One of founders of Westworld / THU 12-22-16 / International prize first awarded to Stephen Hawking in 1979 / Competitor of Sapporo / Competitor of eBay / Moon of Saturn that's French woman's name / Prepare for framing again / Region in western Germany

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Constructor: Mark MacLachlan

Relative difficulty: Medium



THEME: (AL)UMINUM / SIDING (45A: With 42-Down, home construction material ... or a hint to this puzzle's theme) — You have to supply "AL"s to front of every Across answer that touches the west "side" of puzzle and the back of every Across answer that touches east "side" of puzzle

Word of the Day: Captain KIDD (44A: Pirate captain mentioned in Poe's "The Gold-Bug") —
Captain William Kidd (c. 22 January 1645 – 23 May 1701) was a Scottish sailor who was tried and executed for piracy after returning from a voyage to the Indian Ocean. Some modern historians deem his piratical reputation unjust, as there is evidence that Kidd acted only as a privateer. Kidd's fame springs largely from the sensational circumstances of his questioning before the English Parliament and the ensuing trial. His actual depredations on the high seas, whether piratical or not, were both less destructive and less lucrative than those of many other contemporary pirates and privateers. (wikipedia)
• • •

Like many Thursday puzzles, this one was tough-going to start, but then easy after the theme concept became clear. The NW was a real bear, as, even before I had issues with the Acrosses, I had BERG for FLOE and SAAR for RUHR (2D: Region in western Germany). Also had ELLE for 13A: Women's beauty magazine ((AL)LURE). Only way I got into that NW corner at all was backwards, from the back end of (AL)OHA SHIRTS. Had -ASHIRTS and even though ALOHA SHIRTS remain a concept I have never heard of outside crosswords (I just call them "Hawaiian shirts"), I figured ALOHA was right and maybe the "AL" just went outside. The "H" gave me RUHR and all the Acrosses made sense (with the "AL") from there. After escaping from that corner, the rest of the puzzle wasn't that hard; in fact, the edges got a Lot easier. Only a few difficulty issues. Trouble with DO A DE(AL) (icky, ugly phrase) crossing REMAT (ugh). Also, I had real trouble getting from [Punk] to LOUSY (is that usage still current?). Further, the ARNOLD clue mean absolutely nothing to me (26D: One of the founders of Westworld, on HBO's "Westworld"). That clue is current, but also *hyper*-exclusionary. Maybe it was supposed to be a speed bump for people who would be speeding along after figuring out the theme.


It's a somewhat cute theme idea, though once you pick it up, there's really not a lot to it. Plus, the placement of the revealer is incredibly inelegant. It's split, and the second part runs Down ... I don't know. Seems pretty ugly. UMINUM and SIDING are both 6, you'd think they could've been brought into some kind of symmetrical relationship to each other when you were building the grid initially. So, lots of "AL"s ... including a pretty nifty front-and-back "AL" with the central answer. ALE-SELLERS seems pretty weak to me, as a stand-alone phrase (40A: Taverns and such), but that and DO A DE(AL) were the only things that made me grimace. Everything else was fairly solid. Sturdy. Adequate Thursday fare.

Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld

[Follow Rex Parker on Twitter and Facebook]

87 comments:

Tita A 12:07 AM  

[AL]OHA to our own Bob Kerfuffle, SHIRT-wearer extraordinaire...

Fun Thursday rebus...totally needed the ALs to finish.

jae 12:10 AM  

Very easy for me. The only thing that took extra time was writing AL in the margins. What helped is that I started at the bottom, which I almost never do. When the puzzle came off the printer I noticed the "Actor Ken" clue which I knew, so I started there. This got me to SIDING and the theme very quickly. The rest was cake.

Clever idea, smooth grid, nice REVEAL, liked it. Excellent debut Mark MacLachlan.

Questinia 12:12 AM  

I thought this was a rebus and added the *al* along the sides. Usual Thursday fake-out until I went from concrete thinker to abstraction and removed them ALl.

George Barany 12:17 AM  

ALs well that ends AL, or some such -- congratulations to @Mark MacLachlan -- second consecutive New York Times puzzling debut.

Bit of a mini-theme with PURITANICAL vs. PRE-MARITAL, then an allusion to one of the great great scenes in cinematic history (YES, it is 15 times, though there are other words in between), leading to FLORAL arrangements at the wedding, and finally, the inevitable ALIMONY.

Trombone Tom 12:22 AM  

It being football season I started with 55D which could be NFL or AFC. The crossing CASUAL decided that and pretty much revealed the -AL's since FLORAL was right above it.

No real hiccups after that. I'm not familiar with UBID, but it sounded reasonable. I've read "The Goldbug" several times, but don't recall the reference to Captain KIDD.

I don't see any problem with taverns as ALE SELLERS, but going from Punk to LOUSY seemed a bit of a stretch.

All in all a different and interesting Thursday puzzle.

Moly Shu 12:29 AM  

Me too for berg and elle before FLOE and LURE. Agree that catching the trick early makes the solve much easier. Only real problem was POx/xENG. Took me awhile to track that one down. POx just seemed correct and never checked my Chinese leaders.

Graham 12:59 AM  

I've always felt disappointed by that Paul Simon video. It doesn't really say much about a pretty interesting song (lyrically), except maybe "I know Chevy Chase and he'll do a video with me."

Anoa Bob 2:07 AM  

Thinking Hula Skirts or Grass Skirts for 16A slowed me down at first. Then trying to put the AL rebus in the inside squares further bollixed things up. Finally got it straight in the SW with (AL)BINOS & (AL)IMONY. Having no place in the online version to put all those ALs was inelegant.

Sapporo beer was my favorite when I was in Japan, with KIRIN (44D) coming in second.

Italian women always make my heart skip a beat. I attribute that to watching Sophia LOREN (6D) on screen at an impressionable age (hers & mine).

I think I like @George B's mini-theme better than the main one.

chefwen 2:09 AM  

Got the trick right away with ALOHA SHIRT. We never call them Hawaiian shirts here, always ALOHA, just like it's never just Friday, it's always ALOHA Friday.

After I had all my AL's filled in this was a piece of cake.

Did not care for the reveal at all.

Charles Flaster 3:21 AM  

Agree with beginning of Rex but he was too picky at the end.
Needed the reveal and hit upon it at REVEAL followed by LATERAL.
Until then my write overs were FRED for bRit, FLOE for berg and later on FLORAL for FormAL and OAT for all.
Creative clues for ANTE and BETS.
I felt the construction had to be painstakingly done especially the ALBERT EINSTEIN MEDAL find.
Wonderful debut for MM

Anonymous 4:09 AM  

I figured out the AL gimmick right away but entered them as rebuses along with the third letter. Couldn't finish on the iPad until I removed all the rebuses. A rebus solve should have counted also.

Also Rex, this is the tenth time in ten years you've pointed out that you've never heard of ALOHA SHIRTS, and that you've only heard of Hawaiian Shirts. And ten times you get informed in the comments that ALOHA SHIRTS is what they are called in Hawaii and many other places; in fact it would make ALOHA SHIRTS the proper term and Hawaiian Shirts a secondary slang term. Ten times, Rex, ten times.

da kine 4:32 AM  

I lived in Hawaii for 7 years and everyone called them "aloha shirts". What do they call French toast in France?

I thought that puzzle was excellent.

Martín Abresch 5:40 AM  

I loved the gonzo revealer, ALUMINUM SIDING.

A difficult theme to execute. Piecing together six, symmetrical sections of AL- and -AL words is one heck of a challenge. The -AL words were mostly adjectives, of course, so I liked the variety of DO A DEAL. On the flip side, ALE SELLERS seems like green paint to me, but one weak-ish link out of 23 ain't bad at all. It's also more than made up for by the wonderful grid-spanner, ALBERT EINSTEIN MEDAL. Great, great entry. I love it when an answer is unknown to me yet inferable.

@George Barany - I also liked the mini-theme of PURITANICAL vs. PRE-MARITAL. My favorite clue was the one for YES [Word cried 15 times in a row by Meg Ryan in "When Harry Met Sally..."]. "I'll have what she's having" gets me every time.

I keep on hearing about HBO's "Westworld," and I keep on getting the impression that it's a tv product in search of a soul. I have chosen to avoid it, but I'm sure that someday I will be bored and weak and will give it a shot and end up hate-watching the whole damn thing.

Loren Muse Smith 5:43 AM  

1. Finally spot what I thought was an AL rebus (ALFRED) – YES!

2. Cram in AL, like @Questinia and @Anoa Bob, and what had to be other rebus squares (FR, LU, OH, ER) and then see the downs FLOE and RUHR peeking out – YES!

3. Realize the AL goes outside the grid and thus puts FLOE and RUHR in their proper places – YES YES YES!

Look. I’m not comparing this multi-stage aha moment build-up to Sally’s little display, but, well, figuring this out was supremely satisfying for me. Talk about your happy ending. This is a terrific puzzle.

I think that the fact that ALBERT EINSTEIN MEDAL is a central grid-spanner with AL on both ends Re Sound Ing Ly elcipses the reveal’s placement.

I had a dumb “metal” first. Hah. Wonder if ALUMINUM is the Albert Einstein Medal metal. And if it’s awarded for overcoming obstacles.. aluminum could be the mettle medal metal.

@Moly Shu - PO’d took me a while to see, too. Cool that some new verbs seem to have a regular past tense – IDED, but some are more problematic - PO’D. Makes you revisit MRED. Are the soldiers ready? Yeah, they’re all accounted for and mre’d.

I really like watching how people add the ED end to new verbs. I’ve said before (lest I draw fire from ALHOHA SHIRT guy) that putting “mic” in the past tense is a poser. Is Obama ready to speak? Yeah – he’s miced and good to go. I’ve kinda sniffed around online to see what editors do, and it seems that “mic” is a more recent abbreviation of “microphone,” so the prevailing past tense is just “miked.” Ah me. No fun. But I guess that makes sense since you ride a bike and not a bic. So with this little lesson, your day is basically complete now.

@Tita – my first thought, too, with ALOHA SHIRT. Sure miss our beloved @Bob K. Well, we’ll catch up with him in April…

Mr. MacLachlan – congrats on a decidedly auspicious NYT debut. This is one I’ll remember for a long time. Bravo.

Hungry Mother 6:41 AM  

Got the theme fast, but had "ped" instead of POD for some reason. Otherwise, easy Thursday.

Mishe Gas 7:16 AM  

Rex makes a good point about the revealer but it's still a very good theme. "Adequate Thursday fare" is unduly harsh in my view.

Glimmerglass 7:30 AM  

Like @dakine, I also lived in Hawaii, and noone ever called an ALOHA SHIRT anything else. In fact, the shirt was described that way in my school's dress code. For dressup occasions, an ALOHA SHIRT could be worn with a sport coat with the wide shirt collar outside the coat's lapels. "Feeling punk" used to mean the same as "feeling LOUSY." But I haven't heard it for years. I started by trying to fit the first four ALs inside their boxes, like some weird rebus, but it made no sense. ALUMINUM SIDING made it all clear. Exactly as @Rex said, once the gimmick was known, solving got easy.

kitshef 7:33 AM  

This of course is the kind of puzzle that makes my day. My NW initially had Hitchcock being BALD, the magazine being ELLE, BERGs being hazardous and the quaint GAY for bright-eyed.

Once I got the LAs on the right side, I went back and tried a rebused glamor mazazine, spelling be damned.

What I loved is getting two ahas for the price of one. First the trailing ALs on the right, later the leading ALs on the left, which until you get the reveal could have been leading LAs, or leading SEs, or pretty much anything.

(AL)BERT EINSTEIN MED(AL) fantastic.

(AL)ATEEN is weird and awkward as a word (in real life, it's fine for the puzzle). It abandons the anon(ymous) which is the point of Alanon.

I thought perhaps Bob Kerfuffle had hit F3 twice.

Tim Pierce 7:39 AM  

Really liked the theme -- when I got the reveal and realized that AL was going to outside the grid on all border Across answers, I was quite impressed. Audacious.

My worst mistake was entering HELENA for HELENE in 17D early on. But for that, I would not have ended the puzzle looking blankly at 34A saying to myself, "What on earth is the ALBERTA INSTEIN MEDAL?" It was only when I read @Martin Abresch's comment above that I realized my mistake.

That mistake had ripple effects later: with only ALBERTaINSTE--MEDAL, I was hopelessly lost at the ARNOLD / DOADEAL / KIDD / IDIDIT niche. In retrospect, Captain KIDD should have been a gimme from KI-- but it was just not coming for me, and there was nothing else there that was strong enough to help me get kickstarted.

Lots of fun. But oh, the cheekiness of 32A "What may be dispensed from a dispenser". Is there anything that could not be dispensed from a dispenser, if you had a dispenser for it? Lotion! Candy bars! Coffee! Wrenches! Monkeys! Volkswagens!

TomAz 8:18 AM  

I thought this was pretty good. I was happy with it. I loved the concept. At first I didn't know if these were supposed to be rebuses but then the edge downs solved that for me.

ALESELLERS is a reach and then some (no one says "I'm going to go down to the aleseller and have a couple with Mo and Bud"). My first answer to "Punk" was "genre", but it didn't last long in there. REMAT is another bit of glue that could have been smoother. But these are small things. I liked the puzzle.

r.alphbunker 8:28 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
r.alphbunker 8:29 AM  

Isn't [AL]BERTEINSTEINMED[AL] beautiful? I knew there was something going on with the acrosses early on so I focused on the downs. Toyed with the idea of a rebus for a while. The penny dropped at 15A {Army V.I.P.} GENER[AL]. It was fun writing in all the mysterious across answers once I got that.

Details are here.

Kevin 8:30 AM  

The intersection of KIRIN, OLIN, and DENG was horrible.

Questinia 8:35 AM  

@ da kine - Pain perdu or "lost bread".

chefbea 8:40 AM  

found it fairly easy. very busy theses days so no time to finish or read all the posts

NCA President 8:45 AM  

Second week in a row I thought it was Wednesday and then started doing the puzzle and wondered what was going on until I remembered it was Thursday and suddenly it all got easier. That says a lot about how, for me, NYT xword puzzles are made "easier." When you know it's a Thursday, you don't bail when things are weird, you know to hang in there. When you know it's Friday, you know it's going to be challenging. And on and on.

Maybe, and I mean maybe, WS should throw the "Thursday" puzzle into the week randomly. Whatever trickeration happens on a Thursday, it is almost half-solved by knowing it's Thursday and there is going to be some trickeration.

Anyway, it was interesting to me how challenging this was for what I believed was a Wednesday, and then how easy it became once I knew it was Thursday.

As for the conceit itself...pretty normal for a Thursday and once you figure it out, then you know two letters of every answer up one side of the puzzle and down the other.

My question for you constructors is this: did ALBERTEINSTEINMEDAL create the theme, or was it a supreme stroke of luck to find that answer to span your grid and adhere to the theme fully?

Anonymous 8:57 AM  

Didn't catch on with ALOHA SHIRTS. Went to reveal with _MINU_. Filled in ALUMINUM SIDING. Rest was a cinch. Good puzzle!

dick swart 9:12 AM  

A great Thursday puzzle. I didn't get it until 'aluminum siding' ... then a lot of fun seeing the answers appear!

Of course the theme recalls the Barry Levinson movie "Tin Men" with Danny DeVito and Richard Dreyfuss.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0094155/

Levinson and John Waters: Two greats out of Baltimore before 'The Wire".

AWS 9:13 AM  

Thought this was fabulous start to almost finish, with the MULE/OLIN/DENG cross throwing me into DNFville. Am I wrong, or is Rex's carp about the revealer placing wrong...? I don't see how you can place UMINUM and SIDING symmetrically without turning the second half into SIDING(AL) or maybe (AL)SIDING. So unless Mr. AL Siding is a dated proper noun (Gameshow host? Doo-wop legend?), I don't think you can argue with the placement. Great debut.

I am not a robot 9:23 AM  

Dnf, fell for the same NW trap others did. I hate a rebus. This is the part of my brain that's lying up there refusing to help, treating me the way the teenage me treated mom before we FINALLY got a dishwasher. When I eventually saw what was going on, i was too wiped out to continue and slunk into this blog for the vicarious thrills, just like every Thursday. Sigh

Norm 9:27 AM  

Okay, I'm officially tired of the "letters off the edge of the rid" theme. If the constructor could have pulled off a FA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA, it would have been mildly amusing, but ALUMINUM SIDING? For Christmas? Bah humbug!

I am not a robot 9:36 AM  

Thank you @Norm. I don't see why putting AL to the side stretches out to the word aluminum anyway. To me it was just AL siding. Oh, and my freshman year chem prof pronounced it aluminIum.

Stanley Hudson 9:37 AM  

@NCA President, a few years ago Will Shortz did trickeration on a day other than Thursday. The howls of complaint on this blog would have had you believe the sky had fallen.

Anonymous 9:44 AM  

Am I the only one who thinks there are two solutions to this puzzle? ALOHASHORTS/SNOPED seems like just as reasonable an answer doesn't it? What am I missing?

Z 9:47 AM  

@Graham - And here I thought it was "I know Paul Simon and he'll let me be in his video." Love that song. Why am I soft in the middle when the rest of my life is so hard?

@anon4:09 - I want to believe you but links or it didn't happen (actually, that's a lot of links, so dates would do). LFC knowledge does seem to have a bit of an ephemeral quality to it, so it is hard for me to take Rex too much to task if he is repeating himself. But 10? That's funny.

@Martin Abresch - "No soul" - I have only seen a little bit of Westworld, but "soul" and "free will" seem to be central questions.

I heard on sports radio yesterday that divorce is at a 50 year low (or maybe it was 35 year low) and one of the leading theories is that people are marrying older. Doesn't that raise some interesting moral conundrums for the PURITANIC(AL) amongst us? Adultery replaced by PRE-MARIT(AL) sex resulting in stronger marriages... Hmmm. Of course, it's probably something else entirely.

(AL)UMINUM SIDING seems outre these days, replaced by cement siding that looks better and lasts longer. Amazing stuff which makes me wonder about the shelf life of this puzzle. Will someone working the archives 10 years from now have no idea what (AL)UMINUM SIDING is?

Passing Shot 9:49 AM  

I guess I'm in the minority (and with @I am not a robot) -- I hate rebuses, I tend to hate Thurs puzzles, and I hated this one. I don't mind difficult clues, but the frustration of not understanding why answers you *know* are right is overwhelming; and by the time you figure out there's *something* going on, you've long stopped caring.

jberg 9:57 AM  

Naturally, I put my surname in at 1D with great excitement, especially since I could confirm it with elle and brit. But neither grass skirts nor ALOHA SHIRTS would work with it, so I knew it had to be wrong. I knew there was some kind of a 3-letter rebus, eventually saw it had to be AL + random letter, and only after that did I see you could just use the random letters for the downs, and only THEN did the revealer make sense. So I'm with @Loren, it was an exciting experience (and remember, Loren, Sally was faking it).

My other big problem was 'Asahi' -- but DENG was a gimme, so I eventually remembered KIRIN. Or at least I remembered K_RIN, and eventually realized that it was a MIDI skirt, not a MaxI.I really enjoyed this one.

Anonymous 10:01 AM  

Not to be pedantic, but 34 across is clued incorrectly three times. It is Not a medal, it was first awarded in the 1950s, and It was awarded to Hawking in 1978. You can look it up.

Nancy 10:07 AM  

This was quite literally a question of "thinking outside the box" -- something I've never been at all good at. It's why I'll never invent anything or make an important scientific discovery. Yes, I got the AL thing, but I squeezed all 3 letters into the grid. That's what a rebus is, right? More than one letter in a box. And it's Thursday. So, for example, I squooshed ALF into the first square, and did the same for all 23 others. This left me with that well-known Arctic shipping hazard at 1D: ALFALLALOALE. And that important synonym for competent: ALAALBALLALE at 30D. And the famous neutral shade at 52D: EALCALRALUAL. I knew something was Very Wrong and I came here to find out exactly what. And I found out, all right. I found out that I'm an idiot.

A terrific puzzle, by the way. But the ones that go outside the grid are always the ones that get me. Always.

QuasiMojo 10:15 AM  

I kept trying to squeeze in Zhou En Lai in between Mao and Yiang. My memory of Chinese politics has diminished. Although I will never forget seeing Mao's wife Jiang Qing, of the infamous Gang of Four, screaming at the court that sentenced her to life in prison. I wonder if she's ever been in the NYT puzzle.

This was a fun clever Thursday puzzle. I liked it (AL)ot.

Goofs: I had Brit before Fred. Elle before Lure (which didn't sit well with my Ruhr which was my first entry.) Etsy before Ubid. Dolor before Gloom. Lese before Lege. Asahi before Kirin. Perverse before Premarit. (Don't ask.)

Still even so I was able to finish this without googling in about 20 minutes. Not bad for a Thursday.

Does anyone else feel like it's Christmas (AL)ready? It seems like everyone's left town early this year. The streets and cafes are empty. Even the e-sellers (as taverns are known here) are barren. Does anyone work anymore?

Z 10:15 AM  

MEDAL
Award
@Anon10:01 - I did. So why didn't you? Take a gander at FAQ #16 and try to be correct before claiming to be pedantic.

Theodore Stamos 10:16 AM  

I thought this was a solid Thursday puzzle. Cool theme and well executed. Enjoyed it a lot.

George Barany 10:17 AM  

@Anonymous at 10:01 AM, I suppose that the cluing of 34-Across was based on this wikipedia article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albert_Einstein_Medal, which describes "... an award presented by the Albert Einstein Society in Bern. First given in 1979, the award is presented to people for 'scientific findings, works, or publications related to Albert Einstein' each year." According to this article, the first winner was Stephen Hawking in 1979, and the most recent (2016) winner of this mostly (but not completely) annual award was Alexei Smirnov.

Compare that to this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albert_Einstein_Award, which states: "The Albert Einstein Award (sometimes mistakenly called the Albert Einstein Medal because it was accompanied with a gold medal) was an award in theoretical physics that was established to recognize high achievement in the natural sciences. It was endowed by the Lewis and Rosa Strauss Memorial Fund in honor of Albert Einstein's 70th birthday. It was first awarded in 1951 ..." A list of winners follows, starting with Kurt Gödel and Julian Schwinger in 1951, and including Stephen Hawking in 1978.

In summary, I think the entry and clue, as given, should stand ... and accolades for this inspired find that anchors that puzzle are well justified.

Teedmn 10:40 AM  

Like so many others, "brit" crossing "berg" started off this rather time-consuming (relatively speaking) Thursday. But the "i" of brit was not going to be any part of QED so I knew that was wrong.

Having IRTS at the end of 16A made "grass skIRTS" with a rebus seem very likely but I couldn't think of any French female names starting with K. I swooped all over this puzzle and ALit at 50A. IDE gave me the necessary boost to REVEAL the trick and that was pretty much it. Except for 44D. I had MaxI at 49A (I hadn't seen the reveal yet so I was wondering what kind of home construction material involved SIxING). Sapporo, was that a fashion house? Donna KaRaN? Finally, SIDING raised my hem to MIDI and I guessed the KIRIN/OLIN crossing correctly.

Great debut, Mark MachLachlan!

Roo Monster 10:42 AM  

Hey All !
Thanks for the PO'D explanation, I never parsed it, and kept wondering how a POD meant Peeved. That little section pissed me off, with POD and MULE clued as a slipper (?!). Also WOEs KIRIN and DENG.

So after a way cool puz, I'm just gonna forget about that section and marvel at the rest of it.

Another great constructioning feat. ALs hidden in the margins. Like some before, I actually had the AL(letter) rebused in on the SIDes, but did online, and couldn't get the Happy Music, so hit Check Puz, and it crossed out all the rebi. So erased 'em all, and typed in just the words, and got the Congrats Tune.

Took me a bit to figure out clever trick, think I got it in SE. Then saw the (ALs) in the NE after having same speed bumps that Rex did up there. Finally figured out Revealer, and was awed by all the SIDes having ALs forward and backward. DaNG!

A high block count, but I don't mind it because of the cool theme. Also, an awesome Down StairStep of 7 fives in the middle!

So,very nice debut Mark Mac. This has been a pretty good puz week.

Steelers Baby!
RooMonster
DarrinV

mathgent 10:44 AM  

Quite enjoyable, but once I discovered the gimmick it fell apart too easily. A very solid B plus.

Joseph Michael 10:50 AM  

yes yes yes yes Yes Yes Yes YEs YEs YEs YES YES YES! YES!! YES!!!

Does anyone have a cigarette?

Mohair Sam 10:50 AM  

Well I'm PO'd. Took me longer than forever (as in never) to get POD. Threw in PET (think about it) even though it meant giving up on the gimme OLIN, and changed KIRIN to KIRaN thinking there was a new 4 letter Ken actor out there. DNF'd twice in a row. Merry Christmas to you too Will Shortz.

Very clever puzzle. Did someone say it's a debut? Wow, great stuff - especially with the grid spanner. Tip of the cap here.

I don't imbibe so it's a miracle I know one Japanese beer, asking me to know two is just mean. Chuckled seeing @Rex grumble (as only he can) about cluing a premium TV show which he doesn't watch. We don't get HBO or Showtime, welcome to the club Rex.

Those of us who grew up on Long Island just know that Captain KIDD hid much treasure on or near our shores (Gardiner's Island being the favorite), and were convinced we were going to be the kids who would find it. So far no luck - but I haven't quit trying.

Fun Thursday Y'AL.

Carola 10:57 AM  

Nice! I got the NW first from RUHR-->[AL]OHA SHIRT and then the rest of the AL's. Merrily criss-crossed my way down the west coast and into the center. Then dumbness set in, where I thought the other SIDe would be the other end of ALuminum....um, no. PREMARITAL cleared that up. Liked the I DID IT! feel of solving the rebus easily, even though it's not quite at the ALBERT EINSTEIN level. Also liked the ALLURE of the sexy mini-theme. Fun puzzle.

@Rex, a friend with bronchitis just texted me that she's still feeling punk, so YES.

tilla23 11:06 AM  

Just a few nits to pick for me - has anybody ever *actually* heard somebody call a slipper a "mule"? Should that have been clued as being a French word?

Crossing MULE (hello Natick my old friend...), isn't Ken OLIN a little obscure to just casually throw out there by cluing it that way, especially in a Thursday puzzle? It looks like his most prominent (and only noteworthy) appearances were in Thirtysomething, late 80's, cancelled after just 4 seasons, and Hill Street Blues, early 80's, only appeared for 2 seasons....really?!

Aketi 11:17 AM  

@Questina, you beat me to it. Haven't had breakfast yet so I think I'll make some.

Got the side ALs quickly, but had a major brain pause over MR ED because I saw M RED which my niece's pen name when she writes for Marvel so I started wondering if she somewhere slipped a character name into the Agent Carter series but had that happened it would have been way too obscure and of course it was.

Also had a little hiccup finding EINSTEIN thanks to all the babies that are being named HELENA thes days instead of HELENE. HELENA has been climbing in popularity in the US over the last ten years (and fairly popular in NYC) whereas HELENE doesn't make it on the list.

Very happy to have time to solve puzzles again now that college applications and financial aid forms are pretty much finished.

wgh 11:29 AM  

I liked this one ALot

Anonymous 11:29 AM  

Hill Street Blues was on for 7 seasons, but I don't remember Ken Olin being in it!

phil phil 11:31 AM  

Thought maybe a strange christmas catol construct...lalalalalal

old timer 11:35 AM  

I can't believe I finished this one, but I did. Of course I rebused it all the way, which made it hard to figure out what was going on. But eventually I realized that the letters that were not A and L were in fact answers to fairly easy Down clues.

Oh, and Merry Christmas, y'AL(l). I may or may not visit the blog during the next few days/

Anoa Bob 11:57 AM  

@NCA President & @others who were remarking about the central spanner, I just went to onelook.com, typed in AL, followed by 15 ?s followed by AL. Then the same with 16 ?s, then 17 ?s, etc. Along with ALBERT EINSTEIN MEDAL, others that showed up and would work as grid-spanners include ALABAMA BOOK FESTIVAL, ALFONSO II (and IV & VI) OF PORTUGAL, ALL THINGS BEING EQUAL & ALGEBRAICALLY NORMAL.

ALBERT... is probably the best of the lot, but not all that challenging to find.

For candidates only beginning with AL, follow the same procedure, AL followed by the requisite number of ?s. If one comes up that you like but is one letter short for its slot, just add an S, as is the case here with 16, 40, 53 & 59 Across.

For ones ending in AL, do the ?S first, and then AL. No POC assist available here, though.

Numinous 12:12 PM  

@Joseph Michael, sure. Do you want a Marlboro or a Camel?

@NCA Pres., I was going to say that I think you have a good idea but after a later comment or two I'll have to pass on that. Wouldn't want to have one on a Tuesday and have people thinking that it was Thursday and miss an important appointment.

I fell into the rebus trap and wound up having to erase a lot of [AL]s. Was it really 23? I didn't count. This had an "Ok, now I get it" moment. I made an ALOHA SHIRT once. I had some beautiful rayon and went nuts matching the FLOR[AL] pattern for the front and back and both front pockets. I did some research and found that, back in the 40s, thy had two breast pockets. I wanted a REAL ALOHA SHIRT. I haven't called them Hawaiian SHIRTs since. When I was five or so, my mother bought a slip cover for our couch. ALOHA patterns were popular in the 50s. This was basically green and flowery. Ten times @Rex? Ten? Wow!

I had pretty much the same wrong entries as @Rex in the NW. I had to go mostly with the downs leaving the six coastal entries blank until I got the theme. I got the ING which gave me SIDING but then I had problems because [AL]UMIN[i]UM wouldn't fit. I've been saying it that way for 50 years.

According to Mark MacLachlan, it was serendipitous for him to find the ALBERT EINSTEIN MEDAL. His original spanner was "all things being equal" but the Q was giving him fits trying to fill what became 28D.

Is there a magazine called [AL]LURE? I've never seen it. Punk for LOUSY seems pretty retro to me but that's not a bad thing.

Malsdemare 12:13 PM  

Oh, boy. I started with the NW, popped in FRED, FLOE, RUHR, and then looked at what I had (nothing that made sense) and erased it all. Did pretty much the same thing in the NE, but when giVE wasn't going to work, erased everything and headed to the south central region. I then filled in all the flyover states, got what looked for all the world like ALBERTEINSTEINMEDAL, did the head slap and started all over.

I DNFd at MauD, giving me the less than famous GaETEL and the equally unfamous French name of HELuNE. In my defense, I skimmed the clue for the moon and promptly put in HELEos and when that turned out to be wrong, just threw up my hands.

Who doesn't love Meg Ryan's over-the-top display of ecstasy? What's truly fun about that scene is that the woman who says, "I'll have what she's having" is Rob Reiner's mom. Now THAT'S a cameo.

The new avatar is Rocky. He's a bit of a dynamo; it will be a while before I can capture his true gorgeousness. Meanwhile, here's his goofiness.

Anonymous 1:00 PM  

I am of the opinion that, if this was not a rebus puzzle, it would never have been published on a Thursday. Which is to say I do not think it is a Thursday level of difficulty but, I reminded myself that it is not the author's job to pick a day of the week for publication. The puzzle is a fun one.

Martin Abresch's comment about the Albert Einstein medal was well taken. If you have never heard of something but, you can fill it in from the crosses and, even if it is a bit of trivia, if it is at least interesting, you have crossword gold.

Another point to me is that there are virtually no crossword 'creations' unless you want to complain about ale sellers. But, I would defend that entry on the ground that the clue just literally asks for things done at taverns and other places, which is selling ales. That is, unless you insist that the answer be a thing that is a known phrase as an answer.

Another asset is that midi would appear to be the only somewhat tired crossword word in the puzzle and of the 3 options, mini, midi and maxi, midi must be the least used.

The premarital and puritanical stacked over one another on the eastern side of the puzzle was cute. If they had actually crossed one another, it would have been cuter still. Nice effort;

r.alphbunker 1:02 PM  

@Anoa Bob

I have never used onelook.com to cheat on an American style crossword puzzle. But I used it frequently when I decided to take up cryptic crosswords. As I get better, I am using it less.

Crane Poole 1:13 PM  

Challenging and solvable, so I liked this a lot. Brit and berg here too. Then struggled trying to get bermudA SHoRTS into 16a someway somehow. The aha came later in the southeast with FLORAL and CASUAL. Loved the revealer. Clever and fun. Punk=Lousy? You can't have everything.

George Barany 1:21 PM  

With respect to comments above related to onelook.com, it's a fabulous resource for crossword constructors to discover new theme entries that are unlikely to already be in existing word lists or databases. It's a Scylla/Charybdis tradeoff, you want something fresh, but you don't want it to raise eyebrows either (sorry about mixing and mangling metaphors). Also, no substitute for common sense and life experience ... onelook.com offers an enormous amount of junk suggestions that need to be evaluated humanly (happy to continue dialogue further off-Rex, with anyone who cares).

Masked and Anonymous 1:21 PM  

AL gore! Pretty marginal [har].

@RP: yo, @Al Kaline pic. M&A started the puz with BERG/ELLE, just like U. Also took BRIT out for a 1-A spin, like many a Comment Gallery solver. Then spotted the 3-D QED clue, and mind exploded. Got nerve back, after a couple of cinnamon rolls on the side.

Nuthin says Merry Christmas, like aluminum siding. Gift that keeps on givin.

Day-um … a debut constructioneerin job! Primo work. Egg nog toast to Mr. MacLachlan with two backward aluminums.

Tech question of the day: How many squares are there, in this here ThursPuz? [Caution: side effects may include minor mind explosions.]

fave weeject: ERT.

fave Downer, if U go with the rebus approach, like M&A did until mind exploded again: 30-D's ALA ALB ALL ALE.

Thanx, M & M, for the fun solvequest and excitin explosions. Come back aLgain soon.

Masked & Anonymo5Us


**gruntz**

Leapfinger 2:31 PM  

@Questina, you must've heard me wondering wha' hoppened to ya. Yup, 'pain perdu', but something gets lost in the translation.

Nice 'n' easy ALlegorical Thursday after you got over the brit/berg/elle -lignment. Would've made an -mighty mess to rebus in the ALuminium, as @Nancy showed so -lertly. Maybe I was -one in anticipating -Jazeera? 'You Can Call Me AL' is great theme music for today, but there's another, a Weird double-header, by AL about AL Foil.

Perhaps you'-l will -low me to share the inspired -literative effort of a fellow Durhamite, known in some circles as -an J:
-low me to plaudit in manner poetic-,
-beit to REMAT a bit antithetic-,
-lluring indeed was this crossword so quizzic-
-laying glum spirits, to wax metaphysic-,
-though we'll avoid any phrase transcendent-,
-luding instead to a term element-
-ighting in margins like floating free radic-,
-l in all entertaining, and truly "not badic-!"


Given that I'm personally in favour of 'free-floating radicals' I hope this doesn't throw an -len wrench into the works of -ight and easy Thursday debut!

Am off to make a double batch of Mississippi Roast, perhaps today I'll call it ALabama Roast.

Alf Resco 2:42 PM  

Isn't there an ALgorithmicAL way to solve this puzzle?

[commenting under an ALias]

Anonymous 2:49 PM  

Nobody has a beef with using lateral as a kind of pass? The NFL begs to differ.

Roger G 3:26 PM  

@Anon 2:49 - Probably not. We all know that the NFL only differentiates between forward and backward passes and makes absolutely no reference to 'laterals', yet we all call backward passes laterals because, you know, we're humans.

Anonymous 3:37 PM  

No need for the gratuitous link to the rules digest. I was looking at it while I posted. BTW, I'm pretty sure you're not THE Roger G.

Leapfinger 3:50 PM  

A while back, @Someone asked about MULE: yes, it could be called a 'lounging slipper' (about 400K google-hits). It's a backless slipon, and the fancy ladies' versions can have a small heel and a puffy froufrou on the front.
I wouldn't mind seeing the crossing MIDI clued to the South of France, if that isn't too loose for the venue. Duck confit and cassoulet, mm-hmm!

Funny how being stuck in the kitchen turns the mind to Fooood!!

OISK 4:37 PM  

You know me, AL...I am pretty sure that mules, as in "I left my mules under the bed" is used in an Abbott and Costello film _ Hold that Ghost.

I loved this puzzle.

Brian 5:23 PM  

——MOST MAGIC——

Chip Hilton 6:08 PM  

TEES as course requirements? Not for those who prefer to hit the ball right off the turf. Unless Mr. Maclachlan is referring to the teeing areas, in which case I withdraw my objection.

Enjoyable Thursday for me. A lost cause for quite some time, but once the light clicked on, it was a breeze.

Anonymous 8:53 PM  

Chiming in here to agree with others on aloha shirts. When I was growing up, Fridays were Aloha Friday, and you could dress down if you wore an aloha shirt. That was long before casual Fridays hit the Mainland.

Anonymous 10:11 PM  

The Albert Einstein Award and the Albert Einstein Medal are two different prizes, which is not all that difficult to understand if you take the time to actually comprehend what you're reading. Or even if you stop to ask yourself how likely it is that a paper that has a pretty good track record of not making mistakes would make THREE errors in a single clue.

Or could you could just rush here and post a smug comment instead.

And by the way, Wikipedia is not the only source for checking facts. Here, for instance, you could easily have gone to the website of the organization that administers the prize. Just sayin'.

Anonymous 10:19 PM  

There's a THE Roger G?

Anonymous 11:52 PM  

@George Barany, you forgot to list the puritanicl Aldens in the SE.

@Z, divorce is low in France because many do not marry at all. In a secular, egalitarian government there are no advantages to being married or unmarried. As we move to a more secular state with respect to civil benefits is is not surprising the divorce rate would decrease for the same reasons. Just a thought to consider.

Anonymous 9:35 AM  

@anon 10:19
There sure is.

Andy Feinberg 3:04 PM  

I worry that the puzzle author will think people didn't appreciate how ingenious this is, from the other comments. The key point is Al is the chemical symbol of aluminum, and using the "side" in its own name is wonderfully self-referential! One of the cleverest puzzles I've ever seen.

Burma Shave 9:34 AM  

COLOSSAL ALERT

The ALLURE to DOADEAL PREMARITAL
(ALATEEN KIDDs who aren't PURITANICAL),
is IDEAL if you're ABLE
to REVEAL the GENERAL label
by saying,"IDIDIT REAL and, YES, IDIDIT CASUAL."

--- ALFRED ALDENS

Diana,LIW 11:11 AM  

I knew some kind of rebus thingy was going on, but the downs were all complete words. So I had a chunk of the middle done, but a mess on the borders. Then found SIDING, and the light dawned. Made for an easy finish. And satisfaction on a Thursday. A nice treat.

Diana, Lady-in-Waiting for Crosswords

spacecraft 12:55 PM  

I'm off and running with BRIT and BERG. Well...more off than running. ALl of a sudden those wouldn't work, so I went as far away from the NW as I could with gimme INLA. It HAS to be that; no other movie begins "To Live and Die..." So does DIOS have to be the Hispanic God, and ECRU at least a strong favorite for the next down. Perfect is IDEAL, so: wait, what if...YES! I'll stop short of the "I'll have what she's having" scene, but it was a cool moment.

Then of course I saw my NW mistake: besides being a Brit, my favorite director is also an ALFRED, and the berg would MERGE into a FLOE. ALthoughI don't know UBIL or KIRIN at ALl, They were cross-filled and the POST-aha! solve was easy. And I wasn't all that long getting it, so, easy-medium.

Very, very clever theme and execution--and the density is off the scale! There must be a HELENE out there who would make a good DOD, but I don't have time right now. Let @rondo figure it out. Eagle!

rain forest 2:25 PM  

Yep, a great puzzle. My experience was similar to others in that I *knew* there was a rebus afoot, but I just couldn't figure out how it worked because I could see that AL was involved, but there was always another letter. It was only when I was noodling around the revealer when the light dawned. YES! Btw, @Spacey, I think Meg Ryan has to be the DOD even though her name doesn't appear in the grid.

When you have this kind of theme density, a perfect revealer (I actually liked the fact that SIDING was going down-makes sense), and a terrific grid-spanner in the centre, you've got yourself a super puzzle, or at least a @M&A rodeo.

Much fun.

Anonymous 3:02 PM  

From Syndication Land:

I got the theme when I came across John and Priscilla Alden in the puzzle. It's nice to see a shout-out to my 13x removed grandparents! They have over a million living relatives today. The funny thing is that for
1 down I had left in the wrong "berg" so I convinced myself that it was Albert Hitchcock. That soon righted itself only to see 34 across become Albert Einstein!

Great debut puzzle. Thanks Mark Maclachlan!

leftcoastTAM 3:15 PM  

Didn't need the revealer to get the basic theme here. Just didn't see how the ALUMINUM SIDING reveal worked until the very end.

Started on the right side and thinking it was a standard rebus, squeezed three letters ending in AL down the right column. Getting to the left side, saw that the ALs were all outside the grid. Aha!

DOADEAL was the last to go. Syndies all seem to be on the same page today.

Great concept and execution by MM.

rondo 6:53 AM  

HELENE Fischer - German singer - yeah baby.
But I'd stick with Sophia LOREN. Or @LOREN M.S.

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