and there was some pretty clever cluing. But some of the fill was rebarbative (REHOIST, DETAG, DAZER).

Started out in the SE corner for a change and got sidetracked by putting in AVA instead of MIA at 113A.

No question though, Derrick Niederman deserves an A+ for building this xword.

The Sunday LA Times puzzle which our local rag carries was clever, too, with stalactites and stalagmites joining up and bats hanging upside down all over the place.

r.alphbunker 3:15 PM  


A friend gave me her puzzle section since she is not into puzzles.
Here is what the front page looks like


If you click on my picture and send me your address I will send it to you priority mail

It's amazing that a small town in Iowa (pop ~10000) got it but NYC didn't

Hungry Mother 3:31 PM  

DNF on one letter: "E". You'd think I would have wagged on the most popular letter in English, right? Oh, it was for Hebrew and French.

Chapps 3:44 PM  

Dazer? DAZER?? What the heck is that? Totally made up. And rum isn't in any list of Australia's top exports. Again, totally made up. C'mon, I know some people know we're in a post-truth era, but this is nuts.

chefbea 3:44 PM  

@Nancy...come down to wilmington NC I got it. If I had a huge copier I would send you a copy. Guess I could go to staples

chefwen 3:54 PM  

Yo, @Trombone, try a "spoiler alert" next time!

Masked and Anonymous 4:08 PM  

M&A didn't get no NYT Mega Puz, or the Puz Insert Section (P.I.S.). Mainly cuz all M&A does is subscribe to the online puzs, which means he kinda actually likes puzs. But ... then, why didn't he and other subscribers get these neat extra puzs?
0 <--trail of tears.

I'll have a blue Christmas, without the P.I.S.'s. Don't qualify for @r.alph's generous mail-out offer, on account of bein sorta anonymous, and all that. It's mighty hard sometimes, wearin the mask ...

Others of U nice folks, in the same boat: Here's an M&A micro-puz extra section [down at the bottom rung, appropriately]. snort. [and har] … Merry Christmas.

M&A P.I.S.'s em off Dept.


Nancy 4:22 PM  

You have no idea how much I LOVE this blog! I took the first offer of help that came along -- from @Hartley 70, who sent her husband into the CT snow to get a 2nd copy of the Special Puzzle Section so that she can mail it to me. After which other offers poured in: from @George B. (who was going to send his NYC-based brother to my very doorstep!!!!). From @mathgent, who was prepared to copy the entire section on his printer and mail it! From @Teedmn, who was prepared to get an office pal to do likewise. From @Ralph Bunker who offered to send it to me Priority Mail, yet! From @chefbea who invited me down to Wilmington, NC to retrieve it. You are all just too wonderful, and I love you all.

John 4:41 PM  

It arrived in Arizona.

Amy 5:25 PM  

Put me in the LOVE category. Wow.

Anonymous 5:26 PM  

Nancy at 11:56: I'm a home subscriber in LA, and I got the Puzzle section...

Anonymous 5:33 PM  

5:1 odds @nancy got 2 copies, but can't find them in the middle of all the advertising inserts.

Ochs N. of The Sun 5:51 PM  

@Nancy, I'm wondering whether you were looking for a Magazine-style of insert when you were disappointed both in your home deliveries and in your neighbor-riffling escapades.
Because that isn't the format for this NYT Puzzl-o-Rama: it's in a standard full-size bifold, only with a smoother finish than the usual newsprint.

Anyhoo, through the generalized generosity operating in the commentariat, you can probably open up a profitable, albeit short-lived, sideline, and maybe do an analysis of regional variations.

Nancy 6:25 PM  

@Anon 5:33 and @Ochs N (Are you a NYT/Sulzberger family Ochs?) -- Yes, I am famously unobservant and yes, I had thrown all the advertising inserts on the floor in a heap waiting to be discarded, but I picked them up again and went through them with a fine tooth comb and no, it really wasn't there. And I know what the Puzzle Section is supposed to look like because there's a big juicy picture of it on page A1 below the fold. But anyway, all's well that ends well, thanks to the wonderful people here.

Melrose 6:30 PM  

A vehicle used for grooming ski trails, 52 down, should be a Sno Cat, not a Snow Cat. Full name is Tucker Sno Cat.

daveyhead 7:05 PM  

I don't understand the lack of admiration for this puzzle. Sure, there were a couple of Naticks and some ugly fill, but I don't remember grumbling once (I'm not generally a complainer about fairness of clues, anyway).

The mere fact that you really couldn't be sure of any across answer until you ran the puzzle was remarkable. I enjoyed it very much despite its minor flaws.

Z 8:05 PM  

@Nancy - Did you throw out Saturday yet? I'm wondering if you got the special section a day early.

You know what would make this puzzle better? Anagramming the first word of every clue...

I'm generally not prone to like construction feats and today is no different. Hey, look, crossword clues might have two different answers. Seriously folks? This is new? Interesting? Remarkable in the slightest? No. This is a gratuitous self-imposed limit which does nothing to make the actual process of solving entertaining. Be impressed with the cluing feat if you're so inclined (I'm not so inclined - the ambiguity of clues is a basic crossword feature) but the puzzle is basically a Meh level Sunday.

Ochs N. of The Sun 8:35 PM  


NOT NYT/Sulzberger family Ochs. Joycean Sun/Ulysses Ochs N of the Sun, Episode 14 about MOTHERhood.

Double whammy, see?

Leapfinger 8:43 PM  

@Z, every Across clue being a malapop (izzat the correct use of the term?) is indeed a feat -- a whole yard-ful of feat!!

Happy bloomin' puzzling, @Nancy!

Z 8:50 PM  

@Leapfinger - Are you calling me a dinosaur trapped in a feat bog?

ChE Dave 10:17 PM  

More impressed with the construction than the puzzle. Not challenging. Dull.

But I did get the puzzle section in my dead tree version today!

Leapfinger 10:27 PM  

Not a tall, @Z, you're perfectly entitled to a sign o' dour in the repeat blog.

Just don't mis-underestimate the degree of fossility, 'kay?

Tom 10:34 PM  

Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant.

And fun.

Unknown 8:10 AM  

I know this is late but I had to say I loved it. What an amazing puzzle and a crazy divergence of views!

John Bostrom 8:52 AM  

Puts you asleep

Anonymous 9:40 AM  

Joe Tinker, shortstop and manager of Reds and Cubs. Brilliantly doubled clue set with different spans of "olden" and proper vs common nouns. Delightfully twisted. That sparkle shines over the whole thing. Glad I'm not a pro like Rex. Doesn't seem fun at all

Anonymous 11:01 AM  

Derrick Neiderman -- well done!

Z 10:30 PM  

@Syndiland - Happy Holidays. May 2017 be better than you hope.

rain forest 3:21 AM  

@Z Thanks. However you missed the point about this puzzle if all you think is that 37 identical clues, symmetrically placed, is meh. Too bad for you.
2017 is going to be great for me, but I'm not so sure about the great US of A.

Really, this was a wonderful puzzle for all the reasons stated above. Construction feats which involve the solver, as this one did, are worth praise. I gather that @Rex wasn't impressed, but I really don't care. He increasingly doesn't like much of anything these days. I hope he has a nice Christmas.

The puzzle provided a lot of enjoyment for me, and that's all I can ask.

Merry Christmas to my Syndi pals, and may the next year be MUCH better than this one. Love you all.

Diana,LIW 11:50 AM  

No paper today - problems with "production" so it's coming tomorrow. Merry Christmas to us all!

Leftcoast - thanks for pointing out the "How the Other Half Lives" book of 19th century NYC slums. (Numinous posted links.) The photos sure make you (me!) grateful for our many blessings.

Shall puzzle and post tomorrow. Happy nogging!

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords, coming tomorrow

Teedmn 11:54 AM  

Happy holidays to all of you in Syndiland!

rondo 12:52 PM  

These construction TRIX are not for KIDS! Predicted OFL's review. This is so much better than a Sunday rebus with, say, nine reindeer names plus Santa each stuck in their own square. Maybe that's next Sunday in Syndiland, but I'll take this one, thank you very much.

For Christmas: On AVA and MIA, to the AGORA for RAZORs, and ELSA and LANA, there's a RUMOR you're DAZERs. Yeah babies all.

And who doesn't like slithy TOVES? From the other poem that begins "'Twas".

Didn't the NISSAN corp. change their DATSUN export tags to NISSAN? So actually it's the same make(r)?

I'm OK with this puz, wouldn't call it a LEMON.

spacecraft 1:19 PM  

Merry Christmas, all! It was so funny as I started, thinking: man, this could be SHORTSTOP or INFIELDER (wrong!)--and this could be CLEOPATRA or NEFERTITI! Little did I realize I was solving two parts of the puzzle at once. WOODS & IRONS...and all of it: absolutely remarkable. No wonder the fill gets so junky. We don't have mirror clues down--but we do have an anagram at symmetrical positions: ENOL/LONE.

Yeah, anagram: that's where I began to whiff a large rodent. "Anagram of O-N-D?" What kind of clue is THAT? Fun to solve but at times painful to fill. MIA's not my idea of a DOD--but AVA is (was). A classic beauty. I'm feeling a bit Santa-Claus-y today for some reason, so give it a birdie--with that complete set of clubs.

Burma Shave 2:23 PM  


ONCEI heard CLEOPATRA had some idea OFFUN or humor
She'd TRYA SPOT on her ARM or shoulder,
or her ASS when feeling BOULDER,
but NEFERTITI when fearing the DREADED TUMOR.


Ray - O - Sunshine 6:56 PM  

Fun puzzle...came out on Christmas so multiple interruptions but liked the format.

Unknown 8:41 PM  

Brilliant! Absolutely brilliant construction! While there are no witty clues/answers, and not particularly difficult overall, I got the "trix" right from the start and realize, "holy crap" I have to work all the downs and the top and bottom together to make sure I get the right answers in the right place.

Agree with the above pointing out the use of pupa/plow, rumor/inter, etc. Not mind blowing but clever enough given the difficulty of the construction.

But I really can't believe all the harping going on with ET UN. Really? With all the foreign words that pop up in the puzzles was it that hard to figure out two 20-something numbers in French divisible by three? There are only three of them after all. Zut alors!

Anonymous 2:16 AM  

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Bananafishiex 1:22 AM  

Rex's (and some others') response to this puzzle is just more evidence for my supposition that Rex (and many of his followers) is not a fan of puzzles or puzzling, he is a fan of words.

This puzzle was simply amazing, novel and a delight for puzzlers. Contrary to Rex's opinion (and the rest of the word snobs), the symmetry added a lot to the solving experience. One needed to hold off on putting in some answers or risk putting in the first answer that came to mind in the wrong place. And knowing there was an alternate answer led to some deep thought about how the clue could be interpreted in alternative ways.


msh 2:53 AM  

Well, yeah. Rex is kind of a persnickety bitch. Haven't you figured that out already?

Anonymous 1:58 PM  

An attempt at a better clue for DON/NOD:

Indicator of respect for Mr. Corleone.

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Unknown 9:59 PM  

A medium is a difficult for me. But no one should have ever see the word “dazer" or for that matter, say it

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